I’ve known some cats in my time. No, they are not Cats Who Forgot How to Cat, or Cats Saying Bah Humbug to Christmas, or Seventeen Cats Who Hate Monday Mornings. These are just the best seven cats I’ve known.
Floyd was a neighborhood cat who lived outdoors and came to be a regular guest in our little back yard patio. His original owners didn’t cut him loose, really; they just let him be Floyd, and being Floyd was to sit out by our screen door and beg for food. And he was a pretty plump scoundrel, so he never needed any real sympathy, but he always whined and whined, and would dash inside our house to grab some of our cat’s food and then pee on the wall with his urine graffiti. Thanks buddy. Eventually we even gave him his own food bowl outside, but he still preferred to infiltrate our defenses and try to pee on the wall while chewing on our cat’s more expensive food. Typical dude. Keep in mind that this was in San Diego, and being an outdoor cat in San Diego isn’t particularly rough, weatherwise. The coldest winters were in the mid fifties, with a little rain, and Floyd the dirty white cat had it pretty easy. We even made a little tarp tent for him to keep out of the rain.
Floyd would sit with me and drool profusely while he purred. I guess that’s probably a retentive trait from nursing as a kitten, or something, but he sure was a drooler. He stunk like a street cat who crawled in warm car engines, poor guy, but he was happy, and he was my buddy during those middle school puberty years when everything is terrible.
And as the years went by he started sneezing up blood from time to time. We weren’t going to take a neighborhood cat to the vet, though, and he was plenty happy still. Just a bad sneeze here and there. We all get nose bleeds, right? Could be nothing. His nose bleeding got a little more frequent, of course, and one day Floyd the cat disappeared. He just never showed up at our back porch again. Sick cats do that sometimes. They just decide it’s time and go off somewhere to do the only thing that anyone is actually required to do in life: die. It’s a kind gesture to us, maybe, from those sick cats, to disappear instead of fading before your eyes.
Kitina was my first cat. She was a stray with one eye who hung around long enough to be let inside. That’s pretty much my social strategy too, except I have the advantage of depth of field. I really can’t remember anything about her except the one eye—I never even questioned the story around it. When you’re three or four years old, you just accept that some cats have one eye, and that’s that. Some folks ain’t lucky enough to have two eyes, bucko, so get used to it.
Guero is a neighborhood cat where my parents currently live. He hasn’t been around in a while but I’m including him because he’s huge and fun and dumb. Just look at him. Look at his big dumb teddy bear paws. I don’t know his real name (looks like a Ulysses to me) but we call him Guero, which means blondie. Like any of these scamps, he’d sneak inside to eat our cat’s food, and then act all “who, me steal? But I’m a harmless kitten!” when you’d try and chase him out. Mostly he lingered around outside watching the birds. The last time I saw him he was limping, with a gash on the bottom of his back foot. I hope he’s fine out there, somewhere. Most cats come and go and most cats are pretty hard to kill; they get hit by a car and then just live another decade to spite the car. Guero’s probably fine.
Pangea was such a jerk. Pangea the cat was the predominant cat of my childhood. I was probably around five or six when we got her as a tiny kitten and was fifteen or sixteen when she went her way. That little jerk, she’d hide under the furniture and swipe my ankles with her claws. And she wouldn’t even sit on my lap. Of course I loved that crumbum, even after she’d hiss at me from petting her too much, and take an indiscriminate swipe at my face. I also tortured her with my toys and Nerf guns, and an inflatable pterodactyl with a six foot wingspan that legitimately terrified her.
There she is with my ma during a Christmas some time in 90s. As I recall, she would actually sit with me sometimes, but only after we had given her a bath to clean her long fur. She’d be shivering and wet and miserable and would eagerly jump on my lap to warm up and dry off; she literally never sat with me otherwise, except to use me as a warm sponge. Calico cats are prone to cancer in their later years, and I don’t need to give you all the weepy details, but she had a growth and was fine until she wasn’t. One time I found her days before she was put down, hiding under the blankets on my bed, purring by herself, as stressed and injured cats sometimes do, and we sat together one last time.
Peepers and Daisy are sisters, born in the same litter on December 25, 2002. Isn’t that nice? Christmas cats. Peepers was a playful little dummy who we named after Chris Kattan’s Saturday Night Live character, Mr. Peepers, a feral wild child. Peepers would always follow us around the house and was terrified of strangers. Really terrified. She’d run and hide from the mailman every day. Daisy, on the other hand, would disappear all day long exploring the neighborhood and only returning at midnight to claw at the screen door and cry.
They’re a nice analogy to my brother and I: he stayed near home for college and work, and is still in San Diego, and I left to wander around, only returning periodically for the supper. Daisy (the darker one) is still alive and kicking, preferring sunbeams and carpet these days to the great outdoors, but Peepers fell ill and we had to put her down, that dummy. Dummies always go and get sick and all that.
Poe, my current companion when I work at home, is my roommate’s cat. Being the Dr. Doolittle of our apartment that I am, Poe has naturally gravitated towards my company. Like most cats, he’s kind of an antisocial jerk whose day revolves around feeding time, but so am I. Poe isn’t interested in pleasing anyone and really just wants to borrow your lap for a little warmth so that he can go wait by his automatic feeder, ready to pounce when the kibble is ripe. But he will also stand outside my bedroom door, crying to be let in at 3am, only to refuse any attention once he enters, and then casually turn around and leave. Jerk.
I hear people say all the time that they don’t understand cats or cat people. Why would you be so invested in something that seems so indifferent to you? I don’t know. The humor comes from cats’ anthropomorphic need to have an air of dignity and composure while continuously failing to do so, like a man in a suit who walks into a glass door and then hopes no one notices. Dogs are fun but you don’t earn their trust and affection. They just give it to you, and require it of you. Cats, on the other hand, partake in a prolonged negotiation of mutual respect, disdain, reluctant cuddling, compromised dignity, independence, and complete dependence. And that’s what a real relationship is. But hey buddy I’m not saying you should marry a cat, okay, it’s just an analogy.