Thursday 27 March 2008

Seen One Black Cat, Seen Them All...

This has been an unusually long winter, and I can tell my cats are feeling it even more than I am. Baffled by why, four weeks after they gamboled around me while I mowed the lawn in a t-shirt, they are now stymied from outdoor pursuits by snow, hail and Arctic winds, they've been taking their frustration out on each other indoors.

The biggest victim of this (mostly) harmless tomfoolery is usually Pablo. Ralph and Shipley have never been huge supporters of their feral step-brother's naive anecdotes and reductive life philosophy, but Shipley is currently making Pablo's existence unusually difficult, jumping out on him from behind a variety of chairs, plant pots and cardboard boxes. In an attempt to keep Shipley at bay, Pablo has even developed a new war cry: a primal terror squawk straight out of one of Suffolk's deepest rain forests. This noise actually has nothing to do with war at all on his part (he's a rubber, not a fighter) but at least alerts me to Shipley's advances and gives me chance to banish the more confident (i.e. spoilt and obnoxious) cat to the garden for a three and a half minutes, until I feel guilty and let him back in and start massaging his scruff and telling him that I love him really.

Pablo generally gets on peaceably with the his step-siblings - including Ralph, so long as Pablo doesn't nick his seat, or the pair of them don't round a corner and come suddenly face to face - but there has been another innocent victim in all the recent maelstrom and that is The Bear. I am sure The Bear has never voluntarily attacked anybody, yet Pablo has recently become unnaturally afraid of him. This morning Pablo even let out his war cry when he bounded up the stairs at the sound of me opening the food drawer and was confronted with The Bear casually cleaning himself. The Bear's response to this was to lift a paw in slow-motion and offer a kind of "Eh?" expression. Shipley and The Bear don't look all that alike, so the only conclusion I can draw is that, hounded by Shipley (who, come to think of it, is very houndlike in many ways), Pablo has now modified his Scary Things I Must Avoid list from

1. Dust Busters
2. Doors
3. Short-Haired, Muscular Black Cats With Yappy Voices Who Scratch The Carpet A Lot.


1. Dust Busters
2. Doors
3. Every Short-Haired Black Cat In The Universe.

Pablo has come a long way since spring, 2005, when we picked him up from the local rescue centre, but his development has been physical and emotional, rather than intellectual. One only has to look at the picture above (circa summer 2005) or the cover of the book in the post below to realise that he is no feline Phd candidate. But is Pablo really so stupid that he believes Shipley and The Bear are the same cat? And does this make him the feline equivalent of a racist? Or is the battle between gingers and their darker-furred contemporaries an ideological one that stretches further and wider and longer than the mere confines of my house? This would suggest so.

Still, you've got to feel for the black cats in their historical plight. How many gingers do you hear of getting dismissed with witchy stereotyping, or being written off and consigned to a life of fading hope at the back of the rescue centre holding pens? Orange may be a colour that makes Shipley see red, but it has never been the colour of feline hardship.


The Bear:

N.B. That is not a black cat behind Pablo in the picture at the top; it is a cushion.

Just two months until my new book is published!

For more information, or to advance order with 34% off the cover price, click here.

Sunday 23 March 2008


This is Rita Mae Brown, author of fifteen detective novels in which a cat, Mrs Murphy, solves murders. Her most recent,
The Purr-fect Murder, is in stores now.


Her credited co-author is her cat Sneaky Pie Brown; their other titles include Puss 'n' Cahoots and Whisker of Evil. Oh, and she also used to date Martina Navratilova. She clearly doesn't need the cat desk tray shown below; not if Sneaky Pie's doing all the typing anyway.

It's a common problem...

Cats napping on your keyboard all the live long day?

Why not place them on this handy tray? Sure, they'll stay put!

The Refined Feline: The swankiest cat furniture money can buy

Cat trapped in tree has fetching moustache shocker

Northern Colorado Tribune: Cat in Tree Nine Days

Saturday 22 March 2008

Under The Paw - The Facebook Group

COME AND JOIN if you haven't already, and invite all your Facebook friends!

P.S. The link only works if you are already signed in as a Facebook member.

Thursday 20 March 2008

RIP Max, the Avant-Garde Cat

New York: the city that never sleeps and has cinemas with their own cats (who, breaking with metropolitan custom, do sleep, usually for roughly seventy percent of the day). Sadly Max, the 17 year-old doyenne (yes, she was a she) of the Anthology Film Archives Cinema went to movie mog heaven this September, but her former home is now staging a special memorial season of eight avant-garde cat-themed movies in her memory. Bung a wig on that puss and she'd even look like the star of a Bunuel masterpiece.

'Whiskers in the Jar'

Irish drinking songs for cat lovers? How good.

Cat Cafes

If only we had a Neko Cafe in the UK. If you live in Tokyo and don't have a cat - but miss the furry snuggles that, as studies this week have shown, relax you enough to ward off the risk of a stroke by a third - this is the place for you. Pop in, order a skinny mocha latte (with hair in it, probably), and select a cat from an actual menu to bat a ball about with. Something tells me non-cat lovers might not understand...

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Scabby Tabby

We took all six cats to the vet - albeit in two shifts - last week for their annual jabs. This is a full-scale operation that takes up most of the day, nearly always proves eventful and gives us the chance to meet geographically diverse animal lovers (do all vets have strong regional accents, or is it just mine?). Shift one featured "the difficult cats" - Shipley, The Bear and the newly demoted Janet, who isn't quite as unfeasibly easygoing as he once was, now he suffers from a heart-murmur and has reached eccentric middle-age - and passed without incident, if you ignore the bit where the the Dutch morning vet bonded with me over having clicky knees (and I do strongly advise you to). The so-called "easy shift" was a little more eventful. The main cause of this was Ralph, who, we explained to the very Irish afternoon vet, had a bit of a worrying scab on his chin, which had been there for three weeks. "It's all right," she said, nonchalantly picking it off. "It was just stuck to his hair." The scab landed on the table in front of Ralph, who, already clearly missing its sweet embrace, leaned over and gobbled it up, then turned to me with a satisfied "Are you proud of me?" smile on his face.

In many ways, Ralph is our most beautiful cat, but he is simultaneously our most fetid. I like to think this makes him a bit rock star-ish - it's unlikely that, even at their prettiest, Mick Jagger and Brian Jones smelled too good - but in truth it just makes him a bit embarrassing to have around other people. I think, in terms of "I can't take you anywhere" humiliation, this latest incident has to be ranked alongside the time he suffered an attack of bumpoo disease in front of the removal men during our last house move and the time he came into the house demanding to have an enormous green leechslug removed from his posterior during a national newspaper photo shoot in my living room.

Anyone else have stories of cats who have disgraced themselves in front of members of the medical profession?

Meet the Bear

Simon's Cat

Saturday 15 March 2008


Dmitry Medvedev's cat, the Kremlin coward
(The Daily Telegraph)

"He once got into a fight with a cat which belonged to Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, who was a neighbour of Mr Medvedev. According to the popular Moskovsky Komsomolets daily newspaper, Dorotheus came off second best.

"The feline fighter, now four years old, had to be treated with antibiotics for more than a month after the scrap. Even worse, he was castrated in an attempt to prevent him getting into more trouble."

Hmmm - castrating warlike males to ensure peace? Interesting...

Thursday 6 March 2008

I Would Do Anything For Cats (But I Wouldn't Do That): Nine Things I Would Never Do In The Name Of Cat Love

1. Get the names of my favourite two cats tattoed inside a heart on my back, with the word “Forever” inscribed beneath it in gothic lettering.

2. Name a star in honour one or more of my cats.

3. Encourage one of my cats to eat by taking a mouthful of its food, then rubbing my stomach and saying “Yum yum yum”.

4. Check my cats’ horoscopes.

5. Sit my cats down in a circle and read them said horoscopes.

6. Purchase a cat stroller or pushchair.

7. Abandon essential household furniture in order to make way for elaborate oversized scratching posts or imported “cat condos” (e.g. The Naughty Paws Bungalow: RRP $475).

8. Purchase a dressing gown with the name of a cat food manufacture embroidered on it or save up “bonus points” then send off for said garment free of charge.

9. Wear one of these:

Tuesday 4 March 2008

The Bear's Problem Page Letter

George, beloved cat of pet writer Celia Haddon, is now handling what might be the web's first moggy-voiced problem page. Noting this with interest, The Bear recently decided it was high time he voiced some "issues":

Dear George,

My humans, Tom and Dee, are constantly voicing "my" thoughts for me. It's not just that these thoughts are largely inaccurate (I have never said "Please" or "if you don't mind awfully" before being fed a tin of Applaws chicken and cheese cat food - because I view receiving it as my right) that bothers me, nor even the humiliating fact that some of them will soon be available to the populus in a book that Tom has written called Under The Paw. What really gets to me is the voice in which said thoughts are delivered, which is somewhat upper-class and simpering - the kind of voice you might have found Willie Rushton using whilst narrating a 1980s children's TV programme, and - I think you'll agree - utterly unbecoming of a cat who started his life in a plastic bag on the side of a motorway and has braved some of the tougher parts of South East London and Norfolk. I am neither a) a character in a Beatrix Potter book, or b) a slightly effeminate aristocrat fallen on hard times. I am a warrior, who has slept on the world's sofa and fears no-one, with the possible exception of my pygmy grey half-sister, Bootsy, when her back's up and her breath is particularly fishy. How can I explain this to my two-legged dimwit housemates and get them to stop patronising me in front of my step-siblings?

Yours sincerely,
The Bear

George's response

Bootsy at the tap