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Showing Their Claws Over His Cat Theories

It is axiomatic that anything you write about cats will be controversial. I can think of no other animal that has so divided humankind into such hostile camps.

In observing the other day that cats were incapable of showing humiliation, I have provoked the author John D. Weaver into vigorous disagreement, to say the least.

“You are dead wrong,” he says simply. “Missy, the amber-eyed, taffy-colored tabby that moved in with us four years ago is, as you wrote with your characteristic accuracy, ‘independent, insolent, intractable, inquisitive, infuriating, morally intemperate and intellectually inaccessible.’ She is also elegant, haughty and deceptive.”

(Let me say here that I would certainly have included ‘haughty’ among the traits I listed, except that it doesn’t begin with in . I was seeking a literary consistency. Also I have never denied that cats are elegant and deceptive. They are, in fact, the most duplicitous of creatures.)

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“From my workroom sliding glass door,” Weaver goes on, “I watch her awaken from a nap with a gentle, innocent look and then next morning I’ll find a dead blue jay on the mat outside the door. Lady Macbeth will be asleep on a patio chair nearby.”

(That seems to bear out my statement that cats are sinister as well as deceptive.)

“She pads about the place with a dignity and grace befitting her ancient Egyptian ancestry. The first time I saw her misjudge a routine leap from floor to bookcase I was confronted by the most eloquent expression of humiliation I’d ever seen.”

Weaver says that, like me, he admires cats for their independence. “Missy and I both know damned well she’s never going to fetch me the morning paper. I grew up on dogs, but on a recent visit to the San Diego Zoo the animal that held me the longest was the wolf. This, I concluded, is what dogs must have been like before they sold out.”

Perhaps their memory of having sold out is what makes dogs so subject to embarrassment, an emotion I personally have never observed in cats, despite Weaver’s Missy.

Diane Silver of Arleta insists that cats are not only capable of embarrassment, but also of that even more human emotion--compassion.

“My white, blue-eyed Persian,” she says, “knowing herself to be by far more beautiful than the other cats, never associates with them. Yet, when she fell off the ironing board in her sleep, the tortoise shell that she had snubbed all her life ran over and ‘kissed’ her all over her face. Of course, Frosty stood up and walked away as if nothing had happened, and continued to treat poor Gatita like an unwelcome dust ball.

“Of course,” she adds, “cats are smarter than most men give them credit for.”

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Meanwhile, several readers note that if I want to give our two new kittens names that reflect both the eternal feminine and the sinister, I could do better than Lorelei and Pandora (which were only tentative).

“Why not Hedda and Louella?” asks Frank McDonald of Gardena. “After all, you’re a newspaperman, and you probably remember all the ‘spitting and clawing’ those two did at each other.”

McDonald obviously refers to those two feline Hollywood gossip columnists, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.

Coincidentally, the same two names are suggested by Anne Olmstead of La Crescenta. “Reading your list of the characteristics you feel that you share with cats, the first six suggested two names to me. Independent, insolent, indolent, intractable, inquisitive, infuriating--who but Hedda and Louella?

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“Perhaps ‘indolent’ does not suit these long-gone but still remembered personalities, and I’m not at all sure what you mean by ‘morally intemperate and intellectually inaccessible,’ but do at least consider my offering.”

In case anyone else was uncertain, by “morally intemperate” I meant promiscuous, and by “intellectually inaccessible” I meant inscrutable.

Marjorie Gross of Laguna Hills suggests Sheila and Lolly, obviously referring to Louella (Lolly) Parsons and Sheila Graham, another Hollywood columnist who was the mistress of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not bad.

Charles Stearns of Santa Barbara says he likes Mandu, the name of a neighbor’s cat, but his own cat is named Fido. That’s a good idea. I might name one Fido and the other Rover, just for the incongruity of it.

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Might be interesting to see if that embarrassed them.


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