I find it charming that animals have rituals (or habits, if you prefer): little things that they do over and over in a daily or weekly fashion. Some of these, like the crowing of a rooster, are instinctual, but many of them are not. Perhaps they're the result of mere conditioning, but I like to believe that, like humans, animals have rich emotional lives, and that rituals are a part of these.
On a basic level there are rituals like the peanut battle our birds enact every morning on the weekends. As I say, it's doubtful there's much will involved in these sorts of rituals, but they're rituals nonetheless. More interesting are the rituals of the higher animals.
Each of our cats has several rituals in his arsenal.
On weekday mornings, after Kris and I have finished showering, we open the bathroom door to let Nemo inside. He rubs against our legs, and then he jumps onto the counter where he demands that we pet and scritch him (especially his face).
Tintin used to do this, too. While Kris readied for work, he would pace the bathroom counter demanding love. He was more interested in the getting-home ritual, though. When Kris walked in the door, Tintin would race to her and squeak (he never did have a true miaow) until she would sit on the floor with him, allowing him to purr and roll in her lap.
Toto, who is not the most loving animal in the world, does not demand love in the same way. However, at random intervals she will find me while I am sitting upright, climb into my lap, and stand on her hind legs, purring, rubbing her nose and cheek against my ears. (I call this "ear-diving" for how wet my ears get.) Also, at night she must sleep next to Kris.
Simon is rather more aloof than the others, yet he's developing rituals of his own. When I get home from work, he's sitting at the door, waiting to be let outside. (And on the days I comply with his wishes, he's far sweeter in the evening.)
What's strange, though, is how much Simon loves the workshop. I'll be out working on a computer or simply sitting by the stove when I'll hear his paw paw at the door. When I let him in, he becomes the most demanding cat I have ever seen. He must have affection! He must have all of my attention! He stands on his hind legs and claws my waist if I do not bend down to pet him. He jumps on the workbenches and follows me around until I acquiesce and maintain constant contact with him. Sometimes even that is not enough; sometimes he demands that I be petting him with both hands!
Simon also has a ritual he enacts with Flash, one of the neighborhood cats. When they meet each other in the yard, the growl at each other and sway and cock their heads askance. Continuing to growl, they near each other until they are forehead-to-forehead. There they sit, growling, locked in some form of mental combat.
It seems that all pets have a feeding ritual: beg, beg, scarf, clean.
Do fish have rituals? I doubt it. Parrots and their cousins? Farm animals?
Animal intelligence fascinates me. (I find it akin to child development, another subject of interest.) If I were to start a single-subject weblog, one on animal intelligence would be a likely topic.
On this day at foldedspace.org
2004 — Relax What do you do to relax? Do you find you relax less now than you once did? How does one un-learn habits that prevent relaxation? How can I learn to take pleasure in the here and the now instead of the then and the there?
2003 — Vital Experience As the sun gilded the Molalla hills, I became giddy.