Giving Thanks for Cats, and other small guardians of civilization

A reader with the eldritch and unspeakable name of Nostreculsus writes:

Although cats are disgusting vermin that must be put down, I must warn against any plan to consume their meat in a stew. It is just too dangerous. Science tells us that cats are infested with symbiotic parasites that lodge in the brains of those unfortunates exposed to cats. These parasites then control the minds of the human victim, convincing him to shelter cats, to feed cats and to serve all cat purposes. There are even sad cases where the infested human’s perceptions are so disordered, so that he finds the cats “cute”, and “fluffy”, rather than as the diseased and repulsive beasts they truly are. Any such infested humans should be reported for medical decontamination at once.

At least, that is what the parasites from my faithful golden retriever, Scout, are telling my brain. He is truly man’s best friend.

This is almost as amusing as the scene in Tanith Lee where the great demon prince Azhrarn, upon discovering the mankind does not like snakes because of the slitted eyes and sinister pride and sleek cruelty of snakes, takes a snake and pets it, giving it fur and feet, and releases upon man the race of cats, who men love, because of the slitted eyes and sinister pride and sleek cruelty of cats.

I am totally kidding about the cat cooking. Without cats, out first ancestors who settled down from a nomadic life and grew grain and raised city walls would have been eaten out of their grain supplies by rats, and civilization would have never begun. All writers owe our livelihood to cats, since the first writing systems were apparently to tally grain or write down the names of the kings of walled towns. So, a few thousand years of catlike lazying around and doing no work is small price to pay for all the efforts of all farm cats for countless years keeping the rat population down.

Now, of course, after the last election, we realize that the rat population has returned, and the voters voted themselves all the seedcorn in the grainhouse, and all the rats feasted and feasted again with so called stimulus packages that magically reversed cause and effect (as if consuming goods could somehow produce goods) and various inflationary quantitative easing schemes. Oh, where is some Egyptian devil-goddess with the head of a cat to call down vengeance upon this nation with a swarm of slitted eyes cats, sleek and cruel, to eat all the hordes and hordes of rats rising like an endless tide to consume our civilization? Where, O God, is the archangel in charge of cats? Send us, Lord, St. Gertrude of Nivelles!



  1. Comment by Sean Michael:

    Dear Mr. Wright:

    Very amusing! Sadly, I have to agree with what you said about too many Americans voting to eat their seed corn and future. I am NOT looking forward with joy to the next four years of this horrible Age of Barry!

    I would far rather we had leaders like Aragorn, Faramir, Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel. Intead we have fools like Barry, Joe, Nancy, Hillary, and Harry!

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  2. Comment by vespersontherocks:

    I remember reading that Flat Earth passage aloud to my wife a few years ago (Lee’s prose begs to be read aloud, anyway). She found it quite amusing, but throughout the reading, our cat fixed me with a sidelong, imperious glance that seemed to say, “Who told you?

  3. Comment by Stephen J.:

    That’s one reason I love being a Catholic. We’ve got a saint for everything.

  4. Comment by Jacob:

    I’ve never really understood the hatred of cats. For many years my sole companion was a cat. Before she passed on, she was one of the best pets a man could have, and dispatched 1 or 2 mice before they became problems. She also taught me much about how to care for something other than yourself. I miss her.

    Not sure how much of a fan I am of his work, but one of my favorite quotes on cats comes from Mark Twain: “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade without further introduction.”

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I think that dog-people hate cats for the same reason cat-people love cats: the animal is proud and independent, and equal.
      I think that dog-people love dogs for the same reason cat-people hate dogs: the animal is loyal and servile, a faithful thrall.

      Of course, I fall into neither of these categories. I am a Houyhnhnm with an irrational affection for yahoos. So I might be called a yahoo-person.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        As someone who has always loved both cats and dogs, I think it’s about one’s preference for boundless enthusiasm vs. quiet affection; I enjoy both, and thus I like both. Cats demand nothing but food; dogs demand nothing but play. Both kinds of relationships have their plusses.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          As a man with very little affection for pets, nor, indeed, for much of anything, I can only admire from afar those who imitate the boundless love of the Creator for his human inferiors by sharing affection with a pet. Despite the vast convenience of modernity, our culture has lost something precious by moving from a horse-drawn and rural world to an urban cityscape of endlessly roaring machines, or at least me personally.

  5. Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

    And then there is the Book of Baruch, the Bible’s contribution to cat literature, which points out that cats are also good idol detectors, in Baruch 6:21-22 (this chapter is sometimes called “The Epistle of Jeremiah”):

    “Over [idols’] bodies and heads fly owls and swallows and birds, and cats in like manner. And so you may know that they are no gods. Therefore, fear them not.”

    “Supra corpus eorum, et supra caput, volant noctuae et hirundines et aves, etiam similiter et cattae. Unde scietis quia non sunt dii, ne ergo timueritis eos.”

    The Septuagint’s Epistle of Jeremias has it as: “Upon their bodies and heads sit bats, swallows, and birds, and the cats also.” (That’s “kai oi ailouroi,” I think. Not good at Greek.)

  6. Comment by joetexx:

    For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.

    For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
    For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.

  7. Comment by Corey Comstock:

    Good host, keep your pagan goddess and give me rather that noted lawman and philosopher Rooster Cogburn to deal with the rats:

    “Mr. Rat, I have a writ here that says you are to stop eating Chen Lee’s cornmeal forthwith. Now, It’s a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of same!

    “[to Mattie] See? He doesn’t pay any attention to me. [shoots the rat]

    “You can’t serve papers on a rat, baby sister. You either kill him or let him be.”

    One prays, of course, that human vermin be changeable, and that we able to move the culture back to sanity.

  8. Comment by deiseach:

    Let Nostreculsus heed the warnings of the tale of the cats of Ulthar, as recounted by H.P. Lovecraft:

    “It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat; and this I can verily believe as I gaze upon him who sitteth purring before the fire. For the cat is cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see. He is the soul of antique Aegyptus, and bearer of tales from forgotten cities in Meroe and Ophir. He is the kin of the jungle’s lords, and heir to the secrets of hoary and sinister Africa. The Sphinx is his cousin, and he speaks her language; but he is more ancient than the Sphinx, and remembers that which she hath forgotten.”

  9. Comment by arkanabar:

    Among other small guardians of civilization are small, hyperactive dogs, such as the Dutch Schipperke, the Cairne, Scottish, Wheaten, and West Highland White terriers, and numerous others of the class.

  10. Comment by Joseph M:

    Ah, if only this were just a joke:

    It has been speculated that this parasite similarly causes the otherwise baffling behavior of cat ladies: those poor souls for whom 3 or 4 cats are not enough, and for whom the smell of cat urine does not cause gagging and a clean-or-flight response, but passes unnoticed. Which raises 3 questions:

    – are there cat *men* as well?
    – where’s the evidence for the expected evolutionary arms race with dogs? Doggy people – the people with more than 1 or 2 – seem a little wacky to me;
    – There’s gotta be some SciFi on this topic…

    • Comment by Sean Michael:

      Hi, Joseph!

      Closest I can think of being the cats of Queen Beruthiel, mentioned by Aragorn in the chapter of LOTR called “A Journey in the Dark.” In a note found by his son Christopher, Tolkien discussed how these cats were used by Beruthiel, the wife of King Tarannon of Gondor as spies to pry out all the secrets of men in Gondor. Queen Beruthiel and her cats became so strongly hated that Tarannon put them on a ship and drove them out of his realm.

      Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by Nostreculsus:

      The theory that the cat parasite, toxoplasma gondii, is tweaking the brains of these cat ladies is somewhat plausible. There is a cat lady down the road from us and I really have no idea how many cats she had.

      Once she invited us to tea and, just to be polite, I remarked “What interesting cats you have. I particularly like the ones with white tails. How many of those do you have, then?” She stared at me and said “If I select a pair of my cats at random, it is exactly even odds that both of them have white tails.”

      Well, it took me a moment to sort this out. “I see.”, I replied. “Just as many pairs where both have white tails as pairs where neither cat or only one has a white tail. So, you must have three with white tails along with Mr Mittens there, who has a spotted tail. That gives three ways to make a pair excluding Mr Mittens and three ways to make a pair including him. Even odds.”

      She put down her teacup. “Dear boy, you can plainly see I have more cats than that.”

      I sometimes wonder just how many cats this crazy woman has.

  11. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Why should people put cats and dogs in competition? When they are raised with each other they get along very well. My mother had both a small dog and a cat before I was born and I never forgot the tale about the cat saving the dog from being killed by a car.

    I am told there are lots of rats in town but I am not worried: my cat hunts and eats even insects and a rat or squirrel won’t stand a chance if they dare enter her realm.

  12. Comment by Nostreculsus:

    Oh, where is some Egyptian devil-goddess with the head of a cat to call down vengeance upon this nation with a swarm of slitted eyes cats, sleek and cruel, to eat all the hordes and hordes of rats rising like an endless tide to consume our civilization?

    Hail, Bast, Eye of Ra, she who rips out the hearts of the transgressors of ma’at and delivers them to the feet of her Father.

  13. Comment by jtherry:

    This reminds me of one of the late Truman Capote’s reminiscences, of traveling through the rural South as a young man, and knocking on a widow’s farmhouse door when his car broke down. They talked long into the night, and discovered their mutual love of cats. The next morning, as Capote prepared to leave, the widow showed him her deep freeze, filled with the frozen bodies of all her many cats through the years. “I couldn’t bear to part with any of them,” she said tearfully.

  14. Comment by wlinden:

    As it is written in the Holy Catma:

    1. The Lord Mota resides on Mars in the form of the sacred green cat.
    2. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

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