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Your Cat's Guide to Your Computer

by Judy Heim 

Cats are using computers more and more these days. As it turns out, computers are the perfect objects to sit on, rub up against, spit fur balls on, muck up with cat hair, and hiss at. 

[This is a cute picture of a cat climbing on a computer. It's about to pounce on the mouse! Copyright  1995 by Alan Okamoto]Forget the sewing basket with the spools of thread. Forget the laundry hamper with shreddable panty hose. Computers are much more attractive. What more could a cat want than floppy disks to trounce, monitors to scratch, mouse pads to claw, and laser printers for yoga or acrobatics practice. And, unlike the common stereo or TV, computers have lots of sensitive electronic components that can be rendered inoperable by a single cat hair. And, unlike rats, squirrels, or gophers, computers don't fight back. 

Computers hold other advantages for cats. Consider the prestige factor. Simply sit in front of one for a long time without moving and people will think you are a very smart dude. Try sitting like that in front of the refrigerator and people will start making jokes about you. 

Cats adapt naturally to computers. Millions of years of evolutionary pressures have led to cats' perfecting sophisticated survival skills that enable them to sit for long hours without moving on top of a piece of consumer electronics, like a TV. (Humans, in contrast, sit in front of the TV set. You can see how far our evolutionary mechanisms have taken us.) The leap from TV top to computer is an easy one to make. In fact, few cats ever notice any difference between the two, especially if humans are staring zombie-eyed at both. However, few make the leap without pulling the lamp along with them. 

Not surprisingly, a good portion of the Information Superhighway is devoted to cats, their worship, their maladies, their whims, their wit, and even (how could we forget?) their intelligence. (In contrast, the portion of the Information Superhighway devoted to dogs is usually gloomy with E-mail about how dogs like to roll in horse dung and snort.) The mission of the Information Superhighway is, of course, to celebrate the more cerebral and artistic things in life, and what could be more cerebral and artistic than a cat who doesn't fall off a computer or a TV? 

If cats could write computer books, they would surely have a lot to tell us about these brutish machines with an insufficient amount of body fur to be truly stylish. Here are a few tips from Kitty. 

Maintaining Your Dignity in Front of a Computer 

Remember that you are a creature of beauty and intelligence. If the computer fails to cooperate, simply sigh and turn your head away ever so slowly. Maintain your dignity at all costs. 

Flip your tail at the computer's screen if it fails to adequately acknowledge your regal presence. Then gnaw its electrical cords. 

Never sit on top of the monitor. You may fall off. But do make sure to drop as much cat litter into its vents as possible. 

Never eat shrink-wrap. It's too hard to digest. Try disk labels instead. 

Never stick your nose inside a printer that goes "clack-clack" when it's going "clack-clack." 

Only walk over the keyboard when you have fresh cat litter between your toes. 

When spitting up fur balls, always do so behind the computer where no one will find them. 

If the computer gives you a hard time, tear its plastic face off (you know, the one that lists the model number). Bat it around the floor. Then eat it. 

While dropping a dead mammal on the keyboard when someone is typing usually never fails to elicit some kind of response, most humans will misinterpret the action. They will think you are offering them a token of affection, when what you are actually trying to tell them is that they should stop fooling around with the computer and go hunt for small rodents before they and their family starve. 

Never underestimate the power of stepping on someone when they're trying to use that stupid computer. Should they try to remove you from their lap, grab a lampshade with one paw, flail your back feet in their face, and mew your heart out. Eventually they will return you to their lap. They will apologize, pet you, and feel guilty for having taken you from your mother at such an early age. 

Don't let a human con you into thinking it's OK to stroke you with one hand while typing on the computer with the other. You want to be stroked with both hands! You are a direct descendent of the Egyptian cat-goddess Bastet and deserve no less. Should they persist in giving you only half their attention, rise up on  your hind legs and position yourself so that your body obstructs their reach of the keyboard. Flap your tail in their face to make sure that they devote their full attention to you. 

Debunking Myths About Computers 

Contrary to rumor, no one has ever lost a tail in a disk drive door. 

If people warn you that your hair is apt to short out the computer, ignore them. If it does, someone will fix it. If they don't, who cares? 

So what if a computer can perform 8 million mathematical calculations each second? You can sleep for 16 hours straight in a computer box. I ask you, who is the superior being? 

Unlike cats, computers are not perfect. 

The barbarism of these machines is evidenced by the fact that there is no place in, on, or around the computer that has been designed to take a nap in. 

Computers may be from a different planet, but remember that you are too, and you got here first. 

A computer mouse isn't. 

About the author: Judy Heim has been  been testing computers and software, and writing consumer advice features, for PC World for over a dozen years now. She's also appeared in many other publications, including Newsweek and Cosmopolitan (which published this essay in its December 1995 issue), and co-authored the best-selling PC Bible. Her recent books include Internet for Cats; The Needlecrafter's Computer Companion: Hundreds of Easy Ways to Use Your Computer for Sewing, Quilting, Cross-stitch, Knitting, and More!; and I Lost My Baby, My Pickup, and My Guitar on the Information Highway. All are published by no starch press (1-800-420-7240). 

The above excerpt from I Lost My Baby, My Pickup, and My Guitar on the Information Highway is Copyright © 1995 by Judy Heim and is reproduced with the permission of the author and no starch press. All rights reserved.
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