Friday, September 10, 2010
The Spirit of Cat
I have acquired a whole stack of books on cats, some came as gifts, some came from the used book store, and some I bought new. I have books on Cat Philosophy, Cat Behavior, Cat Psychology, Cat Humor, Choosing a Cat, and Caring for Cats. Some of them are written by veterinarians, the scientists of the cat world. My favorites are written by people who actually own and care for cats, sometimes those people are also veterinarians, sometimes not.
If you are trying to figure out exactly where to cut your cat's claws, go with the veterinary science approach to cats. They'll tell you where to cut so that you don't get into the living tissue inside the claw. For medical advice and treatment of physical problems, again, go with the veterinarian. That's what they do. They are the cat mechanics. They understand how the cat's body works and can help you fix it when it's broken. They can drain an abscess, stitch up a wound, pull a tooth, remove a growth and prescribe medications. I don't go to the scientists, though, for information on why my cat follows my wife around, or how to play with my cat, or how to communicate with my cat. With rare exceptions, that's not what the scientists are good at. Scientists think everything is a machine and that everything can be explained by mechanics and genetics.
If you are looking for all-around good advice about choosing, caring for, feeding and understanding cats, I recommend looking to the cat lovers for the best information. Cat lovers know that to understand cats you must look beyond the mechanics, beyond the bodily functions and instincts, beyond the genetics. You must look to the unique spirit that is the essence of each individual cat. There are no two the same. Just as no two souls are the same, no two cats are the same. Ask a scientist why your cat behaves the way she does and you'll get some answer that involves instinct and hard-wired genetic behavior. Ask a cat lover and the answer will be, "Because that's what the cat decided to do, of course."
You can't account for a cats behavior by only looking to genetics and instinct. Some of the things a cats does are quite obviously motivated by conscious decisions made by your cat after he has evaluated all the available data. Cats are usually quite rational about what they choose to do or, even, what they refuse to do. Sure, there are some pretty darn neurotic cats around, but most of them are not. A lot like us people, each cat has had life experiences that color its behavior. Animals that have been abused are often cowed, submissive and prone to hiding under the bed. Animals that have been raised in a safe, loving environment are normally sociable, friendly and fearless. Animals that grow up without any human contact tend to be aggressive and wary. Change the environment and you can change a cat's behavior. Take a wild, street cat and put him in a safe, loving home and you'll very likely end up with quite a good companion. The same goes for abused animals. If you show them that not all humans are trying to hurt them, they'll eventually figure thing out. It might take some time, but it most certainly can be done.
There's a reason that cats, like ourselves, respond to kind and loving treatment. It is because cats, like ourselves, are not simply a body with a brain. They, and we, are spiritual beings that just happen to inhabit these bodies. This is why, when we live in a safe, comfortable environment surrounded by people who care for us, we thrive, and why, when the opposite conditions prevail, we wither and diminish. We feel better when we are around people who love us because it lifts our spirit. People who love and care for cats, or any animal, know this. Wise veterinarians and human physicians know this as well. Beware of those who don't acknowledge, respect and nurture the spiritual nature in humans and animals. Sure, take care of the body. Keep it healthy, well fed and well rested, but also make sure that you provide nourishment for the spirit. Providing a loving, happy, playful and interesting environment is a more essential factor in maintaining good health than anything else you can do for yourself or for your cat. Keep this in mind when you are reading books about cats and be sure to take into account the spirit that is your cat and not just the cute, furry little body that the spirit lives in.