Invasion of the Cat Persons
Posted by Neal on September 10, 2004
Our psychology consultant for Adam’s therapy program is not a cat person. So, as cats are known to do, our cats like to give her some extra special attention when she comes over. One of them in particular, Nick, always jumps up on her lap when he gets a chance, and it takes her by surprise every time. Then one of us comes and removes Nick from her lap, and she continues talking about Adam’s programs or what to do about any undesirable behaviors he’s been engaging in.
The last time she was here, though, our consultant took an admirable and courageous step: When Nick jumped on her lap and I came to take him away, she said, “No, I’ve got to get used to cats with this job,” and allowed Nick to stay on her lap. Pretty soon, though, she had a question: “Do cats, um, extend their claws when they’re sitting on you?”
I reassured her that Nick was just stretching and getting comfortable. One or two of the claws might prick a little, and if that happened she could just pick up his paw and put it down again. But as I reported to my wife later, “I hadn’t given it much thought, but I can see that making someone nervous. If I weren’t a cat person, and a cat sat on my lap and started to bust out its claws, I’d probably freak out.”
She said, “I’m glad you admit you’re a cat person!”
Whoa, now! Maybe I should have phrased the thought more carefully. What I meant to say was … I guess, “If I were a cat hater…”
But that’s neither here nor there. What occurred to me as I was trying to make my wife understand that I was not a cat person per se is that I didn’t know the plural of cat person. Was it cat people? Maybe, but that sounded an awful lot like something you’d find on the island of Dr. Moreau, as the makers of these movies realized. My wife thought so, too, and said she’d probably call all her cat-loving friends cat persons. On Google, the singular cat person gets 24.2K hits, but the plural cat persons gets only about 420. Cat people, meanwhile, gets 108K hits, an undetermined (but apparently pretty large) proportion of them referring to the “Cat People” movies, and some referring to people who like cats.
But does resorting to cat persons avoid the problem? Couldn’t cat persons be half-human, half-cat creatures just like cat people? And for that matter, even if the singular of cat person is cat persons, how do you refer to one catlike humanoid creature? If you’re watching one of the “Cat People” movies, and there’s a scene where one of the creatures is sneaking up on someone, what advice should you yell out? “Look out! There’s a cat person behind you!” Heh, heh. All I can picture when I hear that is a fiendish cat lover who will force you to pet her kitties, make you sit down and watch while she waves a feather on a string for them, and keep asking you, “Aren’t they the cutest things? Well, aren’t they? Answer me!!”