I expect this has probably been done on the interwebs before, by someone far more skilled than me, but the comments that were made after my previous post got me thinking.
And before anyone starts shouting (just hush now, you in the back, go heckle someone else), I am aware of the term anthropomorphism, and the school of thought that we shouldn’t attribute human ‘characteristics’ onto animals, but bear with me here……pliz…..just for a little while.
Because, seriously folks, having cats is often like having a toddler in the house. Or a teenager.
Also – is it really a case of us attributing these features onto our cats, or just simply a case of recognising they behave in certain ways ? A chicken and egg scenario, perhaps?
Because there is absolutely no doubt that cats have their own individual personalities. Sometimes influenced by previous experiences, but most of the time, it’s just what they were born with.
Cats also have very long memories. When I was 19, I adopted a tiny abandoned kitten. It was the lone survivor of a litter of 4. The mother cat used the garden shed of the shared house I lived in to have her kittens. She obviously get bored easily and just took herself off as my landlord told me this was the third time this had happened. So, despite the landlord not liking cats, I talked him into letting me save this tiny, bewildered bundle of fur. I am not sure how old she was exactly, but still tiny enough that the mother would have done everything, and so she needed a lot of care, which I gladly gave. This tiny little Torteshell cat had a very grumpy little face, and I named her Bear. A local vet gave me a single syringe and some powdered milk free of charge, and as I was so poor, she learned to use a little litter tray lined with shredded up freeby newspapers. And she thrived 😀
She lived with me in my bedroom until she was about 8 weeks old, when my brother offered her a forever home. I was in Hertfordshire, and he was in Newcastle so I didn’t see Bear again for couple of years. But she remembered me. After that, it was a lot longer – maybe 5 years until fate brought both me and my brother within a few miles of each other. Bear still remembered me, coming to me of her own accord and greeting me like an old friend, which of course I was 🙂 Bear was, if I remember correctly, 21 years old when she moved from this life into the next, and was very well loved and cherished. And I feel quite teary remembering because it could so easily have been different.
But if a capacity to remember is related to intelligence, and we all know cats are intelligent, with intelligence comes emotion, and we know cats feel emotion too. They feel fear, anger, confusion, affection, happiness, loneliness, etc. But they probably have better memories than humans do in some ways. Can we actually remember being looked after when we were tiny ? I can’t.
So – do we project onto them? Or just recognise what is there?
I think we just recognise what is there. And I have had …….discussions? Sometimes heated ones with people from the anthropomorphism school of thought. I drew the conclusion that they had obviously never lived with, nor been loved by a cat.
In my house, it is as impossible for me today to go to the toilet alone as it was when my daughters were toddlers. And woe betide me when I close the loo door. Within seconds of the door closing, I hear “meow”, scuffle scuffle, “meow”, scuffle, as either Rory or Zoe (and sometimes both) try to make the door open by digging at the gap between door and frame.
When I let them in, I get a look of such disapproval, I can’t help but feel guilty for somehow not informing them of where I was going. They rub against my leg, Zoe often reaches up onto her back legs and then leans sideways expecting my leg to catch her from falling. Then……they just wander out again, satisfied I haven’t disappeared, or been swallowed by the noisy toilet monster.
Bedtimes are the same. If the cats are asleep when I go up to bed, soon after I hear this – very plaintive, forlorn “meeeoooow”, and I swear there is the inflection of a question at the end of it “Where are you?” is what I hear. They know damn well that I am only upstairs, but this sorrowful refrain continues from the bottom of the stairs until I call out “Up here, you silly bugger”, then the charge of the light brigade up the stairs begins.
Whenever any sorting out gets done (which is actually quite often in this house, we are not inherently organised) they have to sit and watch, closely following every movement as if the red dot was fixed on us.
They play with the most random things. I once had a cat who’s favourite toy was the discarded wrappers from cigarette packets. Zoe loves to scoot the caps off milk cartons across the floor. And a cardboard box provides hours of fun, while expensive toys get ignored.
They love to fall asleep on you.
They like to chase furry things that are smaller than they are.
When the weekly shopping arrives, each bag has to be investigated, not just with a sniff, but with a full inspection if at all possible. I can never work out if they are checking to make sure we got it right, looking to see what we got them or trying to help.
And as for getting into places they shouldn’t be. Well, you wouldn’t leave a toddler unguarded when the loft door is open, or let them go into a room where dangers may lurk. But you can bet your life the toddler will try.
It doesnt matter how quietly we open the bike shed door – Mitch is there! He got locked in overnight once, bless him.
My Eldest’s room. She loves the cats, just not in her room. If her door is open – Rory is in there. She used to shoot in, in the hope, I think, that the faster she was, the less likely we were to see her. Now, she just saunters in coz she knows she’ll be told to get out, but she can’t help herself.
But, you see, cats are also like teenagers. They push their luck, they stay out later than they should, they bring home unwelcome ‘friends’ (not drunk, but they do make a lot of noise sometimes) in the middle of the night, they never tell you where they are going, they complain verbally when you tell them off, and they sulk. Oh boy, can they sulk – BIG TIME.
In the old days, when I was in a relationship, and went away for a few days, I would get back home – and be completely ignored for at least 24 hrs. My cats would look through me, turn their backs on outstretched hands offering love.
And they inexplicably decide out the blue one day that they don’t like a food they have eaten all their lives
In common with all children – if a cat wants something, they want it ASAP!! They prefer to be the absolute centre of your world – at ALL times – unless they don’t. They fill our hearts and minds…..well, like only a loved one can 😀
It’s no wonder they are often referred to as fur-babies, really 😀