Kingdom Animalia

Regarding Animals and their Lives
A Discourse on the Thoughts, Experiences, and Emotions of the Non-Human

(Or; Animals I have met, and what I saw in them)


Humans are essentially animals, and they are far more alike to other animals than Humanity as an abstract concept, which I believe alienates us from ourselves as being animals. That said, just because we are animals does not mean that all animals are easily understood to us. Indeed, our ability to understand non-human animals depends on our biological distance from one another, from intuitive to intellectual relative to our anatomical distance from one another. Mammals, for instance, largely enjoy social grooming and touch, something quite uncommon among reptiles, so it is far easier for me to understand a cat than it is to understand a lizard. And, if I want to understand a snail or some other invertebrate, I should probably begin studying their anatomy, or neurology, because so little exists in common between our phenomenological experiences that i must intellectualize and reconstruct an image of what it is to be a bee or crab in my head.

Learning to understand or appreciate the experiences of other animals without anthropomorphizing or projecting human experiences onto theirs is a learned skill, one that I would like to think I practice on a regular basis, even if I remain imperfect in it. I would like to think that by writing about my experiences trying to sonder animals, I can impart or otherwise illuminate some aspect of the process involved in this skill, because I really do think non-human animals are worth understanding! Their experiences are rich and complex, but also opaque, incoherent, and difficult. Nonetheless, life is incomplete absent of difficulty, incoherence, or opacity, that I would think pursuing this sort of understanding is valuable for that sake alone, if not any other. I dearly hope you may learn from this, and learn to appreciate animals on your own terms, no matter where you may meet them.

As a matter of clarification, I would like to state that meeting and encountering someone are very different. I've encountered many non-human animals, more than I know to count, but I do not consider these engagements to be much more different from passing a stranger on a street. I can only claim to have met someone when I have encountered them not merely in passing, but in particularity, as an encounter in which both parties acknowledged eachother more substantially than aspects of their environment, and thus recognized eachother as agents within it. I've been to petting zoos, I've seen wild kangaroos, and I've been to cat cafes, but for many of the animals there, my presence was as a visitor, a hiker, or a patron, and not something more substantial. As such, when I refer to having met an animal, I refer to times in which I've been around one rather directly.


I've been around cats for most of my life, and felt somewhat of an affinity for them, somewhat of a product of reading Warriors at a young and relatively impressionable age. Though, I cannot help but feel that such reading may have dampened my initial ability to see cats as cats, and not characters within a play.

My first cat's name was Shinto. I don't recall her very well, but we were about the same age, in terms of solar years. To my knowledge, there was one surviving video of her I took, I believe on one of my birthdays. It was a pen spinning video, involving Dongza, who I greatly looked up to at the time and sought to model my spinning off of, a rather naïve ambition, but admirable all the same. It's hard to really speak of her for how clouded my memories are at the time. She was found outside my Grandfather's factory some time before my birth, hungry and lost. My parents took her in, and she was something of a fixture of my early life. My earliest memory of her involves sitting underneath our table and trying to pull her tail, then crying when she scratched me. Learning to respect her boundaries is likely the first time I had to reckon with the experiences of non-human animals, though it's difficult to say if I stopped pulling her tail because I feared reprieve, or if I stopped pulling her tail because I realized she did not want it to be pulled. Likely, it is the former.

To the more anthropocentrically inclined me at the time, I saw her as reticent or otherwise reserved. She only meowed when hungry, as much as I tried to coax that out of her, which likely contributed to my view of her as reserved, even if she was perhaps rather social. She had a very warm purr, moreover, and loved being pet, long strokes along her back, she wasn't big on being touched around her face.

My parents divorced around the same week that Shinto died. I was so used to repressing my emotions, that I didn't really mourn. I was deeply upset about the fact that I went numb and was cheated of the ability to grieve. I didn't really get to see her one last time before she left. She was euthanized whilst I was in school, and I learned through a message. A couple weeks ago I was drinking tea, when I dropped my pen and had to pick it up off the rug I was sitting on. I found some of her hair still there, and I think that gave me some closure.

Some years later, we adopted a new cat. Her name is Maple, and being around her is always quite the learning experience. Cats have their own facial expressions, which are rather difficult to parse considering how dissimilar they are to human facial expressions. I'm best at identifying when she is afraid, because when we first adopted her, she was very confused and timid, and hid in a closet, trying to run whenever anybody approached her. What I best remember about that time is her expression; her emotions reflected rather clearly in her actions, but to see and recognize her expression was something else entirely. Something I've noticed in videos of Orangutans, especially young ones, is their facial expressions are highly analagous and comparable with human ones. I would love to meet an Orangutan someday!

Nowadays Maple is very social, and very vocal, as well as often absent minded. She likes being touched around her cheeks, and indeed often has a preference for it. I often accuse her in speech that she is responsible for many evil deeds, and accuse her of affiliation with various terrorist groups or some such nonsense. She's also fat. I worry for her weight.

To illustrate one of her, a couple weeks ago as of writing this (06/08/22), another cat sat perched on our fence, who I went to see. Maple followed along with me outside, hoping to play in the garden with me. I was worried about a possible conflict, so I tried to indicate to her the other cat, by clicking and waving my hand about in the direction of the other cat, so she'd see them perched on the fence, but, cats don't recognize indications like that, and she seemed more distracted by my hand to notice the other. Only after I had given up and simply sought to play with her did she end up catching a glimpse of her adversary. She let off a small growl, but was much too timid, broke her gaze, and ran off. Wanting to make her feel more safe, I ended up approaching the other cat who, not wanting a confrontation, left rather quickly after that.