I just received a strongly-worded memo from Management (aka The Cat… remember: dogs have masters and cats have staff), suggesting that my post ‘In Appreciation of Dogs’ required a balanced retort. Management, in this instance our 18-years old cat named Newts, awoke briefly from her punishing schedule of comatose sleep to issue this demand, locked eyes with me for a moment, and then nonchalantly cocked a back leg and proceeded to wash her nether regions before returning to the land of Nod.

From the first, Newts was my wife’s cat, and would take one look at me and leave the vicinity at Warp 9. Being fondish of cats, especially gregarious ones, this was somewhat of a disappointment to me. Time, it seems however, cures all, and in the last few years, she has finally gotten to the point where she will come and sit on my lap and present herself for patting. This attention, of course, is transitory at best, and the moment my wife sits down, or even stirs, the beast abandons me posthaste and makes a beeline for her. Fickle creature!

In her dotage, she has also become quite deaf, and now has the alarming habit of yowling at astonishing volume levels to announce such important events as having had a dump, finishing her food, or simply to inform the staff that her twice daily soft food treat is eminent. This, of course, is not overly welcome when the cat decides that food should be served at 5:00 AM.

Kittens are another matter altogether and may be classified as either adorable, or spawn of the devil. They seem to be able to get up to all manner of behaviour that ranges from simply undesirable to downright chaotic. My daughter’s cat, Fawkes, had no sooner been brought home before it exhibited an unhealthy fixation with eating anything with elastic in it. This eventually resulted in an emergency trip to the vet and a hefty bill for surgery. The only consolation was that we had the satisfaction of seeing the little bugger wear the ‘Cone of Shame’.

Kittens can be quite trying when they do things like climbing drapes, or your legs. And if you happen to be wearing shorts at the time, this can be quite exciting. As can forgetting to not accidentally drum your fingers, thus initiating the pounce-and-bite reflex built into every cat’s operating system. I can personally attest that having a claw imbedded in the web of skin between thumb and finger is exquisitely painful.

Cats possess a range of behaviours that seem designed to try the patience of their staff. For example, Newts is a long-hair cat and sheds hair in quantities that seem out of all possible proportion. You can actually watch the hair fly off the beast, rolls of it accumulating on the floor (and everywhere else) in amounts that would allow you to knit a new cat every four days!

And why is it that cats always have to yark up their food on the carpet? We have a single carpet in our present home, all the rest of the floor is either wood or tile, but the cat seems to be able to time its vomitary activities to consistently decorate that specific area. Then there are the expectorated hair balls that seem to combine their two favourite activities of shedding and vomiting. This, of course, is accompanied by that revolting sound that makes you believe that the cat is about to expel a lung and perhaps a few yards of lower intestine. Delightful.

Cats have another behaviour that is inexplicable:

  • They see things that aren’t there… they’ll sit and stare intently at something, generally high up on a blank wall, but if you follow their gaze, there’s simply nothing there to warrant the attention!
  • On the other hand, they do have some extremely endearing traits that I feel compelled to mention lest this post be perceived as a ‘Depreciation of Cats’.
  • Purring: this is simply one of those things that can be labeled ‘a great goodness’. There is such a therapeutic value to this remarkable behaviour… it soothes and relaxes, and cat seems to simply radiate love.
  • The way they knead you with their front paws is also enchanting (although this should best be avoided if one is unclothed).
  • The way that as soon as you stroke their belly, they instantly assume the ‘slut-mode’ position: limbs akimbo, slitty-eyed, and wontonly demanding! And should you stop, prepare for the cold, wet nose nudge to help you focus your attention once again.
  • Some cats seem to talk to their owners, my daughter’s cat Fawkes, is especially adept at this, and it is both charming and funny to hear the two of them ‘have a conversation’.
  • The fact that cats can also be trained to use a litter box should certainly not be overlooked as a positive feature too.
  • Or finally, the way they sleep, all curled up with a paw over their eyes… adorable!

Hopefully this missive will appease Management, but at the moment, I’m getting the evil eye and the insistent meows that indicate that the Boss thinks it’s time to eat. Ah well, work, work, work!