Ode to Spot: Nerdy Appreciation for Cats

People who hate on Star Trek think it’s all technobabble about tachyon fields and Starfleet officers shouting things like “Captain, shields are at 60 percent and falling!” during yawn-inducing battle sequences.

Au contraire, my feline-loving friends! Star Trek is not only awesome, it’s written by people who love cats, and kitties have always had a place on the USS Enterprise.

Perhaps the most famous of those cats is Spot, a ginger tabby who belonged to Lt. Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Even in space, it appears, cats are still picky and want attention on their own terms — Data famously tried 221 different types of cat food “formulas” before finding one Spot approved of, and when Spot wasn’t wandering the corridors of the Enterprise 1701-D, he was hanging around his human android, demanding attention and affection.

In season six of the iconic TV show, much to the chagrin of his fellow crew mates, Data read a poem about how much he loves his cat. The poem is called “Ode to Spot”:

Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses
I find myself intrigued by your sub-vocal oscillations
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection
A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion
It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion
Oh Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
Denote a fairly well-developed cognitive array
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend


“Ode to Spot” has become a favorite of Star Trek fans who also happen to be cat lovers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s quite a bit of overlap.

I do, however, feel the poem is in need of an update on those last two lines:

Because you are sentient, Spot, I know you comprehend
That I consider you a true and valued friend

The episode aired in 1991, but in 2019 there are still people who don’t know cats are sentient. Cats think, they feel, they’re aware of the world around them. They have a full range of emotions, experiencing things like happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, anticipation, anxiety, jealousy and contentment.


Most people who share their homes with cats and dogs would say it’s obvious that animals have emotions, but thanks to the efforts of modern scientists, we now have evidence.

Perhaps Star Trek’s writers simply got their terminology wrong. After all, in one episode, Data needs to find a cat sitter and settles on Worf, the Klingon chief of security on the Enterprise. Data is clearly worried about how Spot will get on in his absence, rattling off a list of things Worf needs to do to take care of the cat.

“And you must talk to him,” Data adds, worry creasing his forehead. “Tell him he’s a pretty cat, and a good cat.”

Worf, already looking uncomfortable as he holds Spot, glares at Data and deadpans: “I will feed him.”

Data, who realizes he’s pushing his luck, takes one last look at Spot and nods.

“Perhaps that will be enough.”


Data and Spot. Originally, Spot was a lighter orange and was played by a male cat. In later seasons he was replaced by a female with a darker coat.

6 thoughts on “Ode to Spot: Nerdy Appreciation for Cats”

    1. I’m firmly on the side of the skeptics in that I don’t believe we will ever create a true artificial general intelligence, aka a fully conscious, self-aware machine, but it’s interesting to think about what a true AI might think of animals.

      The CGI short “Three Robots” from Netflix’s Love, Death + Robots (which I blogged about previously) has an amusing take on how machines might respond to cats. It follows a trio of robots who visit post-apocalyptic Earth for a “tour” long after humans have wiped themselves out, and the robots discover cats sitting pretty on the rubble of human civilization. The cats, of course, are looking for new servants…


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