What if pets had thumbs?

We’re not in the midst of what I call the ‘silly season’ the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, where people are gearing up to celebrate the holiday, and spending an inordinate amount of money both at the grocery store and either online or at retailers to make their holiday as festive as possible.  Granted, with COVID still being a problem (and seemingly getting worse by the day) we all could use a little light-heartedness every now and again to lift our spirits.

Me, I’ve always wondered what my cat would do if his thumbs were opposable.  He’s the product of barn cats that my co-worker’s parent’s had in their barn, and while he does happen to have thumbs, he can’t use them.  Apparently, someone else had a similar thought and penned a blog post about it several years ago.  I read it recently and thought it worth both linking and reposting here.  Enjoy!

What If Pets Had Thumbs?

What if cats had thumbs?

Believe it or not, some cats do have “thumbs”! Cats with extra toes and fingers are called polydactyl cats, and sometimes an extra finger can look just like a thumb. This genetic mutation is generally harmless, and cats can’t use this “thumb” in the same way that we do. So what if cats had thumbs they could use? Here’s what I’d like cats to use their thumbs for, and what they’d actually do with them.

What I’d like cats to use thumbs for:

  • Clean their litter box. An opposable thumb would allow cats to grasp the litter scoop, carry the pan and sweep the floor. Scratch that idea. Let them flush the toilet.
  • Food prep and measurements. It takes a thumb to slice and dice and grasp a measuring cup or dispense food. Of course, I’d have to mark the cup and verify they didn’t double-dip. On second thought, this might not be such a good idea. Then again, celebrity cat chefs would be pretty awesome.
  • Walk my dogs. I know this sounds far-fetched and probably wouldn’t work in every furry family, but my dogs revere and respect my cats. So much that I believe if Itty Bitty Kitty (that’s her real name) could carry a leash, she could tag-team safe, responsible walks. The dogs would oblige Bitty Kitty and prance alongside at a sensible pace. That’s something I’d love to see.
  • Take selfies. Cats love to admire their regal selves. Give them a thumb and you’ll get more selfies than a Kardashian. Better increase your data plan.

What cats would use thumbs for:

  • Comb their fur. A thumb is a foundation for combing. No more waiting for lazy humans to stroke their luscious locks.
  • Program supercomputers; take over the planet. Forget Artificial Intelligence and aliens conquering our species, this is humanity’s true threat. If you see cats sprouting thumbs, better head for the hills.
  • Hitchhike. I see a world with millions of cats thumbing for rides, causing congestions and highway havoc, heading for nature parks. That is until cats program cars and robots to transport them around town.
  • Pinch people. That takes the risks of being a veterinarian to new levels. Ouch.
  • Open cat scratch services and kneading parlors. If they can’t program robots, they’d start making money performing these high-demand feline services on each other.
  • Rate movies and food. Thumbs up or down. It’s a big deal. Six-toed cats would be in high demand as celebrated critics. Four-thumbs up is twice as good as two.
girl using phone with dog

What if dogs could text?

I can’t disregard dogs during this thumb festival. If dogs had thumbs, they could text. Duh. The real question is, what would they text you?

  • First of all, I don’t think dogs would type much. They’d rely heavily on emojis.
  • Second of all, I suspect their syntax would be awful. Think Yoda mixed with Dug from Up. I’d constantly be seeking philosophical insights from my pet’s poorly phrased posts. Emojis.
  • I think dogs would primarily text nouns and love words. And heart emojis.
  • You’d be constantly interrupted at work with questions such as: Where are you? When will you be home? Is it time for you to come home yet? Are you here yet? Are you almost here yet? You know, emojis are better.
  • The real danger is if my dogs learned to text restaurant deliveries. I’d be broke and they’d be fat. Penniless and plump is not how I want to go out. Hide your phones.

Every now and then, it’s good fun to let your mind wander and explore outlandish ideas, like what if cats and dogs had opposable thumbs? Share your own musings in the comments below! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go examine my cats for any suspicious articulations. The fate of our species depends on it.

Mar 9, 2016

Pet Health


Mama Kitty

For the past month, we’ve had a visitor.  Not someone that we could readily invite into the house and make welcome, because the visitor is one of the neighborhood cats.  Though this cat has become a bit more different than the others that come to our backyard and romp and play in front of the windows, the cameras, and us.

‘Mama Kitty’ is a female orange and white tabby. We’ve called her that because of her distended belly that I originally thought indicated she was pregnant.  Over the next couple of weeks I pretty much determined that she’s not actually, she just has a very prominent ‘apron’, something older female cats can get after having more than a few litters.  It doesn’t make her any less affectionate, or clingy.  But that seems to have become a bit of a problem lately.

We’re not certain if she’s a stray, or she lives somewhere nearby, or she might have been dumped or abandoned recently.  This is the first year that we’ve seen her around.  For the first couple of weeks, she was aloof and when one of us would come into the backyard when she was in it, she would shy away and run off.  My wife was actually the first one to have physical contact with her, by being forward and determining to walk up to her and then allow her to make the next move, ie getting a rub.  After that, she warmed up to us both and would greet us with mews and asking for rubs when we encountered her around the property.  Which has been all well and good, though we’ve been careful not to feed her.  For the most part, come nightfall she would make her way through the backyard fence (the previous owners of the property specifically made allowances in the fence for animals to go back and forth) and possibly go home.  She wouldn’t reappear until the next day unless it was raining.

Tuesday evening, she didn’t go home as usual.  She stayed around the perimeter of the house after dark, and I could hear her going to the various windows on the ground floor and mewing incessantly.  I didn’t actually go to bed until almost 2 am on Wednesday and she was still around the front of the house, making noise.  By morning, she was gone, however.   Except that didn’t last very long.  By the afternoon she had returned, and I heard her talking at the windows off of the living room.  During the course of the day, I spotted her beyond the fence at our neighbors to the north, where she was unable to get to the backyard due to another neighborhood cat blocking the entrance through the fence.  About an hour later she was back at the window, meowing for either attention or the vain hope that she’d be let in.  Already having one cat, and being unsure of her disposition, letting her in isn’t and won’t be an option.

Trying a different tactic, I posted on a local ‘Lost and Found’ group on Facebook that encompasses the county that I live in.  The post I made gave the basic details I’ve listed here, along with these two pictures and a couple of others I’ve taken of her in the time she’s been around.  While there have been about a dozen shares, widening the reach of the post, there haven’t been any hits locally, anyone saying “Yes, I’ve seen her and know who her humans are.” or anything else in that vein.  Since it was raining most of today, she hasn’t been around.  So I suppose in a way, that’s not a bad thing.

With the weather getting colder, it’s caused a bit more concern for us as to her welfare.  We know that there are several feral cats in the neighborhood, and there are others that live in and around the houses as well, but frequent our backyard and property.  Mama Kitty seems to be of a different category.  We’re hoping for a happy ending here.  Or just a happy result.


Kitty Forgiveness

I made a boo-boo the other day.  And inconvenienced the kitty inadvertently.  We’d been having power outages on Sunday, and it completely escaped me that the kitty box runs on electricity.  We’ve been using a LitterMaid™ for the past ten years, and it sits in the basement, raking the box approximately fifteen minutes after the kitty uses it.  I empty the collection box twice a week (usually on Wednesdays and Sundays) and fill the box with litter as needed.  I’ve been getting the inexpensive litter from Petco for at least the past three years, I paid the initial $20 for the 30# bucket and have been refilling it every time we’re in the area shopping or on some other errand.  It’s $10 for subsequent fill-ups, and that’s a nice bargain.

While I was working on Sunday, in the morning there was a blackout due to the state electricity provider (NYSEG) having a series of problems in their transmission lines that (from what I later heard and read) was caused somewhere in the Hudson Valley near the Indian Point nuclear plant.  Where I live has its own electrical co-op, so they provide electricity at a cheaper rate than what others can get from the state.  It’s one of the reasons it’s so relatively (by comparison) inexpensive to live here when we were outside of the village/town here, our utility costs were at least double what they are now.  So it’s one of the big reasons we stay put.  We could live somewhere that was more picturesque, but the costs of doing so are just prohibitive.

As I was informed by the wife at lunch via text, the power had gone out several times.  We have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) at the place where our main computers reside, so if there’s a momentary or short term power failure, our computers are unaffected, we can shut down safely, rather than being shut down all of a sudden, which is not good for the components.  Businesses use the same sort of contraption for their registers since they’re highly susceptible to things like power spikes, brownouts and things of that nature.  Need to protect the data at all costs.

However, the cat’s litter box is considered a non-essential commodity in that vein, so I don’t have it hooked up to one.  And when the power goes off, it stops working.  And doesn’t turn itself back on.  It requires one of the humans that live here to remember that there are things plugged in that won’t just turn themselves back on when the power returns.  Except, in this case, both of them forgot.  And it didn’t turn out well for the littlest resident of the house.

Starting Sunday evening, Rochester was being vocal about something but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I checked his food bowl and it was mostly full, his water fountain was running as it was supposed to be, but the fill container on the back needed some more water.  I filled that and cleaned up around his area of the spilled food, thinking that this might be the cause of his consternation.  He looked up at me, rower’d a couple of times and had a bit more food.  Then went off to another part of the house.  A encountered him a few more times during the evening and there was a similar conversation.  The cat box just didn’t occur to me, since we keep it in such an ‘out-of-the-way’ area.

By Monday morning, I’m certain things were getting out of hand as it had been about 20 hours since the power went off the first time.  Kitty was probably getting a little concerned that his box wasn’t clean when he needed to go to the bathroom, but since he doesn’t speak English, he wasn’t able to adequately communicate.  I got up for work as I always do around five, and he wasn’t at the top of the stairs to greet me, which I thought was a little unusual.  His normal routine is to come upstairs while I’m in the bathroom, keep me company and sit at the top of the stairs for his morning rub while I’m putting on my socks in preparation of going downstairs to get dressed and have my morning tea.

In my morning routine that day, there was nothing that required me to go to the basement, so I was still oblivious to the fact that something needed to be done about the cat box.  Rochester was still vocal about something, but I went off to work thinking things were ok here at the house.  Upon arriving home again nine hours later, I just happened to look down the basement stairs and saw something that looked like a pile of brown at the foot.  Going down to investigate, I found it to be a pile of kitty crap.  Oh dear.  It all started to make sense.  Glancing at the cat box, I saw there were piles of litter here and there, brown spots and heaps and the light on the box was most definitely off.  Kitty had finally had enough of trying to find fresh spots to do his business and started to (logically) make a new spot for his bathroom duties.  I felt really bad that I had goofed.

I cleaned up the area where he’d crapped, cleaned the box thoroughly and refilled it with litter.  Turned it back on and came upstairs to apologize.  Giving my buddy a good rubbing, telling him how sorry I was I couldn’t understand him as he harangued me a good bit about being a stupid self-centered human.  Yup, guilty as charged, buddy.  I told the wife about what had happened and she face-palmed as she admitted she forgot about it too.  Just one of those things that you don’t necessarily think about when it happens, you reset the clocks on appliances like the microwave and Keurig, and then go on about your day.

As I mentioned to a friend of mine whom I was talking to the next day relating what had happened, I suggested I needed to make a ‘to-do’ list of things that need to be checked after a power outage.  She said that it was probably a good idea, and would look forward to me doing something in that regard.

Since then, no more power outages, and Rochester is back to using his litter box.  So we’re set, at least until the power goes out again.