The Tiger at the Foot of the Bed

There are cat people and there are people who don’t get cats. And I don’t mean the Simone Simon classic CAT PEOPLE horror film or the remake in the 80s that I somehow managed to miss.

If you are a cat person, if you live with one — or two or more — domestic felines, sooner or later you are going to realize that there’s a bit of tiger in the small creature curled up on the sofa. Morse (named for the Colin Dexter detective) opens “cat proofed” cabinet doors with a combination of persistence and agility, overcoming his lack of opposable thumbs. He likes to sit on my printer, sleep on my pillow and chase bouncing balls.

Having cats most of life, I’m acutely aware that, like people, no two are alike. But all of them have a tiny bit of tiger. They stalk prey (a bird, a mosquito or a catnip toy) with full hunter’s concentration. They hiss, growl and yowl. They aren’t talking, but they are communicating loud and clear and it’s a good idea to listen.

Years ago I learned never to cross an angry cat. Calypso, my calico who lived over 20 years, decided that the man I was dating at the time had overstayed his welcome in my life. She was right. I was dithering, working on the relationship, but the cat knew it was time for him to GO! She lunged for his jugular and I intervened. I’ve never seen anything like that before or since. She was a murderous monster with a tail and whiskers. When her monstrous storm passed, and he was gone, she curled up on the end of the bed as if nothing unusual had happened.

Every cat as a little bit of tiger — an unpredictable potential for violence; they are little monsters. The trick is to love them because of the tiger and not in spite of it.

  • Tiger, tiger burning bright
  • In the forests of the night
  • What immortal hand or eye
  • Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
  • — William Blake



  1. Lew

    Do cats have a bit of the tiger in them or is it vice-versa? I wonder who evolved from whom? Another question is: I know there is some sort of stigma about single women having a cat(s)…But what about single guys??? That’s beyond stigma to you-will-never-have-a-date territory, no? Sounds like a potential stand up routine for Jerry Seinfeld (“What’s the deal…with…CAT?”)

    • Candy

      LOL… I can definitely imagine a Seinfeld cat/single girl routine!

      But I think the prejudice/stereotype is about women who live with multiple cats. At least that’s what I hope — living with only one who happens to be the King of House. He sitting in the rocking chair watching me at my desk right now. He seems to find my screen time amusing.

      As for men with cats being attractive, I think so. I think a man who likes cats may have insights into independent creatures (women). No prejudice against dogs and dog people — I love both — but a guy who is loved by a creature that doesn’t give love automatically and carries a hidden tiger in temperament and DNA (a cat) is definitely worthy of love. Don’t you agree?

      • I’m both a cat and dog person, but I can so relate to what you say about a cat not giving love automatically. Cats will always be independent so they /choose/ to love you. Or not. One wonderful friend I had sprayed all over my flat because he didn’t like the [male] friend I’d asked to cat sit while I was on holiday. The same cat jumped into my pre-husband’s lap and made himself comfortable – as if saying ‘this one is okay’. And the weird thing was my husband was not a cat person. That beloved friend is gone now, and so is the husband, but for a while there he was right. [the cat that is]. 😀

        • Candy

          Cats run on instincts and, without impressive intellectual capacities, they are usually spot on about people. We think and they act, plopping in a “good” person’s lap or going for the jugular when they want him GONE. I didn’t go into it in the blog post, but when I intervened in the attack, she bit both of my hands. The next day, I was in the emergency room with a crowd of of young doctors interested in “the cat bite girl” and her swollen hands. Calypso, after her initial fury, was calm and cuddly. She really wanted that man out of the apartment! He was not an animal person and treated her like a furry pillow that walked around inexplicably. He really didn’t get CATS (or dogs either). He was sad man.

  2. Ah, the personalities of cats, ever a point of confusion. We have had Max for ages it seems (he is 13 now). He is easily a grumpy old man. Being protective of his home and way of life he never has taken kindly to other animals coming in.

    We had a kitten (DC for damn cat) that would sleep on my shoulder like a parrot when I was at the computer. If that kitten said anything out of line, Max would give it a swat that sent it flying. Sadly, the kitten didn’t make it (though we hope it was natural causes).

    Enter Rascal, our blonde lab. Max tolerates him as long as he doesn’t get in his way.

    And then came Gracie Lou. This kitten was Nermal in so many ways. This seems fitting considering that Max is a large orange cat. When Max first met Lou he went straight for her throat. Took some quick moves to make sure he didn’t follow through. Over time he has gotten much more tolerant of her. But it is his house and he makes sure she knows it.

    Max has never been much of a people kitty except on his terms. We have some fleece couch blankets (just enough to cover you on the couch for a nap). He loves how they feel and will cuddle with you for the blankets sake.

    Gracie is a different creature entirely. She is anti social unless she wants to be around you and then she is forceful about it. She doesn’t care where you are, even the bathroom she will be on your lap if she wants cuddles.

    • Candy

      Ah… the wide & wild variety of CAT personae! Non-cat people don’t see it, but anyone who has lived with cats recognizes the extraordinary range.

      The first family cat (she was the stray who stayed when I was seven and she lived until I was almost done with college) was a sweet, gentle and gorgeous all-white, long-haired cat. For most of my childhood, I thought all cats were like her.

      Did she have a bit of tiger? Of course, she was a tremendous hunter and would give her favorite person (my mom) presents on a regular basis. The bird population on the suburban neighborhood were wary of that pretty kitty.

  3. I’ve decided my cats are both pervs. Each is neutered and each likes to get it on with either a fuzzy blanket or one of the dog’s stuffed toys. They get quite noisy at times, but I forgive their little walks on wild side since they never “do it” when we have company 😉

    • Candy

      I laughed out loud at that one!

      My cat, the quintessential indoor city kitty, LOVES to sniff my friends shoes and feet. He is determining where they’ve been and enjoying their travels. This has caused some odd moments of confusion and consternation, but for the most part having a cat sniff your toes just tickles. MEEEEow…