House of Cats

Homage to Murakami’s “Town of Cats”:

One by one, they came marching in...

It was inevitable that I would end up here, alone in this house save for these cats, seventeen of them, who keep me awake at night with their hungry mewing and their lustful mating sounds.

I knew I would wind up here because I’d seen others end up here, and I learned early on in life that it all ended with cats. The others, unlike me, had imagined a future calmly free of cats, with only children wailing in the night rather than these feline creatures slithering about and hissing. Naïvely believing in the ability of human relations to fill the parameters of a house, in toddlers pitter-pattering about on soft wooden floors, in afternoons spent sipping lemonade on the porch, my misinformed peers were not prepared, and in fact they were left vulnerable to attack and surely panicked, when the cats came.

Okay, so I had fantasies once, too. I remember when I was a girl, and I had a flicker of belief in a world of humans, doing humanly things: cooking pasta, sledding in winter, mailing letters, putting on lipstick. If you had told me then that this would be it – this house, with these cats — I would have stomped my foot and told you, my lip trembling, that you were a liar. I would have shown you all the cat-free houses in my neighborhood and the people inside them cooking pasta or writing letters. “See,” I would have said to you defiantly, “not everyone has to live in a big house with tons of cats around and feed them plates of milk and listen to them howl.” And I would have gone off, sure of my future with no cats in it but with plenty of pasta dinners, sled rides, letter-writing.

But I grew up, I got rid of my fantasies, and now I understand. To my untrained, childish eyes, the cats were merely invisible. In my youthful stupor, I had not yet become sensitive to the cats’ milky smell all over the place or noticed that the air was heavy with small tufts of hair floating about like a galaxy full of hazy, falling stars.

The fact that I was ready for the cats made their conquest quite simple, even anticlimactic. First I prepared the house, putting lots of soft cushions on the floor and stocking up the cupboard with kitty litter. I left some shoelaces around so the more playful cats – the kittens, not yet fat and lazy – could bat them around. Then, when it was time, I sat on the porch and stared out at the foliage around the house, not aggressively, just waiting for them.

One by one, they came from the bushes, slinking toward me, wailing their call of arrival. “This is now a cat house,” they seemed to be saying. They strode past me confidently, hardly casting a glance my way, knowing that I would feed them endlessly, would allow them to sleep in the bed with me, would barely attempt to scold them when they scratched the couch or spilled their plates of milk all over the floor. I did not move as they paraded in. Only my eyes followed their lithe bodies as they entered.

They aren’t so bad, the cats. It can be quite musical to hear them purring, whining, making cat-love, all at once in different parts of the house and even outside, as far as the sidewalk. The symphony drowns out the birds – who stay away, of course, due to the cats – and also confuses the letter carrier so that he walks right by my house, never stopping to deliver anything. You get used to it after awhile, and then it’s just a constant tune being whistled in your ears, never varying from the main melody.

Yes, it was inevitable that I would end up here, alone in this house save for these cats. All seventeen of them.

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