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Arguing with Cats

February 11, 2010

I live with three cats, one of whom has been my fat surly roommate for eight years and the other two of whom are five-month-old kittens who lack neither confidence nor stealth and for all intents and purposes run the house. What with being jobless and unemployed and whatnot, I’m at the house a lot, and when I’m here, I often find myself drawn into an argument by one or two or all three cats. Many of these arguments are instigated by conflicting desires, such as my desire to sit at the table and uninterruptedly write douchey cover letters vs. the kittens’ desire to bite my face while clawing me in the groin. Or the kittens’ desire to wander nonchalantly into my cat’s territory, eat all of her food, and then play games with her vs. (a) my cat’s desire never to ever come into any kind of contact with any animate creature that isn’t me and (b) my desire to stick up for my cat who won’t do it for herself on account of being even more figuratively a pussy than she is literally one.

For the edification of my readers, here are some approaches to feline-human conflict that definitely don’t work:

  • BARGAINING. Cats don’t understand English, and by “English” I really mean any human language, Indo-European or otherwise. Statements like “If you leave me alone for half an hour and let me finish this cover letter that makes me seem like a total insufferable douche, then afterward I’ll play with you for as long as you like” have no impact on cats because the words have no meaning to them. They just see your face moving and take that as an obvious invitation to attack it.
  • APPEALS TO EMPATHY. Cats don’t understand or give a shit about human psychology either. Attempting to make a cat see a situation from your perspective is unlikely to be successful, irregardless of how pleasantly you may utter such an inquiry as “Sweetie I really need to use the sink; could you go sleep somewhere other than right in front of it?”
  • LOGIC/SYLLOGISMS. Maybe you took PHIL 279 and you can use a combination of modus ponens and DeMorgan’s Law to prove to your cat that there’s no need for her to get so angry when one of the kittens saunters in and starts helping himself to her food –  but don’t fucking bother.
  • AGGRESSIVE CLAPPING. Abandoning language for sound in your dealings with argumentative cats is a good idea in theory, but it turns out to be surprisingly useless in most instances, particularly those involving kittens with no concept of fear, anger, or shame. If your clapping elicits any reaction, chances are good that it will be some kind of attack.
  • THE SILENT TREATMENT. You are the one who will look foolish as you revel in your pouty inner monologue. See this, Sappho? This is what happens when you’re not nice. Hope you can come up with your own entertainment this afternoon because I am going to read this novel and totally ignore you. Maybe next time you’ll think twice before you hiss at someone who’s just trying to be friends with you.

I have employed many strategies in my arguments with the cats, but it’s been over a month and I have yet to discover an effective way to get my point across. In this context as in every other context, I find that my degree in philosophy is of no practical use whatsoever. Trying to win an argument with a cat is like trying to win a staring contest with a bighorn sheep: impossible. You win, cat. You always do.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 5:49 am

    A squirt bottle of water is good at getting your point across, but only for the most egregious of transgressions. My cat does respond to clapping, but she’s scared of a lot of things. Kittens are always tough, particularly since you don’t actually want to instill fear in them and end up with scarred adult cats…

  2. March 1, 2011 8:21 am

    I’ve thought about getting another cat, but the current one has hurled herself violently at all other cats previously encountered. Maybe a pair of kittens is the answer…

    • Kate permalink*
      March 1, 2011 8:44 am

      A pair of kittens sounds like a great solution. But of course I’m totally not part of the situation and am just envisioning cute kitties instead of thinking about the reality of it.

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