Cat Project Archives for January 18-22, 2016.
18, 2015 - "Which is more beautiful--feline movement
or feline stillness?" - Elizabeth Hamilton
Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: "Who rang that bell?"
Mewvie: Stray kitty finds the catnip toys.
Street Art: Library with cat quilt, creator unknown.
by Bonnie Toomey
Unless I count all things school, my childhood was uncomplicated in terms
of things temporal.
Because I had a fairly simple and free life as a kid, riding across town
in my parents' Chevy Impala, its trunk stuffed and agape, hinges squeaking
all the way to the dump on a Saturday morning and squished in beside
my little brother and two sisters on the wide back seat, Dad at the wheel,
there was always time to take things in.
Those were the limitless days of childhood. Hours of freedom spent building
snow forts, playing checkers and lining the outer edge of the Monopoly
board with our play money, watching TV until we had to help shovel the
driveway, and waiting for Scholastic book orders to arrive.
And then there were our pets.
Dad was a visionary. He built a coop up against our backyard fence and
we spent warm days following the soft roll of the clucks and ducking
under Mom's forsythias and shrubs to gather hen's eggs. We had rabbits.
We snuck them inside on occasion. We watched as Dad cleaned the turtles'
tank by the kitchen sink, and we shared our table scraps with Candy,
our Cairn, and then Daisy her Beagle-mix pup. We rescued baby birds and
stole entrails of pollywogs scooped from pond soup brought home in buckets
until they sprouted legs and hopped away. We even caught fireflies in
old jelly jars. But winters were less bountiful.
So, on that particular cold day, when Dad stayed home to tinker on his
snowplow because of a coming storm, and Mom piloted the Impala boat with
its snappy studded tires, we seized the chance to go along for the ride
to the town dump.
I was riding shotgun that day. We rolled cross the mill town; under the
covered bridge where the water was chill black, left at the intersection
and down Groton Street which ran into Brookline Street. Going to the
dump was like going to the far corners of our world. The scape began
to spread out between old New Englanders, open-land farms, and trundling
with our trash for another mile or two we pulled off the long straight
road that ran out of town west toward the New Hampshire line.
First was the smell. Mom turned a sharp and slow downward left to the
dump, mountains of apocalyptic and compressed rubble and bony dirt rising
ever higher as our car approached the long swung open metal gate. It
was the moment of welcome. Bits of trapped paper, like tiny Tibetan prayer
flags cemented by earth and rain and air flickered and whispered. They
waved us on. The Impala lurched as we entered, hauling our home's waste
in the gray wind.
It was thrilling and at the same time frightening whenever we backed
cautiously up to the edge of the trashy abyss, and my parents would seem
to take a certain pleasure heaving the bags and upending the loose contents
of our token dented trash can. Sometimes, we were allowed to heft an
item and pitch it.
Stuff would tumble out and down, coming to rest as stray pages of newsprint
would lift and drift just above the depressions of useless things; a
shoe with its tongue hanging and its sole missing, a torqued bike rim
without a tire, a naked doll missing an arm winking at no one, and all
the time birds slowly circling above in continuous loops. A valley of
stories lay at the bottom of that ravine. Blackened banana peels, broken
china, coffee grounds, rotten fruit and tin foil glint like manmade mica.
The dump, that day, distantly encircled by dark pines and under a diesel-writ
sky, was another world altogether, one where a child could imagine anything
It wasn't that the little black and white thing was appealing - it was
not - dirty and scrawny, with an open wound on its neck. Maybe it was
an outward sign of a close call with a surreptitious rat, but there was
a beautiful urgency about it, a toughness that I liked. A will that defied
the wordless edict of the dump, and in that moment when she let out a
meow sweeter than cream, she turned the throwaway world of the dump on
As Mom threw the last bag over the edge, we watched it sail like a giant
lumpy water balloon. It landed with a satisfying swish, it's side splitting
open upon impact, a shard of pale pink plastic poking through not too
far from a bald tire and a legless chair.
Though just a single mewl, her call rang out over the dull gusts, over
the dump-picking scavengers above, over the voices of kids like me who
were watching trash fly. There was a kind of mesmerizing rhythm to all
of it. The jumble of debris unfolding and rolling up by the push of the
dozer's blade, and then pulled back down into layers laid out under the
steal mashing of the segmented treads. How the garbage remains of Pepperell's
residents, falling out and tumbling and mixing until it became one big
surface of superfluous stuff, was an art -- a needless and undesirable
I turned away from the bluff of junk. That community crag of rubbish,
where you could find a fragment of just about anything you could think
of; ripped books, frayed blankets, stained cushions, empty-socketed lamps,
busted televisions, rusty irons, bent lawn furniture, crushed soup cans
and flattened plastic jugs, a radio with its wire guts spilling out.
But there on the roughshod and peeled up ground of the dump's makeshift
parking area, was something moving against the ground that trembled slightly
under the weight of the heavy dozer.
The uniform dash of four white paws flashed like pom-poms under her black
coat. She closed the distance between us quickly, ran right up to me,
and as if her aim were timed and practiced to perfection, the small being
leapt into my arms and immediately started purring. Her big black eyes
blinked up at me as if to ask one big question. There was no going back.
Dump cat, or not, that cat was coming home with me.
But she really wasn't a cat, at least not yet. Still, she was just a
kitten, the color of a Hostess cupcake. Though dump dusty and sorely
crusty, she had claimed me. She had thrown herself, just like we'd thrown
the bags to see how they would land, right into my jacket-sleeved arms
and my 9-year-old heart.
I learned a lot from that little landfill feline: how to care for something
other than myself, and to marvel at that cat's tenacity among all her
scrapheap threats. I would nurse her back to health, and she would nurse
me into the kind of love that never dies even after we're gone. I would
play with her, giggle as she pounced on a pillow of catnip. I would dress
her up in bibs and treat her like a baby. I would, little-girl eyes wide,
watch her give birth to her own litter of kittens.
Forty-five years later I am still able to feel the heat of her sleek
bundle on my lap, conjure up the hypnotizing dance of her tail, and if
I try, not all that hard, to prick up my ears, I can always hear the
notes of her delicate whines.
And so, since we'd been in that throwaway place on that fateful day,
since I'd turned to catch her cotton-ball boots dashing forward, right
at the second when a surprise gasp of time leaves a moment to dangle
long enough for a child to shriek with delight, Kitty Dump Cat and me.
19, 2015 - "I want to create a cat like the real cats
I see crossing the streets, not like those you see in houses.
They have nothing in common. The cat of the streets has
bristling fur. It runs like a fiend, and if it looks at
you, you think it is going to jump in your face."
- Pablo Picasso
Gratuitous Kittiness: An eye for cats.
Feline Art: On a wall
in Colliergate, England.
20, 2015 - "I wish I could write as mysterious as
- Edgar Allan Poe
Gratuitous Kittiness: Who was that masked cat?
Mewvie: Cat loves the chicks.
Art: Rudi Hurlzmeier strikes again.
one big Maine Coon.
Over the past year, three or four strangers have knocked on Colleen Pizarev's
door to warn her that a wild animal is in her house.
These people are usually walking to the park near Pizarev's home in San
Jose, Calif., and when they spot her 27-pound Maine Coon named Spock
in the window, they mistake the cat for a bobcat or a lynx.
"They're worried that I'm keeping an illegal wild animal," Pizarev
said in an interview. "I'm always like, 'No! Look, he has a tail.'"
She added: "In most cases, I've been able to diffuse it."
Pizarev is a lover of the Maine Coon breed, among the largest of the
domesticated cat breeds. Several years ago, she adopted a rescue through
Maine Coon Adoptions in Oakland. When that cat passed away, she adopted
a Maine Coon-Abyssinian mix named Fluff Ball. And four years ago, Spock
came to her through a breeder. Spock was originally supposed to be a
show cat but wasn't able to follow this path when one of his eyes turned
a color unacceptable for competition.
Spock eats up to a pound of fresh meat a day and measures 46 inches long.
Pizarev says his growth has taken off in the past year and she thinks
that's why people have recently been knocking on her door.
Spock has grown so large that he now takes up half the bed. "He's
like having another person in your bed," Pizarev said.
He's also knocking stuff over throughout the house.
" He'll jump on a small table and the table knocks over because of the momentum
and weight," Pizarev said. "We have to lock up our table lamps because
he knocks them over on the floor. We only bring them out if we're having guests."
All of that said, Spock is a gentle giant. "I love this breed because
they're very smart," Pizarev said. "They don't bite or scratch.
They're extremely affectionate."
She added: "He's a lap cat and likes to sit on laps." And that's
something a wild animal would never do.
21, 2015 - "Some animals are secretive; some are shy.
A cat is private."
- Leonard Michaels
Gratuitous Kittiness: "Heyyy, nice bald spot."
Mewvie: Too much sugar.
German postcard. Cats and rats.
22, 2015 - "Cats don't like change without their consent."
- Roger A. Caras
Gratuitous Kittiness: "Be one with the pillow."
Mewvie: Cute kitty but the deer is not impressed.
Art: Finnish cat illustration.
Building A Winter Cat shelter.
Building a winter shelter for your outdoor cats can be both simple and
Two of the more popular styles are:
Styrofoam bins, such as used to ship perishable food and medical supplies.
Rubbermaid™ plastic storage bins with removable lids. It’s
important the brand is Rubbermaid™; otherwise, the plastic walls
may crack in cold temperatures.
When constructing a shelter, here are a few basic ideas to keep in mind.
All good shelter designs share two qualities:
Strong insulation – needed to trap body heat, which turns the cats
into little radiators. Use straw, not hay or blankets.
Minimal air space – a smaller interior area means that less heat
is needed to keep the occupants warm.
Shelter size is very important.
Smaller shelters can be heated by only one or two cats. Larger shelters
with only one or two cats inside will remain cold.
Two smaller shelters are better than one large one.
Don’t underestimate the number of cats in your area. You may only
see one or two, but there are probably more. Try to provide more shelter
space than you can imagine needing.
The placement of shelters is important in keeping cats safe from predators.
If dogs are a threat, place your shelter behind a fence where the dogs
can’t get in.
Have the entrance face a wall so only cats can get in and out.
All shelters and feeding stations should be out of sight, no matter how
friendly the area may appear.
Don’t place the shelter directly on the cold ground.
Use two 2x4s or other materials to raise it off the ground and place
straw underneath. This makes it easier for the cats to warm the inside
with their body heat.
Make the door as small as possible.
Cats need an opening of only about five-and-a-half or six inches in diameter,
or the width of their whiskers.
A small door discourages larger, bolder animals, such as raccoons, from
A smaller opening keeps in more heat.
If there is a need for an escape door, do not cut holes directly across
from each other, as this creates a draft.
Locate the door several inches above the ground level.
Rain won’t splash up through an above-the-ground door.
Snow is less likely to trap the cats by blocking an above-the-ground
Creating extra protection:
An awning that covers the opening, made from roll plastic or heavy plastic
garbage bags, provides more insulation, helps keep the rain and wind
from entering the shelter, and makes the cats feel safer.
Raising the rear of the shelter slightly higher than the front helps
to keep rain from pooling inside and snow from piling up on the roof.
A small hole drilled in the side or bottom of the shelter allows rainwater
to drain out.
A slanted roof might also discourage predators from sitting on the roof
Lightweight shelters definitely need to be secured against the wind.
Put a couple of five- to 10-pound flat barbell weights on the floor of
the shelter under the bedding.
Put heavy, flat rocks or pavers/bricks on the lid/top.
Place two shelters with the doorways facing each other and put a large
board on top of both shelters – this weighs the shelters down and
provides a protected entryway.
Insulating materials inside the shelter will increase the comfort and
warmth of the cats.
Only insulating materials which the cats can burrow into should be used.
Blankets, towels, flat newspapers, etc., retain wetness and should not
be used. They absorb body heat and will actually make the cat colder.
Straw is a good insulating material to use. Straw is better than hay
because it can absorb more moisture and is less prone to mold or rot.
Insulation materials should only be used if the shelter can be periodically
checked to see if they have gotten damp or too dirty and need to be replaced.
Additionally, don’t place water bowls inside the shelter because
they may get turned over.
One of our favorite designs uses two Rubbermaid™ storage bins with
Again, it’s important the brand is Rubbermaid™; otherwise,
the plastic walls may crack in frigid temperatures. Also, an earth-tone
bin blends in best with the environment, making it aesthetically pleasing
to you and your neighbors and more natural in appearance to the cats.
You’ll also need an eight-foot by two-foot sheet of one-inch thick
hard Styrofoam, a yardstick, box cutter, and straw for insulation.
Cut a doorway six inches by six inches in one of the long sides of the
bin towards the corner. Cut the opening so that the bottom of the doorway
is several inches above the ground to prevent flooding.
Line the floor of the bin with a piece of Styrofoam, using the yardstick
and box cutter to cut the piece. It doesn’t have to be an exact
fit, but the closer the better.
In a similar fashion, line each of the four interior walls of the bin
with a piece of the Styrofoam. Again, perfect cuts are not necessary.
Leave a cap of three inches between the top of these Styrofoam “wall
pieces” and the upper lip of the bin.
Cut out a doorway in the Styrofoam interior wall where the doorway has
already been cut out in the storage bin.
Measure the length and width of the interior space and place a second,
smaller-size bin into the open interior. This bin should fit as snugly
as possible against the Styrofoam wall pieces. Cut a doorway into this
bin where the doorways have been cut into the Styrofoam and outer bin.
Stuff the bottom of the interior bin with straw or other insulating material
(no blankets or towels!) to provide both insulation and a comfortable
spot to lie down.
Cut out a Styrofoam “roof” to rest on top of the Styrofoam
Cover the bin with its lid.
This shelter is easy to clean by taking off the lid and the roof. It
is lightweight and may need to be weighed down. A flap over the door
way is optional.