At the vet’s the other night, picking up the prescription that my cat refuses to eat, the receptionist bent my ear a bit about how infrequently they see cats as compared to dogs. Apparently, we can’t tell when cats our cats are sick.
Actually, I can. Over the years, my sick cats have hid behind the books, stopped eating, used the box too much or not at all, and most obviously of all stopped smiling. I don’t know what I mean by smiling, but happy cats do smile. And mine have always intentionally widened their eyes in some kind of bizarre bid to look cuter. There was a point when only one of them did this, but then after a decade or so of living together, the second one picked it up as well. So when they are unwell what I notice first are these little tiny eyes peering at me.
But as I watch mine not eat, use the box too much, and hide under the bed–but still smile–I wonder what she really feels, and whether I can only tell when she’s very sick.
Reading up on her condition, I ran across the apt observation that at least some cats often conceal their physical discomfort from their owners, putting on a show of normalcy until they no longer can. (It’s a predator thing, the writer said.)
And I can’t remember where I ran across that bit of wisdom, or I would link to it and credit it appropriately, but I think it is a predator thing. I think it is about being a predator among other predators that does that to creatures.
Lions, in fact, attack members of their pride who show symptoms of canine distemper. Predators see weakness in others as an opportunity to attack, and although it isn’t actually the reason lions attack their sickened pridemates, it is the reason predatory people attack other people.
If you are around a predator, your best bet is to conceal any sign of weakness, any indication that you can feel pain or sorrow or fear. Your best bet is to behave like another predator.
I should know. I was raised by one.
But it’s no way to live.