Feline Fascination

Feline+Fascination

Claire Elliott, Editor-in-Chief

     Cats captivate people. They have for millenia, and I doubt their bewitching qualities will begin to diminish now. The Egyptians wittily named the domestic cat “Mao,” and associated felines with the divine. Today, according to Yale’s Human Relations Area Files, the Azande society of North Africa views wild cats as omens of witchcraft, lesbianism, and death. In America, the cat steals the baby’s breath. The list of the world’s portrayals of cats is virtually inexhaustible. 

     Not only am I affected by the enigma of cats, but also our fascination with them. For instance, just watching a cat can provide fulfillment and joy. Karlee Hecksher (11), owner of four cats, two of which are kittens, said, “Observing my cats is one of my favorite parts about owning them, honestly. They do the funniest things sometimes and have such big personalities.”

      Perhaps, it is the mischief of a cat that makes the creature so appealing. Of Hecksher’s adult cats, Duchess demands cuddles intermittently, and Tea (or T) requires outside sunbathing to balance her moods. The kittens, on the other hand, have more energy, and therefore more means of mischief. Named after their breed, the Russian blue mix, the kittens Tito and Blueberry create more absurd and chaotic events. 

      “Now the kittens are something else in their antics. Multiple times I’ve had my mother hand me a soaking wet kitten that looks more like a drowned rat, because they fell into the bath for the tenth time,” Hecksher said. 

      It is evident in Hecksher’s amusing anecdotes that cats are surprising, even in their routines. For, we can never truly understand their purpose. What could be so enticing about a bath when the consequences are so dire? 

      Not only are we unable to wholly decipher cats’ motives, but we also cannot advise them. Unlike dogs, cats failed to fully convert to domestication. Dr. David Price, who teaches AP Literature and currently houses three cats, said, “There still is always this streak of independence in them. When I look at a cat and compare it to a dog, dogs are loyal and cats are independent. I prize that over loyalty.”

     Even catless cat people understand this trait.
“Cats are known to rely on their free-will even in a household setting,” Michael Doeffler (11) said.

     Some of cats’ behavior is obviously instinctive – the legacy of their predatory ancestors. For instance, my cat, Ollie, cannot help eating rodents, birds, and the occasional snake. I know this because he demonstrates his glories via regurgitation. Despite the unpleasant consequences to myself, I cannot help but admire Ollie for his murderous pastimes. 

     This reaction is not an anomaly, and Ollie is clearly not alone in his impulses. Although cats’ personalities vary immensely, there is an essential similarity among all cats. 

     The mischief, the independence, the instinct, and the mystery all swirl together into a delightful package of fur, spirit, and love. 

     Cats provide more than an enigma. Like any relationship, they provide warmth and vibrancy to life. 

     “When (Delphine) is  on my lap, my blood pressure just drops. To a healthy level, it drops to a healthy level. I don’t just pass out. She is extraordinary in having that effect on me,” Price said. 

     Hecksher, too, experiences this cat-induced ease. 

     “I enjoy their company because of different reasons for each cat. If I was in the company of my kittens, I enjoy them for their playful and excited energy… My adult kitties are calmer and nice to sit with in quieter moments, Duchess especially. But I mostly enjoy the company of cats because I’ve lived with them my entire life, they are family and a huge comfort to me,” Hecksher said.

     When I am with my own cat, I can feel my muscles untense. Just seeing him causes any nervous thought to run away. He lets me smile.

     As sources of joy are often sources of inspiration, it is no surprise the popularity cats hold in literature. According to Price, “Baudelaire writes beautifully about cats, and he captures some of their peculiarities and just the way they carry themselves – the kind of mystery that imbues their being.” After reading Baudelaire’s “Le Chat,” I completely agree. 

     Cats also frequent the domain of art. While the Renaissance paintings of cats are… mildly disconcerting, feline art has evolved since. And, whether the cats are the subjects or delicate details, they are a wondrous sight. 

     Of the contemporary artists, Vanessa Stockard and Holly Warburton stand out. The former is known for her wide-eyed, disheveled black cats, whereas the latter covertly slips a feline friend in her emotive pieces. 

     In art or in life, cats are delightful (even in their neediness). They bring light into our lives with their supposed nonchalance and laughter with their refined clumsiness. To those who dislike them, I recommend you reconsider.