Field Report from a Cat Studying Human Behavior
They say the first rule of animal research is not to name your subjects, because to do such only colors all observations and conclusions. Name a chimpanzee “Greybeard,” for example, and you’ll instinctively surmise there is great wisdom in the way he shoved that twig so far up his nostril he arched his left brow, forever giving him a quizzical look. But name a lion “Doodles” and he can crack Fermat’s Last Theorem only for you to mutter, “That poor, poor idiot.”
But here I was, well into my sixth year of field study in the den of a human family, only to find myself violating that very cardinal rule. And how could I not?! Each and every day I sat there—the mute onlooker, the removed witness—as “Middle-Age Spread,” “She’s Too Good for Him” and “Little Girl they Call ‘Chloe’ but I Affectionately Refer to as ‘Will Always Need Bangs’” ate, slept, but mostly complained with clear desperation and heart-breaking consternation that “There’s never anything worth watching on Netflix Streaming! And to think right now we could be watching like 600 movies on tape if someone hadn’t decided that the VCR was outdated despite that fact it was working just fine 12 years ago!”
I ask you, my esteemed brethren, would you not be moved by such a grievous plight? Would you have been able to remain perched on the carpet tree they bought you maintaining no personal relationship, no familial connection, with these poor individuals whatsoever? I think not!
And so with no indication of a favorable resolution, no sign that their cruel torment was anything but interminable, I broke the second rule of animal research. I became directly involved in my subjects’ lives for the very first time, ending their ceaseless suffering and providing the necessary balm to their pained souls by letting them dangle a string in front of me for two hours until I got bored and walked away.
Then I lost my funding.