Here is a very, very 21st-century question: Is it OK to laugh at somebody who believes they’re a cat? In years past, the answer would be “yes,” and also, “what?” But our current era of heightened sensitivity and acceptance makes us reconsider even the easiest of targets.
This is what I was thinking as I was paging through a Telegraph story about a 20-year old Norwegian woman named Nano who has self-identified as a cat since age 16. She’s not the only one, either—there’s a huge community of people on the Internet who believe they were “born into the wrong species,” a very particular hell: They call themselves “otherkin.”
As you’d expect, it’s an unusual life. Our girl believes she possesses a heightened sense of hearing and sight that, and I quote, “allows her to hunt mice in the dark.” She also hisses at dogs she meets on the street, can sleep in sinks and windowsills, and prefers to crawl around on all fours.
Let us be clear. There is a zero percent chance Nano was intended to be a cat. Save some sort of next-level, Marvel-esque origin story where a stray strand of radioactive feline DNA entered the procreation process, this is probably just a young woman who is confused, bored, lonely, unstable, unfulfilled, or probably some combination of the above. And you know, to a certain I extent, I feel like we do need to respect the rights of people who want to be, you know, amused by someone who thinks they’re a cat.
That said, is it really productive? No hatred, bullying, or ostracizing is going to help this woman. If anything I think it’d only push her deeper into this strange mindset. Kindness is hard, and boring, and unrewarding, but it’s also the right thing to do nearly all of the time.
Then again, this attitude does force you down a path where, eventually, you say: “Yes, it’s OK and fine and healthy to think you’re a cat,” which, I don’t know—that’s just flawed logic. Is it possible to get someone thinking straight with a gentle touch? Like, technically, nobody is hurting anyone by identifying as a cat, but it still feels like something that shouldn’t be permitted, right? Not in a mean or discriminatory way, just in the “at a certain point we need to preserve the consistency of our universe” way.
Anyway, these are the thoughts I had while watching a woman in cat ears crawl around an Oslo subway station. But she seemed to know what she was doing.