There are two cats in the Livslevandes family. Both of them were born in our extended family, and came to us 7 years apart. (Edit: As of May 2018 Elder Cat is our only cat again. Junior fell ill and left us. Elder turned 12 this year, and is still healthy.)
The oldest is 10 years old now. In accordance with his age he is a calm, steady gentleman. He’s not one to climb up into the lap of humans for some cuddling very often, he reserves that for the rare occasions when he feels that we will appreciate in full the grace he bestows us. (And we, of course, are suitably impressed when he does.)
He knows what he wants, and makes sure to tell us about it, with authority. During the 7 years that he was the only person of the cat-variety in the family he learned a lot of different sounds in order to better communicate with us humans. He is well aware of how to carry his part of a conversation – he’ll say something, make a polite pause and await an answer, and when the respondent goes quiet he’ll give his response and then wait his turn again.
At home, where we have neighbors who aren’t fond of cats, the Elder is used since kittenhood to wear a harness and leash when he goes out in our backyard. When he wants to go outside he’ll sit down by the door, call for us and then wait with dignity while we service him by putting the harness on and following him outside.
At the cottage, or when we used to go camping with our caravan in the forest, there’s never been any need for a leash. The Eldest has decided that it’s his responsibility to keep our little flock together. (I think he may have been av sheepdog in an earlier life.) If we’re at a new place with the caravan, he keeps us in his sight, and if we go for a walk he comes with us. If one of us goes away alone Elder Cat gets anxious and does his best to herd the lost one back to the safe haven by the caravan again.
Now, when we have a more permanent home away from home at the cottage, he is more relaxed and accepts that we take short excursions to the neighbors without protest. If we stay away for a while he will come by and check up on us. If, however, one of us gets the crazy idea to take a longer walk, maybe even carelessly aim for the Big Road, Elder Cat will get very agitated and accompany the culprit with loud protests and many attempts to make the careless human turn around to safety. Once he’s successfully completed the mission he can celebrate by going on patrol and checking the territory by himself.
A few years back we were building a sauna by the cottage, and were very busy. It was nothing like the laid back life we usually lead when we’re staying there. One day I was painting boards when the Elder came to me and started trying to get my attention. He walked a way down the road, called for me, and when I didn’t immediately leave everything and come with him he came back and complained, loudly, and then repeated the same maneuver. It was very obvious that wanted me to put away the work and go with him, and after a while I got curious and obliged him. He led the way, with repeated looks over his shoulder to be sure I was following this time, and went up to my brother-in-law’s cabin. That house was empty that day, it was quiet and peaceful. Elder Cat walked straight up on the porch and jumped up on the bench there, and looked sternly at me until I sat down. Then he put his head on my knee and when I started to pet him he purred, loudly. We sat there in the stillness of the afternoon, just looking out at the lake. Breathing. Being in the moment. When I finally got up to get back to work he stayed put.
I often think cats have a saner grip of what’s important in life than humans do.