Merlin – our black long-hair male cat – has now been living with us for 9 years. While that means we’ve been his family for almost all of his life, he’s been a part of mine for less than 20%. Don’t get me wrong, he still gets what he wants most of the time. But I have been thinking about some things.
One thing that had my attention recently was the idea that, even when they have food still in their bowl, whenever my wife and I are eating our cats will both sit near us and look like they expect a turn. I wondered why they do this, even when their noses should tell them that whatever we’re eating is too spicy or something that they don’t like.
Then I remembered an episode of “Mutual of Omaha’s WILD KINGDOM” that I saw as a kid. The episode explored the behavior and pecking order of a family of wild lions, and suddenly Merlin and Morgaine made sense. In a group of wild lions – called a PRIDE – the female adults will do the hunting, but the alpha male will be the first to eat. Eating order is determined strictly by social status, but everyone in the pride gets a turn at the fresh kill. That’s what is going on when our cats sit and wait while we’re eating – it’s the PRIDE mentality kicking in. They want their turn, even if they decide to walk away.
Which leads me to another cat-related revelation. Sharing scraps. To us, it’s just a sample of whatever is on our plate, and as long as it’s something they can safely eat, sharing a small portion isn’t a big deal. But to the CATS it is a big deal – if you refuse to share, you’re telling them they are not a member of YOUR pride. You are sharing your home, and making them feel rejected at the same time. It’s no wonder so many people think of cats as aloof and disconnected.