Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What's So Wrong About A Cat In A Bong?

Everybody seems to be angry at the stoner from Nebraska who put his kitten inside a large bong a few times while he smoked. The cat was in no danger from fire, as far as I know -- it just got high off of the marijuana. The dude's reason is kind of amusing: apparently he "told deputies 6-month-old Shadow was hyper and he was trying to calm her down." She seems to be mostly fine.

For my part, I don't see what the problem is. Assuming that human biology and cat biology are similar in the relevant respects, Shadow probably just had a good if slightly disorienting time in there and liked the way her cat food tasted afterwards. I mean, what are people so upset about here? Is it that marijuana is a "gateway drug" and the kitten will start snorting coke? That she'll drop out of school and have trouble keeping a job? Giving euphoria-inducing drugs to animals seems a fine thing to do.

16 comments:

Tim said...

Well, I'm not sure it's a safe assumption that human biology and cat biology are the same. Cats react much differently to certain drugs, namely tranquilizers, than humans do.

We went to a vet to ask about tranquilizing our cats for a plane trip, and the vet recommended against it. Apparently, instead of calming a cat's nerves, tranquilizers make cats MORE nervous, not less. Cats rely so much on their senses that it really scares them if they are dulled in any way.

In other words, if cats were detained at Guantanamo, the Bush administration might have placed them inside bongs as an "enhanced interrogation technique".

verplanck colvin said...

While probably not at risk for THC poisoning, the kitten was probably scared as hell and risked suffocation being cooped up in a smoky box.

Not cool. If you want to get your cat high, just blow smoke in their ears (blood vessels close to the surface absorb the THC)

Christopher M. Park said...

Aside from the other (excellent) points here, I would suggest a rereading of your post with the word "kitten" replaced with "human baby." I think there's a fair subset of people who feel almost that way about kittens, puppies, etc.

dr said...

I've never tried to get a human baby high, but cats seem to disagree wrt to the desirability of the effect. Some of that, obviously, has to do with the degree to which the cat finds smoke itself irritating. Adult cats, I think, can be counted on to make their own decision. Dogs are too susceptible to peer pressure, so I don't think we can count on them to make autonomous choices when it comes to drugs.

Anyway, I agree with Tim about the question of biology. My experience hasn't been that high cats act like high people. Others may differ, but regardless I'm not so sure I trust stoner ascriptions of cat mental states.

The problem here is that (a) we don't understand the effect of THC (let alone the other chemicals in marijuana) on cats; (b) whatever those effects are, they're likely to be more pronounced on a kitten; and (c) this method pretty much guarantees a high dose.

So I'd say that regardless of whether the stoner actually harmed the cat, putting the cat in the bong counts as reckless endangerment.

John Rove said...

It is kind of sad that someones first idea when facrd with a hyper animal is to try to medicate the animal. I bet this guy was treated for ADD as a kid. The kitten was probably just being a kitten.

Tlazolteotl said...

Consent issue, anyone? Sheesh.

dr said...

Tlaz,

Do you have some reason for thinking that kittens are capable of consent? Maybe you do, but since kittens can't talk, you must be thinking of hypothetical consent. But then you have to imagine what the kitten would or would not consent to. And that involves thinking about what would or would not be good for the kitten. Which is what we are presently engaged in.

fiat lux said...

Assuming that just because adult humans can smoke pot without undue harm that it's also OK for baby cats is ... dare I say it? ... stoner logic.

Drugging a baby cat isn't cool.

hoperu said...

Not to mention it is just mean to put a cat in a small box.

Tlazolteotl said...

Do you have some reason for thinking that kittens are capable of consent?

What did I say that made you think that? The entire point is that a cat cannot give consent, therefore it is ethical to give only those drugs that are medically necessary. It is not ethical to mess with an animal for your own jollies.

My bigger problem with the post is Neil's presumption that the cat should, in not so many words, "lie back and enjoy it." Which is why I brought up consent, specifically.

dr said...

Tlaz -

Ok, so you don't think a cat can give consent. Your next claim is that we should only give those drugs that are medically necessary. Ok. But on what basis do you assimilate this case to cases of medical care? Do you think that, in general, cat owners ought to provide their cats with only that which is necessary for their continued good health? What are your views on catnip?

Your positive claim is that, "It is not ethical to mess with an animal for your own jollies." My friend J, who loves her cats so much that she spends hours each day playing with them, would seem to be a moral monster on this view.

Of course we can permissibly mess with animals for our own jollies! What we might not permissibly able to do is mess with them in ways that harm them. The question, then, is what kinds of messing with cats harm them?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Like dr, I think that harm is really what we should be concerned with in animal cases. I'm moved by the considerations involving cats possibly being biologically different from humans.

I'm not moved by consent-based arguments here, because I don't see why consent matters as much in animal cases as it does in human cases. I doubt that the complex social and psychological features of humans that make consent important in dealing with us are present in animals as well. For example, if you don't respect the consent of a human, you might damage their sense of self-worth and make them less confident in the future. Are we worried that the kitten's self-worth is going to be damaged? Do cats really have that level of psychological complexity?

Now, I think it does count as a harm to give a cat the frightening experience of being in a small smoky box. But is this really so grand a harm as to justify legal sanction? I'm sure a fair number of things in a kitten's life are fairly frightening -- loud noises, falling into water, having your owner put a funny costume on you, etc.

Chris, I think that one important difference between human babies and kittens is that lowering a human's intelligence is likely to have much more negative effects on her well-being than lowering a housecat's intelligence. Intelligence is a bigger factor in helping one lead a successful human life than helping one lead a successful housecat life. So the moral risk of exposing a baby to marijuana smoke is greater.

BruceMcF said...

"Now, I think it does count as a harm to give a cat the frightening experience of being in a small smoky box. But is this really so grand a harm as to justify legal sanction?"

Yes. The negligence and the harm combined are enough to justify a legal sanction.

"Chris, I think that one important difference between human babies and kittens is that lowering a human's intelligence is likely to have much more negative effects on her well-being than lowering a housecat's intelligence."

A callous as this comment sounds, bear in mind that the legal system already recognizes a difference between animal neglect and neglect of children, animal abuse and abuse of children, etc., in the difference in the severity of the penalties attached. Arguing that this is a case that is "not as serious as" doing the same to a baby would be is already recognized in social norms.

Neil Sinhababu said...

There's no obvious harm, Bruce. The Humane Society says the kitten is in good condition.

Christopher M. Park said...

Neil, I never meant to suggest that kittens and human babies are equivalent, or that I believe that the same standards should apply to them. My point was more regarding the psychology of a certain subset of our populace, whom I think can't make the distinction. Therefore, when anything bad happens to a small, cute animal, they will react almost as if it were a human baby.

I'm not saying they are right, I'm just saying it seems to be an observable phenomenon. If it had been a baby iguana in the box, the issue most likely would not have escalated to this degree.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Ah, okay Chris, good point.