I have a cat named Kurt. Sort of. There’s this creature that comes to my yard every few days and meows plaintively until I feed him to go away. You might call it a shakedown, if Kurt was a cop.
There’s a theory that cats were domesticated for their infantile faces. Wild felines don’t meow, but housecats evolved to do so because it makes them sound like fussy babies. Over tens of thousands of years, humans selectively bred the ones that were most pitiful and convincingly helpless. I don’t like cats, but I can see how a childless spinster might be moved by something like this:
Speaking of learned helplessness, here’s a new Stanford admit whose college application essay was nothing but #BlackLivesMatter copy-pasted a hundred times. The rest of the application was a treatise on his lifelong struggle to overcome systemic oppression as a Muslim. The kid’s father runs a billion-dollar hedge fund, but don’t let that detract from his disadvantaged status.
A racist hate site that I never visit is praising the kid’s incredible ability to convince the world of victimhood despite living a life of privilege. They point out a similar student in China during the Cultural Revolution. Zhang Tiesheng (張鐵生) was a former Red Guard who moved to a rural commune as a production brigade leader. In 1973, Zhang went to take a university entrance exam to get the hell out of the countryside. Zhang didn’t know the answers to the exam questions, so he left the answer sheet blank and on the back wrote a statement about how entrance exams are a tool for the educated elite to oppress honest laborers like himself. The statement was reprinted in all the papers, 張鐵生 became a national hero, and today he’s a multimillionaire who somehow acquired New Zealand citizenship despite always living in China.
That’s what happens when you feed the cats.
A competing theory is that cats were domesticated to chase out rodents, but I don’t buy it. If early humans needed a mouser, they would have bred a dog to do it. We have pickle-shaped dogs that can dive into rabbit burrows and drug dogs that can smell a joint in my pocket. Chinese merchant ships carried hairless dogs for rat control. The lack of fur reduced disease-carrying fleas, which is why you would want to kill rats in the first place.
Despite their utilitarian superiority, Chinese rat-catching dogs aren’t very popular because they’re ugly.