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I used to swallow the explanations naturalists provided for the actions of animals. They'd say cats do everything by instinct, not by thinking. Cats are loners. They'd say birds make certain sounds to attract mates. They'd say animals aren't altruistic, don't have emotions. Cattle don't know they are going to die. I read a rather arduous explanation by Desmond Morris on why cats purr...

Yet another part of me had to be persuaded. These pronouncements ran against my own instincts. I decided that I must be wrong, then. But somewhere along the way I thought again.

When I listen to the birds outside I can't believe the sounds are all some kind of mating or newscast game. When I watch the way my cats respond to me, the way they follow me into my bedroom and leap on the bed so they can be close to me, I know it isn't simply because I feed them. It isn't even necessarily because I pet them. I won't go so far as to impose a human-like emotion on another animal but I don't believe that whatever feelings animals have are in any way inferior to ours.  And memories. There is a lot to suggest that many animals have histories in their families, that they learn of the past from others. Each generation does not start out a blank slate, impregnated with nothing but instinct.

I have come to trust my own instincts.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 30th, 2005 09:30 pm (UTC)
I agree!
We are on the same page, Judy.

My house cat, Bok, the bengal who adored my late husband, is just now starting to come out of the depression he has been in since Donn was killed. For over a year he was totally withdrawn, even around all the kittens. Just the last couple months has he started to show interest in his surroundings again, sleep on my bed at night and interact. No one can tell me he hasn't been grieving.
Sep. 30th, 2005 09:55 pm (UTC)
Re: I agree!
Absolutely. The bonds they form seem so strong and uncomplicated by petty differences.

It's funny how in many disciplines - I'm thinking Buddhism, for example - we try to be more like animals; yet we don't give the animals the credit.
Sep. 30th, 2005 11:57 pm (UTC)
I have to agree, when I think about Vincent.

He loves me, in his own way. When I'm in the bathroom, brushing my hair and putting on makeup, he likes to sit and watch, and I let him smell all the fragrances of powder and lipstick and cold cream.

He just likes to watch me.

He is truly a cat with cat mind, but he stretches out to meet me, too.

When I walk by, he likes to nip me. If I pet him, he bites me, very gently.
Oct. 2nd, 2005 02:32 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, these little cat actions. There is no explanation for them if you think the cat isn't thinking or truly affectionate.

My Stretch is lying on my lap right now as I type. I touch him now and then but mostly he just lies there, content. I realize there are many possible explanations, but I like to think that when he found his way to my porch he knew what he was doing. He knew he belonged here.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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