It is said, sometimes, by people I don't necessarily trust, that cats have the mental capacity of a three-year-old child. I've always found that fascinating. So now that I happen to have 1) a cat, and 2) a three-year-old child, it's time to experiment.

My wife and I are currently paying some very nice people way too much money to finish our basement. They framed the walls with 2x4's and filled the gaps with insulation, they strung metal conduit along the ceiling for dangerous electrical purposes (we're building a mock electric chair in the den to threaten our children with when they are teenagers. okay, maybe not, but how many of you felt aghast, and how many said, "ooh, I like that idea?") Drywall will go up soon, but in the meantime, the basement is a haven for nail guns and air compressors, table saws and revolving drill bits. In other words, it's the perfect place for my experiment.

While the kind men are hammering away, I bring our cat, Leia, down to the basement. She has recently decided our hamper makes a better toilet than her litter box. Why? The atmosphere. In the hamper, stored away in our closet and full of clothes, she can relieve herself on a soft cushiony surface in relative solitude. Her litterbox, however, is in the basement, and it's surrounded by evil men making lots of noise. I wouldn't want to go to the bathroom down there either. Of course, I wouldn't necessarily want to use the hamper, but faced with the choices, I have to agree she made the right decision. (NOTE: We've since purchased a second litter box to keep upstairs until the basement is finished. Despite what you believe, we prefer the smell of our fabric softener over the delightful odor of cat urine.)

So I bring Leia downstairs. She's a rather plump, out-of-shape, black and white, 5 year old cat. I set her down by the litter box. She smells it. She peeks around the corner. Ooh! Big bad man there with nail-throwing weapon. Run, Leia, Run! She's gone before I straighten up. Observation: Cat has no interest in places with loud noises or weird men.

Then I bring Smartypants down. How will she react? She's hungry, so she might simply grab my leg and beg me to pick her up. If so, I'll consider that an equal reaction to the feline. I tell her, "Look, they're working on our basement still." Her response: "WOW!!!" She squirms until I set her down. Wide-eyed, she nods her head as she examines their handywork. She doesn't say Hello to anyone, but she doesn't run. Instead, she darts toward an open toolbox. Out comes flying a hammer and a set of plyers, some fancy ratchet, a dozen devices I can't name, and a handful of sharp, 2 1/4 inch nails.

Okay, umm, experiment over, right now. I spend the next five minutes organizing the nice man's toolbox and checking Smartypants for tetanus. Then we return upstairs. Observation: Child is insane.

So my conclusions... While the feline demonstrated proper flight instincts when faced with potentially threatening circumstances, the child dove willingly into an even more dangerous situation, ignoring any possible concerns of rust poisoning, scraped knees, splinters or death by power tool.

End Result: Obviously the cat is smarter than people think.

This post was originally shared on my at-home parenting blog, The Daily Writer, which has long since vanished. I’ve migrated many of the posts to this site for sentimental reasons.


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