About Cats
February 29th, 2016

Some people dislike cats—in particular landlords, who often as not are control freaks. Back in 1976 Anne and I were evicted from an apartment on Elmwood Street after the landlord discovered I had smuggled a cat onto the premises. Said cat was causing no trouble whatsoever; in fact, she was doing us all a favor by keeping the cockroaches—some the size of wharf rats—on the run. When I pointed this out to the landlord, he only became more incensed. Our lease clearly specified “no pets.” It didn’t say anything about cockroaches the size of wharf rats.

We thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned the apartment before leaving, hoping to at least recover the deposit. However, no refund was forthcoming. Presently we found ourselves out on the street, homeless in Austin, Texas. Finding a pet-friendly apartment was going to be difficult; getting rid of our cat was out of the question. Her name was Ursula, and she was my inseparable feline friend.

By and by we found a place on Windsor Road, which was a step up from Elmwood Street. The landlady was a sweetheart; she, too, had a cat and thus could appreciate why it was we could never part with our beloved tabby. Shortly after we moved in, Ursula chased the landlady’s cat off the premises and commenced stalking the local songbirds. How’s that for gratitude?

Ursula with Bird copy

Here’s the thing about cats. No matter what, they refuse to do as they’re told. They have great hearing, but they never listen. The more you try to boss them around, the more recalcitrant they become. Cohabitate with a cat, and it’ll be you who ends up being bossed around.

Dogs are different. You can train a dog to follow orders, or so I’ve heard. Unfortunately, my dog was a border collie, and he learned early on that he could bend me to his will just by being stubborn. In that way Tippy was very much like a cat; in fact, he and Casper were a team. Had it not been for the fact I have a prehensile thumb and can thus operate a can opener, they might very well have made me sleep outdoors.

Tippy, alas, has passed on, but Casper—now in her twenty-first year—is still kicking for some reason. And now we’ve been joined by a second cat, Jezabel, who just showed up one day after straying from the home of her rightful “owner.” Why did Jezabel desert the nice family that rescued her from the animal shelter? I have no idea, but I’m flattered. I’m flattered because out of all the humans she could have chosen, Jezabel chose me.

Casper resents Jezabel and hisses whenever the interloper invades her personal space. Evidently Casper has forgotten Bonkers, who was the senior housecat at the time Casper appeared on our doorstep, dusty and starving. Bonkers, who basically hated other cats, welcomed Casper into the family with open paws—I’ll never know why. And this is how Casper plays it forward, by hissing and snarling at sweet little Jezabel?

There are days when, if I were a landlord, I swear I’d toss the two of them out into the street. Alas, I’m now a homeowner as well as a cat “owner.” In other words, I have no choice but to put up with the scratched furniture, the incessant hissing and growling, and the dead mouse strategically placed on the carpet where I’ll be sure to either notice it or, if not, step on it when I climb out of bed in the morning.

-Richard Menzies