I am not saying cats are perfect (although cats are perfect). However, they have ways of dealing with the things they encounter in life that are different from how most humans are inclined to handle things. We can learn a lot by observing how different dynamics, actions, and attitudes affect the outcomes of circumstances not so different from our own.
It is possible to make this kind of examination about any kind of animal, but my friends asked me for an article about cats, so you get cats. You are very welcome.
Cats is Cats is Cats is Cats
This is one of my favorite things to say when referring to the behaviors of those lovely creatures of a feline persuasion. There are, of course, differences between different varieties of felines, and individual personalities. Despite that, there are definite traits that can be found almost universally throughout the family Felidae. By the same token, there are a great many traits we as humans have in common with all other apes, and also a huge number of primates. Same for canines, weasels, and so on, but the similarities among felines particularly delight me.
Just go watch videos showing big cats like tigers, lions, and leopards enjoying catnip or a cardboard box, or being affectionate with someone they love, or investigating something new, and you will see what I mean. The body language almost always mirrors that of their domestic counterparts, including displaying whether or not they are having fun.
Cats is cats is cats is cats.
Animistically Looking at Cats and Their Ghosts
Animism colors just about every interaction I have with animals, and my interpretations of their natures. I strongly suspect that souls which are suited to being cats tend to reincarnate repeatedly as various kinds of felines, or within specific species of cats. In being suited to cat-ness, they are going to be particularly good at being cats, and usually hold onto distinctly feline forms when they are not embodied.
In other words, I have seen a lot of ghost cats over the years. I am not sure why so many of them seem to stick around on this plane. Certainly, nowhere near all do, or we would be completely overrun with them, but it does seem disproportionate compared to other animals, or even humans. Unlike human ghosts I have seen, I have never seen a ghost cat that seemed stuck or needed help moving on. They seem to know their business, and are perfectly comfortable with that kind of an existence, capable of moving on when they are good and ready.
Cats Know Their Own Business
Most cats I have ever encountered know what they are about. They know what they want, and they know their place in the world. They love their routines, and consistency in those around them. They know what does and does not bring them joy, and they know what they do and do not like. Of course, the specifics vary from cat to cat, but they all are happiest when grounded in reasonable expectations of the world, and that world is rich with the things that they enjoy.
You want to create distrust in a cat, act erratically around them. They do not like it when they do not know what to expect, and they will usually end up in fight or flight mode if the erratic things get in their faces. This can also mean they lay you open if you back them into a corner or get too close while they are upset with irregularities or unpredictable happenings. The really smart cats may even decide to plot revenge, which for a cat usually means peeing on your stuff or otherwise deliberately destroying your treasured things.
They notice your business, too. They notice what you pay attention to, and what you value, so they can know your business, and thereby know what to expect from you. That is how they know what exactly to step on, sit on, or lay down on when they want to join you in your activities or would rather you paid attention to them.
When you know yourself, your joys and what makes you upset, you have the ability to create satisfaction and peace in your life. When you stick around with people and situations that make you miserable or cause you stress by throwing unexpected problems your way, it throws your entire groove, putting you in a constant state of fight or flight.
There are usually better ways of dealing with things than lashing out and hurting the other person, but you do have a right to defend yourself and your sanity. You have a right to demand boundaries and situations that are better for your life circumstances, and those you spend time around.
It is also well worth noting the priorities and habits of those around you. The actions people consistently take say far more about them than any words that come out of their mouths. If someone consistently stresses you out, believe that instead of the soothing noises they might make when they are pretending to be nice.
Giving and Receiving Affection is of Paramount Importance
When a cat wants some love, they want some love! They will get in your face, present their butthole to you, headbutt you, rub against you, reach up and stretch on you, get onto whatever you are trying to pay attention to, and otherwise make sure they you know they want you to shower them with love.
They also do this with each other, or any other animals that are a good friend. I could not tell you how many times I have seen my cats literally flop onto each other and pester each other until affection is received.
The reverse is also true. If they decide they need to express love with someone they trust deeply, or they that someone they care about needs love, they will get in that individual’s face and make sure to show how much they care. Sometimes this takes the form of holding down a friend if necessary, in order to provide the required grooming.
No matter how aloof or reserved someone may seem, affection is something all social creatures need. Try not to be aggressively intrusive unless you have that sort of a relationship with the other person, but do take the time to demonstrate to your friends that you care and are thinking about them. Even little things, especially when done consistently or at seemingly random times, can make all the difference. They let us know we are not alone, and that we are loved even when life is too busy or overwhelming for the big displays. They also reassure that the affection is sincere, and not performative.
Also, if you are direct about expressing your desire to give and receive affection with your friends and loved ones, you are much more likely to have your needs met. Hinting and beating around the bush can mean the other person does not realize what you want or need, leading you to feel unloved even when you are loved.
Chewing on Your Friends is a Sign of Affection
I have yet to meet a cat that does not chew on their friends as a sign of affection. Some, of course, do it far more often and bossily than others, but every single cat does it to some extent. This is part of grooming behavior, but it is also a side-affect of being a predatory animal. Since biting is primarily an action that is used to kill prey, when their friends submit to the nomming, they are showing their trust that the cat doing the nomming will not chomp down and cause a wound.
The vast majority of the time, when I have seen a human end up with a bite wound from an affectionate cat, it was because they failed to trust and jerked away. Of course, this is a completely different circumstance from a cat that is scared or angry, and is biting specifically to harm. If you have pissed off a cat, biting is not about love or affection.
When you have a relationship that is based in genuine trust, you can do things to express that affection and that trust which might appear hostile to someone outside the relationship. It is not unlike trust exercises, where each successful event where no one gets hurt reinforces the trust and friendship.
That, and some people do like to chew on their good friends, but would never chew on a stranger. Don’t chew on strangers or even casual friends, please, unless you have very firmly established that both of you are into that.
Failing to Give and Receive Consent is Rude
Some cats are really bossy, but even bossy cats have boundaries for consent. If you violate a cat’s consent, and force them to do something they do not want to do, there are going to be consequences. Sometimes that consequence is a look of utter betrayal, like after administering medicine. Other times, if the violation is egregious enough, the cat will get revenge in other ways.
Among each other, the cats who consistently violate the consent of their fellows will find themselves making enemies. Even in situations where one cat wants to aggressively shower affection, if the receiving cat clearly shows that they do not want it right now, the first cat will usually back off and look for affection elsewhere. If they do not back off, it can turn into a genuine fight that harms the friendship long term.
Consent is not just for humans, and not just about sex. It is a basic necessity for coexisting peacefully and having friends as a social creature. Violations of consent create resentment and strife, and respecting consent means respecting the other individual and their needs and desires. Make sure other people are consenting before doing anything that involves them, and expect the same of them. It is essential for building strong communities and relationships of all kinds.
Dignity and Silliness are Both Important
In all likelihood you have witnessed at least one cat make a mistake, recover as quickly as possible, and clearly express body language that says, “I meant to do that!” or, “Nothing to see here, nothing at all.” I have also seen cats literally flail at their toys, roll around on their backs batting at each other or begging for belly rubs, or perch themselves somewhere ridiculous.
Usually, the two behaviors can be seen in the same cat, because it is deliberateness that determines embarrassment, not specific action.
Dignity is all about attitude and deliberate action. You can walk down the street in nothing but your underwear, and if it is deliberate and done with a commanding presence, it can still be dignified. Having innocent fun, or just existing, no matter how silly, is always dignified, because it is done with deliberate intention and joy. You choose your own actions, so be dignified in your silliness by owning it. Life is far more fun that way.
That is also the real secret behind “pulling it off.” Anything you approach with deliberate confidence, you can pull off.
Cautious Curiosity is The Best
I do not believe in the old adage, “Curiosity killed the cat.” Every cat I have ever seen is more than cautious enough when exploring new and strange things to avoid true disaster, although mishaps are certainly still on the table. Because they like to understand what is around them, they will investigate anything that is unfamiliar, new, or strange.
Typical body language involves stalking towards the new thing, slightly crouched, head down, tail in neutral or down, whiskers and ears forward, moving as silently as possible. If getting close enough to investigate it with smell, sight, sound, and whiskers does not reveal its true nature, then they will usually poke at it, to determine if it is dangerous, fun, or boring. Once that true nature is determined, caution can usually be thrown to the wind because it is now a known quantity to be run out of the environment, played with, or ignored.
When you try to force a cat to investigate something, it is likely that all hell will break loose. Even if you mean well, that is usually a serious violation of consent, because that cat will figure it out in their own good time, in their own way, to their own satisfaction. Thank you very much.
Never lose your sense of curiosity and wonder. Always be willing to investigate the new things you encounter, so that you can know for certain what it is about and what it may or may not mean in your life. At the same time, it is perfectly reasonable to make these explorations in your own time and in your own way, so that you will be fully satisfied in your answers, because your exploration is about what you learn, not what someone else learns or already knows.
The more unknown the thing is, the better an idea it is to be cautious in your approach, but do not let fear and apprehension prevent you from determining if it really is bad for you, good for you, or of no real consequence in your life.
The only way to lift confusion and ignorance is to take the time to investigate and learn, no matter whether we are young, old, novice, or accomplished. There is always something more to learn, and something new to discover. Sure, you might scare yourself now and again, or maybe get a little burned, but those things can also be powerful lessons that enrich our lives going forward.
Besides, what is life anyway if you do not come out the other side with at least a few scars?