Ep 1.6: Luke & Leia (ft. Ana Marie Cox) 

Transcription by Colette Arrand. Hire her if you need things transcribed!

Mary Phillips-Sandy: The Daylight Savings thing happened recently, and I don’t know about you, it screwed me up. And then you, having come from Central Time here to Eastern Time, that’s an additional layer of getting screwed up.

Ana Marie Cox: There was the election, too.

Mary: But we’re here now on a very slow news day.

[Laughter.]

Mary: Nothing is happening, everything is very calm and chill, the world is fine.

Ana: We’re not going to talk about politics?

Mary: We are not going to talk about politics.

Ana: That’s cool.

Mary: Do you know what we’re going to talk about?

Ana: Cats?

Mary: Let’s talk about cats!

[UPBEAT, SLIGHTLY FRANTIC ELECTRONIC MUSIC: Let’s talk about cats! Let’s talk about cats!]

Mary: This is Let’s Talk About Cats. I’m noted cat lady Mary Phillips-Sandy. My cat is Grendel. She couldn’t be here today because she doesn’t ride the subway. She’s kind of a diva like that.

Ana: She only takes town cars?

Mary: Yeah, well, actually she hates cars too. She’s just sort of a homebody. But luckily, someone is here with me, someone I have been a fan of for literally over a decade? Yeah. And that’s Ana Marie Cox. You know her as the host of With Friends Like These, one of the few political podcasts I can handle listening to, personally. You’re a commentator, a columnist, the O.G. Wonkette—is there anything else?

Ana: I’m an author and I am a cat lady. A cat person?

Mary: A cat lady. Yeah, well, that’s your most important title. You are the catpanion as we like to say here of two incredibly good looking cats.

Ana: Yes. Luke and Leia, the Jedi Twins.

Mary: The Jedi Twins! Can you give us a pithy description, say five words each, of Luke and Leia?

Ana: They sort of take after their namesakes? Leia is an elegant, fluffy, bossy princess. And Luke is a noble, solitary, anxious Jedi Knight. Carrie Fisher was not fluffy really, but.

Mary: I think spiritually she was fluffy.

 

[UPTEMPO, GUITAR DRIVEN ROCK MUSIC WITH FEMALE VOCALS]

Mary: Now, I hope the Force is strong with you, because it is time for a very important segment that we call the Cat Quiz. There’s a prize. There’s a prize at stake, okay? Today’s Cat Quiz is titled “You Know A Lot About American Politics, But Do You Know A Lot About American Politics With Cats?” Ana Marie Cox, are you ready to play?

Ana: I’m ready to play.

Mary: Okay, now you see there’s no timer, there’s no clock, there’s no countdown.

Ana: [Laughter.]

Mary: But here’s how it works. I’m going to read the question, don’t be a jerk. You’ve got to answer the question.

Ana: Okay.

Mary: No dilly-dallying, okay? It’s the honor system, it’s the American way. Right?

Ana: Mm-hmm.

Mary: Okay, you ready?

Ana: Mm-hmm.

[CAT QUIZ MUSIC: FAST DRUMS AND RUMBLING PURR SOUNDS.]

Mary: In 2002 a handsome Maine Coon named Hank won dozens of votes in his U.S. Senate campaign in which state?

Ana: Alaska.

Mary: Oh, I’m so sorry. It was in Virginia.

Ana: Oh.

Mary: Hank lost to Tim Kaine. So shout out to Tim Kaine, who defeated a cat.

Ana: And a Confederate fan also.

Mary: Yeah!

Ana: He defeats worthy opponents and not so worthy opponents.

Mary: And not so worthy opponents. So let’s hear it for the Kaineheads. Okay. Number two. For over a century, the U.S. Capitol Building has been haunted by a demon cat that appears on the eve of national tragedies and presidential transitions, which also sometimes are national tragedies. The cat’s home is allegedly a basement crypt that was built for whom?

Ana: I’m going to go with George Washington.

Mary: It’s George Washington!

Ana: Okay, yes.

Mary: He’s not buried there. He’s at Mount Vernon. The only creature in the crypt is the demon cat.

Ana: Did the demon cat belong to someone?

Mary: It was originally one of the cats that was hired as a ratter.

Ana: Hired? [Laughter.]

Mary: Well, you know. [Laughter.] It was a patronage job, as a ratter, and apparently it lingered and now haunts the building and is demonic. Among other things in D.C. Okay. You’ve got to get this one right. It’s from your current home state of Minnesota. Democrat Angie Craig just flipped Minnesota’s second congressional district. She unseated Republican Jason Lewis. She ran an ad in which a celebrity was shown at her home scooping the litter box. Who was that celebrity?

Ana: I’m guessing a Minnesota-based—no!

Mary: Not in the slightest.

Ana: You’re going to have to just tell me unless you want to give me another hint.

Mary: You’ve got to say something. You’ve got to say something. That’s now how it works.

Ana: Ohh, um, Will Ferrell.

Mary: Oh, I wish! It was Samuel L. Jackson!

Ana: Of course, yes.

Mary: It was Samuel L. Jackson, who admitted in the ad that he does not like cats, so screw you, Samuel L. Jackson. Okay. Number four. Fat cat—to me that means a creature with a fluffy belly that I want to pat, but if you’re on the campaign trail, of course, it’s a rich person who can buy political influence. The phrase in its latter usage originated in an American magazine in which decade?

Ana: 1890s.

Mary: I’m so sorry. Very close though, it was the roaring 1920s, and it was H.L. Mencken’s great American Mercury.

Ana: Yes. I was thinking of Nash, of the, Tammany Hall, or uh—

Mary: Ah, yes. You’re too smart for this. That’s the problem, you’re too smart for the Cat Quiz. Final question. It all comes down to this. You’ve gotten one right.

Ana: [Laughter.]

Mary: During the second Clinton inauguration, the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City hosted Socks Clinton’s Inaugural Bal, complete with catnip martinis, sushi, bowls of milk and a cat toy shaped like which Clinton political foe?

[Cat Quiz music stops.]

Ana: Ross Perot?

Mary: Oh, no! Ana Marie Cox, that’s not right. It was Newt Gingrich! They had Newt Gingrich cat toys at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City!

Ana: See, Ross Perot cat toys could have been actual size.

Mary: Ooohhh!

Ana: And they would have been—[Laughter.]

Mary: So you know what, you got one out of five right, and that means that you win our prize for the Cat Quiz. A Socks Clinton mouse pad.

Ana: A Socks Clinton mouse pad!

Mary: Available exclusively from the Clinton Presidential Library Store in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ana: Oh wow. I appreciate this so much.

Mary: I went there over the weekend to get it for you, yeah.

[FAST ROCKING AWESOME GUITAR MUSIC]

Mary: Up next, we do a Hot Topic debate. You and I are going to answer this question. It’s a very important question that’s been tearing the feline community apart for centuries, possibly. The question is, Ana Marie Cox, would a cat make a good president?

Ana: Hmm. Depends, really.

Mary: Of the United States. I should clarify.

Ana: Yeah.

Mary: Representative democracy, electoral college, let’s assume it’s still standing.

Ana: Like a good president for whom? I guess if you define like, the entire United States? Probably not.

Mary: Yes, for the entire United States, 2020 is fine.

Ana: Like I think it would probably be, you know, good for some residents. Probably cats.

Mary: In other words, you think they would be focused on the 1%?

Ana: They’re one-percenters kind of. I mean, I don’t know how they would define 1%. I’m not sure if it would be wealth.

Mary: It would be a random 1%, right. [Laughter.]

Ana: Who smells the best, you know? Who most recently brought them food. But they’re very picky creatures. They don’t like everyone.

Mary: See, to me, that is precisely why a cat would make an excellent president. Because a cat is decisive.

Ana: True.

Mary: A cat is principled. A cat knows when to walk away from the table.

Ana: Again, love cats. Principled? I don’t know.

Mary: Their principles may not be things that I personally agree with.

Ana: Okay. [Laughter.]

Mary: But there is a code by which the cat lives. It may be known only to the cat, but it is a set of principles that often is unshakable.

Ana: I think that describes some potentially bad presidents.

Mary: This is true. I’m open to being both right and wrong at the same time.

Ana: I think you’re both right and wrong about this. Also I would fear that a feline president could be easily swayed by foreign powers.

Mary: Oh, interesting.

Ana: They are kind of bribable, cats.

Mary: This is true. I had not thought of that. Yes.

Ana: You know, um, I mean, they’re less bribable than dogs.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Ana: Dogs will just roll over for anyone.

Mary: Literally.

Ana: And cats don’t always respond to everyone’s inducements.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Ana: But you know, like, in the right circumstances.

Mary: It would be difficult, though, to wiretap a cat. They do have stealth. They’re very mindful of security.

Ana: You know what, I think cats would make great Secret Service agents.

Mary: There you go.

Ana: It’s ironic we see dogs on police forces so much, because I do think cats are more militaristic.

Mary: Law enforcement.

Ana: Law enforcement.

Mary: CIA perhaps.

Ana: Yes, spies! Oh my God!

Mary: Yes, the Cat Intelligence Agency I think is what we’re circling around.

Ana: Yes, and the Feline Bureau of Investigation.

Mary: Correct.

Ana: Those things, we’d probably benefit as a country.

Mary: And I suspect it would save a lot of taxpayer dollars because we would not have to pay them the salaries that we’re currently paying. Um, I don’t know, pet insurance is a lot cheaper than human insurance.

Ana: [Laughter.] And I do think there’s some people who might say, well cats are more fickle, they don’t necessarily obey the rules. But I think I want to distinguish between a police force where you do want kind of more regimentation, and spycraft. Right?

Mary: Yeah, you need that mental agility, if you will.

Ana: Yes.

Mary: And physical agility. I will say though, people sometimes say, well, cats don’t give a fuck. I beg to differ, because I think what it is about cats is they give the right fucks. Or they give certain fucks.

Ana: They have some things they care about very deeply.

Mary: Exactly, and those things they will go to the mat for. I mean, literally. And I admire and respect that in cats and in presidents. I think the other thing to remember, honestly, is that cats typically are not racist, and cats also don’t tweet.

Ana: Cats are not fans of mob rule.

Mary: Yeah.

Ana: A cat would never lead a popular uprising.

Mary: Never! Alright, well I think we’ve reached a conclusion. A cat would make an okay president, possibly.

Ana: And better than some!

Mary: Better than some. But we absolutely need to have a Feline Bureau of Investigation and a Cat Intelligence Agency. I think those are going to be key issues in 2020.

[TRIUMPHANT GUITAR FLOURISH]                    

Mary: And now it’s time for the real reason we’re here. Ana Marie Cox, let’s talk about your cats.

Ana: My cats.

Mary: How did you meet Luke and Leia?

Ana: Well, Luke and Leia actually were originally enlisted into service by my husband.

Mary: And when you say enlisted?

Ana: [Laughter.] No, I was trying to think of a way to say it. So I had two cats that came with me from D.C. to Minnesota when I divorced my first husband. We had two cats and two dogs, and he got the dogs and I got the cats.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Ana: You know, a divorce is a divorce. Some things go well and some things don’t, but that was one of the things that we kind of were able to get to an agreement pretty easily because I knew that I was probably going to be moving around and probably in apartments and it wouldn’t make sense for me to have the dogs, as much as I loved them. And so I took the cats, Alexander and Moby. Alexander I had since before I met my husband. Moby was just, we adopted pretty soon after we moved in together. And they were fantastic cats. Um, both tuxedo kitties. Alexander was a longhair black tuxedo, and Moby was a gray tuxedo, gray shorthair tuxedo.

Mary: Oh, I love a gray tuxedo. I love a gray tuxedo.

Ana: Um, Alexander was slightly brain damaged from some kind of trauma in his kittenhood. He didn’t have a good sense of smell or balance. His nasal passages were screwed up. So he was a little bit more aloof than your normal kitty, because he just was a little slow.

Mary: Sure.

Ana: But he was lovely and hilarious and then Moby, he looked like a panther. He was like just a big cat. And he had a lot of personality, and he was more attached to me. And when I started dating my current husband, he told me at first that he did not like cats.

Mary: [Gasps.] And you kept dating him anyway?

Ana: I did, and I said, well, we’ll see how this goes.

Mary: [Laughter.]

Ana: And then, I remember he sort of remarked to me one day, kind of in wonder and awe, he was like, you know, I actually really like your cats.

Mary: [Gasps.]

Ana: They seem different than other cats. And I was like, well, they are, but they also aren’t. What do you mean? And he was like, well I grew up just thinking that cats all had the same personality. And I just was you know, offended. And he’s like oh, but now I know, now I see, they have distinct personalities.

Mary: Hello! [Laughter.]

Ana: Yeah, and during the time, the first year we were dating, he was in and out of sobriety and not always living by himself.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Ana: When he finally had a year sober and was moving into his own apartment—I made clear that we weren’t going to move in, and we were going to take it slow.

Mary: Yes.

Ana: And he was like, but I feel like I’ll be lonely. You know, do you think I should get cats? And I was like, yes you should.

Mary: Yes you should!

Ana: You should get cats.

Mary: Definitely.

Ana: [Laughter.] Or a cat. Like, single. And so we went to Petsmart on adoption day, and there were only two kittens left.

Mary: Oh.

Ana: A very fluffy cinnamon tabby, Leia, and then a slightly sleeker, more traditional mackerel tabby, Luke. And we were playing with them, and he was like, I don’t know which one to get.

Mary: Uh-oh.

Ana: And the Petsmart adoption person and I were like, well you have to get both.

Mary: Yeah.

Ana: And we kind of made it sound like that was always what you did.

Mary: [Laughter.] Yeah, no, that’s just how it works.

Ana: Like, if they’re siblings, you have to take both.

Mary: Yeah, yeah.

Ana: And I think he kind of just bought it. And so he got them, and he fell in love with him I think more than he realized he would. I remember he sent me a text, like the first night he spent alone with them, of Leia chasing her tail. And he was like, do they do that all the time? [Laughter.]

Mary: Oh my God, it’s like watching a baby learn to walk! It’s like a man discovering cats for the first time.

Ana: A man discovering cats for the first time! And he would tell me, like, well they slept with me, they curled up next to me.

Mary: Yeah, that’s what they do.

Ana: Yeah, he fell in love with his kitties, and then when we decided to move in together, he had this realization of like, we’re going to have four cats. That’s weird, like, you know, four cats is too—

Mary: That’s a lot of cats.

Ana: That’s a lot of cats. And I was like, well, that’s unfortunately just the way it’s going to have to be. We actually fudged the truth on our rental application.

Mary: Sure. As you do.

Ana: But unfortunately, um, my cats were older.

Mary: Yeah.

Ana: And I think what happened was that they realized they had seen me through this very important transition in my life, their job was done, and unfortunately they both passed away actually within a month of my getting married to John.

Mary: They knew their job was done?

Ana: I think they knew that I was in good hands.

Mary: Yes.

Ana: They—I’m going to get, [Chokes up a little, laughter.]

Mary: No, it’s okay.

Ana: That I was in good hands, and that they had brought me from like a really hard time in my life, through the divorce, through these ups and downs with John when he was not doing well. Like, there were nights when John and I were in a place that wasn’t great where being in bed with these two lumps of love was really important.

Mary: Yes, of course.

Ana: You know, I’d had them for almost 12 and 13 years, and they both like to sleep up near my head, you know? Which sometimes is annoying, but sharing the bad times, it was nice to just have like fuzz everywhere. And you know, I think that they approved of Luke and Leia and were kind of like, okay.

Mary: They passed the torch.

Ana: They passed the torch.

Mary: I believe in the transitive nature of cats, where cats, even if they haven’t met the next cat that you live with, I’ve always believed that the next cat you get has picked up something from the last cat that you had. My cat Milo passed away about a year after I got my current cat, Grendel, and I believe there’s some of Milo in Grendel still, and that she carries some of that with her for me. Which is maybe a selfish and stupid way of looking at it, but it makes me feel better, so I’m going with it.

Ana: And it’s also true that Luke and Leia had gone—had been somewhat standoffish to me when they were brought into my life and I was brought into their life, they were definitely John’s cats.

Mary: Sure, they were John’s cats, yeah.

Ana: Whereas my cats, I have to say, were a little bit more like, welcoming. [Laughter.]

Mary: [Laughter.] Well they were older, too.

Ana: Well maybe—and they’re older, and I think just—they were just so happy that I had kind of gotten my life together, gotten sober, you know, I think that they felt the weight of the sadness that I had had for so long was lifted. And after we moved in together and Moby and Alexander passed away, Luke and Leia definitely adopted me.

Mary: They adopted you?

Ana: Definitely.

Mary: I love that.

Ana: Leia in particular. I mean, she’s the more affectionate of the two. She used to prefer John. I’m not going to—you know, it hurt my feelings.

Mary: Sure. Of course! You took it personally, yeah!

Ana: [Laughter.] You know? And now she’s as much of a cuddlebug with me as she is with John, and I have to say, John has become well-schooled in cat-owner etiquette, which is to say if one of us has the cat on the lap, you’re not the one going to get the door, you’re not the one that’s going to change the—you know?

Mary: No, I can’t move, I have a cat.

Ana: He understands.

Mary: You get it now.

Ana: Whoever has the cat in the lap can’t move.

Mary: Yeah.

Ana: Sorry!

Mary: Sorry.

Ana: [Laughter.]

Mary: And you also have a dog.

Ana: Yes.

Mary: Exley, named for Frederick Exley?

Ana: Yes.

Mary: I thought so. “A Fan’s Notes.” Look it up, everybody.

Ana: Wonderful cult novel.

Mary: Feel-good story!

Ana: Well, uhhh.

Mary: For the ages. We’ll put a link on the show notes. What is his relationship with the cats? How do they get along? Is it divisive, is it combative?

Ana: He adores Leia.

Mary: Okay.

Ana: Like, I think really wants her to be his sensei. He thinks she’s just fascinating. There was a part of us that kind of worried that that was a prey interest.

Mary: [Laughter.]

Ana: But he seems to just really like—

Mary: Genuinely like her.

Ana: Be interested in her.

Mary: Okay.

Ana: Like, you know, and want to play.

Mary: Reaching across the aisle, genuinely.

Ana: So we talked to different people about how to get the dog and the cats to get along, and most vets and trainers we talked to told us cats will establish the rules just fine.

Mary: Yes, yup. Again, cats will govern.

[FAST, DRIVING ROCK MUSIC]

Mary: Do you want to talk about our brains, or do you want to do some jokes? Do you want to talk about our brains? Is it okay?

Ana: Okay, sure.

Mary: You alluded to your husband’s recovery, and I know you’ve been really open about your own recovery and your own mental illness, and I think that is really awesome and it’s been something that I have really found encouraging myself to hear someone that I respect so much talking about that stuff, because there aren’t enough people doing it. For me personally, my cats have been really a key part in keeping me alive. I don’t know if that’s true for you, but I am wondering if your cats have helped you in your sobriety and in the sort of ongoing—I hate calling it a fight against mental illness. It’s not a fight.

Ana: It’s not a fight. It’s living with, which sounds corny, too.

Mary: Living with! Living with. Right.

Ana: So I’m sober through 12-step recovery.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Ana: One path, not for everyone.

Mary: Not for everyone.

Ana: It works for me.

Mary: Sure.

Ana: But in 12-step recovery, there’s a concept of a sponsor.

Mary: Yup.

Ana: Which is someone who has been through it before you, and that’s not actually the most important part. Sponsor also is supposed to give you experience, strength, and hope. And I just do this description because animals make really good sponsors.

Mary: Wow.

Ana: [Laughter.]

Mary: I never thought of that.

Ana: I mean, you need a human one, too.

Mary: Of course. [Laughter.]

Ana: Because they’re not great at—well, see the thing is because one of the key principles of sobriety is a loving detachment, is to be able to experience your emotions but not get caught up in them.

Mary: Yup.

Ana: I think all companion animals make pretty good sponsors, but cats I think make especially good sponsors.

Mary: I had never thought of it that way, but I think you’re absolutely right.

Ana: Because they’re loving, but not overly attached, they live their own lives very much in the moment. A cat, I feel like a cat knows a bad thing has happened. Like sometimes I think dogs, I love dogs, but not always fully—

Mary: Engaged in the present moment.

Ana: Yes.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Ana: And then cats are like, okay, bad thing happened, moving on.

Mary: Yes. Here’s a really dumb example. There’s been some construction in my building, and it’s been very upsetting for Grendel. She has been visibly upset by it. And I’ve been trying to comfort her and distract her, but she hasn’t wanted that. she has just wanted to sit in the hallway, kind of puffed up, being upset. And I realized the other day, I just need to let her do that. She just needs to sit here being angry and upset at the guys making the drilling sounds next door. That’s what she has to go through. I let her do that, and when she was done, she turned around and walked away.

Ana: She’s done. She’s done. I think that’s actually very—and it’s a wonderful example of how to process and deal with your emotions.

Mary: Yeah, I know. And I was just like, that was some straight wisdom that 10-pound cat just dropped on me.

Ana: Also the other important part of sponsorship is accountability.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Ana: A lot of companion animals, again, can do this, but it’s a being that you must be accountable to.

Mary: Yes. Yes.

Ana: You know? Like there’s no lying to a companion animal. I’m trying to be very species neutral here.

Mary: That’s okay, this is Let’s Talk About Cats. That’s fine.

Ana: Because it’s Let’s Talk About Cats, but I also want to say, you know, when I was not sober, I was not accountable to my animals. And it’s something I still feel—this is not a joke, like, I feel like moving forward in sobriety, I’m making living amends for my lack of accountability to my pets when I was using. I make sure that they’re well cared for. I mean, it wasn’t terrible to them, but like, you know, if you’re drinking and using drugs, you’re not always emptying the cat box. You’re not always making sure you’re home in time to get them fed. You’re not always thinking about their needs. And as a sober person, I just try to be really good about that.

Mary: Yeah. I mean, I have a kid now, but there are times when really it’s the thought of taking care of the cat—you know, your brain will do all kinds of terrible shit to you, and it will tell you all kinds of terrible things, and you’ll think well, you know, if I weren’t here, the kid would be fine because kids are—but the cat. The cat needs me. It’s completely fucked up, and I’m aware that it’s completely fucked up, but that 10-pound little creature needs me. I’ve got to do what I need to do to get through today so I can be here tomorrow so I can scoop that litter box and put that kibble down in the bowl and keep my Grendel healthy.

Ana: And you know, there’s probably a thousand different things that helped my husband stay sober. The period of sobriety he has now is the longest period he’s ever had in his life.

Mary: That’s fantastic.

Ana: After years and years of trying to get sober. And you know, one of those thousand things might be that he adopted some kitties, you know?

Mary: It can’t hurt. It can’t hurt.

Ana: In early sobriety. And I would say also kitties, you can’t pawn off kitties very easily, either. Like, a dog you can hire a dog-walker, you can kennel the dog. Cats are like, you know—

Mary: They’re yours.

Ana: They’re yours. I think cats have a bad reputation for being overly picky about their people, but because they do have that reputation, I think it sort of means more to people, whether or not it should, it means more to people when their cats love them.

Mary: Yes. Yup.

Ana: They feel like they’ve been chosen.

Mary: There’s value to it.

Ana: John got to experience that. Like feeling like the had been chosen by these kitties, you know?

Mary: And it helps you value yourself in a new way that maybe you’d forgotten how to do.

Ana: Yeah. After some missteps in our relationship, we did decide to go pretty slow, and I think it was again, a million different things, but the cats are part of it in the sense that we each had our own places with our own little creatures that we could keep our lives separate while we were getting our shit together.

Mary: That’s really important.

Ana: The way that kids slow down single parents, in a good way.

Mary: Yes, yes. In a good way. It forces you.

Ana: Yeah.

Mary: It forces you. You have no choice. You might think, well, I can do this, I can do that. But you actually can’t.

Ana: Move in together. We can move in together right away.

Mary: Yeah. You can’t! No you actually can’t.

Ana: You have to be home. You have to be home.

Mary: You make a living being smart and verbal and funny and witty and thinking of things. And you know, I’ve often done that as well. And I think there are times when you’re in a really dark place and you’re not able to do that. You’re just not able to do that. And when that’s your whole brand and that’s your livelihood, that can be so crushing and so disheartening. And I love that cats don’t expect you to do that. And again, this could be true of any companion animal, but I think for me cats are so intelligent, yet its okay to my cat if my brain is just not functioning.

Ana: In fact, they kind of prefer that, I would say.

Mary: In fact, they kind of—yeah. I’m a potato, and my cat is just like, yeah, that’s cool. You’re cool. You’re fine.

Ana: As long as I get fed and the litter box gets taken care of.

Mary: Exactly. And don’t move!

Ana: In fact, don’t move. Please don’t move.

Mary: Yeah, please don’t move. And it is—and nobody else is going to say that to you. Everyone else is like, get out of bed, what are you doing? Are you lazy?

Ana: Yeah, I have to say, so this is a place where in the spectrum of different companion animals, cats are a little bit better at this.

Mary: Yeah, a dog wants to go for a walk.

Ana: A dog wants to go for a walk, a dog gets kind of restless.

Mary: Yeah, Grendel loved it when I had days where I couldn’t get out of bed. She thought this was the best thing. I mean, in a way maybe that wasn’t the best, because I was just like, [Laughter.]

Ana: I mean, there are limits, but there’s also just sort of—it is true though that that little lump of unconditional love is your connection to the world, too. Imagine how much worse it would be if you didn’t have a creature there loving you.

Mary: I joke about it, but it is true that my cats are like, 10-pound bulwarks against the crushing darkness that is always there. And it’s just, you have this one little thing and it’s just enough. It’s like they just put up a little paw and it’s just enough to hold it back.

Ana: They’ve got their paw in the dike.

Mary: Yeah, they’ve got their paw in the dike, and like, that’s enough to hold it back. And so that’s what you need. You’ve got to do the work yourself.

[ROCK GUITAR FLOURISH]

Mary: And I’ve been to Chicago, but I’ve never been to Minneapolis. I hear it’s nice both literally, figuratively, and all of that. So I Googled “hotdish for cats,” and the result that I got was something called kitty litter casserole. It’s a real recipe, and it involves dumps that you make by mixing beef, Bisquick and cheese, and you shape it into little poops.

Ana: Mm-hmm.

Mary: And you put it on a bed of litter, which is rice, margarine and soy sauce. I guess I have three questions.

Ana: Um, that sounds terrible.

Mary: Okay, so my questions I guess are why? How? And, hell no! which isn’t a question but is, I think, valid in this context.

Ana: Midwesterners are easily beguiled by theme foods. They like to make things that are in the shape of things.

Mary: [Laughter.]

Ana: And that are like, punny.

Mary: Okay. Well, I like a good pun. I like a good pun.

Ana: And are especially for specific events.

Mary: Okay.

Ana: Which also by the way uses a lot of like, pre-ready made ingredients, like the Bisquick thing. I heard that and was like, yeah, that sounds really Midwestern.

Mary: Okay.

Ana: And there also is something, but occasionally now you see on Buzzfeed and it makes me laugh, but like, dump dinners they’re called? Which is like, you know, you dump cans of things.

Mary: Oh dear Lord. I don’t know that I can—I don’t know that—

Ana: The hotdish that is traditional hotdish I think you would probably like. It’s usually—it’s a casserole of some sort. And what makes it hot dish is that the top, rather than kind of dumplings, is tater tots.

Mary: Tater tots, right. And the reason I know this is because Michele Bachmann—Michele Bachmann, I don’t know what she’s doing anymore—but Michele Bachmann published a recipe for hotdish back when I was working on a comedy politics website, and I had to write about Michelle Bachman’s hotdish, and that meant that I had to find out what hotdish was. And so that was how I learned about it. Tater tots I’m down for.

[AGGRESSIVE, HARD-DRIVING ROCK MUSIC]

Mary: Ana Marie Cox, thank you for coming on and talking about cats with us. Before we go, is there anything you would like to say to Luke and Leia listening at home?

Ana: Try not to be mad at me for too long when I get back, and just, you know, the lap is yours. It will be yours forever.

Mary: I love that. So, we have some shoutouts to do real quick here. If you’d like your cat to get a shoutout on the show, please send me an e-mail, shouts@letstalkaboutcats.com. Tell me your cat’s name, location and any special message you would like included. Today, we’re saying hello to Prince Henry in Brooklyn. Prince Henry, your mamas hope you appreciate how spoiled you are with freshly cooked chicken every week, even though they’re vegetarians. Prince Henry, you’re a very lucky boy. We also want to say hello to Pickle. Pickle? Pickle! In Albany, California, who is listening from her spot on the warm cable box. Love that for you, Pickle. And last but not least, hello to Lutz in Atlanta. Lutz, your owner says buddy, I adore you, but please lay off using your teeth in my calf whenever you want something. Get it together, Lutz. Okay, Ana, where can people find you on the internet if they want to stay in touch with you and all of the things that you are doing?

Ana: I have a personal website at anamariecox.com that is not updated as frequently as it should be, but I’m tempted almost to put like a 1992 Under Construction GIF on it.

Mary: [Laughter.] Do it! And then like, animated flags.

Ana: Yeah, yeah. But I have the podcast, With Friends Like These, on the Crooked Media Network, crooked.com to find that. And then as far as the writing, I’m a regular guest on KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center. So if you’re a podcast person—

Mary: Which you are if you’re listening to this, hello.

Ana: You’re a podcast person, you might enjoy my appearances there. I write a regular column for the Syfy Channel, actually. [Laughter] which I always forget to promote. About the intersection of politics and genre fiction.

Mary: I love it. And of course you’re on Twitter.

Ana: And I’m on Twitter, where I frequently tweet pictures of cats and dogs.

Mary: I was going to say, yes, so Ana Marie Cox on Twitter.

Ana: Oh, and Instagram, too.

Mary: And Instagram, too!

Ana: Instagram is where I do my majority of dog and cat picture posting.

[UPBEAT, SLIGHTLY FRANTIC ELECTRONIC MUSIC: Let’s talk about cats! Let’s talk about cats!]

Mary: And you can find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Acast, Stitcher, wherever you get your podcasts. Please subscribe, rate us, review us, it really helps. You can also sign up for our newsletter at letstalkaboutcats.com. We’re also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s ltacpod. As always, I am Mary, my cat is Grendel, our producer is the populist hero Lizzie Jacobs, our show’s theme song is by Poingly with additional music by The English Muffins, and our show’s logo is by Julia Emiliani. We will talk to you next time … about cats. Bye!