If you give a cat a cupcake, he will look at you with unconcealed disdain.
Unless it has bacon sprinkles.
The child-free (you lucky bastards, if that is indeed your choice) may not recognize this as being part of a series of “If You Give A…” books, charming little tales of unintended consequences, which present lessons about the chain reaction that a single, seemingly innocuous event can detonate. (Current members of certain majority parties in certain Houses of government could perhaps learn a few things from these books.)
The first one I read was “If You Give a Moose a Muffin,” though I believe “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” was the first in the series. It doesn’t really matter; you get the gist.
Before I dive in, let me just say: do NOT; I repeat, do NOT give that cat a cupcake or any other item containing sugar. Check his pupils! Dude seriously needs to chill. But, unfortunately, adults promoting good choices are in short supply in these stories, so I will continue.
All of these books start with an animal, a child, and a conditional clause: “If you give a…” The meat of the story is in the “then” part of the sentence. In the four books we own, only two are plausible in their food offering to a particular animal: I think a pig would eat a pancake, and a mouse would eat a cookie. In three of the books, I can follow the chain of events without much stretching; once you accept the initial condition (you have, indeed, given a moose a muffin, and he has accepted said muffin), I can see how we could plausibly go through the chain of events.
This book? Not so much. It’s not just because I live with cats, and no cat in my house would perceive a muffin as acceptable food. Even if I could accept that, the rest of the events are just a bit far-fetched. A cat would never clean up a mess he made (the purple footprints all over my kitchen and bedspread this weekend attest to that). If he did clean it up, he would definitely not want to cool down at the beach, in or near water, wearing tropical bathing trunks. Any such cat would be banned from all future feline meetings, should they ever be scheduled, as napping in sunbeams and scoffing at puny humans leaves little time for administrative duties. And no cat I know would ever feel the need to work out at a gym or go near any exercise equipment, as most exercise equipment is made of materials that are decidedly un-shreddable and aside from yoga mats, difficult to throw up on.
If one can accept that a cat would want to go anywhere near a row boat (one can’t), the only sentence that makes sense in this book is: “He’ll be the captain, and you’ll have to row.”
That pretty much sums up life with a cat.
“If You Give a Cat a Cupcake”
by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
Harper Collins, 2008