Yummy Tummy

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is an actual photo, not a photo postcard, which weighs in at only about 3.5″x 3″. It was taken from an album which it had been glued into, black paper stuck to the back. It is an interesting photo when studied – the woman in the background is wearing a fully long dress, as I guess the woman with the cat is although that is a bit hard to see. This dates it early in the 20th century. Meanwhile, a man with a cap, somewhat obscured, is seated behind the woman and cat.

Of course I have purchased it because of this wonderful tabby. He appears to be an orange tabby – which means he is likely to be a he as Google informs me that males outnumber female orange tabbies about 80% to 20%. This photo has an interesting immediacy. When it is blown up large you can see that what the woman holds is a toy on a string, not food which was my immediate thought.

I have had close association with several orange striped cats in my life. My mother has a rather magnificent one named Red right now, who was devoted to my father and who presents his toys and acts as ambassador cat when I overnight in New Jersey.  Pictorama readers my remember my childhood cat Pumpkin, an enormous and dog-like kitty who used to follow me to the bus stop in the morning growing up. He was much larger than this fellow, but had an amazing fluffy striped tummy and tail. He would roll and display his tummy in a come hither way – and then chomp down on your arm with all his considerable force when you tried to pet him. Bad kitty! We had to warn guests and even delivery folks not to be taken in.

Therefore, I can only say I was shocked with Cookie and Blackie arrived here with a very canine desire to have their tummies rubbed – since kittenhood they roll over and demand tummy pets multiple times a day. Cookie in particular needs some tummy rubs every morning to start the day. She will meow and stretch and roll with happiness when you comply. Blackie also invites an occasional tummy pet, but it is as if he likes the idea more than the reality and tends to roll over after a rub or two and send you on your way with a paw push. No biting though.

Our resident cats also perch on their hind legs more than any felines I have ever known. Like the cat in the photo I have had cats that would stand and reach for something, but not as willing to perch that way, sometimes for minutes, as our Cookie and Blackie seem to be. Occasionally they entertain me with their version of cat boxing this way. (If there is anyone out there who has not seen this video of cats boxing in slow motion doing patty cake with commentary – or if you just need a chuckle – have a look here.)

Kim and I have speculated that this is a form of kitty evolution, especially the hind leg standing. Shortly after Kim and I started dating I made him a Valentine drawing of my cats Otto and Zippy, them holding forth in a riotous anthropomorphic party scene while we were out of the apartment, but presumably to disappear magically somehow as we approached the front door. Oh to know the secret life of cats!

Chow Time!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The symmetry of this photo appealed to me, not to mention the tidy tabby and nice black cat whose white tummy we can just about see if we look carefully. These two may just want an ear scratch, but I suspect more realistically are involved in the ritual dance of food request.

We have decided to raise Cookie and Blackie more scientifically than our previous cat companions and they get a prescribed amount of wet food early in the morning as early as Blackie can get us up (yes, for some reason it is his job and not Cookie’s, she does observe the process however to make sure he gets it done) which is quite early. Kim and I are early risers (we’re talking around 5:00 AM) during the week. On weekends I tend to burrow deep into pillows and blankets and ignore Blackie stomping stoically over us, back and forth in a food protest march all his own, until Kim gets up. That is Blackie’s method and I will say it is his very own style. Some of his predecessors used the cold wet nose applied to face method, or the kind, but urgent paw tap. My cat Otto was even known to give me a little nip or hair pull if I really was unwilling to move. (When I was younger I really slept long, hard and soundly.)

Weekdays I am rarely home in time for the evening meal which takes place at 6:30 sharp. On weekends I do witness the gathering of the troops as early as 5:00 to remind Mr. Deitch that, although they may not wear watches, they are aware of the time. Poor Kim has to withstand an average of an hour or more under the glare of cat eyes and their tendency to draw ever-closer while he is trying to work! For those of you who think we are hard-hearted and starving the darlings please know that there is a dish of dry food out all the time in case someone grows terribly peckish. Cookie has her own ritual of needing to be assured that dish is full daily.

When I was growing up somehow this was all different enough that my mother actually used to call the cats to come and eat. When I think back on it – what was that all about? It wasn’t like we lived on a farm or something, just a house, but she would call chow time and they would all come running from different parts of the house. When I was a small child our cat Pumpkin got lost we placed an ad in the newspaper to try to find him. I remember asking if we should mention that he answered to that call. (This idea of putting an ad in a local paper seems so quaintly old fashioned that I suddenly feel ancient. A story for another time. However, be assured he was found having been brought to the local SPCA which we had alerted to his disappearance and was reunited with us after several days.) In all fairness, the cats would also come running when they heard the can opener – an electric one in those days, remember those? Before pop top cans. Returning now to the question, I wonder about it because like ours the cats at my parent’s house are the same milling, demanding group about food.

My mother, in charge of cat feeding in their house, makes no pretense at these silly ideas about feeding times and set amounts of food, and her cats have what I refer to as a constant rotating smorgasbord of cat food, both wet and dry. (I may also add that she has never subscribed to high end vet endorsed food, and with all of this she has had cats live into their early 20’s. So much for my high-end food acquired online and carefully controlled portions!) Notably and to my point, her cats also do not need calling these days either. Much like mine they mew and cajole when they are hungry, which makes me wonder – is this a small evolutionary change in cats? One of those tiny steps forward in cat brains that goes largely unnoticed? But a step toward – what? A race of assertive cats who stand up and ask for what they want? Perhaps not what we are looking for in our darlings, but where they are heading nevertheless? Or did cats in days of yore have more important things on their minds? Greater cat business and purpose, perhaps in the form of the occasional high-protein mousie snack caught on the hoof?

Ode to a Shrimp

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Our cats have been a well documented part of our family here in the Butler-Deitch household, but we have housed another pet for over 14 years – a shrimp.  Kim bought this shrimp and snail ecosystem for me in 1998 after I expressed fascination with it. The glass sphere came in a huge box – carefully packed for obvious reasons.  You’ve heard me express concern about kitties and breakables (Happy Life Toy and Fear of Celluloid) and this was a red alert concern.  My then cat, Otto, was absolutely entranced by it and Kim would take it down from a high shelf to show her occasionally (yes, Otto was a girl; that’s another story) until he decided it was undue stress on the shrimp.

And I do mean single shrimp! Due to either our own ineptitude, poor design, or bad luck, most of our shrimp died pretty quickly. We were ultimately left with one (suspiciously large) shrimp.  We put him on a darker shelf than what is recommended, so that the algae wouldn’t grow too quickly since there were no snails to help consume it. (Yep, they died too although it took a bit longer to figure that out as they are a bit inactive by nature.) So there he swam, year after year, living out his shrimp life. Kim was the best at tending him – taking him out and checking on him periodically.  As the years grew longer our amazement deepened.  He rapidly exceeded the expected lifespan and headed into uncharted longevity. A Methuselah of shellfish. Cats came and went and recently Cookie in particular was itching to get a little closer to this situation.

And then, the other day, Kim checked on him and alas, he had finally gone to the big shrimp round-up. As someone interested in Buddhism, I have to wonder if he (I always thought of the shrimp as a he) had some strange karma to work out. I know it is ridiculous to say, but I never really thought he was unhappy with his solitary existence. Perhaps even harder to believe, the house seems just a tad quieter and sad without his tiny shrimp presence.

A musical tribute below!

Or if you want to adopt some shrimp yourself you can buy one here.

Postscript: My mother was given one as a gift and is, frankly, sort of horrified by it. (She is such a fierce protector of animal welfare that she cannot stand the idea that the shrimps and snails are unhappy in their habitat. We differ in that I think it seems like a pretty good gig for a shrimp or a snail.) We will probably adopt hers if we can figure how to get it from NJ to NYC in one piece. Update to follow!