My cat Milkshakes is the obese, whinging, hair-shedding love of my life. But for all the tender feelings she stirs in me, I barely register in her world. I'm nothing more than a bag of flesh who feeds her tins of meat. Unless I'm getting changed, in the shower, on the toilet, or having sex—then I'm the single most interesting thing in the world.
She's not only interested in me, though. If anyone takes off their pants near my apartment she knows about it. She spends hours staring through a gap in the balcony that looks into my neighbor's living room, but only when their kids go out and they fool around on the couch.
At first I didn't mind; it was kind of funny. But it has become increasingly unsettling to feel those yellow eyes peering through the dark during my most vulnerable moments. I feel ashamed over raising a pervert. To understand this body obsessed thing that lives with me, I called Richard Gowan, a feline veterinarian from the Cat Clinic to see if he could work out why my cat was such a creep.
VICE: I feel really embarrassed talking to your about this.
Richard Gowan: It's OK, I get asked embarrassing animal things all the time. At least we're on the phone and not face-to-face.
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OK, so my cat is pretty aloof, but the second you get changed or get in the shower she can't get close enough. Why is she so into nudity?
From your perspective it's about nudity, but from her perspective it's about a ritual operation that she can predict. The amount of times my clients tell me "my cat's watching me in the shower" or "my cat's watching me take a dump"—that's because your cat knows that routine. Whether the cat is a perv or not, it's more that they know what that routine means.
That makes sense for things I do at the same time each day, that she can expect, but what about watching me in the toilet? She's obsessed with that too.
Again, it's about a ritual and a routine, they know that room, they know the behavior. You go and sit on the toilet and your cats follow you. Most behaviors are routines cats can depend on for a positive interaction—anthropomorphism means we place extra value on these interactions and therefore further reinforce the routines. It seems cute or quirky, you respond, the cat gets a positive reinforcement for a totally random behavior.
When you're sitting on the toilet, they know you will be a captive audience and will likely be nice to them. If you went to the toilet and you squirted the cat with lemon juice or some other aversive stimulus they wouldn't see the fun in it and wouldn't be interested in watching you perform bowel movements.
That makes sense as I usually can't help but laugh when she's creeping on me. But she also tries to sit on my lap when I'm peeing.
That's a weird commonplace fetish behavior your cat has.
Why does she watch me have sex? I don't do that at the same time everyday, and I don't give her attention when I do it.
A lot of clients have asked that. A different way of illustrating it is, say you're watching TV, your cat thinks, Whatever, I can come over and sit in your lap whenever I want. Remember your cat's a narcissist; it's all about them. But as soon as your attention is directed to your laptop, reading a book, or talking on the phone your cat suddenly starts to come to you. It's because you're no longer directing your attention at them, it's almost like a jealousy but it's more from a narcissistic point of view.
So when I'm with someone she knows I'm not thinking about her.
It's a point of focus, and your point of focus is no longer centered on her. That's when the cat will feel like she needs to be on your lap because she feels like she's lost that sense of control. That's also why she tries to sit on you when you're on the toilet.
What about this: I live in an apartment and from the balcony you can see into one of the other apartments. The neighbors don't realize and we obviously respect that. But sometimes she goes crazy and wants to be let out, then when I open the door she runs over to stare at them, but it's only when they're going for it on the couch.
Really? She actually might be that one cat that's kind of a creep. Everything cats do is for their enjoyment or their benefit.
Clients will often say things like, "I can tell what my cat is saying, I can tell when they're hungry, or sad, or they want a treat." You can't, it's that the cat has trained you for their benefit. It could be that you think that she likes to spy on your neighbors, but actually she just knows that whenever she does it you get really interested in her.
So she's learnt from me. I've taught her to be a perv.
Well you've kind of given her the context. You say you're not that interested in your neighbors watching TV, but you're obviously out there too when they're doing other things...
Maybe I'm the creep.
Could very well be.
From everything that we've chatted about—as a professional—do you think my cat's unusual?
She's a product of her environment—so maybe it's the environment that's unusual. Cats are highly intelligent, you get out what you put in with your cat. Maybe you just put weird vibes in.
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