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The Dominant Species

by Peter Simons


Peter is a computer technician living in Central Oregon. Originally from England he has lived in the U.S. for over 30 years. His greatest accomplishment is managing to con his wife into staying married to him for 22 years. He writes short essays about the trials and tribulations of life just for fun.  Short because he lacks the talent to write anything longer and just for fun because so far no one has been stupid enough to pay him for it. Such is Life!

Recently I sat down to write a few thoughts to my wife for our 22nd anniversary. It’s a tradition we have had for a number of years. It’s a moment to reflect on the previous year, things that went well and not so well. I was midway through a thought when I had this unshakable feeling of being watched. It was a powerful feeling rendering me incapable of concentrating on the piece I was trying to write. It felt like a creature of superior intelligence was communicating with me telepathically. We have two such creatures in our house, Sweetie and Forest; I am of course referring to our cats.

I should mention a couple of inaccuracies in the previous sentence; “our house” and “our cats.”  It suggests a notion of ownership which anyone who shares a house with a cat knows is delusional.

Sweetie is mostly grey with a white chest and belly. She has extremely long hair and a mane not unlike a lion. She is very pretty and boy does she know it. Forest is a black male who likes to act all tough around his sister but can be found under the blanket the second he hears a strange voice.  Unfortunately he’s not right in the head and is given to howling for no particular reason. Well that’s not completely true; he howls beginning at 4:30am because he wants to be fed, other times he howls for reasons clear to him but a mystery to us. If Sweetie rolls over for a belly rub, you can take it on face value; if Forest rolls over for a belly rub you’re putting your hand in a bear trap.

The source of my interruption on this occasion is Sweetie; she is the master of the hidden agenda. To the untrained eye the leg rubbing, rolling around on my lap and intense purring might be interpreted as affection. Experience has taught me more often than not it’s a setup, I am being manipulated. A pre-lunch snack is often her goal which she usually gets. Years of cat ownership (oops I mean cohabitation) have taught me it’s not a case of if you give in it’s just a matter of when. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but you’re going down that’s just how it is.

Here's Forest: guess he wants to take a little trip.

Certainly we go through the motions of trying to maintain order and demonstrate we are the masters of our domain. We lay down the laws on what is allowed and what is not. The sweater basket is off limits, no jumping up on the kitchen counter, things like that. Ultimately, in the psychological war with a cat we are severely out-gunned. 

Someone I once knew was talked into getting a cat by his wife. Without passing judgment I would describe him as a staunch Republican blue collar worker hunting and fishing type, not your typical cat person. He had agreed to the cat under two conditions; no feeding from the table and no sleeping on the bed. Both conditions laid dead on the battlefield within 48 hours.

Quite a few years ago I had a home office I didn’t want the cats to enter. Cat hair and computers are not a great combination. I preferred not to keep the door closed so instead I installed one of those child safety gates. Concerned clients would dutifully look around to make sure they weren’t tripping over a toddler. “No” I would reassure them “it’s just to keep my cats out.”  “Don’t they simply jump over it” my puzzled client would ask in a tone suggesting they were having second thoughts about our pending business transaction. I would explain how it serves as a symbol to remind our feline roommates that they are not to enter. My client’s expression would turn from inquiring to sadness at having realized the depth of my mental incapacity. 

For six long years we went through the daily ritual of them sitting at the gate, hopping over when I wasn’t in the room and being chased out when I returned. For six years human determination fought courageously toe to claw against relentless tenacity. It was of course inevitable, one day I simply opened the gate; Grace hoped up on the desk and laid down on the papers I needed to work on; Jamaica sat at the window. Grace’s expression said it all, “you could have saved yourself a lot of time and given in six years ago”, I looked at her and whispered “I know.”

Cats have control of our subconscious mind, they can alter our decision making process at their discretion. Usually we are not aware it has occurred until sometime after the fact. The manipulation is so subtle we are convinced it was our decision and not theirs. It was our decision to give them breakfast at 7am then change it to 6:30 and now 5:15 but, “just this one time.” Sometimes we’ll hold out until 5:30am because…we’re in charge. I am certain somewhere in our house our cats are keeping score with scratch marks tracking their every conquest.

Sweetie, sleeping

Then there is the whole bed real estate issue. My wife and I are not large people; we have a queen size bed. Using rudimentary math there should be ample room for the cats to occupy whatever space is not taken by us.  The theory breaks down due to a simple mathematical error. The correct formula is: Take the square footage of the bed, deduct the space currently under cat occupation and whatever is left is what my wife and I may share; the net effect equating to less than fifty percent of the total land mass. We thought about getting a king size bed but realized it would just mean more room for the cats. Besides, I can’t be sure but I think it was their idea not ours.

Even as I am writing this Sweetie and forest are sitting by my desk waiting for their dinner.  It’s 5:30pm but I will hold out until 5:45 because…I’m in charge. After all I am a member of the dominant species right?

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