Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's You! (How are you, Gentlemen?)

The number of cats in this neighborhood is absolutely staggering. I believe they outnumber us humans by a factor of two or more.

What happens when cats rule the streets? Who determines which cat goes where? What rules do they follow? Are there any rules? Who would enforce them? Why?

These questions continue down paths few people dare tread: why do we have cats in the first place? Why do they insist on our company, yet consistently refuse to obey our commands or indulge in our whims? What's going on behind those big green eyes?

That glint; the winking eyebrows, cheeky grin; what on God's green Earth could they be up to?

I'm not going to pretend to have any answers, but I've been around my neighborhood enough to have gained a little glimpse of understanding of their world. It works a little like this:

At the top, Boss Cat is boss. A giant one-eyed Persian, he paid our two young female felines a visit a week after their arrival in the neighborhood. Boss Cat waited for us to let them out, moved away to a respectful position, and observed - to see if they behaved like proper young cats. It appears both Anka and Izzy passed the test; he hasn't been back since, and they've been allotted our back yard. I'm not going to pretend our dog didn't have anything to do with it, but Boss Cat calls the shots.

Boss Cat has several deputies. One of the most notable is Highway Cat. He sits by one of the main passages between downtown Groningen and Beijum - a bridge over the ringway surrounding Groningen. Highway Cat performs two functions. The first (probably his primary) function is to monitor our comings and goings. Perhaps there's a Highway Cat at every through-way to Beijum. In any case, this Highway Cat is at his post at least three of every four times I pass this point. Of course - who knows if he's hiding in the bushes - observing in secret.

Highway Cat doesn't only work for the benefit of felines. I was biking home one time, coming at high speed down the bridge, when I noticed Highway Cat at his usual place. There's an intersection with a blind corner there, and I've always taken it on faith; there's not much traffic, so the chance for misfortune is small - usually. This time, however, he sat up, stared at me, then backed away in an odd fashion. I understood this to mean there was someone coming from the other direction, so I moved to the left lane in anticipation. Sure enough, a moped came cruising at high velocity! Had I not moved in response to the cat, I don't think that avoiding a collision would be possible.

There are other cats that fulfill some sort of function within cat society, but I don't really know what those functions are...

Creepy Cat, for instance. At first I thought he played a policing role, but it's just creepy... its teeth are large, yellow, and point in all the wrong directions. It eats like a fiend, looks totally emaciated, sits on garbage cans and bike seats, and its meow is like rubbing sand paper on a chalkboard. Perhaps he works as a scavenger of sorts - he loves to ravage garbage bags.

Love Cat is one cat I don't know very well. It seems that Love Cat has his heart set on Anka. Anka is certainly very beautiful - our little princess - but is entirely uninterested, due to some surgical intervention. Love Cat hates on Izzy, too, so perhaps Love Cat's purpose is to encourage some form of cat prissiness.

I'll add more cats to this list since I'm not home during the day, when all this drama is visible to humans. I'm finally on vacation, so perhaps I can observe a few more cats first-hand and see what they are up to, such as Gimp Cat and Mean Big Furry Black Cat, among others.

What's the lesson in all this? I don't know, but that's probably only because Boss Cat doesn't want me to...

1 comment:

  1. Excellent observations, but I question your objectivity. You seem to have set out expressly to divine a purpose in these cats' behavior, or more specifically an extrinsic value that these cats provide. By doing this, you exclude the possibility of understanding actions that are meaningful only to the cat itself. If you extend your model to include a cat psychology I think you might find more reasoned behaviors with e.g. Creepy Cat.

    Do keep us updated with your research. It is of vital importance for us to understand the motives and interests of our companion species.

    Keep an eye out for corvids as well. There's more to them than meets the eye. The other day, the entire jackdaw population of Uppsala formed a doomsday flock that cloaked the city center in shadow. Then, as if on command, they all pooped. Everyone who hadn't already taken cover was pooped on. The affected area was huge, the devastation complete. One can only shudder to think at what they could do if (when?) they realize that poop is actually harmless...