Among the many criticisms leveled at Facebook and other social media is the amount of time so many of us spend watching cat videos. To human eyes (and brains), cats are wonderfully entertaining. Years ago I watched a feline performance, in person, that still makes me smile whenever I see a cat rub against someone’s leg or a piece of furniture.
The incident I’m thinking of took place years ago, before I met my wife, when I was living in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., and dating a young woman, Monique, who had a knack for communicating with cats. One evening, we drove a few miles west, to Middleburg, for dinner in one of the town’s delightful restaurants. Calling itself “the nation’s horse and hunt capital,” thanks to its many horse farms and a well-known fox hunting tradition, the town has many historic buildings.
I parked across the street from the place where we had a dinner reservation. While Middleburg does not lack for charming buildings, when we got out of the car, we found ourselves in front of a very unprepossessing store whose wares, as best we could tell from the display in its window, seemed mostly to be things that come in boxes. The store was already closed for the day, and its large, plate-glass window displayed only a dozen or so boxes of Tide or Rice Krispies — standing, like upended dominoes, in a row. Not at all striking, imaginative or in any way reflective of the building’s picturesque surroundings.
Near the boxes we also spotted a gray tabby cat, resting quietly. Monique could not resist walking up to the window and making “tee-tee-tee” noises at the cat, whose attention she quickly caught. The cat got up, languidly stretched, walked slowly to the nearest box and rubbed against it. The box toppled over. We laughed.
Monique made some more noises. This prompted the cat to rub against the next box. It too fell over.
We wondered how long we could keep the cat interested. “Do you think you can get it to knock down any more boxes?” I asked.
Yes, she could!
Monique took a couple of steps along the window, and the tabby moved in the same direction — toward the rest of the standing boxes.
“Tee-tee-tee.” Another box went down.
In just five minutes of beaming her most powerful kitty charm through the window, Monique got the cat to topple every box in the display.
Mission accomplished, we chuckled our way across the street to the restaurant, raised our wine glasses to the cat, and tried to imagine the look on the store owner’s face when he showed up the next morning.