Not to be picky, but some animals could be improved

Contributing WriterNovember 23, 2013 

Stacy, our daughter the animal addict, has another new pet that might be a mutant – a cat with one chronically wet paw.

It’s a cat that drinks by dipping its paw into the water dish, raising the paw to its mouth, repeating the process again and again. It’s just like you and me when we drink from a spring without a cup or a glass or any other container. We simply slurp water out of our cupped hand.

Doctor John, the veterinarian down the street, tells me that such a cat lives at his animal clinic. That makes at least two such cats with a drinking technique I’ve never heard of before.

Normally a cat aims its triangular, pointy face just above the water in its dish and laps up water with its tiny tongue so rapidly that you can barely see more than a blur — like the wings of a hummingbird.

A hummingbird reminds me of a newspaper photographer I knew who had taken a photo of Sen. Hubert Humphrey with an amazing new lightning-fast camera. The senator was renowned for how unbelievably fast he talked. The photographer said a hummingbird happened to fly past the senator’s face just as the picture was taken. The camera was so fast, he said, that it stopped the bird’s wings in mid-motion. But he said Humphrey’s lips were blurred.

If you look closely at the tongue of a normal house cat when it’s drinking, you will witness another animal like the hummingbird or Sen. Humphrey. Its tongue would challenge all but the fastest cameras.

Frankly, I’m not quite sure what to make of two cats who use their paws to drink. Is this Ma Nature’s attempt to improve felines by turning the species in a better direction when drinking?

Nature’s efforts could include humans. If humans took as long to finish alcoholic drinks as cats do to drink water, hardly anybody would ever get fully snockered. If humans mutate, causing their hands to become dangly and useless while drinking, that would leave them with nothing but their tongues for drinking. And what a sober world that would be.

Horses also need a little improvement in their drinking. Their problem is that they drink too easily. They stuff their huge muzzles into a bucket of water and guzzle loudly with puckered lips. They can take in a lot of water in a hurry that way, almost like a camel, the king of the water slurpers.

Horses mean no harm. But the obnoxious sound they make — kind of a loud, irregular swig by somebody with a lot of suck and with sloppy lips — is evocative of the many rude sounds that we humans, horses and other mammals make.

But the miracle of the moment is to discover not one but two cats shoveling their paws into the dish and then quickly licking off the water. It can only be a matter of time before cat drinking fountains spring up around this animal-coddling nation.

If Nature can create new cats that works better, then why not other animal improvements as well? How about chickens whose feathers drop off if you yell “Dinner!”?

Dogs could also use some instant evolution. Let’s order up a dog that hates the taste of garbage and therefore will no longer have any motive to knock over garbage cans.

How about a dog that barks only at burglars?

And from what I see on the sidewalks as I stroll along on my morning walk, it would be a monumental kindness if Nature would develop dogs who know how to flush.

Or how about newspaper columnists who know how to shut up?

Contact columnist Bill Hall at or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.

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