Don't Buy Me A Cat Mug

By Bill Hall

I appreciate the thought but don't buy me one of those coffee mugs with a picture on it of a Siamese cat or of a tabby cat or of a calico cat.

I see those cups in the stores. And it occurs to me that some well-intentioned friend might thoughtlessly buy me the coffee cup with a Siamese cat's face pictured on it. My friends know I moonlight as a butler to a trio of Siamese cats.

But while the cat on the mug looks something like our cats, it doesn't look exactly like them anymore than your kid looks just like my kid because they are both white. Once you get to know a dog or a cat or practically any other pet, they don't all look alike, any more than people do. Just because they are the same breed doesn't mean they are identical.

I would feel strange with the picture of some brunette woman I've never met on my coffee cup just because my wife is a brunette woman. Indeed, if my wife walked into this office and saw me drinking out of a cup with a strange woman's face affectionately painted on the side of it, I don't think she would appreciate it.

And I don't think she would accept the explanation that I have this strange woman on my coffee cup in honor of my wife because they are both wives. "It's a wife cup, not a cup portraying another woman," I would say. But she wouldn't buy it.

Similarly, I would find it strange if my wife suddenly started drinking coffee out of a mug with another man's face on it and not just because my wife doesn't drink coffee. If she protested, "But it's an erotically handsome, white middle-aged male human being just like you," I still wouldn't understand.

If she's going to take up coffee, I'd prefer that she not take up with some other guy's kisser at the same time.

In fact, I'd rather not have some other guy's mug on her mug, even if she only uses it for soup.

We may all look alike to some unobservant cats who don't personally have humans themselves, but more discerning cats and wives know that we rarely look completely alike.

So I would not risk the hurt feelings of any of our cats by drinking my coffee out of a mug bearing the face of this strange Siamese.

To the person who produced that mug, all Siamese may look alike, but they don't all look alike to the fools who live with cats.

For instance, consider the twins: When we first invited Lyle and Sydney into our house last year, we had a little trouble at first telling them apart. They are both Siamese and they were like two little tow-headed boys who have the same round heads, the same stubby limbs, the same haircuts, the same destructive habits.

But just as different personalities emerge in kids or cats, so, too, do subtle and not-so-subtle differences in physical appearance. Even in the animal world, one face will be a little wider, one head cocked a little different when looking into your eyes, one walk a little more brassy, one tail held a little higher, one body rub against your leg a little stronger.

Anybody who has ever owned more than one cat, more than one dog, more than one horse, more than one middle-aged husband can tell you we do differ in individual ways once you get to know us.

"They all look alike to me," is an old notion in human affairs that allows us to view people of other colors as identical in their appearance, their habits, their competence and their dreams.

But once you get to know the individuals in any group whether cats or people they neither look alike nor think alike. To the lazy observer who hates cats, Lyle and Sydney may look identical. But if you get to know them only casually, you will discover that Lyle is a dependent house cat staying awake during the daytime to be with humans. Sydney is a yard cart, sleeping by day and prowling by night.

Lyle is a worrier. Sydney's a happy clown.

They have some things in common, of course. They both like me, I'm proud to say.

And they would both be crushed if I were insensitive enough to drink my coffee from a cup bearing a stranger's face.


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