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The Non-Expert

Cat Heathens

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we help a reader decide whether she should send her antisocial, over-meowing feline to the big litter box in the sky.

aHave a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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Question: My 12-year-old part-Burmese neutered female cat meows excessively when she wants feeding. This continues for about 15 minutes, or until fed. The meowing is loud enough to disturb the neighbors. She is a most unsociable cat, dislikes all other animals on sight, and is not at all affectionate. Am considering having her “put down” as she is more a liability than a pet. Am reluctant to do this, but no one else would want her and I am at my wits end. Any suggestions please.

Thank you,
Jo Holl

Answer: OK, first off, I have to ask: Are you Jolie Holland, the copper-topped Bay Area-based musician who woos helpless male fans with her siren, Billie Holiday-inspired vocal talents? Because, if you are, and if you’d maybe like to get married, I am amenable to that. I could probably convince my girlfriend to officiate at the ceremony (with a small monetary donation on your part). Then the three of us could move to Utah and smooth out the resultant relationship wrinkles (I’m quite erudite in these matters). Bonus: my lady cooks the best frittata this side of Naples.

Sorry for veering off-topic. In reality, your nickname is probably just short for “Josephine Hollandaise” or “JoJo Holladee-bippity-boopity-bop.” Let’s not get crazy with conjectures, though, and rather concentrate on the matter at hand: Your cat. More to the point: your Burmese cat—or at least, as you mention, partially Burmese.

You’ve got a feline fuss on your hands. Your claim is that this cat is a total bastard and is distressingly loud to boot, and you want to buy it a one-way ticket to annihilation nation. I’ll go along with that. The qualities of being small, needy, and annoying are punishable by death in many societies. Do you have kids?

But—and I’m only playing devil’s advocate—this meow culpa could actually be a mea culpa on your part. Burmese cats are generally known for two defining traits: extreme vociferousness, and a marked gentility toward humans. So, Jo Ho, maybe it’s you who’s being the asshole, here. Ever consider that?

If you were looking for a companion that didn’t require loving attention or sustenance, you should have considered getting a pet rock, or Nicole Richie.Had you conducted the proper research before acquiring your pet, you would have discovered that you were basically adopting a squawk box with a slightly hairy satin finish. It’s widely known Burmese love to talk. Couple that with the fact that you probably only feed her twice a week, and it’s a wonder she’s not fluent in English by now.

Furthermore, since Burmese have a stellar track record in the amiability department, I have to question what sort of person you are. Frankly, I have a sneaking suspicion you torture your cat (psychologically, at the least). Do you, for example, deceptively explain to the animal that it is currently in purgatory and not, in fact, alive in the space time continuum? Do you use a bread box for a cat carrier, or ask it inane questions in a high pitched shriek like, “Hey muthafucka! How much for them sausages?!”? Have you ever tried to use her as an ante in a high-stakes poker tournament? Be honest: You aren’t exactly the best pet owner on the bright green globe, are you?

To be fair, it sounds like you didn’t quite know what you were signing up for, (though you did have her spayed, and Bob Barker thanks you kindly for that). If you were looking for a companion that didn’t require loving attention or sustenance, you should have considered getting a pet rock, or Nicole Richie. Instead you and your aging grimalkin are in it for the long haul; Burmese tend to have longer-than-average life expectancies, often 16 to 18 years. It’s time to reap what you have so neglectfully sown, J. Ho. This means exploring alternatives to euthanizing your arch-backed nemesis. Easy, killer.

One idea is behavior counseling. A decidedly new-age “science,” cat counseling just may be the solution to help you discover what is troubling your ill-tempered Burmese—which, let’s face it, we both know is you. A dubiously trained cat psychiatrist awaits your call this very instant, ready to provide glowing insights regarding your relationship. Consider the lines of communication that could be opened:

Counselor: Hello, Jo Holl. Kitty. Thank you for coming in today to share.

Jo Holl: Hello. Thanks for listening.

Kitty: Meow meow.

Counselor: So, Jo Holl, you mentioned last session that kitty often displays ill will toward you for no apparent reason. How does this make you feel?

Jo Holl: Well… sad, I guess. It’s very hard some days. I don’t know if I can go on living with her sometimes. She’s so abrasive. It hurts.

Counselor: Okay, that’s fair. Kitty, what aspects of the relationship are troublesome to you? And remember, we only have a half hour, so no litanies like last week’s.

Kitty: Meow.

Counselor: Go ahead, then.

Kitty: Meow. Meow meow meow. Meow, meow meow! Meeeeeeeeoooooooooow!


Jo Holl: What… what did she just say?

Counselor: Care to tell me about “The Burmese Inquisition,” Jo Holl?

Sure, such open dialogue could expose a few of the more frightening skeletons in your closet, but in light of your situation, what have you got to lose? Go ahead: Pack little kitty into the bread box and head downtown to pet mental health services.

Of course, if the counseling idea ends up a total bust, maybe there’s another way out. I know you said no one else would take her, but humor me for a moment: Open your address book and start thumbing through the names. (You do have friends, right? Or were they, too, cast away as “liabilities” the moment they opened their mouths to ask for one of your Triscuits?) Chances are you know at least one true sucker who, if asked to take the cat, would be incapable of saying no. Now is the opportunity to take advantage of that person’s weak—er, kindness. If you are unable to track down someone who fits this bill, maybe you know someone who is hearing-impaired?

My final suggestion for dealing with the cat—which is last-ditch and not highly recommended—is to drive the creature very far away and abandon it. I offer this hesitantly, particularly when considering that the homeless/feral cat population is out of control in innumerable metropolitan areas. By washing your hands of a personal problem, you effectively become part of a much larger problem, and as a cat lover, I’m not sure I can be a party to that, and so I have to recommend you guys get couples counseling, or that you give her to a friend.

I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that last option, now that I think of it. I imagine you licking your chops on your way to the Gas and Go to fill up for your trip to North Dakota, bread box meowing from the trunk all the way there.

But, if there is any moral rightness to this sick, sad existence, then just when you believe your Mission to (Get Rid of) Burma was a staggering success, truth and righteousness will push their way into your wretched world, and the following lines of a certain song of yesteryear will ring high in the heavens:

Oh, the cat came back, she wouldn’t stay away.
She was sitting on the porch the very next day.
The cat came back, she didn’t want to roam.
And the very next day she was purring Home Sweet Home.