Nina: Nana, I want a pet cat. Will you get me one? Please.

Nana: Really? I thought you were more of a dog person.

Nina: But you said I couldn’t have a dog because they are too much like me, peppy and excitable.

Nana: I did. I can’t have the two of you turning this house into a circus.

Nina: So then how about a cat?

Nana: I thought you did not want a cat because they are too aloof and unfriendly.

Nina: Yes, but now I know how to connect with a cat.

Nana: How Meow! So how will you accomplish this challenging task?

Nina: I read an article ....

Nana: <sigh> I should have known.

Nina: ... about how cats smile.

Nana: What? Like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland?

Nina: No, Nana. Just regular cats. They don’t exactly smile, but what they do is the equivalent of a human smile. They do it to connect, and convey happiness and friendliness.

Nana: And what do they do?

Nina: They blink.

Nana: I’m blinking.

Nina: Not like that, Nana. You blink too fast when you are confused. What the cats do, is called the slow blink. For them it’s the equivalent of a Duchenne smile. So if I slow blink at a cat, it’s likely to be friendly with me. It’s like cats invented smieyes.

Nana: Smieyes? Is that an English word?

Nina: It’s better than that. It’s a combination of two English words, smile and eyes. It means a smile with your eyes. It’s become particularly popular in corona times, when people have to wear masks in public for safety.

Nana: You millennials just make it up as you go. First instagram, and now instawords.

Nina: Yeah, pretty much. So, can I have the cat Nana?

Nana: Fine you can have a cat. I can live with you spending hours slow blinking at a cat. Just don’t try any Schrodinger’s Cat experiments, alright?

Nina: No, but perhaps I’ll give it a hat.

Nana: Whatever for?

Nina: Because The Cat in the Hat is even more exciting, peppy, messy and noisy than a dog. Haha!

Nana: Whatever! Speaking of messy and noisy, what are your plans for Navratri? What ghastly forms of torture have you planned for me now?

Nina: Oh, lots of stuff! We will be interviewing Shoumi Sen, the author of Celebrate Durga Puja With Me!. But before that, I'll be having fun with Golu at Ambu Mami's house. You remember that at least, right Nana? And we'll interview her. Suhasini and Jayanthi have also promised to share very interesting articles about Navratri. There's loads of learning and fun coming up next week. Stay tuned.

Nana: And stay safe when you meet your relatives to celebrate. Wear masks and try smieyes, the cat way to spread warmth and joy. I can't believe I just said that! Yeww, I think Nina is infecting me with her enthusiasm. Bye now. I need to wash my mouth with soap water and find something cynical to read.

This post is a part of the #NinaAndNana series I co-host with Lavanya Srinivasan. Her posts can be found here.

Tags: behavior, science, animals, Nina and Nana, social, biology, humor, family