Thursday, October 21, 2010

Unlocking the Kitty Code

Hedge Revealed

I received a book recommendation a short time ago from, Rachel, an on-line friend and reader of this blog. She said that she was surprised that I hadn’t read “The Silent Miaow” by Paul Gallico. Not only hadn’t I read it, I’d never even heard of it. I love a good internet research project, so I began my search for information about this book. I quickly found it on and, after reading a summary, knew I had to have it. There are two versions of this book available; the original, which features black and white photography by Suzanne Szasz and her husband; and a more recent version with color photographs. I chose the original version and when it arrived I knew I had made the right choice.

“The Silent Miaow” is an instruction manual for cats written from a cat’s point of view. The author claims to have translated it from a manuscript written by a cat who he suspects is most likely Cica, the cat who owns Suzanne Szasz and her husband. After reading the book, I suspect that it was indeed authored by a cat. It has the ring of authority and authenticity that only one who is experienced in the field can lend to this sort of manual. Those of us who live with cats should be grateful that this information has been made available; those who haven’t read it, ought to waste no time in finding a copy of this book and absorbing this vital information.

Not only is “The Silent Miaow” as wonderful source of insight into how cats think, it is also a lovely collection of candid photos of the everyday life of a cat. So lovely, in fact, that, upon finishing the book, I immediately set my camera to “monochrome” and have been following Hedge and Quint around for the last couple of days snapping endless shots of them as they perform their daily routines. I’m finding that the black and white photos show more of the form and feeling of the cats without the distractions that come with all the pretty colors. It is also proving to be a superior way of capturing images of Hedge. It seems that the black and white setting works better for photos of a black cat.

Thanks to Rachel for the recommendation and thanks to Mr. Gallico and Ms. Szasz for the book. I’ve not only gained useful knowledge of my cats, but I’ve gotten a bit of artistic inspiration as well. This may well be the best $4.00 I’ve spent in a very, very long time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hedge and I


Hedge is beginning to be my cat. In the same way that Quint is Carol’s cat, Hedge is mine. Certainly, both cats are fond of Carol and I, but when Carol is inside the house, Quint is with her. If she’s at her desk, he’s lying on the towel next to her keyboard, the towel having been placed there for just that purpose. If she’s in the dining room, he’s in the cat tree right above her head. If she’s on the couch watching TV, he’s there, too, within reach of her hand so as to be available for any petting that might be forthcoming. If she’s in the kitchen, he’s there at her feet, often bringing with him a toy mouse for her to throw and for him to catch. Quint loves Carol. At bedtime, Carol tells Quint the hour at which she desires to be awakened. The next morning, Quint promptly appears at just that hour and sees that she gets up on time.
I’m not saying that Quint doesn’t like me, too. It’s just that he really, really loves Carol. Quint and I have a different relationship, more businesslike. I’m in charge of brushing his teeth each day after dinner and he will come and remind me of that if I get busy or forgetful. I’m also in charge of refilling his food dish if the kibble supply should run low, and he reminds me of that as well. If Carol is not at home, or busy around the house, Quint will come and sit next to me on the couch if I’m watching a movie, but he prefers to be with Carol. I don’t blame him. She’s a much more pleasant person to be around than I.
Hedge, though still very much the skittish and shy type, will, if he’s in one of his rare confident moods, seek me out and insist that I pet him. He does this by coming into whatever room I’m in, squeaking at me and then walking deliberately out the door with a glance over his shoulder to see if I’m following. If I’m not, he’ll squeak again and insist that I come with him. I then must follow him until he’s in a space that he feels is the proper one to receive his petting. With Hedge, you can’t just get down on your hands and knees and pet him. No, you are only allowed to pet him if you remain standing and bend over at the waist to pet him, otherwise, he’ll suspect that you are going to try to pick him up and he’ll run away. He dislikes being held, but he loves being petted. He doesn’t seek out Carol for this since she loves to pick him up, instead he comes to me. My inclination, like Carol’s, is to pick him up and hold him while I pet him, but I know he doesn’t like being held, so I do things his way. By accommodating his needs, I’m hoping to help him get over his shyness. We’ll just have to wait and see if my strategy will be effective. It may take a very long time.
I like Hedge, and I think that he likes me. It used to be that the only individual in the house that Hedge really liked was Quint. No matter what Quint was doing or in which location he happened to be, Hedge wanted to be right there with him. Lately, though, Hedge has become a bit more independent of Quint and doesn’t have so much of a need to be with him constantly. They’ll often be found, now, napping in separate rooms. If I have time for an afternoon nap, Hedge will sometimes come and join me. Quint will come in the room to see what’s going on, but he usually goes off and takes his afternoon nap somewhere else. I understand Hedge. He doesn’t like to be restrained in any way, instead he wants to approach you and deal with you on his own terms. If he lies down with me for a nap, I don’t try to hold onto him or even touch him very much, a couple of scritches on the head are enough. For Hedge, even a slight desire for human companionship is progress in my eyes. If I make it safe for him to want to be with his people, he’ll eventually get better at being part of the family. I like him just the way he is and I’ll take whatever affection he’s willing to offer. If he feels safe and wants to offer more, I’ll take that, too, but I’m perfectly content to just let him be. He’s doing the best that he can and, considering his origins, that’s not too bad.