37. Cats

Dear Boomer,

They’re different from you and me.  You can tell from the way they watch you that they’re different. They don’t wag their tails. They don’t drop their dewlaps, loll their tongues, and grin.  Rather, they crouch on all fours, ready to pounce in any direction, and they stare. 

Boy, do they stare.  They stare as though they harbor a secret, malevolent plan to dominate the world, and they are just waiting until the time is right.

They stare as though they think they can hypnotize you and make you do foolish things, like cross the road before Alpha says it’s ok. 

And they stare with such a silent sense of smug superiority that it’s no wonder that occasionally we’re tempted to chase after them to put them in their place.

I’m talking about cats, of course.  For no good reason that’s ever been apparent to me, some humanoids actually like these creatures.  Why?  They don’t fetch balls or sticks.  They don’t train their humanoids to give them treats when they sit or lie down.  They are useless for keeping delivery boys, letter carriers, canvassers, and political candidates at bay on the other side of the front door.  They don’t take humanoids for a walk in Windsor Park.

So what’s the big deal?

Sure, maybe they have the advantage of being able to climb trees and, as a result, add a new dimension to the squirrel chase.[1]  But for all their apparent technological advantages, I’ve never known one to catch a squirrel. 

I caught a squirrel the other day, by the way.  But Alpha made me put it down before I could bring it home.  I was rather hoping he would put it on the end of a rope and throw it for me, like a kong, but he didn’t.

But we’re talking about cats – the species that likes to rub against the legs of humanoids, leaving their foul feline scent.  We’re talking about the species that coughs up hairballs.  The species that has its own indoor litter box because sometimes they can’t be bothered facing the elements outdoors.  The species that, when they warm themselves in the sun, have all the smugness of the king of the world.

I thought our backyard had been cleared of cats.  Occasionally they might provide me with a bit of entertainment by tiptoeing along the back garden in their little cat feet,[2] giving me a chance to bark and run.  But for the most part, I was confident that they had no territorial ambitions west of the chain links and east of the board fence.

Imagine my surprise, the other day, when Alpha opened the back door to let me out, and there was a cat lying in my dog house!  Oh the humiliation.  It pains me to admit it. 

It was that day where the wind was blustering and the rain was pelting, and the branches were snapping from the trees.  And for a moment, the cat and I stared at each other – he in alarm and me in shock and surprise, with Alpha looking on.  And we didn’t move. 

After a moment, Alpha ordered me to stay.  He wanted to give the intruder a running chance at escape, I guess.  And by the time I was given the ok signal, el gato had made a beeline for the fence and there was nothing left but that sweet musky scent to show where he had disappeared in the night.  I trust he won’t be back any time soon.

So, with all this in mind, I have a conundrum for you.  What do we make of Victor, the new cat who lives around the corner.  You know – the house where they used to have pet rats.  Well, now they have a cat.  And this cat seems to think it’s a dog.

When he trotted up to us when Alpha and I took the Pup to the pup kennel, I didn’t know what to think.  I thought maybe the cat hadn’t noticed me.  But, no, he walked right up and sniffed my nose.  Is this some kind of feline faux pas?  Is Victor just too young to know the natural order of things?  Or is it the dawn of a new era in inter-species cooperation?[3]

There’s potential.  I would gladly teach Victor how to chase balls on the ground, if he would teach me to climb trees and chase squirrels among the branches.

But I must be careful.  I don’t want to let the side down, and I would never want word to go around Windsor Park that poor Zoscha is getting soft on cats.  But you have to admit, the possibilities are intriguing.

                                                         Wagging my tail, but not stooping to purr,


[1] For Zoscha’s take on a dog that could actually climb trees, see Windsor Chronicles, Part 79, “Le Gout de Snow,” January 2008.

[2] Immanuel McCann (“Tail to Thee, Blythe Spirit,” UofT Press, 2009, p. 107) has suggested this is a riff on the Carl Sandburg poem, “Fog.”  The Contest wherein readers were invited to identify Zoscha’s literary and musical allusions still lay in the future (see Part 59, “Holocaust of Crows,” February 2006).

[3] Victor was evidently a neighbourhood cat who went for walks in the park with his owner.  No further reference to his fate is found in the Chronicles.