Friday, 7 January 2011

There was a jingling

outside the window yesterday afternoon. I did not take too much notice at first but then it grew louder and more insistent so I looked out.
Miss Puss (the cat from across our street) was there looking up at me. She stepped back carefully with her paw holding something down and gave a small miaou-purrup of pride. Under her paw there was a still twitching rat. It was not a large rat but it was still a rat. There are a few of these wretched creatures in the area around the fruit trees belonging to use and multiple neighbours. They are a variety which live on fruit and, thankfully, prefer the outdoor life. I have never seen one scampering near the house.
But it was Miss Puss's behaviour that I found interesting. Having attracted my attention she picked the rat up between her teeth and went on her way. It was as if she wanted to tell me, "I have caught a rat."
Miss Puss is not a particularly friendly cat. Her owner says she does not like being stroked or even touched. She returns home for meals. At night she sleeps in an old laundry basket on top of a laundry cupboard. Apart from that she remains out of doors. She rarely bothers to communicate with humans.
Pluto (from the other end of the street) is a different story. He has complete cat confidence in his welcome and his ability to communicate. He will stroll in and demand attention. Like the last cat we had he is more than capable of "talking" to me. There are all sorts of indicators from a twitch of the tail to a lift of the whiskers or the flick of an ear to tell me something he apparently wants me to know.
And that is the thing I want to the cats want me to know? I suspect they "think" in images before sound but do they reason things out? Did Miss Puss catch the rat and deliberately come in my direction. She could just as easily have gone the other way. Did she notice me and "think" to herself, "I will show this human I have caught a rat". It seemed so deliberate.
If I was sitting in this chair and our last cat came in and sat in the doorway with a "miaou" I would say, "What do you want?" He would then, apparently quite deliberately, do one of three things, go to where he was fed, go to where he would be brushed or come and jump on my lap.
It is possible to argue that this was Pavlovian conditioning I suppose but the choice appeared to be deliberate on his part.
I don't know what cats think. I don't even know if they do think. If they do think then I do not know how they reason. Dogs appear to be much more straightforward. A well trained obeys commands. A cat will never do that. I infinitely prefer the independence of cats but I would really like to know, did Miss Puss want me to know?

1 comment:

Allison said...

I would really like to know, did Miss Puss want me to know?

In a word -- yes. Our Pauli will meow politely at the door to be let in but when a mouse/vole/or other rodent is involved she will kick up quite a rumpus at the door until I come, look, and acknowledge her capture. She feels no need to discuss it any further and either goes on her way (with the trophy) or comes in (without the trophy).