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The Times
  • Frank Mulligan: Purr-plexing thought process

  • What goes through a cat’s mind? Non-cat people might respond: Not too much.

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  • What goes through a cat’s mind?
    Non-cat people might respond: Not too much.
    They’ll point out that a cat’s day typically revolves around eating and sleeping, sandwiched between snacking and napping. It’s tough to imagine your average kitty wrestling with a weighty decision.
    But au contraire, as the French say when they’re looking to start an argument. There’s the saga of Friskee and Sylvester and the questions it raises about the deliberative processes in the feline mind.
    Friskee had lived contentedly enough on a quiet cul de sac, as the French say when they mean dead-end road, a byway lined with a convenient tract of woods to skulk around in and from which to harry the local wildlife.
    He was that form of the species known as the “outdoor” cat, and was the rugged individualist characteristic of the breed.
    If he felt like disappearing in the dead of winter for a week with the snow up to his earlobes, so be it.
    If he felt like leaving a mouse cadaver in one of his owner’s sneakers by way of tribute, who could argue with him.
    He was a lanky, hillbilly of a cat, a mix of Maine coon and mousers of more obscure origin.
    But then Sylvester moved into the neighborhood.
    While Friskee was lanky, Sylvester was blocky. He looked like he habituated a kitty weight room.
    His local fame as a tough guy was secured when he was seen ferrying a gopher home in his teeth, trotting down the middle of the street with the stateliness of a Budweiser Clydesdale.
    Being territorial critters, Friskee and Sylvester were bound to remonstrate with one another.
    Witnesses recount early meetings between the two, and even his most ardent admirers had to admit that Friskee was unequal to the challenge posed by the newcomer.
    One such meeting was observed under the old wooden swing set. The combatants yowled at each other briefly, then clashed in a whirl. It was a brief and one-sided battle, and Friskee was seen retreating ignominiously. The prized, denuded patch of earth under the old wooden swing set was Sylvester’s to govern as he saw fit.
    And thus the new order of things was set. If you saw Sylvester’s front, you saw Friskee’s back as he high-tailed it (literally) to escape his furry nemesis.
    Until one summer night.
    Friskee sat on his front porch with two of his human cronies. The humans talked. Friskee pretended to listen.
    And then Sylvester came ambling up in friendly fashion, perhaps for an admiring pat or two from the humans.
    Page 2 of 2 - Friskee leaped from the porch and alighted on the unsuspecting Sylvester with sudden ferocity. His attack carried the day, and Sylvester regarded his rival with new respect from that night on.
    But here’s the thing about deliberative processes in the feline mind.
    Did Friskee’s newfound courage come from:

    a)       Jealousy that his rival would approach his humans.

    b)      The conviction that his humans would intercede if the attack went badly.

    c)      Who knows? It’s a cat thing.
     
    Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Plymouth, Mass., office, and can be reached at fmulligan@wickedlocal.com.
     
     
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