Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My Cat: Animal or Rational Animal?

My cat is an asshole. He's a gray, alpha male tabby. His life story is rather brief, but more interesting than the typical cat's. He was born in November 1996 on the streets somewhere, later given to animal control. Through a cat rescue program, his life was spared. He lived with a family for a while who had many cats where we was given the name "Bubba," derived from his size and attitude. The family whom he lived with had to give him up though; he was kicking the shit out of the other cats. This was around the time my family adopted him at age 3. Bubba used to chew on anything paper and tear through the house wildly. He was very aggressive. We started letting him outside, and his behavior improved.

More recently, he developed an illness and nearly had to be put down. It started with a rash he continually scratched at, causing bleeding. He was put on medication, but the medication had an adverse reaction with his liver. He nearly died, but after more treatment, his liver recovered. Nevertheless, he still has the rash, an infection in his blood that he'll probably have for the rest of his life. After the whole debacle, he's lost a lot of his energy, although he's still a jerk.

The reason I continually call my cat a jerk has to do with his behavior--particuarly, the timing and nature in which he demands attention. He only demands attention from people while they're at the computer, wherein he prevents them from being productive by demanding contant attention while they continue to use the machine. Ocassionally, however, he'll abandon his efforts and fall asleep.

It's during these times I notice something curious about him. Frequently, he'll twitch throughout his sleep, as if he's dreaming. He seems to be responding to some sort of dream. The fact that he's dreaming implies he has some sort of mind's eye.

Does this, however, imply that he has the capactiy for creative thought? In the human mind dring creative thought, a person may create an image, then translate it into words or an image (through art) in order to communicate it to the outside world. My cat cannot communicate his creative thoughts to the outside world through those human means. However, he does have a capacity of demonstrating creative problem solving. For example, if he sees something he wants at a higher location, he will seek out a way of getting to that location--usually by means of jumping or finding a lower platform to jump on before getting to the final location.

Does this make my cat a rational animal? Aristotle used this definition to separate humans from animals--particularly, language being a sole characteristic of humans. I can't say my cat is irrational though, considering his capacity for problem solving. Simply because he doesn't have words for "if... then" does not necessarily mean he does not have the concept.

Rational or not, he's still a jerk, and I still love him.


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