I’m strolling along a street in Toronto, going from Queen to King. I walk slowly admiring the wonderful Victorian Houses. Their miniscule front gardens are proud with flowers. Sitting on a stoop is an ancient soul. Her face wrinkled with memories. Beside her a very black and prim cat.
“Good morning, Madame. You have a beautiful cat”.
She replies “Ahhh, yes, he keeps my feet warm at night”.
The prim, black cat knowing as only cats can know she is being discussed stretches tall, casually walks down the sidewalk and throws herself at my feet. Tummy rubs are called for.
On the other side of the fence a soft gray and equally prim cat has been watching.
“Good morning Sweetheart” I call.
We haven’t been introduced. She ignores me.
Two doors down a third cat has been watching the street action.
“Good Morning Miss Scruffy”.
She turns her head, looks at me and then just closes her eyes. She looks like ten miles of bad road. Her black and white fur sticks up in spikes like some Goth hairstyle. I look for chains and black leather. She’s very young and has obviously been partying hard. Miss Scruffy just wants to bask in the sun and sleep off the excesses of the night.
“With Cats, some say, one rule is true:
Don’t speak till you are spoken to.
Myself, I do not hold with that –
I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
But always keep in mind that he
I bow, and taking off my hat,
Ad-dress him in this form: O Cat!
But if he is the Cat next door,
Whom I have often met before
(He comes to see me in my flat)
I greet him with an OOPSA Cat!
I think I’ve heard them call him James-
But we’ve not got so far as names
Before a Cat will condescend
To treat you as a trusted friend,
Some little token of esteem
Is needed, like a dish of cream;
And you might now and then supply
Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,
Some potted grouse, or salmon paste-
He’s sure to have his personal taste.
(I know a Cat, who makes a habit
Of eating nothing else but rabbit,
And when he’s finished, licks his paws
So’s not to waste the onion sauce.)
A Cat’s entitled to expect
These evidences of respect.
And so in time you reach your aim,
And finally call him by his NAME.”
So this is this, and that is that”
And there’s how you AD – DRESS A C AT.
(T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats)
(This blog originally posted April 29, 2010)