They Can Definitely Compare
The watermelon-smashing comic, Gallagher, said that about cats. His point was that if you bought a bunch of a type of cat food, then that was the cat food that your cat was never going to eat again. Because they can’t count, but they can compare.
I don’t know how seriously he meant that – knowing Gallagher it could have been anywhere between not at all and dead serious – but I do think he hit on the truth.
Now for the story about my cat, who can’t count, but who can compare.
Quite a few years ago, when Sabby the Siamese was young and pesky curious, I was rebuilding a computer for my daughter. I had the case open and everything all picked apart so I could put in new parts. This was before plug-and-play, so one of the new expansion cards had a tiny ziplock baggy of itty bitty screws and jumpers. The cat wanted the bag. She took it. I took it back, and I wouldn’t let her get it again.
She made one of those cat “hurummp” noises and flounced off. Siamese can really flounce. She jumped up on the computer desk and onto the shelf at the back of it. She started rummaging in a big coffee mug that I kept flotsam and jetsam in. Siamese can really rummage. She pulled out a tiny ziplock bag of itty bitty screws and jumpers, nearly identical to the bag I wouldn’t let her have. With this in her mouth, she hopped down off the desk, onto the floor next to me. She dropped “her” bag on the floor next to “my” bag and looked very pleased with herself.
I’ve told this story to more people than probably ever wanted to hear it, and practically nobody has seen the point. I’ve known people who couldn’t do a comparison like that, let alone remember where they’d seen the like-kind.
This cat probably couldn’t count, but she definitely could compare.
But Are You Sure They Can’t Count?
Warning! Hearsay evidence follows.
My husband tells me this story of a childhood friend of his who had many cats. One of the mama cats, my husband’s friend said, could count as far as five. If she had six kittens, and you took one away, she never noticed. But if you took two away, she looked all over for the missing kittens. Could she really count? I can’t say, but it sounds to me like that cat could.