Some people are also animals.

Some people are just regular people. I would say that, in fact, most people are regular people. A person is smart, knows what they need, what they want, and what they need to do. But some of us are also animals, and it’s easier to understand us with the additional dimension of what kind of pet we are.This is not some online Harry Potter quiz about what your patronus is or a His Dark Materials test to see what your daemon is, or some poorly conceived Buzzfeed quiz for discovering your “spirit animal,” which is not what you think it is anyway. No, some of us are animals in addition to being humans. Some humans are just humans, and that’s fine. It’s probably even the better option. They like sports or cars or something’s ing and they don’t think too deeply about things. They represent the middle of the curve where most people live, content in predictable ways. At least, it’s comforting to think they are, but it doesn’t usually work out that way.

There is no curve

It’s an illusion that we accept, that there is something essential about us that makes us not like those other people, when there actually is no such thing. The people we comfortably dismiss as “regular people” aren’t regular at all. They have opinions you wouldn’t expect, or interests that would surprise you, and secret desires that they don’t tell anybody.

I often look to this quote, from Dr. Who, because it’s the closest thing I’ll come to a motto: “In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.” I would amend that to include the proviso that I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t interesting, in some way.

Everybody has a story that I want to hear. 

That was a digression

I said that stuff in the last paragraph to give this next bit some context. One of these is not better than another, they just are. They probably don’t completely apply to someone. They’re like horoscopes.

You can read a horoscope and say “yes this perfectly fits me” one day and then the next day, it doesn’t. Life is chaos and change and entropy and human beings are dazzling lights, constantly shifting, changing. But patterns emerge and there is some predictability, and knowing where you’re predictable is good knowledge, like knowing where you put your keys. 

Dogs

I used to think I was a dog. I think I am, sometimes, but not lately. A dog appears carefree, but there are things it cares about. Dogs like it when you pet them and say nice things to them. Dogs thrive on attention and affection, and they can’t get enough of either one. No matter what time of day or night, you can say something nice to a dog and scratch its chin and it’s going to wag its tail and cheerfully go back to whatever it was doing, or follow you around hoping you’ll pet them again.

You never see a dog without a person, and if you do, there’s something amiss and that dog is either having an adventure off the leash and out of the yard and its human hasn’t found it yet or it’s a stray that would still be happier living with a human. 

Indoor cats

Nowadays, I’m an indoor cat. I don’t want constant attention. I want attention when I want it, which is the only time I want it. I mostly want to be left alone, in a predetermined space that I might explore a bit once in a while but I am largely content with everything just as the way it is and my relationship to it, in the spatial sense, which is to say: I like things the way they are.

I need to be kept fed, and I clean myself regularly, and I am mostly independent. But not too independent. I will happily stare out the window and watch the birds come around, and I might occasionally enjoy a walk out there, maybe, it depends on my mood.

If you see an unattended indoor cat outside, something’s wrong. Somebody screwed up. That dude is not supposed to be out there. The outside is where outdoor cats live, and it’s full of danger.

Outdoor cats

These are the free roamers, the ones you don’t need to watch, the ones who go on adventures like traveling to exotic places by themselves (!!!) and hunting down their dinners. You don’t have to keep an eye on outdoor cats, and it would be tough to do it anyway.

They don’t want your attention at all except when they do and you’ll know, because they’ll tell you, but most of the time they’re happy out there, doing things that, to indoor cats like me, seem incredibly risky.

Life, to an outdoor cat, is enhanced by risk and unpredictability. If one day too closely resembles the day that came before, something’s amiss. 

Here are some things outdoor cats enjoy that indoor cats don’t. 

1) Exploring places that people don’t go.

2) Having new experiences

3) Hunting for something to eat

4) Not being absolutely sure they’re going to have a comfortable place to sleep

I can say with utter sincerity that none of the above items appeals to me. 

Other animals

I’m not the first to make these comparisons, nor am I the first person to identify as an animal of some kind. Gay men, specifically, were forced by a bigoted society to disguise their preferences with coded language, and they developed a lovely lexicon of bears, otters and bulls to describe themselves. I think heterosexual society would benefit from a similar system, one independent of anything that came before, lest we ape the cultures that came before us and do them a disservice. I propose starting with the above taxonomies, but there can be so much more than dogs and cats.

We all know some snakes. And a few rats. Use your imagination.

61 thoughts on “A Field Guide to House Cats

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