Thursday, 30 October 2008

Some Recents Excerpts From My Cat-Watcher's Diary

Today I entered the kitchen to find Ralph and Pablo both simultaneously suspended upside down, in mid-air, three feet off the ground. From what I could work out, no string, rope or pulley system was in place. These two are frequent sparring partners and it's my usual habit to hurl myself between them and break up their scraps, but this time I held back, unable to stop myself admiring the ballet of the whole thing. I swear it was a full three seconds before both their heads hit the ground. It was like something from the Matrix. The main exceptions perhaps being that, post-fight, characters from the Matrix don't a) violently shed fur all over the floor and b) go and sulk behind the sofa.

In her column in the Mail On Sunday's You Magazine, the infamously divorced, infamously childless, infamously cat-loving Liz Jones observes that her old English sheepdog has begun to misbehave. "He jumps at me all the time," she complains, "even when I am wearing my Dries van Noten jacket, which I have just had dry-cleaned." This is an intriguing sentence on a couple of levels, but in the end it's the use of the word "even" that really does it for me. One would have thought dogs would know a top designer jacket from normal daywear, but no. Cultural cretins! I am just glad that, having stuck to cats, I own animals that I can rely on to stop and distinguish their Kurt Geiger from their French Connection rejects in their more muddy-footed moments. It's a bit bitchy to say it, but between you and me I wouldn't be surprised if that sheepdog hadn't even read the September issue of Vogue.

Another monumental punch-up between Ralph and Pablo today. Why is it that they don't see eye-to-eye? Is it a long-standing race issue between tabbies and gingers? Or does Ralph's narcissistic, pretty-boy hipster outlook on life simply refuse to brook the vulgar, feral bumpkinish ways of Pablo? I'm sure there was a period when, had Ralph backed off, Pablo would have happily let the whole thing go, but that time has now passed, and the mere sight of the the tabby is enough to make the ginge start making a terrifying yipping feral war cry that has Ralph looking even more worried than he was the time we paid a man to use a big loud shampoo-dispensing machine to get Janet's puke off our carpet. Of course, the whole disagreement is more extreme at this time of year, since Winter Pablo - the mysteriously chunky ginger cat that begins to take the place of the scrawny one we've hosted through the summer months - is looming, threatening Ralph's fragile masculinity still further. I also noted with interest that Bootsy found a good vantage point, on the bookshelf, to observe the battle, adding to an overall impression that, ultimately, as ever, she's the one pulling the strings here.

Fell over on the stairs today, whilst running for the door to get a package from a courier, and trod on Ralph, eliciting one of those "hurt" looks of his that twist their way inside my chest like a rusty screwdriver. Came out of this with a bruised shin and a chunk of skin scraped off the palm of my hand, but what was the first thing I did, after falling? Ran for the door, in an attempt to stop the delivery driver driving away with the DVD I'd ordered from amazon? Went and sat down with a calming cup of tea? No. I chased after Ralph, telling him how sorry I was, never stopping to think that it was his own dumb fault for always sitting on the stairs and never budging for human traffic. As a result of this, I will have to wait a whole extra day to watch Harold And Kumar Get The Munchies.

The Bear ate the last tin of his special Applaws food today. He meeooped all the way through it, as if to confirm just how mandatory it is that we reorder some of it at the earliest opportunity. I have known cats to meow for food before, but he is the first I've known to meow during it.

Ralph bit me quite hard today, when I made the unforgivable error of only using the pet mitt on him for seven minutes, instead of the twenty stated as required in The Big Book Of Spoilt Oversensitive Feline Idiot Therapy. More effective than a brush, the pet mitt elicits very different responses from all my cats, but each has the common factor of being extreme. Janet mewls helplessly at its merest touch, before laying on his back and trying to bite it. The Bear runs away from it in a manner that, even for him, is notable for its campness. Bootsy and Pablo seem to simultaneously like and hate it, scarpering from it but also returning to ask for more of its sweet embrace. Ralph and Shipley just want to be mauled by it on a round-the-clock basis. I haven't tried it on myself, since I'm a bit worried about the results, but I do enjoy the way the fur comes off it in one perfectly intact, perforated layer, which I invariably drop out of the window as a peace-offering to local nesting birds whose families have fallen foul of Shipley and Pablo's leisure pursuits. In every way aside from the fact that it cost more, this pet-mitt is a cheap imitation of the original (see pic below), which was two-sided (one side tough and dimpled, the other soft and felty) and which Dee made me throw away because it had got "too skanky"*. I can see that it's effective, but I could live without the puncture wounds. When I looked down at the two small but surprisingly deep holes in my finger, I pictured a couple of furry ears and a small-twitching nose above them, and was able to feel new empathy with the wretched hand that the south Norfolk vole is so often dealt in life.

Note to self: must keep fewer black things - or fewer black cats - in my living room. That is the third time in the last week that I have called "Shipley!", "Janet!" or "The Bear!" to a dark cushion or a stuffed toy otter, only to be disappointed at its aloof, supercilious attitude.

Cat Words That Should Be Invented, Number 187: What do you call it when a human scratches an itch on a cat's behalf, but the cat still cannot stop its own leg from doing a flailing "air scratch" at the same time?

* My argument was that any replacement pet mitt would very quickly get equally skanky, thus rendering it redundant, and I feel this has only been reinforced by the state of the current, inferior pet mitt.

Monday, 27 October 2008


Congratulations to Martine (1), Luli (2) and Jo (3): you will all receive a copy of Under The Paw and I Can Has Cheezburger: a LOLcats Colleckshun.




It wasn't a strictly official entry, but a special extra mention goes to winner Martine's caption for Bootsy's pic (what I think of as her "I'm really holding a machine gun under here" photo), which was also rather good...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Under The Paw: currently with 50% off...

Click HERE for more info.

What people have said about the book so far:

"Tom Cox is a very funny writer, and he knows his cats." - Kate Atkinson, author of Behind The Scenes At The Museum and Case Histories

"A brilliantly funny and moving book which will act as an antidote to all the soppy, sloppy, spinsterish rubbish written about our feline f(r)iends in recent years." - Julie Burchill

"Middle-aged spinsters move over; Tom Cox loves cats and he's not afraid to show it! I laughed a lot and cried a little when I read Under the Paw - what a great testimony to the pleasures of sharing your life with cats." - Vicky Halls, author of Cat Confidential

"Fascinating insight and anecdotal musings.... Never mawkish or sentimental but filled with the respect, love and regrets all cat-lovers know so well. Purr-fect for the Christmas stocking." - Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull

"Tom Cox is a very funny cat addict. I laughed out loud." - Celia Haddon (ex Daily Telegraph pets writer and author of many cat books)

Join the Under The Paw group on Facebook and invite all your cat-loving friends.

My piece for The Times on icanhascheezburger

Check it out here.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Make A LOLcaption for Shipley!

ENTER the Under The Paw icanhascheezburger competition on Facebook and invite all your friends!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Thursday, 16 October 2008

My First Ever Lolcat (With Shipley's Help)

To vote for Shipley and his impeccable taste in music go HERE.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

This Month's Unlikely Prog-Rocking Cat (And Under The Paw) Fan: Ian Anderson From Jethro Tull

As someone who lives musically in 1971 on a near-permanent basis, I was extremely pleased to get an email yesterday from Ian Anderson, the lead singer of one of my favourite bands, Jethro Tull, about how much he'd enjoyed Under The Paw...

"A man who knows his cats - almost as much as the cats know the man!" wrote Ian. "Fascinating insight and anecdotal musings.... Never mawkish or sentimental but filled with the respect, love and regrets all cat-lovers know so well. Purr-fect for the Christmas stocking."

It turns out Ian's interest in cats goes further than just writing a song called Cat's Squirrel. He keeps Bengals, and even has a kitten advice page on the Tull website, for "new parents"! What with this and my discovery last month of Rick Wakeman's secret feline love, it's clearly only a matter of time before we find out that Keith Emerson owns his own cat sanctuary, where Mike Rutherford and the guitarist from Greenslade help out with poop patrol.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Some More Random Selections From The Cat Dictionary

The quality of feline true grit in the face of adversity (e.g. managing to stoically wait out the twenty minutes between the biscuit dispenser becoming empty and your human serf abandoning his overdue, half-finished piece of journalism to hotfoot it down to the pet store for replacement supplies).

Feline scholars are split upon estimating when the ancient language of dsdasighgdshsddc first emerged. Some put the date around about 1983, during the rise of the BBC Micro and the ZX Spectrum. Others claim that techno geek cats in San Francisco's South Park district were communicating in it as far back as 1974. Whatever the case, it is generally agreed that dsdasighgdshsddc has been in regular use since the early 90s. While often written off by humans as a random, unintentional series of letters generated by the patter of mischievous paws across a keyboard, what many people don't know is that dsdasighgdshsddc actually forms an entire exclamatory, often insult-heavy, feline language: a kind of profane moggy binary, if you like, being sent to other cats across the globe via a complex email system invisible to the human eye. Popular examples of dsdasighgdshsddc "dissing" include auoagfoylhgo ("Eat my tail scum!") and oiaiuhagiuggghafug ("Your mum was a Griffon Bruxellois!"). Of course, with the rise of the Internet, dsdasighgdshsddc has evolved, mutated and, some would claim, been irrevocably dumbed down. For example, jhjdhjdhdddddddvvvd ("Oh my god! How much do I want my owner to get off this computer and let me pad his stomach!") is now lazily abbreviated by many Generation Y cats to to a simpler, less poetic jhdvvvvd.

A half-hearted version of the Nuggin (see Random Selections From The Cat Dictionary Part One), The Grudgin more often than not marks a bargain between cat and owner: "I am feeling too bored/self-important/generally unarsed to push the side of my nose into your hand, but will do so, half-heartedly, knowing that this is the price one must pay for leftover, past-its-sell-by-date honey-glazed turkey."

The kind of middling, tepid water still bafflingly placed by humans for cats in a combination of receptacles all over the globe, in spite of empirical evidence suggesting that the favourite tipple of most felines is a) water straight from the tap (see below for demonstration from Bootsy), or b) stagnant pond soup, seasoned with the death juice of as many tiny creatures as possible. It is felt by many cats that the continuing marketing of Litebeer encapsulates humans' overall failure to understand a fundamental fact of feline nature: that cats are animals of extremes, unwilling to accept the middle-ground and eternally fearful of the mediocre.

The one dried, blackened gribbly bit at the bottom of the food bowl that a cat will always leave behind, no matter how hungry it seems to be before (or after) feeding time. The legend of Satan's Coal, which hasn't got anything to do with coal whatsoever, goes all the way back to the time when Osiris, a farm cat in 18th Century Yorkshire, found a nugget of dried shrew corpse on the floor of a neighbour's barn that had been mysteriously ignored by whichever animal had caught it. So moggy folkore says, Osiris was "dared" to eat the tempting nugget by a local witch's cat, and subsequently keeled over and died. Even pragmatic, hardheaded cats who view the story of Satan's Coal as "gobbledigook" often find themselves steering away from that last gribbly bit at feeding time, putting a paw to their stomach and offering such transparent excuses as "I'm on the Catkins diet at the moment" and "No, seriously, I'm podged - I found a smoky bacon-flavoured crisp on the floor earlier and, as you know, those things are surprisingly filling".

Monday, 6 October 2008

Piece About Men And Cats From Yesterday's New York Times

It seems that a man's best friend is no longer a golden retriever, but a creature named Fluffy, writes Abby Ellin...

Shipley, Ralph, Janet, Bootsy, The Bear and Pablo would concur...


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Cat Of The Month for October: Fluffy-Nuts




"Kristian and Diane from Victoria, Australia."

"Admire me, I am beautiful"

Favourite habits?
"Scratching, preening, snuggling and boxing with my brother"

What constitutes a perfect evening for you?
"Being fed a meal of Fancy Feast at an appropriate hour - I don't like waiting around to be served - before cleaning myself in front of the heater and then letting my she-slave brush my coat to a glossy perfection all the
while cooing about how beautiful I am"

Favourite foods?
"Fancy Feast and raw chicken"
Defining moment of your life?
"Discovering the she-slave was more likely to meet my demands more often and more swiftly than my beloved he-master."

Any enemies (inc people, animals or objects)?
"Zoe, my sister. My she-slave gives her too much attention for my liking. Hence my repeated attacks when she comes out of hiding. Also, I do not like strange people entering my domain. My she-slave and he-master are adequate human companionship for me."

If you could do one thing to make the world better for felines, what would
it be?
"Rid all supermarket shelves of any brand of cat food other than Fancy Feast."

If you could meet one celebrity, who would it be, and why?
"Cesar Millan. I would like him to help me further understand the canine mentality. Living with dogs is often challenging, although a quick swipe to their noses and the corresponding squeals is always enjoyable."

Which one of the cats in Under The Paw would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
"Initially I would say Ralph, but on second thoughts Bootsy and I would probably have more in common. We could swap masterful human manipulation stories."