When cats give that su­per-slow blink

Cat kisses are so mys­te­ri­ous that not ev­ery­one spots them. Here’s how to recog­nise one, and in­vite a bit of kitty love.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Pets - Katz Tales Ellen Whyte https:/ www.face­book.com/ewhyte

I WAS writ­ing to my mum when Swooner jumped up, head­but­ted my tablet out of the way, threw his paws around my neck and licked me on the nose. He was purring up a storm and his eyes were half-closed.

Cat com­mu­ni­ca­tion is typ­i­cally shrouded in mys­tery, rid­dled with sub­tle signs and shib­bo­leths, but Swooner is an open com­mu­ni­ca­tor. He shouts a cheery meow when he’s happy, and screams abuse when he’s upset. For­get kitty dig­nity and aloof­ness; Swooner sem­a­phores his feel­ings in easy-to-un­der­stand sig­nals.

For Swooner, kisses are best given to the top of his head – smack be­tween the ears. As I kiss him, he purrs loudly and, if I stop, he looks into my eyes and me­ows an in­quiry. If I pre­tend I don’t know what he wants, he licks my nose and cheeks un­til I can’t help laugh­ing and kiss him back.

Our kit­ten is def­i­nitely un­usual in that he acts hu­man rather than cat. We see it as pretty nifty cross-cul­tural (or cross-species?) com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and we’re all for it. But Tar­get and Guido look at Swooner and you can see they don’t get it.

Guido is not a touchy-feely cat. He loves to be pat­ted and he purrs a lot but he’s not a lap cat. His idea of en­joy­ment is to head­butt your an­kle, and to have his back and tail rubbed. He loves to have your hands run over his fur in long sweeps, Swedish mas­sage style.

When he’s feel­ing su­per-mushy, he sits on a cush­ion, eyes shut, mouth half-open and roar­ing like a lit­tle lion as your fin­gers run over his chin and ears. If we do it right, we’re re­warded by his paws pad­dling the cush­ion, claws work­ing the ma­te­rial in slow, strong in-and-out knead­ing mo­tions.

Tar­get, our se­nior cat, is the most con­ven­tional of the three boys and, to his friends who aren’t fa­mil­iar with cat speak, the most mys­te­ri­ous. Very of­ten, they miss the kisses al­to­gether or mis­take his friendly over­tures for ag­gres­sion.

Cats meow at hu­mans be­cause they know we are very ver­bal, but be­tween them­selves, they com­mu­ni­cate mostly by body lan­guage. When one cat en­gages with an­other, body ten­sion is mas­sively im­por­tant.

A cat who thinks his fel­low cat may be a prob­lem is on the alert. That means his spine is stiff, his tail half-up, his whiskers stick­ing out, and his ears slightly back. Also, he stares.

The cat stare is a pow­er­ful weapon. It says, “See you? I’m watch­ing you, pal.” It’s a friendly warn­ing, the sort a Mafiosi might give you.

If the other cat is friendly, he sits down and shows he’s not spoil­ing for a fight. Of course, be­ing su­per-cool, he’s not go­ing to go over­board like some sissy fluff. No, he’ll do some­thing ca­sual like wash a whisker or thought­fully lick a claw.

When it’s es­tab­lished that ev­ery­one there is ma­cho and that a fight isn’t on the cards, the ten­sion evap­o­rates. The spines re­lax, the tails go down and the whiskers twitch as the noses go into ac­tion, snuff­ing up scents. Also, the eyes blink hap­pily as they ex­am­ine each other in a friendly way.

At this point, the cats may de­cide to go their own way. Af­ter all, cats are busy all day long, check­ing their ter­ri­tory, stalk­ing lizards and mak­ing sure that in­trud­ers are seen off the premises.

But if the cats de­cide they like each other, they will hang out. They will lie down with paws tucked up neatly, Man­darin style, or per­haps splayed about in re­laxed aban­don. Ei­ther pose is a huge tell be­cause they sig­nal the cats feels safe from at­tack.

They’ll look at each other but it won’t be the hard ag­gres­sive stare. In­stead, they blink a lot. They will also let their eyes linger on what­ever is go­ing on about them. Be­cause they’re in good com­pany and can let their guard down.

If they’re truly re­laxed, some­thing re­ally spe­cial hap­pens. Their whiskers droop, their ears re­lax and they take a deep breath. Then, they gaze at each other, their eyes drop­ping in a su­per-slow blink.

That eye-meet is what we kitty lovers call the cat kiss. It’s su­per-sub­tle and you can eas­ily miss it but if your cat is sit­ting there, giv­ing you the slow blink, it means he sees you as a good friend, some­one to be safe with. That is a true hon­our that can’t be bought or bribed. You have to earn that kind of trust.

Tar­get is very much a clas­sic com­mu­ni­ca­tor and so when he’s feel­ing happy, he sits down and looks my way. We know each other very well and so I can see straight away from his face how he’s feel­ing. If I say to him, “Hey, squee­z­ley-bug. How are you?” it’s odds-on that he will pad­dle his paws and send a slow-blink cat kiss my way.

A stretched-out hand is all it takes to in­vite him over. Tar­get is a cud­dle bug and so he will climb on top of me, head­but­ting my hands and face.

Again, this isn’t ag­gres­sion. Cats have scent glands all over their bod­ies and they use th­ese to mark their prop­erty. So, when Tar­get bumps and rubs his face against me, he’s leav­ing lit­tle mark­ers to sig­nal to the cat world that he and I are tight.

When he’s happy, Tar­get stands on me, head­but­ting and purring, with his claws flex­ing – and oc­ca­sion­ally stick­ing into me in his en­thu­si­asm. It’s full-on phys­i­cal that leaves me with a face full of stray fur and the odd claw mark but I’m all for it be­cause the mes­sage is clear: he loves me.

As your pet purrs and is happy, it will prob­a­bly head­butt you and give you cat kisses.

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