A fecund imagination can cook up a lot of things. Elaine Jakes had a fecund imagination. That is, I suppose, the reason why, when she told me about her veterinarian who wore a turban and used a magic wand I was, understandably perhaps, skeptical. Needless to say that story was true and made it into the Curious Autobiography (pages 191-94), even though I was worried at the time that no one would believe it when they read it; but, like the rest of that book, it is based on fact—I was there to witness it—because you just can’t make that stuff up.
Another story that is alluded to but not fleshed out in the Curious Autobiography is the account of the very cat that we took to that veterinarian, Piazza della Minerva, or just Piazza, for short. (She was named after that square.) If you read what comes next, you might be disinclined to believe what this cat would do. Let me begin by saying I don’t know why the cat did these things. It was a calico, and calicos are sometimes a little weird (even for a cat).
Cats are, I probably don’t need to tell you, not the same as dogs. Highly funded animal studies at top research show time and again that cats are not as intelligent as dogs. But these must be wrong. No cat I have ever had (except for Coco, who was really an unintelligent cat) has been as dumb as any dog I have ever owned.
Piazza della Minerva
Now dogs are smart in a particular way. They can learn to do certain things; they are trainable. They can sniff like nobody’s business, and the can help law enforcement in remarkable ways. I’m not trying to put down dogs here. But cats, they are smarter because the pretend to be unteachable. They pretend a lot of things. Dogs rarely pretend, and when they do its really kind of cute, because you can tell that they are lying. They are, in that way, very childlike.
But cats—they are good at disguising things. Give a dog a pill and he will either eat it because it is wrapped in cheese or a slice of turkey breast, or he will spit it out right in front of you and, if he looks up at you, he will look guilty about it. Give a cat a pill, and she will carry it to some other part of the house or apartment and spit it out. She might even try to bury it under the edge of the rug, if she really doesn’t like the pill.
And while dogs can be bad, cats can be downright diabolical. Let us return to Piazza, for example. Somehow, and I shall never know how, Piazza used to climb up on ledges that run atop an interior door. She would literally perch on the top of the doorframe and wait for a human being to walk beneath. And when that person did so she would leap onto the person’s shoulders. It seemed to be some kind of game. Most of the time she would miss and then grab onto the person’s chest with her front claws and slide down the person until about the waistline. This was disconcerting to me and my wife, who lived with the cat. It was even more disconcerting to our guests.
If you want, you you can buy a silhouette of a cat on your doorjam from Etsy.com.
The problem was, of course, that when the cat would grab onto us, its claws would create great furrows in our skin, usually our chests. This was less of a problem for me, as I normally wore a button-down shirt to work, with a tie and jacket to hide my scars. But my wife, as many women do, wore a blouse. Blouses are normally open and airy, and it is quite possible to see furrows in one’s skin when one wears a blouse.
And of course, one has to explain furrows. “What happened to your chest?” was the normal line of questioning that she encountered at work from a colleague, her boss, or even a customer—she worked at J.C. Penny at the time in the complaints department. (Needless to say, the folks who frequent the complaints department are a bit more direct than those who merely go shopping.) Some people would mutter that she was “obviously self-mutilating” or “clearly having marital problems.” Still others, with the fecund imaginations with which this piece opened, made up stories about her moonlighting as a welder or as the operator of a milling machine. (This last group obviously had too much time on their hands.)
A vertical milling machine.
Now we tried to train the cat away from this behavior, of course. I would hold the cat aloft near the ledge and tell her, “No, bad cat. No jumping.” But it never worked. And no one ever believed us unless they came over for dinner, even though we would warn them. But then the dinner party would wear on, and we would all have a glass of wine or two and then they (and, incredibly but invariably, we ourselves) would simply forget to look up before passing through one of the door jams in the apartment. That’s precisely when Piazza would pounce. And the visitors were, needless to say, distressed, even if the cat did land successfully upon their shoulders and not cause a furrow. Some would even cry out audibly.
Why do I tell you this story? Simply to demonstrate that if you have a cat you really don’t need a fecund imagination. Perhaps next time I shall tell about Simone, the cat that only spoke French. There is really much more to the story than that. But that, another time, for you just can’t make this stuff up.
Simone, the French speaking cat… for another blog.
 Photo by Lalupa – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2414592