Pets have mental health problems too.
Headline, The Boston Globe
It’s Saturday, so I’m taking a nap when a ten pound weight covered with cat fur lands on my chest.
“Hey.” It’s Rocco, cat-of-few-words.
“We need to talk.”
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” I say, and I mean it.
“We need to talk,” he said as he flopped back against a pillow.
“You know you’re not supposed to be on the couch.”
“It’s the only way I can get anybody’s attention around here.”
“I don’t know, that time you brought a live squirrel into the house sure got everybody’s attention.”
“It was raining out, and I wanted to play with him.”
“If by ‘play’ you mean ‘torture in violation of the Geneva Convention.'”
“I never signed that thing. Anyway–it’s about Okie,” the elder of our two cats.
“It always is, isn’t it?”
“As Aristotle said, no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”
“I think he’s lost his mind.”
“Wouldn’t be too hard. It’s easy to lose small things, you know.” Okie has always been the charming ladies’ man, too dependent on his grey-tabby good looks to cultivate his intellect.
“I’m serious. He drools, he bites me when I try to wash his head, he doesn’t hunt anymore.”
“I think you’re mistaking guile for madness,” I said. “If he doesn’t hunt, you have to do all the work.”
The Roc was taken aback, but not too far. Our den couch isn’t that big.
“You mean, you think he’s acting crazy–on purpose?”
Vincent Gigante, “The Pajama Don”
“It’s been known to happen. Like Vincent Gigante . . .”
“‘The Pajama Don’?” Roc asked. Because it was home to Murray Kempton, the most graceful literary stylist ever to write a column for an American newspaper, we subscribe to The New York Post.
“The same. Okie’s got the game figured out. You go kill an animal, he gets to ‘roll upon prank to work it in.'”
“In the manner of Christopher Smart’s cat Jeoffry?” Roc asked.
“On the nosey,” I replied.
He stared off into the middle distance, as he is wont to do. “I hadn’t thought of that,” he said finally. “Still, I think it’s about time he took that cat-carrier trip from which no feline comes back.”
That’s my Roc, stealing a line from Hamlet. “That undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns?“
“Tragically, I have by the magic of the Add Media button been inserted into this post.”
“Sorry, no can do.”
“When I did estate plans for you guys Okie signed a mental health care proxy that said he’s not to be put down at your request.”
“Why that . . .” Rocco began, then stopped himself. “I can’t believe–after all these years–“
“Of wrassling with each other like a feline version of WWF . . .”
” . . . that he’d think I don’t have his best interests at heart.”
“It’s right here in black and white,” I said as I pulled the documents from the secure file cabinet we purchased at a office supply store liquidation sale. “See? ‘I do NOT consent to euthanasia or commitment to a mental facility at the request of my brother Rocco without a professionally administered sanity test.'”
Rocco looked at me with that RCA Victor befuddled dog expression he gets whenever he’s painted himself into a cognitive corner.
“Did you say ‘there,’ ‘their’ or ‘they’re’?”
“Well, all right,” he said finally. “I assume since you’re a professional you can test him.”
“That’s not my area of expertise.”
“Oh, right, I forgot. You’re a leading expert on the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.”
“It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.”
“Can’t you, like, check the internet?”
“And come up with a cockamamie answer like the kid who wrote a term paper that said coyotes reproduce by laying eggs because somebody monkeyed around with the Wikipedia page the night before it was due?”
“You’re the human, you figure it out.”
And so, after my usual in-depth research–a browser search for “insanity test questions”–I came up with a fairly comprehensive 176-question British exam that looked like it would do the trick, as long as I omitted the somewhat dated references to Herman’s Hermits.
“I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am”: Drove many insane in 1965.
It wasn’t hard to get some “alone” time with Okie; he’s 91 in cat years, and so spends a lot of time vegging in sunspots on the rugs. “Oak–got a second?” I asked.
“Sure, as long as you’re not going to put me in a cat carrier.”
“Not if you get a high enough score on a verbal test I’m going to give you.”
His ears perked up, and his eyes opened wide. “This isn’t . . .”
“I’m afraid it is, old sport,” I said, slipping into Great Gatsby-ese to put him at his ease. “There have been some suggestions . . .”
“Well, and mom.”
“That wasn’t my vomit. I swore off chipmunks long ago.”
“There’s really no way to tell, is there? Anyway, it’s good to have these little . . . what I like to call ‘Sobriety Checkpoints.’ We administer them where I work after someone reaches the age of 68. It’s just good human resources policy.”
Good for chasing, not for eating.
He snorted, the same snort I’ve heard from him so many times as he watched his younger brother race off, all excited, after . . . a wild turkey. “What are you going to do if you catch it?” he’d call out, contemptuous of youth’s enthusiasm.
“All right, let’s do it,” he said, and so I began.
“Do you believe you are the ruler of a sovereign nation, and if so which one?”
“That’s easy,” he said. “I am the master of all I survey, but the U.S. Constitution prohibits titles of nobility.”
“Lucky guess,” Rocco said as he ambled past the doorway.
“You got that one right,” I said. “Let’s move on. Can you fly, and if so, do you have landing rights at any major U.S. airport?”
He cocked his head at me, as if I was the crazy one.
“Have you watched me jump to escape from coyotes lately?”
“You haven’t lost your Superman-like ability to leap Sears Tool Sheds in a single bound, I’ll grant you that.”
“Okay–last question. If I nail this one, you need to leave me alone for the first of my afternoon naps, okay?”
“All right,” I said, and I scanned the list for a question that was both tough and fair. “Okay, here we go: Are you now, or have you ever been . . .”
“This is descending into McCarthyism. ‘At long last, have you left no sense of decency?'”
“Are you the owner of any cats, and if so–how many?”
“This is about religion, not politics. Are you now, or have you ever been, a God or God-like entity?”
He snorted the way he does in the fall when he stays out all night and comes home in the morning with a cold. “Seriously–that’s the best you can do?”
“This goes to the very heart of the matter: do you still consider yourself a mortal cat?”
He didn’t even take a second to think. “If you knew anything about cats,” he said, “you’d know humans may be mortals, but cats are divine.”
Coming soon in “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”