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PHILIP SALOM

Poet and Novelist

 

Cats and Silence

 

I dislike those people who think people are divisible as liking cats or liking dogs, as if this liking only operated through us as preference – things being mutually exclusive. I have had three dogs as pets, over 20 years, and three cats over 25 years, with some overlap of dog and cat. None of these numbers include my childhood years on the farm, where we had several cats and one or two dogs all the time. And cows. It's just ... cows are hard work in an apartment. It's said that Newfoundland dogs are too, they will leap into the bath with you, onto the lounge, onto the bed... they weight up to 100kgs.

Cats have become my favourites now because we don't have to walk them, or pay them much attention if we're busy, they aren't breathily, breathlessly, or foul-breath needy. Dogs are shouters. And cats are quiet. Beautifully, marvelously quiet. Cats do silence brilliantly. They can walk silently, leap and land silently, wash, well, quietly, and move up against you softly and silently. So when they do make some noise – snoring whiffily as they sleep, or crunching biscuits, or chewing off their drying claws, or yowling with cat-existential concern - it becomes a delight and a burst of difference. Knowing how ferocious cats can be, and all have the potential to be, they are quite movingly gentle in their soft grace when affectionate, their silent co-coordinating stepping over obstacles, their wanting all four paw-pads touching you when they sit beside you ...

Our cats look us in the eye and the boy cat, Evan, is especially smart and even (no, really?) seems capable of uncatlike empathy (well, almost) in his attentions. Not quite as closely-attentive as a dog, no solace like dog licking solace, but some mysterious sense of coming when silent company is more than welcome.