Running with your cat.
Much has been said about the relationship between man and dog, but a man and his cat? More glowing prose has appeared above a truck-stop urinal. It’s true that cats lack many of the qualities that make dogs so lovable—our feline pals have the loyalty of a pirate, a host of narcissistic personality disorders, and a propensity for killing things rivaled only by Ted Nugent. But they can run—by Lord they can run like the wind—which makes them a perfect partner on the trails. Sorta.
There are two things to remember if you wish to run with cats. First, they are less a willing partner than they are a resistance-training tool. Like one of those big rubber bands, only with claws and fangs. Second, they must not be trusted. Any creature that can lick the back of its own neck is clearly an alien.
Cats are incredibly fast, but they aren’t real big on endurance. In fact, cats tend to stop and take a rest after about 13 feet. And when a cat stops, it does so with authority. This is no whiny, ninth-grade-gym-class puss-out. This is a Greenpeace, chain-yourself-to-a-nuclear-submarine-because-you’re-a-true-believer kind of commitment. That cat ain’t moving. Might as well grab a smoothie while you wait.
A cat also believes that any foreign object touching its back renders it paralyzed and requires extensive yowling in protest. This includes a running harness, which can be problematic because as fun as it sounds, running while dragging a yowling, paralyzed cat is frowned upon in most social circles. To habituate your cat to the harness, strap it on several days prior to the run. The cat will still act paralyzed, but you can tell concerned bystanders that it’s fine; the cat has been that way for days.
It’s also important to note that if you happen to see, smell, hear, or taste (you never know) someone with a dog on the trail, your cat will, as feline scientists like to say, “completely lose its shit.” This will likely lead to a period of intense, extremely slow sniffing, and a strong case of raccoon-itis, during which cats puff up to mimic the appearance of a giant, pissed-off raccoon. It makes good sense. Who messes with a pissed-off raccoon?
Finally, cats hold grudges. Say, for instance, you actually do take cute little Scratches running. When you’ve returned from the emergency room after treatment for many thousands of small lacerations, all will appear fine. Scratches will forget about running and you will both enjoy 10-15 more years of ambivalent coexistence, right? Wrong.
Someday, when you are old and gray, you will be sitting in your recliner with the paper, and Scratches, sanguine as any cat on any lap, will suddenly insert her claw directly into your scrotum and look at you, as if to say, “You thought I forgot? Well see how it takes you to forget your infected ball sack, esé. Now give me a treat.”
Running with cats isn’t for everyone. The cat-running community is small and getting smaller, as people die of scrotal infections. But there is probably nothing more rewarding than striding down a sun-drenched trail with a cat bounding happily at your side. Sadly, we may never know.
Editor's note: no cats were harmed during the making of these photos. The author's dignity was the only casualty.