If not already, it will quickly become obvious that I love cats. But I didn’t always.
I grew up with canaries and cockatiels, two guinea pigs, and a family dog – a grey Maltese x Shih Tzu named Max. To say I was the furthest thing from a cat person would be an understatement. I was terrified of cats for their perceived aloofness and constant glares, and often bemused by cat people and their infatuation with felines.
It took my fiancé and I rescuing a three week old black kitten abandoned a local high school for me to learn the crazy cat lady ways of the world. The kitten would grow up to be River of my @therivercat Instagram account. But at the time, she was just a bizarre little ball of scruff that squeaked when she tried to climb into our bed at night.
Here are five of the reasons I’ve fallen hard and fast in love with cats while raising River.
1. A PENCHANT FOR ACROBATICS
Even as kittens (sometimes especially as kittens) felines of all shapes and sizes are natural acrobatic masters.
Cats jump and tumble. They fly through the air for the birdie on a stick, twisting and dancing like a fierce ballerina, and they leap incredible distances to scale the highest heights and get a little closer to what all cats worship: the sun.
One of River’s favourite things is to tear after a toy and do a fast forward roll when she catches it, usually with an audible thump, before proceeding to attack the toy like it insulted her family.
2. HEALING PURRS
Cats purr. Purring is considered by most to be a sign of contentment, but in truth, cats also purr when they’re distressed or in pain. It’s an expression of feelings, and may be a subconscious way of self-comforting.
In all honesty, it doesn’t matter so much why they purr; what really matters is they do, sometimes cuddled up in your lap while you watch Netflix, and it’s a little bit magical.
3. BIZARRE ANTICS
I read a negative comment on an article about what makes cats great. It suggested not all cats do the crazy things seen on the internet, and the hilarious YouTube cats and meme cats the web adores are the minority.
That is simply not true. Some cats are a more hyper than others, but all cats have a crazy streak. If you don’t see it in your cat, chances are you don’t play with them enough.
River becomes The Black Flash after dinner and zooms from room to room like a mad thing. She once spent an hour and a half pawing at the window while a snail made its way slowly up the glass outside. And my personal favourite – she has the bell and ribbon from a Lindt Gold Bunny she throws up in the air, jumps after, and then throws again.
Cat antics, I’ve found, are a way of searching for attention. If I’m too busy to play or don’t respond fast enough, River makes her own fun, often to my amusement.
4. INTRICATE BODY LANGUAGE
Stigma stipulates cats are aloof and grumpy. A cat sitting high on a perch slow blinking is plotting ways to eliminate you. Possibly. But slow blinking is actually known to be a sign of affection.
Cats tend to be more subtle than the open dog with its obviously joyous wagging tail, but they have an extensive array of facial, audio, and body cues to let you know how they’re feeling.
Although rolling over to expose their belly may lead to an unsuspecting hand being gently mauled by a playful feline, displaying that belly fluff is a sign of trust. A tail wrapped around your leg shows friendliness, a hiss means stay back, and a crouch with dilated pupils means wiggle-wiggle-pounce-mode, so beware.
5. FEELING CHOSEN
Like people, cats enjoy their alone time. And like people, they also enjoy being in the company when they’re thinking about their favourite person.
It’s not unusual for me to want to scoop River up at all hours of the day – she’s known me since she was three weeks old and has always been used to excessive handling, so she usually tolerates my affection. But you’d lash out with claws if you had them, too, if you were picked up for the eleventh time in two minutes while trying to wash your hair.
Unconditional love from a canine is undeniably wonderful, but I’ve never felt so chosen as when River decides it’s time to curl up in my lap.
There’s nothing in the world quite like a purr or that special feeling when you’ve earned the love of your feline through years of building a relationship with them.
If you think cats are boring, you probably haven’t had the chance to foster their mania like I have. Cats enjoy play. They’re fun and never cease to amuse with their flying leaps and strange games.
River brightens my life, inspires my stories and love of photography, and always keeps me entertained.