Friday, 27 September 2013

The Wise Old Owl and the Pussy Cat!


     I've spoken on here before about how looking into the eyes is like looking into the soul. I know this from my own experience of both gazing into the eyes of the animals around me, out here in the country in West Cork, and also from my role as a music teacher with largely non-verbal students.

     There's something about the eyes. They tell us so much about what a living being is thinking and feeling. Haven't you ever experienced that moment when someone says one thing but their eyes say something quite different? Pusia, here, is on the hunt for food, it's quite obvious. How could I resist this appeal for a nice little treat?

     This is why I like interacting with cats so much. Their eyes are expressive at such a deep level and, as long as we know what to look for, they never lie. We can learn a lot from seeking the truth in the cat's eyes!

     Part of the significance of focusing on a cat is that they have a very specific language. Love 'em or hate 'em, cats are one of the most sophisticated and independent creatures that we've attempted to domesticate! Although we tend to give their expressions human qualities, the truth is that they have their own meaning and they very rarely lie.

Surprise! Surprise!

     Cats, according to Eckhart Tolle, are some of the greatest Zen masters in existence. They take all kinds of trouble and strife in their stride. One moment they can be jumping with fright and the next they'll calmly lick their fur as if they haven't got a care in the world. This is something I love about cats. Their calm demeanour (apart from that mad half an hour or so) rubs off on us and causes a wave of contentment.

     Every now and again, though, even a cat gets more than a bit spooked by something. Most cats are masters at selective hearing and will ignore shouts or calls unless it suits them or until it's absolutely necessary to move just out of human reach. But when a cat's home is invaded by a hoard of revellers then there's no place to hide! And there's no way of hiding the anxiety.

     This cat owns a friend of mine. He's not shy but when his human inconsiderately had a party in his home he tried to maintain his composure and rise above all the commotion. Having perched himself just out of reach on the stairs he observed events unfolding. Despite his relaxed appearance and attempts to look like a wise old owl, his eyes were full of surprise!

     Look at those big black orbs. He can hardly take everything in. He's certainly not scared but, on the other hand, he's not going to let his guard down. The ears confirm this. They're alert and scanning for danger. That position gives him a 360º range of the most effective early warning system in the Universe!

Relax, Don't Do It

     In that example it's quite easy to see exactly what the cat is thinking. But it's easy to mistake other gestures or expressions for human conventions. Cat talk can be quite different.

     Take the feral cat who sits nonchalantly under my car. He has this lazy 'couldn't care less' attitude about him that's quite irresistible. You'd think he was bored with the whole situation.

     I can think of more pleasant places to sit than under my car. He seems happy enough, though, and I suppose it does give him some shelter and the feeling of protection. I had to creep right up to him to take this photo. You'd think he might be slightly anxious or scared off. But no.

     I think he would have run away if I'd taken another step closer. At the crucial moment, however, he blinked slowly and half closed his eyes. It stopped me in my tracks. You'd think he didn't have a care in the world. At least, that was the way I thought about it at first.

Express Yourself

     I'm afraid I can drive people a bit crazy with my cat talk. But because I spend so much time around cats I like to know what they're saying. I do quite a lot of study into this kind of stuff. It turns out that this lazy expression has a very specific function.

     This fella is actually trying to give me the impression that he's no threat to me. He thinks that if he's relaxed then it'll elicit the same reaction from me. Underneath it all he's probably quite anxious. This is the point at which a cat is most on their guard.

     I have to say that his lazy appearance made me respect his space. In a very short time I found myself staring off into the distance too. We entered into a very comfortable visual dialogue.

     Although the cat at the party looked like an owl, this guy was the bee's knees when it came to being the wise old owl. As an adult feral cat on a farm, amongst foxes, hunting dogs and other predators, he's had to learn a trick or two to survive. Looks like he's been pretty successful. His charms worked on me!

     It just goes to show that we don't always need to take an aggressive stance to get our way. Sometimes the softly, softly approach will get the result we want. I may be a crazy Cat Man but the visitors in my house and garden are the real wise old owls.