Cats and dogs and garden paths

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From the Sydney Morning Herald:

David Morris, who sent in the screenshot, wrote:

My first thought was 'Surely the humans deserve the ventilators more than the cats do', my second was 'How are they going to use dogs in hospitals' and my third was 'Oh, wait …'



  1. KeithB said,

    March 25, 2020 @ 10:44 am

    Obviously, since the cats are hogging all the ventilators, the dogs are therapy dogs to make the humans feel better while they die.

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    March 25, 2020 @ 1:43 pm

    Personally, if I were dying of CV-19 and my cat needed a ventilator, I would willingly give up mine so that she could live.

  3. Kevin McNulty said,

    March 25, 2020 @ 4:44 pm

    Or fourth, why would hospitals want their ventilators to have been broken in on cats and dogs? Can that even be sanitary? It's the generic/individual ambiguity–(a) the kinds of ventilators suitable for use on animals vs. (b) particular ventilators that had in fact been used on animals. ("Every hour a person is run over by a car in New York City. Oh, the poor guy.")

  4. Viseguy said,

    March 25, 2020 @ 7:04 pm

    No ambiguity whatsoever: no respectable copy editor would allow a comma splice! (Do I need to add a ;-) ?)

    That said, I have no doubt that there are pet-sized ventilators for cats, dogs, maybe even mice. Some years ago, a vet at the Animal Medical Center in NYC wanted to do an MRI on our guinea pig, to see if she had uterine cancer. We opted for a wait-and-see approach. She eventually died — long after the MRI results would have come in.

  5. David Morris said,

    March 26, 2020 @ 5:40 am

    I also commented that changing the comma to 'and' wouldn't necessarily help. A comma *and* 'and' is unambiguous, but with the wrong meaning: Ventilators used on cats, and dogs sought for use in hospitals

  6. Biscia said,

    March 26, 2020 @ 12:17 pm

    The ruling elite is obviously getting special treatment.

  7. ajay said,

    March 27, 2020 @ 7:31 am

    What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor. Real Wrath-of-God type stuff! Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
    Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes!
    The dead rising from the grave!
    Human sacrifice, ventilators used on cats, dogs sought for use in hospitals… mass hysteria!

  8. Andrew Usher said,

    March 27, 2020 @ 1:03 pm

    Philip Taylor:
    I seriously hope you did not really mean that. Anyone that would ever prioritise the life of an animal above that of a functioning human being can only be held in contempt.

    Of course this sentence is horrible, within the constraints of headlines one could say "Hospitals seek ventilators for cats and dogs" and be, at least, no worse. (I assume they are for use on humans, though without the original article I can't be sure.)

    It raises the question, though, of why these items are necessarily single-use. Of course they may be made to be disposable, but when an actual shortage exists I would think reusing masks, ventilators, and some other stuff is obviously better than going without.

  9. zafrom said,

    March 27, 2020 @ 5:57 pm

    The original article could be the March 24, 2020, Lucy Cormack article at and now with the headline

    Veterinary equipment offered to 'save human lives' amid virus outbreak

    Possibly raising the issue of the specific use of the scare quotes. The first sentence = "Ventilators used in veterinary clinics for cats and dogs are being urgently sought for use in human hospitals to assist with the rising number of critical coronavirus patients."

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    March 27, 2020 @ 11:54 pm

    Andrew, I meant it from the bottom of my heart. Of course I would willingly give up my ventilator (were I to need one) to save the life of my cat — I would die happy, knowing that I had saved her life, whereas if I were to live and she to die because of my selfishness, I would and could never forgive myself.

  11. Andrew Usher said,

    March 28, 2020 @ 5:43 pm

    Well, preferring one's own life over that of even another person is not normally to be considered selfishness, but a normal part of existence. And while I infinitely prefer cats to dogs, they are still not people. But I can't argue with you, clearly, and don't want to. Right now the harm that is being and will be done by this coronavirus hysteria is more important even than my life. Pardon me if it's difficult to talk only about linguistics (admittedly it wasn't you that complained about that).

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