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Friday, August 8, 2014

The Cat Returns

Yesterday morning, when I went to prepare breakfast, there was no sign of the cat that had been meowing at my window. There were plenty of rabbits in sight on the lawn, so I figured the feline had gone, for they would not be out cavorting in plain sight with a predator around.

It was cloudy most of the morning. In the afternoon, I went for my usual walk. I saw a rabbit by the fence.

I noticed hickory nuts maturing.

In the pasture, I admired the smooth sumac.

Then I saw a deer in the distance.

I wanted to get closer for a better view, but as soon as it spotted me, the deer ran away.

 In the late afternoon it rained, and Bow reacted with his usual display, answering every thunderclap with a vocalization.

I have long since given up asking Bow why he does this. Other chimpanzees do it, too. It's instinctive. There may be variations in their display, but they will display at the rain, and they don't know why. It's the same thing with humans. If you ask a human why he does something that is hard-wired, he won't be able to give you an articulate, intelligent answer, either. It used to drive me crazy when people could not explain themselves, and one of the things I hoped talking to a chimpanzee would help me with is clearing up some of those misunderstandings. But it turned out that Bow is not more capable of introspection than most of the humans I know.  Living with him has made me more tolerant of my own kind.

All of us have things we do that we can't help doing, and just because we come with those pre-wired behaviors, it does not mean that we don't have other actions that we perform consciously and by choice, things that we are capable of explaining to others. The difficulty, sometimes, is in determining what it is that someone else can't help doing, so that we don't waste time trying to change the unchangeable.  We have to learn not to say: "You're so smart. Why can't you just stop doing X." If X is hard-wired, there is no point even trying.

Everyone would benefit greatly from living with a chimpanzee twenty-four hours a day. There is so much to learn about our own nature from having to put up with theirs. And their generosity of spirit, when we don't judge them, more than makes up for a little inconvenience.

After the rain display was over, when it was time for dinner, Bow was perfectly capable of telling me what he wanted to eat by spelling out the words. The food calls when he saw the food coming were not for me, or for himself. They were pre-wired to give away the fact that there is food to any chimp within earshot, whether Bow wants to share or not.  But there were no chimps within earshot, only deer and rabbits and stray cats.

When dealing with humans, too, it is helpful to mute out the language they use if you want to rely on their tells. The articulated, spelled-out language performs one function, and the body language and unintentional vocalizations quite another.

In the evening, long after I had put Bow to bed, as I was tidying things up for the last time in the kitchen before turning out the lights, the cat returned. It appeared at the kitchen window. My daughter went out and got this picture of it.

Is the cat here to stay? Or is it just passing through? Only time will tell.


  1. Your pictures are looking so sharp & wonderful, Aya!
    It is so true that sometimes, we can't explain our actions. One of the deep mysteries I suppose for human and animal-kind, I suppose. I look more for humans' "tells" also. I've become pretty good at reading people and now, that I'm learning to follow my instincts better, I can say that while I'm often shocked at certain things in detail, I'm not as surprised with the overall outcomes anymore.
    Your cat visitor was probably dropped off by someone, since he seems to be more friendly than a feral cat, but since you have so much prey around (in the form of rabbits), he / she probably won't go away very soon. And your bird activity will probably reduce somewhat too.
    My Great Horned owl is helping control the feral cat population here, I believe. ;-)

    1. Hi, Kathy, I guess many of us take years learning how to read our fellow man. Good to know I am not alone in this.

      My daughter thinks maybe she knows whose cat this is. She heard that someone who had two cats lost one of them. If it is their cat, and she has sent an inquiry to them, then maybe it will soon be claimed by its rightful owner.

      I don't think I have an owl on the property at the moment, so I hope the matter will resolve itself positively in this way.