Survival of the least fit

A few years ago I was adopted by a cat. No, I didn’t miswrite that. One day I woke up to discover that a strange cat had made my backyard his home. My son and I ended up naming him fatty for obvious reasons. A few months ago I was looking for a way to cut costs and thus started buying cheaper cat food. Fatty was not thrilled but not being a cat person I assumed that he would adjust. I did try to compromise by getting a slightly more expensive brand (but still cheaper than what I was serving him before) but to no avail. As Fatty began to rapidly lose weight I began to worry. Clearly this wasn’t about the food. Fatty’s getting on in years and I took his diminished weight as being indicative of his impending death.

Personally, I’m a big believer in going out in style. When I reach eighty I’ll be having Ben & Jerry’s for dinner and top shelf Vodka for dessert. At ninety I plan to start experimenting with illegal narcotics.

So I went out and bought this rather expensive tuna-fish-made-special-for-your-finicky-cat-food. I knew Fatty wouldn’t eat much of it due to his health but at least he’d have a taste of decadence.

The first time I served it Fatty ate a whole can’s worth of food in less than a half hour. Several cans (and dollars) later Fatty is back to a normal weight and happy as can be.

Apparently my cat would rather die than eat generic brand cat food.

So this got me thinking–maybe the anthropologists are wrong. Maybe the survival of our species has less to do with our opposable thumbs and advanced brain capacity and more to do with our incredibly low standards. For instance: what would happen to the human race if “starving” college students went to the standard campus parties took one look at the cold pizza and lukewarm beer being served, smiled at their host and said, “No thanks. I’d rather die.”

Pandas are on the verge of extinction because there is no longer enough bamboo in China to support them. And no matter how hard the Chinese government tries to convince them otherwise they simply will not settle for the less exotic but more plentiful Veggie Booties.

Now I know that there are those of you who are very careful about what you put in your body and you probably think you don’t practice this “low-standard-survival” technique. I beg to differ. I’ve tasted soy cheese and if accepting that as a substitute for a big ol’ chunk of Gouda isn’t a perfect example of lowering the bar taste-bud-wise I don’t know what is.

Thus despite all the scary articles about trans-fat and refined sugars I really think our willingness to eat all this stuff may be the very thing that is keeping us alive. What other species would take a bunch of cartilage, process it, dye it, make it into the shape if a small bear and then serve it as a treat to the young by calling it a gummi?

Honestly, as a species we’re fascinating.

Sex, Murder And A Double Latte—May 2005

February 21, 2005