The gentleman cat’s guide to training human kittens

The gentleman cat’s guide to training human kittens

It is a necessary, but unfortunate, truth that humans are incapable of raising their own kittens without help. It is clear that they take unimaginable risks that any sensible cat would avoid, including allowing their kittens to make loud noises at any time of day. The attraction of predators is inevitable in such a situation; the crying alone would wake the entire neighbourhood, regardless of the occupants’ individual sleep patterns. It is therefore incumbent upon the gentleman cat to train the human kittens in proper behaviour.

This is not as complicated as one would imagine at first glance, but it is imperative that a young cat remember the most crucial rule: we do not talk about the dimensional magic.

To their eyes — to everyone’s eyes — we are nothing more than what we seem. And if occasionally we lose some of our stately dignity, if we succumb to the lure of a simulated hunt, if we dissolve into a purring puddle of fur, then so much the better. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.

But back to the human kittens.

They will cry; they will always cry. There is never an instance when they won’t cry. Name an emotion — any emotion known to cat or human — and the human kittens will use it as an excuse to sob. Hungry, sad, bored, mad, even disappointed in their choice of toy — all of it will make the tears come. They will seem bereft; they will actually be inconsolable without food or a dry diaper or whatever other object they have decided that they urgently need.

Do you hear them now? Of course you do.

It is now that we exercise our greatest art.

Begin with a portal — a small one, the size of your paw. We are not going to transport the human kitten to another dimension, no matter how quiet that might make things. Our aim is not to upset their parents, while also preserving our hearing and sanity. Similarly, total replacement of the human kitten with a dimensional counterpart is forbidden.

Our aim is merely to channel the sound away from our reality. Not all of it, of course; the parent should still be able to hear the kitten. But the high frequencies, the most annoying, the most piercing bits of that noise — none of that needs to remain with us.

Next, we conjure. Human kittens respond positively to the standard coterie of kitten-pleasing things: transdimensional butterflies, tiny rainbows streaming through the open portal and, of course, bits and bobs of light drawn from the other universes. If you can make the light sparkle, so much the better. Your goal is to convince the human kitten to laugh instead of cry; gaining even a smile is a job well done.

Do not, under any circumstances, draw through a bobbing jellyfish-alien toy. Although true kittens appreciate its amorphous form and constantly shifting location, the human kittens respond in a manner that suggests it is not their favourite. We remain baffled at this fact, but respect it, nonetheless.

Our goal is peaceful smiles, not screams of fear.

On that note, I must remind you of the pressing need for secrecy. We have a good thing here; do not discount the pleasures of human cuddles and the delicate taste of freshly opened cat food. We must not and cannot reveal the human kitten training programme to anyone, lest we jeopardize this dimension for all cats.

If you are discovered, it is essential that you convince the adult humans that they are mistaken. You will have only two options.

One, close the open portal as quickly as you can. Sit next to the human kitten. Meow. Piteously. Your one job in this moment is conveying to the adult human that you are thoughtful and caring as regards their kitten; that any strange anomalies they may have seen are merely a figment of their imagination, spurred on by their perpetual fatigue. The majority of cats consider this to be the preferable option, despite the loss of dignity, especially because it may potentially lead to cat treats.

Or, if the moment calls for it, you may make use of the portal yourself. Your human will think you have vanished under the bed or into the dark recesses of the closet, but that is a small sacrifice to make for the good of all catkind.

We will wait for you to return. We will still be here in the end. And rest assured, even if your return dimensional path is full of twists and turns in the years to come, you will have done an excellent job training your human kitten.

The story behind the story

Jenny Rae Rappaport reveals the inspiration behind The gentleman cat’s guide to training human kittens.

Like all good origin stories, this one begins with a cat.

Her name is Zoe, and my husband and I adopted her many years ago, when we had a small mouse problem. Among the many kitten games that Zoe liked to play, she was fascinated by our doormat, constantly pawing at it to see what was underneath. I joked to my husband that she was searching for the interdimensional portal under it — a portal that only she could see.

By the time our daughter was born, several years later, Zoe had proved herself a cherished family member, although a truly terrible mouse hunter. She accepted the new human kitten, despite being deeply worried about the amount of noise that the baby made.

Whenever the baby cried in the middle of the night, and we were too slow to get out of bed in our sleep-deprived new-parent states, Zoe would stand on our chests and meow in our faces until we woke up. When our daughter napped in her crib, Zoe would lie on the carpet next to it, keeping watch over her. She was happiest whenever the baby wasn’t crying.

Years later, I combined the idea of the interdimensional portals with the protectiveness that Zoe had exhibited towards all our children, and the Gentleman Cat was born into existence. And although, to the best of our knowledge, Zoe hasn’t yet escaped through any interdimensional portals, she’s still with us today, living her very best senior cat life.

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