Today I’m building a character profile of Philosopher Jones, alpha of Cat Society #337.
Philosopher Jones is no longer here; he passed away about a year ago. I lost his brother, Loki, a few years before that. Both of them left this world because of cancer.
Loki fought tumors; Philo fought anemia.
All of us inevitably fight an illness and lose.
When Loki died, I started brainstorming American Catseye; but back then, the project was called Live Like Loki. For awhile, I called it Love Like Loki.
These names were envisioned when I intended to create a more serious story.
But it occurred to me that a cat story is best paired with humor; and since Loki was a funny cat—my father nicknamed him “Houdini” because he appeared (and disappeared) at just the right time—American Catseye’s lighthearted aesthetic seemed like the best choice.
With Philosopher Jones still in my life, and our fifteen-year-bond guiding my way, I began the journey into the epic cat poem that would win the Wattys. And when Philo passed away, I lost some of that steam.
I’m ready to build up steam again. American Catseye, as well as Worlds They Dream, need to be finished for both my boys—and for my other kitties, too.
What does he want and why?
- Philo wants to maintain his position as alpha, as well as choose his heir. Towards the end of his life, he and DeeJAY regularly groomed one another; DeeJAY and Phoebe were the only cats allowed to sleep near him after he lost his brother. Philo wants to be respected, and wants to continue a legacy of respect. This is because a respectful house is orderly and calm, which makes Phoebe and hoomans happy.
- He wants to chase butterflies. He always went after butterflies. Since butterflies are symbolic of time and change, as well as ripple effects, I always watched his chase meaningfully; can’t get the English major out of my blood, I guess.
- He loved chicken, especially Popeyes chicken. He didn’t have the best digestive health; he dealt with episodes of diarrhea for most his life. Because I’m autistic, and the spectrum often impacts the microbiome, I related with Philo’s struggle. Also, I related with his love for greasy food. Sometimes, when you don’t start with the healthiest body, it’s easier to just embrace that not all decisions are healthy. Philo seemed to live in the moment despite in-born setbacks, and I agreed with him.
What is his compelling dilemma?
- Since he’s the leader of the original Loki-Philo-Phoebe trio, he has to maintain an aura of authority around other cats. This means he can’t afford to look weak, even when he’s sick. He never hid. He was tough as nails. On his last day, he was still sitting on the pillow at the head of the bed—his throne. But because he hid his weakness, it sometimes made it hard to tell when he needed help.
- DeeJAY loved Philo, but his high energy was exhausting. A fourteen-year age difference is enormous for cats. Occasionally Philo would hiss and swat DeeJAY.
- Philo’s nemesis was Gregory. This is because, before my husband and I moved in together, Gregory was the alpha of the house. But when I arrived with Philo, Phoebe, DeeJAY, and Buttercup, Tom and Gregory couldn’t hold the territory. Tom didn’t care, and Gregory was terrified of Philo’s mighty crooked-fang-and-spit hiss.
His Noble Quest and what’s in his way
- Philo was my therapy cat. He filled a niche in my life. Where Phoebe and I are bonded by our similarities, Philo and I bonded because of differences. We both had digestion issues, and we both found the social rules of our species frustrating. But where I’m anxious, Philo is centered. Where I’m afraid, Philo is brave. I had a cat for my rock. Philo would come to me when I was stressed, so it always felt like he was glad to help. But my depression outlived him.
- As much as Philo was tough as nails, he didn’t have, well, nails. He was declawed before I adopted him. That’s actually how we met; I’m opposed to declawing, but my ex (Hooman #Z) insisted on only declawed cats. His furniture meant more to him than leaving living beings intact. Our compromise was Loki and Philo, since they were already mutilated by someone else. And Philo’s declawed paws meant he had to bite to make a point; this meant he lunged when he hissed. Because of his lunging, not many people wanted to make friends with him. His strength, and his weakness, led to loneliness. At times, it felt like I was his only hooman-friend. How could he be a good leader if he was frightening? How could he be strong if he was maimed? He stood at many crossroads; he responded to all of them like a champ.
- He secretly dreamed of traveling the world. Every opportunity he got, he slipped outside, and he was quiet and sneaky, so at least half a dozen times, he spent the night prowling the neighborhood. The next morning, he’d return to where he escaped and meow-scream until I heard him…except his last adventure. After his trip around the Fresno apartment’s neighborhood, he slept in the stinky bush outside the front door. Why meow when you can nap in the sun? Unfortunately, because he’s declawed, I was absolutely opposed to letting him go outside. Even if he has claws, I don’t let my cats outdoors because they statistically live half as long. Instead, they get a catio. Philo loved the catio.