Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What's New Pussy Cat?

Preamble

     I love it when Pusia bursts through the cat flap! It's in a panel in the window. I know it's her because she inevitably announces her arrival with a fanfare of snickering and meows. More often than not she'll pounce on the bed and tramp all over me. "Wake up," she screams. "It's nearly 4am!"

     On the odd occasion that she's caught some unfortunate mouse then her cries and meows will be more urgent. Her excitement spills over into cavorting and charging around the room in a euphoric state.

     When the cat flap slaps open and closed and Pusia is already sitting on the bed, however, I know that something strange is afoot. The one time this happened I sat up in bed with the confused and curious feeling that Pusia must experience on a regular basis.

    The feral cat, Freddy, had decided to try his luck. He disappeared back through the cat flap pretty quickly but when Pusia investigated she did a very thorough job of sniffing the window sill where he'd been sitting.

     Its smell had changed completely. In a fit of unsettled rage she set about her task of checking out the whole environment. That's the theme for today's blog. When Pusia greets me as I arrive home I feel her accusing stare! She's checking me out and she's checking just what's new.

Her Home is Her Castle

     Everything about our home is sacred to Pusia. That's why when I introduced Beata's lovely ginger cat into the environment for a short time she felt violated. His smell became her obsession.

Geshe spreading the love!
     The trouble was - and this was probably my fault - that Geshe was busy trying to obliterate her smell! When Pusia went out exploring I knew she'd be gone for  while so I'd let the poor critter out for a bit. He was confined in a single room away from Pusia for his own safety.

     Having been allowed out to explore he discovered a whole new world covered in her smells. And, of course, his primary job was to cover those smells with his own. He's very good at doing this in his own place.

Geshe doing a thorough job.
     Geshe can get anywhere and on top of everything. He does a very thorough job of putting his scent everywhere possible - much to the dismay of Mru who was already in residence when he turned up.

     In my house, however, he found he'd met his match in Pusia. Despite all the interesting smells around the place she soon put a stop to his attempts to dominate her environment.

Farms and Ferals

     Pusia is, you see, quite used to fighting her corner. She patrols her territory on the farm and, believe me, this bit of territory is more than challenging in terms of the scents she encounters. There's a whole colony of feral cats that are leaving their marks all over the place. When she goes out it's an almost never ending task to decipher the scents and work out who's left their calling card where.


Halt! Who goes there?
     This world of smell is, for her, the most important aspect of the neighbourhood. The thing is it can be a complicated mission for her to work out exactly what's going on.

     She's got used to this world and there are only a certain number of smells that happen on a regular basis. But when a new smell comes into the picture I see a real sense of uncertainty.

Holy Cow

     Things start getting confusing when Pusia comes across those stronger smells that I may have picked up. She can just about cope with, say, a herd of cows I come across while out walking.

The cows can leave their mark on me.
     As soon as I get back from the walk Pusia will give me the sniff test. Usually I pass with flying colours and she wanders off with her head held high and expecting some kind of treat that's long overdue, in her opinion.

     On the other hand if I come across cows like those above (really smelly ones) she'll become a little alarmed at first. I imagine that she goes through some kind of Terminator process of elimination in her head until she recognises the smell and understands that it's quite innocuous.

     When I return from visiting Beata in Kerry it's a very different story. Kerry is also home to Geshe, Mrusia (both cats), and Timo (a Border Collie). There have been times when I have been cuddling with all three of them. It's rare but it does happen and they're usually asleep and quite unaware of their subconscious conspiracy to alert Pusia's paranoia.

     I got home from such a visit and Pusia, delighted to see me as always, leapt on me as soon as I collapsed on the bed. Her ecstatic sniff test suddenly became tense and strained. She'd obviously detected the very recognisable smells of other cats (maybe even a dog) on me.

     Quite frankly she became so agitated that I had to change my fleece. In fact, I very nearly considered chucking it out because it was upsetting her so much. I felt like a cheating husband! I may as well have had lipstick on my collar.


Wheel of Fortune

     Pusia doesn't understand strange smells on wheels either. And this is a clue to her dismay when she smells the other cats on my clothes. In fact, no cat really understands wheels. Why should they? The trouble is that because they don't understand them they don't appreciate the nature of objects moving from one place to another!

I sense something odd...
     It's when Pusia sniffs a wheel that's recently been out and about that I see her become very curious. I read that the curiosity that these alien smells provoke is more about the thing they're on than the smell itself. Objects where you leave your smell are not supposed to move! That defeats the purpose.

     As far as Pusia is concerned if she encounters a new smell then that smell has been left on a stationary object by a new character on her beat! She's most likely to react to a cat because that will be her biggest competitor. 

     The fact that the cat is 40 miles away in Cork City and peed on my car or tyre whilst the car was parked there has no relevance to Pusia. This is a diplomatic incident of international proportions. It is a very clear and present danger!

Real Threats

     In some ways she's right to be concerned. How is she to know whether the smell means there's something lurking close by or not? In her world smells have a very real and significant meaning.

     When, for example, Freddy the feral cat makes an incursion into her territory and gets as far as the food bowl then he tends to make a bit of a mess.

Freddy can be a bit of a messy eater.
     Freddy will stick his nose in the bowl, grab a mouthful of biscuits and then deposit them on the floor to sort through at his own pace. He tends to slobber a bit (in his excitement, I imagine) and this leaves a nasty pool of drool on the floor. It's this rather obvious clue that Pusia picks up on.

     And, of course, it really does mean that Freddy has been there. It creates a very real precedent that Pusia applies to the rest of her world.

     Pusia is very justified in carrying out her usual checks with diligence. If there's a closed door then it must be opened. If there's a box then it must be investigated. If there's a sound then it must be hunted down. If there's a curious spot on the wall then it must be stared at for lengthy periods.

No stone is left unturned in the matter of national security!
     Don't worry. Nothing will get by Pusia unnoticed. It's generations of breeding to catch mice and generally be territorial that cause this instinct in cats. They're the original lone rangers and they hate it when anything cramps their style.

The Feminine Touch

     It's not all bad, though. As well as being alarmed by smells a cat is also looking for reassurance. They have various imprints from being kittens and at the tender age of three weeks they start to form their belief systems for what's good and what's bad or frightening.

     I like to cuddle Pusia. When she deigns to be cuddled by me we have some very intense mutual grooming sessions. But I'm well aware that these are on her terms and she can become moody with me without any warning.

     As soon as a human female comes on the scene it's a very different story! I watch in amazement as Pusia ignores me and makes a bee line for this new and enticing lap. In a show of affection that I hardly recognise she will jump up and make a big show of how soft she really is, purring and snickering away to the delight of whoever happens to own the lap. If it's Beata then the fact that Beata woos her with Polish also seems to have a positive effect.

No place like home.
     She actively seeks out this energy. Why? Well, I don't need to look too far for the answer. Pusia had a very affectionate female owner before me. There was also a young daughter who enjoyed playing with Pusia so, clearly, female energy was very prevalent and positive in her life. There's also a Polish connection so this is clearly relevant.

     In this setting where I am Pusia's sole custodian, and male, I'd say she clearly hankers after a bit of that female energy and smell to remind her of the security of when she was a kitten.

Home is Where the Heart Is

     Don't get me wrong. I know that Pusia loves being with me and I know that we have some real quality interactions. Beata teases me that I get jealous when Pusia passes me over in favour of her. Don't tell Beata, but it's true!

     Putting all this to one side, however, there's something very important about the fact that Pusia chooses to come home every morning or evening. A cat makes no compromises in choosing where they live. It's been scientifically proven that food, shelter and warmth are not enough in isolation.

     Home really has to mean home in every way that it can to a cat. That also means that although change is inevitable, not too much change. I'm glad that Pusia feels at home here. And I'm happy she always finds her way home to somewhere that was 'new' to her not so very long ago. Clearly it smells right to her.

All smells lead her home.