In this slice-of-life vignette, stand-up comic Bo Guthrie describes how he and his cat Dude reached manhood and cathood, respectively.
I got Dude shortly after moving in to my first apartment. I was in my second year of college and my roommate and I felt that a pet would be a great addition to our living situation. First, we bought a baby snake. It escaped, showed up a week later, then escaped again for good. How we managed to lose an infant animal without arms or legs two times in a row is a mystery I’ll chalk up to pervasive hangovers and college level planning skills.
As luck would have it, however, my sister had rescued two young stray cats who were brother and sister. She wasn’t in a place to care for them both, so I offered to take them in. It was a disaster. They pissed on everything, tore up my couch, and the sister made her way into my closet and gave birth to a litter of
kittens all over my shoes. The weird thing is that her brother, whom I named Dude, and his sister had never been outside after they were kittens, they had only lived with one another and, even stranger, Dude had been fixed. Somehow, Dude managed to defy medical science and knock up his sister. It was clear to
me then that Dude was a cat to be reckoned with.
Dude’s primary interaction with his children involved him sitting on the kittens and batting them around on the floor. Whenever this happened, I felt like I was witnessing cat domestic violence playing out in my closet. I’d never seen a male cat interact with his kids, though, so I figured that maybe this was just part of the gig. Maybe as a dad cat you just had to sit on your kids and bat them around a little.
All the kittens grew up healthy and we gave them to good homes. Eventually, my sister took back Dude’s sister. It was just me and him now. Dude and I moved into our second apartment.
It was here that Dude’s antics reached a level of annoyance the likes of which I have never encountered before or since. He would run like mad around my apartment, chasing imaginary rodents. His favorite pastime was knocking things off tables and other surfaces. Unlike other cats, he would never sit down
on my lap. Instead, he’s swoop by, get rubbed for a second, then take off again.
I like to think of Dude’s destructive energy as being a reflection of my own inner turmoil at the time. After years of being numbed out on antidepressants, I made the decision to try out life without medicinal aid. The Paxil cloud that floated me above normality dissipated and I came crashing down hard.
I grew angry and resentful of everyone else that seemed to be so happy and normal and I like to think that Dude picked up on that. I like to think Dude was manifesting all the inner frustration I was too afraid to let out and deal with. He was probably just being a shitter, though.
Dude’s misbehavior began to take on a level of calculation that hinted at more than just simple young-cat angst. For instance, Dude would wait outside my bedroom while I was doing my laundry. I would lay folded clothes in neat stacks on my bed and whenever I would turn away to grab another item of
clothing, Dude would shoot through my room and across my bed, barreling into as many stacks of freshly folded laundry as he could before running off through the apartment. At night while I was struggling to sleep, Dude would stand in the hallway meowing incessantly. I’m only somewhat ashamed to admit that I
hurled more than a few pillows in his direction in an effort to shut him up. Dude was letting me know that he was restless. He needed something to change as much as I did.
It was around the end of my second year living with Dude that the change finally came. When I moved in with her, Dude came with me.
Her name was Meghan and she brought to mine and Dude’s life a level of depth and maturation that we hadn’t known before. It was with her that I became a man. And it was with her two female cats, Chloe and Penny, that Dude did too.
I’d like to pause here for a moment to acknowledge that I’m fully aware that three cats is bordering on “weird cat people” territory. We’re not weird cat people. Now you’re thinking, “Yeah that’s something a weird cat person would say.” Well you know what I think? I think you’re overly judgmental and that speaks to your lack of character. Asshole. Now back to the story.
Having to reckon with two other cats curbed Dude’s craziness fair quickly. He couldn’t run around the apartment like a banshee because, eventually, he’d bump into one of the girls. He stopped knocking things off tables. He never meowed at night anymore. Like me, having others in his life made him calmer.
I knew a significant change had occurred in Dude when I came home one day and saw him sitting in my girlfriend’s lap. Like me, he’d connected with someone. The sonofabitch just decided to connect to this new girl instead of the guy who had taken care of him for the past two years. But, like me, he was happier for it. It wasn’t long before he started to sit on my lap, too. Now, he prefers to be with me over Meghan.
Dude and I have grown into adults together. He’s six years old now and is at a point in his life where I can tell that he’s content. He likes who he is and who he’s with. I had intended to wrap up by saying that Dude has taught me not only about cats, but about life. I was going to try and tack on the idea that having pets enriches people’s lives. But I don’t think there’s a lesson here. Dude’s just a cool cat and that’s all there is to it.
Read more from the Moustache Club’s Good Cat Project: