Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
By Helen Murray
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Some years later the academics proposed that they are related to us because they have something like a 95% DNA similarity with humans.
At about that time it was also discovered that we are related to bananas, with a 50% DNA similarity. I haven’t seen the figures on our relationship with cats, but my hypothesis is that we are much closer than is currently imagined. Seeing that I don’t have those figures at hand I shall have to present my reasoning more in the terms of the ‘chimpanzee plus tool’ explanation.
At this point I find a need to digress slightly, because, although I can imagine a chimpanzee using, for example, a wheel barrow, I can’t imagine him inventing one. Does this mean that human inventiveness only operates on 5% of the brain? WOW! I really like that 5%!
Now, back to the cat. His patience is limited after all, he not being human. To give you the background information, the cat’s name is ‘Sam I Am”, after the Dr Seuss ‘Cat in the Hat’ model. Sam has understanding of only one word, apart from his name. That is the word “No”. The reason he understands that word is that it is often followed swiftly by a pillow if he doesn’t. However, even such great linguistic understanding by this animal hasn’t saved much of my furniture!
Further background: Sam is white with light brown markings down his back. As a kitten he suffered the attacks of the reigning Pomeranian on his stomach, which made him a great fighter. The Pomeranian discovered this when the cat grew up, and he had to have his eyeball stitched and wear a collar, which caused him great inconvenience and a woeful loss if dignity. He got over it eventually. The necessity for dealing effectively with the Pomeranian gave Sam the great taste of success which never subsequently deserted him. He now assumes success in all areas of life. To put it in layman’s language, Sam gets what he wants when he wants it, which is invariably now. He’d have made a great demonstrator. Most of his language, which I have had to learn, seems to consist of (being translated) “What do we want? ........ When do we want it? Now!” This, of course, is the royal ‘we’.
The point I am preparing to make is that Sam uses tools. There are two tools that occur to him to use.
The first is the fly-wire on the windows. He can attract attention to his person by using his claws on the flywire. That, he discovered, got a strong reaction from me, and therefore became (I dare not say a weapon) an object at his disposal. That is, until I determined that he would get the pillow treatment on each occasion, together with the one word that he understands – “No”. I had to teach this technique to my Chinese students also, as he was not discriminatory about the person who was required to attend his needs, nor the time of day, which included the early hours of the morning.
The second tool Sam used (until we moved house and it was no longer available to him) was the chain that hung from the front door as part of a secondary lock. He found it most gentlemanly and elegant to rattle the chain when he required an exit. This I found most amusing, and would point it out to visitors. This sometimes meant that the behavior was reinforced by my waiting until he repeated it so the visitor could be properly informed of his Cathood’s intelligence. (Finally his slave – me - would let him out.) This, after all, was the kind of behavior noted and written about in academic papers by animal sociologists, and therefore due proper attention. It also passed the essential empirical test of repeatability.
This use of tools and assumption of success that we have together observed in Sam I Am can generally be summed up by the term “Cattitude”. I coined it myself for this purpose, but unfortunately someone else must have coined it at the same time, so I could not patent it.
The question that remains unanswered is “What percentage of DNA do I share with Sam I Am?” I think I could use that 5% that produces Cattitude!
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