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On Cats

>> Thursday, April 1, 2010

I write a great deal about my two idiotic, affectionate, stubborn, expensive, exuberant, destructive, irritating, wrinkly dogs.  I write a lot less about the three cats who share my home.  I suppose that's partly because they demand less of my attention, and also because they don't go with us on the outdoor adventures that are so often the subject of this blog.  However, I don't want my readers to think I don't adore my cats.  In fact, most days I think I like my cats way more than I like my dogs.  They irritate me less, for one thing.  But more importantly, cats fascinate me.

As a kid, I grew up begging for a dog, but had to make do with a succession of guinea pigs and hamsters. Eventually our next door neighbor's cat, Minnie, got invited into our house on a regular basis for kitty junk food and the affection we would bestow on her.  Plus, I had a bird feeder suction cupped to my bedroom window.  For Minnie, nothing could beat the ecstatic pleasure of crouching down on my bed under the window until she heard a flurry of feathery activity, and then springing up to pound her front paws against the glass while the frantic finches flew off in a flustered chirping whirl.  She'd keep it up for hours.

I never really got to know cats, though, until I met my husband.  He had this massive cat named Streak, who was really just an overgrown punk of a kitten with a lot of attitude.  Streak hated me at first.  I was the interloper, and was trying to encroach on his human's time and affection.  Until the day I die, I will swear that he regularly tried to smother me in my sleep during those first few months.  Over time, though, Streak and I developed an incredible affection and respect for one another.  He died more than eight years ago now, but I still miss him.  I don't think I will ever meet a cooler cat.  And I've gotten to know quite a few, as over the years we've rescued a number of cats who developed major health problems and did not live nearly long enough.

I'll always be grateful for having had Streak in my life, in large part because he converted me into (horrors!) a cat person.  I don't want to ever have a house without a dog, but I don't think I could endure life without a cat.

Here are just a few of the things that I love about my cats, but that completely baffle me, in no particular order:

1.  The places one finds them when they've been too quiet for too long.

That's Streak, and yes, he's at the top of a telephone pole.

You'll have to take my word for it that there's a cat under the bulge in the rug... or stay tuned for the proof below.

If you didn't spot her at the first glance, try this one:

2.  The wild adventures they create out of ordinary objects.  Can anyone who has lived with a cat really believe they don't have imaginations?

Mine regularly engage in fantasies about being lions, leopards, and basilisks, I swear.

3.  Fangs.  Heaven help me, the fangs crack me up, but also strike a shiver of fear into my soul.  Seriously?  Do my cats really need those things in the plush, cushy lives they lead?  What for - opening tuna cans?


4.  That whole box/bag thing.

5.  Spastic midnight FRAP ("Frantic Random Acts of Play") mode.  Why must they run around and around the house as if they are being pursued by Satan, and do somersaults and chase their own tails, all by themselves?  And don't you love it how they will pause gracefully in the middle of one of those cross-house tears to sit, stick out a leg, lick it, and then resume as if there has been no pause at all?

6.  The ability to use a litter box, as opposed to needing to take them outside in the freezing cold at 2:00 a.m.

7.  The fact that they are largely self cleaning.  Every time I watch one of my cats lick him/herself, I am reminded that I am grateful I don't have to bathe myself with my own tongue.  Pleh.  How can they stand all that fur in their mouths?  Regardless, I am delighted I don't have to bathe them.  It's questionable whether I would survive the experience of trying to submerge any of my cats in water.

8.  This one is peculiar to just one of the many cats I have owned, but it's quirky enough to make it on the list.  Tucker likes to "scarf" my husband when he's sleeping.  He's a persistent little booger, and if said spouse isn't in lying on his back and tries to ignore Tucker when Tucker wants him to roll over, Tucker will escalate his irritation (from meows and gentle nudges, to sinking his claws into my husband's shoulder and pulling with all his wee kitty might) until my husband gives in and rolls onto his back.  Tucker then curls across his neck, kneads his shoulder, and nicely lets a long stream of drool roll down my husband's neck.  (*shudder*)  He doesn't dare try it on me.  That's a special bond only my husband and Tucker share.  (evil grin)

9.  How sweet and innocent they can look.

10.  How devilish they can look.  Honestly, sometimes they make me a little paranoid.  Wouldn't you be, too, if you looked up and found this staring at you, unblinking?

11.  How well they can master the Evil Eye.

12.  The holy heat-seeking device that guides them to every sunbeam, no matter how small.

13.  Bed pinning.  By this I mean their incredible ability to each curl up next to me when I'm lying in bed so I cannot move any part of myself without disturbing them.  And I'll stay like that for hours, even if I'm uncomfortable, so as not to disturb them because they're so cuuuute.  Never mind that they sleep approximately 22 hours a day and I never manage to get enough shut eye - somehow their sweet peaceful snoozing overrides my own need for rest and comfort.

14.  The way my 12 pound cat bosses around my 50 pound dogs.  He can stop 100 lbs of hurtling Basset hound with an eye squint.

15.  Along that same line, the way the same 12 lbs of cat can boss me around.  He has me so well trained it's incredible.  You want food?  Of course, master.  You want my lap?  Allow me to rearrange everything on it for you.  You want to go outside this exact instant?  Just let me drop what I'm doing.

16.  How busy they can be.  Where are they going when they walk purposefully through a room, and why?

17.  Insect seek and destroy.  I know the instant there's a bug in my house because at least two cats are staring at it, preparing to annihilate it.

18.  How much luxury can be crammed into a stretch.

19.  Stubbornnes that isn't even on the same scale as mine.  Our cat Sneakers held a grudge against me for a year and a half after we acquired a new kitten.  She's only recently started speaking to me again other than just to demand food.

20.  And last, but certainly not least, the purr.  There is no day so horrible that it can't instantly be put right by the weeniest member of our family jumping up and purring her massive rumble while rubbing her jowls across my cheek.  It solves every problem, or at least makes me feel better about it.


Jessie L. April 1, 2010 at 11:52 AM  

Wonderful post! We have 2 dogs and 2 cats in our household, but the cats came first, and they are the real "owners" of the home. I enjoyed all your cute photos!

Carolyn H April 1, 2010 at 12:14 PM  

So true! i'd never before seen the words "scarfing" or "bed pinning" before but both describe exactly what my cats do, too.

Carolyn h

Ellen Rathbone April 1, 2010 at 2:03 PM  

Oh, well said! I used to have three cats (now just one, and the dog), and the whole bed-pinning thing is such a truism. I don't think I've had a solid night's sleep in YEARS, thanks to the animals. Still...the pluses all make up for the minuses, and then some.

Woodswalker April 1, 2010 at 5:29 PM  

I enjoyed every word of this! And just loved the photos, too! I thought of one attribute you forgot to mention: how sweet their fur smells when they just come inside from the cold. Or nap in the clean laundry basket.

Carole April 1, 2010 at 6:21 PM  

I had to laugh out loud on this one because I am sooooooo guilty of this too: "And I'll stay like that for hours, even if I'm uncomfortable, so as not to disturb them because they're so cuuuute." Cats may be small, but they are very powerful. :-D Very fun post - I am so owned by my cats too.

swamp4me April 1, 2010 at 8:29 PM  

Oh, yes, they own us entirely. I just nodded my head and laughed with each of your observations. I was particularly amused by the FRAP (ours flip out around 2:30 am) and the bed-pinning. We have been known to sit on the floor rather than disturb a cat sleeping on the recliner...

Woodswoman Extraordinaire April 2, 2010 at 11:57 AM  

Thanks for all the great feedback, evrybody. I'm glad I'm not the only one besotted with cats!

Woodswalker, you are completely right about how good their fur smells, which is especially incredible in light of the fact that they DO lick themselves. How can cat breath be so fishy, and yet their fur smell so delicious?

Swamp4me, we spend more time sitting on the floor than the furniture. Someone cute and fuzzy always seems to beat us to it...

Sneaksleep April 2, 2010 at 2:50 PM  

Great post! I'm glad to know that my cat puking under your chair the first time you came over didn't put you off cats entirely. :) And I agree with all the other commenters--I can see my own cats in nearly every item you mention!

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