Streams

On the Love of Cats and Persons

Friday, February 22, 2013

When his favorite cat Biscuit went missing, Peter Trachtenberg set out to find her. He talks about that journey, which took him 700 miles and into the history of his relationships with cats and with his wife F., who may herself be on the verge of disappearing. In Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons he ponders the mysteries of feline intelligence, the origins of their domestication, and looks at why we loves whom we love.

Guests:

Peter Trachtenberg
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [18]

Lorraine Chouinard

Such an entertaining interview. I met one of those cats who turned mean after being petted just
so long. I've been perplexed about it for many years until this interview. It was just his nature - a cat schizophrenic type - and why not- people can be like that, too.

Feb. 23 2013 12:23 PM
steven from Stanton, NJ

Peter Trachtenberg is endlessly entertaining. Smart, articulate and amusing. A real delight. Give us more !

Feb. 22 2013 02:46 PM
Henry from MD

My cousins had a Deli cum restaurant in London UK in the 1940s, and I used to go there for lunch from my nearby college. They had an 'ordinary' cat in their shop whose behavior was extraordinary in many ways. She never jumped on the counters to partake of any of the delicacies that happened to be laid out. My cousin would put her food in a little dish under a bottom shelf and the cat would take the dish in her mouth and carry it through the shop and restaurant to the backroom kitchen, where she would place it in a customary spot and only then begin to eat.

She would not allow any dog to approach that dish except for one to whom she apparently had developed a great liking. Once she rode one of those huge dogs out of the business, squatting like a jockey on his back.

She was the same way with the customers. She had singled out one young couple from the multitude and whenever they came in she would jump up on the stool between them to be petted.

She was an unforgettable creature.

Feb. 22 2013 01:07 PM
David

Mia from Manhattan and Maggie: There's an old saying, "An outdoor cat is a dead cat."

I couldn't agree with you more.

Feb. 22 2013 01:07 PM
David

allinyc: "I find that most people who claim to hate cats don't actually hate cats, they're just allergic to cats." I disagree. I think they've never had a cat, so they don't understand that a cat is different from a dog. I was neutral about cats until I had one. Now I love cats—but I still love dogs more.

Feb. 22 2013 01:05 PM
Hell's Kitchen

Excellent interview. Fascinated by the interaction of observation and love. Who/what do we love and why?

Feb. 22 2013 01:00 PM

Alli in NYC: Antigone and Medea. You're welcome.

Connie from NJ: Don't look now, but you're exceeding the speed limit going straight down.

I had two cats, planned, well-mannered, trained, indoor only. Then #3 showed up on my front porch during a rainy spell, and I put out a box and some towels, food and water, so she stayed. Then her cousin from next-door, a neer-do-well who ran with a gang and committed mayhem throughout the neighborhood showed up, and I weakened, thought I could change that bad boy (I couldn't).

Then came Spencer the red-head, a child when he first showed up, then he disappeared and came back all grown up and aggressive, so I took him in to get him fixed because his owners were too selfish to do it, and he became mine.

Finally a huge red and white cat, all busted up and limping, (Spencer's dad?) showed up, and I eventually took him in too. Agamemnon home from the wars.

That was all many years ago and they are all dead now, but they had a great life while they lived with me.

Now: I have two cats. Planned. We'll see how that goes.

Feb. 22 2013 01:00 PM
kitty lover

My kitty is very handsome and obnoxious - about an hour ago he scared the bejeebers out of me by flushing the toilet!

Feb. 22 2013 12:53 PM
Tom from Toronto

This has been a very bizarre interview.

Feb. 22 2013 12:52 PM
Mia from Manhattan

I agree with Maggie - it's best to keep cats in. Outdoors they can catch and spread feline leukemia and feline HIV, and they generally are prone to more fights, attacks and injuries, and a shorter life span.

Feb. 22 2013 12:52 PM
Connie from nj

to allinyc;

How about Snippet or Lester? I jotted those down at some point as good cat names. Who knows why? You're welcome to them if they appeal to you.

Feb. 22 2013 12:51 PM
Maggie from nj

I'm both a cat lover & a birdwatcher & I think your guest needs to know that the pet's safety is a small part of the reason to keep his cat indoors, especially in the country. Much as I love cats, they are killers.
From 1/31/2013 Wahington Post
"Outdoor cats are the leading cause of death among both birds and mammals in the United States, according to a new study, killing 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds each year.

The mammalian toll is even higher, concluded researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ranging from 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion annually."

Cats do not discriminate and are as likely to kill endangered migrating warblers as common English sparrows. But then, any unnecessary kill of a wild creature by a well-fed domestic animal is a sad thing.

Feb. 22 2013 12:47 PM
allinyc

I find that most people who claim to hate cats don't actually hate cats, they're just allergic to cats. Like introverts who don't hate people, they just hate that being around people makes them tired.

In any case, I'm having the most difficult time figuring out names for my two kittens. I keep changing it and they're 6 months old already. Any tips?

Feb. 22 2013 12:44 PM
C. Imbimbo from Teaneck

Speaking of cats, there's a memorable cat character in Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita" (Russian: «Ма́стер и Маргари́та»). A phenomenal book!

Feb. 22 2013 12:43 PM
John A.

I think cats bring me kills so I can dress them for their food dish like I can do with those metal disks (cans).

Feb. 22 2013 12:40 PM
Laura from UWS

This segment is making me very happy.....educational and fun.

Thank you, too, for the archives because I have to go out.

Feb. 22 2013 12:39 PM
Connie from nj

I used to say three cats was my limit. Now I say four cats is my limit. I don't feel as if I've tipped, but perhaps it's a slippery slope.

Feb. 22 2013 12:36 PM
sanych

Why do we love cats?

It Toxoplasma gondii the answer?

Feb. 22 2013 11:56 AM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.