In celebration of the impending Halloween holiday, I was given a set of funky cat ears.

Cat Ears!

I immediately put them on to test my feline fancy with my best boy, Jack The Cat, and I was surprised by the response I was given.

The moment I put on the ears, Jack did a double take Jack the Cat! and looked at me with that wobbly kind of eye tremor that Persian cats are known to perform when trying to give something depth and form instead of their usual lazy, fuzzy perception of a world that bows before them. Jack crouched down and squinted at me.

He wasn’t upset. He was checking me out in a new way. He wasn’t scared — Jack’s Achilles Heel is that he fears nothing, not loud sounds, or yelling in the street and not even the vacuum cleaner — he was as intrigued by my new ears as he is by his English grooming comb.

So I was looking at him and he was looking at me. Neither one of us moved. I took off the ears and Jack did another double take and sat up and rested on his haunches looking a bit perplexed. I approached him and offered him my hand and he sniffed me up for a good five minutes. I stroked him and we purred together for another five minutes.

Then I put the cat ears back on and Jack shook his head in disbelief! He looked at my cat ears and turned his head from side to side to see if they were actually a part of my head or some kind of background Cat Pareidolia that was confusing his previous perception of me. I offered him my hand again for sniffing and he smelled me up with great vigor as his eyes wobbled, trying to focus in on my new cat ears.

It was then I realized, in Jack’s world, the semiotic he perceives and respects and uses to discern friend from person-who-combs-him-and-gives-him-food-every-day is not smell alone, as I previously thought, but two small triangles that appear on the top of the head no matter how large or lumbering the “cat” appears to be — if you have “cat ears” you’re a cat and that’s that! I left the room and took off the fake cat ears and I won’t wear them again. I understood Jack’s excitement wasn’t one of fear or inquiry — he thought he had a new cat friend to play with him all day. I felt terrible for disappointing him.

Jack never figured out the new cat in the house was me in cat ears but I felt his yearning as he ignored the “earless” me to meow and search the entire house for his newfound friend that never really existed. Most cats are territorial. They like their space and they don’t want to share — especially if they’ve been the sole cat-in-the-hat for the last 13 years — but Jack once again violates all feline expectation.

Jack loves all things he cannot have — the UPS man’s package scanner, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s hair, the hallway where he is not allowed, a bath full of bubbles, baby polar bears on TV, and it seems, a giant new cat in the house with really tiny cat ears.

22 Comments

  1. Hi Katharine!
    Jack is a strange cat. I have no idea if other cats would react in the same way or not. It would be interesting to try to see what sort of reaction you might get if it didn’t mean scaring or freaking out your cat.

  2. It might be worth a try. I wonder what happen if I put fingers on top of my head as cat ears. Would there be the same reaction? Do you think my elbows might give me away?

  3. I know some feel animals don’t have feelings, Katharine, but I believe some of them do have feelings. Jack is emotional. You can hurt his feelings. He knows when he’s being made fun or mocked or loved and he responds with a change in personality. He is quite human in perception and behavior.

  4. When I was younger, my parents always had a cat around the house. I never tried doing anything like wearing cat ears. I wonder what the cat would have done if he had seen me trying to act like a cat? I remember having staring contests with the cat — I’d hold him and stare into his eyes to see if I’d blink first.
    The cat always won.
    The cat was always interesting in anything I was doing. One day, I was eating an orange. The cat jumped up on the chair next to me and was sniffing and observing. I knew he was interested in checking out the orange because he was staring at it.
    I held a slice out so he could investigate. The cat got close, then immediately jumped back closing his eyes.
    Cats don’t enjoy citrus fruits.
    Cats do enjoy pizza, however.
    We left a pizza open and unprotected on a counter for just a few seconds to get some drinks from the car. When we came back into the kitchen, the cat was on the counter, licking the pepperoni. 🙂
    Maybe we should have left someone in the kitchen wearing cat ears to keep the cat occupied and to protect the pizza.

  5. I love your cat stories, Chris! What great fun!
    Jack loves, pizza, too. He’ll eat every mushroom he can find and then immediately vomit them all back up and then go back to re-eat what he just threw up! Ew!
    I wasn’t acting like a cat with those ears. I didn’t have a chance! The second I put on the ears, Jack was transfixed!
    Smell is important to cats and we recently had a doctor’s visit for Jack. He was very sick with a viral and bacterial infection and it was the first time he’d gone to the doctor in his 13 years for being “sick.” He’s usually very big and strong.
    He stopped playing. He stopped grooming. He didn’t sit with us. Finally, his nose started running and he was miserable with sneezing and we finally realized he was sick!
    Now we know what to look for — though he always ate and drank — those were the signs we were waiting to see if he was sick or not. We sort of missed all those other subtle clues that, alone, mean nothing, but together add up to something. He had lost 4 pounds, but he hid it well behind all that hair.
    Anyway… I was so impressed when our doctor pulled out her stethoscope and brought it to Jack to listen to his heart and lungs. He stopped to sniff the stethoscope– even though his nose was plugged — and she let him sniff it as long as he liked and when he was done, he nodded her off and she began her investigation. It was a nice, respectful moment from a doctor to a patient that I admired a lot.

  6. Hi David,
    That was nice of the doctor to let Jack investigate. It’s always scary for animals to go to the vet, so it probably helps for the next visit that the doctor was kind and gentle.
    My parents’ cats always liked to sniff everything, no matter what it was. They expecially loved to smell anything that was new. Sometimes, I’d notice that they would start smelling me if I came home with a new smell — after visiting a friend with a dog or a cat.

  7. Chris —
    The power of smell is fascinating. When cats get sick and reject their food it’s likely because they can no longer smell it and even though food is in the food dish they won’t eat it if they can’t smell it’s food. That’s how you begin to know there’s trouble. Jack always eats — he’s always hungry — so it was harder to see he wasn’t eating as much as usual.

  8. Wow David! What a glamorous cat! Sorry – Jack! What an expressive eyes!!!
    My grandparents had a cat who used to jump on everything that moved. Once they had a family friend at their house who had a habit of tapping his feet even while sitting. My grandparent’s cat dived straight on to his feet thinking it was something he could have fun with! It goes without saying that the house guest didn’t have fun at all!!!
    The cat died at the age of five while fighting a mongoose in our backyard. He was abandoned when he was eight days old, and was picked up by one of my Uncle. Probably it was his ignorance and the lack of training from his mother that pushed him to this sad end.

  9. Cats in my experience have all reacted the same to cat ears… fear. I’ve worn mine on halloween to two friends houses. They both had cats, and all the cats stared with a sort of horrified look and fled. Once I was in my house with them on and a usual stray was looking in our backdoor. She saw me with the cat ears too and also stared, then ran off. (she came back the next day.) But I didn’t have a close relationship to any of those cats.