It had been a busy week for the Cat Club. Rudy had emailed every cat she knew with the opinion poll on the acceptability of cats eating their own young, and surprisingly had received a reply from almost all of them. She’d realized there was no way she’d be able to remember all of this information and spent all of Wednesday and part of Thursday teaching herself how to use spreadsheet software. She entered in the responses for each question for the cats who had emailed replies, using the three point scale she’d devised. As she did this she mentally sent a thank you to Peep for learning how to count and teaching Miss Rudy about numbers. The spreadsheet, unfortunately, did not work in base cat, but she could muddle along in base ten.
Everycat was on time for Friday night’s Cat Club meeting, and in the moments leading up to the meeting she realized that they needed to get an answer on this fast or the fur would fly. After quickly completing the opening business Rudy invited the members into the house, explaining that she would be inputting the data onto the Daddy’s computer. One by one the cats listed who they had spoken to and their responses. Rudy was glad she’d decided to list each cat’s name in her spreadsheet, as it quickly became evident that some cats had been polled more than once. She decided if there were multiple interviews with a cat she’d list each one and compare the answers. Any with discrepant answers would be discarded, as this was just standard practice for research. She’d discovered in her own research in how to figure out what to do with research poll data.
Finally all the results were in the computer, and Rudy shooed the other cats outside, saying she’d need to concentrate on the data to remove duplicate entries quickly. She alphabetized the entries by name and quickly eliminated what she considered to be tainted data and then looked at her results. Twenty-six cats had been polled and some results were definitive. No cats felt that an adult cat should ever eat another adult cat. All cats felt that birds and small rodents were acceptable food for cats. But the main question? It was a thirteen/thirteen split. Half the cats felt that under some circumstance it would be acceptable for a hypothetical cat to eat its kitten. Belatedly, Rudy realized she should have been a bit more specific with the questions.
She saved her work and slowly walked to the cat door. She could hear just outside a heated argument, each side espousing its point of view loudly and with wild exaggerations. When the flap opened and she emerged there was silence and everycat looked at her.
Taking a deep breath, Rudy began to speak. She started with the easy stuff – yes, everycat thinks it’s okay to eat mice. No one thinks it’s okay to eat other adult cats. Sparky broke in and demanded she get to the main question. Rudy sighed and reported the results. “The poll indicates that precisely half of the cats we asked felt that under some circumstance it would be acceptable for a cat to eat its kitten.” She rushed on to say, “I may not have made the questions specific enough. This doesn’t account for the age of the cat, the health of the kitten, the health of the adult or any environmental conditions.”
Mayhem ensued. First the cats verbally attacked Rudy. How could she design such a vague poll? Why didn’t she ensure that there were not an even number of respondents? Some were more personal. Snoogums insinuated that she’d manipulated the results since she herself had not taken a particularly strong stand on the issue. Sparky (who happened to hold the opposite viewpoint from Snoogums) jumped to Rudy’s defense, getting right into the older cat’s face. She insisted that Rudy was the most ethical, responsible cat in the club and if he felt that way maybe he should take his views somewhere else.
That was the cue for the cats to begin criticizing each other for their beliefs on the issue. Rudy sat, dumbfounded as she watched her friends turn into cat-shaped monsters. They started with simple assertions that the other viewpoint was obviously wrong and that anycat should be able to see it, and moved on to more personal attacks that referred to their opponent’s upbringing and lineage. Finally Rudy had enough. These were normally sane and friendly cats, no matter what the circumstance. As Snoogums reached out to claw Sparky, Rudy puffed her fur out until she looked like a black and white pillow and waded in to the fray, hissing and yowling. She got right up in Snoogums face and he backed up. So did all the other cats until they were evenly spaced against the rails of the deck.
“That is ENOUGH, Cat Club members! We are not savages, asserting our views with force of claws. We are reasonable felines, or at least I thought we were. I demand, as Cat Club President that you all drop this issue and refrain from discussing it with one another until we can do some more research on this. Obviously, public opinion is not the answer here. What is important is not the force of numbers, but rather what is right. I propose to research this issue, and invite you all to do the same. I will visit pet care and health websites and ask the experts about this. All of you are welcome to do the same, so that it can be shown that I am not slanting my research. And if you don’t have a computer to use, I can even find some times when the Daddy is not home so some of you can watch me do my research. But until we meet again I must insist that we put aside this issue, lest it destroy our club and our friendship.”
Six pairs of eyes blinked at her in total silence. It stretched to thirty seconds, then forty-five seconds. Finally Greymalkin broke the silence. “Good grief, you’d think we were all a bunch of humans on one of those political shows on television. What got into us? You’re right, Rudy. No matter how strong my views, I’m willing to leave this be until we can get some expert information on this.”
Bunny, Snoogums, Ladybug and Mr. Snuggles stared warily at each other. They were split two to two on the issue and they shared a house. Would they be able to keep their thoughts to themselves? Bunny spoke what they were all feeling. “Rudy, we’ll try, but it will be hard since we’re together all the time. Is there any chance we can do this sooner, though? A week is a long time for a cat to hold her tongue.”
Thoughts raced through Rudy’s mind. Well, the Daddy was going to Mary Land to visit the Mommy for a day or two this weekend, so she’d have pretty much unlimited computer time. It would mean giving up a few naps, but this was important. These were her friends, and she owed it to them. With a little more discussion, they agreed to meet in three days.
Photo courtesy of Heather (Absinthe Green) - www.flickr.com/photos/absinthe-green/302501037