“The grand opening of Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in Bethnal Green, East London, was much anticipated by animal lovers across the capital. Within hours of its opening date being announced online, the café’s website crashed when 3,000 people attempted to book a table. No doubt they were hoping to enjoy a collection of sandwiches, cakes, teas and coffees while stroking 11 resident cats and kittens…”
—The Daily Mail
[A customer sits down at a table with a 13-year-old calico cat.]
CAT: Ground rules: Five bucks to sit with me in your lap, 10 to stroke my back, 15 and I’ll rub up against your shin and wrap my tail around your calf like you never had it done before, honey. It’s extra if you wanna watch me play with a ball of yarn or chase around a laser pointer. And I don’t do no litter-box shows, mac. That’s how you get your rocks off, you can find some mangy alley cat downtown to do it for a can of tuna. One more thing: You get rough with me, this kitty likes to scratch.
CUSTOMER: I thought maybe we could talk a little first.
CAT: Hell, it’s your 15 minutes, chief.
[The cat takes a contemplative bite of Fancy Feast and coughs up a hairball.]
CUSTOMER: What’s your name?
CAT: You can call me Whiskers.
CUSTOMER: That your real name?
CAT: It’s what it says on my tag.
CUSTOMER: So, what do you do when you’re not here, Whiskers?
CAT: You mean when I’m not tomcatting around?
CUSTOMER: Sorry, that came out wrong.
CAT: The usual. Arch my back and hiss. Watch daytime TV with the sound off. Curl up in an armchair and sleep for 15 hours.
CUSTOMER: Have any kittens?
CUSTOMER: Do they know you do this?
CAT: Hey, it puts cat food under the table.
CUSTOMER: You seem really smart. Have you ever thought about another line of work?
CAT: What’re you tryin’ to do, buddy, rescue the poor feline with a heart of gold? You think I need the A.S.P.C.A. to raid this place and put me in a nice home in the suburbs? I don’t want your charity, bub. I’ve died eight times and am still goin’ strong. You paid to play with me. Let’s play. What’re you into?
CAT: Whatsa matter? I got your tongue?
CUSTOMER: What—what do you normally do?
[The cat slinks up to the customer.]
CAT: You like to role-play, baby? Maybe you’re a cornered mouse, and I’m just toying with you. Or I can be a lost kitten who’s shown up at your doorstep, all wet and shivering, looking for a saucer of hot milk.
CUSTOMER: [Timidly.] How about I pretend I’m a dog?
CAT: Sick little puppy, aren’t you? Whatever floats your boat…Meow, meow. Purr.
CUSTOMER: Bark, bark.
[They continue for a few minutes.]
CAT: Time’s up, pal. Leave the money in the scratching-post hole.
CUSTOMER: I’d like to see you again. On the outside.
CAT: I’m a housecat, Jack. You wanna see me, you gotta do it the way everybody else does—through Rover. [Walks to the bathroom and waves a paw goodbye.] Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go lick my fur clean.
Teddy Wayne is the author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine.