An Understanding of the Curious Cat


Teiko (Nightfall's camera-shy)

I have recently read a number of pieces about introverted personalities, and about writers, and since many of those articles made reference to cats as pets, I wonder if there is a real connection? After all, I myself am an introvert, a writer, and a lover of cats (and proud of it!), and so is that not all the evidence needed? And since I was relieved to see the introverted personality-type championed rather than pitied (’oh, you poor, poor dear’), I now take up the gauntlet and come to the defense of the often maligned feline.

I claim to be especially well suited to that task, because while I cannot say that I know the how or the why of it, I’m quite certain that in some prior life I was a cat. There is simply too much of a connection for there to be any other possibility.

Some people just don’t get it—they do not understand the curious mind of a cat. They wonder why anyone would bother with the effort required to build a relationship with such an aloof, persnickety creature. Such folk clearly do not appreciate the cat, and I might venture that they are in fact often inclined to favor a dog of one stripe or another. Not that I mean to disparage the dog, mind you—dogs are fine by me. I was in fact once owned by a fine Chesapeake Bay Retriever, many years ago.

But still, to favor a dog over a cat!? That I cannot understand. To begin with, there’s typically no need to earn the affection of a dog—the only requirement is that the human is breathing, offers food, and does not threaten with a stick. And that’s OK, but a relationship with a cat is something that you must truly earn, and so is of greater value, by my reckoning.

A dog is like a teenage boy; loud and boisterous, forever attempting to maneuver himself into the center of attention. Here I am! Me! Me!  The closest a cat will ever come to such demonstrative action is to rub against your leg and purr, or simply plant himself in the way and defy you to pass by without recognition.

Admittedly a cat will sometimes come off a bit on the arrogant side, with her air of superiority and I-can’t-be-bothered-to-notice posture. If everything is not just as she would have it she’ll likely express disdain by issuing a great yawn when attention is directed her way. Moreover, many folk facing the blank stare of a cat simply do not understand that it is the responsibility of the person to come up to standard, because the cat is just too cool…

Upon presenting herself to new company a cat immediately recognizes if the person is of a cat-sympathetic temperament. It’s an aura thing. Only after being recognized as a potential ally may that person begin his or her campaign to win over the cat’s affection. Such a campaign is, by the way, much more likely to succeed if all standard dog-approach techniques are abandoned forthwith. Such is to say one should not caper about, hopping from foot to foot while excitedly calling out “Here Boy! Here Boy!”

A cat would regard such foolish and unseemly behavior with suspicious reserve, as well she should.

I am pleased to advise that I harbor no such inadequacies—I understand all too well the mood, and the motivation, behind the enigmatic behavior of my furry friends.

I understand, for example, that when we walk through the house, Teiko is not walking with me, he is leading me. He must assert his position of authority and diligently direct me in the proper direction; that being either toward the woefully neglected food bowl (it’s never full enough), or to the door. In the latter case once the door has been reached the course of action is somewhat arbitrary. To go in, or to go out? That depends solely upon which side of the door it is that he is currently located. A closed door is meant to be opened and the threshold crossed—that is a fundamental tenet of the cat. If the door was standing open, then the entire issue becomes moot—not worthy of consideration.

You see? I do understand.

I further understand that when Nightfall arrives at the back door, his yowls muffled by the small rodent clenched between his teeth, he has no intention of eating it, nor does he think that I’ll do anything with it other than gingerly bag-and-trash it. The entire purpose here is that I recognize his prowess as a hunter. Once he sees that I have observed, he is finished with it. Dismissed.

Both our friends Teiko and Nightfall are long-haired Turkish Angoras, who were so gracious as to adopt Sue and myself as their own. We are honored. Teiko (pure white coat, incredibly soft) is perhaps the most outgoing cat that I have ever known. He looks you straight in the eye, watches TV, and has an endearing habit of doing forward somersaults when he gets excited. Nightfall (pure black coat, also plush) is more reserved, and his is the name given the understudy in my short story ‘Edgar’, which tracks the competition between a Master Wizard (feline) and his mentee.

And so you see, I hold the advantage in our household. Like I mentioned at the outset, I was a cat once, and so all this comes naturally to me. My grasp of the thought patterns of the cat, my native intuition of his likely actions—these tools help me to maintain control of our interactions. By understanding the psychology of a cat, I can outfox him. Teiko and Nightfall may believe otherwise, but it is not they who exert control.

No, my furry fellows, it is I who calls the shots here, I’m the one—

Ahh…What’s that??? Nightfall, meowing at the door?

Sorry, gotta go!!!