And You Thought It Was Just 'Catitude'By DAVE KIFFER
March 08, 2018
Actually, it's an old story that seems to get rediscovered every so often and passed around on the internet until it shows up on your screen like it's brand new, because, given everyone's modern short attention spans, it is.
Speaking of which, that is one of the great joys of getting older, everything old is truly new again.
I have reached the stage where I can hear great old stories about the past and not realize I have heard them before!
I have also reached the stage where I can tell great stories about the past and not realize I have told them before!!
Probably in the past 20 minutes.
You see, I recently passed a landmark birthday.
No, not one of those 0 birthdays (20-30-40-250) that we all are expected to commemorate.
For me it has always been the 9s (29-39-49-259) that always get my attention. It's like a little warning bell goes off, that the "big 0 birthday" is "just around the corner."
Maybe that's why so many women of my mother's generation kept saying they were 29. Even after the point where their children were in the 30s.
Anyway, I have trouble with the "nasty nines."
I remember being gobsmacked at turning 29. It seemed so freaking ancient. It was almost - horror - 30. Which was indeed older than even the bristlecone pines. At 29, I was almost - horror - 30.
So, on my 29th birthday, I got into a fight with my partner and nearly ruined her efforts to throw me a big surprise birthday party at a very fancy restaurant in Boston. We almost broke up. Which would have cast a serious pall over the proceedings to which she had invited 29 people (it was a nice party).
Then when I turned 39, I was so freaked out that I fled the country for an entire year! (see below)
When I turned 49, I pretty much spent the entire year feeling ill, because, well because I was 49 @!#$*&@#*$&!@*#&$!@#($*years old and that was just not YOUNG anymore. It was probably my first realization that, no matter what, I was half way - at best - through with whatever it was I was going to do. And it didn't feel like I had gotten a danged thing done yet!
Needless to say, by the time each of these horrific "9" years were over, I had blown off all the angst and the "0" years turned out to be relatively mellow affairs, comparatively. Except, of course, having to answer all those snarky remarks from my younger compatriots about how it felt to now be OLDER THAN DIRT.
Anyway, I have just pissed away another decade, and I turned 59 a month of so, so y'all better buckle up, it's gonna be a bumpy ride for the next few months. Unfortunately for you guys I don't have the money to leave the country for a year this time.
But I digress.
This column isn't about me going from "spring chicken" to "sprung chicken." It's about the fact that, all of a sudden, people are worried about their furry little purr babies turning patricidal, if given the chance.
It seems that a while back some scientists in Scotland decided that all "the good" science was done, so it was time to study house pets. Specifically, they were curious why house cats were really as "domesticated" as we seem to think they are, compared to their wild feline brethren.
After all, if a tiger sees you in the jungle, it is not going to spend a lot of time rubbing against your leg to get you to fetch a can opener and open up a buffet of Friskies. To a wild tiger - or lion - or unusually large Maine coon cat - you are the can and your gizzard is the Friskies. And who needs a can opener when you have claws like theirs.
After studying the house cats, the Scottish Scientists ("The name is Bond. Chemical Bond.") came to the conclusion that the house cats really aren't all that different than the wild ones. They are aggressive (just trying delaying their supper an hour later than normal). They are impulsive ("Scratch my stomach, oh now I will bite you") and they are neurotic ("Purr, purr, purr, oh now I will run away.").
Since this is the same behavior that a cougar, lion or tiger will engage in, that means therefore - according to the scientists - your house cat would be just as likely to eat you as curl up in your lap if it were just a little bit bigger. Or you were a little smaller. Say, mouse sized.
First of all, I have no idea whether one could sometimes rub the a tiger's tummy. I just won't go there. I still believe I have a few years left. I still need to get SOMETHING done before my expiration date.
So, is there anything to this? Is there some evidence that our cats truly would slaughter us if given the chance?
I'm gonna say no on that one.
First of all, cats don't have opposable thumbs. They can not operate can openers. They would be unable to feed themselves once they slaughtered all their owners.
Natural selection has created a modern house cat that - while it certainly is neurotic and unpredictable - is not suicidal enough to kill the only thing keeping it alive. Besides they have learned to become clever enough to get us to do pretty much everything they want us to anyway.
We buy them food, we buy them toys. We make sure their cathouses are warm. We scoop their poop. We let them pretty much lay around the house all day doing nothing. We provide them with hours of entertainment ("Hey, check out how fast they leap out of bed the minute I make the 'hear comes up the furball' sound!!!!").
Besides, I think there was a very specific factor in play that may have skewed the results of the Scottish Scientists' study.
Getting back to that piffle about the "9" years.
That 39 year that I ran away from home. I ran across The Pond to the Isles of Ireland, Scotland and England. And, while there, I observed how they treated their house pets. It wasn't pretty.
Okay, it's not like some Asian countries where house pets sometimes become dinner. We spoil our pets while they broil them.
But in general, for a lot of cats and dogs in Ireland and Scotland, life is nasty brutish and short, especially when compared to how they are treated on this side of The Pond.
Once again we spoil our pets, but the Brits/Scots/Bog Hoppers tend to work their pets to death, they toil them.
I'm serious, pets over there have jobs. They guard farms, they chase mice, they fetch birds. And then they live in the barn where they eventually end up as fox bait or get whacked between the hedges by cars.
Yes, I'm generalizing. But that's what I saw, during that year when I was (Irish) stewing over approaching 40.
So, sure, if the Scots are studying their poor, abused cats they will certainly detect faint whiffs of "och I would slae you if I could, laddie."
Meanwhile, my three cats only get a little miffed at me when dinner is a little late.
But they do seem to spend a lot of time laying about trying to grow opposable thumbs.
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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer ©2018