MARILYN HAGERTY: Gus the cat writes from West Coast

A cat in the state of Washington recently wrote to Dot.Com, the dachshund at my house. The cat letter goes like this: "Dear Dot.Com,Every morning, I sit on my person's desk while she checks her email, so I know that she reads your person's column...

Gus, the cat
Gus, the cat

A cat in the state of Washington recently wrote to Dot.Com, the dachshund at my house.

The cat letter goes like this:

"Dear Dot.Com,Every morning, I sit on my person's desk while she checks her email, so I know that she reads your person's column in the Grand Forks Herald. I peeked when you exchanged dachshund information with Sasha in Alvarado, Minn., and the more recent letter from that black cat also named Dot.Com near Grand Forks. I live 1,600 miles from you, but perhaps we could become electronic friends. One of my people grew up about 80 miles east of Grand Forks. She follows your weather and thinks someday the Minnesota Vikings will win the Super Bowl.

Everyone calls me Gus, though my name is Augustus in honor of the month I came to live with my people, Stan and Arlene. They were in their sixties -- some said too old to have kittens -- when I arrived.

I've been told I am a flame-point Siamese. I have sky- blue eyes and am a ladies' man. I gravitate to female guests. Women think I am handsome and say they can hardly keep their hands off me.


It sounds as though you haven't spent much time with cats, so I'll share some pointers, starting with our ears. Most domestic cats have pointy ears while some canine ears are droopy. We share the ability to signal with our ears and fold them back alongside our heads when we are really peeved, displeased or even snarly.

Both cats and dogs hear more than humans. We cats can hear sounds pitched to 1.6 octaves higher than our humans. Most of you canines hear an octave above what people hear. Can you hear your person's car before it reaches the garage? I listen for the car, then wear my superior creature look and purr my greetings when the house door opens.

Though their hearing has limitations, humans sometimes make an issue out of noises. For instance, if humans hear a vase of flowers crash to the floor in the middle of the night, they will turn on a light to investigate. To defuse this type of situation, wise cats strike a dignified pose and stare innocently into space implying they've never seen the vase and cannot imagine how it fell. We don't make any noise or call any attention to the mess, while I understand a dog might bark or begin a nose-on investigation.

I listen to gossipy birds and squirrels in our yard all day. That's one of my major duties. I hear insect conversations drone on until I am desperate for a nap. At least one rabbit regularly slips along our back fence to shop for fresh produce in our garden. My people wouldn't know about this if I didn't sit at the window and signal "intruder" by whipping my tail back and forth.

I believe you do tail messaging, too, Dot.Com. The dogs I watch through our windows seem to wag their tails in greeting or excitement. Or they drop their tails when discouraged. We cats carry our tails high, like exclamation points! After you've known us for a time, you can guess at what we are communicating by what we put into the tail whip. But it will only be a guess. A strong whip of a cat tail may warn of a misunderstanding -- perhaps a delayed meal.

I'll bet you sniff for animal and human activities when you are outdoors. Our sense of smell is not as superior as yours, though it is 14 times stronger than that of humans and detects odors they cannot. The things we know about humans from their shoes!

You and I may be near the same size. I'm a buff 15 pounds. I am a fastidious groomer and prefer every hair just so. With my pink tongue, I take at least one and maybe two complete baths daily. I find it relaxing. I also do a wash-up after meals. By staring at my person when we're near a hairbrush, I encourage her to brush me twice a day.

I don't think you dogs groom in same way cats do. I believe some of you bathe in sinks. My people tried a sink bath for me when I was in my teens. He says I jumped so high I left an imprint on the ceiling before zooming off to brood under a bed.


At least twice a day, he throws a ball on a string for me while he is at his computer. I really insist on this fitness program. If he forgets, I bunt him with my head.

Mystifying my humans is one of my greatest delights. My people often say silly things such as, "I wonder what he is thinking." That's especially when I am focused on an important task, maybe staring at a leaf in the yard. It's a cat secret -- and generally makes people nuts. You probably do something similar when you rest your head on your paws and stare into space.

Your Washington state feline friend,


P.S.: I think you go outdoors on a leash for exercise. One of my people saw a cat on a leash walking on a city sidewalk once and couldn't forget it. For a time, he thought I would learn to walk on a leash. As any self-respecting cat would do, I stiffened my body and pulled away from the leash so he had to drag me down the sidewalk. People stared at him, probably muttering "Animal mistreatment!" So, he quit. Guess I showed him. A dumb idea, I think. He hasn't tried it since."

What To Read Next
Get Local