Herding Cats: Why Loyalty Counts
By Lana Duffy
This article is about cats. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the relevant bits in due time.
I have two cats in my NYC apartment. Go ahead and judge me. I’m unmarried, female, and in my 30’s. Of course I have cats. They are old, fat, stupid, and they require that they be fed no later than 0800 every morning or the world will end. They remind me of this by sitting casually on my pillow and periodically batting at my eyelids every morning.
But they are also fuzzy and friendly and love everyone that has ever walked the Earth.
Friends have taken to calling me a crazy cat lady, mostly because the cats in my apartment outnumber the people. I am a lady (biologically), a little nuts, and I have cats, but I am not a crazy cat lady. Why? I might actually hate cats. Not my own, only other peoples’. I’ll probably never have another cat again. Mostly because generally speaking, cats are dicks.
Seem like faulty logic? Not so fast. Take the neighbor. We share patio space, so in nice weather we both like to have our back doors open and let the cats outside to viciously attack falling leaves and the occasional wayward mouse from the bar next door.
Her cat is maybe two years old. He’s still pretty cute and very playful.
Her cat is also a total asshole. He wanders into my apartment every chance he can get. He thinks it’s fun to sneak up on my cats and jump on them. He made the unwise choice to hide under my coffee table and scratch my ankle when I tried to shoo him out.
I hate that cat. He’s a jerk and a bastard and generally terrible. My neighbor even admits that he’s a problem child but insists he will get better.
And I find that it’s most other peoples’ cats. They’re standoffish and snotty. They’re… you know, cats. I just plain don’t like them.
For me, it’s like having soldiers running around again, and my neighbor and I are running two very small, furry platoons.
We all had those somewhere in the platoon, probably even one in your squad: there was the guy (I use “guy” as a unisex term here) that constantly had something wrong with his uniform like he actually DID forget how to dress himself. There’s the one who fires beautiful shot groups during familiarization but can’t seem to hit the broad side of the berm when you need him to qualify so the other platoon will just shut up already about their marksmanship record (as if anyone cared). All of those guys and more.
They metaphorically batted at your eyelids at 1130 to remind you they were on meal card so you HAD to let them go get chow. They were the fat, the stupid, the lazy. They weren’t bad enough to get rid of, just had their quirks.
And yes, I saw these guys in the infantry and Special Forces and knew Marines that had the same type of guy running around. Running slowly and with a limp, of course, because he was probably on profile. Again.
No matter what, though, he was always better than whatever they had over in the other platoon, wasn’t he? You wouldn’t want their problem children. Yours are quirky but loveable (or already undergoing administrative action). Theirs are awful. The better ones in the other platoon have their moments, sure, where they are cuddly for a bit. But no matter what they do, they aren’t your guys and therefore are lesser beasts.
And if they are one of the douches of the other platoon, well, he better go ahead and get out from under the coffee table. No one here likes him, and he needs to leave because no one here will protect him, either, when everyone stops hissing and the claws come out.
But woe to another platoon who tries to pick on even the worst in your platoon. For all the faults you know he has, that was YOUR guy to pick on, wasn’t it? You could harass him. You could needle him and talk about him with the other NCOs and officers out of earshot. My cats might be fat and stupid, but they are for me to call fat and stupid, not you. Feel free to sit on my couch and call the neighbor’s cat an asshole, though. He is.
We are like this with a lot of things. Friends, family members, home cooking, we identify the faults in our own world, but love those we’ve claimed unconditionally. Others’? Nah. Fuck those guys. It has to do with loyalty. No matter how sheepish I might be about, say, a politician, someone from another country better pipe down. And I am not so rude as to judge their leaders, either, at least not to them or on their soil.
Really, life is all about loyalty. Without it we are nothing, just heaps of meat flotsam floating around to gravitate to whatever belief or organization we may. We’d switch jobs every few months, switch political parties every two years, and switch sports teams every week. I’d have traded away the bad soldiers and who knows what I might have gotten in return. Loyalty keeps us going on a path. A healthy dose keeps us focused on what we can salvage and fix and improve upon. And it gives us the reason to protect those we care for.
So do my cats have their issues? The fresh hairball vomited on the carpet says yes. But is the neighbor’s cat still a way bigger asshole? Always. That’s the nature of loyalty. Yes, it can be blind, though not in this case after he left claw marks on my foot earlier today. But we need it, as pack animals and as guardians of whatever we hold dear. So I’ll keep sending the jerk cat out the door just as I plugged away at getting my soldier to just this once be a first time go at the qualification range.
Now if you’ll excuse me, two fat, dumb furballs want their dinner.