Tag: Manhattan

Got A Rat Problem? Get A Cat To…Befriend It And Groom It?

Cats and humans began their grand partnership some 10,000 years ago, when kitties handled humans’ pesky rodent problem and people repaid the felines with food, shelter and companionship.

Now the deal’s off, apparently.

Yesterday a Reddit user shared a video titled “When you get a cat hoping it will help you get rid of the big rat in your yard.”

The video shows the user’s new cat, a tortoiseshell/calico, “solving” the rat problem by befriending the rodent, playing with it and even grooming it.

The video has amassed almost 86,000 upvotes in 24 hours.

The odd friendship between feline and rodent is not without precedent. Studies have shown that cats are not effective rodent hunters in urban settings where rats have gone unchallenged for so long that they rival or exceed the size of most members of Felis catus.

In certain neighborhoods of New York City, for example, researchers observed cats essentially ignoring massive rats and in some cases eating trash side by side with them. The largest rats, apparently aware of the truce, are equally unconcerned by the presence of the cats. Other rats were more cautious around kitties.

The scene reminded me of the time my brother wanted me to bring Bud over to handle his rat problem. At the time he was living on 88th St. in Manhattan, less than a block from Gracie Mansion. His apartment had an unusual perk for Manhattan living — it was a spacious ground floor flat that opened up into a private, fenced-in backyard with grass and a few trees.

Mighty Bud
Tremble before him! Buddy the Mighty Slayer of Rodents!

In fact, it was one of the first places I took Buddy after adopting him. He was just a kitten, maybe 14 weeks old, and I brought him with me on a warm summer day when my brother had a few friends over for a barbecue.

Buddy made fast friends with my brother’s Chihuahua-terrier mix, Cosmo, and spent the day playing with his doggie cousin, frolicking in the grass and chasing bugs around the yard. Then he got a treat: Steak from the grill, chopped into tiny Buddy-size pieces.

Having a backyard in Manhattan was awesome, but there was a downside. At night the yard was like a stretch of highway for marauding rats who ran across it in numbers with impunity, probably en route to raiding the garbage bins of a bodega on the corner of 88th. The rats were so emboldened and so numerous, you could hear them scurrying across the yard at night.

My brother proposed bringing Buddy over and letting him loose in the yard after dark, letting his claws and predatorial instincts thin the rodential herd.

I declined, using the excuse that Bud could pick up diseases from going to war with the rats. That was true, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have come to that: At the first sign of those rats, Buddy would have run screaming!

(We don’t acknowledge that around him, of course. Officially, Buddy was not set loose upon the Manhattan rats because it would be grossly unfair to unleash such a meowscular, brave and battle-hardened feline warrior upon them.)

It’s one thing if Buddy won’t kill rats. He’s a wimp. But as the Reddit video illustrates, we are apparently closing the chapter on 10,000 glorious years of human-feline partnership, and officially entering the Era of Zero Reciprocity.

We do everything for our cats, and in return they nap, eat and allow us to serve them. From their point of view, it’s a fine deal.

Meowscular Buddy!
Just look at those meowscular guns and vicious claws!

Six Trees


I’m here! Not much to show yet, as I didn’t quite nail the settings for properly shooting such a light-ambient city on my first night walk around Tokyo.

The immediate neighborhood is midway between Roppongi and Akasaka, not far from Tokyo Midtown. The word Roppongi means “six trees,” and the name dates back almost four centuries when the area was marked by half a dozen distinctive zelkova, also known as Japanese elm.

Here’s an aerial photo of the district:


As you can see, there’s a nice balance between green areas and urban density. Whereas New York has a very straightforward grid layout and you can get a feel for the dimensions of the city by looking down certain avenues running the length or width of the island, it’s easy to see why some people say Tokyo feels never-ending, one big sprawl of twisting streets, hills and alleys.

There’s also a verticality that gives it a different feel from American cities. Manhattan is famous for its urban “canyons,” but oftentimes there’s a clear demarcation between residential and commercial, both horizontally and vertically. Stores and restaurants are almost always on street level, while upper levels are either apartments or offices.

In this part of Tokyo the restaurants, shops, karaoke bars and movie theaters are just as likely to be on the 10th floor as the first, and the signs are often inscrutable even when they’re in English: A sign for one place, called Seven, includes no information about what kind of establishment it is beyond a cryptic piece of text that reads “I like when fight pure.”

Maybe it’s a boxing gym where they’re really sensitive about the rules. Or maybe it’s a bar where Japanese women mud-wrestle. Either one seems just as likely.

Below are some day shots, including a koi pond in the courtyard of my brother’s building. I’m not sure if Buddy would lick his lips or run in terror from these koi. They’re pretty big. And orange. And they jump! Any one of those things are enough to strike fear in the heart of the scaredy cat. Strange to think they can live as long as 35 years.


Meanwhile back in New York…


Looking at this photo, it almost seems like Buddy’s laying there dejected, thinking “Woe is me! Where has my Big Buddy gone? I am lost without him!”

Yet my mom reports Buddy waited for me and barely ate the first night, then by the second night he realized he’s still getting treated like a king, so he’s over it. The little jerk!