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"Stella ... there's a nice spot of sun over here on the floor ..."
Posted June 16, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
Sorry about limited posting. Flying Aces model club duties (secretary & newsletter editor), multiple new models to complete for contests, plans drawn for some of same for my catalog, and Best Man duties at my best friend, my brother's, wedding.
Have acquired cat from brother (permanently). Goes by the name Stella. Bit crickety - she's 17 this year. I think. Tabby markings on medium-long hair, white belly, feet, and under chin. Pretty kitty. Two owners back removed her front claws (grrrrrrr). She can hit another cat more times than I can see or count in one second, but no claws makes it more startling than damaging. Still impressive, though. Interesting personality. REALLY does NOT LIKE to be picked up, so I only do it when ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Really DOES like to have back and neck scritched - flops on floor in front of me when she wants skritched - frequently. LOVES sun spots on floor (big time arthritis I suspect, and like old people, sun does wonders for the joints). She didn't have sun spots on floor in her old house. Pictures may take awhile as I have no digital camera. That means print film to scanner to CD to me. Expensive.
All in all, a good cat. Came up to me the other day and started petting my arm and purring. I'm honored.
Disgust and Annoyance
If I Can't Have 'Em, Neither Can You.
Posted May 23, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
Another old shot of Buttons, this time napping in the back yard on a sunny day.
We had a huge old cherry tree in the back yard. The trunk was about 2 and a half feet in diameter, and the main branches were all at least a foot or more in diameter. A lot of the tree was rotted on the inside, and one branch in particular had a hole where a branch had been cut off. The hole faced up, and had been taken over by a family of Starlings (booo...hiss-hiss). Apparently, Buttons had similar feelings, because one day we heard a terrific racket. We looked out the window, and there he was - he had one front arm including his entire shoulder, reaching so far down the hole that his head was right against the opening. You could see that he was reaching as far as he could, and from his exertions, you could tell that his paw, claws fully extended, was waving frantically around trying to snag one of the baby birds.
The racket that had gotten our attention was the Starling parents. They were squawking their heads off, trying to distract Buttons without getting too close. Occasionally, Buttons would pull his arm out, consider the situation, and then try again, each time reaching a little farther into the hole. The nest must have been just out of reach, because eventually, he gave up in disgust, and sat on the hole with his ears back. If he couldn’t get to the birds down in the hole, he certainly wasn’t going to give the parent Starlings any satisfaction. He must have sat there for an hour before finally stalking off.
If we could have gotten a picture of his face at that point, it could have been used in the dictionary as the definition of the word “disgusted”. It was one of the funniest sights I ever saw.
Once a Year
Me? You've GOT to be kidding! I'M not gonna try and take it away from him!
Posted May 15, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
An ooooold shot of Buttons with his 'once-a-year' catnip mouse at Christmas.
We had a terrible time trying to keep them hidden till Christmas morning. One year we hung it up in the Christmas tree. HUGE mistake. Tree down, ornaments all over, and tinsel spread all over the room. Next, top of the mantel. Easy pickings. Then, top of a bookshelf. Come on - a seven foot vertical leap? *sigh* Finally we just had to put it in a cupboard without a handle.
Come Christmas morning, those poor catnip mice reeeeally got a thrashing, and since catnip made him kind of forget to keep his claws in and didn't seem to affect his speed or quickness, we pretty much left him alone Christmas day.
The Dinner Look
The look you DO NOT WANT to see.
Posted May 9, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
Take a good long look at that picture. Study the cat’s expression carefully. Then make sure you never, Ever, EVER find yourself on the receiving end of that look.
I was visiting the Phoenix zoo some years back, and had just arrived in the vicinity of the lion enclosure. You could see the lions all sitting at the top of the mound in their enclosure surveying their surroundings. I was about to turn away, when several of the lions got “the look”. Call it “cross-hairs in the eyeballs”, “zeroing in on prey”, or “target fixation” - whatever. When a cat gets that look, you always double check to make sure part of you or one of yours isn’t at risk. The lion’s head was obviously tracking something of extreme interest. What could a lion possibly be interested in at the zoo?
I remembered years ago, a woman intentionally parading a small poodle on a leash back and forth in front of the Snow Leopard cage at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle - the Snow Leopard paced back and forth in front of it’s cage, matching the position of the poodle exactly, never letting the poodle out of it’s sight, and never letting it get any further away than the cage would allow. If not for the cage, the poodle (and quite possibly the poodle owner) would’ve been lunch.
With that in mind, I turned around, and looked behind me expecting to see another dog on a leash.
My heart stopped.
All that was there was a baby carriage with a baby making small baby noises. I looked back at the lion to double-check the line of sight - sure enough, that lion was looking at the baby like it’s next meal. Uneasily, I tried to remember just how far a lion was supposed to be able to jump. Had it been a cougar, it could have cleared the distance easily. Fortunately, lions aren’t that good at jumping. A sobering reminder of your place in the food chain if you aren’t properly armed.
Be Careful How You Play With Your Cats - They Learn From You!
Posted April 27, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
Most of us (cat owners that is) have done it. You sneak up on your poor unsuspecting furry friend, reach out with fingers spread wide, and then ruffle up their fur. Sometimes with both hands. Generally, the cat’s reaction is usually the same - disgust and annoyance. Then they stalk off to clean the fur you just ruffled. Occasionally, a playful cat will turn and grab hold of the ruffler, and let them know they haven’t gotten away with it by forceful application of both tooth and claw, but without actually breaking the skin.
And sometimes, the cat learns from your little fur-ruffling.
Episode 1 - Seven in the am. I vaguely hear the bedroom door open, and Mom says “there you are - go wake them up.” The Rip-n-Shred Brothers file into the room through the barely opened door, and walk under both beds.
Unbeknownst to me (the first time), Tigg and Smoke can see me from under the bed. See, there’s a space between the headboard and the mattress.
I screamed - something had just put spikes in my head. I don’t know which cat did the honors, but they got me good. Apparently, there’s just enough room for a long-legged cat to reach a front leg through the space, spread the claws out, stick them into my hair (which they see as fur), and give it a good ruffling, just like we’d do to them from time to time. The only difference being, they used their claws instead of fingers. It didn’t draw TOO much blood, but it did scare the heck out of me. I twirled around in bed, and saw a couple of pairs of yellow eyes staring at me from the space, and a couple of paws sticking through the slot waving around wildly trying to connect (with me!).
It didn’t take long for me to realize what had happened. After that, I slept a little further down the bed so that they couldn't reach my hair (my head) from the space.
Episode 2 - A sunny afternoon in the backyard. Mom is sunning herself on a blanket. Oddly enough, Smoky appears to be sunning himself also. He’s laying on his side, parallel to Mom, about five feet away, with all four feet stretched out towards her. Every couple of minutes he squirms a little closer, then stops. It looks really funny - cats aren’t supposed to be able to move like that. He gets just a foot away, and I finally realize something’s up. This cat has got a plan, and I’m watching with a lot more interest. Now each time he squirms a little closer, he reaches out as far as he can with his front paws, and flexes his paws, spreading his toes in and out several times.
When it seems that he’s in reach, nothing happens. Yet. He squirms a little closer. Now it’s apparent he’s been positioning himself so he can reach the hair on her head. Another squirm, and he strikes! He sticks BOTH widespread paws into Mom’s hair, and does the best hair-ruffling I’ve ever seen.
There’s an involuntary shriek from Mom - she rolls over and Smoke is still ruffling her hair. The game up, Smoke jumps up, and springs away a couple of feet, quite pleased with himself. Mom’s hair is all over the place. “You little pill.” “Did you see what that cat did?” “He ruffled my hair!”
Of course I’m laughing my head off - it was the last thing I expected.
Me: “You didn’t get scratched, did you?”
Mom: “No, he didn’t use any claws”
Me: “That was so funny - he did to you what we always do to him!”
Mom: “Well now I’ve got to go get a brush.”
Mom makes a playful half-hearted pass at Smoke on her way to the house. Smoke prances out of the way a couple of feet, and I’m left to contemplate a cat that likes to play practical jokes on people. And he didn’t do it just once.
Smokey repeated this prank several times that I saw. When Mom was laying on a lounge chair, he’d squirm up under it and reach through a space to ruffle her hair. And he never used claws.
And you should have seen the new do he gave to Mom a couple of times - her hair was all OVER the place!
Our Auto-Tracking Self-Propelled Flycatcher
Every Household should have one ..... or two!
Posted April 20, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
The sound of children playing also wafted in occasionally. All in all, a peaceful Saturday afternoon, and I was soon drifting off, the software manual slipping down beside the couch. Not quite asleep, I heard a buzzing sound. Someone had obviously left a door open - a large fly had gotten in, and was droning loudly around the room. It soon left. I had no idea what was about to happen.
A minute later, the fly returned. And this time it wasn’t buzzing lazily around in circles. It was really moving, and hot on its tail was a fuzzy blur, barely distinguishable as a cat. The cat-blur streaked into the room, made a flying leap onto the short bookcase behind my head, then used both walls of that corner of the room as a banked turn, launching himself off the wall fully stretched out, towards the couch I was laying on.
Both front paws arrived at the top of the couch, then shoved away hard just as his rear legs arrived in their place fully bunched. As his rear legs launched him at full speed off the top of the couch, the front paws arrived at my stomach with all the force that the full speed, fully-extended push of his rear legs could muster. His rear paws arrived at my stomach a micro-second later, and then all four paws exploded into my stomach launching him half way across the living room. He landed a good 12 feet away in hot pursuit of the fly, and was gone in an instant, having traversed the entire length of a 25-foot living room TWICE in a grand total of about 2 and a half seconds. I was left doubled up, gasping for breath, having had most of the wind knocked out of me. It was all the more difficult because I was trying to breath and laughing at the same time.
The cat had made a perfect banked turn about five feet off the ground using the two walls in the corner behind me. Now I don’t know how fast you’ve gotta be going to accomplish that, but I crunched some quick numbers here, and it works out that Tigger was doing about 16 mph while he was in the living room! Now that may not sound very fast, but remember that this includes navigation around objects (furniture and walls), using other objects as a freeway (the floor and the bookcase), and yet other objects as a launch pad (me), all while keeping a fleeing fly centered in his cross-hairs, AND keeping within about 18 inches of nailing said fly.
While I tried to catch my breath, I could hear the sounds of the hot-fly-pursuit as it progressed at a frantic pace through the house.
I had finally managed to stand up, when Tigger came sailing into the living room again ..... LITERALLY! He was about three feet in the air, front paws flaying the air wildly just inches from the fly. He did a mid-air, 180-degree turn, and landed a good six feet into the living room already accelerating in the opposite direction. The sounds of the chase were continuing unabated when the back screen door opened, and I heard Mom yell “What’s going on in there?” Finally able to speak again, I responded “Tigger’s trying to catch a fly”.
More sounds of carpet ripping, some large thumping sounds, then SILENCE.
Mom: “I think he caught it.”
Me: “No way!”
Mom: “Looks pretty dead to me.”
Mom: “Come take a look.”
I found them in the dining room, and there was Tigger, sitting on the carpet, staring at a large black spot in front of him. He poked at it a bit, but it really was dead. We petted the cat, and told him “Good Kitty!” Since the fly was no longer moving, it held no further interest, so Tigger stretched, and walked off to check out his food bowl in the back hall.
Mom: “Well, get a cleanex, pick it up, and toss it in the toilet.”
And to myself: “Wow! He got it. Glad I’m not a fly.”
I never ceased to be amazed at cats. I think everyone needs to see them in action to appreciate their full capabilities. Playing with toys is one thing, but the all-out pursuit of prey - that’s a whole ‘nother level of performance! Having seen it up close a coupe of times, I stand in awe!
UPDATE: And I’m not sure, but I think he had the presence NOT to use his claws when he arrived at my stomach, even though he was using ALL of them all the rest of the time. I was wearing a t-shirt, and had no scratch marks at all. Add THAT to his chase awareness!
Ultimate Cat Toys #1
No,...NOT the ubiquitous catnip mouse you see in the picture!
Posted April 13, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
We’d been finding them on the floor in odd places all over the house. The first few times, they were picked up, and hung back on the lower towel rack with the dish towels, only to find out while washing the dishes the next time, that they had holes in them. It turned out Tigger, one of the Rip-n-Shred Brothers, found something irresistible about rubber dish-washing gloves. He’d drag them off the towel rack, and chew on the fingers with his razor-sharp teeth, making neat, sharp little holes in the ends of the fingers rendering them perfectly useless for their intended purpose. The solution was not to hang them on the lower towel rack, which at about three feet, wasn’t even a stretch for Tigger - it was more just a swipe-n-run affair.
The new spot was the towel rack above the sink. That worked for about two days, whence the dishwashing gloves started appearing in odd places again.
The next solution was to hang them inside the cupboard under the sink. This worked fairly well - unless you didn’t close the cupboard completely, in which case you ended up with holey gloves again.
For a long while, we had virtually no problems with holey dishwashing gloves. All we had to do was remember to close the cupboard doors. Then one day I saw one of the funniest sights you could imagine - Tigger, dragging a rubber dishwashing glove. He had just liberated the glove from beneath the sink, and was trotting, head up, back toward the safety of the back hall to play with his new prize toy. He had a glove finger clutched firmly in his teeth, and the rest of the glove trailed between his legs, which were splayed apart so that he didn’t step on the glove dragging on the floor between his legs.
Of course it was too late to retrieve the glove - it already had holes in at least one of the fingers. But how did the cat get the glove to start with? I had just been in the kitchen, and the cupboard door had been firmly closed. Soon, rubber gloves started to appear around the house again, and we eventually found out why. Both Tigger AND Smokey had discovered how to open the cupboard doors (personally, I think there was some collusion going on there). They’d found that the cupboard door extended down at the bottom, and it was just a matter of hooking a paw under the door and pulling. The little door magnets were no match for inquisitive cats. Well, for safety reasons, that just couldn’t be allowed. There were cleaning fluids in the cupboard which we didn’t want the cats around, so we had to remove the temptation. The new rubber glove hiding spot was in the pantry at people level - no cat-level door (we should have thought of that to start with - it was the only safe spot to hide catnip).
From then on, the only rubber glove-knappings were entirely the fault of whoever accidentally left them in plain sight. The cats moved on to other interesting toys.
A Smart Cat Combines Old Rules to Make a New One
Posted April 6, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
I've heard people say cats are dumb, and that they can’t learn. I beg to differ, and I’ve got anecdotal evidence. Our big black cat Buttons' food bowl was in the back hall. There was also a small rug in the back hall to wipe your feet on when coming in the back door. Buttons was not supposed to take his food out of the bowl/off the plate and eat it on the rug.
Buttons was also not supposed to scrounge in the garbage can in the kitchen. We even helped him out on this one by keeping the garbage can under the sink behind a cupboard door.
One evening the family came home from a function, and I was one of the first people in the back hall. I looked into the kitchen to find Buttons with his front feet on the top edge of the garbage can (which someone had forgotten to put away) and his head reaching for something inside it. Mom arrived at that moment, and we watched him from the back hall. He heard us as we came in. He looked in the garbage can, then back at us. Then back at the garbage can, and a last glance at us. Then he made his decision. He reached into the garbage can, pulled out a piece of chicken, trotted towards us with his prize, and deposited it in his food bowl. And then he waited, head down over the food bowl, but not eating. He was waiting to see if we were going to take it away from him.
We just couldn’t. After that performance, we had to let him have it, even if it’s not safe for cats to have chicken bones. We petted him a few times, and left him to his prize. I did keep an eye on him to make sure he didn't choke on a bone - it was the least I could do. Some things just HAVE to be rewarded!
The whole time I was trying really hard not to laugh (he knew that being laughed at was an insult) - actually I had a HUGE smile - I was really proud of his actions. It was immediately apparent that he'd combined several old rules to make a new one:
Old rule #1 - you can’t eat on the rug or floor.
Old rule #2 - you can only eat from the food bowl.
Old rule #3 - you can’t eat out of the garbage can.
BUT - he reasoned that:
NEW RULE! You CAN take something from the garbage can, put it into the *SAFE SPOT FOR FOOD* (his dinner bowl), and THEN you can eat it.
And they say cats aren’t smart.
UPDATE: And the cool thing is? He made this decision ON THE FLY!
It took him all of about three seconds, max! This was NOT a practiced "trick for a treat"!
The Rip-n-Shred Brothers
The Ultimate Tag-Team
Posted March 31, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
Tigger (lower), and Smokey (top). They were brothers in every sense of the word: littermates, co-conspirators, dog-teasers, and tag-team squirrel-chasers.
Sometimes at night, they'd engage in all-claw-drive carpet races around the first floor of the house. The sound was something like the sound of 50 heavy-duty pieces of fabric being ripped all at once. I'd lie in bed and laugh myself silly just thinking about the acceleration, speed, corning ability, and stopping power generated by two furry bundles of fast-twitch muscle going full-tilt-boogie across the carpet with paws spread wide and all claws fully extended.
You could hear their progress through the house - from the dining room through the front hall through the living room and back again all in a matter of seconds. Then Silence! Then Off To The Races again, to be repeated till Mom went downstairs, caught them, deposited them in the back hall, and closed the door.
Catching them wasn't always a foregone conclusion. Sometimes we were treated to the sounds of Mom trying to catch the cats, and the cats doing their level best not to get caught. Much hollering at the cats - "come back here you little pill", followed immediately by more sounds of ripping fabric as the Penultimate Tabbies accelerated away. Then more silence. More "where are you, you little rascal", then "eeeeeek" as a cat pounced from hiding, wrapping furry paws around a bare leg. This was of course followed immediately by more ripping sounds and the obligatory "COME BACK HERE". Of course I'm rooting for the little furballs-with-claws the whole time. "Mawww-om - they're not hurting anything, they're just having fuuu-un. Why do they have to be in the back haaa-all?"
Sometimes trickery and subterfuge were engaged to catch them - the sound of kitty treats being shaken out in a dinner bowl could result in capture. And once in a while, the cats would win. Hiding under a piece of furniture till Mom got tired of looking sometimes worked, and sometimes she decided that reaching under said furniture for a claw-equipped bundle of fur in full play-mode just wasn't worth the risk. And of course there's nothing like trying to sneak downstairs in the dark, only to discover two pairs of the brightest eyes you ever saw peeking around a corner watching you. There's just NO chance they were going to be surprised by YOU. Especially at night!
What speed - what fun - it must be GREAT to be a cat.
A Cat's Cat
Posted March 21, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
His name was Buttons. A jet-black Persian. 18 pounds. No fat. Full complement of weapons.
I was two when he arrived under the Christmas tree - a tiny little bundle of black fur with a big red bow. I have no memories of him not being around while I was growing up.
When I was three, he was nearly as big as I was. And he knew. He knew the house belonged to him. He knew the yard belonged to him. He knew the entire block we lived on belonged to him.
He knew when he was being teased. He knew if you knew better than to tease him. He knew babies were helpless, and tolerated their abuse. Through all six kids in our family.
Mom tells me that when I was small, I'd be playing with blocks on the kitchen floor, and occasionally, Buttons would come a little too close on his way to the food bowl. I'd see that magnificent tail going by, reach out and grab it. And then I'd forget I had hold of it. He never made a sound - he just pulled, hoping I'd let go. Eventually, Mom would come into the kitchen, see his predicament, and yell my name. Startled, I'd drop everything, including my grip on his tail, which I'd long since forgotten about.
And he knew I didn't know. He never made a sound. He never swatted me, even though he could have knocked me a couple of feet without any trouble if he'd wanted to. He never clawed me. He knew I was too young to know any better.
He was so good at knowing, that if anyone did get scratched, they got absolutely no sympathy. From anyone. He was so good at the distinction, that his judgment was final - if you got scratched, it was YOUR fault, and Dad and Mom made sure you knew it.
He knew how to play, and what play was. If it was indeed play, even adults could have a go. There is almost nothing in the world more amazing than getting clobbered by a big, soft, padded paw - without claws. But the penalty for being mean was immediate and decisive. It always required immediate non-trivial medical attention. And everybody KNEW that you deserved it.
He tolerated no attacks. No cat ever attacked him. No dog ever tried it twice. Being carted off to the vet in pain and bleeding profusely made it a one-time mistake. Smart dogs avoided him. The partly blind hound next door would occasionally see him, and get up a full head of steam, baying at the top of his lungs. Till he got close enough to recognize which cat it was that wasn't running. He'd literally sit down and skid to a stop. Then he'd turn around and walk away.
Strange dogs accustomed to having a cat run when charged at were rudely surprised. There were no histrionics. No flattened ears. No arched back. No raised fur. No bottled tail. No bared fangs. No hissing.
Most everyone has seen the "NO FEAR" stickers favored by kamikaze skateboarders and BMXers. I know what "No Fear" looks like. It looked like Buttons.
Total cool. Total calm. Total thrashing administered to obnoxious yappy trespassers.
It's a fact that cats can't run fast for long - but I can't count the number of times Buttons chased Shepherds for a full half block after they'd woken him from a nap in the sunshine on the front porch.
For a while, a Shepherd and a Doberman were terrorizing the neighborhood. At night, they'd team up and kill neighborhood pets, both cats and dogs. No one could catch them. No one knew where they lived. Then one night, they cornered Buttons by the fence under my second floor bedroom window. I woke up to an unbelievable racket. It sounded like two raccoons going at it. I've never heard a scarier, louder, uglier confrontation in my life before or since. It woke up the entire family. We were scared. No one knew what was happening. When it finally stopped, we opened the front door, scared to death of what we might find, and afraid to venture out.
We stood there on the front porch in the silence, half dressed, imagining the worst, afraid to go 'round the house and look. And then there he was. Ears straight up, tail straight up and proud, and telling us all about how well he'd done. He suffered a small puncture wound in the bottom of a rear foot. They found one of the dogs about a block and a half away - he was done. The other dog was never seen again. No more pets were killed in our neighborhood.
Oh yea. I forgot to mention. He also knew how and when to play WITH teeth and claws.
So ...... how brave are you? See that heavy leather gardening gauntlet there? Yea, that one. The one you use to work on the rose bushes. Go ahead. Put it on. If he sees you do it, and those ears go flat back against his head, you'd better have a strong arm ....... and LOTS of rubbing alcohol and bandages, 'cause you're now fair game!
He died of old age when I was twenty. No kid should ever grow up without a cat like Buttons.
A Day in the Life of MR. COUGAR
...let's NOT go for a walk alone on the East Side.....
Posted March 21, 2004 by Michael A. Morrow
* oooooo...eeeeasy meal *
* slow and careful now....*
- SNAP -
* #@%& *
* ears back *
* blaaagh *
* what IS that *
* try to scrape bad taste off tongue *
* awful taste *
* it looked human *
* snif..snif *
* odd smell *
* better check kill site *
* oh no *
* Birkenstocks *
* it can't be*
* ...not again *
* not another plant-eating environmentalist *
* ...and a knit cap *
* how could I miss a knit cap!? *
* must have been in a pocket *
* yea. that's it. the hat was in it's pocket *
* won't get the taste out of my mouth for weeks *
* disgusting *
* better bury it *
* anybody finds out about this, and I'll never live it down *
* eyuk *
* pasty *
* well, at least it won't breed *
* ......horror...what if it already did? *
* terrible thought...don't think about it *
* environmentalists - easy prey, but they taste soy awful *
Disgust and Annoyance
Once a Year
The Dinner Look
Our Auto-Tracking Self-Propelled Flycatcher!
Ultimate Cat Toys #1
The Rip-n-Shred Brothers
"Pookie Says ..."
Buttons - A Cat's Cat
A Day in the life of MR. COUGAR