Some animals have the oddest alter egos.
When I was a kid my grandparents had a cat that thought it was a raccoon. See, we had this family of raccoons living in our backyard, and they would come to our back door and we would feed them crusts of bread. One would sit on the little shelf outside the kitchen window and stare in to get our attention. The rest would loiter on the steps, the perfect location to either scamper up to the door and liberate the bread, or bolt into the backyard if things got out of control. I think my dad must have made a deal with their leader that if he let his children feed the pack they would leave our garbage cans alone. I grew up thinking raccoons were cute and sweet and had no idea that 99.8% of the human population considers them horrible pests that like to desecrate lawns and driveways with shredded garbage.
But anyway, the cat. So one day this white cat starts showing up for the daily feedings alongside the raccoons. It’s just hanging out, acting all rough and stripy and eating bread and my grandma was all Um, do you realize you’re a cat? And the cat was all Shut up and feed me dried up carb sticks, lady. This went on for a while until my grandma managed to somehow separate the cat from the herd and show it the benefits of embracing its feline side. Like sleeping on cushions and eating food that contains protein and smells like fish. Kitkat, as the animal was named, abandoned its raccoon tendencies and never looked back.
I was reminded of Kitkat yesterday as the big fluffy dog I’m looking after, Andy, tried repeatedly to prove that he is indeed a tiny lap cat. I was lying on the couch reading and he jumped up and tried to squeeze his 50 pound body alongside mine on the remaining two inches available on the cushions. As he panted happily in my face I could feel every muscle in his body tensing, trying desperately to not topple off onto the coffee table. He was not successful. Later that night as I was watching TV, he jumped up into my lap and tried to curl up into a ball. All he managed to do was bruise my thigh and totally obscure my view.
My roommates have Bartelby, a cat that thinks its a soul-eating demon. I mean, check out this picture. You can’t even photograph him. How evil is that? I’m fairly certain if I left my door open at night I’d wake up to find him sitting on my chest, paws holding my shoulders down, sucking my soul out through my mouth. He also occasionally thinks he’s a crock pot and will curl up in the appliance’s box, willing someone to close the lid.
My sister Melissa’s cat Griffin used to think he was a gay circus performer. Women were his assistants. We got to feed him and change his litter, and he would cuddle us if we happened to be his only option. But as soon as a guy came in the door, out came the JAZZ HANDS! He’d zoom all over the place, doing tricks and flips and launching himself spread eagle at curtains. LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! LOVE ME!!!!
In high school I had a series of gerbils that each thought they were Superman. They would climb to the very top of the cage and then launch themselves off, flinging their tiny little legs forward like they really thought they could fly. I could hear their little gerbil squeaks yelling I regret nothing! before they plummeted to the ground and lay there, stunned. After a few days of this they would get all corpsified and gross, and I would return them to the pet store in exchange for a warm, live ones, and repeat the cycle until my little heart couldn’t take the loss anymore and I stopped trying to be a pet owner.
Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? Do your pets think they are something, or someone, else? Should I be developing some kind of group therapy for these poor, misguided beasts? A Happy To Be Me class?
All photos by Sarah Gignac
Griffin — Acrobat for Males Only
Andy — Lap Cat
Bartelby – Eater of Souls
This article was first published at Raggedy Threads in November 2010.