“If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.
— Douglas Adams
Have I mentioned that my dad is a cat tuner? Yes, you read that correctly, a cat tuner. No it’s not a Boston-accent kind of fish.
The best I can do is illustrate how he goes about tuning a cat.
My youngest brother had a cat named Car Keys. Now Car Keys would be lounging about, sleeping, minding his own business in some quiet corner. Dad would slink up beside Car Keys and in one swift movement stamp his foot, clap his hands and let out an ear-piercing whistle. That poor kitty would leap about three feet into the air, let out a yowl and take off running out of dead sleep.
“That is how you tune a cat,” my dad would say, laughing.
He was simply honing the cat’s natural instincts.
Another time Dad might pick up Car Keys and snuggle him, pet that sweet spot behind the ears, love on that cat as if it were the best friend he ever had. Car Keys would get all comfortable and feel loved and cared for. At about that point Dad would gently toss the cat on to the roof.
You know if he could speak that cat would be saying, “*$($%*@(??*!!!!” Which is simply cat language for “what the heck?”
If I were that cat I’d leap down on Dad’s head and claw his ears apart. But no, Car Keys would slink about the roof looking for an easy way down. That cat liked to hang out on the roof after a while. I think it figured out Dad couldn’t sneak up on him very easily up there.
Having been the instrument of many of dad’s tunings, Car Keys didn’t, surprisingly, run away when he was around. That cat would still rub up against Dad’s leg, meow at him with affection and interest, and generally treat Dad like a regular person. Maybe it was Car Key’s way of proving to Dad that he wasn’t going to be manipulated, changed, or tuned.
I think Dad ’s also keeping himself sharp and tuned, like a young kid. That’s how he stays young, by being mischievous. That twinkle in his eye comes from seeing the world through a humorous lens. I think his mind is always thinking, “What can I do to liven things up, stir the pot, or kick things up a notch?”
Another brother’s cat lives with Mom and Dad nowadays. It seems to tolerate Dad’s tuning and teasing. It still snuggles up to him, doesn’t scratch him, and brings him dead critters it caught in the field as gifts of love.
If people were more like cats, or least like the cats my Dad has tuned, life would be a heck of a lot calmer and there’d be less contention. It’s as if those cats get my Dad. They understand he’s not mean. He’s just being silly and having fun. The cat mentality is so chill and relaxed, so forgiving and easygoing that none of Dad’s antics can keep it ruffled for long. People need to chill out, learn to laugh, relax, forgive, move on.
Come to think of it, Dad used to tune us kids. We’d be riding in the front seat of the truck or car, with him at the wheel, watching the scenery blowing past, relaxed and feeling good. There wasn’t much conversation usually. Next thing you know Dad would let out a whoop or an ear-piercing whistle and grab that tickle spot on just above your knee caps on the outside edged. We’d yelp and leap about four feet, which is tough to do in a vehicle with a low roof.
He’d chuckle and, once our heart rate slowed down a bit. Oh, we’d be in tune, but wary.
Never could return the favor.