Every morning at first light of dawn, The Countess makes a balletic leap onto our bed and settles herself, sphinx-like, between us. As she swished her tail under my nose this morning, it occurred to me that I have fallen back in love with cats.
A few years ago, when our cats Cody and Dodger were locked in a perpetual war that would make current political antics seem tame by comparison, we declared “No more cats. Ever!” (Wouldn’t it be nice if we could declare “No more politicians. Ever!”?)
Both Cody and Dodger have gone over the rainbow bridge where they have hopefully reunited in peace and harmony, and somehow we threw caution to the wind and catted ourselves up again with Mischa and The Countess, who are, thankfully, devoted to one another.
As The Countess set her inscrutable gaze upon me in the early light of day, I got to thinking of the ways of cats and how they slink into our lives when we least expect it. Even in books.
I’m only halfway through Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, but I am already well acquainted with one of the book’s most memorable characters, Behemoth the cat. Anyone who thinks of cats as inherently evil will be pleased with this pistol-toting, bow-tied demon sidekick of Satan.
Another not-so-nice kitty is Lady Jane, companion to the “short, cadaverous, and withered” rag shop owner Mr. Krook in Charles’ Dickens Bleak House. Lady Jane is far from a savory creature but Dickens himself was a devoted fan of felines and was quoted as saying “What greater gift than the love of a cat?”
A more genteel cat companion can be found in Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, where a one-eyed Russian Blue holds court over the lobby of the Metropol Hotel where charming protagonist Count Rostov is being held under permanent house arrest. At one point, the Count’s normally sedate life is rambunctiously upended by the cat’s decision to teach a visiting pair of dogs just who is in charge. Cats always, always win. Appropriately, Rostov names the cat Kutuzov after the similarly victorious and one-eyed Russian general who was celebrated for his exploits in the Napoleonic and Russo-Turkish wars. Towles’ Russian Blue is fictional, but the real deal looks like this:
I’ve only read one book by Haruki Murakami, but apparently he is known for populating his books – and his life – with cats. In a 2019 New Yorker profile he tells of an early childhood memory of a day spent with his father in a failed (thankfully) attempt to abandon a cat. Perhaps that memory is what inspires Murakami to keep cats on the pages of his book. Among the few comforting scenes in Murakami’s Norwegian Wood are those that include a white cat named Seagull. Like any self-respecting cat, Seagull is unobtrusive yet ever present, and somehow softens the despair that tinges most of the interactions between Toru and the women in his life.
Love cats or hate them, you simply can’t ignore them. On the page or on your favorite chair, cats are here to stay. Happy Caturday!