Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cat Report

I would like to introduce readers to my cats: Peter, Louis, and Marty.  I'll no doubt make reference to them from time to time, as they've provided me with many insights about human nature.  Yeah, that's right.  Sometimes you got to observe another species in order to get a grip on your own, even if you risk ascribing human attributes to animals. I'm just throwing out the latter part of that sentence to appear thoughtful.  Whatever.  What?  Humans aren't lazy, selfish, conniving, and sadistic?  Okay, enough with these observations.  I'll come back to them in due time.

First of all, I'm not crazy about their names, but, as it turned out, the family acquired each of these cats when I happened to be away on military duty or otherwise on the road.  These cats ruin a tradition I had established years ago.  I would name a cat after a 16th-century Protestant reformer.  Luther, Ulrich, Caspar and Oeko have given us plenty of joy and love in the last couple of decades.  Regardless of the name, these cats have been great additions to our household.

Peter, the black and white cat pictured above, is perhaps the best cat we've ever had.  Trying to make a bad situation better, I've imagined his rather prosaic name to be short for Peter Martyr Vermigli, an Italian Reformer whose theological work helped lay the foundations of the Reformed tradition.  Nowadays our relationship is such that I bite the back of his head and neck like a mother would do for her kitten.  I'm hesitant to mention this gesture of affection in light of my previous blog entry, but I assure you that it's strictly platonic. I'd even go so far as to say that he's incredibly handsome, in my opinion.  Again, I'm not attracted to him sexually; rather, I'm perfectly comfortable in my manhood to be able to say such a thing so brazenly.

Peter likes yogurt.  I would think most cats do, but he's the only feline in our house to gobble it up like a MoFo.  He exhibits some canine-like features. For instance, he sleeps at the foot of our bed.  I'm not sure he's one of the smartest cats you'd come across and he possesses a rather melancholy disposition.  Moreover, he doesn't get along with most cats.  Last year it got really bad.  For whatever reason, he constantly picked on Xerxes, an orange tabby we had until his untimely death after being hit by a car last summer.  Despite these blemishes on his moral character, Peter is my favorite.

Louis, our new orange tabby, is arguably the most attractive cat we've ever had.  He's the one getting his ear licked by Marty.  I could probably spend minutes upon minutes just watching him sleep or acting up on the cat tree in the living room.  I had thought Peter would hate him just as much as he hated Xerxes, but that doesn't seem to be the case.  Perhaps the difference is that Xerxes, like Peter, didn't have claws whereas Louie does.  While we humans consider Peter to be the elder statesman of our household cats, we tend to forget the law of the jungle that really determines who's the boss.  I bet Darwin wrote something like the cat with claws controls the gene pool in that big fat book of his.

And then there's Marty, who, I admit, is named after Martin Luther, at least in my mind.  He looks nothing like our first cat, Luther, who, until Peter came along, was always the first feline in my heart of heart.  Marty's only saving grace is his penchant to purr heavily on very little stimulus.  He has beady eyes and kind of looks like a weasel in the face.  The kids describe him more as a rabbit in appearance, but I say weasel.  He's also the most skittish and hardly ever goes outside.  He's an asshole sometimes.

This morning when we woke up it was like Lion Country Safari in our bed.  I caught part of the shenanigans in the photo to the right, but I don't know if you can make it out.  Everything was fine until Marty came along and started to pester Peter, turning an erstwhile snuggle-fest into a ruckus.  Their frantic movements shook me out of a deep sleep, which kind of sucked because I was dreaming that I lived back in the 14th century.  I had a crossbow and I was wearing a codpiece.  But I digress.  I tossed a blanket over the cats and that seemed to defuse the situation.

You might be wondering what became of our previous cats. (And I'd also add here Ursula, Augustine and Xerxes whose names are historical but not a part of the Reformation motif.) In most cases, we suspect, a car hit them or a predator got'em. We've learned our lesson over the years; now we don't let them go outside at night. Nocturnal creatures that they are, they'll scratch and moan to go out, but no dice. I think there's a metaphor for life somewhere here. It's like parents looking after the welfare of their children, though the latter only see cruelty. Likewise, God deprives us of those material things for which we so ardently yearn for our own good and yet all we see is a "cosmic sadist." We don't see the bigger picture; we only want our desires fulfilled and our appetites satiated.  My friend John has picked up a number of deep truths like these just by observing his yellow lab. He's better at the "metaphor for life" thing than I am.

I think I'd identify myself most with a cat. A few years ago we as a family figured out who would be what kind of animal.  My wife, by her own choosing, would be a cow.  One of my daughters would be a bird, another a turtle, and the third a dog.  There was no doubt that I'd be a cat.  I like to just lie around and give people that judgmental look.  Unlike dogs, cats do not heed the call of a master--unless it's mealtime.  They're pretty much solitary creatures that march to their own drum.  That's me, for good or ill.  I wouldn't say they're anti-social, but they certainly are moody.  Me again, well, plus I'm anti-social.  And they're not immune from the natural formation of hierarchies.  Currently Peter and Louis have been jockeying for position on the top platform of the cat tree.  Notwithstanding these shortcomings, cats are fun to have around.  Besides, they're all I got for male bonding these days.