Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Walls of Jericho

Jericho is our male Siamese mix. He's around 12 years old. Mr. Aelurophile found him in the downtown area of a large San Francisco Bay Area city, behind a sandwich restaurant, when he was a kitten. We think his love of cantaloupe and asparagus stems from his days living out of garbage dumpsters.

He's very intelligent. In fact, he is so intelligent that he seems to be lacking in the neoteny department. Neoteny is defined as the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles. Most domesticated animals are neotenous. Mature wild cats do not live together (lions are an exception), nor are they as playful and affectionate toward humans as house cats are. Kittens of wild cats, however, do exhibit these traits. When humans found adult cats that retained kitten-like behavior, they selected for those traits, and eventually the cat was domesticated. The same is true for dogs. Domesticated dogs play a lot more than wild dogs, and they prefer human companionship, while wild dogs do not. So early man selected the dogs that remained puppy-like into adulthood. (Here's an interesting link about neoteny.)

Jericho is less kitten-like than most domestic cats. He is not terribly fond of being petted, and he'll let you know about that. The only time he is affectionate is when he is sleepy or cold. All other times he is aloof and grumpy. At times he may growl if we even so much as look at him. We think he knows he relies on us for food and he hates having to be dependent on us (yes, we read a lot into his behavior!). He detests using a litter box and will only use it if it is raining or snowing outside, otherwise he demands to be let out.

So, Jericho was resting on the sofa while Mr. Aelurophile was seated on the same sofa, feeding the calico kitten. After feeding her, Mr. A let her crawl and explore on his lap. She started crawling toward Jericho, who, after a while, had enough of that, gave the calico one swift "bap" (claws retracted), and ran away grumbling. So much for the birth of a lasting friendship!

By the way, I swear that the chair Jericho is sleeping on in the above photograph is NOT in our house!!

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