It has occurred to the Literary Man that two major publications — within the span of 48 hours — have published overlapping articles about the possibly inherent evil nature of felis catus, also known as the domesticated house cat. The New York Times published the following rhetoric about the Cat’s inexorable desire to mutilate and sever the wings of poor helpless birds before placing the near dead birds in their mouths and walking around for several hours. In the epic battle of Words vs. Pictures, the Times made this one an easy call:
Then, as if the Times‘ paginated worship of this viral beast with fur wasn’t enough, the New Yorker had to dedicate an entire page of its precious print to the comedic merits of living with (17) cats, leading the Literary Man to come to a few conclusions: 1) yes, some (possibly most) cats are evil; 2) what does it mean if a person owns a cat?; 3) when does owning more than one cat become a problem?
Okay, so, not all cat ownership leads to cat addiction, the way that not all smokers become that lady who smoked through the hole in her neck (perhaps an extreme example), but this raises the natural question: when do you know if you have enough? The Literary Man doesn’t have any personal experience with the filling of one’s home with cats, so he must, improbably, turn to the annals of popular culture to find a precedent for this possibly psychotic behavior.
Reasons Why People Turn to Cats
If you are a genius there is statistical evidence to suggest that you will someday develop symptoms of Catladydom. In the case of Eleanor Abernathy (pictured with Snowball(s) II and VII), it turned out that her ambition to become a doctor, a lawyer, mayor of Springfield, and a cat owner proved too much to remain anything we might call “sane.” Possession of innumerable cats, then, became the next logical step in her life, having lost her mind, which resulted in Ms. Abernathy becoming the incomprehensible cat worshipper we know her as today.
Legendary Literary Man Ernest Hemingway also falls in the category of genius who turned to cat-worship as a means of dealing with reality. After achieving international fame and glory, Hemingway’s version of the illness took on an interesting form — some might say it mutated — into an ardent love of polydactyl cats. Well, the Literary Man is all too familiar with eccentric personalities in the field of literature; he has, in a way, seen it all. But for those geniuses out there interested in remaining sane, it might help us to begin outlining some Okay vs Not Okay when considering cat-or-multiple-cat-ownership.
1. Okay: Having one cat.
2. Not Okay: bestowing your cats with generational names such as “junior” or “the third.”
3. Not Okay: filling your house with cats.
4. Okay: having two cats if you have at least two children.
5. Not Okay: well, too many things to mention, really. There’s really no hard and fast rule here; we’ll have to revisit this later, but in the meantime let’s adhere to the Jacobellils v. Ohio methodology, also known as “I know it when I see it.” When you walk into the apartment of someone in the throes of Catladydom, you know it immediately.
Yes, but what does all this have to do with being a Literary Man? What is excusably strange behavior for an artist and what is just plain strange behavior? This will probably require further evidence and documentation about the myriad and unknowable reasons Why People Turn to Cats.
In the meantime, let us honor the many-toed cat: