The Nature of a Cat – Tree Dweller or Bush Dweller?
If there is one thing my cats have (besides my undying love) is options. Until watching episodes of Jackson Galaxy of My Cat From Hell, I had not really even considered that concept, in this case, what type of living environment was I providing for my cats to ensure they were as fully acclimated to their feline roots as possible while living in the confines of a “human world.” But after watching show after show, where he would constantly refer to cats as either being “tree” or “bush” dwellers and needing those critical respective vertical and horizontal spaces in their lives, I realized with great relief that I had those bases covered in spades, whether intentional or not.
Our indoor environment is a virtual playground of high and low spaces for our kitties – we have numerous cat condos, from one level ranch style dwellings to five-story high rises. We have book cases, a fireplace mantle, counters, cabinet tops, and endless other pieces of furniture and accessories that let kitty perch with a bird’s eye view. We also have all sorts of low lying nooks and crannies for kitty to carefully hide for privacy or a safe haven. Generally speaking, those high and low moments are reserved for “events” such as heightened playtime, when some imaginary (or possibly real) ghost spooks them, when we accidentally drop a cookie pan on the floor with that clattering noise that terrorizes them to no end, poofy tails and all, or when company comes which causes all seven cats to scatter like bugs until they determine the terrain is safe again.
Truly, the majority of their behavior is spent right smack in the middle – primarily on top of a bed or couch – in full view of the world for the majority of the day and night. What would that be called? What is that middle ground between a tree and a bush? A hedge? Regardless, what is most fascinating is what transpires when we go outside for our weekend jaunt. Instinct seems to kick in and each cat assumes much more of an assertive preference for vertical or horizontal space.
In alphabetical order to make it easier for me, here is what transpires with each cat when they go outside:
Harley. For Harley, the highest point I have ever seen her on is the couch cushion… not even the back of the couch, just the cushion. When we go outside, she is what I would call a “door lurker” and neither a bush or a tree dweller. She just likes to stand on the sidelines, behind a potted plant, by the door, and watch everyone else hunt and roam. She has actually ventured to the tiki within the past couple of weeks and likes to look at the world through the deck railings, all while still keeping a close eye on the door in case she needs to make a quick exit. I see no indication of her trying to hunt, she just sort of seems to enjoy the fresh air and prefers no physical exertion whatsoever. I’m not certain if she has ever seen a lizard and I don’t know that she would even care to, even if we put one right next to her.
Jazz. In his old age, Jazz has lost most of his interest in going outside and likes to remain on our bed in the mornings when we go out. I would say that when he does come out for a visit, it is for a nice walk around the grounds, as if he is inspecting them to make sure all is well, then he will mosey back into the house. He also, shows no preference for bush dwelling or tree dwelling space and likes the comfort of a warm and cozy bed. His hunting days are long gone (other than wads of paper thrown on the floor) and he leaves the wildlife to the youngsters.
Mia. Mia is decidedly a tree dweller. You will frequently find her sweet little face turned upward, as she is looking for a high spot to perch from. She loves climbing to the top of the tiki rafters and will do an incredible balancing act as she walks the supporting beams. Dan will bring her back down when she is ready, but don’t let this tree dweller fool you. When it is time to go in, she will hide under any bush she can find so that we can’t easily reach her to bring her in the house!
Peanut. Ah, dear sweet Peanut. Peanut is typically the bandleader and loudest of the bunch when it comes to telling us humans it is time to get out of bed and get the day going. She would scratch at the door to get out and rush out to greet the new day with an incredible jubilance. That is, until recently. After the “leopard encounter,” that has all changed. No surprise, but our tiki is peppered with a leopard / jungle theme. NOTHING has changed in years. We have had a huge stuffed plush leopard sitting on the top corner of the tiki that peers down at the world. It has been there forever…. Well, somehow Peanut missed this little tidbit for the past three years of her life and when she looked up at it about a month ago, it spooked her so traumatically that she ran back into the house, completely fearful to set paw back outside. We are slowly getting her to realize her life is not in jeopardy, so right now, she is mostly a bush dweller, as she skirts from one tropical plant to the next trying to avoid looking up at the leopard…
Rolz. Rolz is the King of the Jungle in every sense of the word. He is our best hunter, and while he has taken a few trips up a palm tree, he likes to lie low and hunt stealth style. He is definitely a bush dweller and also likes to forage under the tiki. Countless lizards have been saved from an uncertain death by Dan, which I am quite grateful for.
Zee. Zee is like the “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” tune from the Song of the South movie and likes the middle ground of everything. He is a Virgo cat, but is a Libra at heart. He loves balance and prefers that most of his time outdoors be reclined on the tiki railing where he can see all the comings and goings, both from above and below. He will wander the allotted vicinity, munch on a bit of greens, take a quick nap on the cool pavers, then make his way back to the tiki railing. He is normally a very sweet boy, but does tend to get surly when it is time to bring him in… rumor has it, he has even hissed at his displeasure of being unceremoniously picked up to be brought back in! And, as far as heights, forgot about that. Zee is the epitome of a clumsy oaf and when he tries to jump up to high places, well, so as not to embarrasses him, let’s just pretend we never had this conversation.
Zoey. Zoey is the only one who has to wear a leash and harness. She is a wild girl and the ultimate tree dweller. She loves to climb trees and the higher the better. Nothing spooks her – including water. When we turn the waterfall on, she comes running, completely enthralled, and will soak her paws in it, trying to catch the rushing current. She loves to come outside, but you would never know it. She plays a ridiculous game with me when I get her harness and will run and hide until I can find her. Once I do, she loves being outside. When I bring her in, she growls very loudly at her displeasure!
Once we are back inside, you will literally find all of them stretched out on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor. They are completely worn out, fully satiated, and absolutely content to find their way to the nearest sun puddle for the remaining hours of the day before it is time to be woken for dinner…
What about your cats? Are they tree dwellers, bush dwellers, or a bit of both?