Saturday, December 30, 2006

On Strike

Scoop turning his back to us
Scoop has been so spoilt in the last few days with turkey, lamb and tinned tuna for people (he needed a bit of extra oil in his diet to keep his coat glossy, his claws sharp, and his bones strong) that he has firmly turned his back on the idea of cat food – and me!

Here he is, the little monster, turning his back on me because I refused to replace his bowl of crunchies with a treat.

I’m not giving in, and Scoop will have to eat his cat food before he gets any more treats. I guess he’ll cave at 7 o’clock when he realises he won’t get his share of our chicken dinner tonight unless he toes the line.

Hope he doesn’t take revenge by biting my toes at 4AM!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

All Turkeyed Out

Scoop and Au are completely circular: thanks to a generous gift from their friend Usha yesterday, Scoop has had four turkey lunches today, and Au has had two plus one helping of ham. What's worse, I'm sure they're planning to pig out at dinner too.
Scoop and Au
Here they are, cleaning up afterwards and saying purr, purr, mrauf, and hmmmmm.

Good thing it's only Christmas once a year.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006


We're having a good day today. Scoop and Au woke us up just before dawn, coming into the bedroom to tell us the rain had stopped, they had a nice walk outside, the biscuit bowl was empty, and were we going to lie in bed all day or what?

While they got their squizzles, and wrestled on the bed, I hid underneath the pillows. Eventually though Scoop got me up with a combination of headbutts and loud purrs. Looking out of the window, I decided they were right. It is a beautiful day.

Scoop and Au have now collapsed into bed, happily stuffed with sardine catfood. The dishes are piling up in the sink, the laundry is beginning to live a life of its own, but the sun is still shining, I'm listening to Simon and Garfunkel's greatest hits, and I've decided to sneak off for a swim rather than write that article on bridges.

Life is good.

PS Another Logomania article has appeared in the Star. This week's offering is:
Are you an all-rounder?
HISTORIANS trace the origins of cricket to the 13th century when children in England made a game of knocking the crossbar off the top of hurdle gates in sheep’s pens. Over the centuries, cricket matured into a sport that attracts millions of fans.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Is Coming

It's been drizzling steadily since yesterday morning but the cats aren't bored at all. Scoop is lying on the doormat, keeping an eye on the comings and goings of our neighbours who are all preparing for Christmas, and Au is supervising Tom in his office.

The cats may not recognise Christmas but they know something is up. They're spending a lot of time chatting away to each other, and they are inspecting shopping bags scrupulously. Excitement is in the air!

We're planning to spend Christmas with friends down the road (who have already offered to set aside a slice of turkey for Scoop!) and then we'll have "orthodox Christmas" on January 6th at our place. Then there will be Chinese New Year to follow.

The future is looking good!

PS Katz Tales is out on Saturday in the Weekend section of The Star.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Beta Blog

I've been unable to get this blog updated for over a week now. As my mate across the street, the technical genius who made the template for this blog, and my mate in Kuching, the one who runs the lepak server, can't figure out what's gone wrong, I'm pushing us over to Beta Blogger. Hopefully this will work. Hold on to your hats!

PS Here's a pic of Au scratching an itch - hope it's not fleas again

Monday, December 11, 2006

Conked Out

Scoop is fast asleep in bed. So fast asleep that when I stopped to say good morning, he didn't move a muscle. Worried by his immobility (he is an old kitty after all!) I touched him to make sure he was still breathing. Scoop just rolled onto his back, opened half an eye, said something that sounded like Mrowf Grumfle Rumph and passed out again.

It must have been a busy night!
Malay lacewing butterfly
PS here's a pic of a Malay lacewing butterfly. I think it's a beauty and wanted to take a picture to remember it, but if the fuzzies spot it, they'll see it purely as an edible toy. Cats don't have any truck with conservation....

PPS Sorry for the long break. Have been trying to update this page for 8 days now and keep getting that "there were errors" message. Can't figure out what's wrong. Any tips appreciated.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Wicked Wiles

There's roast chicken in the fridge and Scoop is determined to snaffle the remains in a late lunch - or possibly a late breakfast as it's just 1PM and he's been having breakfasts on the hour since about 10 this morning.

Scoop is now sitting on the rug in my office, showing MEOWrrrrf!!! every ten minutes or so. He's rather like one of those annoying snooze buttons.

Au isn't interested. He had a bit of chicken yesterday and that's enough for him for a few weeks. The junior fuzz is more interested in ham and what the cat with the dirty face down the street is up to.

I know what will happen. I'll tell Scoop to shut up, to go away, to leve me in peace rather than in pieces, and then I'll get up and give him what he wants.

Scoop is a spoilt brat but we love him. Hey, just as well we don't have kids!

PS If you want to buy Christmas gifts with a charitable cause, please check out Precious Home Passions and read up on who, what, where, when, why, and how in the Star articles a time of giving and Prices for bracelets are in place, the rest will be uploaded by Monday.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fish Face

With one thing and another we forgot to stock up on cat biscuits for the strays in the backlane. When the outside cats lined up for breakfast this morning, I gave them rations from Au's biscuit barrel, and the remains of Scoop's stash of chicken liver.

Au gave me a sideways look but as I had some left over, he forgave me. Then I went to the supermarket and remembered to stock up on biscuits but forgot to buy Scoop replacement liver.

The look he gave me could have been packaged and used as poison!

Luckily I remembered I had put some fish in the freezer in case we ever needed emergency rations.

I boiled up the fish, served it neatly chopped in Scoop's best bowl, and stood back. Old fuzzy ate 3 bowls for lunch, and is now shouting up the stairs to tell me he's ready for his first dinner.

Guess forgetting to buy liver wasn't such a disaster after all!

PS: Milking English, a Logomania column about dairy phrases in English has been published in the Star today. Feedback, comments, strictures on my English all gratefully received.

PPS: I'm setting up some web pages for a group of friends collecting money for Precious Childrens Home charity in Petaling Jaya. Anyone looking for pretty Christmas presents please check the Precious Childrens Home page. Linda will give me prices by the end of this week; in the meantime, please call or email her for info,

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Snuggle Cat

AU snoozing
Scoop loves to cuddle. He's a lap cat who enjoys hours and hours of petting. But Au is a hands-off kitty. He loves to play wild games, and he likes having his chin scratched, but he's not fond of being picked up and cuddled. I don't blame him; I don't like being touched much either.

So last night when I was mulling over Things To Do this week, panicking over deadlines, and graduating to worrying about the usual career/money/future things people worry about every now and again, I was really surprised to have Au walk over and sit down next to me.

He gave me a small smile, curled up with his chin on my arm, and settled down for a quiet purring snooze. Instantly the world looked a better place.

Au is just a small cat, but he certainly packs a big punch.

PS Here he is, snoozing on his rug in front of his cardboard box.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday Blues

A friend of mine is worried that her neighbours seem less than human to her. The reason, she says, is that they are heartless. She described their casual cruelties to cats. Nasty things that have become so common, it doesn’t even rate a paragraph in the newspapers. Listening to her made me very depressed. And it got me thinking: what is wrong with us? Compared to previous generations we’ve unparalleled opportunities for education, advancement and comfort. So why are we going backwards?

And it led me to this:

Despite the Net, satellite TV, proliferation of books and other communication channels, most of the people I meet have little or no interest in learning about the world around them. They’ll scan a newspaper but they won’t read a book. They’ll watch soaps but not documentaries. They are so afraid to expand their horizons, they even avoid talking to strangers. There is a fear that is creating an increasingly insular society. And among the primary effects of this trend, is the way we treat the animals in our world.

Too many people think of cats, dogs, birds, and other animals as things or objects rather than conscious fellow creatures. They think nothing of driving over animals in their cars, of putting poison down in their gardens, or of throwing out a guard dog or animal dependent who is ill or old or inconvenient. They encourage kids to throw stones at animals by drumming it into them that all animals are wild, dangerous, and poised to attack.

If we want a nicer world, we need to lose our fear and open up to new experiences. Me, I’m going to start by going out for a walk, giving Scoop a long brush and watching Animal Planet. Hopefully it will cure the Sunday blues.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Automatic Chicken Detector

Scoop and Au in bed
I snuck into the kitchen this morning, rescued the leftover chicken from the box in the fridge, and started putting the meaty in the pot to make stock for soup. But it was no use. Scoop appeared out of nowhere and with a loud MRAUF! demanded I hand over "his" chicken.

As I started stripping the minescule meat remains from the bones for him, I wondered how it is that he always knows what's happening in the kitchen. When I started he wasn't in the house, he was across the street visiting a neighbour he likes. So how did he know what I was up to? I'm convinced he's got some sort of inbuilt chicken detector.

Anyway, having made sure the bones were picked clean properly and there was no more left for cats to claim, old fuzzy retired to bed for a nap.

Here he is, joined by his colleague, Au. Aren't they sweet?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cat In A Snit

Au is in a snit, and it's all our fault.

Although it's Sunday we all woke up before dawn. When Tom got up just before 7, the cats scampered downstairs with him, and I decided it was a good time to go to the wet market.

Usually Scoop and Au love wet market days. They wait for me to come home, and then dive into the bags to see if I've brought home anything nice for cats to eat. But this morning they herded me into the kitchen, meowing away, and falling over themselves in order to tell me some shocking news: Tom had not fed them breakfast.

Both Scoop and Au pantomimed they were starting, so I rushed to open up a pack of the gourmet foil food, and put it down for them. Au took a look at his bowl, shot a filthy look and me, and marched out.

In the rush to serve their breakfast, I picked up the wrong packet of cat food. Instead of the sardine Snappy Tom they love I picked up pilchard they don't like. Au has decided this breakfast fiasco is a pointed insult. He's sitting outside on the wall, and it’s very clear he's Not Speaking.

Cats! They can be so darn touchy!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Town and Country

A new Logomania column has appeared in today's Star: Town and country
Ever been sent to Coventry or shanghaied? English is rich with expressions featuring towns and countries, writes ELLEN WHYTE.

Comments, castigation, invective, exegesis, raves, and plaudits all appreciated!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Conspicuous By His Absence

Au trying to clean off that spot
Au crawled under a car last week and picked up an oily spot on his shoulder. With the rapid response rate of a professional salesman, our neighbour handed over the new shampoo he has devised to test out on our junior fuzzy. Since then Au has been conspicuous by his absence on sunny mornings. But we'll catch him. And we'll post him having his bath right here on this spot!

PS Here's Au trying to clean off that spot.
PPS Katz Tales will be in the print edition of the Star Weekend section this Saturday!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cat Talk

While reading about bonobos and parrots communicating is interesting, it's a wonder that scientists haven't tried to analyse cat talk. I'll bet it is among the most developed systems in the world.

Dutch speaking cats say miauw, English speaking cats say meow, Spanish speaking cats say miau, and Scoop says, mrf when he's half asleep, rau or rauf when he's happy, meOW when he's impatient, mauf when he's got his mouth full, mrauf when he's enjoying what he’s eating, and woof or whoof when he's tired or he's being picked up. In addition he hisses, growls, and yowls when the occasion demands it.

Au has a much higher voice, and tends to talk in sentences. He sounds a little Cantonese when he speaks. You know, with a maaaah sound in varying tones that can take on a variety of meanings from I have run out of biscuits (highpitched) to please stop typing and come and play with me (abrupt and usually accompanied by a paw on the foot).

Scoop and Au have quite different communication styles, but we understand them without a problem, and they seem to understand each other perfectly well too. Wonder if this is a worthy PhD project for someone?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Barefaced Liar

Au looking innocent
Au is a barefaced liar, a shameless con artist who can out-lie a politician. He's also terribly pleased with himself. He's lounging around outside on the wall, paws draped comfortably over an ever increasing tummy. The tummy is ever increasing because of the aforementioned swindle skills.

We have a rule: Au is allowed a small piece of local cooked ham every evening at 8PM and 9PM. If we're all in, up and awake at 10PM, he gets another piece. Au often manages to push the time forward bit by bit so he can get a treat at 7.30PM, 815PM etc. He's also excellent at pretending he's hungry so we have to keep tabs on who gives him what when. Usually we're reasonably good at keeping track but last night he got us out beautifully.

Au hit me up at 7PM for a piece. I was busy in the kitchen, felt guilty because I’d been out all day interviewing, and handed him a bit. At 715PM I told Tom what I’d done and Tom started laughing. He’d done to make a coffee a minute before and Au had persuaded him into opening up the fridge as well.

That was bad enough but then, two seconds later, when I went to check the potatoes, Au marched into the kitchen and asked for more!

I told him he'd been caught out and gave him a lecture on the value of honesty but he just grinned. Running rings around us is part of his job description, his smile implied, and if we are too stupid to figure it out, he gets what he deserves – ham!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sacked Out

Scoop is completely kitty collapso, dead to the world, determined not to open an eye-lid. He's stuffed to the gills with chicken tandoori.

We ran out of chicken liver late yesterday afternoon, and Scoop had to make do with biscuits - not a happy situation! So when we went out for a drink (at Kusar Cabana, a great place at 37 Jalan SS15/4E Subang Jaya 47500) we went home via the Indian curry house and picked up a load of tandoori.

When he saw what we had brought home, Scoop's sulks vanished. He stuffed his face, washed his whiskers and collapsed.

twelve hours later he still has curry breath but he's happy. All he's saying is MAUF!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Old Kitty

Au on the stairs
Anonymous (hi anon!) asked about cat ages, and oddly enough our local pharmacist was asking the same yesterday.

In Malaysia so many cats don't get their shots or proper food and therefore die aged 2 or 3 years old. Here many people think a cat aged 4 is "ancient".

However, properly looked after and inoculated, pet cats can live till 15 or 16 years old. They are considered in their prime at about 6, and "getting on a bit" when they are 8, 9 and 10. After 10 they are "old-ish" and after 12 "old".

BUT cat owners tend to put their pets onto cat food specially formulated for older or senior cats when they are 9 or 10.

So at a rough guess I would say: when a cat is 6 he is about 45, when he's 10 he's 60, and when he's 15 he's 90.

Scoop is now about 12 years old and Au is 7. Scoop should eat senior cat food but he hates it and won't. If I put it in his bowl, he steals from Au or from the girls in the back lane. I have given in and am boosting his immune system with garlic, vitamin C and folic acid. (Scoop's vet believes in holistic treatments and is really clued in on this sort of stuff)

Two good places for elderly cat care tips are caring for geriatric cats and Aging Cats.

PS I missed the Star yesterday. Was there a Katz Tales printed?

PPS Here is Au lying on the stairs and looking grumpy because I woke him up.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Boxing clever

The Star has published Logomania: Boxing clever, an article that looks at some boxing expressions in English.

Feedback gratefully received!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Scoop Finds His Niche

Scoop in his drawer
Scoop has appropriated the spare bedroom as his own. He also has his circular stool downstairs, a towel on his outpost in front of the bedroom window, his pick of sofa seats etc. So what does old fuzzy do? He spies an old drawer we are about to throw out in the utility room, and decides this is his favourite spot.

There's no understanding cats!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Political Cat Wanted

There may be a job vacancy coming up in the UK House of Parliament. Apparently mice are taking over the canteen, the bar, and even Commons Chamber. Tony Blair has so far resisted hiring a cat, but as the crisis deepens he will no doubt change his mind, stand on a chair and scream for help.

Read all about the problem here: No cat to fight Commons mouse infestation

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Watch Out!

Our neighbour, a chemist extraordinaire, is developing a cat shampoo for a client.

Having formulated several “flavours”, he leant over the wall yesterday afternoon to ask if he test new products on Scoop and Au.

As our fuzzies have only just had their semi annual baths, I had to decline. I’ve told him that unless they fall into a storm drain, or manage to coat their coats in car oil, there’s no prospect of a bath until Chinese New Year.

I’ve warned Scoop not to wander too near the storm drain when our neighbour is about!

PS sorry it took so long between posts. seemed to be down!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sad Start

Scoop in Bed
The little black cat passed away last night, probably killed by one of the older cats down the lane. I also found another small body of a kitten I’ve never seen before. A sad start to the day.

Good news is that Scoop and Au are fine. Here is Scoop, fast asleep in bed!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Terror Cat

black cat and kittens
When I opened up the back door this morning there was a pile of cats stuffed in the corner. All the black girls were there, plus three generations of kittens. Usually the backdoor cats run around in the lane, and come in for breakfast. But for the last week they've been heaped in the shelter of our porch every morning. I think they're hiding from fireworks.

We've had bang, crackle, whizz here every night starting from Deepavali and running through Raya. Everyone seems to have the urge to create a lot of smoke and noise. Scoop doesn't bother but Au hides under the table when the ruckus starts. And it looks like the black girls are terrified too.

I'm wondering if it will end now or if this is merely a run-up to an almighty spectacular for Halloween. Either way, nobody would guess this stuff is banned!

PS Sorry that Katz Tales wasn't published on Saturday. I suspect it was a Hari Raya thing as other regular columns from the paper were missing too. Will check with the ed to see when the next issue is printed.

PPS Here is the latest batch of kittens courtesy of one of the back lane black girls.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Monsoon Cats

This is the first year since 1997? 1998? that we've had a proper monsoon season in October. It's been lashing down at lunchtime, at teatime and at night for days now. Scoop and Au are not impressed. They sit at the window, staring out at the rain, and sulking because it's too wet for cats to go out and play.

What's worse, Scoop has no weather sense at all. He keeps getting caught by showers when he's at the end of the road. I'm putting his towel by the door for convenience but old fuzzy is not amused.

Hey, at least it gets rid of this foul air polution!

BTW, Katz Tales is out tomorrow in the Weekend section of the Malaysian national daily The Star. Buy a copy please, so I can keep Scoop and Au in the luxury they wish to become accustomed to!

And in today's Mind Your English section is Heavy Metal: Popular and versatile, iron’s tough image has become part of the English language. Feedback much appreciated.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Baby Tribute

A Cat Called Baby
This is Daphne's Baby who passed away last month at the age of 13 from cancer. Doesn't she look sweet - and deliciously spoilt?

And before I forget Happy DeepaRaya everyone...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Embarrassing Moments

It's not often you catch a cat not looking his absolute best, and this one of Au is a doozy. I just couldn't resist it.

Au scratching himself while licking his nose

Got a good cat picture? Send me a SMALL pic not more than 120K to tales AT and I'll post it here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Boycotting Tuna

Trying to do three things at once yesterday, I mistakenly bought the cats tuna flavoured biscuits. It's a funny thing but Scoop and Au like chicken, beef, ocean fish, pilchard, and all sorts of other flavoured biscuits, but they won't touch tuna. And if I try to con them into trying tuna cat food from a tin or pouch, they visibly shudder.

It's not that they don't like real tuna; Scoop and Au will eat tuna intended for human people.

Oddly enough the outdoor cats aren't keen on tuna biscuits either. And as they eat everything put in front of them I'm beginning to wonder if there is something odd about the flavour designed by cat food makers.

Alternatively, they might, as Tom suggested after a few beers, be concerned about dolphin safe tuna.

Either way, it's an odd thing to see cats turn down anything fishy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cat's Night Out

Scoop snoozing
Scoop is fast asleep on the box in front of the bedroom window. He's in that phase where he's out all night, and asleep all day.

Scoop's evenings out all follow the same pattern. Old fuzzy goes out at about 11PM. He sits on the wall and watches our neighbours come home from various eateries. And Scoop being a friendly cat, he makes a point of greeting his favourite people. We can hear him shout MEOW! and his friends shouting Hello Scoop! Hello Sayang!

The rest of the night is spent patrolling neighbouring gardens and sitting on top of the Beetle so he can see all the way down to the end of our road.

From what I can tell, if there is any rat hunting to be done, this starts just before dawn. At least, I hear a strangled PEEP and Scoop comes trotting in ten minutes later, happily showing us his gift for services rendered.

There is nothing like wakening up to a freshly killed rat...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Battle Cat

Au with a black eye
The Cat With The Dirty Face staged another reappearance a few days ago, creating spats, fights and general MROUWL-ing fights all over the place. Poor Au had a black eye for a day (see picture).

A peaceful silence has descended, and the dirty-faced kitty has taken up position in the back lane, the free zone in our area where all cats meet on equal ground. He’s eating cat biscuits and taking it easy. I’m hoping he'll settle down and end his ambitions of street conquest. We really don't need more wars.

PS Au's black eye lasted hours only. He is back to his usual handsome self, complete with wide open, clear and deliciously green eyes.

PPS It's Friday the 13th today, a day considered so unlucky in the UK that some people suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, an irrational fear of this date. Find out more about this weird superstition by reading Friday the 13th.

PPPS Katz Tales is out in the Weekend section of The Star tomorrow. Don't forget to buy your copy!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Inspiring Cats

We’ve had a very relaxed morning. The cats had breakfast before dawn with Tom while I lazed about in bed. Then the cats bounced upstairs, and threw themselves into bed to enjoy a quick wash and a long cuddle. Scoop curled up against me and purred, while Au rolled about on his back and licked my fingers in a friendly way.

When the clock insisted the workday start, I got up and settled down to business. As I work from home, and my PC is about 6 meters from the bed, this is not exactly awe inspiringly difficult but with such a friendly start to the day I feel as though I’m capable of anything.

Scoop is an old boy so he’s still in bed, curled up like a donut between two pillows. But Au has trotted into the office and is lying at my feet, keeping a careful eye on me. There will be no shirking while he’s in charge.

Cats: can’t live without them, and certainly don't want to work without them!

PS You can tell Au wasn’t looking over my shoulder last week when I wrote Seen A Callipygian Girl? for The Star, using "Phyrric" instead of "Pyrrhic". I should have spotted it, especially when the reference "King Pyrrhus" was in the previous sentence! Luckily someone spotted the error, and wrote in to mention it. Will triple check next batch of Logomania!

BTW, Logomania, or crazy about words, is derived from the Greek roots "log" meaning "word" and “mainesthai” meaning “mad”. It’s a made-up word so it’s not in the dictionary – yet!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Public Holiday

Au in bed
It's a public holiday. I'm not sure what exactly we're celebrating, but we're making the most of it by enjoying a day or peace and quiet. Scoop and Au have had two breakfasts, a wrestle on the big rug upstairs and are now fast asleep in bed. Scoop is curled up in the spare bedroom that he has taken for his own, and Au has thrown himself in the middle of our bed.

Normally at this time of day the kitties would be visiting their friends in the street. But the air pollution is just too much for little cat lungs to handle. And the smell offends Their Fastidious Majesties as their friend SM has nicknamed them.

Our dirty air is so thick today that it's even obscuring the condo just 100 meters down the road. But as the guys in Kusar Cabana, our local pub in SS15, pointed out last night, this foul fog might just help us stamp out the dengue fever that's been plaguing us! And it is true that the mozzies seem to be less strident these days…

Every cloud has a silver lining. Even a smoggy one.

PS Here's Au taking it easy. A cat in bed is not just a joy to behold, it's also the perfect excuse for not making the bed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Smogged Out Cats

Air pollution from slash and burn farming in Indonesia (and parts of Malaysia too) has created a foul smelling cloud that hangs over the region. My eyes are burning, and my throat hurts. Worse, this muck in the air is affecting the cats.

Poor old Scoop is lying flat out, coughing occasionally and wiping his eyes. Au has retired to his box, pulling the flaps shut. Neither is in the mood to play outside.

The adult outside cats are OK but the younger kittens have sore eyes. I've captured two and cleaned their faces for them but by 4PM they'll be all gummy again.

I wonder how many animals are dying in jungles because of eye, nose, throat and other problems caused by this dirty air. This annual slash and burn has got to stop. Any ideas?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rat Catchers

All hell broke loose last night. Scoop caught a mouse (or possibly a baby rat) in the garden. After he caught it, old fuzzy very generously allowed Au to play with it. Au took it upstairs and dropped the dratted thing. Now we have a mouse guy hiding behind the wardrobe.

I always try to rescue prey on the basis that even rats need to live. Most of the time they escape from Scoop's jaws unharmed, and scuttle off to the end of the road where they can live a happy, carefree life in the banana patch someone maintains there.

But last night Scoop moved out of reach when I tried to rescue said mouse in the garden. Moments later I thought the mouse had croaked. Apparently I was wrong; it was simply playing dead.

I've left the windows open, and closed the door. Hopefully it will escape, shake the dust off its feet and move on....

PS here is Au with a mouse. Not last nights mouse, but one he caught a few months ago.

PPS Have kids who want to improve their English? Check out Seen a callipygian girl? published in The Star today!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wild Cat

Au scratching his ear
Something's up with Au today. He bounced into bed this morning, and challenged me to a game of handwrestling (rules: one human hand versus four cat paws, no claws allowed).

Since then he's been running in and out of the office, wrestling with his rug, ripping up an old newspaper, and generally creating havoc. When I go to the kitchen for coffee, he demands ham, and then invites me to chase him round the room.

I haven't seen him in such a good mood in weeks. Must be the rain last night.

PS Here he is, having a good scratch. Wish I were as flexible!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tail Lashing!

Scoop and Au have many friends. Au visits his friend Halim across the road for a quiet bit of fish washing, while Scoop enjoys spending time with Lillian who adores him in a style Scoop considers proper.

They also enjoy visits from Sasi. She's soft spoken, doesn't try to pick them up, and responded well to requests from Scoop to hand over that bit of chicken that's resting in the oven, and from Au to hand over the ham from the fridge.

What's nice about these relationships is that they build bridges. As with every meeting between strangers, body language is a real mystery. Cat people like Scoop and Au are quite likely to misinterpret a hasty movement as a threat, while human people like Sasi seem to at a loss to understanding basic cat body language.

One of the most perplexing signs is tail lashing. For people accustomed to dogs, a waging tail is a good thing. But with cats a lashing tail is most often a warning to say, "I'm not happy and if you don't stop that, I will bite you!"

BUT if you're playing a game, or being invited to play a game, by a happy cat, tail lashing is simply a bit of fun. AND if your cat is very expressive tail lashing can simply mean excitement. For example, Au never catches birds because he's got that involuntary tail lash thing when he's getting really close that gives the game away. (the fact that he's orange and white on a grey pavement may have something to do with it too.)

Cats are complicated creatures. And I guess that's why I love them so.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Racing Chasing Kitties

Scoop with baby Au
It's been a wild morning. Scoop and Au have been chasing each other up and down the stairs, and round and round Au's cardboard box. As it was before 8AM, the earliest hour I'm willing to get up voluntarily, I pretended to be fast asleep. They took no notice of this, and happily wrestled all over the bed when it suited their game.

Now that I'm up and ready to start work, our two fuzzies are sitting on the roof of the Beetle, using the height advantage this gives them to keep an eye on our neighbour 2 doors down who is tending his flowers, and Sam next door who's doing interesting things to his car.

If I have to come back, I want to be a cat in my next life. One who lives in a house like ours....

PS this is an old pic of Scoop having a quiet dinner with Au. Au was about 3 months old when this was taken.

PPS Katz Tales is out in the Weekend section of The Star tomorrow. Feedback appreciated.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Poor Service

Scoop and Au on Tom's clothes rack
Scoop is hopping mad. I forgot to check on his chicken liver supplies yesterday morning, so when he turned up for dinner around 8PM there was only a tiny bit left. I tried to cover my mistake by chopping up the half a chicken liver that was left, and surrounding it with one of those expensive foil packs of gourmet pilchards for cats.

But there's no fooling old fuzzy. Scoop looked at his bowl, and then he looked at me, giving me The Look that says, "You have messed up AGAIN!" He ate his dinner eventually, but he let me know that every bite was a hurt to his heart.

He would have forgiven me this morning except that I rolled out of bed and tripped over him. It's no good telling him I still had my eyes closed, or that I never expected him to be lying by the side of the bed when he's usually stretched out in the middle of it. Scoop is Not Talking.

But I have hope. I've nipped out to Carrefour and bought not one but two packs of chicken liver. That should put the smile back on old Mr Brown's face!

PS the pic: Scoop and Au having a good time shedding hair on Tom's clothes.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Star Purina Basket Prize

The Purina Cat Gift Basket prize is awarded to the best three pictures sent in to Katz Tales published the first Saturday of every month in the Malaysian national daily, The Star.

Please send your pics to the Star:

Katz Tales
Star Publications
Menara Star
15 Jalan 16/11
Petaling Jaya 46350
Email: star2 AT

Scoop and Au

Thanks! We really appreciate your support!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rainy Day

It's the first day of Ramadan (a Muslim fasting tradition like Lent and Yom Kippur. Check this Wikipedia fasting article for more if you're interested) and it looks like it's also the start of the rainy season. It's cloudy, and the rain has been falling in a steady drizzle all morning.

I'm having a wonderful time. It's fresh and green and the bed was just the right temperature to invite dalliance this morning. But Scoop and Au are not amused. Not only was their morning walk marred by wet paws and tummies, but the rain has washed away all those enticing scents that tell them who was where and when.

Currently both cats are sulking. Scoop is curled up in front of the window, and Au is inside his box - with the flaps pulled closed.

I haven't the heart to tell them that a) we'll probably be enjoying rain for the next few weeks, and b) there are going to be lots of strangers around celebrating the end of the fasting rituals.

Fat issues aside, I'd better stock up with chicken for Scoop and ham for Au. They're going to need some solace.

PS: for everyone who thinks I'm being too critical of Au's figure, take a look at this fat tummy! Au snapped yesterday morning after breakfast...

Au on the Beetle

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fat Cats!

Au on the wall
I have been looking at Scoop and Au and have decided it's time to Take Measures. Scoop has a belly that hangs down, giving him a King of the Savannah look when he walks. Au is quite frankly pear shaped. Something needs to be done.

Problem is that it's easy to say you'll put the cats on a diet, but in practice restricting food is difficult.

First, Scoop and Au have no compunction about lying to us. They'll tell Tom they've had no lunch a mere 5 minutes after I have fed them. They do it expertly and without shame.

Second, cats have so many ways to get back at you. I don't want to be woken up at 2, 3, 4 and 5 AM, nor do I want my plants to be destroyed one by one by retaliatory cats.

I think the best plan is to replace their regular biscuits with Science Diet biscuits. Then they'll be eating but getting less calories.

I'll keep you posted!

PS This is Au sitting on the wall. He sits there every evening, keeping an eye on the neighbours.

PPS My first Logomania column has appeared in The Star. It's called I'm eccentric, You're Nuts. Feedback greatly appreciated!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hypo-Allergenic Cat

Apparently a company called Allerca has been breeding hypo-allergenic cats in order to provide pets for that niche market: cat lovers who get the sneezles when they touch their feline companions.

Tests confirm their first success: an 18-month-old cat named Joshua who is hypo-allergenic.

These cats are supposed to be on the market from early next year at US$4000 (that's about RM14,800) If I read it right, kittens sold are always spayed or neutered which I assume means you can't buy a young kitten, only one over 6 months old. No doubt this is to keep some sort of patent protection going.

This is not a joke! The company web site is here and an explanation of how they did this is here.

News reports are coming out. Check out one from CBS and one from Yahoo. A video is available from here.

Now this take the discussion about buying cats from breeders and pet shops to a whole new level. Can anyone say "lifestyle-pet company"?

Market Day

wet market in subang jaya
Scoop is patrolling the fridge area, shouting MEOUW! at regular intervals. He knows I went to the wet market this morning, and he's confirmed I bought some nice fresh chicken liver as well as some chicken legs. Now old fuzzy is demanding an early lunch.

It's always the same on market days. I stagger out of bed at 7AM, drive to the local market, and then try to figure out what we might want to eat in the next day or two. When the sight of even a raw tomato is not quite the thing, this is not easy an easy job.

Luckily I have firm instructions from Scoop. His order is the same each time: chicken of any shape or form, plus a slice of fresh beef just for fun.

Cats: they take over your life - and your shopping basket.

PS a picture of our local wet market.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Breeders and Pet Shops

Tonkinese cat from Wikipedia
There's a good post on New Cats On The Blog about breeders and pet shops. This is a very interesting topic sure to get all cat lovers excited!

Scoop and Au were strays before they moved in with us, but I did buy a cat in Malaysia once. She was a reject from a Kuching Malaysia (also known as Piawaian Kucing Malaysia) breeding programme. I bought her in Kajang from a breeder who was licensed etc. I can't remember the name of the woman, but when I popped over she sold me the cat - no questions asked!

I literally turned up with the cash and took the cat away with me. Nobody asked me if I knew anything about cats, where I was taking her etc. They also didn't take my name, number or any contact details. I abhor kitten mills and find most pet shops to be modern incarnations of Ancient Roman slave markets (motto: got the cash? take it home!) but my experience says breeders can be purely interested in $$$ too.

FYI: the kuching malaysia kitty in question is living very happily in PJ with another cat companion (a rescued stray)

PS To me Kuching Malaysia look like Siamese but experts say they look like Tonkinese cats. The Tonkinese cat picture here is courtesy of Scott Turner.

For a picture of a proper Kuching Malaysia visit this article: KUCINTA - THE LOVE CAT OF SINGAPORE - AND THE BOBTAILS OF MALAYSIA

Monday, September 18, 2006

New Arrivals

We’ve got a heap of kittens at the back. Two are pure black, two are calico. The black kittens are slightly larger than the calico ones, so we’re guessing that they are different litters.

It’s hard to tell who belongs to whom, as the black girls who live in the back lane are all sisters and half-sisters who share everything – from their food bowls to their lovers to the duties of motherhood.

The kittens are just piled on top of each other, with mums popping in from time to time to give them a quick clean and cuddle. We’ve given the kittens a box to sleep in, and are giving the mums some extra food.

There are about a dozen stray cats living in the back lane. When we first moved here they were raggedly creatures, full of sores. Thanks to twice daily cat biscuits, dosed with worming medicine at proper intervals, they now look clean and glossy. But the fact is that there are too many of them.

Even if we could catch these cats, the cost of taking a dozen of them to the vet to be spayed would be prohibitive, especially as almost all are girls who would need to be boarded for a few days.

Kittens and cats are lovely, but we do wish some of our tax money would go to a catch, spay and release programme to reduce the number of strays.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Annie in bed
Qwill looked very handsome today in The Star, but for those of you who wanted to see Annie, here's our little tart!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Show Off

Scoop and Au in bed
I was trawling the web the other day when I came across a notice of a cat show. I think Scoop’s corkscrew tail and Au’s little stub that's set at a 45 degree angle (see picture to see how cute!) are part of their attractiveness, but I suspect it puts them beyond the pale in cat beauty competitions.

Just as well really, as neither is the type to enjoy a cat show. Au isn't keen on strangers; he takes his time to get to know new friends (except for our friend Usha whom he adored the second he met her). Scoop loves people but he loathes loud noises. Neither likes traveling in cars.

I've only been to one cat show but it was enough to put me off. Too many cats looking upset, too many people milling about poking cages, and far too many kids yelling and screaming.

There have to be cats and people who love that sort of thing, but we'll just stay at home and wait till some enterprising TV manager realizes pretty cats are much nicer to look at than Miss Earth/Mr Universe or whatever.

PS Katz Tales is out tomorrow in the Weekend section of the Malaysian Star. Buy it, send in a picture of your cat and win a hamper!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Indoor and Outdoor Cats

We had a long discussion yesterday in the pub on whether cats should be inside or outside creatures.

I know Scoop and Au would be miserable if I locked them up in the house, but I can see why people (especially those living on busy roads) worry. So I'm sitting on the fence on this one (one reason why the human bottom is shaped the way it is!)

I let Scoop and Au decide whether they should be indoor or outdoor kitties. The sliding door is always open, so they can go in and out as they please. And being cats, they enjoy the best of both worlds.

Our fuzzies spend most of the day at home, lolling around in bed and on the sofa. They're out late at night, but I think they spend most of their time in our own garden because when I nip downstairs for a drink of water, there's a small fuzzy asking me what I'm doing up the second I reach the kitchen.

In and out, they seem to be having a ball. And that's what a cat's life should be.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Breakfast Battles

Scoop and Au having breakfast
Every morning Scoop and Au come upstairs at dawn to ask Tom to get up and serve breakfast. When Tom stumbles downstairs, they open a sachet of cat food together, and dump it into 2 dishes. Au then moves from one dish to the other, pushing Scoop out of the way each time. Scoop being a patient, peaceable person doesn’t mind.

This is pretty standard cat behaviour. Every cat always thinks the food is better in the other bowl. What blew me away though is that Tom tells me he puts food in 2 dishes even if Scoop is having a long lie. Apparently Au doesn't really enjoy breakfast unless he can dance between the bowls.

Weird, isn't it?

PS here's Scoop and Au having breakfast.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Cat with the Dirty Face Returns

he cat with the dirty face
He's back! The cat with the dirty face marched up to the front of the house, and tried to break in. Unfortuneately for him, Au was standing guard. When I heard the ritual exchange of insults turning into a big furball fight, I went out to break it up.

Imagine my surprise when Scoop shot out past me, and dived into the scrum. When Scoop gave the cat with the dirty face a big wallop with his paw, the invador realised two against one are bad odds.

My appearance was the last straw. The enemy took one look at the united front, turned tail very slowly, and marched off with both fur and dignity intact.

When Au came in he pretended to be annoyed at the interference but the way he licked my hand when I checked he was OK showed he was secretly quite relieved.

This morning the dirty faced kitty turned up at the back door asking for biscuits as though nothing had happened. Let's hope he stays there!

PS The cat with the dirty face eating breakfast.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pincushion Cat

Taking Scoop for his inoculations is easy. I put him in his cat carrier, trundle off to the vet, and hold his paw while he gets his shots protecting him from nasty diseases like cat flue and leukemia.

Au is an entirely different kettle of fish. First off, he explodes out of the cat carrier as soon as the car starts moving. Mr kitty is so big and heavy that he broke the hinges off the door. Second, I find it very hard to hold him steady when he spots that needle.

Luckily we have a nice vet nearby who does housecalls. I scheduled him and Tom to be here at the same time yesterday, and turned my back while Au, crying pitifully, had his shots.

Although Tom says Au didn't even notice when the needle went in, and the whole process took less than 2 minutes, our little fuzzy made the most of his traumatic experience by demanding extra treats last night.

Cats really know how to milk every situation!

PS curious about cat inoculation schedules? Check this link on vaccinations.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey! Steve's Snuffed It!

Such sad news to hear about Steve Irwin's fatal accident yesterday. I loved the Crocodile Hunter's boundless enthusiasm, and enjoyed the way he brought the daily details of the lives of snakes, tortoises and other creatures to the screen – although I still don’t want to hug a crocodile!

Irwin reminded me of one of my childhood heroes, Gerald Durrell, the British conservationist who revolutionized zoos and founded Durrell Wildlife in Jersey.

(If you've never heard of him, Durrell rejected the pitiful jails zoos used to be, and campaigned to turn them into the vibrant breeding centers. He foresaw that we would make such a mess of this planet that many animal species would need safe breeding places if they were to survive. )

Irwin was a master at creating powerful television shows; Durrell's best work was in books. Inspirational and hysterically funny, I think I’ve owned three copies of My Family And Other Animals and read each to bits.

People like that fascinate me because they have done so much to bring us closer to our animal friends. Watch the life of a croc with Irwin and his camera crew, and you'll think twice before draining a swamp and running a motorway through it. Durrell's tales of hairy frogs in the Bafut Beagles, and catching bats with the aid of jackfruit in Mauritius in Golden Bats And Pink Pigeons are equally unforgettable.

I think what made them so appealing and persuasive is that neither preached like so many ardent greenies do.

I’m going to re-read all my Durrell books this week, and I’ll look to Animal Planet who should be putting on a tribute in the form of a Crocodile Hunter marathon.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sleep Deprived

It's not even 9AM yet and I'm already tired. No, it's not Monday morning syndrome, it's the influence of evil Au.

Au woke me up at 4AM with a yikyikyik to say he was out of cat biscuits. That's OK. I stumbled out of bed, filled up the bowl and managed to stay asleep during the whole exercise in that nocturnal zombie-like trance that seems to be the province of most cat servants.

But at 5AM mr kitty hopped on the bed with a loud AAAAUUUUU, a sure sign he wants to talk. I hid under the bedclothes and pretended to be dead. Au tried again. MEEEOUW-WOW! He cried.

I extended a hand from under the covers, put fingers to his shoulder and pushed. Taken completely by surprise, Au tumbled out of bed.

You should have seen his face. At first Shocked and Appalled, he quickly became Outraged, Furious, and finally Incensed.

Now he’s sitting on his rug with his back to me to show he Isn’t Speaking.

I have no problem with the servant-to-the-master thing cats insist on, but surely we're allowed an uninterrupted night's sleep?

I can try and reason with him but in the end the most important thing is to make up. Otherwise he’ll waken me at 2AM, 3AM, 4AM, 5AM in sheer catly revenge.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Crashed Out Cat

Au in bed
There is something up with our junior cat: for the last week Au has been getting up at 2AM, going out for his rounds until 6AM and then going back to bed for the rest of the day.

He surfaces at about 6PM, has dinner, goes for a walk, destroys the newspapers under the coffee table, and then marches back up to bed around 8PM. It's not like him at all.

He's got a healthy appetite, his eyes are bright, his nose and paw pads are just the right temperature. He looks fine, but I was worried about him, so last night I went upstairs to have a chat with him. Just to see if everything is OK.

Au was lying in bed, curled up on the sheets, with a bit of blanket held tightly in his paws. He looked like a rugby player who’d fallen asleep in a scrum. As I came in he looked, yawned, stretch and moved over. When I petted him, his purr started up and he turned over to have his tummy tickled.

As Au is awfully ticklish, this peaceful scene lasted mere seconds. He grabbed my hand, bit my finger, and we ended up having a wild game of hide and seek that took us from the bed to his favourite cardboard box in the hall.

There's nothing wrong with mr kitty, he's just taking it easy.

PS: This is a pic of Au in bed. As you can see, he's so sleepy, he can't even keep his eyes open!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cats and Dogs

SM's comment that sent readers to a page of costumed dogspictures got me thinking about the relationship between cats and people and dogs and people. You know, the bit about "who's boss".

Scoop and Au are very traditional in their outlook: they rule and we serve. Their dignity is palpable, even when things go disastrously wrong. Last week, for example, Tom went to sit in his chair, not realising Scoop was in residence. Luckily only feelings were hurt. Scoop spent the next few days scolding Tom for sitting on him, and when he had received his thousand apologies, old fuzzy agreed to forget about the incident.

I just can't help but think that a dog in similar circumstances would assume being sat on was some sort of punishment that required lots of loud panting, whining, paw offering and other doggy signs of apology...

Dogs are irresistibly sweet, but it can be hard to respect them.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Catnap Fest

Scoop fast asleep in front of the window
If you had a choice, would you be a cat? It's a tough life is you're a street kitty, but if you have a home or at least access to free meals twice a day, life isn't so hard. This is especially true in Malaysia where there are no frosty winters to deal with.

Today is hot, sticky, muggy, and the sky is grey with either pollution or rain cloud - it's hard to tell. As Scoop and Au are wearing fur coats, the weather is suffocating. Both cats had a long lie this morning, a late breakfast and are now fast asleep.

The outside cats have flaked out too. The black girls are lying in a heap under some bushes; their kittens are lethargically chewing each others ears and tails while lying down in the shade.

I'm sitting in the office, trying to work up enthusiasm to get two pieces done before the deadline. Would I want to be a cat? I'm thinking it may not be a bad thing.

PS The picture is Scoop fast asleep in front of the window.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hooray For Science

It's official: Scoop and Au had picked up some fleas. What's amazing is that they were flealess on Friday, and had a bath with anti flea shampoo on Saturday. They must have picked them up on Sunday night or Monday. Me, I blame the cat with the dirty face. Or possibly the black girls at the back.

Good news is that it took less than 5 minutes to rid our fuzzies of those pesky fleas. I rushed over to Siva, our local vet, and picked up a bottle of Frontline. This stuff is amazing. You just spray your cat under the pawpits, rub it in, and the liquid penetrates the skin and repels fleas and other pests for 5 weeks.

We used to import supplies of Frontline from Australia ourselves as it wasn't sold in Malaysia. And when we ran out of it a few months ago, I started with the old fashioned controls of flea soap and daily grooming to look for trouble. If I had only popped into the vet to check, I would have known that this mircle spray is now being sold here!

Anyway, my fuzzies are perfectly clean again - but they're not talking to me. After the bath and the spraying, Scoop looks at me as though I'm a devil and Au gives me a theatrical hiss. I've told them it was for their own good, but they're not buying it.

PS the picture from Wikimedia Commons is an engraving of a flea from Robert Hooke's 1665 Micrographia, funded by the Royal Society. Wikipedia says cat fleas are "Probably the most abundant and widespread flea in the world".

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Is It Moving?

I was stroking Mr Brown last night when I noticed his tummy was full of black specks. Paranoid, I hauled him up under the reading lamp, and stroked anxiously through his fur. Surely it couldn't be fleas? My clean Scoop? And just 2 days after a bath?

Nothing moved in his coat, so I conceded it's possible he's just been rolling through the earth at the bottom of the garden again.

But to be sure I checked Au as well. He was furious at being turned over and being prodded in the paw pits, but realising I'm bigger than him he let me have a look. Again, lots of black specks but no movement.

It's probably nothing but I'm taking no chances. I've just bought some heavy-duty flea shampoo and they're both in for another bath.

This is turning out to be one hell of a week!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bath Time!

Scoop having a bath
The haze continues to choke us all in Subang Jaya but Scoop and Au aren't feeling the heat - they were given their semi-annual bath this morning.

It was an affecting scene. When put in the sink and soaped up, Au howled as though his heart was breaking. When it was his turn, Scoop did his best impersonation of Early Christian Martyr cat being tortured by Nero's troops.

Now the bathing ritual is over, both cats are sitting in the sun, rearranging their coats. They are also muttering quietly to each other, and shooting me filthy looks.

No doubt about it, I'm going to suffer for the indignities they've suffered. And as cats like to take their time putting together the perfect revenge, it's bound to be a dilly.

I'm on tenterhooks...

PS: the picture is Scoop doing his utmost to keep his tummy out of the sink. Old fuzzy is wriggly, but he doesn't stick out claws.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hazy Days

The cat with the dirty face is nowhere to be seen, and the kittens have been moved on to a new home down the road so the place is very quiet. Scoop and Au have heaved a sigh of relief at the sudden peace, and are lolling about on the sofa.

The heat and air pollution have been particulalry punishing these last few days. There is an oily smell in the air, and the smog is so thick that we can't even see the building complex down the road clearly.

The Malaysian government won't share API figures with the public, but this smog is almost as bad as it was last year when a national emergency was declared. Thanks to the Internet, we can get hot spot and haze information from the National Environment Agency in Singapore. It looks like we're in for a nasty few weeks - again.

This poisonous fog is making us all (cats and people) cough. Also, both kitties have rather grubby coats and not enough energy for a good wash. We try not to bathe the cats as its not good for their fur (and it's also a stressful experience) but I'm seriously thinking of giving them a bath on Saturday morning.

It may invigorate them for an hour or so, but it won't be a popular move!

PS Another installment of Katz Tales will be published in the Malaysian national daily The Star in the Weekend section on Saturday. Check it out, send in a picture of your cat and win a basket of cat treats!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Absent or On The Run?

commando kitty
The cat with the dirty face has been absent for three days. I'm worried he's wandered on to the main road and had an accident. Many of our neighbours drive like maniacs along our narrow lanes, only to slow down when they are close enough to home to run over their own offspring. Some don't even slow down when they see a cat!

Alternatively, it's possible our dirty faced fluff has skipped town for a day or two as the stray black girls at the back have produced a litter of very loud kittens. They're squeaking their little heads off, and keeping their mum and aunts on the run 24/7. Fingers crossed he's OK - and that the kittens settle down soon!

PS the cat on the right is one of the back lane kitties practicing his commando tactics.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Cat with the Dirty Face

We have had an intruder the last few weeks: it's an orange and white cat with a dirty face - and dirty ears, tail and paws too.

This orange kitty is a creature of stealth. He has broken into the house to steal cat biscuits from the kitchen. I've got him red-pawed on several occasions and suspect he's been in and out without being caught much more often.

Scoop is seriously alarmed at the invasion. Au is fuming. I don't like a strange cat wandering in, but his dirty coat suggests he's starving. So when he turned up at the back door a few days ago with our group of stray black girls we feed I was quite pleased.

As it turns out the dirty faced kitty has excellent manners. He waits to be invited to join the girls in their morning and afternoon biscuits and he says MEOW before eating. Yesterday he came right up to me to ask for a cuddle before breakfast.

I don't mind rubbing his chin for a moment but he's still far from clean. I wonder how he would feel about a bath?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Getting Better

Scoop on his favourite box
Scoop is feeling better. He's suffering from a fungal infection that caused two sore areas over his temples but his new sporanox medicine is really knocking back the bugs. In just two weeks the sore bits have shrunk from 50 Sen coin sized areas to one Sen coin size patches. We hope he'll be his handsome self again in a week or so from now.

In the meantime our recovering kitty has taken up position on his favourite box in front of the window in our bedroom. He spends most of his mornings there, lying in comfort on his towel, keeping an eye on the birds that flutter about outside.

Life is good!

For some questions and answers about cat skin care, check out VetInfo Cat Skin Care. PS This is heavyduty medicine for cats, so if your vet prescribes sporanox, remember to ask about supplements that protect your kitty's liver.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Double Trouble

Kitties Collapso after a hard day's mischief

Au is downstairs, trying to force open the door of the cupboard where I keep board games and interesting things like tablemats. He must have been a burglar in his last life; he still has a very clever paw when it comes to doors. Unfortunately he's also a bit clumsy. Last time he went in that cupboard the heavy-pawed little fuzz broke my saltshaker.

Scoop was snoozing on top of my pirate's chest in front of the bedroom window but Au’s frustrated yikyikyik as the door hinges stick woke Scoop up. Old fuzzy is healing fast and his sense of mischief is blossoming. Now he's on his way to see how he can contribute to the project.

Both Scoop and Au have been incredibly busy the last few days. When I came back from the wet-market this morning they had brought back a frog and were watching as it hopped around the living room floor.

While I put the frog back outside, the cats took the opportunity to go through the marketing. They had carefully opened all the bags, just to see what was in there that might be interesting for cats. Scoop was admiring the chicken livers I bought for him, and Au was busy rolling onions over the kitchen floor.

Sitting in my office upstairs, I can hear them talking to each other as they cooperate to wedge open the cupboard door. Normally I would go and tell them to go play outside instead of creating havoc, but today I don’t care if they break every dish in the house. They're healthy, and they're happy. After weeks of illness and worry, it’s great to have everything back to normal.

PS Another instalment of Katz Tales will be published in the Malaysian national daily The Star in the Weekend section tomorrow. Check it out, send in a picture of your cat and win a basket of cat treats!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cultural Barriers

Walking past two tom cats squaring up for a fight last week, a friend asked, "Is that what you mean when you say cats talk a lot?"

She wasn't kidding either; she really can't tell the difference between cats saying, "Hey! Long time no see my friend!" and "Come over here and say that, you miserable rag tag of fur, and I'll claw you to pieces!"

Many of the people I know are the same; they are startled at a friendly MREOWF from Scoop or a tentative ikikik from Au.

As most of these people are city-bred, I thought it was just lack of experience but a neighbour and fellow cat fan put it differently, "It's because you're in Subang Jaya and Scoop and Au are from Kuching and Malacca," she said.

So that's what it is: cultural barriers!

PS If you don;t have a clue about Malaysia, click on the map! Kuching is in Sarawak, Malacca is called Melaka on this map, and Subang Jaya is a suburb of Kuala Lumpur.

Map of Malaysia

The map is courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin and according to their Library Web Material Usage Statement is in the public domain.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Back On Track

Scoop wore his lamp shade for a week, and we thought it was having no effect. His face was still sore, and his temper was worse. Every time poor old fuzzy woke up he would panic as he had lost his peripheral vision; also, he was itchy all over. Scoop was really down.

When he went for his checkup on Thursday, the vet recommended some more medicine (at RM7.50 or about US$2 a tablet, Scoop is now officially an expensive kitty!), a new ointment and another fortnight in plastic.

We OK'd the medicine but decided that the lamp shade was too much and took it off. It's not easy to go against medical advice and usually not recommended but guess what? Scoop is a lot better! His face is clearing up and we're crossing fingers he'll be handsome again in a month's time.

Minus lamp shade Scoop is back to his old self. He's cheerfully belting Au over the head, ambushing us when we walk past his chair and diving back into his social life with real verve.

All in all it's been a terrible fortnight. Not just Scoop's illness but also my PC broke down on Tuesday (hence the long silence). Now I've got my PC back and Scoop has his life back we're both back on track.

It's great stuff.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Perfect Mate

Lunch with a pal last week turned into a discussion about life, love and loneliness. As he has a nice house with a garden, and is at home quite a bit, I suggested he give a home to a stray - or preferably two!

The discusion quickly turned to the merits of cats versus dogs. A non-animal lover who was no doubt bored witless by my enthusiasm, my pal cut me short after a generous ten minutes by saying,

"I value independence, loyalty, intelligence, and hard work. I want a companion who can look after themselves if I'm busy but who isn't standoffish when I'm in the mood to play games. I also like beauty and I think family are important so it will have to be a pedigree of some kind. But I can't figure it out, should I get a dog for it's loyalty and capacity to work or a cat because of it's independence and brains?"

Stunned by this catalogue I answered before engaging my brain, "No wonder you're single!" I gasped. He bought me lunch, but I don't think he's forgiven me.

PS the picture is Haurvatat or Khordad, the personification of perfection according to Persian mythology. This image is courtesy of Hannah M.G. Shapero whose scholarly specialty is the ancient and still-living religion of ZOROASTRIANISM.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Fellow Suffering

Scoop's manipulative nature is killing me. Knowing we feel so bad for him at the moment, he is bullying us for chin scratches and tummy rubs all day and all night, plus he's worked his way through 250g of steak in 24 hours.

That's OK but his night time rambling is not. Having been woken up at midnight, 2AM, 4AM,and 5AM I feel as though I'm reeling with jet lag. While I'm finishing off commissions and hoping to sneak out to the gym for a half hour, old fuzzy is enjoying a fine snooze on the sofa.

No doubt he's recruiting his strength for another night of mayhem.

That's cats for you!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Lampshade On

Scoop wearing a hat
Scoop has a sore face, and to keep him from scratching, he has to wear a lampshade for a week or so.

Neither Scoop nor Au wear a collar, so the idea of having one fitted with an extension wasn't very popular. When I put it on yesterday afternoon, poor old fuzzy walked backwards for a few minutes, trying to get rid of it, and then realised it was no good. The look he gave me was terrible.

I showed him how to keep his head up while negotiating stairs, his favourite chair and other obstacles, and within half an hour Scoop was walking around without a problem. He's still not happy but the scars on his face need to heal and this is the only way to keep his paws off them.

I'm staying at home for a week, brushing him 5 or 6 times a day and feeding him bowls of roast chicken. Fingers crossed he gets better soon!

Another instalment of Katz Tales will be published in the Malaysian national daily The Star in the Weekend section tomorrow.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Itchy Scratchy

Au cleaning up after a nice roll
It's been so hot the last week or so that all of us are wilting. The human people are constantly popping into the shower in vain attempts to cool off, and the cat people are sitting directly under fans, and drinking glass after glass of water.

Brushing Scoop who was flat out in front of the fan yesterday I saw spots of dirt on his tummy and immediately thought he had fleas. Luckily for him I checked before chucking him into a bowl of soapy water! It turned out to be plain old dirt fromt he garden.

But when Au came home this morning covered in earth too, I realised Scoop and Au are practicing an alternative cooling technique. Watching Scoop march out I got to see it for myself.

The trick is to turn over the thick soil under the plants at the end of the garden until you find a nice cool layer of earth. Then you spread this evenly over the ground, throw yourself on top and roll until the cool earth is all through your coat.

Neither Scoop nor Au seems to mind that it takes ages to clean off the dirt afterwards, so I suppose the cooling off method does work - or at least have some psychological value. Might go for a roll myself come sundown!

PS the picture above is Au cleaning up after a nice roll.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fat Cat

Yesterday Scoop sighed over his chicken liver, munched moodily on his cat biscuits, and generally grumbled about falling standards. So when I woke up at 7 this morning and decided to go to the wet market, old fuzzy was happy to push me out of the front door. He may never have set eyes on the place, but he knows it's where all good things come from.

On my return, old fuzzy stuck his nose into the groceries, unerringly passing by the tomatoes and spring onions, and aiming straight for the RM2 worth of chicken livers and the whole chicken sitting snugly in the bag beside them.

You can drench a chicken in paprika, stuff it with onions and fresh tarragon and surround it with potatoes if you like, Scoop doesn't care as long as he gets his paws on what his considers his fair share of the roast: a generous helping of breast with small slices of juicy leg meat.

Of course Scoop always gets what he wants. Having gulped down a huge bowl of meat, he is now lying on the sofa, leisurely licking his whiskers and chatting to Au with satisfied mewaufs that indicate dinner was excellent.

From the look of satisfaction on his face it's clear he's anticipating leftovers for supper, breakfast and lunch. It’s a cat's life!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

No Worries!

AU fast asleep in bed
Cats can beat up the dog next door, have a few rounds of fisty-cuffs with a rival tomcat, admonish their human personal servant over the size and quality of the evening meal and then, when the entire neighbourhood is quivering with resentment, fall gently asleep on the best part of the sofa.

Cats never let anything get in between them and a good snooze. They know that worrying won't alter facts and that exhaustion merely adds to tension. You will never see a cat toss and turn, nor will you see a cat trying to stumble through the day yawning and rubbing their eyes, punchdrunk with lack of sleep.

I can't remember the time I slept through the night. Tossing and turning because my stupid brain won't shut up has become routine.

Looking at Scoop and Au I've decided I'm going to follow their example. No more worrying about what happened today or what may come tomorrow. I'm going to get a good night sleep and let tomorrow come as it will.

PS The picture is of Au taking a snooze in bed.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mouse Guy Caught

Rattus Norvegicus taken by Esmeralda Took
After four days of patient waiting, Scoop caught our mouse guy creeping from the roof and into the bathroom where the night time bowl of cat biscuits is kept.

As Scoop was taking his victim outside, I saw its poor frightened face, eyes bulging with terror at the thought of being mauled to death by this huge monster. I grabbed old fuzzy, and told him to drop.

Scoop was fuming but he dropped the mouse and growled threats as it scurried off into the bushes at the end of the garden. I hope it's had the sense to go through the drain and into the banana plantation at the end of the road because if it sets a paw in this house again, Scoop will have him for breakfast.

PS The Rattus Norvegicus picture was provided by Liftarn who puts his pics on Wikicommons.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hot Summer Days

Scoop and Au keeping their cool
It's boiling hot, it hasn't rained for a week and both fuzzies are sweating in their fur coats. Being smart cats, Scoop and Au have figured out where all the best cool spots are in the house. Calculating sun exposure, fan settings and breeze factors, they figure out the best way to keep cool is to spend the morning on the downstairs sofa (see pic), the afternoon in our bedroom and the evening on the front doorstep.

I'm spending my days trapped in the office which is cool in the morning but like a sauna in the afternoon. I would love to bunk off and spend the day at the pool but there are cat biscuits to be earned. Wish I could be a cat!

PS Want to read more about cats? A full Katz Tales column will be published in this Saturday's Weekend section of The Star.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

On Strike

Qwill in bed
There was a rat dancing on the top of the toilet tank this morning. It waved its tail at me in the most cheeky manner, took a casual look around, and then went to sit behind the tank.

I dived straight into the bedroom and woke up Au. "There's a rat in the bathroom," I said shaking his shoulder. Instead of leaping into action, Au yawned and rolled over. Thinking he hadn't heard me I told him again but Au merely shut his eyes tight, put a paw over his face and dozed off again. He had been out all night and he was exhausted, his posture implied.

Determined to show him his duty, I picked Au up, and pointed to the intruder's hiding place. Au sniffed, looked at me as though I was barking and went back to bed. As Scoop had gone out for an early morning walk and was nowhere to be found there was only one thing to do: I had a shower with the rat in situ.

Cats might be among nature's top predators, but one thing's for sure: putting a sleepy cat to work is a sheer impossibility.

Note: The sleepy cat in bed is Qwill who lives in Madrid with my mum, Norma

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Email from Wa Wa

Last week's katz Tales column in The Star Weekend was devoted to how dumb I am when it comes to communicating with Scoop and Au. They are both very patient with me, and always take the time to praise me when I manage to get it right: opening a new bag of biscuits at 4AM, leaving my desk an hour before deadline to get Au a fresh glass of water, or whatever else they require. In addition, I wrote I'm convinced both cats seem to have the gift of telepathy.

Obviously this struck a chord because my kitties were sent this email:

Dear Scoop and Au,

My name is Wa Wa. My daddy calls me Wa Wa Pussyboy, or just Wa Wa or just Pussyboy. When he is angry with me, my name becomes merely Wa!

I think many humans are very stupid. Just because they cannot speak or understand our language, they think we do not have a language to communicate with them. I talk with my daddy all the time and he understands me. Other times, I communicate with him in many other ways.

I remember there was this time when he stuck a piece of sticky tape around my arm and I could not get it off myself (he is very naughty sometimes!), I merely had to stretch my arm with the sticky tape stuck on, towards him and he dutifully took the sticky tape off my arm. Just a secret between you and me, frankly I have him wrapped around my fingertips or should I say, my claw tips. I get to boss him around almost all the time and he seems to enjoy that. Even though I am very bossy with him, I do it out of my sincerest love for him.

I hate it most when he goes off to work in the morning and leaves me all by myself for the whole day. I always try to stop him from leaving. How? Easy. I follow him around and try to stop him from getting to the door. I grip his legs to stop him from walking. He understands my intention very well but he always manages to get to work alright anyway.

When I want to play with him, I only need to bring my toy and leave it in front of him and he would dutifully pick the toy up to play with me. We play many games, including (1) fetch (he throws my toy away and I would pick it up and bring it back to him), (2) wrestling (he tries to cup my head), (3) chase (he would chase me all over the apartment until I surrender) and (4) hide and seek (he pretends not to have seen me and walk away while calling out my name and when I follow after him in a hunting posture, he would turn around to chase me).

Whenever I want to go under his blanket, I only need to lift part of his blanket up with my chin and he would let me go under his blanket with no question asked.

So, who says we do not know how to communicate. Because my communication with my daddy is so good that I do not even need to use my even more powerful communication skill, my psychic ability.

Say thank you to your mummy for sharing her story with you, with us.

Wa Wa Pussyboy.

What do you think? Do cats speak? Are they telepathic?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Prehistoric Kitties

I was reading recently that cats, or the family Felidae if you want to give them their Sunday name, have been around since the Late Eocene Epoch some 43.6 to 36.6 million years ago. Prehistoric cats we would recognise today appeared about 10 million years ago; apart from size and markings that tell you a kitty is a tiger or a lynx or a plain city kitty, the 36 different species of wild cat and more than 50 types of pedigree domestic cat living today have remained almost unchanged in all that time.
If like me you want to know more about those mysterious ancient cat ancestors like the Sabre-toothed cat family, the Metailurus, Machairodus, Megantereon, Dinofelis, Homotherium, Smilodon, and Miracinonyx, check out these sites: Prehistoric Cats And Prehistoric Cat-Like Creatures that's quite scholarly and Extinct Species that's filled with great pics. If you want to look at the sabretoothed cat family, check out the Wikipedia article.

Fingers crossed the Tiger and its modern cousins don't join these lists!

PS Katz Tales is out in the printed version of Malaysia’s national daily The Star Weekend section again tomorrow.
PPS The Smilodon comes from Wikicommons

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How The Tabby Got It's M

There are lots of cat legends, but while talking in the pub the other night (Kusar Cabana in SS15!) I heard one that's new to me the other day on how the tabby cat got it's "M", the typically have dark markings on their foreheads.

Christian legends say the Virgin Mary marked the tabby with an M for Maria as thanks for warming the baby Jesus in the cold stable at Bethlehem, while Muslim legends say the Prophet Mohammed bestowed the mark as thanks for a timely warning from his pet cat Muezza that a poisonous snake had crawled into his coat sleeve.
Photo taken by Bernard Landgraf; courtesy of WikiCommons
Many of the jungle cats, such as tigers, cheetahs, and ocelots also have the M marking. Wonder who was brave enough to pet those big kitties!

This tiger was snapped by Bernard Landgraf; the Ocelot was taken by someone working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both pictures are in the public domain. Source: WikiCommons