Well, we have finally emerged from what everyone in the Northeast is calling the worst winter ever.
Well, it’s been a year now since we took in five hungry cats from behind the plaza here in Altamont.
It’s now been a few months since the great kitty rescue debacle, and things have settled to some degree. Of course, we are now learning just how interesting it is to live with two young cats that spent their formative years Dumpster diving and avoiding humans.
First off, we learned that cats are not like dogs. I mean not even close. They might both be four-footed mammals, but that’s as far as it goes and I think the cats generally deny being four-footed or mammals. I have the distinct impression they see themselves as equal to humans, but smarter and more god-like in some ineffable manner.
On a daily basis, living with two cats involves a couple of new tasks not in any way connected with previous dog experience.
First is feeding. Every morning and at about 4 p.m. every afternoon, our otherwise quiet cats turn into loud, pushy furry vacuums in search of wet cat food. They constantly revolve about our feet as we try and move from the cabinet where their cans are stored to the counter where we open and put the stinky mush into bowls for them. The minute the can pops open, they go into hyper-drive and start literally climbing the cabinets and attempting to trip us in a rush to get to the now-accessible food.
Once the food is in the bowls, getting it to the floor involves a balancing act that makes tight-rope walking look easy. I kind of wonder if their secret desire is to cause us to trip, fall, drop the food, and knock us unconscious, allowing them instant access to spilled food and our tender body as a dessert item.
Once the food has been served, silence descends as they attack the food with a vengeance that is normally reserved for cheetahs that have just felled an antelope. Feeding the dog involves putting dry food in the bowl and walking away. The dog wanders over and eats when she feels like it, or when the cats have stopped sneaking in and eating her food.
And immediately following the food insanity is the litter box.
Cat people always say that cats are very clean and fastidious little people. They seem so on the surface, but anyone who has lived within a two-mile radius of a kitty box will attest to the fact that they may be clean, but their waste products reek!
It takes a covered, filtered box filled with scented, clumping litter and multiple cleanings per day to keep our house from smelling like a landfill on a hot August afternoon just after a delivery of rotted fish guts and a tanker full of raw sewage.
Suffice it to say that, in comparison, the dog is a paragon of poop virtue.
Another area we learned about is the sheer destructiveness of cats. Yes, I know that stories of dogs chewing things up are legion, but having a tiny, aging, mostly toothless Chihuahua as the only canine rep in the house doesn’t really do much on that score.
To cats, any object is a toy and the ability to knock it over, tear it to shreds, toss it around, and spread it through the house is considered good sport. Thus, I have watched in awe as they destroy whole houseplants, knock useful items to the floor, bat around wood pellets like they’re the best toy ever invented, and get weird and wild on catnip-filled mice.
Watching two cats play and romp is very entertaining but you have to wonder what they’re really practicing for. Some books and articles suggest it’s their hunting behavior, which would be fine except the only thing for them to hunt in the house is the aforementioned geriatric Chihuahua and the humans.
Perhaps they’re in training to get outside and kill small animals. But we don’t plan on letting them out due to their history and only slightly civilized behavior. Besides, the rescue groups suggest keeping them as indoor beasts and we’re going with that.
In general, the kitties are a nice addition to the house (though the dog would argue that point) and we’re pleased they seem happy and healthy. But you have to admit that they sometimes get a certain gleam in their eye that suggests ulterior motives to their behavior.
I remember the sort of damage Toonces the cat who could drive used to do on Saturday Night Live and I know my insurance company would not take kindly if these two got hold of my keys. But for now, all seems well. So, has anyone seen the dog recently? Uh oh.
Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg describes himself as a long-time animal fan and lifelong dog person, and says he whole cat thing is still being taken under advisement.
About an hour ago, a small calico kitten named Nibbler was sitting on my desk, looking at me. She was obviously considering whether or not to kick me off my computer and go online to look for cat videos on YouTube.
Another cat named Lemon was sitting at my jewelry bench across the office, also watching me and wondering why I wasn’t busily opening a can of cat food for him or cleaning his litter box.
Meanwhile, my sometime co-author Minnie, the now almost 15-year old Chihuahua, was asleep on our bed, oblivious to the feline machinations.
So how did I come to have cats in my office? No, I didn’t forget to close the back door. It’s way weirder than that and involves traps, strays, cat people, and the Dumpster behind the Chinese restaurant.
Sometime in late October, my wife and I were taking our evening walk when we noticed a kitten behind the Chinese restaurant. We explored further and discovered she had friends.
We started out just leaving a few cat treats for them and then we moved up to feeding them. Finally, with winter approaching, my kind-hearted wife started worrying about what would happen to them when it got cold.
They were moving from an abandoned barn across the railroad tracks to the hot-air vent at the Laundromat, but that was obviously not going to cut it once it got really cold. So, being an occasionally smart guy, I called Animal Control.
They don’t do cats. Really. Just dogs, and rabid things and stray politicians I guess.
I called a few cat organizations and was pretty much told the inn was full. So finally, Happy Cats, a nice agency over in Voorheesville said, if we could catch them and hang onto them for a bit, they could find homes for them. Not a big deal right? Oh, so wrong.
Happy Cats loaded my car with three Havahart traps, two good-sized crates, and instructions. Within two days, we had five semi-wild kittens in our living room, eating, meowing, and pooping in pretty much that order.
Now what? I contacted a few other agencies, including the wonderful folks at Whiskers and Guilderhaven.
Next stop, the vet. Using a couple borrowed carriers, I managed to get all five to the vet for checkups, shots, and tests. We now had three crates, five cats, medications, and enough cat food to feed them for awhile.
Then I got a call from the vet that they needed more meds over the following week. That equaled two syringes full of icky tasting liquid per cat per day. Seriously. After an insane session of holding struggling cats, and watching meds fly everywhere (it was very fetching as a hair product), we started mixing it in with food, which mostly worked.
Then began the daily insanity of taking care of Caramel, Nibbler, Lemon, Harry, and Demon Kitty for almost two months. It literally took from Nov. 5 until almost Jan. 1 before the final kitty was adopted/fostered and we were left with the two I already mentioned.
The house is now free of crates, we’re down to one litter box, and there seem to be cat toys everywhere I look. I think cat toys must breed and multiply at night.
This is not my first rodeo. I’ve had a cat or two in my past, but never mildly domesticated kittens. To these guys, each and every object in the house is either for playing with, scratching, biting, or eating (including the aforementioned dog).
They climb better than mountain goats with crampons and eat like starving hyenas. They’re rather comical, very strange, and have the same number of mood swings as a menopausal human woman.
So now, three months after the initial discovery with two more mouths to feed, I realize that no good deed goes unpunished.
If we had to do it over again, would we? Knowing what we do now? Not likely. But, thanks to the fine folks who helped us, all the kitties are safe and warm, healthy, and out of the cold.
So that’s what we’ve been up to for the past couple of months. Nibbler and Lemon are nice people and once they and Minnie reach some sort of agreement on sharing territory, I think things will be OK. In the future, we’ll be leaving animal rescue to professionals or people far crazier than we are.
Editor’s note: Mike Seinberg, a lifelong dog fan and animal lover in general, says, as a rule, he prefers animals to people.
He recommends to everyone who can, to support Happy Cat, Guilderhaven, and Whiskers either financially, as a volunteer or by adopting an animal, and says these are great organizations run by dedicated people trying to do the right thing.
“Recalculating.” How can one word contain so much condescension, and negativity and yet seem so non-threatening in print?
Well, in print you don’t have a glob of plastic and glass with a glowing screen yelling it at you in a tone that utterly drips with derision. Yes, I’m talking about the GPS unit in your car and, if you have one, you know what I mean.
In roughly the last 10 years, the global positioning system has gone from a luxury item for truckers and yacht owners to a cheap, readily available device now seen in almost every car, on motorcycles, and even on long-distance bicycles. It’s sort of like an iPod with a really bad attitude and only one useful app.
I was curious about how we now find ourselves terrorized in our own vehicles by a device that was originally intended to help us. Oh yeah, that’s what they said about computers, too.
Anyway, I did a little research and found that GPS was developed back in 1973, based on older 1960s’ technology. The Department of Defense was looking for a better method of navigation and it eventually came up with a system of 24 orbiting satellites that became fully active in 1994. It was eventually updated and is now at the GPSIII stage.
But back before all the nasty voices and touch screens, how did we get around? Well, I dimly recall paper maps, compasses, and checking the innards of road kill.
We then graduated to printing out detailed step-by-step directions from places like Yahoo and Mapquest and finally, we arrived at the age of GPS where all we do is type in the address of our destination and press go.
From that point, we simply turn into drooling goobers breathlessly awaiting the next dictate from The Direction Mistress (as I refer to her).
But all is not well in the land of The Direction Mistress. Disturbing stories have begun to surface of people getting lost due to wrong directions; people driving into bodies of water or off cliffs, all at the behest of those little electronic navigators.
And that led me to wonder if something more sinister was afoot. Let’s remember that GPS was originally developed as a government project and built by the lowest bidder.
What if that bunch of orbiting satellites got nasty on us? What if they started talking amongst themselves and decided if we couldn’t even find our way around without their help, then maybe they should do something about it. And guess what? The United States isn’t the only country with such satellites in orbit.
The Russians have had the GLONASS system up and running all along and now systems from the European Union, India, and China are planned if not already operating. So here we have all these orbiting devices talking to all these ground-based devices and I’m beginning to wonder if they’re not plotting to keep us all lost on purpose.
I’ve personally been sent on wild goose chases by my GPS on multiple occasions and mine has supposedly endlessly updated maps. All I do is plug it into my computer and it downloads and installs the latest and greatest road maps for all of the U.S. and Canada.
Or does it? Does every update really just download the latest software update, or does the evil mother ship make the voice nastier, the maps less accurate, and the underlying hardware more evil?
All I know is that I’ve had three GPS units in the past 10 years and each one has gotten meaner, less accurate, and more snotty. I’m at a point now where I’m thinking seriously of dusting off the paper maps that have been sitting in my car in a bin under the passenger seat, getting out a compass, and brushing up on my road-kill innards divining skills.
I’m sure many people would suggest I’m just being paranoid, but I’ve seen enough sci-fi movies to not trust technology. I mean, how much can you trust a device that, no matter what voice you choose, it still says “recalculating” in a way that makes you think it’s really saying, “How dare you question my directions, you imbecile!? You’re lower than snail snot and have all the directional ability of a blind cave fish! Now get back on course before we drive over a cliff!” Oops.
Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he actually has all the directional ability of a blind cave fish; just ask his wife. However, he is starting to look at maps again.