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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Catty comments

My sister gets annoyed with science. Well not so much science. More me.

"Why do you ask so many questions?" she says. "Why don't you just believe me when I tell you things? It's offensive."

"No it's not," I say. "It's not about you. If people tell me stuff, I want to know where they got it from and what the evidence is. It's because I'm a scientist and a journalist."

"It's because you're a pain in the neck," she tells me.

So last night, when we were watching a second-rate romcom called A Good Year (Russell Crowe should stick to parts where he sweats, grunts and hits people) and she made a comment about her cat, I tried to tread carefully.

"I don't know if he thinks he's a small person or I'm a big cat," she says, as he nuzzles her hand and purrs on her knee.

"What makes you think he thinks anything?" I venture. "He's a cat. They're not known for ontological reflection."

"See that's just like you," she bridles. "Of course he thinks. Anybody with a pet will tell you that.”

“Doesn’t mean they’re right,” I say. “Majority opinion often isn’t. One thing modern science has shown is that reality is counter-intuitive.”

“One thing you’ve shown is you don’t know much,” she says, wielding an exasperated remote control and muting an advert on steam-cleaners that I particularly wanted to watch. 

“Animals can tell what you’re talking about,” she continues. “They sense your feelings. They get scared, excited, happy and sad. They’re like wee people with fur.”

“Ha ha,” I start to laugh but cut it off fast when her face tells me it wasn’t a joke.

“Don’t you think we just project our own thoughts and feelings onto our pets?” I ask.

“No,” she says.

“Don’t you realise it’s very hard to know what’s going on inside an animal’s brain?" I ask.

“No,” she says.

“Have you had enough of this conversation?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says.

“Fair enough," I say. "I’ll talk to the cat. What are your thoughts, puss, on the government obsession with austerity, which evidence shows is exactly the wrong thing to do in a recession?”

The cat stares at me for a moment then stands up, turns around and arches his back, giving me a long, close look at his behind.

I think he's trying to tell me something.

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