A Few Words About My Cat Raoul
I’d like to say one or two things about my cat Raoul. And if that makes me sound like an eccentric old lady who also feeds bears, so be it. After all, Jon Carroll does it all the time (writes about cats, I mean: not feed bears) and he’s one of the all-time great columnists. I figure I can get away with it if he can. (Besides, I am old and eccentric, just not a lady, and I don’t care who knows it.)
Stray Cat Blues
Anyway, here’s what I want to say about Raoul: I appreciate this fellow. It’s not that I don’t also love and appreciate my other cat, poor old aging Smokey—who was a kitten for ten years and middle-aged for a year and a half, and then one morning woke up to find herself a geezer with bad memory, tottering knees, a weak neck, failing eyesight, an alarming tendency to see ghosts, and an interest in nothing but sleeping and eating. I have to appreciate Smokey—she reminds me of me.
But Raoul! That guy gives off a glow because he gets such robust enjoyment out of life. We got him from the pound a year ago when he was tiny enough to stand on my palm. If we hadn’t chosen him that day , he would be dead now. All the kittens in the pound that day were black; they’re always the last to be adopted, I’m told, because people don’t like black cats. One of Raoul’s ears had been clipped to mark that he’d been brought in from the streets, not by a family draining off excess kittens. That was his start in life.
He spent his first two weeks with us hiding under a bed and coming out to eat only when no one else was around. But he didn’t know how cruel the world can be. He was too young. And he never learned about life’s cruelties. Nothing happened to teach him. His caution washed away, he ventured out, he discovered he could boss the old grey cat around, and voila–he was ready to begin his new life as a bon vivant.
I appreciate Raoul because everything delights him. He sees the back door open—how lucky can a cat get? Outa’ my way, dude, I got a world to explore out there. Two minutes later, he’s lurking in the tall grass in the back yard when he notices—the back door is open! Holy Moly—how lucky can a cat get? Outa’ my way, dude! There’s a whole world of cozy pillows and places to hide behind that door—I’m going in!
You Can Get Some Satisfaction
And upon entering, he spots not one but two bowls, full of different kinds of food. Well, it just doesn’t get any better. As he crouches there, his face shoved into a bowl, crunching and chomping, his contentment is palpable, and when he walks away you can see his lip-licking satisfaction. Halfway across the cork floor he crashes over sideways and lies there, pleased as hell about his own weight.
And I do mean weight.
One year ago he was no more than a fistful of feline; now he is the biggest cat I’ve ever owned, and proud of it. I’d try to restore my own youthful strength by lifting Raoul in the mornings—except that he’s hard to catch. All day long, he runs, darts, leap and plays. oblivious to the fact that he’s the only one in the game. A rubber band on the floor? One flick, it’s in the air, and Raoul launches himself to snag it. Despite his weight, he gets serious elevation: this is the Michael Jordon of cats. I’ve never seen the likes of him
Jumping Jack Flash
It’s not always obvious what he’s leaping to catch—but after a particularly spectacular, diving, soaring, twisting, corkscrew rocket-leap he might land in a crouch and spend the next twelve minutes chewing contentedly, as if he caught something. And did he? I dunno’. Sometimes I suspect him of faking it. Or maybe he did catch a fly or a gnat. Whatever it was evidently tastes delicious. But maybe what he’s relishing is the eyesight and agility that let him nail that morsel in mid-flight.
Here’s what’s so great about living with Raoul. He sees a world full of wonder, pleasure, and joy. Looking out through my own eyes, I don’t see that world. I see stress, annoyance, Twitter-chatter, disappointments, political lies, pain, cruelty, corruption, violence, betrayal and horror. My information net is wide, I catch wind of things that happen all over the planet, and the news from everywhere seems mostly bad.
Don’t Know Much About Geography
But Raoul thinks life is fine. Just fine. And it makes me feel a little better to live with someone who feels that way. It’s true that Raoul is just a cat. What does he know? He doesn’t read the papers. He doesn’t pay much attention to 24/7 cable news (except for those words that crawl across the bottom of the screen, those interest him sometimes.)
No, Raoul doesn’t know much, but what he knows is not necessarily wrong. His world is also real, small though it be. I’m thinking that perhaps, if you narrow your compass enough, a lot of the world is actually like Raoul’s. In most places, at most moments, no one is being murdered or tortured. It’s just hard to hold that parallel truth in one’s awareness for long. And that’s why I’m glad I’ve got Raoul for a roommate.