According to a recent report at MSNBC, our feline friends are master manipulators. Who knew?
Could our little darlings, Baxter and Chloe, be controlling their "hoomans"? Oh yes, says MSNBC:
A study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America makes the case that ages ago cats deliberately and cunningly domesticated themselves and so they could persuade people to give them free food and shelter—sometimes against their owners' better judgment.
“Cats do not perform directed tasks and their actual utility is debatable, even as mousers,” wrote the study authors. “Accordingly, there is little reason to believe an early agricultural community would have actively sought out and selected the wildcat as a house pet.”
Their actual utility is debatable? That sounds like a slap at kitty kats. And MSNBC doesn't stop there:
A study published this month in Current Biology revealed that today's cats have learned to motivate people to fill their food dishes by combining an urgent cry or meowing sound with the comforting sound of a purr, a noise that’s annoying yet endearing and definitely difficult to ignore.
So cats adroitly play us like fiddle strings? Let's consider the evidence in our household.
Baxter has developed what we call his "mountain goat" routine when it's time for breakfast. Most days, around 6 a.m., he hops on our bed and bounces all over us, as if we were a couple of lifeless Matterhorns that needed climbing. Once he catches one of us just right in the rib cage, he and his sister have breakfast.
Chloe almost never changes expression, except when it's time for "marking." Then she fixes a laser-like stare on me until I become the object of her marking. And it has to be done a certain way, according to her specifications. I must squat, like a baseball catcher, and wait patiently as she moves back and forth against my legs.
And she takes her sweet time. "Chloe, these legs are 52 years old, and I can't stay in this position forever." Doesn't seem to phase her--or speed her up. In a few years, I'll probably need a crane to help me get out of that position. But will I still do the "catcher's squat" in order to please my cat? Uh, yeah.
Baxter has developed a routine for when he wants a late-night snack--known in kitty kat parlance as "noms noms." And his routine varies, depending on whether his target is me or Mrs. Schnauzer.
With her, he rubs the side of his face against her legs and nuzzles her with his nose, as if he's kissing her on the legs. Works every time.
With me, he'll wait till I'm walking past and stick out his leg to brush against mine. It's like he knows I'm a guy, and it's OK to "goose" me, as if he was snapping a buddy in the butt with a towel in the locker room.
Does our cat really know when he's supposed to act like a gentleman and when it's OK to be a goofball? I'm starting to think he does. MSNBC quotes a California psychotherapist, indicating that Baxter probably does know exactly how to play on our emotions:
She says we’re driven by two competing emotions: the desire to nurture a small, dependent animal and the challenge presented by a cat’s independence. When we’ve gained the approval of a cat, she says, it’s 100 percent the cat’s initiative. Call it the Sally Field syndrome: You like me! You really like me!
In the end, we probably welcome the opportunity to have our cats manipulate us. Dogs have an angelic quality about them that is powerfully endearing. But cats, with their slightly devilish, "Dennis the Menace" quality, can be equally charming.
Maybe that's why the I Can Has Cheezburger Web site is so popular. A writer at Open Salon recently highlighted some of her favorite LOL Cats photos.
We agree that those are classics. And we'll add another that we stumbled across on the Web. This captures the fiendish quality of our little feller perfectly. It shows a boy cat, caught checking out kitty porn:
The caption: "Was popupz, I swerz."
We've also become huge fans of the "Pooties and Woozles" diaries at Daily Kos. They've done wonders for what's left of our sanity.
In fact, Daily Kos helped us find this wonderful video of a Tonkinese kitten showing off his agility. We adopted our Tonks when they were about 1 year old, so we've never seen them as kittens. Needless to say, this video touched our hearts. Enjoy.