05/21/2012 05:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cats and Other Living Things

I had a couple of emails in response to my last post (about why cats and dogs lick), and thought the best way to answer was in a follow-up. The questions focused on two topics: my assertion that cats are social animals; and questions about one of my cat's name (Tsimmes).

No one seems to question the sociability of dogs, but there are still those who think of cats as aloof and solitary animals. My experience (which, 34 years at this, is pretty considerable) is that while cats and dogs and people do come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and personalities (including, for all three species, individuals who can be shy and others who are genuinely antisocial) if given the chance the overwhelming majority of cats (along with the overwhelming majority of dogs and people) do indeed think that "one is the loneliest number." Cats may hiss and strike at other cats they don't know, and even at ones that they do know, but the same behavior can be observed of our own species in just about any situation where more than one human being is present without earning Homo sapiens the title of insular, solitary or loner animal. So, too, with Felis catus.


Cats enjoy the company of and play with other cats, and in my own three-cat, two-dog household, cats not only play with cats but cats also play with dogs. I love watching Frida and Archie (our two dogs), one on either side of a cat, each dog cleaning an ear on the contended face of one of our cats. Another favorite moment, this one pictured in the photo here, Tsimmes and Isabelle (that's Tsimmes on the right) all cuddled together for one of their daylong naps. Cats are not solitary...

...and as T.S. Eliot teaches us, cats deserve wonderful names, so to the question about Tsimmes. In Yiddish, tsimmes (also tsimes and tzimmes) is a wonderful concoction of carrots and sweet potatoes and brown sugar and cinnamon, all deliciously baked into a casserole which my grandmother served for the New Year. Sweet and orange-colored, my family thought this was a perfect name for this wonderfully sweet stray red tabby kitten who left the shelter and first came into our lives 13 years ago today. Happy Cat Mitzvah, dear Tsimmes!