How to Train Your Human(s)

Field notes from the frontlines of feline world domination

Someone teleported onto the balcony again.

Grand displays of undivided yet fleeting feline attention led this currently catless household to stock up on cat treats. The square’s resident tuxedo — a matronly, vocal cat who used to follow us home we nicknamed Lady Mucky Paws — would make a beeline for the kitchen and sit in front of the cupboard with an expectant look.

When no offering was forthcoming, she would voice her disapproval in no uncertain terms, with loud meows and hisses, often refused to leave.

Lady Mucky Paws taught us how to be good hosts because there’s no disappointment quite like feline disappointment, that half-lidded look of disapproval that bores through your soul and declares you unworthy of cat companionship, be it only for a few minutes. As memorable as it is unsettling, once you experience it, you’re inevitably moved to take action so as to never experience it again. If humans are wont to disappoint one another routinely, disappointing a cat is like playing roulette with knives and a hole punch, both of which can inflict severe physical damage.

Beside drawing blood, theatrics may include something my pocket-sized tabby cat, Nuna (who still resides in the Pacific Northwest), has perfected into a routine called The Poopycopter, i.e. loose bowels and leaky bladder tearing through the kitchen, from countertop to top of fridge to top of cupboards and right back down onto the carpet. The Broadway production of cat histrionics, The Poopycopter is a one-creature show performed by someone who weighs as much as a small newborn human baby but who, unlike a skin-covered infant, can fly.

With this in mind, my Dutch household has learned to cherish stolen minutes with transient whiskered companions and stretch the moment with food. Today, our balcony is the most popular cat canteen in the neighborhood. The railings are wide enough to allow easy access from adjacent rooftops and the menu changes frequently.

Treats are available to any visitor. We keep at least two different kinds at any given time. This week, it’s salmon sticks and crunchy cheese-filled pillows. Local crows are fans, too.

A few weeks ago we attended a public cross-species training session given by the downstairs calico cat currently on our balcony.

It is in the interest of mutually beneficial feline-human cooperation we share our notes with the internet of humans and machines.

Magnificent, resolute, and uncompromising, the calico cat stares the short-haired human down.

Maintain eye contact at all times and remain silent.

It unsettles.

When you’ve done your due diligence, it only takes a few minutes to assert dominance.

Under the watchful eye of assembled neighbors — felines, humans, trembling rodents — the calico stands her ground until she achieves the desired result. As a rule, she prefers to let the staff figure out what to do for themselves instead of ordering them around. Watching a human atop a garden table debate with a cat is delightful but watching them step down with stooped shoulders, disappear, and come back gingerly bearing gifts is both empowering and humbling, depending on what species one belongs to.

With a rattle, a shake, and a hopeful, nervous face, the butler looks up at the cat with pleading eyes, imploring the furry goddess to follow him. With haste, he has procured edible bribes to coax the feline deity back down to her earthly kingdom.

Behold action as devotion, motion as worship, love as religion, and life as emotion.

To build a solid snack stream for life, one training session is all it takes. The more spectators, the more lucrative and delicious one’s wanders amid the neighborhood rooftops and balconies will be.

Nothing spreads propaganda like rallies. Nothing gets humans to pay attention like cuteness, especially when graceful, majestic, and so soft you just have to feel it, touch it, and pet it. Or smell it. As an aside, we are unreliably informed furless cats can smell like potatoes. And humans love potatoes.

As a cat, you’re never not holding a rally and you’re never not focused on mass appeal. For humans trying to parse the concept and coming up Donald Trump and confused, benevolent dictatorship is a form of gentle yet firm leadership that sells itself when you look like we do. In this appearance-obsessed age, photoshopped humans don’t stand a chance against cats whose natural charisma is inherent to catness, even if there’s one or several body parts missing.

Infer away, by all means.

Catness is naturally magnetic, humanness needs a lot of editing and goodwill to compete. And even then, we have a signature soundtrack far more mellifluous than any human speech in almost any language, Portuguese excepted.

Proof: Human love is never more than a blur but cat love is always a purr.

Performing catness also keeps humans docile, obedient, and pleasantly motivated even though our world domination plans have never been secret. Never underestimate the impact of a tactical hiss, a targeted claw, or the four-fanged Dracula kiss of bliss. Please note that unless it has been gutting fish without gloves, the human finger is of little interest to a cat nor do we enjoy being relentlessly pointed at.

So here we are, the proof of concept for a softer, gentler world may be unfolding before my eyes in a small medieval town in North Holland, on rooftops, in back alleys, and under garden shed doors.

To be allowed to witness it is a privilege, to chronicle it is a duty.

My name is Kitty, mice to meet you.

💛 If you enjoyed these words, please consider supporting my work with a modest cup of coffee. It’s cheaper than 🍽 and it keeps me warm. Merci! 🐱

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