Division and Classification: Sample Essay


     As a cat lover, I’ve made it one of my life’s goals to develop a better understanding of those finicky felines that capture and control human hearts.  I can recall no point in my life when I didn’t have a cat around to pet and feed, worry about and love.  Most times, I’ve had several, making it possible for me to do elaborate personal studies of their often-eccentric behaviors.  In fact, I’ve studied cats so much that I can classify them into three groups based on behavior alone.  To me a cat is either a boring little powder puff, so erratic that no one could love it, or a real cat’s cat.
    I don’t take much interest in fancy cats.  You know Himalayans, Siamese, Persians, and the like. Oh, they’re glamorous all right, simply lovely in fact.  But what can they do?  Himalayans are so fluffy they can hardly move.  If you put one outside he’ll sniff the grass and head for the nearest sidewalk, having completely forgotten what a cat is really supposed to do.  Siamese are about as worthless, if you can tolerate the constant caterwaul long enough to find out.  And Persians, like Himalayans are fluffy little brainless creatures that love to drape themselves across your velvet sofa.  They do make good pillows, though.
    Some fancy cats cross over into the next category—erraticats.  These are those cats that stay outside all day only to cry their way in just to use the litter box.  Or maybe they decide they only like one flavor of one brand of cat food.  Better yet, these guys like no one in the family, except Uncle Bob, who, by the way, despises cats.  But these are only little things. I’ve had some eccentric cats that were completely intolerable.  One was a fancy Persian named Layla.  The problem with Layla—she pooped in the bathtub.  Her offspring did this too.  According to history, so did her mother.  Ergo the lunacy was genetic.  A neighbor of mine—identity unknown—has a cat that got under my house—tunneled his way as a matter of fact—this winter and pooped and pooped and …well…you get the idea.  Boy, I went through some candles this winter.  He is the first cat I’ve ever considered poisoning.   Cat lover that I am, I usually feed strays and other neighborly cats.
    My own cat is a grayish-brown tabby of the shorthair variety.  Stoodoo, named by my older son when he was four, is a rather pedestrian sort of cat.  Or is she?  She kills mice and lizards and birds in spite of the fact that she’s well fed.  She lives outside, as my husband is deathly allergic to all fur-bearing creatures.  She blesses my car with charming little muddy paw-prints and plants herself in my path whenever I’m outside.  Stoodoo is a real cat’s cat, meaning she hasn’t forgotten the job description of a cat.  I think if you do your own study you’ll discover that her abilities are traits of her breed.  In fact, my last several cats—I live on a busy street—have been tabbies, either gray or brown.  Ernest Hemmingway had tabbies; Jim Williams of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, Jim Williams who could have afforded a house full of Himalayans owned a gray tabby.  They are state of the art in cats.
    I like what one writer has to say about cats: “The mathematical probability of a common cat doing exactly as it pleases is the one scientific absolute in the world.”  And I wholly agree, having once watched a delightful black kitten burrow under my dining room tablecloth.  Perhaps it is that total lack of concern for possible repercussions, that total abandon, that makes watching a cat good, cheap entertainment.  With my own cat living outside, I miss many of the laughs.  So, I decided a long time ago that if I outlive my husband, I’ll stop by the animal shelter on the way home from the cemetery and pick up a tabby or two.