Oh man, cat people….
Case in point, this article in Vox: “Japan just created a Google Street View for cats”. Basically, some cat fanatic in Japan made a Google Maps street view for cats. No I don’t know why. But now, it’s explained in the article, we can see what a city look in Japan looks like to a cat.
Of course, that is not what anything looks like to a cat. It is what a Japanese city looks like to a very short person. Because a cat’s daytime vision (see the photo below) is much more fuzzy, less sharp, less colorful (no reds at all), dimmer, and full of shadows. A cats cautious movement reflects that vision. What to us is a lawn in the late afternoon sun is to them a lawn with its western half it in deep shadow. And I also believe a cat’s vision would detect movement much more acutely, so that while we see a street, a cat would see birds in the bushes, a pedestrian walking on the sidewalk, a car passing, and a some littered paper blowing by. We would put the movement into the context of a street, but for a cat the movement is the context.
I realize that this is the least important thing you’re read all day.
And I’m not even finished. You’ll notice one of the stills from the map linked above shows a shop in the background, a bench in the foreground, and some fool calling the invisible cat from the shop door. We can ignore the fool, if only on principle, and the shop, and focus instead on the bench. I’ve always thought that a cat’s way of looking at space is much more modular than ours. That bench, for instance. We see a bench, and notice there’s room under the bench. To a cat there’s the top of the bench and, completely separate, there is the space underneath the bench. They are two different spaces, and their connectedness is meaningless and probably unrecognized by the cat. Because to a cat every opening big enough to get into is its own separate space. A box on the floor. A grocery bag. A cat will crawl into a bag and that bag will then be separate from the room it is in, to the point that a cat can crawl into a paper bag and fall fast asleep, feeling completely secure, no matter what is going on around it. And while a bedroom for us is one room and a closet, for a cat it is a whole collection of spaces independent of each other. The top of the bed and underneath the bed are completely different, the various cubbyholes and hidden places in the closet are completely unique spaces. It sees a bedroom the way we would see a large house. And I don’t think this map gets that across. But imagine an empty bag on the sidewalk between the bench and the shop. To us it would be a bag blowing across the sidewalk. To a cat it would be another modular space, just as much a part of the geography as the top of the bench or under the bench or that shop door beyond with the fool saying here kitty kitty in Japanese.
I once saw a map of a neighborhood from the point of view of a mockingbird, the block divided into various mockingbird territories that, property lines be damned, were all over the place. I’ve never been able to find that map again–those were analog times, when things popped up, blew our minds, then disappeared forever–but it got me to looking at the world from the point of view of different species, such as cats, or Argentine ants, or the rotten kids next door back then on their Big Wheels at eight in the morning. You can while away half your adult life thinking like that. I recommend it.