It was a tuft of orange hair poking out from the zipper of a carry-on suitcase that first alerted a TSA agent that something weird was going on.
The agent, who was processing a traveler departing from New York’s JFK airport on Tuesday morning, then consulted an x-ray scan, confirming the suitcase contained some unusual cargo — a ginger tabby cat tucked in among toiletries, snug and napping comfortably in the enclosed space.
As for the traveler, the cat didn’t belong to him, nor was he aware kitty had climbed inside. It turned out he had been a house guest of friends living in Brooklyn, and the cat named Smells had slipped into the luggage before he left for home, for what is a suitcase if not just another box?
The TSA confirmed the story with the cat’s owner before letting the traveler board his Florida-bound flight.
“An officer called and asked if I wanted to press charges” said Alix, Smells’ 37-year-old human. “He wanted to know if there was any reason [the passenger] was trying to steal my cat and go to Florida.”
After Alix assured the TSA agent that Smells “really likes to check out boxes” and definitely would have climbed in on his own, she hired a driver to retrieve the kitty, who was unperturbed by the adventure.
“I was worried he’d be freaked out but he wasn’t even meowing on the way back,” Alix told the New York Post. “I went to give him some extra treats and he acted like nothing had happened.”
As for the TSA — which often deals with more serious finds like guns and drugs secreted into passengers’ luggage — the saga of Smells was a welcome change that gave them a good story and some laughs.
“On the bright side,” TSA spokesman Lisa Farbstein wrote on Twitter, “the cat’s out of the bag and safely back home.”
Two stories published in recent days give wildly varying estimates of how much it costs for the privilege of serving a cat.
First we should note that both reports assume the cats are adopted in kittenhood and the average lifespan of a cat is 15 years. That’s in line with current data showing well cared-for, indoor-only cats live between 12 and 18 years, with outliers on both ends. It’s not uncommon to hear about cats living well into their 20s just as some cats sadly pass on before their time, whether due to natural causes, illness or accidents.
A Texas cat named Creme Puff is the Guinness World Record holder for longest-lived house cat, holding on for an astonishing 38 years until her death in 2005.
Caring for a house panther can cost between $4,250 and $31,200 over kitty’s lifetime, according to an analysis of associated costs by The Ascent, a vertical of financial literacy site The Motley Fool.
The estimates break costs down into recurring expenses — which include food, treats, litter and veterinary care — and fixed expenses like scratching posts, toys, additional cat furniture, bowls, grooming tools and similar items.
Not surprisingly, the biggest expense is food, the cost of which has been exacerbated by inflation, rising fuel costs and lingering supply chain issues that caused a cascade effect during the pandemic. Everything from sourcing metal for cat food tins to meat availability was impacted as ports were closed and meat processing plants were shuttered at various points since early 2020.
An unrelated estimate from OnePoll, based on a survey commissioned by pet food company Solid Gold, put the lifetime estimate of cat servitude at $25,304. Like the Motley Fool analysis, OnePoll’s respondents cited food as the primary expense, followed by veterinary care.
The wide range from the Motley Fool analysis could be attributable to geography, how well the cat is fed, and how many extra things caretakers do for their cats. A person who lives in Manhattan, splurges on bespoke feline furniture and buys ultra-premium cat food at almost $3 a can is going to spend significantly more than an eastern European cat servant who feeds raw or home-cooked food and builds their own ledge loungers and scratching apparatus.
Here in New York the cost of cat food in local grocery stores has spiked dramatically, but online prices have remained steady. Keeping in mind we’ve never really endorsed any particular brand or vendor on PITB, I switched from occasionally buying food online to Chewy auto-shipments during the pandemic because Bud’s favorite food was becoming very difficult to find locally, and that arrangement has worked out cost-wise as well.
Bud’s a true Pain In The Bud when it comes to “leftovers” so his primary wet food is Sheba Perfect Portions. It’s reasonably priced, comes in variety packs and helps avoid waste since each meal comes in its own 1.3oz recyclable blister-like plastic package. (Recycling is especially important with these single-serve packages, tiny as they are.) His dry food is Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Chicken recipe, although occasionally I’ll buy the weight control version of the same dry food when it looks like Little Man has gotten a bit chubby. He doesn’t protest, thankfully.
I feed him two 1.3oz wet meals a day and fill his dry bowl less than halfway at night so he can have his late snack and doesn’t have to wake me up if and when he gets hungry overnight. Sometimes I’m dimly aware of him sliding off me, padding over to his little dining nook and munching on dry food before hopping back onto the bed and dozing off again.
Overall it works out to about $21 a month, so I’d call it an even $25 with treats. You can schedule your auto-ship at any interval you choose, edit it at any time, and prompt the shipment immediately if you’re running out of food, so you can save more by ordering a few months’ worth of food at a time and taking advantage of free shipping on orders of more than $50.
Has inflation impacted cat food prices in your local area? How much does it cost to feed your cat(s) every month?
MeowTalk, an iOS/Android app that aims to translate your meows using a machine learning algorithm, is getting a new publicity push after a recent update. The app has proven particularly popular in Japan, a nation of cat lovers.
What do you think about MeowTalk?
“You’re telling me there’s a good chance my human understood me calling her a dim-witted biped who’s stingy with snacks?” – Midnight, 7, office supervisor
“Finally, a device that can translate all my loving utterances at 5 a.m. when my bowl’s empty!” – Cleo, 5, cushion tester
“If an app is translating our meows, then why do our humans still stink at giving us massages?” – Andre, 2, faucet operator
“You know what this means, don’t you? If my humans overheard me discussing plans for the feline takeover of Earth, I’m going to have to smother them in their sleep.” – Dragorth the Destroyer, 4, generalissimo
“Sometimes I like to meow in gibberish just to mess with the humans. LOL! Wait, how can this app translate Japanese meows AND American meows?” – Zelda, 3, princess
“CHECK IT OUT, THERE’S A KITTEN WHO LOOKS JUST LIKE ME BEHIND THE GLASS! HEY, STOP IMITATING ME! STOP THAT! IT’S REALLY ANNOYING! HEY!” – Christian, 3 months, archaeologist kitten
We’re a group of entrepawneurs making all natural, delicious cat treats. Unlike humans, we know what cats want, which is why our treats aren’t made from chicken, salmon or beef — they’re all-natural, 100 percent mouse!
We’ve been talking about hiring a celebrity spokescat for our company, Of Mice and Meows, and we’d like to offer you the job!
What do you say, pal? You’ll be generously compensated in catnip and snacks!
Startup In San Diego
Dear San Diego,
It says here your product is only available in 14 stores and your total revenue for the last fiscal year was $476.23.
I just don’t see the logic in your valuation. Your idea is sound, but you’re entering a crowded market, and most of all the potential reward is not worth the risk that I’ll be taking on, especially if it eats into my 16 hour sleep cycles.
In addition to the scalability question, mouse is cool, but lack of turkey is not. And for those reasons, I’m out.
Cats love ’em, they said. It’ll be a great bonding experience, they said. You’ll have to stop your cat from eating too much, they said.
I had high hopes for the “squeeze” treats and was looking forward to getting home and giving Buddy a snack he hadn’t had before.
The problem? The Budster cannot get it through his stubborn little head that the squeeze treats are food.
He thinks they’re some sort of toy and every time I try to give him some, he head bunts the lickable chicken paste like it’s something he’s claiming with his scent, along with his plushies and wands.
After wiping the stuff off the top of his head for the umpteenth time, I squeezed a little bit of it on a paper towel and set it down for him, reasoning that he must finally understand it’s food.
Nope. Bud approached it, sniffed it, then dipped his face in it!
I’m not sure if this result means the stuff is so processed it doesn’t register as food, or if Bud’s just dense. After all, other cats love it, and we’re talking about a cat who whose idiosyncratic behaviors range from folding both front paws together and raising them as if in prayer, to spending months in late kittenhood engaging in boxing matches with the Bizarro Buddy in the mirror.
(I always knew when Bud was participating in a boxing match because I’d hear “Mmmmrrrrppp!” followed by THWAP THWAP THWAP! as his little paws hammered the glass. Then I’d gently pick him up off the table and set him down on the floor, praising him for his pugilistic skills while redirecting him to a less potentially destructive activity.)
Maybe I’ll try mixing some of the paste in with Bud’s wet food. Will he understand if it’s served with his beloved turkey? Or will be smoosh his entire face into the bowl and leave me with another mess to clean up?
Stay tuned until the next installment, same Buddy time, same Buddy channel!
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.