Opinion |

I Love Dogs. But I Got a Cat. That Was a Mistake

Dogs are very easy to anthropomorphize. Cats are an accessory, a living addition to the furniture - which they readily destroy with their claws

Neri Livneh
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FILE PHOTO: A six-toed cat descended from a tomcat named Snow White that the acclaimed American author Ernest Hemingway adopted while he lived in Key West, Florida, U.S.
FILE PHOTO: A six-toed cat descended from a tomcat named Snow White that the acclaimed American author Ernest Hemingway adopted while he lived in Key West, Florida, U.S. Credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS
Neri Livneh

Eliahu can’t stand me. That’s okay, I’ve been told – he’s a cat. Some cats have lousy personalities, and Eliahu seems to be one of them. When he came to my home, two and a half months ago, I figured that he was in a post-traumatic state. That he couldn’t get used to a new home after having been fed milk from a bottle until he was 10 months old. I thought that when he finally emerged from the closet where he’d been hiding for over a week, he would turn out to be a likable, amusing cat with an independent character, flexible and fond of being stroked, as cat lovers (some of them genuinely intelligent folks) testify about the pets they own.

But that didn’t happen. When he came out of the closet, he betook himself to the marble counter in the kitchen, and as an afterthought broke the pitcher that was perched there and erupted into frightened yowls.

“It’s alright,” I told him as I swept up the fragments. “It happened, these things happen, never mind.” Because after all, I know, don’t I, that cats are lithe, gentle, possess dazzling coordination and always, but always, land on their feet. So I’ve been told. But he went on yowling as I continued to sweep, and then he stared anxiously at the floor, about 80 centimeters beneath him, jumped – and landed on his back. “Idiot,” I said to him.

In the weeks that followed, he broke everything within paw-reach, tore up the upholstery on the sofa, sabotaged the router, ripped two dresses on a night when I was sleeping soundly, gnawed at the cable of the TV converter box, and all the while never stopped yowling. One night I was awakened by an especially loud noise. Genius Eliahu had managed to jump onto a picture haning in the living room, and brought it to the floor.

I keep finding cat-paw prints in the bathtub. When I shower and close the door, he scratches, all the while emitting cries of insult and rage. If I leave the door open, he jumps into the bathtub. “It’s well known that cats hate water,” I explain to him when he positions himself directly under the faucet. But he does his own thing, and keeps yowling.

There are clear paw prints on the computer and TV screens. As I write, he jumps onto the keyboard and emits weird yelps that sometimes sound like a baby’s wailing, and sometimes like hysterical screams. He cries when I take him out of the toilet, after he’s slipped. (He drinks from every possible water source – with the exception of his bowl, whose water I change every four hours. Yes, I’ve tried mineral water, but in vain.) And he tries to scratch me when I try to pull him forcibly out of the kitchen sink, where, when he tries drinking straight from the faucet, he ends up breaking every dish and cup sitting there.

I’ve already become accustomed to the fact that every unexpected noise in the house – thuds of falling objects, shattering of china, explosions of pots knocked from the stove to the floor, sounds of scratching and scraping – comes from a single source: the very un-purebred and extremely insane cat that was insinuated into my house. I feed him, change the sand in his litter box, spend fortunes on him at the vet’s, and he, in response, evades every attempt of mine to stroke him, and escapes to his favorite pastime: scattering all of Michael’s toys, some of which he breaks, or scratching doors and walls.

It was a mistake from the start, and for that mistake I blame the media and in particular Nira Rousso, a woman whom I particularly like, and whose every cooking column I gobble up. Rousso is a true cat fancier. For years she wrote about the marvelous feline personality, far nobler than that of dogs – whom cat fanciers such as herself see as little more than flatterers that want only to please their masters.

The dispute between dog lovers (me!) and cat lovers centers on the following arguments: Feline-ists adore cats precisely because of their antipathetic personalities, their flagrant egocentrism and their absolute narcissism. They mistakenly view these traits as signs of conceptual independence. They also believe that cats are particularly beautiful animals because of their springy, flexible movements, their perfect coordination and their ostensible gentleness.

The feline-ists consider their furry pets to be masters that must be served, whereas the canine-ists don’t admire their dogs so much as they love them, view them as family members, and wax enthusiastic about their infinite empathy for their owners and their magnificent emotional intelligence. They like the fact that there’s a creature that bounds happily to greet them when they get home, that they own a being that lets itself be loved and returns that love tenfold. Dogs are very easy to anthropomorphize. Cats are an accessory, a living addition to the furniture, a decoration for the carpet (Eliahu has managed to make a hole in that, too).

And don’t tell me that cats are intelligent. If a statistical sample can be based on one case – namely, that of Eliahu – then cats are total idiots or demons from hell. Angels of sabotage whose tiny brains are devoted entirely to thinking about how to embitter the life of their owners, by, for example, gnawing at the six mangoes that remain in the fruit bowl, or perhaps knocking onto the floor a bottle of olive oil an hour after the cleaning woman has departed.

I love dogs. And then along come Nira Roussos with all their delightful stories about charming cats, followed by video clips of cute felines on the internet – and they discombobulate me. So it was that at some point, in a moment of mental fog, I blurted out, in an uncontrolled environment, that maybe, some day, I would want a cat. Within just two weeks I realized that I should have been careful about what I wished for. When a being that very quickly turned out to be a domestic enemy landed on me.

I would give him back, but there’s no one to take him – his owner has left the country for good. It’s a solution that I am contemplating too, because it’s become clear that only emigration or death will liberate me from this cat.