The Philosophy of Animals & Seeing double.
I thought i'd write more of a free ranging piece here, that loosely owes its existence to the chapter on animals in Nigel Warburton's book. I've been inspired to do because quite randomly we appear to have an extra cat.
My black cat Bagheera has been with me ever since he randomly appeared one winters day about 6 years ago looking very thin, under fed and lonely. He stuck around, and after a cardboard box and tin of tuna were offered it was the start of a beautiful relationship thing. If you're not a cat person I apologise, since you might not get it, but cats are choosy buggers and they pick who they attach themselves to. he is 7 now (ish) and part of the household. So in a sense he chose me. During the years he got into a few scraps. had various injuries, and a couple of visits to the vets, one for the snip (which he seemingly still hasn't forgiven me for) and one for a large wound on his rear that may have been a fight or an accident I don't know. It's this particular wound that came to mind over the last two days, and Baggy's reactions to it that put me in mind to write this here blog. The Philosophy of animals centres on questions like whether they can have feelings, or do they experience the world as we do. We do know that they might perceive the world differently, in terms of sight and smell etc (dog for example have an olfactory organs the size of hanky compared to our postage stamp)... ...but emotionally? Well, when baggy was injured a few years back his wound started to bleed one day as he was eating. (it had already been cleaned at the vet..) I mean like really bleed out on the the floor, so I had to wrap him in a towel and do the direct pressure thing, cos he was dripping blood. Understandably the wee boy wasn't all that happy with this, but after a while he settled into the towel, and the bleeding stopped. His wound went on to recover and he very shortly afterwards became much more affectionate towards me, allowing me not just to pick him up, but also turn him over and tickle his belly, not something he had been willing to allow pre "towelgate" So, this left me with two thoughts,
One, Baggy seemingly has realised that I "helped him" and two, he seems to be "grateful" for that help and therefore "trusts" me. This leads to the idea that cats, (and animals in general) can "remember". Not just in a pre programmed automaton kind of way as early philosophers such as Descartes thought, but in a subjective, and emotional way. New house, new neighbours. We recently moved house, and Baggy was a bit put out. Also there was this rather random black cat, quite young, that was occasionally seen around. I took this other cat to be one of the 4 that live next door. as they also have black cats (Bagheera is jet black with piercing green eyes.) During infrequent visits to our garden it seemed lost, young and making the kind of noises that one associates with a kitten looking for its mother. You could recognise this particular cat by a tiny tuft of white fluff on his chest, right in the middle. Baggy settled in to the new house, figured out the new garden and got to know the next-door neighbours cats. everything settled into a kind of routine. Baggy would go in and out of the office window, which was often left open a few inches, like the world largest cat flap. The infrequent visitor would show up for a tickle of the ears, and maybe some treats.. then wander off. Then one day I was sat in the front room, with Baggy asleep onthe floor and ....Baggy walked down stairs! Now I was half asleep here so it was an odd situation (think matrix - de ja vue) but I realised that our infrequent visitor was in fact in the house. Whats more baggy wasn't bothered, and just walked past, completely not fussed. He then let this other cat eat food etc, with not a pick of bother. I was telling this story to our neighbour, and it was then that we realised this mischievous little visitor wasn't actually theirs at all. On his next visit I spotted him spraying up the garden fence... so a stray young male then?
But wait a minute here aren't male cats territorial? why on earth would Baggy let this guy in the house?
So we nicknamed this other cat "Mischief" for being so cheeky, and kept an eye on things. He came to visit more often and Baggy just let him in, then one evening when mischief didn't come back, baggy went out... and a few hours later who do we see coming up the garden but Baggy leading this Mischievous visitor back home! Mischief it transpires was tired, and very hungry. with a cut above one eye. He slept on the office sofa for a bit, then ended up staying the night under one of the beds upstairs. He has been in and out a few times since and we now have an extra litter and two extra bowls in the kitchen. It's early days, and if Mischief sticks around he has a date with the Vet, but it just made me wonder, what is it that made Baggy act in such a way? to accept this other cat, allow him to eat, and even sleep in the house with not even the hint of a fight? One might theorise that If he "remembers" how he came to live with me, perhaps he recognises this cats situation? If so then the reasoning to be able to come up with a solution based in compassion and knowledge of likely outcome (that I would look after both of them) is huge. He would have to "imagine" what might happen - to guess. To create that "Idea" in his head.
Then having done so, act upon it.
So, it appears we now have two cats. and that perhaps, just maybe, Baggy is little bit paternal, and altruistic. Philosophy can sometime get a bit heavy, and depressing, but isn't that a nice thought? Sarah@stubbornlyoptimistic.me