Let’s talk cat

I have a friend. His name is Guido. He likes a lot of the same things I do. He also likes to do things that I think are weird. But that’s ok. He probably thinks the same thing about me.

He is a cat which means his brain is quite small. He doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about abstract concepts. But he is very outspoken about things in the here and now. Like give me food. Or let’s snuggle. Or leave me alone. This makes it easy to know what he wants. I never have to guess or worry that he might say one thing but mean something else.

I like being friends with my cat even though our different abilities mean that sometimes it may seem a slightly inequal friendship. I get food for him, clean his litter box, and open doors when he wants to go out. He gives me headbutts and makes me laugh. But I know that he is here because he wants to be, not because he needs me. If anything, I feel slightly bad for wanting him to need me. After all, a cat can hunt his own food. So me choosing food that he can’t get by himself: that is my preferences making him disabled in that area. The same goes for his litter box. Just because I want him to use the litter box doesn’t mean he is less than me for not being able to clean the litter box that I want him to use. We both understand that.

Sometimes people joke about me being “crazy cat lady” for referring to my cat as a person. Which is silly. Because my cat is not a person and I don’t see him as such. He’s a cat. If I pretended he was a person, I’d be denying the things that make him a cat. So. He’s not a person, he’s not my baby, I’m not his mommy. But he is my friend, because he likes spending time with me. How else would you define friendship?

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9 thoughts on “Let’s talk cat

  1. That is a good definition of friendship:-) that doesn’t go too much in details.

    My definition of person is someone who has a personality. So that automatically includes cats, dogs and possibly all or most living creatures. That doesn’t mean that I project human personalities onto them, or human rights. The first would be wrong, and the latter would be impractical.

    • Thank you!

      You’re definitely right about person and personality. I was trying to figure out a good singular for “people”. In this context, I think “human” would have worked, as you say as well. But I’m going to leave the post as is because otherwise your comment would stop making sense. 🙂

    • I was just struck by a thought.

      I think everyone to a certain degree equates person with personality. But how do we recognise personality? That’s probably something we can only assess in relation to ourselves. So cats and dogs have personality. Horses have personality. Fish are starting to get tricky, but you can still see differences in behaviour from one fish to the next. But do ladybirds have personality? Aphids? Plankton? So I’ve definitely got the idea that personality is a human-based construct and the further we get away from what we recognise as human, the harder it is to recognise personality.

      And maybe that’s the problem with how autistic people get treated. When personality is subjective, it’s really easy for any individual person to simply not see the personhood of an autistic person, because it’s so far removed from what they personally recognise as human. Whereas other people might have a broader definition and so have no problems relating to autistic people as just another branch on the wide spectrum of being human. It might not have anything to do with being verbal or non-verbal, stimmy or non-stimmy, “passing” or not passing. It might be as simple as this.

      I need to think about this more.

      • Interesting thought:-) and I agree. The further a species is from human-like mammal, the harder it is to assess whether it has a “personality”, not to speak of “personhood”.

        I recall a small cavalcade of scientific (lab) experiments trying to establish whether different species have personality, mostly concentrating on simple polar personality types that are easy to measure such as bold personality VS shy personality. A few results that I remember: yes, mice have personality, and yes cockroaches have personality:-)

        As for personhood, here is a curiosity: India has recently become the first country in the world to recognise dolphins (as a species) as non-human persons and has consequently banned the use of dolphins and orcas for commercial entertainment:-) So India’s dolphin parks will be shut down.

        And maybe that’s the problem with how autistic people get treated. When personality is subjective, it’s really easy for any individual person to simply not see the personhood of an autistic person, because it’s so far removed from what they personally recognise as human. Whereas other people might have a broader definition and so have no problems relating to autistic people as just another branch on the wide spectrum of being human. It might not have anything to do with being verbal or non-verbal, stimmy or non-stimmy, “passing” or not passing. It might be as simple as this.

        I suspect that people who are used to relating with animals are the same ones who also acknowledge a wider spectrum of being human:-) and in the extreme narrow end, there are people who have trouble even recognising normal persons from a different culture as real persons worthy of respect and rights and understanding et.c.

        I think passing does make a big difference though. Not being able to communicate with someone and not being able to see the logic in that person’s behaviour (as would be difficult for most people trying to interact with a non-verbal, object-focused and very stimmy person) does tend to lead to dismissal of that person’s personhood as a somewhat natural reaction. When getting to understand that the person does interact with the surroundings (even if not with people), does relate, and does adhere to a coherent logic (even if fairly alien from a psychological point of view), then it gets easier to acknowledge the person’s personhood.

  2. This post is perfect. I have two cow cats and they are very important to me. They just…I don’t know. They’re there. They let me know what’s up. They each have very distinctive personalities (they are not snore kitties), but they are both all about just letting me know what their deal is. Gilroy is a little ruder about it than Audrey. Audrey headbutts to show affection and apparently to show that she feels safe (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-does-my-cat-head-butt-me) and politely sits on the dresser and quietly meows if there is no food in her bowl. Gilroy prefers to sit on your face. That means he needs something. Or wants something. Or that he’s breathing. In any case, in the five years since I’ve adopted them I have often mused about why I love them so much, and it pretty much comes down to your post here. No I am not their mommy, I think that is creepy. We’re just buds. I contribute the food and water and litter cleaning and opposable thumbs, they contribute head butts and fuzziness and bug killings and knocking things off my bookshelf while I sleep. It’s symbiosis.

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