I haven’t had a cat since my divorce ten years ago. That cat died earlier this year at the age of twenty. Her name was Bugs. Her younger “sister” Rerun died a few years back. Before Bugs and Rerun, there was Arnie, Heather, and maybe a Kiki. Can’t remember. Lately, the only cats I encounter are the dozen that hang out in front of the corner house at the entrance to our cul de sac. I don’t think they live at the house. It’s more like a commune outside, where they lounge around in the middle of the street, engage in free love, and dart in front of the neighbors’ cars as if they were hired to test our brakes.
But those are Other Cats — a term Terry Bain uses in his book We Are the Cat [LibraryThing / WorldCat]. It’s a follow-up to his first book, You Are a Dog [LibraryThing / WorldCat]. Yes, they’re quirky titles, but they fit the style of the books. Bain is a young Spokane writer that I first heard about in my college alumni magazine upon the publication of the first book. He went to UPS a decade after I did (I’ve never met him) but that first excerpt won me over. You Are a Dog was written in the second person (!), and told you exactly how dogs think. (And remember: YOU are a dog.) I’ve always liked dogs and it was dead on, telling you about your relationship with other dogs (including the unseen dog barking a few fences away), squirrels, toilet water, toys, etc.
I read that book in early 2005. The cat book was published last summer and was written in the more familiar first person. The “we”, of course, is a “royal” we. (We’re talking cats, remember?) I’m more of a dog fan than a cat fan, so it didn’t strike as much of a chord with me as the first book, but it was still engaging. It delved into a cat’s obsession with being outside, no, inside, no, outside, no… well, just leave the door open. Or get rid of the door. It’s silly anyway and doesn’t please us.
Bain isn’t a psychologist but he seems pretty good at connecting with the way these pets think. Watch a cat closely and you can just imagine the running monologue going through her head. Even the offbeat humor that pops up throughout the text seems appropriate. Not that cats engage in humor for our benefit. They’re not there for our entertainment, of course. But we humans — “laps” in Bain’s book, for our single-most important skill of making a warm lap whenever we want — are there for them. Or should be. Open the door again. The cat wants in.