Ursula the chocolate tabby British short hair is a habitual poser. Over and over again she used to arrange her body into one of the 15 standard poses for “Beautiful Cat.” Yes, she did train at Barbizon Modeling and Acting School in New York, but even as a kitten, she knew what shapes were most pleasing to humans. And she milked that knowledge.
Like any normal cat admirer I have for years aimed to catch classic cat photographs, where Ursula assumes an archetypal pose that is instantaneously recognisable as “cat”.
We see with our brains. Our eyes send to the brain a bare-bones digest of what they see: a cat. The brain fills in the missing pixels and shows us — a cat.
Now, after years of posing as a catalogue cat, Ursula has gone all haute couture and post-modernist on me and I like it. She poses ugly, awkward, geeky, intellectual, challenging. She doesn’t want you to instantly think “cat”. Of the top photo my daughter-in-law said, “Could be…an owl…an Ewok…Sasquatch.”
And how about this one? Could be a powder puff… a tumbleweed…morphing into a snail…what?
Why do we want even our cats to be beautiful? Why are our ideas of cat-beauty so stereotyped? That’s what I’ve been wondering. Ursula is showing me an eccentric, creative kind of glamour.
I know our preconceived ideas of beauty are rooted in neurology. But luckily, we can think a new thought. We can see a new shape. We have neuroplasticity on our side when we look for unconventional portraits of cats.