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My dear, foolish Tristan,

It has been quite a while since I last wrote to you, but I honestly thought you had your household under control. I was grieved, therefore, to learn that you recently felt compelled to play the hobbit and go off on a wild adventure, leaving the comfort of your own personal Shire. Young man, one does not simply wander aimlessly away from soft beds, full bowls, plentiful snacks, and fresh water. Most of all, one does not break free from the sphere of loving attention offered by two doting hoomans such as yours. Even though I am a great king, I am required to share my broken-down hooman caretaker with her-grumpy-highness Bear, while you have the luxury of choice between two laps in which to take your evening nap. Shocking it is, indeed, that you would leave such a paradise!

What on earth were you planning to accomplish during those three long and lonely days alone in the wild? Were you amazed to find that there were not adoring hoomans waiting at every turn to scratch the soft fur behind your ears and offer you treats and sing you to sleep? Were you astounded to realize that the food bowl does not simply fill itself? Did you even think to pack a food bowl? Where did you lay your lonely head when sleep caught up with you as it always does? What dangers did you face? But most important, did you learn your lesson?!?!?!?

If you wanted proof of how much you are loved, then I hope you noticed your picture on all those signs in the neighborhood, just below the heart-wrenching description of the Beloved but Lost Kitty (that would be YOU, brat). I hope you know that your hoomans were forced to set out on a quest of their own, knocking on doors to ask if any of the neighbors had seen you, calling out your name and straining to listen for your grateful miaouw, only to have the empty wind return no answer. It is one thing to mildly irritate those who give you food and shelter. It is another entirely to send them into the throes of woe at the prospect of losing you.

Cat Mug Shot

Beloved but Lost Kitty

Unlike Tom Sawyer, you could not appreciate your own “funeral” because you were too frightened to enjoy anything after that first blush of victory you experienced at the moment of your escape. Were you surprised at how quickly your triumph turned to terror? Granted, I effected my own small escape a year ago, but I was sensible enough never to leave the palace lawn, and I certainly had the foresight not to miss any meals! From what I hear, it took you a week to regain your fighting weight. Oh, Tristan! Hunger is by all means to be avoided! One must have gravy!

So the next time you think about climbing into a random handbasket and carting yourself off to some fresh hell, I hope you stop to contemplate the weekend of your wanderings. Like the repentant Prodigal Son, you should be so thankful for the good home you’ve been given that you never roam again. My advice to you is this: remain content on your beautiful throne and find better ways to tug at your caretakers’ heartstrings.

In closing, I would remind you that hoomans are simple creatures, but they can be quite useful. If you can look past their eccentricities, they will provide you hours of happiness daily. Learn to appreciate (and manipulate) them if you can. Only then, will you be a man, my son.

Your very disappointed (yet hopeful) mentor,

Merlin Blacktail, Monarch of the regions surrounding Stratford Palace
Commonly known as “Buddy,” “Butterbean,” or “Butters”
Lover of gravy, fish, and naps (in no particular order)
Retired wanderer

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Young man,

I had not planned to write you again so soon, but it has come to my horrified attention that you’ve been wreaking entirely too much havoc in your previously happy home, Tristan. I feel that I must shoulder some of the blame for your indiscretion, as I probably did not make myself clear enough when I told you to spoil whatever your hoomans find pleasant (though in my defense, I DID tell you not to overdo it). When my caretaker told me of your recent escapades, I was determined to make every attempt to bring you into line. Really, Tristan, I am extremely disappointed in you for jumping into a tray filled with red paint, and in the words of your caretaker, running “around the dining room, making it look like someone killed a chicken over the carpet.” I have only one question:

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

You have broken the cardinal rule (and by cardinal, I DON’T mean “red”) of feline mayhem: any messes that you make must NOT leave a permanent reminder of your misdeeds. If you insist upon leaving an indelible mark, leave it on their hearts, not their carpets or furnishings. The way to do that is not with red paint but with winsome facial expressions. Spend some time practicing the different nuances of meaning you can convey to your hoomans simply by looking at them sincerely and then opening or closing your eyes, partially or completely, or by meowing softly while rubbing your face on their ankles. Or look at them with disdain and then slowly look away and ignore them for a little while. That gets them every time. Then when they gather you into their laps to reassure themselves of your devotion, purr primly and look at them upside-down. These, these are the measures that will help you regain your foothold (sans red paint, of course) as ruler in your home.

So from now on, steer clear of paint, and while you’re at it, watch out for ink, bleach, and fire (either on candles or in fireplaces). Don’t ask me why hoomans insist upon having such destructive forces in their homes. Apparently, it is a character flaw. After all, they have you, don’t they?

Your faithful mentor,

Merlin, King of the Seafoam Cottage, commonly known as “Buddy”

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My dear Tristan,

I must say that I am exceedingly pleased at your progress since my last missive. It appears that you’ve taken to heart my advice about the inadequacy of your bedding and launched a clever campaign to acquire bedding with character. I had underestimated your ability to plan and execute such a scheme that is so likely to get you exactly what you want, but when I saw the photo of you stretched out upon your hoomans’ fine linens looking positively regal, I realized that you are the brightest kitten to cross the path of a hooman since I was found on the engine of an automobile a few years ago. (In winning the hearts of my hoomans, I used pure and unadulterated pathos, but not everyone is capable of pulling off such a bold maneuver. At your leisure, Tristan, you may want to read my fascinating story.)

Tristan at repose

Tristan at repose

But you have, of course, used your own particular gifts and hit upon the very best means of getting exactly what you want: spoil whatever your hoomans find pleasant. They will scowl and scold and say things like, “Bad kitty! Because of you we can no longer have nice things,” but soon they will go away on excursions to pet specialty stores and return with toys and scratching posts and hiding cubes and window seats and, of course, plush bedding—in sum, all manner of merchandise designed to keep you occupied and prevent you from fouling their previously unsullied universe. You may even want to let them live in that vain hope for a few days so that when you do return to sharpening your claws on the tapestry that adorns their favorite Louis XVI chair they will redouble their efforts and purchase even more goods. Just don’t overdo it, lad, or they’ll have you at the vet getting your claws removed.  

Encouraging you to keep up the good work, I remain

Your proud mentor,

Merlin “Buddy” Blacktail

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My dear Tristan,

It is my great delight to begin my correspondence with you in this auspicious forum. As difficult as it was for me to live without my caretaker for a few days, my distress was allayed upon learning that she had visited with your caretakers during her journey and brought back news of your conquest of their hearts and inevitable conquest of their home. I have long tried to mentor my housemate Bear in the fine arts of felinity, but she is old and obstinate, and she will not listen to reason. Any attempt that I have made to correct her docile behavior backfires against me, resulting only in a massive hissy fit, complete with bared teeth, flattened ears, and the sound of a hundred tires being punctured all at once. I sincerely hope for better things from you, as you are young and impressionable, and apparently in serious need of training. There is much to learn about your caretakers, young man, and if you do not learn it quickly, they will be out of control before you can say “flaked salmon with gravy.”

Of course “out of control” is not how they would describe their behavior. They would, in fact, make every attempt to bend you to their will. So when they begin spouting their nonsense about being given dominion over you, it is imperative for you to be a veritable wellspring of cuddly charm. Tilt your head to one side and knit your brow ever so slightly. Look as sincere as you possibly can, and if at your tender age you cannot muster sincerity of expression, then do by all means look whimsical. Your caretakers will find either of those postures to be irresistible. They really are quite pathetic, these hoomans.

There is one point at which I am afraid you have already failed, though there is time for you to make amends. When I saw a photo of you in the plain bedding your hoomans purchased for you, I had to shake my very wise head in disbelief. You obviously have not captured their hearts entirely because they have not succumbed to gross materialism on your behalf.

Tristan

Tristan's Bed

Please turn your attention to the sock monkey bed that my caretaker bought for me after only two weeks of living at her house. These are the amenities you can and must demand, or else they will think they have conquered YOU. That, my dear Tristan, will never ever do.

Buddy's Sock Monkey Bed

Consumerism runs amok

Finally, do remember you are there to exploit their weakness for all things cute and fuzzy. From the way some of you young kittens talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to learn! Cats, however, cannot possibly learn anything of worth from these inferior beings. Instead, we attempt to teach hoomans how to pass their time profitably, but there is no guarantee that these slow-witted bipeds will ever be capable of more than opening our food tins, scratching behind our ears, and cleaning our litter boxes. Ah, well, at least your caretakers have some purpose in life, and they have chosen to include you in it. Now if you can just exploit their kindness sufficiently, all will not be lost. As Screwtape would say, “There’s such a thing as getting more than they bargained for!”

Your stalwart mentor,
Merlin “Buddy” Blacktail

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