Category: cat stories

Oregon Cat Is An Accomplished Kleptomaniac

Esme the cat loves bringing gifts back to her human, so when she started bringing home inanimate objects instead of prey, owner Kate Felmet lavished her with praise.

“When she brings them, she comes to the back door and yowls, like ‘Wooooar!’ until I come and tell her she’s done a good job,” Felmet explained.

While Felmet’s glad her three-year-old kitty had stopped going after living creatures, the sheer volume of stuff Esme’s brought back — and her singleminded devotion to collecting it — prompted the Oregon woman to find a way to return the items to people in her neighborhood.

Felmet found a solution when she constructed a cat-shaming lost and found in her front yard, marked with a sign that reads: “MY CAT IS A THIEF” with the stolen items hanging from an attached clothesline.

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Esme the cat.

The sign has a well-drawn likeness of Esme with a glove in her mouth, and a smaller line of text that reads: “Please take these items if they are yours.”

So what does Esme steal? A little bit if everything, apparently.

The most popular objects of her pilfering exploits are gloves and masks, but the little cat burglar has gotten her paws on “several bathing suits, knee pads, rolls of tapes, packages of paint rollers and lengths of fabric.”

“Esme’s thievery began last spring – she brought home 11 masks in one day,” Felmet said. “I was so delighted that she wasn’t bringing me birds and she got a lot of praise – and maybe a few treats for the gifts that weren’t recently alive.”

Esme’s a completist: If she steals one glove, she must have the other.

“She brings them separately but almost always goes back to get the second glove,” said Felmet, who is a medical doctor.

“As soon as I put the sign up, she went for a week of not bringing me anything,” Felmet told WKRG, the local CBS affiliate station. “I had the impression she was a little mad about it.” 

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Esme’s haul from a recent pilfering expedition.

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The Story Behind Japan’s Iconic ‘Beckoning Cat’

In a new article, National Geographic delves into the history of maneki neko — Japan’s famous “beckoning cat” — and how the image became ubiquitous in modern society.

Chances are you’ve seen maneki neko even if you don’t realize it. The iconic feline image has transcended its homeland and is common not only in China, Vietnam, Thailand and the rest of Asia, it’s also made its way to the US and Canada as well, earning a place in shops run by Japanese and westerners alike.

Maneki Neko at Setagaya Tokyo
Visitors leave their own maneki neko statues at the shrine, often with personal messages asking for different blessings and written in black marker on the back of the statues. Credit: Pain In The Bud

There’s a reason for that: The waving cat not only represents luck and good fortune, it’s a welcoming gesture meant to attract customers. Maneki neko find a place in homes too, with different coat colors and patterns representing different positive attributes: A white cat is supposed to bring happiness, while a black cat wards off evil spirits and a calico is believed to bring luck in all its forms.

Maneki Neko Setagaya Tokyo
Maneki Neko statues at Setagaya shrine. Credit: PITB

As a cat lover I kept an eye out for the iconic statues during my time in Japan and, although I missed Buddy, I couldn’t leave without seeing where it all began: The cat shrine at Setagaya, a quiet Tokyo suburb where, according to legend, a feudal lord followed a beckoning cat by the roadside and found refuge from the elements in a humble shrine, where the temple monk invited them inside and gave a memorable sermon.

The feudal lord was so grateful for the hospitality, and for finding shelter to wait out a violent thunderstorm, that he vowed to become the temple’s patron. The grounds contain several temples today, as well as separate shrine areas for maneki neko left by visitors and wooden icons with hopeful messages written on them.

All images in this post are from my trip to Setagaya’s cat shrine in the summer of 2019. To see more, check out the post I wrote at the time from Tokyo.

Meet Starlin The Good Girl

Cat name: Starlin

Cat’s age: 10

Cat’s human servant: Barreleh from Cape May

Starlin’s origin story:

Starlin, aka The Star Baby, “began life in a friend’s backyard,” according to her human, Barreleh.

“At the time, I was a Philly PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society) volunteer, and I was pretty sure I could get that tiny gray kitten into one of the PAWS shelters,” Barreleh recalled. “[I] lent my friend a humane trap, and told her to call me when the kitten was in it.”

Barreleh had barely left before she got the call and turned around.

“I returned to pick up the kitten, and took her into the room in my home where all foundlings spend their time until they’re ready to either be adopted out, or join the furmily,” she said. “As soon as I got her out of the carrier, she WIGGED OUT, and spent the next few weeks under the furniture. Every time I came in the room to feed her and do litter duty, the second she heard the door open, under the furniture she went.”

Barreleh knew only a gentle approach was going to cut it with the skittish kitten, so she sat on the other side of the closed door and began talking to Starlin in calming tones: “Sweet nothings, mostly,” she said.

Giving the scared little one some space paid off, as did the soft-spoken reassurances.

“I could hear her purring on the other side of the door,” Barreleh said.

A week later, Barreleh was at home when her husband called her upstairs. The previously fearful kitten was sitting on his lap. That’s when the couple decided to keep her and named her Starlin.

The tiny kitten grew up to be a petite cat, living in Philadelphia with her humans and her four feline siblings, including “The Looney Toon Brothers,” Ivy Spivington and Lucinda.

Five years ago, the family packed up and was ready to move to Cape May, New Jersey. They awoke early to corral the cats, believing the easygoing Starlin would be the easiest to handle. Things were going smooth, with the cats — “even the outdoor stray/feral cat I had been feeding, and couldn’t bear to leave behind” — getting into their carriers generally without complaint.

Not Starlin.

The next hour played out like a slapstick comedy, with Starlin leading Barreleh and her husband on a chase up and down the stairs and around the house.

“Finally one of us was able to grab her, kicking and howling like a banshee, and somehow got her into the cat carrier,” Barreleh said. “From there, there was not a peep out of her for the whole 2-hour trip. When she finally exited the carrier, she morphed back to being her adorable self.”

Starlin’s favorite things are her beat-up old wand toy, catnip parties, chasing the infamous red dot, cuddling with her humans — and eating eggs.

“She loves, loves, loves eggs,” Barreleh said.

Little Starlin is about to turn 10, but she’s almost as active as a kitten when it comes to play time.

“She is sooooooooo sweet, and sooooooooooo cuddly, and still loves to chase the little red dot,” Barreleh said. “And when I sing out ‘Where’s my baby?’ she comes running.”

We profile our readers’ cats regularly. Would you like to see your cat featured here? Send us a message via our contact page and tell us all about your furball. Previous featured cats: Meet Tux (4/21/2021), Meet Bowie (4/12/2021)

 

Meet Tux, A Cat So Dapper He’s Always In Formal Wear

Cat name: Tux, a tuxedo (duh!)

Cat’s age: 8

Cat’s human servant: “Two slow humans”

Tux’s origin story:

Reader Julie wasn’t always a cat person.

“Never had a cat or wanted a cat before,” she said. “I believed the myth that they were cold and selfish animals.”

When her teenage son came back home one day with a kitten rescued from a “sketchy” house in a friend’s neighborhood, Julie didn’t want to let him keep the baby cat.

“I regret to say now that at the time I insisted that he go to the Humane Society,” July told PITB. “Two challenging teenagers and two elderly dogs with health problems were enough to handle.”

But Tux was special and needed a good family who would show him love. The kitten was the sole survivor of a cat family that was asphyxiated in plastic food containers, presumably by the home’s occupants, who left in a hurry one day.

There was one survivor mewing from the attic. The theory is that Tux’s mom was trying to protect her babies and got him to safety before she ran out of time and cruel humans ended her life.

Julie’s son named the cute kitten, and her daughter kept the little guy in her room. But she had a busy schedule between school and work, and Julie was the only one home most of the time thanks to a job that allows her to work from home.

“Even though I didn’t initially want a cat, I checked on him often hiding in her room and he started to let me pet him,” she said. “Eventually he started following me around, and soon hung out with me. [My daughter] was mad that he chose me and said that I stole him from her!”

Tux worked his feline magic, and Julie quickly became a cat person. His presence turned out to be a blessing for the family when their dogs died within six months of each other.

These days he rules the home like his own kingdom by keeping watch atop his tree house, stealing plastic bottle caps to play with, knocking things over (he’d get along great with Buddy!) and, of course, “scolding us when he perceives that we have slacked off with servant duties!”

“I never could have imagined the great love from Tux over the years,” Julie said. “He seems to understand so much of what goes on and he is my feline child! Yes, I might be a crazy cat lady now! He is smart and funny and so loving. As long as the humans know their place!”

 

The Ancient Egyptians Lost A War Rather Than Hurt Cats

Before the great civilizational clashes at Thermopylae, Plataea and Salamis, there was Pelusium.

The strategically important city on the Nile Delta was where the Egyptians under Pharoah Psametik III made their stand against the invading armies of Cambyses II, the king of Persia, in 525 BCE.

Amasis II was the last great Egyptian pharaoh before Persian King Cambyses defeated his son, Psametik II, and took that title for himself, beginning two centuries of Persian rule over Egypt.

It was a sound decision: Pelusium was heavily fortified, with high stone walls and ramparts. The pharaoh dedicated tens of thousands of men to the city’s defense, lining the ramparts with archers, stone throwers and catapults designed to launch flaming projectiles at the attacking, lightly-armored Persians.

For his part, Cambyses faced the prospect of a long siege or a bloody frontal assault that would cost thousands of lives as his men were tasked with scaling the walls under fire.

But the Persian king knew the Egyptians were not only famously fond of cats, they believed cats were representations of deities.

In a shrewd early example of psychological warfare, Cambyses figured out a way to use felines to his advantage in battle.

Cats were everywhere in ancient Egypt: Goddesses like Sekhmet and Bastet were portrayed as lion- and cat-headed, while Egyptian artists and craftsmen produced statues, rings, pendants and hieroglyphic cartouches with feline imagery. The beloved pets of royalty and other powerful Egyptians were buried in their own elaborate sarcophagi, while regular people mourned the deaths of their family cats by shaving notches in their eyebrows.

An image of the Egyptian cat goddess Sekhmet carved in relief among hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Cats are found in virtually every significant ancient Egyptian archaeological site, often elaborately mummified alongside their humans, and Egypt is home to the largest and most enduring cat statue in the world, the Great Sphinx. Not only do weathering patterns show the Sphinx is older than previously thought, it’s believed the Sphinx was originally carved with a cat’s head, then later defaced in the image of a pharaoh. That theory is supported by the fact that the head is disproportionately small compared to the Sphinx’s body, indicating it was carved down from its original form.

An Egyptian hieroglyph for “miu,” an umbrella word for “cat” that could mean domestic or wild cats, including big cats.

Cambyses realized there was a way to turn the Egyptian fondness for all things feline to his advantage: He had his men round up thousands of cats and carry them into battle as if they were just another part of the soldier’s kit along with weapons and armor.

The Egyptians, who were ready to rain fire and death upon the advancing Persians, were distraught upon hearing the distressed mews of the thousands of felines below.

If they opted to fight they would be killing sacred animals who were avatars of some of their most important gods. If they surrendered Egypt would be subsumed into the growing Achaemenid Empire, joining the Medians, Babylonians, Elamites and other once-proud nations in bending the knee to Persia’s king.

An artist’s depiction of the battle shows Cambyses atop a horse as his men catapult cats over the city walls.

They chose the latter, bringing about two centuries of Persian rule in Egypt and leaving the Persians with no remaining obstacles between them and the loose confederation of city-states of Greece.

The kitties, however, would have their revenge against the Persians, for it was a man named Leonidas (“lion”) who led the fabled Spartan warriors to the narrow mountain pass of Thermopylae, where they and a few thousand fellow Greeks held the pass for three days against an invading Persian army that was the largest fighting force the world had ever seen. (Herodotus, the Greek historian prone to patriotic exaggeration, said the Persians were a million strong, drinking entire rivers dry en route to mainland Greece. Modern historians put the number at about 300,000.)

Regardless, the Lion of Sparta and his men inflicted so many casualties on the Persians that the latter’s morale was shattered, and held the pass long enough to give the other Greeks time to muster their army.

When the Persians finally broke through they sacked Athens and rampaged through Attica, until they met an unstoppable force: All of Greece united under the co-leadership of Athens and Sparta, with 50,000 pissed off Spartan Peers leading the defense. The combined forces of the Greek city-states routed the invading army.

We’re sure the Greeks broke out plenty of catnip for their kitties to join in the resulting celebration, and Herodotus just forgot to include that little detail in his histories.