I know, it’s a redundant phrase. And I’m putting the question in IMHO because we servants will never really know what a cat is thinking.
When I was a tyke we had a queen who had a thing about socks. Especially if they were balled up she would call to it, pick it up and carry it around in her mouth a bit, then lay it down in some random spot* and call to it again. I don’t think it’s too much a stretch to say she was using it as a kitten-substitute.
Now, we have a neutered tom. He has a favorite toy that’s a stuffed ladybug. Like the queen of old, he will stand off and yowl at it a few times, pick it up and carry it a few yards to drop it and yowl some more. I’d say we had a cis-male who’s a little confused about maternal instincts but for one thing: Almost invariably before getting bored and abandoning the toy, he will grab it and do the clasp-and-kick routine. If I was one of his kittens, I don’t think I’d enjoy that at all.
So, any opinions on what is going on in his little cat noggin?
Cats are strange. When we got our last cat, he came into our house and found an old toy we had made for the other cat–catnip in a sock. She had played with it, then abandoned it. He found it. After that, he was mad for socks, even socks without catnip. You would find them all over the house. Usually black ones (the one with catnip was a white one, but he came to prefer black ones). No laundry basket was safe. He would drop them, ignore then, turn around and pounce on them, and make his kind of yowling hunting cry before disemboweling them. And then walk away leaving the corpses on the floor.
Since this was pretty much the same thing he did when he caught a mouse, it was obviously his hunting behavior. I don’t know what the yowls were–cries of triumph? Taunts? I think we can be pretty sure, though, that these were in no way kitten substitutes. They were prey.
I also don’t know how he decided that the socks were finally dead. What goes on in the little cat brain is a mystery.
I don’t know if it’s an old cat-lady’s tale or fact, but I have heard that kittens need to be taught to kill prey by their mothers (or some surrogate). Otherwise, they end up with hunting instincts but no expertise in “closing the deal,” stuck in the weird catch-play-stare loop.
I had a cat who murdered books – he ate/shredded/otherwise molested many, many of my books. I think of him fondly whenever I re-read a book he attacked. Stewie was also the runt of two kittens we found; he was very sick and wasn’t expected to live long.
He did live long and considered himself part of our dog pack. He would scream at the backdoor until he was let out to play with the big dogs, and he’d come back in with them. The dogs liked to graze on the backyard grass and there Stewart would be, standing under a dog and munching along with them.
I hope they have books and big dogs in cat heaven . . .
I had a cat who was nuts for my sweaters, which I stored in the lower shelves of a cabinet with doors she could pry open. When I would come home from work, all the sweaters would be scattered throughout the house.
For obvious reasons I did not bring the entire sweater collection with me when we moved to an island on the equator, but I did have one light sweater which she then obsessed on. She would drag the sweater in her teeth so that it grazed her underbelly, then start mewling and kneading with her eyes glazed over. It was came across as weirdly fetishistic.
Our house was a split level and from the living room the landing at the top of the stairs made a little stage. One time when we had guests, the cat put on a little sex show by doing her peculiar thing with the sweater on the landing. The guests, who were not cat people, were sort of freaked. I think they thought we were sexually abusing the cat and that was causing her to act out.
I have had several black cats who made a point of finding my black sweaters or jackets and sleeping on those. My mom has a cat that has a small stuffed owl that it carries around and cuddles with.
One of my black cats, the late Merlin, would tuck himself under a coffee table when we were serving hors d’oeuvres. He would stay completely out of sight, and then a stealthy paw would dart out over the edge of the table, flicking anything he could catch onto the floor. He’d dart out and drag whatever he’d manage to acquire under the table and inspect it for cat edibleness. If we didn’t evict him, he repeat the procedure. Sneak attack food thief!
Our cat Finn does this with my wife’s knitting yarn when she goes out at night (to the extent she has a few balls of ‘decoy’ yarn so he leaves her good stuff alone). He will do the same with some of the boys’ stuffed toys when they are at school.
He also loves getting his belly rubbed - the way a dog loves getting a tummy rub. He will flop next to you, roll on his back and mew until you give him a belly rub and stay like that for as long as he can, never bites.
I once had a cat who liked to play with rubber dishwashing gloves. He would pick them up in his teeth and throw them over his shoulder. A couple of times I found single gloves in the house that didn’t match anything I owned - I think he stole them from a neighbor.
Andy Kitty, the fierce hunter Kitty, but very old (at the time) was famous for “catching” random small soft objects at night and meowing persistently for us to critique his prey.
Baby Ruth, who isn’t fierce at all, never did this. She occasionally would come over to inspect Andy’s prize. But it was Andy’s job to hunt down the dangerous rolled sock and the insidious Teeny Beany Baby.
Andy must have understood his time was coming. He was very very old, still very fierce and still pretty good at hunting inanimate objects. But I think he called Baby Ruth over and talked to her about it.
“Child of my Heart, pretty soon I’ll be leaving for the Great Catnip Field. I won’t be able to safeguard our silly humans from the perils of the night. You’ll have to do it for us after I’m gone.”
The very night Andy finally died, Ruth started doing the night hunt that Andy had been doing, catching the same prey Andy always had, and always calling for us – and maybe Andy – to examine her trophy and glory in the triumph of the hunt.
I had a cat like this. Her mother, an expert huntress, was also part of the household but hated her so the lessons were never finished. Rocky would catch birds and then carry them about very gently. Whenever I I could catch up with her and persuade her to give up her prey it could be released uninjured.