Since I boldly declared myself the owner of the world’s dumbest cat on my About page, I suppose that I owe some explanation as to why I think I’m worthy of holding that title. Let me start off by saying that I’m not a “crazy pet person” (see the post Spring Off!!!!). It actually galls me that I’m writing a blog about my feline, since cats are far from my favorite subject of discourse. When “a cat person” finds out that you own a cat, they want to talk about your cat, their cats or cats in general for hours on end. I am not a cat person; I just happen to own a cat. I prefer to keep it on the down low. I don’t like talking about cats, but a claim is a claim and it needs sufficient proof to back it up. I promise this will not be the first of many posts about my dumb cat.
To give a little background, since one might wonder why it is that I even have a cat if I don’t like talking about them, I blame my mom. When I was a wee lass, we always had a minimum of two pets at any given time. They were usually dogs, but I wanted a cat. When I was roughly five years old, my mom proposed a trade: if I gave up my “bankie,” she would get us a cat. My bankie was a bedraggled and tattered shamble of barely connecting threads, which at one point in its long-suffering career, had been a proper baby blanket. I carried it everywhere with me for five years, not unlike Ford Prefect’s towel in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Anyway, the deal was one bankie for one cat; take it or leave it. I took it and never looked back, because now we had a CAT!
As it turned out, we got very lucky with the kitty selection process and ended up with the coolest, most laid-back cat in the world. This cat would allow my sister and I to dress him up in baby clothes, complete with baby bonnet, and put him in a stroller. He never once kicked up a fuss. We have pictures. My childhood cat spoiled me on the concept of cats by making me think that they are all that zen masters. They are not.
When I was an adult, I had a roommate who moved out without telling me and left her two cats. Well, I guess I have two cats now. One of them lived to be seventeen years old. As he was approaching his inevitable end, one day, I was in a pet store and I wandered into a kitten adoption. There was this tiny, furry thing staring me in the face. Well, fuck.
When he was a kitten, he seemed like a fairly normal cat (if the state of being a cat can ever be considered normal). When he turned into an adult cat though, his oddness started to become more apparent. Yes, I am aware that most cats are odd creatures, but I really believe mine is stranger than average… drum roll, please… THE DUMBEST CAT IN THE WORLD.
Here is the evidence I have gathered over the course of three years with the subject, otherwise known as Fu:
First of all, there’s his dumb appearance. He was billed as a Maine Coon by the shelter, but after an exhaustive interwebbery research study conducted by me on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I discovered that he is probably not a Maine Coon. More likely, he is a Norwegian Forest Cat. Although, realistically, he is neither since he’s a shelter cat. Purebreds don’t end up in shelters. Norwegian Forest Cats have more of a triangular head than Maine Coons. My cat’s head is certainly triangular. In fact, it’s pointy.
Most cats are long, lean and graceful, Fu is low, squat and clumsy. He’s almost twice as long as he is high owing to his painfully short legs, his hind legs are longer than his front so he naturally slopes towards the floor and he looks like he has swallowed a football due to the enormous, rotund shape of his belly, which has a clearance of roughly three inches off the ground. While most cats are acrobatic, Fu is more like a linebacker or sumo wrestler. You can actually hear him coming down the hall. He makes floorboards creak. Stealth is not something he ever accomplishes. His head is comparable to the head size of an average 10-12 pound cat, but he weighs over 18 pounds. His head is the only dainty thing about him.
Inside his disproportionately-small noggin, live eyes that are just not quite right. It could be that the eyes were destined for the normal-sized head of an eighteen pound cat, but the rest of the head refused to grow for some reason, leaving them too close together. In any case, the expression in his eyes says “derrrrrrrr.” Sometimes he says “derrrrrrrr, I’m hungry.” or “derrrrrrrr, pay attention to me,” but there is always a “derrrrrrrr” in there somewhere. You look at those big, googly eyes in the tiny head attached to the massive football-shaped body and they just say “derrrrrrrr.”
Then, there’s his dumb tail. On a normal cat, the tail bends 180 degrees, from parallel with the hind legs to straight up in the air; not so with Fu. His tail goes from parallel with his legs, past straight up in the air, past 180 degrees, all the way to 270 degrees, so that it is parallel with his body. Most of the time, when he’s walking around, noisily, his tail is lying limply on his back. If he looks over his shoulder at you, he will hit himself in the face with his own tail. The fur on his back is actually parted from wearing his tail that way. The tail, in addition to its odd bending properties, is covered in more fur than I’ve ever seen on a tail of any animal anywhere. It’s got to be a good 3-4 inches long. I’ve never bothered to measure it though.
But, that’s just his appearance. We haven’t even gotten into his behavior. When he was a kitten, the first day I brought him home, he did laps around the toilet – around and around and around again for no good reason. I should have known then that he wasn’t quite right. He used to play fetch when he was a kitten, too. I’d throw something, he’d bring it back; repeat a thousand times. Then he got lazy. I’m not talking about your regular-cat lazy, where they take little catnaps throughout the day, but full-on, mega-sized, 500 lb. shut-in lazy where he’s even too good to get up to eat sometimes. Most days, he doesn’t even get out of bed when I do, but just lies there stretching and lazing about for a good ten minutes. Even my vet confirmed it while telling me that Fu needed to be on light food when he barely a year old. He delicately told me, as if my feelings would be hurt, “Well, some cats are just lazier than others.” Read: dude, your cat is L-A-Z-Y… lazy. He’s been on light food since he was a year old and hasn’t lost even an ounce of weight. In fact, he’s gained some. He’s only three years old and he weighs eighteen pounds. He’s lazy. In my house, we have two condition codes: code green means that the cat is on the bed, situation normal, and code red, woop, woop, red alert, the cat is off the bed. Code red is comparatively rare. I’m surprised his short little legs haven’t atrophied.
He eschews cat toys. Yes, lots of cats would rather play with something that wasn’t intended for them, you say. HA, I say! How about this then… his favorite toy in the whole wide world is a doorstop. I don’t mean one of those dainty doorstops shaped like a duck or whatever, or one of those springy things affixed to the wall. I’m talking about those big, industrial, wedge-shaped, rubber doorstops that you’d find in public institutions like schools. I mean those grayish brown, nearly solid hunks of rubber whose sole purpose in life is to stop a heavy industrial door from blowing shut in a heavy industrial wind; the kind of doorstop that takes its door stopping seriously. Serious doorstop is serious. That is my cat’s favorite toy. Only he doesn’t play with his doorstop so much as chew on it. I have bought about a half a dozen of them now since they keep him from gnawing on other things. Occasionally, I’ll walk through the house and nearly trip over a chewed-up, hulking piece of rubber. He carries them around in his mouth and leaves them in the middle of the room. I will give him credit that he seems to be fairly good with geometry since these unintentional cat toys are almost always abandoned right in the middle of a room, walkway or hallway. They’re perfect for tripping over. They also happen to be handy for propping open a door should the need arise.
His second favorite thing on which to chew is a power cord. It could be any power cord, but he prefers cords that are plugged into a socket and are currently engaged in the act of conducting electricity to various household appliances. You know, the kind that could kill him. He loves those power cords. So far, I’ve managed to route most of the cords in such a way as to be inaccessible to his teeth, but all of my cords, and even the straps on my work bag, have little teethmarks all over them. I have to hang my work bag from a hook so he won’t chew on the straps like a damn beaver. Fortunately, he really sucks at jumping.
Most cats prefer lofty, out of the way perches where they can survey their world from afar, ready to pounce if necessary, but not mine. He likes lying on the floor. In addition to leaving doorstops in the middle of walkways, he himself will lie directly in the middle of where you need to walk, especially if you’re carrying something heavy that you can’t see around. His Indian name is “Underfoot.”
His favorite activity, aside from destroying things, is staring out the window. That’s a perfectly normal feline activity, you might say. However, Fu, not being anything near a normal feline, stares out of windows that have blinds and curtains covering them. I don’t mean transparent, flouncy sheers. I mean windows that are covered with curtains where only light comes through and blinds that are closed up tight. He will sit for hours staring into the nothing. Sometimes, he’ll muster up enough mental acumen to actually make it past the curtains and sit on the window ledge, but when that happens, he usually faces the wrong way so that he’s staring at the curtains again. They must be comforting.
Cats are fairly independent creatures. They can take you or leave you, and are mostly indifferent to your presence as long as you pat them on the head when they demand it and feed them, but not mine. My cat is a mama’s boy. He follows me everywhere I go. If I’m in the bathroom, he has to be in the bathroom. If I won’t allow him in the bathroom, he will sit outside until I let him in, whereupon he will just sit and stare at me like some deranged stalker. Sometimes, to try to make it look like he’s not stalking me, he’ll walk ahead of me, trying to guess into which room I will go. Half the time, he guesses correctly since my house isn’t that big, but if he goes right and I go left, he gets very confused. When that happens, he’ll sit in a darkened room and only emerge a few minutes later. I assume he’s trying to make me think that he meant to do that. We call him “tiny stalker” or “lurker bee.”
My dumb cat almost always has the exact opposite reaction of what is expected. If you make your hands into claws and attack him like Godzilla with menacing RAR noises, he’ll just look at you and won’t move. But, sometimes, if you walk through the house not paying attention to him at all, he will seize up with fear and run away in a panic. Running is not his strong suit. He’s even less graceful at high speed than he is walking, i.e., not at all.
My dumb cat doesn’t realize that his paws can be used for anything besides walking, and the sporadic and frenzied act of cleaning that one spot behind his ear. He spends approximately ten minutes in a whole day preening, which is far less than the average cat. I find this especially discouraging since he has ten times the fur of an average cat, which means the responsibility falls to me. Anyway, back to the paws. Any normal cat, when encountering a door that is slightly ajar, but not quite open far enough for them to fit through, would use a paw to either push or pull it open to the desired degree, but not my cat. The door to my room could be open a few inches, and rather than using his paw to open it further, my cat uses his face. Yes, that’s right, his face. He shoves his tiny, pointy face into the crack, wiggles it from side to side and gets the door open enough for his pea-sized head to fit through. Like a rat, he thinks that if his head can fit through an opening, so will the rest of him. He is wrong. He doesn’t realize that his head is the smallest part of him. He gets stuck halfway through the opening, right at the protruding football-shaped belly, then wiggles back and forth some more until he squirts out on the other side like a newborn calf on shaky legs. “Derrrrrrrr.”
There are lots of cats in my neighborhood since I live next door to the crazy cat lady. There’s always one crazy cat lady in every neighborhood and fate has decreed that I live right next door to the one in mine. What fun! Every night at 6pm on the nose, I hear her over the fence talking baby talk to all the area strays as she feeds them. One thing that’s common to all cats is that they really suck at respecting property lines. The cats that the crazy cat lady feeds are no exception. They are always prancing through my yard, shooting me dirty looks as if I am in their way, rather than the other way around. Anyway, these neighborhood cats are always hanging around outside my house taunting my cat through the doorwall (which doesn’t have blinds or curtains on it). I don’t think my cat actually speaks “cat” fluently since they just stare at each other most of the time. Because of all the taunting, my cat has a burning desire to be outside.
The first time he made it outside, he was gone for four days. I put up posters and went around the neighborhood looking for him since he’s too dumb to survive on his own. Four days later, the crazy cat lady came over. She said she thought she saw my cat in the little cat shed she has on her property, but he seemed so frazzled and nonplussed that it was best if he encountered a friendly face lest he dash off elsewhere into the night to hither and yon, never to be recovered (my words, not hers–nobody actually speaks like that). I opened the door to the seemingly ordinary tool shed to encounter about a dozen cat beds of various shapes and sizes, a smell that hit me so furiously that it made me wish I didn’t actually have a sense of smell, and one dumb cat curled up inside a bed that was half his size with tufts of fur and fat rolls hanging out of the little portals on the side. Even without fur, my dumb cat is bigger by half than any other cat on the block. With his fur all puffed up, he looks about the size of a bobcat. Any normal cat with this size and weight advantage would rule the roost. My cat would only need to sit on an opponent and the fight would be over, but no. In addition to being really dumb, my cat is also a pussy. He let cats a quarter of his size bully him around until he ended up the outcast, alone in a shed, squeezed into a tiny cat bed. I pulled him out, stiff as a board, his fur all matted and smelly, covered in who knows what, and he got his first bath. Unlike a typical cat, he didn’t seem to mind it.
Any ordinary cat, given these particular horrific events that transpired in that place called outside, would probably chock it up to experience and count their lucky stars that they were back inside where things like that didn’t happen to them, but not Fu. No, my dumb cat keeps trying to go outside. He can’t open an inside door without tremendous effort or using his face, but for some reason, he can open the screen door on the doorwall if it’s open only a hair’s breadth. He does it every chance he gets. However, once he gets out, he realizes that outside is, in fact, where all the terrible things happen and he wants inside right the fuck now. That is, until he’s inside again and his goldfish memory tells him that maybe it might be a good idea to try to get outside. He got out half a dozen times one night and freaked out every single time.
Lately, his fear of the outside has been manifested in peculiar ways. Just yesterday, I walked through the house and spied the screen door ajar. I rushed out to the doorwall to find my dumb cat sitting just outside the screen door, staring into the house in the exact same way the he would normally sit at the doorwall and stare outside, only in reverse. When I went to retrieve him, he wouldn’t budge. I had to kick him in the butt, gently I might add, like a mule.
The front door to my house has a heavy security screen door. Under normal circumstances, my dumb cat cannot open it, but it’s game on if you don’t pull it tightly shut behind you. One night, we had people over and one of the guests, unaware of my dumb cat’s uncanny outer door opening skills, didn’t latch the front screen door all the way. I realized that the cat was missing simply because the door was open. I went looking for him at the shed on crazy cat lady’s property. One good thing about him is that at least he’s predictable. I know that he’ll most likely end up in that smelly shed again eventually. I went next door and saw him make a break for it back to my house. A friend was in the driveway while I was on the lawn trying to herd him back inside. Rather than waiting for one of us to open the door for him, he went mad dash, full speed ahead straight into the door like a cartoon character. BLAM! If the door wasn’t closed already, it was now. While we were gingerly making our way to the door, he ran back out on the lawn, saw me, turned around towards the house and made another running dash dead-center into the screen door. BLAM! In the time it took us to get to the door and open it, he repeated the process at least four or five times. Run towards lawn, RETREAT!, run into screen door, BLAM!, run towards lawn… It was ridiculous and probably the funniest thing I have ever seen. If he wasn’t dumb before, all those self-inflicted, blunt-force blows to his minuscule head certainly didn’t help matters.
As an added bonus to his antics, the crazy cat lady now knows that I have a cat since he’s made good use of her smelly shed. To her, I am a kindred spirit. I get to have hours of exciting conversations about cats with her whenever we happen to run into each other out front. Good times. Stupid cat.