This is about my cat. My cat has no interest in intellectual property, defamation or the First Amendment. Well, okay, he does exercise the First Amendment liberally at meal time. Beyond that, he has a very well defined interest in his own pleasures, and in that context he reminded me last night that to say “my cat” is to refer to an illusion.
My cat wanted me to pet him. The first rule of effective communication is that no matter how well you say something, if your listener doesn’t comprehend it, you fail. That was not a problem; my cat communicated his desires quite clearly.
As I dutifully stroked him, though, he complained. Over the years, I’ve learned that a meow is not just a meow. Cats have a kind of inflection and in time they teach it to their humans. What my cat was telling me was that I was petting him wrong.
Wrong?! How does one pet a cat wrong?!
Eventually it became apparent he wanted a particular spot scratched, but that he was under no duty to point that out. Rather, it was my duty to find it and deal with it.
In his Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling wrote of The Cat That Walked By Himself, which aptly explains this phenomenon. It seems that in times primordial, cats and humans entered into a contract in which humans agreed to house, feed and otherwise care for cats in perpetuity, and cats agreed to do whatever they felt like. An illusory deal if there ever was one, but isn’t it amazing how all these years its terms have been so strictly observed?