Kage Baker did not like cats. She said so at frequent intervals, avowing a deadly dislike of feline kind and maintaining a loud enthusiasm for their extinction.
This was a pose.
The fact of the matter was that Kage was mildly allergic to cats; she preferred not to have them sit on her or rub their velvety little histamine-loaded faces all over her. Naturally, this meant that every cat she met wanted nothing more in its entire life than to live in her lap. This did not endear them to her, as Kage took animals as she did people – on their own terms – and thus saw all this wet-nosed, cat-dander affection as a deliberate political affront.
“They do it because they know I don’t like them,” she would say darkly, glaring at some adoring pair of slit-pupilled eyes.
“Naw. They just like you and don’t care that you don’t like them,” I would assure her. But it didn’t comfort Kage much to realize that the basic nature of cats is that of Nature’s stalkers …
Actually, Kage had been very fond of a 3-legged cat in her childhood. Mitz was rejected by his mother, rescued by ours, and nursed to a healthy adulthood. He was a gorgeous black cat with a fine Egyptian profile; he was diffident, calm, and very much a gentleman. Kage always regretted she hadn’t been older when she named him – she’d have named him Richard, for his hunched left shoulder and limping gait. Mitz had a sort of melancholy Olivier dignity to him, even when stuffed into a fruit cake tin and being borne about the yard by an adoring toddler.
She was also fond of a couple of my cats. T’Pring was an enormous hybrid, a cross between a Persian and a bobcat: tufted ears, enormous snowshoe paws, and a personality that just barely accommodated domestication. She was spayed during her first heat, and it evidently stuck her there: she was eternally amourous, chasing (and catching) tom cats. Her tail curled forwards over her shoulder like a sable feather boa. She reminded Kage of Don Marquis’ Mehitabel, and amused her no end. Besides, she was a very competent ratter, and Kage would always cut someone slack for being good at their job – even if they were a huge nymphomaniac cat.
She tolerated my little Thesta, too (named after a character in one of Kage’s own stories); mostly because she was small and tidy and celibate and quiet. Not the fabulous T’Pring, in other words. And Thesta was an even better hunter, habitually bringing home rats half her own size, that she had chased and killed on the wild Hollywood Hills. Kage did hate the rats,though: after a while, she wouldn’t open the door when Thesta could be heard knocking hollowly on it, because it meant she was slinging a dead rat at the door panels over and over …
Eventually, though, we ran out of cats and changed up to parrots. Then, for decades, Kage ionly had to worry when we visited people who kept cats; because they loved her and would come slinking around in ardent admiration to make her sneeze and glare. Did they come to me, who actually liked ’em? No. It’s a cat thing.
So why am I going on and on about cats tonight? Kage didn’t even like them much, and recounting their hopeless adoration of her only amuses cat people. Well, the reason is thus: I seem to have somehow inherited Kage’s cat magnetism. I like cats quite a lot, but most of them over the years have been merely polite to me – as cats tend to be, once they establish that you are harmless and maybe useful.
Also, I am very tired and sore tonight, and I can’t find a place to sit without some velvet-pawed little person coming up to adore me. So they’re on my mind. And my lap. And my desk. And, all too frequently as I try to write, my keyboard.
You see, my sister Kimberly’s cats have developed an insane affection for me over the last year and half. They cling to me; they steal my shoes, and hide in my knitting. The little black cat is, even as I write this, laying on her back between my keyboard and my computer monitor – all four paws in the air, her tail waving gently in front of the screen. She’s butt-dialed my phone twice. She regards my desk and all the machines on it as 6 Flags For Cats. Especially the bits that once belonged to Kage.
The older cat, who usually behaves like Miss Haversham, has decided I am Estella. I am now the recipient of her chilly, ice-matron affection, which she has never bestowed on anyone before. Except, futilely, Kage.
So here I am, pretty much covered in cats. It’s only happened since I moved back down here, and it gets more covetous all the time … good thing I do like them. Even if I suspect that their affections is at least half an “At Last!” sort of thing, as they cling to me in lieu of Kage who would never pet them.
One of Kage’s weirder legacies, if so. Though I can’t deny it’s soft and purrs most sweetly. If only it didn’t sit on the ENTER key …