Tag: cat stories

Day One: Leaping Away From Love

Buddy licked his lips, belched and rolled over, sighing as he felt the afternoon sun’s warmth on his belly.

It was his favorite time of day and he was enjoying fresh air on the balcony, sitting in his favorite chair and surveying the world below like a little king. If he’d had a belt, he’d loosen it after scarfing down every last morsel of turkey and licking his bowl clean.

He waved his tail, thinking of how he’d pass the time later. Perhaps he would have a nap, then demand that Big Buddy take out the laser pointer. With a little luck, he might be given catnip as well, otherwise he’d have to meow relentlessly for it. Failing that, there was a new plastic bottle ring he’d stashed away for later play, and if Big Buddy were to fall asleep while watching baseball, Buddy could entertain himself by repeatedly waking his human via ambush. That was always delightful.

A squeak interrupted his thoughts, too high for humans to pick up but still well within his own hearing range. He sat up and cocked his head forward as his ears swiveled, trying to pinpoint where the noise had come from.

Sudden movement on his peripheral vision snapped his eyes to the target: Down below, among the cars and trees, a tiny animal scurried from beneath the cover of one car to another.

Buddy wasn’t sure what it was, exactly, but he knew he wanted to catch it.

He hopped off his throne and crouched low, poking his head through the balcony railing as he tracked the rodent.

The light box inside pumped out its usual weekday sounds: The crack of a ball against wood, the cheers of tens of thousands of humans, and Big Buddy alternately celebrating or sighing in frustration.

For all their supposed seriousness, humans were strangely invested in watching other humans play with toys.

Buddy caught movement beneath the rear bumper of a squat SUV. Two rodential faces peaked out from cover, chittering in human-inaudible frequencies.

His tail thrashed against the floor as he watched the diminutive trespassers brazenly moving about on the edge of his territory. They were mocking him, he was sure of it! He would have his revenge by ruthlessly hunting each of them down and jumping around joyfully on his hind legs, which he always did after he won at hunting games with Buddy the Larger.

The rodential duo took off, abandoning the cover of the SUV for the lower-hanging body and bumper of an old Nissan Skyline.

Bud’s tail thumped furiously. The twitchy little interlopers were getting ready to run again.

Buddy leapt from the balcony before he was consciously aware of what he was doing, meowing an “Oh poop!” as he dropped the 14 feet to the ground. He hit the ground hard but shared the impact on all four limbs. He’d be sore later, but the thought was gone as fast as it came, replaced by the primal instinct that had caused him to jump in the first place: The hunt.

His targets were now well aware of his presence, chittering furiously at each other between cars. Bud stalked the more plump of the two, crouching low so he could track its movement.

A distant subwoofer thumped the air, sending vibrations through the ground to his paw pads. The pudgy rodent took off, gunning for the fence at the far end of the lot and the safety of the trees beyond.

Driven entirely by instinct, Bud gave chase without realizing a car had turned the corner and was pulling into the lot, fast.

“Mrrrrrrooowww!” Buddy exclaimed, dashing away from the vehicle.

It was still moving, still coming toward him with that awful, furious thump from its speakers. Buddy ran and ran until he could run no more: out of the lot, away from his building, up the street, past strange houses emanating strange smells and into a park, where he hoped the car couldn’t chase him.

He collapsed on the grass and sprawled out, chest heaving. That was too close, he thought.

Now he had another problem, one he’d failed to consider when he jumped from the balcony: How would he get back inside? He couldn’t just walk into the apartment building. You needed a human to open the front door, then get past a second door that only opened via some sort of human sorcery that involved waving a little piece of plastic in front of the handle. He knew that much from his night walks with Big Buddy, when the stimulation was almost too much to bear — the smell-taste of flowers at nose level, the spiral cascade of water from the sprinklers, the far-off hum of the deathway, where thousands of cars rumbled down endless lanes of hard human-made ground.

If by luck he was able to slip inside as a human was entering his building, he’d have to cross the lobby, walk down the hallway and finally reach the door to his realm and domicile. Could he reach the door bell? If he meowed loud enough, would Big Bud hear him?

Buddy the Cat

“What do we have here?” Buddy had been so lost in his thoughts and worries that he hadn’t noticed the human walk right up to him. He suddenly felt very vulnerable and rolled onto his stomach.

It was a human boy. He wore a dark baseball cap and a wide grin that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Easy,” he said, reaching out.

Buddy hissed, arching his back. The boy took another step forward, hand still extended. Buddy retreated a few steps, cautiously keeping his eyes on the boy as the fur on his tail spiked outward.

“Here, kitty kitty,” the boy said mockingly.

Buddy took another step away, then felt a pair of human hands clamp around his belly.

“Gotcha!” said another human boy, who had approached from behind as his friend served as a distraction.

Buddy squirmed, lashing out with his claws.

“Hey!” the second boy said. “The little fucker scratched me!”

“Bad kitty!” the first boy said, slapping Buddy on the top of his head. “Ohohoho! He’s pissed!”

The boys laughed as Buddy struggled.

“Come on,” the first boy said. “There’s a pair of gloves and some beach towels in my mom’s car. We can wrap the little shit up in the towel.”

“Where we going, Spencer?” the second boy said, holding the still-struggling Buddy tight as they walked toward the car.

“We could take him beneath the railroad bridge,” Spencer said as he opened the trunk. “I’ve got half a bottle of lighter fluid. We could have ourselves a little barbecue.”

The boys wrapped Buddy in a towel, muffling their laughter. He heard car doors closing and a crystalline human voice singing through speakers. Vibrations felt through his captor’s hands told him they were moving.

“Careful,” Spencer said after they had parked. “Just hold him, don’t be such a little bitch, dude. He’s not gonna hurt you.”

Buddy didn’t understand what they were planning to do with him, but he instinctively knew his life was in danger. He went slack.

“S’okay,” Spencer’s friend said. “He’s not struggling anymore. I don’t think he has any fight left.”

“Oh, he will,” Spencer said. He pushed back the towel, uncovering Buddy’s face.

“We’re gonna have some fun with you, you little shit,” Spencer said, leaning in close. “We’re gonna…”

Spencer howled as Buddy chomped on his lip with all his might.

Spencer’s shocked friend loosened his grip, and for a second or two Buddy swung from the shrieking teenager’s face, the latter’s panicked breath radiating in hyperventilating blasts. His smirk had evaporated, replaced by flush cheeks and a mask of pain.

Buddy released Spencer’s lip, tasting blood, and ran for his life. As he disappeared into the trees he could hear Spencer sobbing hysterically.

When he was sure the boys weren’t following him, he crossed a human yard in a blur and scurried beneath a short wooden staircase leading to a porch. A lawnmower droned in a yard nearby. In a neighboring basement, someone pounded out the opening kicks and snares of a song about a prince buying flowers.

“And if you want to call me baby…” a male human crooned over the drums and guitar, “just go ahead now!”

As Bud’s breathing slowed and the fear chemicals subsided, a new kind of dread filled the vacuum. Neither his eyes nor his ears nor his nose could tell him where he was.

Day Four: The First of Many Fails

Buddy left the chubby house cat and the porch behind before dawn, putting some distance between him and the houses before seeking refuge in the woods where there would be no humans grabbing his tail or house cats looking at him with pity.

It was time to hunt. You know how to do this, Buddy told himself. You’re really good at it! Just stay calm and remember all the times you played hunting games with Big Buddy…

Buddy stalked the brush, listening for rodents and watching for the sudden movements of birds and squirrels. An hour passed, then two.

His tummy rumbled. He’d never thought about food so much in his life. Back home, it was just there, reliably plopped down in front of him several times a day. Chicken, salmon, beef, tuna, duck, shrimp and his beloved turkey. Pate, sauce and gravy. A different meal every time. If he didn’t like a meal he was served, he could meow in protest until he was given something different. He actually turned down perfectly good food! It seemed like a lifetime ago.

Now most of his waking moments were dedicated to food: Where to find it, how to get it and where he could eat it in peace. He thought of the dull pain of his empty stomach versus the risk of eating something he wasn’t sure of. His mouth watered at the scent of things he never would have eaten as a spoiled house cat.

There! Up ahead a squirrel crouched low in the brush, focused intently on something at the base of the tree.

Buddy slowed his gait, locking his eyes on his prey. He crouched, butt raised, waiting for just the right moment to…

Pounce!

Buddy was fast. The squirrel was faster. It sidestepped in a blur and was already scurrying up the tree when Buddy belatedly skidded to a halt and hit the trunk, getting a mouth full of bark for his efforts. Above, the squirrel chirped.

“I will have you for breakfast!” Buddy meowed. “Just you wait!”

But after circling the tree for several minutes, Buddy realized the squirrel was gone. It must have jumped to a branch from another tree.

Buddy collapsed in the brush, dejected. He was so hungry. He didn’t need to be picky: He’d eat anything without complaint at this point.

He started thinking of home, then quickly squashed the thoughts. He would not cry. He was a big boy, and big boys did not cry. Was his human out looking for him right now? What would happen if Buddy found his way home and his Big Bud wasn’t there? Would another cat take his place, eat from his bowl, knead on his blanket?

No, he told himself. Not in my house.

His ears pricked up. Beating wings. Slowing. A chirp.

Buddy bounded to his feet, ears swiveling like satellite dishes toward the direction of the sound as he padded slowly and silently.

The bird was plump and gray, and it was standing on a tree stump, picking at something between the crags of wood. Buddy had a light step — not a leaf was disturbed, not a branch snapped as he inched forward.

Just like we practiced at home, Buddy thought. Remember, you’re a great hunter! You have really big muscles! You’ve got this!

The tabby took off in a bolt of speed and energy, building momentum over two or three swift paces before he launched himself at his meal.

The bird panicked, realizing it was reacting too late. There was a shrill chirp, a beak unsuccessfully snapping at fur as Buddy scooped his prey up, and then they hit the ground hard, the birdie held tight with one paw as they tumbled in a cloud of dust, fur and feathers.

Sweet, sweet victory! Buddy thought. The thrill of the hunt!

Then he did what he always does after he wins at hunting games: He bounded up on his hind legs, jumped around happily and bobbled his prey. Except this prey saw its opportunity and took off.

buddyyawningjungle1
The mighty hunter roars!

“You’re telling me you caught the bird, then let him go?” Clyde asked, incredulous.

Their paths had crossed again at a joint known in the cat world as Chez Bacon: The bins behind a chain donut shop where cats could sometimes get lucky and find expired precooked breakfast sausages and soggy slices of bacon.

Buddy was defiant. “No! I just thought, you know, I had won and…”

“You were expecting a human to come out from behind a tree, tell you what a good boy you are and open a can for you?” Blackie meowed.

The two strays exchanged glances and laughed uproariously. Just when it felt like the laughter was dying down, one of them imitated a human — “Who’s a good boy? Does the good widdle boy want a can?” — and the howling began again. Clyde was rolling on the ground, slapping his paw against the dirt. Blackie was laughing so hard he was choking back tears.

Buddy considered asking them for help capturing the bird again, but by then he’d amplified the truth and told them he’d taken down a huge, vicious raptor that could have fed all three of them.

Clyde was still giggling when he sat up, wiped his moist eyes with the back of his paw, and coughed.

“We know a nice lady,” he said, turning to Bud. “She always feeds us when we come by.”

Buddy’s eyes lit up.

“But,” Blackie said, “a word of caution. The nice lady’s neighbor has some sort of demon dog.” He shuddered. “We’ll reconnoiter and if she’s there, we’ll lay low until the coast is clear.”

“What kind of food does the nice lady give you?” Buddy asked, his stomach churning.

“Sometimes it’s diced chicken, sometimes it’s scrambled eggs,” Clyde said.

“Love me some eggs, mmmhmmm!” Blackie said, skipping along through the trees.

“And sometimes,” Clyde continued, “it’s that nasty crunchy stuff that tastes like cardboard.”

Buddy stepped around a thorn bush. “You mean dry food? Dry food is good!”

Clyde gave him a pitying look.

“To a house cat like you, maybe,” he meowed. “But to a free-living lion of the jungle like myself, nothing tastes better than a mouse or a bird you’ve caught and killed yourself. You’ll see, kid, if you ever manage to catch something.”

They continued on in silence until Blackie stopped just short of a clearing ahead. He crouched low, scanning the area, then held up a paw.

“Back,” he whispered, retreating into the bushes in slow motion, careful not to give away their presence.

Buddy smelled the beast before he saw it. They were downwind of it, thankfully. It smelled of sweat, pee and tennis balls. And something else too. Something strange. If aggression had a scent, Buddy thought, this would be it.

A shadow moved beyond the clearing, then resolved into the pooch as it stepped out from beneath the leaf canopy. The dog was behemothic, all severe angles and stout muscle, with rivulets of mucusy saliva oozing from its open maw.

“Peggie the Pittie,” Clyde whispered, his dilated gaze never leaving the monster.

Peggie paused and lifted her snout, sniffing the air.

She smells us, Buddy thought. His fur stood up and his tail looked like a spiked club.

Sure enough, the tank of a dog fixed her gaze on the bushes where the feline trio was hiding and let loose a low growl.

One. Peggy’s front left paw hit the dirt, kicking up dust. Two. Her right paw slammed down, followed by thick strands of drool. Three. Her powerful hind legs followed, propelling her forward.

Her growl became a series of vicious barks as she picked up speed.

We’re gonna die, Buddy thought, paralyzed. We’re gonna die!

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.

Cops Need Help Identifying Woman Who Stole Cat

Police are looking for help from the public as they try to identify a delivery driver who stole a Colorado family’s cat.

The woman is a driver for Postmates, an Uber-owned company that delivers food and other items from restaurants and shops that don’t offer their own delivery services.

Footage from a nearby surveillance camera shows the woman pulling up to the Adams County, Colorado home at 10:27 pm on March 9.

She delivers the package, then bends down and picks up the customer’s cat — an 11-month-old ginger tabby named Simba — before taking off in her white SUV.

Simba had a collar but was not microchipped, police say. Unfortunately, the suspect’s license plate number was not visible in the surveillance footage.

Unbelievably, Postmates hasn’t told detectives who the driver is. It wasn’t clear from a tersely-worded police statement whether the company has been uncooperative or it simply doesn’t have information on one of its own contractors. Neither potential explanation looks good for the company.

The Postmates app is also supposed to provide customers with basic information about their delivery drivers. It wasn’t clear why that information was apparently not available.

After police posted their plea for help identifying the alleged cat thief, several users warned of ongoing scams involving people who steal pets and demand ransom.

Simba’s case is also reminiscent of a late 2019 incident near Minneapolis in which a delivery driver stole a much-loved cat from a customer.

A doorbell camera caught the driver touching the cat and picking him up, but the angle obscured the view of the man actually stealing the cat. After months of denying to police and the cat’s owner that he stole the friendly feline, the driver finally confessed in a rambling letter to the cat’s devastated owner, admitting he tossed the cat out of his truck’s window shortly after stealing him. Because of weak animal protection laws that treat pets as property, the driver was charged only with a pair of minor misdemeanors.

In the case of the Postmates driver in Colorado, because they haven’t had any luck finding the driver, nor any identifying information from her employer, police are appealing to the public and hoping someone will recognize the woman.

6I5IUE5OSZA3VO63OVBF32LGP4They’ve released stills from the surveillance footage, as well as this description: “The woman is a Hispanic female with brown hair in a ponytail, a cloth face mask on, a gray long-sleeve shirt, black pants, and black shoes.”

Anyone with information about the woman or Simba’s whereabouts can reach police at 303-288-1535.

Buddy In Space Chapter 2: Earth Predator In An Alien Jungle!

buddy_in_space_chapter3cover2

Following the cowardly attack by the Evil Time-Lord on Capt. Buddy’s starship, the USS Delicious, our brave captain escaped by the fur of his teeth and courageously landed his trusty vessel on a mysterious planet in an uncharted star system.

Now our beloved captain must navigate the myriad hidden dangers of a dark, alien jungle as he leads his crew to locate the raw materials they’ll need to repair the USS Delicious and obtain enough reactor fuel to lift the ship into orbit once again.

But not everything is as it seems, and unseen eyes watch our hero from the murky shadows of the alien flora.

To make matters worse, the crew must ration their yums as their supplies of turkey dwindle.

Despite the considerable challenges they face, Capt. Buddy’s loyal cats endeavor to keep their spirits high as they navigate this virgin world bereft of feline scent-marking and tree-clawing. In a rousing speech, Capt. Buddy reminds his cats that all they need to do is spray a few trees and bury some poops to make this alien planet feel like home.

In Chapter 2: Earth Predator In An Alien Jungle, readers will accompany Buddy on a perilous journey that pits cats — Earth’s mightiest creatures — against the unknown horrors of this nameless, mysterious planet.

Will Capt. Buddy save his crew? Will they survive the perils of an unknown world? Will the USS Delicious reach the stars again so Capt. Buddy can replenish his supply of turkey and confront the Evil Time-Lord?

Read Chapter 2 of Buddy In Space: Earth Predator In An Alien Jungle, on newsstands May 1953 for only 5 cents! This title has been approved by the Comics Code Authority!