For JD: Cat Vanity

>> Friday, May 22, 2009

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JD asked: Why do most cats (in my experience, anyway) seem to not see themselves in mirrors? I know this isn't true of all cats, because we had a cat who was fascinated by his reflection . . . but only the first time he saw himself. After that, he was all, meh. But all our other cats don't even seem to see their reflection. What's up with these crazy cats?

JD, I'm glad you asked. For those of you who didn't know it (and there can't be many of you by now), I am a cat person. I love the way cats are so dignified, even when they're doing something undignified (like falling off your lap). I love that they demand attention rather than beg for it. I love that they can amuse themselves if the situation calls for it. I love that they purr.

I respect cats and cat magic. Part of that respect is not confusing them with other pets (like dogs, which have their own charm but it is not to be confused, in any way, with cat charm) or people.

So, circling back to your question, cats are very much like Beau Brummel in how they regard mirrors. Now, if you're not heavy into Regency English history (or Georgette Heyer novels), you might not know who he is. Beau Brummel was a former gentlemen's gentleman (valet) who managed to climb to the pinnacle of high society. At a time when heels, padding, lace and jewelry were still big for men (as well as pastels and corsets), he called for a distinct style that centered around cleanliness and simplicity. His style was understated and pristine, short on gewgaws and affectation. Beau Brummel was also something of a sarcastic and vicious wit (with a gambling problem that contributed significantly to his downfall), but it was his fashion that is best remembered. I know I'm grateful that he brought bathing into fashion - pomades were not a good substitute.

Among the legends surrounding Brummel was that he never looked in the mirror once he'd left his dressing room. He took hours over his morning toilette, putting every hair in to place, every chosen crease into his cravat, before sallying forth - so sure of his perfection that he never had to tweak it during the day or assure himself of his appearance.

That is what I think the answer to your question is. Cats are very self-assured. They know they are charming, whether it's the goofy charm of a gangly half-kitten-half-cat, the refined dignity of an elderly statescat or the affectionate comfort of a happy lapcat. When first comfronted with a mirror, they might take a second to realize who they are seeing in the mirror. But, once realizing that the image is just a reflection of their own perfection, they lose interest. Need I point out how important cleanliness is to cats as well.

They don't need reassurance as to their beauty.

They don't need reinforcement of their charm and grace.

All those are a given.

Mirrors are for the insecure.

Hope that helps.


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