All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Cats

By Victor DiGenti

Robert Fulghum became famous by regressing to his childhood. He wrote the best-seller, All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and shared with an eager world great truths like “Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Flush.”

It makes a lot of sense, as far as it goes. But there are deeper insights to be learned from those we share our homes with today, not just from lessons of childhood. That’s why I’ve been working on a book I call, All You Really Need can be Learned from Your Cats.

My faithful readers know how my once peaceful life was shattered by the introduction of fur-bound creatures of the feline persuasion. How my wife, as dear as she may be, conspired, connived, and manipulated me until I agreed to share my home with a slew of four-legged mammals.

In actuality, it’s no longer my home. It belongs to Chloe, Rocco, Gage and Sami, and they tolerate my presence as long as I continue to carry in the bags of Fancy Feast.

But back to my book. Most of the lessons about life and living can be found by hanging around the litter box and water bowl. For example, I learned these things:

Hiss loudly and other cats will keep their distance. Chloe is the master of this technique. She’s the first, oldest and baddest of our four critters. The others are just carpet-baggers in her territory and she demands the respect she feels due a Baroness. Whenever she spies another cat, which is about every other minute, she’ll put on her “Make my day” attitude and let out a juicy hiss to warn the interloper away. It works.

Need some attention? Spit up a hair ball. This is the golden rule of cats and Rocco, bless her long, black hair, uses it constantly. Rocco requires little attention. She stays to herself mostly, but every so often she needs to let us know she’s around, and just like dialing Domino’s can deliver a hair ball made to order.

Eat fast then steal your neighbor’s food. Little Sami can devour a plate of Ocean Whitefish and Tuna Fish before the other cats have their bibs tied. And while Rocco tries to decide whether the meal requires red or white wine, Sami has made off with the tuna half of the feast. Rocco doesn’t care.

And finally, Using the litter box is only half the fun. Gage, by far the most aggressive of the four, plays a waiting game I call “Running the Gauntlet,” or “Kitty Litter’s Revenge.”

Gage loves to lie and wait for any of the other cats returning from a visit to the gravel necessity. Then she’ll pounce on them from on top of hidden perches or from beneath the bed. This leads to a wild chase through the house, leaving a trail of litter though three rooms.

Space doesn’t allow me to go into the other lessons you can learn from cats, such as the joys of licking far-away places, sleeping your life away and loving it, and tricks for keeping two-legged creatures in their place. But it will all be in my book. Look for it in the pet food section of your favorite store.

All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Cats was originally published in the Sun-Times on October 4, 1991.

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