Author's Note: The piece below appeared originally as a "Something Personal" essay in Northeast magazine on April 4, 2004. I have a collection of related essays but have yet to find an appropriate regular home for this particular voice-in-my-head.

An Open Letter Regarding Your Unemployment

By A. Cat

Dear Whatever-your-name-is,

It has come to my attention that you are, to use your word, "unemployed," and have been for some time now. Forgive me for not noticing sooner; I am, however, the cat around here and have copious responsibilities for which I do not much solicit your attention or aid, either. I surely cannot be expected to pay attention to the minute details of your day-to-day activities, most of which, I must tell you, have always seemed a little ... well, let's say, eccentric. I have not minded any of this, much, except occasionally for show. I have always tried to be genial about our living circumstances.

But there is only so much a feline can stand. Hence, this letter. I am sorry about the regrettable puncture wound inflicted this morning, as I am sure you are about your intemperate, unreasoned effort at swatting my behind. A near miss! Let's not quibble about who started it; rather, let us consider our differences coolly and calmly, from my point of view.

There have been some changes around here - not for the better, I am sure you'll agree. I sympathize with your plight - your joblessness, your diminished sense of self-worth, your anxiety over finances and the future - as fully as any cat can. However, I fail to see any reason why your predicament should impact my so-called "creature" comforts and routines, small and peripheral as they are.

Shall I enumerate? I ask this rhetorically, of course.

  • Your unseemly bitterness regarding George W. Bush and his "jobless recovery" is unbecoming, unproductive and, insofar as I understand the yammering on the Fox News Channel, quite possibly seditious. Lighten up, would you? As irksome a companion as you may be at times, I've no particular wish to see you - what is the word? - ahhh. "Detained." I am most appreciative of some of the indispensable functions you perform around here (though I do not believe my litter was attended to properly this morning; let us take that up as a separate matter) and do not think it would do either of us any good were you to be remanded to the care of the Justice Department.
  • I had never wanted to bring this up before, but perhaps, in this lachrymose time of your life, you might consider the advantages of acquiring a patron species. See how well it works for us cats? Perhaps you are too proud, but you do not notice any diminution of pride in catdom brought about by our peculiar relationship with you humans, do you?

  • Let me point out that I have attempted to provide for you before, but your previous, inexplicable and insulting disdain for the bounty of my hunting makes me loath to waste my time. Mice are not that easy to come by, you know.

  • Speaking of food - yes, let's. It's a grand topic. I realize there may have to be some cutbacks around here for financial reasons - but what you call "cat treats" are surely not a luxury item, and in fact they are utterly necessary to the maintenance of my sunny demeanor. I'll give them up when you quit drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. How's THAT sound?

  • Also, you do not have to let the milk in the dish go sour. This is not a new issue, but I have exercised forbearance on it for years. You're home during the day now. You can do a little more. Some ice cubes in the water would be nice, too.

  • Regarding that you are home all day: Surely you are mindful of the fact that this has been my province, alone, for many years now. I think I have been more than understanding, have bent over backward (something of which I, unlike you, am physically capable) in consideration of your being underfoot. It is clear, at this point, that some simple courtesies on your part in recognition of my good nature might be forthcoming. A prime example: Sunlight, wherever it may fall, belongs to me. That includes the 45 minutes in the morning when it passes across the computer keyboard. Besides which, be assured I am just as interested in what happens when I press the keys as you are when you do.

  • I have never minded you going into the kitchen cabinets in the evenings. Please cease interfering with my wandering through them by day.

  • There is the small matter of the laundry basket. When you were working, it was kept full and comfortable. I do not understand why we have slacked off in this area.

  • The toilet bowl seat - UP. Thank you.

  • Regarding our occasional skirmishes - let's be civilized.Your retaliatory behavior doubtless wins you no friends in your work world. Need I remind you, we are uninsured? Let us not incur unnecessary medical expenses.

  • I'm interested in the dryer. What goes on in there, anyway? You have some free time now. Indulge me ...

  • Doors are to be left open. Why did this change? I am sorry I do not have an opposable thumb. Also, turn off lights when I leave the room. Turn them on when I enter.

  • Food on the floor. I clean up yours, you clean up mine. You used to drop more, I think.

  • You'll get up when I tell you. No lolling about. And all that reading makes me crazy, too. You'll ruin your eyes.

  • I thought we had settled, quite some time ago, on "Animal Planet" as the daytime entertainment. This channel surfing gets on my nerves. Also, can we agree not to have the stereo and television on simultaneously?

  • I fully empathize with the need to take naps during the day, but the bed is mine, too. That includes when you're having sex. Let me watch. You're the one who had me "fixed," so it's the least you can do.

Thank you for listening. I'm bored now. Shouldn't you be sending out resum├ęs? I would be happy to give you a fine reference.


A. Cat

A. Cat is, forgive the expression, the pet of Jeff Schult, a writer in Easthampton, Mass.