In Search of Ponies: Java the gender-bending cat

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

In hindsight, there were clues. But that’s hindsight.

I pondered them as it sunk in, as I listened to my wide-eyed friend relay what the vet was saying on the other end of the call.

“She said the procedure is done,” my friend said, “and asked if you want them to go ahead and do a sex change so you can actually take home a girl cat.”

It wasn’t sinking in fast enough for me, I guess, because my friend spelled it out.

“Java’s a boy cat!” she said.

Perhaps I had looked at Java a little too soon, and perhaps I should have looked again. I would have found some obvious clues that he was not a she.

At the time, Java was a little baby of a kitten, no bigger than my coffee cup — thus the name. So his “features” were still not obvious to me. And he/she never got real big. Even now, Java is still a little slip of a cat with a big bushy tail that overshadows his/her body — easily attributed to femininity.

However, it did explain a few pungent and pervasive odors. I hadn’t owned a female cat in a few years, but I remembered they did go through a phase of unpredictable puddle making — but less than male cats. I dismissed the strong odors at the time as glorified recall, telling myself it must have been worse than I remembered.

I turned down the offer for a feline sex change, but decided I needed to get reacquainted with Java.

Over the course of the last couple weeks it has proven more challenging.

Phrases like, “Hey girl,” “hello pretty” and “go feed HER” all come out without thinking.

Lucky for Java, he hasn’t a clue and the humans are the only ones concerned with getting it right.

But I have noticed other little things beyond the slips of the tongue.

When SHE would catch a mouse we were super impressed and complimentary, but when HE goes mousing it’s just another thing.

And when SHE literally climbed the curtains we wowed and laughed at the acrobatic feat, but when HE tears through a small gap in the door and his tail disappears at top speed around the corner, the act is met with frustrated irritation.

In contrast, when SHE would jump on someone’s lap, purring and begging for attention, she got nudged away, but with HIM, there’s almost a sense of surprise, a little more tolerance and returned affection.

Same cat; same behaviors, but our subconscious treated them differently.

Seems there might be a little discrimination going on.

But who’s getting the short end of the stick, Java the Male or Java the Female?

When SHE was rewarded for agility and prowess, did that mean it was special because she was a girl and she shouldn’t be able to do those things?

When HE is affectionate, is there a greater tolerance and return of affection because as a boy he should be repressed and standoffish?

What about the flip side, where HE works his tail off to catch a mouse and is barely acknowledged? We knew and expected he would do it, because he’s a boy.

Or SHE encounters resistance and is pushed away for being loving; just another emotional female.

Java has no idea what’s going on, but he has gotten to see both sides of the coin.

And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he wouldn’t agree with the words of song writer and poet Patti Smith, who once said, “As far as I’m concerned, being any gender is a drag.”