Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Approaching Cats: A Video

I want to do a series of videos showing interactions between cats and other cats, between cats and their environment, and between humans and cats. Mainly I want to highlight two things with these videos: (1) things cats do and ways they might respond and communicate that aren't commonly noticed or mentioned, and (2) how humans might, by taking feline nature and individual cat-personalities into account, interact more respectfully and on a deeper level than before with cats.

The first video of this sort is embedded below:

It's a bit "rough", especially in terms of the audio...unfortunately when I was filming the water heater in my house (which is old and nearing time for replacement) was making all these obnoxious banging noises, which the camera microphone picked up even though I was in a separate room from the heater.

I also didn't script the video due to the fact that I was not sure what the cats (Cora and Shadow in this case) were going to do, and hence my narration is not super articulate. I did attempt to add captions, though, so hopefully that compensates for some of the audio issues.

Anyway, basically in this video I am trying to convey something about approaching cats (as a human living or otherwise interacting with them). Because one thing I see a lot is humans who don't seem to consider whether or not a cat might WANT to be petted or picked up. And a lot of people don't seem to even have an idea that cats CAN communicate this kind of thing, I mean outside something really egregiously obvious like running away or squirming.

But I am quite certain there's a heck of a lot being transmitted by the cat before they get to the point of needing to do something really blatant. While of course I can't claim a direct pipeline into the feline mind, I've definitely gotten the sense over time that cats prefer a modicum of politeness on the part of their human(s) when being approached by same. And while I'm not perfect at the finer points of feline politeness myself, I certainly plan to keep trying to get better.

This particular video just sort of introduces the topic of approaching cats, without getting too deeply into explanations. Initially Cora and Shadow were sitting on the bed together, but then they engage in a few seconds of grooming leading to (unserious) face-biting followed by Cora deciding she was done napping and proceeding to amuse herself jumping about the room and climbing on things. Shadow, meanwhile, stayed on the bed for some more relaxation with me. The end of the video hence trails off a bit into a rambling description of Shadow's tendency to pick up human words...of course that's not the ONLY thing he does that's interesting or worth noting, but it's what I ended up talking about in this case.

So, like I say in the video, hopefully future chapters of this will be better planned out. But I do really like the idea of observing cats in real-time like this. The next video, which I hope to have up before this week is out, will be on the concept of inviting cats (to sit with you, to share in some activity, etc.).


  1. I loved the video. A hug like the one Shadow gave Coraline normally ends in a wild playfight in our cats...

    And I normally wait for a cat to approach me - they will show very clearly whether they want to interact or not. One of my cats even gives me "cat kisses".

  2. Connie: Heh, yes, somewhere I remember reading that when cats lick each other's faces, it can be an invitation to play. I've definitely seen evidence of that, but (as in this video) it looked like Cora decided to decline the invitation this time around. But many times I observe epic play-battles around here following the "hug"/head-grab.

    It's kind of amazing how noisy and intense those play-battles can get -- but having seen actual fights between cats, I can say there's a tremendous qualitative difference. For one thing, the play battles tend to be all noise and bluster but the participants come away with nary a scratch. For another thing, the body language is just different. Aggressive or extremely fearful cats look a lot more...sort of like they're about to explode or overload a circuit, whereas playfighting cats have everything sort of more near the surface. There's also more movement in general, and less posturing.

  3. I watched the first video on your other blogge, and I was all like, "What the fucke is all that fucken noise?"

    Now I know what it is! HAHAHAH!

  4. CPP: Hahah, yeah, the water heater here is scary noisy. Lots of sediment banging around. It's obnoxious IRL but the camera microphone picked it up to a ridiculous degree. I considered trying to edit it out in Audacity or something but was too lazy. At some point we will actually replace the heater but for now I'm just going to be careful not to bother trying to film videos when it's busy doing its bangy thing (which it usually does for 10+ minutes after someone washes the dishes or showers, etc.)

  5. Your tangent about Shadow understanding words reminded me of a funny story with my cat, Katrina.

    We had a dog, a wonderful female Lab named Sasha. When we adopted Katrina as a kitten, our dog bonded with her immediately - we think she saw Katrina as her puppy. They remained very close as Katrina grew up.

    Anyway, Katrina was in the habit of washing Sasha's face. One day, she was in the middle of doing this, and my father went and got his camera. Just as he was going to photograph them, though, she finished and went on to other things. He took several nice pictures of her, and then regretfully said: "Well, those are some good pictures, but what I really wanted was a picture of you washing the dog."

    Whereupon Katrina promptly returned to Sasha and washed her face a bit more!


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