Saturday, February 14, 2009
The Lair of the Two-Tonned Tusked Carnivore
I have often wondered what our world looks like to our pets. Mainly cats and dogs, since that's what I've got the most experience with, and they're pretty bright, as far as critters go. Studies have shown that dogs in particular are especially good at reading human emotions, better than some humans. Dogs are pack animals, and want to fit in. From my understanding, at least half of the 'dog training' really should be called 'human training'.
Cats are a different story entirely. I've lived with cats most of my life. I don't really believe they are domesticated. I believe they carefully consider the tradeoffs between living with humans and living on their own, and somewhat reluctantly choose the humans. It's those opposable thumbs that open cans of tuna. The humans that think they chose the cat, and are in charge of the situation are fooling themselves. (The married men that think that are doubly fooling themselves.)
The only cat living here now is Amelia, though a succession of cats have graced this house. Like me, Amelia isn't particularly photogenic, though she's a beautiful tuxedo kitty. She picked us up at the SPCA, though I have to say she was pretty dubious about the whole process. I think her previous humans weren't very good. They left her a very twitchy kitty. As soon as she hears car doors slam outside, she's up and heading for the basement. Even when we come home, she's left her kitty condo in the front window, and is half way to the back. We'd like to believe that she knows it's us and she's going to get fed, but no. The way she scampers off, you can tell she seriously believes the two-tonned tusked carnivores have arrived to eat her.
In all her life here, the garage door has never opened and had anyone but us appear through the door. Yet she is poised for flight. Once people come, she's gone for a while. Eventually she comes up and socializes, but is still skittish around most people. Her favourite person in the whole world is Linda's sister Kelly, who's come to visit a few times. (She lives near Ottawa.) Even before she's in the door, Amelia is all over her. Amelia will try to get into the suitcase to leave with her. We feel a little hurt, actually.
We're good humans. After our previous kitty (Nefertitti) went to the catnip fields, we thought Amelia would be lonely, so we brought home another cat. That was Bernard. They sort of got along a little, at first, but things went downhill. Eventually it got to the point we had to keep them separated. We helped Bernard interview for the head cat position in the home of a friend of ours, and that's where he lives now. It took years for Amelia to relax again.
Amelia has the finest of windows to look out of, and a good selection of cat toys. We regularly animate her favourite piece of string for her to pounce on. She often has a choice of laps, since we're big readers, but does she hop on right away? NOT! She looks, and peers, and hops up so tentatively that we wonder what she thinks is there. At least as soon as we fire up the DVD player, she's in the media room waiting for us, and settles in there.
We don't know what she thinks of us going away on vaction, or away during the day. The nice lady that comes to visit while we're gone leaves enthusiastic notes about how affectionate Amelia is. But every now and then, she just sits and looks at us. I can tell, she's reconsidering those opposable thumbs, and balancing that off against the human breath she seems to hate. She doesn't mind being picked up, but she hates, just HATES, having her face near our face. She'll squirm and drape and wriggle.
Every now and then, and we're coming due, a horrible noise happens, and most of the fur that she has carefully draped over all the furniture is sucked away. She glares through this process. You can just tell she's thinking how much work she went through to put all those hairs just so. And now it has to be done again. Humans! They're so darned inconsiderate.
She won't even come into the basement while I'm on the spin trainer. I don't think she likes the noise it makes. I don't spin perfectly, so there is a Whir Whir Whir, and I'm pretty sure she thinks it's some large creature breathing. My singing along to the music, if there is any going, doesn't help. She sure isn't coming to rescue me if she thinks I'm being eaten.
Cats often stare at things humans can't see. And Amelia's behaviour sometimes makes us wonder what else we're sharing the house with. Amelia often appears to believe that there is something here, or just arriving, that will eat her. Or violate her private bits with a tusk, or something worse. She doesn't seem to have much faith in our ability to make sure nothing bad will happen, in spite of at least 8 years of nothing worse than vet visits happening to her. Or maybe it's us, or she thinks we've been taken over by horrible space aliens that yearn to give her probes you know where.