I suspect every neighborhood harbors a crazy cat person or two. In my street, that’s me.
It is hard to hold the labels at bay for persons who not only love cats but will fight for them. Doesn’t “crazy” apply when a neighbor’s Chow wanders into our yard and zooms in on the pellets left out for the street cats and I growl and spit until the interloper backtracks with puffy tail tucked in between its puffy hind legs?
In the eyes of homeowners living next to the crazy cat person, the label is more than justified. One day, our neighbor asked me who I had been arguing with the other night.
The husband was away on a trip so I wondered if I had been talking aloud again with my dissertation. Then I remembered Whitey showing up while I was washing dishes.
Whitey is the alpha tom cat in my street. He is not one of the regular feral cats who stop and dine at our place. Whenever I spot his still white figure at the porch, I feel, from his unblinking ochre stare, that he only deigns to check out our hut under his vassalage. It is only lately that he growls at me but always from a distance.
The night he turned up, I was shocked by the bleeding spots on his head. Did someone try to scalp you, Cat? I asked.
Whitey yowled, a yammer that reminded me of bolts, screws and nails jumbling inside that once unsullied, still handsome head. I listened and replied: Well, I hope you took away something of their own, too.
To my neighbor, I explained that I asked Whitey why he had suddenly gone bald. And the cat told me it was none of my business.
It is no surprise that I have the shortest of chats with humans and longer ones with cats.
To homeowners who only see cats as unending messes to clean up after and drive off, the neighbor who feeds and shelters cats is part of the problem. Unlike with dogs, those paragons of domesticity, guarding one’s home and community cannot be delegated to such mercurial creatures.
I agree. Cats are good for crazies. When a cat sees you, it sees what is lurking behind that façade of ordinariness and respectability. Between the person tethered to routine for sanity and the free soul that comes and goes when it wills, there is a connection that can only be traversed by pussyfooting.
Or by Bing Crosby. Famous for warbling the classic “White Christmas,” he said, “Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white.’”
My favorite of his holiday songs is “Christmas is A-comin,’” which has these lines: “When I’m feeling blue, when I’m feeling low/ I start to think about the happiest man I know/... If you haven’t got a friendly cat may God bless you!”