Saturday, May 14, 2011

Of cats and boors

COMING from such intelligence and elegance, the boorishness is all the more appalling.

I woke up before my usual hour to find the Dog’s muzzle snorting the hot fumes of his distress somewhere between my eye and a quickly dissipating dream.

I already knew what was coming. Before the dream vanished entirely, Udo let out a howl, or a series of pained affronted cries instantly taken up by the dog across the street.

That racket, though, failed to drown out the cause of so much canine unrest: the wee mewling outside our window.

According to cats, the world is divided into two camps: those who hate them and those who live under their dominion.

Our place is known up and down the street as a kitty halfway house. I can trace the genealogy of about four or five of the cats. The rest of the company must be their assorted lovers, who pad in and out for a quick meal or a quickie.

While it distresses the Dog to see his mistress sunk so low, he has, I believe, made up his mind to make it his life’s mission to ensure that the cats’ territory stops at the door.

So the night when one of the cats walked out after popping out three wet quivering pink bundles, the Dog and his friend, the Dog Across, as well as three blind but remorselessly mewling kittens, kept up from dawn till morning a running commentary on what-can-be-more-irresponsible-than-a-mother-without-reproductive-responsibility?

The sun broke even harsher news: one kitten disappeared, another was dead, and the other might be joining his poor siblings. Guess who got volunteered to rig up a kitty incubator?

It’s a myth that a cat is ideal as a low-maintenance pet. Sure, they hunt anything that moves if you forget to leave out anything for them or miss the reason why they’re blocking the kitchen door, hypnotically waving their tails in anticipation.

While a dog can’t wait for you to talk to them about your day, a cat might pay you some attention only after a million times of passing by, in between and around your legs. Unless it has mistaken you for a scratching post.

Let no human be mistaken, though. A failure of imagination and consideration is fine on the feline side; on the human, it is inexcusable.

Although long in thrall of cats, I know better the creatures of flesh and blood behind the sleek furred stereotypes fostered by myths.

For one, cats don’t have nine lives. They also don’t always land on their feet. One of the toms, who loves to sleep in the sun, once stretched after a runaway dream, lost balance, fell and impaled its leg on the arrowhead of our gate. In its fury and pain, it would have slashed me to ribbons had not my more rational husband prevailed and propped it up with a plank of wood so it could right itself and leap away.

Admittedly, cats lead sexual lives of great fecundity (and terrible acoustics). They can be nightmares as parents, too. Cats eat their young. Some abandon their newborn to rats, ants or other cats.

And while yodeling Lotharios of the night think they’re the top cats in the jungle, cats are vulnerable to a pitiless predator: humans. A Quezon City court convicted a student who blogged about torturing and killing a cat named “Tengteng” in a recent landmark case upholding Republic Act 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act of 1998.

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) filed the case. The court ruling and the PAWS campaign are not just about animal cruelty. A profile of criminals reveals that those who torture cats and other small animals graduate to greater desensitization and violence.

At 45, I’m too old to be a mother again. Waking up to feed on demand, cleaning up, waking up to feed again. I can’t stand it that the other woman walks out at any hour to go off with Mr. Libido-and-Whiskers, whose scent upsets the Dog (and Dog Across), who send my biorhythm out of whack.

Sure, I’ve got 101 complaints. But these can wait while the Wee One gains weight.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 15, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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