Cats Who Hide

Excerpts from “The Retired Cat”

by William Cowper

A poet’s cat, sedate and grave

As poet well could wish to have,

Was much addicted to inquire

For nooks to which she might retire,

And where, secure as mouse in chink,

She might repose, or sit and think.

I’m often surprised at where I find my cats reposing: the heights of cabinets or the depths of closets; any interesting surface (a cool piece of paper, a neoprene laptop sleeve, a piping-hot digital receiver); etc. I am typing with a slumbering kitty in my lap right now (and my foot is falling asleep). What’s the oddest place you’ve found your cat sleeping?

A drawer, it chanced, at bottom lined

With linen of the softest kind,

WIth such as merchants introduce

From India, for the ladies’ use,

A drawer impending o’er the rest,

Half open in the topmost chest,

Of depth enough, and none to spare,

Invited her to slumber there;

Puss with delight beyond expression 

Survey’d the scene, and took possession. 

Recumbent at her ease, ere long,

And lull’d by her own humdrum song,

She left the cares of life behind,

     And slept as she would sleep her last,

When in came, housewifely inclined,

     The chambermaid, and shut if fast;

By no malignity impell’d,

But all unconscious whom it held.

    Awaken’d by the shock (cried Puss)

“Was ever cat attended thus?

The open drawer was left, I see,

Merely to prove a nest for me,

For soon as I was well composed, 

Then came the maid, and it was closed,

How smooth these ‘kerchiefs, and how sweet!

Oh what a delicate retreat!

I will resign myself to rest

Till Sol, declining in the west, 

Shall call to supper, when, no doubt,

Susan will come and let me out.”

Oh, my. We can see where this is headed, no? Poor silly kitty.

   The evening came, the sun descended,

And Puss remain’d still unattended.

With hunger pinch’d, and pinch’d for room,

She now presaged approaching doom,

Nor slept a single wink, or purr’d,

Conscious of jeopardy incurr’d.

    That night, by chance, the poet watching,

Heard an inexplicable scratching;

His noble heart went pit-a-pat,

And to himself he said—“What’s that?”

He drew the curtain at his side,

And forth he peep’d, but nothing spied.

Yet, by his ear directed, guess’d

Something imprison’d in the chest,

And, doubtful what, with prudent care

Resolved it should continue there.

At length a voice which well he knew,

A long and melancholy mew, 

Saluting his poetic ears,

Consoled him and dispell’d his fears:

He left his bed, he trod the floor,

He ‘gan in haste the drawers explore,

The lowest first, and without stop

The rest in order to the top.

For ‘tis a truth well known to most, 

That whatsoever thing is lost, 

We seek it, ere it come to light,

In every cranny but the right.

Forth skipp’d the cat, not now replete

As erst with airy self-conceit,

Nor in her own fond apprehension

A theme for all the world’s attention,

But modest, sober, cured of all

Her notions hyperbolical,

And wishing for a place of rest

Any thing rather than a chest.

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