There’s Fur in the Transporter

Forgive this lighthearted post. It might be the drugs I’m taking for my very bad cold, or it might be the fact that I have been spending so much time with my kids while they are on a school break. But it might also be that my cat has been staring at me for days like she has something to say…

I’ve been reading some sci-fi with my daughter lately, and we got into Anne McCaffrey’s series about the Barque Cats.

Catalyst by Anne McCaffrey

Last week we were reading Catalyst. Second in the series, and the book in which the cats actually become as telepathic as they want to be, it’s a perfect level for my eleven year old daughter. And I have to admit I enjoyed it as well.

I am a cat lover, although some might feel otherwise (see my interview on Writer and Cat here and my cat, Mittens’ response here) I treat my kitty very well. But would I take her into the dangers of space? From what I can see, kitties do not enjoy the weightless result of having the gravity turned off.

In McCaffrey’s world the Barque cats have been specially bred to help on spacecraft to do their usual duties – ridding the ships of inevitable vermin – but also to look for air leaks. I suspect that given time, cats really will be put to this kind of work. I mean why try to formulate some sort of robotic creature to do this kind of work when we could bring along our furry little pals and enjoy the secondary benefit of comfort that petting them brings to us humans? The drawbacks of having a litterbox in space aside, I would think that cats take up little room, are low-tech (and thus subject to far fewer breakdowns) lovable and really they do their jobs very well.

I was watching Firefly the other day and wondered about horses being on the outer worlds and it was pointed out to me that they were there for the same reasons I expect cats would be. As above, they do their jobs well in terms of transporting people and hauling goods, yet they do not need processed fuels to operate.

So I wonder, if we could take horses with us, and cats, and one assumes we might take dogs – for protection, or company – what else might we take with us as we explore and settle? Art, literature, the things that make us human, but what other beings from this world will travel with us once we begin to leave en masse? I can only hope we might leave some of the insect critters behind, but I suspect that is not the reality.

What do you think will travel with us?




  1. barbaralongley · · Reply

    I watched the YouTube video, Cats in Space. It’s to say which is more objectionable to the poor kitty: weightlessness, or being tossed around like a football by a bunch of humans! Poor kitty. His/her dignity was certainly abused.

  2. barbaralongley · · Reply

    “hard to say” is what I meant there. Black background, teeny-tiny font size . . . what can I say.

    1. I know – that’s why I don’t think they would like it very much. I actually watched several cat in space videos. They all seem very unimpressed. Of course, cats usually are, unimpressed that is. 🙂

  3. I hope we can take horses. And good luck getting over your cold, Lilly!

    1. Thanks Bev! I think (after 2 weeks!) I am finally on the mend. I really do think horses would be practical, as long as the air is breathable and the land fertile.

  4. Lice. But maybe I’m just being negative today. 🙂 Good post, Lilly, although my first thought when I read the title was, oh no, the tribbles are back…

    1. Seriously – I thought about putting a pic in there of the tribbles falling out of everywhere. But they are one of the little buggers my space kitties would be there to take care of, now aren’t they? As for lice – shudder – I fear you are correct!

  5. Hmm, living in Australia where we’re overrun with introduced pests (ah, animals) I’m really not sure about introducing Earth animals to other planets. But then, what about human animals? Sure makes a tough question. I guess if humans go there, we’ll want our furry friends.

    Glad your cold is finally getting better 🙂

    1. Thanks Jenny – I haven’t been this sick in years. It was horrible.

      You make very interesting points about the dangers of introduced species – I used to live in Bermuda for years and heard all about the lizards brought in to get rid of roaches and the frogs brought in to get rid of those (they didn’t) and the birds brought in to get rid of everything (they didn’t either, smaller species of birds were apparenlty tastier). I can only say that i doubt we have really learned the lesson. Because, if we do spread into space we will be introducing ourselves, and by then it will be too late.

  6. I think it’s inevitable we’ll want to (ever see Red Dwarf…the cats will evolve into other more human like beings, just cooler and with longer fangs ;). Whether we should is another story – the comments from Jenny underscore all the reasons why not. But then, carrying ourselves into space might just be doing the same darned thing.

    1. So you think the cats might beat us to space? Possible.
      On the serious side, we all know when humans move to space we will be bringing all our problems with us. 😦

  7. Feral escapees can be a depressing subject, but in Australia there is an emerging alternative view of these plants/animals colonising new environments (I can only think of the TV presenter, Don Burke, who intro’d the book on this a few years ago, and not the damn book, which is frustrating). Anyway, the idea is that no place is a prison/sanctuary island, we’re all in this together and accepting that animals and plants adapt to new places just as humans do — and that we can enjoy that adaptation — is pretty much the argument. No one’s saying that we should stop programs to control feral cats (which are hunting to extinction some marsupials) or noxious weeds like asthma weed, but we need to accept that change exists and it does contain an upside.

    And on a related topic, my great uncle tries to claim it was his dad who brought kookaburras from the Eastern States to Western Australia. I doubt it. But the birds were definitely introduced here by humans and now I doubt there’s a West Australian who doesn’t think their maniacal laugh is part of how things should be.

    The whole subject of introducing alien species to places fascinates me, particularly the stories of sailing ships dumping pigs, goats, etc on islands so that on future trips they could stop in and butcher fresh meat. If spacecraft are the sailing ships of interstellar exploration, will they end up doing something similar?

    1. That’s an interesting take on the problemm – if you remember the name of the book I would be interested in taking a look. And that’s an interesting concept about stocking the planets. I might have to use that one some day. 🙂

      1. Hmm, I wonder what you could call those planets? I wonder if with enough earth-like planets discovered, we could treat some as disposable?

        On the topic of the book, it’s driving me nuts. All I can remember for sure is that it had a bright orange cover. Monday morning mush brain, that’s me. Still, I’ve had a look around the Net and that’s clashed a few brain cells together and I think, though I could be wrong, that the book was by Tim Flannery, but which book, I can’t remember… Nor do I agree with all his opinions/science, but if you do click on his website, you can enjoy a photo of a cat kayaking!

      2. Thanks Jenny – I will look into Tim Flanner’s work and see if I can locate the book.
        I sure hope that no one ever treats a planet as disposable…

  8. When you mentioned cats on ships checking for air leaks, I thought it might work just as well for birds… the whole pigeons in a mine thing to watch for lack of oxygen.
    I’ve seen cats in stories based on spaceships but I’m not sure I’ve seen any with dogs. Maybe a bit of the size factor? And let me say, I’m ready for a litter box of the future. Like, right now.

    Great post, Lilly. Not lighthearted to me. Very thought provoking.

    1. You know – now that you mention it, I have seen lots of cats in space books but none about dogs. Hmmm. Weird. I am with you on the litterbox of the future and needing it now!!!

  9. I depends on if we break the solar energy problem or not. If we do, and we inhabit a planet with decent sunshine, we’ll probably have machines to do most things for us. If not, it’ll probably be beasts of burden initially, horses, cattle, dogs.

    And I’d always take my dog Edie with me into space, if only to see her confusion at zero gravity. 😉

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