Lots of people think animals don't understand what's going on, just because they don't have the same kind of intellect that we do. Au contraire, my friends.
This piece is based on a Quora Question. Links on the last page.
1/9. This was many years ago, and it was my first encounter with a wild bear. We were camping, and I had been stringing up our packs (bears had not yet learned how to find the tie point and break the cord; this was many years ago). That was when he appeared out of the trees.
He looked at us, and started walking around us, from a distance of about 40 feet. He was circling. I threw some rocks near him (being careful not to actually hit him; this was my first confrontation with a live beast, and I didnt want to anger him). But he just kept circling.
As he completed a half circle, I suddenly realized that he was heading directly at my pack, which I hadnt yet strung up.
A moment later he picked it up in his teeth and quickly ran away. I had the sense that by starting on the side of my opposite to my pack, that he knew I would not realize that his path was designed to intersect my pack. He was clearly a bit scared of us too (this was many years ago), so instead of just bullying his way in, he outsmarted me.
I followed the bear, from a distance, and finally found my pack; he had taken all the food out, and left the rest. That was fortunate, since it had most of my warm clothing within. The pack had two large gashes where he had clawed it open; I still own that pack, and I show it to people occasionally.
Ten minutes later the bear returned. Everything had been hung up by then, but I still didnt like him being back, looking around for something else to outsmart me out of. By this point, I had gained courage (maybe because of how quickly he had left the last time); I picked up a big stick and swinging it, I charged at him. He scampered away.
Thinking about it afterwards, I realized I had been pretty stupid, and never in the subsequent decades of camping did I ever run after a bear again.
2/9. Have you ever heard the urban legend that if you have cats in your house and you die... after a couple days, your cats will start to eat your corpse? Well, I was curious as to whether or not it's true, but I wasn't in the mood to die. So I decided to conduct an experiment. (continued...)
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I came back from the gym, played with my roommate's cat for a while and, fell down in my armchair, and pretended to be dead.
Sparkles was definitely surprised at first; he walked around me for a short while and started to rub his head on my hand. Then he scratched my hands with his paw. I couldn't help but smile, and the cat might have spotted that, so after like two minutes he started to mind his own business.
I decided to play dead for a little longer to see whether he would be fooled, while discretely watching him. Sparkles had been licking his fur for a few minutes, when I realized that he was also discreetly watching me.
So I closed my eyes, relaxed and decided to go even a little bit further; I "died" for half an hour. The cat didn't do anything, and I thought I heard him leave the room. So I finally opened my eyes.
There was Sparkles, making his "I know what are you doing" face. Little did I know, the animal had been lurking right in front of my face, observing me for half an hour straight, without me noticing his presence.
In fact he knew I was playing dead right after he saw me smile. He didn't even bother to wake me up to tell me that he knew what I was up to. Instead, he waited patiently for me to waste my time, believing that I actually fooled him.
Like many great men before me, I was outwitted and mocked by a damn cat.
3/9. I have a Jack Russell terrier named Max. He looks all cute and innocent, but he is a clever rascal. He barks at everyone except for family and pretty girls.
I have always enjoyed baklava, a Turkish sweet pastry. Max also loves this fantastic delicacy, but because of its high sugar content I give him very sparing portions.
When I arrived home one evening, I saw an empty takeaway container on the floor with a large hole in it. I realised that I had inadvertently left a full box of baklava on the coffee table.
I looked at Max and he just stared back at me like "what's up, bro?" What surprised me was that there were probably two pounds of pastry in that box, which is more than four adult humans could consume.
And there was Max, just smiling at me cheekily. No bloated gut, no vomiting, nothing. But no baklava either. What had he done? (continued...)
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A few days later, I saw a smug-looking Max licking at what I discovered was a small piece of baklava.
That was when I realized just how clever my little Jack Russel was.
When Max first got access to the box of baklava, he was smart enough to know that he could not finish the entire box before I got home. So the little rascal hid all the pieces so that he could consume it in his own good time.
I shook my head with both shock and amazement, wondering if Max might be part squirrel. I didn't try to ferret out his hiding places and allowed him to keep the baklava for being so clever. I know I shouldn't, but hey... He's cute.
4/9. My dad had an electric fence, the kind where the dog wears a collar that shocks them if they get too close to the buried wire. But somehow the dogs were still getting out.
My dad figured that the batteries in the collars must have died. So he disassembled the collars, cleaned everything and put in fresh batteries.
He then asked me to stand outside and call the dogs. They wagged their tails and snorted but would not approach the barrier. We assumed we had solved the problem and went inside.
Ten minutes later I went back out and they were gone. Here's what happened:
1) They figured out that the shock didn't hurt that much if they built up speed and ran under the fence quickly.
2) When we changed the batteries, they were smart enough to pretend we had solved the problem and act scared of the fence.
3) Having fooled us, they kept on doing what they were doing all along.
Not humanity's finest moment.
5/9. My parents had a Samoyed named Smoochie, who was a big white puffy thing and the sweetest dog in the world. One weekend my boyfriend and I were watching him, when he pulled off a heist that I still can't explain to this day. (continued...)
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We had bought a piece of cheesecake from Safeway on our way to go babysit Smoochie. It came in a plastic container with a snap closure. It was also sealed with a sticky label.
Now, Smoochie had his eye on this piece of cheesecake all night. When he curled up in his dogbed and went to sleep, my boyfriend and I went outside to smoke a cigarette. This took about a total of 57 minutes.
We came back in the house and sat back down to continue watching our movie. Smoochie was still in his dogged, fast asleep.
About half an hour later, I felt a craving for some cheesecake, but when I went to retrieve the container It had disappeared! I stopped the movie so my boyfriend and I could look for it. Smoochie was still SLEEPING in his dogbed.
I finally found the container, completely empty, near his bed. He had somehow stolen the plastic container, opened it (which can be hard even if you have opposable thumbs!) eaten the entire piece of cheesecake, licked it clean, and somehow CLOSED the container again to make it look like it had just disappeared!
And may I remind you that he had done all this in the span of 5-7 minutes.
My only guess is that he had been calculating how long we would be outside, and planned his attack while sleeping in his dogbed. Crafty little bugger!
He passed away a little over a year later at the ripe old age of 16.
6/9. One time, I was held hostage by a bird.
Dont get me wrong, he was cheeky, cute, handsome and smart, oh was he smart!
I am talking about a 4-year-old African Grey parrot who goes by the name of Skollie. He belonged to a friend of mine - this happened some years ago.
For some reason Skollie fell in love with me. I was so afaid of him, but my friend Zelda took him out of his cage on our first meeting, and he sat on her shoulder checking me out. He then flew onto MY shoulder scaring the crap out of me. He would lean over making kissing noises trying to plant one on my mouth.
Anyway, I got to like the little guy and figured he was harmless enough. Guess again. (continued...)
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When I visited my friend once, I was called over by Skollie who was in his cage. He made kissing noises and put his foot through the cage. I thought "oh how cute" and figured he wanted to shake my hand.
Well, the little scoundrel grabbed hold of my finger with all his might and wouldnt let go. I begged, pulled, pleaded, but he had a death grip on my finger!
All he did was stretch to the side and bang the cage bars with his beak. Then I saw his plan..
He was conveniently perched right next to the cage door! He was motioning for me to open the door whilst holding my finger hostage!
No amount of negotiation, or bribary could phase him. I had to make a plan. This hostage situation was getting dangerous. I was rapidly losing the feeling in my index finger!
I opened the door. He let go. He flew onto my shoulder, cooing and making kissing noises like he hadn't just extorted me. I was totally outsmarted. The things we do for love.
-Willemien Van Vuuren
7/9. We used to have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Simon. We adopted him when he was six years old after his previous owners had passed, so we were sort of like his "retirement family."
Despite his breed being cousins to the Pit Bull, Simon was a sweet, chubby, harmless little fellow - but smart as a whip.
Like many pure-bred dogs, Simon suffered from lots of allergies. So we had to give him antihistamines. We thought we could fool him into taking his medicine by wrapping the pills into balls of processed cheese. He would take the drug cheese enthusiastically, and scamper off to his favourite couch to nibble away.
Then, one day, I was looking for the remote. I pulled out the cushions from Simon's couch to look underneath, and... lo and behold - several months worth of his medicine! Little bugger had been eating the cheese and stashing the pills under the couch cushions.
After making this discovery, I turned around and saw Simon peering up at my guiltily, offering his paw as a mea culpa.
He died of encephalitis not long after that. We miss you, Simon.
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8/9. I was camping at Whitefish Point in Michigan. If youre not familiar with the area, its beautiful but very remote, in the upper peninsula on the shore of Lake Superior .
It was later in the fall, and getting colder, so I was all alone, not another person in sight. After eating my dinner, sitting in the dark by my campfire, I decided to toast a few marshmallows.
As I was doing so, enjoying the peace and quiet, I felt a tap-tap on my shoulder. Heart in my throat, I jumped up and wheeled around to see who the interrupter was.
There was a racoon, looking up at me with big eyes, backing off, keeping a respectful distance. Relieved and amused, I offered the little fellow my partly toasted marshmallow, which the racoon took, then turned and retreated into the darkness.
Chuckling to myself, I turned back to my campfire just in time to see another racoon running off into the darkness with the entire bag of marshmallows.
9/9. I did get outsmarted by animals, but to be fair, it was two against one.
I was lying down on the couch enjoying a lovely piece of cheesecake with my fingers (its what I do when Im alone) when Marmalade the cat, who was not an overly friendly cat, jumped on my stomach and began demanding pets with the hand that held the last and most delicious piece of cheesecake.
I was not about to have a hairy piece of cheesecake nor was I about to share.
So I extended my arm far far away from the cat, so far in fact it was no longer even on the couch at all. My arm and the piece of cheesecake that was being held between my thumb and forefinger were sort of dangling in midair between the couch and coffee table.
Out of nowhere like some sort of dog ninja our shepherd ever so delicately removed the piece of dangling cheesecake from my fingers and waltzed away very casually. The suddenly needy affection-seeking cat pounced off me and followed suit.
The cat and the dog stopped in the foyer area, the cheesecake hit the floor, and the two of them licked at it TOGETHER. I sat and watched in awe, mouth agape. When they were done, they both looked my way and I swear they smiled.
That was the best thing Ive ever seen.
-Alice S. Hattie