People are strange when you're a stranger

People are strange when you're a stranger

14452161263_722e497403_bThere are people who scare you: dictators, axe murderers, Ronald McDonald.

There are people who evoke your sympathy: starving people, lonely people, people enslaved by warlords or warlocks.

Then there are the people who fall into both categories simultaneously.

Why, yes, Hobbes; it is jaw-dropping that anyone could not adore cats.
Why, yes, Hobbes; it is jaw-dropping that anyone could not adore cats.

I’m talking about the people who are incapable of appreciating marshmallows: scary and sad.
I’m talking about the people who are not amused by Jimmy Fallon singing about tight pants: scary and sad.
And I’m talking about the people who just…can’t…love…cats.

Scary. Sad. Seriously.

We don’t encounter these people too frequently at Tabby’s Place, but when we do, it’s a cataclysm of sympathy and shock. They tumble through our doors like dry grass, meeting the gaze of no creature.

They are always on a mission.

“My wife had some litter to donate. Our <expletive> cat won’t use it. <Expletive> cat.”

Or, “These towels are from my uncle. He likes cats” (said with a withering look at Mimi, sharp eyes asking, is this scurvy beast going to soil my footwear?).

Most commonly, it’s a variation on a theme. You could actually play Mad Libs with the sad standard speech that brings the sad standard ailurophobe to our lobby:

"Shocking," saith Sven.
"Shocking," saith Sven.

“My (auntie/plumber/shoeshine boy/publicist) has (1/2/20/797) cats but can’t keep ’em anymore because she/he is (reading Ulysses/running for President/being held hostage by warlords/keeping up with Kardashians). I (hate/don’t want/have to get rid of/don’t know what to do with) them. (Expletive/Expletive/Expletive/Expletive) cats.”

You get the idea.

We do our best to help these people. We do our best to cast no mental stones. I confess my first instinct is not so much to judge these people* as to feel heartbroken for them. They are angry. They won’t make eye contact with a cat.

They are missing so much.

It’s in the icy wake of such visits that I remember: I don’t love cats because I am A Really Awesome Person. I don’t love cats because my soul is a pulsing bliss-hoard of holiness and grace. I don’t love cats because I’m any better than anyone else.

I love cats because the ability to love is a gift, inexplicable and lavish. If it’s a gift, I didn’t earn it. And if it’s a gift, all I can do is receive it…and nudge it on ahead into other shaky hands, one gentle conversation at a time.

Don’t get me wrong. It would be easy, and momentarily satisfying, to give people what-for. (Whatever what-for is, anyway. If ever I receive a parcel with the return address specifying “What-For,” I will return to sender.) There’s a certain self-righteous binge that tempts us every time someone brash and mean spews their stuff. But to tell them off would only be to boost the beast. Angry, hungry people don’t start to love because someone gave them what-for.

Love gave me a torch, and I can either add to the arson of anger or light little candles — even if they’re held in balled-up angry fists.

"EEEEEEEEE HEE HEE HEE HEEEEEEEEHEEHEE!" saith Lady Grey. (We know better than to ask what happens in the little grey cells of Lady Grey.)
"EEEEEEEEE HEE HEE HEE HEEEEEEEEHEEHEE!" saith Lady Grey. (We know better than to ask what happens in the little grey cells of Lady Grey.)

It isn’t only cats to whom we tend here at Tabby’s Place.

There’s one more wrinkle in this rabble: I’m not entirely convinced these people, these cat-negative people, truly exist. Inevitably, towards the end of such a tortured conversation, something like a smile will tug at the side of their mouths and they’ll let something slip. It’s not much, just a mumble of, “I knew one cat, one time…he was good…almost kinda like a dog.”

As you know and I know, that one fine cat was by no means like a dog. He was like a cat. He was like a gift. He was like a candle that won’t go out.

Let’s not let it go out. Not on our watch.

*No, no, I am far too noble for that. I reserve my judgment for people who wear jorts. God help me. No, seriously. God, please help me not to judge anyone. We need us all.

Photo credits: All Mark’s mad skills except top thumbnail by AT.

4 thoughts on “People are strange when you're a stranger

  1. Angela,

    I would dismiss such people as scary and sad simultaneously too, except for one thing. Substitute the word “dog” for “cat”, and you have described me exactly.

    Does that make me a scary and sad person too? Or is such disbelief and scorn limited only to felinophobes?

    1. My dear Elliott, I trust you have read the rest of the post. I extend no real disbelief, nor scorn, for any fellow fragile human beans. We are all scary, sad and holy as a prayer all at the same time. We all need grace. And we all need each other as we stumble on towards grace and love of all creatures.

  2. I know there are people like this – I have always felt sorry for them. The man who never had a pet growing up or the woman who secretly thinks they will not be clean. But I have seen so many of these people changed without them realizing what is happening – by the love of a little furry creature. And like what I think is going to happen to the adopter of Cecille/Storm – this little cat’s gift of love will change his life forever.

  3. A little off subject, but just saw elsewhere another reference to James Bowen and Streetcat Bob – talk about a cat’s gift of love changing a life!

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