“The Good Old Days” – Just What Does That Mean to a Cat?

Our little Mia is as content as can be… just what do cats dream of when they are napping?

Much as I love my life, I sometimes yearn for the elusive and I start to think of “the good old days” when life seemed simpler and less stressful, which got me thinking about my cats and their perception of life. Do cats only live in the present moment, or do they wistfully dream of days gone by while they are napping, or do they think of future events outside the boundaries of when they will be fed next?

It would seem, as long as a cat continues to be loved, fed, and taken care of, that they don’t care about the issues that stress a human out such as the economy or world affairs. They clearly react off of the vibes and emotions we as humans project as a result of these conditions, but they certainly don’t wake up wishing for the days when the housing market was stable and unemployment was low.

But do they have a memory outside of circumstances that trigger a reaction in them? Our eight year old cat Harley came from a rescue. Does she remember her days as a kitten living in a house with other rescue cats or has that time long since been erased from her mind? Kizmet also came from a rescue and he is still a baby so the memory of his past is not that long ago. But he is so well-adjusted that I don’t think he remembers his past at all. He currently lives for the moment and he considers Zoey his Mama and it feels like he has been a part of our household all along.

I don’t know of any kitten that has aclaimated himself so quickly to a household than our sweetheart, Kizmet. This precious boy has not skipped a beat since the moment he arrived!

Clearly they do have the intellect to connect the present with the past when they are presented with certain stimuli that they remember. For example, if you bring out the cat carrier, you know that your cat is going to high-tail it and vanish out of sight so that you can’t catch him.  People also cause different reactions in cats, leading me to believe they do remember more than we would think. Using Harley as an example again, when my youngest son, Joe, used to live at home, she was so attached to him that she would cry pitifully if he left his bedroom for even a split second.

Harley’s days as a cat living in a shelter are long gone and she is a very happy and content kitty.

When he moved out several years ago, she went through a mourning period for him. Granted, she recovered and is happy and healthy, but when Joe came to visit for Christmas, you could sense that she was overjoyed to see her old buddy and stayed by his side the whole time. So, they do seem to connect the past to the present, but what about the future? Do they think ahead to something that has not yet happened?

I think in a simple sense, the answer is yes, especially in terms of positive reinforcement. The cats know that on weekend mornings there might be a possibility they will being going outside for an adventure. They wake up and wait by the door for us to come just in case that momentous occasion will happen. They also wait by the door for me on weekdays and have great faith that at some future point at approximately 5:45pm, I will come through the door to feed them.

But that also applies to knowing the future might bring something negative as well. I think many of us can relate to a cat reacting in a troublesome way when a suitcase comes out. They connect the suitcase to a time in the past to a point in the future and seem to understand that it means one or more of their beloved humans will not be in the house. A cat can become sullen and depressed at the sight of a suitcase and when Dan or I actually do travel, they act differently while we are gone and you can tell that they miss us and want us back so that their routine can get back on track.

This was me packing for last year’s BlogPaws. You can see that Jazz, Mia, Peanut, and Zee were all onpaw to investigate the situation.

Another reason I think they can long for something is because sometimes they actually try to make events happen of their own volition. Peanut happens to love playing with DaBird and understands that in order for the toy to function, it requires human assistance. She will actually bring the toy to Dan or I to let us know she wants to play because she longs for the stimulation and exercise DaBird brings to her. I find her behavior to be quite fascinating, but Zee is the champion of believing he can shape the future and an incredible study in complex feline behavior.

Peanut is such a doll. Here she is saying, “Well, I guess if no one is going to play DaBird with me, I will just have to bring it to you.”

By using his collection of stuffed toys as his talisman, he will offer them throughout the house as homage to making things happen. A toy will be left at the water dish, signifying he wants fresh water. A toy left at the door or windowsill means he is trying to tell us it is time to go outside. When Joe was packing up to leave after Christmas, Zee brought a toy to him as if to say, “I have given you this gift, now please stop packing and stay.” And a toy left on the bed is most precious of all – if Dan is traveling, for example, he will drop toys on the empty side of his bed as if to say, “Here Mommy, I know you miss him too and this toy will bring him back soon.”

By far, the most incredible homage Zee has ever brought me was this giant stuffed bear that is twice his size! I was at the computer and he brought it to me as if to say, “Here, if I give you this bear, will you move away from the computer and pay more attention to me?”

It’s all quite amazing and we hear miraculous stories all the time such as about cats saving lives or finding their way home, miles away,  after being lost. I’m sure all of you have witnessed your own cats doing something that lead you to believe they are far more advanced intellectually than the mainstream gives them credit for. We know that a cat is so much more than an aloof creature who does nothing but nap all day. Although they do have that nap thing down to a perfect science which in and of itself, now that I think about it, is quite genius!

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  1. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    say it iz knot sew peanut

    knot de BURD

    ask zee bout de vizshuz swan that he had ta fite heer bout a few weeks bak, riskin
    his self frum crazed ness onlee ta keep ewe N de others free frum danger, harm , roodness
    and ill health N bee thanx full yur dad did sew…prob ablee yur unkle jazz can tell ya bout
    crazed stuffz two, tho thatz a hole other kinda crazed….”thing”!!

    • Deb says:

      Da tabbies o trout towne – you will be VERY relieved to know that DaBird is no longer with us… Kizmet fought the evil beast to the death last night and we had to throw the plastic remains and fake feathers into the garbage… Peace can now reign in our household again…

  2. Connie Marie says:

    I believe cats are very intuitive. The know when someones at the door before me.
    When they’ve seen or done something that’s bad. I read in bed alot, easier on my
    back and it gives everyone a cuddle space, but everytime I get up, they think it’s time to eat!
    The 1st thing I do in the morning is feed them, so they’ll always try for more.
    When I’m sick, they are all around me.
    I swear they know English too!!

  3. meowmeowmans says:

    I think on some level cats understand and know things on a much deeper level than we know. My angel cat Graphite came from a hoarding situation, and ended up for a long, long time at a shelter. He was adopted, and then returned “because he just hid all the time.” When he came back to PAWS, they said he just hung his head, and seemed to be thinking, “oh no … I’m back in a cage again?” I started volunteering about the same time, and it became clear that HE was set on choosing ME. I was the only one for whom he’d come to the front of the cage. Then, once I adopted him, he proved himself to be one of the most empathic creatures I’ve had the privilege of knowing. He always stayed by my side. Always. But when Tracey’s cat Bitsy died (Tracey and I were just dating at the time), Graphite abandoned my side to take up a vigil by Tracey’s side for about a week. It’s as if he knew Tracey needed him more at that time. We were blessed to have him in our lives for eight whole years.

  4. MizzBassie says:

    Mommy thinks we remember a lot. We remember out life in the streets and are grateful for a wonderful home and loving humans. But we are not saying. It would ruin the mystery. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs.

  5. Kathy Mangan says:

    My Dad had passed for a couple of years, and we were having a back yard party. One of our friends, Donn who had my Dad’s coloring and body shape was sitting on a chair like Dad did.

    Gunther came around the garage and ran like a shot up onto Donn’s lap and gave him head bumps and loves.

    Donn is a person, who had a wonderful dog years ago and has never made the effort to connect with my cats as he grieves for the connection. . Paul and I think that Gunther thought Donn was Dad. Gunther has never given head butts to anyone outside of the family.

  6. Cats are incredible partners in life for humans. Too bad so many people seem determined to dislike cats, and frankly for no reason. Mom Linda was at a physical therapy appt just recently, she has used them before…the young lady who works with Mom Linda flat our stated “i can’t stand cats”…now this person is about late 20’s, maybe just 30…how does someone come to ‘hate cats’ at this early age? What has a cat ever done to her to cause her to find cats a pain in her life? Mom Linda was taken aback at such a statement. People may say “I’m afraid of dogs”…but they seldom say “I hate dogs”…but those words are connected to “cats’ a lot. weird

    • Deb says:

      Yes, I find when people flat out say they don’t like cats, very perplexing as well, Savannah NanaMo, and it makes me sad. Although I am quite astonished at the hate we have in this world in general sometimes…

  7. Kathy Mangan says:

    Miracles do happen, I worked with a man for 8 years. John, who used to tease me incredibly about cats and how he hated them and how worthless they were. He was remodeling his home and his wife wanted a cat. he said not until I get the house done and we move in. So sometimes I think it took him longer to finish because of that. So they moved in, went to a shelter and found Buster. A male tomcat, neutered of course.

    Lo and behold, John would come over to my cube and tell me stories about on how smart Buster was. So miracles do happen :) I still cherish the memories of John. The last day I worked there, I did tell him I told you so at my going away lunch in front of the whole crowd. :) .

  8. Kari says:

    My partner Brent was much the same way as Kathy’s old coworker. He didn’t hate cats, persay, but he was never a pet person. He’d never owned a pet in his life, and as an individual, I don’t believe he would have made a very good pet owner, because he’s not the sort to enjoy being responsible for the well being of others – he is a very independent sort of person and expects people to be able to take care of themselves. In that way, a cat or dog would just get into his way intellectually.

    It was a sad thing to learn when I first met him. But as we had grown closer and were moving forward in our relationship (we’ve been together over 4 years, since Aug of 2012), eventually it grew time for us to move in together. I had my cat, Clover, who is my feline soulmate and companion. He welcomed her into our home unconditionally, but reservedly, due to his lack of familiarity with animals. He didn’t really want much of anything to do with her, but boy, did she want everything to do with him!

    His song literally went, over the two years we’ve been living together, from “I don’t like cats/your cat is annoying” to “Most cats are annoying… yours is okay I guess” to “It’s not fair how Clover bonded with you, I want my own kitten!” – to which I replied by getting him a kitten on our fourth anniversary, who is now over 8 months old, named Pagan, and is a little black heathen troll-child who very much enjoys heckling anything and anyone she can get a reaction out of. =P

    It’s still my job to clean the litter box though. ;P

    Clover’s a clever little angel to see the softy hidden away waiting to blossom in my man.

    • Kathy Mangan says:

      oooohhhh , Doesn’t it bring a glow to you when you think about how our cats change people? That is why I love being a matchmaker for a cat rescue. Back massages and chin rubs to Clover. :)