The Tajji Diaries: Welcome Home, Mommy Monkey!

I’ve been trOver the shoulder cat-dog negotiationavelling for about two weeks and arrived home, hideously jet-lagged, to be greeted by various furred denizens of our household. (And also mine excellent spouse, but you can imagine for yourselves how that reunion went.) I’m struck by the differences in how the critters welcomed me home.

Tajji (German Shepherd Dog). Dave reported that she had been moping and looking for me when I left. She’s an affectionate, enthusiastic dog, so I expected great, ecstatic romping and kisses and general carrying-on. Sure enough, when I walked in the door, she started bounding and showing great joy – but not for me, for Dave, who had picked me up at the airport and been away for oh, maybe 2 hours at the most. But in the hours that followed, she would not let me out of her sight. She followed me from room to room as I unpacked and took every opportunity to snuggle up against me. (As I write this, she’s curled up on the dog bed in my office, watching me.) When I’ve taken her for a walk or worked on clicker training, she’s stayed remarkably focused on me.

Shakir (black cat) ran to greet me, ascertained that I had no food, and then went about his business as usual. I’m not sure he noticed I’d been gone, only gone from the kitchen. He’s cuddled with me at bedtime and when I’m sitting on the sofa knitting, as usual. A most unflappable cat.

Gayatri (tabby and white cat) was the real surprise. When I arrived, she was asleep in one of her favorite places, a towel-lined basket on top of the fax machine. When I came into the room, she startled awake, saw it was me, and went into a frenzy of welcome: purring alternating with loud meowing, rubbing up against me, rolling on her back so I could pet her tummy, then on her feet, polishing me with her jaw, then on her back…this went on for many minutes. And the orgy of feline delight repeated several times over the next day, although never as intense.

We know – or perhaps we believe-with-scientific-evidence – that animals feel emotions. Joy, fear, jealousy, and grief are among them. But just as people express their feelings in different ways, animals do, too. I might speculate that Tajji moped in my absence either because of her attachment to me or her recent change in family; we’ve had her only four months or so. I could assume that she’s worried that yet another family member was going to disappear. I need to be on guard about projecting my own human (monkey) experiences on an animal. Tajji can let me know when she’s happy or distressed, through her body language, but I can’t “read her thoughts.” What’s significant to me is my own expectation of an energetic reunion turned out to be not the case, but there are many other signs of her attachment to me.

Shakir is a friendly, self-confident cat, fairly well socialized to people but not “aloof.” I suspect that any available human will do when it comes to snuggling – his “affection” is more situational than individual. That is, he’d beg for a treat or curl up next to any familiar human.

As I said, Gayatri’s welcome was the big surprise. She’s an extremely vocal cat, although a bit skittish about being petted, especially on the side of her damaged eye. I suspect there are some aspects of our daily interaction that are so important to her, the brief loss was distressing. But maybe that, too, is projecting too much.

At any rate, I am happy that each of the animals expressed some degree of pleasure at seeing me again. I know I felt great joy in our reunion!



The Tajji Diaries: Welcome Home, Mommy Monkey! — 5 Comments

  1. So it is the dog who thinks of herself as Your Special Beast? My theory is that every animal in the house selects a Special Person. Tobey the fold is my cat; the orange cat adores Simon, and poor old Squeaker Cat was always my daughter’s feline. He never forgave her for going to college.

  2. I totally agree with the ‘Special Person’ theory. A couple I know have two cats. A Siamese and a orange tabby. The tabby – Hammer the Action Cat – has decided that I am His Person, even though I don’t live there. I’m over a day or two during the week pretty much every week (if not more..we hang out a lot at their place), and I’m the one who started training Hammer to help curb bad habits no one liked. Sadly his owners are either not interested or not capable of such things (they really don’t seem to get Cat very well). However keeping a cat in my home wouldn’t work, so I suppose it works out in the end.

    What training I’ve done with Hammer has worked wonders, despite the fact that I’m not a daily influence in his life. He’s always been a very personable kitty – he likes just about everyone – but it’s clear to everyone that I’m his Special Person, with my partner being a close second. It’s amusing to see him try to control certain behaviors (like not clawing my leg when he puts his paws up.. sometimes it’s easy for him, but if he’s excited I can see him struggling to control his claws). I’ve also taught him some things by accident, which I think is even more interesting. If I tell him ‘I’m eating’ – he’ll leave me alone until I’m done, even if he was all extra-ready for attention. This wasn’t something I intentionally tried to train him – it just sort of happened. I also see this training carry over to how he interacts with other people, to varying degrees of success (depending on the behavior in question).

    • I am convinced that some animals understand English. Not abstracts, but simple statements. This simply encourages one to talk to cats, of course.

  3. That Gayatri is such a love bunny! I bet they were all glad to have you back in the fold. And yeah, they all express their feelings differently.

  4. Some animals understand more than we suspect. Max always used to go off his feed if I was gone for a time, even with someone else in the house. Meg did not attach to the person who selected her and was content to be the bridesmaid cat, always next to me, never on me. Very gentle.

    Merlyn accepts it when I leave him with one friend for a long weekend, or has another visit. But the time I was away for a month, and another friend took him into his addition? When I came back and rushed over to get Merlyn, I almost didn’t recognize him. He looked exhausted and listless, and I knew he’d been well cared-for physically. I finally figured out from his shock and hoarse scolding that he’d thought I ‘d died, and was grieving.

    Which is why I won’t go away for a long period of time again without taking him. He’s almost nineteen. I think it would break his heart.