If we were having coffee this morning I would tell you about having a déjà vu moment at the vet’s office the other day.
Well, it wasn’t really déjà vu I guess. One of the assistants felt compelled to tell me a fact about cats. Of course, having one of the people at the vet’s office mention some fact about animals doesn’t seem that strange, but this one fact, worded in that exact way, was something I myself had said in that very office a while back.
It had to do with my cat, who has a chronic urinary tract condition. The fact? The original wild cats our domestic varieties came from were primarily arid-climate cats who got most of their moisture from the food they ate, so it is best to feed cats wet food. Oh, well, borrow from the best.
It’s true, by the way, but somebody needs to tell the cats, as a lot of them love dry food. I think it is the crunch. This one in particular loves dry food and simply doesn’t understand why he can’t have it. A further complication is that I have a huge pile of cats in my house (I know, I know, a clowder) and I almost have to intersperse a little dry food among them to keep costs down … but not for him, at least in theory.
In fact, I know a lot of things about cats, some I’ve read, some I’ve experienced.
Like going back to the original cats, did you know that among all the domesticated animals, they were never really selectively domesticated from the wild? That’s true. They just sort of showed up one day, liked the place, and decided to never leave.
Sure, there has been some selective breeding and such since then, but originally it is thought when grain was first being cultivated and stored it drew droves of vermin and the cats followed the vermin. It turns out they found us useful to have around so they kept us.
Then there follows another remarkable cat achievement. Meowing. Adult cats do not meow to each other. Oh, they purr, they hiss, they growl, they caterwaul, but meowing? Kittens do it, but as a pretty fixed general rule, adult cats don’t, at least not to each other. That’s for us. They talk to us and it is my theory that they learned inflection in their voices by listening to us. Those unmistakable questioning meows, or the emphatic, or the gentle loving tones … those are all for us, communicating to us in the ways they’ve learned … from listening to US talking to them.
Then there is the sense of smell. Sure, dogs get the edge here but there is one thing cats can do with smell that I’ve never seen dogs do, even with their enhanced abilities. I swear, cats can triangulate smells. A dog can sniff things out, even to the point of detecting a single molecule sometimes, but cats, well, they can get a whiff of something, say a bag of catnip in the cabinet, then two seconds later move three feet to the right and get another whiff, then you can see the wheels turning and they think, “It’s in that cabinet!” A second later they are on the counter opening the cabinet door and soon you come in and get the dust pan. Not sure they all do that but I have one who is the unmistakable expert at this. If I could train him to sniff out drugs he would be king of sniffers at the airport, sitting next to the conveyor, pointing with his paw and saying …”The green one!”
Here’s another fact: did you know cats won’t bounce on a trampoline? I think this is related to their much revered self-righting ability. I had one of those jogging trampolines and found out that if I dropped a ten pound cat from three feet, he landed it like he was Mary Lou Retton completing the parallel bars. I dropped ten pounds of newspapers from the same height and I was picking up newspapers for five minutes. I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but once I experienced it once, I had to test it a few times … I mean, it was obviously not harmful, it was not anything. They drop. They do not bounce. Remarkable.
They are capable of a lot intense body manipulation … like changing their momentum in mid jump. I’ve seen them start to jump toward something, change their mind in mid-flight, and land on the floor instead. One day I was relocating a misbehaving cat to the kitchen for some down time and dropped him two feet to the floor just inside the kitchen doorway. Within that two feet he did a complete 180 in the air before he hit the floor and was outtathere.
You know how graceful they look when they jump up on something like a table? If you look at them closely, as they jump up they re-position the front half of their body to carry their momentum from vertical to horizontal, essentially first up to, then over the table, bringing the rest of their body along the change in vector. Their spacial awareness is good too. Sit with your legs slightly apart and watch when a cat jumps up into your lap …they’ll spread their front legs/paws to meet the width of your legs. They don’t look down as they do this, their little pea-brain computers have already done the calculations as they completed the aforementioned arc transformation.
Darn, coffee’s cold. Let’s get another cup and talk about something else.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. His debut novel, The Fever, is NOT about cats, but it IS currently being offered for free in ebook form. Check his web page for details: http://www.thefensk.com