Learning to Cat

Most of the cats living in Mew-Mew House enjoyed a healthy youth with a human family. It was in these early months when they each learned to ‘cat’. How to interact with other cats. How to play. How to share (or not share) resources and toys.

Arthur Dent trying to figure out how to play with Possum

In these early months, cats also learn to understand the humans around them. How to interpret human intentions. How to socialize with people. Some cats are introduced to bumbling dogs and other mammalian (or non-mammalian) companions for humans.

After this important phase of life, cats have determined their preferred social network. Some like to be left alone. Some really, really, really like being with people. Some are convinced they’re dogs.

Mew-Mew House is a big enough space with strategically placed gates whereby the feline residents can get away from each other, stay separated from the dogs (who are both the best bois), or avoid human contact. Over time, we get to learn each cat’s temperament and social preferences.

Sage is a momma’s cat, and would be happy if I carried him around all day.

Shadow believes that he is the Emperor, and even keeps the dogs at bay.

Spell does not like other cats, but tolerates the dogs. If I gave her the choice, she’d have me all to herself all the time.

Snickerdoodle is in love with me and just wants to touch me.

Monster loves all the cats, but the others consider him a bumbling oaf.

Possum is a rocket cat and plays with any mammal within reach.

Toast thinks Shadow is the bees-knees, but also likes to play hide and seek with the dogs.

Dappled Sunshine is Mom to all the cats, but will never be seen anywhere near the dogs.

Snow is still finding her place, but definitely prefers human companionship to that of other cats.

Stanley is busy doing his own thing. He was a working cat before coming here, and he still works. He’s the old warrior who turns up for dinner and pets, but mostly prefers to find a place to curl up and observe.

These ten all know how to cat. When they enter a room, their tails are high. They demand your attention. They huff and hiss at each other and know just what to do to make their feelings clear.

But then there’s Arthur Dent. He spent most of his formative months in a vet clinic. Stress abounded. Humans poked and prodded. He played, sometimes, but really didn’t have strong relationships with other cats or people.

Now, he’s got his own room (with access to the rest of the house if he wants it). He’s got toys. And he’s got two kitten buddies that show up once in a while.

He hunches down and watches as Toast and Possum wrestle. They chase each other and he can’t help but bound after them. But then… He freezes. What now?

Possum is all stretched out and batting at him, and Arthur backs away. What does it mean?

He skitters back to his hidey spot.

Toast comes over to investigate. They bat at each other. Arthur gets tense. Toast reads the tension and flops down. They’re just playing. But Arthur doesn’t know this ‘play’.

Toast and Arthur Dent playing. Sort of.

The tension breaks when Possum and Toast resume playing and Arthur Dent goes back to watching.

I’m able now to get on the floor with Possum or Toast and wrestle a little (as a person and a kitten can). Arthur watches with great interest. He comes out and sniffs at me and the other cats, then scurries off again.

Arthur wants to play, but he’s not sure how. He doesn’t trust my motives. He doesn’t know the intentions of the other cats. But he wants to play.

I give him a little pat with each feeding. That’s all Arthur will tolerate before the growling starts.


Trust is hard to gain. Arthur needs to trust that he’s safe. He needs to trust that I’ll never hurt him. He needs to trust that the other kittens just want to play.

We must all be patient. Thankfully, the rest of the feline family is well adjusted and can give Arthur all the space he needs. I’m practicing patience as well. Poor Arthur needs a good combing, but that’s months away, I’m sure.

Trust takes a long time to gain, but can be lost in a moment.

You can trust me Arthur Dent. You’re safe now.

Published by paleololigo

Scientist (Paleontology, Geochemistry, Geology); Writer (Speculative and Science Fiction, plus technical and non-technical Science); Mom to great boy on the Autism spectrum; possessor of too many hobbies.

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