Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Morris: Cat Watching & Corey: Do Cats Think?


Those of us of a certain age remember being titilated by zoologist Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape, a frank study of the human being as animal. Morris has published other works (The Human Zoo, Intimate Behavior) focused on humans, but has continued to write about animals qua animals as well.

If you share a home with cats, you will be delighted by the insight Morris has provided into their behavior, needs and even communication in Cat Watching. Why do cats purr? What leads a cat to knead our laps, or present its rear, tail up, when we stroke it? Why does your house cat invariably choose your favorite chair to destroy with its claws? What does it really mean when cats hiss? Lay their ears back? Open their pupils wide in bright daylight?

Is the solitary cat, even when domesticated, a sociable creature?
Living in cities and towns, ... cats show a remarkable and unexpected degree of sociability. Anyone doubting this must remember that to a cat, humans are just big cats..."

Desmond Morris gives us a fascinating window into the minds of these intimate aliens we feed, pet, and welcome into our hearts.

Paul Corey does not achieve the same scientific distance with the subjects of his observation in Do Cats Think? Notes of a Cat-Watcher. Yet the anecdotal tales he uses to illustrate his opinions of cats' emotions, behavior and real communication are not less powerful for that.

In fact, I found this book sweeter—more poignant—than Cat Watching because the incidents Corey describes involved cats he loved.
The following Monday we visited [Leo Secundus], arriving early while the vet was still at breakfast... We saw cages of cats and dogs, but no Sec. We called his name. Instantly we heard his loud, desperate cry. We... found him in the cardboard box we'd brought him in...
///He pushed himself up with his front legs when he saw us... Huge tears formed in his eyes and ran down his cheeks.
///Maybe they weren't tears of emotion at all. It was a chilly September morning. He had heard familiar voices [that] excited him. The sudden blood heat meeting the cold air on the surface had made his tear ducts water. As simple as that.
///And were the tears running down my cheeks caused the same way?

The hardbound version is occasionally available on eBay; it is beautifully illustrated with color photos. The trade-size paperback is also available in bookstores and sometimes on eBay.

With both these books, you will be well equipped to interpret what the heck your cats are doing, and why.


Blogger samraat said...


4/03/2010 9:17 PM  

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