Sometimes your cat is a huntress

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It was a normal day.

Oof – what a way to start a story.  So rife with possibilities.  Anyway –

It really was a normal day.

Becca is off being a time traveler for the next couple weeks with her family five hours ahead in the UK, so it’s just me and Franny here at home.

Nothing too major was happening in the afternoon, so I went into the closet to get some audiobook recording knocked out.  A few times during my half-hour or so in there, I heard Franny meow out in the apartment proper.  I thought nothing of it and kept recording.

Then, I was startled by scratching at the closet door.  Oh no, I thought.  What the heck?  The cat was meowing nonstop and scratching at the door, so she obviously wanted my attention.

I opened the door to see the puss sitting on the floor with pride, a dead mouse in front of her.  Using her paw, she pushed it toward me gently.  Giving another purr, she looked into my eyes and waited for a response.

A few things went through my mind:

1. What the hell.

2. That’s a dead mouse.  Where did that come from?

3. Did she really kill this thing?  I mean, she’s killed flies and roaches before, but this is a MOUSE.

4. Oh my god.  She’s so cute.  She’s presenting it to me.  She wants me to have it.

This final thought taking precedence in my head, I praised her.  I mean, heck, she just killed a pest!  Huzzah, little Amazon!  Huzzah!

Out of meat, and with a cat that hates cat treats, I gave her some catnip to occupy her while I went to get paper towels with which to dispose of the catch.

When I came back from the kitchen, Franny was sauntering toward me with the mouse in her mouth.  It may sound weird, but she was ridiculously cute with the thing hanging from her pard.

Then she started to play with it.  She lay down and began throwing the animal up into the air and batting it with her paws.  I politely asked her to stop (also I made her).  Annoyed, but compliant, she set it down on her scratchpad, then turned away.  I picked up the dead animal and wrapped it in paper.  I disposed of the thing, and that’s when the fun started.

Franny had no idea where it went.

She was bereft, to say the least.  She began to meow and circle the scratchpad.  She pawed at the spot where it once was.  She tried to flip the scratchpad over.  This went on for about ten minutes, so I decided I would help the girl out.  I titled the scratchpad on its side so she could see there was nothing under it.  The mouse was gone.  The search continued.  For another hour, she stalked the living room, looking behind items, looking under furniture, pawing at the scratchpad, and meowing up a storm.

Poor thing.

Eventually she gave up the hunt, and resigned to be ready for the next one.

(WHICH I HOPE NEVER HAPPENS.  LET’S NOT FORGET THERE WAS A MOUSE IN MY APARTMENT SOMEWHERE.)

The moral of the story, however, is that I have the best cat in the world, and she is a mighty huntress, and I feel safer knowing she’s guarding us from ferocious rodents.

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Sometimes you name strangers’ cats.

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None of these cats are featured in this post. But boy, are they cute.

My girlfriend and I have three cats.

There’s the one who lives with us, the one that Becca adopted a few years ago.  She’s charming, moody, and snuggly.  The perfect cat.  She’s all we could ever want.

However, there are two more cats in our life:

1. Tito.  One day, as we were walking up our street, we saw a cute little black and white kitten sitting in an open window.  He was observant and curious, watching the world go by from the safety of an old Puerto Rican lady’s kitchen.  Tito, we named him.  Over the past year or so, we’ve watched this little kitten grow into a big kitten.  He’s one of our great joys of living here.  Every single day, every single time either of us passes that window, we look up.  About sixty percent of the time, we see Tito.  We get so excited that we even text each other when we see him.  No joke:  “Tito!!!” the text usually reads.  We’ve even started to imagine that he and Franny have begun a secret love affair, which brings me to:

2. Pouncival.  Early on in our residency at our Manhattan castle, we looked across the courtyard to see a stunning white cat seated on a window next to the fire escape.  This is Pouncival.  He is Franny’s actual boyfriend.  In the Moulin Rouge version of our lives, if Franny equals Satine, Pouncival is The Duke.  Tito is Christian.  Franny is nominally betrothed to the stunning coat and manicured nails of the gentleman across the way, but her heart belongs to the Puerto Rican street tough that may or may not show up from day to day.

This is how we pass the time, waiting until there are new cats for us to call our own.

Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART ONE

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After a crazy busy summer filled with a massive overhaul of my novel for my agent, house managing a sold-out run of an Off-Broadway show, and spending three weeks playing war for Army, a vacation was in order. 

An acquaintance of my gal Becca just bought a house in Fairfield, CT right by the beach and was going to be out of town for the month of August.  Take it, she said.  Use my beach pass, she said.  Have a good time, she said.  

Thank you, we said. 

So one Wednesday evening we rented a car, packed it up with our belongings, and drove north.  We knew that her son, a twenty-something who is normally off in school somewhere, was going to be present for the duration.  Oof, I said.  Human interaction.  Easy, Becca said.  It’ll be ok. 

When we arrived late that night, the son was not at home.  He had left the key under the mat for us, however.  So we grabbed our bags and went up to the door. 

We were a few feet from the front door when we heard a meow.  Suddenly, out from the bushes, springs a mangy cat.  Oh dear, I said.  Must be a stray.  Its fur was matted and scraggly and its meow was deep and scratchy.  

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This cat is more well-groomed than our Connecticut cat.

As we tried to open the door, the cat tried to go inside.  Hey there, I said.  Don’t go in there.  We shooed it away.  It didn’t move.  I walked away and called it so that Becca could at least get inside.  It didn’t move.  We set down the leftovers from our fast food dinner on the other side of the driveway.  It certainly appreciated our offering but came right back as soon as we went to open the door. 

Is it their cat, I asked.  It can’t be, Becca said.  She said nothing about a cat.  It must be a stray.  It has no collar and no tag. 

Finally we managed to get inside and slam the door in the cat’s face.  Thank goodness, we said.  Then we set about exploring the house, which was lovely.  We were offered the master bedroom on the third floor, which we gladly took.  We settled in for a good night’s sleep. 

In the middle of the night an incident occurred to which I was not privy, as I was sound asleep.  There was a knock on the door and a shadowy figure opened it up.  Hello, it said.  Becca, sleepily, responded in kind.  Did you feed the cat, it asked.  No, Becca replied.  OK, it said.  Have a good night. 

SO IT WAS THEIR CAT!  The epiphany may not be as profound as it was in person, but you get the idea.  We basically just told a cat to go screw itself because we weren’t going to let it in its own house or feed it either.  C’est la vie. 

The next day was a bit overcast, but we had already decided to do the beach.  It’s our vacation, darnit, so let’s start it off right.  After quietly taking the beach chairs from the garage (since the son’s bedroom was right across the hall from the garage), we loaded up our rental car and set off to find breakfast. 

Find it we did.  Siri, ever helpful, suggested Home On The Range, a small café in a quaint downtown area.  It had, without a doubt, the absolute best French Toast I’ve ever eaten.  The sweet little old lady that runs the place works there all by herself, taking the order, cooking up the grub, and clearing away your plates and serving as cashier when you’re through.  We would spend two more mornings savoring her wares. 

After we were stuffed, we went to the beach.  And there was nobody there.  Oh sure, there was a lap-swimmer.  And a couple strolling.  And an old man sitting on a beach chair.  But that’s it.  It was deserted.  The ominous-looking storm clouds may have had something to do with that. 

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Still, we were determined to have a good time.  Let’s not take the chairs, we said, as we may not be here long.  It’s a good thing we didn’t.  After frolicking a bit in the waves, Becca set out to carve words in the sand while I took pictures. 

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Artie plus Becca plus Rising-Tide Cat.

Then, after about ten minutes of watching the tide come in ridiculously fast, we skedaddled.  It was no more than a few seconds after we got back into our car that the clouds burst open and a monsoon began. 

What does one do on vacation in Connecticut at ten in the morning when it’s raining?  Why, go to the movies of course!  Eating popcorn and drinking soda for brunch, we sat with one other couple in a giant movie theater and watched The Butler (which I highly recommend, by the way). 

Back outside, the sky was no longer angry, but it wasn’t too happy yet, either.  What to do?  Go to the Barnum Museum, of course!  It’s so close, after all, in Bridgeport, CT.  Let us away, I said. 

Unfortunately, the Barnum Museum was hit pretty hard by a tornado a few years ago and is still not open to the public.  Sigh.  Back to the house to regroup. 

Upon arriving, we were met with a shirtless, skinny, tattoo-covered young man sitting on the front stoop smoking a cigarette.  The son, we guessed.  We guessed correctly.  After exchanging pleasantries and learning that the cat did, in fact, belong to the family, we scooted upstairs to plan our evening.

 We decided to venture north to New Haven, to The Original Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana.  It’s this amazing little pizza place for which people line up down the street to get a table.  It’s been around since 1925 in the same location and owned by the same family.  Check is out at pepespizzeria.com.  It was scrumptious.  Certainly different than our usual New York City pie, but amazing nonetheless. 

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Only slightly tipsy from the entire bottle of wine we drank, we decided then to stroll the campus of the Ivy League member Yale University.  We imagined ourselves in more scholarly pursuits than our art schools offered us.  We dreamed of singing in the Whiffenpoofs and eating in the Spoonery.  And we watched all the kids move into their dorms for the start of the semester.  None of them looked smarter than us, we decided, so we totally should have gone to Yale. 

Because Becca had never been, and because there was one right by the entrance to the highway, and because we had nothing better to do and because we were on vacation, gosh darnit, we went to IKEA.  This activity needs no greater explanation.  It was pure, unadulterated, built-it-yourself furniture bliss.  We didn’t buy anything, but boy howdy did we make some I-want lists.

Full of pizza, popcorn, French Toast, and tired from a fun-filled day, we made our way back to the house to sleep.

It was a good first day of vacation. 

Stay tuned for PART TWO in my next post!

Sometimes it’s your birthday.

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A BIRTHDAY TALE.
By ME.

It is 2013.  In the United States of America. 
He wakes up at 8:30am.  He gets out of bed, stretches, and pads to the kitchen.  He fills the cat’s bowl with food and makes himself a large glass of chocolate milk – it’s his birthday, after all.
He sits down at the table and opens up the computer.  After checking his email and the news, he types in that most popular combination of letters and presses “Enter.”  His screen becomes a mosaic of blue and white, with colorful pictures spread throughout.  Here’s his cousin at her bachelorette party.  Here’s his co-worker at Coney Island.  Here’s a Buzzfeed article from that annoying guy that he hates talking to.  And there, in the upper-right hand corner, is the World.  And it’s lit up.
His breath catches in his throat.  There’s a tiny red number there – 1.  He had expected something larger.  He licks his lips nervously.  His fingers twitch as they drum the keyboard.  Slowly and carefully, his thumb moves across the touchpad and he clicks. 
The World reveals more information, but he only looks at the number of people.  The rest is irrelevant.  He knows what the rest says.  He clicks again, bringing up a picture of him on vacation in front of a picture of a pretty sunset he once saw.  He scrolls down, past the personal information, to the messages beneath.  There they are.  In gleaming black and white, each underneath their sender’s name. 
There are so many.  And it’s only 8:30 in the morning.
He smiles.  He has passed the Test of Self-Worth set down in those sacred Laws of Social Media.  He is now free to go about his day (and, truly, his year) secure in himself and his worldly offerings.  Oh, the disappointment and shame that would accompany anything less than exemplary display of cyber affection witnessed this morn…  He is free from that torment for at least another year.
He shuts his computer and takes a swig of chocolate milk.  It’s gonna be a good day.

Sometimes you turn your cat into a human. (A 7-step program)

The following is a guide to fully anthropomorphize your cat.  Although there are other methods available on the market to create humans from non-humans (i.e. – evolution, creationism) this is the only surefire solution when time is constrained to less than a full eon, or when total omnipotence is not possible.

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Step One: Get a cat.
–          Cats can be found in most countries of the world.  I would recommend a domesticated version, but if you’d prefer to attempt the anthropomorphization with a lion or panther, more power to you.

Step Two: Name the cat.
–          This is a very important milestone on its way to human being.  Take a day or two and study the cat, its temperament, its coloring, and choose a suitable moniker for the feline.  Please bear in mind that the closer its name is to one commonly found on a human, the easier it will be to treat it as such.  It would behoove you to stay in the Bill/Ted/Margaret/Joan region and to steer clear of the Snuggles/Fluffy/McGrowly/Mr. PinkPawPads region.  And names of Jellicle cats are right out; no Macavity or Jennyanydots has ever been known to be a full-fledged subject of anthropomorphism.

Step Three: Live alone.
–          For the process to be completely successful, there cannot be any other humans present in your home.  If you live with roommates, you must move out.  If you live with your family, you must move out.  The preferable environment for a cat to become a human is a dingy studio apartment in a major metropolis.  You should be able to look out your window and see directly into someone else’s kitchen in the neighboring building.  These places are not difficult to find and are often well within one’s price range.
NOTE: This step does not apply to those in a committed relationship.  For those with a partner or spouse, you are allowed to live with each other.  But you must be certain there are no apparent signs of having children in your future.

Step Four: Find a frustrating, unfulfilling job that is completely different from what you actually want to do with your life.
–          Try to find something in customer service.  If you are a writer, perhaps a retail environment would be a good fit.  If you are an actor, catering companies or restaurants usually work best.  If you are a dancer, you may want to seek out a yoga or spinning studio and apply for a front-desk position (NOT instructor).  This job should make you hate people enough that you want nothing more than to come home, drink wine, eat chocolate, and talk to your cat.  Which brings us to:

Step Five: Interact with your cat as if it were human.
–          This is, without a doubt, the most important tenet of the seven-part system presented here.  It cannot be stressed enough that your cat should not be treated as an animal, and NEVER as a pet.  Consider it your roommate, your child, your best friend.  Call yourself “Mom” or “Dad.”  Continually speak with the cat while you’re at home.  Remember, awkward silences can exist with felines as well.  Work up your conversational skills so the cat remains interested.  Ask about its day, schedule your meals to be eaten at the same time as theirs, scold it when it has done wrong, give it a bath and brush its teeth often, and be certain it has plenty of toys, bags, and boxes to play with.
Also books.  Cats love books.  They read them when you’re not home, so try to have as many as possible sitting around during the day for them.  And be certain they’re open – cats aren’t that good at turning pages.

Step Six: Take as many pictures as you can of your cat.
–          It is useful for this step to invest in a smartphone.  Also a photo-sharing application such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.  This way you can fill up your entire camera roll with pictures of the cat squeezing into a cardboard box, lying in the sun, yawning, or curled up on your lap, and then immediately post the pictures on the internet so that everybody you know can see them.  Pictures of cats are always preferable to pictures of food.  And the more pictures you post, the faster the anthropormorphization will be.  It also helps if you create a Facebook profile for your cat, so you tag them properly in the pictures.  Share the pictures with your cat and make sure it sees that it has an online presence.

Step Seven: Train your cat to use the toilet.
–          This is the last step presented here, and can be the most difficult.  There are plenty of items for purchase in the consumer market these days such as Citi Kitty, Litter Kwitter, and Kitty Whiz.  Most act under the same principle: litter is placed in a tray that fits over your toilet.  The cat will notice the litter box in the new location.  As the cat becomes accustomed to doing its business there, a small hole is taken out of the center.  Gradually, over the course of several weeks, the hole is made larger, until there is only a small ring of litter around the edge of the toilet.  By now, the cat has learned that it is to go in this odd watery contraption.  You can then remove the tray and the cat will successfully perform (only with the seat down, mind you) on the toilet itself.  Your cat is now a complete human.

Follow Up:
There are known cases where the anthropomorphization has been so successful that the cat will begin to mimic other sorts of human behavior.  The following video is an example of such an occurrence.  Our cat, Franny, has been trained to use the toilet for some time now.  Recently, however, she has begun to progress even further into human being.  She now uses toilet paper after her business is finished.  Next step: speech.