Cats are often considered the most independent of pets. So it’s no surprise that when Mary Todd Lincoln was asked if her husband—America’s 16th president Abraham Lincoln—had any hobbies, she replied, “Cats.”
Lincoln was known to take in strays and doted on his beloved cats Tabby and Dixie, once stating that Dixie was smarter than his entire cabinet.
Perhaps America and cats go hand in hand because we both have a love and respect for our independence. Cats are so independent in fact, that they are the only species to have domesticated themselves, adapting into household pets as a way to survive.
Looking back, cats and humans have always seemed like a logical pairing. Because wherever humans go, small vermin follow, and that means cats can hunt and eat well. As time wore on, though, cats realized humans would do the “hunting” for them—feeding them on a regular basis and providing them with shelter. Thus, the modern domestic feline was born.
Despite this attachment to humans, cats haven’t ever lost their sense of independence or seemingly aloof nature. Unlike the domestic canine, which relies almost solely on humans for its existence, cats can still get by on their own through hunting and foraging. And they seem to know it.
But hunting is an instinct that cats learn from an early age. Mother cats, show their litters how to stalk, chase, and pounce by catching and (sometimes) consuming prey. Indoor cats maintain these instincts but don’t need to kill to survive, so they simply exhibit the hunting behaviors in a playful way.
Pet cats may bat a stray thread or pounce on a dust bunny. Or they might chase one another around the house. And, of course, we know they love wand toys that mimic small prey and play tunnels where they can hide and pounce. But without proper stimulation, a cat will become bored and listless—sleeping far too much and sometimes exhibiting unwanted behaviors.
Because they seem quite independent, we often leave our cats to their own devices, but they really do need interaction and play. One of the easiest ways to entice a bored cat to play is a small dusting of a cat attractant like silver vine or catnip. Cats use all of their senses to hunt, and with indoor cats, scent is often the least used of the bunch. By providing them with something new to sniff out, their hunting instincts will kick in, and you’ll have a playful cat in no time.
And on this Independence Day, do what one of the greatest presidents in our nation’s history would do and play with your cats. Oh, and if anyone ever teases you about it, tell them it’s un-American to dislike cats. Abraham Lincoln all but said so.