I have lived with cats all my life and enjoyed them. You feed them, water them, take care of them, and enjoy the affection you get from them. The problem though is that for most of your life you don’t have enough time to observe them. As a retired person, I’ve been learning things that I wish I had known all these years. Cats are thinkers but you have to quietly watch them for some time in order to pick up on the subtle things that are going on in their little heads.
When Izzie, the inside cat, and I first started going for walks, she checked out everything by smelling, looking, and listening and sometimes by touching with her paws and I’m certain that she committed every detail to memory. One event that convinced me of how observant she is and how she can asses a situation and solve a problem by breaking it down into step-by-step solutions is the “gate” story.
We walked across the backyard and made a right turn and went up the side of the house toward the front where the trash cans are kept. We got there and she stopped and sat back on her haunches. I noticed that she was staring at the top of the gate and continued to do so for a couple of minutes. It finally dawned on me that she was trying to figure out how to get over that gate. I knew that she understood the constraints of the leash and that she probably couldn’t make a direct frontal assault on the gate. After a bit, she looked to the left and saw the retaining wall. She walked over to it and stood on her hind legs and put her front feet on top of the wall. I saw her muscles flex as she pulled on it and tested it for stability and strength. When she was satisfied that it was okay she hopped up on top of it.
Next, she looked at the closest trash can and put her front paws on it. As before, she looked around carefully and then hopped onto the trash can lid. She took another look at the top of the gate from her new vantage point and evidently decided she could do better. She looked over at the adjoining trash can, extended her front legs and placed her paws on the cover. She looked around carefully and then gingerly stepped across to the second can. Now, she sat back on her haunches and again stared at the top of the gate. All this time I had been holding the leash and she knew well what her limits were. You could almost see the wheels turning in her little brain as she assessed the situation. Suddenly she stood up, placed her front paws on the horizontal brace at the top of the gate and made a mighty leap. Fortunately, I was ready, and caught her in mid-air just as she cleared the top. She wasn’t trying to get away. She only wanted to see what was on the other side. She held on to the top of the gate and I held onto her as we stood there for a couple of minutes and watched the cars go by on the street.
It’s interesting to note that the next day, having memorized the procedure; she just walked right up to the retaining wall and made the series of jumps that carried her to the top of the gate. I was impressed by the way she sized up the problem, broke it down into manageable steps, executed her plan, and then remembered it the next day.
December 2, 2013