I have two cats in my household with vastly different personalities. Oreo McFlurry lives up to his name. He’s sweet and everybody loves him. Unfortunately, Medusa lives up to her name, too. She’s a total spaz and I’m pretty sure she’d turn me into stone if she could. In a mythological monster, this would be terrifying. But in a tiny feline, it’s adorable. Please note that my family also has a dog, which I’m making great efforts to learn to love.
So, let’s talk ownership
Cat owners have a lot going for them. According to a recent study, they’re smarter than dog owners (please don’t take offense, I’m simply reporting facts). They also tend to be more introverted and independent, finding peace in solitude. Yep, that sounds like me. But hey, anyone with seven kids is hungry for solitude, right?
People who love cats tend to be more open-minded than average. This is correlated with increased artistic creativity and intellectual curiosity. Cat owners tend to be sensitive and rely on their pets for emotional support. They also appreciate attention from their cats. For anyone who knows cats, that’s a no-brainer. Their affection is sporadic, yet oh so wonderful.
We all know cats can be aloof, are definitely not obedient, and often shred your favorite scarf. So why do we love them?
Cats think they are dangerous, which is so darn cute
Flurry and Medusa are both experts at acting fearsome, much to my family’s delight. They chase ribbons, feathers, yarn, anything long or dangling. This morning while I was stretching, Medusa hid under my bed, watching my hair trailing along the ground, her tiny shoulders humping back and forth like a lion in miniature (this is mainly why we love them). Eventually, she crept out and started batting at my hair. Then she settled down right next to my ponytail, apparently deciding she’d made a new friend.
Deeply ingrained instincts drive much of cats behavior. In this case, the chasing and pouncing is hunting practice. And my cats do plenty of hunting, as evidenced by the dead birds and mice they leave on my doorstep (Ew. Thanks, sweetheart.).
A skittish kitty is a fun kitty and more likely to stay alive
Nature favors creatures with specialized survival skills. This is often referred to as survival of the fittest. In humans, that might mean a healthy immune system and enough smarts and determination to succeed. In wolves, the fiercest are more likely to lead the pack and scarf down plenty of meat. For cats, a heightened sense of their surroundings, coupled with lightning-fast reflexes, protects them from larger predators, while also giving them an edge in catching their own prey.
This is why a sudden movement (or an unexpected cucumber) can cause a cat to fluff up and jump feet into the air. The fluffing up part is designed to make the cat look larger and more threatening. The jump, of course, is to give them distance from a possible threat.
Some cats (if you’re lucky!) will chase you
A cat who chases its owner may be trying to exert its authority. There’s a growing school of thought that cats believe they own us and not the other way around. Whatever the case, you occasionally may be lucky enough to find a cat that will chase you. When I was twelve or so, I had a cat named B.C. This was short for Bad Cat. We had tried naming him Smoky, but the neighbors saw him make too many escapes into our apartment hallways, which invariably ended with me carrying him back inside scratching and squalling. So they nicknamed him Bad Cat and the unfortunate nickname stuck.
B.C. loved chasing me. At least, I like to think he did. We had a narrow hall in our apartment leading to my bedroom. I would run down the hall. B.C. would give chase. Then at the last moment, I’d turn around and chase him back toward the kitchen. We would repeat this over and over, much to the excitement of my little sister, the exasperation of my mother, and the irritation of our downstairs neighbors. (Can you imagine what a racket we made? Sorry…)
Flurry shows little proclivity for the chase. He mostly gets under my feet, receiving an accidental kick (very very sorry, Flurry!). Medusa, however, may someday become a pro in the thrilling game of human-cat pursuit. She’s mastered the chase part already. When I’m passing through rooms, she mostly ignores me, but if I head down the hall or up or down the stairs, she’s on my heels in a second. And she somehow manages to avoid contact with my (somewhat clumsy) feet.
The other day I decided to do some stair climbing (literally) since I couldn’t make it to the gym. I started down to the basement, not noticing Medusa chasing after me until I turned around and headed back up. The cat stopped, let me pass, then followed me up to the top level (where my kiddos’ rooms are). When I turned around again, she froze—all fluffed up—then followed me some more. Up and down we went until she finally stopped halfway and just watched, looking shell-shocked.
This gave me the bright idea to see if we could chase each other up and down my hall. After all, I’m still a twelve-year-old at heart and we don’t have downstairs neighbors. I carried Medusa to the end of the hall and shut the bedroom door so she wouldn’t hide under the bed. So effectively, I cornered a skittish cat. Not smart.
Needless to say, she not only refused to chase me, but puffed up and hissed then darted around me, down the hall, to the relative safety of the living room.
Medusa 1, Renee 0.
Oh well, at least I tried.
Cats are cuddly
Aside from enjoying a kitty who believes it is a massive dangerous tiger who must stalk through the house or perch on high furniture to survey its territory (whew…take a deep breath), most of us love our cats because they’re cuddly.
Flurry is the master cuddler at our house. He sleeps with my kids. He’ll climb on my bed and nap beside me while I write. He snuggles and snoozes with anyone watching TV. Are you noticing a pattern? Yep, cats sleep a lot. Roughly 15 or more hours per day, in fact. And what with their thick warm fur, their throbbing happy purr, and their soft wobbly bodies, they make the perfect cuddle companion.
What do you love about cats? What crazy things have your cats done?
R.H. Roberts is the award-winning author of Soul of a Cheetah, which features a tribal girl’s connection with wild cats. For more info on what she’s working on, check out her books and stories page.