Not long after we first met, Calvin told me that I reminded him of a cat. I hadn’t had much experience with cats, but they seemed elegant, dignified and rid the world of rodents. And maybe he meant big cats. Like a black panther or an ocelot. They are lithesome, sleek, and beautiful, stalking through the jungles or the plains. Yeah, I could be one of those.
However, my life progressed, and I had contact with cats. Why do I always have neighbors who believe it’s their calling in life to adopt every stray they can find? These packs of cats watch the world through their tawny eyes with a kind of sneering sophistication. They treat their owners (among whom I gratefully do not count myself) as though the owners’ existence is simply to provide tuna and a warm place to sleep. Affection is withheld until the owner “does his job” in providing salmon, or some other acceptable treat. If the cat is fed Purina cat chow, trust her to hack up fur balls on my driveway.
Contrast this with a dog that brings you his bone, eagerly looking for a pat on the head. Granted, the bone is soaked with slobber, and he probably dropped the bone on your silk skirt. But still, this is an animal who wants to be a part of your life and do his bit to protect you from danger, even if the perils are the blind man down the street and the Pomeranian Devil.
Cats, on the other hand, see the neighborhood as their personal litter box, especially cared-for flowers beds that are nicely mulched. Though I suppose I should fault their owners more than the cats themselves. But cats seem to believe that the entire world belongs to them.
I’ve tried to “tell” the cats that my property is mine, not theirs. First, I sprinkled cayenne pepper all over the mulch. It worked, until the first thunderstorm came. The rain and expense of cayenne forced me to find an alternative solution.
My oldest son, Dead-Eye Luke, can split a cockroach in half with an air-soft pellet at 50 feet. I recruited him to de-cat our front lawn. I gave him permission to leave his schoolwork and nail any cat he saw. (Before you call PETA, please note that the air-soft pellets don’t actually cause irreparable damage to the cats—I actually let my kids shoot each other with air soft guns, provided they wear eye protection.) At any rate, the neighborhood cats now prowl the neighborhood, but avoid our yard completely. They will make a right-angled turn when they reach our property and walk just outside the boundaries—they don’t set a paw on our property. (Luke isn’t allowed to shoot any beast not on our property.)
Now when the neighborhood cats walk by, I think, “I double dare you to try and make a mess of my mulch,” and I smile my Cheshire-like grin—but I am so “not a cat.”