This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.
It’s October. It’s cold. And the days are only getting shorter. Take a break from the news with me as I dive into my ever-growing cat obsession.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
In Praise of Felines
Before my spouse and I married four years ago, we made an important pledge: From that point on, there would always be at least two cats in our household.
As our marble tabbies, Calvin and Hobbes, can soundly attest, that promise has so far survived, and our relationship with it. We are Cat People and unafraid to share it. My spouse wears a large pin to work that implores his (human) patients to “ask me about my cats.” Since joining The Atlantic just over a year and a half ago, I have taken every opportunity to write about felines; no other animal, apart from us lousy humans, has commanded more of my attention since. Our apartment is cluttered with cat toys, our clothes coated with a patina of gray and black fur. We cuddle our cats nightly, plan our vacations around them, and sometimes—okay, often—abscond from social events early to spend more time with them at home. My spouse and I sing to Calvin and Hobbes, and our list of absurd nicknames for them stretches dozens and dozens long. And … yeah. We brush our boys’ teeth three times a week.
Life wasn’t always this way. My spouse and I both grew up as die-hard dog people, but now, in the clear light of adulthood, we’re a pair of cat converts. For me, at least, it’s tough to say exactly why. It’s possible that I’ve ingested a parasite that’s invaded my brain and fueled my feline obsession. But then again, I see many reasons to favor the feline. Part of it has to be their luxurious fur; their super-silent, bean-padded paws; their fluid-like flexibility. Their vertically contracting pupils, their scritchy-scratchy tongues, their pleasantly pointy ears. Their love for laser pointers, their fear of cucumbers, their affinity for boxes. I’m also probably lured in by cats’ mysterious, melodic purrs—a form of communication that most other animals can’t mimic and that humans struggle to parse. And I’m definitely gobsmacked by their ability to right themselves within a second or two of falling and so often survive, even when the plunge is many stories high.
If I’m being completely honest, maybe it’s the feline personality that’s my personal catnip. My cats are just as cuddly as any dog I’ve ever had—probably more. They’re affectionate and personable; they come running when we call; they greet us at the door. And every cat I’ve met has been such a distinct individual, such a character: bursting with strong opinions, clear-cut preferences, bizarre and memorable quirks. And those traits are steadfast. Whether they’re scared, happy, suspicious, or confused, Calvin and Hobbes are always Calvin and Hobbes. I get that cats can sometimes be contrarian. I get that their outer shell can sometimes be tough to crack. But for me, that makes them all the more fascinating. Their trust and affection is hard-won. So when it’s earned, it feels that much more meaningful.
No One Wants a Pizzaburger
By Anand Giridharadas
In June 2014, Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogacheva arrived in the United States on a clandestine mission. Krylova was a high-ranking official at the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia, an ostensibly private company that was connected with Russian intelligence. Bogacheva, her road buddy, a researcher and data cruncher, was more junior. Their trip had been well plotted: a transcontinental itinerary, SIM cards, burner phones, cameras, visas obtained under the pretense of personal travel, and, just in case, evacuation plans.
The women made stops in California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Texas, according to a federal indictment issued years later. Beyond that, their activities are not well known. Their mission, however, is now public knowledge: to gather evidence of conditions in the United States for a project to destabilize its political system and society, using the rather improbable weapon of millions of social-media posts.
More From The Atlantic
Read. All Down Darkness Wide, a new memoir by the poet Seán Hewitt. It’s “some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read in years,” Alexander Chee writes in his review.
Watch. Happy spooky season! Try a pick from our list of 25 horror movies for every kind of viewer.
For another break from the news, dive into the science behind the sweet, beguiling pawpaw—a very American fruit that’s conspicuously absent from most grocery stores in the United States.
Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.