People continually needle me about my relationship to cats. Allow me to clarify:
I don’t hate cats. Perhaps I should say, we understand each other well and tend to keep our distances. It is the same with wolves. Predators in my territory, hunters…they know me, and I permit them. That’s the understanding.
I take issue with some feline behaviors and their general attitude, which I find rude, but I do recognize that there many cats that are quite personable and polite, that they are quite dog like in their character. If these cats could tolerate coming close to me, they would likely be a friend.
Some of you know this story, but allow me to transcribe it here in perpetuity.
I was in the Midwest – this was during the railroad times. I had walked away from it for a time, and I was staying in the outbuilding of a farmstead. I was given the hut as compensation for tending the grounds and animals.
There were several cats about, their one task to keep down pests in the barn. I’d say about two dozen or so. I would see them occasionally, but usually if I was moving around, they were hiding. Not long after I took up residence, I woke up one morning to an odd sensation.
I could discern that the cats had gathered on my doorstep.
I opened my door, and there they all stood. Every single one. I looked around at them, thinking “What the devil?” And happened to glance down. Immediately at my feet was a pile of dead mice and rats. Fully one per animal at least. I stared at it for a time, perplexed and shocked, and finally managed to give them a sort of animal nod.
Then one by one, they wandered away.
And I had a pile of dead rodents.
Clearly a gift. Couldn’t give them back to the cats – that would be rude. So I buried them some distance from the farm.
Cats are very interesting creatures. They’re also downright bizarre and frankly prickly.
This story is fascinating. They no doubt recognized the top predator in their midst. Who not only wasn’t threatening them, but kept away animals which might.
I have been described as catlike in my mannerisms and I get on well with them. I am often met with incredulity when the cat who “hides from everybody” is found asking me to pet them within minutes of meeting.
They are distrustful of loud clumsy strangers, particularly those who actively pursue them. I am quiet until I need to be otherwise and I ignore them until they decide I am safe.
That is precisely how it should be done with any animal in a confined space.
This is especially interesting because while cats sometimes bring prey to their owners, it’s typically because they either caught too much for them to eat or think that their owner can’t catch food for themselves (it’s not like they’ve ever seen a human catch a rat and eat it, after all.)
Like, domestic cats aren’t solitary animals. (The European wildcat is to blame for that myth- they are closely related to the ancestors of domestic cats, but they aren’t those ancestors. That’s African wildcats, which typically live in groups.) If you adopt a kitten, often you’ll be asked to adopt at least two because they’ll do poorly alone. African wildcats often catch extra prey for others in their group that can’t, a behavior that still shows up in domestic cats providing “food” for humans.
I’ve never heard of cats “paying tribute” or whatever you want to call it. Most of the time when they encounter predators they either hide or try to scare it away by puffing up and acting aggressive. They don’t bring them food.
Perhaps some of your relatives were in Africa 10-20 thousand years ago and made an impression?
The first date I can recall is, by my research, the year 9. For all I know, it could have been me in Africa.
We have been here a long time.
I would say this was most definitely a tribute of some sort. Every cat brought a mouse, they waited until I opened the door and acknowledged the gift. They stared at me the entire time, and then they all wandered off. They never did it again, and some of the cats never even appeared again. It’s never happened since. Or before.
It was one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen.
I should also mention that none of these cats were house cats. They weren’t for petting and none of them had names. They were working cats. If humans tried to pet them, they weren’t pleased about it. Half of them lived in the hay loft. And the others in the wood shed. Two had a nest beneath a wagon.
The only thing I can think of is that they actively were acknowledging my existence on the property, that I was bigger and meaner than they, and that they wished to make peace.