January 22nd is National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day (who knew?), so it seemed like a good time to check in with the clowder (that’s what you call a group of cats) and see what was burning in their brain cells.
Problem. Have you ever tried to get a consensus from a batch of cats? The only thing they can agree on is there should be more food in the bowl and whatever you put in the bowl should have more gravy. It was time to pick a spokes cat.
My gaggle of cats has been a little rudderless since we lost Tank. No one has stepped up to be the new Top Cat, so I asked a few test questions from the herd to feel them out. I started with the littles, JoJo and Tillie. At just over a year old they are my youngest. Their question? “Why can’t we have that?” I asked what, they again said “that.” It took me a minute to realize that they meant that, and that, and that and that. “You don’t need that, or that, or any of that. You’ll swallow it or break it or hurt yourself-“I tried to explain to them that I wasn’t just being mean or selfish by not letting them turn everything into a toy, but that I was trying to protect them and keep them safe. Obviously, they weren’t ready to step up and be the alpha of anything quite yet. I moved on to the middles.
The middles consist of TJ, Peanut, and Penny the Deaf. They are all about the same age and split their time between being aloof and pathetic. Their question for me was simply “Can we eat yet?” and that was in no way a surprise to me. A lot of cats 3-5 years old find it hard to balance their activity with their calorie consumption. They spend the first 18 months of their lives pounding down the calories to fuel their frantic antics and growth but then their metabolisms level out, and some find it hard to quit hitting the chow so hard, especially when their owners don’t recognize it is time to adjust feeding habits. I sat down and tried to explain to them that no, it wasn’t time to eat yet and no, I wasn’t going to leave the lid off the treat jar in case they wanted a snack and NO, we were not going to go see what was in the fridge. I talked to them about the health issues that come with excessive weight such as the strain on the joints and the burden it puts on the heart and the likelihood of becoming diabetic. I tried to show them studies about the correlation between obesity and early death, but they just kept sprawling across the book and swatting at my pointer. These were not the cat droids I was looking for. I moved on yet again.
Surely one of the cats in the next chorus would show a little gumption to take the big chair of the starship Caterprise. Up next were my specials. Cousin Mau Mau had come to stay with us while her family settled in with a new baby, Mooney May had been suffering for several years with massive anxiety issues after an unknown traumatic event, and Manny, like the others from the Furious Five litter, suffered from neurological issues and hypersensitivity due to exposure to anesthesia during birth. All three of the specials had unique issues and outlooks, and I couldn’t help but think this is where I would find the perfect question to answer.
Let me save us all some time and say that didn’t happen. Have you ever tried to get three high strung cats together for a serious conversation? “He’s in my spot” meets “Tell her to stop looking at me” which is countered with “STOP BREATHING SO LOUD!” Every one of them had their own little quirks that had to be dealt with, from “why do we use that litter” to “why can’t I go outside by myself” to “please don’t make me go there.” There wasn’t a deep, ponderable question to be had. I was getting nowhere.
As I sat there with littles curled up beside me, Manny draped across my feet, Mooney tucked behind me, the others waiting patiently for dinner while Penny and I groomed each other (she lets me comb her only if I let her lick my forehead) it occurred to me that while I hadn’t really found a big question to answer I had perhaps found the new leader of the pack. When Tank was with us, he kept the littles in check, kept the middles active but didn’t let them get too full of themselves, and was a protector to the specials. He made sure the others didn’t bully Mooney, he helped Manny burn off his frantic energy and kept him in line when he got too wild, and he patiently traded grooming sessions with Penny the Deaf. Tank was gone, but I was not. In what can only be a moment of cartoon destiny I realized that I was, in fact, now Top Cat. For those too young to remember, Top Cat was a character in a Saturday morning cartoon. He was a clever streetwise hustler who always had a fast answer and a hair-brained scheme, and he lived in a trash can next to a pole with a telephone. I had always wanted to be Top Cat. Who wouldn’t?
Top Cat always looked out for his friends. He patiently explained his schemes and why they each had a role to play, and he always made sure everyone got their fair share. Tank had done that for the clan of kitties, and now the job was mine. It didn’t matter if the questions they had were serious or silly, my answer would always be whatever it takes to keep them healthy, happy, and safe.
But just in case you are curious, here are some of my cat’s questions that didn’t make the cut:
- Can we trade the dogs for chickens? NO
- Why do you get mad when I throw up in your shower? BECAUSE YOU THREW UP IN MY SHOE
- Can we trade the dogs for squirrels? NO
- Does it bother you when I lick your eyelids when you are asleep? YES
- Why do I have to go to the vet every year? Because I love you and want you to live a long and healthy life, and because you don’t always tell me when you are sick. Now take the FREE TO GOOD HOME sign off the dog and get in the car.