In celebration of the impending Halloween holiday, I was given a set of funky cat ears.
I immediately put them on to test my feline fancy with my best boy, Jack The Cat, and I was surprised by the response I was given.
The moment I put on the ears, Jack did a double take and looked at me with that wobbly kind of eye tremor that Persian cats are known to perform when trying to give something depth and form instead of their usual lazy, fuzzy perception of a world that bows before them. Jack crouched down and squinted at me.
He wasn’t upset. He was checking me out in a new way. He wasn’t scared — Jack’s Achilles Heel is that he fears nothing, not loud sounds, or yelling in the street and not even the vacuum cleaner — he was as intrigued by my new ears as he is by his English grooming comb.
So I was looking at him and he was looking at me. Neither one of us moved. I took off the ears and Jack did another double take and sat up and rested on his haunches looking a bit perplexed. I approached him and offered him my hand and he sniffed me up for a good five minutes. I stroked him and we purred together for another five minutes.
Then I put the cat ears back on and Jack shook his head in disbelief! He looked at my cat ears and turned his head from side to side to see if they were actually a part of my head or some kind of background Cat Pareidolia that was confusing his previous perception of me. I offered him my hand again for sniffing and he smelled me up with great vigor as his eyes wobbled, trying to focus in on my new cat ears.
It was then I realized, in Jack’s world, the semiotic he perceives and respects and uses to discern friend from person-who-combs-him-and-gives-him-food-every-day is not smell alone, as I previously thought, but two small triangles that appear on the top of the head no matter how large or lumbering the “cat” appears to be — if you have “cat ears” you’re a cat and that’s that! I left the room and took off the fake cat ears and I won’t wear them again. I understood Jack’s excitement wasn’t one of fear or inquiry — he thought he had a new cat friend to play with him all day. I felt terrible for disappointing him.
Jack never figured out the new cat in the house was me in cat ears but I felt his yearning as he ignored the “earless” me to meow and search the entire house for his newfound friend that never really existed. Most cats are territorial. They like their space and they don’t want to share — especially if they’ve been the sole cat-in-the-hat for the last 13 years — but Jack once again violates all feline expectation.
Jack loves all things he cannot have — the UPS man’s package scanner, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s hair, the hallway where he is not allowed, a bath full of bubbles, baby polar bears on TV, and it seems, a giant new cat in the house with really tiny cat ears.