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Warren Dixon: Own a cat? I'd rather have (gasp!) a squirrel

Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through the snow.

Jeff Valdez


Several of my friends are cat owners. Now I know you will find this to be strange, the fact that I have several friends, that is. But these friends have been very, shall we say, liberal in their ridicule, scorn and mockery of our semi-adoption of the little squirrel we named “Lucky.”


Some of you may remember the little orphan baby squirrel we temporarily adopted until we could transport him to the Schindler Wildlife Rehab Center in Asheboro. The rehab people, by the way, were not amused that we had given a name to a wild animal. 


Before I continue, I want to thank all of you who have sent Lucky cards and flowers. He has, I’m sure, gnawed all of them into little bitty pieces by now. The last I heard from Lucky, he was being trained to dig up tulip bulbs and water lines and to bury pecans in flower pots. 


But back to the cats. It’s hard for me to imagine cat owners scoffing at anyone’s choice of pets. Head lice would make better pets than cats and probably be more cuddly.


I’ve owned cats before. Or let me rephrase that: Cats have allowed me to live with them. We think we have domesticated cats, but actually they’ve trained us.


Egyptians once worshipped cats as gods and cats have taken this to heart and remembered it ever since. 


Cats, no matter what their age, are the teenagers of the animal world and are as independent as insurance companies. Call them and they will not come. They can lie around the house all day long and never move, except maybe to eat. And they probably won’t like what you’re feeding them, either. But then they can stay up all night long, carousing and doing who knows what, often coming home looking like they’ve been in a fight. They wouldn’t be seen in public with you unless they need something. Then they’re under your feet and in your way. 


Buy a cat a scratching post and he’ll ignore it and rip up your best couch. 


I always got the impression that cats were pulling my leg. You know how they will sit at the door looking out? Then when you get up to open the door, they’ll run away. If they have to throw up, they’ll head for the middle of the bed. 


They will sleep on top of you so you can’t move. Then lick you square in the face at 4 a.m., whine to go out until you crawl out of bed and open the front door. Then they’ll look at you like “you’re crazy if I’m going out at this hour of the morning.” 


They will ignore you all day long until you pick up a newspaper, a remote control, log on to the computer or try to talk on the phone. Then they’ll sit on the paper, walk on the keyboard, paw at the phone. If you’re trying to read a book, they’ll do their best to get between you and the book. If you sit down beside your spouse, they’ll weasel their way in between.


Just as soon as you settle in to watch a movie or ballgame, they’ll plop themselves down in front of the refrigerator, with their back to you. Every now and then they’ll look over their shoulder at you, pitifully. When you finally get up to fix them something disgusting to eat, like Fried Frog Filet Fiesta, they’ll turn up their little noses at it.


A cat’s main purpose in life is to trip you. They’ll stand just behind you in the kitchen or dart in between your legs, especially on stairs or if you’re carrying something. They especially love to hide behind the door and surprise you. They’ll walk in front of you in the dark and stop at chosen intervals.              


Supposedly, cats keep the mice away, although I am skeptical about this. If this were the case, as many cats as there are in America, mice would be mostly extinct by now. Most cats I know are too pampered and lazy to catch a mouse. I think the smell of the litter box keeps the mice away.


Historically, cats in the wild could survive for months on tree bark and grass, yet today they’ve got to have gourmet cat food. There are flavors like sausage and gravy biscuits, flounder and hush puppies, filet mignon, barbequed chicken, turkey and dressing, beef kabobs, mahi-mahi, chicken livers and onions, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and wild Alaskan salmon. There’s diabetic food and low fat and gluten free. And all of it smells like rotting tuna.


There’s even ice cream for cats and beef flavored tooth paste. Evidently beef flavoring is the only thing that will kill the smell of rotting tuna. I’d hate to be the one who had to hold Tabby down and brush her tusks. 


Jerry Bledsoe once wrote one of my all-time favorite columns. Jerry claimed that there was a plan afoot to start Cat Farms, sort of like raising chinchillas, where cats would be bred for their pelts. The pelts would then be made into coats. This got all the cat lovers all across the country riled up, which tickled Jerry immensely. Of course, he wrote the column with his tongue firmly in his cheek. The idea in itself was ridiculous and anyone in his or her right mind should have recognized it right away. Who would want a coat that smelled like sardines and shed all day long anyway?  


Squirrels, as pets, are looking better and better all the time.