What Are Cats Thinking?
by Mark Carlson
07:15 PM, Wednesday, July 18
Photo and caption by Karen Hamlet. Visit website to see more images by Karen at KarenHamlet.com.
Photo and caption by Karen Hamlet. Visit website to see more images by Karen at KarenHamlet.com.
One of the most successful animals that ever lived is the genus Panthera, which includes the lion, tiger, jaguar and leopard. For 3.2 million years big cats have inhabited nearly every continent  and been worshipped by the Egyptians, Aztecs, Romans, Africans, Greeks, and Chinese.

Icons and depictions of big cats are found in prehistoric caves and Renaissance murals. They inhabit human literature, art and poetry. They prowl through our deepest fears and nightmares while frolicking in our fantasies.

Their hunting instincts are the subject of documentaries, articles and books. Neurobiologists and evolutionary scientists have learned much about our own species from cats.  

The world would be a poorer place without the presence of these magnificent, graceful animals.

What cat lover wouldn’t secretly wish for a pet tiger or black panther?

But since owning and caring for a 1,000-lb. carnivore isn’t practical, we have adopted the smaller Felis Domesticus, the house cat.

Although they aren’t as big and awe-inspiring as a leopard even a simple orange tabby evokes wonder at their agility and grace.

Cats are part and parcel of what makes life fun.

But...What is it with cats? What are they thinking? For such intelligent and quick-witted animals, they seem to have great difficulty grasping the most simple concepts of interaction with humans.

For Instance

A King-sized bed covers about 35 square feet. The common house cat’s total surface area is less than a square foot. Do the math, Tiger. We should be able to use at least 14 square feet of space. Plenty of room left over. But no. Somehow in a way that defies the laws of physics and topology, a cat can totally occupy a King-size bed so a human can’t find enough space to lie down. And that’s not all. The cat will extend its tail and all four paws festooned with needle-sharp claws in order to take up more space.

Here’s another one. Humans, through millennia of cultural evolution, education and an understanding of hygiene have developed the habit of eating off plates on a table. Sure we sometimes go camping and eat off sharpened sticks, but that’s’ beside the point. Sorry, bad pun.

We use disinfectant detergents to wash our dishes and cook our food to kill bacteria.

So when a cat decides to see what their owner is eating at the table they can jump on the chair and watch. Savvy humans will already have fed Simba.

But that’s about as effective as turning on a fan to divert a hurricane.

The cat will lean down and sniff as if asking “Are you going to eat that?”

Then they reach out a paw and plant it firmly in the center of the Fettuccini Alfredo. This might not deter a real cat lover, but it tends to make dinner guests squeamish.

Cats are clean animals, no doubt about it. But they have been walking on floors, in dirt, and of course, the Jonny Cat.

What can any sane human do but either toss the food or glare at the cat, who cocks its head and bends down to help themselves?

But Tigger, having won the round, isn’t content with the victory. They daintily nibble a few tiny mouthfuls, turn and jump back to the floor without a backwards glance.

Civilized humans also need privacy to use the bathroom. Sure we can pretty much let it go anywhere, but the law frowns on that.

We don’t pester our cats when they use the litter box, right?

So why in the world do they feel the urgent need to follow us into the bathroom? We aren’t doing anything the cat would find in the least bit interesting.

But as soon as we close the door, Shadow is right there, meowing like an air raid siren. They  scratch at the door, shredding the paint like 20-grit sandpaper. They even try to get their paws under the crack, perhaps hoping to find a secret latch to open the door.

They seem to think we’re in there eating or watching ‘Famous Felines’ on Animal Planet.

Speaking of television, technology has made it possible to enjoy our favorite programs in High-Definition color on 65-inch screens.

But just try, I dare you, to watch the last two minutes of the Super Bowl with the score at 45-47, with the excitement at a fever pitch, the men barely touching their stale nachos and warm beer, the pile of money on the candy-wrapper littered coffee table riding on the outcome when Patches decides to jump on the wall unit to see what’s on television.

A dark spectral shape slowly pauses at the center of the screen while Aaron Rodgers carries the ball to the End Zone pursued by a half-dozen defensive tackles and the Green Bay fans are causing riots. And you can’t see it.

Yes, we love our cats. And we know they love us. But sometimes I have to wonder, how did we ever get the idea we were the more intelligent species?

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