If you have cats and they’re anything like mine, they’re apolitical. Mine are outdoor cats and get plenty of exercise, so they’re not fat cats. A check of the records at our state Office of Campaign Finance revealed that neither made any political contributions during the last election cycle. That’s why I was surprised this afternoon when Okie, the older of the two, jumped on my stomach while I was trying to take a nap, a petition to legalize catnip in his mouth.
“I’ve asked you not to disturb me when I’m resting,” I said.
“This will only take a minute,” he said. “We’re gathering signatures to legalize catnip.”
I looked at him with my left eyebrow raised to express my pitiless contempt for his inferior intellect. “Catnip is legal, you stunod.”
“That’s not what mom told us.”
I shook my head, almost involuntarily. “For somebody who’s supposedly curious, you’re awfully credulous.”
He gave me that tilted-head look, like the dog in the old RCA Victor ads. He does that when he’s confused or I’m playing the harmonica.
“What does ‘credulous’ mean?” he asked. I was glad to see that he’d at least learned to add quotation marks around a word he’s mentioning but not actually using in a sentence. It’s something he picked up when I read to him from the writings of Willard Van Orman Quine, a philosopher. I’ve tried to instill this linguistic precision in all of our pets, except for the fish my son’s girlfriend gave him, who seems to be a mute. The fish, that is, not the girlfriend.
W.V. O. Quine: Note obligatory beret to offset four initials.
“‘Credulous’ means you believe things too readily,” I explained. “Mom tells you catnip’s illegal because she doesn’t want you getting high.”
He took all this in. “Sign it anyway,” he said after a while. “Just to be sure.”
I signed, and began to scratch his head. “Look,” I said, “I know you guys like it when I give you catnip, but it’s a special treat, or to get you to stop beating the crap out of each other when I’m listening to music.”
He stared off into space, the way dogs in George Booth cartoons do. “I think music sounds better when I’m on catnip,” he said after a while.
“That’s because catnip is a euphoric, like marijuana,” I said, scratching him under the chin.
“How would you know?” he asked, and with that, the moment so many Baby Boomers have dreaded arrived. It was time to talk to my cat about drugs. I cleared my throat and set sail over what were uncharted and possibly stormy waters.
“Okie–buddy,” I began, but he cut me off.
“You only call me ‘buddy’ when you’re putting me down in the basement for the night.”
“This is one of those subjects that call for ‘tough love.’ When I was your age, I experimented with a lot of things. Rather than risk an arrest that would follow me for the rest of my life, one day I took some catnip . . .”
“Which belonged to Baby Cat and Big Kitty, right?” He was referring to the two cats I grew up with.
Baby Cat: Nobody wanted her because she was *sniff* different!
“Those are extremely stupid names.”
“We named those cats when we were toddlers.”
“Still,” he said with a little snort. “Continue.”
“Well, when I reached high school, a lot of kids went off to Haight-Ashbury for the Summer of Love. I stayed home.”
“I needed something to help escape my boring summer job, so I put some catnip in one of my dad’s pipes and–smoked it.”
He looked at me like I was the one with the sub-human intelligence. “Why didn’t you just put some in a felt mouse and roll around on it?” he asked.
“I was out with friends in a car–that would have looked pretty stupid.”
“Okay,” he said. “So what happened?”
“Not much. I felt a little light-headed, but that could have been just from the smoking. Humans can get high from catnip, but the effect is pretty mild.”
He seemed to be taking it all in, processing it. “I know you’re going to hit me with a moral now,” he said after a moment.
“Not really,” I said as I stroked his back. “I think you’re better off trying something that won’t do you much harm than to have you discover it on your own after mom has scared the bejeezus out of you.”
He nodded his head and took a lick at his left shoulder. “I appreciate your honesty,” he said finally.
“I think it’s best.” So I’d gotten through to him after all. “I always feel better after we have these talks,” I said. “Anything else on your mind?”
“Yeah,” he said as he jumped down from the couch. “Do you have any Grateful Dead albums?”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”