Culture | Culture Culture en-us Thu, 27 Mar 2014 11:00:00 -0700 Thu, 27 Mar 2014 11:00:00 -0700 Orion <![CDATA[6 Tips for Taking Great Pictures of Your Cat]]> From an early age I have always been crazy about cats. Maybe I was born with a cat-lover gene or something. We had two cats in the family when I was young -- first there was Tinka, a beautiful black and white tom who, sadly, disappeared when he was about five (we found out later from a neighbor that he had been mauled and killed by a dog). And then there was Mohrchen (loosely translated from German as “Blacky”), who was with us to the age of 14.

Young Barbarella and her cat Tinka

Before adopting my first very own furbabies Lugosi and Spider in March 2000, the cat deficiency in my life was relieved by volunteering for the Cats Protection League in Archway, North London, UK, every Sunday.

Shaded Golden Persian Beauty posing for the camera (Persians *always* look grumpy!)

Apart from cats, creativity is another huge part of my life. I learned to play the piano at age seven and wrote my first little tunes when I was about 10. Later on, when I wasn't writing and recording songs, I would design logos and websites, so branching out into the creative medium of photography felt like second nature to me.

A feral cat on a roof, with the moon in the sky...

I was already a keen hobby photographer before I got my first digital camera (Olympus C-100), and I had taken lots of photos of Spider and Lugosi using my ordinary old film camera. But with the emergence of affordable digital cameras, photography suddenly became so much easier -- no more film to develop, nor a scanner needed in order to email those lovely photos or put them on my website.

Mirror Mirror -- My Tabby Twins Spider & Lugosi

And ever since I have had a digital camera in my grubby mitts, no feline who has crossed my path has been safe from me!

Very shy black and white feral cat in the bushes - this is where you will need that optical zoom

Living on the tropical island of Lanzarote, which has a large feral cat population, I encounter gorgeous kitties wherever I go -- and I usually have one of my two digital cameras with me. Armed with my Nikon P100 (hopefully to be replaced by a Nikon P600 soon) or my smaller Wi-Fi enabled Samsung WB150F, I am always ready to shoot unsuspecting felines, most of whom are quite happy to pose for me, even if it's only for 10 seconds!

Two playful kittens in my alley...

Regarding my choice of camera, to me, the three most important things are:

  1. Big optical zoom -- my Nikon and Samsung cameras have built-in 26x and 18x optical zoom respectively. These types of cameras are known as "superzoom cameras," meaning that no additional lenses have to be attached to the front. There are now lots of fantastic superzoom cameras with up to 60x optical zoom (Nikon P600).
  2. Fully articulated (tiltable) screen -- vital for taking photos in hard to get places and positions.
  3. Weight -- due to suffering from arthritis and fibromyalgia pain, I cannot hold a heavy camera with one or more lenses attached to the front for more than a minute. The above mentioned superzoom cameras are very lightweight.

Grey Persian Cat closeup

The more optical zoom, the better I am able to get shots of feral cats who will not let me go anywhere near them. However, zooming in always requires a very steady hand since there is more camera shake. Most cameras, including my own, have rather good image stabilization sensors, though.

Until I had my first tiltable screen camera I didn't realize what a godsend this feature would become. Using this, I am able to easily take photos of cats under a table without having to crawl around on the floor. Or I can take photos holding the camera high above my head while still being able to see the screen and what I am actually taking photos of.

Two young feral cats I encountered on a tourist complex

My photography style

Although I'm not opposed to it, I am not so much into the “cutesy kittens in baskets” type of photography. Instead, I like trying out new angles or entice cats to do stuff or play with things, so I get really cool, and a bit more unusual, shots. When out looking for feral cats to photograph, I aim to find interesting props, shadows, branches or leaves to incorporate in my composition. Apart from that, I am a big fan of macro photography, and I love getting up close and personal with cats' noses, whiskers or paws.

Getting up close and personal with this odd-eyed kitty´s nostrils!

I would love to share some tips to help you get better shots of your cat.

1. Get down to your cat's level

If you are in a standing position taking photos of your cat sitting on the floor, chances are that you will not get many decent photos. Kneel or lie down to bring the camera to the same level as your cat. This is where that tiltable screen I describe above comes in really handy!

Stretchhhh... and pose for the camera!

2. Use natural light

Personally, I don't like flash photography at all. It makes everything look too harsh and 99 percent of photos end up with the dreaded red-eye effect. Or yellow-eye effect, in the case of cats. If you're indoors, open all the blinds and curtains to let in as much light as possible, and try and move your kitty to a better lighted position if she'll let you without ruining the moment. Perfect lighting is particularly important for black cats, who are notoriously difficult to get good photos of. You can also improve your indoor shots by playing with your camera's settings, specifically adjusting the ISO which can cut down on photo blur in low light.

If you want to take it one step further, you might want to invest in a professional photographic lighting kit, which will help you get better indoor shots of your cats.

Photo session with two black sisters Risa and Izarra

3. Familiarize yourself with your camera

Most of us are happy to use the automatic point-and-shoot settings on our camera, but many cameras have manual or semi-manual settings, which will really make a difference if you want to take fantastic photos. Remember, you don't need an amazing or expensive camera -- just like any good pianist can play on any piano and make it sound good, a good photographer can use a cheap, crappy camera and still take good photos. Don't be afraid to play around with the settings and experiment!

Barbarella at photo shoot with Risa and Izarra

4. Use appropriate color backdrops 

You would not want to use a tartan background to photograph a tabby cat, or a light background for a white cat. Make sure to have a bit of contrast between your cat and the colour of the backdrop. Single colors work best, but sometimes it's all about experimenting –- for example, you might want to get a camouflage effect of your cat blending in with a blanket of the same color or pattern!

Stunning Tabby Maine Coon

5. Play with your cat and use treats

To get action shots of your cat with fangs and claws galore, dangle a toy in front or above her. For more encouragement, use treats as a motivator. Catnip is another fantastic aid for those action shots -- watch kitty go wild and snap away! Note: because of your cat's fast movements, you might want to experiment with your camera settings, otherwise you'll end up with a lot of blurred shots, especially in low light.

6. Use Photoshop for post-processing

So you took some great photos, but sometimes you might want to give them a colour or contrast boost, or even apply snazzy effects. There's also the matter of an otherwise perfect shot that may have an undesirable object in the background, like a rubbish bin, that may be edited out of the photo (if you have the skills to do this). Personally, apart from sharpening and lightening my photos a little, I try to keep them as natural as possible, and for contrast and color boost I usually use the settings on my camera.

Great shot from a Persian kitten photo session

Visit my website Catnip Camera to see more feline photography, and also like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter

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About the Author Barbarella Buchner -- Ailurophile. Geeky Goth Girl. Ex-Musician Singer/Songwriter. Photographer. Web Designer. Fibromyalgia + RA Sufferer. And totally mad! She originally hails from Hannover (Germany), then moved to London, and since 2004 has lived on the tropical island of Lanzarote, together with her tabby twins Lugosi & Spider, and ginger queen Ruby Akasha. Apart from being an avid hobby -- and sometimes even paid! -- photographer, she works as a freelance web and graphic designer and occasional Catster contributor. She designed and maintains her local cat charity 9 Lives Lanzarote's website.

Thu, 27 Mar 2014 11:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/taking-great-cat-pictures-photos-catnip-camera-photography-tips
<![CDATA[What Will Your Cat Do While You Watch the Puppy Bowl?]]> On Sunday, millions of TVs will be tuned to Puppy Bowl X on Animal Planet, and our nation's cats will be suddenly confronted with the weirdest three hours of television they could ever imagine. What will your cats be doing when you're watching the Puppy Bowl?

  • Yowling at the TV. 
  • Watching you watch puppies from across the room, wondering exactly when you lost your mind. 
  • Watching some birds and horses kill each other in the other room. 
  • Watching the puppies with you, waiting for someone to open that TV box so the real business of tormenting puppies can begin. 
  • Eliminating inappropriately.
  • Standing at the food dish and waiting for you to get off the Godforsaken couch and put some food in the bowl, just like every day. 
  • Asking you every five minutes when the cat halftime show is starting.
  • Acting all bored and uninterested and OMG THE CAT HALFTIME SHOW IS STARTING!
  • Having the best half of her life, dammit. Cat halftime show.

  • Asking you why you don't put on the cat halftime show every day -- what, do you hate cats or something? 
  • Rolling around on the floor watching the cat halftime show and loving you so much because you're -- wait, what's this? Puppies again? PUPPIES? AGAIN?
  • Eliminating inappropriately, this time on the soft fabrics.
  • Jumping on the coffee table and sitting on your appetizer tray. 
  • Ripping the curtains down once and for all. 
  • Walking around and marking in everyone's drinks. 
  • Eating some fresh, hastily prepared chicken -- finally you people get the picture. 
  • Just sitting there amazed you can watch puppies for so long. 
  • I mean, puppies, we get it. Soft and cute, good to bat around. But come on. 

  • Heading back into the next room to see how those birds are doing against the horses -- oh, 3-27 with 10 minutes to go? Even a cat knows that's not right. 
  • Coming back into the Puppy Bowl room to tell you that some of the people in Seahawks room seem to have died, not that you'd care with your precious puppies.
  • Thinking that puppies aren't so bad if they're contained in that box all day. 
  • Ha ha, that puppy fell over. 
  • Oh cute, that puppy bit the other one. 
  • Wondering if all these puppies will be destroyed after the show. (Sorry, but I'm a predator. I think things.)
  • Wondering how many of these half-eaten mini-croissant sandwiches can fit in the secret hole in the closet. 
  • Determining through trial and error that number of half-eaten mini-croissant sandwiches is seven
  • Eating seven half-eaten mini-croissant sandwiches. 
  • Thinking that if the puppies come with half-eaten mini-croissant sandwiches, then by God let's have more puppies!
  • Listening to the roar in the next room, where an announcer is screaming, "And the Broncos are your -- .
  • Oh, good. You turned off the puppies. Everyone is going home now, right? 

Read more funny stuff from this author:

Tue, 28 Jan 2014 13:00:00 -0800 /molz/cat-behavior-humor-animal-planet-puppy-super-bowl-x
<![CDATA[I Found a Fanzine that Combines Cats with Rappers!]]> You know that thing when you're in a store and it doesn't matter what they sell but you instinctively find yourself looking for the goods that feature cats in some form or other? Well, that happened to me the other day when I was browsing through a Brooklyn art gallery-slash-store and came across a zine titled Pussy. Wonderfully, it combines my twin obsessions of rappers and cats.

The cover nods to Drake's Nothing Was The Same album cover

The book's blurb begins by noting how "in the history of western civilization no other genre of music has produced such a magnitude of lyrical content about cats." Then comes the phraseology kicker: "This zine is a celebration of rappers and their love of pussy."

All images via Wizard Skull

So here's an illustration of the late, great, rotund Notorious B.I.G. with his hitherto unheralded catty companion. (There's a Lil' Kim joke here I'm not going to make.)

And here's the clean-cut (but stubbly) Drake stroking a feline.

And on it goes, with 18 black and white illustrations of iconic rappers holding various cats paired with notable p-word-referencing lyrics.

Digging around online, it turns out that a second version of Pussy is currently in the works (the Kanye West illustration hails from that one). It also transpires that the artist behind the cheeky zine, Wizard Skull (Alexander Duke) (NSFW, for cartoon nudity), has some fine feline art history, having posted up some cat-meets-Ronald McDonald posters around the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

You can pick up a copy of Pussy over at the Wizard Skull site (again, NSFW -- cartoon nudity) for the bargaintastic price of $5 -- it makes a great late stocking stuffer.

Laugh with us:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it's not quite what you think it is.

Wed, 15 Jan 2014 13:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/cat-comics-cartoons-fanzine-cats-rappers-pussy-drake-2pac-kanye-west
<![CDATA[The 7 Types of Cats You'd See at Burning Man]]> Oh, come on now, don't act like you've never heard of Burning Man. 

I'm pretty sure that about 40 percent of San Francisco's population comprises "burners" -- folks who make the annual voyage out to Black Rock Desert in Nevada for a week-long gonzo music and art festival called Burning Man. Not quite a rave and not quite the set of Mad Max, Burning Man is pretty serious business to some not-so-serious people (who are often businessmen when they aren't half naked).

Which is to say it was pretty quiet here in San Francisco last week while everyone was out there. Which got me thinking: What if cats went to Burning Man? Or had their own Burning Man? These are the seven different characters I imagined you'd encounter:

1. The young newbie who goes wild with the catnip

It's usually this kitten's very first trip to the Playa (as they call it) -- in more ways than one. Usually the hardest drug she's ever done is that one time she nibbled on some cat grass (whoa!) and that other time he sat on his human's lap watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His friends smirk when he asks for a hit, but even a threshold amount is too much.

2. The old hippie who goes wild with the catnip

It's usually this cat's ninth trip to the Playa -- in more ways than one. You'll usually find him sitting next to the newbie, watching some sort of light show and muttering, "They sure make this stuff stronger than they did in my time."  

3. The career burner

When this cat is not at Burning Man, he's either decompressing from Burning Man or recompressing (I made that up) from Burning Man, and the only thing he talks about is how he can't wait to "get home to the Playa" (where he carries out a sordid affair with a ferret, Romeo and Juliet style).

4. The raver transferred to the desert

These cats are totally bummed when the batteries run out in their laser pointers.

5. Frat cats just looking for a pussy … cat

Being able to crush a beer can with your forehead is not impressive -- it just means you have a thick skull.

Photo via Flickr

6. The nudist

The nudist is barely five milliseconds onto the Playa and he's already stripped down to his face paint.

Photo via Flickr

7. The cat who mistakes the Playa for an oversized litter box 

This cat is not tripping -- he is just lost. Please contact a ranger if you see this cat.

"You mean this isn't a giant litterbox? Oh, crap, you better watch your step." Photo via Flickr

Tickle your funny bone on Catster:

About Liz Acosta: Catster's former Cuteness Correspondent, Liz still manages the site's daily "Awws," only now she also wrangles Catster's social media. That's why she wants you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and -- her personal favorite -- Instagram. See ya there!

Top photo via Flickr

Wed, 04 Sep 2013 05:00:00 -0700 /molz/burning-man-cat-humor-photos-videos
<![CDATA[8 Reasons Why Longcat Is My Favorite Internet Cat Ever]]> Back in the earliest years of the Internet, there was a fetid swamp known as 4chan. Although it was populated by many creative and funny people, those realms were also infested with trolls, whose only joy in life seemed to be spreading homophobia and stupidity. Nevertheless, from that murky swamp emerged an unlikely hero in the form of a white cat, who soon earned the moniker Longcat. A few years after Longcat’s birth in 2005, I discovered the big guy, and it was love at first sight. And here’s why.

1. Like all awesome Internet things, Longcat was born in Japan

According to KnowYourMeme, a man from Japan posted the original photo of Longcat, whose real name is Shiroi. The man’s colleagues on the boards quickly started referring to her as “nobiiru,” or “stretch.”

2. Longcat is long

It didn’t take long for people to realize an awesome Photoshop challenge when they saw it, and before long, infographics depicting Longcat’s size began showing up.

3. No, I mean it: Longcat is really long!

Who knew a humble creature like Longcat could find herself standing in space if she simply got up on her hind legs? People soon began developing massively long drawings of Longcat like this one. (Warning: Portions of this illustration are NSFW.)

4. Longcat is a war hero

Did you really think it was a flag those Marines were hoisting at Iwo Jima? No! The only reason you think so is because of a vast conspiracy in which a photo was doctored to ensure that the gullible public didn’t know the truth: that a cat was really controlling the universe!

5. Nerds love Longcat

Well, okay, nerds love just about every cool Internet meme that comes along, but when you combine cats, computers, and extreme length, you’ve got fodder for true awesomeness.

6. Longcat has a nemesis

In February of 2007, another fetid swamp of trollery known as /b/ provided the cradle for Longcat’s archrival, Tacgnol. It soon became known that the two cats had been engaged in a battle for control of the world since their earliest years.

7. Longcat and Tacgnol have inspired an entire creation myth

Since the fine, upstanding citizens of 4chan and its ilk have nothing better to do with their time, they decided they needed to create an entire mythology around the two cats. Naturally, since every creation myth also has an end-of-time myth, the epic battle between Longcat and Tacgnol is supposed to end in an apocalyptic era known as Catnarok. (Warning: This link goes to Encyclopedia Dramatica and therefore is, by its nature, not safe for work -- and probably pretty offensive to some.)

8. But what happens when Catnarok is over?

If Tacgnol wins, things might not end well for the kitties.

What’s your favorite Internet cat meme? Tell us in the comments!

Thu, 25 Apr 2013 11:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/longcat-my-favorite-internet-cat
<![CDATA[Wait, People Really Believe in "Demon" Cats?]]> I own three cats, and they have never been anything other than angelic. Most people I know I feel the same way about their feline friends. Every so often, however, I will hear someone talking about bad cats -- they tear at the furniture, mess the house, or simply cannot be tamed. While such behavior is certainly undesirable, I always try to point out that it can be worse.

For example, what if your cat were possessed by a devil, or was a demon in feline guise?

Superstition has a lot to say about cats. Evil-looking kitty by Shutterstock

In our rationalist, post-Enlightenment world, that seems a bit far-fetched, but for much of history and in many cultures, it was not uncommon to believe that our delightful household companions might have demonic ties.

Because cats are by nature nocturnal, elusive, and independent, many ancient peoples associated them with dark and mysterious things. These included night, the moon, magic, and even death ... and such themes were a natural segue to align cats to demonism and evil powers.

A man rides a cat to a witches' sabbath in this 15th-century illustration.

This belief has deep roots in the ancient world. The Israelites were very suspicious of cats and called them "demons of the desert," according to Isaiah. For the Chaldeans -- the Mesopotamian tribe which came to rule Babylon -- cats were to be shunned, referred to as "the accursed ones." In Iran, the Zoroastrians considered cats to be servants of the devil Ahriman.

The suspicion that cats were tied to evil powers was found as far away as the Malay Archipelago, where a demon known as a bajang, normally of deformed human shape, would sometimes assume the guise of a cat in order to gain access to villages, where it would eat fetuses and wreak havoc. In Japan and the Scottish Highlands, meanwhile, demonic cats were believed to steal the souls of the recently deceased and drag them to hell.

A Ghanaian movie poster featuring the titular evil cat.

Ancient Egypt is usually cited as a rejoinder to this ailurophobia -- for Ra's daughter Bastet, cats were considered divine. Bastet even had her own city, Bubastis, where cats were sacred. Still, Egyptians acknowledged that the cat had a dual nature. It could be divine, but it could also be demonic.

Egyptian cat statues by Shutterstock

Sekhmet, the lion goddess, is considered Bastet's twin, but their relationship more resembles opposite sides of a coin. Bastet is typically considered a tranquil domestic goddess, while Sekhmet was famed for deviltry, violence, and uncontrolled wildness, known to rejoice in slaughter and lap up the blood of humans.

Lion-headed goddess Sekhmet is known for wildness and devilry -- very catlike! Sekhmet painting from Egypt by Shutterstock

The Christian era further solidified the links between demons and cats. A theory existed that demons had been prolific in the pagan world, and with the coming of Christ, people were now considerably more resistant to their influence. The demons did not just disappear, however -- they transmigrated into the most amenable hosts they could find: animals. Thus, animals were considered ripe for demonic possession, in particular cats, which already had potential ties to sinister forces. A possessed cat would exhibit behavior much like a possessed person: speaking in tongues, levitating, performing acts of sacrilege, and spitting fire or vomiting forth strange objects.

Certain demons were thought to be especially likely to assume the form of a cat. Chief among these was Baal. A former Semitic divinity considered by the Israelites to be a false god, Baal had stuck around and eventually evolved into a major arcana, becoming one of the princes of Hell.

The demon Baal: man, cat, and toad. From Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire infernal (1862).

He was depicted with a tripartite nature -- equally man, toad, and cat. As a cat, he could easily sneak into towns and villages and wreak havoc. Cat-Baal was blamed for defiling a French church, including killing the priest with bursts of toxic vomit and removing the human head from a statue of Christ and replacing it with a feline one covered in some kind of reeking liquid.

Baal was also accused of appearing as a cat during a Holy Week procession in Spain. It was said that the cat defecated on the crucifix carried by the parishioners. When shocked church members tried to shoo it away, the cat grew to enormous size and chased them off with huge fangs bared, then released a fart so powerful it broke windows.

Meet Kasha, the Japanese demon cat who eats corpses.

Such stories further enforced the belief that cats could be in league with demons. Sixteenth-century French scholar (and demonologist) Nicholas Remy even commented that "all cats are demons." The Enlightenment quashed such stories by making them unfashionable and vulgar. Still, the belief in possessed cats continued, proving especially resilient in some areas; within the last decade, cats and goats have been tried for witchcraft and demonic possession in Africa. A horror film was even made in Ghana about demonically possessed cats.

There were multiple accounts of a demonic cat in London during World War II, and there is a demonic cat which is to this day believed to haunt the U.S. Capitol. Known as "D.C." (for "demonic cat" and "District of Columbia"), it is also the one which has been most testified to. Prowling the Capitol for the past 150 years, it has been seen by maintenance workers, guards, and even a gaggle of well-known politicos. Among other honors, it is the only demonic cat to have its own Wikipedia page.

Does a scary black cat lurk in the Capitol? Black cat and pentagram by Shutterstock

The demonic cat in Washington has long been considered a harbinger of national disaster. It is known to appear, growing in size over a period of nights, to presage catastrophes soon to strike the nation. These have included sightings before a flood killed 2,200 people in Johnstown, Pa., in 1889; prior to a hurricane which killed 8,000 in Galveston, Texas, in 1900; and in advance of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

The demon cat was also said to appear before Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were assassinated, and in the days before Richard Nixon's resignation. Its current whereabouts are unknown, and it has not been seen for in recent memory -- but it is telling that a maintenance worker reported strange meowing sounds the night before the 9/11 attacks. Somewhere deep in the recesses of the U.S. Capitol Building, at least one demonic cat still lurks in the modern world.

Paul Koudounaris has a Ph.D. in art history and is the author of The Empire of Death, a study of religious sanctuaries decorated in human bone, and the forthcoming Heavenly Bodies, a study of 17th-century decorated skeletons. He has written for a wide selection of magazines and newspapers, including several features for Fortean Times. He can be contacted at his website, Empire de la Mort

Read more about ghost cats, psychic cats, and other spooky things:

Thu, 18 Apr 2013 09:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/demon-cats-cat-history
<![CDATA[5 Reality TV Shows That Would Be WAY Better With Cats]]> I'm going to tell you a secret, so lean in. I love reality TV shows. I really do. In fact, I'm hopelessly addicted to them. If I catch more than five minutes of any show, I become emotionally attached to every teenage mom, jerk-face chef, and aspiring drag queen superstar I see. 

Now, if cats were the stars of the reality shows, I'm certain my DVR would be overrun with kitty-drama goodness. And not an ounce of guilt would be felt. While we're on the subject, what would popular reality shows look like if cats were in front of the camera? Let's take a look!

"I can hardly wait for the grand finale!" Cat with Remote Control by Shutterstock

1. The Scratchelor (The Bachelor)

"I knew he'd choose me." Persian Cat with Feather by Shutterstock

Like in the human show, a bachelor male would find his perfect match by spending time with -- or "dating" -- a number of females. The group of feline contenders would share a fancy, multi-level cat condo, and each would vie for the attention of the scratchelor tom. They'd begin with group dates, perhaps dumpster-diving or birdwatching. As he narrowed down his list of possible one-and-onlys, he'd spend special moments with each of the contestants.

We'd see footage of intimate butt-sniffing and co-cleaning shots with a night vision camera. And, of course, we'd cheer for the sweet, country-girl, tabby barn cat and root against the snooty Siamese named Simone who trash-talks the other girls and poops in their litter boxes. After the rose-eating debacle of season one's rose ceremony, the producers would realize the scratchelor would have to give something else to his favorite females. Thus, the peacock-feather ceremony is born. 

2. Project Runaway (Project Runway)

"Damn my lack of opposable thumbs!"

This show would be a disaster from the beginning. First of all, the feline contestants would guffaw at Tim Gunn's request to "make it work." The words "cat" and "work" go together about as well as sequined pants and a puffy-painted cat sweatshirt. Or maybe that does go together these days -- I'm not here to tout my fashion savvy, that's for sure.

A cat's lack of opposable thumbs would present a challenge when it came to threading a sewing machine. And have you ever tried to dress a cat? I'd bet the meowing models would probably do that frozen, crouchy stance cats do when we do manage to slip a cute kitty vest over their heads. And then they'd run away and hide under the craft services table ... hence the name, Project Runaway. Yeah, it'd be a complete train wreck, but I'd totally watch it.

3. The Amazingly Long and Annoying Race (The Amazing Race) 

"Run like you heard a can opener!" Running Cat by Flickr Creative Commons

In the human version of the show, teams of two race around the globe to be the first to arrive at the finish line. During the race, they must overcome physical and mental obstacles. If they choose, cats can move really quickly -- you know, like when they race around after visiting the litter box or when they hear the can opener. They can also take their sweet time and stall for no apparent reason, like when they can't decide if they want to be in or out of a room so they stand right in the doorway so you can't close the door.

Because of this inconsistent behavior, I believe a season that would normally take two months to shoot might take a good six months to a year. And just as we're cheering the winning team as they approach a win, they'd drop and take a nap ... mere feet from the finish line. Just to be contrary.

4. Hurry Up and Lift the Door Already! (Storage Wars)

"Don't rush me. I prefer to try before I buy." Homeless Cat by Shutterstock

Storage Wars features auctions of complete storage lockers, whose owners have not paid the rental fee for three months, thereby defaulting on the rental agreement. After the auctioneer raises the door on the locker, the buyers have five minutes to peek inside before the auction begins.

Here's the thing: This show would never get past the kitty buyers perusing the storage innards. After seeing the stacks of boxes, furniture, and endless hiding nooks, they'd disappear right into the locker. Roll the closing credits.

5. Say No to the Holiday Sweater (Say Yes to the Dress)

"The short answer? NO." 39//365 by Flickr Creative Commons

Say Yes to the Dress profiles brides-to-be on their search for the perfect wedding dress. If cats were featured on this type of show, we'd mostly see a montage of cats walking backwards, trying to wiggle out of sweaters adorned with festive candy canes and snowmen. This show would spawn a series of spinoffs, including audience favorites Say Ta-Ta to the Tutu and Say Screw You to the Hat.

"I can't believe he picked her!" Happy Young Woman by Shutterstock

What reality shows would you like to see with cats instead of humans? Tell us about them in the comments!

Read more silly posts by Angie Bailey:

Mon, 11 Mar 2013 03:00:00 -0700 /molz/5-reality-tv-shows-way-better-starring-cats
<![CDATA[Cat Cliches: The Origins of 10 Overused Kitty Phrases]]> Cliches, phrases, and expressions that reference cats pepper our language. We use them without ever really thinking about their meaning.

Black Cat by

It’s nearly impossible to determine how and when many of these phrases developed. (I tried!) There are usually several sources, and often no one can agree on the origin. What we can agree on, however, is that cats have been prominent enough throughout history to make their way into expressions we still use today.

Here are 10 of our favorites, and their presumed meanings and origins.

1. Grinning like a Cheshire cat

This expression describes someone who has a big huge grin on her face. The best-known use of the phrase is in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865.

Alice says to the Duchess, "I didn't know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact, I didn't know that cats COULD grin." 

“They all can,” said the Duchess; “and most of 'em do.”

However, there are mentions of Cheshire cats and their grins in works that predate the book, so we can only surmise that Lewis Carroll had heard that Cheshire cats “grin” and used that characteristic for his story. 

2. Fat cat

This expression appears to have developed in the 1920s. According to journalist and humorist H.L. Mencken, “fat cat” back then referred to a rich dude who was willing to contribute a lot of moolah to a campaign fund. The expression evolved over time to describe a financial supporter of any kind, and then further evolved to the modern usage, which is typically used to describe a wealthy businessman.

Young Cat by

3. Rub the wrong way

This term is used when, for some reason, you just don't like someone else. "He rubbed me the wrong way." The phrase is said to stem from the act of stroking an animal (in particular, a cat) against the natural direction of his fur. Makes sense! This phrase seems to have been around since the mid-19th century.

Cat gets a bath by Shutterstock

4. Cat’s meow, cat’s whiskers, cat’s pajamas

Apparently these phrases arose in the 1920s to describe something especially fabulous. Being the “cat’s pajamas” is considered especially awesome since, well, cats who wear pajamas are something special indeed!

Other phrases along these lines include the "bee's knees," "monkey’s eyebrows," and "bullfrog’s beard."

5. Curiosity killed the cat

Curiosity killed the cat ... but satisfaction brought it back. Cat at window by Shutterstock

It's not too hard to figure out the meaning of this one: Don’t put too much effort into things that don’t concern you ... or you’ll regret it! According to various sources, it’s likely the expression comes from English playwright Ben Jonson’s 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour. Check out this line: “Helter Skelter, hang sorrow, care’ll kill a Cat, up-tails and all, and a Louse for the Hangman.” We all know cats are nosy, nosy, nosy, possibly to their own detriment, so this makes a lot of sense.

6. Let the cat out of the bag

Your cat might prefer to stay in the bag. Bengal kitten in paper bag by Shutterstock

This phrase is used to mean divulging a secret. It is believed that at medieval markets, dishonest traders selling pigs would give their customers the pig in a bag. They'd tell the customer not to open the bag until they were away from the market (I imagine along with some good reason why). Once the customer opened the bag, they'd discover a cat in the bag, not a pig. So, "letting the cat out of the bag” revealed the secret of the con trick.

7. On the wrong side of every door

This phrase basically speaks to the “grass is always greener” concept. Anyone who lives with a cat knows that kitties always want to be on the side of the door where they aren’t currently standing.

The origin of this phrase may be T.S. Eliot’s 1939 poem, "Rum Tum Tugger" (from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, on which the musical Cats was based, by the way). Rum Tum Tugger is never satisfied and is “always on the wrong side of every door.”

Russian blue by fence by

8. Cat got your tongue?

This expression is usually addressed to someone (typically a child) who is silent or not answering a question for some unknown reason. The expression seems to come from the old wives' tale that a cat can suck the breath out of sleeping baby.

9. While the cat's away the mice will play

An expression referring to situations where the person in charge isn’t present and all the others behave badly. According to, this idiom has been in use since around 1600.

10. Looking like the cat that ate the canary

We promise no birds were harmed in the taking of this picture. Fluffy cat in birdcage by Shutterstock

This phrase usually refers to a person who appears self-satisfied or smug. The origins are unknown (at least that I could find!) but claims the phrase emerged in the second half of the 19th century.

What are some of your favorites? Are there any cat cliches we missed? Let us know in the comments! 

More cat stuff from the past:

Fri, 08 Mar 2013 13:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/cat-cliches-phrases-and-expressions
<![CDATA[Broadway Producer Seeks Cat for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Role]]> When you think about cats and Broadway, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the epically long-running musical Cats. But this time a Broadway producer isn’t looking for people to dress up in cat costumes and mournfully wail “Memory” under a single spotlight.

No, this time a real, four-legged, purring feline is being sought for a starring role in the world premiere Broadway production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The play is based on the Truman Capote novella by the same name and adapted for the stage by Richard Greenberg. It was also adapted into a motion picture starring Audrey Hepburn. The carefully selected feline actor will play the role of Holly Golightly’s feline companion, who goes by the rather unceremonious name of Cat.

Emilia Clarke, familiar to fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones series, will play the role of Holly Golightly.

Kitten in spotlight by Shutterstock

"Holly Golightly's beloved companion, Cat, is one of the most famous felines in all of literature,” said director Sean Mathias in a statement. “We will search high and low until we find the perfect animal to take on this role."

The producers are holding a casting call starting today (Feb. 11, 2013) and running through the week. If you’re interested in seeing whether your cat has what it takes for a stage career, you can submit a photo of your cat and your contact information to

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is scheduled to begin performances at the Cort Theater on March 4, and its official opening is set for March 20.

Source: Playbill

Mon, 11 Feb 2013 09:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/broadway-producer-seeks-cat-breakfast-at-tiffanys-role
<![CDATA[Monopoly Fans Dump the Iron as a Playing Piece, Add the Cat]]> Just in case we needed any more proof that the Internet is made of cats, our furry friends have even taken over the most classic of classic business-mogul board games.

Monopoly is no longer the sole province of dogs. The long-loved Scottish Terrier token now has a feline pal, thanks to an online survey conducted through Monopoly’s Facebook page and Twitter channel, game-creator Hasbro announced Wednesday morning.

Following a worldwide online fan vote, NBC's Today Show hosts, from left, Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Natalie Morales unveil the Monopoly game's newest addition -- the cat token, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, in New York. The cat replaces the iron token in the classic game. (Photo by Jason DeCrow/Invision for Hasbro/AP Images)

The cat is one of five tokens Hasbro put out to vote in its poll, which ran from Jan. 9 through Feb. 5. More than 250,000 people from 120 different countries chimed in with their opinions. The other tokens competing against the cat were a robot, a guitar, a diamond ring, and a helicopter.

"We put five new tokens out for our fans to vote on and there were a lot of fans of the many different tokens, but I think there were a lot of cat lovers in the world that reached out and voted for the cat to be the new token for Monopoly," said Jonathan Berkowitz, vice president for Hasbro gaming marketing.

Now cat-loving Monopoly fans no longer have to resort to playing Cat-Opoly (which, by the way, is actually quite a lot of fun because it’s so cat-specific) or creating cat-focused Monopoly games using do-it-yourself kits (which can be great or really awful, depending on the level of arts-and-crafts skills of the kit users). Now we finally have equal status in the world of rainbow-colored money and real estate speculation.

Photo: Image capture from Monopoly video

But which of the eight iconic game pieces got the boot to make room for the cat? For a long time, the iron, wheelbarrow, and shoe were tied for the dubious honor of being axed, but when wheelbarrow and shoe fans rallied, the iron was unplugged and left cold.

So, cat lovers, grab your token and your money, and may you always be able to buy Boardwalk and Park Place. As for the iron -- sorry, dude: Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Versions of Monopoly with the new cat token will come out later this year.

Source: Huffington Post

Fri, 08 Feb 2013 09:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/monopoly-pieces-iron-cat
<![CDATA[Kristina Wong's Play "Cat Lady" Slams the Stereotype]]> Are cat ladies lonely spinsters? That’s the stereotype that performance artist Kristina Wong explores in her most recent theatrical show, Cat Lady. The play has been performed in cities throughout the country and recently completed a three-week run in Miami.

Rest assured, Wong isn’t milking the stereotype for laughs. She’s a lifelong cat lover and was inspired by her own dating experience to create Cat Lady. Of course, it helps that she had a furry four-legged muse -- her late cat, Oliver.

Kristina Wong and her late cat, Oliver.

Cat Lady explores loneliness and the search for meaningful connections. In the show, Wong plays herself. She’s looking for love, but when she’s on tour performing, it’s a lonely existence. To make matters worse, when she comes home, her cat, Oliver, sprays all over the place to express his displeasure about being abandoned. 

The show also draws a parallel between solitary cat ladies and smarmy, fast-talking, male pick-up artists playing the dating field. Yup, it’s complicated, but dating’s never simple, is it?

At first glance, it would seem that cat ladies and pick-up artists have little in common, but it turns out that Oliver was the uniting factor. Wong explains, “Oliver was very much the original pick-up artist.” Even though Oliver belonged to someone else in Wong's building, he went out of his way to woo her by leaving her dead birds and mice. 

Kristina Wong is surrounded by kitties in her one-woman show, "Cat Lady." Photo by Aran S. Graham.

Says Wong, “He was one of those cats that would run into my house when I opened the door and I'd have to chase out when I left. And if I didn't let him in, he'd sleep in the doorstep and meow until I let him in. He really was doing the stuff of loyal boyfriends.”

After her neighbors moved away, Wong asked to keep Oliver, and a loving relationship ensued.

In her real life, Wong embraces being a cat lady, and even found that Oliver was at times an asset in her dating life. Wong says, “Men (and women) thought Oliver was cute. There were a few guys who thought that I should put Oliver down because he was spraying so much, especially because it was driving me crazy. And Oliver did pee on one guy's shirt. But sometimes he'd be the wingman. I'd bring dates up and we'd have Oliver to coo over before awkwardly making out.”

Uh-oh, they're behind you! Kristina Wong in "Cat Lady." Photo by Aran S. Graham.

Unfortunately, Oliver passed away in February of 2011, but he did live long enough to see Cat Lady come to life as a live performance and subsequently spray all over the home when Wong went on tour to perform the show.

Kristina Wong and Oliver.

Sadly, there won’t be any new kitties in the foreseeable future for Wong. She says, “After Oliver died, I contemplated getting a new cat, but I travel so much. I've pretty much been out of L.A. for the last six months. If I want to take on a pet again, I feel like I want to know that I'll be around for a long time to really get to know this kitty.”

There also won’t be any new cat-inspired shows from Wong, so we’ll have to catch Cat Lady for our comedic cat fix. She says, “The only cat I have now is Oliver the Ghost Cat, and after spending four years to put him into life, I don't think I'll be doing any shows about cats for a good long while. One show is enough.”

Wong is, however, passionate about continuing to turn the cat-lady stereotype on its head. In her words, “Cat Lady isn't just about a bad stereotype of women who love cats, but really is about how there is a little cat lady in all of us, a part of us that wants something to hold and love you unconditionally.”

To find out whether Cat Lady is coming to a venue near you, visit Wong’s website.

Tue, 29 Jan 2013 13:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/kristina-wong-play-cat-lady-slams-stereotype
<![CDATA[Author Gwen Cooper Sees the World Through Her Cat's Eyes]]> Cats know our secrets. They watch us rush through our morning routines, celebrate our triumphs, and weather the ups and downs of our relationships. When our feline roommates perch on the windowsill or hunker down beneath the couch to observe our daily dramas, believes bestselling author Gwen Cooper, they understand more than we think they do.

"Cats are predators, so they, by design, are going to notice very small changes in posture, expression, body language, and even the way we smell," Cooper says. "I think on a really fundamental level, they do understand [our emotions], because they notice so many of the small details that we do not notice in each other."

Gwen Cooper and her cat Homer

As members of such an astute audience, cats could tell one heck of a tale. That's why Cooper's new novel, Love Saves the Day, has a feline narrator.

The fictional tale explores human relationships from the perspective of a precocious cat named Prudence, who lives with a woman named Sarah. When Sarah does not come home one day, Prudence moves in with Sarah's newly married daughter, Laura. As Laura and Prudence get to know each other, they "help each other with the healing process and rediscover the joy in their shared memories of this person who they both lost," Cooper says. With Prudence's help, Laura also finally has a chance to heal from her difficult relationship with her mother. 

Homer has been hitting the catnip pretty hard.

To master Prudence's voice, Cooper channeled her own cat, Scarlett, a classically aloof princess who loved Cooper and Cooper alone. Many of Cooper's fans will remember Scarlett from Homer's Odyssey, Cooper's coming-of-age memoir about her life with blind "wonder cat" Homer, who taught her to live and love fearlessly. 

"Writing from a cat’s perspective, I didn’t want a feline narrator who was too kind of cloyingly in love with humans to be able to observe them without a certain kind of objectivity," Cooper says. "So I figured Scarlett was the perfect cat for that."

Cooper channeled her cat Scarlett while writing from the perspective of a kitty in "Love Saves the Day."

Through its third-party examination of the mother-daughter dynamic, Love Saves the Day reveals how our relationships with our pets can strengthen our relationships with people, a theme Cooper also explored in Homer's Odyssey. She believes that loving and caring for her cats has made her a better person by connecting her with the best parts of herself.

"Love is love, whether the love goes on two legs or four," Cooper says. "And love is never wasted. It’s not something you just throw out there and get nothing back in terms of your own growth. Just the experience of caring for someone and loving someone else is always going to be meaningful and enriching. I think that’s definitely true of our relationship with animals."

The human-animal bond is especially important when the going gets tough. Recently, Homer has been suffering from health problems; according to Facebook posts, for a while Cooper was not sure that Homer would live to see the new year. Considering all that Homer has overcome, that's quite a statement. He entered Cooper's life 16 years ago as a malnourished, unwanted kitten whose eyes had been surgically removed due to severe infection, and he grew into a sleek, confident daredevil who could catch a fly in midair. When he became ill and Cooper took him to the vet for blood work, she received some startling news.

"The phrase that the vet used was that his numbers were incompatible with life, which is a really harsh thing to hear," Cooper says. "It’s basically saying this cat should already be dead. But he’s really rallied in the last few weeks. He’s eating really well, and he plays and purrs. This is obviously a cat that has a remarkably strong constitution, but we’re just very grateful that he continues to do so well."

Homer happily licks some string.

Love Saves the Day is scheduled to come out today. For her Love Saves the Day tour, rather than bookstores Cooper is partnering with Arm & Hammer Ultra-Last Cat Litter and visiting 15 no-kill animal shelters across the country. Each shelter will receive donations of Arm & Hammer litter and various other supplies. The tour is still in the early stages of planning, so watch Cooper's website, Twitter, and Facebook for further announcements and shelter selection criteria.  

According to Cooper, private corporate financing for a national book tour -- especially a tour not held in bookstores -- is highly unorthodox. She is thrilled to have Arm & Hammer's support and "commitment to improving the lives of cats everywhere."

"I wanted to do a book tour of shelters instead of bookstores, because love does save the day for so many unwanted and abandoned animals through the work of shelters," Cooper adds. "What I’m hoping will happen is that, between Arm & Hammer and me, we can select shelters that are doing incredible things and let the communities know about the incredible volunteers they have right in their midst."

Tue, 15 Jan 2013 07:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/interview-author-gwen-cooper-cats-book-love-saves-the-day
<![CDATA[Cat Fostering Expenses Now Allowed as Tax Deductions]]> In 2004, California cat rescuer Jan Van Dusen claimed just over $12,000 in tax deductions for expenses related to the care of foster cats. The IRS denied the deductions, and in 2009, Van Dusen went to the mat with the agency to fight for her right to claim those deductions, appealing the case in U.S. Tax Court.

Judge Richard Morrison eventually ruled in Van Dusen’s favor, saying she could claim most of those expenses. The only ones the court didn’t allow her to claim were those that were hard to link solely to cat care.

The upshot? The IRS now allows people to claim deductions for expenses related to foster care for pets.

Items such as pet food, medicines, vet bills, and carriers could all be deductible. And if there’s a room in your home solely dedicated to the care of fostering cats, you can claim a portion of your household utilities as well.

However, you’ll need to be careful if you try to claim those expenses.

First, the charity you’re working with has to be a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and the organization’s status must be current. You can use the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Select Check search to ensure that your rescue group currently has official nonprofit status.

Secondly, if your expenses add up to more than $250, you must have a letter from the organization with which you’re working confirming your volunteer or foster care provider status.

This is good news for people who earn enough money to claim individual charitable deductions. If you’re a mere mortal and you’re filing a non-itemized tax return, or if you have tax-exempt status because your income comes from Social Security or other such programs, it might not be much help for you. But it is a step in the right direction and may convince more people that fostering can have benefits beyond the good feeling of saving lives.

Source: Discovery News

Mon, 14 Jan 2013 08:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/cat-fostering-expenses-allowed-tax-deductions
<![CDATA[5 Interesting Facts About Fortune Cats (Maneki Neko)]]> If you’ve ever visited a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, Asian supermarket, or any Chinatown shop for that matter, you've probably noticed a little cat figurine perched quietly by the cash register. 

This Fortune Cat is a lucky charm that’s very popular in Japanese and Chinese cultures. It’s a talisman that is believed to attract good luck and fortune for its owners. Thus, it’s very common to find one on display in stores, restaurants and other businesses. 

Aside from finding it really cute, I never knew the meaning behind the “Fortune Cat” other than it was supposed to be lucky. Being a curious cat, I decided to delve further and uncovered five interesting facts about this cheeky little fellow.

You've probably seen this guy around, but what does he mean? Photo: Japanese lucky cat by Shutterstock

1. The Aliases

Fortune Cat is known as Maneki Neko in Japanese, which means “beckoning cat.” The cat has its paw raised as if it’s waving in good fortune for its owners. Other common monikers include Lucky Cat, Money Cat, and Welcoming Cat. 

2. The Legends

No one can quite agree as to how the first Maneki Neko came to be. However, most will agree that Lucky Cats first appeared during the Edo period in Japan (17th century to mid-19th century).

There are a couple of popular legends about the origins of the Lucky Cat. The first tells of a wealthy man who took shelter from a rainstorm under a tree next to a temple. He noticed a cat that seemed to be beckoning to him, so he followed it inside the temple. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck the tree he had been standing under. Because the cat had saved his life, the man was so grateful, he became a benefactor of the temple and brought it much prosperity. When he passed away, a statue of the cat was made in is honor.

Another common legend is a really peculiar one. A geisha had a pet cat that she adored. One day, it was tugging at her kimono and the owner of the brothel thought the cat was possessed, so he sliced off its head with a sword. (Yeah, gruesome! No cats were harmed in the writing of this article.)

The flying cat head landed on a snake about to strike and the fangs killed the snake and saved the woman. The geisha was so distraught by the loss of her cat that one of her customers made a statue of the cat to cheer her up.

There are lots of legends surrounding the origins of the Maneki Neko. Photo: White cat on the path by Shutterstock

3. The Significance of the Raised Paw

There’s actually a meaning behind which paw the cat is holding up. If it's the left paw, this is supposed to attract customers. If the right paw is raised, this invites good fortune and money.

They both sound pretty good to me, which is why sometimes you can find a Fortune Cat with both of its paws in the air. Two paws up can also represent protection.

4. The Symbolism Behind the Colors 

 While you’ll most commonly see a white Maneki Neko with orange and black spots, there are  quite a few color variations and they each have a special meaning.

Calico: Traditional color combination, considered to be the luckiest

White: Happiness, purity, and positive things to come

Gold: Wealth and prosperity

Black: Wards off evil spirits

Red: Success in love and relationships

Green: Good health

The Maneki Neko is supposed to bring good luck and fortune. Photo: Asian beckoning cat meant to bring success in business by Shutterstock

5. The Meaning Behind What the Cat Is Wearing and Holding

Maneki Neko is a finely dressed cat usually adorned with a bib, collar, and bell. In the Edo period, it was common for wealthy people to dress their pet cats this way; a bell was tied to the collar so that owners could keep track of their cats' whereabouts.

Fortune Cat figurines often holding other things in their paws. These include:

A koban worth one ryo: This is a Japanese coin from the Edo period; a ryo was considered to be quite the fortune back then.

The magic money mallet: If you see a small hammer, this represents wealth. When shaken, the mallet is supposed to attract wealth.

A fish, most likely a carp: The fish is symbolic of abundance and good fortune.

A marble or gem: This is another money magnet. Some people believe it’s a crystal ball and represents wisdom.

May the Beckoning Cat bring you good fortune in 2013! Photo: "Maneki Neko" isolated on the black background by Shutterstock

Lucky Cats can also be found holding gourds, prayer tablets, daikon radishes, and ingots. These items also represent wealth and good luck.

Regardless of the name, legend, raised paw, color, or item in its paw, you basically can’t go wrong with a Fortune Cat perched by your side.

Photo: Maneki Neko cat by Shutterstock

Wed, 02 Jan 2013 03:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/maneki-neko-fortune-cat-5-interesting-facts
<![CDATA[What Have Your Cats Taught You This Year?]]> I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. Almost all the time, they’re setups for failure. Think about it: How many people resolve to work out more, go buy a gym membership, and then stop going after a month? And let’s not even talk about other popular resolutions like losing weight and quitting smoking. I don’t think I know of anyone who made a resolution on Jan. 1 and saw it through as a lifelong commitment.

Instead of making resolutions, I take time on New Year’s Eve to look back over the previous 12 months. When I do that, I inevitably find that I’ve gained some insights that I can take forward into the next year. With that in mind, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from my cats in 2012.

Zen Siouxsie

1. Be present

Most people, myself included, are guilty of physically occupying a space while our minds are elsewhere. Cats are masters at being here now, and if we don’t learn that lesson our cats teach us with their very existence, sometimes we have to learn the hard way. When Dahlia got so sick this spring, I made a conscious effort to be fully present with her right until she drew her last breath. As I look back at that time, I realize that if I was capable of being present during that emotionally shattering week, I can certainly be present when times are easier. Not only that, but I owe it to myself to do so.

Thomas shows me how napping is done.

2. Take lots of naps

Cats don’t have any problem with spending lots of time sleeping in sun puddles and enjoying the warmth and comfort of their surroundings. I, on the other hand, have a really hard time with this. Maybe it’s the soup of Puritan mores and values that permeates New England like coastal fog, but I find it very difficult to feel OK about sitting around and not doing anything “useful.” Nevermind that rest and even just vegging out actually are useful, because the brain needs some down time in order to function optimally. Nevertheless, I've started applying my cats' teachings and allowing myself one day a week where I don’t do anything unless I want to do it -- and it really has made a positive difference in my life.

Kissy rolls around and gives a contented post-dinner yawn.

3. Eat a species-appropriate diet

My cats are remarkably healthy. Even 17-year-old Siouxsie shows no sign of kidney disease or any of the other illnesses that plague elderly cats. Although good genes surely play a role, I know the fact that she and her brother Thomas eat a grain-free diet has a lot to do with their robust health. Of course, I’m not a cat and I’m certainly not an obligate carnivore, but I do know I feel much better if I reduce the amount of carbohydrates I ingest. Humans aren’t designed to eat massive amounts of bread, potatoes and refined white sugar: we’re omnivores, not carbivores, and we need a balanced diet for optimal health. Besides, if I have the money and the will to buy the best possible food for my cats, don’t I deserve to treat myself the same way?

Dahlia uses Thomas as a pillow.

4. It’s OK to cry

I learned pretty early not to cry: I figured nobody would care, or if they did, they'd yell at me before they'd comfort me. It seemed like everyone around me was falling apart and there was no room for me to express those feelings even if I had dared to do so. What that led to was a lot of incomplete grieving and silent tears in the darkness of my own room. This year shook me out of that rut. When the tech brought Kissy’s body to me that awful November afternoon, my silent sniffles and occasional tears quickly turned into a full-on, unself-conscious bawl. Nobody shamed me. The world didn’t explode. People did care. And it changed me. I want to remember that lesson, for Kissy’s sake and for mine.

5. Keep an open heart

My cats, Sinéad and Dahlia, worked diligently over a total of 16 years to heal my heart and help me to rediscover joy. I got a tattoo featuring them in order to honor their lives and the courage and faith they gave me that it would be OK; I had a reason to go on even if I couldn’t see it myself. I still have my moments, but for the most part I make a conscious effort to go through my life with my heart open to the love that’s all around me. I adopted Kissy because I could feel her connection to me, and I don’t regret it for a minute; even the short time we shared strengthened my belief in the importance of an open heart.

Who's this? You may find out soon!

Now my heart is calling out again: I’ve met lots of cats doing my weekly volunteer shift at an area shelter, and I had no intention of adopting another cat. But when I looked into those golden-green eyes, I had a shiver-down-to-the-core moment that told me this was a reunion, not a meeting.

What about you? What lessons have you learned from your cats this year? Do you think you’ll take them with you into the next? Please share them -- yes, even the silly ones, because cats are experts at silliness!

Wed, 26 Dec 2012 09:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/new-years-resolutions-cat-behavior-cats-taught-you
<![CDATA[Inspired by "My Neighbor Totoro," a Filmmaker Creates Her Own Catbus]]> Are you familiar with Hayao Miyazaki's enchanting My Neighbor Totoro? It's a Japanese animated film about two sisters who go on adventures with friendly woodland creatures after moving to the countryside. It's a classic film, which has enjoyed continuous success as new generations discover it.

One of the most memorable features is a living cat who is also a bus, which shuttles the girls around on their fantastic adventures. I wish I could take a catbus to work everyday! Hey Catster, where's that catbus?

My Neighbor Totoro is just a cartoon, but for photographer and filmmaker Betty Lee of sweet ipomoea, the fantasy movie served as inspiration for one of the most amazing cat costumes we've seen.

Yun Yun is ready for an adventure.

With her crafty skills and a willing victim -- er, we mean subject! -- Lee reinterpreted Miyazaki's catbus in felt, adorned her kitty Yun Yun in her creation, and took these amazing photographs.

Yun Yun says: Now make sure you do it right!

Bumbe supervising construction.

Yun Yun approves of the mice.

Lee's other cat, Bumbe, got to be Totoro himself -- although, because Totoro is a big, gray kitty and so is Bumbe, there wasn't much dressing up to do apart from a well-placed leaf on his head.

A perfect Totoro!

The photos quickly went viral, making Yun Yun and Bumbe quick Internet darlings and spotlighting Lee's craftiness. And who doesn't love a Miyazaki reference?

It's almost like we're looking at a poster for the movie!

Photos via sweet ipomoea

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 07:00:00 -0800 /molz/my-neighbor-totoro-cat-bus-photos-video
<![CDATA[New Video Game Mew-Genics Features Sextillions of Cats]]> Who knew that a weekend of nerdy fun would result in 12.2 sextillion cats?

When video game developers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, collectively known as Team Meat, got together for a weekend game jam, they “fell into a totally out-of-left-field project” called Mew-Genics.

“Mew-Genics is by far the strangest project I’ve ever worked on … and that’s saying something,” McMillen wrote in Team Meat’s blog.

Yes, it sure is saying something. If you saw the movie Indie Game and watched Team Meat develop its wildly popular Xbox game, Super Meat Boy, you know this duo's world is pretty darn weird.

They’re so into the new game that they’ve even temporarily halted the development of PC and iOS versions of Super Meat Boy to work on Mew-Genics.

“We don’t want to spoil too much here,” wrote McMillen, “but we can say the game will be randomly generated, strange, and involve cats.”

What’s not to love, right?

Team Meat’s latest blog post says the game will feature more than 12,207,031,250,000,000,000,000 cats -- and that’s just 12.2 sextillion different appearances of cats. When you add personality and variables in each cat's ability (as well as “secret stuff” that hasn't been revealed yet), and that number multiplies exponentially.

According to the gaming blog TechnoBuffalo, you have a better chance of winning a massive PowerBall jackpot five times in a row than you do of getting the same cat.

So far, the members of Team Meat have said nothing else about game mechanics, but they have made several teaser posts in their blogs with information about characters. For example, a character called Tracy “likes cats, but isn’t a big fan of you.” Butch, meanwhile, is “into some shady stuff … nothing he does is legal … I wonder how he got all those scratches.”

If Mew-Genics is anything like Team Meat’s previous effort, it’s bound to be twisted, but in a fun way. Team Meat is a cat-loving crew -- both developers have cats at home, and after Super Meat Boy went on the market and made lots of money, Edmund’s wife got the Sphynx cat she’d always wanted -- so I’m confident that no real cats were harmed in the creation of this game.

Note: Team Meat’s website may not be entirely suitable for young children.

Sources: TechnoBuffalo and Team Meat blog. Images from the Team Meat blog

Mon, 10 Dec 2012 09:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/new-video-game-mew-genics-sextillions-of-cats
<![CDATA[What If Cat Moms Got the Same Respect as Baby Moms?]]>
This would totally be a lot cuter if I were holding a baby, right?

One summer day I was visiting with my family, enjoying the company and the intelligent and funny post-dinner conversation that graces most Kelley family get-togethers, when we started oohing and aahing over my newborn niece. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly I found the baby’s mom looking at me with one of those Beatific Smiles of Smug Mommyhood and asking me, “JaneA, don’t you want a baaaybeeee?”

You know that squiggly mouth expression Charlie Brown makes after Lucy Van Pelt pulls the football out from in front of him when he tries to kick it, sending him flying in a somersault and landing on his back with the wind knocked out of him? I'm pretty sure my face looked like that.

I was in my early 30s at the time, and every single member of my family knew that I was -- and still am -- childless by choice. They also knew how I doted on my feline family and spent much of my spare time learning everything I could about cats.

After I recovered from my momentary shock, I said, “Well, Fredwina [not her real name, of course], if I did, I know how it’s done and I’d have one by now.”

Why yes, yes I do have thousands of pictures of my cats. Why do you ask?

Don’t get me wrong: I love kids and I love my family, but this was the latest in Fredwina’s ongoing onslaught of alternatingly patronizing and snide comments, which led me to believe she saw me as a defective woman who never fully grew up because I didn’t want to have kids, and that my love for and desire to take good care of my cats was a pathetic fifth-rate replacement for raising a real baby.

Thomas and me. Hey man, my babies purr, so there!

I’ve more or less come to accept that some people will always hold disdain for those of us who choose to parent cats (or any other animals) rather than children, although I think it speaks more about the people doing the disdaining than it does about the disdained. But just for a moment, I’d love to imagine a world in which cat parents could operate in the same way that baby moms do. Think about it:

  • You could hang out with a bunch of your friends at the local hippest-of-the-hip eatery, loudly taking about your cat’s bowel habits with utter disregard for the people around you who are trying to eat.
  • You could inundate your colleagues and friends with text messages and daily e-mails full of pictures of your cat, and nobody would call you a freak behind your back.
  • Everybody would totally understand if you stopped hanging out with anybody who didn’t have or want a cat.
  • You’d get to look condescendingly upon petless people and act as though your two undergraduate psychology classes qualify you to diagnose them with a personality disorder, because they don’t have the same desires and values you do.
  • You’d get a tax credit for dependent cat care.
  • You’d be able to use Family & Medical Leave Act time rather than sick or vacation days when your cat needs vet care.

I cared as diligently for my Dahlia at the end of her life as I'd care for any of my human relatives or friends as they went through their dying process.

Fredwina’s an ex now, and I’m pretty fortunate that the rest of my family respects my “cats, not kids” choice. My mother doesn’t give me tearful looks because no grandchildren have sprung from my loins, everybody knows I love all my nieces with all my heart, and they’ve all turned to me for cat advice, because they understand that I know at least as much about cats as they know about kids. They also know that I’ve used my love for cats and my writing skills to help make life better for all cats and all the people who live with them. My best friend once called me a “universal cat mom,” a title I wear with joy.

I took my cat, Siouxsie, out for a trip to the (pet) fair, where she impressed everyone with her good manners and bravery. Photo by Bethany S. Klyver

In your perfect (or perfectly silly) world, what kind of privileges that baby parents enjoy would you have as a cat parent? Let us know in the comments!

Wed, 24 Oct 2012 07:30:00 -0700 /lifestyle/cat-moms-get-respect
<![CDATA[Win a DVD of the Oscar-Nominated "A Cat in Paris"]]> If you're a fan of cats and of animated films, A Cat in Paris is right up your alley. 

The Academy Award-nominated film is sure to please not only kids, but also their parents -- and even those of us big kids who just like cute movies!

Dino is a cat who leads a double life. By day he lives with Zoe, a little girl whose mother is a detective in the Parisian police force. But at night Dino sneaks out the window to work with Nico, a slinky cat burglar with a big heart, whose fluid movements are poetry in motion as he evades captors and slips and swishes from rooftop to rooftop across the Paris skyline.

Check out the trailer!

This movie looks absolutely adorable to me ... and not just because I'm partial to anything and everything that includes cats! And what makes it even better? One lucky Catster reader gets to win a copy of the brand-new DVD for themselves!


To enter to win, simply leave us a comment letting us know you'd like to win. We'll randomly select one winner from all the comments and let you know if you won!

All entries must be received by Thursday, Oct. 24, at noon PST.

To be eligible for the prize, use your Disqus account to comment below. Creating a profile and avatar takes just a minute, and it is a great way to participate in Catster's community of people who are passionate about cats. (And note that if your Disqus account doesn't contain a valid email address, you can't win because we can't contact you. Boo! So please check your account.) We'll notify the winner by email, and you have two days to respond or we'll pick someone else. That's just how it goes.

Good luck, everyone!

Fri, 19 Oct 2012 05:30:00 -0700 /molz/cat-in-paris-dvd-giveaway
<![CDATA[Help Indie Film "The Call Center Artist" Make a Star Out of Thom Yorke the Cat]]> Move over, The Artist -- there's a new movie on the horizon hoping to make its animal lead a star. The Call Center Artist is seeking crowdfunding on IndieGogo, but its four-footed actor is no canine: He's a cat.

Texas-based director Ryan Favela hopes to raise $13,000 to complete his indie film, about a young father who drops out of film school due to the financial burden it puts on his family.

"To make ends meet, he gets a job at a hellacious outbound call center," Favela explains on the Indiegogo site. "Years pass him by as he remains repeating every detestable day as if it were his first. The next nine-hour work day is destined to change his life, for better or for worse. The cat is the main character's companion, and follows him often when he is at home."

Meet Thom Yorke, future star of The Call Center Artist.

The director describes his movie as a cross between The Office and Falling Down, and himself as "a music fan and all-around animal lover" -- which explains why he gave his lead character a cat named Thom Yorke.

That's also the kitty's handle in real life. Named for the frontman of Radiohead, Thom is the beloved pet of the film's assistant director. Thom the cat gets to keep his name in the film because, Favela explains, "we don't want to put too much pressure on this first-time feline actor."

The movie's director, Ryan Favela.

A still shot from the upcoming movie.

Favela currently has a Bulldog and hopes to adopt a Persian cat soon. In the meantime, The Call Center Artist has about five more weeks to reach its funding goal -- and the director hopes Catster readers will lend their support and help spread the word, so he and his team can add one more performing pet to the annals of feline film history.

Check out the IndieGogo campaign and its backer rewards, and follow Ryan on Twitter @frostyfilms.

Tue, 16 Oct 2012 13:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/the-call-center-artist-film-indiegogo-thom-yorke-the-cat