I Wonder What Other Animals Are Secret Residents of My Neighborhood

My desk at home is right near a window that overlooks my street. It’s fun because I can sit there and do stuff on my computer and look out the window to see people walking by and delivery trucks showing up and when the occasional person walks up the driveway to my door, I can assess whether or not they saw me and can prepare myself to hide when the doorbell rings.

Also sometimes I see fun animals walking down the street. Lots of times there are people walking their dogs. Occasionally a deer wanders by. Then there was today. I was standing in front of my window talking on the phone to Alex and Sam was sitting in the room with me.

I was about to tell Alex my super fun animal news of the day, which was that I got the cats to play video games.*

Then, and I couldn’t quite believe I was saying the words, I said, “Oh my God, there is a pig walking down the street.”

To be clear, I live in the suburbs. This is not a normal occurrence. And it wasn’t like somebody’s cute little miniature piglet was out for a trot on a leash. This was a giant-ass unattended pig rooting around in my recycling bin.

Photo of pig at the end of my driveway. There is a ripped up cereal box near him.

The little box by his legs is the remnant of a Double Chocolate Krave box in which our friend the pig finished all the cereal Quinn left in the bottom of the box. Is chocolate bad for pigs? Is it bad for children at breakfast time?

I decided that something bad might happen to this pig if he continued to wander alone so I called animal services and then, because he’d disappeared from my line of sight, I went outside to see if I could find him in case I could give them an update on his trajectory. Because I’m a giver, I also took my phone to take photos for you.

When I went outside, I found my next door neighbors who were all, “It is still here?” Then I saw that the pig was between our two houses, scavenging pizza crumbs out of a pizza box he’d knocked out of the trash.

Photo of a big black pig eating out of a pizza box

Wild pigs—they’re just like us!

But then the pig spotted me and made a beeline straight at me like I was a congealed bit of cheese on the bottom of a pizza box. The he started headbutting me and kinda jumping up at me and I decided that he was either a pet pig who wanted love or one of those human-eating pigs who wanted to eat me.

Of course, Jack’s bus arrived at that very moment so he could watch his mom be attacked and devoured by a giant pig.

And naturally Jack headed directly toward us with a giant grin on his face. So then I sacrificed myself by putting my body between the woman-eating pig and my baby and shoved him through the garage into the house as my neighbors watched in horror. I wasn’t able to get into the house because the pig had followed us and the last thing I wanted to do was LET THE PIG INTO MY HOUSE, so I slammed the door and waited until he wandered a little bit away before I ran into the house as well.

Photo of part of a pig in my garage from very close up.

PIG! IN MY GARAGE!

I went back up to my window just in time to see a stressed out looking teenager holding a cucumber walking rapidly in the pig’s direction. I ascertained that he belonged to the pig and called back animal services to tell them they no longer needed to apprehend a wild pig, which was probably good news to whomever they’d dispatched to our location.

Because, I suppose, pig necks don’t lend themselves to leashes, he lured the pig down the sidewalk with the cucumber. It was kind of adorable.

All in all, it was a very exciting afternoon. I realize that it is now apparent that I don’t have a very exciting life. But c’mon a pig. All by himself. Walking down my street. That’s good stuff.

*****

* I did. It was awesome. My friend posted a photo of her cat playing this game and I was all, “My cats should obviously be doing that too,” and five minutes later Ruby had leveled up to Level 4 and Oreo was trying to pick up the iPad with her teeth.

Greedy and Unauthorized

I have a fat cat and a slender cat. And three other cats. (One of them is super ripped. We imagine her doing sit-ups while we sleep so she can get buff and keep the younger cats submissive. It’s working.)

Anyway, we have a fat cat…

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

Wait, what did you just say?

…and a slim cat.

Photo of a small black cat looking at the camera.

Puuuuuuurrrrrrrrr.

The fat cat is Oreo. She is named after a delicious cookie. She never had a chance. The thin cat is named Starfire. She’s always been tiny.

Anywho, we wanted to put Oreo on a diet because that level of pudge isn’t healthy for a cat and what with her and Quinn’s weird (so, so fucking weird) and absolute codependence, she can never die. To facilitate this, we asked the vet how to trim her down.

We feed our cats canned food morning and night (not a lot, but some) and free feed them kibble during the day. The vet suggested we only leave the kibble out for an hour or so in the morning and the evening. Which we did.

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

WHHHHHHYYYYYYY?????

None of the cats much appreciated not having access to food at all hours of the day, but I was more concerned about Starfire than anyone. I kind of feel that she needs to have the ability to eat whenever she wants to. I mean, she is practically emaciated. When we restricted her food, she started doing things like eating crumbs and leaves off of the floor.

Because we didn’t want to starve Starfire to death and much to all five cats’ relief, we returned to our freefeeding ways.

Then one day I was sitting in the vet waiting room flipping through a magazine when I came across an ad for the SureFeed microchip feeding system. This “pet food bowl” or “bizarre archway to lunch” has a lid that folds back when it recognizes the microchip from a specific pet.

Photo of an orange cat eating out of a bowl. The bowl has an arch through which the cat has stuck his head. There is a clear lid folded back, giving the cat access to the food bowl.

Not our cat. Our cats are strictly bichromatic–not garish orange.

This was the answer! The pet shelter where we got our cats microchips all of their animals, so Starfire was all ready for this system. Once we purchased this bowl, Starfire could eat whenever she wanted to and Oreo could not.

We bought the bowl and I set about to reading the instructions, which were hilarious for many reasons, first of which is that they were very law and order with instructions that started with “If the pet is authorised and allowed to eat…”

Also you can tell that the instructions are fancy because they use an “s” in “authorized” instead of a “z.” Furthermore, this instruction book was clearly not written by someone whose first language is English, leading to fun subject headings like “Learning your pet into the feeder,” which is really just a couple of typos away from becoming some sort of animal horror snuff film.

There is a whole process involved in teaching your authorised pet to eat from this thing, first of which is getting the bowl to recognize that (and only that) cat. The way to do that is to push the “add pet” button on the back and then wait for your thin cat to poke her head through the arch while you lurk around trying not to scare her away from the feeder at the same time that you do try to scare away the unauthorised cat.

I didn’t want to stuff Starfire through the thing, thus ensuring that she would freak out and never go near the bowl again, but the instruction book told me that “no amount of waving your pet in front of the feeder will have an effect,” which could just have easily said, “Don’t be a dumbass about this, Stimey.”

I spent the better part of the day lurking near the food bowl with no success until my actions motivated Sam to prove he was better than me by luring Starfire into the archway, causing the bowl to recognize her. I was so relieved that he’d done it that I couldn’t even be annoyed by his smug little attitude.

I only added Starfire to the bowl because, let’s be honest, none of the rest of the animals really need to snack throughout the day. If I’d wanted to though, I could have added up to 32 pets as authorised eaters. I have lots of thoughts about someone who would need 32 pets on this thing. I also have thoughts about how sad it would be to be the 33rd pet.

My favorite part of the instructions, however, was one sentence about the cat this bowl is designed to keep out. It didn’t speak of the cat with the medically sensitive diet or the cat with slight self-control issues. It flat out fat shamed the fuck out of Oreo:

“If an unauthorised greedy pet tries to eat from the feeder when the lid is closed then the lid will simply not open.”

I like the lack of comma there which implies that the subject is a “greedy pet” modified by “unauthorised,” as opposed to a normal pet, modified by both “unauthorised” and “greedy.”

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

Hurtful.

We spent close to a month moving through the training stages. At first you just leave the lid open, then you set it so it closes just a little, then more, then more and more. It’s pretty clever actually, getting them used to the short noise and movement gradually in something like five increments.

Two days ago, we were ready. I pushed the button that closed the lid on the bowl and waited to see if Starfire would manage to open the bowl and if Oreo would lose her shit completely. Yes on both counts.

Poor Oreo. I watched her look carefully through the clear plastic lid to the food beneath. She sniffed the feeder. She moved around to the front and nudged it with her nose. Clearly, she thought, this is broken. Somebody should fix this.

Then she clawed at the lid. She tried to bite the lid open. She stood on top of it to investigate the back of the lid perhaps in hopes that the open part was now on the back. Then she clawed and bit at the front of it again.

It was sad. I too have been pudgy and hungry myself and it sucks.

I literally just now heard the bowl open and I looked into the feeding area only to see Oreo kind of nudging Starfire out of the way so she could get to the food. She got just about one mouthful before the lid shut on her.

Again, very sad.

Photo of three cats near the feeder, an empty bowl, and a water dish. Oreo looks a little desperate.

If cats could speak, two of these would be saying, “It is 8:38 for chrissakes, it is well fucking past dinnertime.” The third one would not be saying that. Because it is always dinnertime for her. Plus, she doesn’t use curse words.

Maybe if you could be less greedy and unauthorised, you could eat at lunchtime too, Oreo.

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

I hope you all feel good about yourselves.

I’m so glad I am not a cat, subject to the whims and laughter of my owners.

Posted in cat

Politicats

Today’s drawing assignment:

“Five cats are running for president of our house. Draw campaign posters for them.”

Jack’s poster:

Drawing of Sharky with red and blue writing that says, VOTE SHARKIE! followed by other printing that says, "You won't regret it! Not a lie, not a scam.

Seems legit.

Sam’s poster:

Picture of Ruby and some pyramids and lettering that says, "Ruby 2016 Vote Ruby for Dictator

This pretty much captures how Ruby would govern.

Quinn’s poster:

Drawing of a flag with a drawing of Oreo cat standing in front of it wearing a suit and featuring an orange combover. Text says, "vote Republicat Oreo Troomp. Make Ameowica great again."

Make Ameowica great again.

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but Jack came up with it. He and Quinn made some campaign commercials as well. Those poor cats.

Oreo’s Demands

I am endlessly entertained by my children, so when Quinn directed me to check the mailbox before we walked to the school bus stop earlier this week, I was delighted to find a letter.

A demand letter.

A demand letter from Oreo.

This is Oreo:

Photo of Oreo the cat.

How did I know it was from Oreo?

Well, it had her photograph on it and it was FULL of telltale LOL cat misspellings.

Photo of an envelope. On the left is says, "Quan da swan Maze:" with a straight line for a maze. In the middle is a picture of Oreo taped to the envelope. On the right it says, "What am I: I make milk and chew cud" In the very bottom right it says "Oreo"

If you don’t live with Quinn, you might not know that “Quan da swan” refers to Quinn.

She did try to throw me off by pretending to be a cow that makes milk and chews cud. Really, though, she mostly just makes easy mazes.

There were two papers inside. The first established the origin of the letter.

A drawing of Jupiter, labelled as "Joopitor." There is an arrow pointing to it with the words, "I live here:"

And the thing got here without even a stamp.

The second paper finally got to the point and outlined Oreo’s demands.

Letter that says, ""Quinn is pawesome. give him all da chocol8 so he can eet it. Can u ples do dis one thing? —Ananymous —Oreo"

How could I refuse?

Quinn tells me to expect ransom notes from the other cats soon. I wonder what it is like to be kidnapped by a cat. I bet it is delightful.

I Am the Greatest Parent in the History of Parents

I got Quinn the most amazing present for Christmas. It was so good that he didn’t even care that it didn’t arrive until today.

Quinn actually came up with the idea for the gift. He is so bonded to his cat, Oreo, that when we go on vacation he has a really hard time sleeping without her. (I suspect that she has her own problems sleeping without him as well. They are weirdly codependent.)

When faced with an overnight trip that his class takes in the spring, Quinn was worried that he would have trouble without Oreo. He suggested that a stuffed animal that looks like Oreo would help. That led us to start investigating the world of custom stuffed animals.

Enter Cuddle Clones.

Enter Fake Oreo.

Photo of Oreo the cat sitting next to a virtually identical stuffed animal replica of her.

I was nervous that she wouldn’t turn out right. I should not have had this worry.

I opened the box while Quinn was at school and spent the rest of the day tapping my foot waiting for the moment I could give her to him. He knew she was coming this week, so I had to hide her box until Alex got home because Alex wanted to see The Reveal.

Oh, it was worth it.

Photo of Quinn holding Fake Oreo. He has a huge grin on his face.

This was his first look at her.

I asked Quinn if he liked her. He said, “No.” <looooong pause> “I LOVE her!”

Fake Oreo spent the rest of the evening freaking us out by making us think Oreo was sitting in funny places around the house. This might be a huge problem.

If you are so inclined to purchase an extravagant gift for the animal lover in your life, you should know that you can sign up for Cuddle Clones’ email list and take advantage of one of the many discounts they offer. It also takes a long time for them to make your clone. I think I ordered Fake Oreo in early November. And you will need to provide MANY photos, including one of the animal’s tail and butt area.

In return, you will get a stuffed animal that is a detailed replica of your animal, right down to the black spot on her left front wrist. Seriously. Amazing.

There is nowhere to go from here. I’ve done it. This was the gift to end all gifts…the coping tool to end all coping tools…the joy to end all joy. Job accomplished.

Close up of Quinn and Fake Oreo's face. He is so happy.

The Kitten Schism

We have a kitten problem.

Photo of two mostly white young cats sitting on a brown couch.

“Oh, hai!”

Seriously. They’re a HUGE problem.

And I know you’re looking at them and thinking, “Oh, they’re soooo cute and sweet looking, how could they be a problem?” and to that I just say oh, man, you don’t even know. For, like, ten pounds of cat, they have disrupted our household in a serious way.

Last May, when we started thinking about adding to our cat family, we were a little nervous. It seemed risky to get additional cats when we already had three, because our original cat ecosystem was SO delightful and we were afraid of disturbing it. Assuming everything would be fine, we adopted Pickles, up there on the left, and Sharky.

Ecosystem —> KABLOOEY!!!!

Now we have two ecosystems.

They’re both super delightful ecosystems, but they are distinct.

Two is better than one, right? (Wrong.)

See, one of our cats, Ruby, HATES the kittens. She hates them with a white hot intensity that I didn’t expect from such a goofy cat. It is inexplicable how much she hates them. But hate them she does.

As for the other two cats, one of them—Starfire—is totally fine with the kittens. The third cat, Oreo, is a little bit ambivalent. She’ll hiss at them and then she’ll sniff at them and she would occasionally play with them, but mostly she seems to follow Mean Girl Ruby around and meows the equivalent of, “Is that what you’re wearing?” *eye roll* “Brown fur patches are soooo six years ago.”

(Pickles: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by Ruby.”)

Ruby chases the kittens. She bats at them and she tries to bite them on the butt. As a silver lining, the kittens’ terror has made them bond very strongly with us. They used to spend all of their time on the couch next to us—or hiding under one particular chair. Honestly, it was a little sad.

Photo of Quinn sitting on the couch reading a book. He has both kittens on his chest under a blanket.

But cuddly. Very, very cuddly.

You know how when you were a kid, you would pretend that the floor was lava and you couldn’t step on it? That was the kittens’ life, because the floor? The floor belonged to Ruby.

Photo of my family room in which there is a large couch. You can see two small white cat heads peeking over the back.

“Please don’t leave us.”

We have always kept the kittens in our bedroom at night so they feel safe while they sleep. But these fucking little cats are so helpless that we had to carry them downstairs in the morning and carry them back upstairs at night.

Photo of Alex holding two small white cats.

“I’m sure these things at the end of our legs are supposed to do something, but I’m just not sure what.”

We have tried very many things to bring peace back to our animal kingdom. We have a Felaway diffuser, Ruby wears a delightfully scented, purple calming collar, and we have been very liberal with treats around the kittens. We have even given Ruby chewable Prozac for cats. Seriously. We had a whole conversation about Ruby’s right to self-determination before we decided the kittens had a right to not be bitten on the ass every day and we started stuffing pills into Ruby.

We’ve had some success, but Ruby still HATES the kittens. And much as I always swore that I would never live in a segregated house where one set of cats lived in one place and another set lived in another, that is what we have come to. We’ve temporarily moved the kittens to our bedroom until Ruby either forgets they exist or forgets that she hates them. Or until one side or the other dies.

Sometimes I’ll put Ruby in the bedroom and let the kittens hang out in the main part of the house. It takes the kittens a while to figure out that they’re safe though. The other day, I brought the kittens downstairs, put them on the couch, took a shower, went to the grocery store, went and took an oath to become a notary, came home, and they were in the exact same spot where I’d left them.

Screenshot of text message to Alex. It's a photo of the two white kittens sitting on the brown couch. There are two texts from me to Alex underneath it: "I left them here two hours ago." and "Sharky looks like he's been crying."

That’s Sharky in the back with the circles under his eyes.

Seriously, I carried them to the litter box the other day. They are CATS. That’s why you have cats, so you don’t have to take them to the bathroom. (See above, re: kitten problem)

After they realize that Ruby isn’t coming for them though, they relax.

Two photos, one of Sharky sitting by the blinds. He has one foot up where he's been batting at them. The second is Pickles relaxing on the floor next to a catnip ball. Both kittens are staring off into the distance.

I know they look alarmed still, but that’s because I was shouting their names at them.

I don’t like to leave Ruby upstairs alone, so I usually put Oreo with her. This has had dire consequences for Oreo.

Photo of the bottom of a door. There is a black and white cat head sticking out from underneath it. The cat head looks saaaaaad.

Yes. That IS Oreo’s head stuck under the door to my bedroom.

Evidently, Oreo was going to tunnel out.

I sent Sam for the camera as I rushed to save her. I don’t know what she was thinking. Very clearly she has no concept of her giant body. She was like Winnie the Pooh stuck in the honey pot. And just like Winnie the Pooh, it was difficult to get her out.

I couldn’t jam her head back through so I had to slide her over to the edge of the door to free her. Unfortunately, her body was acting as a wedge, so it was hard to to push the door open enough to give her head room to slide out. It was a whole thing. A whole hilariously tragic thing.

She’s okay. She’s embarrassed, but she’s okay.

We won’t be using that door to confine Oreo anymore.

So now you have the whole story of The Great Kitten Schism of 2015. It turns out that there is a downside to having five cats. I KNOW. WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED?

I will say, however, that our goal in getting the two additional cats was that there would always be a cat within arms’ reach. I was going to say mission accomplished, but as I write this, there is no cat anywhere within sight. With all we’ve done to make these animals happy, that is some buuuuullshit.

These five cats are seriously lucky that they are so individually delightful because as a group, they are a huuuuuuuuge problem.

Happy Birthday, Sam! Thanks for the Excuse to Glamorize the Cat!

I have been 100% remiss in wishing my very favorite teenager a happy 14th birthday on this here blog.

So, happy birthday, Sam!

Photo of Sam blowing out the candles on a Hello Kitty-themed cake. Jack and Quinn are in the background.

It’s like he’s middle aged; look at the fire from all those candles!

For the first time in his young life, we had to celebrate on not-his-birthday because he had a two-hour concert band rehearsal on the actual day and it seemed like a bummer to try to cram his whole birthday celebration into the hour and a half between when he got home from school and the time he went to practice so instead we feted him two days early on a Sunday when there was time for gifts and video games and watching the newest Avengers movie on DVD and going to dinner and still fitting in non birthday-related chores.

Per usual, Sam got some very lovely and thoughtful gifts from his family, but I am here to tell you about my favorite gift that he got, incidentally, from me.

It relates to this animal right here:

Photo of a black cat sitting on the edge of a wooden table.

This is Ruby. She belongs to Sam. She is a total goofball.

Remember when I commissioned a painting of Quinn’s cat and the rest of the family erupted in jealousy? Well, now it was Sam’s turn to live on happy street.

Photo of Sam looking at something in a frame. He is grinning. You only see the back of the frame.

This is him holding his portrait of Ruby that he has just unwrapped.

You want to see the portrait, don’t you? I know you do. Well, that is perfect, because I really want to show you.

Photo of a painting of the cat from the first picture in the post.

OH MY GOD I LOVE IT SO MUCH I ALMOST CAN’T BREATHE WHEN I LOOK AT IT.

The artist totally captured the goofballiness, didn’t she? Also, I should mention that you can find said artist on Etsy and I highly recommend that you do, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t make her so very busy that she can’t paint a picture of Starfire for Jack for Christmas.

Photo of hands trying to force a the cat from the painting to look at the painting. She will not.

There was only one harsh critic of the paining and that was Ruby. She did NOT want to be photographed next to it. (Did I mention that in addition to being a goofball, she is also a grumpball?)

Happy birthday, Sam! Happy portrait day, Ruby!