The orange butterball weighs in at 35 pounds and was surrendered to the SPCA in North Carolina’s Wake County this week after his former owner died.
Although the shelter says some people were initially outraged that a person would let the ginger tabby grow to such elephantine proportions, it turns out there’s more to the story: Bazooka’s owner was inflicted with dementia and, never sure if he’d fed the amiable cat, he just kept feeding and feeding — and feeding — Bazooka, who has apparently never met a cup of kibble or a can of tuna he won’t happily scarf down.
We wouldn’t be surprised if there was some insistent meowing prompting his late human to keep refilling those bowls.
“[Bazooka’s owner] thought he was doing the best thing for his cat by feeding him,” the SPCA’s Darci VanderSlik told North Carolina’s News-Observer. “We need to look on this with a compassionate view. He was loved.”
It turns out Bazooka is a loving and chill dude as well.
“He wants to be around people,” said Michelle Barry, the big guy’s foster mom. “He’s happiest lying right next to you. And he’s more active than I expected him to be.”
He’s in for quite an adjustment period, going from a life of on-demand meals to a strictly-regulated diet designed to get him down to a healthy weight. As any cat servant knows, there’ll be lots of agitated meowing in his future.
The ‘Zookster has already been adopted and will soon move into his forever home after the shelter provides some basic veterinary care and draws up a weight loss plan for him. Working with his new human, staff at the SPCA want to get Bazooka down to 20 pounds or so, which they feel is appropriate for his large frame.
They say they’re just glad to help.
“We don’t know a lot of the back stories of the animals we get, but we try not to judge people or make people feel bad about the circumstances that led to their surrender,” VanderSlik said. “We’re really lucky to have the resources to take him in and help him get a home he deserves.”
They prefer to be called animal communicators, which makes their work sound more professional and less hokey, but the services they offer are pretty much identical to those offered by regular psychics, mediums, sorcerers and wizards. Per the totally legitimate site SheKnows.com:
Put simply, animal communication is a silent, telepathic language that functions via deepened intuition. Animal communicators are very much in tune with this ability and use it to have a dialogue with an animal. Animal communication is not about deciphering an animal’s body language or behavior, though. It’s an actual exchange of information between the communicator and animal in the form of words, mental images, feelings and more.
Buddy and I have several different means of communication: In the early morning hours he tells me he wants me to wake up by standing on my face and meowing into my ear, and I tell him to shut up and go back to sleep by throwing pillows at him.
By late afternoon Bud begins his daily ritual, communicating to me that dinner time is fast approaching and failure to serve yums on time will result in even louder and more annoying meows. I respond by threatening to sell him to the nearest Chinese food restaurant.
Clearly, we communicate well!
But could an animal communicator facilitate even better ways of exchanging information that don’t include vulgarities, face-walkings and late night ambushes?
We set out to ascertain the truth.
Animal Communicator # 1: The Long Island XL
Length of session: 42 seconds
Comments: “Relax your chakras. Open your inner eye and heart to the quantum energies of my chi. Okay. Good. Now I’m going to connect our minds. Oh my…Ugh. I’m getting an overwhelming stench. It’s…fish. And poultry. An ocean’s worth of salmon and enough turkey to feed a small country. More fish. More turkey. The clucking of a million portly birds, thousands of pounds of slimy salmon overwhelming my olfactory senses…I’m drowning in it. Oh God! Help me! Help me! Pull me out!”
Buddy’s comments: *BURP* She was pretty accurate.
Animal Communicator #2: Edward John, animal telepath
Length of session: 18 minutes
Edward John: So this is your cat, Buster?
Me: His name is Buddy.
Edward John: Okay, so you want me to talk to little Bubba here and have him tell me what he’s thinking?
Me: Uh yeah, the usual. I want to know if he’s happy living with me, what he likes, and what I can do for him to make it even better.
Edward John: Okay. I’m performing the Vulcan mind-meld now. My mind to your mind…it is logical to accept the connection.
Oh my. He’s a ferocious little guy, isn’t he, your Bubba? I’m getting images showing him prowling the neighborhood…
Me: He doesn’t go outside.
Edward John: …prowling the living room, serving as enforcer to the other cats in the house…
Me: He’s an only cat.
Edward John: Right. I knew that. Now I’m seeing fleeting images of a female cat, a neighbor’s cat. Buster sired a litter with her…
Me: Buddy was neutered at 5 months old.
Edward John: …but he revealed he’d been neutered, so he couldn’t be the father, which is why they brought Smudge next door for a paternity test and he’s the baby daddy.
Edward John: Okay, your cat’s speaking directly to me now! He says he’s sorry he doesn’t meow much, but he promises to meow with joy if you feed him more tuna.
Me: He hates tuna, and the problem isn’t getting him to talk, it’s getting him to stop. He treats me to nightly dissertations, rendered in meow, on theoretical physics and the creamy texture of smoked Gouda.
Edward John: Whatever. That’ll conclude our 18-minute session at the low price of $350. We can keep going for only $39.95 per additional minute if you’d like me to continue probing Barry’s mind.
Me: I think Barry, Bubba, Buster and I are good. Thanks, Edward.
Animal Communicator #3: Alison Doobwah, Medium
Length of session: 21 minutes
Alison: Okay, something’s coming through. I’m seeing a house. It could be white, or gray or maybe a light blue or tan. Does that sound familiar?
Me: No. We live in an apartment building.
Alison: Okay, I feel like he’s telling me he wants turkey. Does turkey mean anything to you?
Me: Yes, it’s all over the blog. It’s his favorite food. Not exactly a secret. Anyone could have looked it up.
Alison: A skeptic, huh? All right. I’m getting images, visualizations from the quantum reality, echoes of someone whose name begins with a D. Maybe Dave, Doris, Devon, Dirk, Debbie, Darren, Delilah or Decker?
Me: Nope. Neither of us know any Dorises, Devons, Dirks or Deckers.
Alison: Dominic? Diego? Dorian? Maybe Dakota or Desmond?
Me: No. Sorry.
Alison: Maybe an H? Oh, or a G? Does Buddy know a Greg, Gary, Gerald, Geordi or Gerrit?
Alison: What about grandma or grandpa?
Me: I had grandparents! That’s amazing! And my mom is like a grandmother to Buddy. Your intuition is outstanding!
Alison: I’m just reading the images I get from the astral plane. I’m merely the vessel through which the chakras broadcast their quantum energies and reveal their secrets.
Me: Makes total sense. What else?
Alison: He says he wants more toys. He says the snack selection in your home is sub-par, and that if you really love him, you’ll put more effort into buying a more diverse array of treats. He also says he wants a cat condo. In fact, he says he’s brought this topic up before, and he’s disappointed in your failure to follow through. Regarding sleeping arrangements, he says he’d like you to cut down on tossing and turning during the night, because you’re his mattress and excess movement disturbs his sleep. On the subject of wet food, he feels you don’t serve him turkey as much as he’d like, and that poultry should ideally be followed up with seafood. Regarding the vacuum…
Me: Okay, okay. Enough. I get it.
Alison: But there’s more! He says…
Me: Any more complaints and he can tell them to the cooks at Szechuan Garden II. Comprende?
When Alan Turing was dreaming of a future made better by intelligent machines back in 1950, it’s a safe bet he wasn’t imagining computers that could analyze your cat’s excrement.
Turing, often called the father of artificial intelligence, couldn’t have envisioned a device like the LuluPet litter box, which harnesses the combined intelligence of man and machine — a proud lineage of devices from the Speak N Spell to the latest iPhone — to conduct “stool and urine image analysis” and compare your cat’s bowel movements to “excretory behavioral algorithms.”
Excretory behavioral algorithms! A sentence so ridiculous that you must be thinking I’m shitting you, dear reader, just like I double-checked to make sure the whole thing wasn’t some recycled April Fool’s joke.
Nope. The LuluPet litter box is real. It earned an Innovation Award honoree nod at CES 2020’s tech trade show, and it’s headed to Amazon, where you’ll be able to buy it for $149.
Using a scale and sensor system, LuluPet can determine whether your cat’s performing a Number One or a Number Two inside the covered box, and it’s got visual recognition as well.
When your cat goes for a pinch, built-in cameras zoom in on the freshly-dropped deuce nuggets and, uh, log the images to LuluPet’s growing database of kitty crap. That’s when sophisticated algorithms get to work, analyzing the turds’ attributes — including texture, consistency and color, apparently — so it can compare them to others, ostensibly to alert you to any health problems plaguing your stoic kitty.
Worried that the device won’t work because your cat buries her business? Fear not! LuluPet uses “AI image restoration technologies” to recreate your cat’s turd so it can run it through its stool database.
“The litter box comes with 2 AI systems: one for litter analysis, and another that analyzes clumping between litter and litter box material,” the Taiwan-based company explains. “The latter attempts to reconstruct litter shape and present it to the former for confirmation, and can currently identify litter with an accuracy of up to 90%.”
NASA doesn’t even have tech like this!
Put away those fears of rogue AI trying to wipe out humanity. Lighten up. Take a load off. AI doesn’t want to kill you. It just wants to amass the world’s most impressive collection of feline fecal photographs.
There’s an app for that
Of course, you may want to verify your cat is performing healthy bowel movements for yourself, and an integrated app allows you to tap into the litter box’s camera feed to watch kitty having a nice growler. Welcome to the future, folks.
And for those of you who think this is a fantastic idea but might balk at the pricy LuluPet because you’ve got an entire pride of little lions, fear not: The device’s AI can differentiate between the output of multiple cats by looking for the unique features of each kitty’s downloads.
Again, I’m totally not making this up.
Now that we’ve had our fun, it’s only fair to note the LuluPet litter box is well-intentioned, and if it works as intended, it could lead to critical early diagnosis for animals who are notorious for hiding pain and discomfort:
“Among the top ten causes of death for domestic cats, seven were feces-related diseases. Cats, however, are born concealers of their own weaknesses, making it difficult for owners to find out whether their precious feline is in pain. LuluPet illustrates this with the example of kidney failure: Statistically, a cat’s kidneys are 70% damaged by the time the owner suspects an illness and brings the cat to the veterinarian. The organ damage is not only irreversible, but subsequent medical fees may cost up to US$ 1,200.
Sick cats aren’t completely undetectable. According to the Bristol stool scale, cat feces may be divided into 7 categories, ranging from constipation to diarrhea; constipation may be caused by the pressing of a tumor, while symptoms of diarrhea may be the result of common systemic diseases such as kidney failure. Stool analysis thus becomes the most straightforward way of detecting these diseases.”
Maybe an all-knowing machine overlord to watch over your feline overlord isn’t such a bad thing.
In a scene that looked like the classic “cat on a keyboard” writ large, an especially affectionate tabby crashed a Buddhist ceremony on New Years Eve and demanded the attentions of a monk in the midst of a five-hour-long prayer.
The tabby, who is a regular at Wat Udomrangsi near Bangkok, seemed unfazed by the chanting and approached Luang Pi Komkrit Taechachoto, a 25-year-old monk.
A video uploaded by an amused bystander shows the striped kitty climbing into Taechachoto’s lap and rubbing his scent glands on the young monk’s saffron robes. After several nudging prompts from kitty, Taechachoto wisely decided to scratch the little one on his head and cheeks.
“I was trying to read the book,” Taechachoto told Reuters, “but I was more focused on the cat.”
The bold and apparently contented kitty even kneaded on Taechachoto’s robes.
Then came the moment that will be familiar to cat servants across the globe, regardless of the language they speak or the culture they’re a part of: As Taechachoto leaned forward to turn the page on the prayer book in front of him, the cat suddenly realized the book was the primary focus of the monk’s attention, and did what all cats do — he sat on it.
Nophayong Sookphan, the amused attendee who shot the video, told Reuters the affectionate feline stayed just long enough to ring in the New Year, remaining on Taechachoto’s lap for the final 15 minutes of 2019 and sauntering off shortly after the countdown.
The kitty and the young monk will be seeing each other again — the former is among a group of about 15 cats who call the temple complex their home. Animal life is sacred to adherents of Buddhism.
But, Taechachoto said, maybe the cats are too spoiled by the monks: “They’re all fat.”
“Hey! Sorry for stealing your cat. I felt really guilty about it, so I abandoned him by the side of the road in another town. Totes a bad impulse decision lol! I never meant to be the bad guy! I hope you can forgive me, but don’t worry, if you don’t I forgive you! Buh-bye!”
That about sums up the bizarre letter a Minnesota woman received on Dec. 11, three months after her cat, Dot, went missing.
She last saw Dot on Oct. 10, when Byron Thomas Vieau delivered a package to her home in Watertown, 20 miles west of Minneapolis. Vieau was visibly taken with Dot, the cat’s owner would later tell police, and bent down to pet the 12-year-old tabby as he delivered the package.
Security footage shows Vieau encountering Dot on his way over, and it’s clear the cat follows Vieau, but the 23-year-old Minnesota man likely nabbed Dot on the driver’s side while walking back to his truck because we don’t get an angle on the theft itself:
Vieau completed his delivery, and Dot was never seen again. Dot’s worried owner called the cops, who questioned Vieau, but he denied knowing anything about the missing moggie.
“Byron lied to me (twice) immediately after Dot was stolen, he lied to police the next day, I feel he is still lying about what he did to Dot,” Dot’s owner wrote in a Facebook post. “In my world this is such an unnecessary tragedy and I wish this upon nobody!”
Then in mid-December, Dot’s owner received this batshit-crazy letter from Vieau:
The letter reads:
My name is Byron and I unfortunately made a poor judgment decision to take your cat. I cannot stress enough how sorry I am, I am a HUGE animal lover and I only wanted to have a pet of my own. It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. I am so embaressed [sic]. I did make a bad impulse choice right outside of Watertown to let the cat go, I started feeling awful and quickly shoved the cat out of my car. I do not know where it went after that. This isn’t the story I gave you the first time, I felt so bad and I didn’t want to own up to things. I just wanted to take it home with me, but I quickly changed my mind. I never hurt it and I never meant to cause this much pain. I should have owned up sooner. I can only hope they can find it where I dropped it off. Again, I never meant to be a bad guy, I just wanted to give it a home. I’m so sorry for doing what I did. If you can’t find it in your heart to forgive me, I totally understand.
Dec. 11, 2019
What stands out is the lack of genuine awareness, of any consideration for the victim’s feelings or the welfare of the cat. Everything’s about Byron. Every sentence is “I wanted” and “I didn’t mean to” and “I can only hope.”
Every action is minimized: Byron Vieau didn’t steal the cat, he “made a poor judgment decision.” He’s a HUGE animal lover, and all he wanted was a pet of his own! Byron didn’t heartlessly shove a house cat — who doesn’t have the skills to survive as a stray — out of his car and abandon it on the roadside, he simply “made a bad impulse choice to let the cat go.”
Vieau tells us he was “embaressed,” he “didn’t want to hurt anyone,” and “never meant to be a bad guy.” He doesn’t mention how Heidi pleaded for the return of her beloved cat, or her anguished posts on Facebook as she asked for help looking for the “clearly well-loved” tabby.
He’s looking for forgiveness and absolution from his victim without troubling himself with considering her feelings, because he wants to feel better about what he did.
Police have arrested Vieau and charged him with misdemeanor theft and misdemeanor animal abandonment, which carry extremely light penalties. Under Minnesota law, Dot’s theft is a minor property crime of the same severity as the theft of say, a toaster, but not as severe as a shiny new flatscreen TV.
In the meantime, Dot is still MIA. Dot is primarily white and black, with traditional tabby markings on his head, and he weighed about 14 pounds at the time he was taken, according to police.
Any readers in the Carver County or Watertown area of Minnesota can call Detective Neil Kuhnau of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office at 952-361-1212 if they’ve spotted the missing moggie.
We hope Heidi and Dot are happily reunited.
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.