A recent study has found that cats don’t only like us for the food and shelter we give them, but that they actually appreciate us for the company we provide as well. Contrary to what many thought so far, but in line with what every cat-lover already knows with solid certainty, is that a feline companion doesn’t stay with you because you give her the right brand of kibbles and that the occasional dead mouse she proudly presents to you does not solely mean that she sees you as the main food provider and tries to do her part as member of the household. She actually does like you for the snuggles.
Cats are not truly solitary creatures. They can perfectly live on their own, but do need the occasional social contact with either neighbours belonging to their own species, or anything else they can meet and greet without a automatic fight being involved. The challenge of finding out who is friend and who is foe keeps them on their toes, of course, but it is also the friendship and companionship that counts. Basically, a cat is happy with a buddy now and then.
As any farmer, or other caretaker of larger feline populations, can tell you they form perfectly good little societies of their own. They quickly sort out who is boss, who is under-boss, and who is under everyone else. The hierarchy may change at the weirdest moments and with the strangest results for the most ridiculous-seeming reasons, but you can be certain that a modus vivendi is always in place or will be soon and that the feline members of the community will usually get along fine give or take the occasional hissing fit. Until milking time. Then it’s a scramble-for-all with the nastiest coming out on top.
Kittens are wont to huddle together for warmth and safety. Full-grown queens may huddle together for warmth, safety and companionship, not to mention to literally share the burden of having litters. Toms usually don’t form part of this picture, but you bet they too may have a buddy somewhere they can spend the occasional and short entente with. Neutered toms are a bit more laid-back and enjoy the occasional close encounter – or rather: lie-in. All cats are capable of forming lasting friendships and do feel a need for physical contact. And they have an extensive range of signs and postures with which to show this appreciation of each other.
Cat-caretakers may or may not stumble across the endearing scene of two or more of their feline overlords snoozing together in a complicated puzzle of limbs, whiskers and tails. And one does have the chance to observe from time to time how two cats will just sit together, maybe even with tails draped over the other’s back. When a kitty is comfortable with another kitty there is much touching about.
So it shouldn’t surprise you -really- that cats can form meaningful bonds with humans or other animals. Anyone who has ever been greeted in the morning by a sweet and happy chirrup from a furry friend knows all too well that the chirrup is a greeting and not a demand for food. The imperious “MEOW” that comes after the chirrup is a demand for food. But the chirrup is to let you know that hey! the kitty is happy to see you, recognizes you, and sends you friendly greetings with the happy expectation that more fun things will follow – like food. More often than not the chirrup is followed up with a head-butt, maybe even a body-rub, but you’ve really hit the jackpot with a tail-by. The tail says it all really: if it gently strokes over any part of your body (usually the ones in reach) it’s a sure and certain sign that you are his beloved friend and companion.
Yet the feline bodylanguage is not limited to the tail-by alone. Just sit somewhere and read something (a newspaper, a book, a computer…) and not before too long you will feel an entreating paw softly tapping your knee. A purr may ensue, emitted with hopeful anticipation. And when you relent with a sigh you suddenly feel 3 kilos of solid affection entering your personal space, occupying your lap, and grabbing all of your attention. Forget what you were just reading. Quality time is in order ! Of course, after the necessary ministrations you may resume whatever activity you were engrossed in. Just take care not to disturb the by now napping kitty… or to continue with the scritchings of the not-napping kitty !
And when night falls and you retire tiredly towards your bed, you may feel the sudden thump! that heralds the imminent arrival of someone hoping to get cuddles. They just love it when you allow them a little space to snuggle up in, close to you, close to your hands with those marvellous appendages which can scritch and scratch all over and take your feline buddy straight up towards Nirwana. Because for the cat cuddling is utter and total bliss. The one moment in the day when she absolutely forgets all instinctive self-preservation, when caution flies out of the window, and when a little furry body is given over completely to unlimited levels of sensuous togetherness with a far far larger one.
If that ain’t love, I don’t know what else is.
It sure implies complete and utter trust.
Picture below: the feline denizens of the House of Chaos rarely snuggle together, but these two (Hrimnir and Isegrim) are the only ones more or less comfortable in each other’s close proximity. When one of the simian denizens (or both) are in the Nest, it’s more a matter of careful distribution of kitties and then the snoring starts.
(bad quality of piccie due to low lighting and the use of a mobile phone camera)
Weekend is approaching fast and that means we can start partying again with all of our buddies over at the Friday Ark, the Carnival of the Cats and Weekend Cat Blogging. Please visit them and join the fun !