Don't look under that rock

Domestic animals with opposable thumbs means certain doom
By RYAN STEWART  |  March 2, 2007

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A chilling vision of things to come?
Someone on the internet — they’re called “Wellcat.com” — has actually gone through the bother of copyrighting the concept of “What if Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day.” They cast it as a fun little idea: imagine if your animals had free access to food, or possessed the ability to take themselves for walks. Wouldn’t that be silly?

We say no. This is not a situation that would be ripe with cuteness. Exactly the opposite, in fact — we see this scenario as ending in nothing less than the end of civilization as we know it, with humans becoming enslaved and some sort of “petocracy” taking over. Observe:

Step One: The Basics
Pets with evolved digits would learn what to do with them. It would start with picking up morsels of food off the floor (or off any unattended plates within reach). Gradually, the animals would mimic the process of opening doors (toy breeds and smaller cats would likely still find themselves helpless in this regard). For a while, there’d be a few cases of animals — mostly cats — letting themselves out the door and simply not coming back for one reason or another. But for the most part, life would not change a great deal for humans in this phase.

Step Two: Adaptation
Regardless of cats’ and dogs’ newfound ability to do things with their forelimbs in this scenario, the canine and feline brain would still operate at a relatively low level. But they’d still be highly trainable, and this, readers, is what would become humanity’s undoing. Lazy souls would show their pets how to operate a can opener. Some might show their dogs how to scoop their own excrement. Cats would learn how to empty and change their own litterboxes. All it would take would be a few abnormally intelligent dogs — border collies, poodles, German shepherds, and mutts are generally considered to be the smartest breeds — to put two and two together and realize that humans do most tasks with the aid of simple tools. This could lead to them crafting their own tools, as
chimpanzees in the wild have started doing recently.

Step Three: Self-awareness
At this point, most cats would be content with their role in things. Cats are content with a source of food and, in some cases, shelter. Make no mistake, cat people: your pet does not care about you. If the species revolution is to take place, it lies with the canines. Dogs have a reputation as easy to please, but there are limits to which they can be pushed. All it would take is one human blinded by his pet’s newfound abilities to set everything off. First, a bulldog bites his owner in the face. Then, through the crude communication system used in the animal world, this dog sends a high pitched signal that humans won’t be able to hear. The message would be clear — the time for animals to revolt and free themselves of their human captors is now! And while one dog individually would not be strong enough to overcome a human, here’s where the instinct to form packs would kick in.

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