Tag: tabby

Can Cats Solve New York’s Rat Problem?

For the second time in seven months, one of New York Mayor Eric Adams’ own health inspectors has ticketed him for rat infestations at the Brooklyn brownstone he calls home.

Because it wouldn’t be New York without things turning into a circus, the man who unsuccessfully ran against Adams for the mayorship, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, took advantage of the mayor’s embarrassment by bringing two of his 16 18 cats to Adams’ block and holding a press conference on the sidewalk where he touted felines as the solution. (Adams, who is well known for his hatred of the rodents, famously held a “rat summit” at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2019, “gleefully” showing off a new rat-killing contraption to reporters.)

Introducing reporters to his tuxedo, Tiny, and tabby cat, Thor, Sliwa said Adams was missing the most obvious solution to the rat problem — cats — and offered to become the city’s “rat czar” free of charge.

“Like most New Yorkers, [Adams] is frightened of rats,” Sliwa told reporters outside the mayor’s brownstone. “He’s tried everything but it’s time that we revert back to the best measure that has ever worked — and that’s cats.”

As we’ve noted before on PITB, Sliwa and his wife are dedicated cat servants, perhaps overly so. They currently house 18 cats in their Manhattan studio apartment, Sliwa said on his radio show this Sunday. Some of them are the couple’s pets and some are fosters for their rescue.

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Nancy and Curtis Sliwa with one of their cats. Credit: Matthew McDermott

The rat problem in New York is real and, sadly, as bad as people make it out to be. You can hear them at night in many neighborhoods, and it’s not unusual to see them briefly caught in the glow of streetlights before scurrying into the shadows again.

I’ll never forget watching an entire conga line of them at the 125th St. subway platform. They just marched out of a hole in the twilight, each one bigger than the last, going about their business without any concern for what people might do to them.

And the answer, they know, is nothing. Because New York’s rats aren’t regular rats. They’re well-fed freaks, ballooning to enormous sizes thanks to the abundance of garbage cans to eat out of and the way garbage is collected in the city. Back in 2015, video of a rat dragging an entire slice of pizza down the steps to a Manhattan subway platform went viral, racking up more than 12 million views and earning the rodent the title Pizza Rat:

People who aren’t from New York and have never visited are probably shocked to see garbage piled high on the sidewalks of every street. New Yorkers are supposed to put the garbage out the night before pickup, but no one really observes that rule, and the mounds of trash grow for days before sanitation removes them. It’s a feast for the rats, and any solution has to start with cleaning  up the garbage situation.

In the winter the cold weather prevents the contents of the trash from rotting, so the stink isn’t as bad, and sometimes the trash mountains are covered by snow.

But in the summer, when the tree-lined avenues get their green canopies and flowers bloom in window boxes, the city reeks. On hot days, the perfume of New York is rotting trash and the overwhelming smell of urine wafting up from the subways. Sometimes I think of what the Japanese, with their spotless streets and shiny subways, must think when they come to New York for the first time.

In October, after the city fielded a 71 percent increase in rat complaints over the previous year, the city introduced a new law making it illegal to put trash on the sidewalk before 8 pm ahead of pickup the following morning. The change hasn’t made a dent in the rodent problem.

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A 2015 study by Matt Combs of Fordham University documented the enormous size of New York City’s rats. Credit: Matt Combs

In any case, New York is not a good place for cats. Thankfully we have a huge and generally well-funded network of rescues that get kitties off the street and pulls cats and dogs from the city’s animal control system before they’re due to be euthanized, but strays who fall through the cracks don’t last long.

Indeed, when the New York Post talked to one of Mayor Adams’ neighbors shortly after Sliwa’s latest press event on Sunday afternoon, the woman said she’d like another cat to patrol the area around her building. The last one, she explained, had been run over by a car.

I don’t really expect anything to come of Sliwa’s plan to use cats in rat-infested locales. The red-bereted radio host is hawking the scheme because he likes to be a thorn in the mayor’s side, and because it generates free publicity, especially from the city’s tabloids and local news channels.

But if it ever comes to fruition, and people really expect strays to handle their rat problems, Sliwa and company better have a plan to keep the cats safe from traffic.

Karl Lagerfeld’s Millionaire Cat Travels By Private Jet, Drinks From Silver Dishes

Choupette Lagerfeld travels the world in her own private jet, appears in commercials for Japanese beauty projects and has graced high fashion covers, including a shoot with French supermodel Laetitia Casta for V Magazine.

At one point she traveled with a body guard, two minders, a personal chef and her own doctor, according to the New York Times. She drinks and eats from silver bowls and enjoys a one-of-a-kind Louis Vuitton carrier.

Oh, and she’s worth millions.

Choupette (“sweetie” in French) is a white-and-cream Birman with subtle tabby marks on her head, and she was adopted by Karl Lagerfeld in 2011. The German designer, who was the creative director of fashion houses Chanel and Fendi, died of pancreatic cancer in February of 2019 but left a considerable fortune to his cat.

On Thursday, Choupette’s minders marked her 11th birthday by sharing a snap to her Instagram, choupetteofficiel, showing the fabulously wealthy feline aboard her private jet, with a cake presumably made of pâté, a bottle of champagne, balloons and various gifts from her late human’s fashion collections.

“Happy birthday to me,” the post reads. The pampered puss’ Instagram has 121,000 followers.

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Choupette celebrated her birthday on Aug. 18. A snap shows her celebrating on her private jet, which ferries her between modeling gigs and vacation spots like Ibiza.

No one’s sure precisely how much Choupette is worth, but Lagerfeld — who had a net worth between $170 million and $300 million, per reports — left her a considerable sum.

“She’s an heiress,” Lagerfeld told an interviewer. She “has her own little fortune.”

Like human celebrities she’s the subject of net worth profiles on various sites, which list an often-cited $13 million number. Some of that money includes her own earnings for commercials in Japan and Germany, where she’s been the face of beauty products and luxury cars, respectively.

Laetitia Casta and Choupette
Sacre bleu! The Eiffel Tower, a French supermodel and Choupette! This photo was printed in V Magazine, which featured Laetitia Casta and Choupette in a 10-page spread.

I’m kind of at a loss for words here. Anything I could say seems so obvious.

However, I’m thinking it may be time to put Buddy’s good looks and charm to use for once and arrange some sort of meet cute with Choupette.

The name Buddy would have to go. He’d have to be called something appropriately, Frenchly snooty, like Jean-Luc Budélard Lucien or Yves Buddiene Baptiste. I’d have to school him in Parisian meowing, invent a suitably bohemian upbringing for him, and fabulate a skill that hints at his creative genius. Perhaps he’s inspired by Choupette’s late human and works as creative director of the Buddeaux fashion house, or maybe he creates abstract art by smearing paint on a canvas with his paw pads.

Meanwhile, in India…

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Street kids eat from the garbage, wear tattered clothes and exist beneath the notice of the rest of society.

“Do You Really Want Several Animals To Die And Suffer So You Can Have Your Pet Cloned?”

The Washington Post has a story today about pet cloning, and thankfully it doesn’t sugar-coat the process.

It does take 10 paragraphs for the story to get to the negatives, but it offers a solid explanation of the cloning process before this quote by Columbia University bioethicist Robert Klitzman:

“People think, ‘Oh, I’ll just press a button and out will come Fido,’ but that’s just not the case. So you may love Fido, but do you really want several animals to die and suffer in order to have the one healthy Fido?”

That’s because even with the advancements made in the 21 years since CC the cat became the first of her kind to be cloned, the process still only has a 20 percent success rate. The other 80 percent of attempts end in still births, animals who die shortly after birth due to genetic defects, or animals who survive but suffer from flaws that make them “unsuitable” for the clients who are paying tens of thousands of dollars to clone their cats and dogs.

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A terrifying prospect! (And a massive monthly turkey bill.)

As we’ve noted before, cloning doesn’t actually guarantee that you’ll get animal who looks like the departed pet. Fur color, length and coat patterns are all variable, and temperament is even more of a crapshoot thanks to the many variables in both nature and nurture.

Klitzman puts it in stark terms.

“I can either pay thousands of dollars to create a new pet that’s actually going to have a different history and personality,” he told the Post. “Or maybe I could adopt an animal that would otherwise be killed in a shelter. Those are things that ethically need to be considered.”

The Post’s article centers on Kelly Anderson and her cat, Belle. If the names sound familiar, that’s because we’ve written about them in earlier posts. Belle was cloned from Anderson’s beloved cat, Chai, and has her looks but not her disposition.

CC was famously different from Rainbow, the cat she was cloned from. While Rainbow had a Calico pattern with tabby stripes on her head, CC had tabby stripes on both her head and her sides. As the BBC noted in 2002, shortly after CC’s birth was announced, the cloned cat’s coat differed from her “mother’s” “because the pattern of colours on multicoloured animals is determined by events in the womb rather than by genes – a reminder that clones may be genetic copies of their parent but are never quite identical.”

Rainbow and CC
Rainbow, left, and her clone, CC, short for CopyCat.

John Mendola, a retired NYPD officer from Staten Island, features in a BBC story posted last week on the increasingly popular cloning option.

Mendola paid $50,000 to have his dog, Princess, cloned. It’s not clear how many unsuccessful attempts were involved — and Texas-based Viagen doesn’t reveal that information — but the successful litter produced two dogs who look like Princess, which Mendola named Princess Ariel and Princess Jasmine. (Dude really loves Disney animation, apparently.)

Viagen charges between $25,000 and $35,000 to clone cats, according to different press reports. Grieving pet parents who haven’t made up their minds can have their late pets’ DNA preserved with the company for $1,600. There’s a short window after death during which viable cells can be harvested, but once they’re stored, they can last years or even decades thanks to cryopreservation methods. In one case, a client decided to clone a dog after storing the DNA for 17 years, Viagen’s Melain Rodriguez told the Post.

Viagen doesn’t disclose figures, but the company said it’s cloning more animals — dogs, cats and horses — every year, and has cloned “hundreds” for clients so far.

Blake Russell, the company’s president, likened cloning to a cat or dog having a littermate separated by time.

“A cloned pet is, simply put, an identical genetic twin,” he said, “separated by years, decades, perhaps centuries.”

Animal welfare groups remain staunchly opposed, not only because of the suffering among cloning failures and surrogate mothers, but also because millions of unwanted cats and dogs are euthanized annually.

“Animals’ personalities, quirks, and very essence simply cannot be replicated,” PETA UK Director Elisa Allen told the BBC. “And when you consider that millions of wonderful, adoptable dogs and cats are languishing in animal shelters every year or dying in terrifying ways after being abandoned, you realise that cloning adds to the homeless-animal overpopulation crisis.”

How One Cat Changed The Fortunes Of Two Baseball Teams

The Yankees were getting drubbed.

It was the eighth inning of a humid night in the Bronx, and the Bombers were facing yet another loss, this time in humiliating fashion — they were down 7 to 1 against the last-place Baltimore Orioles, who smacked four home runs off of recently-acquired starting pitcher Andrew Heaney.

Fans cried out to the Baseball Gods for intervention, and their prayers were heard: With Yankee slugger Aaron Judge at the plate, a tiny shape streaked across the left side of the infield, just behind the foul line.

“The one and two,” Yankees TV play-by-play man Michael Kay said as the Orioles’ pitcher delivered. “Uh oh…”

The shape moved, and the gait gave it away: It was definitely a cat.

“How in the world did he get out here?” color commentator Paul O’Neill asked.

For a moment it looked like play would continue. Then the stadium’s cameras zoomed in on the little interloper, a brownish tabby. The kitty took off toward left field and the crowd went wild.

Orioles left fielder Ryan McKenna stood and watched as the little guy streaked past him, heading for the outfield wall where a door — which remains closed during play — leads to the bullpen.

Seeing no way out, the cat paused, then jumped on the padding that lines the walls, drawing more cheers from the crowd, who encouraged him as he tried to leap the rest of the way over the fence.

By the time a quartet of Yankees security guards tried to corner kitty and he dodged them — not once, not twice but three times! — the crowd was pumped, shouting “MVP! MVP! MVP!”

Almost four minutes elapsed from the time the cat appeared on the field to the moment when a Yankees employee with some brains opened a side door, allowing kitty to escape from what was undoubtedly a stressful situation. Quite an adventure for the little guy.

The Orioles won that game and the troubled Yankees looked like they were headed for a bitterly disappointing season.

The cat changed both narratives, at least for the kind of people who put stock in sports superstition — a group that includes the players themselves.

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Rally Cat, as he’s become affectionately known, on the field at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Bronx Times

Since that Aug. 2 game, the Orioles have suffered through a historically brutal stretch, losing 19 games in a row before finally earning a win last night. That epic losing streak represents the worst run of futility in Major League Baseball in 16 years and stopped just two losses shy of a 21-game losing streak set in 1900. (For British and international readers, you read that right: No other sport is as meticulous as baseball when it comes to continuity and keeping stats. Those statistics go all the way back to the first professional games in 1869. While seasons have been interrupted — most recently last year when the schedule was reduced from 162 to 60 games due to the pandemic — only World Wars I and II have scratched entire seasons from the history books.)

Fearing a curse, the Orioles’ players tried all sorts of things to change their luck, most noticeably growing mustaches. (Note to the Orioles: Playing like a major league team tends to work better than growing facial hair.)

The Yankees, meanwhile, have experienced a renaissance that has them looking like the perennial championship contenders they’re supposed to be, vaulting over five other teams in the standings and breathing down the necks of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays.

With their win over the Braves on Tuesday night, the Yankees are 18-3 since Rally Cat (as he’s now known) appeared in Yankee Stadium, and they’re riding an 11-game winning streak, their longest stretch of wins since 1985. It’s a stunning turnaround for a team that had been disappointing all year, looking lifeless for long stretches.

As for the cat, it’s not clear what happened to him. Local shelter operators and animal rescue organizations haven’t heard anything.

One thing was clear to anyone who is familiar with felines: The kitty’s body language clearly conveyed fear and confusion, and he was desperate to find a way out. Any cat would be, with 35,000 humans making a ton of noise, lights and huge advertising screens everywhere, and additional humans standing on the grass in what must look to cats like some bizarre ritual.

Yankees security didn’t do themselves any favors by the way they were trying to remove the cat, Elyise Hallenbeck, director of Strategy for Bideawee Animal Rescue’s Leadership Giving & Feral Cat Initiative, told the Bronx Times.

“They should be grateful that they weren’t able to lay hands on it, because the cat would have won that,” Hallenbeck said. “The cat was severely and terribly, terribly, frightened.”

Rally Cat, wherever you are, we hope you’re in the care of a loving human and you’re enjoying some delicious yums. You deserve it.