Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The recent behavior of my cats (I have a total of three) has led me to reflect on instinct.

One of my cats always wants to be where I am, and sometimes will sit and stare into my face for half an hour or more--which I still find disconcerting, even though I've had him for five years. Almost every time he does it, I say (or at least think), "WHY is this crazy cat staring at me?" I've never been fond of being looked for extended periods of time in general, and I've never had any person or animal do it with quite this amount of intensity. He will never sit on anyone's lap and hates to be picked up, but yesterday he was systematically bringing me all of his toy mice, and then jumping up in my face to see what I thought of them. He gives a loud meow and puts one paw on me if I don't respond enthusiastically enough to his gifts or to his presence in general. He does this almost daily--I think it's a combination of his natural prey drive instincts and in effect telling me, "See? I do love you, even if I don't sit in your lap like those other saps."

My other two cats are a matched set of tuxedo boys and were about three months old when they were found behind a dumpster at a business park where I used to work. Everyone in the office fell in love with them; they were healthy, loving, and purred a lot, but no one could take both of them but me and I didn't want them separated. They absolutely clung to each other for the first year or so--they even cried to be put in the same cage when I took them to the vet to be neutered, which melted the hearts of everyone who worked there. They still play and interact like siblings, wrestling, chasing each other, and settling down for the occasional snuggle, but one is much more aggressive and independent than the other. The less aggressive one actually snuggles more often with Mr. Prey Drive than he does with his brother now.

The more aggressive of the two tuxedo cats is the one who had me thinking about instinct--our nickname for him is Darth Kneader. He always wants to be where we are rather than sit in laps, but for whatever reason, he waits until we are both in bed, comes up between us, and kneads. We're talking determined, brisk kneading accompanied by a five-alarm purr, sometimes continuing for an hour, and usually about 3 or 4 AM. After that is accomplished, ol' Darth goes and gets a snack, then retires to the end of the bed or goes about his early morning business elsewhere. He was probably separated from his mother too soon--even so, it blows my mind that kneading still corresponds with eating for him, even though he is almost two years old and his food comes out of a dish and has for quite some time.

I have often wondered if my relationship to food was affected by the death of my mother when I was two years of age. Food on the whole is so fraught with mother energy and issues of comfort and security; the movie "Eating", that I referenced a while ago in this blog, was chock-a-block full of women talking about how their mothers affected their relationship to food. I've talked to enough women with eating issues to know that mothers often pass down their own food and body image issues down to their daughters. (So can fathers and other people, obviously, but mothers seem to be the most frequent culprits.) Oftentimes, mothers get blamed too much for things in general, but they can certainly have a dog in this particular fight, or so the anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate.

I know my views on this issue aren't without bias, but I can say that when I was contemplating motherhood myself, my biggest fear was that I would die before I could raise my children, a fear that made sense given my own experience. My second biggest fear? That I would pass on my food issues to them.

I'm going to read more about this.

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Seattle, WA, United States
This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other words...life.
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