2: Mewsic Critic

2: Mewsic Critic

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

Mewsic Critic

A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.

~Ernest Hemingway

My tuxedo cat, Squeakette, greeted me with her usual meow and happy dance around her food bowl when I came home from choir practice one night. I gave my snuggle-puss twenty minutes of undivided attention. We played catch with her favorite mouse until she tired of it and curled up into a black-and-white ball on the sofa.

“Good,” I said to myself. “Now I can practice unhindered.”

My singing voice fell woefully short of Juilliard standards. Studying opera for two years in the music department at a community college gave me enough confidence to join the church choir.

“The only times you don’t have to practice,” my voice instructor had said, “are days you don’t breathe.” According to her standard, I hadn’t drawn a breath in more than four years.

“Not quite ready for the Met, am I?” I said to Brian the choir director at my first rehearsal.

“You’ll be fine.” He offered a wistful smile and placed me in the soprano section, close to the altos. Perhaps I wavered between the two octaves.

Six weeks before Christmas, Brian handed out sheet music to the John Rutter piece he selected for our cantata. As the holiday drew closer, he gave us cassette tapes of the orchestra to practice on our own.

Now Squeakette snoozed peacefully on the sofa behind me. I popped the cassette into the tape player and sat cross-legged in the middle of the living room floor, breaking another opera-teacher rule. Sheet music in front of me, I followed the melody with my index finger. When the music reached the soprano part, I took a deep breath and stretched my torso upward, remembering at least one point my voice professor taught me — go high and come down on the note.

I sang the Latin words in my best soprano voice, “Gloria in excel-sis, Deo.”

Squeakette sprang out of her nap and rushed at me, meowing.

“Not now, Squeakette. I have to practice.” I petted her and continued singing.

She climbed across my legs and, pressed one front paw on my chest, covering my mouth with the other. Her ears went flat, and her eyes turned to amber slits. She scowled her harlequin-mask face. I didn’t know cats could frown.

“Are you trying to tell me something, Squeakette?”

I rewound the tape. This time when I attempted to hit the high note, Squeakette bit my elbow. Not a bite that broke the skin, but more of a warning nibble. She stood on her hind legs and put both paws over my mouth.

I stopped the tape and stretched out, patting the floor next to me.

She snuggled in and rested her head on my shoulder.

A newspaper headline flashed in my mind: OPERA SINGER’S CAREER RUINED BY CAT’S PAWS. I chuckled at the thought. Stroking her silky black fur, I said, “Do I tell Brian I can’t practice at home because my cat bites me when I sing?”

If cats could speak, she would’ve answered, “Don’t give up the day job, Mom.” Instead she purred and kneaded under my arm, her eyes no longer slits. I didn’t know cats could smile.

Everyone’s a critic, but none quite as honest as my Squeakette.

~Janet Ramsdell Rockey

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