One of the reasons I like cats is because I find it enjoyable to try to model their thought processes by observing their behavior. They’re like furry aliens, just enough like us that a limited degree of communication (mostly emotional) is possible.
Just now I’m contemplating a recent change in the behavior of our new cat, Zola. Recent as in the last couple of days. Some kind of switch has flipped.
When last I reported on Zola, about six weeks ago, he was – very gradually – losing his initial reserve around us; behavior becoming more like Sugar’s was. Not all that surprising in retrospect – those Maine Coon genes are telling.
In the last couple of days Zola has become markedly more affectionate and attention-seeking. He’s even taken to sleeping part of the night on the waterbed coverlet, which was something Sugar did that we liked (before a few days ago, he’d occasionally jump up but then skedaddle after less than a minute). We find it very restful to have a cat curled up nearby when we’re dozing off or wake up in the middle of the night.
I think I understand the long-term, gradual increase in affectionate behavior; Zola has been testing us and learning that we’re safe. I wish I understood the sudden jump. It’s as though we’ve moved to a different category in his representation of the world. It doesn’t feel like he’s testing us anymore; now he just cheerfully assumes that we love him and loves us right back. He’s happier and more relaxed – he’s almost stopped disappearing during the day (but is still more nocturnal than Sugar was).
The reason I’m writing about this is to invite speculation – or, better yet, reports from ethological studies – on what social classifications cats have other than “stranger”, “packmate”, and “kin”. Also, whether there’s any evidence for domestic cats putting humans in a close-kin category, or something else distinguishable from and more trusted than “packmate”.
Now, if we can just teach him not to sprawl where he might get stepped on. Without actually stepping on him *wince*…