Wednesday, July 02, 2014
The cat report
If you haven't already guessed, this post will be of interest primarily to "cat" people.
Both Cosette and Matisse are adults now. We think Cosette was about three when we adopted her in 2008, so she is nine or 10 years old. Matisse joined us shortly afterward, but he was a kitten just a few weeks old, so he's five or so.
Cosette isn't quite a pure Siamese -- she has a little white fur on her belly -- but otherwise could easily pass for one. She has the temperament Meezers are supposed to have, talkative, very attached to people, demanding.
She has a "language." Her voice isn't limited to a single sound or "meow," but has a whole range of notes and effects. They range from a quick burst almost like a quack, to higher- and lower-pitched tones, held for longer or shorter periods. Cosette usually greets me with the same mwaah, which I've come to recognize as her version of hello.
But at other times different notes follow in close succession. It's almost like a sort of Morse code.
She is extremely sensitive to touch and almost always reacts instantly with the quack sound. Unlike most cats, she loves to have her tummy tickled.
Matisse is black and white (what is called a "tuxedo cat") in a nearly symmetrical pattern. He is quiet and undemonstrative, very sweet. Although he's calmed down since his madly running and jumping kittenhood, he still makes the rounds of the whole house several times a day. Anything new demands his immediate close inspection.
Matisse is also the psychic one. He often stares up at something invisible to me. I've followed his gaze, looking for a small insect, but usually spot nothing. He probably sees spirits. Cosette doesn't, or is too self-centered to care, never having been petted or fed by a discarnate.
It's interesting that once they've become grown-ups, cats (and most other animals, I think) don't show obvious signs of aging unless they develop an illness of senescence. Why can't we people be like that?
One of the fascinating things about cats is that they are unlike humans in so many ways -- but not to the point that you can't relate to them. Based on years of observation of our present pets and others I've lived with, I'd guess that about 95 percent of their behavior is instinctive. A stimulus brings an automatic reaction. But they're not entirely programmed. They obviously learn simple tasks, they're aware of the time of day (at least when feeding time arrives). They develop affections for certain people.
Cats spend half or more of their lives sleeping. For house cats it is just a built-in part of their nervous system, but their ancestors lived by hunting which could require furious bursts of speed. Presumably they were often unsuccessful and their prey escaped, so they had to rest and recover their energy quickly to be ready for the next opportunity.
When they're not sleeping, they sometimes just sit quietly doing nothing for hours at a time. What's going through their minds? They surely are not "thinking" or remembering in any sense that we would recognize. My guess is that they become semi-conscious, but can awaken instantly, like a computer that goes to "sleep" when on but unused.
Happy Fourth, Dominion Day, Ramadan (provided you behave yourself) to you and your pets, if any.