The Trashcats of Egypt

25 July, 2010

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve made frequent references to “trashcats” without really ever explaining what they were.

To the untrained eye, the trashcat may simply appear to be a quasi-feral Felus Catus, but I maintain that they’re actually an entirely different species. Cats generally look like this:

But the trashcat looks like this:

It’s not really much of a secret that I came over here with a dislike of cats. I’ve never really liked them much- to me, they’re anti-social, Machiavellian little creatures that make my eyes turn red and clog up my sinuses. However, after having spent a year in Egypt, I’ve developed such a fiery, burning hatred towards these animals that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at a friend’s housecat in the same way. Here’s why:

1. I didn’t pull the name trashcat out of thin air. When we first moved to Agami, my apartment was directly parallel from the neighborhood trash cans. Garbage wasn’t collected regularly, but when it was, the suddenly empty trash cans had a habit of regularly collecting feral kittens. These cats would smell the olfactory abominations that were these cans, and decide to go exploring.  I would then get woken up at like 4 am by the yowling, screeching and frantic meowing of cats trying to scratch up the slick sides of the trash cans, and have to go down to tip the garbage cans over to let them out.  The first time it happened, I laid eyes on what I thought was a poor little fuzzball and thought, “Oh, you poor thing.” After I tipped the trashcan over, it hissed and took a swipe at me. So much for gratitude, right? Within the first two weeks of arriving in Egypt, I’d rescued at least six cats from the cans. By the end of my time in that apartment, it was less out of mercy and more in the hopes that the liberated trashcat would find its way into the open jaws of a neighborhood dog so I could get some sleep.

2. Any time you walk by a trash can or one of the enormous corner trash heaps, you can expect to see cats writhing, wriggling, and snorting their way through leftover foul, rotten produce, and other unmentionable things. Generally speaking, they only tend to make their presence known to you when it’s late, you’re tired and high strung from teaching at night, and all you want to do is eat your falafel and pass out. They’re also fiercely territorial, and will defend their adopted domiciles with the ferocity of miniature lions should you walk within fifty feet of one.

3. Equally disturbing is the time when the trashcats “get married” as one of my sweetly naive students once said. Then, the usual nightly soundtrack of cat fights turns into low wails that seem to match the exact cadence of  the “Hey sailorrrrr….” calls heard in Oceanside bars during Fleet Week. The message is the same: soon, there will be more trashcats roaming the street. One time, Set and I heard an awful noise while we were trying to lesson plan, and we opened our office window to see two cats, well, “consummating their marriage” as my student would say. They had picked a romantic spot amidst pizza boxes, cigarette butts and other trash thrown out windows inside of what appeared to have once been a bathroom from some long-ago apartment that got built over.

4. One of the most infuriating things about the trashcat scenario is that their behavior is both largely sanctioned and denounced by the people here. I’ve had conversations with my students where they’ve talked about how much they hate the cats as well, and yet, I’ve seen so many people throwing out chicken bones, mostly empty cans of tuna fish and other quasi-edible morsels to the cats. This morning, I heard a godawful, pained yowling coming from outside. When we left our apartment later today, I saw it was a freakish looking white cat with a pile of half-eaten scraps in front of it. Then, a guy came out of nowhere and fed more trash to the cat. This is the same cat that I’ve caught sneaking into our building before, and the likely culprit of the trash-bag ripping incident that left our hallway covered in garbage for nearly two days. Similar to tiger sharks, zombies, and other apex predators, once a trashcat has identified a food source, it will seldom leave until all resources have been consumed.

So, there you have it. These are some of the reasons why I hate cats now.I understand that we have a lot of friends who love and cherish cats, and that’s cool. I can differentiate between your precious feline and the demonic entities that have plagued me for the past year. Just please don’t ask either one of us to catsit.

This entry was originally going to be about dumb things that I’ve seen cats do here, but space was limited.

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