The Trouble with Cats

(this one is for Forrest, another bookseller with cats)I

It has been said that every bookstore needs a cat. Originally, I suppose, cats were useful for getting rid of mice. Well, these days we have better, more humane ways of getting rid of mice by trapping them and then sending them back to the fields where they can take their chances.

But cats remain ensconced in bookshops as though they’d been grandfathered in along with the built-in shelves and the ugly blue carpet. They ain’t going nowhere.

Joey in a Box, Going Nowhere:

jinabox

We have two cats. Their official names are Smoky Joe and Wee Willie Winkie, but they are known by many others, including Monster, Big Guy, Sneaky, Fireball, Greedy-Guts, Floppo, and Nosy. Kind of like the Seven Dwarves (or the Seven Deadly Sins) wrapped up in two relatively small packages.

Of course we play with them, we cuddle them, we feed them nutritious, delicious kibbles. I groom Joey’s long black hair and allow Willie to crawl up to my neck where she pretends to be a vampire. Or perhaps she really is a vampire, I don’t know.

Willie — Vampire or Cat?

willivamp

The point being, they do not work. Do they alphabetize the books by author’s last name? Do they do clean? Do they tidy? Are they even interested in books except as surfaces to lounge on?

The one service they have provided is finding things under furniture, things that we thought long gone, like my nice red comb. But the finding quickly turned to losing and now there is a whole new set of small objects that we will never see again (unless one of the cats decides to bring it back – chewed, unusable, soaked with cat saliva). They have also become experts at knocking any number of objects off tables, especially breakable ones. Do they clean up the mess they leave behind? Do they replace all the items left irreparably damaged? Do they even apologize? No! Of course they don’t. They just sit there on that stack of books you’re trying to work on and even hook their little claws into your shirtsleeve so your hand will be led into petting position.

There remains only one purpose for them, one reason for them to be bookstore cats. The customers love them. They ask for them by name. The cats show off for the customers and perform acts of acrobatics that send one’s heart a-flutter. They often try to follow a customer out the door. After all we’ve done for them!!!!! Lousy cats.

Except, except … we love them, we adore them, we cater to their demands, we are under a spell. A spell undoubtedly cast by the first witchy bookstore cat.

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