I woke up, clumsily, and my first thought for the day was: There never was a time when I’m not within a cat’s pawing distance.
It’s probably last night’s bout with insomnia, but I swear I saw my whole life flash in front me, as though washing my face with a roll of film, there, slightly bent over before the cold, wet slab of glossy clay that is our bathroom sink. Every single slide revealed a startling revelation: Cats. Cats. Cats!
Coffee did me some good; it cleared my head of the night’s cobwebs that seem to hang around my cerebellum after just half the forty winks. But then the faces of my cats went on to disturb me for the better part of my first hour. I just have to write down my visions.
Speaking of faces, I’m proud to say I can recall every single cat in my life. I had close to about a hundred since I could walk, and yes, they have faces. You can also tell them apart by how their eyes squint or ball up in a cute sphere, how they flaunt their colors and patterns on their fur, through the shape of their noses and the manner by which they purr and wiggle their tails when happy, or when they’re craving for something like a piece of sardine or some leftover pasta.
Cute and cuddly as they are, cats seem to have very little patience for anything outside their gene pool. They pounce on nearly everything that moves: From that innocent white butterfly that flutter about our garden during the weekend to that nearly invisible gang of tiny green grasshoppers that hop and bop among our potted plants.
I once caught our cat Juanito (a girl) with a feather in her mouth, and with eyes saying, “What bird?.” Rats and mice are usual fare. Suffice it to say that my cats, in dealing with vermin, could give the Spanish Inquisition a run for their money. Science may say that roaches can survive an atomic blast, but I have yet to see one survive the playful paws of my cats.
Poypoy, our homegrown Abraham De Lacy Guiseppi Casey Thomas O’malley alley cat, once caught between snarls a glossy green snake about the size and length of my arm. Rewarding him thereafter with a full can of sardines, he bopped around my leg for a full hour. Come to think of it, humanity would’ve been better off with cats in God’s Eden.
History, believe it or not, has much to do with the Adolf Hitlers and the Charlie Chaplins as some famous cats. I recall that late ‘70s movie Cat from Outer Space with a feline deadpan called Amber. T.S. Eliot’s Asparagus and Bombalurina were quite the four-legged furry creatures in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. As for the titans of this furball universe, there was the Goddess Bastet of Egyptian lore, and feline Hollywood actresses Burbank of Lethal Weapon and Duchess of Walt Disney’s Aristocats.
And who could forget Audrey Hepburn’s little fuzzy friend in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? If only my cats could read, I know they’ll go for Edgar Allan Poe’s tortoiseshell pet Catalina in Black Cat, or better yet Doris Lessing’s Particularly Cats.
Did you know that one black cat named Enjoras, who was born of white feline parents, was the inspiration behind a character in Les Miserables? Garfield, Tom of Tom & Jerry, and that Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland need no mentioning.
Funny how Mark Twain, in promoting the cat, crisscrossed the commonplace lines of reasoning to bring home a really good point:
“Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”
JOEL PABLO SALUD is the chief editor of the Philippines Graphic magazine, the country’s top newsweekly publication under the ALC Group of Publications, which include the BusinessMirror. He is a member of the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Manila Critics Circle.