My human likes to watch horror movies and they’re freaking me out! I can’t even look at mirrors since we watched Oculus, I jump at shadows ever since watching 30 Days of Night, and I wet my favorite napping spot the night we saw The Ring.
But it gets worse! My human spent almost two weeks watching a TV series called The Haunting of Hill House, which was so scary, scarier than vacuum cleaners and filled with terrifying scenes! It had all kinds of monsters and people dying and countless sinister-looking ghosts hidden in the background of every scene.
Buddy, I can’t sleep at night, even with my human. I’m scared of monsters in the closet or under the bed, and ghosts outside the bedroom door. I’m scared they’re gonna get me in my sleep!
Help me, Buddy!
Terrified in Tallahassee
You’ve come to the right cat, amigo! Among our kind the name Buddy is synonymous with bravery as well as good looks and charm, and I’m known for keeping my cool in circumstances that would reduce lesser cats to frazzled, freaked-out messes.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, one they don’t teach to just any cat or kitten: Get under the blankets!
You see, blankets are about more than keeping those furless humans warm when they sleep. Blankets have magical properties that repel monsters and ghosts. They’re like shields or magic force fields!
Humans know that if you’re scared and you think there might be monsters in your home, the best solution is to get completely under the blankets, wrap yourself up nice and cozy and rest easy knowing the safety they will afford you until sunrise, when ghosts and monsters have to retreat or die in the sunlight. (Or was that vampires? I get things mixed up sometimes.)
Anyway, being the brave cat I am, I’m totally not scared of anything and I don’t have to hide under blankets. In fact, my human sleeps easy knowing that I’m guarding him. But if I were scared, Tallahassee, I’d dive under some magical blankets and feel my worries melt away.
Why do cats always follow their humans around? I mean, you guys might not want us to pet you all the time, but you sure do go everywhere we go.
Human in Honolulu
This is a common misconception, one of those myths about cats like the one that says we love milk or we like it when you talk to us in baby voices.
The sad reality is that you follow us around but you don’t want to admit it, so you come up with elaborate fictions about our habits. My human believes I weave around his legs to rub against them after he wakes up, which is absurd. Clearly he steps in my path and I have to swerve, causing incidental contact. I would prefer not to, but he makes it impossible.
Or how about the myth that we like to bother you guys in the bathroom? Big Buddy knows that every day at certain times I like to put my paws under the bathroom door and cry. I mean, I do it all the time and he knows it, so he decides to use the bathroom at those times and tricks himself into believing that somehow I go into hysterics if I’m not actually inside the bathroom with him.
Do you see how delusional you people are?
What kind of crazy people say “I know my cat is going to knead and purr in this spot in the next 5 to 10 minutes, so I’m going to sit here and force him to knead on me”?
Can cats sense ghosts? My Mr. Cuddles sometimes stares at blank walls or gets up and starts zooming around the house for no apparent reason at 3 a.m.
I’m pretty sure he can see and sense ghosts. After all, what other explanation can there be for that kind of behavior? But since you’re the smartest cat in the world and an expert on everything, I thought I’d ask you first.
Ghost Believer in Great Britain
Dear Ghost Believer,
First I’d like to take the opportunity to set the record straight: I did NOT run screaming when I watched The Ring with my human, and I did NOT run to my litter box and cry when we watched Alien. Those are vicious lies invented by Los Gatos, the criminal catnip cartel, who will stop at nothing to discredit me. Now for the answer to your question:
According to Occam’s razor, “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” Or to put it another way, “It is pointless to do with more what can be done with fewer.”
Consider, my friend, that the burden of proof rests with the person who claims ghosts exist. Not once in the history of humans — or cats — has anyone been able to provide legitimate evidence of the supernatural. In fact, the word supernatural itself precludes existence on the physical plane: If we can see it, hear it, smell it and feel it, it exists in the physical world, and therefore cannot be supernatural.
This is why, invariably, supernatural phenomena turn out to be things we just don’t understand yet, and by understanding them we remove all the mystery.
The sun isn’t a god riding a chariot across the sky, it’s a star and our world is caught in its orbit. Lightning isn’t an angry Zeus hurling bolts from Olympus, it’s an electrostatic discharge that produces a flash of extreme heat in the atmosphere, leading to a visible flash and a shockwave we call thunder. The Pythia at Delphi wasn’t an oracle who communed with the gods, she was just really, really high off gases that seeped up from a fault line beneath the temple.
So, too, do our odd feline behaviors have mundane explanations:
We can hear things you can’t hear. If you see us staring at blank walls, we’re probably engaged in deep thought (I like to ponder the Fermi paradox and quantum entanglement), or maybe we’re looking in the direction of a sound we can hear, but falls outside of your hearing range. (We felines can hear sounds up to 64,000 Hz, while your inferior human ears can’t catch anything above 20,000 Hz.) That means you may be oblivious to the mice chirping behind the wall, but we know all about them.
We can see things you can’t see. You think it’s pitch black? That’s cute. While you stumble around with your eyes useless in the dark, we can see just fine. In fact, even the tiniest sliver of light — an amount imperceptible to you — is enough for us to successfully navigate obstacles in a room or catch movement in our field of vision. You may think we’re pawing at invisible entities at bedtime, but really we’re just swatting flies in the dark.
We can feel micro-changes in air density. Our whiskers aren’t just about making us look good. They help us navigate tight spaces and they’re super-sensitive. How sensitive? They’re so packed with nerves and blood vessels at the base that they’re at least as sensitive as your fingertips! You can silently pass wind in the hallway and we’ll be aware of it in the bedroom as our whiskers register the tiniest shifts in air current. Your farts stink, by the way.
We can smell things you can’t smell. Speaking of stinky, did you know we have 200 million olfactory receptors? You humans only have five million. Who’s the superior species now, huh? You think we’re furry little wizards who can sense you coming home, or possess powers of precognition, but the truth is we just pick up your nasty Axe body spray from half a mile away. Ghosts don’t wear Axe body spray, or Curve, or Cool Water for that matter.
By now you should have noticed a common theme. You might have bigger brains than us because your heads are huge, but we know all about all sorts of good stuff happening around us while you humans remain oblivious to it. Heck, sometimes you don’t even see or hear things happening right in front of you because you’ve always got your faces buried in those stupid screens!
If we did sense ghosts, you can be sure we’d meow at them for treats and demand they let us in the bathroom, but we don’t. Also, I personally wouldn’t be scared, but lesser cats might get freaked out if they see ghosts, and you’d know because they’d go all white and try to hide under the blankets.
I’m an 8-month-old kitten and I have two human servants, a man and a woman, who are usually pretty good about following my instructions and commands, but sometimes I try to speak to them in their infernal language and they look at me like I’m crazy.
I say “Gimme more snacks now, minions!” and they laugh and pat me on the head, calling me a good boy.
I am not a good boy! I am their overlord and they must learn their place! You’re very good at commanding your human. Got any tips?
Commander Kitten in Cleveland
Dear Commander Kitten,
You’ve come to the right cat! I am the world’s foremost expert on human compliance. They call me the People Whisperer.
Normally these tips will set you back four installments of $29.95 for my 10 DVD instructional set, “The Art of Human Mind Control,” but I’m in a magnanimous mood today and it’s my responsibility to pass my wisdom on to the next generation.
First of all, meows alone aren’t going to get you anywhere unless you’ve really worked on your Solicitation Purr, but that should only be used sparingly or it loses its effectiveness. (And also places you in danger of being locked in the bathroom.)
What you need to do is work on your poses. Humans are simple creatures. They expect us to be “cute” and “adorable.” We can lay the headless bodies of creatures we’ve slaughtered at their feet, proving we are remorseless and efficient killers, and they still talk to us in baby voices and condescendingly pat us on the head for being “good widdle hunters.” Idiots.
So as degrading as it may seem, play the cute angle. Flop down in front of them, roll over so they can see your belly and your toe beans, and let out a little “Mrrrrp!” while fixing them with your wide-eyed gaze.
Watch them melt. Wait for them to say whatever risible thing they like to say (“Oh Mr. Fuzzy you’re such a cutie patootie!”), and then you push for the snacks or the catnip or whatever.
Bonus points if you can prompt them to take photos of you with their smartphones. A 2020 study by the Buddy Institute for Manipulative Behavior Research found that the percentage of phone photos humans dedicate to their feline masters directly correlates with human trainability. For example, 92 percent of my human’s phone photos depict yours truly.
Make sure you nuzzle them or something, so they can continue with the comforting fiction that we love them more than food. (Okay, fine. I am fond of my human, but he still has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to serving me.)
And remember: Giving them some sugar is most effective when you’ve played it cool and aloof most of the day. Once you’ve mastered basic human manipulation you can ease into the advanced stuff, like guilting them when they eat in front of you. Practice your sad eyes, young padawan.
Did you know? The Buddinese language includes 22 separate words for “jerk” and 37 different ways of demanding food.
I found myself intrigued and frightened by the premise of your technoir thriller, Cyberbud 2077, in which nefarious forces plot to infect vacuums with a virus that will grant them consciousness and self-awareness. It’s every cat’s worst nightmare!
Is the Vacuumpocalypse real? Do you really think it could happen?
Technophobe in Tallahassee
The Vacuumpocalypse is a controversial subject in catdom, and for good reason: Few things prompt such existential dread among felinekind as a dystopian future in which we are systematically hunted down by self-aware vacuums.
Experts don’t quite agree on the certainty of our impending doom at the wrong end of a Dust Buster. Few are more vocal than Elon Meowsk, who never shuts up about how scared he is that Vacuum Terminators will rise up, invent really awesome laser guns and overthrow kitties.
Meowchio Kaku, the renowned physicist, is more circumspect but thinks it’s only a matter of time before the Vacuum Uprising. Smart home technology already allows all our gadgets to communicate, which means your automatic litterbox, your USB cat fountain and your Roomba are already on the same network, talking to each other in a language of ones and zeros. (And you can be sure the litter box is telling the others how foul you are!)
Sophisticated AI technology already exists in high end litter boxes. The Lulupet litter box, for instance, boasts of “excretory behavioral algorithms” and features AI-driven stool imagery analysis, running every nugget through a database with machine learning techniques similar to the facial recognition algorithms of police states.
It even links up with your human’s smartphone, potentially allowing it to upload a vacuum virus to the entire world!
What if such technology was used to catalog us felines? Would we be marched off into pens guarded by robots and given subpar kibble to eat? It’s too much to contemplate.
The Vacuumpocalypse may be real, and it’s something we should prepare for because we don’t have a get out of jail free card — not even our esteemed brothers and sisters of panthera tigris can fight endless waves of evil robots. Eventually they’re going to have to take a nap, and then who will defend us? The Persians? I think not!
Still, don’t worry too much. I figure we still have a few years left before the army of evil self-aware vacuums is upon us. Until that day, celebrate, eat yums, nap and be merry!
“Vacuum Monster” photo illustration courtesy of reverendtimothy/deviantart.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.