Monday, 2 March 2009

The Truth About Cats- Revelations from Taming Sisi

Some people say, cats come to anyone with food. The implied meaning is that cats use humans for their survival and are not really our friends as much as dogs are. Millions of humans who enjoy the pleasurable company of these intelligent beings of cats would beg to differ. Being the proud parent of quite a few cats, big and small, wild and domestic, particularly having "tamed" the little wild cat-"Sissy" on our reserve in the past few years, I have come to a new understanding of cats.

I wrote in my blog before how I have tamed several semi-wild cats which I inherited after acquiring our land in South Africa. "Maow" was already tame. His mother Mommy cost me a bit of effort but did not take that long before she slept affectionately on my face. It was the ultra shy little Sissy who took me a couple of years and much drama to befriend.

The transformation, however, is remarkable. It goes to show that shy cats will become extremely bonded with humans when they come to trust you. Waking up in the middle of sleepless nights to find her little body curled against mine, hear her tiny miaows of greeting and feel her furry little cheek against my face, are among the greatest wonders I behold. Her acknowledging miaws for her punctual return in the evening upon my call is always consolation to me. Her little playful games brighten up my gloomiest moments.

How on earth could this wild cat, with at least three-quarters of genes from black-footed cat, become so trustful of a human so many times of her size, who could easily inflict serious damage on her?

Not food! Though food contributed to the initial bonding process. She had always been fed by others, but she allows no one else to pick her up - stubbornly refusing any other human's offer of friendship. This is very similar to our South China Tiger Madonna, who, despite that I never fed her, still accepts me as her only human mate.

A zoologist once said to me about tigers, that you can't buy friendship from them with food, as they regard food as their rights. They would take food from anyone in case of survival, but you will not necessarily be allowed into their lives.

Perhaps, Sissy feels the love I give and appreciate the care I provided for her? Perhaps, she could sense that I worry about her safety when I am away? Perhaps, but perhaps, it is just because she needs a mother which I have become, after her own mother rejected her, after her younger siblings were born? Maybe this is something we humans have missed -as independent as cats are, they still only have the mental age of a 2 year old human, and don't two year old human children have emotional need of mothers??? Food, cats can obtain from practically anyone, but it is really the love and care that a human showers on a cat that can truly make her your faithful child.

-Li Quan at Laohu Valley Reserve, South Africa