Monday, October 12, 2015

Cats Aren't As Aloof as You'd Think

I love it when people say that cats are aloof. What exactly does that mean?

Cats aren't as aloof as they seem.

Cats don't have the same facial expressions as dogs. Their eyes, with the vertical pupils so handy for seeing prey at night, don't look like human eyes, so they can't give you that heart-melting look a dog can. They can't "smile" the way a dog can, either - their noses just aren't set up for that.

But they do demonstrate affection and love in many, many different ways. They also demonstrate to me time and time again how much they enjoy, need and even want my company.

Take this weekend, for example. My husband and I set out in the afternoon to hang up No Trespassing signs around our property. For those who don't live in the country, let me briefly explain what we're doing and why we do it.

Our property was once part of a much larger farm that was split into a 55 acre tract and the a bunch of smaller tracts. It was used as hunting property for many years, and as such, many of the old timers around here still wander down our back lane, the old farm lane, in search of deer, turkey and other game.

We don't permit strangers to hunt on our land for safety reasons. I don't want people carrying guns shooting when I'm out in the garden. I don't want anyone accidentally shooting my pets, either.

To warn folks when they've crossed the boundary between the legal hunting property behind ours and our own private land, we erect signs along the perimeter that basically alert folks that they can't hunt there anymore. We should have put them up a few weeks ago but the rains prevented us from venturing into the woods. So this Sunday, armed with a stack of signs, our cordless drill and a bunch of heavy-duty screws, my husband and I ventured forth to walk the perimeter of our property and erect signs.

We live on a 17 acre farm, but the farm is mostly heavily wooded. The land is oddly shaped and it is difficult to find the property line. We were crunching through the under brush when I heard a plaintive "Meow!!" from a distance. We paused. On our farm, it's common to hear meows, but part of us always worries that it's another stray cat dumped on the farm lane adjoining our land. It's where four of our six were found as strays, just discarded like stray trash by the side of the road.

"Here, kitty, kitty!" we called.

Out of the underbrush popped Whitey. We laughed. Whitey's nickname is Scout, because he's always "scouting" and exploring. Whitey gave us his beautiful blue-eyed stare and proceeded to follow us.

But I was puzzled. Whitey doesn't have a big, vocal meow. He's rather a quiet cat except for his rumbling, ever-present purr. Who meowed?

Just then, another loud cry erupted from the underbrush, this time the meow closer. "Kitty!"  Shy Boy, Whitey's brother, came bounding out of the brush, frantically searching for us.

Soon, we had a parade of farm cats following us around the property's perimeter. They stopped to sniff leaves, twigs and other promising hunting areas, but they kept within 10 feet of us at all times, finally racing to beat us back to the house when we emerged from the back of the property to the cleared area near my vegetable garden.
We can get quite the parade following us around the garden as we do our chores.

Cats have their own way of showing affection. My outdoor boys, including Whitey and Shy Boy, but their brother Groucho and the stray, Rocky, will all follow me as I tend my garden. They'll walk with us down the long, winding driveway to pick up the mail, and they'll follow us through the woods as we cut brush or hang signs.

Cats aren't as aloof as people make them out to be. If they like you, and if you like them, they know it and they want to spend time with you. My guys acted more like dogs this weekend than cats!

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