I have always been fascinated by science, and while some look at science as being at odds with nature, the nuts and bolts of it has mostly been about trying to emulate the things nature does so well.
Mankind has tried to fly like birds, be amphibious like a frog or pelican, run as swiftly as a gazelle, or be as strong and powerful as a bear or gorilla. In most cases man has failed to reproduce these amazing examples of nature, but he has become proficient in building machines that perform similar feats with grace and beauty. Well, most of the time.
However, when it comes to the house cat, I’m not quite sure what qualities man would want to gain. Always landing on your feet could be useful, and being able to fit your whole body through any hole your head will go in would be interesting, although I’m not sure what purpose it might serve.
In the world of modern science, anything we build that is intended to be friendly to our environment almost certainly gets the prefix, “Eco” attached to its name. Just as any electronic device that begins with a lower case “i” is surely a product made by Apple, anything that begins with “Eco” is supposed to reassure us of its planet-friendly abilities, even if it isn’t the most practical or useful thing we can choose.
This past summer, we adopted a kitten from a local animal shelter. He is mostly white with some faint, tawny brown tabby markings on his body, along with smoky feet and face similar to a Siamese breed. These markings reminded me of a baby Bengal white tiger so I named him “Toraneko,” which is Japanese for “little tiger.”
My little two year old grand daughter, Layla, comes to visit with us one or two days a week and her vocal skills are improving every time we see her. Almost from day one, everyone in the house had taken to calling our new pet “Neko” but Layla took off with “Eko” from the first time they met. Thankfully, Neko has been a very good pet, allowing Layla to pick him up and carry him without complaint. We have also found it quite entertaining that she can now say the word, “name” yet she still omits the “N” sound when she calls out or asks about the cat. “Eko,Eko,Eko,” is still what we hear despite our efforts to the contrary.
Nowhere has the cry for “Eco, Eco, Eco,” been any stronger than the automotive world. Science and technology have made huge strides in recent years to make the automobile cleaner and more efficient. Virtually every auto manufacturer produces a hybrid/electric version of one of its models. But two car companies, Nissan and Tesla, have made quantum leaps in perfecting the EV, or pure electric vehicle.
The EV, or Zero Emissions Vehicle as it’s sometimes referred to brings the promise of reliable, daily transportation that you plug into a common wall socket at night to recharge. This concept actually works very well for short daily commuting and local errands, but where the EV falls down is extended range or trip driving.
Tesla and Nissan both have managed squeeze as much as two hundred miles worth of driving from a single battery charge but the downside is it can take up to sixteen hours to fully recharge again. I don’t think any of us have spent sixteen hours at a fueling station by choice, so once the battery charge is depleted, the car becomes a two-ton paperweight.
In their defense, performance of the modern EV has become shockingly potent ( please excuse the pun.) Jeremy Clarkson tested the Tesla Roadster against the Lotus Elise on which the Tesla is based. A half-mile drag race saw the Tesla demolish the Lotus from start to finish by an embarrassing margin as Clarkson commented, “This car is biblically quick, and it seems the Volt-head has overtaken the Petrol-head. I’ve also just received a report, yes; it is now snowing in hell!”
However, Mr. Clarkson and his tame racing driver, The Stig, used their heavy right feet and hair-on-fire driving style to reduce the Tesla-projected two hundred mile range to a mere fifty-five miles. Then again, no gasoline powered car gets its best mileage at wide open throttle either, but it is much faster to refill with fuel.
Having taken note of these EV drawbacks, I began to notice striking (not shocking) similarities in the behavior of Neko, our house cat. In the evening hours, he will display an almost boundless amount of energy as he chases cat toys, dismembers helpless house plants, and tests the theory of gravity by pushing various small objects off of high shelves and watching them plummet to the floor below.
Any person who walks down the hallway with bare feet and ankles is fair game for him to perfect his pouncing and attacking skills, but this can easily be interrupted by an errant ice cube striking the floor in the kitchen. These are matters that require swift and immediate investigation. One must also remember that the term “cat toy” has a wide number of applications, up to and including pieces of tape or string, balls of trash or discarded gift bows, and any small chunk of food or pill you happen to drop from the kitchen counter. Writing utensils and electronic device charging cords are also fair game.
The motion of a human appendage under a blanket or sofa throw is a beast that must be stalked and killed. Then again, sometimes the movement of said blanket alone is cause for action, human appendage notwithstanding.
All of the above activities can consume an enormous amount of energy, so in keeping with his mostly nocturnal nature, the vast majority of daylight hours will find Neko in recharging mode. Like his kindred spirit, the EV, Neko is a paperweight during these hours of deep, revitalizing sleep. In most respects, he resembles a sack with very little bone structure as picking him up while in this mode begs the question if there is anything rigidly attached inside him. We can only assume sufficient energy is required to hold his framework in place.
I have also noted that his sleep/recharge mode is almost exclusively performed in well lighted areas. This habit prompts the thought that his tabby marking may well be a solar panel of some kind, and his occasional swapping of sides must be a required cycle to gather as much solar energy as possible. He does sometimes take short twenty-to-thirty minute naps during his evening rampages which may indicate a short regeneration period needed to transfer power from the furry panels.
The frightening thought occurs to me that EV designers may indeed be avid house cat owners, and in the scientific quest to emulate the wonders of nature around us, they have pushed automotive technology to new feline heights.
I might also add, as a footnote, that Neko is decidedly NOT a zero emissions creature, especially when he plunders our other cat’s bowl of canned food.
While I admire the engineering efforts to improve and perfect the EV, I need look no farther than the back of the living room sofa on any given day to realize that emulating the horse was a much better idea.
On the other hand, I’m actually very happy with Neko and his EV nature. If he was a hybrid house cat, capable of refueling in matter of minutes, I don’t believe any of us could stand the strain of his non-stop antics, and we would be constantly in search of his “off” switch.
So it seems that Layla was more accurate in naming our new pet than we were.
From the mouths of babes…”Eko!”
– T. August Green