I live with two cats. When I leave for work in the morning they sleepily blink on the pink cushions in the living room, as I say goodbye and wish them a pleasant day. When I return from work they sleepily blink on the same pink cushions, as I ask them how their day was. I am fully aware that raising their heads to look at me is the first thing the lazy shits have done since I left that morning.
Their laziness doesn't bother me. They wouldn't be cats without that trait. What does bother me is that they never respond verbally! They just stare at me in rude silence, ignoring my questions.
Once I had become tired of their apathy towards me, I decided to do some research. After reading up about this phenomenon on the internet, I discovered that I was not alone and that it wasn't actually their fault for not responding. It turns out that cats (alongside everything else non-human) are completely unaware of basically everything (including my attempts to communicate with them) because they are not "sentient."
Well, this was a massive blow to me. There I was each night with my wine-stained lips, talking to my cats about the ups and (mainly) downs of my life, squeezing them tightly for some kind of connection as the moldy, red grape juice pushed the salty wetness from my eyes. It would be an understatement to say that it hurt me to find out that they were no more consciously present than the sunken, cracked wall that I rested my poor head against.
Now I regard them as living ornaments, taxidermy items with agency to move. But what agency? Enough to beg for food, rip holes in my sofa, awaken me with farts as the sun rises, but not enough to say, "thanks, Cleary, I hope you have a pleasant day as well." And without that, final, crucial aspect of being, how can I know that their movements through this world are not as meaningless as a leaf caught in a light summer's breeze?
I still feed them and tend to their needs, but when I look into their eyes I might as well be staring at a piece of soggy cardboard. Instead of confiding in those walking bread-bins, I have retreated to the window of electronic light in my 3am brain-blurs: the chat-room. As the succulent red liquid is decanted from the bottle to my stomach, more and more tear-jerking paragraphs based on my life form into the small chatbox window. Déjà vu hits me when nobody responds directly to them, but I am at least consoled by paragraphs that are similar to my own from other users.
C4tb3Tr4yed42 is the only person I've added to my friend's list so far. As usual, we never respond directly to each other, only with equally long and winding grammerless stories of our own life's unfair bitterness. She took it a lot harder than me when she found out that her cat's biological make-up made it impossible for it to understand a word that she was saying. She told me about the "consciousness tests" that she tried on her cats in order to prove that they could understand her. None of her trials were successful.
Last week was the last time she came online. Her tales that night were particularly frantic, sentences fragmented like broken blinds half blotting out the sunset through the dirty window of a London high-rise. She used to be on every night. Rumours around the chat-room are that she was submitted to a mental asylum. The loss of her cat's sentience brought hers with it, it seems.
That's why I wrote this article, for C4tb3Tr4yed42 and all those in her position. No matter how hard it is to come to terms with the fact that your cats literally don't understand a single word that you're saying, you have to stay strong and find professional help if you need it. I found my new place to confide in the dark recesses of online chat-rooms. It's up to you to find yours. Sentience needs sentience.