Dr. Sef dela Cruz muses about what could happen if cats had opposable thumbs. Here’s a clue: much (adorable) mayhem!
Text and photos by Stef dela Cruz, MD
We’ve had it since birth. We take it for granted. To some of us who had some degree of oral fixation during childhood, it has led to dental problems and, eventually, ghastly orthodontic braces.
I’m talking about—you guessed it—thumbs! I understand if you don’t see anything special about your thumbs. Aside from making you capable of thumbing your nose at people you don’t particularly like, there seems to be nothing special about your shortest, stoutest digits.
However, there is something special about the thumb. Unlike other fingers, the thumb can effortlessly touch every other finger on your hand, giving you the capability to grasp objects. It is because of our thumbs that we can use tools with considerable efficiency!
Only primates—including our species, of course—and a few other animals have opposable thumbs. Sadly, our beloved feline babies don’t have them.
But what if they did?
Rule of Thumb
Yes, it’s just wishful thinking, but it didn’t start with me. The “What If Cats And Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day” is a pet holiday celebrated yearly every third day of March! (Editor’s note: See more animal-related celebrations in our Almanac!) It’s a kooky and hilarious celebration that gives a well-deserved thumbs-up (pun intended) to those of us who have level 999 Photoshop skills—as they create pictures of beloved fur-babies using their paws the same way we use our hands—who conquer the Internet with those memes.
I can just picture the newest addition to our furry family, a spirited kitten named Mimi who happens to be an escape artist (and quite possible a member of the Akyat-Bahay gang), using her opposable thumbs to open every door in our house. And then there’s her older brother, the original cat resident Merlin, who happens to be an entitled (but very regal) brat.
Can you imagine the pair equipped with opposable thumbs? Que horror.
Under Their Thumb
Yes, I am the lucky hooman of one sprightly kitten and one rather intense black cat. However, as much as I love the idea of seeing them both going about their business conveniently empowered with opposable thumbs, I don’t think I can commit to it.
After all, if Merlin and Mimi had opposable thumbs, they would…
1. Do everything in their power to stuff their faces with food. There are way too many vivid images in my mind of Mimi and Merlin opening doors in search of treats, using the can opener on their favorite cat food, and grabbing my hair if I had the gall to hide the can opener.
Hiding food will become impossible, not even if I kept it all under lock and key!
2. Steal my makeup and jewelry. Mimi is a little human girl stuck in a kitten’s body.
She likes watching me put on makeup. When I start doing my cat-eye, she watches with more fascination than when I rattle a container of dry cat food!
I swear, Mimi thinks she has the right to use eyeliner and wear earrings. You don’t believe me? Here’s proof: She keeps stealing my makeup brushes and bracelets!
She’s quite fascinated by pretty much anything that sparkles. I stopped leaving my earrings and necklaces on the jewelry tray after I saw Mimi knocking it over to get to the shiniest trinkets on top.
Opposable thumbs, you say? Hello, Mimi the Cat Burglar. Literally.
3. Head out whenever like a couple of rebellious kids. Mimi and Merlin have one thing in common: They both like spending the day in the front yard.
Mimi likes playing and running around until it’s time for her nap, while Merlin likes lounging quietly under the sun. Mimi sprints for the door whenever it opens, while Merlin scratches at the door relentlessly, asking to be let out so that he can nap under a sunbeam.
If both of my baby rascals had opposable thumbs, no door could keep them away from their daytime agenda.
4. Tie up the dog. Don’t get me wrong; Merlin and Mimi love Topper, their canine brother. The three don’t mind sharing beds or dining together. They get along well and play once in a while, just like the siblings that they are.
However, Merlin and Mimi are two mischievous cats—and Topper is ever so tolerant of them—that I’m sure the two would soon be pranking their poor canine brother if they could!
Merlin often sits on his stool and swats at Topper’s tail, asking him to play tag. Mimi, not having the same restraint as her older brother, prefers to jump right on top of Topper, riding him like a bronco.
Topper takes it all in stride, bless him. Of course, I don’t think Topper would be as tolerant if the two cats held onto his legs with opposable thumbs!
Whimsy for a Cause
I think that our collective existence is much better the way it is. Here’s how many opposable thumbs I think Merlin and Mimi should have: zero.
Funny moments (and possible nightmares) aside, this unorthodox celebration puts animal welfare in the limelight. Creative fur-parents put their opposable thumbs to good use by dressing up as their feline and canine kids.
It’s thanks to fun animal celebrations like this that people think about how wonderful it is to care for a feline companion!
About the cat slave: Stef dela Cruz, M.D. is a columnist and blogger. She was conferred the 2013 Health Media Recognition by the Department of Health. She is now the proud human of two cats and a dog whom she treats not as pets, but as family. Connect with her on www.stefdelacruz.com or via Twitter & Instagram (@StefdelaCruzMD).
This appeared in Animal Scene’s March 2016 issue.