What do you do when you’re a cat and it’s cold and icky outside? Put on your big kitty pants and go run around in the snow?
You get up from your nap, you have a little snack (and that dish better have some food in it, human), you scratch on the furniture, maybe knock some stuff off the table, and then you go amuse yourself with the feline version of TV.
One corner of the back of the couch is next to a big window that has a nice, wide, just-for-kitties windowsill. It’s the proverbial catbird seat, and from there they take turns (“take” being the operative word) watching the Bird Feeder Channel. There are birds at the feeder, obviously—chickadees, nuthatches, a variety of woodpeckers, juncos, mourning doves, blue jays. There are squirrels, too—gray squirrels, red squirrels, and flying squirrels. The flyers are cute little buggers—great at defying gravity and almost a channel unto themselves. Once in a while, usually either really early or really late in bird feeding season, we get a bear.
From this perch, the cats can also see who or what has the audacity to be walking out on their road. They can keep track of what might be scurrying around on the ground between the window and the front door. And don’t worry about the welfare of that potential prey. Other than inviting chipmunks into the house, the cats talk tough but really don’t hunt much.
When I watch the cats watch their world, I am regularly amazed. There’s a kitty, as intent on what’s happening through that glass as you or I might be during an especially juicy episode of Californication or Shameless. Suddenly she sees something particularly interesting, and she’s off that windowsill and over to the front door quicker than you can say Showtime. You just better be there to open it.
Or, if it happens to be a bear, or a stranger in the driveway, to close it.
My question is: how do they know? There is definitely a thought process, some sort of reasoning taking place. How do they know that what they’re seeing through the window is something they can get to by going out the door, or something that might be able to get them if it gets through the door? How do they know, by sight alone, that this would be a fun thing to chase, or that it could be something that might chase them?
There is research that shows cats’ brains have more nerve cells in the visual areas than do humans and most other mammals, and that, overall, they have brains that can share sensory information between interconnected areas. This allows cats to, among other things, construct a complex perception of the real world. Maybe that’s part of the answer, but it doesn’t completely explain Luna.
Luna is our goofiest cat. Some days, for whatever reasons, the Bird Feeder Channel does not suffice for her. She resorts to the real deal. She picks a spot that puts her almost at eye-level with the TV screen, and she’ll watch what we’re watching. Lately I’ve been bingeing on the original Star Trek. Luna seems to find Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock quite as fascinating as I do.