They All Saw A Cat

The picture book They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel describes what an array of different creatures — a child, a snake, a mouse, a bee, etc. — observe when they see a cat.

At the end of the book, we are asked to imagine what the cat sees when it looks into the water.

The book raises lots of interesting questions about perception and identity. If every creature sees the cat differently, is there anything that is objectively true of the cat? What is a cat? Is the way the cat sees itself privileged in some ways, or just another perspective?

The book (and this video version) have inspired many thoughtful conversations with children, including questions about whether it is ever possible to see the world another person or creature does. One child commented that this would require “exchanging eyes” with someone else or “being inside someone else’s body” for a time. This week I had a conversation with a group of fourth and fifth grade students about whether we know ourselves in ways others don’t and whether there is anything that makes us who we are that doesn’t change no matter the perspective. One student said that there is an “essence” of a person that has nothing to do with appearance, and we puzzled over in what that might consist. A very Platonic group!