Google “cat”, and you’ll get a return of 6.4 billion hits. Spend five seconds per hit and you’ll need a millennium to get through ’em all. That’s a thousand years on everything there is to know about cats. Your dog will think you’re nuts. Your cat, on the other hand, will wonder why you didn’t start your search sooner. Felis catus, after all, is more manipulative than we humans want to believe.
Something in the cosmos moved me to write about cats this week. When I started this post (last week), the calendar just closed on National Black Cat Day (10/27) as well as National Cat Day (10/29). Then my daughter relocated to Seattle, which involved two cars, her cat, and a whole lot of packing. (Pretty sure half the packing was for the cat.) Then Monday Night Football happened, and the video of a black cat eluding officials during the Giants-Cowboys game went viral. Finally, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) spiced up its headlines with a piece called, “Should Your Cat Be Vegan?”
I think this cat-aclysm of events caused all other blog topics to step aside this week (again with the manipulation). Maybe it was my daughter’s cat, a little upset I hadn’t written about her after several hundred posts. More likely it was another WSJ article I’ve been saving from last April: “There Is Now Scientific Proof Your Cat Is Ignoring You”. Now there’s a headline. Talk about manipulation. Assuming a little obedience school and training, you probably have your dog right where you want him. Your cat? Obedient? Never.
Per the WSJ article, cats hear and recognize their names; they just choose to show no response. When they do show a response it’s not for affection, but for potential reward, like petting or playing or food. Jennifer Vonk, an animal cognition psychologist, says, “…we (humans) sort of reward them for doing what they want to do… they’re better at manipulating our behavior than vice versa.” In other words, your dog wants to please you while your cat just wants to please itself.
Aside from persistent clawing (which can take down an upholstered chair faster than an army of serrated knives) I rather enjoy the company of cats. They’re quiet. They’re soft. They’re cute when they’re little fluff balls rolling around the carpet playing with toys. And they’re low maintenance, preferring to catnap or full-on sleep while you dutifully attend to their litter box and food bowl. So it’s a wonder to learn (“…Scientific Proof…”) – despite their outward laziness – cats have the cognitive ability to do everything dogs can. They just choose not to. A little disturbing, no?
Dogs make six distinctive sounds: barking, whining, whimpering, and so on. Cats – as if to one-up their canine competition – make seven, and they all mean different things. Cats meow, purr, trill, chatter, yowl, hiss, and growl. (Listen to every one of them here.) If you’ve ever heard a cat chatter, it’s mildly disturbing, as if he’s on the verge of a paws-to-the-walls freak-out. But if you ever hear a cat growl, it’s one of the most unsettling bass-voice attention-getters ever emitted from a small, carnivorous mammal. My daughter’s cat growled while sitting on my lap once. Small wonder I didn’t wet my pants.
Domesticated cats have a long history, dating back to 3000 years BC in Egypt or something like that. They fare well whether “house” (dependent), “farm” (semi-dependent) or “feral” (fully independent). They also have an impressive list of trivia bits. A few of my favorites:
- Cats spend up to 50 percent of their day grooming themselves. Maybe humans should too. Grooming tones down their scent to avoid predators, cools them down, and promotes blood flow. Smart.
- A group of kittens is called a kindle. I’ll never look at my e-reader the same way again. Also, a group of full-grown cats is called a clowder (hold the clams).
- The average running feline can clock around 30 mph. No wonder I’ll never catch my daughter’s cat after she “autographs” the upholstery.
- Cats can’t taste sweets. In other words, keep an eye on the steak but don’t worry about the big cake in the middle of the table. Your cat doesn’t care.
- Your cat has more bones than you do: 244 vs. 206. No wonder they’re so nimble.
- Cats sweat. Through their paws, in fact. They also pant, which should be the eighth distinctive (and disturbing) sound they make.
- Disneyland hosts approximately 200 feral cats. Their job, of course, is to control the amusement park’s rodent population. Think about that the next time you’re deep inside the Haunted Mansion.
I learned a lot about cats as I prepared for this post. I realize the whole “nine lives” concept simply means cats are smart enough to cheat death more than most animals. Including humans. Maybe that’s why they ignore us. We’re less intelligent. And easier to manipulate.
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.