If cats survive.


This has absolutely nothing to do with just about anything I usually write about.

But I was watching this show recently about what would happen in the extremely unlikely event that something made humans but no other species go extinct. (They did not get into the near-impossibility of this scenario.) At first it was really depressing, but then they were showing how once all the cities were overgrown, housecats would take over living in the ruins off of all the small animals and birds that were now living there. (And they showed how cats already do that in some ruins.)

I know it sounds strange, but I could deal with the concept of extinction of the human race a lot better if I knew the cats were going to take over. I know that’s unlikely to happen — anything that would affect humans so drastically would affect other species as well — but if cats survive it seems less depressing.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

32 responses »

  1. I spent a HUGE amount of my childhood thinking about what would happen if humans became extinct. I used to read loads and loads of stuff about ecosystems, prehistoric creatures, mass extinctions, early human history, how humans domesticated animals, etc, and there was an illustrated book called “After Man” which was basically a speculative “future history” of what kind of animals would exist millions of years after humans went extinct.

    My fantasies didn’t usually go that far ahead, but usually centred on a plague or something that wiped out all or nearly all the humans (some blame must go to books like John Wyndham’s “Day of the Triffids” and Richard O’Brien’s “Z for Zachariah”, and films like “The Omega Man”, for that), but rather than centring on the few human survivors, mine would centre on the future ecosystem, with domestic animals evolving into wild versions, forests replacing cities, etc – packs of wild dogs hunting wild cows, stuff like that…

    I also, whenever i am on a bus or a train, tend to imagine what would happen if there was some freakish disaster and the only people left alive in the world were the people on that bus or train, and they would have to repopulate the human race…

    I don’t actually know whether this is an autistic thing or not. But my fantasies of a world without human civilisation were usually comforting rather than depressing (probably because they originated before i cared about humans at all, when civilisation was just a mass of noise, taunting, crowds, etc, and wandering alone in the local countryside was the only “escape” from it for me… after puberty, when i started caring about and desiring the friendship of other human beings, the fantasies shifted to a small, family-like but equal, group surviving in the “empty world” after the disaster killed everyone else…)

  2. Which ruins did they show? Ever since my daughter (age 8 at the time) heard that hundreds of cats were allowed to live in some ruins in Rome, she’s wanted to go there. Apparently volunteers, including tourists, help maintain the area, and the cats lounge around on ancient columns.

  3. My guess is that in a devastating plague, there would be some with genetic resistance. That happened not only with the black death, but also with the even worse smallpox plague that killed a lot of American Indians. These things devastated the countries they happened in, but some people still survived. Which is one reason I think all this is unlikely.

    I read Z for Zachariah at one point. I had a special interest in dystopias and apocalyptic stories for a long time.

    I liked the idea of being somewhere without people, but I never liked the idea of various people dying, except at a point in a period of adolescent arrogance when I wished that a certain percentage of the population would drop dead painlessly and suddenly, and that I didn’t care if I was in it, because of overpopulation. But that’s different, and I eventually realized that was a bad idea.

    But… yeah. It was depressing not just for the humans dying, but them showing how all the books would decay and fall apart.

  4. “…except at a point in a period of adolescent arrogance when I wished that a certain percentage of the population would drop dead painlessly and suddenly, and that I didn’t care if I was in it, because of overpopulation. But that’s different, and I eventually realized that was a bad idea.”

    I can TOTALLY relate to that. In fact I used to wish for the whole society as it is to more or less dissolve…..and reorganize into something totally different. But I have so far not been able to describe what I wished it to become, or even fully agree that I did want it to become a certain different way than it is…..

    I haven’t thought directly about this in a long time. Probably because I haven’t allowed myself to. If I could somehow write coherently about it, I might “earn” a few extra spoons (ref. to your spoons post-about the analogy of the person with MS using spoons as metaphor for energy).

    Have you, or has anyone else reading who writes…ever “earned” or “created” (not exact words, but I’m already late so they’ll have to do) extra energy from writing about something that’s been on your mind for ages, previously unexpressed/unexpressable?

    and I just confused myself again…..darned words.

    with contributions from The Integral

  5. Not exactly the same thing, but when contemplating disaster situations, I find myself getting especially anxious when I think about what sad fate will befall the domesticated animals. That couple-of-seconds scene in Cloverfield when the carriage horses are wandering around still hitched to the carriage? Man, that had me on edge for half the movie. I kept silently begging somebody to run out and unhitch them, even when that scene was long gone and more poignant/alarming stuff was happening. And don’t get me started on the dog in I Am Legend. And I never read the book, but I saw the cover when I worked in a book warehouse — one of the American Girl stories; the girl lived during the depression and they turned their dog out wearing a sign that said “Can’t feed her anymore” . . . augh . . . *sniff* Gawd. That’s the stuff that really depresses me, puts me hopelessly on edge. Or the idea of people in disaster situations resorting to eating their pets . . . Augh!

    But yeah . . . I think the cats would actually do just fine, if such an unlikely thing as total human obliteration actually happened. And the dogs, too . . . what worries me about stray critters now is that humans will abuse them. So yeah. Post-cataclysmic cats and dogs might get eaten by coyotes and the like, but somehow that’s much more comforting than the idea that people will kick them or something.

  6. Well, peak oil might be one possibility, although that will probably not make us go extinct so much as go back a couple centuries. Sadly for cats and dogs and cows and so on, domesticated animals will be the first to go if we go.

  7. should we be teaching them to read and operate technology, just in case? (~_^)

    although i almost think my cat would be like, “oh yeah, i could do that stuff EASY… if i WANTED to.”

  8. Well, cats do get eaten by coyotes nowadays (that’s why it’s unsafe to have an outdoor cat in the country, too). But they’ve survived that just fine; they survive as feral cats in the cities… Cats are a very hardy species–not as individuals, but because they have such a lot of offspring. It’s the same strategy as rabbits: Have a lot of kittens, and some are bound to survive. Also, cats are the most efficient hunters of their size… All that, and I’d think it’s pretty darn plausible that even domesticated cats (who still retain quite a lot of wild instinct) in the absence of humans would simply go feral and do quite nicely.

  9. “although i almost think my cat would be like, “oh yeah, i could do that stuff EASY… if i WANTED to.””

    n. Makes me think of a humor article I read way back in the ’80s. By a woman who had cats of her own but claimed to scorn them (I’m sure that was a put-on for the purpose of humor): the premise of her parody essay was that she vehemently challenged the notion that cats are intelligent creatures. Toward the end of her essay she points out that her own cat is resting on her feet on the floor as she was writing the essay and triumphantly argues that if cats truly were as intelligent as people claim then the cat resting at her feet would NEVER put up with her writing an essay that maligns their proud species — why, if cats truly were so intelligent as that, then this cat would get up right now, walk over to the wall socket, and unplug my word proces

  10. I think it’s not too implausible that humans could go extinct without directly impacting other creatures. All that would be required would be a superplague, which, with the way that genetic engineering is going, is quite plausible.

  11. …yeah, a couple of us did used to do “PEOPLE SUCK I HOPE EVERYONE DIES” for a little while in our teenage years, or, also, the more common (I suspect) fantasies about something that’ll kill off most of the human race but somehow save all the “enlightened ones” (and of course the person having this fantasy always regards themselves as one of the enlightened ones who will live).

    I don’t think we ever took it that seriously, though, which is why it’s sad (in a way) when we see people or groups actually taking the “enlightened ones will survive” thing seriously, or honestly believing that everyone except them and their chosen elite is a stupid sheep who deserves to die or something.

  12. Ivan: I’ve generally found, if I’ve been agonizing over expressing something for a long time, that when I finally get around to writing about it the product is unsatisfactory. As though finally putting it into a coherent string of words turns it into something overly simplistic, something that sorta trivializes all the “deep” thinking that’s inspired it. :/

    Then again, having it saved in writing can certainly be useful to refer folks to the next time you’re trying to express the idea . . .

  13. I sometimes imagine what the world might be like in another millennium or so, if birthrates continue to fall at the rates seen in some industrialized countries such as Germany and Japan. Whole cities might end up being turned into historical sites, with monorails and walking trails and urban forests surrounding selected, carefully preserved structures.

    And plenty of happy feral cats, of course.

  14. n.: Judging by most of the comments in the post that you linked to, I wouldn’t be surprised if cats chose such an easy target in their bid for world domination. That was a scary glimpse into a bizarre world. I couldn’t even make sense of some of the comments.

  15. @stefan –
    cute overload has a strange language of its own, which i don’t get the point of. why use a special invented dialect to talk about how cute things are? (as opposed to lolcats language, which at least has the premise that if cats wrote english it would be a second language to them, which has some sense to it.) looking at the nice animalitos on C.O. usually makes me happy, though (except cats in costumes, which is just OFF). hey amanda sorry i am back for 3 seconds and already big tangent (*_*) surprise?! nope.

  16. My cats believe they rule the world. They certainly terrorize my dog, a black lab/Rottweiler mix approximately five times their size… and use us humans for slaves. I’ve caught one of my cats, Cobalt using the Internet a number of times. I caught the other reading a book on ornithology. Cobalt feels free to walk into other people’s homes, eat their cat food, and bully their cats. He is the king of Richmond.

  17. Evonne: yeah, I’ve felt that way before……..about my thoughts actually put in words………for sure. Like……..all that hard work of getting the words out for………very little. Didn’t do justice to the thought………because the words I had access to for writing were not right for whatever I was trying to express. Athena (host personality…or whatever you call that…..Amorphas, help me find a better expression for that please.) has felt that way more often, probably. She struggles more with words………so I’ve been trying to write her stuff out for her but it’s very difficult because I do not want to put words in her mouth.


  18. I don’t feel so alone now, or so guilty, for being fascinated with “what if” disaster scenarios… When I see a real disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, I have a sort of fascination and amazement and horror at the same time; and I end up wishing something like, “I wish this weren’t real, or I wish it didn’t affect anybody, so I could enjoy how amazing it is.”

  19. OT as usual, or following my own tangent-thread. i figured out, maybe, why cuteoverload has its own dialect. every blog that wants to be popular needs to have a signature, something like a tone, a mood or a gimmick. plus it could get boring saying everyday how things are “adorable” but if you can say “anerable” instead, somehow it’s less boring. (???) i just pity any poor japanese kowai (= cute culture, i think i spelled it wrong, though) -hunters, who ever try to learn english from that site. i have noticed, both with my ESL friends and my students of Spanish, the confusion that can arise from language variations (even ones that are “intuitive” to many native speakers).

  20. I can totally relate to such thoughts though I never thought about it relating specifically to cats.

    And Yoko cries if she doesn’t get some bonita flakes everyday.

  21. I watched the show with my son – the part that stayed with me was the speculation that cats would somehow evolve the ability to fly – or at least glide between the abandoned buildings. That felt emotionally discordant with the rest of the program yet strangely cheery.


  22. sometimes i think it might be better for the world if we all went extinct. i mean we are only making things worse. most people don’t even care.. it freaks me out to think that it might be better to the world and EVERYONE ELSE living in the world who are not humans if we were actually not here. not that i’d enjoy it myself though. i’m just trying to think objectively.
    surely it would be better if cats stayed xD generally, cats are much nicer than rats or roaches, which are usually thought of being the only ones who would be able to survive any nuclear tragedies.. apart from that, cats are just really awesome. my favorite animal, personally.

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