I try to avoid talking about my cat for fear of being lumped in with those dear ladies who think if having 16 cats is good, having 27 is better. Rightly or wrongly, people seem to identify themselves as being "a cat person" or "a dog person" and it seems women, overall, prefer cats whereas men prefer dogs. I love them both, though I must admit leaning to the "dog" side of the equation. Though living in an apartment, as I do now, the balance of logic is in favor of the cat, which is far less high-maintenance than a dog. When there's no back yard for the dog to roam around in, the physical confines of an apartment are often difficult for a dog, and unlike cats, dogs must be walked a very minimum of twice a day. You can't go off and leave a dog in an apartment for two or three days. Cats take it in stride, and when you return are apparently unaware you'd been gone.
Dogs give their affection freely and without encouragement. Any attention paid them is clearly and often wildly appreciated. Cats tend to ration their attention, and it can almost never be solicited. Dogs always come when called, tails wagging, eager to share time with you. Calling a cat is like hailing a cab at rush hour. The best you'll get is a cursory and totally unconcerned glance. But when they decide they want attention, they expect you to drop everything and give it to them.
I have one cat, Spirit, whom I got six or eight months ago after swearing, following the death of Crickett, whom I'd had for about 15 years, that I would never get another one. I got him at a shelter, and took him because 1) I have always been partial to black cats and he is almost totally black (I didn't discover the white patch on his belly until later) and his already-given name was Spirit. As the writer of a paranormal mystery series, I took that latter fact as an omen.
Spirit is selectively smart. If he sees some advantage in indicating anyone is home behind those slanted eyes, he will let me know someone's there. If not, forget it. He will sit at my feet staring up at me and I will pat my lap. "Come on, Sprit! Come on." He stares at me without moving a muscle. (I recently read that cats simply do not understand the patting of a lap and "Come on! Come on!" to indicate they're supposed to do something.)
Each cat is completely different from every other cat in existence, and Spirit and Crickett are poles apart using any kind of measurement. Cricket hated getting her paws wet. Spirit cannot wait for me to open the shower door to reach for a towel before he is inside the stall with me, watching the rivulets of water run down the walls, and lapping water from around the drain.
When someone he does not know comes into my apartment, he runs and hides in a cupboard beneath the kitchen sink. He likes it so well that he has learned to open door, though exactly how he does it I have yet to discover. The door is flush with the frame on all sides. Still, he manages.
Every single time I open the door to my bedroom closet, he rushes in as though it is a marvelous new world opened to him for the very first time. Unless I’m able to stop him first, he jumps up on storage boxes on the closet floor and disappears behind the hanging clothes, refusing to come out. I could just leave him there, I suppose, but it seems he loves chewing on cardboard and scattering bits of it everywhere. So unless I get down on my hands and knees, fumble around between the boxes and clothes trying to find him and haul him out. Despite his tendency to chew on the boxes, I have on occasion, after a few minutes of ignored cajoling, simply closed the closet door and walked away. I generally get as far as the bedroom door when he will begin a piteous wailing. I go back and open the door. He races out, I suspect eager to get to the phone and call the A.S.P.C.A. to report me for extreme mental cruelty. But five minutes later, I will open the closet door to get something else, and he will dash in, refusing to come out. I close the closet door and walk away. ("One. Two. Three. Four." Meeeeeeaowwwww! Meeeeeeaowwwww!)
I am convinced that it is not that cats cannot learn. They just don't see any particular reason why they should.
I do love Spirit but there are times I really, really wish I had a dog.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).