Almost wild

life

One of the things I really like about cats is that they retain a lot of the independence and behavioural traits of their wild ancestors. I realise that this is often cited by people who don't like cats as one of the things they dislike most about them, but it would be a dull world if we all liked the same things. Having a couple of cats in the house seems as wondrous to me as having a couple of small leopards wandering around in my living room.

I was reminded of this very strongly a few nights ago, when — in the middle of the night — Bella strolled up the bed to drape herself along my torso 1. As I was lying on my back, she was actually higher than my head, and I could see her looking down at me in the dark, with her nose a few centimetres from my chin. She was purring loudly, and half-closed her eyes in evident bliss. There's nothing quite as relaxing and cosy on a cold winter night as having a warm, purring cat sleeping on your chest, so I closed my eyes too. After a minute or two, I felt her paw gently pat my cheek, claws retracted, but still faintly perceptible on my skin.

It was a classic domestic cat move: 'I could rip your throat out, but I won't because you're quite comfy and you give me food. And you can be quite amusing sometimes.' Despite being in a rather vulnerable position, her restraint actually made me trust her more than ever, and revel in the delicate path that cats tread between wildness and domesticity.

The truth, of course, is that cats own their humans rather than the reverse (and there is evidence that they domesticated themselves), but I think that it does humans no harm at all to be put in our place by another species every now and again.

1 She usually sleeps at the bottom of the bed, gradually shifting over the course of the night to sleep on my feet.

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