The economics of cats

Many people have been clamoring for this topic over at the secret blog.

My views are simple: we have too few cats in the world, relative to dogs.  Dogs, for reasons of temperament, can in essence precommit to being our slaves.  (As long as they are not Irish Setters.)  That makes us more willing to create or support an additional dog.  The quantity of dogs is nearly Pareto optimal, although their emotional slavery to us raises ethical questions about the distribution of power in the relationship.

A cat cannot "promise," genetically or otherwise, that her kittens will become your (or anyone’s) slaves, if only you don’t neuter her.  The kittens never come about, or they meet a cruel fate rather quickly.

If you must support the life of either a cat or a dog, choose the undervalued cat.  This argument requires only that the cat gets some value out of being
alive, and that value should carry some weight in our
all-things-considered moral calculations.

More generally, you should go around helping the (undervalued) people who insult you, or the people who otherwise signal their independence from you.  The craven are already being served quite a bit.

Comments

Hmm. Not sure which way slavery runs with dogs. I mean, you'll never see a cat owner being forced out of bed at ungodly hours to follow it around outside, carrying a steaming plastic bag. Your argument suggests that our selfishness induces us to have more dogs than cats. My selfishness induces me to have only a cat.

If the utility a dog or cat experiences is independent of the number of other cats or dogs in existence, and if either is of approximately equivalent moral weight, why ought we care about the particular mix?

"If you must support the life of either a cat or a dog, choose the undervalued cat. This argument requires only that the cat gets some value out of being alive, and that value should carry some weight in our all-things-considered moral calculations."

I don't follow. Please elaborate.

For one thing, why don't these two requirements also prove that we should have as many dogs as possible, or (human) babies for that matter?

Isn't there some scientic work that toxoplasmosis that is passed from cats to humans, changes human nature and reproductive patterns to further its ability to reproduce? Perhaps the longstanding suspicion of cats and their intentions is justified.

An economist was walking down a street and decides to buy a cat because there were too few in the world. His colleague stops him and says, "if there really were too few cats in the world, someone would already have started breeding them."

The obvious answer is to lock the cat and the dog in the bathroom, and let the market correct itself. Five minutes later, Atlas, a great dane, shrugs.

The best thing about cats is that you can train them to use the toilet:

http://www.karawynn.net/mishacat/toilet.html

No dog could ever accomplish that feat!

Steve R, that SPCA experience is why I think the recent demand by "animal rights" activists for laws sterilizing all non-breeding dogs isn't about saving dogs from the street, it's about eliminating dogs as pets. Many subscribe to the IMO wacky idea that people shouldn't own animals.

Tyler, you're an idiot.

Now gimme $100,000.

Now that mice are no longer a major pest, cats are reduced to the status of pest for many, if not most, of us. Perhaps we should eliminate them all.

Dogs are better friends. They will watch your back and protect you from trouble, they don't mind keeping you company on car trips and they are fantastic wing-men with the ladies. They also attend to and participate in conversation to a much greater degree.

Cats have been shown to be an inferior addition to one's diet. They make lousy egg rolls.

They are overvalued.

This argument requires only that the cat gets some value out of being alive, and that value should carry some weight in our all-things-considered moral calculations.

I don't think this holds.

If a cat's feelings about being alive carry weight in our moral calculus then shouldn't we also consider potential dog existence value. For example, knowing that there is a happy healthy dog in the world makes me smile, the same cannot be said for cats.

Therefore, it is at least possible that the non-owner externalities from helping dogs exceeds that of helping cats.

"Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?"

The one that can have the other's testicles lopped off at will.

I found this post pretty prototype and surprising. In fact, I tend to agree with the post. I have a dog and quite recent I had a discourse with a friend whether I preferred cats or dogs. My answer is pretty obvious. I prefer dogs and I have a literal allergy to cats. My answer was more egoistic than logical. I prefer dogs because they feel less free. They do not act in a slavish manner, but they tend to release much of their freedom just to please their boss. Cats are more parsimonious on giving up their rights.

Cats? Dogs? Try parrots! They derive at least as much utility from existence as either dogs or cats; they provide more service than either dogs or cats--when is the last time your dog or cat ever talked back in English (and Spanish)? Not to mention mimicking your alarm clock when the power goes out (and on Saturday mornings).

The market failure that causes their undersupply is due to asymmetric information. When a parrot promises to be a good pet, no one believes it because no one believes the words of a talking animal.

Don't y'all have better things to argue about? With all this intellectual energy, you could educate and raise the standard of living for starving (undervalued) children in the third world and increase AIDS awareness throughout the African continent saving lives of (undervalued) parents and their (undervalued) children.

For god sakes, people, just go to the shelter and adopt an animal. For those of you who have never had the companionship of a great cat, or who wouldn't recognize affection unless it came packaged in a dog's body, please adopt a dog. I've had cats and dogs and have loved them all, equally. It's not okay to diss an entire species of animal just because you just don't get their "value"- this gives morons permission to abuse them.

I like the idea of having cats involved with economics. I think many more people would be interested in studying economics if cats had something to do with it. Who doesn't want to study cats and economics together? Kill two birds with one stone. I also think combining cats with physics is a great idea. Have you guys ever played cat physics? It's a game. Quite enjoyable. I think everyone should play it at least once in their lifetime. Lifetime. That's a weird word. What is time? What is Life? I like words. I like to learn about words. I am an English major in University. I think everyone should attend university. It costs so much to attend university, why does it cost so much for us to gain an education and better society. They should be paying us. Everyone should agree with me and help protest tuition!!

And yes I do think cats go to some secret place where they drink laugh and have a chat about how dumb humans are. Similarly, we are slaves to not only cats but to their entire shoebox conscience. Cats hold the secrets to life...

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