When I started this site, I heard most last around a year. We made it a year and a half and the money's run out. I will complete posting all my submissions as the wallet allows, but I'm closing submissions indefinitely. Thanks for all the wonderful kitty love and bad cat weeks.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
So Are the Cats of Our Lives
by RD Hartwell
Gibbs and Jamie
“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Now that is a nice maxim, but not one to which I can attend as guidance. My life has been far too filled with the jolts and boredom, joys and tribulations to think of it as one of smooth regularity. I am sixty-five, one of those ages that supposedly define one’s life, but I find that that maxim does not really mean much to me. I do not number my life in years, but in cats.
How do you quantify your life? Notice that I did not ask how you qualify, or analyze, your life. That would be far too personal and subject to much deep consideration. I will ask again, “How do you quantify your life?” It is one of those questions you encounter all the time and it appears on almost every form you fill out. It is a question asked of you so often that it is probably only surpassed in number by “How are you?” or “How have you been?” These are rhetorical questions, questions of a type that no one really wants or expects an answer. Anyway, “How do you quantify your life?”
Now wait a moment! Before you answer, truly or falsely, with a given number of years, stop and think about those years. I would venture that, upon reflection, some of those years you were “older” than your chronological age and for other years you were considerably “younger.” What makes that so is highly individualistic? For me, it is cats. Yes, CATS!
It would be a tremendous understatement for me to say that the cats that have owned me (small giggle for those in the know) for sixty-five years have given me great excitement in their acquisition and great joy in their lives and equally great sadness in their passing. For me, it is these cycles of catdom that define my age. Recently, Gabriel and I have been ninety-eight, or thereabouts. Gabriel is the last of his generation and the oldest in our family of ten felines and seven humans. Both of us had been feeling and acting a bit long in the tooth and short on the energy. Well, colluding with her sister, my wife took care of that. It seems that about three or four weeks ago one of my sister-in-law’s cats gave birth to a single kitten, possibly her first litter. So, of course as she has quite often, my wife decided that we needed that kitten to make a nice, rounded eleven cats!?? I do love my wife, but she sure counts funny.
So Leroy Jethro Gibbs (his naming is another story altogether, with a foundation in the television show NCIS) has joined the family. All of a sudden Gabriel and I are teenagers again. Some of you may have encountered just such a fluctuation in your “days of (y)our lives.” Anyway, Gibbs has served to make most of us in the family younger and a couple of the previously dominant cats a bit older. It is a strange phenomenon how this has occurred; however, I’ll wager that this system of marking age is not unique to me.
It is much too glib to say, “You are as young (or old) as you feel.” My feelings towards this concept of age, my regulator or emotional thermostat, is calibrated by cats. We currently have eleven cats from five different generations allowing us to stay here. In the backyard are cats from three other generations. We have been in this house for twenty-four years. Allowing for some error in my computations, or perhaps my memory, it appears we are acquiring a stray or a litter every three years of so. Now if that won’t keep you young, I just don’t know what would.
Gibbs and Sally
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
How Not To Get a Cat
by Toni Dwiggins
I got into this cat thing for one reason: my daughter desperately wanted a cat.
At the time, I was wrestling with a mess of a novel, and I figured getting a cat would prove a great diversion. Wrong. Trying to get my daughter a cat proved as tortuous as trying to get my novel into shape.
Neither my characters nor my daughter were holding their breath.
Flashback to…The Setup
We’re a family of four and up until this cat thing making do with pet guinea pigs. But eight-year-old Emily wants a cat. She has eighteen stuffed cats; she crawls on all fours meowing. This kid has wanted a cat half her life and she swears she’ll clean the litter box.
I resolve to get my daughter a cat.
In theory, I’m a cat person; my husband Chuck is a dog person; hence, the guinea pigs. My fourteen-year-old daughter Molly leans toward the dog camp but she’ll go along with the cat thing. Chuck agrees: just do it.
But first I need to research.
I buy CATS FOR DUMMIES and read. There are complexities, I learn. Claws will need trimming (you access the claws how?). The cat will have to stay indoors because we live in the hills and there are bobcats with untrimmed claws outside. If we get a kitten, it will tear around the house like Genghis Khan. I think this through. Molly has a disability and gets around the house with a walker. Perhaps an older, settled cat is what we want.
But what kind?
I hit the Net. There is, I find, a breed of cat called a Ragdoll that loves kids and goes limp when you pick it up so you can cradle it like a baby. I imagine getting Emily a cat she can cradle like a baby. I imagine a Ragdoll sweetly sidestepping Molly’s walker. Then I hit a snag. There’s no Ragdoll breeder in my area. The cat will have to be air-mailed. What does that cost, to say nothing of the mood this cat will be in when it arrives? There’s another, more fundamental snag. Ragdolls cost in the neighborhood of $500.
I’m mulling this over while I take another pass at my novel. The plot’s working, but the characters are flat. They hang limp, like a Ragdoll.
Back to cat research. I find an ad for an animal rescue group. They have a boatload of cats needing homes.
The family goes to a cat adoption fair. We meet Cyrus.
Cyrus is an eighteen-month nine-pound orange-and-white tabby. He’s handsome, with a lengthy tail in bold stripes, and seems very mellow. His foster owner puts him on Emily’s lap, where he sits quietly while she strokes his fur. He’s transferred to Molly’s lap, where he sits quietly; he doesn’t give a hoot that she’s in a wheelchair. Emily’s in love, Molly’s in love, I’m astonished—this is the first cat at the first cat fair and I have a long list of others to check out. Chuck looks at the kids and the cat and his watch and says, well what’s wrong with that? He’s an engineer; it’s not a dog but it looks workable to him.
There is one small issue. We’re told Cyrus doesn’t like other cats. We confer: all we need is one.
Cyrus turns out to be nine-tenths the perfect cat. He doesn’t claw the furniture, he’s a lap cat thirty percent of the time, he likes to play but he’ll take no for an answer, he’ll put up with having his claws clipped, he politely sidesteps Molly’s walker.
However, there is one-tenth of him that’s not perfect. It’s a fundamental flaw. He doesn’t like Emily.
He likes adults, he’ll take a teenager in a pinch, but he doesn’t like high-voiced bounce-around-the-house Emily. Not only does he dislike Emily, follows Chuck like a dog.
This really hurts. My daughter is heartbroken. After much hand-wringing I decide that Cyrus goes. I’ll look into Ragdolls again. But Chuck balks: hey, we adopted the cat; hence, the cat is ours. Besides, Chuck thinks Cyrus is a cool cat.
But Cyrus doesn’t like Emily, I protest.
It’ll be one of those life lessons.
Maybe he’ll learn to like her.
What if he doesn’t?
Chuck shrugs. If you wanted unconditional love, you should have gone with a dog.
I go back to my novel where I’m in charge. But my characters are still balking; they don’t believe in the plot.
Meanwhile, Emily tries to win over Cyrus, who hides under the table wrapped in his tail.
I do more research. The animal rescue group, it turns out, has on staff a cat behaviorist. Hopeful, I call in the cat shrink.
Jennifer the behaviorist and Emily and Cyrus have a meeting. Jennifer teaches Emily to read cat body language, she observes them interacting—or not—and she makes her diagnosis. Cyrus is a butthead.
Possibly, in Cyrus’s kittenhood, a small person didn’t treat him kindly. Possibly, Cyrus just doesn’t like kids, the way Emily just doesn’t like potatoes.
We embark on a program to change his mind. Emily will be the sole person to feed him, play with him, pet him. The rest of us will ignore him. If he wants love, Emily will be his only option. This program will run ten days.
Ten days later, Cyrus is still a butthead.
The way Jennifer sees it, we now have three options. (1) Wait until Emily is less bouncy, say two or three years. (2) Trade Cyrus in for another cat. (3) Keep him and bring in a kitten for Emily.
Bring in a kitten? I remind Jennifer that Cyrus doesn’t like other cats.
Ah, Jennifer says, but a kitten is not another cat. It’s small and submissive.
Coco is a three-pound twelve-week gray-and-white male tabby with a splash of Siamese. He’s got huge ears, a long nose, gray teardrop markings at the corners of his eyes, and he motors like a truck when you pet him. He’s been rescued from a household of too many cats and kids, so kids don’t faze him. He allows Emily to flip him on his back and carry him around like a baby. And he doesn’t cost five hundred bucks.
Emily is in love. Molly is in love, and now firmly in the cat camp. Chuck thinks Coco is a cool kitten.
All that stands in the way of total victory is Cyrus.
Jennifer isn’t worried.
The program will run thusly: Coco will be brought out of his safe room (Emily’s room) daily in his protective cat carrier and placed on the living room floor, and we’ll go about our business as if there’s nothing there. As if, should we notice the creature in the carrier, we wouldn’t care. Kitten? So? And Cyrus is supposed to think: there’s a kitten in the room and they don’t notice, so they’re either stupid or kittens don’t matter. They can’t be stupid because they chose me, so my position in the household is secure. And gradually, the king will surely come to accept the subservient newcomer.
Cyrus reacts in three modes. Mode one is the Big Orange Weenie. Nine-pound cat cowers under the table wrapped in his tail wishing the cat carrier and its cargo would disappear. When this doesn’t happen, mode two appears—King Of The World. Cyrus circles the carrier, hissing. Coco pokes a paw through a hole in the carrier. Cyrus swats the paw. Coco thinks this is a game and pokes his paw through another hole. Cyrus swats. Coco pokes. Defeated, Cyrus goes into mode three: Bored Socialite. That gray creature is here again. Yawn. How utterly predictable and uninteresting. Think I’ll sit on the windowsill and watch the world go by.
This is not bad, the cat shrink says.
But I worry. Little Coco is sweet and cuddly…and very playful. Actually there’s a touch of Genghis Khan in Coco. He’s not aggressive, he’s simply undeterred. If he wants something, he takes it. I’ve kitten-proofed Emily’s room and armed myself, as the cat shrink advises, with a squirt bottle. The theory is, the cat goes after something it shouldn’t—the doll’s hair, say—and you surreptitiously squirt the cat. So the cat concludes that the doll’s hair has squirted it, and thus believes that a doll’s hair will forever make it wet. The squirt bottle worked with Cyrus, the few times Cyrus misbehaved. Cyrus jumps on counter, I squirt Cyrus, who levitates out of there and wouldn’t get on that counter again if you paid him. Coco’s a different kettle of fish. Coco wants the doll’s hair and you can squirt him until he drips.
It’s this tenacity, I worry, that will lead to trouble. Will Coco really let Cyrus be king? And if he doesn’t? I need the characters in my book at each other’s throats, not my cats.
Thinking of my book, I throw in some obstacles to pit my characters against one another. They have other agendas. I have nightmares in which I squirt my characters but they won’t behave. They just shrug, dripping. My characters are buttheads.
Three weeks pass and Cyrus is, by and large, the Bored Socialite when Coco’s carrier appears.
What you should watch out for, Jennifer says, is if Cyrus rolls Coco, in which case assume that Cyrus is going to rip Coco’s guts out. You might want to have a broom on hand. Otherwise, pretty much anything goes.
Jennifer can’t be here. Molly isn’t here either; she hates conflict and she’s gone to a junior high dance.
Chuck, Emily, and I gather around the cat carrier. I open the door. Cyrus, sitting bored nearby, comes to attention. Coco’s long nose pokes out. He locates Cyrus, hesitates.
This is good. Coco is showing common sense. I breathe easier.
Cyrus hisses, the kind of sound that if you were in the woods around the campfire and you heard it, the hairs would rise on the back of your neck.
Chuck raises the broomstick.
Coco brakes to a stop.
Cat and kitten face off.
I want Jennifer. Now.
Coco lunges. What’s he thinking? But it quickly becomes obvious what he’s thinking: I’m FREE, I’m free of that stupid carrier and I WANT TO PLAY. This is better than doll’s hair. I want to play with HIM. Coco lands on Cyrus, Chuck circles with the broom, Emily yells CAREFUL OF MY KITTEN, and I’m thinking five hundred dollars for a Ragdoll isn’t so bad. Cyrus hisses—the whole campground would have cleared out—but little Genghis Kitten just extends a friendly paw and bats Cyrus in the face.
Cyrus has had enough. Wham-wham-wham, right between those gray-teardrop eyes, and Coco finally gets the picture and prostrates himself. He rolls onto his side and bares his neck, gazing up at Cyrus. Cyrus lays a big paw on Coco’s little belly.
Chuck and I are frantic. Is gut-ripping the next step, or is this part of the establishment of rank?
Emily dances around. Don’t let him kill my kitten!
But cat and kitten are coming to an understanding: who’s king, who’s not, and for the next several minutes there’s a minuet of batting and hissing and prostrating and so we relax and start thinking about dinner.
Cyrus, too, suddenly thinks about dinner. He switches to Bored Socialite and saunters into the kitchen.
Coco is pleased. A tail to chase that isn’t his own.
And it’s back to battle stations…
Well how’d it go? asks Jennifer.
No blood on the floor, I report.
And so it goes, over the next couple of weeks. Coco takes over Cyrus’s scratching post, Coco eats Cyrus’s food, Coco chases Cyrus around the house and Cyrus’s hissing begins to lack conviction.
At night, Coco sleeps on his back in Emily’s arms.
I scratch Cyrus behind the ears and assure him that kings are overrated.
And then one day I find the cats napping together, and when they wake Cyrus licks Coco’s ears and Coco licks Cyrus’s nose and the world turns upside down.
The cat shrink is a genius.
I’m thinking of calling her in on my book.
Back to the Present
Emily grew taller and quieter and one day Cyrus climbed into her lap. The king had found his princess.
Coco grew mellower, but remained the alpha cat.
I found a new subject for a book series. My characters liked it.
The two protagonists are forensic geologists, a young woman and her father-figure mentor. We’re all happiest when I’m not in charge.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Casper and Harry
by Neal Holtschulte
Casper was a cat's cat, free from litter box, dry food, or human shelter, red in tooth and claw, strong and fierce. You did not pet Casper. You put your hand out and she met it with her forehead like a firm handshake.
Casper had short black hair except for a white spot under her neck. She was lean and wiry. She came and went as she pleased, disappearing into the woods, or stalking small creatures from the shadows beneath the pines. With Casper around, our sliding glass door became a window into the wild.
Harry Mudd was a dog the way we imagine dogs, a platonic dog you might say, loyal, loving, and selfless to a fault, dumb and smelly from his propensity to roll in fresh mulch, but such a g'boy, good boy, yes you are.
Harry was a black lab with hip dysplasia and a skin condition that gave him perpetually greasy fur. Oh Harry, we love you but you're a filthy creature, we would tell him though he would only understand the first part.
Before she was fully grown Casper survived on the grounds of a Scott's fertilizer plant by catching mice until humans caught her. They gave her to our family in October, near Halloween. This wasn’t adoption so much as catch and release of a miniature panther. In keeping with the season, we named her Casper in spite of the gender mix up.
Casper avoided the hard food we put out for her. Not because, like a lot of cats, she expected to train her humans to buy her the Fancy Feast, but because she could get wet gushy food all by herself. She perfected the self-confident stare: I’m disemboweling a mouse. What are you looking at? All she would leave behind would be a blood spot and the gall bladder. She ate mice the way some people peel Starbursts in their mouth, nothing left to do but spit out a bit of wrapper.
Harry made a miserable guard dog. He didn't bark or growl except in his sleep, his legs twitching in imaginary chases. He was bursting with love and compassion for all men and beasts. He learned the hard way that Mr. Skunk did not wish to be his friend and the sharp-clawed Siamese next door was not amused by friendly butt-sniffing.
I misspoke. Harry did not learn. All his learning neurons had been replaced with optimism. With optimism he tried to make friends with the skunk again. With optimism he wrapped his leash around the picnic table, tying himself in knots, and with renewed optimism he struggled to free himself as he heard our car pull in to the driveway. He succeeded only in pulling his chain tighter and stumbling in his food bowl to the delight of the ants streaming across the patio.
Harry came to our family as a replacement. At first we called him Harry Mudd Junior, because young Harry Mudd Senor (no actual relation) was killed by a car on the dangerous road we lived on. The road was well-traveled enough to be paved, but rural enough to have a fifty mile per hour speed limit and our driveway let out just above a hill that produced an awful blind spot.
In the winter Harry slept curled up in the garage on the filthiest mat you ever saw. The grease from his fur soaked into this mat, indelibly marking it as his. Casper came, seeking shelter and though she never let herself depend on the generosity of others, she hopped on top of Harry and curled up to sleep. Casper never sought help and Harry gave of himself without ever expecting anything in return, but in the
winter, they shared their heat.
It was quite a sight, this lump of black fur piled on top of a lump of black fur. We took a picture but in poor lighting it turned out looking more like a black hole in the garage floor than this unlikely bond between animals.
When we walked back to the woods, Harry led. He had to lead. It was in his bones, a genetic compulsion, a dog's duty to act as scout and vanguard, to go on ahead of man though there might be danger.
Casper, too, joined these hikes. We glimpsed her stealing between shadows under the pine trees, then darting into tall grass to watch us unseen. Perhaps she was curious, but more likely she obeyed her own genetically ingrained instincts. What could be more natural for humans’ domesticated creatures than for the dog to lead and the cat to follow, knowing that mice and rats too follow in the wake of humans?
Even when Harry became old and gray, though he shook while lying still, though we merely walked and he struggled to move, he stayed ahead of us. At some arbitrary point we decided we were done with our pleasure walk. We reversed direction to head home. Harry ran, though he wheezed, in order to lead us in this new direction.
In old age when Harry tried to stand, he flailed against the slippery linoleum. His motion served only to push away the rug that gave him traction. We hastened over to push the rug back beneath him and let him out to pee.
Harry showed uncharacteristic self-awareness at the end of his life. One day he made his flailing motions indicating he wanted to be let out. We slid open the back door for him. He never came back. He went out and found a quiet spot far back in the woods and lay down to die with dignity.
Casper should have lived forever. Perhaps the white spot on her neck had grown larger, but besides that she showed no signs of aging. She was as strong as ever, rubbing against our legs like a bear trying to knock down trees, leaving patches of fresh vole blood or bird feathers on the garage floor, evidence of her continued prowess.
In the winter she found the greasy blackened mat in the garage where it had always been. It smelled of Harry but remained cold and empty. She slept there all the same.
Casper died instantly, hopefully painlessly, when the twenty-four ton rock quarry truck ran over her at fifty miles per hour.
She had lived by that road for over a decade during which time Harry Mudd Jr. had been hit by a car and survived, gaining a new plastic hip in the bargain. I won't believe that she made a mistake by running in front of that truck. She knew exactly what she was doing.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Hello, Hazard Cat enthusiasts. Sorry I haven't been posting as much. I have some health problems and need surgery on my foot.
My kitties are having eye problems. If you've heard of this, please send me an email or leave a comment.
First, Devlin's eyes started. The second eyelids close halfway most of the time, but not all the time. I thought it was allergies.
Now all my cats except Spooky and kittens have the affliction. They have no symptoms otherwise, and they've had their shots. Any ideas?
Thanks! I'm also adding a donation button to the site to help pay for submissions. If you like what you read and see and want to contribute a buck, that would be awesome.
Posted by Cats! at 2:34 PM
Saturday, July 16, 2011
by Bruce Boston
If cat people
were the world
we would embrace
the sharp and furry.
We would slink
along the street
and dash across it.
If cat people
were the world
we would build walls
against the sea.
We would sleep
by day and wander
the haunts and heights
of our cities by night.
We would have flesh
to the arena
of our choice.
We would delight
in our feasting
the deathful grace
in our play.
If cat people
were the world,
oh how we would purr!