Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 28 August 2012 13:03
I enjoy reading magazines like National Geographic and Popular Science because it makes me feel—however fleeting the sensation may be—just a little more intelligent.
Articles about deep space exploration, mass digital data creation, the fate of the Dragon Blood Tree or explicit directions to build my own robot from scratch using the utensils in my kitchen deeply interest me.
The big words all seem to make sense, and there’s a brief glimmer that, just maybe, one of those articles will inspire me to do something that will lead to a Nobel Prize, or at the very least have a documentary about myself narrated by Morgan Freeman.
But deep down I know that science is not an area in which I am particularly gifted. In high school, the overhead projection diagrams about an impending frog dissection made me queasy. And I thought “genus” was the section of a species with the most doctoral degrees.
Yet, I am conducting a little original research in my spare time. It pertains to the nature-verses-nurture debate. You know, the deliberation pertaining to whether an individual’s instinctive qualities carry greater significance than his or her personal experiences.
Sorry. I’ll save the rest of the big words for my peer-reviewed essay.
The subject in questions is my orange tabby, Simba.
I’ve always been led to believe that cats as a general species are vigilant, covert and graceful. This is not the case for Simba. Maybe that’s what we get for naming a cat after a 1990s Disney cartoon character voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
Ah yes, there’s the question: Is this something we’ve done to him, or was he already like this?
Simba has never been agile. As a young kitten, his attempt at running was more of an inebriated tap dance in which he went further to his left than he did forward. Along those same lines—undirected as they may literally be—Simba’s version of a pounce constituted of going backward about two feet.
No toy mouse was safe…. Assuming it was behind him.
Digging is another issue he struggles with; some of his kitty litter is better traveled than I am.
I thought he would gain some coordination with time, but to this day he can’t attack a rolling dodgeball without latching on and sharing at least one rotation with it.
The coordination issue could be my fault. The last time I played golf, my grass went further than my ball every time I took a stroke. And then I about had one.
Then there’s the issue of Simba’s attentiveness. That is, he isn’t.
Simba is generally oblivious to what’s going on around him. Last week we took him to the vet for a couple of standard operations. First they removed his claws, then they took away Simba’s pride. So to speak.
When I went to pick him up the next day, I expected a sulking, defeated cat that would stay curled up on the couch. Instead, the cat I brought home strode majestically out of his pet taxi, took a look around, bit my hand as he is prone to do and bolted across three pieces of furniture in not as many bounds.
Simba is not the Top Cat or Salem Saberhagen or DC type of feline I expected. And the question is, is this his factory setting or did we condition him to be that way?
Now that I’ve identified the question, the next step will be to raise funds to support the research. Consider it. I’ll be sure to thank you in my Popular Science article.
And I’ll have Morgan Freeman send you an autograph.