I talk to my cat. I figure that as long as he doesn’t answer with more than a purr, yowl, or mew we’re OK. I talk. He ignores me or appears to listen, in accordance with his own assessment of my words or his mood. I don’t take his responses seriously. Again, the moment I start to take his reactions to heart, I’ll be due for some serious soul searching.
Talking animals and talking to animals are common motifs in literature. This is not solely the province of children’s stories. It happens in fables, and some books aimed squarely at adults.
I just heard that there’s a Kafka story about an ape that teaches himself to speak. I’ve got to read it! Making a note to find and download it as there is nothing like a little Kafka to upend a dull day.
But getting back to talking animals, A.A. Milne put a great deal of quotable snippets of wisdom into the mouth of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. This one sums up the Pooh-ish point-of-view:
“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
I think my cat appreciates this quote from Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willow’ especially as he is a house cat for whom all seasons are restful and relaxing.
“No animal, according to the rules of animal etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”
Of course there are always the animals of ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. They represent the nastiest traits of humans. One of the most famous quotes, is among the bitterest and most pointed in any story about political machinations and revolution:
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
There’s a great deal more to talking animals than Doctor Doolittle—created by Hugh Lofting in a 1920 book, and played by Rex Harrison in a 1967 movie and again by Eddie Murphy in 1998. But for now, I’ll just chat with my cat and be happy that he’s not political.