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Herding Cats Is Not Impossible

The phrase is pretty familiar by now: "That is about as fun as herding cats". The phrase implies an impossible task, because everyone knows what impossibly individual creatures cats are, and getting them to do anything en masse is not something easily done.

I beg to differ. Cats can be herded, directed, and made to do all sorts of interesting stuff, like synchronized dancing. What is required is an adjustment of perception by the person who wishes to do so, and a basic understanding of cat psychology.

The number one premise of cat psychology is this: The cat truly believes that he is the Master of the Universe. Moreover, he believes that you share this belief, and if you doubt it for a second, you forever lose that cat’s respect. The trick is to believe as the cat does- that he is the Master of the Universe, and keep carefully hidden that you are believing this for his benefit. OK- you are both deluding yourselves and living a lie, but this twist in logic is necessary for any relationship with a cat to work.

So, in review: The cat believes that you also believe he is the Master of the Universe. You go along with it, because your brain is capable of simultaneously believing two bits of illogic at the same time without crashing. No computer can do this. And cats brains aren’t advanced enough to do it, either. Besides, the cat doesn’t care- he is hardwired to believe he is the Master of the Universe. So you, the human, have to be the flexible and resourceful one.

This, by the way, also works with toddlers. The main difference being that eventually, good parenting will remove this delusion from the child, and it will become human.

But I digress. Once you have mastered the Master of the Universe pretzel, you will learn that cats are creatures of habit. And they also believe that you are, too. If they walk on your bladder at 0500 in the morning to wake you up to feed them, and you do it, they will establish the habit of walking on your bladder every morning at 0500 sharp for the rest of their lives, or until you break that habit. How do you do that? By not responding. By sacrificing a few uncomfortable mornings, you can train your feline friend that 0700 is a much better time. And a friendly meow is always better appreciated than the bladder trampoline. Cats are smart- they’ll catch on.

Once you’ve convinced your cat that your timing is much better for their universe, you can do lots of fun things with them. Observation of your furry friends makes for many pleasurable discoveries. Like the Kitty Parade when you return home. Cats are dignified and elegant creatures. They won’t jump on you and slobber all over you when you arrive. No, being the Masters of the Universe, they’ll pretend like it was their idea that you have returned to their home, and treat you to a dignified tailwaving parade as you enter the house. They’ll do this in the morning, too.

The morning breakfast is the best time to encourage the dancing that was mentioned. Yes, cats can dance- they just do it differently than people do. Watch for the cross-paw hop when you pass by with the food dish, and the synchronized pacing and turning of two or more cats raised closely together. Other moves include the Hopeful Arch (body and tail forming an "m", which is a Sacred Letter to cats), the Starveling Crouch, and the Whiny Meow. Cats all run on Cat time, and so their movements and actions will appear to be coordinated by a central clock.

Cats are sensual creatures, and they have a wonderful hypnotic spell they like to use on their companion humans. This consists of sitting upright in the Pretty Kitty pose, tail wrapped around their paws or curved out and away, and staring at you with their Luminous Eyes. If you stare back, they’ll give you a slow wink with both eyes. This is a high honor- because the slow blink is their way of saying they love you. Wink back. Watch their reaction. This is called Squeezy Eyes.

Besides a good snort of catnip, cats really enjoy Palm on Fur interaction with their people. They have an arsenal of tactics they use to get some petting, or if they’ve been introduced to it, combing out of their people. Pretty Kitty is the most common ploy, but they also use Cuteing and Head-Butting to solicit pets. Cuteing begins with Pretty Kitty, and when the cat has your attention, he’ll flop down in an irresistibly inviting pose- belly exposed, paws curled Just So, and adding a Trill for extra impact. No cat loving human can resist Cute Cats, and Cuteing virtually guarantees petting, and a Belly Rub.

If you are paying too much attention to your computer, companion, TV, book, paper, or anything besides the Master of the Universe, the cat will attempt to renew your attention by a friendly Head-Butt. They have wonderful timing- often, you realize that you needed a break after all, so what better way to spend it than by doing some Palm on Fur worship of your Household Demi-god. It is especially when they assume the serene Zen-like CatLoaf position with their paws curled under their chests, looking for all the world like a Squeezy Eyed Sphinx. This is a feline meditation position, but they enjoy a loving stroke just the same.

So, what does this have to do with herding cats? If you thoroughly understand the timing and habits of your feline friend, you can use their habits to your advantage. Let’s say they like to be combed. If you always use a certain word and spot for their combing, before long you can say, "Who wants their fur straightened?" and your cats will jump out of the wormhole under the bed and come running en masse for some Comb on Fur. If they love catnip, and you want to give them a catnip party, just announce, "I’ve found some catnip!" and they’ll come running. The key is consistency. If EVERY TIME you say, "Who wants their fur straightened" or "I’ve found some catnip!" and immediately follow up the phrase with the action, you’ll be herding your cats in no time.

Warning: whatever you do, never use a phrase for a pleasurable action to dupe them into an unpleasurable act. Doing this breaks the sacred trust you have established with your cats, and disrupts the equilibrium of habit. Unpleasant acts are sometimes necessary- claw trimming, medication, vet trips, etc- but if you couch them in pleasurable actions, your cats will trust you implicitly, and even permit you to be the Center of the Universe for a few microseconds.

So you see- it is possible to herd cats- you just have to understand how their minds work, surrender to the Master of the Universe, and synch up to the Cat Clock, and you’ll have your furry herd treating you like the Master of the Universe!

2000 by Sunfell

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