Monday, April 30, 2007

Barn Kitty Ted

Ted was a strange name for a cat. Then again, Ted was a strange cat. He was huge and relatively shapeless. I mean you could tell he was a cat. He did have whiskers and a tail after all, but his mid-section was large, soft, and puddled into a big gray blob when he laid down. He laid down a lot. But what made him strange wasn’t his shape, it was his unbelievably outgoing personality and his panache for golf carts.

Ted came to live at a private farm where I kept my horse Cairo. He was an instant hit with people and horses alike. He was friendly and good-natured and took an immediate interest in the workings of a horse farm. He was particularly intrigued by the feeding process. You might assume from the comments regarding his girth that he helped the horses eat their meals. Not so, cats have no taste for grain, sweetened or otherwise. No, his focus was on our movements around the farm as we delivered horse feed to each paddock and pasture.

When feeding horses there is often a lot of ground to cover. Carrying feed to even a few horses can be very time consuming and heavy so we kept a golf cart onto which we would load the horse feed and drive the food, rather than walk it, to the horses. Ted was fond of the golf cart. Each evening I would collect the cart, drive to the feed room, and begin scooping the feed into buckets. As I prepared the food Ted would arrive and make himself comfortable on the front passenger seat. He’d lay there supervising as I drove around the farm feeding the horses and wouldn’t get up until all the work was done. He had a keen sense of responsibility.

One night, I had prepared all the buckets and was ready to begin delivering the feed but Ted wasn’t on the golf cart. I called for him but after several minutes with no Ted, I set out for the farthest pasture to feed Huck and Flash. As I was feeding the horses, Ted finally appeared. He was indignant. Fussing and scolding he plopped onto his seat and fixed himself there with a glare that defied me to move him. Laughing, I told him to be on time next time!

Those days are gone now. I sold Cairo, the other horses moved away and Ted left us for Kitty Heaven but I’ve never forgotten my friend Ted or how he kept me company as I cared for the horses. I hope that there are horses to feed and golf carts in Kitty Heaven and someone else who appreciates Ted’s company as much as I did. I don’t think the afterlife would be quite Heaven for Ted any other way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Plastic Cat Carrier of Death

Vet time! Fun for everyone! You bleed, you cry to say nothing of how your cat feels! The first step of this process is always delightful. Catching your cat and shoving…er, putting, him into the Plastic Cat Carrier of Death!

Rare is the cat who is helpful to this process. Cats quickly learn that carriers (and being in them) mean something even more unpleasant is soon to follow. The simplest solution as far as the cat is concerned is simply to avoid being caught. This can cause great frustration when you want (or worse need) your cat to be in a carrier.

What’s a cat owner to do? Well, it’s simple, in theory anyway. You want to put your cat in the carrier with the least amount of stress possible. But how? Follow my steps and you’ll be on the way to your vet’s office with the fewest scars possible.

1.) Allow plenty of time. Give yourself extra time to crate your cats. It’s your job to remain calm as your cat probably won’t. Worrying that you’ll be late to an appointment will distract you and your cat will feed off of your stress. Plan on more time than you need to prevent even more crating frazzle!

2.) Do not allow your cat to see the carrier. As I often say, forewarned is forearmed. The sight of the carrier alone is enough to provoke claws, hissing and flailing. Put the crate in a room away from your cat and close the door. Put your cat on your shoulder (For tips on holding your cat see How To Hold a Cat) and prevent him from looking forward by scratching his ears as you carry him to the kennel. The first glimpse your of the kennel your cat should have is when you slide him in.

3.) Gravity is your friend. When you put the kennel in the room, open the door and set it on its end so the door is the top-most part. Instead of cramming your cat into the crate head first, slide them in down and backwards. If you’ve prevented your cat from seeing the crate they’ll be halfway in before they realize they’re in a Squirm-Necessary-Situation.

4.) Close the door quickly. Do I really need to explain this?

5.) Calm, calm, calm. Talk in a calm “purry” voice. Nope, they won’t stop screaming (most likely) but it’s still your job to offer what comfort you can. A treat or two before you head out the door (make it a good one) won’t hurt unless your cat is prone to be sick in the car. If so or if you are not sure, save the treat for later.

Skip the radio in the car or keep it low. Cat’s ears are far more sensitive than ours are. Put them in the back and be mindful of the temperature. Just because you are comfortable up front that doesn’t mean your cat is, too. The stress will increase their temperature as well so if you live in an area that is hot like I do pay even more attention! Go easy on the brakes and sharp turns. Plastic carrier bottoms are slippery and your cat’s claws won’t give them much purchase there so don’t send your baby on a rollercoaster ride!

Finally, never ever, ever allow your cat to move freely about your car. This is dangerous for you, your cat and other drivers. Carriers may cause your cat stress but they’re great safety tools. There are many models on the market to suit your needs and budget so there’s no excuse for not using one and my fantastic best-you’ve-ever-read steps to crating will save you a ton of grief!

Now, you just have to get through the vet appointment!

Drowning Cat Toys -- When Dead Just Isn't Dead Enough

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It’s Monday morning and the alarm (electronic or feline) has finally rousted you from your snug bed. You shuffle to the kitchen for a tall cup of joe to shake the sleep from your eyes. You halt riveted in terror! There, in your cat’s water dish, is a dead mouse!

Actually, to be fair, the mouse was never alive. You pulled the little purple catnip filled guy from a package just a couple of days ago. Fluffy had a ball batting him off your walls and down the hallway. Now, before your own shower you have to dry off Fluffy’s new best friend, or enemy depending on your perspective.

Why did Fluffy decide to drown the mouse? Drowning prey isn’t exactly “normal” cat behavior. Did she join some strange cult? What gives?

There is the possibility that it was an accident. During the course of play the mouse could have taken a bad bounce off your refrigerator and landed in the bowl. But if you’re noticing an epidemic of drowned mice it could be that Fluffy is hiding the mouse. Hey, it’s just the right color and she doesn’t want to share. According to, cats in the wild often hide their kills in a nest to protect them from predators. Sticking the mouse in her water bowl is Fluffy’s way of keeping her precious mousies from that drooling canine you insist on having.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's Four A.M. Why aren't you up yet?

My cat Friday is too intelligent for his own good. Some might call him a problem solver, but those who have lived with him have often called him a troublemaker. Obstacles do not daunt him. He will puzzle over a situation tirelessly until he achieves his desired result. This has created numerous opportunities for me to overcome difficult behaviors to live with and to marvel at his intelligence.

His problem solving abilities enabled him to learn how to open doors. Seriously. He stands on his back legs, places a front paw on either side of the knob and twists. By carefully studying my actions, Friday learned the steps necessary to open a door. First, he tried touching the doorknob with his paws. When that failed to open the door, he studied my actions more intently. Finally, after much poking and prodding, he realized that he had to turn the doorknob. It chills my blood to think that the creature who shares my pillow every night is that smart. Luckily, his super-fluffy paws mean that he has to be very determined to turn the knob since his paws often slip and make it difficult to get a firm grip.

Friday’s problem solving skills have created other “amusing” habits. As a kitten, he slept less and he bounded out of bed around four a.m. I was a college student at the time and lived rent-free with gracious parents. As far as I was concerned, there was only one four on my clock and it was followed by p.m.

My mother habitually rises at 4:45 and Friday would often keep her company as she prepared for her day. Soon, however, it was not enough for him to play with Mom. Friday decided that if he were awake I should be awake, so he expected me to get up and play too. I am a late riser and I have been known to be very cranky when woken, but Friday has never minded my bad moods.

It began with his paws on my face. Naturally, this woke me, but I did not want to react. I knew that if I responded in any way Friday would know how to wake me and therefore would continue the behavior. Sometimes, I would feign sleep, roll over and put the pillow over my head to block his attempts; but cat paws are narrow and he would only slide one under the pillow and rub my face. I hoped that by pretending to sleep he would give up and go away. He did not give up. He simply changed his tactics.

Being such an intelligent creature, Friday had often observed that I rose from bed when the alarm clock began playing music; so, his next plan of attack was to make the alarm clock sound. I know I said he is smart but thankfully programming electronics is beyond his reach. He sniffed at it. He poked it with his paws. He even stood on it, but all to no avail. The alarm clock did not go off. Sadly, it actually woke me as my subconscious recognized a distinct creaking noise made by the plastic on the clock. I’ll admit I was impressed with his actions. It was even a bit funny. It is hard to feign sleep when you are snickering but I did my best. Looking at the time on the clock seemed to help.

Friday pondered the problem some more. He realized that I was awake when my eyes were open. Not a problem. He sat on the pillow and he tried to lift one of my eyelids with a paw. (You think I’m kidding. I wish I were.) I kept my eyes closed until he repeated the process and used a claw. That worked. My eyes snapped open. I can fake many things but claws in my eyelids typically prevent me from faking sleep. In the end, I am forced to confess that I underestimated Friday. He won that round but I do have my limits. He may have woken me, but he could not make me get out of bed. We never reached a solution that made us both happy. However, as Friday grew older he began to sleep later. Now, nearly eight years have passed and I am the one waking him up. Revenge is sweet!

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Felines, Bovines, Where do you draw the line?

For the sake of you, my devoted readers, and my own insatiable curiosity (it will be the death of me one day) I’m spending a beautiful early spring day inside researching one of the oldest unsolved mysteries on earth. Why do cats eat grass?

The sage world of the Internet is all together unsatisfactory on this issue. However, everyone one from bloggers to scientists seem to agree that cats may eat grass to aid in digestion, supplement nutrients, remedy hairballs or to cause vomiting in the case of an upset stomach. All also agree that there is no actual scientific evidence to support their claims only that these are the most commonly accepted answers. Wow. What unimaginative disappointing information. Worse still, it’s only a guess. When will some enterprising scientist take on this question that’s so critical to life on Earth?

One idea put forward that I happen to agree with is that they eat grass because they like it. My own cats often nibble at some blades with sheer looks of peace on their fuzzy faces and they’re vomit and hairball free. Yet, this point has its detractors. Some argue against this idea saying that cats are true carnivores and therefore should have no drive to nibble the green.

Naturally, I have my own unique theory about why cats eat grass. I believe cats eat grass as a means of flossing. By running the blades of tall stalks of grass between their teeth they dislodge bits of the dry cereal you call “food.” Flossing, as all cats know, is an important step in a cat’s hygienic routine. It prevents bad breath and tooth decay. Besides, cats usually have cat hair in their mouths and the grass is a nice change. Just last week, I discovered I’d left my lap top on. Mysteriously, someone had pulled up’s article on the importance of flossing. I’m not saying it was one of my cats, but it wasn’t me and my husband was at work. Coincidence? I think not.

Whatever you choose to believe many authors pointed out that grass grown indoors especially for your cats protects them from possibly ingesting poisons such as fertilizers or weed killers that outdoor grass may carry. Most sites then offer a link so you can buy cat grass and pad the site’s pockets! I’ll abstain but I admit I thought about it!

One thing is certain. Many cats do eat grass. No matter the reasons why, offer your favorite feline friend some greens and leave the reasons why up to them. But I bet if you look closely, you’ll notice their teeth are a bit cleaner!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lost Pets and the Flier Crusades

Thankfully, it's been many years since I've had a pet who went missing. However, I have found a few animals in recent years and dutifully I've made fliers and marched around the neighborhood armed with duct tape and posters in an effort to reunite the pet with his family.

In one case, my neighbor’s greyhound and basset hound broke out for a second time. I knew where they lived so I decided to walk them home. It was summer which is hot anywhere but in Georgia it’s HOT and sticky! The greyhound had no trouble keeping up but halfway home the basset sat down on a curb and wouldn’t budge. Wishing I had driven them home, I bent down and picked him up. He was a hefty, well-fed basset so we only made it to the corner before I sat down on a curb and wouldn’t budge. Luckily, a neighbor held the dogs while I went back for the car. I drove them home and then changed my sweaty, nasty clothes!

Lost pets are a problem for many people. If you’ve lost a pet and you don’t have a crazy neighbor like me, see Linda Wilson Fuoco of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article called There’s a lot to do when a pet is lost. Read the full article for some fantastic tips to help you bring Fluffy home safe and fluffy. If you haven’t lost a pet, read it anyway! Fuoco offers suggestions for ways the average person can lend a hand finding lost pets.

Finally, if you have lost a pet and a stranger is good enough to recover them and spend time helping bring him home, remember to ask if they incurred any costs and offer to reimburse them. Also, a donation to the local Humane Society in their name is a friendly gesture and you’ll be helping other animals find homes of their own.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How to Pill a Cat

Pilling a cat is a painful, frightening experience for many humans. Likewise, it is a painful, frightening experience for many cats! People are left physically scarred and cats are left emotionally scarred. Luckily, this no longer has to be the fate of you or your cat. By employing my Patented-Almost-Completely-Fool-Proof-Cat-Pilling-Technique listed below you too can achieve pilling harmony.

To use my Patented-Almost-Completely-Fool-Proof-Cat-Pilling-Technique wait until your cat is snoring, then, quietly, in another room retrieve the pill. After several pilling encounters, your cat will learn the sound of the pill bottle and will hide so silence at this step is extremely important, unless you like crawling under the bed to scrape your cat off the floor. Once you have the pill conceal it in your dominant hand, we will use the right. When you are completely ready to administer the pill, you may go to the room where your cat is sleeping.

Quickly, wake your cat by gently lifting him. Kneel on the floor and place your cat between your knees. Press your feet together to prevent your cat from escaping by backing up. Place your left hand under your cat’s chin and tilt his head back towards your stomach. Use your thumb and forefinger to open your cat’s mouth by gently pressing on either side of the mouth at the back of his lips. When your cat’s mouth is open, look inside. With your right hand, carefully aim the pill for the back of your cat’s mouth and shoot it in. Gently close your cat’s mouth with your left hand and hold until your are certain the pill has gone down.

There are some other things you should know while pilling a cat: hissing is helpful, the tongue is not slippery and blowing in your cat’s face is not rude. If your cat should hiss at you during this process, laugh to yourself. A hissing cat has an open mouth, which saves you the trouble of doing this step yourself. Better still, a cat will often look you in the eye while hissing. This will cause your cat to look up at you. You should be able to easily see inside your cat’s mouth and have a clear shot at his throat.
If the pill hits your cat’s rough tongue, it is very likely that he will be able to spit it out of his mouth. Once the pill is covered in spit, it is even harder to get it down so careful aim cannot be stressed enough. Your first shot is always your best. Once your cat is aware of what you are attempting to do, the difficulty of this exercise increases exponentially. Never give your cat a chance to build a counterattack. Remember, forewarned is forearmed. Finally, if the pill is in your cat’s mouth but not down his throat, try blowing a burst of air in your cat’s face (be gentle and avoid his eyes). If startled, your cat may swallow and thus take the pill.

Finally, the dismount may be the most important step of this process. Think of it as setting up for the next pill. You want your cat to leave the encounter as calmly as possible. Do not allow him to dart away. Instead, gently restrain him with all his paws on the floor with your left hand and scratch him with your right. When he relaxes, let go, but keep petting. By allowing him to walk away, you help him feel as though he was in control all along. He knows that he really wasn’t in control but he feels better pretending that he could have been in control. Get in the habit of offering some top-notch treats such as tuna immediately after, your cat may make a few allowances for the discomforts of being pilled if he’s convinced the payoff is better than the humiliation.

Good luck and go boldly! Remember faint heart never pilled pissy cat!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

As If the Cats Don't Give Me Enough to Worry About

Today’s post is not about cats. It’s actually about baby birds but it’s too funny not to share. Besides, cats like birds; especially little tasty ones!

We used to have a giant bush in front of our window. It became damaged early in it’s little bush life and it grew a funny trunk sort of like a tree. After years of neglect, it had become very large. After moving into the house, I decided to cut it down. It blocked my only view of our driveway and I felt it posed a bit of a safety concern. I don’t know how to use a chain saw so I opted for an axe and early one summer morning I strolled into my front yard to hack down the bush and perfect my Paul Bunyan imitation.

Things were going very well. I discovered an unknown ax talent and merrily took out some aggressions on the trunk of the bush. Finally, it gave a crack and fell on its side. I flipped it over and chopped through the last bits of trunk that were hanging on. Frankly, I was surprised at how quickly I took it down. Feeling very pleased with myself in a super-woman sort of way I began to drag my conquered foe to the curb. Suddenly I froze. My happy feelings fled out of my chest. Hopping in my flower bed were panicked baby mocking birds who’s house I’d just demolished.

I flung open the front door and called for my husband’s help. There was another large bush adjacent to the one I’d mowed down. I put the baby’s nest in it and we began collecting them. Baby birds were everywhere; yet, what seemed like 12 babies were really only two very active babies. We darted after them, scooping them to safety before the neighborhood cat discovered them. My own cat’s three faces were pressed to the window above us. I later cleaned drool off the glass.

Baby birds aren’t terribly cooperative. We’d put them in their nest and they’d hop back out and explore their new bush. That may have sufficed for older birds but they seemed so flimsy and young that we wanted them in their nest. Finally, one consented to stay put and the other was at least in the bush.

Work loomed large so my husband and I headed out. Later that afternoon I decided to check on the babies I’d displaced. I wanted to check on the one who wasn’t in his nest that morning. I hoped he’d made it back. I stood on tiptoes and peered into the bush. SWISH, THUNK! Mommy or Daddy mockingbird had had quite enough of my interference in their baby’s lives and pecked me on the head.

“Ouch,” I protested! “I’m only trying to help,” I called to the bird who was now sitting in the neighbor’s camellia bush. Purse on my head for safety I peered in again. Happily, both babies were snug in their nest.

Spring is here and the yard calls me to plant, water and grow. I’m worried though, there’s this other bush that needs to go… Maybe, I’ll wait until winter. That or I’ll employ a team to do a thorough anti-baby bird search. Dive-bombing mockingbirds can leave a mark!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Trouble in all the Wrong Places

There is a serious threat to the animal-world at large, particularly the world of animal rescue. An unknown enemy lurks in the corners, hindering the adoptions of thousands of animals, stopping loving families from adding a new member. You may have been affected without even knowing it! What is this insidious hinderer of animal love? The Vigilante Animal Rescuer!

You probably know her best as the “Crazy Cat Lady” who lives down the street. She collects cats like some people collect baseball cards. No tabby is safe from her and no one else can care for animals as well as she can. She steals your outdoor cat because she doesn’t think cats should be outside. She overhears you at the vet discussing your cat’s serious medical condition and interrupts the doctor to prescribe her own treatment. She knows the right food to feed, the right bed to buy and the right way to put the food in the cat’s bowl. She is the arbiter of what is right for every animal in every situation and knows what is best for your pets whether she has met them or not. Whatever you do for Fluffy, it’s not up to her standards.

Arm yourself! These women must be stopped! Remember, forewarned is forearmed so know what signs to watch for. Though they look normal, the Vigilante can be recognized by her actions and affiliations. She is the power-hungry member of your local ASPCA or Humane Society. Last year, she led a coup and wrested control of the organization. She established new “improved” militant adoption rules. No pets go to homes that cannot meet the following standards: well-dressed would be adopters, no children in the home, no women of childbearing years, no other pets, a fenced in yard even if it is a cat you’re adopting, a minimum household income of $200,000 a year, no fish, no hot air balloon pilots, no manicurist, no shag carpet, no art deco, no stoves, no electricity, no, no, NO!

You want to adopt a cat! Ha! Her two story Victorian, comfortably devoid of other pesky humans has room for 40 more cats bucko and she doesn’t like the looks of you!

Warn your friends. Warn your neighbors. Until a vaccine is ready, no animal lover is safe from her bigoted, grasping ways. Unite animal lovers of the world! Unite! Overthrow the Vigilantes before there are no cats left!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Rare Chance to Share the Spotlight

I like blogging because I think I'm funny; therefore, I don't really like sharing the spotlight. Nevertheless, there are LOTS of funny authors out there. Here's a sample of some of my favs.

Stuff on My Cat has some great cat pics. Here's one but cruise on over and check out the giggles for yourself.

Can someone shine part of the spotlight back over here? Carnival of the Cats is a collection of bloggers who comment on our favorite topic: cats. I get some shine as they've added a couple of How To Hold a Cat clips to their weekly publishing. You can read about all things cat and even vote on your favorite cat model.

Finally, see why cats don't like you at My Cat Hates You. Funny pics to remind you that you are mortal and your cat knows where you sleep!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hair Care and My Cat

Friday has a magnificent coat. He has thick, black hair and each dusky strand is about 4 inches long. His tail is a marvel of bushy fluff that gently bounces with each step he takes. When he sheds out his winter coat, even my heinous pink carpet turns gray. The only drawback (for him, I could do without cat hair on everything) is that the fine strands of his undercoat often mat leaving huge clumps of Friday hair in tangled masses in his “armpits.”

While Friday enjoys a good brushing, he strictly limits the brush to his head and back. Anytime I’ve tried to brush between his front legs I’ve been hissed at. Friday’s hissing breath generally knocks me out but if that doesn’t work he’s got four fully loaded paws and a mouth full of teeth and he’s not afraid to use them.

To combat mats, I have surrendered any notions of preemptive strikes. Instead, I periodically feel behind his front legs. No mats, no problem but when mats have formed it takes both my husband and I to remove them. I sit in my office desk and my husband in his. Gently, I put Friday on his back against my chest. My husband darts in, grabs his back legs and holds him still. Friday begins wailing and screaming as I feel around and isolate the mat. Once the mat is located and contained, I trim it out using dull, round pointed scissors. Of course, it is never that simple.

Friday makes a production of the process. He objects loudly to being turned on his back, a position that while unfortunate is the best way I’ve found to keep him still while cutting. Of course, still is a subjective word here. Friday is an expert squirmer. He knows just how to contort his body to gain a claw hold and launch himself into the floor. I have lost many a good shirt and earned a few scars from his lethal back paws, hence the need for two people.

Once we’ve got a firm hold on him he typically quits squirming. With two of us, he can’t quite get away. But he’ll never stop arguing with me. He cries so vociferously that the dog actually is quite concerned that we’re injuring the cat. She sits close by and watches attentively worrying that she might need to bite one of us to protect Friday.

Hemmy, on the other paw, enjoys the mat removal process with a glee that only a sibling could feel for a brother’s distress. He figures that since Friday is down he might as well finish him off. It’s a bit of a problem keeping him from chasing Friday on a normal day (see Catch Him if You Can’t Help It) but when Friday is pinned down and crying it’s just too much for Hemmy. Slowly his brown, felt ears will rise from beside my chair, a wicked gleam in the yellow eyes that accompany them; his paw cocked and ready. I shoo him off but as soon as Friday is mat free and released, Hemmy jumps on him. Don’t bother putting Friday someplace where Hemmy can’t get to him like high on my computer desk. He’ll only jump down and stroll right past Hemmy. For such a smart cat, he can be strangely dumb.

***Dumb, maybe, but dumb with fabulous hair! --Friday
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why Pet Sitters Drink Decaf

Pet sitting is not for the faint of heart. Animals are unpredictable; there are some days it takes every trick in my bag just to survive. If you are considering pet sitting as a career read this first. You should know what you’re asking for.

Mondays are the busiest day of the week for me. I reserve my office time to do payroll, balance the checkbook and take care of my assorted paperwork. I had quite a stack waiting for me on my desk as last week was spring break and the locals fled town to make way for the golf fans that descend on our city once a year. It certainly isn’t our busiest time of year but I spent considerable extra time out in the “field” facing down everything from pony-sized dogs to itty-bitty caged rodents. Throw in out of town relatives at the in-laws to visit and I was out more than I was in.

I still had one sit that carried over into this week so I went to take care of the three large dogs before I locked myself in the office for the day. I like the three dogs but I’ve had many simpler pet sits. This one in particular is very time consuming, as the dogs need a lot of exercise and it isn’t exactly next door. I walk one each day that I go and the sit generally takes longer than the 30 minutes we typically alot. It was the Rotty’s turn to go for a walk. He likes to chase after cats and squirrels so we have been practicing not chasing them, especially while on the leash. As we rounded a corner for home, I spied a cat just inside the overhang of a storm drain. I saw the cat before the dog did and decided not to let him get up to the curb and prepared myself to correct him if he lunged. Seconds later he spied the cat and lunged despite my mental preparations. Startled the cat jumped and fell back into the storm drain. I could hear her claws scraping like nails on a chalkboard as she frantically tried to save herself from the fall. Typically cool in critical circumstances I freaked!

“Oh, my God!” I yelled at the dog. “What are we going to do?” I looked under the drain. No cat. Panicked I rushed the dog home and tried to decide my next move. Over my dead body was I leaving the cat in the bottom of a storm drain. I put the dog away and hurried back to the corner calling Animal Control on my cell phone as I went. They had to come. If they didn’t come I’d call the Sanitation Department but so help me someone was coming to rescue that poor cat who I’d sentenced to a slow, torturous death in a dank dark hole.

I could picture the cat huddled at the bottom of a long shaft, partially submerged in water possibly suffering with a broken leg. I fought back tears. The poor cat with the broken leg. I decided to volunteer to be lowered by ropes down into the pit. I’m scared of heights but it was my fault after all. I should be the one to get wet and dirty and cold, it was unbelievably cold for April. If no owner was apparent I would insist on taking the cat with me, Animal Control rules be damned. I’d take her to the vet to have her leg fixed. If an owner appeared after she was well, I wouldn’t take their money. I’d nearly killed their cat, paying for her injuries was the least that I could do. If no owner ever appeared, she could live with my husband and me. I would hear no arguments from him. We have three cats already, what’s one more?

I sat by the storm drain waiting for the promised Animal Control person. My mind raced. What if Animal Control wouldn’t get the cat out of the hole? If they wouldn’t help, I’d call every media outlet in town and scream about how they’d left this poor little cat to die. I imagined the public outcry. That could be anyone’s cat down there. I knew the locals would be furious that no one came to the cat’s aid and imagined the frantic scramble at the offices trying to deflect the inevitable criticism and media nightmare. I’d probably be interviewed on TV. I’d need to touch up my make up.

I was planning on how I would put the soggy cat with a broken leg in our office for a few days to recover before I integrated her to our household when the man from Animal Control arrived. He looked like Superman to me as he climbed out of the white county truck and pulled on a pair of leather gloves.

“Thank you for coming,” I said, “I feel just awful.” I pressed my hand to my chest, trying hard not to cry again. He smiled patiently and asked me what color the cat was and if it was indeed a cat or possibly a kitten. “Grey, cat, long hair.” This is what I do for a living after all. I know an adult cat when I see one, even if all I saw were the cat’s front legs.

He pulled out a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. He lifted the edge of the manhole cover with the screwdriver and shoved the pliers under to make room for his hands. Mightily, he heaved the cover back and rolled it onto the curb. Fearing the sight of a small broken body ten feet below I steeled myself and looked into the hole. There, about four feet below the street surface I saw a couple of broken liquor bottles on a soft sandy bottom. No cats, broken or otherwise. A tunnel led under the street to another storm drain. I confess, I was surprised at the shallowness of the hole but insisted the man climb into the hole and look down the tunnel all the same. Complaining of spiders, he took a large flashlight and went in. No cats in the tunnel either.

Needing my sleep, I begged him to crawl into the manhole across the street. It was equally shallow. Still no cats. Three tunnels led from this storm drain to two more storm drains, a man hold cover in the center of the street and one master storm drain that lead to wherever storm water goes to die. Careful of spiders, the man patiently looked down each of the three tunnels. It was beginning to dawn on me that not only would we not find the cat but also that the cat should have no trouble jumping out of the shallow hole if and when she was good and ready. Though I would have been happiest to see the cat and offer my apologies, I had abandoned my pleas to God to let the cat live. It seemed perfectly likely that the cat was alive and had probably crawled out of the hole shortly after I walked the dog home. I was feeling much better; my visions of martyrdom dying as quickly as the storm drains were shallow.

The man in the hole looked up at me, “You know, cats live in storm drains. We go to property to pick up feral cats and they dart right down them.” He eyed the other two storm drains hoping I would relent. Secretly, I rooted for the feral cats and their storm drains but the man was only doing his job and he had been very kind and patient with me with regards to my not-broken legged, un-soggy cat who I hadn’t killed. In the spirit of benevolence, I consented that crawling in the other holes wasn’t necessary and in all likelihood wouldn’t produce the cat anyway, slippery little things that they are.

So, I returned to the office an hour and a half later than I would have had I not suffered through the saga of the falling cat but I didn’t care. Thought I can’t be 100% certain the cat suffered no injuries I felt much better about the situation and I didn’t suffer nightmares of the sweet little cat who I’d decided to call Saffron shivering at the bottom of a wet, sunless shaft dying of starvation and exposure. Besides, if there’s one thing about paperwork it’s that it will still be there waiting for you when you return. I finally finished it with the help of a cup of coffee. After my morning ordeal, I made it a decaf!

Still considering a career as a pet sitter? If so, you’ll probably be wildly successful. Just remember to stick to the decaf and stay away from storm drains!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Why are Cats Aloof?

Cats, unlike lesser animals such as dogs, often seem to be independent and act as though they don’t need humans. This is due to the fact that they are independent and don’t need humans. This is not to say, however, that they do not choose to interact with us or even, in extreme cases, decide they like us. Many people expect cats to respond to them the same ways dogs respond to them. This is a mistake. The way in which cats interact with humans should in no way be compared to the way dogs interact with humans. They are two distinct species each with their own “hard wiring” that causes them to respond to us in very different ways.

Take dogs for example. Dogs are inferior to cats. Not only do they have nasty drooling problems but also they are incapable of cleaning themselves, climbing trees or acquiring food without the assistance of several other drooling dogs. It is this latter example that points to a dog’s willingness to live alongside humans.

Dogs are pack animals. To eat, they need the help of the other members of their pack. Working in tandem they hunt and take down prey much larger than any one dog. Their numbers mean they can kill something big like a moose and feeding so many mouths means they need to kill large prey. Thus, dogs understand what it is to need other animals and to work together in a pack.

Cats, on the other paw, are typically solitary hunters. (Lions hunt more like dogs so are excluded here and the status of their “supposed cat-hood” should be called sharply into question. I suspect they drool. But I digress.) Cats generally hunt alone and as dogs hunt large prey, they tend to hunt small prey. Mice, the McDonald’s #1 combo in the world of the cat, are quick, small and great at hiding. This means cats must be quick and stealthy if they want to eat. Two cats make twice the noise which could alert a mouse about to peep out of his hole so one cat is better by himself. Besides, if he invites another cat they can never agree on the same restaurant and then feelings get hurt and the night ends much too soon…

Because cats hunt alone, they are masters of self-reliance. Sure it’s nice that we fill their bowls but the little predators don’t need the assistance of anyone else, feline, canine or otherwise in order to grab a quick meal. This means that as humans we have to earn the friendship of cats in different ways than the ways in which we earn the friendship of dogs. Give a dog food, and he’s yours. Give a cat food and he’s listening but he’s not signing anything. A cat chooses his friends based on personal tastes.

To be a good cat friend do offer food (tuna is a favorite) but be someone who’s easy to get along with too. Do not force yourself on a cat. If you wish to pet him, hold your hand out near him but let him come up to you. Never pet until he has finished sniffing and if he moves away from you stop and move back from him. Once he knows you’re “cool” he’ll be a snuggly companion who’ll sit in your lap and never leave drool on your pants.

No dogs were harmed in the writing of this entry.