Why Cats Fear Vacuum Cleaners

We have all been amused by photos and videos of household cats being freaked out by vacuum cleaners, or at least I have. You know the ones I mean – the kind of thing in which someone decides the place is getting a bit too messy so they pull out the old Hoover and run it over the carpet only to find their cat calling 911, or trying to batter the machine to death with a hockey stick. But where does this irrational fear come from? After all, when was the last time you heard of a cat being sucked up a vacuum cleaner’s pipe? Like most intelligent people, I have long been puzzled by this phenomenon and finally, after a few too many week-old burritos, decided to pull out my set of Britannicas and do some research.

As it turns out, this apparently inexplicable fear can be explained through an ancestral memory dating back to pre-historic times when large herds of vacuum cleaners roamed dense, antediluvian forests preying on cats and other small, furry creatures. What this means is that the average modern cat does not need to have a bad experience with a vacuum cleaner to be afraid of the things. Many eons ago, his ancestors were so traumatized by rampaging vacuum cleaners that the fear etched itself on their DNA, much the same way those burritos have etched themselves on my stomach wall. Being a DNA thing, this fear gets passed down from one generation to another, leading all cats to fear a certain household appliance at a deep, primal level without really understanding why they do so. And there is no doubt that cats did, at one time, have much to fear from the now-tamed creature called the vacuum cleaner…

Several cave paintings from Lascaux, for example, show what appears to be a vacuum cleaner chasing a large cat. Either that or it’s a mammoth chasing a Buick, scientists are uncertain as to which is the correct interpretation. And there have been folk tales about cats and vacuum cleaners for thousands of years. The popular children’s tale “Puss In Boots,” for example, originally ended with Puss being turned into a set of violin strings by a vacuum cleaner which had been roaming wild in the Marquis de Carabas’ game reserve. This is why the tale was originally titled “The Pussycat’s Gizzards,” but the title was considered too grim by the guys who first wrote the story down, hence the more child-friendly title and ending.

The first written record of a case of the ages old conflict between feline and vacuum cleaner comes to us from the ancient Sumerian city of Eridu, where, according to cuneiform clay tablets dug up in 1864 by a hungry pig looking for truffles, some time during the year 2953 BCE, the city’s king, one Nangishlishma Zazu The Incorrigible, was enraged to find that his favorite cat, Pussykins, had been devoured by a vacuum cleaner which had escaped from the local zoo. According to the tablets, the bereaved monarch hunted the murderous appliance down and took his vengeance by having the vacuum cleaner drawn, quartered, and then sold off for parts.

In 1473 BCE, the Chinese historian Huan Long Dong wrote in his classic text “Chinese History for Dummies,” that the emperor Zhòng Dung had ordered all the kingdom’s cats to be locked indoors after a soothsayer told him that his enemies were planning to bankrupt China by unleashing a wave of vacuum cleaners, the idea being that with all the cats gone there would be a huge plague of mice and rats, the country’s beetroot crops would be ruined, and the kingdom bankrupted. As it turned out, the threat was an empty one and the vacuum cleaner invasion never eventuated. This fact, combined with everyone eventually remembering that China did not actually have any beetroot crops, led to Zhòng Dung becoming known as The Foolish Emperor, or more colloquially, as Zhòng Dung The Dense.

According to the Roman historian Josephus Bugiardius, another well substantiated instance of a cat being attacked by a wild vacuum cleaner took place in 273 AD, when the Emperor Adagio Albinoni’s ginger cat, Macaroni Pomodoro the Third, made the mistake of wandering out into the woods while chasing a mouse who had just insulted his mother by comparing her unfavorably to some stale cheese. According to a pair of peasants who had been sitting on a nearby fallen log discussing the geopolitical woes of the time, the mouse ran into a cave and the cat followed. A moment later, the peasants heard a bone chilling “Vroooom” sound, then heard the cat utter a loud, garbled meow resembling the words “Holy shit!” Seconds later the cat’s bloodied pelt was thrown out through the cave door, and the mouse emerged, trembling and white as a sheet. Despite attempts by psychiatrists to get the mouse to talk, all he could ever say, in his quavering mouse voice, were the words “Vroom, vroom” over and over.

In more modern times, as vacuum cleaners have been tamed and pressed into servitude, such deadly incidents have become much less common, but the eons-old animosity some times expresses itself in unexpected ways. For example, historian Hasselblad Hasselmeyer of the Harvard School of Dentistry has claimed that the infamous Deep Throat was in fact Richard Nixon’s vacuum cleaner, who had decided that the best way to mess with Nixon’s cat “Butthead” was by discrediting his master. It should be pointed out that Mr. Hasselmeyer made this claim in a book written shortly after being accidentally trepanned during a visit to the local fish markets and is therefore considered, by cynics at least, to be a person of little credibility.

So the next time your poor old pussycat freaks out and runs around the room trying desperately to escape your vacuum cleaner, don’t be an insensitive bastard and pull out your phone and then humiliate the poor creature by putting the video on YouTube. Instead, remember that it’s a deep rooted fear that is hard wired into his DNA and his subconscious, and that the furry little weirdo just can’t help it. And if you must use a vacuum cleaner, make sure you send the cat away for the weekend, or at least put him inside some sort of large, iron cage in which he will feel safe as he watches the mysterious beast rampaging through the house. Of course, you could also stop using your vacuum cleaner – what, are you too good to use a broom, now?

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Sorority Row – Cake for breakfast

sorority row cake for breakfast final

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Zombies Go Home

What the hell is it with zombies these days? When did it become fashionable to be an oozing, moldering pile of dead flesh? I’m sick of these things. They are everywhere, doing all sorts of obnoxious things like cutting me off in traffic, cutting in on the dance floor, trying to bite my ass off, and all sorts of other crap. I swear, they’re even worse than all those young men wearing large beards and my grandfather’s hat.

Just the other day I was minding my own business trying to break into a car when some shambling pile of rotting flesh comes along and tries to nibble on my arm! Is there nowhere safe from these people? Can’t a man even pick a lock in peace any more? And then there’s the cinema. There you are, sitting in some fancy little art cinema, watching its annual showing of “Citizen Kane.” The great masterpiece starts, there’s that wonderful series of dissolves leading us deeper and deeper into the secretive world of Xanadu, eventually into the title character’s room and there’s poor old Charles Foster Kane on his deathbed. We get to that shot of the snow globe with the snow covered cabin in it, and just as Welles is about to utter the immortal word “Rosebud,” some moldering meathead in the crowd dully croaks out the word “Braaaaiiins,” and then does it again and again, over and over like some demented, putrefying parrot! I tell you, you’ll never look at old Orson the same way again!

Then there’s the gym. At last count, around a third of my gym’s current members are zombies. In an enclosed space, you can imagine – the smell is dreadful. This problem can, to a certain extent, be dealt with through correct use of a gas mask, though this measure is a bit of a bother during cardio sessions and I have seen several living members pass out from their use. Then there’s the problem of over-reaching. For some reason, zombies seem to be convinced that they are especially strong. Needless to say, when every muscle and sinew in your body is slowly rotting away this is mere wishful thinking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to pick up a pair of disembodied arms and throw them into the dumpster out back just because some stupid zombie thought he could bench press 400 pounds with his putrid limbs. And that’s the other thing – after the weights have come crashing down, who has to unload the bar and put the plates back on the rack? That’s right, it’s the human members! After all, the zombie in question can’t do it, his arms are gone! And the other zombie members are too busy shambling around, trying to figure out how to work the treadmill, or chasing after some of the more tasty-looking members!

This isn’t the worst of it, though. What really gets my cannoli is the way these things behave at restaurants. There you are trying to enjoy your lobster, stuffing the thing into your face like a teamster at a donut bar, and just a couple of tables over there’s a whole group of walkers pigging out on various entrails and intestines! The sight itself is nauseating enough, but they aren’t exactly the tidiest of eaters and it takes just seconds between the start of their meal and half the restaurant’s human diners being covered in bits of flesh and innards that have gone flying through the air. It’s like hail, I tell you. Then there’s what passes for dinner conversation amongst these people. Oh, the scintillating wit of such statements as “Ruuurhhh” and “Unhhhh.” It’s like listening to a bunch of Valley Girls trying to figure out how to use their Tivo! But at least, after the dinner there’s a concert to look forward to. Or is there?

What can one say of a heavy metal concert rudely interrupted by the unexpected devouring of the bass player? This is what happened at the last live gig I attended. Legendary speed metal band Armadillo Love were halfway through their classic “Mental Breakdown in the Key of Fuck ‘Em All” when one of these disintegrating dunderheads wandered onstage, took a whiff of the drummer, threw up, and headed straight for the late lamented Darryl “Corpse-humper” Dingleberry! Where the hell was security? I know that there is often little distinction to be made between a blank-eyed, shuffling monstrosity and the average metalhead, but on smell alone the security guys should have known that the drooling thing stumbling around the stage was a little too pungent even by heavy metal standards. Perhaps everyone mistook the shambling, blank-eyed monstrosity for Ozzy Osbourne trying to make an impromptu cameo? Stranger things have happened – like that time Lemmy was made Archbishop of Canterbury. I must say, though, kudos to the band for continuing the concert even after the tragic end to their bassist’s career. Even as the remnants of Darryl’s body lay there, with the now-overfed zombie snoring loudly in a corner of the stage, the band continued to perform. True, they did have to replace Darryl with a guy from the audience who could make some pretty good bass guitar sounds with his mouth, but needs must when the devil vomits on your bedspread.

Now, I can’t say that I know what to do about this current zombie infestation, as I am no expert in such things. But there must be some way to get rid of these disease-ridden dirtbags. Perhaps we could fill one of the Great Lakes with hydrochloric acid, wait for a really hot day and then convince all the zombies to go for a nice, refreshing swim. Perhaps it’s as simple as giving them all one way tickets to Australia, a land that is both capacious, distant, and so hemmed in by water that there is no way the bastards would be able to make their way back without being devoured by sharks. Indeed, once in Australia the zombies would probably find themselves in the highly ironic position of being scarfed down by such renowned native predators as the Outback Dingo, the Suburban Wanker, and the Common Boofhead. Or perhaps we could build some very large steam rollers and get them to go around flattening these bastard things flat as pancakes, which we could then sell to fancy cafes – a nice cup of cat crap coffee with a stack of zombie pancakes, what discerning sophisticate could resist? I don’t know if any of these methods would work, what I do know is that I have had more than enough of zombies and all their crap, and that if I wake up to find that yet another zombie has tried to eat my garden gnomes I will probably end up making some very messy use of the weed-whacker.

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