Tuesday 29 July 2008

Most Witless-Looking Cats: The Shortlist

It's actually a day earlier than I initially promised, but to be honest I was so excited by the brainlessness of the entries, I couldn't wait to upload them. It also seemed sort of appropriate to make the shortlist on the day that my own second most witless cat, Janet, formed a strong and unique attachment to what must be the world's dirtiest plastic bag (who knows? This could finally be "The One"). If anyone does come in with an amazingly dumb late entry, I'll add it to the pics below, but for now, these sixteen are the standouts. As you'll see, I've tried to avoid blatant surgical dumbhancements (or, as it's alternatively known, "photoshopping") and cat clothing (Bitty is a rare exception, since his hat has clearly been made from a stretched scouring pad, and earns his owner, Sharon, extra points for creativity) and lean more towards a naturalistic brainless beauty in my selections.

Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to send pics in and sorry if your mogwit didn't make it. I'll be announcing the top three early - all of whom will win a signed copy of Under The Paw - next week. In the meantime, please feel free to post any relevant critical analysis below and enlist friends to offer politically dubious support.

P.S. Please could Maggie get in touch to tell me the name of her cat.

Cheebee from Adriana:

Boris from Sara:

Bubbles from Sam:

Bitty from Sharon:

Bailey from Christine:

Cocoa from Ann:

Gizmo from Rachel:

Hamish from Lavinia:

Ichabod from Sharon and Mark:

Lee from Charli ("the type of cat who will bang his head on the table as he jumps off your lap and doesn't even realise he hurt himself"):

Mitchell from Jane:

Murrt from Lisa:

Percy from Laura:

Spam from Bill ("once walked into thin air three storeys up whilst not even chasing anything"):

Jelly Mitten (Russian spy name: Jelamina Mitovski) from Catherine:

Anonymous from Maggie:

Abby from Gavin ("main habits include watching the fishtank, licking plastic bags and stealing earplugs from drawers"):

Saturday 19 July 2008

Most Witless-Looking Cats: The Challenge

Felines: they're all malevolent masterminds, aren't they? "Sensitive", "troubled", "intellectual", frustrated by the obstacles their physical form puts between them building their own evil grass roots empire or securing an appearance on QI. Well... maybe, but it would be wrong to say that the cat universe is entirely free of 18 carat morons: you only have to look at the above photo of my own supremely brainless feral, Pablo, in his "pass me the remote control and a cold one!" pose to realise that there's a certain beauty to cat cretinitude just as there is to scheming cat intelligence.

In an attempt to acknowledge this - and also because the Hard-Looking Cats competition the other week was a good laugh - littlecatdiaries is now holding a competition to find its readers' most witless-looking cat. It's simple: dig out what you think it a pic of your moggy looking genuinely idiotic, then send it to underthepaw@tom-cox.com, including your name and postal address. The closing date is 30th July, at which point I'll be uploading the twelve strongest entries and giving readers chance to influence the outcome. The top three submissions will each win a signed copy of Under The Paw: Confessions Of A Cat Man.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Meow That's What I Call Meowsic

Since I revealed my slightly embarrassing habit of singing my own "reworked" versions of pop classics to my cats, I've had quite a few emails from people admitting they do the same thing. Writes Under The Paw reader Susan of her mogs, Patchie and Cookie: "We have several tunes ours endure regularly, such as 'What's that coming over the hill, is it a Patchie, is it a Patchie?', 'I'm bring Patchie back, them other moggies don't know how to act' and 'At the Cookie, Cookiecabana'." Similarly, a work colleague of Dee's regularly sings his Spaniel, Poppy, his own version of a well-known Commodores hit ("Once, twice, three times a Spaniel").

I'm not sure what all this proves, but I know it makes me feel significantly less ridiculous for penning alternative versions of Foreigner's Hot Blooded ("Hot tabby/Check him and see/He's got a fever of a hundred and three..."*), Andrew Gold's Thank You For Being A Friend ("Thank you for being a ginge...") and Billy Joel's Vienna ("Slow down, you ginger cat/You're so ambitious for a... ginger cat"). Still, I can't help thinking it's time I expanded my repertoire of originals beyond 2002's "oversimplistic and childish" (demo reviews page, The New Moggy Express) Shipley-inspired Little Black Cat ("Little black cat, little black cat, little black cat, you know where it's at"). This is a song that, in addition to possessing a reedy melody to which age has not been kind, also is no longer lyrically relevant, now Shipley could not in any sense be described as "little".

* I hasten to point out the "hotness" in this case refers purely to the really surprisingly warm temperature of Ralph's fur during the summer months. Ralph, while not without his rock star tendencies, wishes to disassociate himself with the lascivious content of Foreigner's original version, which speculates about a potential post-show encounter with a female fan sans boyfriend ("Can we make a secret rendezvous/Oh before we do, you'll have to get away from you know who...") and is clearly written so the band concerned can use it as a tool to seduce potential groupies ("Do you do more than dance?"). "That is not to say," continues Ralph, lapsing into the slightly irritating quasi-American 'dude' accent that he uses from time to time while talking about his favourite bands, "that Foreigner aren't, like, way underrated."

Double Trouble

When Dee and I first met our grey cat, Bootsy (then called Ethel), she was runmates with an almost-identical brother, Austin. We were actually quite tempted to take two of them home - particularly when Austin crawling up my head - but we were told by the RSPCA that the cats needed to be separated, "because Ethel needs to come out of Austin's shadow".

In retrospect, this statement seems laughable, since these days I can't even imagine the shadow of Dracula's Castle giving her much trouble. As Bootsy has become increasingly the boss of all our other moggies (is it possible to have a pride of cats? If so, Bootsy has a pride of five), we've often wondered what became of Austin, and just what kind of superenormous personality Boots's more dominant brother would have by now, so it was with more than a little interest that I read an email recently from Graham, who had read about Bootsy's appearance in Under The Paw in a newspaper, and said that, from all the evidence - the rescue centre, the date, the violently narcissistic personality traits - it appeared that she was the long lost sister of his cat Oscar (nee Austin).

If this was an episode of Cilla Black's Surprise Surprise, we'd probably be arranging for the pair to reunite in mutually suitable territory, where they would sniff one another's arses, hiss a little bit, then proceed to completely ignore each other. As it is, Graham and I are probably going to be content just to send one another a few photos (I'm not sure video messaging could have any real benefits in this scenario). As you can see from the pics below, they're still very similar, and although Oscar has a mannish thickness about him, he's quite tiny in a Bootsyish way. According to Graham, this does not stop him from regularly terrorising cats twice his size.


Oscar (the last one is my favourite):

A Special Tap To Make for Your Cats

I could make one of these for Bootsy but it would only lead to a world of trouble.

Cat Raises Baby Panda

This poor innocent creature is going to grow up with some very bad habits (and I'm not talking about the cat).

Thursday 10 July 2008

Rufus Bug Cat: The Victory Speech (And More Pics)

Rufus says: "I am very proud of my victory, even more so than of my many many children."

Tina, Rufus's owner, says: "he has a lot of offspring out and around.when we found him during a heatwave he was feebly calling for stevie our female cat me and my mum noticed he had this hole on his forehead and he didnt look so clever so we put water out and food and he took it very timidly so i went and got my husband's welding gauntlets to try and catch him i just about picked him up he struggled but i ran into the house with him and called my vet. he was kept in for 5 days she was worried about his hips and neck.the cats protection stepped in and said if i took him home to recover they would pay his bill so we brought him home and was totally smitten! i called them to say we were keeping him and we would work it out with the dogs. in the weeks and months later people came up to me and said ahh so thats where ugly cat or tom went, it turns out he used to hang around a few streets from us and a lot of people had fed him and let him sleep in the sheds one guy said he put him in hospital with a lasserated wrist he tried to pet him while eating. being a street cat he had it rough grabbing food and water where he could. it turns out he had been abused by kids and maybe had been run over he was 4 at the time. people often popped round to see him for a while they were so happy he had found a home we couldn't understand why nobody had earlier. he really struggles to keep himself clean and we have to bath him from time to time we can brush his back as it causes him to have some sort of spasm atack. he really loves being fussed and loved he really loves stevie, our other cat, but still hates the dogs. it's really funny when you see one of his kids they have his funny walk but his family days are over as we got him fixed his hips cant take it so he hasn't had any in 3 years now. he thinks i'm brave because i wash him in the bath with my bare hands and he hates water he is strong and heavy but it has to be done as his fur becomes matted. he always has a cut under his eye for washing his face with his claws out and has a real problem with male cats that haven't been fixed maybe he is sick at the thought of them getting some. he can't get near stevie without her smacking him one she prefers gingers but he still fights her battles too everyone on our street loves him passing visitors point at him and say 'that cat's proper salford' people that know him think he is cute as do we. we are very proud of our rufus bug cat and love him very much."

Stevie, preparing for an aerial strike on Rufus:

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Hard Cats: The Winners!

Just a couple of short weeks ago, I thought I knew what a tough-looking feline was. It turns out I knew nothing. As a connoisseur of moggy brawn, I could have been likened to the too-big-for-his-boots intervillage croquet champion or the ten year-old who thinks he's ready to present an Open University show on BBC2 just because he's satisfactorily finished the complete Towards Mathematics series (is this still going, by the way?). I was cosseted, sheltered. In the last fortnight or so, I've had my eyes opened, seeing evidence of a kind of hard cat that you just don't get in my neighbourhood. Possibly because its owners keep it inside, for fear that normal cats would expire simply from catching the merest waft of its thuggish butt odour.

I started this competition because of the success of the mini, nascent Hardest-Looking Cat Competition at the Under The Paw launch party. I thought it would have been a little predictable to have held a Cutest Cat comp. I also think toughness in cats is generally under-celebrated. If it was up to cats themselves, I'm sure they would want to be exhibited in tribute to their scrapping skills rather than their picture postcard sweetness. There are thousands of impressively hard cats lurking in the most far-off runs of rescue centres around the globe as we speak, and it's about time we gave them a bit of respect.

It's been fascinating watching these 400-plus entries come in, and I've learned many new things. I have learned that a wet cat is invariably a cat with payback in its eyes. I have learned that a battle-ready cat is considerably more comic and interesting than a battle-ready dog (actually, I already knew this - everyone does, don't they?). I have learned there is a difference between "mental-looking" and "hard-looking" but sometimes the two can combine into a seamless whole. And I have learned that, with a good digital camera and a bit of expert timing, it's very easy to make a yawning cat look like a potential slayer.

Apologies to anyone whose photos were not featured on the blog. The pics flooded in over the last few days and, while I tried to put as many up as possible, I had to have a cut-off point somewhere between "Mildly Miffed" and "Fairly Darned Intimidating". Of the entrants, about 85% could be judged genuinely rock solid and about twenty percent of those exuded an extra, superfeline 'don't mess with me' something or other. In the end, it came down to just over a dozen closely-matched warlords, but when the winner popped into my inbox at the eleventh hour - well, actually it was the 329th hour, but let's not quibble - I knew immediately that, unless something astonishing happened, he was The One.

So, in first place, and receiving a copy of Under The Paw: Confessions Of A Cat Man and a box of Applaws gourmet cat food: Rufus Bug Cat, owned by Tina Warrier of Manchester, UK...

For those wondering if I've chosen Rufus partly because his owner's surname sounds like "warrior" - don't worry. I've tried to judge these photos on their own merits, enjoying but not being swayed by the text that has come with them. That said, when Tina wrote "we found rufus 3 years ago with a big hole in his head and dehydrated and hungry he spent 5 days in the vets has hip and neck issues has litterally no neck he is stubby and gets called ugly cat i think he is cute but my dogs are scared to death of him he beats dogs up and other male cats but is a sweety with people anyway hope you like him he was in a good mood this evening when i took the pics should see him when he is cross" I couldn't help warming to his toughness even more. But he'd already won, the moment I saw him. He is, as one friend put it earlier today, "just a stupidly hard cat. Another planet of hard." The same friend also said, "if I was in the same house, I don't think I'd go near him". I, on the other hand, have fallen head over heels in love with him.

In second place, and also receiving a copy of Under The Paw: the magnificent Cendrillon, owned by Daniel Sirguey of France...

Sure, much of Cendrillon's hardness is down to heft, but look at that stare. He means business. When Daniel puts him down, you can be sure his immediate plans include sneaking into his kitchen at night and soiling an heirloom.

In third place, and also receiving a copy of Under The Paw: Zorro from Andree (location be confirmed)...

Zorro might look as crazy he is hard, but you cannot fault his commitment. Many cats eat grass, but I can't think of many that are so tough they would eat a whole divot. This cat could bring an entirely new flavour to my next round of golf.

And the winner of the Most Menacing Kitten award - littlecatdiaries' attempt to nurture young talent - also receiving a copy of Under The Paw: the wonderfully batlike Titch, owned by Sammy Allen from the West Midlands, UK....

The cats below were so tantalizingly close and I think are worth a special mention. They divide into two categories: Effortlessly Hard (Bronco Billy, Milo, The Humpatron, Charlie, Emma, Tilly, Murphy, Sid Vicious), and Hard Because You Made Me (Boomer, Cappuccino, Lou, Conan, Cara) - all apart from Gregor, who somehow spans both. Milo sort of reminds me of Paul Newman's character from the HBO mini series Empire Falls: a proper old-school rapscallion dad. I love that one folded down ear and can imagine him picking bum fights with strangers out of nowhere in the classic semi-vagrant meth addict manner. In the end, though, I felt his toughness was probably slightly intermittent: as frustratingly unreliable as it was impressively unpredictable. Also, the people who sent him in aren't his actual owners, they're his neighbours (though they do suspect he fathered some of their kittens). Murphy also gave me particular pains to omit from the top three: that single fang is a classic touch. Spare a thought, too, for The Humpatron: a would-be Mogfather if ever I saw one...








Bronco Billy:



Sid Vicious:





A big thanks to everyone who has taken part. Watch this space for another cat competition in the coming weeks.