What is a cat aware of?


What is a cat aware of when it chases a bit of string? 

When my cat is busy doing anything else, except eating or mating, he can be easily distracted by a piece of string. He seems not only fascinated by it but almost compelled to pounce on it. 

I myself am not so compelled to pounce on wiggling string. However, I am fascinated, almost compelled to watch, if someone waves a video in front of me that shows an adorable kitten pouncing on wiggling string.

Sometimes I have thoughts (like this one) while watching cats play with string, but mostly, I think my brain temporarily does into a mode that is a thoughtless feeling of, "Awwww, how cute!" 

Is either of these states--pouncing cat or human in cute-overload--really conscious? Or do I become conscious only when I become aware of myself watching the cat and thinking how cute it is, consciously comparing my state of mine and trying to project myself into the cat's frame of mind?

It is easy to personify the cat and imagine that he is able to leap from one kind of (mindless) awareness to another kind of (thoughtful) awareness, but is that justified? 

I am able to ignore my own mindless state most of the time, except when I am trying consciously to recreate it, as during zazen. When you are trying not to have thoughts, it's almost impossible to not have thoughts. But when you are simply caught unaware by the adorable pouncing of a cat, it is easy to have no thought except, "CUTE!" (And not the word, but the feeling, which I can't even properly describe without many more words to circle around it--most of which would only point to examples of cuteness.)

Maybe cats are doing zazen when they sit like potatoes in the window sill. But I don't think they need to. I think they are naturally in a state of thoughtless but highly sensitive (ie sensory-based) awareness. I don't think awareness and self-consciousness are the same thing, but quite different things.