This is my cat, Misho. He’s adorable, not just because he’s fluffy, but because he’s friendly. Very friendly.
It’s only been some 150 years since cats have been seen as being the stuff of house pets. Before that, they were simply there to keep the place free of rats and mice, either in the home or on the farm. They would have to fend for themselves, but in those times, there were far more mice around. Cities as we know them – concrete, tarmac and solid brick walls were barely known back then and mice could be something of a problem.
Not for a cat, of course; those mice meant dinner, or would at least keep them the livelier side of starvation. But that is life for a wild animal, especially a predator. Their life is one of opportunity and hunger, a life where a cat’s whiskers and its ability to wake at the least rustle are essential. It’s either that, or starve. Those who believe in evolution will see this as how animals adapt; and it is true that the fittest do survive. However it is always the weakest are those that find themselves predated on. In this respect, the theory of evolution is based on an inversion of the reality displayed in nature.
For the herbivore, life is less hungry, but their problem is that there might be a predator behind every tree. For them, their attention is everything, along with a good set of legs.
If you’re in the wild, you need to be awake. You don’t need to think, because the instincts of the animal take care of that – predator and predated alike.
So What’s All This About Kittens?
I have looked briefly at the life of a wild animal, but my thoughts about kittens were raised when I was trying to work out why Misho pummelled me in bed with his front paws. It’s not as if I minded it too much, some owners do. Mind you, his claws on my cotton covers led me to add a thick woollen blanket. I guess that kittens don’t have claws? Because what Misho was doing was behaving like a kitten.
When a cat does the ‘two step’ as I call it, that is to say, the cat is pushing with its front paws alternately, it is actually engaging in a behaviour that stimulates the milk in its mother’s breast.
You can imagine that a beast in the wild will simply not have the time or energy to waste on such trivia. With life on the edge, all a cat can be is directed towards its survival. So what leads a cat away from this? Well, of course, we do.
A cat that is taken into our home is not expected to be a creature that bites and scratches at every opportunity. That doesn’t mean that a domesticated cat will automatically stop scratching or biting, but it does mean that with the regular meals pets get, this is no longer behaviour that is associated with survival.
Cats And Dogs.
Regular meals and a roof over its head means that a cat can relax. If one is to domesticate an animal properly, you can’t treat a cat as you might a dog – or a cow like a pig. When a cat wags its tail, this means something quite different from the wagging of a dog’s tail: ignore this and expect to be scratched. The correct food, the correct conditions are all required if the animal is to be satisfied. An animal cannot choose, it can only respond in the manner to which it is accustomed through its nature.
It’s well known in farming circles that a good herdsman will get more milk from his cattle. The same thing is being practiced here: the good herdsman will look after the needs of the cows in a way that a poor one will not. Economics is, at heart, based on realities of this kind.
Good husbandry is rather more than just giving an animal regular meals. This implies that the human has to look beyond their own desires from their pet or their charges, but look to those of the animal they are caring for. Whilst a cat cannot speak, it does have its body language, a language that speaks of its natural behaviour. Acting outside this implies that something is wrong – either it’s ill or you’re doing something it doesn’t like.
Which is often the point where a cat will start scratching and biting.
All the cat is doing is telling you that you’re doing something wrong, and a wise owner will look to themselves to find out what they are doing to provoke this response. After all, it’s in a cat’s nature to react in this way to certain stimuli: if those stimuli are present, the cat will act accordingly. In a house, the manner in which the occupants live – the owners of the cat – will have a direct influence on the behaviour of their cat.
Misho, in this respect, is a five year old kitten.