“Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”

– Mark Twain

i don’t have any pets myself, but i do have an inter-species friend named simon. simon and i first met while i was running various errands around my neighborhood. i like cats so i tried to be friendly, but he was majorly disinterested in me.

then i saw him in the video store, the barber shop, and a few of the other local shops. i was always respectful–treating him like a colleague. it was clear that simon was understated leader of the street i lived on–that he ran things and was fairly in-charge. and for a long time it was unclear if he belonged to anyone, or if anyone belonged to him. and regardless of the more formal arrangements, it soon became clear that simon belonged to everyone–and everyone belonged to him.

he finally reciprocated my advances one day when i felt like i was about to fall to pieces. my newly-wed husband had just broken his leg, and i was working full time and in an intensive graduate school course for 2 weeks with four hours of instruction, and four hours of reading and homework each day. on top of my work commitment, i was starting to drag. to add to all this–i also had to take on my husband’s work as the building manager of the apartment we lived in. after a particularly bad episode with a leaf-blower, i sat down on the front steps and felt like crying.

a few moments in to my emotional break-down, simon sidled up to the steps and performed the signature cat rub against my shins. then he sat down and looked at me.

simon is a very soulful cat. he communicated a lot with his look, and sat with me for about half-an-hour. then he hopped on to the hood of my car, which i’m sure he hoped was still warm. since then, simon and i have been friends.

there are a couple things to note about simon: when he doesn’t want your attention–he doesn’t want it. when he wants it, it’s better to give it, especially if you are wearing a skirt or shorts–that is, especially if you are exposing the flesh of your legs below your knees. simon knows people well, and knows how to demand attention. he’s rather communicative. if he wants your attention, he lets you know by casually trotting up to you in a very not-desperate way. then he flops down on his side and waits for your reaction…which should be “so cute!” and a crouch down to pet him.

simon is also somewhat dog-intolerant. there are a couple neighborhood dogs that he tolerates, but i have witnessed him attacking large dogs on leashes. he ignores their barking and walks by, the suddenly turns and jumps on their back–claws out. in fact, we learned his name because his two people came running down the street one day while he was mid-attack–imploring “simon–no!”

in its day, simon was particularly territorial of the video store–where he would hang out on very cold or very wet days. the staff there kept food for him and a bowl on the counter. yapping dogs entering the store were saved many times by savvy staff distracting simon with food on the counter.

simon is getting older these days. becoming more tolerant of neighborhood dogs and spending more of his time sleeping under steps or on warm car hoods. and this exclusively outdoor-in-the-city cat has also been spending more time at home. i also see him spending time with a younger black cat–perhaps his protégé–maybe teaching him the ways of the street, introducing him to his little treat route, and sharing the best places to nap on cold, wet days.