Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19: "Cat People''

I did something last week that I never imagined I would ever
do: I acquired a cat.

So I suspect there may be something to this Mayan calendar
business, after all.

Until last week, I always believed that there were basically
two kinds of people in the world: People who had cats as pets and normal

Now that I have the blood coursing rapidly through the veins
of the cat lovers out there, let me quickly assure you that I do not dislike
cats, so Tiger (that’s the cat’s name) is in no danger of any sort of ill treatment.
No, I guess my attitude toward cats can best be characterized as benign

I like cats in much the same way I like boats: Boats are a
great deal of fun. Boats are more fun still if the boat belongs to a friend. So
it would be incorrect to say that I have a smoldering hatred for all things
feline. Cats are OK..

But deep down, I am a dog guy. I understand dogs. They are
not complex animals. Dogs, even female dogs, are like guys. There are no complicated
relationships between men and dogs.

Cats? Well, there is just no figuring out a cat.

Joy, the girl I am dating, has two cats, and she made it
plain from the start that if we were going to get along, I’d have to be nice to
her cats. “They were here first,’’ she pointed out.

Now, six months later, I am on pretty friendly terms with
her cats – Bella and Bama. Occasionally, as I am trying to watch TV at Joy’s
house, they will migrate over to my lap where they strike a posture that
suggests that, if I am on my very best behavior, I will be permitted to pet
them. Until they tire of me, of course. It is hard to keep a cat’s attention
for very long.

And now I have a cat. I want to go on the record at this
point: I did not decide to get a cat. It just happened.

Here is how it happened. About a year ago, Tiger wandered up
into the yard of Elsie Price, who lives just down the dirt road from her
youngest daughter, Joy. Tiger was only a month or two old, so Mrs. Price took
him in and named him Tiger (he is orange and white, hence the name). He was
happy there until last September, when Elsie fell ill. She died in November
and, for the longest while, Tiger stayed there on her property. Joy or her
sister, Joan, would stop by and make sure Tiger had food and water, etc.

But two months ago, Joy decided to have Tiger “fixed’’ and
bring him into her home.

It seemed like a good idea…for approximately three minutes.
After that, the fur began to fly. Tiger attacked Bella which prompted Bama to
attack Tiger. No cat would come to the bargaining table. Sanctions were
ineffective. The U.N. of Cats was non-responsive. This went on for two months:
Imagine the feline equivalent of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. That was
Joy’s house.

Being a simple, trusting, innocent man, I did notrecognize
the peril I was in. About two weeks ago, Joy started making observations – to
no one in particular, of course - about what a wonderful cat Tiger was. Tiger
was naturally imbued with all sorts of great character traits – affectionate,
sweet, smart. Joy judged – again, to no one in particular – that Tiger would be
a great companion for the right person, maybe someone who lived alone and led a
quiet, introspective sort of life.

Before you know it, I am driving the 40 miles back to my apartment with
this cat in the back seat.

It’s been a week now, and I think Tiger and I are beginning
to have an understanding of the house rules. There is but one house rule, of
course. Tiger does as he pleases.

Most of the week, he has spent under my bed. Using my dog
logic, I thought maybe he was frightened because that’s what a dog would do if
he were frightened. Now, I’m convinced that Tiger stays under my bed because he
likes having a place to his own, a place I can’t comfortably access.

So he spends long stretches under my bed. Again, this is a
change for me. Dogs like to be wherever you are. Cats? Not so much. Cats
ascribe to the “quality time’’ canard. “It’s not how much time I spend with you
that matters, it’s the quality time that counts.’’ Right. No dog would ever say

There is one odd behavior Tiger exhibits that I cannot
account for. Joy told me, among a few hundred other things, that I should
always leave the shades pulled up in at least one window, so Tiger could sit in
the window sill and observe the world passing by.

Well, I did this. I pulled up the blinds and sat Tiger on
the window sill. He went nuts, jumping down and running to the middle of the
den where he stopped and looked back toward the window.

To approximate his demeanor, try this: Set up with your back
as straight as possible. Cup your hands and put them in from of your chest,
fingers pointing down. Stretch your neck up as high as you can. Open your eyes
as wide as possible.

This was the look Tiger had on his face after that first
look out the window. He looked like a prairie dog on sentinel duty when a hawk
has shown up on the horizon.

Now, I’ll admit I don’t live in the very best neighborhood,
but still…Every time I gather Tiger up into my arms, talk to him in my softest
voice and pet him as I walk slowly toward the window, his head pops up like a
jack-in-box and his eyes grow wide as saucers. This happens every single time.

So, of course, I do this frequently.

But aside from the window phobia, Tiger seems to have
settled in and appears to be satisfied enough – no cat will ever admit to being
completely satisfied, I am sure. I do like him, though.

Like I said, I never thought I would be a cat person. Of course,
I never thought I’d vote for a Democrat for President, either. Sometimes you just
don’t have much of a choice, I reckon.

Slim Smith, a former Arizona journalist, is now a student at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss. You can reach him via email at