Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Cat Altruism Experiment

I studied Psychology at University, so whenever I come up with a hypothesis I feel that I need to test it, otherwise it's just some subjective thing which may or may not be true.

Tonight was my first night of fun debauchery in almost a month. Finally free of bronchitis and supposedly with my "Rotary Cuff Tendonitis" on the mend, I went to Club Abstract and had a really fabulous time.

The booze was helping.

But then I slipped, pinwheeled my arm, and -- OH HOLY COW GODDAMN! -- the pain! I spent a few minutes trying to ease the terrible electric chunking killing pull-out-the-tendon agony in my right arm, and then I decided it was probably time to go home. No more fun for me.

Still drunk (even so as I write this) I lay on my living room floor. I did the exercises I'm supposed to do to ease my agony. I lay there wondering...would my cat recognize how much pain I was in, or would she be totally selfish?

Now let me be clear that Zsa Zsa -- my cat -- is dying. She's still happy and possesses a "love of life," so I can't justify putting her down, but she really is reaching the end of her long career as best friend and ultimate comfort.

But still, I thought I MIGHT be able to elicit some sort of altruistic response from her. As I lay on the floor in a dense cloud of pain that I cannot even begin to describe, I called out to her: "Help me, Zsa me!"

I said this several times. Each time I said it, she would circle me, stare at me, then wander into the kitchen where her food dish was. Then she'd return, I'd say it agian, and she'd wander back to the kitchen.



Anonymous said...

I think the cats logic is the same reason they go through so many elaborate rituals.. if she goes to the food dish enough times you go and feed her, so if you get hurt all she has to do is go to the food dish and eventually you'll get up and feed her. And then everything's fine!

Eli McIlveen said...

"You're in a desert, walking along when you see your owner crawling toward you."

"What's an owner?"

"You know what a human is?"

"Oh, those tall things that open doors and cans? I think I have one of those."

"Your owner lays on its back, calling out to you and waving its arms. But you're not helping."

"I'm not what?"

Adam Thornton said...

Absolutely beautiful.

Somehow, though, I still love her as much as I always did.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps cats do not have (or are classically not credited) with the same "emergency" instinct or intelligence that we ascribe to dogs.

Beyond the "fight or flight" response, we don't usually expect the same thing from a feline that we expect from Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin ("What's that? Timmy fell into the old well? Lead the way!").

What you may be seeing is just "authentic cat," nothing more or nothing less.

Syd Midnight may have it pegged right - the cat knows cause-and-effect -- so why not the reverse? If she empties her bowl, you’ll have to get up and fill it. That may be the extent of cat logic.

As for sympathy and altruistic instincts - unless Zsa Zsa knows through training what you mean by saying "help," don't expect her to know instinctively.

Would she act differently if you were her kitten? Don’t know. However, I agree that a friendly nuzzle or look of "sympathy" would have been nice.

In that department, you may have to be forever the benefactor.