“Let us be honest: most of us rather like our cats to have a streak of wickedness. I should not feel quite easy in the company of any cat that walked around the house with a saintly expression.”
– Beverley Nichols
One of the things I love best about coming back to the Pacific Northwest is hanging out with Smitty the cat. Smitty belongs to the owner of the property where our small apartment is. But when we are here Smitty belongs to my heart. Over the years he’s made me laugh with his antics. At seventeen he’s mellowed. He no longer brings me gifts of dead animals, no longer climbs to the top of the roof to see what no one else can see, no longer protects his property like a ninja warrior needing to investigate everything that dared enter his kingdom.
Now he sleeps most of the time, likes most to cuddle, purr and eat. I even let him sleep in our bed since he lies so still.
One afternoon he followed me out to the front yard. A friend passing by with her pit bull on a leash stopped to talk. Smitty stared at the dog from about ten feet away. The owner said her dog loved cats. Smitty stood and came towards the dog with a cowboy like saunter and put his nose right up to the dog’s nose. I’d never seen him do anything like that before.
The dog and Smitty calmly sniffed each other out. But in a moment of forgetfulness of his new mellow self Smitty hissed and whacked the gentle pit bull on the side of his face with his paw – like a spontaneous game of Whack-A-Mole had been announced. Unperturbed the dog didn’t react at all.
I wanted to laugh, but instead I acted upset. “Bad cat,” I said. Smitty sat there proud of his deception and successful attack. There wasn’t a bit of remorse in his blazing green eyes. In fact, what I saw was a look that said, “What’s your problem?”
There’s a saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Well, you can’t take the fight out of an old cat either – even if they need to change their tactics. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere. I just haven’t found it yet.