Four Legs Good
Cats like to go places. Up on the wardrobe, behind the fence, into a box - wherever's handy. And what do they like to do there? They like to turn around and stare back at you.
Especially if they feel they can't be seen, and their staring is an act of espionage.
Today's collection of pet photos is of cats being spies - hiding away, but not quite all the way, and often having a very hard stare at whoever's out there.
Maxine's expression is one for the cat-behaviour experts. It reminds me of the face of my old social studies teacher whenever she detected insolence.
If you talk for a while to any person with a pet, then soon you’ll hear a story of that pet’s fussiness.
"He won’t touch fish," or "I can’t train him with anything but bacon" or "She won’t pee on grass."
Fussiness is part of pets' character. And I don’t mean to bash them for it – as I'll explain in a moment.
Cats are said to be especially fussy – and all the thesaurus words: fastidious, finicky, picky, particular, dainty. There’s truth in it, of course – they’re clean, and more than a bit prone to taking offence.
Dogs, on the other hand, are reputedly unfussy – knockabout, unworried about spills, unfazed by filth.
Have you noticed your pet being suddenly all reverent and respectful? Has a new piety descended on it? And has this new solemnity appeared since, oh, approximately when the wintry temperatures started? If so, then your pet has discovered its winter religion, which is daily worship of the great god of heat.
The idol of the heat god stands in your living room in a place where all may pay it respect: there in the corner with a flue going up to the ceiling, or there among the armchairs wherever a medium-length cord will reach the power socket.
Pets are drawn to this idol. Like pilgrims they gather, often in groups, to bathe in the orange glow of the deity. An orange glow captured in many of today's pet photos, which depict acts of heat worship worthy of a saint.
The first heat-worshipper is the beautiful Tesla, who loves her fireside mat.
As I type this, the heater is turned on, Connor is snuggled into a blanket on a couch behind me, and Phoebe is on the floor using my foot as a pillow. No, it's not quite officially winter yet but, yes, it's cold, and the dogs are feeling it.
Pets are like humans in that they prefer comfort to discomfort. Which means that during the cold part of the year, they seek out warmth, which means they stay indoors more of the time.
The great thing about that is how keeping warm becomes a team effort, involving pets and humans. Nobody ever sits alone in my house during the cold months - there's always a dog to keep your lap (or your foot) warm. If no human is handy, the dogs overcome their usual rugged independence and snuggle with each other.
So winter is always a social, if slightly cramped, time.
It's also a darker time. We've mostly given up our evening walks and replaced them with dawn outings. It's a shock to the human body but the dogs take it in their little skippy stride.
One of the things I miss about my cat, the late Merrick, is the kind-of-friendship he had with Connor, one of our two dogs. Not a playful, mutual-grooming type of friendship - it was more low key.
The two often snuggled up to sleep together, usually with Connor's chin on top of Merrick's well padded torso. It was Connor's love of borrowing Merrick's warmth that really drove the friendship. But Merrick never protested.
There's nothing written in stone, you see, that says cats and dogs have to be tribal enemies. In fact, often they love each other and the affection lasts many years. I know this because of the photographic evidence that readers have submitted and that I present for you today in a tribute to the most endearing of cross-species friendships.
Meet Harry the Schnauzer and Zac the Siamese. Harry likes to carry Zac around in his mouth, and Zac doesn't mind. Now that's an unusual friendship.
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