There are three or four neighborhood cats who sit on my porch each morning as I write. They are feral animals. They were here when we moved in. Nobody owns them. But they are fixtures in our neighborhood.
My morning writing routine is pretty predictable. I awake early. I go out to the porch. I sit in my patio chair and work on writing projects while my neural networks, still hazy from sleep, struggle to spel wurds corectly.
Meantime, the cats just sit there, perched on a ledge, looking directly at me as I tap a laptop. Sometimes I have to stop typing because I can feel their gazes weighing on me.
“Are you hungry?” I sometimes ask them.
They don’t even blink.
“I said do you want to eat?”
So I stand up to go inside and get some cat food and they all skitter away as though I am going to fetch an axe.
Cats are funny. Entirely different from dogs. I am a dog lover. I have been owned by 16 dogs in my lifetime. And what I’ve learned about dogs is that they are mostly fun-loving creatures who — and I mean this with all sincerity — have the intelligence of potato salad.
Dogs are cheerful, trusting and generally get excited about almost anything. I could hold up a head of expired iceberg lettuce and talk in a high-pitched voice and my dogs would start wagging their tails. “LOOK! HE’S GOT OLD LETTUCE!” they would be thinking.
I am convinced, dogs will be the first creatures admitted to heaven because they are guileless. After all the dogs have been admitted into heaven, if — and only if — there is any extra room up there, cats might get in. Because cats are streetwise and worldly creatures.
If cats had cellphones, they would never text you back. Not even if your house was on fire. You would text a cat all day long and never get a response unless the cat was texting you randomly to say, “Someone puked on your pillow.”
Whereas dogs don’t expect much out of their owners. They just want love and attention and, if it’s not too much trouble, cake. If dogs had cellphones they would be texting you every four seconds saying random stuff like:
“So what?” you would text back.
“No,” you would answer, “Now quit texting me, I’m busy working right now.”
Then the dog would text back a sad-face emoji and say, “BTW, someone puked on your pillow.”
Even so, I’ve grown to love my feline writing companions. These cats are my friends, whereas my dogs are a lot like hanging out with a few drunks.
When I wrote my last novel, for example, every morning, I would come onto the porch and it would still be dark outside. My dogs would be sleeping, and totally uninterested in me. But the cats would be waiting for me. They would be sitting in the ink darkness, watching me with glowing eyes.
They would never come near me, of course. They are too cautious for that. They would simply sit on the periphery, keeping me company. It was nice.
They are normally distant creatures, and they don’t often come close to me. Which is why you can imagine my surprise when, this morning, one of the cats rubbed his body around my lower legs as I was writing this column.
Whereupon I reached down to pet him. I could feel him purring beneath my hands. This is the first time he has ever let me pet him.
And I’m thinking that I was wrong earlier about cats going to heaven. Cats will definitely be in heaven.
It’s us humans I worry about.