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Lately I hear people say of their animals, “they don’t understand English”.   Since I spend half my time asking people, “well, did you tell your dog/cat/gerbil?”, I also spend a certain amount of time thinking oh nuts, it’s true.  I’m crazy.

Yet, I don’t think so. 

They were early days in my career and it came to pass that a cat needed a bath.  We’d done it before to thunderous feline disapproval and now we were placed about the dining room like wax figures in a tableau about denial. Our cat volunteer carefully avoided all eye contact.  Our control kitty was alert and interested in that, haha it’s you and not me kind of way.

She wasn’t really in the control group as we wouldn’t be bathing her but that’s okay, I’m not really a scientist.

It was my husband’s idea: why don’t we tell Chet what’s happening? I was skeptical but I’d heard you could talk to cats about stuff so in a cowardly turn I said, well, go ahead if you’re so smart.

So he sat down and bless him, he delivered a solemn, careful explanation about the benefits of cat hygiene and how pleasant warm water can feel.   This is what we do in our house, I heard him say. 

We won’t make any scientific journals.  Our spontaneous study was poorly executed and involved an out-of-control control group.  The volunteer was completely unwilling, nobody got paid and we went through a tremendous number of towels.  But our cat got in the tub under his own volition.  Then and every other time after that, he sat patiently for his bath and toenail trimming and visits with the vet.

Can they understand English?  To that I say: would it hurt you to try?

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