Sunday, February 14, 2016

Secret Cat Secrets

I read that they used to burn cats here, for fun, in the main public park.

Well, they used to do a lot of things in a lot of places, and not just with cats. Sometimes, in some place, they burned people, not so much for fun but to feel good about keeping things orderly by suppressing evil. People are like that, which is why I don't trust many of them, but I'd be more willing to trust someone who burned witches than someone who burned cats.

Or do I have that backward? I'm not sure any more, which is how it gets when you grow older.

Being young, when you're young, when everyone you know is young and anyone who matters is young, then things are much clearer. Things are obvious, and right is not wrong, and wrong is definitely wrong. And so, you might burn cats or your neighbors, and go home feeling happy about it, and only much later realize the regret, when it is decades past the point that you can reconsider.

Cats think for themselves and come home dragging their own opinions, which are often at odds with the opinions of those who want to dress them in cute outfits, let alone those with a fulsome supply of matches and not enough to do, because cats have to look out for themselves.

Cats are small mostly solitary animals. Housecats are. Bobcats and cougars are different — not sociable, not domesticable. Housecats are like your grumpy uncle Ed who huffs and snorts a lot and seems to disapprove of everything but always seems to come around needing a little company, and maybe he's the one who leaves you $600,000 and a note saying thanks for being there, and then you wonder if you really know what's going on.

Cats are small. They know it, and humans are gigantic in comparison. They know that too, and don't want to get stepped on, so they hang back until they feel sure that you're safe to be around. And they aren't pack animals, so if you want a relationship with a cat, it's a one-on-one deal. You are judged on your performance, not on your species. You have to do more than show up and throw an occasional stick across the lawn.

And another thing — a cat has to be socialized as a kitten, or else you'll never see it, let alone be become its buddy. If a kitten isn't handled daily during its first two months, then it will be wild forever, and nothing you or anyone else can do will make any difference at all. So cats are not dogs. They have to learn while young that humans are OK, and then they have to learn as adults that a particular human might be OK. It takes work. On your part.

Which has something do I guess with why I don't see many cats around here. They have places to hide, and they do.

There are no yards or fences here to sit in or on. No porches. There are no wild brushy spots between houses. There is nothing like a park here, as North Americans know parks. Here, this city (and judging from photos, most Latin American cities) are piles of stone and concrete and slabs of pavement all jumbled. These are not great areas for cats to lounge in, so they don't get out and lounge.

A cat here might have a secret hidey-hole in a wall that it can crawl into and peek through, or a chink elsewhere that serves as a spy-hole, or it might have a balcony to lounge on, above you, above traffic, above danger, but not much else.

The action here is inside. The action here is on the inside of city blocks and not the outside. Inside homes. City blocks here are hollow. Houses are facades with whole worlds behind them, hidden. Gardens are inside, as are the trees and shrubs and what safety there is.

That's where the cats stay, and where life happens, and why I don't get to see too many of my little buddies. Which leaves me a bit lonesome then. My loss.

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