Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Cat behavior, or Hodge and the fleecy green caterpillar

(After I wrote this, a friend took the following video on New Year's Day, showing Hodge with his fleecy green friend.)

Sunday morning I was walking around while brushing my teeth with my 10-year-old Sonicare, which sometimes aggravates Hodge (the sound? the walking around?). I wasn't thinking about Hodge at all when suddenly his furry body slammed into my legs. All I felt were fur and muscle—not a hint of anything hard or sharp, like teeth. I take this as a sign of the progress we have made since 2002.

In addition to fear aggression, two of Hodge's behaviors mystify me. One involves standing on a soft object (cat bed, blanket, or pillow, for example) and lifting his right front foot, then his left front foot, then his right front foot, over and over, for as long as 15 minutes. As he does this, the expression on his feline face varies from deep concentration to inner pain. It doesn't seem to be enjoyable, yet I'm not certain it's right for me to distract him and get him to stop when he doesn't seem to want to. Or is he not able to?

I had never witnessed Pudge engaged in this activity, so I mentioned it to K., who has more experience with more cats than I have. She nodded and said that she'd seen Morpheus doing the very thing I had described. One evening during my stay, she directed my attention to the other sofa, where Morpheus was standing on a blanket, lifting one front foot after the other, looking thoughtful and even pained. Unlike Hodge, Morpheus has claws, and it's hard to guess whether this behavior is related to the feet alone.

In addition, Hodge has a toy to which he is either mother or master—I can't tell which. It's a foot-long, faux fleece green caterpillar that he drags around and even brings to my feet repeatedly when the mood strikes him. Sometimes, he grasps one end of it with his mouth and steps on it with his feet deliberately even as he tries to walk off with it. From my perspective, he looks mentally impaired as he tries to drag his fleecy friend along while pinning it down firmly. This, too, can go on for quite a while. It's funny, yet frustrating, to observe.

When Hodge does manage to walk around with the green guy in his mouth, he sometimes vocalizes in a way that I've not heard from him in any other circumstance. It's a loud cry that sounds more like a mother's than a predator's. His facial expression seems to be more of concentration and concern than triumph, although I suppose he could be thinking about where to hide his "victim" from others. I can't imagine maternal feelings in a neutered dominant male. Given the idea that cats see people inconveniently sized, socially inept cats, I wonder if the caterpillar is prey—and if its arrival at my feet is intended as some kind of love-offering. In that case, I must be a disappointment to Hodge, as I do not accept in graciously in the same spirit in which it is offered.

Perhaps I am the one whose behavior is mysterious and disturbing.

1 comment:

  1. Commenting on my own post—I've been told that he's probably humping it. I guess the fleecy green caterpillar is more than just a friend . . . who knew?!