The Strange Thing About Cats: A Detective Story
When I moved into my 2nd floor apartment over a year ago, all 3 of my bedroom window screens had holes in them. One window, particularly, had a larger hole than the rest.
Oh, yeah, my roommate said. The cat jumped out of the window.
What? I said, incredulous, especially since we had no cat.
Turns out that the former tenant brought the neighborhood cat into the room and, for some reason, the cat freaked out and jumped out of the window.
On another occasion, a friend and I pulled into the driveway of her house. She was older and lived there with her senior mom. As she continued to park, I looked out of the window and then did a double take at the patio window, a good 7–8 feet up from the ground. There was a hole in the screen.
What the hell happened to the screen? I asked.
Princess jumped out of it, she said.
What? I said, incredulous.
Turns out that my friend’s mom claimed that my friend’s cat was bothering her too much so she left the cat on the patio, and the cat jumped out of the window.
I was very intrigued by these strange set of circumstances and not a little jealous, to be honest. I wish the window was a viable and societally acceptable option for bailing on high and even low stakes human interaction. Co-worker coming toward me?
Out the window.
Walking into a meeting? Detour.
Out the window.
Despite displaying similar instances of what appeared to be anti self-preservation practices for years, I was truly baffled. My amateur sleuthing led me to Urban Dictionary.com where I curiously came upon the word:
JOOW (which I phonetically surmised to be identical to ‘Jew’)
JOOW, according to Urban Dictionary.com is “short for ‘jumping out of window’ as a reaction of being exposed to something being highly disturbing or plain madcap. Stating after what just happened, you don’t want to live on this same world any longer.”
“But don’t these cats even know that they could be committing suicide?” I asked aloud.
And, as if. On cue, a red herring. Instead of continuing on the trail of “cats freaking out and jumping out of window”, I was led to “when cats are freaked out” “why are cats so insanely afraid of cucumbers?”
Behind the eight ball, I watched YouTube clip after YouTube clip of strangely cruel cat owners place obnoxiously large cucumbers behind their cats as they ate, and their cats become airborne when, unsuspecting, they turned around.
Is it any wonder these cats become hypothetically suicidal? I thought.
Then, a possible break in the case, when a dame asked a Yahoo forum, “Can Cats Commit Suicide?”
According to ‘Rosesarered’ and ‘Mommy to Princesses’ it was unlikely since, respectively:
“Animals are hard-wired for self-preservation. They are built to survive. Suicide would go against their instinct. I know that they form bonds and relationships with one another and with us. But they don’t seem to have that same self-pity complex that us humans do.”
“[C]ats can feel emotions, but to commit suicide you need to have a knowledge of death and an understanding of cause and effect.”
However, in submitting my own personal observances of cats continuing to attack the ankles of incoming guests despite negative reactions, and cats knocking items from the top of the refrigerator to successfully procure food, respectively, I was forced to abandon this trail. There was also the matter of ‘Green Apple’ on another Yahoo forum, who outright claimed that “[cats] might jump off your balcony but not windows. No worries.”
After eating a Hot Pocket and Google Earthing my ex-boyfriend’s location and slashing his tires then returning home, I continued my researches.
‘are cats suicidal?’ I typed.
And according to an article entitled “Can Your Pet Commit Suicide? The Answer May Surprise You”, the answer is curious, but surprising in its own answer of inconclusivity.
It seems that in asking the question of ‘are cats suicidal?’, we must enumerate the long-documented cases of animals that have harmed themselves in reaction to stressors, such as the death of loved ones, negligence or captivity: an 1847 Scientific American piece entitled “Death by Gazelle”, for instance, tells of a male gazelle that stood over the dead body of a female gazelle, threating to butt on-comers, then suddenly rammed his head against the wall and fell dead beside the female. A 2014 Huffington Post story tells of King O, a cockatoo that began pulling out his own feathers with his feet following the death of his owner. And in the Scottish Lowlands town of Dumbarton, locals tell of dozens of dogs that have leaped from an old stone bridge to their deaths on the rocks below over the last half-century.
Of course, such reactions to stressors can and certainly do lead to death, but according to Nicholas H. Dodman, a professor and program director at the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, animals do not know that.
“[S]uicide requires an ability to ‘ponder,’ Dodman says. There’s a thing called abstract thought, and I don’t really know they are capable of this.”
I don’t really know they are capable of this as well. I also don’t know why they jump out of windows or why they are insanely afraid of cucumbers. Or how they open doors like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, or slash the tires of my ex-boyfriend. But I know they do.
This has been the most interesting, curious case.