The Internet loves nothing more than cats, but it’s rare that we look beyond the cute photos and memes to more seriously consider their place in our world. Flavorwire’s Highbrow Cat Week is an attempt to remedy that, with a series of pieces devoted to analyzing their impact on the cultural realm.
Marc Maron is having a very good year. His WTF podcast is now approaching its 400th episode. He just published a book, Attempting Normal, a thoughtful, candid, and frequently hilarious series of autobiographical essays. And his IFC series Maron is halfway through its first season; Maron is “thrilled with the way it came out. I feel like we really captured a tone in that, and the stories are compelling and yeah, I love it.” But we’re not here to talk about those triumphs. We’re here to talk about cats.
Maron records WTF from the garage of his home in Los Angeles, a domicile he has dubbed “The Cat Ranch” for the abundance of felines that dwell there — both his own and the strays that he feeds and cares for. In Attempting Normal, he tells the story of how he first became a multi-cat guy, discovering a box of feral cats near the dumpster of his Astoria, New York apartment. “I think the impulse to save animals is, aside from being empathetic and humane, also symbolic of saving some part of ourselves,” he writes. “I wanted these cats to be okay. I wanted to be okay.”
He started talking about the cats on his Air America show, and continued to do so on WTF, telling stories, occasionally featuring a meow from little Boomer, sharing the story of his heartbreak when Boomer disappeared. (“Boomer Lives!” became a hashtag and rallying cry for his fans, and the name of his production entity for the TV show.) It’s become part of his virtual identity and comic persona, so I knew he was a must-get interview for Highbrow Cat Week.
Flavorwire: For background, how many cats are on the Cat Ranch, as of today, and where did they come from?
Marc Maron: Well, I’ve got two cats that are from the original Astoria dumpster cats, and I then had another cat, Boomer, that was a shelter cat that I got in 2003 or 2002, and he disappeared recently. There’s another cat buried there on the Cat Ranch called Butch who was from New York but had a heart issue, and then there’s a deaf, black, stray, feral cat that hangs around and then there’s another striped, feral cat that hangs around.
Now, when you tell people that, when you meet someone new, or when you would meet new women before you met [his live-in girlfriend] Jessica, what kind of reactions do you usually get, as a single guy who takes care of a lot of cats?
Yeah, I don’t know, I never really read it as a liability. I think that people — well, I mean, I think back then there was a couple that would respond with, like, you know, when you have three cats on your bed, you’re — I’m used to it, but somebody who’s not is like, “What is happening?” And a woman who I didn’t date, she just looked at cats like rodents. She hated them and just could not see them as anything other than some sort of nuisance. But it’s sort of like adapting to, like, when Boomer peed all over everything, you adapt to them. You adapt to the fact — it’s amazing, I’m covered in hair constantly. I can’t have black clothing — it’s just the process of getting hair off of things. But when you live with them and you love them, you don’t think too much about it until it’s really kind of bad. It’s always interesting to me just what you’ll adapt to out of love for these animals.
Now you grew up with some cats, but mostly dogs, right?
Yeah, I grew up with a lot of old English sheepdogs who came and went, and there was a few cats around that were kind of strays or cats my mother saved, but they were pretty hearty cats. We lived on a bit of property out there in New Mexico, and they were all sort of hunters. There were a lot of half-eaten snakes and lizards that were delivered as gifts. And then that story from the book with that horrible, large field mouse that Garfield ate under my desk, yeah. Simultaneous to me having some sort of sexual experience in my childhood bed, my cat was devouring a mouse. It was all very carnal.