Portrait of a cat
October 27, 2006
Is it possible to give a portrait of one’s pets without descending into anthropomorphism? Probably not, as the meaning we give to their actions relates to our own scheme of things. But since I grumble at wildlife programmes that are constantly referring to animals as being jealous, grumpy, happy, sad and so on, I’ll have to give it a go. All our cats have different personalities (or ‘felinalities’) and I’ll try and describe Miou’s without giving the impression that I can read her thoughts and feelings.
Miou owes her name to the call she makes before being let out of the house. We should probably have called her Diana as she is an expert huntress and often arrives at the house with birds, mice, shrews, lizards and once a baby squirrel. She’s also a considerable athlete, a fast runner and skilled climber of trees. She was the first to arrive, just before the death of our dog three years ago. There were several cats around our lane then and he used to chase all of them away, except Miou. She would just sit there looking at him, refusing to be frightened. He would bark once or twice, then make a few coughing sounds before giving up and just sitting staring at her. Soon they started to play together even slept curled up next to each other. On one occasion she arrived with a bird she had killed which she placed in front of him. Carrefour didn’t play with it. The following day she arrived with two dead birds one of which she placed in front of him and the other she kept for herself. Carrefour just watched her play with it. Like many female cats I have observed, she paws her prey, pushes it away, then jumps over it showing an impressive vertical take-off ability. When Carrefour died, Miou disappeared for two weeks and returned skinny and ill. Since then she has been a fixture although, unlike the other cats she tends to spend most of her time outside at night. That’s when she isn’t waking us up by jumping up at the bedroom window to be let in or miaoing at the bedroom door to be let out. Both day and night she tends to be in and out of the house all the time; when she isn’t fast asleep she is always on the move, climbing, or stalking birds. She is difficult to treat when she is ill as she resists any sort of medicine and scratches fiercely, once taking a sizeable lump of flesh out of our vet’s hand. She plays a lot with our male cat and they spend about half an hour a day licking each other. She is the only one who has learned how to open cupboard doors and when she isn’t sleeping in one, she will settle down on top of the TV or the car or under the basket we have to cover food. She supplements her diet of wildlife with any food that happens to be going as long as it is fresh and hasn’t been in the plate for more than a minute. She shows no signs of affection for humans, never allows herself to be stroked or comes and sits near you. If picked up, though, she does lie still for a few moments before struggling to get free. She has several times been injured by passing male cats, more so than our other females. That about sums her up as far as I can judge. Not being a cat psychologist, I hesitate to interpret further.
watch out, there’s a cat underneath