Cats and ethics

I reached the top of the stairs this morning just as Ernest came barreling out of the bathroom. He saw me, halted, stared at me with startled green eyes, glanced over his shoulder, and skedaddled.

Suspecting something was afoot, I peered around the corner. William stood on the ledge beside the sink. He was leaning down, inspecting something.

Turning on the light and advancing, I found he was examining an earring that I had left lying with three others on the shelf below the mirror. I have no idea what he planned to do with the earring. I didn’t ask. I just picked him up and set him on the floor and then returned all the earrings to the jewel box.

At first I assumed William was the perpetrator and Ernest the lookout.

Then it occurred to me that Ernest might have stolen the earring and, when he heard me coming, dropped it and run, leaving William holding the bag. Since last spring, when they first teamed up together, Ernest has always been the bad actor. William has played the role of observer and, we believe, idea man.

Ernest’s body, in addition, is lean and muscular, designed for cat burglary. For the longest time, William was mostly tail and tummy. His legs and tiny tapered feet hardly supported him. He couldn’t pull up onto the top shelf of the pagoda, and instead of jumping onto the bed, he walked up the kitty stairs. Watching him struggle up human stairs was almost painful. We were so worried that last month we consulted our veterinarian. She pointed out that he was still a teenager.

Sure enough, not long after, he entered a growth spurt and came out on the other side with long legs and chassis. He now moves in a more cat-like fashion. That’s obvious from this morning’s escapade.

Something else is obvious as well.

Hearing the sound of a human footstep, Ernest ran. He knew he was engaged in criminal activity, and he got the heck out of there.

William, however, under the same circumstances, had no idea that his actions were wrong. He didn’t try to escape or evade arrest, nor did he show remorse. In fact, his reaction to the episode was one great big, “So what?”

It’s clear that on the journey toward moral maturity, William has a way to go.


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