Like sailors and ship's captains, the Venetians are fond of pets. They
prefer cats to dogs, which are impractical in a city which has so little open
space; most of the dogs one sees being led about on leashes has a touristic air
and in fact they usually belong to foreigners, English or American. The
signora has a cat, I discover, from hearing it claw at my windows, trying to get
in. Its persistence tells me that it must live here, though the signora
does not at first confess this. It is another displaced person, like the
signor, and has been put out to live on the roof-tiles during the period when
the apartment is rented. "Permesso," says the signora, bursting
into my sitting-room one morning with a paper full of garbage. She opens
the window and thrusts the paper out. The cat eats, ravenously.
"Poverino," she cries, making a sad noise, while she glances
apologetically in my direction. I do not understand why, if she pities the
cat, she does not take it upstairs to live in her quarters; she has a terrace
there. Perhaps the signor has objected. But I am determined not to
take it as my lodger. The apartment is crowded with fragile china
objects, which the signor values extortionately, as I have already learned on
offering to pay for one that my coatsleeve had brushed off a table.
Moreover, I am afraid of the cat, which pounds on the windows in a clawed
frenzy, knowing that it belongs here and that I do not. It has become
a perfect tiger, thanks to its life on the tiles.
Mary McCarthy, from Venice Observed (New York: Reynal & Company, n.d.), p. 33. Not very sympathetic, is it?