A lot of you might skip this read... I'm not offended. Just go. Go!
Cats have always been like background music. I like cats, but they were always someone else's cats. My kids have had cats that I liked to pet and play with, but at night, the cats would go to the kids' rooms and sleep on Allie's head or lay on Tony's feet. When I would get home from work, the cats would look up, not move an inch, and go back to sleep. I could hear them purring, but they might have been purring before I got home, too. They were like background music: Background cats.
Now, I have two cats. I had to be talked into getting the first one. My kids wanted me to have one, but I knew it was really all about them. The second one was (is?) my kids' cat. It's taking up "temporary" residence here with me.
Jack is cat #1. A little orange tabby. He's not so little anymore, but I still think he is when he's not in front of me.
When people compare cats to dogs, they talk about cats as if cats are not loyal or loving, and as if they have no real interest in us; they just do their own thing. These are people that have not had their own cat. They've had background cats.
After a few days with Jack, I was telling people how dog-like he was. He was following me around the place, wanted constant attention and gave me lots in return.
However, when my kids came over, he looked up and went back to sleep. He might purr, but only if he was purring before. Jack is their background cat. Jack is my cat. My foreground cat.
Enter Mayo, cat #2. She's a Siamese mutt of a cat. Obviously Siamese, but she's got a splotch of tabby on the tail, too. She's very quiet and very calm. She's been with me for a few months, and when I come home, she at least looks up before she goes back to sleep.
Where Jack follows me around and asks for the attention, Mayo just hangs, right out of reach; in the room, sleeping with Jack or all by herself.
Mayo is like that single person who bring his laptop to Starbucks at the end of the day to finish his work, because sometimes you just need to be around people. I can relate to this cat.
Lately, I've been paying a little more attention to Mayo. I didn't really know if it was what she wanted, but we tend to ascribe emotions and thoughts to our animals. She needed the love, I thought. I felt sad for the cat, alone on the other side of the room, while Jack was all over me, getting all the attention, merely because he demanded it. So, as I'd get home from work, when Mayo looked up before going back to sleep, I'd put down my bags and go over and pet her for a minute.
Fast forward a month. Mayo is no longer on the chair when I come home. She has moved right to the doorway. When I get home, there she is. Laying there, waiting. Saving me a few steps? She acts pretty much the same. I pet her for a minute, then Jack noses in for his bout of attention, and Mayo goes back to sleep.
Fast forward again. Jack has a ritual. He wants me to get up. It doesn't matter if I wake up once or five times during the night. Once I'm awake, he wants me up. He demands attention.
If I actually get up and out of bed, he runs to the food bowl, making sure I'm following him there. Usually, when I get there, there's already food in the bowl. I'm not sure what his deal is. I think he's just tired of my sleeping. This is his excuse to get me going. Once he's there, he eats and leaves me alone.
The last few weeks, Mayo has joined in on this ritual. With a twist. She noses into the bowl, then seems to give up, letting Jack eat first. She's older and "in charge," so I find this odd. She gives up and wanders over to me, where I'm making coffee. Plops down near my feet. She makes a chirping noise.
In general, I don't pet her when she's laying near me. If I do, she leaves. She just wants to be near me, but that's all. But, lately she keeps chirping until I cave and pet her. And, she still gets up and wanders off, but she keeps coming back. Chirp, pet, wander, repeat.
At first, I tried to sit down with her and pet her when she did this, but that's not her speed. Do that and she leaves. Wait for her to come back and chirp and she keeps coming back. At least until Jack is done eating, then he hogs the attention and she's off to the couch again.
I'm pretty impressed. She's developed this devious plan to trick Jack away for a while so she can get the attention her way. It's brilliant for a cat. She doesn't even pretend to eat anymore. She watches his head go into the bowl and she heads for me. She chirps and gets some attention, on her terms, and just the right amount to suit her. I almost just stand there with my hand out and she pets herself on my hand. Ten minutes of chirps and pets while Jack eats. Today I got a face nuzzle, too. A first for me, but I've seen her nuzzle my daughter many times.
People think dogs are more like people, but I'm not sure that's true. A dog is like a big blubbering idiot person. Or a guy. Sure they're kind of loyal, but they also run off and get the attention from anyone with a lap. I'm actually starting to think that cats might be just as much like us as dogs are, just in different ways. Jack is loyal to me. He will let my kids have some attention, but it's nothing compared to what I get. Mayo is primarily my daughter's cat. When Allie's here, she gets the attention. But, when Allie's away or asleep, Mayo is my little cat again. It's just on her terms.
This might look like some cat:human comparison, but it's not. I'm not going for deep, here. I'm simply glad that my kids talked me into a cat. I'm not trying to learn about people from these cats or give the cats more credit for intelligence than they are due. This is the first time that I've had foreground cats, and it's a bit surprising to me. I like it. Background cats are annoying, simply because you still have the clean up after them.