I’m a cat person. Dogs are OK. They’re sweet. But they’re too desperate for attention for my tastes. They would sell their teeth for a scratch behind the ears. So drooly, doofy, stinky, eager to please. And what is it with smelling people-crotches and dog-butts? Dogs need to chill. Cats are born chill. They’re clean, clever, and aloof. They do not beg. They play hard-to-get. I find it more tolerable to clean up the poo of an animal I respect. With dogs I’d be like, “what? you pooed? well clean that up.” But with cats, I’m like, “how considerate of you to poo in a box of kitty litter, of course I can scoop it out for you with my handy pooper-scooper and flush it.” Some cats have even been potty-trained, I’m told. Not surprised.
My cats are unapologetic for sleeping most of the day. The lazy bums expect me to work my little typing fingers to the bone just to buy them tuna and kitty-treats. Sometimes when their food bowls are empty, they look at me reproachfully, as if to say, “We will write you up for this and you will not get that annual salary increase you were expecting.” But I can deal with that attitude. I tell them, “No more food for you today because you’re too fat. Go hunt a mouse, vacuum the living room, do the laundry, or run around the block or something. If you insist on sleeping all afternoon, then you can’t have more food tonight.” If someone as strict as I am with them controlled the appearance of food in my own dinner bowl, then I would have the body of a model or an athlete. My cats will thank me later, when they need to shop for a swimsuit. Forgive me, I doth anthropomorphize.
In my lifetime, I have had more than a dozen cats as roommates. My two current feline roommates, Golda and Ella, are sisters with almost no family resemblance. Ella is the smartest cat I have ever known and Golda is the dumbest. Since cats from the same litter can have different fathers, I must assume Ella’s dad graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford and Golda’s dad was a Disney cartoon. They both have green eyes, but their physical resemblance ends there. Ella is black and Golda is an orange tabby (what the English call a marmalade cat). Ella is sleek and graceful. Golda sheds without respite and galumphs about. Ella slinks as if wearing a $400 pair of high heels, while Golda plods as if clumping around in clogs. Ella is a hipster. Golda is a bag lady. If they were human, Ella would have millions of people following her witty and trendy tweets on Twitter, while Golda would write notes to herself in pencil on used paper grocery bags.
But Golda is no wimp. She’s bloodthirsty and vicious. She carries a big gun. By comparison, Ella is a pacifist. Ella watches in horrified fascination while Golda catches and gruesomely eats mice, birds, and moles (leaving behind only a small organ that she does not care for, feet, and an occasional beak—so gross). Golda would devour a wild turkey if she could catch one (I have seen her stalk them). The only thing Ella hunts is a catnip toy. Golda is so territorial that she will stand her ground and fight off other cats that come into our yard, even if they’re bigger than she is. I have seen her chase foxes out of the yard. She would probably take on a bear if one appeared. She would win too, because she usually wins in battle. By contrast, Ella flees from invading critters. She runs to the back door of the house and pees on herself in terror. Meanwhile, Golda spits fire, hisses, swears, and shrieks insults. I have to dial 1-800-Excorcist.
When we moved to this house, Ella figured out how to open the sliding screen door to the deck within minutes, so she could let herself in and out. Golda has watched Ella open that door for years, and the dummy still can’t figure out how to do it herself. She sits in front of it like a dunce in a corner and waits for Ella to appear and open it for her. If I’m not vigilant with the door thing, they do this fancy trick where Ella opens the screen door and Golda brings a live mouse into the house, where she proceeds to chase it around as a prelude to consuming it. Ella makes popcorn and pulls up a comfy chair to watch, of course. I could definitely do without my cats’ obsession with rodents. But I’m bigger than that; I’m able to get past the rodent thing.
Ella spends much of her day in the space between my computer and the window in my study. Sometimes she watches the birds in the bottlebrush tree with concentration. You would think she is hunting them in her head, but we have already established the fact that she is not a hunter. So perhaps she is simply contemplating what they would look like in red heels. Most of the time she sleeps, stretching out, kicking my computer screen so that it wobbles. Behind my computer is her happy place. When I take her to the vet, she jumps up on the counter and hides behind the vet’s computer. Perhaps she thinks the electromagnetic field (EMF) makes her invisible (or invincible). Perhaps she spends so much time in an EMF that she gravitates to it. I am beginning to think that she converts EMF to creative energy and imparts it to me.
My life would be empty without feline energy. What would I do with my time if I didn’t have to speculate about what is going through my cats’ minds? Well, actually, just Ella’s. I know what’s going through Golda’s mind, which contains little more than a couple of mice trotting around, a dinner bowl, wads of cat hair, and a few stray apostrophes. Meanwhile, Ella is writing treatises on social change and the great American novel, considering sustainable agricultural methods, and figuring out how to cure cancer. If only she could speak a human language and had an opposable thumb. (That thumb would wreak havoc because then she would have the ability to open all the doors in the house.)
My children tease me, saying that if I hadn’t met their dad then I would be the neighborhood cat lady; living in a hoarder’s house that smells like tuna and sleeping with 20 cats. But they are full of poo. I only need two cats, as long as one of them is Ella. My muse. My familiar. She is sitting in my lap as I write this, absorbing the EMF from my computer before it reaches me. Research shows that people who have cats live longer. Thank you sweet and clever Ella with the huge green eyes for prolonging my life.