Friday, December 21, 2007

Cats earning their keep

The NY Times has a great story today about the owners of delis and other small shops that are using cats to keep rodents away. However, there's only one problem - they get fined by city inspectors if they keep them.

Some shop owners find exterminators fairly ineffective, creating noxious chemical smells in the establishment in the process. Ironically, the fines for finding rats or cats at an establishment are the same.

Cats have been used in homes, on farms and even in businesses to control rodents for many centuries; I imagine that may have been a factor in how the cat was domesticated.

If people can bring helper animals, like guide dogs, into a restaurant, why can't a cat earn his keep by getting rid of rodents?

Socks was once an indoor-outdoor cat and was a pretty good hunter from what I understand. If I wind up living in the country and not in my little hermetically sealed surburban apartment, Socks might wind up chasing some real mice instead of simulated rodents from the pet aisle of Walmart.

article at NY Times

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gifts for kitty

With Christmas coming on, I've been thinking about what to get Socks (and/or myself) as a little holiday gift. I spent some time looking at PetSmart's website, but I'm not so sure about some of these things.

Race 'N Chase!
This looks like fun, but sounds like a torture device from kitty hell: Try as she might, your cat will never quite get the mouse that skips and spins out reach just as she thinks she's got it.

Cat Sitter DVD

Hmmm.... I wonder if I could make my own version of KittyTV with my hi-def video camera? I wonder if my cat would leave big splotches of kitty spit and claw marks on the screen?

Squirrel Catnip Toy by Cats With An Attitude

I guess this would be okay if you want your cat to chase after a faceless squirrel with no eyes, no nose and no mouth.

Come to think of it, won't Michael Jackson wind up like this if he has just one more plastic surgery?

PetSafe Cat Veranda


Pawprints Memory Box

I'm not much of a sentimentalist, but I might be inclined to get something like this. I do wonder, however, if one can actually get the cat to stay still long enough to put his paw in a pool of wet goo.

Mini Safari Toy Mice for Cats

When your cat has a little too much catnip, he might have reason to be saying, "Ooo... Look at all the pretty colors..."

Or maybe these are a failed attempt to license kitty toys by the band Phish.

Whisker City® Cat Carrier

I don't care how much you try to disguise it, a carrier stills says "trip to the vet" for most cats.

Whirly Mouse Scratchy Pad Cat Toy

Is it just me, or does this look like a preschooler's toy from Hasbro?

Panic Mouse 360

This toy has a timer that will turn off the unit "from 15 minutes to 2 hours" - if your cat plays with this for two hours running, he's not just amused, he's obsessive-compulsive.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas tree

Last night, I set up a little four-foot Christmas tree in the living room. I've never put up one before, but something about having Socks around made me interested in getting one. I happened to pick up some really cheap glass Christmas ornaments at Old Navy last year in the Christmas aisle, so I had some stylish and colorful yuletide cheer to go with the lights already built into the tree.

Socks didn't seem to pay much attention to it - he sniffed it a bit, probably figuring out it was grown in a Walmart factory and not in somebody's front yard. He seemed more interested in how it would impact his viewing the outside world through my patio door than anything else.

But, after chilling out for the evening, basking in the glow coming from my little Christmas tree in the evening after it got dark, Socks hopped up on a table near the tree. He just stared at the tree, his eyes darting around the lights and ornaments, the bright points of light reflecting in his big eyes.

He didn't bother the tree - he just stared at it.

I'm sure he was thinking, "How can I climb up this thing when he's not here?"

I suppose I'll find out when I get home tonight...

I'm getting WET!

One of the fun, peculiar things about Socks is how he's so fascinated with water.

We're in this little ritual most every morning. I get in the shower and Socks hops up on the side of the tub or sits on the floor just outside the tub, peeking through the side of the shower curtain to watch me take a shower.

Then, after the water is shut off and I'm drying off, Socks watches the water go down the drain. Sometimes, he jumps in the tub and paws at the remaining drops as the water creatures fade into the distance. Once in a while, when I'm in the bathroom, I'll just turn on the water in the tub for a few seconds so Socks can sit on the side of the tub and watch the water creatures for a couple of minutes. (Yes, I'm indulgent.)

Well, this morning, Socks had a little impulse to try something a little different.

I got in the shower as usual, turning on the water faucet to get it flowing and warm it up. Socks, of course, hopped up on the side of the tub, looking in.

Just as it was getting warm, Socks suddenly decided to jump _into_ the tub.

It didn't quite register with Socks what he had done. He just stood there a couple of seconds, then realized he was getting wet and started backing away from the water as it gathered in the tub.

Then, it suddenly dawned on him: "I'm getting WET!"


Socks began jumping, crawling, doing anything he could to get away from the water. After a few seconds of flailing paws and wet kitty legs, Socks jumped out of the tub and ran across the bathroom, sitting down near the sink.

I thought I'd die laughing - he just sat there with a look on his face like a little child that's fallen down and bruised his knee after trying to get in the cookie jar.

I went ahead and took my shower and Socks didn't offer to go near the tub when I turned off the water like he usually does.

After I dried off, I went over and rubbed him and consoled him for a couple of minutes, assuring him that everything was okay. He still looked like a kid whose pride was hurt more than anything.

He was back to himself after a few minutes, following me around the apartment as I got ready for work. I was still chuckling to myself at this cat that suddenly figured out what it means to get wet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What does he do all day?

Once you get a cat in your life, it's tough not to think of them once in a while. I'll be at work, sitting in my little cubicle and wondering what Socks might be up to. Is he playing with his toys? Watching the neighbors through the big window in the bedroom? Ordering pay per view movies on my Windows Media Center?

Usually when I get home, Socks is sacked out on the couch or the small chair in my living room. He greets me at the door, following me around and rubbing against my legs. I'll reach down and pet him a few minutes before checking out the litter box or changing out the water in his bowl.

I sometimes wonder what _he_ thinks I'm up to all day. One cat column I ran into noted that cats think humans are out hunting all day. If that's the case, they must think we're not very good at it - all we come home with are strange little yarn things with bells in them that are supposed to look like a mouse head and bits of food that smell vaguely like fish and chicken, but look like Cocoa Puffs.

On the weekends when I've been home, I've noticed how much Socks actually does sleep - one day, he spent most all day on the couch, curled up, dreaming of birds, mice or melted clock faces hanging on trees or whatever it is that cat's dream about. I suppose that the day can go by pretty quickly when your owner is away if you're just snoozing the whole time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Well, Socks was one hyper little kitty last night. He really wanted to play.

After rough-housing a bit and sinking his sharp claws into my soft white flesh early in the evening, he went on to play with some of his other toys. The catnip mouse got a workout and was promptly lost (I found it behind the door this morning) and he even showed interest in the swirly ball, chasing it around for awhile. He must be playful if he's interested in the swirly ball - it's one of the most cute toys I bought and he looked at it as if it were something from Mars.

I also got him a "stretchy toy" as part of his basic play kit. It's made of a long stretchy band of soft cloth covered in what looks like leopard spots with feathers attached at one end and a loop on the other. For some reason, he just didn't seem
interested in it hanging on the door. Once in a while, he'd paw at it, stretching it out, then move on to something else.

I tried dangling it while sitting on the couch, but much the same thing happened - he'd just lie on his back, digging his claws into it and biting it, not really doing much. Then, I thought, maybe he'd chase after it. So, I started dragging it around the floor. Socks just looked at me like
I was nuts or something.

Then, something magical happened.

I dropped the stretchy toy on the floor to answer a phone call from a friend. Socks then found the true purpose of the stretchy toy - he stalked it like a snake, spending quite a while pouncing on it, tossing it around, then pouncing on it again.

Well, I suppose it does look like a snake swallowing a bird.

Sigh. I guess only Socks really knows how these toys are supposed to work.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Squeak toy meow

It's been tough getting Socks off the couch today, even when I was offering a treat late in the evening. He just looked up for a few minutes, got up stretching, came for his treat and promptly went back to the couch.

After my friend Sean visited for a few minutes, Socks was a little more lively. He went around the apartment doing his "squeak toy" voice for awhile, which I translate to mean either "Let me go outside" or "Bring back the guy who was just rubbing me".

The meow that Socks has - if one can really call it a meow - has to be heard to be believed. He's a good sized boy of a cat that looks something like a little football player (if cats could play football), but always comes out with this tiny little "squeak" when he wants to express himself. Perhaps it's all the steroids.

Socks isn't very vocal. He can go through a whole day without saying much. He doesn't "beg" for food, treats or attention by meowing, but will just look up at you with a bit of longing and a quest for sympathy in his eyes. Once in a while, he'll wander around the apartment "squeaking" for no reason that I can figure out. If you pet him or talk to him, he just wanders around and squeaks some more. Perhaps he just wants to hear himself talk or maybe he's complaining about the general state of the kitty economy or the attitude of the Bush administration towards animals.

He spent pretty much all night on the bed curled up next to me and briefly did his squeaky voice this morning after I got up. Which, in this case, probably translated to "Hurry up and clean out my litter box, dammnit!" He sat in front of the sliding doors this morning watching me leave ... sigh... so sad with those big eyes...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Say 'hello' to Socks

It's an unusual experience being the new owner of a cat. Or should I say "being newly owned _by_ a cat".

Socks is about three years old, a male mixed breed shorthair, formerly owned by my friend Scott. Scott lives out in the country and there's a colony of cats near a farm there that have been reproducing like rabbits.

After Scott took in one of the cats - a big, beautiful gray male he named 'Buddy' - it was inevitable he and his partner Sean would take more interest in general welfare of the cats in the neighborhood. Socks, so named because of his four white feet, was kept by Scott for awhile as an indoor-outdoor cat.

When I'd go over to visit Scott, I seemed to get along with Socks really well. After being a bit shy the first time or so I saw him, he'd be more than willing to jump up in my lap for a bit of rubbing. Finally, Scott and Sean talked me into giving him a home in my one-bedroom apartment.

I have to admit that I was reluctant. I grew up with cats up in the mountains, but my mom never wanted one in the house - she comes from an old German family that insists on everything being spotless, so a kitty litter box, paw prints, and the possibility of scratched furniture wasn't an option.

I had thought about a cat before. Buddy seemed to be good company for Scott and my friend Stuart, who used to live in Greensboro, had a wonderful cat for several years that was his constant companion. But those guys lived in a house - I really wondered if a cat would be bored or feel confined in my tiny little apartment.

Sean and I talked and he planned to bring Socks to his new home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I thought that would give me a couple of days actually around the apartment to see how Socks would react and if he would like his new home.

Before the grand day, Sean and I went to the local Walmart, purchasing all of the paraphernalia needed to keep my new companion happy - litter box, litter, food and water bowls, scratching pad, toys, cat food, and treats. I almost felt like I was shopping for a new baby. Of course, this baby didn't need diaper changes and had sharper claws.

On the big day, Sean brought him over in his carrier and let him out. He got out, cautiously looking around the place, going from room to room, his tail held low. After a few minutes, he was gone.

Sean and I looked all over the place. He had gone into the kitchen, but where?

We looked in cabinets, next to the fridge, but couldn't find him anywhere. Then, Sean found it - on the floor, underneath my kitchen cabinets was a hole left by some carpenters, that exposed the space in the corner between two sets of cabinets. Yep, Socks was there, discovering a brand new place to hide I didn't even know about.

After a few minutes, he came out and started eating, then continued his tour around the place, checking out his litter box and taking a keen interest in that big comfy couch.

He seemed to be fine and Sean left us alone. He settled down on the couch next to me purring, seemingly feeling okay with this strange guy with all this odd electronics stuff, records and dvd's all over the place.

That night, I got into bed and Socks curled up beside me. Maybe he would be fine afterall.