(Cumberland, MD USA)
Charlie about to surprise Cassie.
Bravery does not mean having no fears. A man with no fears does foolish things and endangers others around him. Bravery is when you conquer your fears and do what needs to be done in the face of real danger or threat of real harm.
I am fortunate to have two cats, Charlie and Cassie, who are very different from each other. This allows me to better observe cat behavior by comparing what each cat does when presented with the same situation. Charlie is a relatively brave cat while Cassie is shy and quick to run away from perceived danger. Or at least that seemed to be the case.
I live alone with my two cats and I rarely invite visitors while my house is being renovated. So, my cats rarely experience strangers in my home and, when anyone one does come, the cats hide.
Charlie is always the first to emerge from hiding, usually within a few minutes. Cassie will remain in hiding for as much as two hours after the strange human has left.
When Charlie hides, she usually tunnels under the comforter on my bed and doesn't move. I always get a laugh when I show visitors the big lump on the bed. However, I rarely can find where Cassie is hiding. I just have to wait for her to come out from wherever she is.
One time I had a large crew of construction workers at the house and they had to do their work in all of the rooms. The work was noisy and the men spoke loudly with gruff voices as they worked. The cats could not avoid them. At one point I saw Charlie running in a panic down the stairs, only to come to realize the same danger was present downstairs as it was upstairs. She quickly reversed herself and darted back upstairs. At another point, I heard the men upstairs all shout, "Whoa!" I went upstairs to see what they were reacting to. They said they were suddenly surprised by a cat jumping out from nowhere.
After the men left, I went looking for the poor cats. I went all through the house calling them for about 15 minutes. I finally found Charlie tunneled inside a rolled up comforter at the bottom of the guest bed. I wouldn't have found her except that she stuck one black paw out of the roll as if to say, "I'm in here but I'm not coming out yet." Cassie eventually appeared two hours later, shaken and still frightened. She remained under the bed the rest of that day and the next. They didn't forget this experience for several days. For the next few days they were especially subdued and both sought my attention more than usual.
I've had out-of-town friends stay the night and only Charlie will have the bravery to venture out to meet the friend. But this will be only after about an hour of their arrival and only very tentatively. Cassie will not be found the whole time the person is visiting.
Because Cassie is so small, half the size of Charlie even though they are the same age, I was concerned that Cassie was taking the brunt of their play fighting. Charlie clearly dominated Cassie and Cassie seemed to have no defense against Charlie's superior size and strength. For months I felt guilty for "imprisoning" poor Cassie with such a formidable opponent as Charlie. I asked a veterinarian what to do about it and he said, "They're cats. They will sort it out."
Then one day, Cassie apparently decided she wasn't going to take it anymore. I watched with amazement as Cassie suddenly stood her ground and confronted Charlie. Charlie was apparently surprised too. She acted confused. Cassie had come to realize that her small size was actually an advantage. Charlie just couldn't move, jump or reverse movement as well as little Cassie could. I watched with profound amazement as Cassie ran circles around Charlie. This was totally new behavior on Cassie's part. And I watched as Cassie would sometimes avoid direct confrontation and, knowing where Charlie was sitting, would quietly and stealthily walk a wide circle around and come up behind Charlie and pounce on her back. I was so proud of little Cassie when she backed Charlie into a corner and all Charlie could do was hiss back at her.
Cassie now has learned many techniques for bravely dealing with big Charlie. One is when Charlie is quietly laying on a bed, Cassie will run, jump and come flying through the air at Charlie with paws splayed and claws out. She doesn't attack but this is enough to intimidate Charlie. Cassie is now an equal match for Charlie, thanks to Cassie overcoming her fears with apparent bravery.
Hi George... thanks for this very interesting article. I changed the title (hope you are OK with that) as the phrase "brave cat" is a keyword (a search term) while "cat bravery" is not. It means your article should get read more!....Michael