On cat personalities

· cats ·

Last week, we went on holiday to Norfolk for a few days, a trip that we had to delay by a day because of the snow. We had a lot of drifting in our neighbourhood, and the car was buried up to the bumper. We dug it out, but I wasn’t confident about a long drive on icy, un-cleared roads, so we decided that giving up a day of our holiday was probably worth it for the peace of mind.

When we go away for longer periods, my parents often stay at our house to house- and cat-sit for us, but since this was only for a few days, we decided to put the cats into the local cattery that we’ve used before. It’s a very nice and well-run place, but as I’ve mentioned before, our two cats have very different reactions to staying there. Bianca gives every impression of finding it all wildly thrilling and a big adventure. I do try not to be anthropomorphic, but I’ve often thought that Bianca is a feline version of Father Dougal from Father Ted: she’s very enthusiastic about everything, but has absolutely no idea what’s going on most of the time. As soon as we opened her carrying box in the pen she was climbing about on the cat trees, saying hello to the cats next door and exploring the crinkle tunnel.

While Bianca acts in exactly the same way at the cattery that she does with us at home, Bella’s personality changes completely. At home, she’s a very friendly, confident cat. She’s happy to greet visitors, and when my parents come to look after them both, Bella basically treats them the way she treats us1. However, you wouldn’t know that she was the same cat at the cattery. Once she can be persuaded out of the carrying box, she slinks along the ground with flattened ears and enormous eyes, and goes to hide in the indoor heated part. As far as we can make out, she stays there the entire time.

When we came to pick them up, the chap who had been caring for them was amazed by the way she reacted on seeing us. I went in to the indoor part of the pen and said hello, and she initially tried to flatten herself against the wall. I put my hand out for her to smell2 and you could see the change come over her whole demeanour. She recognised that it was me — provider of a warm lap and possessor of The Duvet of Comfort — and she practically jumped into my arms with joy. It was very sweet, but made me feel terrible about leaving her there, even though they are both so well looked after and fussed over.

Bella needed no persuading to go back in the carrying box, but we had to bribe Bianca with a treat, because she was having so much fun. Once we got them both back home, they raced around the house: Bianca was her usually hyper-enthusiastic self, and Bella seemed to be double checking that we still had hot radiators and beds and duvets. Once satisfied that all her familiar comforts were in place, she relaxed. The day after we came home, I got a really horrible cold and cough, so I haven’t been very active. Perhaps as consequence (or because Bella is really appreciating our presence again after our absence), she has jumped on my lap almost every time I’ve sat down, and accompanied me in naps on the bed.

  1. That is, she walks all over them. Literally. ↩︎

  2. I suspect that most cats find it difficult to recognise humans individually until they’ve smelled them. After all, we keep changing the colour and texture of our fur in a very confusing way. ↩︎