On Jacob’s Lap

People meeting for the first time suddenly relax if they find they both have cats. And plunge into anecdote. ~ Charlotte Gray

If you are reading this blog, then you may have noticed that I am an unusual sort of cat. How many other felines can read and communicate in human language, not to mention write their own blogs? However, aside from my literary pursuits, I am much like any reasonably intelligent feline. You have heard about my morning routine of watching the world from behind the wheel of a car and my afternoons are taken up with my work on Miranda’s computer. In between, I divide my time between eating and napping, the two main focuses of every cat’s life.

Evenings are fairly quiet around our house and are perhaps my favourite time of day. Miranda and Jacob are both home from wherever it is they go all day and they sit down to an evening meal together. I enjoy the odd delicious tidbit from Miranda, who is prone to spoiling me with small offerings of protein. Then, while they clean up the dishes, I venture outdoors for a final cruise around the property.

When I return through the cat flap, I usually find my providers relaxing in the sitting room together, drinking mysterious warm liquids that smell vaguely unappetizing but seem to be of comfort to them. As per my routine, I saunter past Miranda, who sits with legs curled under her on the sofa. She strokes my back and asks if I’d like to sit on her lap, but I have learned to resist that invitation. She is too likely to fidget and shift about or leap up to answer the telephone when it chirps, leaving me ruffled and bereft.

No, Jacob is the one whose lap is perfect for a cat. He has a certain stillness about him that bodes well for a peaceful nap. Not only that, he refrains from over-petting, leading to over stimulation, followed by a swift swat with claws ever so slightly extended. Miranda has yet to learn the value of circumspect petting and has experienced this process first hand. Since Jacob likes the recliner chair, he sits with his feet up and this provides a soft, warm spot for me on top of his legs. I circle to find the most advantageous sweet spot and then settle down, purring to let him know how pleased and thankful I am. He gently scratches my head and then leaves me be. Bliss!

Sometimes they turn on the television box, but I particularly enjoy evenings when they chat quietly and the drone of their voices serves as a happy background to my dreams. Occasionally, my ears perk up when they say something interesting. This happened yesterday evening and just thinking about it raises the fur on my back.

 The Incident

 

Both providers are sipping from cups and watching the evening sunset through the window. I am resting safely on Jacob’s lap, about to nod off, when a conversation something like this occurs:

 Miranda: I saw our neighbour from down the street today – Ariane, I think her name is. We were both grabbing a coffee from that kiosk near the Sky Train station.

 Jacob: Hm. Do I know her?

 Miranda: Probably not. I have a glancing acquaintance with her because we both leave for work around the same time every day. Anyway, she was brushing tufts of orange cat fur off her coat and we started chatting about our respective pets.  I told her about Cato rescuing Periwinkle from that tree and she was joking that they needed a rescue cat in their home.

As you might imagine, both my ears are now in full listening mode.

Jacob: Why? Is her cat prone to climbing trees without knowing how to get back down again?

 Miranda:  No, it’s more complicated than that. The orange cat – I think she said his name is Sharky – has a bigger problem. They got a new kitten recently and apparently Sharky spends most of his time hiding under beds or out on the roof trying to keep away from it. I think he’s frightened. Can you imagine? A grown cat afraid of a kitten.

 Miranda pauses to sip her drink while I quietly fume. Humans can be unbearably insensitive about the needs of cats.

 Miranda: Speaking of kittens, I was in the pet store last week and they had a homeless kitten up for adoption. I was so tempted to get it, but somehow I don’t think Cato would be pleased.

Jacob: OUCH!

Oops. In my distress at this last part of the conversation, I’d inadvertently sunk my claws into poor Jacob’s legs. He sits up quickly and I leap off his lap. As a calming measure, I turn to my left shoulder and start to lick furiously.

Miranda: Wow! You’d almost think Cato had some inkling of what we were talking about!

They both chuckle at that tasteless remark and I turn and leave the room in rather a huff. Hmph! They won’t see me again until bedtime.

Settling on the armchair in Miranda’s computer room, I think about what I’d heard. I remember Sharky. He’s one of the few cats I’ve come across who can carry on a decent conversation – at least for a minute or two. He spends most of his time on the roof of his house because they have a convenient skylight on the upper floor which is left open all the time. I rather envy him that rooftop view.

He does make occasional forays out into the neighbourhood and that is when we have our little chats – or we used to do so. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen him for a little while now. Well, it’s no wonder! He’s suffered a titanic disruption to his lifestyle, by the sound of it. How dare his provider – this Ariane person – bring a new cat into Sharky’s personal domain? It hardly bears thinking about.

I recall Miranda’s ridiculous comment about me acting as Sharky’s “rescue cat”. No, that is not going to happen. I may be an unusual cat in some ways, but that incident with Periwinkle was an anomaly and not to be repeated. I have more important things to do – like writing my blog. Having made this firm decision, I engage in some personal grooming, circle three times and settle down for a pre-bedtime nap.

The last thing I remember thinking before drifting off into dreamland is: “I hope Jacob lets me lie on his lap again tomorrow.”

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Addendum

 

A recent photograph of Sharky on the ledge of his rooftop skylight. It seems that Miranda and Ariane are now Facebook “friends”, so I snagged this from there. Notice the barely discernable but very real angst in his eyes.

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Photo credit – Cat on lap: Creative Commons/Photopin – http://www.flickr.com/photos/laflaf/6767210445/

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Behind The Wheel

I love my watching place. It’s well situated, with a view of pedestrian and vehicle traffic coming from all directions.  Where is this wonderful observation post? It’s on our next-door neighbour’s property. They rarely use their car, being the type of eco-conscious citizens that seem to flourish in this community, so it remains parked very conveniently in their driveway. Thus, I can quite easily spend an hour or so most mornings sitting in the shadow of the front tire. I can slip into position with very little fuss and observe passers by without being seen myself. What more could an attentive cat desire?

After eating a hearty breakfast, followed by my usual morning constitutional around the perimeter of our house, all my senses are alert. I settle under the car, paws folded neatly beneath me, and notice things. Mornings are much better for observing the action on my street. People are focused on starting the day, eyes on the future rather than the present. They tend to walk by quickly, as if they can’t wait to arrive at their destinations. Children run and skip, apparently excited to reach their places of learning. Dogs trot past, taking their providers for the first walk of the day. Even those drooling, intrusive creatures rarely notice me lurking in the shadow of the wheel. They are too busy examining the markings left by their compatriots on bushes and fire hydrants.

Humans are creatures of habit, but they have nothing on cats in that regard. Periwinkle lives in the house across the street from ours. (Yes, Periwinkle. Sigh!) Large and gingery with a fluffy tail that looks rather like a duster stick, she sidles across the street each day, headed straight for my own front garden. I’d object to this on principle, except all she does is check out the scents around the front gate and move on. She is far too lazy to jump the fence.

Then she proceeds in my direction and plops down on the front step of the house, not five feet from where I am sitting in the shadow of the wheel. This is infuriating because no cat likes to share space with another cat unless they know each other and have formed a friendly alliance. Periwinkle and I have no such happy agreement. However, since there is more bluster than substance to her cheeky behaviour, she moves off quickly at the sound of my warning growl.

This happens every day, fair weather or foul, so imagine my surprise this morning when the routine changed dramatically.  Most of the usual crowd had passed by, including Miranda and Jacob (my providers). We have a most convenient cat flap in the back door, so I can slip back into the house when I’m ready for my first nap of the day. I was enjoying the sound of birds chattering in a very tall tree nearby and quite forgot to keep an eye out for Periwinkle. As I contemplated the idea of stalking one of those tempting feathered delicacies, a horrible sound erupted to my right.

A huge, black dog galloped past, barking furiously. I was so startled that I leapt up on all four paws and bumped my head on the car’s undercarriage. Retreating further into the shadows, I watched with horror as Periwinkle stood frozen to the spot on the opposite sidewalk, stunned at the approach of any cat’s worst nightmare. Then she turned and flew up the trunk of the nearest tree, narrowly escaping the slavering jaws of the monstrous canine. He leapt at the tree trunk, furious at losing his prey. A young male human ran up to the dog yelling, “Get back here, Damien!” He managed to grab some sort of chain around the dog’s neck and pulled hard. Amazingly, the dog squealed a little and submitted to being dragged back up the street again.

My heart settled down to its usual pace and I watched as Periwinkle’s provider ran out of her house and stood at the base of the tree, looking up. I could barely see the poor cat, who seemed to be swaddled in a nest of branches way, way up – almost at the top of the tree. Her somewhat frantic provider called out in that syrupy high voice that only cats and human infants seem to inspire. “Peri, baby – come down now.  It’s safe.”  “Peri” was having none of it and I heard a couple of pitiful “meows” float down through the branches. Of course, I understood what she was saying.  “How did I get up here?  Someone needs to save me!”

 Other people started to gather at the base of the tree, trying to coax the terrified cat to “be a brave girl” and move down to the next branch. To her credit, Periwinkle did stir herself enough to try and edge downward, but she is an innately silly cat and couldn’t seem to figure out how to organize her paws in the right way. She returned to her little “nest”.

This went on for some time and I began to feel irritated. I got up, stretched and was about to head back to my own house for a nap, when I heard a pitiful mewling sound drifting down from on high. It was the feline equivalent of a quiet sob.  Something came over me, and before I knew it, I was scrambling up the trunk of the tree next to Periwinkle’s. If you recall, I was born in the English countryside and am thus well acquainted with these types of endeavours.

I walked along a branch at about the same level as hers and caught her eye. Then I turned and jumped slowly from branch to branch, until I was halfway down my tree. Periwinkle watched closely. I climbed back up and repeated the whole process until my fellow feline got the idea that it wasn’t a death-defying stunt, but a rather simple procedure for any cat worth its salt. She got up, gathered her courage and copied what I was doing until we were both once more on terra firma.

Periwinkle’s provider enveloped her in a smothering embrace, and neighbours cooed and told her how brave she’d been. Having surprised myself with my own inexplicably altruistic behaviour, I headed quietly back to my house, where I indulged in a wee snack. And then, for the next few hours, I slept the sleep of the just.

I’m still not sure why I went to all that trouble for such an annoying cat. I’ll have to ponder that some more. In the meantime, I’ll be back behind the wheel again tomorrow.

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 Photo courtesy of Periwinkle’s provider, who e-mailed it to Miranda accompanied by many accolades for my own part in the rescue effort. I had to endure no end of hugs and sloppy kisses as a result. As I suspected all along, a good deed rarely goes unpunished.

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Real Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/piper/27080789/

What’s The Use?

Overheard in homes, coffee shops and large pick-up trucks across the country:  “Cats are useless animals.”  Since I’m a member of the subject species, you might expect me to feel quite offended by this.  I would say that I’m more perplexed than outraged.

Why so?  First of all, I think you’ll find that very few, if any cats aspire to be “useful” to humans. Our providers do not expect us to fetch their slippers or guard the house. We are not suitable companions for road trips, nor do we help humans to maintain healthy fitness levels by taking them for twice-daily walks.  No, no, no.  Humans who appreciate cats do not do so because we are useful, but because we are a warm, quiet and relatively undemanding presence in their homes. I dare say we add grace and beauty to their lives. We desire, above all, to have our needs met and the fact that certain discriminating humans find pleasure in doing this makes for a happy collaboration.

Having said that, I will draw your attention to rural cats. I doubt I’ve ever heard a farmer state that barn cats are useless. For some inexplicable reason, humans the world over are not partial to rodents. Without the intervention of the local cat population, they would find themselves spending a lot of their time devising and carrying out extermination programs. The relationship between the agricultural community and its cats is more quid pro quo than affectionate, but that suits the needs of both the humans and the cats. Farmers welcome the presence of cats because they see them earning their keep and cats in turn appreciate having a roof overhead and ready access to the local rodent population.

My second point comes in the form of a question: Why would someone expect a household pet to be useful anyway? I would think that urban-living humans value cats more for the companionship and comfort they provide than for their practicality. In turn, we domestic felines appreciate humans and even develop a certain warm affection for our personal providers. It might be muted compared to the sloppy neediness of dogs, but it is real nonetheless. We find that our providers relish any display of feline affection because it is bestowed so sparingly.  In short, the unspoken contract between humans and domestic cats has no need of a “usefulness clause” because we provide for human needs in other, more important areas.

I would implore my human readers to convey these important points to anyone they encounter who spews out thoughtless statements about the value (or lack thereof) of cats.

 

If you are worthy of its affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave. ~ Theophile Gautier

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rabblefish/3063006392/

Paws For Thought

Tickety-tick…scrape…scrape…

I watch my paws moving with ease over keyboard and mouse, typing what turns out to be a huge load of drivel.

 Select all.  Delete.  Sigh!

Here I am, sitting on the desk in my provider’s study.  The sun beams through open blind slats and oh, how good the warmth feels!  Its siren call lures me: “Cato, Cato…join the rest of the feline world for a nice, long afternoon nap.  That will help inspire you to write something worth reading.”  

No!  I shake my head with determination and do a few stretches.  Placing my claws just so on the keyboard again, I continue.

Tickety-tick, tickety-tick…

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How’s that for an intro?  I’ve given you a glimpse into my life as a writer and the challenges that plague me when I sit in front of the computer monitor.  Why do it then?  Why not just relax and live for the moment, as is the preference of most other cats?  All I can say to that is I’ve tried it and it doesn’t suit me.

I am a cat who likes to think and to talk about it in the process.  Felines in my neighbourhood will listen for a bit and some share a few observations of their own here and there.  Then they become distracted by insects, birds, interesting aromas and the like and off they go, conversation left dangling and myself wondering why I bothered in the first place.

My providers seem to enjoy long discussions with other humans, but cannot seem to get the hang of cat language.  To them, “Meow” is just a sound that means, “Feed me” or “Let me outside”.  No discussion possible.  I’ve resigned myself to the limits of this relationship and have carried on with what my British forbears call “a stiff upper lip.”

And then came the day when my outlook changed altogether. I was keeping female provider (henceforth known as Miranda) company as she fiddled and faddled with her computer.  Quite suddenly, the proverbial light bulb lit up my mind and I realized something.  She was communicating with others through this machine.  Why shouldn’t I do the same?  From that day forward, I watched, listened and learned whenever Miranda and male provider (henceforth known as Jacob) used their computers.

It was not easy, but I learned to read human language and then to write it.  When my providers were out of the house, I poked and prodded the buttons on the keyboard and discovered that claws work better than paw pads for that.  No opposable thumbs needed at all! Next, I focused on manoeuvring the clicker (I refuse to call it a mouse, as it bears no discernible resemblance to that tasty tidbit of the rodent species) and found that the front edge of one paw pad was best for sliding this way and that across the clicker surface.  Two paws together serve to shift the clicker itself in a different direction.  Most importantly, I figured out how to hide my documents so Miranda won’t see them.

And there you have it.  Sooner than I would have thought possible, I was tickety-ticking and scrape-scraping my way into the virtual world.  And now – piece de resistance – I have a blog!  I would love to share thoughts with all of you out there, whoever and wherever you may be.  There is a comment section somewhere on the page, if you would like to communicate too.  Until then…”Meow!”

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Cats are a mysterious kind of folk. There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of. ~ Sir Walter Scott

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Photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/asmuch/243854954/

Welcome to my blog and yes, I am a cat

My name is Cato.  I’m most gratified that you are having a look at my blog. Some folk wonder:

  •  Why would a cat write a blog?
  •  Why would other cats and perhaps even other species, including people,  read a cat’s blog?
  •  How does a creature without opposable thumbs use a computer?

I hope to answer these and other questions for those who are interested in the musings of a cat who likes to think.  I have named my blog “Thinking Things Through” because I feel that critical thinking is an important component of life in any culture or nation, regardless of creed or political stripe. There is far too little quality thinking going on these days and I aim to do my own small part to stir up the pondering spirit amongst humans and creatures alike.

Does that sound arrogant? I hope not. Cats are often seen as being remote and a tad supercilious, but that is rarely the whole truth about any feline, whether born in the back alley or the high society estate.  In an effort to help readers understand the feline species just a little better, I will welcome guest bloggers on occasion – cats from many and varying backgrounds and life experiences.

Please see my first blog post (Paws For Thought) for answers to the above three questions. My fondest wish is that you will find the writings herein enjoyable and stimulating.

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Those who know how to think need no teachers ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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Photo credit: Creative Commons 44076 91350

I Am A Cat Who Ponders

About Me (in case you were wondering)

I was born in a barn, on a farm in Devon, England. My mother nurtured me well and then I was adopted by a human pair – husband and wife – who named me Cato after a wise man who lived long ago and far away. My humans have loved me and continued to provide for my needs, even though they have caused me some anxiety by moving me from familiar territory to a land far away.

A few years after I joined their household, my humans (hereafter known as “providers” because that is what they do – provide for all my needs) moved to Canada and brought me along with them, of course. We live in a city now, near the western sea and mountains. It has taken awhile, but I have adjusted. Creatures and humans speak with odd inflections in this city, but otherwise share most of the quirks and qualities of those in my former homeland. I hope to capture some of this in my blog.

 

The Adventure Begins…

As you may have gathered, I lead a rather cushy life compared to many felines. That hasn’t stopped me from encountering other cats, dogs and humans whose circumstances differ greatly from my own. Our neighbourhood, close to the centre of a large city, is home to a wide variety of creatures from many different parts of the world. My wanderings through back yards, streets and alleyways has given me much to think about these last few years.

My providers find this to be the case too. Little do they know that their beloved cat listens with ears perked up whenever they speak about the things of life. They are a book-reading, computer-savvy pair who seem to enjoy long discussions with other humans. They even speak to me, albeit in syrupy tones and accompanied by much stroking and kissing. The singing is a bit much and mostly consists of songs with lyrics too silly to mention here.  I put up with it because they clean up my hairballs without complaining – well, not too much – and feed me good quality food.

Best of all, they leave me alone in the house for hours at a time. They think I spend all my time sleeping, but I have a much greater purpose in mind than dreaming about bird hunting. You see, many of the afore-mentioned discussions between humans take place on the computer, that most wondrous of machines. I sit for hours and watch how they use the finger boards (I believe they call them keyboards, though what those little plastic buttons have to do with keys I do not know). I notice what happens on the monitor and how the little contraption they call a “mouse” hunts for and catches special words and codes that open up colourful, intriguing worlds. Surely no one would expect a thinking cat to resist such a challenge.

May I share some of my ponderings with you? Now that I have learned how to communicate on this device, it would be most gratifying to know that others out there in the wired world are listening to me and perhaps responding with insights of their own. Mostly listening to me, though.

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Photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/beginasyouare/2232009748/