What Cats Teach Us About Life: Cats, Coffee and the Compliance of Civits

Number 27 out of 28: This piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Coach and Writer Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

Indonesians Farm Civet Cats To Produce World's Most Valuable Coffee

The ‘Coffee Pooh’ Civit

Over the course of this month’s blog challenge on my twin themes of Coaching and Cats, I have been digging deeper into one of the coaching tools I often employ, which is a psychometric inventory based on the DISC personality assessment system.  The letters stand for the four main personality traits it describes: namely Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.  I have been gently evolving this in to DISCC – ‘DISC for Cats’, since, as well as personality assessment, I also have extensive experience in the field of cat guardianship (not ownership – you never own a cat) and so I shall now be consciously combining the personality and the puss.

The cat trait I shall be investigating today is the ‘C’ of the DISC model, which stands for Compliance.   And my four legged muse to assist me in this exploration, is a very intelligent and self-possessed puss I used to be the guardian of – a handsome ginger tom by the name of Muttley.

Muttley was an urban tiger, twice the size of the average domestic cat and probably three times as clever.  He was a rescue cat I took guardianship of (from a cat charity) when he was, we guessed, around eighteen months old.

On first acquaintance he was neutrally grateful for his warm new home, then gradually, slowly, more of his personality started to emerge.  I only ever had to tell Muttley anything once and he got it.  I soon realised too that this cat understood all the rules of the house instantly, and in fact knew them better than I did.

Not long after he arrived in my life, I went away for a night and left him alone with a cat feeding device – a machine with a timer that was programmed to pop open at a pre-determined time, in order to dispense his dinner.  It was a new fangled, fan dango’ed sort of machine that took me around 2 hours to figure out, assemble and then set up.  Despite this complexity, I discovered, when I returned home 24 hours later, this same device, broken in to little pieces, easily dis-assembled by my cat and now scattered across the kitchen floor…

I never left Muttley on his own again – for he had taught me the intricacies of Compliance – not a sissy, ‘do as you are told’ sort of compliance, but a ‘I know it all, so let me show you how’ kind instead…

The C in this trait stands for Conscientious as well as Compliance.  It is all about detail, preciseness and perfectionism, which was why, when I was casting about for a wild cat to cast as a representative for it, that I thought of the Civit – or to be compliantly precise – the Asian Palm Civet…

Some where, way back, down along their long genetic lineages, it is thought that the cat and the civet had a common ancestor.  Over the morass of millennia, convergent and parallel evolution has produced different animal lines, which because of their common ancestry and habitat may even develop some similar traits, including the ‘C’ one.

The Asian Palm Civet is actually a small, (domestic) cat-sized grey / black, long tailed creature. It has a more pointed muzzle than a moggy – and looks like a hybrid between a cat and a raccoon.  In fact, rather than being a cat, it is more closely related to the modern mongoose.

It is a carnivorous creature, living most notably in Indonesia and feeding in the wild on rodents, insects, fruits and curiously (for us humans), coffee berries.  Because of its’ coffee habit, this Civit has a paw in the production of ‘Kopi Luwak’, a coffee that is prepared using the coffee berries which they eat and partially digest.  The beans are then harvested from their fecal matter.   The reason that this coffee is so prized, is that Civits only eat the finest and ripest beans – since by sense and smell they know exactly which are the very best.

The civet’s efforts allegedly add to the coffee’s prize aroma and flavour.  As such, this ‘Civit Pooh Coffee’ is therefore the gold dust of the caffeine world, commanding big dollars in comparison to its’ non-digested coffee cousins.

So just as my mog Muttley could see exactly how everything worked, consequently the ‘coffee pooh’ Civit can also only select the correct coffee berries.  It is, of vital importance to the ‘C’ trait, that things are done exactly the right way and according to the rules.

This all works when the ‘C’ characteristic knows what the rules actually are… I remember taking Muttley with me to stay with family for Christmas, and on the first night he wandered around the strange house, dis-planted from his territory and meowing constantly, whilst the rest of us attempted to sleep… At this juncture, if he were a human ‘C’ – out of his comfort zone, his meows would be signifying a whole range of questions – where, why, how and what..? All asked in order to re-establish the direction of his internal compass.

The ‘C’ then, is most comfortable when things are ‘right’.  So they tend to be motivated by getting things right and hence, by being right; and they are very good at it, for they are great listeners and attentive to corrective detail.  Then, with all these details established and to hand, they can then make sure and certain decisions; yet without all the data, statistics and cogent facts at their disposal, they are reluctant to commit to a conclusion. C’s do not tend to thrive on tension and will avoid it or will pick at the holes and flaws of its’ concern, (which they can see a hundred paces ahead), in order to steer clear of combustible conflict.

So where Muttley knew his territory, tricks and escape routes, he would stand his ground, yet where there was any element of uncertainty he would flee, back to his safe home and to me. So whether human, cat or small, (lithe-bodied, nocturnal), mongoose like mammal, the ‘C’ has its’ detailed role to play – notated and checked to the nth degree – to check and perfect and to get life right.

In amongst all the mnemonics in DISC I can see the need for ‘C’ and all the different elements in my world.  And, like a lot of people, cats and civits, have many of the traits blended to a certain degree, to make a constant and evolving recipe of me.

PS: Sadly the Asian Palm Civit’s coffee talents have been abused by some in their native Indonesia, who have force-fed them a debilitating diet of coffee berries in diabolical living conditions, in order to harness their excreted harvest.  Fortunately there is now a campaign under way to encourage ‘ethical’ civet coffee…

PPS: Today’s Civit centric information has been digested and regurgitated from the websites o: f A-Z Animals, Wikipedia, messybeast.com/cat-prehistory.htm, and Cat Poop Coffee Inc.

PPPS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, cats and all?  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a purrfect present, whether you be a cat lover or no.  All of human life is in this gorgeous book – all the fear, light, dark, and of course love, for any one who wants to be entertained and to know that they are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you, even if it isn’t all about cats… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

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