Sunday, May 10, 2020

Bad cats

Casper, in a characteristic setting.
     No, I do not like cats.
     There, I said it.
     In my defense, cats do not like me. Though that is nothing special; cats don't seem to like anybody, as far as I can tell. Oh, some people think their cats like them. But they're wrong.
     So, yes, I do not like them in return. Never have.
     Which is odd for a man who has been living with cats continually for more than 30 years.
     My wife, however, loves cats. And I love her—happy Mother's Day, honey! Hence the cats.
      First Anna and Vronsky, the two cats my wife-to-be adopted at the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society—or as we called it, "The Cruelty Society."
      We had them for nearly 20 years. Proof that this is not a stressful environment for the cats, my attitudes notwithstanding. It isn't as if they can read my mind. Okay, they probably can, but they don't care. Not caring is a basic feline trait. While me, I have to care. And feed and pay for all their special scientific urinary tract kibble and little boutique baglets of treats and occasional cat toys and frequent visits to the vet.
      For which they are grateful not at all.
      I even make a stab at delivering an occasional stroke or pat or whatever you're supposed to do with cats. I try to say something encouraging. "Hello there, Mr. ... ah .... cat." A cheery thought. Anna could chase a string—the elastic gold cord from a Marshall Field's gift box. I remember pulling the cord back, firing it across the room, and allowing Anna to dutifully retrieve it. So there I was, playing with the cat. What else do they—or you—want?
     Anna and Vronsky gave way to Natasha and Gizmo, our current cats. Both quite old now themselves. The cat population leapt by 50 percent at the end of March with the addition of Casper, seen in a characteristic moment above. Our younger son's kitten, purchased, I believe, because ... well, I have no idea. To spite us.
     At least Gizmo and Natasha are old. They spend 23 and a half hours a day on our bed. Which I suppose makes it their bed. They do let us slip into the spaces where they're not, which is kind of them. Casper is constantly bolting around the house, racing across the floor, up the walls. There'll be a crash—such as a potted plant sprayed across the oriental rug. If I tried that, the pot would bounce. But shattering a sturdy raku pot is easy for a cat.
     "Get the vacuum!" my wife cried to the younger boy—it is his cat, after all. And to his credit he slipped over to help, mostly through observation.
     "And a burlap sack! And a weight!" I added, though nobody picked up on it.
Natasha, wishing the man taking the photo would die on the spot.
     Not only must I live with cats, whom I do not like, and who do not like me. But then I must be teased for that perfectly natural and defendable inclination.
    "Dad doesn't like the cats!" one son will say, smirking, with the next thought, "Damn him all to hell" not spoken aloud.
   "Dad doesn't like the cats," the second boy will say, picking up the refrain, shaking his head, in mock or, heck, probably real disgust.
     "I like the cats..." I lie, wanly.
     Or try to, anyway. It is not always easy. Okay, it's never easy. Trying to like them only sets the stage for even greater dislike. When my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, usually on a stand in the dining room, for ease in consultation during Scrabble, Bananagrams, and other word games, was carelessly left open on the dining room table by my older son, and Natasha perched possessively upon it, staring at me intently, almost daring me to do something about it, which I was too smart to do. I neither reprimanded my son, nor shooed the cat off its pages—a mistake, as subsequent events would demonstrate. She looked handsome there, scholarly, in a hateful kind of way, and I took a photograph, just to show that I can get into the spirit of the thing. Cats! God's creatures and man's friend.
     Shortly after this picture was taken, the cat threw up—by accident, one assumes, though I wouldn't put anything past them—directly onto the dictionary. My wife tried to clean it best she could but ... well, lets say the episode will be plain to anybody consulting Volume II of the Shorter Oxford. I don't see why, when I say, "I do not like cats" that should reflect poorly upon myself. The general reaction should be, "Why you poor man! Those awful cats must have done terrible things for a kind soul such as yourself to dislike them." But nobody says that. I am alone in my own house, outnumbered, six to one.
    "The dog too!" my family pointed out, in unison.
    Right. Make that seven to one.


  1. I can relate to this one. We have a few good friends who have animals of the feline persuasion who are otherwise perfectly normal, productive and fun to be around.

  2. Aww. My husband never liked cats, until he found a three-day-old baby kitten in a paper bag left by someone in freezing cold in the forest preserves while walking our dog. We nursed him back to health, and he lived seventeen years. I named him “Lucky”.

  3. Well, here is a topic on which the best columnist in Washington and the best columnist in Chicago part company. Gene Weingarten frequently comments fondly about the cats in his home, not that he is unaware of their proclivities. When reading those observations, I'm amazed that a curmudgeonly guy like him is so taken in by the feline cabal. Meanwhile, Neil's post today seems on-the-mark to me, along with being a witty analysis. While I don't "hate" cats, and try to appreciate them in small doses, I don't live with them. It would take precisely one broken flower pot or vomited-upon dictionary to turn me to the dark side, of that I'm sure.

    Your cat was "Lucky" indeed, Sandy, and your husband sounds like a swell guy. I don't know what I'd have done had I seen a kitten in a bag in the forest preserve, but I wouldn't have brought it home, alas.

  4. Can't stand those rotten things either. Give me a dog anytime!

  5. Boswell shared your peculiar feline animadversion, which put him at odds with Dr. Johnson, who had several cats, notably "Hodge," for whom, it is noted in the "Life of Johnson, the Great Cham did himself go into the market to buy oysters. In a famous passage Boswell remarked on Johnson's fondness for Hodge and the good doctor replied that he'd had cats he liked better, but then, perceiving Hodge looking disconsolate, added "but Hodge is a fine cat, a very fine cat indeed,"


  6. I like cats just fine -- they're pretty, graceful creatures -- but I can't own one because I'm severely allergic. As for dogs, I feel the same toward them as toward kids: I understand the appeal but don't want the responsibility.

  7. Well, I hope at least that the dog likes you! I am one of the weirdos who really likes both dogs and cats, but alas, we can have no cat due to my wife's allergies. No shedding dogs either, so a poodle is ensconced. Fortunately, I like poodles just fine.


  8. Cats were also part of the package deal when marrying my wife. Once I accepted that cats are not dogs, things went fine. I now tolerate cat vomit, intermittent annoying meowing sessions, things being knocked to the floor, and having to stop what I’m reading because they always seem to know where I’m looking and just sit there. I have to admit, they are an entertaining distraction during our house arrest.

  9. Grew up with dogs. Dogs are okay but cats are more interesting and have more personality. I have shared my home with feline animal companions for almost forty years...about a dozen of them all told. Seven of them are at rest in our front yard.

    Recently, our Casper look-alike, shiny black ten-year-old Onyx, has been very active and busy. For the first time ever, we are being plagued by mice this spring, and she is doing what cats do. Despite her age, she's full of life.

    Alas, no more kittens for us, only older cats or seniors, a policy that benefits both feline and human. They are pretty and affectionate, without the destruction and craziness of kittens. Older cats have usually outgrown the knock-stuff-off-the-edge-for-the-hell-of-it stage. And best of all, they won't outlive you. Aging and elderhood are tough enough for a kitty without becoming orphaned.

  10. A man once told me that cats can pick up on my open vibe and will latch on if I let them. True, I've been followed home or down the street more than once. I once had to bathe a cat during a 2 day stint in a pet shop in Malibu. After that I was pretty scared of them, and would have recurring dreams of my partner's toenails growing claw-like and scratching me. Never told him since it seemed to odd! Cats are powerful and interesting creatures no doubt. Burlap and a weight will not solve your dilemma- there are way too many out there in need of homes and it sound like you are clearly outnumbered in your house. Try looking on the bright side -- (is that a correct use of dashes?) -- according to "through the power of their purr, cats can create vibrations that range from 20-140 Hz, which has been known to be medically therapeutic for both cats and humans alike. ... The powerful purr vibrations put off by cats even has the strength to aid in healing soft tissue damage, such as muscle, ligament and tendon injuries." At least there's that.


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