My cat is obsessed with television. Maybe this sounds funny to you. And it kind of is. Here is a picture of Huey watching Friends:
And here is a picture of Huey two weeks later, still watching Friends:
This began as you might expect. My husband and I thought it would be funny to show Huey a bird video, because Huey loves birds. He gets so worked up watching the birdfeeder in our front window, crouched into himself like a squat glob of toothpaste. “Look at me,” he seems to be thinking. “I am dangerously fluffy. If I just sit here, looking like a toad, those birds will fall into my mouth.”
So one night, feeling bored and indulgent, we pulled up a bird video on YouTube. Huey was instantly hooked. He got super close and started making tiny, excited whines. He attacked the screen. He jumped and cat-shouted and made a general spectacle of himself.
Problem: After we turned off the video, he kept looking for the birds. He began batting at the laptop, darting around the back and attacking the Apple logo. When we took the laptop away, he scratched at the table beneath, still searching for his digital prey.
Problem: He never stopped searching.
Now, whenever we turn on Netflix, Huey runs over. I don’t know if he thinks the actors are birds, or if he thinks he’s hunting tiny humans, or if he just thinks “I am a thoughtless mass of instinct and reflex: stimuli, stimuli.” Whatever his motivation, he’s trying to be as close to the actors as possible, snugging his chest up by the number keys, not realizing that his excited breathing is pressing down the “esc” key over and over.
My husband asked our vet about this.
“Huh,” she said. “I’ve never really heard of that before. Maybe try waggling a toy in front of him while he’s watching?”
As you can expect, this worked about as well as someone chucking a Frisbee at me during a Veronica Mars marathon. Huey released three short meows, something between “You’re bothering me” and “I am actually a garburator.”
So, now we have this cat that’s obsessed with TV. And though it’s sort of sweet in a “So like us!” kind of way, it’s also somewhat unsettling in a “So like us…” kind of way.
Because we are now acutely aware of how much TV we watch. And I’m not talking about “Sunday evening Game of Thrones with popcorn and pals” TV-watching. I’m talking about “Half an episode of Roswell while I’m curling my hair” TV-watching. Huey is an uncanny reflection of our own habits.
You are two hours deep into TNG and you smell like cat food, this living mirror tells us.
We want our pets to be exempt from the banalities of human life. We want to see a dog wearing a bow tie, but not ironing a bow tie. Sometimes I see Huey unwinding in front of the TV after a long day of sleeping and I think “Jesus Christ, is this what I look like to ghosts?”
Soon, I expect to see Huey paying bills online. Fumbling with the coffee maker. Absently flipping through Cosmo at the grocery store, searching for better ways to gnaw his belly hair.
It would be different, somehow, if he was watching the Criterion Collection. Or HBO. I guess I could start watching The Wire, so that Huey watches The Wire. Be the cat you wish to see in the world. But the very act of training my cat to watch HBO seems impossibly weird, less like an activity and more like an internet t-shirt.
My cat watches shows you’ve never heard of
For now, I’ve switched Huey over to RuPaul’s Drag Race. I think he’s rooting for Kim Chi. No spoilers though please. He’s not caught up.