The Fur Person

May Sarton

The Fur Person.

“When he was about two years old, and had been a Cat About Town for some time, glorious in conquests, but rather too thin for comfort, the Fur Person decided that it was time he settled down. This question of finding a permanent home and staff was not one to be approached lightly of a May morning like his casual relationships with various grocers in the neighborhood, kind but vulgar people who did not know how to address a Gentleman Cat. Not at all. This was to be a systematic search for a housekeeper suitable in every way. Every cat knows that the ideal housekeeper is an old maid, if possible living in a small house with a garden. The house should have both an attic and a cellar, the attic for fun and games, the cellar for hunting. Children, I regret to say, are to be avoided whenever possible. They are apt to distract the housekeeper from her duties, and their manners leave much to be desired.”

The passage above opens May Sarton's delightful little book, The Fur Person. Sarton, who lived from 1912 to 1995, was the author of more than fifty volumes of poetry collections, novels, and memoirs. The Fur Person is her fictionalized account of the life and adventures of Tom Jones (her cat) prior to making the author's acquaintance. Fiercely independent in the way of cats, Tom eventually comes to make a home with the author and her companion.

“The most remarkable thing about the two kind ladies was that they left him to eat in peace and did not say one word. They had the tact to withdraw into the next room to talk about other things, and leave him entirely to himself. It seemed to him that he had been looked up and down, remarked upon, and hugged and squeezed far too often in the last days, and now he was terribly grateful to the chance to savor this delicious meal with no exclaiming this or that, and without the slightest interruption. When he had finished every single scrap and then licked over the plate several time (For if a meal is Worthy, the Sixth Commandment [of a Gentleman Cat] says, “The plate must be left clean, so clean that a person might think it had been washed.”), the Fur Person sat up and licked his chops. He licked them perhaps twenty or twenty-five times, maybe even fifty times, his raspberry-colored tongue devoting itself to each whisker, until his face was quite clean.. Then, he began on his front paws and rubbed his face gently with a nice wet piece of fur, and rubbed right over his ears, and all this took a considerable time. While he was doing it he could hear a steady gentle murmur of conversation in the next room and pretty soon he stopped with one paw in the air, shook it once, shook his head in the way a person does whose hair had just been washed in the bowl, and then took a discreet ramble.

“Just make yourself at home,” said the voice he liked best. “Just look around.”

Thus, the cat known as Tom Jones comes to live with the two ladies, becoming a part of their lives, as they become of his, and becoming, in the process, the Fur Person. From catnip hangovers to trips to the vet to encounters with other felines, Sarton's book is one of the all-time favorite stories ever written about the joys and tribulations of sharing one's life with a cat – be sure to read all about it.

Copyright © 2005, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.