Monday, August 22, 2016

Postcards from Maine . . .

. . . will be arriving soon. I thought I'd post at least a little while we were up there, but I never unpacked my laptop. I ignored it for a whole week, and that was surprising and nice! I confess I still spent plenty of time using my phone in similar ways. Still, it was a good break from a routine I don't cherish, and freed up extra time for poolside fun, chatting, wandering, and enjoying Mount Desert Island. I also confess that, despite many hours spent reading in the steaming hot tub, it's still only May 31 in Old New Yorker Land. I squeezed every particle of information and entertainment out of each damp, limp issue.

After all the fur is vacuumed off the carpets and the laundry is folded, I'll have some photos and stories.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Starfish

I keep a bowl of shells on the mantel in the summer. You can see it here (note that Harris has just dispatched Bernie Sanders to the floor and Trump is next). Harris can do as he pleases with his toys but  I give him little sermons about leaving my shells alone, and he listens and obeys pretty well.

I've had many of my shells since my college years, when I often went "down the shore" to Long Beach Island, New Jersey, on summer weekends. The shells on the beach weren't exciting but there was a good shell shop on the boardwalk and I stocked up. Among my purchases was a little brown starfish. After more than 30 years, it has developed attitudes that are in direct conflict with the beliefs of my cats. You will not see the starfish sticking above the bowl in its customary spot in the photo above because it had been thrown to the floor every night. (I foolishly only told Harris to leave my mollusks alone, not my dried echinoderms. My mistake.)

You can see Possum guarding the unpopular creature, below. He looks annoyed. It is a very unwanted starfish. I assume the issues are largely political in nature but I don't ask; I don't want to get involved.

As you probably know by now, in our house, objects that most people consider inanimate are known to move around on their own when no one's looking — often with suicidal motives. Taper candles and flowers, for example, take death plunges on a regular basis, as do our new cat-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers and many items on my desk.

The starfish is different. It doesn't leap out of the bowl by itself. I have proof:

In the photo with Possum, you can see that the starfish looks fairly intact; it is only missing one limb. If you look at the close-up with Harris, you'll see that's it's recently become quadraplegic. It will soon be pentaplegic because I keep returning it to its place in the bowl and the cats keep ousting it.

All things must pass. Tomorrow I will look for a replacement starfish or two at the shell shop I like in Wiscasset, Maine.

Nom, Nom, Nom

For years, I've had a theory that highly intelligent cats are more willing to try a variety of human foods than the average cats. I don't have a large enough sample to test this; I've also never met an average cat.

Possum tells me it's a stupid theory because the smartest cats are also the most skeptical of their humans' activities and least likely to eat things just to make us happy. He also claims that intellectual cats are more likely to eat things like vegetables if they are given large quantities of roasted chicken beforehand. He says my observational and critical-thinking skills need work. What I've failed to notice, according to him, is that some cats are just more feckless, greedy, and willing to settle for second-rate food than others. Mental acumen has nothing to do with it.

He may be right; I have no idea. All I know is that, when I offer a new cheese or vegetable to our five, four of them will sniff at it like I'm offering them a piece of cardboard and walk away with confused, disappointed expressions. But Lion will try almost anything, including strong cheeses and vegetables. He enjoys broccoli, greens, beans, and sweet potatoes, in very small amounts. He is anxious about many things but adventurous about food.

I realize that cats are pure carnivores, so he won't be getting a salad and wedge of Brie with his meaty breakfasts and suppers. But I enjoy watching him discover new tastes. So for the past three nights I've coached him on eating corn-on-the-cob. My grandmothers' clan of half-wild, outdoor cats ate it, so I knew it was possible.

You may as well know that a cat or two often joins us at the dinner table, keeping a polite distance and being companionable. Even Wendy will sit a foot or two from me, silently willing me to give her chicken, regardless of whether we are having any. If this custom of ours offends your sensibilities, please read no further and refuse our dinner invitations.

Lion's three-session tutorial began with my letting him try some kernels from my fingers and more on a napkin. He loved them. The second night, when I was nearly finished with my cob, I loosened some of the remaining kernels for him and held it so he could find them:

He quickly figured out that more kernels were harder to get but gettable, and did pretty well at that.

The third night, I left more corn on my cob and let him explore it by himself. He did very well again. I helped him rotate the cob but he figured out how to push and roll it himself:

I made a little movie but it would take hours to load here with our terrible wifi. (The one I posted of Harris took half a day.) 

I have to say that there is nothing like the sound of a happy cat chomping on a corn cob:

I make sure the cats never get into anything I make with avocados, which are toxic to cats, or anything made with onions or garlic. And I don't give Lion fruit; we are vigilant about keeping grapes and raisins far from the cats since those are toxic, too. He might get a wild Maine blueberry or two, however, one of these days.

Friday, August 12, 2016


On these hot days, Harris and Possum are usually found on our bed under the slow-moving ceiling fan. It's cooler in the living room but this is their spot. Wendy and Toffee sometimes join them; Lion never does. He vanishes from mid-morning to supper time, appearing only if he hears us taking cheese or turkey out of the fridge.  

Here, Harris thinks thoughts and then decides to sleep on whatever he's pondering. I don't think he meant to be shmooshing Possum's head like that. And Possum didn't care.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Happy 4th Birthday, Harris and Toffee

Gosh, how tiny Harris and Toffeepot were when they each arrived, in October and November of 2012. (Harris blew in with Hurricane Sandy from Kitten Associates in Connecticut, and Toffee came from the Animal Rescue League around Thanksgiving. We know Harris's birthday so we assigned it to Toffee, too.) 

I've included photos of them with Possum for scale. They're proof of how nicely Possy looked after "his" kittens and put up with their antics. He was paternal and protective, tolerant and playful. He welcomed them both from the moment they came in the door. Thanks to his example, everyone learned to get along. 

At four, Toffee and Harris are still playful and funny, sweet and cuddly. They still get into mischief, especially Harris, who enjoys knocking things onto the floor, eating plastic bags, and running around like a maniac. 

But it's been a long time since Toffee has tried to poison, electrocute, or burn himself. For a while I wasn't sure he would survive kittenhood because he was so curious and adventurous. (It's bittersweet as well as a relief when kittens finally grow up.)

My first Christmas tree–climbing cat.

Harris still considers himself a baby, nursing on our earlobes and our necks daily. He never did grow into his big feet and fangs. 

As a kitten, Toffee had the proportions and presence of an adult cat with his wild-looking markings and bushy, grown-up tail. But now that I look back I can see that his face has matured a little. His nose is longer, his eyes are less babyish. But he was always 

We feel so lucky to have them. We're grateful to all the people who rescued them — and everyone who rescues cats everywhere, so they can find their homes and enrich their humans' lives.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Voting with their Feet

Our local pet-supply store, Fish + Bone, is selling these political toys in dog and cat sizes. They are made by a start-up called FUZZU. If they look familiar to you cat people out there, it's because some of the company's founders came from Fat Cat, which used to make the Vet Victim, a similar human figure that was a hit with our previous crew of cats, back around 2000, and a number of other political-figure toys, including Bill Clinton in short-shorts. I think the same designer created these.

The toys are made in Vermont. We wanted Hillary the most, OF COURSE. But she sold out before we had a chance to get her, and now she is back-ordered. I am trying to view this as a good sign.

As you can see, Toffee was a little alarmed by his options. 

Harris was more explicit: