My Jewish Cat and the Art of Guilt


My Jewish cat, Chance, who has skillfully learned the art of guilt

When hungry, most cats drill their “servants” with shrilling meows, driving them into madness. Not my cat.

Instead, he’s taken another route, skillfully learning the art of Jewish guilt. He doesn’t need to meow. In fact, he protests with complete silence, accompanied by “the look.”

I first noticed Chance had acquired this divine power last weekend, on a Saturday morning. I’d slept in that day, awoken by my own urgency to use the bathroom. Of course, curled up next to me in a furry ball, was the purring Chance.

As I left the bathroom to climb back into bed for a few extra minutes of rest, he merely climbed on top of my belly to cuddle. Thirty minutes later, as I slid into my slippers, he gently followed me down the stairs of my house. Five minutes later, he quietly sat in the kitchen as I prepared my Saturday morning coffee, toasted my bagel and prepared some salmon lox.

When I turned around to the pantry, I saw it.

There, poised gracefully next to an empty food bowl and a dry water dish, sat Chance. His black tail neatly curled around the confounds of his white paws. His fluffy chest held back in an upright position exuding a quiet dignity. And his blue eyes, patiently staring up at me from a dipped head, as if to say, “Did you forget to feed me, Mom? Do you not love me anymore?”

Immediately, I rushed to his side, drowning him in apology after apology, reassurance after reassurance. He received wet food that day, along with a full bowl of freshly filtered, cool water.

Chance understands the power of Jewish guilt, unlike the other whining cats who paw at their servants’ faces in the morning. He understands that time is his ally, not his enemy. And with a little patience, the rewards will far outweigh the wait.

Since this divine power was bred into me, I’ve remained immune to it throughout my life—well, except from my father. Yet, it was a cat who finally broke through the wall, took my heart hostage, and now uses it to wield his will.

And I know from this day forward, I’m in trouble. Big, big trouble.

121 thoughts on “My Jewish Cat and the Art of Guilt

  1. Hi Shari! First off, thanks for visiting my blog today. Secondly, I read your Jewish cat post when it was freshly pressed last week and I thought it was hysterical! Especially since I’m a new cat owner for the first time (I’m used to Jewish dogs though). I knew exactly who you were when you left the comment for me. We do have a lot in common. I’m looking forward to following your blog (just subscribed too). Let’s keep in touch!

  2. Your cat seems like a typical Jewish Polish Mother – who always engenders enormous guilt in her children through the endless suffering she professed to undertake for their sakes.

    That’s quite a skill, and I wonder who your cat learned that from 😉

    1. Ha! Thank you! I find it funny you say that, because my mother (Chance’s grandmother) IS full-blooded Jewish Polish; she’s first generation American. And I grew up under THAT guilt. Thank you for stopping by. I hope to see you back sometime soon!

      Shari

  3. what a great way to put it! My dog is absurdly polite whenever he wants something. Like, too good. It’s nice not to lose your face every time your animal wants something.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this sweet story. I like the way you took an every day, common place event and turned it into a slice of life that all us cat lovers can identify with. Thank you for sharing with pictures too.

  5. I love the picture you paint with how quiet and proud he acted and how he just stared you down to get what he wanted. Our cat we have now doesn’t meow at all, and he just sits around in the same spot day in, day out. Cats are definitely very complex creatures and you worship them.

  6. Great read!

    My oldest does this first thing in the morning. She sleeps on my pillow and instead of screaming for food, she simply starts to purr and stare with those big, yellow eyes. If the guilt doesn’t set in at that moment, however, the screaming does begin shortly after. Chance could teach her a thing or two about Jewish Guilt!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Drive on,
    – M.

  7. Yes, my boyfriend and I must live with the stares also. Ours come from a 75 pound German Shepherd who wants to play all.the.time. She pouts. She sighs. She throws herself to the floor as if she just can’t take it another minute of the agony. She rolls over and peaks over her shoulder to see if we are watching her performance. And then, just as she thinks there is no hope left whatsoever, one of us will finally grab her ball, hedgehog, or bunny and toss it across the room and make her day.

    All pets are great, but pets with definitive human personalities are the BEST! Congratulations on being Freshly pressed!

    http://humanitarikim.wordpress.com/

  8. Great post. I think my dog Cujo is Jewish also.

    He always insists on 3 flavours of water for his bowl:

    1.Garden hose
    2.Toilet Bowl
    3. Rain puddle

    When there isn’t fresh food in the morning he lays his head down and gives me his “I am so dissapointed in you…”look.

    I just have to break down and give him some shmaltz herring on dry toast, his favorite.

    He’s not spoiled, just Jewish.

    The Indians were actually Jewish ya know (I think)…..

    http://gmomj.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/holocaust-survivors-pickled-danish-herring-2/

  9. You have one, what about the variation of the theme with eight? I am not a hoarder; some are old, some are young, but the pleasure of them surrounding us is joy. Hovering over the empty bowl, opening up the cabinet where the food is kept, lying in wait in the bathroom sink…Intelligence, wisdom, knowing all seem to describe CATS. Love your boy Chance, keep loving.

  10. Excellent post! Has Chance also forfeited the feline ‘Meow’ for ‘meh..’? 🙂

    My sister had a tiny dog who’d be completely normal until one started to watch tv. Then it would sit facing you – just a couple of paces from you – and deliberately stare into your eyes. Try to watch tv under those circumstances!!!! I think they cancelled their cable subscription after a while….

    1. That is VERY touching. Thank you for sharing that with me. I love Chance soooo much, that I could only imagine that if 16 years after losing him, someone else wrote something that reminded me of him, I’d be deeply touched. I’m glad I was able to nudge at those deep heart strings. 😉

  11. I have two cats, but only one has mastered the art of the guilt trip. She does the same thing as chance, the other, well, let just say that she’s not completely there, and if I don’t feed ‘on time’ we find her staring at a wall and randomly meowing. Kinda creepy really.

  12. I’m not certain Jews have the corner on guilt ~ my Recovering Catholic cat glares at me with the glare of a thousand nuns when her food dish isn’t full ~ and it MUST be kept full at all times, and to the brim…*or else*

    If she isn’t fed on time she doesn’t whine or paw or complain. No, there is just that unpleased furrowed brow stare that simply radiates the words “I am SO disappointed in you!” I almost feel the need to go to confession, but then I remember that I am Wiccan now…

    But yeah…she doesn’t often go unfed.

    1. Hahaha! That’s too funny. Yes, I’ve had several Catholic “servants” comment on here today about the guilt trip their cats put them through, as well. I have to say, that sounds like some SERIOUS Catholic guilt your cat has mastered. Kudos to her! We’re such suckers, aren’t we. 😉

      1. Oh yea…that cat has it down!

        She is Queen of guilt that girl!

        The stares…OH the STARES!

        yes….we are suckers……..and once those things grow thumbs we as humans will likely need to relinquish our quasi-control over this planet because the cats and the dolphins will surely usurp us! bwahahah!

  13. Cats are amazing creatures. My cat Atticus has not yet learned how to guilt me-his solution is to get up on top of something like the counter and start knocking things off. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. Thank you! It’s funny you say that, because the family cat I grew up with, Patti, used to do that same thing. She’d jump onto our dining room table, howl at the top of her lungs, then right when my mom and everyone else came running, she’d jump and grab onto the chandelier above, hanging from it like a monkey.

  14. My ex and I had a pet duck that did exactly that, the whole Jewish guilt thing. I’d be studying and have the feeling someone was watching me. There was Spot the Duck, standing right outside the window, with her beady little eyes trained on me. of course, I had to get up and let Spot in and pay attention to her.

    1. Thanks for your compliments! To answer your question, re: “Why exactly the reference to Jewishness??” It’s a common joke in the Jewish faith about Jewish guilt. How it’s a force to be reckoned with. Kind of like Catholic guilt. I’m Jewish, grew up under the iron fist of a Jewish mother, and the influence of Jewish guilt. Ironically, my cat has picked up on the wisdom and art of Jewish guilt. Thus the reference to Jewishness. It’s part of my culture’s humor, much like “black humor” (a.k.a. Chris Rock) of those from the African-American demographic, as one example. I hope I explained this OK? Let me know if it makes sense. 🙂

  15. This is absolutely darling! I also blogged about a pet today, about moving my dog Ralph first to Vietnam and then to Haiti, where we now live. Thanks for sharing just one of the many ways our animals rule our lives!

  16. Welcome to the world of cat guilt. You’ll never be free! I wish mine were silent. My male cat walks back and forth through the bedroom making a most irritating, rasping meow, and after 1/2 hour if that doesn’t work, my female cat sits at the furthest corner of the bed and makes short, melodic meows — spaced closer and closer together the longer we ignore her. This doesn’t happen every morning, just if we try to sleep in for too long. Ugh. They used to be silent but have ramped it up as they’ve gotten older. Oh well, there is a price to pay for every pleasure, I guess!

  17. My dog does the same thing to me in the mornings…she will curl up on my chest, lay there, and just stare until I get the hint that yes, it’s time to go out! She also has this way of saying “What are you doing? Get up off your butt and let me outside!” with just a simple glance. Gotta love pets!

  18. awww ehehhe. Mine is the pawing at the face type. Yet my dad’s is the one that does the “Jewish Guilt” trick. He sits there, patiently waiting. Even if we’re cooking and it’s taking a while. He still sits there. It’s cute 🙂 Great post!

  19. Too funny & too cute! Oooh, who rules? It’s definitely THE cat. Mine, too. They know just what to do in any given situation. My cat has me wrapped around his little paw. Anything to keep him happy because I love him. I do not like when he seems mopey…he was highly upset when I recently traveled, now he won’t leave my side, but at first he was leaving me alone as if he didn’t need me…as if!

    evelyngarone.com

  20. Wow thats really cute. I wonder if there are many cats out there who behave like that. It might be a super intelligent animal 🙂

    1. Hahaha! Thank you! Well, Chance is a Snowshoe. I know many in his breed act a lot like him, so if you’re seeking to adopt a pet, maybe search for a Snowshoe cat? But, I also like the thought of having a super intelligent animal. =)

  21. My cats get enough treats. I feed them only dry food and try to keep it full. On ocassion they’ll yowl when it’s been empty “too” long. But, they get tuna juice and sundry other food scraps here and there. They’re not hurting.

    The cries and actions get more petulant from my male when he’s thirsty. He likes his water as fresh as possible, preferably from the tap. He will climb into sinks and wait for me to turn it on to a trickle, which he’ll lap up. Subtle, my cats are not.

  22. Hi Shari,

    I enjoyed your post . . . I have a cat that thinks she’s a dog and hasn’t quite mastered the art of Jewish guilt . . . but is making progress.

    Congratulations on being recognized by Freshly Pressed. My blog was chosen a couple weeks ago for a post on Intellectual Honesty. I am also a writer and my first book, Find-Fulfill-Flourish, is in the final editing stage. A second is in the works and I have at least two more ideas for future books.

    I’d love to share insights with you and to get your reaction to my blog — which is attracting a growing readership. You can find it at http://findfulfillflourish@wordpress.com.

    My best,
    Steve

    PS: I see you are a fellow Arizonan. I live in Scottsdale and my son is about to graduate from NAU. He too is interested in writing, journalism, and new media.

    1. Hi Steve,

      That is so crazy! I am a fellow Lumberjack too. =) Graduated from NAU with my journalism degree in 2005. I wonder if your son had any of the same professors as me? I will surely visit your site very soon, as I’m very curious to meet a fellow Valley writer/author! Thank you so much for dropping by, and do stay in touch (either on Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/ShariLopatin or via blog subscriptions).

  23. My Jewish cat is so fat, he can skip a meal or two 🙂
    When he is ready to eat and he does not like what’s in front of him, he would not touch food, he would go back in forth for hours until I finally give in and change his food.

  24. Great post! Chance sounds like quite a cat! I used to have two cats. Neither would sit their patiently. They’d start meowing like crazy and would jump up in bed and meow in my ear until I got up and fed them. Haha, congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

  25. Hi! Your cat looks so cute.
    I have 3 cats, Perlita, Manchitas and Tulus.
    Manchitas is like Chance.
    Perlita is a “little” more direct. She climbs into my bed, then
    puts his paw on my face, and slaps me very “gently”
    Tulus is more independient, hahaha. When he’s hungry, he goes to
    the kitchen, opens the pantry and takes the bag of food. The only bad thing about it, is that when I go to the kitchen there’s food
    all over the place, hahaha.

    Greetings from Chile

    Javi.

    [I speak spanish, but I tried to write with my best english 🙂 So, if there’s something that you don’t get let me know.]

  26. excellent post! Our dog does this as well … he lies down with great flourish next to his empty water bowl – this is accompanied by a definite stink-eye and sometimes even a sigh. Chance is leaving nothing to chance now is he?

    Congrats on being freshly pressed 🙂

  27. Our rabbit Penelope is a past master of this skill. (she is a house rabbit who runs free inside the house). She sits next to her empty plate and looks at us. We set down some lettuce or parsley, neglecting to include her preferred escarole or thai basil. She sniffs delicately at this paltry offering, and then averts her eyes, finishing with an ever so subtle sag of her tiny shoulders.

    I have to restrain myself from rushing over to shower her with expensive greens…. (of course, as soon as we leave the room she hops over and proceeds to eat with gusto).

    Needless to say, she is an exceedingly well fed rabbit.

  28. As a fellow “servant” to two cats, I found this particular blog very endearing and amusing. Thank you for sharing your first experience with Chance’s superpower. I know full well where you are coming from and appreciate the fact that our cats have a certain bit of power over us that we might not allow to exist within the human circles we may travel.

  29. My cats have a similar tactic – one will wait for the opportune moment and give you ‘the look’; the other will just follow you everywhere, and I mean everywhere, until she gets what she wants! Very rarely will either of them meow for food…

    Loved the post. 🙂

    1. Hahaha! Well, Chance has the tendency to chant as well. He actually cries when he can’t find me. It’s usually after coming home from work, and I’m upstairs. I’ll hear him howl for me downstairs, until I answer back with an, “I’m up here baby! It’s OK!” Then he trots upstairs and calms down.

  30. One of my cats (we have three) has “wake up” duty…He claws at the bed covers to pull them away from me and if that doesn’t work, he begins clawing at my cheek…It’s a delightful way to wake up!

    1. Hi Allison. Chance and I met about 7 years ago, when I was living in a small apartment in Prescott Valley, Ariz. He was about 2 years old, living on the streets. He found me, by the bushes of my car port, as I was getting ready to go grocery shopping. I pet him, gave him some milk, and he began showing up at my doorstep from that day forth. Within the month, I’d taken him for his shots, welcomed him inside, and he became my baby! Or rather, I became his servant. Ha! Thanks for stopping by. =)

  31. that is funny…i have a cat too, she is a big cat but if i forget to feed her she follows me all over the house meowing. when i get to her food bowl she sits there and spins in circles coo-ing. she isnt much of a cuddle cat but if she wants her food, she usually nags till you give in.

  32. i love him already 🙂
    my cat, on the other hand, has a very soft meow and a pretty skillful technique of guiding us to the fridge door when he’s hungry. if he’s REALLY annoyed and hungry, he might even swat our feet while we’re walking to make us walk faster! i love it when he does that 🙂

  33. Big, big trouble indeed. Your cat has mastered something that it has taken many of us decades to perfect, regardless of religion (Jewish, Catholic, etc…).

    It never ceases to amaze me how well cats emote. ESPECIALLY when it comes to negative/ambivalent emotions. 😉

    Fun post, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. Thanks Mikalee! I was never really sure, until today, what “Freshly Pressed” was. Well, I’m planning to work toward another one in the near future, now! Yes, I concur, cats are exeedingly emotional creatures. But that’s why we love them, right? 😉

  34. I absolutely love this post! I’m not Jewish, but grew up in NJ/NYC, and had many, many Jewish friends. (I live in California now, and though I have Jewish friends here, it’s a different scene on the West Coast.) Since I was raised Roman Catholic, as you may already understand, RC guilt fits hand in glove with Jewish guilt, lol.

    Thank you for bringing a smile to the start of my day. And CONGRATS on making “Freshly Pressed!”

    1. Oh yes, RC guilt definitely fits hand-in-hand with Jewish guilt! LOL! I’m very glad I was able to bring a smile to your Monday! I love writing and making people happy. Thanks for your kind words, and feel free to drop by again from time to time!

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Thanks for stopping by! Yes, Chance definitely did master “guilt” as he would a fine art. Ha! Your cats Fudge and Cooper sound great. I plan to visit your site very soon when I have a few more free minutes, and read their escapades as well. I hope you drop by from time to time and say hello!

      Shari

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