by Catherine Breese
Until recently, I have felt a nonspecific prejudice against cats. Beyond my unpleasant olfactory memory of a couple of my childhood friend’s homes, I have had no negative experiences with them. However, I have always found their reserved uppityness to be off-putting. I like dogs, with their less-than-hidden agendas–pet me, play with me, walk me, yes, I’ll take a snack, and yay, I’m glad you’re home! It’s just so comfortable. Cats are never obvious.
Then, there are the thousands of paradoxically annoying and entertaining pictures of cats on the Internet. Cat videos, cat photos, cat montages, cat memes, mean cat memes, and pictures of cats snuggling with pit bulls and lions–cats are pretty darn popular. Evidently, cats are also not afraid of much. And they look really cute stuffed into boxes or with something stuck upon their little heads.
This summer a cat has come to live in my home. I began immediately to treat it like a dog, which, as any reader with a cat will know, was a stupid move. But I am a dog person. Dogs are wagging bags of love. Cats don’t wag and they seem to have approximately two emotions: disinterest and indifference. In this way, having a cat and having a statue of a cat are very similar experiences, except in the one case you get to clean out the litter box regularly. But before the reader gets the wrong impression that I am some cat-hating snob, let me just say that I actually like our current in-home cat resident. His name is Jake and he came home from college with my daughter. He has long black hair and bright yellow eyes and is very beautiful. This is his greatest (and perhaps only) agreeable quality. Jake bites–not a send-you-to- the-hospital type of bite, just the type to make you stop whatever it is that you are currently doing, which in my case is usually some misguided attempt to pet the cat.
Jake prefers to exhibit his personality in other ways. For example, he enjoys running figure eights through your legs as you attempt to descend the stairs first thing in the morning, making it almost impossible to do anything other than trip and curse his name loudly. He also wants to be a big part of any home maintenance or improvement project, jumping into any open tub, box, open cupboard door, or drawer and placing himself defiantly in the most inconvenient location. I tried to put a few items into the attic yesterday. Before I had even climbed all the way up with the first load Jake was pushing his way past me on the ladder. When we were trying to paint, he insisted on standing right next to the open paint bucket. When we tried to clean the brushes, he jumped into the utility sink. When you close the bathroom door for some privacy, he claws at the door to come in. When you let him come up on the bed, be assured he is not there to snuggle. Biting your feet through the covers is more his thing. He loves heights and has the weird habit of going into the shower or tub after you leave it to get his feet wet.
What does our dog Pancake have to say about all this cat business? Turns out, not much. Pancake and Jake reached detente very quickly, only a few days after their first meeting. Pancake is pleased to go on about his dogly duties under the pretense that he is the only pet in the house. Jake occasionally executes an unprovoked attack, but Pancake is quite content to simply relocate when this occurs. Pancake remains in denial. For this reason, we love him even more.
Cats are not quiet. Jake demands to be fed–I am talking downright howling whenever his bowl has been empty for a few hours. Don’t expect a thank you, either. And, on the other end of the process, that litter box thing is a surprisingly stinky nuisance. I am completely convinced that when he “misses” the cat box, it is more vindictive than accidental. We humans learned quickly that one must stay on top of the catbox if you don’t like the odor–and we don’t. The smelly garbage created by cleaning out the catbox was the inspiration behind a genuine hillbilly moment for our family. After a few days the garage garbage can was horrific and we couldn’t take it. Determined to take the garbage to the dump without suffering, Bryan bungeed the black bag to the roof of the car. The first attempt was a dismal failure: the offending bag of poo falling off of the roof before we had gotten 250 yards outside our neighborhood. The engineering team then redesigned a cat poo transportation device (see photo above) to include a hard-sided box strapped on rather than bungeed. It worked significantly better, thus allowing the driver a smell-free ride to the city dump, albeit embarrassingly unaesthetic.
Among his many entertaining habits, Jake the cat does make a regular escape attempts. Great care must be taken when entering or leaving the house to be sure that the cat stays safely inside (it’s for everyone’s sake, including the birds). When he has gotten out, he doesn’t go anywhere too far. And we take this as high praise, although surely it is not meant as such.
One early morning as Bryan was letting the dog outside, the cat slipped out. Bryan whisper-yelled upstairs,“Catherine! Come down and help me!” I stumbled down in the darkness, barely awake. “Is that our cat?” he asked, gesturing at the glass door.
“Is that our cat looking in the window?” he said, vehemently pointing at two glowing yellow eyes peering in.
“Uh…I don’t know. Where is the cat?” Now, this is a question that gets asked all the time at our house–”where is that cat?” But, I got down on my hands and knees and went face-to face with the black cat meowing in the window. (There is another black cat in our neighborhood.) I couldn’t decide, so I just opened the door. It came in, mewing in frustration that it had been left outside for any length of time in the dark. Judging from the complaints and the fluffy tail, we decided the right cat had entered our home.
Jake will let me pet his head now (not his body, mind you, just the head) and he does like to be picked up. The majority of my dog-brained attempts at showing the cat affection go unacknowledged. Cats are not dogs. They don’t obey any commands and they don’t wag their tails or lick your face when they are pleased. They are damn entertaining, however, as everyone on the Internet knows.