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Thursday, August 13, 2009



Tapo is the least'n of the three cats. She's the bottom of the pecking order, meaning Caterpillar and TarBaby can pick on her all they want, but she can't pick on them. It's like when a parent hits you and you can't hit back. You're at the bottom of the pecking order. If Tapo fights back, she's really in trouble then. She hates it. I don't know what to do to help, because bottom of pecking order is bottom of pecking order and nothing else. It runs through all animals, birds, humans. I see pecking order as the original form of hierarchy. Manager can fire somebody who packs boxes in the delivery department, but it doesn't work the other way around.

She's a quiet, shy cat, never demanding. Because her station in life is to be picked on by bigger brother and sister, she stays to herself. She likes TarBaby, who doesn't pick on her a great deal. She doesn't like Caterpillar. She's not liked Caterpillar in years. She did for a long time, but just couldn't like her anymore, because every time she was around Caterpillar, she'd be intimidated, backed into a corner, chased through the house by somebody who can get into the same small spaces.

They like to go outdoors and hunt, which Tapo used to like, but when they were outside, a battle was on every time Caterpillar saw her. I used to take all three on a short walk through the woods in the evening. Invariably, Caterpillar would hunker down and wait for Tapo, jump at her and growl and threaten her or even jump on her and tell her to get back to the house. In the beginning, she wanted to go anyway, would get beat up a few times, but tough it out. Then she finally just quit going on the walks. Next she just about quit leaving the house. When she does, she doesn't go far.

Caterpillar used to be the one that stayed in the house all the time. She ruled absolutely indoors. The house was hers. Now that Tapo is in the house all the time, the house is hers. Because the house is Tapo's territory, neither Caterpillar nor TarBaby intimidate her or jump on her for a momentary skirmish very much. TarBaby is outside nearly all the time and Caterpillar most of the time, so the house is all Tapo's.

Tapo, by the way, is pronounced like taco with a p. Her original name was tadpole, because she was tiny and black with a wiggly tail. She was wiggly all over. She was a charming kitten, desperately hungry all the time. I can attest she was born hungry. She was so ravenous she'd push away the container I was feeding her with, trying to grab hold of it. As a result of her ravenous nature, she's round like a coffee-colored soccer ball with 4 short legs, a little head and cat ears. The weight, however, works in her favor fighting bigger cats every day. It gave her an edge she didn't otherwise have. Tapo is a small cat and the other 2 are bigger cats. She needs the weight to help her out.

When Tapo was a few months old and I'd been calling her Tadpole, she let me know she didn't like the name, and asked me to give her a better name than that. I analyzed the sound and found the two syllables both have a sound that goes downward in the musical scale. Tapo was crisp and on the upward scale musically. I asked her if she'd like Tapo. She did. She's liked it ever since. Tadpole was just too "down" for her spirit.

It may sound implausible that I talk to cats and get answers, but if you have a cat or cats, you understand what I mean, if you pay attention to them. I've found that telepathy travels on wings of love. With someone you love, you have several telepathic moments. I love my cats and they love me, so we connect very well telepathically. Mostly, we're in silence, because they communicate by eye-contact and body language without words. So I do too. We don't need to talk. Sometimes, when I'm telling one of them something, I'll say it in words, believing the words trigger images in my head the cats read. I think they read the pictures like in the Chinese language. I know for a certainty they understand my meaning when I talk to them, because they behave afterwards like they did, which would be different from before.

Like sometimes I have talked with Caterpillar and asked her to please lay off Tapo in times when she'd be on her relentlessly. Suddenly she laid off Tapo and gave her a break. It's been my policy from the beginning to stay out of their relationships with each other. They're cats, they know cat language, they have cat minds, cat temperaments, cat thoughts. I have access to none of it except that which is similar to human behavior, like those words in foreign languages that are the same as ours, hot-dog, t-shirt.

When Caterpillar backs Tapo into a corner under chair legs, Tapo hissing and growling, attempting to be threatening, unable to be convincing, and Caterpillar is simply being cruel, I'll call to her in a non-threatening, pleading tone of voice and ask her to let Tapo rest. She'll start backing up, watching Tapo all the time in case Tapo decides to pounce like she's threatening to do, slowly, an inch step at a time, growling and retreating until she's out of range for surprise attack and walks away. I'm always struck by their obedience. Obedience has never been an issue.

I'm not going to interfere with something as deeply a part of who they are as the pecking order. Do away with hierarchical behavior among humans and everything would fall apart,having to start all over again in a new way. How many centuries would that take? So I don't like to train basic behavior out of my animals. I figure if I were to punish TarBaby and Caterpillar for intimidating Tapo, they'd really work her over when I'm away, like kids. I ask them not to be so rough and to give her a break. It works.

Tapo is curled up on the comfortable chair. I see as much of a soul there to know as in a human. If I called to her, she would walk up the arm of the chair, step up to the back, over to the desk and she'd step over my left arm, turn around and face the direction where she can see what's going on in the room, and lie down between my arms while fingers are working the keyboard. When my mind is too much in the monitor and she wants some petting, she'll push her nose under the heel of my hand and push up until she can get her whole head under my hand. That means: Pet Me!

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