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Perspective: Sassy cats


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I volunteer socializing cats at our local shelter. That's how I've met several interesting queens and toms, as they are called. I also have learned to ascertain their personalities through the indirect messages they send me.

Some of them are flagged for handling only by experienced volunteers. I consider myself one because I've been scratched and bitten enough at home. When I open their enclosure and offer treats to the stigmatized kitties, they usually accept my peace offerings. I also observe carefully whether they twitch their tails, arch their backs, or lower their ears. Any of these reactions will tell you whether they see you as a benefactor or a punching bag. That way I've managed to get along with a few cats considered sassy because I can anticipate their reactions. After that, I visit them more, and if they trust me, they'll let me pick them up. Then, we go to a visiting room and play with a toy spiked with catnip.

Dealing with cats has taught me how to deal with people, or the other way around. I've seen we all have moments when we arch our backs or twitch our tails, only we're more subtle. If I can read cats, we all can read folks. Next time you're among people, watch them carefully and take notes. You'll be surprised to see all the things we say without words.

I am Francisco Solares-Larrave, and this is my perspective.

A Guatemalan native, he arrived in the United States in the late eighties on a Fulbright Scholarship to do graduate studies in comparative literature at the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana. He has been teaching Spanish language, literature and culture at NIU since August 2000, and his main research interests are 19th-century Spanish American literature.
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