Tag Archives: subterfuge

The Subterfuge of Cats

8 Apr

Directly across the street from us, in three separate apartments, there live three cats. Divided by a wall and a roof (there are two that live next to each other, and one below), sometimes you’ll see all three of them perched on their windowsills, eyeing off the pigeons that taunt them from street wires or watching the people walk by below.

When we carry our cat to the windowsill, he seems like he doesn’t notice these three other cats across the road. He looks up into the clouds or gets distracted by a car driving by.

But although it may seem like they couldn’t care less about each other, I think this may just be a cover. I have a theory that not only are these cats aware of each others’ existence, but that they have devised a very subtle and human-proof method of communicating with one another. What’s more, since our cat is the only one that can be seen by all of the other cats, he must be the one passing on the majority of the messages.

They know all about each others’ tastes and interests. The white and ginger one to the top left – let’s call her Matilda – likes chewing shoelaces and reading Voltaire. The other white and ginger one to the top right – let’s call her Judy – likes Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga and creating abstract divot-pictures in the carpet with her claws. The grey striped one downstairs – let’s call him Bernard – likes drinking water droplets from the leaking bathroom tap and building model ships. And Bidule, the black cat who lives with us, likes licking olives and chasing the corks from wine bottles. And singing.

It’s while we’re all asleep that they get most of their message-passing done. During the day they saunter around and nibble on houseplants and pretend that they’re bored with life, but at night, when the breaths of the humans grow longer in the bedrooms, they take up their posts on the windowsills, ready to continue yesterday’s discussion about Scarlet Macaws and Peregrine Falcons.

Bidule, as the primary message passer, must be the most alert and managerial of the bunch. It’s up to him to tell Matilda to shut up when it’s Bernard’s turn, and to come up with an abridged version of Judy’s rambling anecdotes to share with the others. With their own sophisticated sign language, involving a series of winks and blinks, tail flicks, stretches and yawns, they argue, laugh and empathise. And while Matilda, Judy and Bernard have never seen one another, Bidule is such an expert impersonator that they sort of feel like they have. He blinks and flicks and stretches and yawns out their messages with Oscar-worthy precision, only occasionally, as mentioned, having to reign in Judy’s long-windedness.

Sometimes the discussions get a little rowdy (ancient Egypt is a sensitive subject), sometimes Matilda and Judy fight over which one of them Bidule likes more (this is kind of a complicated topic for Bidule to translate), and sometimes they don’t really have much to talk about (because they were sleeping all day, and so didn’t get a chance to read up on their Voltaire). But every night, the four of them are there, chatting silently away.

Right now, in the middle of the day, they’re all keeping up the act. The windowsills across the way are empty. And Bidule, there he lies, curled up in a ball on his favourite chair, looking for all the world like he’s dreaming about nothing in particular.

But I know the truth. Really they’re just saving up their energy. Tonight, when the lights go off and the street grows quiet, there they’ll be: four cats dancing on the windowsills.


Bidule also enjoys sitting in boxes.