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ALMONDS AND WALNUTS
December 31, 2007
 
Haven't heard much about the cats lately, someone emailed.

Well, there's not much to tell, really. Ben settles in for a nap in an armchair in the living room and Kitten takes a running leap at him, missing him and hitting the back of the chair, toppling it over backwards into a plant. We never witness this: we only know it has happened because we walk into the house and there's the chair tipped over on the floor again, and not a cat in sight. You don't have to be Einstein to figure it out.

Ben grows more saintly every day. This is the iron law of the multiple-cat household: there can be only one sociopath at a time. They take turns. Time was, What's-Her-Name did all the second-story work in this house: knocked an entire apple pie off the table and shattered the plate, scared you half to death in the middle of dinner by appearing suddenly in the window box, inches from your plate -- you'd jump a foot off your chair and she'd just give you her dead stare. She'd wrestle a baby squirrel from its mother's arms and run off with it without even breathing hard. She was a caution, that one. Now she's just a tiny old lady who lives in the attic, hiding out from the boy cats. If it weren't for the tattoos, you wouldn't know it was her.

And then Ben was the cross we had to bear. Quacking his way through every day and all through every night, lying in wait for a passing girl cat so he could jump on her, although he has nothing to offer the ladies and never has, except in what I take to be his rather limited imagination. Nibbling the leaves of houseplants and then vomiting up a puree of half-digested leaves onto an oriental carpet. We investigated cat whisperers and cat tranquilizers,but eventually realized that all Ben needed was love, which is what we all need, really. You could send him into a state of happy catatonia at a cost of no more than ten seconds of chin-stroking. So now it was Saint Ben.

Which left a deficit in the family's sin quotient. Nature abhors a vacuum: deceptively little and cute, Kitten joined us one summer morning and stayed -- his own mother dropped him off, a cautionary sign we should have registered and didn't, not until it was far too late. I'd tell you more about the things he does, but I just don't want to talk about it. Maybe another time.

Our son-in-law, whose dad is a vet, tells us that a cat's brain is the size of an almond.

An almond? With or without the shell? I wanted to know, and he really couldn't say. I was shaken but intrigued by this statistic.

Well, they're not really that smart, Anna said.

How could she say such a thing? When they love to cuddle so? Surely someone with an almond-sized brain doesn't put his paw out while he sleeps just so you'll see it and give it a pat? Or select just the right spot in the sun and stay there all day, enjoying the heat? Or dash purposefully next door onto the neighbor's new patio and roll madly, using the rough cement surface as an emory board? They're certainly as smart as they need to be.

Maybe Ben's is a little bigger, Chad offered consolingly. Like a walnut, maybe.

Well, I bet they use all of their brains. Not like us -- here we humans are, with these enormous heads, and we use but a fraction of the grey matter we have inside them. We have a lot of hardware, it seems to me, to be as clueless as we usually are. One of these days we'll grow into it all, perhaps. Maybe this very year: 2008. The year we finally figure it all out.

Some of it, anyway. Happy New Year.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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