by Lillian Csernica on April 1, 2022
THE FINE ART OF AILUROPHILIA
Most people think a Crazy Cat Lady is someone who gets fixated on cats, loses all sense of smell thanks to all the litter boxes, and sits around all day in their bathrobe and jammies. The truth is, Crazy Cat Lady Disorder (CCLD) is a spectrum disorder. The popular image of the Crazy Cat Lady is an example of someone at the extreme end of the spectrum. CCLD can manifest in milder forms, such as a compulsive need to collect Hello Kitty items or the tendency to wear cat ears and a tail when attending certain social events. Some of us are born with CCLD, some of us achieve CCLD, and some of us have CCLD thrust upon us. I fall into the third category. I was born a cat magnet.
The night I met Spice: I came home late from work. That meant I had to park on the street and cross the lawn to my front door. Out of nowhere this little marmalade tabby cat came zooming up to me and wrapped himself around my leg. I was still living with my mother at that time. Spice would sleep inside my car at night, then I’d let him out in the morning. After I got married, I took Spice with me when I moved to Northern California. He lived with friends of ours for two years until we moved into an apartment where we could have a cat. Spice lived to be eighteen years old.
The feral tabby: I’d been at a writer’s group meeting hosted by Jerry, a member of the group. Outside I saw this calico cat who looked rather thin and skittish. After a few minutes of coaxing, the cat came over to me and let me pet her. The poor creature hadn’t been eating well. Some fur was missing due to mange. Jerry and my husband stood at a distance down the sidewalk. Jerry looked perplexed while my husband stood there grinning. Jerry said he’d been trying to get the cat to accept food from him, but all he could do was put the dish down and go away. My husband explained my “cat magnet” powersmuch to Jerry’s chagrin. Jerry considered himself good with animals. When it comes to feral cats, the relationship is entirely on their terms.
The calico at the Cloisters: On our honeymoon, my husband and I went to the East Coast so I could meet all the in-laws who couldn’t make it to California for the wedding. We spent some time in New York seeing the museums and a Broadway show. At the Cloisters, it was a quiet day and the parking lot wasn’t very full. We parked around back by the kitchen door of the museum’s restaurant. I noticed a little calico cat hanging out by the kitchen door, clearly hoping for some food. As soon as I got out of the car, the cat spotted me and came running across the parking lot, meowing up a storm. The cat ran right up to me and just kept meowing away. Whatever the message was, it was urgent. (I now make a habit of carrying cat treats. At that time, I had no such thing so it’s not like the cat could smell food on me.) I felt so bad that I couldn’t understand what the cat was trying to tell me! All I could do was thank the cat for the message and tell her I’d be sure to pass it along. The cat meowed once more then ran back to the bushes near the kitchen door. During the rest of our honeymoon, my husband kept telling his family about this incident. That cat definitely wanted to talk to me!
The gorgeous cat in Japan: On my first trip to Japan I visited Yokohama for Nippon 2007, I the first World Science Fiction Convention in Asia. I took a side trip to Kamakura to see the temple of the Daibutsu, the fifty foot bronze Buddha. On my way back to the bus stop, I met a most unusual cat. Its outer coat was the color of mahogany, its undercoat creamy white, and its eyes were the green of Midori liqueur. The cat lounged in the sunshine of a residential driveway.
“Konnichiwa, Neko-san,” I said. “Daijobu desu ka?”
(“Hello, Mr. Cat. How are you?”)
The cat meowed in reply. I regret to say I couldn’t understand his comment. Being a proper Japanese cat, he wouldn’t allow me to pet him in public. He retreated to a branch in a nearby tree.
Crazy Cat Ladies are known for owning really impressive numbers of cats. My all-time high is fourteen. At that time I lived on an acre of land in a rural area. I had two cats of my own. The lady next door moved out, taking her mama cat with her and leaving the four kittens behind. Three of them adopted me. Two of those three were female and went into heat before I could catch them and have them spayed. And so I ended up with a total of fourteen cats. I did not cherish the vet bills, but I did have lot of fun watching the two mama cats with their eight kittens playing in the grass while the uncle cat looked on.
I have entered the demographic where owning several cats and wearing a bathrobe and slippers all day makes me one of two things: a Crazy Cat Lady or a writer. In my case, I’m both. Whenever gift-giving occasions arise, I often receive something that involves cats. One year my family threw me a surprise birthday party. The theme? Crazy Cat Lady. On a cake done in pink and lavender icing sat the Crazy Cat Lady action figure available from Archie McPhee. The figure has blonde hair. Somebody had colored it to become brunette like me. The cake also feature fancy candles that said “Birthday Girl,” along with various plastic toy cats and even a cardboard cat tree scratching post! On the table sat clusters of plastic toy cats in a variety of breeds and colors, enough to add up to my exact age. Somebody even went to the trouble of wrapping up a birthday present inside the box for a case of Friskies wet food.
My presents included a bathrobe, pajamas, and slippers that match the action figure. Granted, the figure already existed, but I can now say that as a Crazy Cat Lady, I have my own action figure. A purple zebra-striped birthday crown and a brand new pooper scooper scepter completed my royal birthday regalia. Having Crazy Cat Lady Disorder is a mixed blessing, but if it means people throwing me parties like this, I’m all for it.