February 21, 2008
Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column meditating on the differences between babies and cats.It’s the photograph of PhatEarl and Thomas that has us riding this train of thought. The cat and the baby look to be about the same size. PhatEarl, though, probably weighs a bit more. The baby clearly has a bigger head (and, presumably, a bigger brain), but the cat is furrier. In this photo at least, the feline is the more alert of the two, but maybe Thomas is just worn out from a busy day packed with eating, pooping and crying. Power sleeping, it turns out, might be one of the marked similarities between newborns and cats. Experts say adult cats normally sleep about 21 hours a day. If that’s true, we wonder, why is our cat always awake in the wee hours of the night? You’d think the odds would be against that.The same could be said for many babies. They sleep so much, and we sleep so little, in a just universe our sleep times should coincide. Alas, it’s just one more piece of evidence that justice isn’t necessarily part of the cosmic plan.
At this stage, PhatEarl appears to have some appealing qualities that Thomas lacks. Anyone who lives in Summit County during the winter has to admit that it would be wonderful to have four legs instead of two. Imagine how safe that trip from the car into the post office would feel. And a tail would probably add stability to some of our more daredevil hockey moves.What looks best of all, though, is the fur. Yes, it makes a mess under the couch. Yes, it makes some people sneeze. And yes, furballs can be a disgusting nuisance. But what would life be like if we never had to get up in the morning and worry about what we were going to wear? Think of all the free time we’d have if we didn’t have to shop for clothes or do laundry. And, unlike nudists, cats aren’t cold when they’re naked. So far, it seems, the balance is in the cat’s favor. PhatEarl is warmer and more stable. He’s also much better equipped to defend himself. He has teeth, after all, and claws. And he can turn himself over independently if circumstances require a quick exit.Why all the fuss, then, about babies? Is it their innate inferiority to other animals that makes us love them so much? Is it their total dependency on our adult omnipotence that stokes our fragile egos? A cat will never stare at us with the same adoration our progeny will (before they become teenagers, that is). And most cats make it clear that, when push comes to shove, they don’t really need their human companions. When they eat the food we put down for them and curl up in our laps for a nap, they’re doing us a favor.
We think there’s some truth to that, but we prefer to think of it in a more positive way. One of the reasons we all love babies so much is that they absolutely do need us. If his parents never came by and picked him up, Thomas would still be lying there on his Classic Pooh blankie. Most human beings, we think, are programmed to do what needs to be done, more or less.That might explain why we keep babies around, but what exactly is it about them that makes some people prefer them to cats – who are obviously more physically gifted? We’ve decided the key factor here is time. Sure, PhatEarl cat is graceful, relatively self-sufficient, and tidy right now. In contrast, the baby is none of those things. Thomas, however, is a little container of nearly infinite potential, and the cat will pretty much always be just “the cat.”Who knows what Thomas will grow up to do? Will he sing baritone or bass? Will he ride regular or goofy? Will he read Kafka? Will he collect bottle caps? Will he be a dog person or a cat person? The possibilities are endless. And that wide-open vista of life is what gives the baby the ultimate advantage when compared to any other creature on the planet.
***Today’s Angel Alert! Angel Alert! comes from Thomas’s proud parents, who also sent us today’s photo. Tamara and John Damow (and big brother Alexander) write: “If we do not monopolize the press, we would like to send along two belated Angel Alerts – to Summit Medical Center nurses, especially Andrea, who was fantastic during labor and delivery, and to lactation consultants Mary Jo and Merideth. We know they’re ‘just doing their jobs,’ but they truly make a difference in ways they may never know! Thank you!”***It’s Friday morning, and we’re out looking for fresh babies to admire. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.