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One Day in a Cat’s Life as Planet Turns

Observing that “there is nothing easy about life on a moving planet,” Dana Dovitch of North Hollywood writes to chronicle a very stressful incident involving a friend’s kitten.

Dovitch had agreed to take care of the kitten for “an unspecified amount of time.” Having two cats of her own, she felt quite competent. Her cats, however, are cats, not kittens. She says, “I’d forgotten what it’s like to have a new baby in the house. A baby who eats the plants, misses the cat box, plays at 3 in the morning, and digs through the trash.” (I know what she means.)

She soon began hiding everything of value, and soon she herself didn’t know where anything was. “I have been in grave danger of losing my mind.”

Dovitch has a second-story apartment with an unscreened window that is always left open. By some tacit agreement her older cat has given up sleeping on the paper for the right to sit on the window sill and watch the birds on a nearby power line. “The birds are safe, she is happy and we are able to read (the paper) without blowing fur out of the way.”

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You perhaps have guessed what happened.

One morning after she finished a phone call, Dovitch sensed that the apartment was unusually quiet. “No crashing dishes, no falling plants, no nothing.”

Feeling a light alarm, she began looking around for the kitten. “I looked and looked. I looked in all the practical places first: in rooms, under beds, in closets. Then I did the thing I do when I’m looking for my car keys and can’t find them. I looked in all the same places again and then I began to look in stupid places. I looked in the shower, under the stove, behind the refrigerator, in the file cabinets. No cat.”

Then she had a dreadful thought. The cat had fallen out the window. She looked out the window at the pavement below, and thanked God that she saw no furry body.

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She remembered an article she had read some months before in the View section. It said that cats had been known to fall, jump or roll off window sills or balconies, but because of their athletic grace and automatic righting reflex they landed on their feet and were not hurt.

(The belief that cats can be dropped from any height without injury is a myth. According to “The Book of the Cat” (Summit Books) one of my several books on cats: “Unfortunately, the almost supernatural powers of balance and agility that are attributed to the cat have invested it with an inflated reputation for indestructibility. Cats can miscalculate, often fall off things, especially if carrying something in the mouth, and occasionally land on their heads. Similarly, a cat falling from a very great height may land on all four feet, but its legs will probably be broken.)

Dovitch was not entirely reassured by remembering what she had read. “It said nothing about the cat suffering from emotional trauma or humiliation, but, as a student of psychology and a longtime cat owner, I’m sure that any cat of mine would feel like an idiot. Cats are known to be snobs and proud of their ability to jump and hit the mark. They even seem to be able to brag about their athletic ability in a kind of silent, stuffy cat way.”

As a psychologist, Dovitch is entitled to attribute to cats any anthropomorphic traits she sees in them; however, I doubt that cats can feel humiliation or pride or brag about their skills. On the other hand, I have seen dogs embarrassed.

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On a hunch, Dovitch consulted her older cat. “By any chance did the baby go out the window?” The cat said only meow , but from the way she said it, Dovitch was sure she was saying yes .

“I found the little visitor down below chasing a lizard through the ivy. As the article promised, she was in fine physical shape. However the following day one of the goldfish died and I can only presume there was some profound meaning there. I’m sure it has something to do with life on a moving planet.”

So the cat is OK. But what I want to know is what happened to the lizard?


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