You can't say enough about cats

October 31, 1994|By KEVIN COWHERD

Publishers are purring about the public's seemingly insatiable taste for cat books. "James Herriot's Cat Stories" has clawed its way to No. 2 on The New York Times Bestseller List . . . and dozens of other feline tomes are selling well.

New York Times News Service So the phone rings and it's my agent and she says: "How's the big cat book coming?"

Back off, Marge, I say. I'm not writing a cat book.

"Everyone's writing a cat book," she says.

Not me, sweetie. I don't even own a cat.

"I've lined up a publisher," she says.

Forget it. Besides, I hate cats.

"They'll front you 300 grand if you turn this baby around in three months."

Oh?

Chapter 1 -- Cats are the most marvelous creatures. They really are. It has been my privilege to know dozens of them in my lifetime, from proud Burmese, Siamese and Persian beauties to Turkish Angoras to humble crossbreds.

What was it the poet said: A cat is God's way of keeping man entertained?

My cat's name is Muffy. She has enriched my life immeasurably.

May I tell you more about her?

Chapter 2 -- In the gray light of dawn, I stand shivering in the kitchen. Thus begins the daily ritual which is so much of a part of our lives together.

"Here, Muffy!" I call.

Naturally, Muffy does not come.

"Muffy! Here, kitty-kitty!"

Again, Muffy does not come.

But that's no surprise, is it?

After all, Muffy never comes when she's called.

My, they do have an independent nature!

Chapter 3 -- Hello, what's this?! My wife and I have just arrived home from a party at the O'Connells', only to find Muffy swinging from the drapes in the family room.

Her claws have slashed deeply into the material, leaving a series of vertical gashes in the smoke blue, sage green and rose colors. My wife informs me it will cost $350 to replace the drapes.

Not to mention $175 for the blouson valance.

Well. It's a good thing we have a few drinks under our belts!

Cats are so very, very playful, aren't they?!

Chapter 4 -- The sun is already high in the sky when I find Muffy chewing on some sort of toy near the front steps.

What have you got there, Muffy?

Let's see, it's something small and brown and . . . why, it's a dead mouse!

Partially eaten, too! Muffy must have dragged it out of the woods.

Well, no wonder! Throughout history, people have valued cats for their skill at hunting rodents!

The ancient Egyptians believed cats were . . . uh, oh. My wife is yelling: "Would it be possible to remove that #$%& carcass from the steps? We have company coming in 10 minutes."

Yes, dear.

Bad, Muffy! You're such a scamp!

Chapter 5 -- It's a lazy Saturday afternoon. Maybe I'll watch the big football game on TV. I find Muffy sitting in my favorite chair.

Hey, that's OK! We can share!

Right, Muffy?

Muffy just stares at me with those inscrutable sea-green eyes.

Maybe if I just take my hand and nudge her off to one . . . YEOW! Son of a . . . she bit my finger!

Heh, heh. Sometimes we forget how territorial cats are!

In our haste to ascribe human emotions to these wonderful . . . boy, this finger's really starting to bleed!

Maybe if I run it under cold water . . . try not to get too much blood on the rug . . .

The chair is all yours, Muffy!

They really are the most marvelous creatures.

Chapter 6 -- Has this ever happened to you?

A visitor knocks on your door. After you unlock the main lock, dead bolt, chain, padlock, floor lock, etc., the visitor enters and sniffs the air cautiously.

"Oh," he or she says, "you have a cat."

Here, then, is the moment of truth.

Do you avert your eyes in embarrassment and mumble an apology for whatever odor has been detected?

Or do you hold up your head proudly and say: "Yes, I do have a cat! And a fine cat she is, too! Muffy, come meet our guest!"

Muffy, of course, will not come.

But that's another story altogether.

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