Four Legs Good
At the centre of the main indoor space of the Cats Protection League shelter, two couches sit in a V-shape, as they might in anyone's lounge. I am about to lower myself on to one when I notice a sign: "Please check for CAT UNDER BLANKET".
Just as well the sign is there: when I shift a cushion, a little round lump twitches under the blue fleece blanket. League volunteer Iona Anderson nudges back the blanket to reveal a sleepy, blinking white cat named Bella, the possessor of priority access to this couch.
On the furniture and in every other way at the Cats Protection League, cats come first. Since 1982, the league has looked after displaced or unwanted cats and helped find new homes for them, funded by donations and bequests and staffed wholly by volunteers.
On the day I visit the league's shelter at the end of a suburban cul de sac in Wellington's hills, 30 cats are in residence. The first one I see is Rosie, staring one-eyedly at me. Iona and fellow volunteer Stephanie explain to me that Rosie, like all cats that come to the shelter, had a full medical check - but she turned out to have a benign tumour, removal of which cost Rosie her left eye.
Still, Rosie seems to be doing fine, accepting face-rubs from an unfamiliar guest.
It's not a tense life, if you're a domestic cat. There's not much planning or effort to it, apart from the odd leap or bound, which you're are well engineered for anyway.
Nobody really depends on your decisions. And your decisions aren't that complicated, anyway: Do I go out the door, or do I sit here? Do I wash my left paw, or my right? Do I eat, or do I sleep?
Well, that's the way it looks, anyway. I know that cats are more complex creatures than we often appreciate, and their habits and instincts are nuanced, even downright mysterious. But they make it look so easy, don't they?
Like the cats in today's collection: relaxed, calm, controlled, grounded. Like Louie here.
So - the first days without daylight saving. How's that working out for you and your pets?
It can be a heart-sinking time but I think the best you can do is sigh knowingly, lean into what's coming, and seek out the positive aspects of this cooling, darkening time of year.
For dog owners, the shift back to regular time brings one little benefit, which I'll come back to in a moment, but there's one big, unarguable loss: light. We're still fitting in a pre-darkness evening walk at the park, just, but it'll become more and more rushed. By the end of the month it won't be worth trying; walks will just have to be done in darkness or (the horror!) early mornings.
Then there's the change in temperatures. Last night's was the first dog-walk of the year where I noticed myself and every other person at the park wearing polar fleece - a lamentable if necessary development. Dog-walks will be not just darker from here on in, but colder.
My rule of thumb for Wellington weather patterns, based on mumbly-two years of living here, is that short sleeves cannot be worn after the second week of April; we'll see if it's true this year.
Dogs aren't materialistic creatures. They love experiences, not things, and in that respect they're good role models for us people. But sometimes they do become attached to a favourite object.
Often it's a ball. Sometimes the ball has lost its bounce long ago, along with its colour and spherical shape. Less enduringly, dogs can become fond of a bone or rawhide chew or squeaky toy.
Whether it's something to chase or to chew, it's still a cherished thing. And a dog in possession of its prized object is a being full of pride and happiness and security - as today's photo collection shows.
The handsome Ciccio strides the beach with style, his favourite ball safe between his jaws.
Do you understand what your cat says to you?
You probably think you do. And you probably realise that a cat "talks" with its whole body - the ear angle, the back arch, the slow blink, the knead. You can't grasp a cat's intentions without knowing what it's doing with its body.
Scientists have delved into feline body language. They've found, among other things, that "Blinking is like a kitty kiss."
But cats have voice language too. That vocabulary of meows, trills, chitters and wails that can be mysterious but that clearly isn't random.
Well, scientists are looking into that too. A team of Swedish researchers led by Susanne Schotz has begun studying how voice, intonation and speaking style - both human and feline - influence the way the two species communicate with each other.
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