Charles Mingus’ Instructions For Toilet Training Your Cat, Read by The Wire’s Reg E. Cathey

Hav­ing just begun rewatch­ing sea­son 3 of the always-rel­e­vant The Wire—the sea­son to first intro­duce Reg E. Cathey’s super-smooth char­ac­ter, may­oral aide Nor­man Wil­son—I was delight­ed to find an episode of Stu­dio 360 that fea­tures the actor read­ing a text by jazz great Charles Min­gus. Even more delight­ful is the sub­ject of his text: instruc­tions for toi­let train­ing your cat. I can­not tes­ti­fy to their effi­ca­cy; it seems like a labor-inten­sive process, and my own cats seem pret­ty con­tent with their lit­ter­box. But if any­one could accom­plish such a feat, it was Min­gus, a man who once ripped the strings from a piano with his bare hands (so it’s said in the doc­u­men­tary 1959: The Year that Changed Jazz), and who won a Gram­my for an essay defin­ing jazz, writ­ten just a few years after he helped rede­fine it.

Min­gus may have had a noto­ri­ous­ly short tem­per, but as a com­pos­er, he was infi­nite­ly patient. Appar­ent­ly this also goes for his role as a cat train­er. He spent weeks teach­ing his cat, Nightlife, to use human facil­i­ties, and detailed the process in a pam­phlet, The Charles Min­gus CAT-alogue for Toi­let Train­ing Your Cat, avail­able for cat fanciers and Min­gus fans by mail order.

Hear Cathey read the instruc­tions in part in the video at the top and in full in the audio above. Stu­dio 360 describes this odd doc­u­ment as “full of charm­ing advice and metic­u­lous ped­a­gog­i­cal detail.” It is indeed that. In four con­cise steps, Min­gus lays out the pro­gram, sim­ple as can be—or so he makes it seem.

Min­gus writes, “It took me about three or four weeks to toi­let train my cat, Nightlife.” He also admits that aspir­ing train­ers may need to mod­i­fy the pro­gram some­what, “in case your cat is not as smart as Nightlife was.” One can imag­ine less gift­ed cats strug­gling with this unusu­al method. One can also imag­ine more ornery, less coop­er­a­tive breeds sim­ply refus­ing to play along. Like Min­gus him­self, cats have a well-deserved rep­u­ta­tion for doing their own thing. Should you be intre­pid enough to attempt the Min­gus method with your own feline com­pan­ion, all I can say to you is what Min­gus says at the end of his instructions—Good Luck.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Charles Min­gus Explains in His Gram­my-Win­ning Essay “What is a Jazz Com­pos­er?”

Charles Min­gus and His Evic­tion From His New York City Loft, Cap­tured in Mov­ing 1968 Film

Clas­sic Charles Min­gus Per­for­mance on Bel­gian Tele­vi­sion, 1964

1959: The Year that Changed Jazz

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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