Repulsion is part of diversity

One thing I have learned from living on a farm is that you are not really experiencing diversity unless you are also experiencing repulsion.

We each have lots of assumptions about what is right and wrong, how the world works, how people should act in a civilized community. When faced with true diversity – that is, diversity of experience — we have to allow our assumptions to be challenged. It’s hard to not feel some repulsion for the person who challenges our core assumptions.

But it’s clear to me that diversity in the workplace is difficult to achieve because we must ask so much of ourselves in order to achieve it. We must allow ourselves to experience repulsion and keep an open mind while doing that.

And now, I will write about cats; specifically, the 150 comments people left on my last post about why I killed my cat. Last week I thought I was not really writing about cats because I was writing about dead cats. And anyway, really I was writing about the moral problem of paid links. But in fact, I still have the problem that I now find myself doing the very worst, low level, terrible job on the internet: writing content about cats.

In the business world, cats are the topic-non-grata. If I go into an investor meeting to discuss business models for online content, it takes only about five minutes before I hear, “I just don't want to see posts about cats.”

But I think we can all be better at thinking in diverse ways, in diverse environments, if I indulge in one more post about cats. So here I go.

1. Don’t shield yourself from complex thinking. If you think killing my cat was absolutely, hands down a terrible decision, then you probably don't have the same moral code I do. So maybe you should just stop reading my blog, but probably you should just not let me take care of your cat. Listening to people who have ideas that are patently different from your own make you think harder. (This is why I read publications like Al-Jazeera and Car & Driver.)

2. Diverse ways of thinking can co-exist only rarely. With an open mind.
Hard-core questions of morality have no right answer. Can a mother kill someone to feed her child? Can a mother kill one child to save another? Have you never heard these questions from college Ethics 101? These are real issues, and behavioral economist Dan Ariely, author of the book Predictably Irrational, shows that how we answer these questions has more to do with how we are born—how we were hard-wired to see the world—than what is objectively right and wrong. Some people will say killing is wrong, so you can’t kill anything ever. Other people will see this moment as an exception.

This New Yorker cartoon hits the spot because the intersection of humans and animals is fraught with complex moral systems:

Often there is no right answer – for cats, children or meat-counter decisions – but you challenge yourself more in life if you open your life up to people who are wired differently than you are, without trying to squash those differences.

3. Understanding moral context requires placing oneself in unfamiliar situations. Hey, all you cat commenters, have you lived on a farm? Do you understand the problems with farm cats? Do you understand there is a moral question of whether we should even feed babies who are born in the dead of winter? (We feed them.) Do you understand that most cats cannot be spayed because they can’t be caught?

Our favorite goat broke his leg. The Farmer wanted to slaughter him for meat. He is a little young, but the farm is a business, and financially it makes more sense to take the meat while we can than to bet on that the goat will return to good health. We have a lot of goats, and if they were all pets, we could not afford to feed them. So goat decisions on our farm are often business decisions.

But because our farm is a mix of city people and country people — people with vastly different sets of experiences — moral decisions are often more complex on our farm than other farms. In the end, Melissa decided she wanted to treat the goat as a pet. She loves the goat. So she took responsibility for nursing him back to health. The odds were not good, and the splint is made of two nail files, but she was devoted. And slept with him in the barn.

3. Real diversity is personally challenging. Here are things I thought were patently wrong before I lived on the farm: Drowning cats. Shooting possums. Peeing on the front lawn. Feeding sub-par food to animals. Confining animals in labor. Branding cattle. Notching an animal's ear. I could go on forever.

Whole Foods has a five-tiered program to let customers know where their animal products comes from. There are five hoops farmers can jump through to get rated by Whole Foods. The Farmer — my farmer — absolutely loves his animals and he will spend all night in a rain storm to keep one alive for one more day. But he doesn't even meet the first standard—the bottom rung—with Whole Foods.

Now that I live on a farm, I see both sides of everything. People are not morally depraved. They are living in the context of their own community. We all grow a lot more personally by trying to understand people rather than judging them.

It’s no easy task, though. I know this myself, because I still hate cat people.

Sorry but it's the truth. People who treat animals like humans are people who cannot cope with complexities of human relationships. People who think their cat gives them what they need for companionship are probably right, because they are so underdeveloped emotionally. I am not alone in my thinking. Here is a great parody of a dating video as the perfect illustration of my point:

[youtube_sc url= width=549 rel=0 fs=1]


184 replies
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  1. emily
    emily says:

    here’s an idea: penelope didn’t really want to put the cat to sleep. putting the cat to sleep was hard. the first idea was not to put the cat to sleep if it was possible but then it seemed impossible.

    the moral debate about whether putting the cat to sleep was bad or good could be endless. work rarely has these kind of stakes. even the most dedicated worker takes time off for personal reasons, a death in the family, for example.

    it’s easy to get sucked up by work because that’s where we can control the beginning and the end to things. even when we put an animal to sleep we’re usually just reacting to an external circumstance like a broken leg or an illness. If we can loosen up and promote an idea that we might usually not advocate, than we may be better able to deal with when the rest of life doesn’t go our way.

  2. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    I have a cat… Or rather, this cat has me. And every morning, the cat and I have a one-on-one. I do the talking, the cat responds with a look that says, “Shut up and feed me.” And here’s what I say. “What did you ever do for me? One day you show up on my doorstep and beg. You threaten to die if I don’t feed you, and get you to the vet for shots. I do all this, and yet you come for food and run from my arms. What are you good for, Cat? I get no affection, no fuzzy fondling, no appreciation, no trust, no admiration, no respect and NO love! And when I’m out of town, you cost me five bucks a day to have a cat-feeder pour your kibble!”

    Again I get the gimme-the-damn-food cat look.

    Well, after three years of my subservience to a feline, I now realize what this cat IS! It’s a Mitzvah Cat sent from God. This creature teaches me to do a “Good Deed” while getting nothing in return. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. That’s it. End of lesson. This cat will never die.


    • adventurose
      adventurose says:

      Irv – I have a Mitzvah cat too – her name is Jinx. I knew I should have stuck with dogs but at least you’ve given me some context now. Thank you!

  3. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    “People who treat animals like humans are people who cannot cope with complexities of human relationships.”

    Yes, absolutely. Western, urbanized people have hidden from their sight the rough realities of life. They’ve learned to live in their heads, not in their world. What they believe and feel is reality, not necessarily what’s really there.

    And because their ethics are based on beliefs and feelings, not on reality, they end up being in conflict with each other.

    You want an even more irrational reaction to this post? Substitute the word “seal” for the word “cat”. Try it. Commentors will go nuts.

  4. Caryn
    Caryn says:

    Thank you for this. Seriously. Other points of view do help me see beyond myself, so diversity is important to viewing the world.

    I have friends who have spent thousands of dollars they can’t afford to make their animals’ lives longer, and I think there must be a limit somewhere. We curse limits on everything but if they didn’t exist then it would be chaos.

    I understand this well as I know my eyesight is what I call “cougar food” level if I lost my glasses while out in the wilderness. It’s reality, awful as it is. Move on, act with compassion but not with idiot kindness.

  5. Jill
    Jill says:

    Putting the cat down was an ethical decision. Keeping the cat alive and finding the means to care for it was an ethical decison. Just because they were polar opposites does not mean one was right and one was wrong. It depends on your worldview- your context, if you will. Same goes for situations in the workplace. You can have more than one right answer, and if you look at it from someone else’s point of view, you will probably learn something.

    Thanks for another great post.

  6. zan
    zan says:

    i love my mother. i love my friends. i love my ex-husband and ex-boyfriend. i love my dog. i love them all in very different ways; each of them enriches my life in accordance with their particular gifts, and i don’t like to think about them dying, or about helping them die. but they, and i, will die, so i enjoy them all while i can, and try to be a good and kind woman in their lives. i try to make them laugh. i try to give them comfort. even when they pass gas in my presence, i am always grateful to them for their presence in my life.

    i read your blog for the same reason you read al-jazeera. thank you.

  7. Patty P
    Patty P says:

    Awwwwww…did everyone who made comments about killing your cat hurt your feelings? So you, in turn, wrote an entire blog insulting people who love cats? You have thinner skin than you realize. Take the bait: you’re a train wreck divorcee, a self-centered “mom” who is probably producing whack-job kids traumatized by a perverse, sex-obsessed lifestyle, and a weirdo who talks about losing babies in meetings/having sex with colleagues. Either you are f-ing nuts or this is a creative writing project…?

  8. Tatiana
    Tatiana says:

    I kinda had to comment because you wrote a post about cats. :D

    In terms of diversity, I’ve had this conversation before – but mostly about other blogs, not work related stuff. Mostly, we read what represents us and what we believe. This occurred to me when I saw many white female bloggers who only ever read other white female blogs. But, it’s not just an issue of race (and possibly gender) but also of our general ideas and opinions.

    People – very regularly – like to claim that they’re open-minded, but I think that few people actually are. Most people, when they say this, mean physical diversity, not intellectual diversity. You’re “open minded” if all your friends are of a different race than you, or come from different parts of the US. But few people regularly seem to engage with others who disagree with them (routinely) and probably even believe in different things entirely. Like you said, being around others who challenge us, forces us to think. For me, that’s how I figure out what I believe, what I’ll stand for – by meeting people who don’t share my values.

    But, I’ve lived with someone who didn’t share any of my values and it did repulse me. I ended up finding him despicable, moronic and full of too much privilege to know anything about anything. I can’t imagine forcing myself to experience this on a daily basis, as I am a rather judgmental person.

    But I also feel that a discussion can’t go anywhere if people are unable or unwilling to discuss things.

  9. David
    David says:

    I think you made a very clear point. There is no easy answer to any serious question. No “right” action to many of the issues we face. If the right action was obvious, we would all do the same action because not doing it would be insanity.

    Hence, diversity. Issues are too dynamic to resolve with a static answer. Each issue leads to many points of view based on context. You can’t experience every possible situation so you don’t trust other answers.

    I have no experience on the farm and no experience with cats on a farm. I have no way to relate to that situation. But I appreciate that you do.

  10. Mariane
    Mariane says:

    Life ends. that is a fact. For me, there is real strenght in your being open about the process of life and the decisions to be done along the way including the less… prettier? part of it… The meaning of life is to live it. And you do. fuggedabout being more like whatshername Cowboy girl or what it is with her Malboro man. I read her blog once since you mentioned it and it bores me out of my skull. As for Melissa sleeping with the goat- sure, it is her decision, and probably I would also have done that if I was in love with its character & felt some deep connection (animals DO have individual characters! which might be one of the reasons some, but not all, animals even of the same type such as cats or donkeys or whatever climb the ladder to embraced pethood, so to say… they reach out towards us). I have raised wildlife in the past with some sucess and some failures and probably will do so again if I have to but after the initial help, just like staking and watering young trees, then nature takes it course and we are not Gods, so… we need to be able to let go! keep up the good work! ah, btw, there is a very interesting museum in Paris, Musee de la chasse et la nature that embraces these division lines and contextualizes it in a historical context – truly worth a visit both in line and in reality!

  11. Kenosi
    Kenosi says:

    Great post as usual P. Pity some of the people who comment missed the whole point of being open-minded to diversity, and take what you say personal personally instead of accepting that you don’t see the world they way they do.

  12. Brian Brandes
    Brian Brandes says:

    I wonder if the “you shoulda saved cat, you witch” commenters realize that their replies do nothing to alter your position. The vast majority of their posts simply reiterate previously stated opinions, which does nothing to change someone’s opinion. In fact, it solidifies it. I feel the only benefit, if you can call it that, is to alleviate the emotional anxiety when being presented with the situation.

    I feel the fact that their writing almost unilaterally fails to even touch upon the moral dichotomy of the situation reinforces your previous statement about “cat people” being emotionally crippled/underdeveloped; it’s extremely painful to tackle something morally ambiguous. As such, their brains only coping mechanism is to simplify life by creating binary rules which are easy for them to process. Otherwise, most decisions are too complicated for them to judge, they’d be in mental paralysis. And these people aren’t comfortable being lost in limbo. So sadly, they don’t realize that such judgments are almost worthless, since they’re much more akin to merely giving a default answer rather than what I’d consider a worthwhile judgement, that is, a well-contemplated decision weighing in on multiple perspectives.

  13. drew
    drew says:

    I gotta pull some of you up short, all you who describe cat lovers as emotional cripples and the like.
    You are totally wrong and make some deeply dumb and ignorant assuptions here.
    It’s much harder to be a vet or a peadiatrician, because you cannot ask your patients “where it hurts”. It takes human qualities to be a vet or a childrens doctor that would show up the mental and empathetic lameness of most people.
    Secondly, as a pre requisite to life, we as human beings have the capacity to love, heal, cure, care and tend to the sick. A unique quality of Man kind, although there is plenty of proof than Animals do indeed feel and care about other animal including Humans.
    I realise that in parts of the world, the culture is to not give a damn, plenty more where they came from etc.
    (The old frontier teritory culture is alive and well it seems).
    I hope you can see that this “life is cheap” attitude requires no thought beyond ones own selfish needs.
    It is those such people who are emotional cripples, the ones who fail to form lasting, meaningful relationships and find it difficult to find favour when times are tough.
    What Penny did with her Cat was specific to her, I cannot judge but at least she tried and had the courage or stupidity to write about it, depending upon your point of view, but it’s got people talking.

    Emotional Intelligence is desperatly lacking in modern society.
    Anyone interested, might like to read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. ISBN 978-0553383713

    Read this book and place your predjudices and opinions at the door…..

  14. drew
    drew says:

    Hi Jonny,

    Er, not sure about everyone doing what they want…
    Laws keep getting written about stuff like that.. Do you mean, you do as much as you dare without getting caught?

  15. Laura-F
    Laura-F says:

    Odd. Why can’t you have a relationship with an animal that is different and yet no less profound than a relationship with a human? I don’t treat my dog like she’s a person, but my relationship with her is not LESSER than, say, my relationship with my writing buddy in London. It’s just different. Why the need for a hierarchy? I don’t believe that because a creature has a less complex brain its value decreases proportionally. My dog would trample over me to get a treat; if I was dead and she was hungry she would eat my corpse without sentiment; if I’m crying she can’t empathize- she doesn’t understand and she doesn’t care; if both of us were starving and she had food she’d eat it, not share it. On the other hand, she’s totally incapable of guile or malice. She wouldn’t hurt someone for the sake of it, only to protect herself. Her attitude to the world is completely engaged and alert- when she’s experiencing something, running through leaves or meeting a new person, you can see it takes up the whole of her mind- she’s not lazy, she never fails to pay attention. I can’t discuss books with her or have a challenging conversation, but I can watch the way she tears round a field absolutely engaged with the world and totally happy in her way. She may be ‘just a dog’ but I can learn a lot from her. There is a difference between sentimentalizing, and having respect for a creature as it is, and a relationship with an animal can be as deep as a relationship with a human, though not the same.

    As regards the farm, personally, I don’t believe that in this day and age humans in the developed world need to use animal products at all, and I don’t, being a vegan. But I don’t necessarily condemn others for doing so. A vegetarian friend once asked me if I think that everybody should be a veggie and it made me realize that I think it’s nonsensical to make pronouncements like that. (No, I am not a believer in the categorical imperative in applied ethics.) I may genuinely believe that meat is murder, but to condemn people for committing an act that in almost every society is not taboo, is to dislocate yourself from reality as others see it. I may not ever want to eat meat but if I can’t understand (and, to an extent, accept) why others do, I might as well go and live in a cave somewhere. I might want to change people’s minds about eating meat, but I can’t do that by committing myself to a moral absolute and then denouncing everyone whose morality has different premises to my own. It is essential to understand difference even if that difference appalls you – even if only as the first step in trying to change something. Otherwise your focus is only only on yourself and your own fine morality, rather than on the issue or the change you believe passionately in.

    • chris Keller
      chris Keller says:

      @ Laura-F:
      In your first paragraph, you are able to place yourself in the mind and soul of the dog, to identify.

      In the 2nd paragraph, you define your limits. And you testify to your self-discipline. You want to persuade but you don’t. You hold back from putting pressure on others to believe the way you do.

      To me, these are tremendously important elements in embracing diversity. And, oh, by the way, well-said.

  16. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    I liked your post and attempt to provide context to the story of the cat. Context is so important and unless you live on a farm you cannot understand the context. In a related story my best friend had a dog that was taking a lot of money to keep due to medical problems. The heating oil company would not deliver any oil and all the bills were behind. After about $4000, which for a single dad taking care of his ex and two kids is plenty, he was faced with another $1000 that might not succeed. He explained the issue to the family and had everyone say goodbye to the dog. It was not a happy moment for the family but it came to a point where the tough choice was virtually the only choice. As for the people on the street asking for money, I am unable to pass without a contribution and take dollar coins and half dollars to hand out. I can do this because only when I am on vacation in a City do I ever see someone asking for money. If I passed them everyday I would run out of money. But for the day or two in the City I bless everyone I pass as part of my vacation and usually say hi. But the context is I can afford to do that for one or two days. Chicago visit once ran me about $60 a day. I would start with $20 and run out of coins. I do choose as I approach who gets a one and who gets a half based somewhat on chance. A cranky person or someone who is a bit combative will only render a half. One guy on the bridge near the Union Station and Pot Bellys remembered me specifically from a year earlier and where I was from. I look for him now and have found him once again. Musicians and performers can get more. In a way I am glad I don’t live there because the idea of passing the people buy because I can’t afford to do such a thing regularly makes me sad. My poorly made point is that they are many tough choices in life that are affected by context. Try to understand your point of view is not necessarily the only or correct point of view. Be loving, tolerant and pleasant. Be willing to explain and defend your choices and realize some people will consider you a wretch even though you may be a jewel.

  17. sarah
    sarah says:

    Glad to see your back to your snarky bitchy self. Glad I took your advice and canceled my subscription to your blog too. There are enough snarky bitches in the world

  18. drew
    drew says:

    Sorry to all you hard core, right wing republicans on here, but I wish to profer an alternative view.

    Here in England, (For the benefit of the 90% of American who have never travelled outside the US, it’s the bottom right hand bit of the bigger of the two Islands off the coast of Europe), we have a charity called the RSPCA who’s job it is to look out for the welfare of Animals. They can and do prosecute people or remove animals from people who cannot adequately care for them, domestic pets, working animals or livestock with a view to re-homing them.
    We also have a charity called the PDSA who provide low cost vetinary care for animals belonging to people on low incomes.
    This highlights the difference between cultures, where Life has a different price or value.
    Globalisation is bluring the lines here quite dramatically.
    The lesson learned from the second world war, is that people are more depraved and destructive than any animal if allowed to become so.
    Animals as a general rule kill for food or territory, never for sport. People will kill because they can.

    So, what price is life?
    If we place a price on the life of a Cat, where else does this lead us?
    Capitalism is fundamentally flawed.
    To get back on topic, the intersection between work and life is very black and white. We work at doing something we loath to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. If we are shrewd or lucky or well educated, we mabe have some extra resource to indulge in pleasure, creative, hedonistic or spiritual pursuits.
    This is life, some can, many cannot, but just because it’s expensive to build a sewer system, doesn’t mean we want to carry our own shit away right?
    So, we all chip in with our taxes and pay someone to build a sewer system to take our shit away.
    It’s called “socialism”.
    In India, they have cows walking around because they are sacred. They are not pets and killing them is a big no no as is, eating them…
    Ronald Macdonald has a different business model in Mumbai.

    So, if the power of story telling and the ability to use abstract thinking to draw people into a different paradigm of awareness is to have any impact, should we try this at work?
    I have been tasked with working with some spiritually bereft dunderheads in the past who I have tried to help by presenting an alternative view but have left, demoralised, disillusioned and burnt out,thinking, is it them or is it me???.
    What I’m looking for here, is a summary, a closure statement from our Penny to move this whole debate onto a higher plain and help me and perhaps many others reach a conclusion, even if it is an uncomfortable one.

    Over to you Penelope?

  19. Margaret Goerig
    Margaret Goerig says:

    Oh, that video just made my day. Thank you.

    About the post, though: I didn’t like that you killed the cat, either, but there are a lot of things you do that I do not like and that’s why I cannot stop reading you. I learn so much on here.

    I have actually just been thinking over the last few days about how we are all judgmental, like it or not. How can you have an opinion about anything and not be judgmental? And maybe you’re fortunate enough that your views go with some sort of mainstream, so that you pass as not being judgmental, but you are. It’s like when journalists try to say they’re not biased. The fact is, if you’re asking someone questions in an interview, you are asking what you want to know from your perspective on things and you are not going to ask certain questions, because it might not even occur to you to ask those questions, because you have your own set of beliefs and well, I think I am now just repeating what you were saying about being hard-wired one way or another. You know what they say about how difficult it is to break out of a poverty loop? How generations of poverty beget more generations of poverty? To me, it seems like the same struggle to break out of a set of ideas about the world.

    So, judgments and differences of opinion aside, I have to say that you are one of the more gracious people I have come across in my life. I have written you some ridiculous e-mails and I have left you a few foot-in-the-mouth comments and you’ve been nothing but courteous in response. And that counts for a lot.

  20. Varun
    Varun says:

    i’m with you, Penelope. some folks tend to enjoy experiencing such ‘moral outrage’ when they dont have a balls/ovaries to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. and some “animal lovers” tend to place animals over humans: taking care of a cat? sure. donating to a homeless shelter? enter cognitive dissonance.

    and, i dont think you’re judgemental. you do the research, read all sides of an argument, find the solution you feel is best, and stick to it, guns hot. folks like us who do that are always called judgemental, opinionated, snarky, etc. i prefer those terms over “lemming”.


  21. Marshall Brunson
    Marshall Brunson says:

    Screw the cats. The real takeaway from this article (for me) was the message that yes, when faced with someone I disagree with it is CHALLENGING but much more useful to see where we can fit together and where we can’t (and then act accordingly) than it is to just totally dismiss them from my life. More challenging. More useful.

    Thanks Penelope.

  22. Kerri
    Kerri says:

    Penelope, I love this post as a followup to your last post, especially after reading the comments. It is too true that people often refuse to open their minds or expand their realm of knowledge by even considering a viewpoint that is foriegn, opposing or repulsive to our own views…a point heartily proven by the fact that so many commenters want to blame the cat killing and your ability to entertain thoughts out of your sphere on your Aspergers, rather than the fact that an intelligent busineswomen, a loving mother and a good person would do something they find reprehensible, for good cause.

  23. David
    David says:

    Interesting post, Penelope. It helps us to understand that “diversity” means a real lack of “conformity” to a single idea or ideal. Seldom do hiring managers select those who challenge assumptions about their companies, so companies frequently are filled with those who conform to a certain ideal. Ageism is so prevalent now because hiring managers think only young people can be molded into their way of thinking. They don’t want older people who can and do challenge their assumptions.

    • drew
      drew says:

      David, you are so on the money there..

      I am sitting in my lounge, watching the Apprentice, the UK original version.
      Young peoples perceptions, predjudice and ignorance towards people over say, 35, is breathtaking?
      I have worked for a couple of young bosses, (with MBA’s or some other chit out of business school) and the hard part to deal with that knowledge and experience are not the same thing. I see young managers make the same school boy errors I made 20 years ago, yet hiring managers love their enthusiasm, energy and dare I say, “adaptability”. (Maleability).
      Office culture and politics are aspects of work that young people either walk into or never notice till it’s too late.
      Being an older employee means you have to use any aquired wisdom tactfully I guess, if you want to find and stay in work for fear of being “put down” prematurely…

  24. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Interesting and thought provoking. Your are right real diversity is challenging. No matter how open we think we are we continually get challenged in our thinking

  25. jbell
    jbell says:

    “People who treat animals like humans are people who cannot cope with complexities of human relationships.”

    the ignorance continues…you should just stop now.

    maybe should talk about abortion next… you are bound to get TONS of comments and inadvertent advertisement clicks…

  26. Mark from Reno
    Mark from Reno says:

    “People who treat animals like humans are people who cannot cope with complexities of human relationships.”

    There’s a shade of gray here. Animals should be treated like the animals they are and not like humans (unless we’re talking about human animals). Those with wings should be allowed to fly, those with fins should be allowed to swim and those with legs should be allowed to run. They should not be enslaved and butchered simply because they had the misfortune of not being born into the favored species — similar to John Rawls’ theory that one should not be exploited simply for not being born into the favored gender or ethnic group. Treating humans as special makes no sense if one understands evolution, and basing rights or respect for life based on the happenstance of species is as arbitrary as basing it on gender or ethnicity. What matters is whether a being values his or her own life — that should be respected.

  27. Carl
    Carl says:

    I think as a goof marketing person u knew what type of responses you would get with a cat post. Bravo.

  28. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    Someone called Penelope callous. My interpretation is that P is dispassionate, though she is able to swing back and forth as she evaluates a situation–from deeply sympathetic and involved to dispassionate, and perhaps swinging back again.

    I have been a health care worker for nearly 24 years. I have become more and more dispassionate. There are fates worse than death–under the rubric of “suffering”. You have to see this close-up to appreciate . . .

    There is survival of the fittest–which is a return to the natural order. We really cannot fool Mother Nature in the end.

    I worked in an NICU util recently. I once took a baby who was not expected to live home, and became his foster mom. The plan was for me to provide palliative care till he died. He did not die. He is now 16, living with a list of disabilities. He will never live independently. I prepared myself and him to let go. But his life took a different turn. I have been both dispassionate and passionate, by turns, about his life.

    There have been other babies . . . and many heroic means to save them. And then letting them go. The medical people are dispassionate, or they learn to be over time.

    In addition to opening our minds (to embrace diverse people and thoughts), we must open our hands and let go. We cannot hold on to a baby or a cat whose time has come.

    • awiz8
      awiz8 says:

      You are dispassionate because you chose to let nature take its course, accepting whatever direction it went. Penelope is callous because she decided to kill the cat, after its current problems were alleviated, because she couldn’t be bothered to either take care of the cat’s future problems or find a cat a new living situation where its future problems could be taken care of.

  29. Mike Owen
    Mike Owen says:

    Of course – cats aren’t people. Particularly in a rural environment life and death is part of the cycle – city dwellers don’t get that. In the UK this week we’ve had fabulous author Terry Pratchet on a TV show ( he has early stage Alzheimers) about euthanasia and showed a man electing to die and dying. Sentimentality is not an issue – realism is and what is bet for the cat!

    We’re trying to present all issues on our UK website but some cat lovers find it impossible to accept that their beloved pets are anything but human – interesting!!!!

  30. Bob S.
    Bob S. says:

    Good post. I agree with most that you talk about. There is a cat overload on this page though, especially with the youtube video.

    I love diversity. Especially in the big cities. But coming from Europe I can honestly, and with a neutral standpoint, say that complete diversity in a society isn’t always a good thing and doesn’t always work. You will always have cats and dogs and it takes a lot to make them respect each other.

  31. Bee
    Bee says:

    I was a city kid who moved to the country as a young child and grew up on a working farm. I went on to become a manager of horse farm. I really believe there are times when it’s right euthanize animals but I think this should be done humanely. Drowning a cat is not a humane way to kill a cat – why not let you vet euthanize it? And, what about horse slaughter? I would love to hear your thoughts on that . . .

  32. Joselle Palacios
    Joselle Palacios says:

    “People who treat animals like humans are people who cannot cope with complexities of human relationships. People who think their cat gives them what they need for companionship are probably right, because they are so underdeveloped emotionally.”

    So, you’re saying Melissa can’t handle the complexities of human relationships?And that’s she’s emotionally underdeveloped? How does she feel about that?

    Most of the readers who criticized your last comment have no problem with killing or eating animals. I’d venture to guess almost all of them do eat animals and have put down a pet and don’t have a problem with many farming practices. What they had a problem with was a very specific situation and how you chose to handle it. And they did in context of the rest of your blog. YOU can’t see that and are just getting more defensive than I have ever seen you. And this is probably not even your most divisive post. There’s information there and it says more about you than your readers. This REALLY got under your skin. Wow.

  33. drew
    drew says:

    Ever felt uncomfortable when approached by a begger? Ever felt threatened by “economic migrants or refugees? Always lock your doors and windowsat night? Do you feel nervous and anxious travelling alone on public transport at night? Do you fear your boss, or your neighbour, or a stranger in the street?
    Would you intervene if you saw a person, a child, or perhaps an animal being attacked on the street?
    Can you walk down a big city street counting your money? Are you suspicious of groups of young people hanging around public places?

    All these things are realities of life and they all come down to the animal instincts we all feel, just like other animals.
    We as humans do things out of instinct, feeling or response to them. As much as people talk and express their woulda, shoulda, coulda’s on here, we all do things that in retrospect or hindsight, we would maybe do diffeently ourselves and feel the need to comment on what someone else did.
    There are plenty of people who do good, positive things, but we are all in denial about the things we choose to ignore or feel we can’t cope with.

    Penny, you couldn’t cope with your cat and I’m wondering how you are coping with all this opinion?

  34. Sils G Sconiers
    Sils G Sconiers says:

    I have been around the block several times and the people an places in my small part of the world that I have been repulsed by have been a great learning experience.

    If you follow me on facebook you may become repulsed by the things I do that don’t follow the traditional norms.

    Many city dwellers would die if the grocery store ran out of food for 15 days.

    I will stop here while ahead before being branded as a monster by those who’s line of thinking is based on the theory of Marie-Antoinette of let them eat cake.

    • JB
      JB says:

      Interestingly enough, scholars are almost 100% sure Marie Antoinette didn’t say “Let them eat cake”; rather, it’s a misattributed mistranslation from Rousseau’ Confessions (“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” or, “Let them eat bread.”) Antoinette seems to have been the victim of a pretty vicious smear campaign since the days of the Revolution – see Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette: The Journey or Sophia Coppola’s film of the same book.

      Bread, and the availability of bread, was kind of a big deal. Many historians have concluded that if Versailles had simply cost-controlled bread in France, the Revolution would have been averted.

  35. Robin
    Robin says:

    Best post you’ve written in a while – this is why I still bother to read your blog. Ironic that I find many times it is you that doesn’t have an open mind or at least take so much for granted – like that diversity in the workplace is a net positive thing- something I am still not sure about!

    Keep writing!


  36. liz
    liz says:

    (1) People actually are animals (genetically).
    We’re higher primates. I think it must be uncomfortable to think that animals and humans are mores similar than not if slaughtering farm animals face-to-face, on a farm for example, on a daily basis. It’s easier to cope if we can divide the world up in this respect into “us” and “them”.

    (2) Feral or feral-like cats can be captured and spayed/neutered for free using a humane trap (free use from animal humane societies) easily. It just takes a little work and some patience.

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Liz, a word of advice: if you want people to take you seriously, don’t cite Wikipedia as your source.

      • liz
        liz says:

        Thanks Jill, but I have a Ph.D. and have checked this link for any errors. I haven’t found any. Have you?

  37. TK
    TK says:

    I am a ridiculously huge animal lover, and worked as a receptionist at a veterinary hospital while in school. When I first took the job I thought the worst thing would be seeing animals euthanized. I soon learned there was something far worse – “loving” owners that could not bear to let their animals go and would prolong pain and suffering for months on end.

    I see Penelope’s situation as deeply sad, but not inhumane. I’ve learned that love for animals has to be tempered with practicality. Had she only had one animal, I hope she would have attempted treatment longer before making the choice she did. However, going into financial hardship over one animal at the expense of a farm full of other animals that need feed, care, shelter, etc, seems like a far more irresponsible choice.

  38. JS
    JS says:

    I am not against having pets, they are fun to have around. But when owners start treating pets like humans, I find it sad and silly. These people should realize that while they are feeding their cat some expensive cat food, thousands of children in third world countries are starving. While their dog is sleeping in comfy pet beds, many children are sleeping on the street. Animals can survive without these comforts, in fact, they are built for it. Humans, on the other hand, especially unfortunate children, need more help. Let’s “give to Cesar that which is Cesar’s.”

  39. Cranky Geed
    Cranky Geed says:

    Wow P! This is why I like your blog. You really do talk about things and what is going on in your world and what you’re thinking. I’ll bet you never thought the cats subject would get such a reaction.

    We don’t have to ask you to stay true, you always are, and sometimes painfully too.

    I like your honesty, no actually I love it. Its so refreshing even/especially with the books.

  40. mysticaltyger
    mysticaltyger says:

    That cat comment was right on! My (now ex) boyfriend treats his cats like humans and I said the same thing (although not as eloquently) to him as you did about his lack of emotional development.

  41. kerry
    kerry says:

    You killed your cat??? YOU ARE A SICK LADY. There is NO QUESTION ABOUT IT. You have criminal tendencies you are NOT IN ANY WAY NORMAL and I FEEL SORRY FOR YOUR CHILDREN as they will probably end up killing someone and becoming psychopaths or sociopaths like yourself. You try to justify everything. killing your pet cat is SICK not justifiable LADY YOU NEED SERIOUS HELP YOU ARE A SICK KID. Check yourself into the local jail. I hope you are reported to the authorities!!!!

  42. Rose
    Rose says:

    Do you also hate dog people?
    And you should love cat people; all this traffic to your blog is due to them, actually.

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