Is she happy? I sometimes wonder when I look at my cat lying on the couch, the carpet, the piano, my bed, my daughter’s bed, in the cradle of the dolls, the closet, behind the books on the shelf – lying everywhere she possibly can, unashamedly stretched out.
Maybe she is just terribly bored?
I would understand that perfectly. Day after day the same rooms, balcony, furniture, walks, routine, views. I would go crazy!
But now I am anthropomorphizing, i.e. treating animals as humans. I tend to do this a lot, not only with animals, but with practically everything in nature.
It does depend on my mood, but often when I walk home along other people’s gardens and balconies, I cannot help it, but pick up the state of mind of the things around me.
It only happens with natural phenomena, with man made stuff it rarely does.
But let’s go back to cats. Scientists say they do not know if they are able to experience happiness. What they do know is that they experience stress.
What else? Cats are territorial, they say, anything that disrupts the harmony of their territory, like getting rid of an armchair or moving furniture (one of my hobbies), will cause stress.
Meaning cats like things to stay the same. Put another way: What we call boredom, they will most probably call peace of mind (and body).
Understandably moving is number 1 on a cat’s list of most stressful things in life. This is apparently something we have in common with them, since moving is also one of the things humans dread the most, statistically speaking of course, there are always exceptions.
Moving by bike in Amsterdam
I for example do not fit the statistics in this particular case, since I have moved at least once a year during the last fifteen years, perceiving most of all joy and very little stress. New surroundings, new impulses. Moving has been my remedy against boredom for a very long time.
But since I have slightly changed my point of view on it all (why), I have become less restless – we have been in our current house now for already little more than 13 months.
Just like a human being can be atypical, so can a cat. And indeed Denzel has already proven to be atypical in many ways – Can we actually still classify her as a cat?
In the case of being territorial though she does quite comply: When we arrive in a new place, she immediately checks it out and marks its frontiers in a typical cat way. However once this is done, she does not manifest any other signs of stress anymore.
This summer for example we moved her for a month to a house in the countryside where she adapted fairly quickly to her new environment, extending herself within no time wherever some type of cloth was covering the surface, once again couches, beds, ironed shirts, table cloths etc.
When we eventually brought her back though to our apartment in northern Rome, I couldn’t otherwise than notice how sincerely happy she was. Immensely (imcatly) quickly she checked the house – in case some cheeky street cat had invaded it while she was away – installed herself on my bed, sighed deeply and fell peacefully asleep. Pure contentment.
Moving might not stress her as much as it supposedly does other cats, I pondered, but it certainly doesn’t excite her very much either – she is perfectly fine dominating always exactly the same territory.
Maybe for a cat boredom stands for happiness, I thought while I watched her doze off.
Apart from stress, scientists are not sure about what we have in common with other living beings, but after years of systematically observing and testing my surroundings I am pretty sure happiness is as universal as stress.
Some empirical evidence:
Boredom though must be something restricted only to human beings.
(1) Beyond the Frontier [CC-BY-2.0]
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