It’s been too long since I’ve lived with a cat. I’ve forgotten an awful lot about how they communicate. I remember tail-swishing, the end of purring and laid-back ears as signals to lay off and back away. But Bob finds attacking me with no discernible provocation an increasingly enjoyable pastime, and I couldn’t seem to figure out if he was a sad mental case or if I was completely missing his point, whatever that was.
I was missing the point.
I finally wised up enough to check out “cat behavior” results on an internet search. Duh. Cats like to play, for heaven’s sake. When Bob first arrived he was content to enjoy his new, safe, rife-with-food digs. I offered a variety of toys, but he wasn’t interested. Maybe mature males just don’t have that playful bent, I thought, or at least Bob didn’t. The toys went off to Smooch, and Bob and I settled in together.
Fine; I’m happy with a feline companion who sleeps a lot and likes to snuggle.
But when the urge to attack me appeared, and soon became more and more frequent, I began to get worried. An entirely unprovoked and nasty bite on the nose at 5 AM this morning sent me off to Google-land. Thank goodness a lot of good, well-informed folk are happy to share their wisdom. Bob isn’t actually attacking me; he’s just ready to play. In fact, he needs to play. Stalking and catching prey is what cats do, and they need to do it whether they are safely indoors or taking their chances in the wild.
An interesting digression: if you jerk your hand away when a cat bites it (and who wouldn’t), you’ve just informed him that you are pretty good prey, and worthy of chasing down. If you just relax your hand (much easier said than done), and blow gently in his face, the game is off. The wind is unexpected and not much fun, and the prey won’t move. Who needs that. The trick is to teach your playful little furball that a toy is good prey, your hand is not.
One delightful cat toy later we’re on our way down the road to redirected kitty enthusiasm. I think Bob will soon be an all-around happier guy. If it works, I’m sure going to be a happier nun.