This is Teddy, my last cat: a beloved white tom who arrived unceremoniously at my old digs by walking through the catflap about 15 years ago. He was of indeterminate age when he arrived, and had clearly lived through several Chicago winters outdoors—a remarkable achievement. It is cold here!
Teddy was snow white, but was in fact yellow and black when he arrived, having obviously spent a lot of time lurking under cars. It took several baths and nearly a year to get the oil out of his fur and discern his true color. After shots and neutering, and a short period of acclimation, he became a very sweet pet. And he never went outdoors again, obviously completely traumatized by his years in the Chicago streets.
Teddy was so sweet and docile that I could carry him to the vet (a 20-minute walk) in my arms. Actually, the walk often took longer, as many people would stop me on the street to admire and pet him. At the vet’s, he’d sit patiently in my lap while waiting to be called. He would never flinch or show the least distress, even when the needle went in: he was the most sanguine of cats and I loved him dearly.
Sadly, Teddy was FIV-positive and I had to watch him carefully, taking special care of his teeth and gums, which could become infected. I had him about five years, and the FIV eventually did him in: he died about nine years ago of lymphoma.
He preferred to drink water from a cup, and not just any cup, but a ceramic mug I kept by the bed:
But on to the experiment I did with Teddy, an observational study whose results I’ll reveal tomorrow.
It all stemmed from an observation I made every night when I came home from work. I live on the eleventh floor of a high-rise building, and take the elevator up to my crib. Teddy would always be waiting inside my door when I arrived, and when he heard the elevator stop on the floor, he would meow plaintively from behind the door. I would open the door and Teddy would rush into the hall, rubbing against my legs and demanding fusses. He would then precede me into my place.
I noticed that when Teddy was out in the hall, his tail was lowered to the horizontal position, but when he was inside his tail would be proudly elevated. And I had heard—I’m not sure if this is true, but I think it is—that cats who are wary or distressed lower their tails, but raise them when happy or content.
Obviously, sometime during the transition from the hallway into the secure confines of my apartment, Teddy’s tail would go vertical. And that raised a question: at what point during the transit from hallway to apartment would he raise his tail?
I had two hypotheses.
a. He raised his tail when his head first came through the doorway, indicating that his brain perceived that he was safe, and therefore he felt more secure.
b. He raised his tail only when his entire body was inside the doorway, indicating that he had a sense of when his whole body was safe.
The results of this experiment, involving only observation (though many repeated observations), proved unequivocal. I will leave it to readers to guess what they were, and will reveal them tomorrow.