Background: Denver the Wondercat

Oct 08 2010 Published by under [Brain&Behavior]

Denver

So some background may help the Child's Play folks address my question.

We had a cat, Denver the Wondercat. One of my first posts on my old blog featured our 17-year-old feline with chronic kidney disease.

He did not like the "kidney diet." He did not like the pills. He especially disliked the pill holders. Fish flavored? Guess not.

Then we started giving him fluid infusions. Three nights a week my husband would hold him while I inserted a 14 gauge needle into the loose skin on his back and let 250 mL (~8 oz) of saline with potassium run in.

Median survival at the time of his diagnosis: 6 months. Denver made it almost 2 years. They were high-maintenance years, but well worth the effort.

I started telling patients about my cat with kidney disease. The diet, the pills, and the shots were far more interesting when I explained how they helped my cat than when I explained how they helped my patients.

Then I flipped through the Disney DVDs we own, and I realized that talking animals dominated the genre. The Disney people are not stupid; they know how to get to kids!

Anyway, I have been working on a book about Denver (I'm still looking for an agent) that I hope will help children with kidney disease and their siblings better understand their treatments. Children and grandchildren of adults with kidney disease may also enjoy such a book, and kidney disease is the most common cause of death in pet cats in the US.

But I still wonder why children identify so strongly with my cat or other animals, animated or living. I'm waiting, Child's Play.

2 responses so far

  • I think I may have already written some answers, in a post on The Thoughtful Animal:

    A 1985 study of 7- and 10-year-olds in California showed that pet owners were equally likely to talk to their pets about sad, angry, happy, and secret experiences as with their human siblings. Seventy-five percent of Michigan 10- to 14-year-olds reported that when upset, they turned to their pets. Forty-two percent of Indiana 5-year-olds spontaneously mentioned a pet when asked "who do you turn to when you are feeling sad, angry, happy, or wanting to share a secret?" Even more interesting: when comparing parents, friends, and pets, elementary school children considered their relationships with their pets as most likely to last "no matter what" and "even if you get mad at each other." Among pet-owning children, those who did turn to their pets for support were rated by parents as less anxious and withdrawn than those who owned pets, but did not seek such social support from them...Since pets are dependent on human care, pets provide children with the opportunity to learn about how to care for another being.

    Completely speculatively: I think children - at least those with some animal experience - see themselves in the role of caregiver. And if they can understand that it is in the best interests of the animal to have a given procedure, then by analogy, it is equally in *their* own best interests to have a given procedure.

    I'll keep thinking.

  • Arlenna says:

    it may be the early indoctrination: my kiddo is only 9.5 months and already is developing a symbiotic relationship with the dog. She drops food, he comes over to eat it, she gets to gra at him and is amused, etc.

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