English translation by Eric Major —
Does my cat love me? This is a doubt present in many hearts of new owners. Because, for us humans, a sweet smile on the face is a sign of love. With cats, it is not quite like that. For them, showing their teeth is a sign of aggression. But, bringing little gifts like a dead cockroach indicates love and care.
So, to learn a little bit about how cats show affection for their owners, I caught up with Vitor de Souza, a laid-back young man who is about to get his degree in engineering. He is the owner of Boris, a beautiful black cat that was adopted during the pandemic.
Boris proved to be an affectionate cat, but also a jealous one. As soon as our virtual conversation started, it meowed loudly, rubbed against Vitor’s legs and jumped into his lap. And I immediately made a joke to break the ice: “Vitor, there’s no doubt about it, this cat loves you!” It was no surprise to see that Boris stayed on his lap until the end of the chat. Hahaha.
I invite you, then, to get to know a little about the affective relationship between Vitor, a first-time cat owner, and Boris, a communicative and loving cat. Happy reading!
INTERVIEW WITH VITOR, A FIRST-TIME CAT OWNER
Ana C – Hello Vitor. Was Boris adopted or did you buy him? Tell us a little about it.
Vitor S – Boris was adopted. There are many abandoned kittens that need someone to take care of them. I found Boris in a foster home three years ago. Boris is a beautiful mixed-breed black cat, a mongrel, as we say in Brazil. I adopted him when he was a kitten. Having him here at home was very good for him, but also for me. It was a win-win. I love my cat and he loves me.
But many people don’t choose black cats because of superstitions. There are still many people who think that black cats are bad luck, that they steal energy and many other beliefs. But that just made me like him even more.
When I moved to the city of Joinville, in the south of Brazil, everything was new and I didn’t know anyone there. So, as I really like animals, I thought a pet would be a good thing, to keep me company and for emotional support. So, I chose a cat because they are more independent and less demanding of attention than dogs. Although I’ve always liked cats, I’m one of the “beginner cat people.”
Ana C – How did this friendship grow between you?
Vitor S – When I was at the shelter for abandoned animals, Boris immediately caught my attention. Amid so many skittish kittens, he was receptive. When I extended my hand, seeking friendship, he was interested. It took him a while to get closer, but from time to time he threw me a shy look. Then he ended up coming. With these gestures, I felt that Boris was a brave and affectionate cat. It was then that I decided to adopt him.
Ana C – How do you deal with Boris’ independence?
Vitor S – That thing of the “independence of the cats”… in fact, Boris handles it better than I do, lol. When he doesn’t feel like he wants company, or wants to sleep, he looks for his corner and stays there. At peace ignoring me.
Sometimes “his corner” is one of the high shelves in the kitchen, and from there he follows everything that happens. But, when it’s a cold and rainy day, he goes to his soft and very warm quilt. When he is good, happy and sociable, he settles in my lap while I work on the computer. Then he just sits there, napping and sometimes purring.
They say cats like to sleep on their owner’s belly. But Boris doesn’t have that chance. Because, when he came at night, instead of relaxing, he was kind of scratching me on the neck, on the arm… I even think he was calling me to play. It’s cool, because it’s one of the ways a cat says he loves me, right? But you see, at night, I want and need to sleep.
Boris is a brave cat. He used to be much more fearless, independent, and rebellious. He went out at night to go for a walk. But the fact that he’s a black cat makes him even more vulnerable. Then, on one of these outings, someone hit him. After that, he was quieter and more of a homebody.
Ana C – Wow, that was a very difficult moment for him and for you. A time of few smiles…
Vitor S – Yes. Few smiles and lots of veterinary care. It was like this… one day, Boris left and just didn’t come home. Where is Boris, where is Boris? I was devastated, imagining the worst. After 9 days without a sign, he reappeared. He was thin, sad, and couldn’t eat.
The vet told me that someone must have kicked him pretty hard because he had a broken jaw in two places. A horrible thing. But since he was young, he recovered well. There was no physical consequence. As for the emotional, he was very well cared for and cherished by me, my girlfriend, and my friends.
I feel like he’s back to being a happy cat. And maybe a bit more pampered! But we know he deserves it.
So, I see that he has our house as the place where he feels safe. Here he has affection, food, and comfort. Very rarely, now, does he want to go for a walk. But whenever he leaves, he comes back with a present for me, with some weird little animal he’s hunted. Yet another way for him to show catlike affection, to say he loves me.
Ana C – Gifts from cats, strange animals in the mouth… how is that?
Vitor S – Boris always takes care of me by bringing gifts. But those little cat gifts, right? He’s not much for toys, no. Whenever he has the opportunity, he goes hunting around the house, or even outside. It could be a mouse, a cockroach, a gecko… argh!
I understand. It’s his way of being a cat. Of him showing me that he loves me, that cat love. But, on the other hand, I think: “Take it easy, Boris. This is dirty as hell.”
I even looked online for ways to teach a cat to stop hunting, but it didn’t work. I’ve already given up and accepted this naturally wild side of him.
They say that cats treat their favourite humans like the mother cat treated them. So, the relationship between owners and their pet cats is like this: they take care of us, and we take care of them. But each in its own way and within their own limits. Because if they can’t eat our cookies, we don’t eat cockroaches either! Hahaha.
Ana C – How do you know that Boris is happy?
Vitor S – A smile is one of the ways we human beings show that we are happy. A dog, for example, wags its tail. A cat purrs in a warm, soft lap. Each species has its natural way of demonstrating this.
I read that when cats close their eyes, leaving just a slit, they are happy, they are smiling inside. I thought that was cool.
But I realize there are other reactions. I’m not an expert, as I said. But I’m observant. For example, when Boris gives me a direct, yet calm and gentle look, I realize it is a moment of intimacy and trust. When he runs around and asks me to play, he is certainly happy. In fact, they are the moments when he is showing his affection for me.
Ana C – Any final curiosity about cats to share with our readers?
Vitor S – I read two things that caught my attention. The first was to learn that adult cats do not meow among themselves. I’ll have to mention this to Boris. The other day he was meowing here in the room all night long. Boring. I was very angry with him. Because I was dying to sleep, and I had proof. hahaha.
The other was knowing that, with so many millions of cats in the world, there isn’t a lot of research on them. Studies with dogs predominate. That was surprising to me. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between cats and their owners and vice versa.
But I still found a lot, no. Here’s the tip for further studies on this.
I hope that in the future there will be funds and more scientists interested in closely studying the behaviours and temperaments of cats. I would love to be able to understand Boris better and communicate more closely with him.
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