Look at this fine, knee-high cat. I see this breathtaking animal about once every three months, and I always try to take a photo of it (him?), and there is always something wrong with my phone, or else something offensive/embarrassing to the cat about my approach. It’s always turning away with refined disgust and making me feel wrong, as when a baby or a horse takes a dislike to you. This cat makes me feel like Elmyra. It has that Reynolds Woodcock thing of making me long desperately for its approval while at the same time knowing full well that I have automatically taken myself out of the running by caring too much about what it thinks. I have been chasing it around my neighbourhood for some years, and up until yesterday all I had to show for this were some sad pictures of a giant fluffy tail whisking itself away to safety under a variety of nearby cars. I have never discussed this cat with anyone else because I worry that they will ask me for a photo and then I’ll have to say that the cat won’t let me get close enough to take a picture, which is humiliating.
Yesterday, however, circumstances aligned themselves in such a way that I was able to take several photos of it. Him. Not saying the cat enjoyed the experience or anything, but it hulked patiently on the pavement until I had got some sitting photos and some walking-around photos. I texted them immediately to my boyfriend and my brother, both of whom are full-on cat whisperers. My boyfriend replied immediately. Stuff like wow, jesus, what cat is this, this cat is amazing. My brother was uncharacteristically curt. He is a man who is normally never too busy for a photo of an animal. I would say that this is one of the most prominent features of his personality: always got time for a story about an animal, always ready to look at a picture of one. Once he came over to use my internet because his was broken, and after he went home I saw that he had left some tabs open, and one of them was just the Wikipedia entry for “Pets.” I had thought that he would go apeshit for these cat pictures, and almost could not believe it when he just said, “Haha. Handsome.” No offense, but NO. No offense but just look at the cat again. It resembles a cool man. If this cat was my cat and consented to being picked up by me even occasionally, I would be a different, better person, one who swam in the sea at least three times a week and who did not ruin her afternoon yesterday by watching that frightening video of Lindsay Lohan in Moscow.
Offended, I put the cat on Instagram. A mollifying number of people liked it, but I did expect more of a splash. This cat is evidently a celeb. A few hours later, my brother texted me the following: the name of this cat is SERIOUS BOY. This is funny, I think, but it loses some of its charm if you know, as I do, that the name isn’t special. For him, all mysterious male cats are Something Boy. Thicc Boy, Big Boy, Mr. Boy etc. He is better with dog names. He once texted me in the middle of the night to say that if he had a dog he would name it either Brother or Flowers. Imagine how much better your quality of life would be if you were the owner of a dog named FLOWERS.
Serious Boy is not a perfect name for this cat, but in the absence of ready substitutes, I was prepared to accept it. It’s fine. Serious Boy. It’s okay. It’s better, certainly, than Mr. Pickles. Mr. Pickles is, incredibly, the name that other people in my neighbourhood have given this cat. I found this out only a few hours ago, when someone commented on my Instagram. Apparently, this cat has its own hashtag: #tamboerskloofmainecoon. Very gratifying for me, who knew without being told that it was a celebrity. Insane-making, nonetheless, to look through the tagged posts and discover that there are people out there, probably lovely people, who believe that if there was any justice in the world this cat would be named Mr. Pickles. No offense, but I can’t. I hate it so much I can barely write it down. It’s so wrong in so many ways, undignified and twee and like maybe the cat is in a Tim Burton movie. It’s not what this cat is about at all.
I don’t know what the moral of this story is, or whether there needs to be a moral. Maybe: don’t call this cat Mr. Pickles unless you want an agitated stranger on the internet to make a big deal about it for honestly no reason. Maybe: we project way, way too much of our own bullshit onto animals, and we should stop doing that. They are not like us and for them, there is absolutely no difference between being called Brother or Flowers or Mr. Pickles or Mr. Boy. They do not care, and we cannot make them.