Thursday, 29 May 2008

Panic Mouse Revisited

The Panic Mouse video got a mention in the Daily Mail today so I thought I'd post a link back to it for anyone who's visiting after spotting it in the paper.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


Well, it's actually officially published on Monday, but it's available now on amazon. Click HERE for more info.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Someone, Somewhere, In Summertime

"Someone has died!" cries Judi Dench's character, Barbara, at Cate Blanchett's, Sheba, in the film Notes On A Scandal. A few moments previously, we've watched Barbara take her dying tabby - and, apart from Sheba, only friend - to the vets for the final time in what is probably the movie's most harrowing scene, but now we're supposed to lose sympathy with her. Already she's been a prurient "confidante", taking rather too much interest in Sheba's affair with her pupil at the school where she and Barbara work, but now she's gone too far, putting unrealistic demands on Sheba's time. Besides, you'd have to be some kind of extreme mental case - someone who'd lost all perspective on reality - to call your cat "someone" wouldn't you?

Well, er... maybe. As many cat lovers will know, it's quite easy for "he" or "she" to evolve into "someone". Sometimes it's simply a matter of convenience: when one of our cats has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander and the piss is dribbling onto an easily-staining floor, it's a lot quicker for my wife or me to tell each other "someone has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!" (e.g. yesterday, 3.47pm) than it is to say "one of those little furry nobheads has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!" or "either Janet, Shipley, The Bear, Pablo, Ralph or Bootsy has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!". Obviously, that's only slightly quicker than saying "one of the cats has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!" or "a cat has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!" but loose lips cost lives when you're trying to flea drop and feed six felines whilst simultaneously trying to cook some asparagus and unload the dishwasher (e.g. yesterday, 3.46pm).

However, I think it might be time for a different approach.

Two nights ago, I was woken up at 2am by my wife whispering, "There's someone in the room!". Instantly flashing back to last summer, when some drug addicts attacked the front of our house with secateurs, I leapt into action, reaching for the nearest weapon - a small plastic watering can - and was somewhat surprised to find that the "someone" in question was an indignant-looking Shipley, clearly wondering what all the commotion was and what precisely made it worth disturbing his industrial bottom-cleaning session.

Of course, it is quite frightening that Shipley is now so wiry and strong that he can effortlessly force open our oversized bedroom door, but it would be ridiculous to claim it was as frightening as waking up in the middle of the night and finding a stranger with secateurs in the room with you, with only a plastic watering can to use in defence of your lives. I wouldn't want this kind of misunderstanding to happen again, so for future reference I have provided the following easy-to-use guide, both for my own future reference, and for other anthropomorphically-inclined mog owners who have the same problem:

A cat:


Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Hawkeye The Scuba Cat

Is this cat quite as happy as her owner suggests? I have my doubts...

Saturday, 17 May 2008

The Thing And Other Alternative Cat Toys

The Thing (pictured above, alongside a spellbound Bootsy) arrived in the post the other day, free with a package of overpriced German cat biscuits. Its ambiguity frightens me slightly. I'm calling it The Thing because I'm not sure what it's supposed to be, or what it's made of, though I have my suspicions that the fur stuck to it is not man-made. Also in the package were a rattling ball and a small catnip mouse, both of which have proved to be of nowhere near as much interest to my cats as The Thing. I have already posted the video of the six spoilt little gobshites ignoring their twenty quid-plus Panic Mouse, and I am now on the point of giving up buying conventional or interesting toys for them, since none of these seem to be as exciting as bargain oddities and the various everyday detritus they find on the floor of my house. With this in mind, I felt it was time to ask them to give me a rundown of the top five 'alternative' feline toys.

NB: At the time of writing, none of the following are stocked at Pets At Home:

1. The Dried Noodle
Janet: "It's always one of life's letdowns when your human puts the hob on and it turns out there's nothing fish- or meat-based in the offing, but sometimes when there's boiled water involved, it's worth sticking around. After all, you never know: something brittle and magical might end up on the floor. Noodles might not taste as good as a turkey's wattle or a mouse's face, but there's really nothing finer to bat round a parquet floor on a bored Sunday afternoon - particularly when we're talking about the dried, uncooked version. Watch! as, under the control of your deft paws, the noodle skitters across the floorboards, under chairs, stools and cabinets! Recline! and stare for literally hours at the curve of the dried unleavened dough! Fantasise! as the noodle becomes a shrew, pike, triceratops or any mythical beast you care to imagine! Sod feathers on sticks - these cheeky little fellas do it for me ever time."

2. The Polystyrene Bead
Bootsy: "Squeaky, durable, cheap, and great to bed down on after a mad-half hour. What more could you wish for?"

3. The Random Chunk Of Cardboard
Shipley: "Most cats say boxes are best for sleeping, but that's just propaganda. And while newspapers are good for casual chewing, nothing feels finer between the teeth than a well-made bit of household packaging. Recent personal favourites include the protective shells for the Vax Integra Carpet Washer 7652 and the latest wireless audio fm transmitter from iStuff, but nothing quite beats the timeless chewability of Big Yellow: This Way Up. Tear it off in strips or chunks! Casually masticate a corner while your step-brother is curled up peacefully inside! The choices are endless..."

4. The Rotting Pampas Grass Leaf:
Ralph: "The pampas grass is a double-edged sword - and I mean that literally. Given a patient, play-happy owner to hold the other end of the blade, there's nothing better for playing 'Clappy Paws' with. It's hard not to appreciate the craftmanship, as you watch it slide across a freshly mown lawn. Squint and you can even convince yourself that it's an unusually pointy-headed snake. But beware: get overenthusiastic, and those sharp edges can sting. Not recommended for kittens under 10 weeks old."

5. The Bootsy
Pablo: "Rare but perfectly formed, the Bootsy comes in one colour (grey) and is extraordinary lifelike - both in the pained squeaks it emits as you scrag its neck, and in its habit of laying in catlike positions in the crevices of armchairs and duvets. Terrific for indolent neck-biting, back-sitting or - my personal favourite - 'The Castrato Hump'."

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Janet In Exclusive "Seeing The Word From A New Angle" Pose

The above picture is for regular Little Cat Diaries reader Helen, who has pointed out that in his photos, Janet always seems to be the wrong way up. Well, Helen, there is a very logical explanation for this: Janet is a rare Norwegian Upside Down Cat. These are cats who come from the forests of eastern Norway, and spent up to 95% of their day in a topsy turvy position, owning to the strange weight distribution in their bodies. The above pose might look natural enough, but it actually involved a series of miniscule anchors and pegs. And while one might imagine that that original pressing of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (since sold for £14 - the ebay vinyl market really isn't what it used to be!) in the background has been placed there for reasons of pure vanity, closer inspection would have revealed that it was all part of the complex apparatus employed to keep Janet from tipping over. It wasn't Janet's idea. Being more of a traditionalist, he actually prefers Kind Of Blue.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Under The Paw: The Main Players

It's now only three weeks until the publication of my book, Under The Paw: Confessions Of A Cat Man. Here's a guide to its stars:

The Bear
It might be thought that "porcine" and "teddy bear-like" are two contradictory qualities, but not after you have met The Bear. Also known as The Snufflepig, my oldest cat is a black, saggy cloud on mincing legs. If there is negative energy in the house, it is ninety nine percent certain he will be around to suck it up and, if you are very lucky, give you a small, affectionate nip on the inside of your wrist in the process. Most of the rest of the time, he will be found in a mixture of half-open underwear drawers and esoteric nooks and crannies, the existence of most of which the owners of his house probably remain unaware. His love runs deep, although less so when his owners get anthropomorphic, and choose to patronise him by communicating his supposed thoughts in the voice of a slightly overweight octogenarian luvvie. The Bear's lack of blood-lust – I once thought he was going to savage a mouse, but instead he just purred at it – can blind you to his plotting skills and complex life agenda. Once escaped out of a window approximately an eighth of the width of his body. Reappeared exactly a month later smelling of death and cabbage.

Named, like his late brother, after one half of the seventies folk duo Brewer And Shipley. It was presumed by many that after his sibling and creative partner was killed in a James Dean-style road accident, "the Ship" would fade into the background in my household. On the contrary. Once the runt of his litter and disparagingly referred to as "the ugly one who looks a bit like Yoda" by the crueller members of his owner's social circle, Shipley has become a musclebound and frequently obnoxious figure. If our house was an office and the cats were the employees, he would be the resident joker who had begun to let the sound of laughter go to his head. Born attention-seeker who chews paper and tries his best to form human sentences in meowtalk. Can occasionally combine these talents with astounding results – such as the time he ripped the word "pants" out of the Daily Mirror and dropped it at my feet.

My nemesis. "It's almost like she doesn't have a personality, when you compare her with the others," Dee and I said, when Bootsy arrived from the Kentford, Suffolk, branch of the RSPCA in April 2005, not knowing that we would live to regret such a statement. What this little grey despot of a feline lacks in size she makes up for in character. It is less that I own six cats, more that, in Bootsy, I own one cat who has five cats of her own. Except, of course, for the fact that I – nor anyone else - will never really own Bootsy. Innocent onlookers may view that piercing "screeeoowww!" noise she makes when I'm on journalistic deadline and her ceaseless scratching of my favourite chair as merely the endorphin rush of a classic feline Mad Half Hour. More careful observers will see a four-legged leader of men in training and wonder where the tyranny will stop. Downing Street? Harvey Weinstein's beachfront condo? The Pentagon? If my relationship with Bootsy was turned into a film, it would be a cat version of Every Which Way But Loose.

The way Dee tells it, it all started with a knock on the door one winter's night in 1997. "Our dad's died missus and we need someone to take our cat," said the one of the two East End urchins standing on the step, gesturing to the ball of terrified black fur being held upside down by her brother. Concluding that a) some crucial part of the animal in question might fall off if she did not quickly take hold of it and b) if she didn't hurry, she wouldn't get back to the TV in time to find out if Ross and Rachel finally get to kiss in Friends, my future wife decided to accept the challenge. Since then, Janet's existence has been one of identity-searching ubiquity and outrageous acts of idiocy. Saddled with a girl's name ("how was I to know? It's very fluffy down there," protests Dee), he is our feline nowhere man, synonymous with phrases like "underrated" and "cruelly overlooked". Sometimes we call him the dark horse, not just because of his character, but because he's dark, and looks like a horse. The notable difference, perhaps, is that horses are vaguely intelligent, and Janet is not. This fact was exemplified in 2001, when he saw a pigeon flying past the window of our third storey flat and decided he would transcend his earthly limits and spontaneously learn how to fly. Has seemed a little brain-damaged ever since. Nonetheless, he remains an enigmatic figure, and one senses there is something deeper lurking under the surface. Possibly an ear mite.

Until 2005, I had thought cat depression was a figment of overinvolved animal lovers' imagination. Ralph's "black dog" period of the summer before last changed all that. It is always heartbreaking to see your most majestic, manly pet hiding in a bush and crying like a little girl. When that bush also happens to be in the garden of your nextdoor neighbour, the heartbreak is even more acute. Fortunately, after a series of hormone injections, tasty beef-flavoured snacks and thorough goings-over with the JML pet mitt, my tabby is back to something approaching his old self. Nonetheless, he will always be a sensitive, artistic sort, susceptible to mood swings. It is all part of the package deal: yes, you get unaccountable wailing fits in the middle of the night, rampant vanity and celebrity tantrums relating to the closing of the boiler room door, but, to compensate, you get some of the deepest, most committed padding outside of a Mercedes interior, a natural love of the camera lense, and the rare visual treat of feline sideburns. "How can a beast covered from head to tail with fur have sideburns?" you may ask. If you continue to read this blog, you will learn the answer. Also to come in Ralph's much-hyped memoirs: "What exactly is a mousetache, and, if you have one, does it make you more or less likely to be gay?"

As Jonathan Richman once sang, "Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole". The feral Pablo Cox never has been, either – largely because he doesn't have a wicked bone in his body. He has, however, been referred to as a "mong", "that moron who forgets to put his tongue back into his mouth" and been batted, twonked, clonked and put in a headlock by several of his brothers. Amazingly, he never lets any of this abuse, whether it be physical or verbal, detract from his unremittingly sunny view of the universe. Though he might sometimes weather Shipley's attacks by turning himself into a small ginger pufferfish, it will only be minutes before he is back in the kitchen, grinning cheerfully in the eternal hope that the food drawer is just about to be opened. I always used to think "feral" meant being a cat warrior and nicking the food of more spoilt moggies, and maybe it does, for ferals in the wild. What it means for the newly domesticated Pablo, however, is a propensity to roll around and show his tummy in a grateful manner and approach every meal like a starving orphan. As the food bowl is raised, he watches it in the manner of a striker following a crossed ball. Will he head it through the would-be goalposts of the kitchen door and the banister? No. He will eat every last bit of it, fart loudly, then pass out on the bed with his tongue stuck out. "Once you go feral, you never go back," said the woman at the Cat Rescue centre when we got Pablo. That emaciated, patchy-coated ginger wretch whom she cradled that day is hard to imagine now. I suspect that even Pablo himself can't remember him, although that might be less to do with the irrevocability of his image change, and more to do with the fact that he has a brain the size of a thumb tack.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

The Sad Story Of Blackjack

I've been following the news section of Celia Hammond's CHAT website, and the saga of her attempts to capture Blackjack, for a while now. So far, Celia and her helpers have rescued 186 cats from the 2012 London Olympics site, but the mysterious Blackjack (seen above, sitting on the skip, in true movie outlaw pose) has outwitted them. Celia has now been denied access to the site by the Olympic Delivery Authority, so unless the ODA change their mind (petition, anyone?) and grant her a few extra days to search, it's unlikely Blackjack will ever be found.