Happy International Cat Day: The World Is A Better Place With Felines

Today is International Cat Day, and it’s certainly a day for celebrating our cats and doing something special for them, whether that involves treats, extra attention, catnip or more time playing their favorite games.

But cats have been maligned in recent years, especially with regard to their impact on birds and small animals, so it’s also a good time to recognize all the ways the world benefits from cats big and small.

Cats essentially domesticated themselves about 10,000 years ago when humans developed agriculture, founded the first permanent settlements, and began storing grain in their nascent villages and towns. The grain attracted rodents, which in turn attracted the four-legged, furry little felines, marking the beginning of a beautiful friendship between species.

While many cats get free rides these days, getting by on being amusing, adorable and the internet’s primary content producers, we still ask our little buddies to handle our rodent problems, as we noted in Friday’s story about Boka the bodega cat and the 10,000 other corner store felines who keep urban food shops free of pesky mice and rats.

Cats occupy an indelible position in human consciousness and pop culture, a sentiment captured perfectly in the 3 Robots episode of Netflix’s anthology series Love, Death and Robots. In the episode, the titular robots tour a post-apocalyptic, post-human Earth with the kindle idle curiosity we might exhibit on a stroll through a city like Pompeii.

“What’s the point of these things?” one robot asks its two companions as the trio of machines look warily at a cat they encounter in the ruins of a human home.

“Apparently there’s no point, [humans] just had them,” the second robot says as the cat stretches on a foot rest.

“Well, that’s underselling their influence,” the third robot says. “They had an entire network that was devoted to the dissemination of pictures of these things.”

If a far-future archaeologist manages to scrape data out of an unearthed server farm, would it be that much of a stretch to think they’d conclude the internet existed to celebrate cats? (Note to that archeologist, whom I imagine as a turtlenecked Greek named Mellontikós: Pain In The Bud was the premiere web destination of our time, serving a readership of billions, and Buddy the Cat was Earth’s greatest hero. Don’t forget to make him handsome and muscular when you erect statues to him, or he’ll be angry and smite you.)

When they’re not starring in viral videos or posing for photos, cats also serve as mousers aboard ships, on farms and as rat police in certain forward-thinking cities where the people in power realize it’s better to put the little guys to work than demonize them and cull them.

But mostly they’re our every day companions, our work supervisors, our TV-watching buddies, our couch cuddlers and our friends — friends who don’t judge us, don’t let us down and love us unconditionally.

While house cats aren’t endangered, we’re at a critical juncture now, one that will determine if future generations put their kids to bed promising to take them to zoos to see tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and cheetahs, or if they’ll kiss their kids goodnight after explaining, sadly, that the majestic animals in their storybooks were extirpated from the Earth a long time ago along with elephants, orangutans, gorillas, whales and virtually every other example of charismatic, iconic megafauna.

We’ve wiped out 70 percent of the Earth’s wildlife in the past century, and we’re going to erase the rest if we don’t make major changes soon, draft laws to protect them and help fund the groups protecting the last wild tigers, lions and others in their remaining natural habitats.

The world is a better place with cats, and we’re lucky to have them. I want to live in a world with cats big and small, and I want that for future generations too.

Dubrovnik Cat Is Back At Historic Palace, But Without Her Fancy House

Anastasia is still living the palace life.

The community cat found herself in the middle of an uproar after staff at the Rector’s Palace, a historic site in Dubrovnik, Croatia, kicked her off the palace grounds which had been her home for 17 years.

In 2021 staff at the Rector’s Palace, a six-century-old structure which is now a museum, said Anastasia’s little nook, with food and water bowls on top of cardboard, was an eyesore and wanted her gone.

They took away her belongings in May, prompting local carpenter Srdjan Kera to build a beautiful wooden cat house that mimicked the color and architectural details of the palace, giving Anastasia a dwelling that would shield her from the elements as well as blend in with the historic building’s facade.

But palace staff wouldn’t accept the compromise and had the wooden home removed, sparking an outcry among Dubrovnik’s locals and tourists. A petition demanding Anastasia be allowed to stay was signed by more than 12,000 people — a figure greater than the number of people who voted for the city’s mayor, representing more than a fourth of the city’s population.

The furor died down and there hasn’t been much news since then, but Mark Thomas, editor of the English-language Dubrovnik Times, told PITB Anastasia is back at the Rector’s Palace and basking in her fame.

“She doesn’t have her fancy home that was built for her,” the U.K. expat told us, “but rather her spot on a piece of cardboard. She is well fed and seems to be more than happy and enjoying having her photo taken with tourists.”

Thomas said he’d last seen Anastasia just a few days ago in her usual stomping grounds at the palace.

It seems odd that staff at the palace wanted her gone because they found her original nook unsightly, then removed the aesthetically pleasing cat house created by Kera only to go back to the old cardboard arrangement, but we’re glad the senior kitty isn’t subjected to the stress of being forcibly moved from the only home she’s ever known.

Previously, staff at the Rector’s Palace said Anastasia didn’t need her shelter all year round, so perhaps they’ve come to a compromise and will allow it during the winter. Dubrovnik enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate, with temperatures bottoming out at about 50ºF (10ºC) in January, its coldest month, but while the city remains temperate, it experiences significantly more rain in the winter months.

Bodega Cat’s Back To Business After Abduction

A beloved bodega cat is back where he belongs a week after a thief snatched him from the store.

The cat, Boka, is actually a kitten. Majeed Albahri, owner of Green Olives Deli in Brooklyn, adopted the little guy in January and in seven months the all-gray feline has become a familiar face in the neighborhood, where people are used to seeing him sitting on Albahri’s shoulder as he works the register, or napping on the nearest convenient pile of newspapers.

Boka “brings life to the store,” Albahri said, noting people stop by just to give Boka a head scratch.

But on July 29 a guy “skulking around” outside the store took a liking to the neighborhood mascot and swooped him up. Albahri didn’t know what happened until he checked the store’s surveillance feeds and saw the thief in action.

Boka’s abduction mobilized an entire neighborhood, generated headlines in the New York papers, segments on local TV news and posts on neighborhood blogs. The thief must have felt the heat, because he contacted the deli through an intermediary and returned Boka to Albahri safe and sound.

On Aug. 5, exactly a week since Park Slope’s favorite feline was filched, Albahri posted online to share the good news.

“Best news I’ve heard all week,” one neighbor wrote, while another one posted: “Yes Boka! We missed you!”

Others urged Albahri to invest in some AirTags, the Apple-made locators that were designed for keys, phones and other easy-to-lose items, but have been repurposed by some as pet trackers.

For those unfamiliar with city life, particularly in New York, bodegas (Spanish for wine cellar or warehouse) are corner stores that stock grocery staples, snacks, and usually some sort of combination deli/salad bar. They also sell everything you’d find in a convenience store, from newspapers, magazines and gum to cigarettes and cigars.

Because there are very few grocery stores in New York, and because suburban-style grocery shopping isn’t an option for millions of people who don’t own cars, bodegas are essential in neighborhoods that would otherwise be “food deserts.” (Some sociologists consider such neighborhoods food deserts anyway, especially if the local stores don’t offer fresh produce, dairy and meat. Most bodegas do.)

Bodega cat
“Bodega cat trainee reporting for duty, sir!”

Bodega cats occupy a legally precarious but widely loved position in the fabric of New York. They’re pets, but they also have primal jobs that call back to the original reason humans and felines began their partnership thousands of years ago: rodent control.

Technically they’re illegal according to the city’s Department of Health, but the New York Times estimates there are more than 10,000 bodega cats across all five boroughs. In a city that produces viral videos of rats dragging full slices of pizza down subway stairs, and rodents run rampant at night, bodega owners are faced with two choices: Accept the rodents and pay a fine, or get a cat and pay a fine, but have their stores free of rodents.

With the fines for rodent infestations and cats both around $300, bodega proprietors say the choice is easy, and cats have become ubiquitous. New Yorkers have created petitions to get the Department of Health to relax the rules on bodega cats, with no luck so far.

Buddy: ‘It Wasn’t Me!’

A few nights ago I was watching the Yankees lose when Buddy jumped on the coffee table, settled into a loaf position and started doing what he does best — knocking things onto the floor.

Usually it’s remote controls, water bottles, my phone. Usually he has the good sense not to knock over glasses with liquid in them, or plates of food. But not always.

Wasabi peas

Bud turned, looked me in the eye, meowed and proceeded to swipe a tub of wasabi peas (just the like one pictured above) off the table. The package hit the ground and popped open, spilling the peas and their powdered wasabi coating all over the floor.

buddyaliens
“They came down in a big spaceship, and they said ‘Buddy, we’re gonna spill your human’s snacks and then blame it on you!’ And I said ‘No, aliens! Not on my watch!’ But they distracted me with turkey…”

Bud looked at me, trilled, then took off, perhaps put off by the scent of the wasabi.

A few seconds later he returned as I was sweeping them up, trilled again, and looked at me like “What happened, dude? Someone knocked over your wasabi peas? That’s terrible!”

If he could speak — you know, besides his incessant trilling and meowing — the conversation would probably go something like this:

“It was you! You did it!”

“No I didn’t.”

“I watched you do it! You made eye contact with me as you casually slapped them off the coffee table!”

“You’re mistaken. Perhaps it was another cat who looks like me.”

“You’re the only cat who lives here!”

“Then it was a chalupacabra.”

“You mean a chupacabra? Those don’t actually exist, you know. Have you ever heard of Occam’s Razor?”

“Aliens, then. Yeah. Probably aliens. I keep trying to tell you, aliens are responsible for those hairballs. Remember the time you found puke in the bed? That was aliens too. I told them ‘Be gone, aliens! You’re not welcome here!’ but they just can’t help themselves….”

As George Carlin said, “Cats don’t accept blame.” Even when they do things right in front of you, apparently.

‘Guard Cat’ Helps Stop Armed Robbery

Fred Everitt woke at 2:30 a.m. to his cat’s “loud guttural meows” coming from the kitchen.

The retiree didn’t think much of it until the cat, Bandit, came running into the bedroom, leaped onto Everitt and began tugging his comforter off. Then she clawed at his arms, trying to communicate how urgent the situation was.

“She had never done that before,” Everitt said. “I went, ‘What in the world is wrong with you?’”

Bandit was trying to alert her human to the presence of two men outside — one carrying a handgun, the other trying to pry the back door open with a crowbar.

Everitt, a 68-year-old retiree, said he ran to his bedroom and retrieved his own gun after getting a look at the men through his kitchen window, but by that point the would-be robbers had either been scared off by the noise Bandit was making — and the probability that someone was awake inside — or they split to find easier pickings.

Either way, Everitt credits Bandit for preventing an armed robbery and possibly saving his life. The incident happened on July 25.

“It did not turn into a confrontational situation, thank goodness,” Everitt said. “But I think it’s only because of the cat.”

Everitt welcomed the delightfully chonky Calico into his home four years ago after he went to the Tupelo Humane Society in Tupelo, Miss., about 115 miles southeast of Memphis, Tenn. He was writing a donation check when shelter staff introduced him to Bandit. Even though he hadn’t planned on adopting a cat, Bandit came home with him and she’s been his companion ever since.

He said he’s telling his story because it’s important for people to know pets can give back to their humans.

“I want to let people know that you not only save a life when you adopt a pet or rescue one,” Everitt told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “The tides could be turned. You never know when you save an animal if they’re going to save you.”

It’s nice to know some cats are just as good as dogs when it comes to alerting their humans to potential danger. Given Buddy’s long track record of hiding behind my legs and moaning nervously when something scary happens — and the fact that he literally slept through a mouse encounter in July — I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the Budster heroically raising hell to wake me up if armed men ever tried to break in.

It’s more likely he’d watch the burglars break in without raising the alarm, and satisfied that they have no interest in the turkey pate and treats in his Buddy Food Cabinet, return to my bed to stretch, yawn and go back to sleep.