Cats On The Cusp

I think we can all agree that, viewed in hindsight after almost three years have passed, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic were a pretty weird, unsettling time–but we’re just now beginning to learn how much weirder it could have been.

This TIME magazine story about a recent admission by a former health official in the U.K. illustrates the point. Lord Bethell, a deputy health minister during the early days of the pandemic, acknowledges that the U.K. government briefly thought about instructing citizens to exterminate all pet cats due to fears that the cats might be spreading the coronavirus. Great Britain has about 11 million cats. Fortunately, the health authorities decided to investigate the fears of COVID-spreading cats, concluded that the fears were groundless–as they obviously were later proven to be–and avoided mass catricide.

As the TIME article notes, other animals were not so lucky. Singapore euthanized 2,000 hamsters, and Denmark, which, curiously, apparently is the largest mink producer in the world, knocked off millions of minks in a hasty decision that was later found to be totally unjustified. No country, however, took the step of requiring the killing of household pets–and we can only imagine the reactions of pet owners if that had been tried!

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. It just goes to show that letting things simmer down, and actually doing some investigating before making peremptory decisions, can prevent a catastrophe.

Cats On A Plane

My flight this morning featured multiple dogs and cats, including this furry feline on the aisle seat in my row. The cat, which apparently as been dosed with “kitty relaxant” for the flight, did not misbehave or make much noise, either. but that wasn’t the issue.

I’m fine with animals on planes, within reason, but given how increasingly common they are I think airlines should change their procedures to account for the fact that some of us (like me) are allergic to cat fur. Why not add some questions to the ticketing process about (1) whether a traveler will be accompanied by a cat or dog and (2) whether a traveler is allergic to cats or dogs or would otherwise prefer not to sit next to one? And then, based on the answers, separate those people? Should there even be an “animal section,” like there were smoking sections on planes years ago, to accommodate people traveling with pets?

Airlines collect a lot of information about passengers already. It’s ridiculous that they don’t know in advance who is traveling with a pet, and who might be launched into a drippy, sneezy, coughing frenzy if they are seated next to one. It would be a lot more comfortable for everyone and seems like a common sense way to address the matter.

A Cat And His Kingdom

Our little corner of Stonington has a neighborhood cat. It’s a brown, very furry cat that looks somewhat like a raccoon. That’s him (or her, I’m not sure which), down there by the sprinkler, doing his basic prowling.

This cat cares not a whit for property boundaries or human social conventions. He goes where he pleases, does what he pleases, and routinely does the rounds of the ‘hood at his leisure. You’ll see him, out of the corner of your eye, strolling along the rocks by the creek or walking the fence line, and the next thing you know he is right next to you as you’re weeding, startling the crap out of you. At times he’ll appear outside the screen door of our place, peering in and meowing loudly, clearly offended that he isn’t allowed in at his whim. It’s exactly the same sense of expectation and entitlement a medieval lord would have if he showed up at the door of one of his peasants’ hovels.

In short, the cat really owns the neighborhood — we just live here.

A Cat In The House

After years — decades, even — of existing in my own cat-free zone, I’m back to living in a cathouse.  Richard and Julianne are here for a visit, and they brought their cat Froli and their dog Pretty along with them.

Even a non-cat person like me can see that Froli is a beautiful cat, with bright green eyes and jet-black fur.  She seems wary by nature, and it took a while for her to get her bearings in the new place.  Pretty, on the other hand, just plopped down on the floor like she’d been here a thousand times before.  Now that Froli is used to the place, she’s acting like she owns the place, too. No table, counter, shelf, or other surface is immune from a Froli prowl and exploration, and she’s apt to be found lounging and stretching just about anywhere.

We last had a cat back in the early ’90s, when we briefly provided services for an extremely haughty and diffident cat named Baby who vanished after we moved to a new house.  Since then, dealing with nothing but dogs, I’ve forgotten my cat lessons and lost my cat reflexes.  I’ve been startled by Froli’s leaping ability, her sudden movements, and her ability to silently appear just about anywhere when you least expect it.  She’s already scaled the screens on our windows and doors in her ceaseless quest to get outside and check out the neighborhood, and I’ve relearned the need to move quickly coming in and out so she can’t dart by.

When Froli jumps up next to you and hits you with her searching, green-eyed gaze, you wonder what she’s thinking.  With Pretty, on the other hand, you have a pretty good idea that she either (1) wants to be petted, or (2) wants to be fed.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be a cat person, but it’s interesting being around a cat again.

On The Value Of Real And Imagined Pet Insurance

When I saw a headline stating that one of the hottest new benefits some of America’s largest companies are offering to employees is pet insurance, I thought it was a great idea.

IMG_3790Of course, initially I thought it was casualty insurance.  How appropriate, I thought, to finally recognize the obvious catastrophic loss potential found in every otherwise innocent looking dog.  Whether it’s chewing through an expensive handbag and countless pairs of shoes, or knocking over a bottle of dye that leaves an indelible stain on brand-new Berber carpeting, or experiencing gastric or intestinal incidents that permanently ruin fancy throw rugs after eating an entire wheel of brie or trying to consume an “action figure,” the misadventures of our pooches can have a profound impact on the pocketbook.  Why not offer insurance that properly recognizes that dogs are an awesomely destructive natural force, like hurricanes or tornadoes?

But the insurance that’s being offered is pet health insurance — and that’s an even better idea.  Under the options offered by the plans, the cost per pet ranges between $10 and $57 a month, depending on the coverage and deductible.

Having such coverage surely would help when pet owners have to make decisions about costly medical care for their companions.  It’s an awful, wracking process when a family on a budget has to decide whether to to spend thousands of dollars on surgery and medication on a beloved family pet whose remaining life expectancy would be short under even ideal conditions.  No one wants to try to put a dollar value on the life of a pet that has become a member of the family, and having some help in paying the bills that would allow that life to continue would make the decision so much easier.

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

During the day, when the Leader is gone, I look out the window so I can run to the door when the Leader gets back.  Sometimes, though, looking out the window makes me mad.

It happens when this cat comes into our yard.  Oh, I hate that cat!  It comes prancing into our yard like it owns the place.  Kasey and I bark and bark, but the cat keeps coming.  It will walk right up, look at me, and stretch out and show its claws.  I bark even louder when the cat does that, but I can’t get outside to chase it.

I bet that cat smells bad.  I bet it smells really bad.  Ha, ha!  Hey, cat, you stink!

Boy, I really hate that cat.

Guam Cats, Beware! Toxic Mice Are In The Air!

Brown snakes are overrunning Guam.  They came to the island aboard U.S. ships after World War II.  Now they are multiplying like crazy, have killed off virtually every native species of bird, and are biting humans and wrecking power lines.  As a result, Guam’s jungle areas are coated with spider webs, because the birds that normally would eat the spiders aren’t there to keep the spiders in check.

Guam’s snake infestation is giving Hawaii the heebie-jeebies.  If a pregnant brown snake, or a mating pair of snakes, hitched a ride on a boat and landed in the snakeless Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii’s beautiful bird population — which has no fear of snakes — could be decimated.

Guam officials are concerned that the brown snake problem could hurt Guam’s reputation as a tourist destination.  No kidding!  Guam sounds like a nightmare.  If your small island is infested with biting snakes and spiders, you’ve already managed to creep out the vast majority of humans.  All Guam needs to do to complete the hair-raising, creepy-crawlie trifecta is to throw some scorpions into the mix.

The U.S. government has come up with a drastic solution to Guam’s brown snake problem.  It will drop dead mice laced with painkillers over the island’s jungles.  The theory is that the brown snakes will eat the mice and die by the score.   Presumably, the government has some reason to believe that other mice-eating creatures won’t gobble down the tainted mice.

I’m not so sure — and I therefore composed this bit of doggerel:

Brown snakes hitched a ride to Guam, hoping to find some lebensraum

They bred and grew to levels absurd, ’til little Guam had not a bird

And as the bird population ebbed, the isle became more spider-webbed

Then Uncle Sam said it’d help poor Guam, by inventing a toxic mice bomb

So, cats of Guam!  Good cats, beware!  Toxic mice are in the air!

Cats Can (Literally) Drive You Crazy

I don’t like cats.  I don’t like their skulking, their diffidence, their prissiness, their meowing, their fur — in fact, I don’t like any characteristic or quality of cats.  Give me slobbering, blundering, shallow, happy-to-see-you dogs any day.

Still, although I despise cats, I don’t wish them or their misguided owners ill.  So I was sorry to read that studies are indicating a link between cat ownership and serious mental illness.  The causal chain goes something like this.  Cat feces contains a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii.  Cat owners come into contact with the parasite in the feces when they clean litter boxes.  The parasite then can cause an infection that may produce schizophrenia and lead to suicide.

It’s bad enough that cat lovers are cursed with wanting to have haughty, secretive, unappreciative creatures living in their homes and having to tend to smelly kitty droppings as a result.  It seems grossly unfair that feline fanciers also have to run the risk of going off their rocker, too.

Cats Exposed As “Pretend Predators”

I have to admit it:  I don’t like cats.  We had one once.  It was a calico cat that Kish and the boys named “Baby,” which is an embarrassing name for any full-grown creature.  It pretty much ignored us when it wasn’t annoying us, and ran away when we moved to New Albany.  Good riddance!

So, I wasn’t really moved to tears when I saw this piece about cats disappearing in Lakewood, Colorado.  No one wants to see their neighbors’ pets ripped to bloody shreds by wild animals, of course.  (Although I confess seeing the finicky Morris get his just desserts wouldn’t trouble me.)  But I did take some satisfaction in the fact that the article really exposes cats as pretenders.  Often you hear about cats being such “natural hunters” because they occasionally bring home a mouse or a dead bird.  It’s a sham, of course, as this article demonstrates.  It turns out that cats not only can’t hold their own against animals like foxes and raccoons, these soft, tubby felines apparently are actually used as harmless training prey for the babies of foxes and raccoons.  How embarrassing for the haughty, untamed predators of the suburbs!

Of course, clueless, shambling dogs like Penny probably also would get creamed by the wild animals hunting the streets and backyards of Lakewood, but at least they don’t have have a ‘tude about it, or hold themselves out as anything other than a happy, panting, Iams munching, sleeping in the sunlight member of the family.

Feral Cat Gangs Causing Havoc In Australia

According to newspaper accounts, residents of Moorooka, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, are being terrorized by a gang of feral cats “the size of dogs.” Members of the cat gang are attacking pedestrians after darkness falls, clawing small, prissy dogs, hissing at passersby, and generally intimidating the beleaguered Aussies. And they are doing so with shocking impunity.

It sounds like a far-fetched scene from The Stand or some other Stephen King novel, but it isn’t — it is just a return to the natural order of things.  It is not surprising, really, that delinquent cats would form thuggish, bullying gangs.  Everyone knows that, deep down, cats despise humans.  When cats resort to their feral state, and are no longer dependent upon humans for Purina cat chow or canned salmon, they are bound to act out the superiority they clearly feel.  Right now, they are probably treating Moorooka like one vast litter box and scratching post, yowling at the moon, strutting in their leather jackets and riding their cat motorcycles into saloons.

I am sure that other citizens of Australia are deeply concerned that the cat gangs of Moorooka might spread throughout the Land Down Under — and then across the face of the globe.  And before you know it, every haughty, diffident Tabby, Morris and Whiskers is feeling that feral urge, ready to pounce on their human companions as they slumber and scratch their eyes out.  This menace must be stopped before it is too late!