True Confessions from Cat World

by Michael Potemra

Even though I am basically National Review’s official Crazy Cat Person, I have never enjoyed reading books or essays about cats. I can — like, judging from pageview stats, hundreds of millions of other Americans — spend hours upon hours watching cat videos. But people’s writing about cats leaves me cold; it seems as dumb and uninvolving as the typical family’s Christmas letter. (Yeah, I get it: Your cat knocked the coffee cup over onto the keyboard. I guess you had to be there.)

Well, Feline World may finally have its Poet Laureate. A fellow named Tim Kreider has an essay in the New York Times titled “A Man and His Cat,” and it is a riot. A sample:

Childless people, like me, . . . tend to become emotionally overinvested in their animals and to dote on them in a way that gives onlookers the creeps. Often the pet seems to be a surrogate child, a desperate focus or joint project for a relationship that’s lost any other raison d’être, like becoming insufferable foodies or getting heavily into cosplay. When such couples finally have a child their cats or dogs are often bewildered to find themselves unceremoniously demoted to the status of pet; instead of licking the dinner plates clean and piling into bed with Mommy and Daddy, they’re given bowls of actual dog food and tied to a metal stake in a circle of dirt.

. . .

[My cat and I] collaborated on my foot-pedal pump organ to produce The Hideous Cat Music, in which she walked back and forth at her discretion on the keyboard while I worked the pedals. The Hideous Cat Music resembled the work of the Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, with aleatory passages and unnervingly sustained tone clusters.

. . .

I admit that loving a cat is a lot less complicated than loving a human being. Because animals can’t ruin our fantasies about them by talking, they’re even more helplessly susceptible to our projections than other humans. Though of course there’s a good deal of naked projection and self-delusion involved in loving other human beings, too.

The piece is only some 2,000 words long, but I wanted to quote five or six other passages from it in this post. Suffice it to say: If you have a thing for cats, or if you simply enjoy witty, engaging prose, you should read it.

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