That is where I post cat posts these days unless there's some reason to do it here.
I figured I should announce it again in case there were people here who didn't know where all the cat posts went.
That is where I post cat posts these days unless there's some reason to do it here.
I figured I should announce it again in case there were people here who didn't know where all the cat posts went.
I haven’t yet got to my third post about feline ethics, which is going to be about power. But I just found out today that an article I thought was only in a print copy of Mouth Magazine is also published online by Disability Studies Quarterly.
I had gotten the article because someone claimed in response to a feline ethics post, that everyone who loved animals would agree that euthanasia is a good thing. And AnneC pointed out that this is not in fact the case, and that she (as I do) has serious problems with the overuse of euthanasia on cats. And I remembered this article. Unique in breaking the massive taboo against questioning pet euthanasia:
The biggest power we have over cats is the power of life and death. Whether or not we swear we would never use it we still have it. It is not a crime to take a cat to the vet and have her killed because she was scratching the furniture, or because she is homeless. We have this power and cats know we have this power. Every animal knows that a bigger, stronger animal is a potential threat to their life. And this is just talking about uses of euthanasia that have nothing at all to do with terminal illness. I won’t go into everything I think, but suffice to say that I think in a better world euthanasia would not be used for trivial reasons ever, and would not be considered the first and best option (rather than, say, treatment and palliative care) the moment a cat is diagnosed with something scary. And there would be better pet insurance than currently exists, and there would be more research into feline pain management (very different from humans), assistive technology, and modifications to the home. And only then should euthanasia even be brought up as an option, if it has to be. We have too much power, we are too frequently persuaded to use it wrongly, and that we use it out of love and guilt doesn’t make the cat any more alive in the end. (And I’m as guilty as anyone else.)
Conventional wisdom goes that since, when given the classic and highly species-biased “mirror test”, cats “flunk” it, then they don’t know that their reflection is themselves, and don’t in fact know that mirrors reflect things and that they can see behind themselves using mirrors and so forth.
AnneC and I are trying to debunk a lot of similar myths about cats. The tests cats are given are often not cat-friendly and don’t reflect cats in their usual environment doing their usual things. And I’ve long known that Fey uses mirrors. In fact sometimes she uses two mirrors at once — the one over the sink and the one on the bathroom door — to make direct eye contact with people. More than one staff person who thought cats couldn’t use mirrors, have been startled, some even terrified, to see a cat looking them straight in the face using a mirror or two. One even screamed and dropped what she was carrying and just kept repeating, “Your cat looked at me in the mirror. Cats can’t use mirrors.”
Here’s a photo of her using one mirror to look at me as she hears me come up behind her with a camera:
As to why that scares people? I think it’s the same phenomenon that has terrified many people about me. They see me going about my business and stereotype me as not being what they consider a real person. Then I do anything from looking at them to typing something and they visibly startle and begin to act scared. They respond to me as if a potted plant got up and walked around. And I see people doing the same to Fey all the time.
And why that is… I’m not entirely sure. I almost expect them to cross themselves like we are demon possessed. They think of us as something unnatural, something deeply wrong that just shouldn’t happen that way. And there’s something deeply wrong with that in a whole different way than what they think of us.
None of these photos are of today. Today was far more… vigorous.
[Photo shows Fey, a grey ticked cat with a white stripe down her belly, white paws, white chin, and a white four-pointed star on her nose, with yellow-green eyes. She is lying on her side, with one paw curled over.]
Today was one of the first days it was warm enough to take Fey out again since last fall. As usual, she was not happy with the actual feel of being lifted and put into the PetPocket. But everything else about her behavior — even including loving to sleep on the PetPocket — has always seemed to show that the good part of these walks tends to outweigh the bad (although when you’re dealing with someone whose only language is Feline, it’s always possible you’re missing something major). So I took her outside.
She never likes the elevator, and she never likes traffic although she can get used to it. But generally by the time we are out of the building and away from the lines of people flanking the entrance and going “ooooooooo kiiiiittteeeeeeee”, she calms down and starts looking around.
[Photo shows me out in my powerchair with Fey peering out of her PetPocket.]
This being our first day out, she mostly wanted to duck down inside with widening pupils when we were near traffic. So we headed down a side road to get away from the noise (which frankly wasn’t my favorite thing either).
And then we heard it. Some kind of chittery bird noises up in the air. And Fey stopped worrying about traffic and poked her head up, ears pointy, whiskers out, eyes wide but
pupils normal, nose twitching like a rabbit. This is why we go on walks.
[Photo is a closeup of Fey looking around out of her PetPocket.]
We found a tree with a bird’s nest in it and Fey just stared up and whipped her head around to get all the different birds in her sights. I sat around in the parking lot and tried to maneuver the chair wherever her head was pointing. After about half an hour we went home and she curled up in bed with me for a few hours.
But it doesn’t end there. This kind of thing never does. As it started to get late, I heard a “worrreeeauwwww” (and assorted other multisyllabic cat words) coming from the living room. Usually I go out and if she wants water she goes to the kitchen, and if she wants play she goes to the living room. She went to the living room.
Usually our play is pretty predictable. Nearing 11 years old this year, she doesn’t run all over as much as she used to. She likes to sit or lie on the couch while I wave a Cat Dancer back and forth in wide sweeping motions that come near but don’t touch her head. She bats at it for awhile, sometimes more enthusiastically than others. If she catches it, I give her some fish flakes (she loves them so much she’ll eat them out of my hand) and then wait for her to finish grooming herself. Then we do it all again if she wants to. I know most cats like to act as if the toy is prey, but she has made it clear she generally prefers the slower pace of trying to hit it as it whizzed by her.
Well, this time, I got out the Cat Dancer and started to wave it back and forth. WHAP. She hit it on her first try, which is unusual.
[Photo shows Fey delivering a WHAP to the Cat Dancer.]
Then she got me to move it all over the couch while she chased and scrabbled and leapt into the air like a kitten. Her accuracy was way beyond usual and so was her interest. She stood on her back legs and whapped it again and then worked her two front paws in a rapidfire back and forth motion until she had to sit down. Then she did it again. And again. And flopped onto her back to scrabble at it from that position and just kept going.
[Photo shows Fey on her back following the Cat Dancer with her eyes while her two paws are bent into different stages of grabbing at it.]
When I offered her the second round of fish flakes she nipped me (with a “HEY don’t stop now!” sort of look about her) and went back to chasing the toy everywhere until I was finally the one who had to stop from exhaustion.
[Photo shows Fey lying on her side and attacking the Cat Dancer with her claws out.]
When I first bought the PetPocket I had figured it would be better than sitting at one particular window all the time, and that maybe it would fuel her imagination for future play. But I never expected it to be this extreme. Her play suddenly got far more complex, lively, and strategic. And I could tell she was saving up imaginary small animals in her head to hunt back home with the cat toys.
And today has made it clear things still work that way for her. She was nearly doing backflips and probably would still be playing if I weren’t worn out. She hung out in the living room for awhile hoping for more, but has come in and curled up next to my head now that she realizes I’m not going anywhere.
[Photo was taken seconds after the previous photo. Fey is lying on her side. The Cat Dancer is near her belly. She is reaching for it with both front paws, and has her mouth open to bite it with her fierce white fangs showing.]
If you want more cat blogging, AnneC has done a great post on finding out why Nikki (an 8-year-old Siamese) was doing a bunch of things that seemed to make no sense. I am already liking her new cat blog Felines Are Wonderful a lot.
This is the second in an ongoing series of posts about feline-human ethics. The first post is Dealing with cats, part 1: What is Respect? The current post is on the topic of avoiding arrogance. The post that’s currently planned as the next post will be about the power humans hold over cats.
Human arrogance towards cats frequently goes two apparently opposiite directions.
1. Cats are like miniature humans in every way. They understand every word of what we say, are motivated by exactly the things that motivate us, and if they don’t respond exactly how we expect another human to respond then they are just being stubborn, callous, cruel, manipulative, etc. Any attempt to say otherwise relegates cats to the realm of dumb animals.
2. Cats are totally unlike and inferior to humans. They do not understand a single word of what we say, cannot love, cannot reason, are not self-aware, etc. They see us as food sources and nothing more. Any claim otherwise needs to be rigorously proven in a laboratory setting, and is probably a misunderstanding of basic instinctual behavior.
The first approach is arrogant because it comes from a tendency to view the world, and especially cats, as a reflection of humanity. So it views respecting cats and seeing them as human as if these two things are synonymous. The second approach is arrogant because it views certain traits as exclusive to humans (or at least to “advanced” animals). It also, like many false ideas about cognitive disability in humans, views it as “scientific” to start from the assumption that cats lack certain abilities and demands absolute proof of the presence of those abilities before it will believe in them. Whereas for “normal” humans the preesumption is that we have those abilities.
From my standpoint those views are two sides of the same coin. The idea they both stem from is that humans are superior in certain ways. It’s just that one solves the problem of respecting cats by giving them traits identical to humans, and the other just doesn’t bother respecting cats and assumes that only humans have traits that are common among many species, cats included.
Often someone who holds one of these beliefs will assume that the other belief is the only other one possible, so that if you doubt one you must believe the other. If you doubt the first one someone will think you believe cats are nothing like humans and are overly wedded to the biases of many scientists, and if you doubt the second one someone will believe you’re engaging in overly sentimental anthropomorphism.
When most people think about cats, they see them as having a life that is simpler than our own. A little life that can be contained inside the bigger concepts that humans have. Emotions are like ours but fewer of them, thoughts are like ours but less complicated and not as many, and so forth.
This is not a useful way to look at the lives of cats. They are not miniature humans, and they are certainly not like humans but with certain aspects blunted, removed, and simplified. They are cats. They have their own complex way of relating to the world and each other. They have their own emotions which they feel according to their own values. They have things in common with us, but it’s dangerous to assume either identicalness or that they are just limited versions of us.
So when you think of cats, have some humility. Understand that there are more aspects to their way of doing things than humans can even perceive, let alone understand. This doesn’t make cats innately mysterious, it just means that we are working with different bodies, sensory organs, and brains. Even humans with the best sense of smell have nothing on cats. Our visual system is set up totally differently, not only can we not see in low light levels but our perception of motion is nothing like a cat’s. These are not little differences, they shape cats and humans into very different beings. As humans trying to understand cats, there are just flat out things we will only comprehend the vague shape of, and others we will never guess.
Be excited over these differences rather than trying to think of cats as inferior or even simpler beings. This is not to diminish what we have in common either, just an attempt to avoid making them into lesser beings just because they are different ones.
It is also important not to think of yourself as a Cat Expert. If all the stories you tell others or yourself contain phrases like “good with cats”, “a way with animals”, etc., then you are headed in the wrong direction entirely. You may have an affinity with cats — I have always found them easier to relate to than humans — but the moment your self-image depends on being right about all matters cattish, you are doing the cats a grave disservice. Because once you enter that frame of mind, you will begin to delude yourself and forget that you can make mistakes. The moment you forget that you can make mistakes, you are able to do great harm to the people you base your ego on understanding. And ‘people’ there includes cats.
Whenever someone meets Fey and begins by saying they are ‘good with cats’ or similar, I try to convey enough watchful alarm in my body language for Fey to pick up on it and get on the alert herself. (Such people never notice this body language in either one of us.) Some things I have seen such people do:
1. Grab her and find a way to hold her where she knows she can’t fight. At that point she gives up (but looks terribly uncomfortable) and they tell me, “See she likes being held after all if someone who is good with cats does it”.
(I have even seen mention of that one in a better than average book about cats. But most cat books don’t mention it or other ethical issues at all, except sometimes to reassure humans that whatever decisions they make for cats are the right ones.)
2. Try to do whatever I just told them not to do. If they succeed in doing it without provoking a major response, they assume she is okay. If they do provoke a major response (hissing, spitting, tail lashing, ears back, clawing for instance) they go “awwww what a cute playful little kitty cat” and make me want to go at them with my claws out.
For example, Fey has some kind of condition affecting a particular nerve going to her back right leg. The vet said she had never seen a cat so thoroughly indicate that the problem is a particular nerve and not others. I tend to tell people to avoid her entire back end. On good days she will initiate touch in that area, on mediocre days she will allow touch but stiffen and look uncomfortable, and on bad days she will indicate pain in every possible way and defend herself by any means necessary.
Some really egotistical people will, upon explanation of this, proceed to grab her by the exact body part that hurts in order to try and prove they are Special People Gifted With Animals who can touch her there without provoking a response. And even if she responds by mauling them, they Dont Get It. At all. No matter what happens, they especially don’t get that causing another living being intense physical pain on purpose to prove that they are a special good kind of human only proves that they are an especially terrible, insensitive, and cruel kind of human who ought not to be allowed within a mile of a cat.
(I have also seen these sorts of people at the animal shelter. Fortunately they get thrown out pretty quickly because, among other things, if an animal scratched someone they have to be put in isolation for a long time which is horrible for the animal and everyone wants to prevent it. And because the people who work there actually care about animals.)
3. Read all sorts of bizarre and obviously false things into her behavior because they just can’t possibly handle the idea of not knowing what some action on Fey’s part means. Which in turn leads to really pissing her off eventually.
4. Use their “knowledge” about her as an ego trip or power play with me or other people.
5. Do any or all of these things to me as well, because lots of people who view themselves as Good With Cats also view themselves as Good With Autistics (or sometimes Good With Nonspeaking People). And they especially love to do it in situations where I can’t do anything about it. Such as get me in a situation where I can’t respond well and then harangue someone for ‘upsetting me’ or something when nothing of the sort has even happened.
Viewing yourself as Good With an entire category of people opens you up to massively egotistical mistakes that lead you down the road to outright physical and emotional abuse. It doesn’t matter if everyone around you comments on your gift with cats, your way with cats, your being a cat whisperer, whatever. I ignore such comments if I get them. I have a close relationship with a cat. Not special powers. You should never ever let praise go to your head. No matter who you are, your ability to make grievous mistakes when trying to understand another species is an absolute given. Until you understand this, avoid cats.
And if you have either thought “This part of the post doesn’t apply with me because I am too good with cats to make serious mistakes,” or if you respond to other cat lovers admitting to serious mistakes by either thinking or uttering “I am so good with cats that I could never make that level of mistake”? That goes double for you. I have a deep and rewarding and loving two-way connection to Fey that is more detailed in our understanding of each other than any other relationship, human or cat, that I have ever had. And we both make mistakes and have misunderstandings every single day. If you think that doesn’t happen you are fooling yourself and setting yourself up to harm the cat.
The other direction arrogance can go is in assuming there is no actual harm in making massive mistakes because it’s just a cat. Or worse, that because the cat can’t tell anyone what you do, it is really okay. I have only ever got one person to admit that last one. But as someone whose ability to communicate in standard ways can come and go, I have watched what I thought were decent people transform into assholes many times the moment they thought I was either unaware or unable to tell anyone what they had done. And if it was bad for me it would be worse for cats.
I don’t really know what to say to all that. I know people who think if someone purportedly can’t understand what’s happening then cruelty isn’t wrong. I know some peopleonly care about being caught doing wrong, not about doing wrong itself, because such people have done awful things to me when I either couldn’t tell anyone or wouldn’t be believed if I did. But I know that each time people play out such attitudes on cats, the cats suffer.
Cats also suffer when treated like humans in cat suits. They end up being punished in ways that feel like a random attack from nowhere for no reason. People do things that are polite to humans but terribly rude to cats. And cats also suffer when people assume that things like love are too human for cats to fathom. Working across species is even harder than working across cultures in many respects, it’s hard to know what’s exclusively human and what we share with other animals. And there are things we may never know.
The best way to approach learning about cats is with a combination of respect and humility. Know that you’re going to mess up, but don’t focus on it so hard that you don’t even try. Be alert to signals that the cat doesn’t like what you’re doing, and don’t laugh them off with “awwww aren’t we feisty today”. Treat the cat as an individual and conscious being that you are getting to know, not as a human or a mindless automaton. Keep your ego out of the way. And above all, be aware that despite differences in species, you are dealing with someone (not something) who is capable of feeling love, physical and emotional pain, anger, joy, fear, and many other things. Treat them accordingly.
The photograph is of Fey, a grey cat with ticked fur and some white markings. She is lying curled up on a foam mattress on top of a hospital bed tilted slightly upward. Her face is at the top, in profile. You can see the dome of her eye, with a large black pupil underneath, her eyebrow whiskers pointed straight up, and a big triangular ear pointed directly at the camera. The focus becomes fuzzy towards her tail, which is curled up and around. You can also see the shiny bedrail with some notebooks behind it. The mattress she is laying on is yellow memory foam with a pale green bedsheet part on and part off it. The foam is roughly the same shade of yellow as her eye.
I’ve been wanting to get pictures like this for a long time.
Either click on the above to see the original size (very large file), or look at the closeup in the next image, to see the kittylashes:
Either click on the above to see the original size (very large file), or look at the closeup in the next image, to see the kittylashes:
I have wanted to show kittylashes for a long time, and finally got them on camera!
I am writing this entirely submerged under a big pile of blankets. No part of me is sticking out.
A few minutes ago, I heard Fey jump onto the bed. I lifted up the blankets, wondering if she would poke her head in and then rapidly pull it out, finding some other place to be. She didn’t. She went straight under the covers. Then she went over the lowest blanket and under the rest, down near my belly. I felt her paws scrabbling around while she turned around several times. Then she finally curled up, and is still lying there, one blanket separating her from me.
I remember being the size of maybe two or three cats, and the way blankets turned into an interesting series of caves. But now I am much less maneuverable, and much taller. But it’s still nice to be burrowed under blankets with a cat on a day like this. (And I have to say she chose a better spot than the time about a year ago when she burrowed into my crotch while I was asleep and I dreamed I was giving birth.)
Still taking awhile to write the cat posts, so more cat photos are happening:
The first one is a photograph of Fey sitting on top of her PetPocket, which is on top of the couch. She sits on that thing all the time, when she’s not taking rides in it.
Here is a blurry photo of her curled up in an interesting shape on the bed:
Here the photo is in better focus, but is cut off in the middle of her eyes. Her tongue, though, is sticking out and curled up to one side, in the middle of a wash apparently:
Here you can see part of her face, and part of my face, with the mattress taking up most of the photo:
The following three photos are of her leaning her head against the mattress, from three different angles:
Here she is snuggled against me my face, seen from above. Having a shaved head again is great, because I can feel her fur with any part of my head.
Here we are again, but she has her nose tucked under her arm:
Here we are with our heads pressed together at the side, but pointing in opposite directions:
Here she is with her arm over her nose, looking at me out of the corner of her eye:
And here she is sitting on my wheelchair yet again:
Disclaimer: I am not an animal rights activist, I have zero connection to that movement and their personal sets of widgets, and often only minimal exposure to them through some of their worst representatives (PETA, Peter Singer).
I think the argument about whether animals (including humans) have a nebulous and abstract quality called “personhood” (which seems to have to do with the values of a particular set of human cultures) is the entirely wrong way to go about giving respect to animals. Too often it is terribly ableist and depends upon whether the creature in question possesses certain traits valued by certain humans, and when you go down that road you end up creating a set of criteria that not even all humans let alone all the rest of animals meet. Then you end up creating a system that privileges people based on those traits. And Singer is only among the worst of human beings to do this, he is far from the only one. In fact most people I encounter regularly seem to do this sort of thing all the time, to one degree or another. Arguments about “sentience” are similarly doomed, offensive, and full of the obvious limitations of various human imaginations when it comes to non-humans and some humans. Except that somehow they’re given even more of an outer sense of objectiveness because “sentience” seems to mostly be used in scientific or science-fiction circles.
[Edited to add: I have been told that some of that may matter in legal situations. But this series of cat posts is about personal situations between humans and cats. So in this context, cats should be respected because they exist.]
I base my beliefs in matters like this on respect.
I believe that everything, human or not, animal or not, conventionally considered alive at all or not, is worthy of respect.
I do not believe this in some fluffy insubstantial manner; fluffy sorts of people have been attracted to me in the past because the words I use superficially resemble words they sometimes use, but as soon as they find out a bit of what I am actually about they have a habit of running away rapidly. It is serious to me, solid, and ethically demanding. I also happen to believe that everything communicates and can be communicated with. I do not mean sitting around speaking out loud to rocks and having them speak out loud back. I mean that everything conveys information to everything else, whether or not that information is transmitted through the laws of physics or through complex linguistic patterns.
This is a perception that I have had my entire life and that has often been at odds with my culture. But I can’t let go of it just because some people have done terrible (and I do mean terrible) things to me on this basis (although at times I have learned to avoid the subject altogether). It is too important to how I treat others, from humans to cats to plants to rocks. I am not (as some have misinterpreted me) attributing human traits to nonhumans, I am rather saying that I view every kind of thing from humans to nonhumans as having a quality entirely their own that is important and valuable and worthy of respect and sincere attempts to listen to what they have to say to the world around them.
(I also don’t divide the world up the same way the English language forces me to sound like, but I have learned that very few other humans can speak the language I started out with and have always carried with me underneath the various attempts to sound as if I speak English. I have also found that attempts to translate my language to English not only fall short but cause reactions in others from ridicule to condemnation as incredibly inadequate in some manner whether moral or functional. And that linguists get pissed that I use the term language at all but I don’t know a better one.)
How do I know this language or whatever you call it is shared by other people? For one thing, I see it mentioned from time to time:
Momo listened to everyone and everything, to dogs and cats, crickets and tortoises — even to the rain and the wind in the pine trees — and all of them spoke to her after their own fashion.
Many were the evenings when, after her friends had gone home, she would sit by herself in the middle of the old stone amphitheater, with the sky’s starry vault overhead, and simply listen to the great silence around her.
Whenever she did this, she felt she was sitting at the center of a giant ear, listening to the world of the stars, and she seemed to hear soft but majestic music that touched her heart in the strangest way. On nights like these, she always had the most beautiful dreams.
Those who still think listening isn’t an art should see if they can do half as well.
–Michael Ende, Momo
Or the following quote (somewhat autistic-centric and specific-culture-centric, so occasionally prone to generalizations):
MM: [Speaking of some autistic people...] we do not draw a line between inanimate and animate beings, that they all have a soul to us.
Daina: As a child, everything was somewhat alive to me. Perhaps the face-processing tendency that most NTs have enables them early on to distinguish what is alive and what isn’t, and what is human and what isn’t.
Ava: Or maybe what is and isn’t alive, is just another assumption that NTs make. So for the NT child, either because of the strength of those attachments to faces and the accompanying social world, or through some coincidental developmental process, the aliveness of the sensory world fades. Whereas we ACs retain more of the direct experience of the world and less of the face-addiction-belief thing.
Sola: This reminds me of a poem that I studied in high school, “The Pond” by Bjalik. The poem describes a secret place in the forest, where there is a little pond and a tree growing from it. When the poet was a little boy, he used to go there, alone, and listen to the “language of visions,” an unmediated way for the child to communicate with the tree and the pond. The articles that I read about this poem discussed the role of spoken language, as adding the social aspect, separating the initially naive child from the true essence of the world. I was enchanted by the poem. For many months I perseverated on the meaning of communication and language, searching the library for more articles about this. However, unlike the conclusion of the poem, I did not feel that growing up and maturing inevitably meant losing this innocence and being expelled from nature. I felt that I was still that child in the forest. Now that I know that I am AS, I am not surprised that the poem had such influence on me.
MM: We are always sewing souls into the things we create.
Jane: Yes I think soul (essence of being) is created through the creation of a relationship. I call it a moral relationship (which I know sounds prissy or sanctimonious to some), by which I mean a relationship where there is acceptance/acknowledgement of agency and responsibility. When I relate to an object (whether it is another human or a bear I have created out of cloth), with my moral/aware consciousness, when I acknowledge my power to affect (recognize, hurt, heal, shine like the sun or nourish like rain — even to destroy like lightning), I also give power to the other (the object) to affect me. So that other is as alive as I am (in this sense). We are in a moral relationship that gives life meaning. That is why I know the bears who are my most intimate and daily family do help me be/have whatever is good in who I am and what I do. It is the relationship that makes us who we are (that makes me who I am). And I say that even though I have a strong tendency to want to say/feel I am I, alone. That fraction of truth lives inside the larger truth of relationships.
MM: Most of humanity is ignorant for not seeing what is around them. I hear the rocks and trees. Wish me well and tell me I am one of them, one of the silent ones who has now been given a voice, and that I must come out of hiding to protect others without voices: in my case I tend to help give voice to persons with Alzheimer’s disease. My washer and dryer speak to me, and I painted a face on them and gave them names and make sure I don’t overwork them. When I worked in a copy shop I could produce more copies than any other employee. Yes, I could understand the physics of the machines and their limitations from overheating etc. But for me the machines were talking to me and I talked back regularly.
I was raised by my Siamese cat I could understand her language better than the human language, and so I spoke Siamese before I spoke English, and I thought the cat was my real mother because I could understand her more than I could understand humans. I speak to children, babies, machines, rocks and trees as if they can hear me and they know what I am talking about. That is why my success with Alzheimer’s patients is so high: I treat them with such great respect and assume they know what I am saying. And I wonder why the rest of the world is so ignorant as to treat others as stupid and dumb and things and animals so terribly because they are somehow less than us? Well I think that this is a very arrogant stance to think we are better or more alive than these others who very much have a soul.
The last set of quotes is from a set of conversations between several autistic women in the book Women from Another Planet edited by Jean Kearns Miller. It’s not identical to my experience, but the basic idea many of them are getting at is quite similar to my own idea of my innate “language”. These are not the only autistic people I have heard say this either, just the ones readily accessible in a book. Whatever way I innately perceive the world around me in this sense has a lot in common with a specific subgroup of other people, many of whom have been defined by others as autistic but not exclusively that. And I am always glad to hear something of autistic people that isn’t the stereotype of either having an empty head or a head filled exclusively with elaborate formal logic like Spock.
So how does all this apply to cats? Well, in my book cats are as deserving of a fundamental respect as are humans, rocks, and all kinds of other things whether traditionally considered animate or inanimate. Like all forms of respect, this doesn’t mean treating all cats identically to all humans (that would be a frightfully human-centered way of doing things), or even treating all cats or all humans the same as each other. Respect has to do with really listening to who someone is and treating them accordingly, even if that differs from how you would treat someone else with respect. Identical and equal are not the same. It is as wrong to reach out and pet all over a cat who finds indiscriminate petting unpleasant, as it is to withhold petting from a cat who thrives on it (but in both cases it’s also wrong to approach the cat in a way that has everything to do with your own preferences and nothing at all to do with the cat’s!). Respect doesn’t mean you don’t have to work to understand the cat either, but that is a topic for a later post in this series.
This post is the first in a series of posts I am planning to write about how to deal with and interact with cats. It’s an attempt to give a broad overview of where I am coming from before I jump into all the details. And my reason for writing this is my reason for writing most things: I rarely see anything written about the subject matter from this perspective, I know I can’t be unique in valuing this perspective (because no one is that unique no matter what they believe), and so I write the kind of thing I would like to see written. And because a friend and I have been discussing nothing but cats for ages, so my brain is pointed in this direction.
[Photo is Fey, viewed from over the top of both of our heads. Her face is pointing the opposite direction of mine, and mine is barely visible in the photo. Her cheek is partly on my cheek and partly on the grey neck pillow. She is a grey cat with ticked fur, and a white area on her nose like a diamond on top of a triangle of white. There is also some white visible on the tiny part of her chest that you can see. She has green eyes, each one partially shut but with one more so than the other. Her ears are in their normal relaxed position. Her whiskers are neither pulled in nor pushed out, and can only be seen on one side where they spray upwards (her face is pointing to the left side of the photo). And to me, the way her face looks in this photo is both intense and familiar, although I don't know how they would look to anyone else.]
These photos could easily go with my last cat post, and will have to do while I’m writing a series of new cat-related posts. She was doing something similar to this when I came up with the poem in the last cat post.
I don’t have an adequate way to describe how the photos differ from each other. All of them involve parts of my face showing, and parts of Fey showing. (Fey is a grey cat with ticked fur and some white markings on her face, paws, and belly.) In nearly all of them, Fey has parts of her face pressed to my cheek. We are lying next to each other on my bed, which is slightly tilted upward at the head. The pictures are from various angles. In the last photo, Fey is sniffing my forehead.
We can sit like this for hours, whether awake or asleep.