What Cats Teach Us About Life: How to find the ‘I’ in Serval…

Number 23 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’.


I am blending and blurring the lines of my life… Linking the disparate and disciplined, making a whole picture out of all the multi coloured jigsaw pieces of my creation – born and made. And by doing so, I am bringing more of me into who I am and what I do, in everything, so that life is more natural and more easy… Blissful sigh… Smug pause…

Whilst I am practising the art of being more of myself, being more ‘natural and easy’, cats of course, are just getting on with it.  And the elements of my life that I shall be drawing together today, are the observation and interaction of (human) personality theories, as applied to cats…

As a qualified Occupational Tester, one of the tools I use most often is a psychometric inventory based on 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 gently develop this in 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 be combining the personality and the puss.

The trait I shall be investigating with my cats today is the ‘I’ of the DISC model, which stands for Influence.   And my four legged muse to assist me in this exploration, is the youngest member of The Pride – my kitten-cat Sophia.

I know a lot about this particular trait since I, most definitely am a ‘High I’, so far be it from me to chastise Sophia for displaying all its’ inherent aspects – really loudly and really intensely.  Now, aside from the delivery, the ‘I’ is about influencing, so Sophia always wants me to be on her side and therefore keeps up a constant barrage of conversational mews, meows, trills, chirrups, and squeaks. These linguistic gambits play on a constant, incessant communication – of what she wants, how she feels, and where she is.

In the wild cat world, this would make her a Serval, a creature which lives in the savannahs and grasslands of Africa. Servals are show off cats, being the only wild feline that has both spots and stripes, allowing them to camouflage perfectly in to their grassy habitat. This helps them to be both an efficient hunter and a hider – ensuring that they are not seen by larger predators.  And just in case they then happen to be happened upon, the Serval also has markings on the back of its ears that look like big, scary, ‘leave me alone’ eyes.

Servals fit into the ‘I’ trait in that they are very well adapted to their environment. Most I’s have a quick paced flexibility to react to and fit into their surroundings; and also with their peers.  They will also have a tendency to hide from trouble rather than meet it head on. Servals have very large ears, enabling them to hear prey from up to 20 feet away, just as Sophia can hear the opening of a cat food pouch through walls, doors and fields away.

After the Cheetah, the Serval is the fastest of the wild cats, reaching running speeds of up to 30 miles an hour.   Any one who has met Sophia will know that she displays the typical High I characteristics of being incredibly fast paced, virtually all of the time.  These adaptations serve the Serval well and so this cat catches nearly half the prey that it goes after, in comparison to the lion, which only catches about 30 percent.  Sophia too is speedily adept at being the first to the food bowl, to the lap and out of the cat flat, all three achieved, usually within the space of speedy seconds.

If you were to ask an ‘I’ how to go about doing – just about anything, you would invariably find them carrying it out in the most fun, sociable or brightest way.   Servals and Sophia alike, want to get to the bottom of things and so as a type, are typified by the question ‘why’, and as arch socialisers, will want to know ‘who’ too. Sophia is always whizzing around, focussing on the next best thing, paws flying definitively towards the future.  She loves to be acknowledged and praised and will squeak back her undisguised pleasure at your ministrations, be they physical or verbal.

She is, most definitely an ‘I’ in that she is like quick silver – sensitive, reactive and intuitive, blowing with the wind or racing like a Serval across the Savannah (of the garden).  Her mission is to entertain and amuse you; but put her under stress or cross her, and the claws will (literally) be out and she will hiss out her (rare) displeasure.

The Serval type is a natural motivator, coercing you firmly and positively towards the end goal – usually of food or love.   This can all become all too much when a salvo of deliberate posing, posturing and purrs can just amount to manipulative attention seeking tactics, with  desperate striving to get to something or some one, regardless of whether the object of all that forced attention, wishes for the same thing.

Usually though you are on the same page, and visitors are enchanted by her obvious charms.  I had a recent guest who had not met my I-type cat before and wondered where she was. I explained with a twinkle that one thing is for certain – you will never miss Miss Sophia’s entrance into any room; and sure enough, in she soon flashed, meowing her little head off, demanding every one’s attention and then enthusiastically checking them all out.

I like to think that some how I am more soothing and subtle to be around, yet appreciate that this I-trait, is after all, all about the ‘I’… And in that respect Sophia and I are most definitely twin attention seeking souls…

PS: The source of the Serval information was: georginadp6.weebly.com/characteristics.html

PPS: 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)

A Cat is a Lion in a Jungle of Small Bushes

Cat is a Lion plain quotejpg

“A Cat is a Lion in a Jungle of Small Bushes” ~ Indian proverb

Here I am, at home, in every sense of the word; working, which is for me (right now) writing. My sofa is my office and my IPad the tool of choice, sitting easily on my lap as I sit tapping away, back spacing and pacing through my words.

Along with an electronic device, a living creature shares my lap and, with a sense of inevitability, I can tell you that it’s George, with his long, low, slow purr.  However, in real time writing, I can now tell you that my black cat Taz has also just announced his arrival by clawing at the furniture – it’s his overture to let me know that he now wants some love and attention. It’s an unhuman habit that I just cannot disavow him of. I’ll learn over and look him in the eye and sternly tell him to stop, but he’s in the ‘happy zone’ and blinks back lovingly at me, then leaps up and positions himself by my head, with his gorgeous, growling, and rasping purr.

George now leaves my lap in a jealous huff, and then right on cue, Sophia comes squeaking into the room, leaps at me and crashes onto my lap – stomping and clawing her delight, and trilling away to us all, with her top note, sonic purr.

Sophia’s love comes with claws, in many ways… But at least this time she didn’t bring me a live or dead ‘gift’… I didn’t have to scrape the bloody remains of one of God’s Creatures off my floor or rescue a panicking rodent or bird which has escaped from those tiny jaws of death.

And suddenly she and all of the pride are gone, having disapparated from the room, leaving me alone with my sofa/office to muse that I willingly share my house with domesticated, yet recognisably wild creatures…

Being fascinated by my cat’s wild cousins, I have read and watched and learnt that generally, you can take the offspring of a tiger or a wild cat and treat it like any domestic kitten – feeding it, loving it and giving it shelter. At this stage they are dependent and tame, but as they grow, their wildness returns and their instincts become stronger than the bonds they have formed with their human carers. When this wildness starts to emerge, it is time to let them go – back to jungle or into the safer confines of a zoo.

Hold on to them at this time and they will become dangerous – any cat can inflict deadly damage if the occasion calls for it…

Yet many ailurophiles (cat lovers) will be familiar too with various publically shared big cat reunions with their kitten carers… Pop onto YouTube and watch the ‘Christian the Lion Reunion’… I can never watch that without crying… And so cats remember and have emotional attachments, but still, you can’t live with a wild cat…

Instead many of us chose to live with their domesticated cousins – cats whose ancestors mutated their characteristics so that they remained domesticated into adulthood, and then were bred for millennia to produce creatures with characteristics that we humans could live with – for their tameness, adoration and good looks… And earlier mankind had, in the cave, a small hunter who could eke out the vermin; as do many farmers and many communities still, around the world today; with these cats forming a symbiosis of greater or lesser degree, with humanity. And on, to the pampered pets that so many of us have now, in modern times.

To share your home with a cat is to see a microcosm of the world… One minute they are perfect purring pets and next – savage hunters, toying with and torturing terrified prey.

And don’t you see this with human kind, again and again? Aren’t you often horrified at man’s inhumanity to man? Have you never seen someone you talk, love and laugh with, change their spots – to snarl and lash out at you???

Of course I am widely generalising here to prove a point and everyone, every animal, has their nuances and differences. The three members of my Pride are a case in point…

George hunts infrequently, but occasionally brings me back some hapless prey as a gift, possibly just to keep his paw in, and prove to the world that under that pretty pedigree exterior, lies a real cat.

Taz is a rescue moggy with stronger hunting instincts, who in his younger days, would frequently bring creatures into the house – some as a tithe for me, most for him. Now he’s middle aged, he is opting for a gentler existence and chooses to hunt me instead, mostly at meal times; and to stalk me and stare me out with his google, green eyes, until I cave in and feed him.

Sophia had the hardest start of all in life and is definitely the one in the Pride with the basest instincts; she is also barely out of kitten hood, so she preys and pounces, out of both panic and play.

If only the hunting would stay out there, in the outside world; but no, she must bring back her victims to her lair – our shared cave. We have them dead and we have them alive, we have them injured, and terrified. I do my best to rescue the live creatures and to repatriate them, but still they come – a never ending parade of wildness and death…

I have, for so long, felt guilt and horror about this aspect of cat behaviour, but also have to accept the literal nature of the beast. And another cat owner I know – a Buddhist in fact, told me that she had the same feelings around her marauding moggy, but that she says a prayer and sees it as the cycle of being, and now I follow this practice too… You see I tried all the strategies that people suggested… I shut her in the house at night – she and the other cats were miserable and angry and all made sure that none of us got any sleep; I fed her extra food at bed time (her normal hunting time) – yet still the creatures came; I put a warning bell on her collar, to no effect, so I upped the ante and put two bells on her collar, and the following morning she returned the favour with a dead shrew, a dead wood mouse and a (thankfully) dead rat – as long in length as she is…

But then something in my brain clicked… I noticed that her pattern is to go hunting at dusk through to dark, and not to return to the cave until she has caught a creature. So now, after she has had her evening meal and nap, I play with her and engage her and occupy her, trying to use up that wild, desperate, survival energy that she was born with… It’s a habit I grew out of as she grew up, but I can see now, at the heart of what she does, that I can affect this hunting behaviour. And yet still she hunts, but far less frequently; and I am praying and playing that she will grow out of this wild behaviour, just as her older uncles – (George and Taz) in the Pride did…

As a coach I work with people to support them in overcoming bad habits, thoughts and fears, so they can achieve more peace and success; yet, as so often in my life, I had segmented my cats away from this part of my life and my learnings.  Yet, when I joined the dots, there was the answer, more natural and easy than any other forced solution. And as a result, both Sophia and myself are happier.

And these I can say, with finality today, are two of God’s Creatures that I care about, a lot

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, for you or the cat lover in your life… You can buy it from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)