This is a little something I’ve written as a goodbye present for one of my professors, although she hasn’t received it yet; it’ll be put nicely into a little book and sent to her next month, but because of some requests from friends I’ve decided to already publish it here.
Disclaimer: Any similarities to real or fictional cats as well as to certain popular culture items such as Star Trek or Zombieland are… not entirely coincidental. Similarities to Terry Pratchett’s The Unadulterated Cat, on the other hand, are really a coincidence because I hadn’t read it before.
The Rules of Catland
Humans are interesting creatures. We’ve been watching them for many years and their ways do not always seem to make sense. But they must never know; from their perspective we are purring furballs of varying colours and sizes that are there to love and be loved, and be cuddled at the most random moments of the day. From their perspective of course, they think that everything we do is ‘cute’ and ‘adorable,’ unless of course it is something nasty that messes with their sleeping pattern and/or furniture. When we miaow, they think we are asking for food or attention; they don’t know that we are actually communicating sensitive information to the others in our local networks. In return for our vicious spying habits, we receive food and love and are merely required to devote parts of our precious time to our humans every now and then.
Life is good if you are a cat.
However, there are certain rules that we cats have learned to adhere to throughout the years of examining humans in their natural habitat. They are not as much rules, I suppose, as guidelines on how to live a safe and content life among humans without giving up any feline integrity.
Every cat knows that the key to happiness is to know what is going on: information is power, power is control, control is manipulation, which leads to happiness; it’s a simple equation in cat terms. To keep humans in check, we must never let them suspect that we are actually watching them at all times – the key to success is what is termed ‘royal indignation,’ or pretending to arrogantly ignore everyone in our surroundings and their feeble efforts of gaining our attention with devices such as toys and other inventive tricks that they perform for us. The real trick on our part is to make a mental note of it for future reference and to pretend to sleep, hoping that the occasional ear-twitching does not give us away. Unfortunately cat-loving humans tend to take great pleasure in watching us sleep for a very long time (no cat can tell me that this is not creepy) and will notice eventually, but until then, we will have found sufficient means of attentive ignoring. Whether a cat sits a foot away from the doorway with the back turned to the occupied room, but the ears turned towards it, or whether we are simply hiding where no human can possibly find us while eavesdropping on their conversations, there is always a way. This is what the top of a closet is for, too. Every self-respecting cat should be able to find two or more practical observation spots in any surrounding; it’s only natural.
Rule #2: Take Good Care Of Your Humans
The thing about humans is that they need to be entertained; you can’t keep a human and not play with them every now and then. Of course it is completely up to the individual cat to what extent we devote our attention to them, but there are a few tricks that come in handy. After following Rule #1, it is important to express your interest in humans even if they are temporarily not interested in you anymore – especially if they are not interested in your company. This means that you need to watch for inappropriate and inconvenient times, for instance when the human is talking on the phone, writing a paper, doing important paperwork, or sleeping, and reward them for their presence and love by demanding their presence and love. And because humans have a mind of their own, you sometimes need to be more than persistent to get what you want. Of course, this is a win-win situation: not even a cat can go without love for a very long time, and every cat likes a little cuddle every now and then. In accordance with the Universal Feline Rights, we are entitled to a certain amount of human warmth each day and it would be illogical not to make use of this. To enable the human to enter into cuddling mode, further rules fall into place.
Occupy whatever space is necessary to distract the humans from what they are actually doing – they will react in an annoyed manner, but deep down, secretly, they love how much you care about the activities they do not care about, and they will thank you for it later. Therefore, all means to this end are allowed: you may lie on top of them when they actually want to sleep, you may sit on their feet, hands or other body parts essential to the task they’re trying to carry out at the moment, or chew on the phone cord. You may also sprawl on their keyboard, which has two advantages: the warmth of the computer and the opportunity to send messages like “esd<kjfnlkds” to their fellow humans, who find this adorable. The unsuspecting test subjects of course do not know how to read the encoded message, “We are the cats. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” Our cat scientists have determined that it will take approximately 3119 hours for humans to subconsciously adapt this message and make it part of their lifestyles. We have also determined that this process can be accelerated by the increased use of our purr frequencies which, besides curing our ailments (and that of humans) can thus be used as a secret weapon. Humans seem to be particularly fond of purring because they feel ‘relaxed,’ but again they are mistaken. This effect allows us to weaken the humans and render them inattentive and unaware of their surroundings. Once again, both sides profit from it.
Rule #4: Be Strict About The Time Of Human Devotion
At some point, humans tend to realise that they have “better things to do,” or at least more pressing matters such as making a living, which is also useful because they eventually need to earn the money to bring you well-deserved
presents and offerings such as food and toys and, yes, even catnip, the most desired
substance of all. Nonetheless they need to be raised properly, which is why it is useful to
log the time of cat devotion per day and make up for it when they sleep at night. Just like a
little kitten learns how to behave, so do humans, and it is each cat’s duty to make sure that
they learn the proper behaviour around their cats. It is thus not necessary to take into
consideration their sleeping rhythm. Instead, they need to be attacked – sometimes nicely,
sometimes quite literally – in their sleep, when they are weakest and most unsuspecting,
and demand their precious attention right now. Once they are awake, however, it is perfectly normal for a cat to change their mind and walk away again.
Naturally you need to give humans this time off: they need to be able to go outside every once in a while and associate with their fellows. We have realised that humans are quite sociable creatures indeed, and must therefore allow them to bring over fellow humans in the evenings and sometimes even during the day, even though, sadly, these people might not be acquainted with the proper ways and thus disturb our own sleep. All this is well, but there are certain measures that cats need to take when it comes to their human’s social behaviour. Potential friends will have to show their worth in either love or treats, ideally. If they fail to do so, they shall be ignored. If they do, they shall be ignored too, for we cannot make it too easy for them – but for a shorter while at least. If one of the fellow humans has been identified as a potential mate, the situation is more severe and the cat’s responsibility is greater than ever: only a happy and content human is a good human. The potential mate’s eligibility and determination have to be tested by embarrassing him or her in all sorts of social situations, especially when it comes to dinner and sleepovers. Further, their compatibility needs to extend not only to the other human, but also and especially to you, the cat. Popular disincentives include vocalising displeasure, long intent staring contests, and sitting on them (so they can’t move) or their bags (so they can’t escape). After a few days of hostile ignoring and small-scale territorial war, they may or may not have passed the numerous tests and, if their stamina allows it, may be allowed to enter a boyfriend or girlfriend status.
Cats are quite skilled actors, if you think about it. Pretending to be someone’s pet when it’s actually the other way around is not as simple as it seems, but we have developed and revised this system for many, many years and are the best at it, just like we are at about almost everything else (except for walking on two legs or having thumbs). However, a cat cannot be contained and we must make the humans aware of certain rules. If we claim that something is ours, it is ours. We claim that something is ours by sitting on it, scratching at it, chewing it, losing our hair on it, or looking at it, and sometimes it even means peeing into the printer or doing other nasty things that the human will not be in favour of. If the human wants you to do something, don’t do it in 90% of all cases. This means that if a human is concerned about your hair getting all over the new white sofa and covers it up with blankets, find the one square-centimetre that is not covered and have a good time there. If the human goes to pains to find the specific brand of food that you have preferred lately, change your mind about it. Actually, if the human does anything he or she thinks you like, change your mind, period – unless it is conducive to your daily cat-worshipping time.
Most important is that you need to follow the most feline instinct of all, which is the hunt. Establish your superiority to the human by demonstrating that you are a dangerous wild animal that they should actually be afraid of, even if most humans think that it is adorable (as well as creepy) when you bring back some of your prey. (They do not realise that this is actually designed as a universal warning.) Nonetheless, this is not about the humans, it is about you; hardly anything is worse than being kept indoors the whole day, not being able to savour the thrill of the hunt. There is nothing more satisfying than coming back to your human after a hard day of hunting and sleeping and being able to demand the required amount of devotion that is still due that day. Along the same lines, there is hardly anything more impressive for a human than to watch their companion sneak up on their prey and gracefully and skilfully taking it out in the blink of an eye – or more than that because this provides premium cat entertainment. Like this, the cat’s true nature is finally revealed to the (not so unsuspecting anymore) human, that of a royal hunter or huntress. Once you have killed your first pigeon and your human looks at you with pride in their eyes and their heart, you have truly connected on a level that goes beyond even food or catnip.
Rule #7: Enjoy The Little Things
At the end of the day, a rulebook for cats is of course completely unnecessary because they are ingrained in our lives anyway, and no cat should feel compelled to follow them in strictly the right order. What life as a cat and a human really boils down to is this, the last, rule, the little things that brighten up your day. For a human, these may be the soothing purr of a little ball of fur, the warmth of our small bodies or the sleepy miaow that greets them in the morning (which gets more demanding as the day progresses). For a cat, they may be the unwavering loyalty of our humans (they really are like dogs in this sense), the love they get and return ever so often, or the warm rays of the sun that we are sure to find even if there is no sun around.
In the end, we appreciate what we have – but that doesn’t mean we can let them get away with just about anything, and it’s justifiable to stick to our silent dignity and pretended superior detachment: because this is how we love and enjoy.