I have a cat named Michael, and the idea of arguing with him is ludicrous; not because he’s an animal or even a cat, but because he’s this particular cat. He’s selfish, manipulative, and capable of abject aloofness if he is not intent on getting something; on a 10-point cat scale, he’s an 11.
So when a copy of Jay Heinrichs’s How to Argue with a Cat landed on my desk, I was intrigued. Heinrichs, Class of ’77, is the best-selling author of Thank You for Arguing, perhaps the finest book ever written on the subject of rhetoric; now in its third edition, it has been published in 12 languages and used in more than 3,000 college courses. How to Argue with a Cat is a slim companion to the first book, and while I was skeptical on how practical the text would be, I knew it would be an entertaining read. Full disclosure: Heinrichs is a contributor to this magazine and a friend of mine. That said, I also enjoy rhetorically grappling with Jay—I “lose” most every time—and am competitive enough to want to poke holes in his logic.
I was halfway through the book, enjoying the hell out of the writing but not exactly persuaded that I could argue with Michael, when one sentence stopped me in my tracks. And I’m not going to tell you what it was; you’ll need to discover it for yourself. And when you do, you might, just might, believe you can argue with your cat. In the coming days, I’m going to try a new approach with Michael; and if it works with him, it should work with just about anybody—or thing.