Notes from a Determined Hermit
Notes, thoughts, ideas, comments, flashes of inspiration, and opinions, as if and when they occur...


Cat-lover's dictionary of terms and behaviors

Animal companions: A term preferred to "pet" by those in the know, especially in San Francisco.

Broken-field walking: A technique developed by human guardians of animal companions, especially cats, for walking from one point to another in an area inhabited by cats/companions.  The cat will attempt to walk right in front of you, adopting a variation of the out-in-front leader ploy.  (see: out-in-front leader ploy on this list.)  If you feint to the right, the cat will move to the right, and you can attempt to go around the cat to the left (or vice-versa).  This causes you to adopt a zig-zag path between your starting point and your goal, and adopt techniques used in broken-field running in ball-oriented running sports, only at a slower pace, but at no less risk to life and limb.

DIS:  Otherwise known as the "Door Into Summer" as credited to Robert A. Heinlein. One will experience a "DISing" when during inclement weather the said cat will travel from door to door and call for it to be opened, but be unsatisfied with the result. You, as their Servant (a term more accurate than companion) will have performed poorly by not supplying the correct season for them to exit into. #

Duck and roll: A physical expression of comfort and playfulness. The move begins with rubbing the temple and ear against the ground. Next, the shoulder drops and is quickly followed in a smooth and continuous descent by the rest of the torso. The ending position is on the side or back, depending upon the enthusiasm with which the roll is undertaken. At the conclusion, the head often rotates to determine whether anyone else witnessed this acrobatic feat. *

Failure to signal: one of several illegal moves frequently used by cats (and sometimes other animal companions) when making sudden alterations in behavior right in front of the guardian's feet, as in slowing down without warning (tripping); speeding up and crossing the path of the guardian at foot or leg level (pushing) in an attempt to divert the guardian into feeding, playing, or other desired action; stopping dead in front of the guardian without warning (blocking); or casting the cat's own body in front of the guardian's feet and engaging in fur-preening or body-licking behavior (washing).  These activities are not illegal if engaged in without involving the guardian in a sudden manner.

Guardian: A term preferred to "owner" by those in the know, especially in San Francisco.

Kitty: The official nickname of every housecat. *

Mryelf: A feline acknowledgement. This vocalization is typically issued while crossing the sight line of a human observer. The pitch generally rises at the end, as if to pose a question. It represents a combination of "How ya doin'?" and "Are you looking at me?" *

Myap, Myap, Myap: The scolding sound of a cat annoyed by the prolonged and inexplicable absence of its human servant. *

Out-in-front leader ploy: A technique used by would-be or nominal leaders in which they attempt to determine which way the group, mass, voters, or other person is going, and then get out in front of them as they move there, to demonstrate just who is the leader here.

Question Mark: Aptly named tail position indicating a desire to gain an immediate answer to pressing questions such as "Are you going to attend to my food bowl right now?" *

Ready Set: The second of three phases of stalking. When a cat is stalking its prey, be it real or imaginary, the act begins with the hunter slinking to a position as close as possible to the target without being detected. The ready set stage is when the cat gets into a low crouch and remains nearly motionless awaiting the optimal moment to strike. A rapidly swishing of the tail conveys an intent concentration upon the matter at hand. Immediately before the pounce, the hips wiggle briefly in an almost Presleyian fashion. The ensuing pounce is a forward lunge swiftly executed with paws outstretched, head up, and ears back. The clear intent is to overcome the unfortunate victim with fear as much as with sinewy power. *

Sleep of the Predator: Slumbering on one's back with feet pointed skyward. This practice expresses a bold confidence that can be experienced only by a creature positioned at the very pinnacle of the food chain. *

Snowplow: An affectionate greeting where the cat drives the top of his or her head forcefully into the human being so greeted. *

* term contributed by Brian Galloway.

# term contributed by Randy Murray.

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© Copyright 2003 Penny G. Mattern.
Last update: 6/4/2003; 7:03:29 PM.