Cat Project Archives for October 24-28, 2016.
24, 2016 - "Cats seem to go on the principle that
it never does any harm to ask for what you want." -
Joseph Wood Crutch
Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: Waiting to play.
Mewvie: One-cat demolition machine.
Art: "Freddie" by Diane Armitage.
with a stray cat.
By James Hughes
I live near a lost-dogs home and sometimes meet a volunteer walking a
motley mass of faces, all straining and lusting for life. Those volunteers,
usually young women, are the salt of the earth. And the dogs, if there
is any justice, will inherit a patch of earth in some other world.
Strays can be hard to snub. About a fortnight ago, I began a relationship
with a stray cat – all black, with traffic-light green eyes – helped
by a dysfunctional kitchen door.
On really cold nights, my kitchen door requires a full body-slam to shut – it's
simpler, if not exactly safer, to leave it ajar. From this fortuitous
breach, the scrawny, collarless cat eyed me with such anxious ambition
only a robot could have said no.
On the concrete outside the door nobody shuts, by a wonky aluminium rack
stacked with shoes nobody wears, I fed the cat sardines on a saucer,
using the tin's lip as a masher.
The cat reappeared two nights later. Hastily, I dished up John West tuna
fillets. The cat went to work, pausing every so often as if to check
that this really was happening again. This, I assured myself, is The
On the next call, I gave it a series of unsympathetic glances. As I cooked
my mushrooms and parsley, with extra turmeric for a creaky knee, the
cat loitered under the kitchen table by the therapeutic foot-board nobody
I said the jig was up, said that even if there was tinned fish, it wouldn't
get any. The cat sensed a chill but hung around. Eventually I yielded
and cracked an egg on a saucer.
By the shoe rack, the cat sniffed the raw egg and shot me a look all
but stating: Go inside, come back with something suitable.
I added a knob of butter. But even presented with the enhanced dish,
those exceedingly green eyes said: You are dishonouring the terms of
I went through the cupboard, rifled through everyone's food. In the fridge
was an unopened tray of mince. I took the plunge and pierced the plastic.
Ten minutes later, the cat sat on the kitchen table by the CDs nobody
plays, licking its paws. I waved it outside. Under a huge moon, from
the garden table nobody sits at, the cat saw me at the window and transmitted
a thought wave: When I next return, I would prefer you to not make such
a song and dance.
Two nights later, it arrived on schedule. The cat obviously knew my late-night
cooking routine, the harried sounds of saucepans and steamers and chopping-boards
and kettles and the big broom nobody but me ever wields.
This time, I flat ignored the cat. It hung about, as if it were only
a matter of time. I absconded upstairs; four times I came down to find
the cat in the kitchen, biding its time. Each time I made tea, each time
I snacked on bread and honey, it watched, unable to fully conceal its
At some point that night, the cat left the building. In the morning,
I made my way outside to the washing machine to get the clothes hung
on the line. I found myself stepping around feathers: the whole garden
was strewn, inexplicably, with feathers.
When it comes to joining the dots, I am a naive, sluggish man. Indeed,
the penny did not drop until I was making oatmeal with kiwifruit and
cinnamon. You brat, I thought, you churlish, vengeful ingrate. I will
not feed you again – I will not be blackmailed with blackbird feathers.
The garden became a killing field. Leaving for work, and coming home
in the dark, I found myself scouting the street. A new housemate, from
Germany, asked why there were very often feathers in the kitchen. Feigning
ignorance, I picked up the broom.
Two nights ago, the cat returned. Feeling conciliatory, I gave it one-third
of the smallest tin of the cheapest tuna. And instead of a saucer, I
served it on an inhospitable takeaway container lid. The cat savaged
the compromised portion, vacuumed the juice, re-entered the kitchen,
and waited for the rest.
Nope, I said, from now on our relationship goes no deeper – you
will learn to appreciate scraps.
The cat's stance seemed to say: We've heard this kind of thing from you
before. You'll come around, and we both know it. Caving in exacts a psychic
price. Then there's the price of fish.
The cat remains bullish. It imagines our meeting is providence. It imagines
a long, fruitful relationship. As I type these words it is downstairs,
backing its intuition, banking on its ancient and mysterious appeal.
25, 2016 - "A kitten is chiefly remarkable for rushing
about like mad at nothing whatever, and generally stopping
before it gets there." - Agnes Repplier
Gratuitous Kittiness: Dat guilty look.
Mewvie: Shameless cat exploitation.
Feline Art: "Fat
Tabby On a Cushion"
by Rebecca Korpita.
26, 2016 - "If the claws didn't retract, cats would
be like Velcro." - Dr. Bruce Fogle
Gratuitous Kittiness: "Become one with the blanket."
Mewvie: That darn mailman!
Art: "Mewbin" by Cotton Valent.
to take your cat to the vet and not lose your mind.
By Chris Malina
Ask just about any cat owner and they'll tell you it's no fun trying
to bring their feline friend to the vet.
Trying to get a cat into a carrier and into the clinic can easily result
in scratches, bites and blood being drawn. It's enough to want to skip
the vet altogether, and because of that, cats may not be getting the
veterinary care they need.
"Cats now outnumber dogs when it comes to family pets, but we see fewer
cats coming into the vet," said Dr. Sandi Sawchuck, clinical instructor
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. "It's
not that (owners) feel like they don't need vet care, it's the transportation
But getting to and from the vet doesn't have to be so stressful for cats
and their owners. Sawchuck said there are plenty of things cat owners
can do at home to prepare their pets well in advance of a vet visit.
First off, a proper carrier is a must.
"I see people cramming 18 pound cats into these little, tiny carriers," Sawchuck
said. "If you're going to be buying a carrier, get a large one, and make
sure that it has easy-release sides so that you can take the top off. A lot of
cats enjoy being at the veterinarian if they can be down in the bottom half of
their carrier, where they still have some sides to feel like they're protected."
Not having a traditional front loading carrier can also alleviate the
problem of a vet having to "shake" a frightened cat out, which
only scares them further, Sawchuck said.
She also recommends solid-sided carriers, as opposed to the soft-sided
ones made out of mesh or other fabric.
"The real soft sided ones, sometimes the cat feels a little more insecure,
just because the bottom is a little weaker when you're picking it up and carrying
it," Sawchuck said.
Also, a vet visit shouldn't be the only time cats see or interact with
a carrier. Sawchuck recommends leaving the carrier out at all times and
making it a permanent fixture in your cat's environment. Adding a blanket
to the carrier can make it extra comfortable and inviting, and treats
inside the carrier can be used to train the cat to go inside of it.
If your cat still isn't handling the carrier well, Sawchuck said it's
OK to drape a towel or blanket over the front of the carrier when in
use, so the cat can't see out. This can also be helpful when sitting
in the waiting room of the vet's office where other animals may be present.
She also recommended the use of Feliway, a pheromone that can be used
to calm stressed out cats. Catnip can sometimes also do the trick.
In addition, consider learning how to "burrito" your cat, a
practice that can also come in handy when trying to trim nails.
But getting the cat into carrier is often only half the battle. There's
also the dreaded car ride to the vet.
Just like acclimating your cat to the carrier ahead of time, Sawchuck
said you should also be acclimating your cat to the car.
"Go around the block, or make short trips with them," she said.
She also recommends making what she calls a "friendly pet visit" to
your vet clinic, where you swing by with your cat, say "hello," get
a treat and then head home.
Finally, if you have multiple cats, Sawchuck recommends making separate
appointments, as opposed to transporting and having those cats treated
at the same time.
"Sometimes we will have cats that get stressed, and they feed off of each
other," she said. That can make it more difficult to treat both cats.
That said, it's absolutely necessary that multiple cats come, Sawchuck
said each cat should have its own carrier. But she strongly recommends
the "one cat per appointment" rule.
27, 2016 - "There is no such thing as 'just a cat'." -
Robert A. Heinlein
Gratuitous Kittiness: "Me and Mini-Me."
Mewvie: He moves well for a big man.
Feline Art: Cat tree by LinaV.
28, 2016 - "Actually, cats do this to protect you
from gnomes who come and steal your breath while you sleep." -
Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: "Calgon take me awayyyyyyyyy."
Mewvie: It's a Big Cat Halloween!
Art: Ain't it the truth?
new must-have accessory: The feral cat.
By Shibani Mahtani and Joe Barrett
CHICAGO—Nicolas Cuervo and his neighbors called, texted and pleaded.
Finally, after over three months of waiting, their highly coveted order
arrived: a crate of stray cats.
“It was almost like getting a newborn,” said Mr. Cuervo, a 44-year-old
copywriter, who had three cats from a street pack delivered to him last month.
Now, Mr. Cuervo is waiting some more—to see if he can persuade
the beasts to stick around.
He has changed his schedule to work from home. He coos to them through
the wires of the crate. He feeds them gourmet cat treats. All in the
hope that once he lets them out of the crate after several weeks, the
cats will warm up to him and turn his backyard—now overrun with
rats—into their long-term hunting ground.
“I’m a dog guy, I was never even drawn to cats,” he said. “But
if this is what you have to do, you have to do it.”
Chicago is awash in rats. A mild winter last year allowed broods of baby
rats to survive, leading to an explosion of the critters, terrorizing
residents as they run around their yards and dumpsters. By September,
there had been 27,000 rat complaints, a 40% increase from 2015.
This is turning the alley cat, once considered a rabid urban menace threatening
small children and pets, into a prized possession. Or at least as much
of a possession as a stray cat can be.
“I’ve been offered bribes,” said Paul Nickerson, who runs the
Tree House Humane Society’s Cats at Work program, which places feral cats
that have been trapped, microchipped and spayed or neutered with rat-plagued
Chicagoans. But he won’t budge on the waiting list, which has stretched
to six months amid the frenzy.
Once the cats arrive, the new owners face a daunting challenge making
a connection with wild versions of animals that are famously standoffish
in the best of circumstances. Feral cats are more akin to wild raccoons
than cuddly house pets, hissing or scratching if you try to pick them
Andrea Swank, a 51-year-old freelance writer, had two of her three strays
bolt the first time she opened the crate two winters ago. This only fed
into the merriment of local wags who mocked her efforts to employ feral
cats to go after the rat problem on her tony Lincoln Park block.
“You could hear the college girls screaming, ‘Rat!’ at 2 a.m.” as
they walked beneath her bedroom window, she said.
She said her neighbors tried high-tech traps, rat-repelling frequencies
and a “firecracker-looking thing that essentially smothered [rats]
in their tunnels.” None of them worked.
The crate where Nicolas Cuervo’s stray cats are living for about
a month to get used to him and life in his yard. He hopes that once the
cats are released they will stick around to rid his yard of rats.
After Jeff, the stray that stayed, went to work, things changed. The
gray and white feline with steely green eyes started killing off the
baby rats and adults began to stay away as Jeff marked his territory
with his scent. No one is laughing now.
“Two people came back and gave me formal apologies,” she said.
Jeff now walks her and her children to school, sits on her front porch
on a heated seat and greets neighbors.
Victoria Thomas’s cats all bolted on the first day she let them
out of the crate four years ago, despite her best efforts.
“I was feeding them tuna fish out of the can, rather than Whiskas cat food,” said
Ms. Thomas, a 43-year-old artist and wine distributor. “I just really wanted
to spoil them.”
When Patch, Fluffy and Skinny flew the coop, she was heartbroken.
But she dutifully kept putting out food for them at the regular time,
and after a few days, they were back for good.
Bill Hurley, owner of Empirical Brewery, thought cats would be too much
of a pain to maintain in a battle to keep rats out of the grain bags
at the craft brewery. The process of brewing “rings the dinner
bell for rodents,” he said.
But he soon put his team to work designing a multiple-level cat condo,
which took a week to build. The tower comes with a separate unit for
litter boxes, a front porch where the cats could sit and watch the world
and multiple hiding spots.
Venkman, one of the feral cats that fights the rat problem at Empirical
Brewery in Chicago.
When the cats were first released, Mr. Hurley and his crew never saw
them, so they set up night cameras that sent alerts to their phones whenever
movement was detected.
The cats apparently decided they had a “pretty sweet deal” and
haven’t left, he said.
Now, the rats are gone, and people come on tours of the brewery just
to see the cats, Mr. Hurley said. One of the cats, Venkman, is a social
media star with his own Twitter page.
Ron Ohren, a partner at a law firm, built a feeding station and installed
a double-decker heated cat house, and added a cat door to his bicycle
room for the feral cats that arrived from Tree House.
All three stuck around in the beginning, but despite the plush setup,
Bubbles and Buttercup fled, leaving only Blossom on his Powerpuff Girl-themed
Now, other strays have shown up, keeping rats from scurrying around his
yard, like a Disney movie but “less cute,” he said.
Last winter, Mr. Ohren put on a parka and snow shoes and trudged out
to cut safe passages for the cats in the snow.
“Emotionally, I am hugely attached to them,” he said. “I obsess
about them and am slavishly devoted to them.”
Still, Mr. Ohren gets little love back. The cats have never let him pet
or carry them. He is trying to reach out with treats to get the cats
to eat out of his hand, but with limited success.
“I’m OK with the bargain we’ve struck,” he said. Keeping
the rats away “is enough.”
Mr. Cuervo, meanwhile, nervously awaits the day he has to release his
cats. He said the once-aloof and shy beasts are now making eye contact
with him and don’t get skittish even when the family dog is around.
He will release them after Halloween, so they don’t get spooked
“I really want the cats to come back,” but these are cats after all,
he acknowledges. “Who knows what will happen?”