I have often wondered about hardwired human behavior. Are we drawn to certain foods or types of music and books, excel in sports or develop a passion for animals based on our genetic makeup? Probably fifty percent of our behavior is determined by environmental influences, while the other fifty percent is determined by our genes.
So whether it’s environmental or genetic, or even a combination of these two factors, I am positive that the ability to deeply love and have compassion for animals is programmed genetically. Although we can learn to love these amazing creatures (especially if exposed to them positively at a very young age), the extraordinary passion we feel for them must be passed on genetically.
My father was an ardent felineophile and animal lover. On the other hand, my mother hated cats. Therefore I am positive that my father passed on to me the cat-loving gene. Since my mother had a rooted antipathy to felines, I wasn’t able to have a cat until I moved into my own apartment after being married to my first husband.
My dad was a gentle, extraordinarily handsome man bearing an amazing resemblance to Ernest Hemingway. He was a gifted photographer and wherever he went, he always had a camera dangling from his shoulder. When he would go out for his morning walk and he met up with a stray kitty, he would bend down, start a quiet conversation with the kitty, scratch the cat lovingly under the chin and, of course snap a photo.
He had an extensive library of feline related books. As I got older he filled my bookcase with fascinating books about cats. But what gave him the most pleasure was spending hours talking to me about kitties, sharing anecdotes about the one special cat he was finally permitted to have when he was a youngster.
I imagine my father inherited the cat-loving gene from an unknown distant relative. His father could tolerate them and his mother was a staunch ailurophobe. When my father was a young boy, he smuggled a black and white kitty into the house and did everything to hide him. But since cats are curious critters, Spinach eventually made its presence known to my grandmother.
This cat had a huge predilection for spinach! Whenever his mother cooked the green leafy vegetable, the cat would crawl under the dining room table and put his front paws on my father’s knee, begging for a taste. And since the cat’s passion for spinach was so very intense, my father named him Spinach.
My grandmother finally insisted that my father take the cat to Central Park, an area which was miles away from their New York brownstone home on Henry Street. My father tried desperately to keep him, but ultimately he had little choice but to obey orders.
He was bereft after depositing Spinach in the park. When he arrived home from doing the dastardly deed, his eyes were red from crying. He was so angry at his mother that he refused to speak to her at all for several days.
But all of a sudden almost after a week, a miracle occurred. For a reason that my father never completely understood, Spinach, appeared on their front stoop. He was somewhat bedraggled but alive and very hungry. But this time my father defied my grandmother orders. He finally put his foot down and insisted that he keep Spinach.
Since Spinach’s sudden reappearance was cloaked in mystery, I suspect that if my grandmother was at all superstitious, given some fear that something disastrous might happen if she didn’t allow the cat to stay, she had to comply with my father’s demands.
Spinach indeed earned the privilege of a permanent home where he lived, lavished with my father’s love for his remaining eight lives.
Is it your opinion that passionate felinophiles are endowed with the cat-loving gene? Tell us your opinion in a comment.
Photo credit of black and white cat: Flickr User: Minette Layne (This is not Spinach). The picture of chromosomes is from iStockphoto.