We rescued our cat “Indie” from an animal shelter on 110th Street about a year ago. Recently he ruined an inkjet printer by attacking the paper (as it printed) so often that the paper advance gears became misaligned. The printer is gone–Indie stays.
Indie has an alert, owlish look about him and we like to believe he is quite intelligent. He enjoys splashing in water, is quite affectionate, has been known to be aggressive at times, and has a meek, squeaky voice that does not sound like it belongs to such a well-formed, agile animal. I find it very easy to believe that the Egyptians of yore, a culture clearly steeped in the occult and the mysterious, would have revered cats above other creatures.
I have nothing against dogs of course (or fish or gerbils for that matter). But dogs are, companionable and true as they may be, entirely lacking in the qualities exhibited by what you might call a “muse”. They are slobbering, needy and really awfully predictable as a group (I have loved certain dogs, so I’ll not debate their “value” in the scheme of things).
Cats seem to care only peripherally that humans are present, and I believe they view us somewhat as serviceable companions. They respect those who feed them. They allow themselves to be handled–until they don’t. They are unsentimental and if you have ever seen a cat toy with its prey, you will know they can be coldly cruel and entirely without remorse. They suit the postmodern sensibility in that they are essentially amoral.
That is about all I can glean about cats from watching them. They seem to hold much in reserve, and this is exhibited when suddenly they make fantastic leaps across open space to reach a desired spot whence they simply curl up to sleep. They can hide in impossibly small spaces as if their bodies are made of something less solid than bone and gristle.
Unlike the warm, loving gaze of a dog, the gaze of the cat is flat and apparently an act of surmise, as if at any moment they may decide you are friend, provider or prey. It is quite obvious why domestic cats are never grown larger than a human can throw them. A cat the size of a golden retriever would be a bone-chillingly dangerous beast.
Cats and humans have come to an understanding that we are mutually pleasing but for entirely different reasons (it seems). We do not (or I do not) “understand” cats any more than I understand the moon. They are not like us, nor like any other creature sharing terra firma. They are an ancient race, highly evolved, cunning, sufficiently endowed for their own purposes, and offer little but warm fur, a steady gaze and for me at any rate, constant fascination.
If you have the chance, offer kindness to one of these special creatures, as they are favored in the pantheon of sentient beings.