The Joy of Cats
By: J. Marlando
Most people want to have a pet but today with the demand of two income families and escalating numbers of people living in apartments, town houses and condos, there is no time for walking a dog and/or no space for horses, goats or a llama. As animal lovers, my wife and I have had them all a few years ago, but now our lifestyle has changed and we live in a place that simply is not accommodating to animals; too much city traffic for pets to be free in, too small a yard to run and play in and anyway, we’re both too busy to give most animals the attention and care that they should have. And, anyway, after our beloved dog and cat passed over into Animal Heaven we felt so sad that we swore we’d never have pets again. Then one day seemingly from nowhere a stray cat showed up at our door and or course we fed it. That same day, the stray moved in but I swear animals communicate in ways we just can’t imagine because after that another cat showed up to be fed and then another and…well, we have five housecats now and of course love them all.
This article is all about the joy of cats and how to share your worlds together. However, cats are basically prima donnas at heart and you need to know that too.
A Little History
No one knows exactly when cats were first domesticated but it is now thought it all began 10,000 to 15,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture. The storage of grains and so forth attract all kinds of rodents and also, the warmth and safety of a house is also enticing to those little critters we’ve named mice. Smaller cats are natural predators of mice and rats so they would naturally find their way out of the forests to where they knew the hunting was best. And so, maybe those ancient “farmers” began by giving them a little water or milk to drink to entice them inside to do their hunting…or, maybe the ancient farmer simply realized that cats were helpmates in their ways and so over a long period of time they began trusting each other. What is interesting, however, is that going back nearly 10,000 years into Neolithic settlements, cats were given burials next to humans.
Around 8,000 years ago there were some figurines discovered in Turkey that were of women carrying cats or cat-looking creatures assumed to be cats. So probably no one really knows when domestication actually began. What is known, however, is that the ancient Egyptians were cat lovers or at least cat fanciers. Going back to the old kingdom around 1,500 years ago a cat wearing a collar appears on an Egyptian tomb and within another couple of hundred years cats not only began showing up in Egyptian art but were being mummified so they can journey with their human owners into the next world.
Today there is more than 600 million cats living with people on our pin drop of a planet and some say that they are the most popular pets that we have…or, perhaps it is the other way around?
Deciding To Share Life with a Cat
First of all, cats take very little care. All our five cats are, as said, housecats because where we live is just too dangerous for kitties to be outside—in fact, now and then one will sneak outside, look around and dash back into the house. Cats, incidentally, do not like change. They like to be fed the same thing, at the same time every day. It is almost for certain that consistency is needed by cats to give them feelings of security. The good news is that beyond depending on us for food, cats are otherwise quite independent and, like we humans don’t want to be bothered unless they’re in the mood. In fact, even in a small apartment cats live a pretty independent life and, by the way, take naturally to the “cat’s box” so you don’t have to worry about taking them outside to do “their business.”
Cats are also clean. They lick themselves and, if you have more than one, lick each other for grooming and cleanliness. One theory of why they do this is the instinctual instruction to lick the smell of food (or blood) from their fur after eating since they were pray of other, bigger animals when in the wild. Actually, if you’ve ever been licked by a cat, you have noticed that they have tongues specifically made for “cleanup.” The point for this article, however, is merely that cats are clean animals and that’s another plus in favor of sharing your house or apartment with them.
Cats are independent except for being fed and their toilet needs. By the way, these days you can purchase litter boxes that are almost self-cleaning so even that is not much of a bother in our times. In any case, cats know how to entertain themselves. They love cat “toys” and will play with them with great enthusiasm; they will also make up games like running to and from one room to the next, jumping about as if they are on a great hunt or…just running for the joy of running.
Our cats play a lot and although there are probably countless people to disagree with me, but I am 100% convinced that cats (all animals for that matter) have imaginations and imaginations suggest at least a form of “subjective thinking.” Scoff if you like, but I think animals are far more intelligent and mindful than most people give them credit for being.
The major thing to know, however, is that cats are very much like you in that they want to know that they are loved. And because we know that, we tell them all the time how much we love and care about them.
How to Get to Know Your Cat
You know your cat is content when it purrs. Indeed, our cats will sit on the couch when we’re watching TV and snuggle in just to be close to us and constantly purr. Purring is obviously a signal of trust and friendship. The theory is that cats only purr when they want to but there might be exceptions to this rule: Cats are also known to purr when they are close to dying. What if this is a natural occurrence or a “cat ritual” we cannot know but my guess is that under stress, fear or pleasure, the cat’s brain releases endorphins , if you will, to create the feeling of being in harmony with a given situation. One job endorphins have for animals as well as for we humans is to release a morphine type substance to relax us and take away pain and anxiety; to give us relaxation and comfort in a noisy and chaotic world.
Anyway, when your cat sits on your lap or cuddles next to you purring he or she is no doubt saying to you, “I love you too!”
What about Cat Temperament?
There’s no doubt about it, cats like humans can be in lousy humors and when they are simply leave them alone. The problem is cats cannot say that they are feeling anxious or cranky and so they symbolize their feelings by biting or nipping from time to time. That is, they don’t suddenly turn on you and attack you in a rampage. What mostly happens is that you attempt to pick them up or give them pets when they are not in a receptive mood. If you learn to “read” your cat, you simply don’t do this and you leave your cat alone until there’s a mood change. Unlike dogs that may growl, show their teeth or even whimper when they are not feeling good, cats do not have any apparent signals of not wanting to be “messed with.” And so, the best and smartest rule of thumb is to permit your cat the freedom to be communicative when your cat wants to be and not bother him when he’s not paying any attention to you.
There is something else you need to be aware of though. Sometimes when a cat is being cozy with you, out of a clear blue sky he or she will suddenly nip or bite you. You really have to practice not jerking away when this happens because mostly the “nip” is one of affection, a way for the cat to relate trust, love and peace of mind. You know that this is a love bite because it is never deep and is always gentle.
There are a few times when a cat will respond to you with a more serious bite which is always followed by jumping away from you. This, however, will only occurs when you have done something to restrain the cat like holding it too tight or even petting it too much. Cats cannot stand restraints and so if you only remember not to do anything that keeps them from being mobile, you will probably spend a lifetime with them and never be bitten except for a light nip out of love.
Cats sleep a heck of a lot or just lay about grooming themselves. But also housecats love to sit in the window and watch the birds outside. Where we live, we have lots of squirrels in the yard too so our cats have a great time stalking them. Once when the door was open a squirrel put his nose against the screen and our cat that was watching him quickly darted in the other direction. Well, cats are well known to do the unexpected so beyond all else they can be fun loving pets that will keep you lots of company.