“He Thinks He’s A Person”: Why We Love Seeing Animals Doing “People Things”

“He Thinks He’s A Person”: Why We Love Seeing Animals Doing “People Things”

Rationally, we all understand that people are quintessentially different from animals on one level or another. Whether its the savior complex of veganism that denotes all animals as innocent victims to the tyranny of an unjust human takeover, or its the understanding that trainers have that most animals operate on a level of base instinct making them receptive to food rewards.

But it’s just so cute to see them acting like small fuzzy people. 

It’s not really that they’re seen as children, because we know that our cats or dogs will never grow up and start to make choices for themselves. It’s a suspension of belief that allows us for a second to align ourselves with them and imagine that they think just like humanity does. Dressing up a cat, or teaching a dog to ring a service bell, is enjoyable because it normalizes odd human behavior, and the fact that an animal is performing the action highlights the strangeness of society.

People are the strangest animals. We can appreciate this fact, but we’re so deeply embedded in the nuances of society that it becomes difficult to see until a new development is made that hearkens back to science fiction. Hoverboards. Wearable technology that makes us look like cyborgs. Actual robot secretaries.

But no one stops to think anymore about how strange the concept of a service bell is, or spending several hours a day staring at a screen. This is not to argue against society, but to highlight why seeing pets as members of society to the same degree as humans is so amusing.

It comes from the classic comedic theory of incongruity. Seeing an object tied to a concept, and coming to understand that these two are not really connected is funny. The existence of the object brings to light the ridiculousness of a concept. Seeing a cat in a hat reminds us of how ridiculous hats can be as a concept, and how ridiculous humanity is.