English review by Eric Major —
Cats sometimes get a bad rap. Some people see them as snooty, unfriendly, and completely uninterested in their human owners. Also, they are prone to scratching or even biting. While more research has been done on dogs than cats – because cats are harder to study – scientists are finally starting to change that. Recent studies prove that cats are great companions.
Wave spoke with an owner who has cats as her pets. Her name is Gina Simone, and here’s her story.
Marcello P − Hello Gina Simone. Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? what do you do?
Gina S − My name is Gina Simone and I live in Montreal, Canada. I was born and grew up in Toronto. But I moved to Montreal about three and a half years ago with my cat. Her name is Água (Water in English). She came with me to Montreal in the passenger seat of my car. We used to be Toronto girls and now we are Montreal girls! I work in Administration, and I make music. I enjoy Montreal a lot.
Marcello P – Do you think that cats are friendly? Because there are people who say no, Cats don’t like being too close to humans. How true is it that cats are hostile?
Gina S – Honestly, cats are known to be individualistic and kind of independent, unlike dogs. I think part of that has to do with the way they are raised. I think their upbringing in the early years really shapes the kind of animal they become later.
“But I also think that cats are very demanding creatures. They can have the most peaceful upbringing and still be a little weird. They like to be alone more than other animals.” (Gina Simone)
Some cats are very affectionate, and they love to have TLC in return. Others can be reclusive and aloof. But I also think that they are animals that have their own personalities.
Marcello P − You currently only have one cat, right?
Gina S − Yes. I only have one cat. When I was in Toronto, I had another one. She was a Bengal cat. They’re a little wilder. They are mixed with a wild race.
Marcello P − When you say “wild” … please give me an example. What are the differences between the Bengal cat and your current cat?
Gina S − Its paws are much bigger. They are almost like a dog. They are more aggressive. Like a lion cub to be honest. Bengal cats are wildcat mixes. So, they are quite aggressive. They can climb trees… they are really for adventurous people. I always wanted a Bengal Cat and I got to adopt her.
Água, my current cat, is also adopted. She is a Russian Blue. But both have very different personalities. She is very affectionate. But I think she went through some trauma before I adopted her which I think messed with her personality. And the Bengal cat was still a baby, less than two years old. So, she was still very moldable and adaptable.
Marcello P − When you talk about Bengal cats, how aggressive are they? Can you pet them?
Gina S − Yes. You can pet them. But it’s harder because if you get scratched, you bleed as their scratch is much fiercer. They are bigger with bigger paws. They are, literally, little tigers. So those at my house are trained. When they jump on things, they break. My Bengal cat was a fun pet.
But I couldn’t bring them both to Montreal. And Água needed more care because, as I said before, she had some trauma.
Marcello P − I love the name Agua, by the way.
Gina S − It was named after a volcano in Guatemala, actually. I was in Guatemala, Central America, for a month. And when I got back, I already knew I wanted to adopt a cat. So, I searched the Toronto Humane Society website while I was there staying in my hostel.
While I was there, a volcano erupted in Guatemala and killed many people. The volcano was a “volcán de fuego” (volcano of fire). And right in the center of the city of Antigua, there is also the “volcán de agua” (water volcano), which has never erupted. So, when I got my cat… because all this happened while I was there… with the “volcán de fuego”. And so, the beauty and peace of the “volcán de agua” was linked to my inspiration when I took it. She is also my peace, and she is a Russian Blue cat. So, the name Água kind of fit who she is, in so many ways.
Marcello P − Have you always liked cats?
Gina S − Honestly, no. Hahaha. I am actually more of a dog lover. I grew up with dogs. But when I was about 14, my mom adopted a cat that followed her co-worker home. And that kind of opened me up to like cats. I think cats are demanding. I think they have these personalities.
A friend of mine had about five cats. And I think seeing her with all those cats just put me off. I felt that it was too much and that it was not for me. But then, I thought: “Why is she so affectionate and loving with them?” Because she is that typical owner who loves affectionate cats.
“I am very happy that I opened myself up to adopting cats. You know, I didn’t always love cats. But now I am certainly a cat person!“ (Gina Simone)
However, I know that there will always be cats. And I’m still not that super excited about all that personality. I guess I’m still quite the dog lover.
Marcello P − What is Agua’s routine like? Does she sleep all day, or is more active at night … What is she like?
Gina S − She sleeps a lot. I work from home, so she has me around all the time, which makes her a little uncomfortable. Especially if she really wants to sleep 16 hours a day.
Marcello P – Wow! Sixteen hours?
Gina S − Yes. I see her around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. And then, again at 6 p.m. And she knows when it’s 6 a.m. or when it’s 6:00 p.m. Because she comes and looks at me as if to ask if I have a minute to spare.
So that’s a cool thing about animals, this perception of time. So yes, she is funny lying in bed for a long time. She kind of comes up to me and says, “Hey, get my food.” So, of course, I feed her. Then I usually get to work and she’ll run around and play a little… and then she kind of starts napping, but not until the afternoon. We play games, but I think she knows how to entertain herself. She has toys set up for fun.
Marcello P − And what is the strangest thing she does? Does she keep looking at you, for example?
Gina S − Yes, she looks at me with a blank facial expression. She just looks intently at me and not looking around for like three minutes straight, which is cute. And she walks in teasing me. She always headbutts me, which is a sign of affection.
Sometimes she comes and nibbles on me. It’s cute. It’s like an affectionate bite. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s interesting to see how she’s opened up more and more.
I’ve only had her for about four years. She is nine years old now, and I adopted her when she was five. And every year a new layer appears, you know. It is like there is a new depth, which I didn’t know about before. So, I’m still discovering weird and quirky things about her.
Marcello P − The way they show affection is very elegant, right? So, Gina, you said you had dogs before. Do you think you’ll get another dog at some point in the future, or do you just want to stick with cats for now?
Gina S − Honestly, I have plans to get a dog in the future. Even before I wanted a cat, I wanted a dog. But then I thought “Let me start with a cat.” But actually, to be adoptable, she had strict rules at the Humane Society of Toronto. In the assessment, she was like a wild cat at home.
She doesn’t get along with other cats at all. I don’t know if there was any kind of trauma… like, a traumatic situation that happened earlier before I got her. But she does not interact in any way with other cats. But I noticed that she gets along well with dogs. She’s kind of a scared cat. That’s the term. She really is a scare-dee cat. She is quite scared of things, but she gets along well with dogs.
Marcello P − With a dog?
Gina S − Yes. I want to test it out with a puppy or a certain type of dog. I think she would do fine.
Marcello P − In the future, do you still see yourself having another cat?
Gina S – While I still have Água, I would not have another cat. This is a good question for a Bengal cat. I can’t, honestly. But if a certain adoption situation appeared and in a well-fitted way, I would have. But it’s like I said. I think that cats are very demanding and that I was lucky with the type of personality that Agua has.
I am a dog person at heart. However, I would love to have both. I would love always to be able to have a dog and a cat because I love animals. My mother owned a pet food store. So, I’ve always grown up with animals and they’ve always been with me.
Marcello P – This is very good. Growing up with pets is an amazing experience for any child.
Gina S – It really is. It certainly shaped who I am. It gave me responsibilities and taught me how to take care of things. It was a unique experience to go out with my mother, taking her dogs for a walk. I think it’s super important to have animals incorporated into parenting. I think it serves to amplify their intelligence.
Marcello P – Exactly. So, do you think that cats are snooty and unfriendly, as people often say, or do you disagree with this statement?
Gina S − Cats have very particular and unique personalities. The idea sticks because cats are individualists. They really are solitary animals. And not necessarily, they are men’s best friends, just like dogs. They are relatively independent creatures and I think the snobbery comes because they are comfortable being alone. But beyond that, there’s like that other layer. Cats are very thorough. So, I think this is something particular to each cat.
Água likes to be alone, to have her “alone time.” But she also loves to hug me. And she really likes to feel safe with me, which I like. Because I like hugs when I need them.
When I adopted her, she came as emotional support. I got it in a certain context. I wanted to have something to take care of, to have peace. Having her is a kind of emotional support.
So yes. I think that cats are also beneficial for the owner’s mental health and well-being in general. So that was one of the reasons why I adopted her.
Marcello P − I completely agree with you. Pets are amazing. Some people are very disappointed not to bond with cats as we normally do with dogs. So, do you think it’s like we’re losing knowledge about cats? Is it not us who cannot understand them in the way they show their affection, somehow?
Gina S − You are right. I think they show their affection in some way. I think because cats are such solitary creatures, they’re independent. It takes a while for them to open up to you. I also think it has to do with those early years of life and their environment.
After I adopted Água, it took her a while to warm up, for her to build trust with me. But, in the same way, cats are unique and demanding. So even if you’ve had them since they were kittens, they’ll still have that independent and individual nature.
I had my first cat when I was 14. He didn’t like to be hugged. It was a male cat. He didn’t like my hugs; he didn’t like being picked up and snuggled or anything like that. But when he got older, he started snuggling with me. He would come over and, like, lay on my lap. Then again, is this an example of what they are like in old age, or has he finally just gotten rid of this male ego or something?
Animals, cats especially, are very individualistic. And I think, as pet owners, it’s essential to let them be, and not create expectations. Usually, especially if you’re getting a pet for emotional support reasons, you want to cuddle with them. You want to do all those things. But it is also important to like the way they are. Let them be who they want to be. Just as it should be with human beings, you know.
Marcello P − When you leave and then come back, does she show any affection like “ah, you’re back!”?
Gina S − There are lots of pillows here, she’s never been up the stairs, and there’s a little cat tree by the front door. She will jump on her cat tree and wait for me because she might be enjoying listening to my keys jingle. So yes. And it’s funny, because now, when I go out, she always assumes that I went shopping, and that I brought her goodies. Yes, that’s because the first thing I usually do is give her some treats. Occasionally, when I come home, she’s looking like, “Did you go shopping?” She’s very funny.
Marcello P − What advice would you give to those who are reading this and to people who are wanting to have a cat?
Gina S – I would start by saying that having a pet is a privilege. And, instead of trying to make the animal adapt to us, it’s important to remember that animals have their own personalities, just like we have.
The cold awkward hug is just because we don’t understand them. They are animals, and therefore, they have a different expression than our expectations. So, I think one of the main parts of having pets is giving them the space to be who they are and not necessarily trying to mold them.
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