When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

05 September 2006

Dogs May Laugh, but Only Cats Get the Joke

The last time I wrote about cats and humor was 20 years ago. It did not turn out well.

I was happy with the column, which appeared in a science magazine, but many readers were not. The mail was unfriendly, to say the least. One letter writer (this was back in the days of actual letters) wanted to see me eaten by a Doberman. Another suggested I should be in a mental hospital.

What prompted their ire was that I had argued, with support from Darwin and other luminaries, that cats have no sense of humor.

My idea was simple and based on evolution. I argued — and I did not invent this idea — that animals like wolves and primates that live in hierarchical social groups need a sense of humor to survive. Wolf pack or newsroom, when the big dog growls, the beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, lambda, mu, nu and omega dogs had better be able to laugh it off, so they can live to reproduce another day. Thus, laugh-it-off genes are preserved. If they were not needed, they would probably be lost.

Dogs May Laugh, but Only Cats Get the Joke - New York Times (September 5, 2006)

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