Cats and Dragons

Ronin Grey

Imagine a creature. Imagine that this creature is a master hunter. Imagine that it is fierce and proud, that it is cunning and patient, that it has the capacity to be roused to terrible fury but for the most part spends its days in a state of grand repose, placid, calm, reflective. Imagine this creature too is not only intelligent, canny and instilled with the wisdom of the ages but that it is also sleek, graceful in its every movement and beautiful in a way that only a exemplar of nature can be.

If your mind tends towards the realms of fantasy, the creature you are picturing may be a dragon. If you take more of a realist’s approach to your daydreaming the beast you envision might instead be a cat. What many fail to realize is that these two creatures are one in the same. Supposing you are disinclined to simply take my word for it, allow me to illumine this unconventional position: cats are dragons.

Dragons are often portrayed as devilishly intelligent, far smarter than a mere human. Yet, the skeptic objects, cats are not as smart as humans. True – they are far, far smarter. For proof one need only examine the historical record of species domestication. Humans have spent most of the span of our existence domesticating wild animals in order to gain their cooperation in a variety of endeavors. Dogs help hunters and keep watch for intruders. Cows and pigs provide a stable food supply. Sheep offer their wool to clothe us, horses pull plows, and so on. What purpose, then, do cats serve? Why would early humans go to the great lengths required to domesticate cats if they served no purpose to our daily survival?

The reality, once we look beyond the pride of our species, is obvious. Humans did not domesticate cats. Cats domesticated humans. Like the dragons, cats understand the usefulness of employing capable servitors with opposable thumbs, so they set forth a plan to tame our rowdy breed. Its success has been nothing short of remarkable. Cats are smarter than humans because humans expended tremendous effort to domesticate many different species to perform many different tasks. Cats harvested the fruits of all our labor in one fell swoop and needed only to domesticate a single species in order to achieve a perpetual leisure state still unmatched by human efforts despite millenia of technological slogging. Witness that upon the vast digital altar humans make daily sacrifices, nothing is more widely adored than cat videos.

Dragons, too, are known for their ability to charm. The magic of dragons is the magic of cats, the bending of lesser minds to their wills, the subtle mastery which never sits so heavy as to provoke rebellion. Again, the skeptic protests: “I have never seen a cat wave a magic wand, nor perform an arcane invocation, nor even so much as utter a single inscrutable syllable in order to further their mysterious ends!”

While i would be remiss if I didn’t point out the visceral reaction a human body experiences to the most magic of all words – meow, a sound pregnant with the promise of impending delight, thus superior to the myriad, guttural vocalizations of the lowly dog – I agree that cats proffer no theatrics. They need none. To understand the nature of cat magic one need merely to pet one. Observe as your fingers begin to stroke the cat’s fur the heady sense of peace settling over the mind. This is what it feels like to be bewitched. As you continue to pet the cat, all anxieties gradually become more distant to the entranced mind. All thoughts of doing anything besides petting the cat forever vanish. You may even be lulled to sleep.

Regardless of the intensity of the initial enchantment, the subject of a cat’s magic eventually finds themselves compelled to seek the cat’s approval in all things. It becomes reasonable to follow the cat around and bear witness to its every idle doing, to feed it according to its own exacting specifications, to provide the cat with every material comfort and even to scoop out ‘the box.’ Even this ultimate expression of devotion, to the bespelled, seems a small price to pay in exchange for the fluttering in our chest when the cat deigns to notice our presence, to direct towards us its attention, to allow our approach and tolerate our clumsy attempts to amuse it.

This is the most basic form of cat magic, but it is only one of a cat’s many means of binding a human to its will. Should further proof be needed, I cite the purr: a far more potent tool for ensuring total compliance. The purring of a cat has been specially attenuated over eons of evolution to bypass all human resistance to its mandate. Once this hypnotic vibration resonates within the hapless target the purr unleashes upon the human mind an emotional payload equivalent to a mother’s lullaby and a father’s praise. Down to our bones, humans seek both a sense of security and to be acknowledged. This sonic barrage tells us, ‘all is well, pet human. You are safe. You are appreciated. Nothing bad will happen so long as you continue to do exactly this.’

The strength of the purr’s hold on an individual can be ascertained by the most basic of tests: once you have been enthralled by the purr, attempt to stop petting the cat and recall what you were doing before the cat subverted your attention. Most often the difficulty of such a thing is immense, thus the spell only ends when the cat wills it.

Cats are dragons. They rule the world, but they are benevolent conquerors who do not seek to upset their subjects or throw our lives into chaos. In fact, catocracy desires to usher in the reverse. Cats prefer order and harmony. Observe that petting a cat is calming in the extreme. It promotes good mental health, positive feelings, good self esteem and reduces stress. It is meditative without being indulgent, comforting but not decadent. A cat reminds its human to take time from our busy lives to rest, to breathe, to untangle our minds from the knots we find ourselves in when we forget to anchor ourselves in the present. Cats alleviate depression, loneliness, boredom and cabin fever. They also protect humans from rodents, insects and the premier, perennial housepest: the bird. They promote good hygiene, good sleep and good manners. Their guiding paws offer a model we would do well to emulate, shaping us into better humans without running roughshod over our free will, unlike the modes of authority we endlessly inflict upon ourselves.

Cats are dragons, in the end, because just as dragons in our mythology represent an ultimate, so too do cats embody the very best traits we wish to possess – intelligence, compassion, curiosity, ingenuity, serenity – without any of our so-human emotional baggage. Cats have carved for themselves a simple niche in our complex world that allows them to spend all day every day doing exactly as they please without causing harm to others. That they managed to achieve utopia without ever working a forty hour week, without getting stuck in traffic or standing in line, and with zero carbon footprint only underscores how much we have yet to learn from their noble example.

Dragons once filled the skies and hoarded all the treasures of the world. Then they realized all they needed to tame us was cuddly fur and a little bit of magic, and forever after humanity belonged to the cats.