Animals communicate. They can’t speak words, at least that’s true most of the time, but we once had a mongrel dog that could. My dear wife, who found the dog in San Francisco and brought her home, taught Sweetness (that was the name she gave the dog) to speak. I’ll swear to it. Our friends heard her speak as well. Many times. Sweetness had a limited vocabulary, but it could say ‘I love you.’ That’s what my wife taught the dog to say. Sweetness did it every time she had an audience, and when my wife asked her. Of course, it was rough speech. Actually, the dog said something that sounded more like, ‘Ahhiiiee wuuvvve oooo.’ But that is what it was trying to say.
I’m off the point of my story. What I wanted to tell you was that Cleo, my cat, like all animals, uses body and head movements to make their wishes known. She is a teenager, almost two years old, gray and hairy as a pillow, and lady-like. She knows she is my cat but demands respect and will only tolerate parring when she wants it. She will let the ladies hold her on their laps but never lets me hold her on my lap. At night she will sleep on my bed but as far away as possible on the other side of the covers. I am, you see, regarded by Cleo as her ‘Pack Leader,’ and she will not take personal liberties with me.
I’ll give you an example of Cleo’s communication skills. The other day, Cleo wanted to go outside and play. Her usual method is to sit on her haunches in front of me and stare. It is a trifle unnerving to see two large yellow cat eyes trying to stare you down. I learned that meant she wanted out.
Sometimes, when that doesn’t work… or I ignore her to evade her unsettling stare, she falls back on method number two. That’s when Cleo reaches up with her paw and grips my pant leg with her claws. It is her more insistent way of cat expression, and it always works. The instant I get up from my chair to open the sliding door leading to the porch to let her out, Cleo is there like a streak. As soon as the door is open wide enough, she is gone like a shot.
When it is time for her to come in for the night, she is usually at the door ready to come in. Being a house cat, she has learned that is where she sleeps… in my bedroom on top of my cardboard reference file of information folders for the book I am currently writing. I put one of my old sweaters on the box to keep her from eating my folders and the data inside.
If she is merely checking to make sure I am on the job, Cleo will sit or lie near the door and look in at me. I can open the door, all I want, and if she is not ready to quit playing outside for the day, she will ignore me. Her manner is polite. She is also subtle, probably not to hurt my feelings. When I open the door, Cleo will look off into the distance like she forgot something important. She ignores me even when the door is wide open. Her looking away toward the sunset lets me know she’s not ready to come in yet.
When she is ready for night, there is no mistaking her intent. Cleo places her nose at the crack in the sliding door and stares in at me. She is saying, ‘Open the door. I’m ready to come home for the night.’ Cleo is a good cat. She always obeys my every command … when she wants to.
PAL PUBLISHING/USED BY PERMISSION
To enjoy more of Gene’s writing and read his books
Visit Gene’s website: http://genepaleno.com
Speaker? Call Gene; 275-2777