Your Cat Adapts to Everything Quickly

How to Think Like a Cat - Stephane Garnier 2018

Your Cat Adapts to Everything Quickly

’You can throw a cat however you want; it always falls on its feet’


Ziggy is a cat like any other, except for one thing: he lost his front right paw after being run over by a motorbike when he was less than a year old.

Back then, we lived in the countryside, and he had to defend his territory from other kitties, seduce the local lady cats, satisfy his hunting instincts, and of course clean properly behind his ears.

The latter was easy: after scratching behind his right ear with his left paw, he would come and rub his other ear on me!

But as for the rest, I was quite impressed to see how he behaved the same way on three paws as he had on four in the space of two weeks — once the bandage had been removed, of course.

Not once did he find himself fazed by any obstacle, be it a wall or a fence to climb. Nothing had changed for him, and yet, with one paw less, everything had.

Impressed by his ability to adapt, I observed him for a long time to see how he went about it, and indeed there were a few, barely perceptible, differences. When he ran, he didn’t pull himself forward with his front paws like a feline, but propelled himself with his rear paws like a rabbit. And he was incredibly fast!

As for any interlopers who, seeing Ziggy thus amputated, thought they could easily nip into the garden without fear of being chased off: big mistake. Here too, Ziggy adopted a technique all his own: instead of running after the big tom come to flex his muscles, Ziggy took up position in the middle of the garden, quite still, and let the other advance in ever-decreasing circles around him. Once the enemy was close enough, Ziggy stood on his hind legs like a kangaroo, his solitary front paw held high, like that of a boxer. Not comprehending this unusual behaviour, the other cat continued to approach, a little wary but not much. I watched, hypnotised by this calm, this boxer’s stance. Once the intruder was within reach, Ziggy let fly with a smashing left hook that stunned the big tom! His single front paw had got seriously muscular with use. Surprised, the intruder beat a retreat, and it was only then that Ziggy chased him off his territory. I was astounded! It was rare that he had to do more than that to see off any cats who attempted to approach the house.

As for the lady cats, it was another matter, since seduction, and the play before coupling, is quite a brutal business with felines. Ziggy had some difficulty in keeping his balance on another cat’s back . . .

Yet the neighbour’s puss, who had a crush on Ziggy, quickly understood that if they played the usual games, he wouldn’t be able to hold her by the neck like other cats do, and stay on top of her without falling off. So when desire seized her, she positioned herself in front of him, backside in the air, motionless! Ziggy could now comfortably see to both their pleasures.

Cats exceed us in many things, including their ability to adapt, and, in the case of this female, in their understanding.

His handicap never prevented him from living exactly as he did before. There wasn’t a ladder or a tree that got the better of him and his missing paw.

We left that house to go and live in the centre of the old town of Lyon. It was a new habitat for Ziggy, with new living conditions. There was no garden, but a narrow street — pretty quiet after 11 p.m. — which had a complex of former workshops with a cat-flap. Ziggy soon adapted to this new location, and devoted many happy nocturnal hours to hunting mice.

We then moved to our current home on a boat — still in Lyon — and there it was simply a case of managing Ziggy’s attraction to the passing ducks, lest he fall in the River Saône. Ziggy was initially somewhat overwhelmed at this vast expanse of water stretching before him. But after a few days, he was the new master of the premises, strutting about the cabin roof, surveying his territory from his command post at the highest point, and coming and going along the gangways. Then, wishing to extend his domain, he began descending the steps to stroll along the quayside, have a pee in the grass and keep a close eye on any wayward ducks that came close to the riverbank.

Your cat is an expert at physical adaptation, and adjustment to a new environment. As much as they hate any changes to their lifestyle, they will do their utmost to recreate their cocoon of wellbeing elsewhere, integrating all of the habits which make up their pleasurable existence.

An ability to adapt is a real mark of intelligence.

Where does a cat’s capacity for adaptation come from? Is it because a cat loves life? Is it because a cat loves its life? Is it because it loves itself? ’All three’, says Cap’n Ziggy!

Food for Thought

’If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat’