Monday, June 14, 2010

Humans are poor readers of cats

The Harbin Hot Springs office has a small bookstore that stocks a new book by Temple Grandin: Animals Make Us Human. She’s one of my favorite writers because of her ability to articulate her perspective as a person who is on the autism spectrum. Jonathan bought a copy of her new book for me.

Temple devotes a chapter to cats and I have to disagree with her statement that cats do not have very expressive faces. Other people have said as well that cats do not smile but when Elizabeth curls up next to me, the expression on her face is very clearly a smile. She is very expressive.

Elizabeth does not show her teeth when she smiles; that’s a display of aggression  There’s something disturbing and even grotesque about superimposing human mouths with their bared-teeth smiles onto the image of a cat and dog. I’ve seen a picture like this, I think, at a local dentist’s office.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say that humans are poor readers of cats. When I wrote my short story called “Monkey’s Christmas Tree,” I had him articulate the perspective that his swishing tail was a very obvious sign of his no longer wanting to be petted. But the human antagonist didn’t pick up on the signals he was producing so he had to swat at her with his paw.

Transcribed from a personal journal

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