Note how the cat may seem to be utterly taken up in the pursuit of a piece of string that taunts it from behind a sofa; on another occasion, it may seem to be in the throes of a blood-sport confrontation with another cat. Yet, as either of these scenarios is playing out, the cat may suddenly reprioritize and decide that what must happen at this very moment is that it must lean back and lick its back leg. Note also how this code of conduct is respected by an opposing cat – it will almost never choose that moment of apparent vulnerability to launch its attack. This ritualistic attitude towards warfare would be considered as ancient tribalism in human terms, yet it is an ingrained – dare I say instinctive – part of feline society.
This sort of attitude (cattitude?) puts we humans to shame. We may fancy ourselves to be self-centered, even hedonistic sorts, but our mental discipline for self-indulgence pales before the standards and practices of the cat.
As a further demonstration, I have a couple of thought experiments to present today. They both involve extraordinary occurrences which may or may not ever occur in reality. The point is not in their plausibility; I’m simply employing their extremity to clarify a point.
Consider an alien abduction — If you or I were taken up into an alien craft run by pale, smooth-skinned, bald, naked beings with large dark eyes and huge foreheads – well, sitting here in our cluttered, comfortable living rooms, we might tell ourselves that we would remain clear-headed, savvy, and alert. The likely truth, though, is that we would be scared out of our friggin’ wits. We might go into shock. We might wet ourselves. In short, we would be completely at the mercy of our captors until such time as they chose to release us. If we were lucky, we would retain no memory of the encounter and would resume our timid lives.
I see things working out very differently if a cat were abducted. The first thing the cat would do is determine that there was no odor of other cats in their craft, and it would set about to systematically scent-mark every reachable wall, floor, and object. A suitable flat surface, such as a star map, would be quickly claimed as the cat’s own property and would be sat upon squarely. A laser pistol left within reach would quickly be adopted as a toy and batted about until it no longer functioned, or until it was accidentally discharged and did major damage to the alien craft. If the engine room had a store of discarded dilithium dust, it would soon be utilized as a litter box. In very short order, the cat would be clawing at the tender, bare ankles of the aliens and demanding food. Before long, the cat would find itself returned to its home. It would not retain any memory of the encounter, not because of any particular trauma, but because it held so little importance to the cat. And though UFOs would continue to be sighted throughout the land, they would cease to be reported anywhere within miles of the abductee’s home.
Now consider poltergeists and other hauntings — I always try to remind myself that I have had much harm done to me over the years by the living, but so far as I know, no harm at all has been done to me by the dead, so really now, which of the two should I fear more? And just as with space aliens, I like to imagine that I would react to a ghostly specter with the mind of a scientist. But once again, it is far more likely that my rational mind would quickly collapse like a re-heated soufflé and I would run screaming into the dark night.
Anyone who has cats for any length of time must quickly recognize that cats already have a relationship with the Other Side, and that this relationship is mostly characterized by the cat’s disdain and dominance of the spirit world. Countless times, I have watched as my cat batted at, pursued, and cornered a spirit undetectable by my meager senses.
Consider the poor poltergeist, whose ambition is limited to such activities as rapping on walls, rattling windows, and leaving ectoplasm on the walls and floors. Do I even need to explain how a cat can readily simulate all of these things? It must frustrate such entities no end to create their grandest manifestations at the stroke of midnight, only to have the resident humans roll over and go back to sleep, attributing all of it to the cat.
In closing, I want to remind all of you who’s in charge – when your cat tells you it’s hungry, what do you do? You feed it, that’s what. Well, the next time you’re feeling hungry yourself, tell your cat about it. See how much he cares. See how quickly he jumps up to fix you a meal. Now you know who’s running the show.