“No, honey, I’m sorry. I can’t help you with the dishes. I have a cat on my lap.”
Non-cat owners are baffled by it. Almost every cat lover I’ve known has completely and implicitly understood it, and accepted it without question. The details and specifics may vary from cat lover to cat lover and from home to home … but almost every cat household I’ve known has some version of it.
If you have a cat on your lap, you get to keep sitting down. In fact, you’re obligated to.
In our home, we call it “feline paralysis.” Or “FP” for short. And it dominates our daily household arrangements to a degree that even we recognize is absurd. The encatted person gets waited on hand and foot: food and drink are brought, dishes are carried away, electronic communication/entertainment devices are fetched. The disencatted person gets stuck with any and all household tasks that demand immediate attention.
We do realize that, from the non-cat-lover’s perspective, this behavior might seem a bit … extreme. Deranged, one might even say. We’ve blown off plans we’ve made for the evening, because we both had cats on our laps. (Not really important plans — but still.) Yes, we arrange our lives around our cats’ pleasure to an absurdly high degree. On the other hand … we get to have cats on our laps. So there’s that.
Like so many fundamentals of human virtue, this simple principle becomes more complicated when it plays out in the real world. As any philosopher will tell you, ethical questions become most interesting when fundamental and deeply held values collide. And so it is with feline paralysis: The simple and fundamental value of cats sitting on laps can become deeply complicated when it conflicts with the values of keeping commitments, fairness in allocation of household duties, or really needing to pee.
So here are the rules of feline paralysis, as we have fleshed them out in our household.
Thus begins my latest piece for Catster, Feline Paralysis: “I Can’t Help Fix Dinner, I’ve a Cat on My Lap!” To read more, read the rest of the piece. (Lots of pictures.) Enjoy!