Longevity – It is said, give a cat three years for every human year and you have an idea of how old he is compared to us. Not so. A cat at one year old is capable of reproduction and fully able to take care of himself. A three year old human is helpless. Such mathematical formulas for understanding the ‘real’ age of an animal don’t work because their internal, and external developments vary and do not correspond to human development.
But did you know that the life span of cats seems to be increasing, from around twelve years or so several decades ago to eighteen or more and it seems now not uncommon for cats to live into their twenties? Not only advances in cat medicine but apparently in genetic changes as well are contributing to longer life and some cats live to be much older indeed. Several cats in Southern California have been reported to live as long as thirty and thirty four years.
Independent & Loners – Cats are thought to be solitary creatures by many, but anyone who has visited a farm where there are cats will find they congregate in colonies, sometimes nearing twenty in number and seem even to hunt together. There is little fighting because there is always one dominant cat which the others all accept, the rest being equal. At least until a new cat arrives and dominance must be re-established.
If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, as do I, you no doubt find him asking to be let out, even though he has his cat doors. Mine does daily, usually at night. I go to the door, open it and he eagerly runs into he mudroom, awaiting the opening of the next door, though both are equipped with cat doors. If I actually go out into the back patio with him he seems delighted, rolling around on the stones, watching me. I suspect he would love a hunting companion. (Preferably, I expect, one a bit quieter and more stealthy than myself.)
Cats can’t be trained – Training is entirely possible and we have probably all seen on television performance cats trained to walk a rope, roll a ball and even swim underwater. We attribute this to some sort of showmanship business and think our own cats are not trainable. Depending on the breed and the particular cat, they are probably all trainable to some degree and they are certainly able to train us!
Particia Moyes, in her book How To Talk To Your Cat, relates how one of her cats and she have a game, the object of which is to remove from some precarious perch – the top of a chair, say, an object, without disturbing anything around and without knocking the item to the floor. The one cat does this with care and great attention, and success. Her other cat, she tells us, takes the game simply to mean, ‘get the thing regardless’ and will also retrieve the item but in the clumsiest fashion, knocking it to the floor.
Ms. Moyes speaks of two other game she and her cats have; fetch and carry and hide and seek. In the first, the person throws a ball of tinfoil (or what-have-you) and the cat returns it, dropping it at the person’s feet. The second she says her cat invented. She (the cat) will bring the ball of tinfoil, drop it, then leave the room. Ms. Moyes will hide it, then call her cat who will begin excitedly exploring all the hiding places, find it, drop it and leave the room again. Keep in mind that Ms. Moyes creates and maintains an unusual and unusually close and respectful attitude towards her cats. Very likely, and many pet owners, indeed, parents, have discovered that, the more you anticipate your pet (or child) to be capable, the more capable your pet or child becomes.
My own cat offers a less dramatic, but useful example. A stray taken in at about 8 months he at first caused some alarm with his tendency to ‘do his nails’ on the furniture. I would bang my foot on the floor and tell him no and he’d stop. Now I just tell him, in no uncertain terms, to stop and he does. He only does this when he wants something and I’m not paying attention.
In fact, this is one way a cat has to get your attention and let you know he needs something – he does what he knows he is not supposed to do. My cat knows he’s not allowed on the kitchen table, for example, but if his food bowl stays empty too long, onto the table he leaps and I know right away he wants feeding.
There is an ancient Egyptian papyrus of the twentieth dynasty showing a dog walking on his hind legs, carrying a staff, herding goats. In the same picture there is a cat, walking on his hind legs, carrying a staff, herding ducks. The picture depicts the dog and cat on their hind legs carrying staffs, no doubt, to indicate that they are in control. Were they shown on their fours, one, they could not be shown carrying a staff and two, they would seem to be on the same level as the goats and ducks, not in charge of them. My guess is that one time, before the dark days of cat extermination, cats were trained and used and I expect they themselves were very responsive to this arrangement.
Aloof – When one considers the terrible history the family of cats has endured at the hands of man, repeatedly throughout Europe and even in America, it is no wonder the cat keeps himself aloof. Associated with witches, Satan and evil, as a race, cats have been betrayed, condemned, tortured and exterminated, many times, by the thousands and tens of thousands. Those which survived the pogroms passed on their genes to progeny, along with the survival sense to be wary of man. Yet every cat owner knows how truly attached a cat can become and how genuinely grateful they are for the affection and care given them.