Fiction is full of anthropomorphic characters—animal characters with human characteristics. From Pooh and his friends to the political machinations of the pigs in ‘Animal Farm,’ we invest all sorts of human traits, ambitions and motivations into animal-shaped characters. We also, as animal lovers, tend to imagine that our favorite creatures think the way we do.
I’m not dissing animals; I’m just noting that they are unlike us in many fundamental ways. I love the cat-ness of my cat. Morse is a mini tiger, a sleepy hunter with one eye on the game and the other lost in a dream. He likes to sleep on my pillow next to my head—not because he wants into my psyche, but because my head is warm and covered in “curly human fur.” He is enchanted by the cooing pigeons in the courtyard and is entertained by watching snow blown by the wind.
A cat is all id with no balancing super ego. He is in the minute and of the minute without plans, goals or schedules. His agenda is focused on food, sleep, toys and affection. Yes, cats enjoy affection. He wants to be tickled and stroked and loved. Until he doesn’t—and then his claws show.
He is led by aroma—professing a preference for sweaty gym socks, chicken soup on the stovetop and the olfactory remnants of me on my nightgown in the morning. He likes the way I smell, but foul and fowl odors are among his preferred perfumes.
He can sense when I am agitated, sad or unhappy. And, in a cat-like manner, he can help alleviate these negative feelings. It’s hard to be lonely with a cat curled up beside you. Of course I cannot discuss my feelings with him, ask him to hold me accountable to my plan to finish my new novel outline by the end of the quarter, or gain insights into a stalled short story draft. As long as I expect him to be a cat—and not an anthropomorphic, cat-shaped human—we get along fine.
I once wrote a cat character in a paranormal mystery. The supernatural aspect of the cat was just an amped up version of one of Morse’s cat skills. He disappears and reappears as if by magic. In the manuscript the cat slipped in and out of dimensions. Of course Morse is just being a cat. Slipping away into a small hiding place and popping up again in unexpected places. How he manages to hide in my tiny apartment is almost supernatural.
ALMOST…but it’s just him being a CAT.