Cats, like children, like other people’s stuff

I wrote a few months ago:

“Little kids are usually more interested in things adults, especially their parents, are using than in the things that are specifically created for the child’s own use.”

I was talking about the lure of objects for adult use (like keys) and how they’re more appealing than toys designed for children, but I know from friends with kids that the same thing also applies to food: what’s on Mummy’s plate is twenty times more interesting than what’s on their own, even if it’s exactly the same thing.

A few weeks ago my partner and I got a cat. Although my mother keeps referring to it as “my first grandchild” and my in-laws blithely suggested I “get a kid instead”, the cat is NOT, repeat NOT, a substitute baby. Well, I’ll give way on that point if you also accept that babies are substitute cats. And that houses are substitute flats. And that blankets are substitute mats. And that everything in the world is a substitute something-else because nothing can signify itself because that is the nature of the signifier.

Anyway, I was amused to see that the “if it’s aimed at me, it must be inferior” thing also applies to cats.

She has a water bowl, rinsed and filled with fresh (filtered) water every morning and topped up with fresh water throughout the day. Is that her first choice for fulfilling her hydration needs? Hell no. In our cat’s view, the very best source of water is one intended for a human. If she spots a glass or mug of water around the house she will make a beeline for it and start drinking, despite the fact that the relative sizes of her head and the glass don’t make for a satisfactory drinking experience.

The second best source of water is one intended for our houseplants. She will walk past her own water bowl in order to leap onto the windowsill and lick up the water that’s drained out from underneath the tray of seedlings. Yes, it has lots of bits of soil in it. Yes, there’s the risk of licking up traces of whatever we’ve most recently cleaned the windowsill with. But hey, it’s not meant for her, so it must be the good shit, amirite? (We used to occasionally use bleach or some other heavy-duty cleaning product to clean the windowsill. This has had to stop. Now it’s namby-pamby no-better-than-water eco-stuff all the way.)

There’s no real point to this story. It just made me smile that the preference for other people’s things is actually cross-species.

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