By D. Wayne Dworsky
Blurb: In a normal cat-human relationship, a kitten will create a strong bond with its caregiver, showing lots of affection, purring and rubbing routines, especially at feeding time. In anything other than the normal relationship, a cat always keeps the upper hand.
Unlike most small mammals, cats live a long life, up to 20 years. People often try to ascribe numeric equivalents to cats’ ages, such as one cat year is equivalent to 7 human years, etc. This is simply not the case. Cats mature much quicker than humans and they age very well. By 9 months old, they are ready to reproduce. Ever see a human conceive at 5? Similarly, cats don’t really become feeble until about 18. In human terms that would be 126 years old! Cats live a good life, sleeping most of the time. A healthy cat can sleep up to 18 hours a day! Why? In nature, most animals have a strategy for conserving energy. Humans are the exception, able to endure long periods of spending energy without any ill affect. Cats, on the other hand, need their energy for giant bursts that are needed for stalking and hunting practices.
Cats are stubborn. Once a cat has decided to act (or not act), it will not relent. A cat stakes out his or her territory quickly, seeking to test the area by doing runs to check out how long it takes to move from one part of the environment to the other. They do this primarily as a survival strategy in order to know the hunting ground, but they will behave this way instinctively in any new environment.
The relationship between two cats is an adversarial one. Ok, you had two cats, a mother and daughter. Humans tend to treat this relationship like a human mother-daughter relationship. Cats don’t operate that way. Once the cat reaches sexual maturity, the mother can tell and begins to push the cat out of the home environment. The mother may even become indifferent to the needs of the offspring in order to send it into independence. The exception of this occurs when a female offspring becomes a mother herself. She becomes one of the sisters. A conflict occurs if the offspring has to endure an abnormality. Unlike the human world, these are not so well tolerated in the cat world. The mother acquires an illness such as cancer and must eventually be put down. Now what do you do with the baby?
Usually, in an adversarial relationship, the older cat will dominate. The older cat may take territorial claims, muscling in on such things as the food dish and the litter box. In addition, there may also be tension in the bedding arrangements. If the younger cat is forced to use an alternate means to lay waste, it may not revert to a normal litter seeking drive once the dominant cat is removed. Instead, it will continue the new behavior. The way to wean the younger cat back to normal functioning is to set up a new littler box, making the old box inaccessible as well as the alternate waste space. Try seeding the new litter box with a piece of feces from wherever the young cat left it in the past.
Cats make several distinct and very different types of vocalizations.
- The cat’s meow. They almost never vocalize meows to other cats. This communication method is reserved for humans. Meows have various functions, including inquiry, warnings and concerns. The caregiver can usually decipher each of them.
- The growl is meant to intimidate an aggressor, showing him that his behavior is unacceptable.
- The hiss. This is not actually a vocalization, but conveys very strong emotional reaction to an irritating or threatening situation. Sometimes the hiss is followed by spitting and even growling.
- The soft vocal sound. When the cat is finally in a comfortable state of mind, perhaps resting or sleeping, it will often respond favorably to a sudden attempt to show affection. The cat will often make a soft vocal sound that does not possess the meow qualities.
- Nervous soft vocal sound. Cats observing birds that are inaccessible, (such as through a window) might emit a nervous version of this soft vocal sound.
- The purr is one of nature’s most amazing animal traits. It often signifies contentment, particularly with a loving owner.
- The mouw sound is distinct from the meow sound. This may occur when the cat is hurt angry or scared. Ironically, the Chinese word for cat is mouw.
Cats are revengeful creatures. They are endowed with incredible memories, remembering where to find food or shelter or how to perform a behavior that serves them well. If they are treated well, they will always display affection to good-hearted humans. However, they remember when they have been mistreated and will strike back at their offender as if to seek revenge and it’s always directed to the culprit.
Can cats see color, or only red color? Well, try throwing a red object and see what a cat does. In the wild, a cat may need to see red because it is a sign that an animal is wounded. (They can see the red blood).
Can cats see two-dimensional objects? Well, they certainly can see moving objects. Perhaps movement across a monitor of a TV might signify the same kind of movement that cats see from a distance in a wooded area. Under these circumstances, the distant wooded area may bear similar features as the image on a two dimensional monitor. They are much better at seeing moving objects than object details. This must be an adaptation strategy because their pray is always moving. They are also alert to tiny sounds.
Social behavior among cats. Cats are not particularly known as social beings, although a cat family mimics a pride of lions in that a group of sisters stick together during cub raising efforts while the males, usually one per pride, remain on the edge of their territory claim. Among cats, males are numerous and will all descend on a female in estrus.
Cats are unusually elastic. Their bodies are so flexible they can squeeze between tight places and contort their bodies in awkward spaces, ensuring that they can always escape a threatening situation. And, the well-known belief that cats always land on their feet is true. They have the uncanny ability to right themselves whenever they find that they are suspended in the air. This enables them to leap from astonishing heights. Similarly, they can jump up on high fences or ledges with incredible ease, using a semi-secure balancing act in order to stabilize themself. Their wonderful sense of balance assures their great mobility on the most precarious ledges. Ever hear of a catwalk?
Cats don’t sweat like humans and horses or pant like dogs. However, they control their body temperature very well. Because of this ability, they don’t drink very much and many species of cats can even derive most or sometimes all of their liquid through the food they eat. Cats also have a wonderful sense of food analysis. They can easily distinguish among the ingredients of food. This explains why cats will often eat crumbs of your morning corn muffin. Corn is one of the ingredients of dried cat food. Those cats accustomed to eating it will know cornmeal when they smell it. Of course, cats are finicky eaters, too. They will have no hesitation to snub their noses at some foods for no apparent reason. But humans have tricks up their sleeves, too. Just place the undesired foodstuffs beneath their favorite food treat, and watch them eat the whole thing. Even though they can distinguish each food element, they cannot easily distinguish between two identical sized chunks of food in close proximity. So, why do cats like to munch on your house plants? Cat will even eat grass if left to explore the front lawn. This is because grass is a natural cleanser for the cat’s digestive system. Since cats are primarily carnivorous, they occasionally need some roughage in their diets. Also, grass acts like a toothbrush, enabling them to clean their teeth. Some grasses, such as catnip, actually provide a lift to a cat’s spirits, seemingly making them high.
Beyond all that was said above, cats are the most remarkable, adorable and amazing mammals on earth, providing a wonderful and soothing companionship.
(Originally published in American Chronicle)
About D. Wayne Dworsky
D. Wayne Dworsky addresses the importance of being informed of Currents in Science & Nature by participating in science & nature book reviews, writing feature articles, aviation and preparing students for State examinations in mathematics and language arts. He’s been reviewing science and nature titles for Sacramento Book Review for the last two years.
In addition to his own literary career, he hosts a radio talk show on Blog Talk Radio’s Alpha Centauri & Beyond . And he writes a blog at his website, Alpha Centauri & Beyond.com. He remains active as an airman and writes articles for American Chronicle.