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A meowing of Cats

Here's a tip for next Christmas, if you have a cat: Hang the bottom branches of your tree with cat toys. That way your feline will be delighted and you won't be irritated by it constantly knocking down and destroying your prized Christmas ornaments. It's too late to do it, now, I know. But next Christmas, try it.

Cats - or I should say house cats - are unique in that they are the only domesticated animal that did not first start out as either a pack or a herd animal, you know like dogs or sheep or cows. They were originally domesticated by the ancient Egyptians who used them to keep vermin out of the grain silo. I also hear that the Egyptians used to worship them as Gods though probably they didn't worship every single cat but only the really divine ones. It might seem a little extreme to worship any cat at all, but please keep in mind that the threshhold for God-hood back in those days was pretty low. If you could clean yourself entirely with your tongue that was usually enough.

I'm not sure exactly what the name for a collection of house cats is, if there even is one. Other animals have special identifiers when they're together in a group. For example: you have a herd of cattle, a school of fish, a flock of seagulls (also the name of an awesome group, man) and - my favorite - a murder of crows. That one says it all, it's real dark and scary and if you've seen crows together: it really fits. Lions travel together in prides, so I'm wondering if the proper name for more than one house cat shouldn't be a 'shame', as in a 'shame of house cats'. This would be because they're so much tinier than lions.

If there isn't any name yet I have two suggestions, either a 'meowing of house cats' or a 'yeowling of house cats'. I think they would both work as they are very descriptive of exactly of what house cats are what they do. Usually you don't see house cats congregating together much, except rather unwillingly as in a whole bunch of barn cats together or crazy cat ladies house. It's been my observation that in a lot of two cat households you'll see one very large well fed cat out in the open and another very scrawny and frightened cat darting about hoping not to be noticed. What's happening is that the second cat is getting knocked around by the other one.

Cats do have ways of communicating with each other - and you - but I can't claim to be much of a cat whisperer. I know that when they raise their tail straight up that means they recognize you and when they rub up against you it means not that they like you, but rather they think you need to smell like them. Presenting you with a dead animal is supposed to be a special gift, I understand, but I've got to tell you: There is one cat that's still waiting for a thank you card from me, and I'm sure he's very puzzled by my continuing ingratitude.

You may be surprised to know that house cats are trainable. I learned this one from a lion tamer in Maine who told me that training lions is similar to training any feline. The key is to know that they both have incredibly short attention spans and that if on any particular day you can get it one step closer to what you want it to do, then that might be enough. It requires unbelievable patience, though I think if you already have a housecat you pretty much know that getting it to do what you want it to is a lost cause anyways.

About the Author: Steve Sommers is the author of Breakfast with the Antichrist. His new novel, Rexroi, along with the best of Australian Science Fiction - is available as an ebook at, OR if you ABSOLUTELY need to turn pages when you read - at

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