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)

What Cats Teach Us About Life: How to be a LION…

Number 21 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’.

lion 1

I commenced this blogging challenge with the intention of playing around with some concepts for a potential book and then, how like me… I start getting ahead of myself…  My blog posts are splurges of various themes, concepts and embryonic ideas.  And having already published a book, I now know that for me to write the next tome, demands that I grab all these disparate elements and turn them into some sort of sensible structure.  The (not yet) book is cat and coaching themed and has gone by various working titles… For the longest time it had the vanity title of ‘Peachey Cats: Lessons in Love Life and Litter’; then the simpler ‘Coaching with Cats’ and most recently, the ‘does what it says on the tin’ title of ‘What Cats Teach Us About Life’.

The (not yet) book is a constantly evolving concept, with various possibilities and opportunities to explore.  Today, three quarters of the way through my 28 day blog writing challenge, an idea for a structure, struck me, like these often do, like a soft thunderbolt…

It has arisen out of one of the recurring themes that has come up during this spate of writing, which is that whereas the various aspects of my life (work, dreams, hobbies, interests, etc and so on) used to be compartmentalised; now increasingly they have merged… So it happens that I am currently writing a book about cats, being a coach and about me, weaving in anecdotal strands about my cats, my clients and myself.

The structure will reveal itself all in good time and for today, I will start to add in some of the more major structural elements, even though as yet, they will still lay scattered about, rather like a jigsaw waiting patiently to be pieced together, to create the whole picture…

So the elements of my life that I shall draw together today are personality theories and cats.  I doubt very much whether I shall be either the first or last writer ever to do this, but I know I shall be the only one ever (I trust), to include four particular cats called George, Sophia, Taz and Whiskers as my muses and (four pawed) metaphors.

I shall now start on the Personality Piece:  I am a qualified Occupational Tester, which means that I have been trained in and practised, for an incessantly long time, a number of inventories that assess a number of things, including personality traits, aptitudes and emotional intelligence.  Much as I love to think that I intrinsically know people and can quickly get their measure, I have found the use of such tools invaluable, not least because they provide a model for measurement, comparison and discussion that can be used in many and various ways, not least as a coach.

One of the tools I use most often is the DISC personality assessment system.  The letters stand for what are regarded as the four main personality traits – Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.  I shall now be promulgating ‘DISCC’ – or 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 I now shall be combining the personality and the puss.

The first trait in the DISC model is Dominance and the first cat in The Pride is George, so it is natural that one should signify the other.  In the cat world this trait is firmly and fairly represented by The Lion.

So how does George demonstrate the facets of being the Dominant Lion?  Firstly, despite his fluffy, charming exterior, he clearly regards himself as both the Head and Alpha Male of the Pride.  Lions easily can turn on their strong directed charm, if it gets them what they want. Of all the cats in the Cave, George has the most dog like, ‘standing in his own power’ characteristics.  The phrase that most fits him is, ‘I want it my way’ – not yours, not theirs’, but my way and mine alone. George is very exacting in his wants – he wants the best sleeping spot (next to me), he expects to lead, never to follow and even it if is dinner time – that or the mere fact that the other cats are starving, is of no consequence – he will demand to be fed, when he wants to be fed, not led by minor dinner dictates set by the rest of us in The Pride.

George is a ‘what?’ cat.  He always wants to know what is going on – and always insinuating himself into my coaching sessions, or my reading, or writing and what ever else is going on in the Cave and basically taking charge, just like any lion.

His focus is always about ‘now’.  He wants what ever he wants right here and now.  I may have a fourteen inch screen laptop perched squarely on my lap, but such an obstacle will never stop him if he has decided he wants to lay across my legs.  Rebuffals will be met with a persistent nonchalance and an utter determination to get to his goal.

It is not about the anticipation with the leonine George, he is instead, motivated by getting things done / completed / sorted – all as they should be, which is always as he decrees.

When it comes to decisions, he is all about the impulse – what ever is the quickest thing that will get him to where he wants to be.  And the timing for that destination, will always be now. Lock him out of the bedroom where I and the sweetest sleeping spot is, and he will loudly yowl his right to have that door opened for and to him.  Like the lion he is, he will keep on yowling, until he gets his result. Put him under stress or duress, and suddenly the Cave becomes an Autocracy – and George will take charge and deal with the situation.  He will ensure that he gets the result he wants – even if that means that he has to be aggressive in pursuing his point – as any unwarranted human or feline who breaches the confines of the cave will attest.  He will doggedly pursue any intruders and see off the cat sized ones in an instant.  The human sized ones will be swiftly sussed out and then quickly either accepted or rejected – placed in their Pride order and so acknowledged or dismissed.

So that is the DISC personality theory according to George.  And George being the lion that he is, knows exactly what he needs to know about all that…  The Lion has roared…

PS: 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)