Imaginary Birds and Happy Cats


None of these photos are of today. Today was far more… vigorous.


[Photo shows Fey, a grey ticked cat with a white stripe down her belly, white paws, white chin, and a white four-pointed star on her nose, with yellow-green eyes. She is lying on her side, with one paw curled over.]

Today was one of the first days it was warm enough to take Fey out again since last fall. As usual, she was not happy with the actual feel of being lifted and put into the PetPocket. But everything else about her behavior — even including loving to sleep on the PetPocket — has always seemed to show that the good part of these walks tends to outweigh the bad (although when you’re dealing with someone whose only language is Feline, it’s always possible you’re missing something major). So I took her outside.

She never likes the elevator, and she never likes traffic although she can get used to it. But generally by the time we are out of the building and away from the lines of people flanking the entrance and going “ooooooooo kiiiiittteeeeeeee”, she calms down and starts looking around.


[Photo shows me out in my powerchair with Fey peering out of her PetPocket.]

This being our first day out, she mostly wanted to duck down inside with widening pupils when we were near traffic. So we headed down a side road to get away from the noise (which frankly wasn’t my favorite thing either).

And then we heard it. Some kind of chittery bird noises up in the air. And Fey stopped worrying about traffic and poked her head up, ears pointy, whiskers out, eyes wide but
pupils normal, nose twitching like a rabbit. This is why we go on walks.


[Photo is a closeup of Fey looking around out of her PetPocket.]

We found a tree with a bird’s nest in it and Fey just stared up and whipped her head around to get all the different birds in her sights. I sat around in the parking lot and tried to maneuver the chair wherever her head was pointing. After about half an hour we went home and she curled up in bed with me for a few hours.

But it doesn’t end there. This kind of thing never does. As it started to get late, I heard a “worrreeeauwwww” (and assorted other multisyllabic cat words) coming from the living room. Usually I go out and if she wants water she goes to the kitchen, and if she wants play she goes to the living room. She went to the living room.

Usually our play is pretty predictable. Nearing 11 years old this year, she doesn’t run all over as much as she used to. She likes to sit or lie on the couch while I wave a Cat Dancer back and forth in wide sweeping motions that come near but don’t touch her head. She bats at it for awhile, sometimes more enthusiastically than others. If she catches it, I give her some fish flakes (she loves them so much she’ll eat them out of my hand) and then wait for her to finish grooming herself. Then we do it all again if she wants to. I know most cats like to act as if the toy is prey, but she has made it clear she generally prefers the slower pace of trying to hit it as it whizzed by her.

Well, this time, I got out the Cat Dancer and started to wave it back and forth. WHAP. She hit it on her first try, which is unusual.


[Photo shows Fey delivering a WHAP to the Cat Dancer.]

Then she got me to move it all over the couch while she chased and scrabbled and leapt into the air like a kitten. Her accuracy was way beyond usual and so was her interest. She stood on her back legs and whapped it again and then worked her two front paws in a rapidfire back and forth motion until she had to sit down. Then she did it again. And again. And flopped onto her back to scrabble at it from that position and just kept going.


[Photo shows Fey on her back following the Cat Dancer with her eyes while her two paws are bent into different stages of grabbing at it.]

When I offered her the second round of fish flakes she nipped me (with a “HEY don’t stop now!” sort of look about her) and went back to chasing the toy everywhere until I was finally the one who had to stop from exhaustion.


[Photo shows Fey lying on her side and attacking the Cat Dancer with her claws out.]

When I first bought the PetPocket I had figured it would be better than sitting at one particular window all the time, and that maybe it would fuel her imagination for future play. But I never expected it to be this extreme. Her play suddenly got far more complex, lively, and strategic. And I could tell she was saving up imaginary small animals in her head to hunt back home with the cat toys.

And today has made it clear things still work that way for her. She was nearly doing backflips and probably would still be playing if I weren’t worn out. She hung out in the living room for awhile hoping for more, but has come in and curled up next to my head now that she realizes I’m not going anywhere.


[Photo was taken seconds after the previous photo. Fey is lying on her side. The Cat Dancer is near her belly. She is reaching for it with both front paws, and has her mouth open to bite it with her fierce white fangs showing.]

If you want more cat blogging, AnneC has done a great post on finding out why Nikki (an 8-year-old Siamese) was doing a bunch of things that seemed to make no sense. I am already liking her new cat blog Felines Are Wonderful a lot.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

10 responses »

  1. Your cat is very pretty–her feistyness shows through as she’s playing with the toys. I didn’t know you are a fellow power wheelchair user–and a fellow left-hander. I alo like to ride using the tilt function.

    Looking through some of your posts and blogs has helped me understand my son’s language better–and even more than that, has helped me think of ways to explain his ways of thinking to others. I intuitively (or maybe it’s not intuition–I observe) understand a lot of his actions and ways of thinking and can intercept people’s actions before they become serious stressors (and hopefully we find ways for him to handle these on his own). Where we reach an impasse is with some kinds of stimming–I am noise sensitive/prone to migraine while he needs to make the same noises repeatedly. I worry about him a lot as he grows, reading what you and others have gone through–when he gets bullied, he won’t tell others about it. I.e., he’ll take a mark at school for not having pencils/supplies but won’t tell the teacher someone’s stolen his pencil.

  2. Thanks. I got the powerchair last year after over a year in bed. I used a manual for several years before that. If I ride without tilt my legs change colors and I eventually go really floppy. So I’m supposed to spend all my time in tilt unless I’m negotiating tight corners or something.

    Right now Fey is curled up by my shoulder with her cheek resting backwards against mine. Like a lot of the older photos. She does that and purrs, then she washes, then goes back to snuggling, and repeats the whole thing. I think she’s doing the equivalent of what Anne’s kittens do when they all pile on top of each other.

  3. I love seeing the photos of Fey having fun (if that’s the right translation of her state of being) with the Cat Dancer, especially the one with her fangs showing. I wonder whether all creatures have that impulse toward making their dream pictures tangible somehow. Perhaps if I come back in another life as another creature I will find out.

    Thinking about Fey snuggling and Anne’s kittens piling on top of each other reminds me of the three ferrets we owned when my daughter was younger. They used to sleep together in a small fleece hammock all wound and snuggled up together. Every night, we’d count them to make sure they were all there, and we could never tell how many we were looking at until we had located each head. I learned a lot about how important it is for so many creatures to have the right kind of physical contact with one another. For the ferrets, it was quite extreme. They’d get so tangled up around one another that you literally couldn’t tell one from another sometimes.

  4. I am pretty sure play is one of those things both species do for roughly similar reasons (it’s fun and it focuses on some sort of imaginary version of the stuff we would normally do to survive). I think cat games and video games are rather similar in nature, more similar than most people imagine. And she must be having fun because the more I do it with her the more she wants to do it and asks for it (either by dragging me to the couch or by getting my attention and then batting something playfully with a paw — she doesn’t like to play alone except possibly for the three am run around at top speed and yowl a lot thing. She also frequently tries to play a form of tag with me but that doesn’t work well anymore with the chair.

  5. Cats really do seem to be incredibly imaginative in their play (and probably more generally too, in the sense of visualizing things that are not currently happening, for particular reasons, whether something negative like worry or something positive like anticipation). That is one think I think definitely goes under (or completely un) acknowledged about them, in a lot of the cat literature I have come across.

    Also I have seen a LOT of cats just…completely perk up and get really really alert upon seeing what is going on outdoors.

    The three younger kitties here don’t currently go outside (I am acclimating them to wearing a harness first, so when I take them out they will not think something is sitting on their back, etc.) but it is definitely like “whoah!!!” when I open a window so that only the screen is there between them and the fresh air and breezes and bird sounds, etc. They will sit there utterly riveted, making chirping sounds sometimes, and then later on when playing with toys they are super vigorous about it. (The other night, Shadow managed to wear himself out to the point of panting like a puppy…I slowed down with the feather toy after that because I did not want anyone overheating!)

    Nikki is the only one who goes outside at all (well aside from carrier trips to the vet). She is indoors 90% of the time but used to be an outdoor cat at my parents’, so she has a definite taste for being outside and since I don’t live in coyote country or right next to a busy road, I let her out during the daytime sometimes (but I will go looking for her within about 15 minutes if she disappears from sight). She is not interested in going out in the rain and I never let her out when there are no humans home to let her back in so she is still more indoor than outdoor but she just gets this amazing look of happiness and aliveness outside that I try to balance my own worry for her safety with the very obvious delight and excitement she gets from being out. Like Fey, she does not really like solo play, but after being outside she will often play interactively.

  6. I really like these cat posts. I have not ever shared my home with a cat, nor am I around cats very often, and it is important to me that I learn about the different species that share this earth so I am more aware of what their needs/wants/languages are, and what is probably respectful/not respectful when/if I am around them.

  7. I, too, like posts about, and pictures of, cats, especially what with all of the annoying politics and drama happening around and about the Autism Hub.

    I will now quote mah kitteh’s last statement:


  8. This is why I like living out in the country, because there’s not much traffic and I can safely let my cats wander outside whenever they want. (I’ve been told I’m exposing them to disease and it could shorten their lifespans, but I’ve never had a cat get a serious infectious illness, and two of my cats lived to 15 and 20 years old.) My cat Katrina, even now that she’s about 10 year old, spends lots of time outside hunting in summertime. We hardly need to feed her at all, because she catches so much wildlife. And the sheer joy she shows when torturing some bird with a broken wing, or a terrified mouse, is wonderful. On a couple of occasions we’ve even done some cooperative hunting, such as when she noticed a mouse in the pantry and I took away the mouse’s hiding spots so it fled in her direction, and that’s a lot of fun.

  9. As far as I know, she’s mixed-breed. She came from the pound, so I have very little information on her background.

    What I do notice about our cats though is that they probably share similar coat color genes, regardless of whether the breeds are similar or not.

    In particular, they’re likely to have the genes that suppress tabby coloring and specifically the ones that create a black coat. (Often this doesn’t go all the way, which is why you can see faint tabby stripes and/or ticking in certain areas.) And then the genes that cause the coat to be “diluted” to grey instead of black. And then the piebald spotting gene, which causes white spots. Those white spots can be expressed in a large number of ways, including the “tuxedo” pattern that our cats seem to have.

    Here are some links you might find interesting:

    And then lots of links that are in the genetics section of the Messybeast cat resource archive:

    This page shows how they get the different patterns of white spotting including the ones our cats seem to have:

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