Thursday saw the indictments of eleven environmental and animal rights activists. The suspects, who belonged to the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, used arson and explosives to wage what some people are describing as ecoterrorism.
When they get out of jail, I need them to set fire to a hat.
I've never belonged to PETA or ALF. I've never supported blowing things up as a form of political expression. (Entertainment is a different matter.) Though I've always been very fond of animals, I will eat them if they are tasty enough. And though I think fur for fashion is fairly rude, I've always been okay with fur for function.
But everything changed the other night. I can no longer allow any kind of fur in my house. And I have an ethical dilemma involving animals that I just don't know how to solve.
There I was, snuggled up with my daughter, reading (ironically enough) the Cat in the Hat. I looked down at the foot of the bed and saw our cat, Fourmyle, getting ready to snuggle up to my daughter's little raccoon-tail hat. "How cute," I thought and went back to reading. Five minutes later, the story is almost done, and kitty is still kneading and shifting down at the foot of the bed with the hat.
"Huh," I thought. "Kitty's sure taking a long time to get comfortable."
Midway through the second bedtime story, the purring and shifting about down there was getting distracting. I frowned up from Max and Ruby to see what was going on down there when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
"Aaaagh, bad kitty!" I covered my daughter's eyes and tried to kick kitty and the raccoon skin hat off the bed, where the purring resumed almost immediately.
"Mommy, what 'Momyle doing?"
"Um, kitty and the hat are just ...hugging in a very special way."
With my shoe, I nudged the hat out into the hallway, Fourmyle following with hearts in his eyes, and then shut the door. Fortunately, Lillian didn't ask too many questions. I know that as a parent, sooner or later I'm going to have to have "The Talk," but when Lillian asks her first question about sex, I want it to be easier to explain than "Mommy, what's the cat doing to my hat?"
When I emerged, the cat was stretched out and purring more contentedly than a neutered tom should be, obviously in a chipper mood. He rolled upside down, then chirped and trilled lovingly to the slightly rumpled looking hat. I went and found my husband.
"Lillian is not allowed to wear her raccoon skin hat anymore."
"The one your parents gave her? Why not? It's still cold out."
I explained to him what the cat was doing. John was skeptical. "You just let him have his way with our daughter's hat?"
"Well not after I realized what he was doing!"
"Are you sure?"
"John, I know what I saw."
"Well, why didn't you pick up the hat and take it away from him?"
I was resolute. "I ain't touchin it." John sighed. "Well, the hat should be machine washable."
In my mind's eye, I saw my daughter walking past Fourmyle, wearing the hat. I saw the cat wink and point at the hat, like a 70's lounge lizard, mouthing, "Hey, babe. Call me."
"Well, then just throw it out," John said.
"We can't do that either."
"Because I think they might be in love."
My husband looked at me. "You want the cat to do the right thing and make an honest woman out of a raccoon skin hat?"
He was right, of course, that would be ridiculous. That was the point that I decided I would wait for the Animal Liberation Front people to come over. They would understand the delicate ethics on how to deal with a neutered tom's inappropriate relationship with a fur garment. Plus, by the time they got here, they'd be hardened criminals who had done jail time -- they'd undoubtedly be less squeamish about picking up the hat. Because I ain't gonna. But I'll tell you this -- if Fourmyle reacted this way to a raccoon-skin hat, there is no way a mink coat is ever crossing the threshold of our door. God forbid I should ever have to warn a guest, "You might want to leave that in the car," and then try to explain why.
Comments and cold cat showers to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in a Jan 2006 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.