Monday, October 4, 2010


     In my household we are five: a dog, three cats, and me. Of the five only Ginsberg, (the dog,) and I act right. The other three are crazy.

     It’s a mixed household, the kind the Tea Party people would frown on (capitalized so as to cause no confusion with Alice and the Mad Hatter who I think would not [frown]). Everybody’s black except me and Honey, who’s a long-haired mixture of grey and brown and white, and Tuesday, who’s black with a white chest and paws. Honey and Tuesday claim to have been born in Oxford, Georgia, and Richmond, Virginia, respectively, but neither can produce a birth certificate. Ginsberg, a purebred Lab, and I have our papers in order. The other cat, Kirby, I know to have been born here, because I knew his mama, Lola. More on Lola later.

     The only thing these cats have in common other than basic feline traits is a do-not-cross-the-road gene which has allowed them, unlike a half dozen others I could name, to survive long enough to be the subject of lore.

     Tuesday is known locally as Crazy Foot Cat because his greatest pleasure is rubbing up against human feet. It’s OK for a while but eventually it drives me crazy. If I cross my legs and dangle my foot he walks back and forth under it arching his back into it so hard I have to brace myself to maintain balance. If he catches me standing still, at the bathroom mirror say, rather than walk back and forth rubbing against my shins like what passes for normal in a cat, he rubs the side of his face back and forth across the top of my foot. I don’t know how long it would take him to get tired of this and stop, because I’ve never been able to wait him out.

     It doesn’t seem to matter to him whether the feet are shod or not.

     Another eccentricity of Tuesday is drinking out of the toilet. Never mind that there’s always fresh water for him on the washing machine which he doesn’t have to share with the dog, he always drinks out of the toilet if he has the choice.

     In order to drink out of the toilet and not topple in, he has to do something like a spread eagle push-up where his paws hang on the rim and his head and torso dip well below them, which is a great athletic maneuver, but not the greatest I’ve seen. That would be my old cat Mover (rhymes with Rover, the name being given by my then toddler son) who nonchalantly sauntering up to our back steps used the first step as a springboard for an eight-foot vertical leap to snag a bird in flight who may have seen him coming but didn’t see that coming.

     Anyway, Tuesday, when doing this toilet drinking, is in a vulnerable position and I’ve more than once envisioned an hilarious scene where someone (other than I, hence the hilarity) obliviously plops onto the toilet seat while Tuesday is so engaged. All of the elements for humor are there: a cat which thinks it’s drowning in a toilet, an unsuspecting individual who must’ve did somebody horribly wrong to suffer such senseless, random violence, and a cat and a human trying to see which can outscream the other.

     Ginsberg, as I’ve suggested, is right as rain, does what you’d expect from a dog: barks at noises, drools over food, chases anything which will run from him. Every morning he brings me the newspaper accompanied by Honey, who idolizes him.

     I’m not going to tell you about the other cats’ oddities for fear that this piece is turning into something like an old lady showing you her grandchildren’s pictures, but I am going to tell you about Chance, Ginsberg’s predecessor, who always walked backward through doorways.

     Chance, due to medication he was required to take, was quite fat, and if he got in a hurry would lose his footing on the vinyl kitchen floor. Thus he learned to proceed gingerly, but when he got close to the door he would panic and make a run for it, causing his feet to spin like tires in mud until they splayed out from under him.

     He eventually fixed this problem by turning around and walking backwards through the door—which he couldn’t do fast—and it worked so well for him that he adopted the maneuver for all doorsill crossing situations.

     And I haven’t forgotten Lola, a pretty long-haired cat, who didn’t share the do-not-cross-the-road gene but survived long enough to mother kittens and sit with me on the porch for all of one summer. At this time of my life I would sit on the front porch at night, drinking, musing, and smoking cigars, and she, a stray kitten dependent on the kindness of strangers, began appearing and hopping into my lap.

     Soon I began to notice trumpet vine blossoms on the porch, a new batch of a dozen or so every evening, which was odd because the nearest trumpet vine grew about thirty yards away. If I hadn’t eventually seen her carrying them one by one across the yard, I would never have believed a cat would daily pick flowers and leave them for the nice man who took in a young unwed mother.