Monday, August 01, 2005
In an obvious attempt to lose half my readership, I write today about cats.
It doesn't matter what I write. If I write that I like them, the dog people ... (crickets)
See, they're gone already, they didn't even stick around to see if I was going to link to the haha funny home video of the cat grabbing at a string on a ceiling fan and going helicoptering around for a spell before being hurled into the sliding glass door. But they've all already seen it ten times, and e-mailed it to their friends, they know if you're not in on it already, you're not in on it at all. You are an apostate. You like those cats.
Yes, yes I do. When I was growing up, I wanted a dog. My dear mother was petrified of animals, and disliked untidiness, so no go. And your parents know you better than you know yourself, after all, and knew I couldn't care for such a beast. Not for more than a week. Now, the information available about dogs is very sketchy, too patchy for me to make a valid assessment really, but I gather the creatures live longer than a week. No dog for you.
No cats either, a creature that gave poor mom the willies more than a dog, even. At least a dog, well, how do I put this? The dog goes outside. Any Venusian who visited our planet would know who's in charge around here immediately, by observing which one craps in a box, and which one empties it.
And so as a child, we had a succession of wildlife that taught you nothing about the wild, or about loyalty, or about ferocity, or greed or want, or anything else. Goldfish, gerbils, that sort of thing. For a while, we had little turtles in a dish. You can tell you're through with them when they turn white, by the way.
And so my mother was right of course. I've killed more fauna than a hunter gatherer tribe. But the desire is not a slave to the intellect. I needed another mammal around the house, one that wouldn't do anything I'd tell it to, and the best I could hope for is predicting its behavior a little. No I'm not referring to my wife, although the description is an apt one. Cats.
Cats are the pet for you, if you must have a pet, but don't deserve one. They are what all housepets are, animated furniture. They become part of the fabric of your lives, no question, and fray all the fabric in your life, it's true, but they're in the background, and don't bother. Feed them in a desultory fashion, and every twenty five days or so, they'll deign to sit in your lap and go prrrrrrrrrr. I'm up for that.
My friends have dogs. They never go anywhere, or do anything, without first thinking of how this will affect their creature. They're better people than us, it takes so much tenacity of will to sign up for that kind of responsibility, to be trusted so supremely with the wellbeing and care of another being. One that will never grow up and mow the lawn for you, I mean.
Get up one half hour late one morning, and go to the door to let the cat in, and he'll be gnawing the head off a rodent outside the door, and look up at you and you'll know what he's thinking: "I had to do this myself, you big stiff; and I'm going to throw up parts of this on your couch later, that'll learn you to sleep in."
And so I like the solitary nature of the cat, and its mystery, and the fact that the minute he goes outside, he reverts to his feral self, and the only difference between the little beast and a tiger is its size, and the pink collar he's wearing. He'll shred my wife's clothes for saddling him with that, I bet. Ruins his feral vibe with the woodland creatures.
Two cat is best, three cats is madness, four or more and you're a newspaper article. We got two black cats at the animal rescue place, to replace the two beloved animals we buried in our yard after living at our new house for a short while.
Of course they were dead before we buried them, what are you, dog people? Anyway, they had lived a long and happy life, and dreamed every night by the fire of mice with lead shoes, and passed away old.
The Big One was just a little lad then, and we asked him to name the new ones. Moonshine and Sunshine he said. I laid some groundwork for editing by pointing out that they were both identically black, and neither was likely to answer to "Sunshine." He liked "Lady Godiva," for the chocolate color, not the streaking incident, and so it was Moonshine and Lady Go.
Two black cats. Bad luck perhaps. Moonshine was headstrong and roamed far afield, and I found her after a short spell by the road, where curiosity... well, you get the picture, and I buried her in the woods next to the others. Tears were shed. Lady Go was sad, if cats can be sad.
My wife loved that animal. She is kind to all things great and small, and raises we three male beasts in addition to the cat. Pets are tests of your kindness and reliability, and Moonshine tested our hearts.
He appeared out of the woods that surround our house not long after, skinny, sickly, disheveled, wild. White with gray and black, mottled. He'd pace around the perimeter of the lawn like a panther, lean, hungry, feral. My wife considered it a sign, so soon after Moonshine's demise, and she fed that beast. She'd put out food at night, though I told her it was crazy; raccoons and possums and foxes and god knows what else would show up each night looking for the buffet. No matter, HE might get some of it, and that was enough for her. Occasionally we'd see him, closer now, but you couldn't approach him or he'd disappear for days.
My boy remarked the patch of grey atop his head made him look like he had a page boy haircut, although he didn't know to call it that, he just said: He looks like Moe!
So Momo it was.
My wife is kind, and animals know "kind" when they see it. But a cat is cautious, oh yes. After nine month of patience and caution, he allowed her to touch him once, while he ate greedily from the bowl, still nowhere near the house. Just like me, he was finished.
Soon he was eating on the back step, and sleeping on a pile of straw left over from a Hallowe'en display, at the corner of the house. And then one day, when a year had passed, she put the food in the back hallway, and left the door open.. He came in over a period of ten minutes, still terrified, but curious. She closed the door behind him. And he went CRAZY.
He made that traverse of 38 feet from end to end of the house over and over, launching himself at the windows in the doors, crashing to the floor, and racing to the opposite end for another leap and collision. My wife and little boy scurried around shrieking and trying to reach the doors to open them before he got there, but he was everywhere, and frantic, and they were trapped in the house with a wild beast. They finally got one open, and he was gone.
As my wife recounted the tale to me when I arrived home from work, I had to stifle a smile. She thought she had blundered, and he was gone forever. She doesn't know men very well, I thought to myself. Though all she gets all day is we three men, men, men. She had become the sun around which that little creature orbited, as had we all, and sure enough the next day he was back.
And shortly thereafter, he was sleeping by the fire, and making that prrrrr noise, a little peeved about THAT UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT AT THE VETERINARIAN, but exhibiting to this day the only attitude that cat owners generally envy their dog friends: Gratitude.