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Do cats choose their people?:

Roger Caras, the author of cat cover A Cat is Watching, writes about several cats in different situations who seem to be watching, evaluating, and choosing their homes. He describes a few different situations; one involved his daughter, another, friends of his.

Mr. Caras' daughter, Pamela, lived in Baltimore at this time. She and her husband already had a household of cats and dogs, complete with a fenced yard for their enjoyment. One day, a strange cat showed up. She began appearing on the front porch, or in the backyard. Eventually, she would pop inside for a bite to eat and even a snooze. But always she would disappear again. Pamela found out that other houses in the neighborhood were being similarly visited by this cat, although she appeared to have no home.

After a number of weeks, the cat, dubbed Lilly, moved in. She began using the indoor cat box, eating all her meals there, and staying full time in the house or yard. Lilly gave up visiting the other houses -- apparently this house and family satisfied her best and she made it her own.

Mr. Caras wonders what was going on. It seems to him that Lilly was checking out the various households in the neighborhood, using some unknown method of evaluating them, and finally making her choice.

Another case that Mr. Caras writes about happened on the other side of the country, in California. The Powells moved to California with a dog, but no cats. They had never owned cats and never considered getting one. But one day, a black tom cat showed up in their yard, and hung around the pool. The Powells figured pool water was no good for a cat and began to put out a dish of fresh water. Then, they decided to get some cat food. One day, the cat, now named Seymour, walked in through the patio door and moved in. The Powells made Seymour welcome. Then another black tom cat showed up. This one moved in too and acquired the name Katt. But he wasn't the last one! The Powells, at the time the book was written, had four cats, three of whom moved themselves in.

In trying to make sense of how these cats decided to move into his friends' house, Mr. Caras asks some questions about cats and their communication and thought processes. Is it possible that the "word" some how got around the stray cats near the Powell's that there were "good pickings" to be had? Or did the cats happen upon the Powell's house and naturally used their keen powers of observation to see what kind of people lived there? The later arrivals may have used their sense of smell to determine that other cats already lived there, but how did Seymour know that the Powells were the people to choose? Or did he try some other houses first without getting any food or water and move on to try again somewhere else?

Whatever the process, the result seems to be that cats really can and do choose their people. Not always, because sometime we choose them, but a cat that has been socialized to be with people can find, evaluate, and select a new home for him- or herself.

A Cat is Watching, Roger A. Caras, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1989, pp. 127-134.