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Question: How do you know if a six-week old kitten that a loved one brought home won’t be neurotic or psychotic when it gets older? It’s butterscotch-colored—does that help? Sincerely, Dan
Answer: Yours is a question that has stumped cat-fanciers since the dawn of felines. Archaeologists used to believe Egyptian hieroglyphics held the key. Once the Rosetta stone was uncovered, however, that hope was quickly dashed as the glyphs actually revealed dry-cleaning instructions for mummies. The Renaissance was equally flummoxed by this question, and in fact the entire Jesuit Order was created solely to discern whether Pope Paul III’s kitten Fluffy was in league with the Lutherans. It was, and Fluffy was burned at a little tiny stake. (Whether or not the scratching post was created to honor Fluffy is an entirely separate question for The Non-Expert.) Still, no one really believed Fluffy was guilty of anything other than shedding excessively, and the mystery of whether a kitten was insane or merely ‘high-spirited’ remained just that: a mystery. Thankfully for the world, Dr. Werner Von Schnoodle (1870–1938) revolutionized the field of feline psychoanalysis.
Like Wilhelm Reich and Carl Jung, Von Schnoodle was a devotee of Sigmund Freud, and for one glorious summer they were probably the finest team-Scrabble players in all of Europe. The foursome was undefeated in tournament play going into the final round but lost after a disastrous decision to allow Henry James and his brothers access to a triple-word square; William James immediately used all of his letters to form ‘VALKYRIE’ and the psychologists never recovered from the blow. Jung stormed off to study the subliminal tendencies of Tarot cards, while Reich spent the remainder of his life moaning. Feeling betrayed by his former comrades, Freud himself became a cocaine addict, dancing till dawn with hotel heiresses, all the while blaming his father and the James Gang for everything wrong in the world. Von Schnoodle chose a different path, however, and began researching kitten behavioral patterns out of a makeshift office in his mother’s parlor. It wasn’t long before he had compiled a series of case studies addressing whether young felines were crazy or not. It also wasn’t long before Frau Von Schnoodle grew disturbed by her son’s obsession, as well as the fact that all the therapist couches were being clawed to shreds. The experiments were forcefully concluded when a sobbing Werner was ordered out of the parlor to look for a job.
Von Schnoodle never actually achieved employment, instead spending the next 22 years loitering around park benches in hopes a kitten might pass by. Eventually he came to be known by his fellow Bavarians as, ‘that cat pervert bum who lies to his mother about having a job in politics.’ Von Schnoodle was never able to fully overcome such jibes and eventually committed suicide by leaping headfirst off the bench. His mother immediately proclaimed her dead son, ‘a genius ranking with Beethoven, Goethe, and Herman Goering,’ and saved his kitten-oriented analyses for posterity. Mercifully, she burned her son’s other researches, namely a series of dirty sketches of the shop girl working across the street from the park. Though saddened by the hasty destruction of the pornography, the Nazi regime took the bait and bought the remaining papers, secretly intending to use the tests on the English the moment Britain was conquered. Churchill got wind of the scheme, which factored heavily into his decision to never surrender. It is only now, after de-classification of Tony Blair’s war-related papers, that we have a few selections from Werner Von Schnoodle’s groundbreaking crazy-kitty research.
The Weissenplotz-Snowball Test
Patient a seven-week-old white female named ‘Snowball.’ Owned by S. Weissenplotz, kitten displays same tendencies as her master, namely sleepiness combined with a miserly streak. When confronted with bill for delivery of Chinese delivery, went into immediate denial of the situation. When deliveryman knocked, both attempted to hide beneath an Ottoman. The Ottoman, named Omar, furious. A ruckus ensued, forced yet again to borrow from Mother’s purse, Mother furious also. All hopes for further testing ruined.
Diagnosis: Snowball severely depressed, with latent Scrooge neuroses. Perhaps white fur a factor; inordinate sympathy with Weissenplotz, who’s an albino? A healthy kitten would agree to go ‘halfsies’ on Chinese takeout, with shrimp roll split down the middle as well. How an Ottoman gained entrance to my office inconclusive.
Psychoanalytic Notes Upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Hysteria (‘Mittens’)
In terms of personality and familial status, ‘Mittens’ is an eight-week-old male living with a bourgeois cluster of three. Father a green grocer with some terrible, unheard-of-before disease and 12 digits on his right hand. The Prussian mother, a seven-foot-tall gymnasium owner able to curse fluently in nine different languages, dominates the household. Their son and ostensible ‘owner’ of mittens, J. Luebeck, a seemingly healthy drunkard and my so-called pal.
Initial interviews with Mittens reveal bright, frisky kitty with dark fur and adorable little white spots near feet, able to detect the opening of a sardine can from over three miles away. But when questioned in presence of Luebeck, Mittens agitated, unable to sit still for long, often meowing pitiably. Whether mewing related to Luebeck’s frequent and immoderate bouts of gas difficult to decipher. I also meowed pitiably at those moments; perhaps Mittens emulating my own behavioral processes, which included use of wool socks on my hands since Mother refuses to allow more than one coal/day for my office.
Luebeck unsympathetic to either Mittens or me. A harsh individual who resents the father’s extra digits, Luebeck clearly worships the mother, often asking to stand on the furniture in the belief that it makes him ‘big like Momma.’ Since he is 4'9" plus has had gymnasium membership revoked due to non-payment, occurrences of this few and far between; his resentment grows in equal proportion to his beer and flatulence habits. Caught in the middle of the Oedipal struggle, Mittens seeks relief through hysterical longing for sardines. Regretfully, I ate the last on toast this morning. Disgusting.
Diagnosis: It is only normal to make sad noises when trapped without any lunch in a freezing office with a bloated drunk and a man wearing dirty socks on his hands. Nevertheless, no cure foreseeable.
The Enigma of Sherry
Subject is ‘Scheherazade,’ three weeks old at most, a flat-faced gray-colored Persian. Owner, Miss Katrina Graf von Furst, concerned that her kitty’s eyes remained closed, believes it abnormal for anyone to not want to look at her, especially on Saturday nights when she brings home slaves for her boudoir. With Miss Furst’s permission, I spent upwards of an hour detailing Miss Furst’s extraordinary physical qualities to ‘Sherry,’ as Miss Furst has nicknamed the kitty in honor of her favorite morning beverage. Mother will be outraged when she sees the decanter. Despite outlining the wonderful shape of Miss Furst’s posterior as well as the elegant scent emanating from her leather-clad bosoms, Sherry continued to keep her eyes shut, at times burrowing into the couch cushion for warmth. At this point Miss Furst broke down sobbing as she begged Sherry for forgiveness. She went on to detail a series of what she believes are shameful sexual episodes she has had in the backrooms of local cabarets. Despite myself, I too found my eyes closed at moments, especially when Miss Furst vividly dissected the escapade she had the night before with a U-boat captain, a boot, and shoe polish. ‘Ah, that explains that scent,’ I thought, and was about to ask Miss Furst to remove her spiked heels and lie down for a more thorough analysis when Mother knocked. I demanded more time but Mother insistent we not be late for the church raffle. Hurling open the door, I thrust Sherry (eyes still closed) in Mother’s face and shrilled, ‘My god, will you not help me to help this kitty?’ Mother unimpressed by all except the now-empty decanter and Miss Furst practicing whipping motions in the mirror. A terrible scene with a broomstick ensued, Miss Furst sent shoeless and screaming into the street, and not long after I found myself at a foldout table raffling Sherry to the congregation.
Diagnosis: Perhaps Sherry’s eyes will finally open when she realizes she has a new owner, old Mrs. Schnitzel who already keeps 45 other kitties in her boarding room on Tod Strasse. Obviously Sherry unable to assimilate the paradox of previous owner’s sumptuous yet dungeon-like home atmosphere. Must further research kitties owned by blonde, whip-wielding cabaret personalities. As for kitty: Schizophrenia imminent.