Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who's Observing Whom?

Did you read the article on the wire services last week, the one where researchers were surprised at not only how smart elephants are, but that they cooperate and show consideration of each other? "Gee, we thought only primates did that," was the line of thought.

Also last week, I took my packet of Method wipes and marched around the house removing smudgy handprints, coffee drips, and scuffs from the walls and doors. As I scrubbed I realized that the scuffs were not scuffs; they were areas of strategic importance Orange Gina marked with her chin. The corner by the food bowls, the bathroom, and the doorway to Greg's office. It got me to thinking.

I have two cats, Orange Gina and Vivani Catpants. We plucked Vivani off the streets of Oaxaca as a very young kitten; we adopted Gina from the animal shelter.

Vivani never marks the house. She doesn't care if other cats share it. Since we traveled a lot when she was young, our place of residence means nothing. For her, it's all about Greg and I. We are hers and she is ours. She's extremely communicative and out-going with us, but almost completely ignores or avoids other people.

People-loving Gina, after her stint in the Big House, is both food-insecure and fiercely jealous of the house. She marks it with her chin and claws. (And a big shout-out to both cats for never marking the house with urine. Thank you!) She has shredded the corner of Greg's second-hand dresser, and would also do the same to my closet if she could. She doesn't touch the furniture in the living room; that's apparently a public area, as is the front door. But the post by the back door is heavily shredded as well; back door is Family Only. She doesn't care if other cats are in the yard or sidewalk, but they may not be in the house. Which is why she was so mean to poor Huespedes.

Vivani doesn't care if other cats are in the house or front porch, but they may not be in the back yard—that is Family territory, and off-limits to others. Which is why the vet told me last week during her check-up, "I'd like to get a blood sample to use as a baseline since this is the first time we've seen her where she wasn't injured." In four years? Are you kidding me? But no, she was right. That little chola has had more abcesses than a hockey player has missing teeth.

To bring it back to where I started off, with the elephants, close observation of the natural world used to be a big part of science. I don't think it comes as a shock to anyone who is familiar with elephants that they are smart and social. And it doesn't come as a shock to me that Gina and Vivani have such different personalities...though it does shock me that people, scientists, continue to believe and act like humans are the only beings around with thoughts, feelings, desires. Souls.

I like observing my girls. And I like that it's a two-way street.

1 comment:

MuddyGurl said...

my heart flutters at seeing your Orange girl.. I lost my orange boy Marshall suddenly 4 years ago and my heart still yearns for his strong big boy muscled body winding thru my legs and begging to be petted BUT NOT picked up.. no tolerating that for a guy like him. Nope. he would snuggled next to my hip on the couch, but never being held like a baby, he was too feral for that. anyway I loved seeing this photo, reminds me of his many days doing the solar charging thing too. memories