“Ah! These cats are a mysterious kind of folk,” the novelist, playwright, and poet Sir Walter Scott remarked to his young protégé Washington Irving as they spent an evening reciting verse, contemplating their lives in letters, and admiring the Scott family’s dozing cat (a “sage grimalkin,” as Irving called her). “There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.”
Centuries have come and gone since then, but the old fellow’s observation rings true in 2015; I couldn’t be certain of my cats’ plans if my life depended on it.
“It comes no doubt from their being so familiar with warlocks and witches,” Scott mused.
I can’t speak to that, but I can work a bit of 21st-century magic with what I’ve observed of my four-legged roommates and absorbed in a decade as a professional researcher: Allow me to offer a quantitative account of cats’ habits, in the form of pie charts, with a little help from Microsoft Excel.
Our first presenter is — oh, no, Steve, not on the Turkish rug from my grandma’s house, please just scoot over before you —
My cats don’t always barf, but when they do, they prefer to make it count. (Stay queasy, my friends.)
Our second presenter has brought a — well, let’s just have a look.
O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
– O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi
My friend Jamie, a vegetarian, lives with a Siamese cat named Manray. One night she heard his low, spooky hunting call; a moment later, he trotted over and presented her with an ear of corn. Good on you for respecting your pack’s dietary restrictions, buddy.
Speaking of food, let’s move on to our third chart.
With all due respect to Sir Walter, there might be a certainty or two when it comes to our grimalkins’ minds.
Next time in Stats & Cats: Bar graphs, hair accumulation over time, and the maximum distance possible between a small white cat and a functioning vacuum cleaner.
Read more by Lauren Oster.
About the author: Lauren Oster is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She and her husband share an apartment on the Lower East Side with Steve and Matty, two Siamese-ish cats. She doesn’t leave home without a book or two, a handful of plastic animals, Icelandic licorice mints, and her camera. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.