The Burrow: Why Bother? My Cat Is a Wizard

by Robbie Fischer

My name is Robbie F., and I have a problem. I have a cruel addiction that has already cost me about US$100,000 and that, if it doesn’t actually destroy my human relationships, at least gives me an excuse to go on not having them. It systematically destroys everything that I own, it causes me to lose sleep at night, and it induces such bizarre behavior as duct-taping over light switches, using bookends to hold some doors shut and others open, and phoning my empty house when I am out of town so that I can leave messages on my own answering machine. Also, I seem to see animals that no one else can see. I cannot overcome this addiction by myself. Because frankly, I like it. So obviously, I need help.

It began when I moved to a strange town, thousands of miles from my nearest loved ones, and had to live by myself in a house that had more rooms than I knew what to do with. I worked with people all day long, but at night I had no one to come home to, no one to confide in. So I decided to visit the County Humane Society. I went with an open mind, undecided as to whether I wanted a dog or a cat. My family has always had a dog as far back as I can remember, but we only had cats now and then, and never since I passed into my teens. I considered myself a “dog person,” mostly, but I decided that I wouldn’t make up my mind until I saw what the Humane Society had on offer.

Well, there were some pretty cute dogs, but all of them were either too old (I wanted a puppy that I could train myself, and that would really be my pal and no one else’s), or they looked like they were going to grow up into huge, bear-like creatures, like Snuffles. I made note of a few dogs that I could settle for if I found nothing better, then I went to look at the cats. There were all kinds of really cute kittens, any of which would have made an adorable pet, but then I saw one kitten who owned me the moment I saw him. There’s no other way about it: he was obviously a great wizard. What do I need a familiar for? I’m a muggle. If anything, he chose me to be his familiar.

The kitten was about as long as my hand, and he had big, clear, intelligent green eyes. The skin on the inside of his ears, the tip of his nose, and the soles of his feet was pure black, but his coat was sleek, soft, satiny, charcoal gray, with just a hint of tabby markings in a barely distinguishable shade of dark gray. He had an elegant figure, even for a kitten, and he seemed very friendly and playful. So I asked if I could adopt him, and they said…No.

Or rather, Not yet.

He wouldn’t be ready for adoption for another week or two, they said. So do you know what I decided? I decided to go home empty-handed rather than adopt any other animal than the gray kitten. And I made sure that on the day he was eligible for parole-er, I mean, adoption-I showed up right at opening time to claim him before anybody else could. I had even picked out a name for him, by the simple method of thinking through all male names I could think of, until one of them made me laugh out loud. The one that made me laugh was Tyrone. Perhaps, being a wizard, he put his name in my head somehow-or perhaps, like wands, the name chooses the wizard.

Tyrone is magical. When he snuggles up to me, asking for attention, my heart softens, and my grouchiness turns into laughter. When he purrs, which isn’t too often, I experience a psychobiological reward, the kind of reward that gets some people hooked on drugs. And when he wants to make me regret any slight or shortcoming on my part, he accomplishes some seemingly impossible feat in order to punish me. The only way to fight back is to use duct tape.

For instance, Tyrone can open cupboards. Cat owner’s First Use of Duct Tape: to stick cupboard doors shut. Now I’m not just talking about cupboards in the American sense of those little shelves under and above the kitchen counter. For Tyrone can also open cupboards in the British sense, what we Americans call “closets.” The pantry closet and the laundry closet, to be exact. These have fold-out-in-the-middle, runner-on-track sort of doors, three between them. All the cat has to do is stick his paw into the space under the door, lift, pull, and the door opens. Next thing he does is knock everything off the shelves, chew holes in the plastic bags of lentils & ramen noodles, and if he really wants to get on my nerves, fall between the washing machine and the wall, so that I have to search all over the house to find him, and then practically dislocate my shoulder to pull him out again. To keep him out of the cupboard, I have to stick a steel book-end to the floor (guess how?), right in front of the hinged joint in the closet door. And it doesn’t do to rip the tape up and put it down again, when I need to get into the closets myself, because it takes a firm seal to keep the cat from breaking in.

Second, Tyrone can play soccer, also known as football to you Euro folk. Give him a little plastic ball with a jingle bell in it, or even the lid of a milk bottle or similar trash, and he will swat it around on the floor with the expertise of Pele. Not only that, but he makes shots on goal. The goal being any doorway or piece of furniture with just enough clearance for the object in question to roll or slide under it. After repeatedly pulling out my broom, not to fly on, but to swipe cat toys out from under the couch, I realized that it was really the cat’s goal to get all his toys under there. For a while I amused myself (and him) by playing goalie, and trying to block him from shooting his toys under the couch, but he was too good for me. Eventually I had to swap in a couch that rode higher (so the cat could get under it himself). Later, when I moved a dresser to vacuum under it, I found ALL the cat toys there and realized that he had switched to that goal. Guess what I used to cover up the openings at the bottom front of the dresser?

Third, Tyrone can operate electrical equipment. After finding lights and ceiling fans turned on that I had left off, or vice versa, I noticed that some of their wall switches were within reach of places on which my cat could perch. A few strips of duct tape solved that problem too. That still doesn’t explain the cat dating website I found downloaded onto my computer one day…well, that didn’t really happen. But he has unleashed previously unheard-of applications on my computer, just by stepping on the keyboard; he has also done things to videos that I couldn’t figure out how to undo without shutting the machine off & starting over, merely by stepping on the remote control.

Fourth, Tyrone can levitate, and possibly even fly. This is a cat who likes to nap in high places, like the tops of the kitchen cabinets, which are higher than some people’s ceilings. I have seen him jump from the floor to the top of the plexiglass shell around my shower, which is only about an inch wide, and from the bathroom counter to the top of the door. I have also seen him walk around my entire living room at a height above my head. First he hopped from the couch to the top of the grandfather clock, then he walked across the curtain rod in front of the sliding glass door, then jumped to a shelf built into the wall above the piano, and then-at least, I assume he did this-he leapt across a wide hallway onto another built in shelf above the dining room table, and from there (without tipping over a single piece of bric-abrac), attacked a ceiling fan in full swing. I gather that this is what happened, because when I heard the deafening crash and ran out to the living room to see what had happened, Tyrone was hiding under the couch, and the ceiling fan was wobbling like crazy, and the blade that had broken off was lying in the middle of the living room floor. How could a cat do all this without breaking his neck? Magic!

Fifth, Tyrone can become invisible. At least, it seems that way, when I can look into every nook and cranny and not be able to find him-usually, just when I’m about to take him to the vet’s for his boosters. Even the hiding places I have discovered, like inside an old chair or up inside the box-spring of my bed, sometimes don’t bear fruit when I’m searching for him. Thank goodness for cat treats (his favorite brand is Pounce)! When he hears the pouch crackling in my hands, he usually comes running. USUALLY. When he doesn’t is when I start looking between the washing machine and the wall.

Sixth, Tyrone can speak in tongues. Not content just to say “meow,” he also makes such sounds that I sometimes wonder whether I’ve adopted a monkey or perhaps a bird of some kind. I think he practices languages in order to have an edge over home invaders, such as the khaki-colored lizard whose dead body he presented to me one day. Plus, he knows how to communicate in non-verbal ways. For instance, when his “number-two” misses the inside of the litter box by mere inches, I know he is telling me that I haven’t been treating him the way he expects to be treated. And when he head-butts me while I’m trying to sleep, he means to tell me that it’s time to wake up and cuddle him. When it’s particularly urgent that I wake up and make his breakfast, he finds a piece of facial tissue or paper or even waste cellophane, lets it soak in his water dish, then teleports it to my bed (without spilling a drop along the way) and drops it RIGHT ON MY FOOT, so that I wake up instantly and completely, thanks to the sensation of cold wetness being slapped on my skin.

Seventh, Tyrone can read minds. He runs and hides while I’m merely THINKING about taking him to the vet’s. Whereas he materializes from any point in the house in time to “help” me make my bed, on the rare occasions when I do so. I think he can also put his thoughts into my mind, because somehow I can tell when his meow means “Don’t you think it’s about time you scooped my litter box?” and, “Hey, you’re not going to throw away that tuna water, are you?”

Eighth, Tyrone can drive a car. Or at least, he tries to help. We took a 4-day driving trip together and he made sure he could see out all the windows (particularly the windshield), besides trying out the steering wheel and the pedals for himself. Bless him! I thought I was going to die, but it turned out all right in the end. And after the first few minutes (each day, mind you) he did settle down and enjoy the ride from a sunny spot in the backseat.

Ninth, Tyrone can sell property. Didn’t you believe me when I said he had cost me $100,000? My landlord didn’t care for cats, so he gave me a choice: lose the cat, or lose the house. I saw no real alternative; I found a house for sale and bought it. After the water heater exploded, and the garbage disposal backed up into the dishwasher, and the vicious bougainvillea plant in the front yard ripped my skin to shreds every time I tried to trim it (Venomous Tentacula has nothing on the bougainvillea), I had a good think about that very question, and I realized: Tyrone made me buy this place! I chose to be in debt for the next 30 years, sooner than part with an animal that could be expected to live no more than half that time. What could have come over me except magic of the darkest kind?

Tyrone can do so much, it’s too bad he’s squeamish about needles, he faints at the sight of them. And in spite of ample opportunity, he does not play the piano. Some cats just don’t have the music in them.

So what would my animal familiar be? I suppose, if I was a wizard, it would be my cat Tyrone. But since he’s already a wizard himself, why bother?