Saturday 20 December 2008

Jake: The Ultimate Cat Man

I mentioned this video about Jake, the Texan hermit who has adopted over five hundred cats from his local shelter, in my post a week or two back about old cats (Jake owned Creme Puff, the oldest ever cat, and Grandpa, who wasn't far behind him in years), but I thought I should post the vid itself, which is weird, macabre and inspiring at the same time, and almost certainly hasn't yet found its true audience...

Pouncing In The Name Of...

I've mentioned the Panic Mouse - the expensive toy that my cats comprehensively ignored - many times on the blog, and a few people have asked what's become of it. The answer is that about six months ago Dee gave it to Louise, a cat-owning friend at her workplace. "This looks great!" said Louise. "I bet my cats will love it!" It saddened Dee to see such hope in her eyes, knowing what a disappointment she was headed for, upon getting the Panic Mouse home. However, the other day, Louise's other half, Daniel, sent us a video of their cat, Daisy, with the Panic Mouse (and other, less highfalutin toys). As you can see, it's quite a contrast. That said, Daisy still seems more interesting in mauling her non-mechanized toys...

Our Panic Mouse video:

Louise and Daniel's:

Friday 19 December 2008


Just to let everyone know that Under The Paw is now back in stock at amazon - and not a moment too soon, since today is the last day to order first class before Christmas first class (express delivery can be ordered until the 23rd). As a notorious gossip at my school said when she heard that her former best friend had snogged the least popular boy in the third year, one of whose parents worked part-time at the local refuse centre: "Spread it!".

Friday 12 December 2008

Slides: For Cats Whose Parents Can't Afford A Treadmil

Cat Boxing Videos: The Top 3

3. Tactical Cruiserweight Bout Between Gingers.

2. White Tabby Matches Himself Blow-For-Blow.

3. Fat Ginger Mobster Decides That He's Not Going To Take The Younger Generation's Nonsense Any More.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Broccoli: The Secret Ingredient In All Good Cat Food?

funny pictures of cats with captions

I've already mentioned The Bear's odd fondness for broccoli. I like to think this makes him unique, but perhaps not...

Under The Paw update

Thanks to everyone who's emailed regarding Under The Paw's recent disappearing act. Just to let you know, it is currently being reprinted, and will once again be available from all good booksellers - including amazon - by next Weds (Dec 17th).

Tuesday 9 December 2008

"About fifteen of them are the same leopard."

Frankie likes to nick toys from other cats' homes. I particularly like the bit where his owner, Julie, says "about fifteen of them are the same leopard". Still, I can't help noticing that even Frankie has been careful to eschew the dreaded Panic Mouse.

Update: here's the video of Frankie from BBC News.

RIP Bagpuss

Very sad to hear that Oliver Postgate, the folksy genius behind my favourite ever kids tv programme, Bagpuss, died yesterday, at the age of 83. Here's Postgate talking in The Guardian about some of his favourite creations (it actually turns out that the character of Bagpuss came from the imagination of his artistic partner, Peter Firmin).

Saturday 6 December 2008

I truly do has a sad...

Over the last couple of days, a small publishing nightmare has struck. It's a nightmare that could be looked upon positively, since it's transpired as a result of Under The Paw's popularity, but it's nonetheless a frustrating one: the book has a) run out of copies and b) not been reprinted yet! To everyone who has emailed to say that they can no longer order it on Amazon - I'm sorry about all of this. Apparently a few remaining copies can be found at Waterstones.

In the meantime, it would be lovely if you could help me let Simon and Schuster know if you need to find a copy; maybe if they hear that enough people still want to buy it they might speed up the reprint! Their email:

In addition, just like the typical twelve-year-old that he is, Janet has come up with a Facebook petition. Please sign it if you're on there...

Friday 5 December 2008

Retro Cats

Earlier this year I read an excellent novel called The Confessions Of Max Tivoli, by Andrew Sean Greer. Tivoli is the victim (or should that be beneficiary?) of a rare syndrome which causes him to age backwards: he's physically more or less an old man when he's born, but by the time he's in his sixties, he has the appearance of a little boy, although coupled with the standard wisdom of anyone else in early old age. It turns out to be a clever way for Tivoli to address that eternal "If I knew what I knew now and had a young person's body!" conundrum, but, as is so often the case with dark, intellectual matters, it also got me thinking about The Bear. It is entirely possible he might be suffering from the cat equivalent of TIvoli's condition. When I met him, way back in the autumn of 2000, he looked positively geriatric, but he seems - with the exception of a few flea allergy-based hiccups - increasingly pristine as time goes on. Dee's not very good with dates, but she's fairly sure she got him in 1995, as a kitten, which puts him somewhere in the middle of his fourteenth year. People tell me this is "a good age" for a cat. When they say this, they don't mean that thirteen is the age when a cat comes into his own, consolidates his finances, finally gets to drive the automobile that becomes him, and learns to be comfortable with his foibles; they mean that he'd done well to get to that age. Quite frankly, this terrifies me, as I fully expect The Bear - a cat who has already shown astonishing durability in using up approximately forty three of his nine lives - to be on this planet for at least another three decades.

There seems to be a great divide of opinion regarding cat life expectancy, and it's a topic that fascinates me: some cats seem rickety and exhausted when they are eleven, others seem like they're such warming up for the true moggy action when they're sixteen. Yesterday, I read a news article about the world's current oldest cat, Mischief (pictured above), who's 27. He appears remarkably fresh-faced, although I wouldn't put it past the Telegraph to have used a backdated shot of him (after all, they were still using a byline shot of me taken in spring 2001 as late as autumn 2006).

I suppose 27 could be seen as just a few limping, blind, farting years on from the age that my uncle's cat, Black'Un, lived to (21), but then I started thinking about what I was actually doing in 1981, when Mischief was born*, and I started to get a true sense of just how long he'd been around. This prompted me to do some more research on old cats, and led me to various DIY youtube tributes to heroically longlasting moggies, which is not the kind of thing any animal-lover should do late on a Thursday night, whilst feeling tired and not particularly emotionally resilient (the croaky meow on the end of this one really killed me - don't watch it unless you're feeling strong, or at least make sure you watch Maru to cheer you up afterwards), after a day featuring an unexpectedly large workload. It also led me to Creme Puff.

Creme Puff, who died at the age of 38 years and 3 days, was the oldest cat ever. On her wikipedia page, it says that there have also "been reports of cats living well into their forties, however this is rarely proven, and is considered extremely unlikely", which is the equivalent of if the people who wrote the wikipedia page for the world's biggest beanstalk had decided to add "oh, and there was also this really, really massive one that led up into the clouds to a giant's house where there were gold coins and stuff, but most people think that's just, like, bullcrap." To speculate about a cat older than Creme Puff seems downright greedy. I mean, even I'm not 38 yet, and I own three pairs of Totes Toasties.

If you'd spoken to Creme Puff not long before her death, in 2005, and she'd been able to speak back, she would have been able to tell you about a world before The Manson murders, a world before Led Zeppelin, a world before The Three Day Week, a world when the JML pet mitt and the happy paws bungalow were nothing more than the wild dreams of some crazy-haired feline science fiction writer. There's a video which includes actual footage of her here. I consider this a bit of a find, not just because at the time of writing it's only had 491 views, but also because Creme Puff's owner, Jake, has the amazing distinction of having been the owner of not one but two of the oldest cats ever - a vet speculates that the secret to the longevity of Jake's pets might be the fact that Jake feeds them "bacon, eggs, broccoli and coffee" every morning - and may be the ultimate Cat Man, complete with tragic backstory. He also has a cat called Red Dog, which is the best cat name I've heard this year. I especially like the bit where Jake talks about having adopted "over five hundred cats" from the local shelter in his casual, Texan way, sort of like he's talking about how many times he's bought cigarettes from his local 7-11.

*In the main: trying to build my own space rocket from a piece of balsa wood and a loose plank from the garage roof, and striving to coerce a neighbour's tabby to "make friends" with my first cat, Felix.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Some Not-Quite-So-Obvious Cat Book Ideas For Christmas Shoppers

So you've (hopefully) bought your copy of Under The Paw, but you're still looking for some moggy-themed reads for your nearest and dearest, and you fancy going a bit beyond the usual cat-lit canon and the gift book table at your local branch of Borders. What do you do? If it's something a bit different and a bit special that you desire, you could do far worse than begin by investigating the three titles below....

Ernie: A Photographer's Memoir by Tony Mendoza.
My favourite cat book ever. Ernie was the ultimate tough guy New York cat, and Mendoza's pictures of him capture the essence of the feline spirit like nothing else. I gaze at these expressive photos, which document the full gamut of streetmog experience, at least once a week, and not just because Ernie is my kind of cat (big nose, black - well, more grey, really - and white, lots of cattitude). I wrote some more about him here.

Why Cats Paint: A Theory Of Feline Aesthetics by Heather Busch and Burton Silver (who also wrote the equally marvellous Dancing With Cats).
Ever wondered what is about Van Gogh's Sunflowers that gets your tabby's creative juices flowing? Or what the patterns your cat leaves in your litter tray really mean? Read this, and meet Minnie, the furry white abstract expressionist easing herself back to the easel after a creative hiatus following poor reviews, and Smokey, the romantic ruralist who tells his owner where to leave his paints by marking the spot with urine. An art world spoof to rank right up there with William Boyd's Nate Tate: American Artist.

The Sophisticated Cat: A Gathering Of Stories, Poems and Miscellaneous Writings About Cats edited by Joyce Carol Oates.
Peerless collection of cat-themed writings which Oates, remarkably, found time in her 167-Great-American-novels-per-year schedule to edit. Includes PG's Wodehouse's wonderful The Story Of Webster, as quoted in Under The Paw, and prose and verse by many other masters whose penchant for the whiskery kind you might not have suspected (e.g. John Updike, who I'd always pegged as a die-hard Dog Man).

Monday 1 December 2008

Guest Cat Of The Month For December: Bosshog (like Ron Burgundy, he's kind of a big deal round here and probably has many leather-bound books..)


The Hog, Hogger, Boss And Gorgeous Boy.

Age is but a state of mind, dude. I are seven and a half.

Pah, as if! The provider of food is Lindsay, we live in Orkney.

"I am Bosshog, hear me roar - meeeep!"

Favourite habits?
Sauntering, cleaning myself, sitting on roofs, being gorgeous.

What constitutes a perfect evening for you?
Have a bit of a saunter around the property - we've just moved to the country and I've now got about 60 acres - have a snooze in my little nest I've made in the straw shed, fish for tea and a good chin rub.

Favourite foods?
Fish from the chip shop.

Defining moment of your life?
My naming ceremony - before that I'd apparently been another "welfare case'" she'd taken home from work (she's a vet nurse). Once the name was given I knew my place as King Of The Castle was secured and I was able to begin behaving as such, after all I'm kind of a big deal.

Any enemies (including people, animals and objects)?
Not really. I'm nearly 7kg, y'know - I'm like, totally, awesome! I don't like cars - I once got run over and needed emergency surgery. It was touch and go for a while but I took it like a man - after all, chicks dig scars. And what is it with horses? You dig a nice comfy bed in the straw and some horse comes along and poops in it - how rude!

If you could do one thing to make the world a better place for felines, what would it be?
Opposable thumbs.

If you could meet one celebrity, who would it be and why?
Rolf Harris - I think he would love to paint my portrait.

Which One Of The Cats In Under The Paw would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
I think probably The Bear - anyone with "The" in front of their name is usually cool. We could discuss how hilarious it is to disappear for days at a time and the finer points of "superpurrytramping" on their belly or thighs while really digging those claws in but knowing they won't put you down cos they're so grateful you're actually talking to them - mwah-ha-ha-ha!