I have learned to pay attention to when Thomas is having a good time and when he's not, by reading him, using his facial expressions and body language to determine whether he likes an activity or not. As soon as he gives a clear message that he doesn't like something, I STOP. This is how we build trust. It is trust that allows him to give the human the benefit of the doubt when I introduce a new game or activity. He often surprises me by going along with something I thought was a real "reach"—like balancing him in the air, his belly supported by my feet.
As with any complex personality, different attributes seem to contradict each other. He is timid toward strangers, and will remain a lump under the bedspread for up to eight hours when a guest is in the house. But he will ride up and down on a trampoline made from a bedspread (2 humans required), and take a spirited magic carpet ride on a bathmat pulled across wood and linoleum floors through the house, ‘ears back when centrifugal force catches him on the swing around the corners.
Thomas alerts me to his need for interactive play in a way that is both charming and hard to ignore. When he wants me to play with him, he finds me and establishes eye contact; if he is unsuccessful at first, he makes a soft yipping sound, his equivalent of “Excuse me, ma’am?” In his vocabulary, to hightail it from any part of the house directly to the bed means “I’m ready to play”; he swings to face me, tail fat, whiskers electrified—overt signs that he is beside himself. As I crumple wads of paper, he almost quivers with excitement. When I throw the paper balls, he springs into the air again and again, making acrobatic leaps to capture or bat every ball that enters the air space over the bed. Sometimes when he is happy and exhausted from this activity, he will sit very still while I decorate him with the paper balls, like dots of icing on a petit four. One shake of the head would send them all rolling, but he seems to like it--holding his head very still, shifting his eyes to the left or right to see the activity in his peripheral vision, as if he were balancing a book on his head. I am unaccustomed to seeing a cat engaged in this kind of quiet activity.
(#25 in sequence Living with Thomas)