SNIFF NOTES: Cats are like snowflakes


The feline is an incredibly odd creature.

For those who live with cats, I doubt this will be all that much of a revelation, but living with six and working at the shelter, I’ve been shown exactly how peculiar these critters can be.

When we have cats come into the shelter we have to take each one as a new case. I swear, they’re almost like snowflakes in that each one is so uniquely different.

For instance, I’ll never forget Tyson, a big, long-haired gray cat we adopted a few years ago. He came into the shelter with a genetic condition called entropion. His eyelids were actually inverted and folded against the eyeball. This meant that his eyelashes were rubbing against his eyeball, causing scratches and pain.

I absolutely could not imagine living like that. I can’t stand getting one eyelash in my eye, let alone having every one on my eyelid scraping against my eyeball. Ugh, it makes me shudder just to think about.

We gave Tyson surgery to correct the problem and amazingly through everything, this big boy just purred and loved everyone. I know some humans who couldn’t go through something like that without lashing out and yet here we had a cat who – with teeth and claws – was perfectly capable of doing some serious damage, but instead opted for purring and loving everyone.


On the flip side of this feline coin I’m discussing, we’ve had cats who come into the shelter who are perfectly healthy but hide under blankets and don’t really make up to people easily. We try to give them time to come around and be who they are, but occasionally they don’t ever seem to think humans are all that special.

These are the kind of cats who will always be more feline-like to me. Some cats act more like dogs – case in point, Tyson – whereas others act more like most people think of a cat – aloof and somewhat standoffish.

Even in my group in my house, I can see the differences. Two of my boys, Grayson and Loki, will investigate just about anything and anybody at any time. They seem to need to know what’s going on at all times and nothing really seems to worry them.

On the other hand, three of my kids are not terribly well socialized. Junior, Emmy and Sassy have never really warmed up to me and in fact, will run from me if I just walk by them. They were somewhat feral when they came into the house and despite the fact (and I tell them this almost daily) that there has been no precedent set of me ever hurting a cat in the house, they still act like I’m Attila the Hun. At times it kind of gives me a bit of complex, not gonna lie. 

Cats, man.

I sometimes think there are some felines who just live life almost like an exposed nerve – susceptible to every noise or change or touch or experience they come across.

Just the other night a car engine backfired outside the house and I jumped. About half of my cats looked at me like I’d lost my mind while the other half scattered for space under the couch.

I think recognizing this variance in cat personalities will allow us as humans to accept cats for who they are. It might not necessarily allow us to understand them any better (I’m not sure I’ll ever fully “get” the feline), but it’ll at least give us a means of handling them.

So keep this in mind when a stray cat approaches you in the neighborhood. He may not react the way your beloved cat you had as a child did, so don’t immediately pick him up for a cuddle.

It’s really important to give cats enough space to be who they are. That’s a lesson that could help with just about every aspect of our lives. What if we approached the world the way we should cats? How would it affect our relationships with others?

Huh. Maybe the peculiar feline has more to teach us than I ever could have imagined. Who would have guessed?

Jennifer Vanderau is the Publications and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at [email protected]. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 263-5791 or visit the website CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.

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