Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Isis gotta watch Wapner

Fosco has never had a cat before, but now he's helping to raise Oz's cat Isis. As Fosco has previously noted, he feels some anxiety about Isis's psychological well-being. He spends more time than he should wondering about Isis's thoughts and feelings. And he's actually gotten a little frustrated: what is going on in kitty's head?

That is, until he read this brief note in Sunday's NYT Book Review. Temple Grandin's new book Animals Make Us Human includes some interesting thoughts about cats. According to the review:

In her chapter on cats, she offers advice on how to prevent “cat explosions” at the vet’s office and mentions at least one book, “All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome,” that Inside the List would like to get its hands on. “Cats seem autistic,” she writes, “because they don’t come across as being sociable or eager to please like a dog, and also because their faces are kind of blank.”
Fosco thinks this is actually a pretty brilliant way to think about cats. From what he can tell of the book All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome, it is intended primarily as a teaching tool for people who want to understand Asperger's better; however, based on this summary of the book, it seems to offer a pretty decent description of cat behavior as well. So this is Fosco's new approach to thinking about Isis: she is the feline equivalent of an Asperger kid. And once you realize that, you stop worrying about why she doesn't always want to cuddle or why she sometimes ignores Tina Tuna or she both fears and loves crinkly plastic.

All this means, of course, is that Fosco was using the wrong cognitive model to represent Isis. He was thinking about her as a low-functioning but essentially "normal" human (hmmm, like a baby!). But Isis is not like most neurotypical babies; rather, she may be more like an Asperger or autistic kid. And Fosco can deal with that.

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