Cats and Their Sense of Company

So much has been said about cats’ intelligence, emotions, personalities, and special gifts. But we still underestimate them. When I say “we,” I mean “I,” coupled with a high suspicion that I am not alone.

What I forget, in particular, is how much it matters to cats (well, not all cats, but Dominó and Sziszi definitely) to spend time with a human. Not just to have a human in the room, but to do something together: play together, nap together, watch a storm together. Sometimes Sziszi will be meowing, and I don’t know what’s wrong, but as soon as I toss toys around, she enters a state of delight–only she wants to keep on playing for a while, and she wants me involved. She and Dominó play with each other, too, but they both want me to play with them every day. It isn’t just the exercise they want, the vigor of chasing things I toss; it’s the company. I don’t take naps often, but when I do, they come and cuddle next to me and could stay that way for hours. And they like to experience things together too; just now we watched a storm through the window.

What they don’t like is when I sit at the desk for a long, long time. They perceive that it has nothing to do with them, that my attention is turned away. It isn’t that they need attention from me all the time. They just don’t understand why I would be staring at this screen, which means nothing to them. There are exceptions. Once in a while, Sziszi hears music coming through my headphones, and some of it she likes so much that she cuddles on my lap for it. At other times, either one of them will just sit on my lap for a while, or Sziszi will nap behind the laptop. But generally they wish me away from that thing.

In other words, I think cats have something to teach us (i.e., me plurified). Sziszi and Dominó are always reminding me that it’s good to be in the world, with others, namely them. And they are right. If they understood what was happening at the laptop, they might view it with more appreciation, but then again, maybe not.

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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

  • Always Different



    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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