Monday, May 14, 2012
I was thinking, the other day, about why my cats, especially Quint, but Hedge as well, are different than other cats I have encountered both in real life and on the internet. I came to the conclusion that each cat’s unique characteristics are a product of his companions’ expectations of him (or her). In other words, our cats live up or down to what we expect of them. If I expect Quint to be engaged, active, capable, curious and friendly, then that is what he will become. Part of the reason for that is when he does something that I like, I will reward him for it, sometimes simply with praise or a quick pet, sometimes with a treat if I am being more pro-active about it. Another aspect of Quint’s living up to our expectations is that being in an environment where one is expected to excel will cause one to rise up to a level of ability and awareness where one does just that. If you are around purposeful, enthusiastic people all day, you, yourself, if you weren’t to begin with, will tend to become purposeful and enthusiastic as well. The opposite, of course, is true as well. If you are expected to be a useless lay-about and are surrounded by people who are uselessly lying about, you will live down to that expectation. If you as a cat are surrounded by people who consider you “just a dumb animal,” you will act as if you were a dumb animal. The longer you are in this environment the more of a dumb animal you will become. If you are treated cruelly, you will tend to respond in kind. The same goes for living with someone who is always angry, the emotional atmosphere will permeate everything within it. Sometimes the only thing you can do in such a case is to escape and go look for a new home. On the other paw, if you are treated as a contributing member of the family and expected to do your share, your options and your horizons become nearly unlimited. Really, the only thing holding you back is an annoying lack of opposable thumbs. The devices and conveniences in the human world were just not designed for manipulation by a paw full of claws. Still, ways can be found to do your part and those cats who are lucky enough to live with people who have high expectations for them can and do find unique ways to contribute. As I said, it really is largely a matter of expectation. If you want your cat to do great things, he’s more likely to do so if that is what you expect of him (or her). And, as I mentioned, you can also use this technique with other humans. And, now that I think about it, cats could use this technique on their human companions as well. Encourage your humans to play with you, to pet you and take care of your teeth. Expect it of them, and then be sure to reward them with a purr and a little warble when they perform the desired behavior. Use caution when practicing this technique. Remember the admonition: Be careful of what you wish for, you may get it. Properly applied, this is a nation changing, a world-changing technique. What would happen if each and every one of us expected everyone around us to be respectful and civil to each other, to listen to each other, to help each other, to consider how our actions might affect others? What if we all considered it our responsibility to pull each other up? What if we are all expected to be kind and considerate and a credit to our profession? What would happen? For one thing, we’d all have amazingly capable cats. From there, who knows how far we could go.