Sunday, 23 February 2014

Are Cats Diabolical, Devious and Disloyal?

Preamble

     First of all, no. I can quite emphatically tell you that the title of this blog is completely and utterly inaccurate. Cats are not diabolical, devious or disloyal though many people will tell you they are. In fact, this is exactly three things I have been told about cats during my recent enforced absence from the internet!

     The storms and the bad weather really seem to have brought out a lot of people who harbour bad feelings towards the felids in our midst! So, in a brief rebuttal, here are a dozen 'D's (as 'D' seems to be a popular initial letter to start saying something derogatory about cats) that make cats 'delightful', 'dreamy' and positively 'desirable'.

Devoted

     Make no mistake about it. If you have a cat then that cat is devoted. Devoted to all kinds of things, in actual fact. For instance a cat will know its routine back to front, upside down and inside out. Any number of examples show how a cat is devoted not only to the endless task of finding the most obscure and delicate tastes to make their day but also devoted to being the perfect companion, hunter and general 'doer'.

Devoted
     The devotion of a cat knows no bounds. Every single time without fail that I arrive home Pusia goes through the same routine of making me feel special by charging down the ladder and telling me off.

     And her devotion to the duties of a cat doesn't stop there. She will selflessly sit in the same position for hours and hours on end in case some hapless little mouse should perchance wander by. She is the perfect example of focus and devotion to duty.

Dieting

     In the course of this devotion to just generally being lovely, a cat is on an endless journey of finding just that right mixture of nutrition and exercise that allows them to be the perfect creatures that they are. Put the right combination of meaty morsels down in front of a cat - mixed, of course, with just the right amount of jelly or gravy depending on the phase of the moon and the temperature of the polar ice caps - and the cat will discern immediately whether the chosen meal fits in with the current diet plan.

Dieting
     The added bonus of using the 'dieting' tactic can be combined with 'distracting'! A cat is 'distracting', 'distracted' and quite 'distractible'. As in the photo above...

     Poor Mru gets beaten about quite a bit by Geshe and what's the best distraction? You guessed it. Give him a plate of Felix or something else to make him feel special and advantaged and he'll happily divert his attention to the food.

a-D-orable

     The whole distracted thing merges quite seamlessly with devotion and dieting. When, after all, have you ever known a cat not to be on duty? The slightest creak, crunch or murmur of a noise causes a heightened sense of alertness that puts the SAS to shame.

A-D-orable
     This whole vulnerability thing makes them completely and utterly adorable. That's a-D-orable. Not that they leave any room for mistakes in other areas. I mean a cat will always take any and every opportunity to remind you how adorable they are. That's why the dieting is so important, of course. How else are they supposed to keep that perfect body and gleaming coat?

     Just like their wild counterparts, being adorable ('delectable' even) comes naturally to a cat and they do have a particular advantage in this area.

All cats know how to use their natural assets to their best advantage!
     Cats instinctively know how to turn on the charm and get the best out of their humans. It's what a cat does best, apart from...

Dating

     What would the use be of all this devotion to dieting and being adorable without any real goal or focus? Well, of course, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that part of the reason our cats want to look their best is for the purposes of attracting a suitable mate - that is to say dating.

     A male cat must do an awful lot more than just present as a handsome and debonaire specimen in order to attract the ladies. Someone like Freddy, for instance, has a lot to prove in addition to his handsome appearance.

Dating
     He may very well look the part, tuxedo and all, but he needs to be the part too! Believe me, simply by existing as long as he has as a feral cat Freddy has proved that he has the hunting prowess and the natural ability to produce some fine kitties to follow in his wake. A few of them litter the farm here where I live.

     He's also a bit of a lad around town so he's always on the lookout for an opportunity to chat up a female - not that he has a lot of opportunity around here. Even so, he'll be on the lookout for a queen as adorable as he is.

     One of his other gifts, in common with most cats and particularly feral cats, is that Freddy is especially skilled at...

Disappearing

     When I say this I don't mean that he's been abducted or anything sinister like that. Quite the opposite. I am referring to the times when he chooses to disappear either because he senses a threat or because he just wants to be by himself.

     Pusia has exactly the same ability, of course. It's a hangover from her ancestry as a wild or feral cat when she'd have to disappear rapidly when the need arose. She now combines it with that other very popular pastime of all cats, simply 'doing' stuff.

Disappearing
     Thankfully Pusia rarely has the necessity to disappear for anything other than recreational reasons. Usually she will choose the most innocuous places to hide and only occasionally will she 'do' something that really causes any destruction or inconvenience. At which point she demonstrates the cat's ability of...

Denying

     Somehow 'butter wouldn't melt' just doesn't even begin to cover the spectrum of inferred facial expressions and the range of body language that Pusia employs to convey the phrase, "Who? Me?"

     This photo is a perfect example. Here she is having finished off a bowl of food I left out for Freddy. See how effortlessly she assumes the angelic pose of the cat that definitely did not get the cream! In fact, I can feel the urge to get her another pouch of food forthwith for, surely, she cannot have had a morsel to eat for ten minutes or more.

Denying
     At this point, confronted by such innocent loveliness I'm afraid that I have no option but to forgive her any misdemeanour until I am confronted with the hard facts of her underworld activity...

Deluding

     This is an unfortunate moment when I'm confronted with the truth that Pusia is, after all, a cat. She can disappear and she can do all kinds of things that seem strange to us and quite normal to a cat but when I find her returning from a hunting spree it's hard not to acknowledge the event.

Deluding
     In all honesty I know that Pusia is not intentionally deluding me but I am deluding myself if I fail to recognise that she's a cat and part of that is having the instinct to hunt. It's not so much a case of 'When the cat's away!' as 'When the cat doesn't know her human is watching!' I'm not daft. She's a killing machine and an efficient one at that. Her body is finely tuned and specialised for this task and that's why she's so good at...

Discerning

     Cats don't just kill indiscriminately. They kill according to their instinctual needs. There was a fascinating experiment where treats were placed out on a chequerboard floor. In the first experiment each alternate square in sequence contained a different kind of treat. The cats without exception went from one square to the next delicately sniffing each treat before delightedly gulping down the varied tastes.

     When the experiment was repeated with one kind of treat in the majority of the squares and the occasional varied treat, the cats all ate a few of the main treat on offer and then actively went in search of the varied treats.

Discerning
     Contrary to popular belief, cats are not fussy eaters, they are simply incredibly sensible eaters that sniff out as much variety as possible to give them the best nutritional intake possible from what historically would have been a very limited food supply.

     All cats possess this lingering instinct to find as much variety in their food as possible. It's something they do very well and, believe me, if they don't get what they want in their domestic setting then they'll search for it outside. And they'll get it by...

Demonstrating

     Pusia, like all cats, knows how being demonstrative can get her what she wants. The tail is the best indicator of mood or intention. That's not the only clue, however. Most cats have learnt the art of leading their humans to what they want, meowing to get attention or doing all manner of things (paws in face, jumping onto body parts, the occasional nip) simply to become more persuasive and add weight to their argument. I think you'll agree that there can be very little misinterpretation of Geshe's intentions in this photo. 

Demonstrating
     He's a wonderfully wild soul though he hasn't yet quite mastered the art of hunting. His instinct is to be outside exploring and once he's had enough of that he'll be back on the other side of the window demonstrating his intention to be back inside.

     Pusia is slightly less subtle in these affairs and will actually bang on the front door. I have yet to work out exactly how she does that but it's loud and it certainly gets my attention! It's also just a range of things she does with natural skills in...

Dabbling

     Cats have been unfairly judged as not being as gifted as dogs when it comes to performing tasks or learning tricks. This is simply untrue and thanks to more extensive testing of cats in the 90s, where cats were observed for hundreds of hours instead of the tens of hours it took to assess dogs, scientists started to understand how cats actually just can't be bothered to perform to order. If something seems like it needs a lot of effort then they usually just give up. Stephen Budiansky puts it wonderfully when he says that, "Cats are Nature's biggest underachievers!"

Dabbling
     With Pusia it's not so much that she can't be bothered as that half the time there's an easier option. Most of the time if I open the window like this she'll make a leap at it. She very rarely misses it but on the odd occasion that she lacks the commitment and focus that the task requires she will, having contemplated the open window for a few moments, simply turn around and go and wait at the front door.

     Cats are not creatures that are accustomed to expending too much energy unnecessarily or feeling the need to explain or justify their actions. Not even for a reward! And even if there is a reward such as a tasty treat then they certainly won't turn it down and, having made no attempt to associate it with good performance, they will simply scoff the treat and turn to the next most logical tried and tested thing to do...

Digesting

     This is possibly the moment I love best. Pusia is fed and she's happy. I've performed well according to her stringent guidelines and she has decided not to leave me for at least another day.

     It is possible at these times that she has had a particularly large meal or that she has had a busy day hunting and needs to take 'time out' in order to let her body break down all that protein she's taken on board. 

     Cats don't sit around for up to 16 hours a day for fun, you know. There's actually a very specific reason they do it. It's the kind of thing we'd have to do if we existed solely on the Atkins diet for any more than a few weeks!

     After a good feed most cats will feel the overwhelming urge to replicate the scene in most homes on Christmas Day afternoon when the lunch has been eaten and the washing up sobs expectantly in an abandoned heap in the kitchen.

Digesting
     Once a cat has discovered a nice warm place that's safe and secure then it will be earmarked as a good place to go and let Nature take its course.

     And what better to do whilst Nature is taking its course other than partake of a good bit of...

Dozing

     It's what cats are famous for. It's what most of us hanker after. And it's what cats probably do best. There's nothing better than having a cat quietly snickering away somewhere in your home. Even better if they choose to do so on you or in your close proximity.

     Wherever they choose to do it, the effect of having this furry little being looking all cozy and comfortable is the best tonic imaginable. We can forget the hunting, the demonstrating, the fussiness (which we do, of course, know is not fussiness at all) and all manner of things that sometimes almost drive us to distraction. We can simply bask in the warm and fuzzy feeling of living with a cat.

Dozing
     It's a serious business, this dozing. Seeing a cat curled up is a sign that equates to 'Do Not Disturb' or 'Engaged' or even 'Come On If You Think You're Hard Enough'. But it's also a good reminder that this activity, much underrated by a lot of humans, is one of the best tonics for all of us whether we decide to rest by lying down with a book or taking a midday snooze. 

     Even Deepak Chopra advocates having a little power nap. I have to say I am in total agreement. I don't have the opportunity these days as much as work prevents me from lying down in the middle of the day. 

     When I was a full-time musician, however, the long and largely vacant days gave me the perfect chance and the fact that I was working nights, often until 3 or 4 in the morning, gave me just the excuse I needed. In fact, now I think about it, I was pretty much living the schedule of a cat!

     So that's the dozen desirable Ds of cats. There are those who will still insist that there's something dastardly and dark about cats that laze around the place dozing all day long. They have this association with witches and evil magical misdeeds but that was largely a misguided misunderstanding of black cats in medieval times. In conclusion I would, on the other hand, just add to the conspiracists' paranoia and make this set a baker's dozen. I totally agree with the fact that cats can be wonderfully and positively...

Dark (and Mysterious)

     Just today I was typing this blog to discover that Pusia had installed herself behind me. It didn't take me long to sense the hard stare she was directing at my back. I turned to find her gazing at me in that knowing way that all cats have.

     This is just one in a series of moments when Pusia has made her presence known to me in very subtle ways. I'm never quite sure what she's thinking. She's never shy of trying to make me understand. 

Dark (and Mysterious)
     Her dark and mysterious ways are something that make her a very special cat. Just like all other cats that are lucky enough to own humans I'm glad to know she's around!