Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What Are You Doing in There?

The boys have an interesting habit of waiting outside the door when I go to use the bathroom. They'll sit out there meowing for me and, when I open the door to come out, they'll be right in front of it. I have to be extra careful to both prevent them from running into the bathroom (where they are not allowed) and to prevent the door from hitting them.

I must have really crossed the line between cat owner and cat slave when I started trying to reason with my boys by talking to me through the bathroom door. "Relax boys, daddy's coming out soon. Just a minute boys." I have to remind myself that they actually don't need to use the bathroom. Their litterbox is in the kitchen.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Just Like Falling in Love

Sometimes I'll just sit and watch my fiancee Liz from across the room. I'm sure anyone who has been in love knows the feeling. You just like to watch the object of your affection doing everyday things: walking around, sleeping, typing away on the computer. There's a certain pride -- "wow, that beautiful person is with me."

Since we adopted the boys, I feel the same way about them. I just love to watch them do everyday cat things that are so beautiful and graceful. I just love the way they:
  • Walk the floor with such conviction, like they own the livingroom
  • Flip over on their backs for a bellyrub
  • Groom each other and wrestle with each other at the same time
  • Open their mouths really wide to yawn
  • Stretch themselves after getting up from a long nap
  • Rub their heads against my feet (Arthur is the one to do this usually)
  • Jump on top of my lap when I least expect it
  • Chase a toy across the floor then pounce on it and hold it like a sacred treasure
When I have human children someday, will I love them this much? I hope so.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What Surprised You Most About Cats? -- FAQ

Arthur and Beowulf are my first cats so I had a lot of hopes and fears before I adopted them. I think my biggest fear was that I would have a cold relationship with my cats. I would adopt them and live with them, but it would be a relationship of quiet respect rather than love. Could I love an animal? Would an animal love me? Would the cats be like a new toy that I'd get bored of?

My biggest surprise has been my own capacity to love and grow from this experience. I feel like adopting the boys has helped me get in touch with a different part of myself. I give them food, toys, and belly rubs, but what they give me back is priceless.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Cats as Game: A Slippery Slope?

I hear now that Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has vowed to veto any cat hunting legislation if it passes. "I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats," Doyle told reporters, including the Associated Press, on April 13th.

That said, the debate in Wisconsin has inspired pundits in other states and has exposed the fact that laws on the books in Minnesota and South Dakota currently allow feral cat hunting. Clearly, this is an idea that has a lot of proponents, both in Wisconsin and throughout the United States.

Here in New York State, Debbie Swarz, a columnist for the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, supports the idea of hunting feral cats. She writes:

"While trapping and spaying feral cats is a noble endeavor, the fact is they multiply so quickly that I don't see it as a solution to the problem unless the state is willing to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to solve this problem. I would rather see that money go to endangered species."

I can't help but think that the minute you classify an animal as game, you hurt its status and reputation as a pet. Once you open the door to killing cats, you make it socially acceptable to kill the neighbor's cat.

Just look what happened in Wisconsin last week, where four cats were found shot to death and dumped along the roadside . At least one of the cats was an indoor cat named Junior who just happened to get out of the house. His body was identified by a neighbor who recognized him from pictures on "lost cat" posters that Junior's family had posted. Do you think the cat shooters felt they had the green light to shoot whatever cats they saw roaming around?

Humans make a lot of distinctions between different kinds of animals. Here in America, most people think of cows and chickens as food. Not many people have them as pets. It's true that some people keep pot bellied pigs as pets, but the overwhelming perception is that pigs are a food animal. You won't be finding pig feed or chicken feed on the shelf at Petco. There aren't nearly as many options available for those who keep these exotic pets. Everyone thinks that racoons are cute, but I don't think they're a popular pet.

If cat hunting becomes commonplace, how long will it take for cats to take on the same reputation as deer or racoons or rats? How long until it becomes uncool to adopt cats because they're just wild animals? As I write this, there are 77.6 million owned cats in the United States as compared to 65 million owned dogs. But when I visit the pet store, it's dogville. There are maybe two aisles devoted to cat products while there are five or six aisles devoted to dogs. Turning cats into game can't help the cause.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Wisconsin One Step Closer to Legal "Cat Hunting"

In today's news, I see that the state of Wisconsin is getting closer to enacting a law which enables hunters to shoot any cat seen outside without a collar. Reading this news, really makes me angry, but it also makes me think about how much I have changed in the past few months.

Last year at this time, I would have read an article about feral cats and said "Maybe those hunters are right. Feral cats are a nuisance. They kill rare birds. Somebody has to do something about them." I also would not have understood the thousands of animal activists who are fighting against this law. I would have said: "Don't they understand that cats are just animals and wild animals are a nuisance? Why don't they try to help people instead?"

But living with my boys has really changed my perspective on a lot of things, including and especially animal rights issues. I'm not ready to become a vegan yet or join PETA, but I understand where animal activists are coming from, particularly when it comes to defending the rights of cats.

I understand that not everyone who lives with cats feels the same way, but I have to say that watching my boys day in and day out has given me a profound respect for cats and I've started to think maybe this respect ought to extend to other animals as well.

I used to think that cats and dogs don't deserve our respect, because they don't do a lot of the things we humans do. They can't talk to you about politics or sports. They don't create great art. They don't advance the sum of all knowledge with their scientific achievements.

Even though their paintings don't hang in museums, cats have an equally important purpose to serve. Their purpose is to be the artwork, to embody beauty and grace and purity of spirit and to inspire the creative urge in us humans. They deserve better than to be treated like a disposable nuisance.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Kitchen Angel

Arthur has a unique habit. As I mentioned before, he loves feet. He loves to sniff my feet or Liz's feet and then rub his face against the top of our feet, then flip over onto his back for a belly rub. This is one of the cutest and sweetest things he does.

But there's another interesting twist to this foot fetish. He prefers to rub your feet when he's in the kitchen. I'll be in the livingroom and Arthur will meow for attention. I will get up and walk toward him and he'll lead me into the kitchen, but he won't be interested in food or in treats. He'll just want to rub his head against my feet while I stand in front of the closed refrigerator. I understand why he likes to scent mark my feet, but what is it about the refrigerator that makes it a favorite spot for this behavior?

Cat and Mouse

As far as I know, my boys have never seen a real live mouse. I know mice have been spotted in our building, but I always hope that they won't reach find my apartment.

That said, my boys sure have a taste for computer mice. This morning, we found that they had chewed through my fiancee Liz's mouse wire. They really killed a mouse; that's for sure.

Crate Expectations

Believe it or not, Arthur likes hanging out in the cage. We leave the cage open all the time, but for a few hours a week, we need to lock the boys in the cage while we do something that would endanger them (build furniture, vacuum the floor, etc).

Anyway, I want the crate to be as comfortable as possible for the boys. I want them to use it as a hangout, even when they don't have to be in it. Arthur does like to hang out in it, but how can I make it better for him?

There are two things I'd like to do to change this from a holding crate into a full-fledged playpen / hideout.

  • Add a Hammock -- All the cat crates I see at pet stores and shelters contain hammocks. The problem is that I can't find a cat hammock anywhere. I can only find ferret hammocks. Would a ferret hammock do the job?
  • Cover the cage with a designer crate cover -- Do you think something like the Pet Dreams Cratewear would be good for a cat cage?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The King Always Gets His Throne

My fiancee Liz always gets mad at me, but I can't help it! If I see Arthur sitting in my desk chair, I won't kick him out. If I'm sitting in the chair and he wants it, I'll give up my seat and grab a hard wooden chair from the diningroom for myself.

Sometimes, if I see Arthur sitting on the floor or walking around aimlessly, I'll even pick him up and carry him to the leather chair, because I don't think it's befitting for a king to lie on the floor in front of the fridge.

Before you accuse me of spoiling Arthur, I have to admit a selfish motive for giving Arthur my chair. If I give Arthur the chair, I can have some bonding time with him. If I'm using the computer and he's sitting next to me in his chair, I can stroke him while I work. Beowulf will sleep on top of my desk so I can stroke him while I'm using the computer, but Arthur won't sit on the desk.

Another thing I like to do is roll the chair over to the couch so I can lie down on the couch while Arthur rests in his chair. I'll stick my hand or arm out and he will use it as a pillow (see photo at right). There's no better feeling than being used as a cat pillow. Really!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Quite Possibly the Coolest Cat Parents of All Time

I call my boys "the kings" and I do my best to treat them like royalty, but if you think I spoil my cats, you haven't been watching HGTV lately. Last night, HGTV aired a one-hour special called "Pet Palaces" which showcased some pet owners who have remodeled their homes to be more comfortable for their companion animals.

The show was pretty balanced in showing dog, monkey, and even crocodile owners, but I was mainly interested in the segment which featured San Diego cat lovers Frances Mooney and Bob Walker. Mooney and Walker have designed the ultimate cat house and they've written a couple of books about the house and what it is like to live with 11 cats.

I'm sure they're not the only people in America who live with 11 or more cats, but they might just be the only people to have built neon catwalks that connect almost every room of the house. It's just incredible. Words can't describe it; you have to see the pictures on their site, buy the book, and watch the show.

If I lived in a house rather than an apartment, I would love to put up cat walks for my boys. I don't know if I could deal with 11 cats at once, but my fiancee Liz and I would definitely consider adopting more cats if we had a bigger place. Chances are that we will have to move to a house in a few years, because we don't have a lot of room here for kids. At that time, I'll be very sad, because I love the city and hate the suburbs, but maybe that will give me with an opportunity to bring more cats into my life and to provide them with cat walks or other special ammenities.