Bernardo O’Higgins (aka Higgy) is a charmer.
The way he looks at you with those big eyes, the way he puts his paw on your arm, the way he rubs up against you after you’ve been gone a long time—everyone agrees it's absolutely endearing. Higgy is a five-year-old adopted Chilean street cat named after a Chilean dictator. I managed to get him to speak with me in between his morning naps. Also I bribed him with treats.
Hi, Higgy. How’s it going?
Are you going to feed me?
We fed you already this morning.
Like two hours ago.
I don’t remember that.
We did. I mean, Radford did.
Are you sure? I don’t think she did. Did you see her feed me?
No, but I heard her open a can and give you food and then you were gone for a few minutes—which is the amount of time necessary for you to eat your food because you inhale it, seriously you need to take your time. And when you came back you were super friendly and affectionate and took a little nap.
I was tired. I was exhausted from not being fed.
It’s not going to work.
Fine, you’re soooo smart.
Hey, I don’t need your sass.
Let’s talk about your upbringing.
I was a street cat in Valparaiso, Chile. There’s not much to talk about. I spent my days hiding from dogs and trying to find scraps of food. Also buses tried to run me over. Big loud buses. I don’t like them.
Do you miss Chile?
Maybe a little. No, I mean, it’s fine. I'm happy wherever I am.
You’ve spent quite a bit of time in New York, but you’ve also spent time in Sante Fe, New Mexico.
Yeah, Sante Fe was fun. I liked it there. I got to go outside all the time and chase the chickens and hunt rabbits. That was pretty cool.
I killed a rabbit.
Yeah, and some birds. It’s not a big deal.
Oh, you’re such a good boy.
Yeah, whatever. It’s fine. I’m just, like, really fast and I have sharp claws.
I know, I’ve felt them dig into me.
I keep them sharp. I can’t help it. It’s instinct.
I understand. Does it annoy you when Radford clips your nails?
It’s okay. I don’t like it but whatever.
When she brushes your teeth?
No, I don’t like that.
What’s your favorite food? Beef in Gravy, Chicken in Gravy, or Turkey and Cheese in Gravy.
What do you do when you’re home alone?
First I look for any glasses or cups on the table or side tables to knock off. That’s the first thing, really depending on how hungry I am. Let me tell you, the thrill of knocking off a glass cup and watching it shatter is just amazing. You wouldn’t know until you’ve tried it. I check to see if there is any more food on my plate. I might lick it. Whatever, I can do whatever I want. I go see if there is any dry food. I go look out the window. At the people walking by with their stupid dogs. I hate dogs. Dogs are stupid and I hate them. I might take a nap. I go see if there are any clothes that don’t have my fur, and I take a nap on them.
Why do you hate dogs so much?
They tried to eat me for the first six weeks of my life, which is obviously traumatic for a little baby kitten. It really sucked. Have you ever had a huge dog bark at you and try to eat you? Not pleasant.
I can only imagine. But would you ever consider getting a dog brother? Maybe one who is nice and who wouldn’t eat you?
Your fur is so soft. Really soft. What products do you use?
Well, it’s naturally very soft. Of course, I spend a lot of time maintaining it. I also eat random things on the floor. I hear that’s supposed to give it a good shine.
Is that right?
Yes, it's common knowledge.
What sounds or noises do you like or hate?
I don’t like buses because it reminds me of living on the streets in Chile. They’re too loud. They hurt my ears. I like the sound of the front door opening because that means people and also means I might be able to go roam the hallways and smell things.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I wake up. I want to be fed and I’ve found the best method is walking on people’s faces and biting their necks. Really that’s just the most effective way I’ve found to politely let people know you’re ready for your meal.
Yes, I can attest to the effectiveness.
After I’m fed I usually take a nap. Then I wander around. Might go look out the window. Another nap. Lunchtime. Another nap. I sit on my perch. Another nap. Playtime. Then I have to get on bed duty.
What’s bed duty?
I have to protect my owners when they go to bed. I’m a guard cat.
How’s that working out for you?
Pretty good. During the night it's fairly quiet, but things can get a little crazy during the day.
Like what happens?
Dogs barking. Lot of dogs barking. I can hear them in the hallway outside the front door. So I have to watch out for that. Sometimes the buzzer rings.
What would happen if someone broke in?
I’d fight them off with my claws. I’d scratch them.
What if they had food?
Oh, well, that’d be different.
Really? So if they stole the TV but gave you food that’d be fine?
What’s the TV?
The thing with the images.
Yeah, I don’t care about that.
You don’t care about the TV?
What about the boombox?
Yeah, don’t care.
The robbers are going to break in and steal a fish tank with a fish in it?
Yeah, could happen.
No, I wouldn’t care about that.
What if they took your dry food?
Why would they take my dry food?
I don’t know, they couldn’t lift up the TV or fish tank so they took your dry food.
They wouldn’t do that.
What if they did?
I’d scratch their eyes out! Don’t even joke about that! Seriously, what is wrong with you?
Okay, let’s shift the conversation. What are your favorite places to be scratched and petted?
Oooh, I like my chin. The side of my face. Sometimes a belly rub.
Yeah, you know that most cats don’t like belly rubs?
I don’t care about most cats. I only care about what I like.
I can see that. Anything else you’d like to add?
Are you going to feed me now?
No. But I’ll give you some treats because you answered my questions.
Fine, I’ll take the treats.
What if I gave you five of them?
Seven is better.
I’ll give you six. Before I do, though, anything else you’d like the world to know about Bernardo O’Higgins?
If you come to the apartment to pet me and admire me because I’m so wonderful, make sure you bring food. The good food. Not some healthy organic stuff. I like to eat ash. Mmm, ash is so good. I’ll eat ash all day. It's really good for my fur!