Americans like to pledge that we are one nation, indivisible, but there are a lot of things beside politics and religion that divide us. There is no one thing about which we are more divided than we are on whether we like, or dislike, cats.
I went to The International Cat Show in Madison Square Garden.
About 800 cats showed up. These are not your average, everyday, common, ordinary alley cats. I never knew there were so many different kinds of cats: Big cats, small cats, beautiful cats, homely cats.
One looked like a pygmy lion.
It is obvious when you watch them together that people who like cats, like cats better than cats like the people who like them.
Owners constantly displayed an affection that was not reciprocal. A kiss is just a kiss, but a kiss is nothing to a cat.
Cats just don't give a damn.
The show was like one big beauty parlor. Obsessive owners groomed them incessantly.
"How much time do you spend on yourself and how much on the cat?" I asked one woman. She said, "About an hour and a half on myself and about an hour and a half on the cat. Equal time."
Owners philosophize about cats, projecting their own fantasies into the imaginary psyches of their animals. They endow cats with mystical qualities cats don't have. Here's what some people had to say:
MAN: "They are more honest than people."
WOMAN: "You have to earn a cat's love."
MAN: "Cats are touchers. They touch with the mind; they touch with the body."
MAN: "They take life on their terms, not yours."
WOMAN: "Persians are a very laid-back breed."
MAN: "There are certain cats that will come to you because you don't like them."
VET: "That is the mystique of the cat.
There's nothing owners won't buy for their cats. One stand was selling bottled water – for $2.59 a bottle.
A thirsty cat will drink from a puddle in the street; $2.59 for a bottle of water for a cat?
In a cat boutique, owners could buy rat-shaped catnip to provide their pets the ecstacy of a vicarious kill – and toothbrushes with which to clean their teeth afterwards.
There's a cat futon for them to sleep on. A lot of owners gave their cats pillows that looked as if they were made of real cat fur to me.
One woman even had a long sweater of suspect origin. "I know, but it's not. Trust me, it's not," she said.
We watched the judges at work in the cat beauty contest. Contestants are not handled like a Miss America would be.
We didn't stay to see who the top cat was, but reading the newspaper the next day, we found we were lucky. We had taken pictures of Nobu, the grandest puddy cat of them all.
The judges all thought Nobu was the cat's meow.