Archive for May, 2009

Reader Questions: Nancy in Omaha

Dear Nancy,

You are not alone. Many households struggle with the same problem. Here are some suggestions.

First, remove the beautiful heirloom glass vase and stash it away in the closet. Heirloom glass vases do not belong on the same table with a cat. Although cats are extremely careful with heirloom glass, sooner or later, in the excitement over a bird, an accident is bound to happen.

Second, you might want to remove the chairs surrounding the table, especially if they are the kind with high back. Having to jump over this hurdle is sure to increase the unintentional scratching of chair backs and table.

It goes without saying that the tablecloth should be removed and reserved for special occasions, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, when your guests can take turns guarding the table. Make sure you invite enough guests to guard the table at all time, and of course extra vigilance is needed when setting the table for the big meal. Cats are more excited about live birds than dead turkeys, but there’s a certain allure to that turkey you lovingly prepared (for your guests, not the cat).

Final note, over time, your tabletop will inevitably resemble an erosion plane. No, you will not need to cover it with a tablecloth. But to avoid the cost of a professional refinisher, you might want to visit one of the many DIY websites that teach you how to refinish the table yourself. I can assure you, based on feedback from other cat lovers, that there is great satisfaction in learning a new skill, such as dining room table refinishing, especially as it also applies to other wood surfaces in your home.

Finally, if DIY is not your thing, you may want to consider purchasing a cat tree and placing it by the window.


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I volunteer at a cat adoption center. Though non-paying, the job has its perks (paid in otherwise non-adoptable cats) and satisfactions (The stitches from Freddie’s bite came out yesterday and the wound is no longer infected.)

I truly enjoy helping people find the perfect cat. “No, Freddie does not normally bite – he’s the sweetest kitty ever – but he lost it when we shoved him into a cage.” One thing though never ceases to bug me. It’s those clueless people who come looking for a cat that does not shed.

Well, people, cat hair comes with the cat. Usually attached, but often (daily) detached (for evolutionary reasons that I can’t fathom). So you either forget about a cat or get a cat and get over it. Every day is a bad hair day when you share your home with a cat (or a dog, or your children – they all shed!). That’s what vacuuming is for. Bear in mind that some (most) cat hair adheres with tenacity stronger than super glue, in which case vacuuming is counter productive. And unless your income is in the top 5% of US households, forget hair rollers, as you need three per day (with one cat) to maintain your home in it’s pre-cat hairless condition.

So if you’re interviewing for a job, it’s a must to keep a separate pristine set of clothes at your friend’s – I mean the friend who does not own a cat or a dog, or any other hair-shedding living thing. I’m giving you this advice from experience. Once a friend of mine went on a job interview for which she was eminently qualified – and this is a real story with sobering consequences. She was confident the job was hers because, well, she was the only candidate.

She didn’t get the job! We did a lengthy, tearful, post-mortem. Was it her curly hair (not professional)? Maybe the skirt was too short? Or – the unthinkable – her typing at 120 WPM too slow?

No, it was conspicuous cat hair on her black suit.

Moral of the story: (a) If you want a job at a law firm, you need to look dignified, and (b) if you’re going to a job interview in a black suit, you’d better own a black cat.

Final note, if you need that job real bad, Cat Adoption Team of Wilmington has plenty of black cats for adoption at PetSmart. Adoption hours: daily 5:00-7:00 PM and all day Saturday and Sunday.

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It was Saturday morning. I was at the computer applying pale peach nail polish to my fingernails. In the middle of doing that, I had an idea for a story and started writing. Kippy, one of my seven kitties, was lounging on the desk, helping the story along by alternately pushing the cap lock or tab keys as needed.

It is Saturday morning. The forecast has said fifty percent chance of rain and the sky is a flawless blue. She is sitting at the kitchen table, her fingers spread in front of her, waiting for the pale peach nail polish to dry. The window panes are projecting sharp sun-yellow rectangles on the butcher block. She looks at the pattern of light, regular, repeating, until it cascades off the table onto the linoleum floor. She is irritated, but she doesn’t know why. Her daughter is in the living room at the piano, playing Bach. The rhythm lurches forward and stumbles, corrected wrong notes punctuating the music with randomly placed exclamation marks. Hell, thinks Carla in her irritation, the girl has lead fingers, tin ears. She wonders why she has been paying Mrs. Kramski for piano lessons the past six years, why Heather continues doggedly to practice, practice, practice, without the thrill of accomplishment, without hope. She remembers the old joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice, and she sneers.

She thinks she has pinpointed the source of her discontent, until her eyes focus on what she has been staring at absentmindedly all along: the bottle of nail polish, bathed in the yellow light. “Why on earth did I buy pale peach?” she thinks.

The doorbell rings, mercifully suspending the piano playing in mid-phrase. The bell also distracts Carla from her irritation and she is unhappy. Carla likes to wallow in her moods undisturbed, likes to travel through the nuances of her feelings, as a befuddled tourist would navigate through a foreign city without a map, trying to decipher the unfamiliar landscape.

The doorbell rang. I stopped writing and got up to answer the door. When I returned, there was an overturned nail polish bottle on my desk and a lovely pail peach paw print on the black keyboard. I am irritated and I do know why.

Filed under: Cats help life imitate art.
Alternative filing: Fiction writing with cat-assist.

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Twitter Trouble

This past winter a lightning struck a tree in my yard and through my cable modem zipped into my computer. In less time it takes to Twitter “what the …” my hard drive was forever divorced from my motherboard and consequently my motherboard committed suicide by incineration. Luckily my hard drive remained intact and now resides in an older discard computer from my computer technician.

Since then I’ve had twitter trouble. Not TWITTER trouble. Just twitter. My hard drive has developed a twitter, indistinguishable from the twitting of the Chickadees (I think chickadees) perching on the intact half of the tree struck by lightning.

I think I might take up Twittering as a distraction from that twitter. Or maybe it’s time for a new computer, or just time to unplug and listen to the birds.

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I found Kippy when she was a four-week old motherless kitten. Four years later, Kippy is about to become a published celebrity.

She has been chosen to appear in the I Can Has Cheezburger (www.icanhascheezburger.com) book titled I Can Has Cheezburger?: Lolcats Teach U How To Take Over Teh Wurld, due for publication in September, 2009.

Earlier, her first encounter with fame occurred when she became the website mascot of my online cat products store (www.catabove.com).

Here is Kippy’s photo for the book.

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My cousin Jill was an aspiring photographer. She’d been aspiring for quite sometime, even winning a Kodak award for a cow (cow’s left eye and left nostril, to be precise) staring into her lens.

For the birth of our daughter she decided to take a bunch of photos of us – mother, father, and new baby – and give us a photo album we will cherish forever.

Cousin Jill showed up loaded with gear – lighting, backdrops, props, even fancy costumes for the baby. The baby objected at the top of her lungs to changing from the onesies to costumes, however cute. Though disappointed, Jill agreed to the onesies to avoid recording for posterity a red, splotched baby face.

This was in the days before digital cameras, so you couldn’t tell on the spot what the photos looked like. Jill took what must have been 40 rolls of film, posing us this way and that. I should have suspected the result, but I went along.

Over the years the result has grown on me and now I’m kind of fond of these photos. They’re certainly unique. Judge for yourself. Here’s one.

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So you have a home office – and that is your only office. And you commute regularly from your bedroom to the aforementioned office. You don’t even need to get dressed until 8:00 PM when you remember that you haven’t had breakfast yet (not to mention lunch and dinner) and when you open the refrigerator, you’re looking at an expanse of glass shelves covered by hints of meals past but nothing indicating possibilities for breakfast, lunch or dinner now.

You finally cast off what you slept in (was this also what I wore to the office yesterday?), throw on something to cover the lower half and something else to cover the top half of your body, hoping the two parts make a coherent assemblage, or at least meet in the middle to cover your midriff, which used to be presentable several decades ago, but at this hour of the night you’d rather not scare the college kids you’ll encounter at the supermarket purchasing their daily quota of alcohol, because what your midriff is saying is “this is what happens after 44,000 snacks,” since while you tend to forget about breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner, snacks are entirely a different matter.

To make a short story long, one day I realized that I had spent the last six months circling between the bedroom, office, and kitchen and other than talking on the phone to disembodied voices, I was chatting face-to-face only with my cats. My extended trips were to the supermarket and to the pet store. Didn’t even get near the mall, because who needs clothes when you commute from one room to another?

Clearly it was time to take a trip. I mean a real trip, to Laos, Vietnam, or Alaska. I settled on Amsterdam, where my cousin had an apartment I could use for a whole week while he was away. The only stipulation was that I look after his precious cat Zelda. He said Zelda should never go out. He failed to mention that Zelda didn’t know that and the first thing that Zelda did when I opened the door was dart out. I spent my first five days in Amsterdam searching for the cat. Got to know that little suburb of Amsterdam quite well, including backyards and the pet store where I bought lots of smelly canned cat food at exorbitant prices. Had some explaining to do to the police called by suspicious neighbors who saw me prowling among the bushes at night. But in the end I did spend two wonderful days exploring Amsterdam. And those last two nights I also had a good face-to-face chat with my cousin’s cat.

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