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Humor September 2013

Strictly Humor

How to Live with Cats, and Other Dogmas

By B. Elwin Sherman

I believe that cats teach us what we need to know about ourselves, and dogs teach us what we want to know about others.

My original opening line for this column began: “Ever since the dawn of time, cats have been ...” but I decided not to stop there. Cats have been here since before the dawn of time. They arrived at an epochal 4 a.m., EST (Elwin Standard Time) carrying half-dead mice and plunking them down on the pillow of Man.

This man’s pillow, anyway, and I’ll never understand why. There must be cats out there still stalking, catching, killing and eating their prey the full-course and old-fashioned way, just as this life cycle’s balance of natural selection intended – but those cats don’t live in this house.

Our two cats – the standard grey tabby-type members of genus Felis – are crazy.

I call them the “computer cats,” because when it comes to the age-old cat chore of mouse maintenance, they employ the drag n’ drop method. Once dragged into the bedroom, the theretofore stunned or feigning-death mouse is dropped onto my pillow. It then jumps up and runs somewhere into the house, where it will appear periodically in escape/panic mode for the next few days.

The cats don’t care. They’ve done their cat job: catching, delivering and releasing their victims into my universe. My job? Keeping a round-the-clock rodent vigil until the novelty wears off.

To be fair, as everything crazy is relative but all relatives are not crazy, they were my female housemate’s cats before I came along, so I inherited them. My assessment of their mental status does not then always necessarily jive with hers. She thinks they are furry, purry, lovey-nubber critters with kootchy, wootchy, wibber-nibber personae.

I think they’re domestic terrorists.

Perhaps you’ve deduced that I’m a dog person at heart. Dogs have a ding-dang-do-if-you-did beginning, and a dang-ding-don’t-if-you-didn’t ending, more in keeping with the common male mindset.

Ding? I’ve got your Dang right here. Most men are satisfied with such logic.
When I last had a pet dog, I was most attracted to his lack of mystique and his unswerving willingness to always follow my lead, no matter what goofy human trick I was undertaking. Ding? Dog. Dang? Done.

If you’ll pardon my favorite oxymoron, dogs are the smartest dumb animals I know.

But, cats? Well … there’s a reason there’s never been a leash law for cats. Lawmakers have long known that cats cannot be naturalized into a human home. Oh, they can be fairly accommodated, sometimes lured, even occasionally coerced, but don’t ever think for a minute that you’ve tamed them.

Please, no letters from cat people telling me that you’ve trained your cats. You’re hallucinating.

You’re also in serious denial of a universal animal kingdom truth: Anything felinious is felonious because (at the risk of adding oxymoron abuse to excessive punnery) cats are the dumbest smart animals I know.

I’d remind you of the Mark Twain Hot Stove Rule: “A cat who sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. But, it won’t sit on a cold one, either.” This is supposed to be what separates us from cats. We take lessons from our negative consequences. We learn to distinguish. We adapt.

I’m not so sure. Every year I still throw up when I go on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the country fair, and every year I still go on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the country fair. You wouldn’t catch a cat falling for that.

So, where does all this male dog logic lead us?

I believe that cats teach us what we need to know about ourselves, and dogs teach us what we want to know about others.

Right about here, fish people deserve a passing mention: If any of you truly believe that you’re communing with your pet guppy, I won’t disabuse you of the notion, but please go stand in a corner with the cat-trainers. Sorry, but fish have only one thing to teach humans: Don’t drown.

Back home, are you contemplating living with a cat? A few tips:

After you spend hundreds of dollars on cat toys, cat beds, and all manner of manufactured cat scratch posts, pads, ramps and climbers – your cat will ignore all of them.

It will prefer the claw-sharpening seduction of your interior baseboards and doorjambs, and the slumberous security of a closeted casserole dish. Lost your cat? Ha! This is just an illusion. You need to rethink the finer points of hide n’ seek, and start checking the last possible places you’d ever go: behind the toilet, under the stove, in your wastebasket.

If you do look for your cat, never let it see you searching. It will use this against you. You must start trying to be more like a cat: illogical, ulterior, eruptive, but with the patience of dirt. Act like you’re ignoring a tree, and the tree is petrified wood. Now you’re cat-like.

Be ready, as a cat renter (cats cannot be owned) to surrender proprietorship of everything in your house. No material object belongs to you anymore. If you want to test this, try moving things from one room to another, then notice your cat’s reaction.

It’s like watching a slow-motion repo man trying to bring back the car undetected. We won’t go into how your cat will then set about reclaiming its rights to the relocated items. Just think Tilt-A-Whirl.

Cats will only accept affection when they demand it. Be prepared to always give it when they need it, whether you feel like it or not, or suffer the catsequences.

If you don’t pick up and pet an attention-seeking cat when it decides to saunter over and slither around your leg, you’ll pay the price. It will look at you like you’re a stranger, crouch at you like you’re an intruder, run from you like you’re a predator, and attack you like you’ve had it coming since childbirth.

The latter will come in the form of a deferred violent ambush, (a rapid leap-scratching combo of cat screech and air paws) launched days later from within or behind what you’d always thought were safe household havens: clothes closet, shower stall, headboard.

Right about here, if you plan on surviving your life with a cat, you must stop acting like a dog in a fish tank.

Your cat will know what that means.


Syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. His new book: “Walk Tall and Carry a Big Watering Can,” is now available at, and via his blog at

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