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I have a cool cat, but he ain't very happy about it

My cat ain't happy with me. Put another way, my pussy's peeved. My feline is flustered. My tabby is ticked. My meower is miffed.

Got enough yet?

Good. I just hate it when things get out of hand in the first 50 words.

Anyway, Dick -- that's my cat -- is about as pleased with me right now as Jack The Ripper's mother when she found out why he borrowed her steak knives. You know how it is, pussycats can be persnickety, but Dick has been scolding me lately as if I'm buying bargain-brand litter. And all this for the guy who not only fills his food bowl, but swings a string endlessly back and forth while he paws at it like it's something he's never seen before. I ain't sure which one of us enjoys it more.

Anyway, Dick's in a dander this week because our house is cold. It's only October, and as a purebred Slovenian of the stubborn variety, I refuse to inch the thermostat clockwise until frost forms on my belly fat when I climb out of the shower. Well, sure, it's a cool autumn, I get that, but any money I spend on heat is that much less I have to send to the local animal shelter to care for the sick kittens.

Yeah, I tell Dick that, but he ain't buyin' it. He knows I'm cheap.

Part of the problem is that my house was built about 60 years ago when electricity was inexpensive. Instead of a traditional oil or gas furnace, the place is heated by electrical coils in the ceiling, which may have been a great idea then, but these days, heat rises. As in, upwards. As in, that's where the attic is. As in, down here in the living space, my cat's cold. On Sunday, I wanted hamburger for supper, so I put some in my freezer to thaw.

Now I'm a relatively thrifty fellow, I'm proud of that, and I believe that we all should just put on some heavy socks and an extra sweatshirt and pull up a blanket while we watch Mike and Molly reruns. That's just a good thing to do for the planet, because the more fossil fuels we burn so we can sit around in our underwear on frigid January days, the more money Saudi Arabia makes from crude oil to buy weapons from the United States so it can bomb Yemen. Or something like that. Just trust me on this one; if we'd all turn our thermostat down two degrees, our great-grandchildren might not have to figure out how to colonize Mars because this planet's on fire.

I've taken that philosophy to some extreme, though, because I have yet to so much as nudge my 'stat from the 'Ice Age' setting. I'm acutely aware that as soon as I turn the thing up even a smidge, the meter in my basement will start whirling like the Wheel of Fortune after Pat Zajack says it's time for one final spin. Oh, gosh. Vanna. It's a phrase. Can I buy a vowel? Are there any Qs?

Now unless a person can somehow peel off a neighbor's wooden siding and burn it for house fuel (turns out, they notice), I understand that heat is just an expense we northerners have to endure. I budget a certain amount to keep my abode warmer than the exterior air, but darn it, I'm not willing to spend more than I must. However, and I did not understand this when I purchased my home seven years ago, electric heat is second only to burning actual cash as the least cost-efficient fuel on this planet. For every kilowatt one converts from wall socket juice to thermal energy, one gets in return about one skimpy degree, and that -- as I've duly noted -- floats straight into the freakin' attic 'cuz some

by TRG Editor Dean Lesar

wise guy in 1960 said, 'Hey, I wonder if it'd work if we put it in the ceiling.'

Well, guess what? It don't. I can get more heat for my money by microwaving Tater Tots and spreading 'em around the house. In the coldest months of the winter, my heat bill resembles the U.S. national debt, only I don't have generations of future taxpayers to cover it. Xcel Energy is thinking of building a new coal-fired power plant just to service my street. Of course, by his account, the biggest victim in all of this is Dick. He's a furry critter, sure, but he prefers it to be warmer than the environment of his cousin, the snow leopard, in the mountains of Tibet, and every time I arrive home and sit down on the couch or chair, he's jostling to get onto my lap. I'd like to think he just likes me that much, but I know that he knows that it's somewhere around 80 degrees on my lap and closer to 50 anywhere else. I tell him, 'If you can't see your breath, you ain't comin' up,' but he just keeps trying until I relent. And it's symbiotic. He gets warmth. I get the BBQ sauce from supper licked off my fingers. Could be worse.

Dick don't know it yet, but it's gonna be worse this winter. Not only is the Farmer's Almanac predicting a season frostier than the space between Rudy Guliani's ears, but I am now the only human residing in the house. Last year yet, my son was still around, so I kept the place at least minimally mild, but now it's just me and I want to conduct an experiment to see how much one miser can save on the heat bill and still avoid frostbite while watching football. If Dick thinks it's chilly now in late October, before the robins have even high-tailed it back to Texas, just wait until February when I can leave the ice cream on the counter all day. That poor cat's gonna have icicles hangin' off his whiskers.

I have thought about long-term solutions such as installation of a wood pellet stove, but I'm the kind of person who believes that if an idea is sound now, just think how much more sense it'll make 10 years from now. I'm procrastinating, sure, because a new heating source will cost money, and I'm not sure that expense will ever be recouped, especially if I can get by dressing in layers even in my living room. The cat, well, he already gets free food, a place in the basement to kick sand around, some old furniture to scratch, and some occasional spilled gravy on the kitchen counter to lick up, so I don't think I'm obliged to keep my house at 78 degrees all winter just for his comfort.

Besides, I like telling everybody that I have the coolest cat in town.

And I wonder why he bites me.