Christmas Letter Containing Peggy’s Health Worries and How We’re Faring In Isolation


Peggy and I celebrated our 49th anniversary on December 19th (she’s 69, and I’m 71), yet this is our first ever Christmas letter.

Our family now includes five indoor-only cats that range in age from 18-months to ten years. All are in good health, and all enjoy playing together, sleeping together, and bathing one another. We own hundreds of cat-related books along with cat art, and, prior to Covid, we volunteered at a cat adoption center. Peggy had originally proclaimed her intention of only having one cat, yet chose all but one of the next four. Saying no to another cat is like saying no to another potato chip.

We live in a 1955 era fixer-upper house that we bought in 1990 and spent years renovating. Many of the neighborhood’s original residents were alive when we moved in, but all have since died, and we are now the oldest people in our area.

Since Covid, we never go to stores or visit with friends. I’m not finding isolation difficult because Peggy and the cats provide sufficient companionship. On those occasions when I miss shopping or having dinner with friends, I remind myself that Covid would probably kill me, and would most certainly kill Peggy who has the occasional bout of asthma and a calcification in her right lung. Then too, our deaths would render our cats homeless. Such thoughts could keep me isolated forever.

Peggy is mostly doing well with isolation, but she has her sad moments when she reflects upon the things that she has had to give up. For instance, she had two weekly pinochle groups and two or more monthly meetings and workshops related to clothing buttons—which she started collecting in 1988. Many of these events are now being conducted on Zoom, and while some things have been lost, there have been gains. For example, the Portland Button Club recently hosted a speaker from France, and just last week, Peggy was among the 87 attendees at a meeting of the Idaho Button Society. She is now organizing her own Internet events, plus she uses the Internet in conjunction with her computer’s art program to design button displays.

For me, the worst part of Covid is that I’ve been postponing important medical and dental procedures. For example, I had two dental implants installed in my upper front teeth last Spring, but because they don’t extend above the gum-line, they are worthless until I get crowns, but by the time I had waited six months to become eligible for crowns, Covid was so widespread that I was unwilling to get them. In the meantime, eating is difficult and I often bite my lip with my remaining teeth. I’ve also developed a hernia, but I don’t plan to see a doctor until I’ve had a Covid vaccine or the pain is too great to bear. (After writing this on the 20th, I had a tooth break-off at the gumline on the 21st, but the dentist said I could postpone treatment
—he suggested yet another implant—because the calcified pulp is keeping bacteria out.)

Peggy is suffering from two health problems for which treatment can’t be delayed. One is a squamous cell carcinoma on her nose (a former mountain climber, she was often exposed to high altitude sunshine), which she will have removed on January 5, in what could be a five hour surgery (the surgery is lengthy because samples of excised tissue will be tested throughout). Another problem is that, after years of unsuccessfully trying to lose two pounds, she recently dropped eight pounds, a loss that is continuing and is accompanied by pain and vomiting. In early November, her internist ordered blood tests and a CAT scan, but when they didn’t reveal anything, he prescribed an “upper GI with follow-through.” When she discovered that the contrast medium contained a migraine-causing ingredient, he substituted a “gastric emptying study.” It is to be done on December 29, and, like her surgery, it could take as long as five hours.

As the winter-long Oregon drizzle continues, Peggy and I are watching documentaries on PBS along with classic movies and TV shows from the fifties and sixties. We are also playing six or more daily games of backgammon, and I continue to be an active blogger, having no face-to-face friends who I love more than two British bloggers, Philip and Michelle, both of whom, I am extremely sad to report, are in poor health. Philip honors me with the occasional phone call, and while Michelle had suggested visiting online, she later developed a voice problem that made it impractical. I, too, am having voice problems, in my case “quivering vocal cords” for which I had just started seeing a speech therapist when Covid hit (I haven
’t been back). Fortunately, I’m able to talk well enough after Ive been up for awhile, although I fancy that I sound a bit like Katherine Hepburn.

Reading also continues to be a vital part of my life, most of my books being 100-plus year old novels by largely forgotten authors.  The only author for whom I’ve sought first editions is American poet, novelist, and short story writer, Margaret Deland (1857-1945) who went from fame to obscurity during her lifetime. I also own several of her letters and photos, two biographies, and her two-volume autobiography.

Peggy, too, enjoys reading, but also spends time on her button hobby, working Sudokus, and listening to music. While I get little exercise anymore, she alternates between taking long walks one day and working out with weights the next. Marrying such an admirable woman was the best thing I ever did, yet I don’t know if we would have survived had our relationship not been helped by the fact that we are so much alike. For example, our attitudes towards money, politics, vegetarianism, religion, entertainment, clothing styles, personal safety, celebrating holidays, having five cats, house and yard decoration and maintenance, and, of late, staying isolated.

Happy Holidays,

Humans Versus Staph: Further Evidence of My Perverted Atheistic Values

If I had to choose between saving the life of a good dog or a bad man, the man would die, and the same would be true if I had to choose between the endangered mountain gorilla and all 37-million humans of metropolitan Tokyo.

“You don
t know anyone in Tokyo, and might not racism play into how breezily you would render them dead? What would you say if you had to choose between a species of blind fish that only lives in a single isolated cave versus yourself and the 4-million other humans in Oregon?” 

Whether my decision involved Tokyo or Oregon, it would be based upon my belief that the value of an entire species outweighs that of millions of humans. It is also true that cave fish only harm their prey whereas we humans harm everything but the germs, rodents, and insects that prey on us, and so it is that the earth would be better off if several million of us were suddenly dead.

“How many humans would you trade for the Anopheles Mosquito, the Norway Rat, or a staph-causing bacteria?”

While it’s hard to imagine the harm of killing-off a flesh-eating microbe, destroying the Anopheles Mosquito is another matter because of the species that feed upon them and are themselves fed upon by other species. Even so, if I were a caribou whose breathing passages were being clogged by
clouds of mosquitoes, my choice would be easy. My point is that immediate suffering could inspire me to adopt a remedy that would make the overall problem worse, yet the absence of immediate suffering gives my species an excuse for rationalizing problems out of existence; for example, greed, global warming and habitat destruction.

As I see it, my species relates to the earth like staph germs relate to their host. What I mean to say is that while staph germs might become fat and sassy from feasting on human flesh today, it never occurs to them to cut back in order to keep their host alive for tomorrow, although when it dies, they die. How, then, are we superior to staph? Given our wasted potential for good, how are we even the moral equals of staph?


Irrelevant Endnote: Peggy is sitting beside me (on her own desktop computer) with Harvey purring loudly in her lap. A new universe was born when he entered the world, its reality being so all-encompassing that I can scarcely remember the old universe despite the fact that it occupied 69/70ths of my life. We came very near not applying to keep Harvey (for many months, we had been his foster parents), and when we finally did apply, we came very near being forced to give him up due to our age (Im 70, and Peggy—the poor old thing—is 69).  How nightmarish the image of being forced to surrender him to the young woman who wanted him, and how unimaginable the possibility of someday losing him to death (his or ours). What would I not give for him? How much trouble, how much money, even how many lives? Some people love humans. I love cats. The five that I have arent nearly enough, but if I had more, I would be spread too thin for intimacy (a recognition that causes me to question the values of cat-laden households).

It is said that the Abrahamic deity created humans in his likeness (as if thats a good thing), but Im much more invested in the beautiful and virtuous cat goddess, Bastet, who so admired cats that she molded herself in their likeness. I have a statue of Bastet on the window shelf overlooking my bed, and I often open my eyes in the wee hours to see her outlined against the semi-darkness of the city sky.

The Immortal Harvey (d.o.b. June 18, 2019)

I share my home with four gentle and obedient cats who adorn my life like precious jewels, and a fifth, Harvey, who is cocky and impudent. Only he fights over food; only he brazenly ignores my wishes; and only he makes me run from one end of the house to the other to see what he’s up to when it sounds like he’s rearranging the furniture. He stares into my eyes with the cunning of a cartoon fox, and he disobeys me even while I’m scolding him for disobedience. I chase him around the house yelling, waving my arms, and, sometimes, slapping the upholstery with a yardstick, but after a few circuits, he rolls onto his back—like ten-year-old Brewsky did when he was a kitten—and invites me to rub his belly.

Harvey is my only cat who, when we’re cuddled-up in bed at night and I’m rubbing his belly with one hand, pins my other with his claws and squeezes a finger between his teeth as he dozes off. Peggy insists that I not let him bite me, but I only follow her advice on the rare occasions when he causes me pain.

But why does Harvey pin me with teeth and claws? A cat’s unprotected abdomen is so vulnerable to evisceration—by another cat’s hind claws—that many cats will bite anyone who touches that area. Then there are cats like Brewsky who will allow humans to do pretty much anything to them (I sometimes answer the door with Brewsky hanging upside down from under a forearm). Harvey resorts to the middle ground of allowing access to his abdomen while keeping his teeth and claws engaged. 

For much of my life, I found it intimidating to sit or lie while other males were standing, so when I did, I would keep an eye on them, although I knew that it offered little protection. When I observe Harvey’s protective measures, I see myself. Although Brewsky always gave me complete access to his body, I appreciate Harvey’s gift even more because his desire to surrender goes against his need for safety.

As I stroke him, I lose myself in adoration of his foxy face and long fur—I prefer longhaired cats, and he’s my only longhair. Although Peggy laughed when I called my little ten pound bundle of cuteness a man’s cat, Harvey truly is a badass who goes for broke while roughhousing with fifteen-pound Brewsky. Yet, I know that Brewsky would never really harm him, and I also know that Harvey’s exaggerated self-confidence is the result of human protectiveness. May Peggy and I never find ourselves unable to maintain the illusion, and may he never discover how nearly powerless his human parents really are. Perhaps, it would be possible for me to love him more, although my heart would burst if I tried.

Two Days to Go: Why I Hate Them So


Trump has spent four years sowing division and heaping hatred upon anyone who disagrees with him. He has told thousands of demonstrable lies; purged the government of those whom value duty to nation above loyalty to him; done his utmost to prevent Democrats from voting and their votes from being counted; and trashed every value that I hold dear. Those who voted for Trump made all this possible, and are determined that it continue. The harm that Trump has done to people like I--and millions of others--is harm for which I hold them responsible.

Two days ago, Trump supporters used their vehicles to harass a busload of Biden supporters who were on their way to an event in Austin, Texas (the event was cancelled). Trump, who has a long history of encouraging violence on the part of his supporters, tweeted photos of the harassers along with the words, "I LOVE TEXAS!" (Earlier in the week, a similar incident occurred in Missouri, and the FBI is investigating both incidents.)

Election day violence (the election is November 3) is a major concern in America. The reason for the concern is that Trump has been saying for months that he can only lose if the election is stolen, so in a country that contains more privately-owned guns than people (most guns being in the hands of Republicans), and is under the leadership of a violence-promoting demagogue, violence seems likely. Might it get worse than a few out of control demonstrations--might there be an attempted coup if Trump calls for one? No one knows.

I do know that, prior to Trump, fears of election violence like that which is seen in the Third World didn't exist here because people imagined that the country was strong and stable. Yet, in four short years, America has gone from being the world's most powerful democracy to standing upon the precipice of fascism and possible collapse. I feared Trump and his supporters from the outset, but because I trusted that America's laws and democratic institutions would protect us, I didn't foresee that two days before the election of 2020, I would be writing such a post.

But why is it that the very flag-wavers (they have now swapped the American flag for the various Trump flags) who sing, "I'm proud to be an American because at least I know I'm free," support a man who runs roughshod over the very values they formerly expressed a willingness to die for? I can but point out that their words are the same words that were spoken in 1930's Germany, which were the same words that are spoken by all people who regard "strong-man" dictators as the solution to their nation's problems. 

If I awakened one day and discovered that half of my fellow citizens were child-molesters who passionately defended child-molestation and attended large rallies (during a pandemic, no less) at which they chanted "Lock Them Up!" whenever their leader criticized the opponents of child molestation, I would wonder what signs I overlooked that might have allowed me to look beyond the fresh paint adorning their souls to the rot underneath. Even if Trump loses and even if there is no attempt at a coup, I will never again respect his supporters, not because they are dead to me, but because I foolishly imagined that their authoritarianism was tempered by decency. It was not the first time that I so wanted to believe in the goodness of people that I traded truth for fantasy.

Thoughts Upon Learning that Trump has Covid

During Tuesday's 90-minute debate, Trump yelled almost nonstop at  both Biden and the Fox News moderator and interrupted them 128 times. During the 2016 debate, he interrupted Hilary Clinton a mere 51 times, but he did it while pacing behind her.

Q* is a Filipino muckraker who passes himself off as an American government insider, and is wildly popular with Trumpians, because while they have no problem with ignoring logic, science, and legitimate media sources, they're just as eager to embrace absurdities that serve their political ends. 

Q regularly accuses Democrats of running pedophile rings and performing Satanic rituals during which they drink the blood of toddlers.  Yesterday, I heard Trump call Q's lies "a good thing."  When Trump was running for president in 2016, Republicans said that they were tired of Democrats thinking they were stupid, so they wasted no time in proving it.

The U.S. has 4% of the world's population but 25% of its Covid cases (213,052 Americans have died of Covid). Trump regularly mocks people who wear masks, claims that the virus will go away "as if by magic," and has been holding large rallies during which it's hard to spot a single mask wearer except for the ones who are on the speaker's stand behind Trump--after all, Trump's health matters. He has even held these rallies in places that have mask mandates. During this week's debate, Trump ridiculed Biden for mask-wearing, and Trump and Trump's family refused to honor the Cleveland Clinic's mask requirement.

Last night, it was announced that Mr. and Mrs. Trump had been added to the day's roster of 36,000 Americans who were diagnosed with what Trump insists on calling the "China Virus." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reacted  to the news by continuing to promise that he will bring Trump's recent Supreme Court appointment to a vote in less than a month despite having stalled an Obama appointment for ten and a half months by arguing that appointments shouldn't be voted on during an election year. 

Perhaps, the Trumpian insanity will soon come to an end, either thanks to Covid or to the November election. If the latter should occur, who knows what all those Republicans will do with all their assault rifles? After all, their "Great Leader" has been doing his utmost to insure violence should he lose, and his followers are not among the world's most stable people.


Disaster-Prone Oregon: As if 100 Nights of Rioting Weren’t Bad Enough

Current humidity is 10%, and the forecast is for 100-degree heat and “historically high winds.”* Today dawned red; the red turned to gray; and ash is falling like snowflakes. Even indoor air is smoky, nauseating, and congesting, and twilight lingers all day. Outside air has gone from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” to “hazardous.” Our shrubs, patio, and walkways lie beneath a thick layer of ash. Many rural areas have lost power, and five towns have burned to the ground.

When Peggy and I moved to Oregon in 1986, mountain real estate was in high demand, but now that global warming has melted glaciers and ever-worsening fires have turned rural idylls into death traps (Trump claims that the fire problem is caused by Democrats), the cautious have grown even more cautious. I live in the heart of a metro area of 300,000, so if I die in a natural disaster, it is unlikely to be a forest fire but rather the +9 Great Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. These quakes hit an average of every 246-years, the last one occurring 320-years ago at 9:00 p.m. on January 26, 1700 (the time and date have been determined from Japanese records of when the resultant tsunami hit Japan). Had the threat posed by the Cascadia Subduction Zone been known when Peggy and I moved to Oregon in 1986, we would have gone elsewhere.

There have been numerous small quakes during our time here (one of which caused extensive damage to the state capitol), but they were along local faults while the Cascadia fault extends from California, through Oregon, through Washington, and through British Columbia before finally ending in Alaska. It is expected that Coastal communities will be completely flattened by the quake before being washed out to sea seven minutes later. Because the Coast is squeezed between mountains and ocean, few roads run east so there will be little chance of escape. Being sixty miles inland and 200-400 feet above sea level, the Willamette Valley won’t be swept out to sea, but setting atop hundreds of feet of Ice Age rubble will still mean major disaster, but back to fire-related news....

Peggy has a friend named Sandy who lives twenty miles from town and next door to the Willamette National Forest. A woman of more than average means, Sandy has spent forty-five years of her life and an enormous amount of money in building a world-class clothing button collection. The closer the fires get, the more Sandy worries, but because her husband pooh-poohs her worry, no steps are being taken to move their belongings to safety. Yesterday, the fire department toured Sandy’s property in preparation for using it as a staging area.

Throughout the day, TV programs are being interrupted by fire-related news, and evacuation orders are constantly scrolling across the bottom of the screen. The smoke is so thick that flame retardant can’t be dropped from planes or helicopters, and five towns have thus far burned to the ground. All the firefighters in the world couldn’t slow a fire that is moving too fast to approach. Peggy heard on the news that the nearest fire jumped thirteen miles in one night, but I can’t imagine that it’s true.

Volcanoes. Oregon has four volcanoes that the USGS characterize as “very high risk.” The one nearest Eugene is the 10,358-foot South Sister, which, despite being seventy miles away, can be seen from town. The South Sister has a bulge that has grown nine inches since its discovery in 1997. Because the prevailing winds blow away from Eugene, the worst likely danger would come from watershed destruction, Eugene’s water coming from the McKenzie River, which originates near the South Sister. (Because the McKenzie flows through the worst of the fires, Eugene's water tastes bad).

Landslides. These are only a problem in the wet season and usually along the Coast, where they sometimes close the only north-south highway (US 101, aka El Camino Real) for months, it being too dangerous to move a landslide that won’t stop sliding. Obviously, people occasionally die, and the only way out is sometimes by helicopter.

Friday Afternoon Fire Update. Another filthy day of coughing, nausea and daylong twilight, but, unless The Big One hits, we probably won’t end the day homeless in a school parking lot. By noon on Monday, the winds are expected to shift.

Friday Night Fire Update: 40% of Oregonians have been told to prepare for evacuation, and another 10% have already evacuated.

* Since I started writing this three days ago, the winds have dissipated, and the daytime highs have dropped by 25-degrees (the area being prone to temperature fluctuations), but the fires just keep getting bigger and more numerous. In California, things are even worse, but things are too bad here for me to worry much about
how things are down there.

** Friday Night Fire Update: 40% of Oregonians have been told to prepare for evacuation, and another 10% have already evacuated. s a link to local fire news and photos:

Is This How You View Donald Trump? An Attempt to Understand.

I want to understand the difference between people who love Donald Trump and people like myself who despise him, it being obvious that our differences go beyond policy. When I came upon a nine-point list of traits (at bottom of post) that characterize people who are malevolent,* I discovered that every item on the list strongly represents my understanding of the character of Donald Trump. Because I view these traits in him as unavoidably obvious, I am unable to maintain a high regard for those who disagree. 

My alienation from such people saddens me, and I have observed that they use some of the same insulting words to describe me that I use to describe them, words like stupid, deluded, hateful, and unpatriotic. They say that I want to abolish the police, and that I love rioters and looters, although I strongly support the police, and would gladly see rioters and looters shot dead in the street if it were possible to separate them from other demonstrators. I say these things in the hope of making it clear to Trumpians that our disagreement isn't total, and that in this, at least, we can find some comfort.

We are all pained by our contempt for one another, but no one knows how to move beyond it. Or at least I don't. Millions have stopped talking completely, while millions more have agreed to stop talking about Trump. Neither approach works for me, yet my attempts at understanding and being understood have been so anger-laden and accusatory that they have made matters worse. So I ask you, not rhetorically, but because I want to know: three and a half years into Trump's presidency, how do you view his character? 

If you hate him as I do, then I will obviously understand, but for those few readers who regard him as honest, just, compassionate, and patriotic, to what do you attribute the fact that I hold the opposite view, and would you like for us to bridge the divide? While I have little belief that the angry torrent that separates us can be bridged, I am nonetheless making what I intend as a constructive effort. If my approach doesn't work for you, perhaps you have an idea that would. It is my blog, so while it makes sense that most of the time and work would be mine, the fact is that I need help. It is also true that no matter where you live or how you feel about Trump, everyone the wide world over has been wounded by the rage, chaos, and alienation that characterize his presidency. Perhaps you will say that these things aren't his fault, but surely you won't deny that they exist, or that responsibility for healing the wounds falls completely on the other side.

The following is the list of what I see in Trump. Even if you think I'm imagining these things in him, my hope is that if you understand the self-talk that underlies my hatred, you will find my hatred comprehensible. Whether this will represent progress, I don't know, but it's the only idea I have.

  1. Egoism. The excessive concern with one's own pleasure or advantage at the expense of community well-being.
  2. Machiavellianism. Manipulativeness, callous affect and strategic-calculating orientation.
  3. Moral Disengagement. A generalized cognitive orientation to the world that differentiates individuals' thinking in a way that powerfully affects unethical behavior.
  4. Narcissism. An all-consuming motive for ego reinforcement.
  5. Psychological Entitlement. A stable and pervasive sense that one deserves more and is entitled to more than others.
  6. Psychopathy. Deficits in affect, callousness, self-control and impulsivity.
  7. Sadism. Intentionally inflicting physical, sexual or psychological pain or suffering on others in order to assert power and dominance or for pleasure and enjoyment.
  8. Self-Interest. The pursuit of gains in socially valued domains, including material goods, social status, recognition, academic or occupational achievement and happiness.
  9. Spitefulness. A preference that would harm another but that would also entail harm to oneself. This harm could be social, financial, physical or an inconvenience.


"It is What It is." Donald John Trump

Of late, Trump has suggested that his likeness be put alongside those of four other presidents on Mt. Rushmore, a mountain in South Dakota. He has appointed a postmaster general who, despite objections by Congress, state governments, and postal unions, is seeking to impede delivery of the mail-in ballots favored by Democrats. He has repeatedly claimed that voter fraud alone can prevent him from winning re-election, leading to speculation that he’s preparing for a coup. He has threatened that, if he loses reelection, America won’t have a president “for years” due to legal challenges.

He has said that he wants three more terms as president (this would require a change in American law). He is accusing his own government of impeding development of a Covid vaccine in order to prevent his re-election. He is accusing his Democratic challenger of senility and of being “a tool of the radical left.” He has warned that if Biden becomes president, crime will run rampant and leftists and anarchists will riot in every city and town in America (much of which are already happening under Trump). His sister accused him of “cruelty”; called him a “liar and a cheat”; said he has “no principles”; and confirmed claims that the self-proclaimed “very stable genius got into college by paying someone to take his entrance exams. 

A Trump insider was charged with multiple felonies, raising the number of Trumpian aides, donors and advisers, who have been indicted or imprisoned to twenty. The sixteen-year-old Trump-hating daughter of “counselor to the president” Kellyanne Conway petitioned the court for emancipation, saying that her mother has neglected her and her siblings in favor of money and fame. Ms Conway’s husband has also been vocal in opposing the president, who in response called him “a loser of a husband.” 

After three-and-a-half years of Trump, nothing that I have said should come as a surprise to most Americans, but what never ceases to astound me is that Trump’s approval rating among members of his own party has held steady in the mid nineties. I don’t know what to conclude from this other than that Republicans are infinitely more stupid and unethical than I would have considered possible even three years ago when I still entertained the hope that, as Trump’s depravity became increasingly blatant, his supporters would slowly abandon him. It would now appear that, unless he is caught on tape buggering a poodle alongside Putin and Kim Jong-Un (and I’m not confident that even this would do it), I can’t imagine what would give pause to people who prefer the shit of a golden-headed buffoon to the blood of a Jewish Savior. 

Why would I make such an outrageous statement? Because Trump’s “values”—aka his pandering to his followers’ ignorance and bigotry—clearly do matter to his disciples, while those of Jesus clearly do not, a fact that puts me in mind of Trump’s 2016 boast that his supporters wouldn’t care if he murdered a man in broad daylight on Manhattan’s 5th Avenue. I had imagined that such a boast might lose him the election, but I now see that he was right...

Then again, his supporters might care deeply if Trump were to claim that the man was a Democrat whose death was a Christmas present to the nation in which case, they would jump to their feet and cheer until they could cheer no more.

I will now leave you with what Trump said about the thousands upon thousands of people who have died of Covid due to his indifference to the welfare of anyone but himself:

“It is what it is.”

A week or so later, Michelle Obama repeated Trump’s words in the context of saying that Trump is what he is because he lacks the ability to rise to any occasion. While his followers deserve him, the rest of the nation and world most certainly do not deserve the curse that has been visited upon them.

Which is Better, a Dog or a Cat?

“By and large, people who enjoy teaching animals to roll over will find themselves happier with a dog.”
—From Secrets of the Cat by Barbara Holland

Similarities Between Cats and Dogs

Alerts. Both will warn us of danger. In the case of cats, this is more apt to mean fires, gas leaks, and children in distress, but I knew a woman whose cat alerted her to the presence of a burglar while the woman’s dog hid under the couch.

Forgiveness. Both are quick to forgive their humans for bumping into them or stepping on their tails.

Friendship. Both have the capacity to love humans, members of their own species, and members of other species.

Homing. Both dogs and cats have completed solitary journeys. For example, Peggy’s mother gave away a Scotty that returned home from across town, and a northwest Georgia cousin gave me a cat that returned to Georgia from southwest Mississippi, a direct-line distance of 400 miles (the first thing he did upon arriving was to run to where his food bowl had been).

Hunting. Both hunt with intelligence, patience, and stealth.

Insight. When I fell headlong while jogging across a parking lot one night, my two dogs occupied themselves with smelling the asphalt while I struggled to catch my breath. Generally speaking, cats are equally oblivious to my distress.

Intelligence. Researchers say that the two species are about equal. It seems to me that individuals within a species differ more than the species themselves do.

Loyalty. Both are loyal until death.

Luxury. Both enjoy good food, soft beds, massages, and naps before a heater or in the sunshine.

Persistence. A dog will stay on task until his human forces him from it. A cat will stalk her prey until she captures it or success becomes impossible.

Protectiveness. By virtue of their larger size, dogs are better able to fight for us, but cats have also risked life and limb in our defense.*

Resourcefulness. Herding dogs and curious cats are testaments to ingenuity.

Swimming. Some dog breeds love to swim while others hate it. The same is true of cats, one avid swimmer being the Turkish Van.

Tolerance. Dogs and cats are more accepting of our failures, preferences, and eccentricities, than are our human friends. 

Differences Between Dogs and Cats

Adaptability. Dogs enjoy adventuring with their humans. Cats are homebodies who want everyday to be the same.

Affection for their kind. Dogs prefer the company of humans to that of other dogs. My cats, at least, prefer the company of one another, perhaps because sleeping is their favorite activity, and they feel safe and warm with their bodies touching.

Claws. Cats have claws that climb, grasp, blind, and eviscerate. Dogs have toenails that serve as cleats on soft ground but are useless on pavement. 

Cleanliness. Dogs are indifferent to squalor, and go to their baths as to a guillotine. Cats will pee and poop on the floor if their litter box is filthy and, next to sleeping, bathing is what they do most.

Communication. Most dogs are outspoken. Except when their meal is delayed, most cats are subtle.

Dignity. Many cat lovers proclaim dignity as a major feline virtue, but I believe that dignity varies more between individual dogs and cats than between the two species. It also seems to me that both species are more dignified than is our own.

Forgiveness. A dog will lick the hand that strikes him. A cat will run from it.

Genetic differences. All human-created dog breeds have genetic weaknesses, some of which lead to lives that are short and miserable. Cats have largely escaped this fate, although scientific advances are making abuses possible.

Grace and agility. Assuming youth and vigor, the grace and agility of the world’s clumsiest cat probably exceeds that of the most agile and graceful dog.

High places. Dogs fear heights. Cats so love them that vets have coined the term high rise syndrome to describe the fate of cats who become overly confident in their climbing prowess.**

Hunting. Packs of dogs ambush their prey and run it to ground. Solitary cats blindside unsuspecting prey with speed and agility. 

Intelligence. Dogs show intelligence by doing the bidding of humans. Cats show intelligence by thwarting humans in favor of private goals.

Injury. Cats have thin bones that make them susceptible to injury, yet they are far more likely than dogs to survive falls, and they actually survive long falls better than short ones.***

Killing. Dogs wound and kill with their teeth. Cats wound with teeth and claws before killing with their teeth. Dogs kill swiftly. Cats bat their prey about in order to hone their hunting skills.

Obedience. A dog will move heaven and earth to please his human. A cat will move heaven and earth to please herself. Dogs come running when called. Cats come walking when their treat jar is rattled.

Passing time. My indoor cats sleep, bathe, cuddle, observe, play, demand food, and eat, pretty much in that order. What dogs do depends upon upon what they have access to, so the following is in no particular order: sleep, walk, play, bark, cuddle, entreat, smell things, and leave urine marks.

Philosophy. Dogs are idealists who persist in thinking well of humanity despite evidence to the contrary. Cats are pragmatists who see us as we are. Dogs have dreams. Cats have expectations.

Playfulness. Adult dogs require few toys—a tennis ball and a chew/cuddle toy will usually suffice—and they enjoy playing the same games they played as puppies, sometimes for hours a day. Adult cats require a succession of new toys, which they abandon within minutes of receiving them. Cat lovers agree that cats enjoy the box that their $50 toy came in more than they enjoy the toy itself. Among their favorites are laser lights; toys that can be lobbed across a room so the cat can run to it and wait for his human to come and retrieve it; and toys that can be tied to a stick and swung over the cat’s head.

Politics. Dogs are monarchists who
view their adult humans as their superiors. Cats are libertarians who, at best, regard their adult humans as their equals.

Purring. There is no canine equivalent to a cat’s purr. Cats purr when they’re happy, sick, frightened, or in pain. Kittens purr differently than adults; some cats purr in one note and some cats purr in more than one note; and all cats purr both on the inhale and the exhale.

Remorse. A scolded dog wants to dig a grave and pull the dirt in after her. A scolded cat interprets being scolded as an unwarranted annoyance.

Reserve. If reserve is important, get a cat, but preferably not a Siamese.

Sharing food. A dog that approaches another dog that is eating commits a serious faux pas. Most cats will share their food with loved ones.

Society. Dogs are a social species. Cats are solitary. Dogs are extroverts. Cats are introverts. Dogs are like humans. Cats are like cats.

Speed and Stamina. Dogs run fast and have excellent aerobic stamina. Cats run slowly and are soon winded. 

Stepping over. When a person steps over a resting dog, the dog scrambles to her feet in abject terror. When a person steps over a resting cat, the cat just lies there.

Strength. Cats use their legs to bat their prey around, knock it into the air, and pin it for the kill. The legs of dogs are only good for running.

Togetherness. A dog says to his human, “You are my god, and all I ask of life is to be with you every moment of everyday.” A cat says to her human, “You are my equal, and I insist that you respect my need for alone time.”

Tricks. Dogs throw their entire beings into learning whatever tricks their humans are pleased to teach them. The only trick at which my cats excel is being on time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In fact, they prefer that I serve every meal an hour early.

What a dog wants his human to know: “For as long as I live, I will devote every ounce of my being to your happiness. Though it come to pass that the world despise you, I will remain steadfast. If you treat me well, my life will be joyful. If you treat me badly, my life will be miserable, but I will serve you anyway.”

What a cat wants her human to know: “I do my thing and you do your thing.
 I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
 and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
 If not, it can't be helped.”—Fritz Perls

So, Which Is Better?

Despite having made this question the subject of a lengthy post, I contend that the question is no more sensical than asking whether a hammer is better than a screwdriver. What does make sense is to ask oneself the following questions before acquiring any pet:

(1) What jobs do I expect my pet to perform?

(2) What characteristics do I want my pet to have?

(3) Will I have the willingness and the ability to provide for the longterm physical and emotional needs of my pet?

Dogs are versatile and adaptable animals that can perform scores, perhaps hundreds, of specialized services at which no cat can compete, so a dog is the only option for people who require those services. A dog is also the better choice for people whom, for reasons of personality, prefer dogs to cats. However, one must remember that a dog requires considerably more maintenance than a cat.

Cats excel at killing small rodents, so if a person needs a mousekiller, a cat is the only viable option. Likewise, if a person simply wants a companion that is: small, quiet, beautiful, affectionate, self-cleaning, low-maintenance, mysterious, long-lived, non-smelly, pleasing to the touch, comes housebroken, and is capable of warning of certain types of danger, then that person should acquire a cat.


Hell Night

Sage (on left) and Harvey
Peggy and I put our five cats in the laundry room at night so we can sleep. Yesterday morning, they all burst forth in enormous distress, but Scully was in the worst shape, jumping onto her window shelf and yowling nonstop: "Last night was horrible, horrible! No words can describe what I've been through! I can't bear my terror for another moment! For chrissake, DO SOMETHING!!!" 

Aghast, I approached her with an empty show of confidence, empty because she was so overwrought that I feared being bitten. She instead leaned into my body in trembling silence: "The nightmare is over," she whispered, "I know you will protect me."

Within minutes, Scully and three of the boys were ready for breakfast. Only Harvey remained distraught. Instead of lying splayed-out in the middle of whatever room we were in, he spent his day behind the clothes washer. It was the first time he had shown fear.

Harvey was but four months of age when he came to share our home last November. From day one, the long-haired gray kitten with piercing green eyes and a lion's ruff, dominated our household. He playfully ambushed our 15-pound patriarch, Brewsky, and became best buds with Sage, our timid, big-eyed tabby. He treated Scully like the lady she is, but his attempts to play with the grump of the family, Ollie, were met with yowls, hisses, and swats. Harvey's response was to pounce on Ollie in a manner that said, "How dare you flatter yourself that you scare me!" whereupon Ollie would run from the kitten half his size. 

When Harvey would lie on his back in the middle of the kitchen floor, I would stop cooking and rub his belly (Peggy complained that I was not only abandoning my work, I was widening the roadblock). After a few strokes, he would grasp my hand in his mouth and hold it there, making it necessary for me to rub him with my other hand. And so it went with one hand in the mouth of a zoned-out cat, and the other hand caressing his pillowy belly, all while assuring Peggy that petting Harvey was way more important than cooking. I meant it too. Building trust with one's cat depends entirely upon the amenability of said cat, and this is especially true in the case of belly rubs, which represent the ultimate in feline vulnerability. Peggy took a less enlightened view, "He's just using you," she would argue, and I would respond, "You can write on my tombstone:

Here Lies Harvey's Love Slut
He Died Smiling

I think I know what frightened the cats. Our laundry room opens to the outside, and in warm weather, we leave the wooden door open so the cats can watch the night pass through the steel-mess security door. My guess is that something big, smelly, and scary came to that door from the nearby creek. Thankfully, Harvey got over his fear by the next night, but during the hours that we weren't having to step around him, our hearts ached.

Stupider and Stupider


I believe that George Floyd was murdered, which means that I was onboard with the protestors. Then came huge demonstrations in which policemen were assaulted, Molotov cocktails were thrown, businesses were looted or burned, and social distancing was ignored; and I began to wonder if the demonstrators reserve arson, looting, vandalism, and violence, for themselves alone, or if they would allow the same rights to everyone who feels strongly about an issue.

Next came calls for defunding or abolishing the police followed by outrage over the Atlanta killing of a black man who forcibly stole a cop's stun gun and fired it at him. After that came the toppling of statues of Spanish explorers, Confederate soldiers, Union generals, George Washington, U.S. Grant, Thomas Jefferson, the creator of America's national anthem, and unknown others. Among Eugene's statuary casualties was a University of Oregon work called Pioneer Mother and another entitled simply The Pioneer (some emotionally fragile students explained that the statues so offended them that they had been forced to walk out of their way to classes to avoid seeing them). There are three oddities about the attack on these statues: (1) Although the vandals clearly feel superior to the people who came here over the Oregon Trail, they showed no remorse for the fact that they too live on land stolen from the Indians. (2) The U of O was already considering the statues removal. (3) Pioneer Mother was meant to correct the gender inequity of previous statues, suggesting that the effort of yesterday's liberal intellectuals to create a better world are only worthy of destruction in the eyes of today's liberal demonstrators. 

The University of Oregon's Pioneer Mother statue

When I reflect upon the demonstrators' words and actions, the following seems evident: their contempt for the law; their embrace of mob rule; their belief in easy fixes; their refusal to compromise or dialogue; their unwillingness to consider that they might be in the wrong; their labeling as racist those who disagree with them; their confidence that had they lived 50-250 years ago, they would have held the same values they hold today; their failure to consider that their descendants might judge them as harshly as they judge their ancestors; their refusal to accept responsibility for taking the law into their own hands; their belief that there is only one way to be moral, and that they alone have virtue to follow it; and their blind faith in the belief that the police are criminals, the criminals are victims, and the gateway to a better world lies in firing the police and emptying the prisons. 

In my view, these people are petty, childish, shallow, vicious, vindictive, hypocritical, cowardly, intolerant, unintelligent, unimaginative, and puritanical. Rather than interpreting the overwhelming bi-racial outrage following George Floyd's death as a hopeful sign that the nation is ready for change, they instead assume that the masses are irredeemable bigots who must be forced into change through violence and intimidation on the part of such enlightened beings as themselves. As occurred during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, these youth seem bent upon sweeping the countryside like locusts for the purpose of devouring the old in the certainty that whatever values that they, in their twenty-year-old wisdom, can't understand and appreciate aren't worth understanding and appreciating. If their energy holds, I can but assume that when the demonstrators run out of public statuary to destroy, they will turn their purification efforts to street signs, libraries, art museums, churches, and graveyards, and whatever else offends their readily offended imaginations. 

God help those of us who live in liberal areas that are ruled over by gutless local governments that refuse to act in the face of mob rule, and god help the entire nation for having a swaggering president whose remedy for every bad situation only ends in making it worse.

Reflections Following a Minnesota Murder

I lived in Minneapolis for two winters. At 3.3 million, its metro population is greater than the entire state of Mississippi where I spent my first 36-years, and of Eugene, Oregon where I've lived for 32-years. Eugene and Minneapolis are alike in that their populace is educated, secular, affluent, and Democratic (or, as Trump would say, strongly Democrat). By contrast, Mississippi is staunchly Christian, strongly Republican and leads the nation in poverty, ignorance, obesity, oppression, and early death.

My mother condescended toward black people, but my father treated them well, as did I considering my immaturity and ignorance. Although he went to an all black school, my best friend in high school was a black boy named Jerry Kelly. When my white friends and I went camping one weekend, Jerry went too, and when my father and I went camping 400-miles from home, Jerry went too. The South had an unwritten code about what a white person could do with black people and what he or she couldn't. For example, when I was in high school, my white friends would simply walk in on me without knocking, but Jerry wouldn't have dreamed of doing such a thing, and when my white friends and I drove around town drinking, Jerry wasn't invited.

The only bad moment, racially speaking, that I had with Jerry occurred when we were running my father's 115 mile paper route. Most days, my father and I ran the route together, him driving and me throwing papers, but some days, we would hire Jerry to replace one of us. On this particular day, I told Jerry to go into a cafe to collect for the paper. He said he didn't want to go because the cafe was run by white people (black people couldn't enter white-run cafes, although some such businesses had side windows for their black patrons). Being infinitely more naive than Jerry, I assured him that there would be no problem since he wasn't there to order. So, in he went, and, seconds later, out he came, closely followed by a raging white woman.

Much of my prejudice toward black people didn't come from living in Mississippi but in Minnesota where gangs of belligerent black teenagers would stalk downtown streets, daring white pedestrians to remain on the sidewalk. I also encountered groups of loud and aggressive black people on city buses. I came to regard them as hyenas, a perception that returned this week when I watched black mobs looting white-owned stores.

My Mississippi hometown had its last lynching in 1953, when I was four, and a previous lynching in 1928, when my father was in his teens. In the 1928 lynching, a mob took two brothers from the city jail, shooting one, and dragging the other behind a car before hanging his corpse from a tree.

When I was young, I romanticized people who didn't fit society's norms. For example, I sought out the friendship of homosexuals and black people, and I was captivated both by the Freedom Riders and the Weather Underground. Because I valued appearance over substance, I was even drawn to groups that sought one another's annihilation, for example the KKK and the Black Panthers. I also loved snazzy uniforms, and so I favored the looks of Confederate soldiers over the Union, and of the SS over the Allies. Although I felt superior to people who brainlessly hated what their neighbors hated and loved what their neighbors loved, my values were equally shallow and a lot less consistent.

My British and Australian readers know about the murder of George Floyd, but they might not know about a New York City white woman named Amy Cooper who called the police to report that she and her Cocker Spaniel were being physically threatened by a middle-aged black bird watcher who objected to her dog being unleashed in a Central Park area set aside for wildlife.* Once she was on the phone, Ms Cooper worked herself into the appearance of hysteria, all while the black man filmed her performance. After being fired from her $175,000 job with an investment firm, Amy Cooper botched multiple apologies so badly that she finally hired a PR firm. For example, she had sought to minimize her behavior by claiming that, "Words are just words," and "I didn't intend to harm that man in any way," and she even tried to win the public's sympathy by saying, "My entire life is being destroyed right now.” Does the Me Too movement's insistence that women are too pure to frame men ("Believe the Women") include the Amy Coopers of the world, and does it really hold that no black man ever came to a bad end because of a white woman's lies?

Although local bumper stickers laud diversity, Eugene is hardly diverse. Black people and Asians are rare, and Hispanics are too poor--and too afraid of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)--to engage in politics. Even so, white Eugenians have been out in the thousands (the largest protest reaching 10,000**) protesting the Floyd murder, and they've been at it for more than a week, during which several businesses were vandalized. The spectacle of white crowds in a white city shouting insults at a white police force 2,000 miles from a black man's murder strikes me as impotent, and I even wonder the extent to which the size of the protests (not just in Eugene, but in the nation and the world) has been fueled by hatred for Trump and frustration over Covid lock-downs. Whatever the truth about this, Covid deaths can be expected to mushroom, especially among black people.



The Life and Times of a Galloping Nandina

My Favorite Coleus
Last week, Peggy and I celebrated our first outing since mid-March by visiting an outdoor nursery from which we emerged with a coleus, fifteen marigolds, a basket of violas, and eight variegated lamiums. Except for the coleus, we planted everything outdoors. 

Peggy's bedroom has green walls and no plants. My bedroom has pink walls and up to forty-four plants. It is my favorite place on earth, and my GQ handsome Ollie must agree because when I call him to bed each night, I can hear him galloping from three rooms away.

My last bedroom addition was a Gulf Stream Nandina that I named Tommy in honor of my father, and which I moved indoors last fall. It was Tommy's fourth move since he entered my life in 2016. The first was from the nursery to my yard. When that didn't work out, I put him in a pot and switched him seasonally from deck to patio. Still he struggled. Then one night while Ollie and I were cuddling, I longed to have Tommy beside me, so I vainly searched the indexes of fifteen houseplant books for advice. Mystified but undeterred,  Ollie and I welcomed Tommy into our bedroom two days later. His health improved so fast and so dramatically that I've since concluded that, like Ollie, Tommy would have galloped to join me if only he could.
Ollie Used to Make it Hard for Peggy to Get Off the Pot
Looking at my plants is the last thing I do each day and, because my grow-light burns all night, I get to see them afresh in the wee hours and then again when I awaken in the morning. Next to Peggy and our five cats, plants are the most important things in my life.

Some Thoughts about Trump and the Pandemic as of Today, April 21

"Trump news is so terrifying I can barely stand to read it." 
--from a British reader and friend

Trump news is terrifying, not just because of the things he does but from the disastrous effects on health, human rights, and the environment, that are posed by the people he hires and the judges he appoints. For instance, yesterday, a court upheld Texas' efforts to prevent abortions during the pandemic, and the day before that, another court forbade the governor of Kansas from banning church services during the pandemic. 

When Trump took office, I wondered if this was what it was like to live in Germany when Hitler came to power, and the feeling has intensified. The only hope I can find is that his approval rating has generally been in the low forties, but sadly it is now at 49%. I, of course, can't see what there is to approve of, but when he turned his daily pandemic briefings into lie-strewn taxpayer-financed political events at which he boasted of how well he was handling things, blamed the Democrats and the Chinese for the pandemic, and insulted reporters when they asked such questions as, "What do you have to say to people who are afraid?" his popularity increased among those who favor "strong man" regimes. Last week, he even boasted: “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total." Although his supporters claim to favor a weak federal government and strong local governments, they didn't object to this, suggesting that they actually like a strong federal government when their candidate is running it. 

The fact is that the laws that are supposed to protect America from would-be dictators only apply if the people of America respect those laws. A man like Trump will override them to the extent that the people allow him to, and with federal judges in his pocket, he won't even encounter resistance from that quarter.

Now, there is enormous pressure here to go back to pre-pandemic behavior, and much of that pressure is coming from Christians, from the far-right, and from the gun crowd (there being overlap among the three). Most governors are trying to prevent this, but Trump has been countenancing insurrection against them through such tweets as, "Liberate Michigan," "Liberate Minnesota," and "Liberate Virginia." It's also true that some governors are themselves backing a return to pre-pandemic behavior. For example, the governor of Georgia didn't bother to consult with his state's mayors before decreeing--today--that Georgia return to business-as-usual. If the medical authorities are right, this will lead to disaster, but here's what I think.

A week or two ago, it was reported that black people, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans die of Covid-19 in much higher numbers than Americans of Northern European ancestry, and it has long been known that sick people and the elderly are at greater risk, so is all this pressure to reopen society inspired by the thought that, "Hell, this virus probably won't hurt us much, and here is our chance to rid society of all the undesirables who are sponging off the government and draining "our" Social Security. Let's get out there and spread this thing around before scientists come up with a way to prevent it"? I suspect that, in the minds of millions (a third of Americans favor a return to what they refer to as normalcy), this is true, and my suspicion is intensified by the sight of guns (in states with open-carry laws), the Gadsden Flag (see image), and Confederate Battle Flags at these rapidly growing demonstrations. These are not people who care about the "rights" of anyone but themselves and their select group.

Another factor is that many Christians imagine that Jesus will keep them from getting sick (as the signs proclaim, "Jesus is My Vaccine"). Ironically, the parts of America in which evangelicals are dominant are the same parts that have a high incidence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, problems that make Covid more deadly. So, on the one hand, you have people who see the pandemic as a way to rid society of "undesirables," and, on the other, you have such Christians as imagine themselves immune.

Part 3 of Cats and Humans: Cats Under Islamic Rule

Istanbul mosque. Photo by Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Some authors of cat/human history claim that patriarchal rule results in the hatred of both women and cats. According to this view, men's desire for women makes them feel weak, and they externalize their weakness by blaming it on women. These same men claim that God blessed them with strength, and women with weakness, and that men should therefore rule over women.

But why hate cats? Since ancient times, feline beauty, grace, sensuality, and mystery have been compared to the same qualities in women. Moreover, just as women's menstrual cycle reflects the lunar cycle, cats' eyes reflect moonlight. Worse yet, neither the world's strongest man nor its mightiest army can force obedience from its weakest cat, and what patriarchs can't control, they must destroy.

This view ignores evidence to the contrary. For example, ancient Judaism ignored cats, and for its first millennium, Christianity held cats in high esteem. Most notably, Mohamed loved cats, the result being that Islam is strongly ailurophilic. Some evidence:

(1) Mohamed told of a woman being consigned to hell because she tied her cat to a post and left it to starve. (2) When the call to prayer came while Mohamed's favorite cat, Muezza, was asleep on his sleeve, he severed the sleeve rather than disturb her. (3) When a tabby saved Mohamed from a cobra, Mohamed blessed all tabbies by leaving the mark of his fingers on their foreheads; and he blessed all cats by petting the back of his rescuer, thereby insuring that falling cats land on their feet. (4) Mohamed's favorite wife, Aisha, taught that the cat is the only animal that can drink from ritualistic water without rendering it impure. (5) While the Catholic Church was killing cats in the 1200s, a Cairo sultan started the world's first sanctuary for homeless cats, and it still exists. (6) Cats are free to come and go from mosques.

Only the French have expressed cat-love as eloquently as Muslims: 

When sorrows press my heart, I say: Maybe they'll disappear one day, when books will be my friends at night, my darling then the candlelight, my sweetest friend, a kitten white.
Ramiri, 13th century theologian

She has so bewitched me with her darkness and light that she appears to be made of ebony and ivory.
Ibn Tabataba, 10th century spokesman for Mohamed's descendants

When a cat dies, the dervishes bury her in a grave that is in line with Mecca. They bury her and say, "Go on my friend, may God give you peace and peace for us." On that grave, they put a stone and cry hot tears.
 Custom of Moroccan dervishes

Rosebuds surrounded by thorns.
Mother cat carrying babies in mouth.
 Rumi 13th century scholar, theologian poet, and mystic

My sorrows will be over when I find companionship in a cat.
 Ahmad Ibn Faris, ninth century scholar

Those who love cats have a strong faith.
Turkish proverb

The cat sleeps on the sheik's lap, and on the prayer carpet is she at home.
Attar, 13th century, mystic

The grammarian, Ibn Babshad, was eating with friends atop a Cairo mosque. When a cat appeared, they gave her some morsels. She took them and ran away only to come back again and again. The scholars followed her to a roof on which a blind cat was sitting. The cat placed the morsels in front of her. Babshad was so moved by God's caring for the blind creature that he gave up his belongings and lived in poverty, completely trusting in God until he died in 1067.
Ancient tradition recorded by Dimiri in the 14th century

Religious cynic that I am, I can't help but reflect that had Mohamed despised cats as he did dogs, their fate might have been just as tragic. So it is with all religions in which the founder's virtues and vices are enshrined as the will of God. On the bright side, because Mohamed liked cats, they have been far better treated in Islamic nations than Christian ones. To see this for yourself, google cats in mosques, and click on images.

Part 2 of Cats and Humans: Cats Under Christian Rule

St. Gertrude

Ancient Israel being a nation of herdsmen, cats are only mentioned once in the Bible:

“The idols' faces are made black with the smoke that is in the house. Owls, and swallows, and other birds fly upon their bodies, and upon their heads, and cats in like manner.”  Baruch 6:20-21

Likewise, Bastet's holy city only appears once in the Bible--in a failed prophecy:

“The young men of Heliopolis and Bubastis will fall by the sword, and the cities themselves will go into captivity.” Ezekiel 30:17

Initially, Christian painters honored the cat's role as a fertility symbol by including cats in paintings of the Virgin Mary. According to legend, Jesus' mother and a cat gave birth at the same time in a Bethlehem stable, and when Mary was unable to lullaby her baby to sleep, a newborn kitten crawled into the manger and purred him to sleep.  

Saint Gertrude became the patron saint of cats, and Saint Agatha turned into a fierce cat when angry.  Naturalistic cats were carved into church furniture, represented in gargoyles in Notre Dame, and appeared in illustrations in the 700 AD Lindisfarne Gospels, and in the 800 AD Irish Book of Kells. Christian Europe had laws that placed a high monetary value upon cats, punished anyone who abused or neglected a cat, and awarded the family cat to divorced wives.

In the ninth century, an Irish monk wrote endearingly of his cat in a poem entitled

“Pangur Ban (the title means A Fuller White):

“Pangur, white Pangur, how happy we are
Alone together, scholar and cat.
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me it is study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice when your claws entrap a mouse.
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his art, neither hinders the other;
Thus we live without tedium and envy.”

By the 13th century, the Catholic Church was experiencing growing disillusionment within its ranks combined with a permanent split with its Eastern branch. Pope Gregory IX blamed the church's problems on Satan worship, and because the church regarded women as morally and intellectually weak, and associated cats with Bastet, Artemis, Diana, Hecate, and Freya, women and cats became targets of the church's wrath. The resultant persecution was based upon the Bible and upon Pope Gregory's 1233 Vox Romana 

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Exodus 22:18

“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” I Timothy 2: 13-14

“Then all sit down to a banquet and when they rise after it is finished, a black cat emerges from a kind of statue which normally stands in the place where these meetings are held. It is as large as a fair-sized dog, and enters backwards with its tail erect. First the novice kisses its hind parts, then the Master of Ceremonies proceeds to do the same and finally all the others in turn; or rather all those who deserve the honor. The rest, that is those who are not thought worthy of this favor, kiss the Master of Ceremonies. When they have returned to their places they stand in silence for a few minutes with heads turned towards the cat. Then the Master says: 'Forgive us.' The person standing behind him repeats this and a third adds, 'Lord we know it.' A fourth person ends the formula by saying, 'We shall obey.'” Vox Romana

So it was that the little predator that had symbolized divine fertility; lulled Jesus to sleep; and was lauded for its protection of food, health, books, manuscripts, bedding, and altar candles, came to be regarded as the associate of Judas. In the eyes of the church, the cat not only represented Satan, the cat was the embodiment of Satan, and the screams of tortured cats came to be regarded as music to God's ears. But it wasn't just women and cats who were persecuted, the church ascribed cat worship to all its enemies, and under torture, its enemies confirmed that this was true. Nor was the persecution limited to Catholics--England's Queen Elizabeth I celebrated her 1558 coronation with the burning of a cat-filled papal effigy. The  church's hatred of cats even infected medicine and academia.

“They who keep cats with them in their beds have the air corrupted and fall into hectics and consumption. The hair of cats eaten unawares stops the artery and causes suffocation.”
Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts, 1607

“The cat is a venomous animal which infects through its hair, its breath, and its brains.” Ambroise Pare, French surgeon 1510-1590

In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII declared: The cat is the devil's favourite animal and the idol of all witches. Witches, he argued, could shape-shift into cats, so he ordained that both witches and cats be burned. The last public killing of cats occurred in Ypres, Belgium in 1817, although the city's celebration continues to this day with toy cats. Yet cats were never universally despised even among leading churchmen, most famously the kitten-loving cardinal Amand Richelieu who left his kittens well provided for in his will although they were murdered after his death by the Swiss Guard. In his 14th century Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote: 

“Lat take a cat, and fostre him wel with milk, And tendre flesh, and make his couche of silk, And let him seen a mous go by the wal; Anon he weyveth milk, and flesh, and al, And every deyntee that is in that hous, Swich appetyt hath he to ete a mous.

In the 1700s, couples in the French court wrote love letters to one another under the pretense that they were written by the couple's Turkish Angoras, as did America's premier wit, Benjamin Franklin. By the 1760s British poet Christopher Smart could safely write:

“For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.

For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his Way....” 

And of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), his cat-hating biographer, James Boswell, wrote:

“I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature.” 

But what of modern Catholicism's attitude toward cats? I don't know of a single church that concerns itself with the welfare of non-humans, but only the Catholic Church condemns them to suffer until such time as all human needs are met:

“It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery.”
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2418

Although recent popes have apologized to various of the church's many victims, cats were not included despite constituting the majority of the aggrieved. Because St. Francis of Assisi referred to non-humans as brothers and sisters, one might hope that the current pope might do the same, but perhaps he took his name from some other Francis. In any event, upon learning how much money people spend upon their pets, Francis complained:

“After food, clothing and medicine, the fourth item is cosmetics and the fifth is pets. That’s serious.” 

But on a positive note, he broke with numerous popes, including his immediate predecessor, by declaring that animals possess immortal souls and will live alongside us in heaven. The Bible agrees:

“The wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat...the lion will eat straw like the ox... Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain...” Isaiah 65:25 

Despite this enlightened view, the prescribed relationship between animals and humans was determined within the second page of the Book of Genesis:

“God blessed them and said to them, 'Fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.'” Genesis 1:28

Rule over cats? Good luck! When cats' observation that ours is a large and heavily armed race of homicidal maniacs didn't suggest to them that we deserved their homage, what did we do? What could we do? We could kill them, and kill them, and kill them. We could dance like King Louis XIV danced as caged cats were slowly lowered onto Parisian bonfires, and, when burning them grew stale, we could flay, crucify, eviscerate, draw-and-quarter, and throw them from towers while Christians cheered, happy in the knowledge that the same Jesus whom a kitten had once lulled to sleep had since realized that kittens were demonic.

We, the hideous, the loutish, the churlish, and the clumsy, destroyed the free, the noble, the brave, and the beautiful, and then came the rodent-carried Black Death. Our defenders being dead, and our sadistic god's maniacal laughter grown strangely silent, our bodies turned the color of blackened catfish before our putrid corpses were cast high upon meat-wagons. Now that the Plague is a distant memory, Christ's faithful can again celebrate him in song: “I've got joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my soul today.” If I were a praying man, I would sing too, a song of my own invention. It would start with the words Hail Bastet, and I would sing it whenever I remembered that what Christianity was to cats, the Black Death was to Christianity. Happily, cats survived that long ago reign of terror to grace our homes today, but, sadly, the religion of Christ also survived.

Christianity's last public killing of cats occurred in 1817 in Ypres, Belgium, where they were thrown from a watchtower. Today, as part of a family-friendly festival, toy cats are cast from that same tower. Would the pubic consider it just as amusing to draw-and-quarter Jews, or, in the minds of the many, is it more entertaining to watch cats die?

Kattenstoet, Ypres Belgium