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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Cats are mysterious, delightful creatures

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

To know them is to love them.

To understand them is nearly impossible.

Cats can be both mysterious and delightful companions. Even those furry friends that have been pets in our homes for many years can throw some real curves that leave us scratching our heads and searching for more information. After watching the changing habits of Geranium and Hemingway for several weeks, I looked for answers and believe I have finally come to a conclusion.

It's all about Digby.

Even as I write this, 20-pound, gray-and-white Hemingway and the smaller, long-haired, black Geranium, are about two feet from me watching intently. Such closeness is new and I believe not common in cats. Generally, they are independent.

Since Digby died, the cats are never far from me. The three of them were all pretty good friends, unless one of the cats ventured toward Digby's water or food bowls. Then he put them in their place with one shrill bark. Occasionally Hemingway was allowed to sleep on one end of Digby's blanket, but for the most part they lived separately, with each doing its own thing around the house

But how that has changed. Now they both follow me around. Both like to sit on my lap at the same time, and when I wake up most mornings, they both are on the foot of the bed and show no signs of leaving until I get up.

These are the unexpected habits you can't figure out with cats. They obviously miss the big dog who was always on his bed in the living room like a piece of the furniture. But is their new demeanor in sympathy for me or for themselves? I considered they are just getting older and it's strange how we count our dog's years, but are never quite sure how old the cats are.

Can it be the cats realize I miss the dog? Or do they miss him and want to be close to each other and to me? It is also possible they sense there is now more time for them because Digby received most of my attention. That surely is accurate.

My association with cats goes way back to my grandparents' farm, where there was no shortage of cats and when finding kittens nestled in the haymow was my secret. With such a long background it's surprising that I never took the time to learn about their mysterious traits until recently.

By going online I discovered some interesting facts, one that I like in particular: Cats are some of the smartest animals and can interpret a human's mood and feelings. That answers it. Hemingway and Geranium are showing me they are sorry for our loss. How sweet is that?

I was surprised to learn cats cannot see in the dark. But they can see better than we can in very low light that may appear as darkness to us.

New cat owners should make up their mind to have comfortable sleeping space for the animal; an old pillow, blanket, towel etc. The average cat sleeps from 12 to 14 hours a day and they like to have their own territory.

The habit of treading, or sometimes called kneading, is from infancy. Kittens tread on their mother's belly to help release the flow of milk. It is believed that the habit in older cats gives a feeling of security or overall contentment.

When a cat continues to paw in one spot they are probably marking their territory. Because they sweat through the feet, the pawing leaves a mark they can identify.

The print on a cat's nose is is like a fingerprint, with no two being alike.

People who adopt one or two cats from an agency are making a longtime investment that involves more than thinking of a cute name. The average life span is 15 to 20 years and involves a commitment to feeding and proper health care for the animal. Add to that the dreaded liter box chore. Still, added up, the care and monetary investment can bring many happy returns.

Cats with more than five toes on each foot are called polydactyl. Hemingway is one. That's why he was named after the famous author whose Key West home boasts numerous polydactyls. The last time I was there, it was said there were 60. But, who's counting?

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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