The cat's out of the mailbag

October 23, 1997|By KEVIN COWHERD

I HAVE HEARD from the cat people, and the cat people are not happy.

Apparently, the cat people are up in arms over a recent column in which I (quite sensibly, I thought) listed the virtues of dogs over cats.

I forget exactly what was said in that column, but it was something about the country going to hell in a handbasket now that more people are choosing cats as pets.

I also might have taken a few shots at cats for having zero personality, all the warmth of an eggplant and a predisposition to stalk schoolchildren, claw drapes and scratch furniture.

Anyway, whatever it was I wrote, the letters, phone calls, faxes and e-mail started rolling in.

Along with impassioned defenses of the little critters, many cat people sent pictures of their cats. Oh, I got lots and lots of pictures.

Carol Hirshburg of Owings Mills sent me a snapshot of her cats, d'Claudia (think about that one for a moment) and Madeline Roberta Alomar, who probably had a better season than Roberto, especially from the right side of the plate.

Agnes Rosendale sent me a snapshot of her cat Mitzi sticking out its tongue.

"This is what I think of your anti-cat column," she wrote, keeping the discourse on an adult level.

Agnes, Agnes, Agnes ... let me just say this: I know you are, but what am I?

Syril Lerner of Baltimore, age 11, sent me a picture of his tabby cat, whom he describes as "an animal with a huge amount of affection."

In the photo, however, the cat appears to be in an attack mode, eyes wide as silver dollars, body coiled, ready to lunge at the thorax of the first person who ... well, never mind.

Curiously, Pauline Hoffman of Baltimore penned an eloquent appreciation of cats and enclosed my picture, which she cut from the newspaper column.

The point, I can only assume, is that my just-out-of-San Quentin visage is far more frightening than that of any cat, which gets no argument from me.

Many readers wrote to tell me of the, ahem, unique talents of their pets.

Bertha J. Decker of Abingdon claims that her cat Bunky actually plays Hide-And-Go-Seek.

The fun, according to Ms. Decker, goes like this: "He dashes through the rooms and while I am chasing him, he hides. As soon as I say: 'Where's Bunky?' he comes running out of his hiding place ...' "

Ohhh-kay ...

Ms. Decker, two words: yoga class. You sound like someone with way too much free time on her hands.

So, for that matter, does Bunky.

Sharon Bosic of Owings Mills ("Feline Fancier Extraordinaire!") spends three paragraphs dissing dogs ("a neurotic bundle of frenzied barking, jumping and slobbering") then writes: "Let me ask you, have you ever had a cat run up and stick its nose right in your crotch?"

Well, um, no, Sharon, I haven't.

Sounds terrifying, though.

Ms. Bosic also begins her missive with the schoolyardish declaration that "Cats Rule and Dogs Drool!"

I plan to have that saying crocheted and placed on my office wall, where it will be a source of inspiration for many years to come.

Carolyn Crittenden of Elkridge points out that: "What you describe as aloofness or disdain, we cat lovers refer to as independence."

Well, maybe. But that's like saying Pol Pot wasn't really a blood-thirsty mass murderer, he just didn't like feeling so crowded in Cambodia. We're splitting hairs here.

Then again, Ms. Crittenden was kind enough to enclose a coupon for a free pack of M&M's.

"Have a chocolate fix on me," she wrote.

Carolyn, after all this abuse, I think I need something stronger than chocolate.

Something along the lines of, oh, Valium.

A small portion of the letters took on a fairly hysterical tone.

For instance, James L. Callahan of Baltimore, in a clever parody of my original column, writes: "You know society is going to hell ... when freedom of speech is used to alienate those who do not have a voice."

Earth to Jimbo: We're not talking about the Kurds in Iraq here. Or workers in Nike sweatshops in Thailand.

We're talking about cats, Jimbo. Chill.

Predictably, there were also dispatches from the lunatic fringe of the cat-people's movement. In attempting to show how amiable cats can be, one reader enclosed a photo and column from a recent issue of the Toronto Sun.

In the photo, a woman is shown doing push-ups with -- here's where it starts to get ugly -- her 8-pound cat on her back.

The woman, Stephanie Jackson, has apparently written a book called "Cat-flexing: A Catlover's Guide to Weight-Training, Aerobics and Stretching."

The only hazard, Ms. Jackson explains, is that an untrained cat-flex cat can become a tad nauseous during the exercises.

At this point, to tell you the truth, I was becoming a tad nauseous myself.

Anyway, after wading through all the mail and phone calls and faxes, my only reply to all you cat people out there is: Can't we all get along?

Can't all of us, dog people and cat people and even ferret people ... well, OK, maybe not ferret people, those people are really nuts ... live in harmony, with mutual respect for whichever of God's loving creatures we choose as pets?

Nah, I didn't think so.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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