Monday, October 7, 2013

How Cats Learn & Stuff

The other day, I showed Possum that article about New England authors' house museums. He shares my love for Edith Wharton and has enjoyed many of her novels in my paperback editions. Rather than actually "read" them, he absorbs the texts osmotically, as cats can do, by lying on top of them. When he was tiny he got his education quickly by lying across the tops of several of our shelved books at the same time. Since he's gotten too big to fit there, he's acquired his knowledge more slowly, napping on whatever books were lying around.

Little Possum, studying the ancient world.

Given that cats have this unique way of learning (along with other unique traits: purring and a nonaddictive but euphoric reaction to catnip), it's easy to understand why it's so important for them to lie our our laptops and keyboards. I'm not sure if they can easily pick up information this way, but they clearly get something out of it beyond bothering us. If your cat knows a lot about how to flatten your stomach, Miley Cyrus, what elderly millionaires allegedly think about an imminent stock market crash, and the end of Breaking Bad — when you yourself do not care or converse about these issues — you can bet your cat is spending time on the Intertubes when your back is turned.

To return to Possum and that article, he was much more inclined to give the writer, a Mr. Grant, a pass on not knowing the names of Edith Wharton's books. Possum pointed out that most men don't read Wharton because they assume her novels will be too girly — the Chick Lit of the early 20th century. I suppose he is correct; he often is. (But all those men are wrong. I think of Edith Wharton as similar to Henry James, except that she constructs her stories and characters more simply and elegantly. She doesn't use nearly as much literary cotton batting and fussy crocheting techniques as he does.)

Possum then told me that he has decided that the two of us should visit all of New England's authors' house museums, preferably in a bicycle rickshaw pedaled by me. I had been hoping he was finally over his obsession with bicycle rickshaws (or is it "bicycles rickshaw"?). He has been coveting one for years.

I'm sorry to say that he has been a bit sulky since he heard I went to Orchard House yet again last month without him, even though I gave the excuse that it was a tour sponsored by my Garden Club and he is not a member. He has spent some happy hours lying on my copy of Little Women, too.

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