If I were to ask my cat Penelope if she knew that December was National Cat Lover’s Month, she’d probably plop down in the most dramatic patch of lighting she could find, start to groom herself, and say, “Of course, darling, we always save the best for last. Now fetch me a treat.”
I’m the first to admit that in the world of petdom, cats often get short shrift compared to their larger, furrier, droolier dog counterparts. What can I say? Dogs just seem so much needier than their independent, above-it-all feline housemates. I know it’s not true, and I’d like to give them their due in their month of celebration.
So in honor of National Cat Lover’s Month, I’m sharing my favorite cat news, discoveries, or insights from 2019. After all, cats deserve no less!
A Scientist Shares How To Pet Your Cat
We all know intuitively that there are right ways (gentle, front-to-back) and wrong ways (staring into their face, clutching them to your chest) to pet a cat. But a researcher from Nottingham Trent University took it a step further and actually collated the research data that exists in order to perfect the rules for successful cat-petting.
The number one factor in whether or not a cat enjoys getting pet? Whether or not the cat was the one to initiate the interaction. As anyone who has had to endure those rib-crushing hugs from Great Aunt Edna over the holidays can attest, this makes perfect sense.
Like Puss in Boots or Robin Hood, Quilty the Cat is a rogue at heart. Quilty wasn’t satisfied with his plush digs in a Houston shelter, and decided to make a run for it. Over and over and over, he’d open the door handle and let all the residents of the cat room run amok. Each morning the staff would come in perplexed, having to retrieve the 15 cats Quilty had set free, and finally placed a camera to figure out what was going on.
Eventually Quilty was identified as the prison-breaking culprit and sent to solitary confinement, where his irritated pout earned him a whole different type of freedom: that of internet darling. The best part is, he earned the ultimate escape: he is being matched with the perfect home.
Cats Absolutely Love Us
Though some might interpret a cat’s natural independence as a lack of interest compared to, say, the neverending ardor of a Golden Retriever, the truth is cats do form strong bonds to their people. According to a Current Biology journal article from September that compared the attachment behaviors of cats to that of human babies, they exhibited the same patterns of caregiver attachments as infants!
So cat lovers, rejoice in the scientific proof of what you already knew — of course our cats love us. They just show it in their own cat-like way.
A Dog Would NEVER Interrupt an NFL Game Like This
Right in the midst of a Cowboys/Giants Monday night game, a black cat decided he was going to show the world who really held the power and brought the game to a screeching halt with nothing more than his presence on the field.
Not satisfied with merely showing up and running around, he proceeded to dramatically work his way to the endzone, working the crowd into a frenzy as he led a start-and-stop saunter into touchdown range. I haven’t heard cheers that loud at an NFL game since Prince rocked the halftime Superbowl show! Yes, cats know dramatic entrances.
Cats Know Us Better Than We Think
It’s a common belief that dogs sense and respond to our moods due to thousands of years of selective breeding. While cats are also domesticated, they evolve not from a pack species but a solitary one, so we’ve long assumed that cats aren’t as attuned to our behavioral cues as canines. But that assumption is incorrect.
Take, for example, the pointing test- a test of human-animal communication long thought to be passable only by a select few animals such as, you guessed it, the dog. But when researchers actually placed cats in the test with their owner, they followed their owner’s pointing hand as often as the dogs did- if, that is, they were paying attention.
2019 was the year when cats came into their own and proved, this time with the rigors of science behind them, that they are well aware of their place in our world and enjoy being a part of it. They just do it on their own terms. Will we ever understand them entirely? Probably not. Do we need to? Not really. They are who they are: fun, loving, neurotic, playful, aloof, or whatever the heck they choose to be on any given day. That’s part of the fun of having one in the house.
Best wishes to your family in the coming year!
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM