Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Uncle Walter

I have a cat named Scraps. An oddly arranged creature, Scraps, I discovered from the on line encyclopedia 'wikipedia', became domesticated in either ancient Egypt or the near east anywhere from 8,000 to 9,000 BCE. That's a lot of generations in the making of Scraps. Because of all of those felines domesticated before her, Scraps is able to use the litter box and be, if not a consistent comfort, at least good company most of the time. Until, that is, her behavior regresses a few thousand generations. Like last night. I thought we were having a pleasant human/cat moment. I sat in my chair. She sat in my lap. I scratched the top of her head. She purred and did that thing with her front paws. And then for no reason that I noticed, she sprung into the air, bit me, ran in circles for a few moments, and finally raced into another room where she remained for the rest of the evening. Aside from the couple drops of blood lost, no harm was done. Scraps is, after all, a cat and that's what the species felis catus (house cat) does from time to time. And that after the process of social adaptation in the works for thousands of years.
An animal trainer was recently killed by a grizzly bear. In fiction and fact, the grizzly bear is presented as one of the most ferocious animals around. They are not the product of even one generation of domestication. There has been no generational process of social adaptation. The grizzly, unlike my cat Scraps, does not need us in order to survive.
When Scraps bit me, she was behaving like a cat. My few drops of shed blood compare in no way whatsoever to the death of the trainer and the loss to his family. However, the grizzly was behaving like a grizzly bear.
When my Uncle Walter goes waltzing with bears, the entire family worries. He comes home covered with hair and the new coat we gave him is shredded. We fear we might lose Uncle Walter for good.
Even anticipated tragedies are, nevertheless, tragedies.

1 comment:

ravaj said...

my aunt, mrs terwilliger, prefers to polka. it is a little bit faster, which gives you a better chance of a quick getaway.