The Cat That Changed My Life: 50 Cats Talk Candidly about How They Became Who They Are

The Cat That Changed My Life: 50 Cats Talk Candidly about How They Became Who They Are

by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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This groundbreaking, provocative exploration of the inner lives of cats began five years ago, when Bruce Eric Kaplan, armed only with pen and pad of paper, boldly set out across the United States to interview cats of all kinds — including some really gross ones that very few people other than him wouldn't have been put out by. The result is perhaps the largest


This groundbreaking, provocative exploration of the inner lives of cats began five years ago, when Bruce Eric Kaplan, armed only with pen and pad of paper, boldly set out across the United States to interview cats of all kinds — including some really gross ones that very few people other than him wouldn't have been put out by. The result is perhaps the largest and most ambitious narrative survey of the emotional existences of cats ever attempted.

The author asked this wildly disparate group of felines the same simple question — who was the cat that had the most significant effect on your life and why? Cats are usually asked more mundane things, such as "Why did you rip up that sofa, you bad kitty?" So this was a rare opportunity for them to really unburden themselves. Their answers are alternately shocking, hilarious, and touching, but all of them are fascinating. They really are. Trust us. Seriously.

Noted writer and artist Bruce Eric Kaplan took down each cat's response in his or her very own words (as best as possible considering his lack of shorthand experience) and sketched portraits of each cat in his own inimitable style.

As you read what these cats have to say about their loves and losses, and gaze at their haunting images, you will be struck by the beauty and mystery that is life itself. Or at the very least, like a cheap little plaything that emits the subtle aroma of catnip, this book will divert you from your own miserable little existence for a few minutes or so, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 7.76(h) x 0.60(d)

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Change is good, or at least I have heard people say that. But what I have never understood is, when things change for the worse, why is that good? Here's another expression — the more things change, the more they stay the same. That makes sense, yet...if it's true, how do you explain the vast difference between a grape and a raisin? And while we are on the topic, I think if someone asks you for spare change, he or she doesn't really want coins at all. Instead, I believe their subconscious is asking you to help them become something else. But I've noticed that the person gets frustrated when you try to tell him or her this, so I could be wrong.

What you are about to read is an exploration of the nature of change. I devoted four years of my life to traveling across the country (okay, mostly I stayed in and around New Jersey, but periodically I left the metropolitan area) asking cats who was the individual in their life that had changed them the most and why. I conducted over forty thousand interviews and then winnowed them down to the fifty most interesting responses.

I sketched each cat as I spoke with him or her. I feel this helped me get particularly intimate answers to my questions. A unique energy is created between the artist and the subject. Each time one looks up from the paper, it is with a deeper understanding, and the subject can't help but sense this (that is, unless the subject smells a mouse in the nearby vicinity, in which case the subject needs to find it before it can really concentrate). A rhythm is created between the two individuals, and the veil the subject normally wears is slowly dropped, until he or she isvirtually bare.

"Change" is such a nebulous word. Actually, all words are nebulous, even the word "nebulous" (depending on how you use it). But the point is, there was a wild disparity in the answers to my simple question. Some of the cats, such as Claude, spoke of another cat that had passed on a meaningful personal philosophy. Others — for example, Bones — described a cat that did something terrible that forever scarred them. And then there were those such as Moo-Moo who spoke of a cat whose warmth and goodness had nurtured their own self-improvement.

Of course, there was a lot of talk of love. L'amour, l'amour, toujours l'amour (or something to that effect). But the illicit passion that changed Knickers's life is vastly different from the obsessive love that changed Haggie's life. And as you will see, some (like Bumpers) never mention the word "love," yet I suspect love lies at the heart of their answers, even if they have no idea that it does. But that often seems true of all of us. We talk about a million different things, yet really it's always just about love (and guilt, obviously). Speaking of which, there is a lot of guilt in these pages, most notably from Peaches and Hildegarde. And yet, like love, each story of guilt is different in its own way.

At the same time, there are some striking similarities between the cats in this collection. Most notably, two come to my mind. One is that, overall, they are a highly sensitive and introspective group. This is their reputation, of course, but I had no idea of their level of sensitivity until I began this project. Take Brownie, for example. A cat said one simple thing to him and from that moment on, nothing in his life was the same again. Kip and Cecil tell equally distressing stories. One could say that they perhaps overreacted in these situations. But being somewhat sensitive myself, it is hard for me to say that they are overly so.

The second similarity is almost amusing (but sadly, like so many things in life, not quite). All these cats lead exciting and varied lives wholly independent of the human race. Again, maybe that's obvious just by looking at the species, but when you read these testimonies, it becomes horrifyingly apparent. I suppose there could be a case made that it is denial on some of these cats' parts, but I have to tell you, I don't think that's it. I just think that their own kind are much more interesting to them. And who can blame them? I never encountered a person who was half as interesting as a cat. Let's be realistic here — you'll never meet a cat who talks about any kind of mortgage rates and that puts them way ahead of us.

Anyway, on with the book. I hope you like it. And if it changes you in any way, please let me know.

Bruce Eric Kaplan

Los Angeles, California

Copyright © 2002 by Lydecker Publishing, Inc.

from The Cat That Changed My Life

My parents spent their whole lives lazing around, only occasionally getting up to press their noses against the window, but never actually going out and doing anything. I'm sure I would have ended up like them if I hadn't known Butch.

Butch was a true legend — the ugliest, meanest creature in the neighborhood. The interesting thing was that despite his vile personality, he always seemed to get the most interesting toys, the newest snacks, the longest pieces of string. On top of everything else, he always had the hottest sexual partners — male or female. Day after day, I watched him disappear into the bushes with someone different until finally, one afternoon, I asked him what his secret was. He smiled and said it was simple. When he saw something he wanted, he just grabbed it before anyone else could. He hissed, he clawed, he screamed — he did whatever it took to make sure he got there first.

Ever since that, I've been just like Butch. It's been wild. I've had sex with almost everyone who's ever sauntered by me. I've tasted treats that others only dream about and I've scratched some of the most tactile surfaces that exist, unlike my father, who lies day in and day out on the same smelly pillow.


Baltimore, Maryland

May 17, 1997

Copyright © 2002 by Lydecker Publishing, Inc.

from The Cat That Changed My Life

Each day, the loneliness eats away at you. You tell yourself that it's not so bad and that some of us are simply meant to be alone, but you don't quite believe it. That's how I was before Juliet moved in, two doors down. She showed up on my steps one day, pushed me under the crawl space, ravaged me, and I've never been lonely again.

Juliet has given my life a purpose. Sometimes I spend all day curled under her so she can nap more restfully. I don't mind that it is uncomfortable for me and that the next day I have a crick in my neck that just won't go away. I don't even care when she laughs at how I am tilting my head, because I am glad I can bring her joy in some small way.

I like to get her savory things to eat. Once I traveled four miles to scavenge the Dumpster of a specialty-food store. Then when I showed her the morsels I had found, she didn't seem interested. It was my fault. I took too long — I should have run faster.

Occasionally I wish she would not always be in a terrible mood, threatening to leave me at any time. But then I think, if she wasn't exactly who she is, I wouldn't love her as much as I do.


Brookline, Massachusetts

March 31, 2000

Copyright © 2002 by Lydecker Publishing, Inc.

from The Cat That Changed My Life

Sure, now I seem really confident and secure with who I am, but I used to be a mess — a silly, empty-headed creature who only cared about getting a male's attention. I would sit and lick myself all day long because I thought no one could ever love me if I had any burrs on me or if my fur wasn't completely white.

Then I became friends with Dorothy. She's so totally together, and of course the second she met me, she saw I wasn't. So she invited me to come to her backyard one afternoon to meet some of her friends. She said I should bring a bird or a rat, whatever I could scrounge up. It was a potluck.

When we assembled, Dorothy explained to all of us that we were victims of our culture. From an early age, we had been bombarded with images in calendars and greeting cards and mugs that taught us that we had to be these cute little idiots that never had a real thought, but just looked sweet and cuddly. We cried and shared stories and offered each other support.

That was years ago, but we still meet at least once a week and have all evolved into amazing creatures.


Verona, New Jersey

August 4, 2001

Copyright © 2002 by Lydecker Publishing, Inc.

from The Cat That Changed My Life

Jinx was never a close friend. She was just an acquaintance I might run into now and then and make small talk with. Once she happened to mention a tree she had heard about that was supposed to have very good bark. We made plans to go see this tree the following week. But then it was drizzly, so we canceled. We made plans to go another day, but then she had some hair-ball situation.

We kept making plans, but for one reason or another, we never got to the tree with the good bark. Then one morning a mutual friend told me that Jinx had been put to sleep the night before.

Shocked and upset, I immediately set off to visit the tree myself. As soon as I saw it in the distance, I began to run. When I got close, I took a leap and jumped onto the trunk, clinging to it like a lunatic. I inhaled deeply, immersing myself in its glorious scent. Then I climbed all over it, rubbing every part of myself against the tree's unique texture. It was an intense experience.

From that day on, I never put off doing anything because I thought, who knows when I could end up like Jinx?

A few years later, I ran into Jinx. She hadn't died. She had just asked our friend to lie to me because she really didn't want to spend time in my company. I made her feel guilty for what she had done, even though on some level I knew that it was because of her lie that I now feel much more alive and fulfilled.


White Plains, New York

May 29, 1999

Copyright © 2002 by Lydecker Publishing, Inc.

from The Cat That Changed My Life

I grew up on a beautiful old farm and had the most perfect existence, but then one morning I was stuck in a cage and taken away to live in my new home — a drab little tract house on a treeless street in a place with stinky air. Now instead of feasting on wonderful country vermin, I was served some manufactured dry food that I was sure was pumped full of chemicals. Instead of running up and down stairs and across fields, I was confined to a grossly carpeted small space.

As the weeks passed, I began to make a list in my head of everything that was wrong with my life. I kept finding things to add, so soon my entire day was spent cataloguing grievances. Finally, one night at dinner, I took a sip of water and it wasn't lukewarm enough. I just grumbled and added it to the enormous list in my head. My housemate, Charles, who was on his last legs at the time, asked what was wrong. I told him at great length how disgusted I was by the water they were serving us.

He took a long look at me and then quietly said, "It's just water." I felt really petty and small. I resolved to stop being whatever it was I was turning into. Through intense behavior modification and meditation, I was able to stop making the list in my head and appreciate what I had in the moment.


Elizabeth, New Jersey

November 4, 1998

Copyright © 2002 by Lydecker Publishing, Inc.

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