Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Another Masterpiece
Deemed Unfit To Print

...by everyone but me, that is.
I think this is a good essay, even if it's shuffled from one slush pile to another.
People accuse me of having delusions of grandeur, but that isn't so.

They're predictions.

Preening from my perch,


To Serve Man: A Very Fancy Feast

Cats: Nature’s serial killers. They’re our beloved fur-trimmed Ginsu collections, and we proudly bear the tell-tale scars, pilled slacks and sweaters, and of course, our very own protective layer of shed fur, apparently meant to ward off dogs and boyfriends. Cat fanciers the world round know that at the end of the day, there’s nothing more satisfying than coming home to a fuzzy, wide-eyed feline, who immediately showers its human with unconditional hunger.

Perhaps I’ve watched too many documentaries on Animal Planet, because the more I learn about cats, the more I find the symbiosis between them and us to be a tad suspect. After paying careful attention to my fifteen-year-old gray tabby, Nikki, examining our relationship with all its degrees of give and take, I’ve decided that I need her more than she needs me, and I’m beginning to wonder about her agenda.

I know I’m not the only one who feels unnerved upon glancing up from a newspaper to find Kitty staring at me.. There she sits—sphinx-like, in a trance so resolute, that if it weren’t for the twitching tail she could easily pass for one of my marble-eyed Garfield slippers. The experts say that direct eye contact is an aggressive posture. Then why is my lovable, cuddly tabby staring at me? Is she trying to pick a fight? Maybe she’s confused and thinks I’m prey…is that it? If I’m to believe the learned authorities on feline behavior, then my muffin-headed snuggle monster isn’t confused at all. I am prey.

Fastidious note taker that she is, she’s updating my dossier. Checking for a limp or cough, sniffing out attrition, waiting for her chance to usurp control of our household. I’ve caught her on more than one occasion, stalking me. Silent, wraith-like, she slinks just mere paces behind me, before I turn to discover her in mid-step, head lowered and eyes fixed. She brings all fours together and licks her lips, never diverting her gaze. Her expression is smug. “What? I wasn’t doing anything,” she seems to say. I pivot, giving my back to her and take a few more steps before turning again to catch her following, her eyes glowering with predation.

Isn’t that cute? She’s jumped up on my lap, kneading me with that push-pull manipulation kitties are famous for. I grit my teeth to better tolerate the thorny prickling of Nikki’s love gouges. “She thinks I’m her mommy,” I coo-- before it occurs to me that she might just be checking to see if I’ve lost weight. Maybe she wants to know if she can take me all by herself, or if Plan Tag Team is warranted. The next time you see Kitty eyeballing you with her cold, yellow stare, consider that she may in fact be field dressing you with her eyes. You must be vigilant for the six or eight minutes she’s awake out of each hour, or else.

Perhaps I wax paranoid, but what if they are smarter than we are, or at least smarter than we think they are? What if Orwell’s Animal Farm isn’t just allegory, but an eventuality? Humans like having the upper hand, and as long as we can foster dependency from other creatures we’ll maintain that notion. All sorts of domesticated animals, from cattle and horses to birds and trophy wives, have had their natural instincts toward self-sufficiency bred out of them, and now depend on people for sustenance and designer down bedding. Cats, on the other hand, don’t depend on us as much as they demand things from us.

Ever see cat people picking out food for their charges? Notice the furrowed brows and faces cloaked in panic. Listen to their self-talk: No, she won’t eat that anymore. I remember the look she gave me when I tried to feed her the Chicken and Tuna combo. Won’t try that again. They handle one flavor, then another, shaking their heads before placing it back on the shelf. Professional bomb diffusers don’t sweat this much. Here comes Dog’s Best Friend, wearing his “I’m with Fido” T-shirt, slapping Alpo cans indiscriminately into his basket. He’s even knocked a couple of Fancy Feast tins in by accident. No matter. Fido won’t turn his wet little nose up at anything. He’ll even chew on the can for an encore.

As for the cats that hunt their own food, they are one of the most streamlined and strategic predators on earth. They are cunning opportunists endowed with stoic patience and the inventiveness to master more efficient, less labor intensive methods of acquiring food. In other words, they’re lazy. When food supply allows, even breeds given to solitude will hunt in groups, utilizing a type of relay system to bring down big game, conserving energy and assuring success.
It seems that one lion in Kenya tackles prey only to bring a few of them back to her den for some good old fashioned feline mothering. Kamuniak, a lioness at the Samburu Game Park has on four separate occasions fostered young Oryx elk in a manner most tender and nurturing, after kidnapping them from their mothers. Park officials, astounded by this aberration of carnivore protocol, have rescued three of the four elk, returning them to their anxious mothers. Sadly, one calf perished at the jaws of a hungry male lion while out of Kamuniak’s sight.

Samburu Park officials and others interested in the lioness, marvel at this peculiar display of motherhood. I suspect this big cat’s designs are more sinister. I think she’s farming.
Cats copy observed behavior. Perhaps Kamuniak gleaned the notion after watching shepherds tending a herd of goats or cattle. Looking on from a secluded perch in a leafy eucalyptus, she may have followed the movements of a man wielding a staff, corralling a great number of beasts into a confined area. Maybe the epiphany occurred organically, maybe not, either way it’s possible that Kamuniak is leading her kind up another rung of the evolutionary ladder, etching claw marks close to the notched block letters declaring “Man was here” and “Scorpions Rule!” Or maybe, just maybe, cats have been farming us all along.

It’s only a matter of time before they are truly able to assert dominion over us. The day they become employable is the day the scales of power tip in their favor. It isn’t so far fetched to imagine their eventual infiltration into the workplace. They’ve got skills. They’re quick learners. They excel at delegating. They’re middle management’s worst nightmare.

I suspect that canneries and charnel houses would attract a large number of work- minded kitties, but the voracious seekers of knowledge they are, quite a few would likely find careers as professionals. Their desire to know what makes lesser creatures tick will land some psychiatric practices, and others will use their love of puzzle solving as engineers, but the majority, I think, will follow their true calling as food critics.

Clever, playful, comical. We’re all these things and more to our feline captors. Desperate for their approval, we overlook the once fringeless couch that’s leaking stuffing, and the litter grains on the linoleum. We carpet our floors in brown and orange hues that won’t clash with pulpy patches of regurgitated Friskies. The book or newspaper can wait until later if Kitty wants to lounge on our lap right now. We have been tamed, certain to never bite the paw that kneads us.

I still give in to Nikki when she wants attention. She seduces me every time, lying on her back, white bunny feet sticking up in the air, paws drawn so innocently up against her chest. Her plush gray and white belly exposed, she knows she’s irresistible. “C’mon, go ahead! I won’t scratch you this time” she promises, her eyes blinking slowly before resting at half mast. I place my hand on her stomach, and in a split second Nikki’s whole body is wrapped around my hand, tooth and talon betraying me once again. “Nikki, Mommy can’t play right now. I have to apply direct pressure for a few minutes.”

Whether cats are actually farming us or just squatting on loosely defended territory, I’ve decided to cooperate fully, as I’m continually letting my guard down anyway. I think they’ll be good to us, imparting values and customs they’ve practiced for countless generations, such as patience, the luxuriousness of physical contact, and the art of unspoken communication. I’m not looking forward to whatever they’ll decide to feed us, but the power naps will make it all worthwhile.


Blogger KlevaBich said...

WHO says this isn't fit to print? Not me. Several times a week I complain that I want to be the kitty for a day or two or ten. No worries except the squirrels that peek in the window, a household staff of two at your beck and call every moment they're home. Sleep all day? Sure. Barf wherever you want? Indubitably. "Dumb Animal?" I think not.

And your cat has bunny feet, too? We call Sir Bentley "Mr. Booful Bunnyfoot" half the time, to his chagrin. We should probably sleep with one eye open...

2:23 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Nancy, thank you for the publishing 'thumbs up.'
Aren't bunny feet the best? Bouncy and fuzzy--they're like feet-boobs.
As for the nicknames, I wonder what they call us?

7:06 PM  
Blogger Queen of the Inane said...

As I most often called my cats "whore" and "bitch" undoubtedly, I have some heinous nicknames coming back my way;) Nice article(?). I love kitties.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Oh Hannah, I can only guess what your cats say about you behind your back. Meow!

Like I say, boyfriend are for women who can't keep their cats happy.

11:25 PM  
Blogger The Inebriated Writer said...

You've single-handedly made me question the role of my cat. I took a family census. Well, actually, I toted a spliff with my sister and we "reflected" on his soul. My sister thinks he is a reincarnation of some Egyptian's Pharoah's protector. But, then again, she is named after one of the four elements, so I've come to accept her eccentricities. I personally think may cat is our uncle Bernie. He has the same hairy paws, shiny black hair, inhanced by pomade and home-made dye, and he also likes to sniff around my feet...
Cats are evil...
But what you wrote was a masterpiece...

10:55 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

"He has the same hairy paws, shiny black hair, inhanced by pomade and home-made dye, and he also likes to sniff around my feet..."
LOL :-)

Thank you for your kind words.

11:21 PM  

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