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Friday, June 23, 2006

Can I Call It Compassion?

Many years ago, I had an old German & Australian shepherd mix who lived to the ripe age of 17. During this dog's last few years of life, I had also adopted a few cats, one of whom had a very un-catlike attitude. Most cats have self-involved and often quite self indulgent little personalities, like this one below who befriended me at the beach one day.

But this particular white Turkish Angora cat I adopted had a very unusual attitude. I eventually ended up calling her Squeeker. She was quite wild when I adopted her, so wild that I had to reward her with treats while approaching my house so she would allow me to touch her. She was pregnant when she arrived and had five kittens. What made this particular cat so unusual, (aside from how fat she later got from all those treats,) is how the other three cats in the household regarded her. She was always in the middle of the proverbial kitty sleeping pile, with all of the other cats choosing to touch only her - and not each other.

All of the cats did everything to stay away from my old slow-moving dog most of the time, in a sort of group feline disdain. This was in spite of the fact that the dog did nothing to deserve that opinion on the part of the cats, other than to be a canine. The dog actually liked the cats, and would have slept next to them if they would have allowed it. But they didn't, the cats all rejected all but incremental contact with the dog, and even then with frightfully dirty looks. The dog was mostly crushed about that.

We were all in a house where the back porch had been converted into a bedroom. From the bed, a nice view of the garden could be seen through a picture window at the level of the bed, with the back door by the window and bed opening to an outside sitting porch.

The dog had been in the back yard, and I was in the other room writing on the computer and listening to music while it was getting dark and suddenly windy and cold. The cats liked to sleep on the bed - and indeed it was the bed where Squeeker was when she decided to come and get me with a rather loud and deliberate "miaow" rather than her usual "squeak." She got my attention because she usually didn't often ask me for things. So I allowed her to get me up from my chair. I was curious to find out what she wanted me to do.

Amazingly enough, she passed the food bowl with no hesitation, so it wasn't a meal she wanted. Squeeker sat by the bedroom door with another, very plaintive identical "miaow." This was an unusual request, as the cats usually didn't prefer to go out at night because it was cold outdoors. But she was making it very obvious what she wanted. As I approached to open the door, Squeeker waited until I'd actually unlocked it, then she jumped back up onto the bed. Waiting outside was my shivering wet old dog, who wasn't able to get my attention by rattling the screen door over the loud music I had been playing.

I was incredulous. Had the cat had really gotten my attention so I would open the door for the dog to come inside? Crafting a little experiment to test my theory, I picked up the cat from the bed, petted her a bit and put her down by the door and reached over to open it. The cat looked at me as if I was crazy and jumped back onto the bed before I could nudge her out the now-open door with my foot.

It seems, compassion in cats can extend to a dog also, (as long as the other cats weren't watching too closely.) Here's a picture of Squeeker, otherwise known as Miss Most Magnanimous.

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