Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is. - Oscar Wilde
Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things
In taking a stroll through the blog here I noticed a definite trend: Cats.
You would think that I would’ve noticed it before – this is my blog and these are my posts – but then the forest is indeed hard to see when amidst the trees. I just write what catches my attention and post it if I can actually finish the piece and it appears to make sense. (I have a seriously overloaded Draft folder of posts in progress…)
Between the animals we’ve domesticated and the habitats we’ve encroached on, humanity is living amongst a pretty sizable menagerie. Arguably the most interesting beast on the urban landscape is the Crow. One of the few, if not the only, truly omnivorous bird. (well, maybe pigeons are too, but they aren’t even half as interesting as crows.) Check out the PBS Nature episode A Murder of Crows for a great look at one of the most intelligent creatures on earth. (full episode streaming goodness! A digression, certainly, but a worthy one…)
On the micro-urban landscape, at least on mine, the most interesting beast is the common house cat.
Now, about this blog’s trend; If you’re waiting for an apology and a heartfelt promise to balance my posts more between cats, dogs, and perhaps even the occasional budgie, well…. I do feel bad for you because you won’t be getting one, and if you’ve read any of my blog, you know how deeply I care about my readers and their feelings.
And really, when it comes right down to it, I’m a “cat person” anyways.
No offense to dogs. I’ve had some great friendships with dogs – grew up with them – like ’em in general. (except for those little nervous, yappy things)
There are some distinct advantages to cats over other domestic pets, not the least being that they all come in generally the same size: About 650 cubic inches in volume; two-fifths of a cubic foot. (empirically speaking, actual cat size is completely independent from the size the cat thinks it is) This handy, standardized size means that accessories and furnishings are consistent as well. No problem of having to check the size on that collar that catches your eye when it’s for a cat.
Another major bonus is that a cat does not need to be walked. In fact it’s contraindicated in the vast majority of cases. While initially trying to take your cat on “walkies” it is more of a test-of-wills drag or perhaps a spirited rodeo-on-a-rope, eventually though Muhammad will come to the mountain – and you are that mountain. Easy access to a First Aid kit is an essential precaution should you decide to attempt this feat.
Thirdly, and the most fascinating to me, is that a cat does not rely on it’s humans to define it’s self worth, and they make that very evident. A nice, self-contained psyche. This does not mean you can’t play mind games with a member of the feline persuasion, I make it a point to do just that, (I have a diploma from the Monty Python School of Cat Confusion [correspondence] so it’s OK.) but be aware that you can lose a battle of wits to a cat and they modify your behavior.
These things alone make it easy to quickly find yourself with your very own pride of domestic lions prowling the living room savanna.
To further complicate the matter try walking into your local rescue shelter then doing a bit of math. Assuming a 1000 square foot home, seven foot 2 inches in height, you get about 7,160 cu ft of volume, enough space to fit nearly 18 thousand cats! Now, stacking cats like cord wood is a practical nightmare, ask anyone who’s attempted to put a single feline in a box without said tabby’s consent.
In practical terms, however, our home is beholden to the ubiquitous force of gravity so we really can’t think of it as a volume, but rather as a collection of potentially grimalkin-laden surfaces. In looking around my local habitat there appears to be about 5 percent of the floor area Izzy can’t access, however in most cases there is a corresponding surface atop the offending furniture item. Assuming a cat covers about three-quarters of a square foot this makes our cat potentiality just over 1300 felines.
Unsurprisingly one can assume that as cat density rises, cat attitude drops, and it would be in the best interest of our health to factor that in. Averaging the take-no-prisoners temper of Jazmine with the inquisitive acceptance of Izzy I come up with a reduction factor of 15 making our herd about 86 and a tail. (you’re free to check the math yourself) This allows for nearly 12 square feet of area per cat.
86 is still a largish number but can logistically be managed assuming that small-space cat herding is your primary occupation and you have a small personal fortune to finance truckloads of kibble, the salary of a full-time veterinarian, and annual furniture replacement.
And this is how a crazy cat lady is created; by doing the math. And by doing those calculations and coming up with numbers that sound perfectly reasonable it becomes easy to consider adopting a whole wall of caged cats from the rescue shelter.
Yet it’s also those beautifully precise figures that illustrate the fact that there are just too many kitties for one crazy cat person to save, no matter how many square feet per feline. We could adopt every cat from every shelter and by next week their cages would be re-filled.
So what can we do to make a difference (short of convincing neighbors and friends to become crazy cat ladies)?
Adopt a cat. Fix the cat. Love the cat. When your cat passes on – do it again.
You can be a crazy cat lady with a single cat. I am.
Five years ago a young lady decided she wanted another dog. Sensitive to the plight of hundreds of thousands of abandoned and unwanted animals she began her search at the pounds and shelters of our metropolitan area.
And Miz Liz came home with a cat.
An old, cranky biddy, floppy belly from litters of kittens, black with white points and striking green eyes. Jazmine was 8 or 9 years old and had an attitude that gave no quarter to those that didn’t understand that all she surveyed was indeed hers. She didn’t play well with others and demanded to be the only feline within any given domain. Female cats are termed “Queens” and she lived up to the title, if not defined it.
A 9-pound cat with a half-ton personality.
When Miz Liz moved to the Rose City, Jazmine came to live with Aunt Bee and I. Without missing a beat she took over our house and our lives – and we loved every minute of it.
Better than any alarm clock, she insured we got up by 7am daily. Her food dish wasn’t going to fill itself and she needed the use of an opposable thumb and we had the only ones in the house. At 5pm she began stalking the wild Friskies can, also called “The Food Dance” as her steps were fairly ritualized: around the table, between my feet and the chair – be sure to tail whip the legs so I know she’s made a circuit – climb Mt Aunt Bee, and do it all again until one of us silly ‘hoomans’ goes to the food room and makes that “skritch” sound right before food appears in the shiny thing at proper cat height.
An exclusively indoor cat, she still took her role as protector very seriously. A cat shows up on the patio? Jazmine would climb the screen door in our defense. (I haven’t been able to find my hooman-cat dictionary, but I’m pretty sure that old Queen had one heckuva potty mouth on her.)
She ran a tight and secure ship. When the late-show monologues came on she was ready for her handful of dry food and then escorted us to bed – on point. Once in bed, she’d tuck us in, drape across Aunt Bee for a few seconds (to fix her in place, probably) then scoot off to see if The Z was still up. If he was, Jaz would loudly request access to his room from the hallway. She had an uncanny time-sense to wait that 10 to 15 minutes until you’re in that sweet spot on the edge of sleep to come back into our bedroom and complain about being denied access to The Z’s room, or tell us how boring we were when we slept all those good hours away.
Yesterday, to use the parlance of Erin Hunter (all three authors who use the pseudonym), she went to hunt with Starclan. A battle with hyperthyroidism and kidney failure, both common in older cats, had reduced her to a slip of her former self.
The decision to put her to sleep was, and still is, stunningly devastating. What gave us the right to make that decision for her? I should have been able to fix it for her. What should I have done? How could I have failed Miz Liz so miserably by not keeping Jaz healthy? How could I have failed Jazmine so completely?
Aunt Bee is being so much more well adjusted about this than I am, the rock that she is, and reasonably I know she’s right. It was for the best, no matter our pain. But the questions still nag at me and probably always will. It’s just how I’m made and that’s just life. What isn’t in question, though, is the importance she had to our lives and in our family.
Trotting through the house, her belly flopping to and fro. Head butts and cat butts. Schedules and rituals. The little “I’m here” brrr you hear when walking into a room and the “goodnight-sleep tight” brrr’d conversation we’d have as we got ready for bed. Such little things. Such important things. So missed and so treasured.
So, thank you Miz Jaz-cat, for everything. It was a privilege to be your minion. Hunt well.
(Jaz Cat flickr pics can be found here)