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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

Editor's Note: This week, while Joe McAdoo is recovering from his recent bypass surgery, SBJ presents our selection from the best of the Rusty Saber, as published in Joe's book, "McAdoo About Nothing."

I have learned many valuable lessons during my lifetime. One lesson is that you should never say anything bad about cats in the presence of cat lovers. I don't know why, but these folks take any disparaging word about cats as a personal attack.

Cat lovers are so defensive that it is possible to insult them by not saying anything about cats. I discovered this little insight when, over the course of time, I devoted a couple of Rusty Saber columns to dogs. The comments from cat fanciers can be paraphrased generally as: "Why don't you ever say anything about cats?" The tone of the questions sounds as though I have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

The simple truth is, I like cats. I find them fascinating. I have not written about cats because I haven't had anything to say about them. Before my readers beat me to it, I'll say it myself I have never allowed the fact that I have nothing to say on a subject to deter me from writing about it before. This time I did remain silent, however.

When pressed further about my silence on the subject of cats, confessing that I do not own a cat does no good. These cat fanatics push on. "Why don't you have a cat?" they ask in that same judgmental tone.

I think that they consider it un-American to be catless. I have given the matter some thought. My answer is based upon my experiences with the few cats that I have owned during my lifetime.

I can't say that a litter box adds much to the decor of any home. And what's a cat without a litter box? The scratches on furniture and in drapes never managed to thrill me very much, either. We had one cat who liked to get a good running start, jump on the couch and bound up onto the drapes. The cat would then await our applause for her athletic prowess. Strangely enough, my wife always appeared to be even more unimpressed than I.

Confusing as it may seem, the reason why I like cats is the major reason why I do not have one around the house. I like the independent nature of cats. They don't allow anybody to push then around.

They have the good sense to stay out of the way most of the time, but when someone, or something, invades their territory, they stand their ground. You deal with cats on their terms.

As much as I admire cats' spunky character, I don't admire it in my pets. I like for my pets to be companions. I want them to love me, not tolerate me. When I come home, my dogs wag their tails, yip and generally make fools of themselves. I like that.

When I sit down, there they are, waiting to be invited up in my lap. The cat, on the other hand, lies there on the TV set and looks at you through one half-closed eye. I think that if cats could talk, they might ask you to leave the room, or, at least, ask you to keep your voice down.

When you approach a cat for companionship, he will give a look as if to say: "Look, Turkey, I'll let you know when it's time for that nonsense!" Just when you have decided that the cat hates you, he will come over and start purring and rubbing against your leg. Now, he is saying: "I'm ready, but let's get it over with fast, I'm hungry."

True cat lovers are willing to tolerate smelly litter boxes, clawed furniture, and the independent personalities of their pets. To them, these are small prices to pay in order to share their homes with these majestic animals. I truly like cats other people's cats.

I suppose that I will now hear it from readers who have pet monkeys.

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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