Afghanistani cat psychology

Thursday 28 August 2008

Okay. This is the next instalment of my writing challenge. Way back in June I asked people to suggest topics for me to write about. Please feel free to add more topics as this is the second last one on the list :) I promise to write about all the topics suggested, as evidenced by this latest instalment :)

Anonimo said:

My cat keeps chewing on my books, does that mean she would like to read or that she hates my doing it?

This is a philosophical quandary, really, isn't it? It's so difficult to say, having never seen Anonimo's cat, nor indeed how much he feeds him. Perhaps the cat is partaking of a portion of paperly afternoon tea, disgruntled with tuna with truffle portions, or tuna with chicken flavour, or tuna with smoke flavour. There's only so much fish a cat can eat, and really, while we're thinking about it, why do we force so much fish on them? Me personally, I can only eat fish once or twice a week at most. My dog could eat chicken every day, almost, especially chicken necks. But then, I'm not a dog. And neither is a cat.

Alternatively, perhaps the cat's book chewing is a psychological reaction brought about by her owner's walking around with piles of unidentifiable objects on top of his head. (If, indeed, that is Anonimo. I'm presuming, from his profile that firstly he is indeed a he, secondly, he is not the bemused woman in that picture, and thirdly, that he is anyone in that picture. Indeed, I am also presuming he is a he and not a 12 year old Latvian transsexual bell ringer. On top of the mystery, Anonimo's blog is written in Spanish so who the hell knows?

Thankfully, however, part of that problem can be answered with the likes of Babelfish. We don't need to be kept in the dark, despite languagish encumbrances. We can find out a tiny bit more about the mysterious Anonimo from his profile, and Babelfish tells us:

Happened cheap psychologist by force of the existential circumstances of my to happen.

Okay. That makes it a bit clearer, doesn't it? Now, where were we? That's right. The dilemma. You know, just making this all about me for a moment - which, I seem to recall, the whole writing challenge deal was all about not writing about me, but anyway - if it was a perfect world and I was going to do this writing challenge in the way I would wish, tonight I would have written a thousand word magical realism short story to ponder your question. Really, it screams out for it, doesn't it? What a lilting, jingly story that would be. But alas, I am unable, at least at this portion of my journey, to write any stories. Now, that might have caused me a bit of distress a few weeks ago. But this last week, courtesy of the insights and encouragement of Julia Cameron, I am returning to the coloured breathing space of knowing that right here, right now, there are small things I can do today, where I am. (Like, for example, work on the rather adorable little sprite boy who is my latest clay mask). And so, I am choosing to look at the positive. While indeed I did not write an amazing magical realism story that would catapult me to instant fame, this evening I did paint in crap watercolour. Which has no relevance to this topic, unfortunately, containing neither a cat nor a book even in abstract form. And so here we are.

So. The cat. I feel funny writing about Anonimo's cat when I don't know it's name. Is it a girl? Is it a boy? I get a picture in my head of a grey tabby, medium sized, quite dainty looking female who nevertheless nibbles her owner's ear on occasion and bites him when he's not looking. And so this is the cat I think of when I look at her and try, scientifically, to determine her behaviour. Something kind of vaguely like this:

Image by McBeth. Entirely unrelated to this post or to Anonimo but, in a strange little synchronous moment, note that the next book this puss is going to eat is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garbriel Garcia Marquez, a writer of magic realism. In totally unrelated news, I was looking at a platypus on the teev before and thinking, if I ever have a cat, I'm going to call it Platy.

Would she like to read? We automatically dismiss it, don't we? We say, "Oh, no. Everyone knows that cats wouldn't be able to be jealous of something that they have no idea about. How does a cat have any conception about reading, for God's sake?" But sometimes I think we are victims of our own scientific knowledge. How can we be sure? Sometimes I think reality is so weird that maybe the smartest beings in the world are actually gnats, and flies carry the cure for chlamydia. So we cannot say for sure that cats couldnt read if we taught them and they understood language. I mean, has anyone done any double blind studies? No, exactly.

But still, nevertheless, one has to surmise, if faced with only these two options for Anonimo's cat, that she is probably indeed not wanting to read, but is indeed wanting to get attention of her pet. Cats. That's what shits me about them, you know - when they want attention, then it's jumping all over your lap chewing your books. But when you come home from a hard day balancing stuff on your head, does your cat come running to greet you in the way a dog does? No. It lifts its head up from its place on the window and sneers. And burps. And a couple of letters escape. And it goes back to sleep again secure in the knowledge that it's snooty outer exterior has hidden the fact that while you were gone, it shat in your bed and ate page 23 of your book.


  1. Well, to be honest when I saw the title and the length my first thought was....PASS. But knowing that Sue is always full of funny surprises in her writing I pushed that aside and began to read. Here is what came to mind.

    Seinfeld....a show about nothing, that is, except everything, and before I knew it I was at the end of your little creative writing project with a smile on my face.

    Now that's successful.

  2. Freakin' hilarious!

    "No. It lifts its head up from its place on the window and sneers. And burps. And a couple of letters escape. And it goes back to sleep again secure in the knowledge that it's snooty outer exterior has hidden the fact that while you were gone, it shat in your bed and ate page 23 of your book. "

    Oh Sue, you've outdone yourself! I almost peed my pants!

    Our cats lay on the newspaper when we are reading it...

  3. Priceless! Perfect! Wonderful! You literally had me cackling like a mad hen, especially the bit about magical realism...

    I don't think - as a long-term cataholic - that the beautiful mog in your picture is eating Alan Paton's master-work, so much as approving of it. Our cats, Figgy especially, do that to books we're reading, or have just been reading. It's a stroking gesture with the side of the mouth, oddly sensuous, beginning with the chin and ending with the inside of the upper lip. It may be analogous to bookmarking behaviour in humans.

    My Firefox spell-check, by the way, wanted to change "cataholic" to "catholic". Do you think that there is any spiritual significance in this fact? Is it synchronicity, perhaps, or something more nearly related to the flickering anamnesis of some half-disconnected HAL 9000?

  4. Now, now, are you a dog snob? My cats don't do any of the things you mentioned (not too much, um, anyway that's what makes them so irresistible- they're so full of self-love)

    oh, I really enjoyed this piece as well and the poem you posted below a few days back...

  5. Manuela - ooh, posting at the same time :) thanks darling. I hope you're feeling a bit better than you were.

    Yeah, I guess I am a bit of a dog snob. But I imagine some day before I die I shall get myself a cat. I do like them sort of :) I'd like to get one of those ragdoll cats. they're pretty cool. Or just any cat, really, that acts like a dog :)

  6. Kent - Afghani Cat Psychology didn't do it for you? Whyever not? :) Thanks for your comments. High praise indeed. It did feel like I was writing the equivalent of an Aero Bar (I presume you have those in the States? It's the bubbles of nothing that really make it something :)

    Erin - ta, love. I like the way cats lie on newspaper. You know, I really do quite like cats. They're just an easy target, you know? And they deserve it for being so stuck-up.

    Mike - Like a mad hen! Cool!!

    No, you're right, that puss was just doing that thing you said. Isn't part of it leaving their scent? But hey, artistic license, you know? When I saw taht pic, and the grey tabby, and the book - well, I just had to fit it into the story :)

  7. you know how I said you'd found your writing voice with those train stories?

    well, it appears you have multiple voices

    yay you!

    this was hilarious and offered a much needed laugh at the end of a very crappy work day

  8. You should write for Lolcats! Almost nudged me into acquiring a cat. I could use a little madness in my life.

  9. Kel - multiple voices - cool. One voice is never enough :) Thanks. I'm glad it made you laugh and I hope you have a great weekend, dude!

    Barbara - I'd rather write for LOLDogs instead :) Yes, get a cat! Go on! :)

  10. Sue, I knew you knew about the cat gesture - I was just being silly - attempting a written dead-pan response - as in my remark about "bookmarking behaviour in humans"!

    Barbara - go for it! Cats have just the right kind of madness for people like us...

  11. Mike - sorry. As I reread your comment I see that indeed you are being silly - and yet I read it straighter for some strange reason. Sometimes I'm a bit ... aherm ... literal. It's embarrassing being a moron but one must soldier on :)

  12. Moron you ain't, Sue, especially not after a post like that... literal I can accept. I think it goes with being Australian ;-) (And I say that as one who was largely brought up by my Australian mother and grandmother!)

  13. Really? I knew there was something about you I liked :)

    Yes, we are a plain speaking, rather stupid people.

  14. (Except for your mother and grandmother. Of course :)

  15. Never thought Aussie were thick, at all, but plain speaking... you should have met my grandmother!

    When I was about 6, my grandmother and I went to the little village ironmonger's shop (this was in Felpham, in West Sussex, where I grew up) to buy some of the inflammable liquid you use in stoves. The usual man was on holiday or something, and so the manager from the big shop in town was standing in.

    Nana planked down our old 5-gallon can on the zinc counter, and said, "Five gallons of kerosene, please, mate!"

    The man in the suit: "Do you not mean paraffin, madam?"

    Nana: "Paraffin? Isn't that something yer take to make yer shit?"

  16. I love your writing!

  17. Mike - haha :) You would have known where you stood with her :)

    Andi - thankx

    Tyler - I forgot all about Chipper!


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