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Very short news items of feline interest from today and yesteryear
Paris, France: April 2014
As well as Le Café des Chats, Parisians now have a new luxury cat hotel offering everything a discerning feline could ever need while his owner is away. There are luxury rooms, a special 'gourmet' à la carte menu and a communal games room for the more sociable visitors. Guests at the 20-room 'Aristide' hotel (named after owner and founder Gauthier Berdeaux's cat) recline in a 4-square-metre room 'enriched with loft beds and platforms on which they can jump, climb, play and scratch; and they can take long siestas on soft pillows'. Rates range from €26 for a standard room up to €65 for a luxury suite, per night.
San Francisco Bay cats
Along the rocks and among the many recreation trails bordering the picturesque San Francisco Bay there lives a colony of cats, about 70 in all. Many years ago some felines were abandoned there, became feral and of course bred feral kittens. In 2004 animal lovers came across the cats, of which there were by then about 175; that was the beginning of Project Bay Cat. Now the cats are fed, looked after, medically treated when necessary and 'TNR-ed' (trappedneuteredreturned), and whenever suitable and possible are adopted into loving homes. A group of dedicated volunteers provides daily food and water, there are shelters and feeding stations, and all the cats have names. Most of them have become more or less socialised and, tails waving, come to greet the volunteers when they do their daily rounds.
Gradually, as no kittens are born, no new cats are abandoned and old age takes its toll, the numbers will reduce further, until Project Bay Cat is no longer needed; till then the volunteers will ensure that those remaining in the colony get the care, love, and kindness they deserve so they can live out their lives in peace and relative comfort. For more about this remarkable project, and a great selection of images, see Catster and LoveMeow. There's a lovely video of about 5 minutes summarising life in the colony over the year 2013 at YouTube, and the project has a Facebook page, enabling people all over the world to follow the fortunes of the cats.
Update: By October 2018 just 10 cats remained and by September 2020 just ONE cat, Shamu, had yet to decide he was ready for an indoor home! Obviously many cats died over the 16 years of the project, but also a number of older cats were given homes a happy ending for them. After 16 years the project was thus nearing its close, although an eye would be kept on the site to ensure no new cats arrived.
Boston, Lincolnshire, England: October 2013
A cat in the town of Boston became a regular visitor at the local branch of Pets at Home; by October 2013 he'd been going there for several months and was often to be found waiting for the shop to open at 9 a.m. He could stay for hours at a time; staff gave him treats and played with him, using toys that were not for sale, and he had fans among the customers too especially children who often asked where he was. The ginger-and-white male was named Graham, and appeared to have a home since he wore a collar, but no one at the store knew his real name or where he lived. He particularly enjoyed observing fish in tanks and rodents in their enclosures, but they didn't seem to be fazed by his presence. When he was tired of wandering the aisles, there were plenty of cat beds available for a nap! Graham's loyalty was recognised by the Pets at Home head office, and he was awarded 'Customer of the Year' title, with a little ceremony where he received a certificate, a new gold collar and a name tag engraved with his new title. Pets at Home urged Graham's owners to come forward so that they could be rewarded for their loyalty with a privilege card and be given a tour of the store that Graham knew so well. There's a video clip of Graham in the shop at the Daily Mail.
Place unknown: August 1949
Ed Creagh, writing a humorous piece in the Southeast Missourian about animals making it into the news at the time, briefly mentioned a cat named Kiki who, as he put it, got himself 'bottled up'. The extract continued:
Linton, Cambridgeshire, UK: January 2013
Arnie was a stray ginger cat who wandered into the grounds of Linton Zoo, in the English county of Cambridgeshire, in 2000. He soon worked his way into the hearts of the zoo staff and was named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, gaining fame after photos of him with a lion cub made international headlines. But he never let fame go to his head; he continued in his role as a friend to all, greeting zoo guests especially those who were carrying tasty treats! controlling pests and cheering up anyone who was feeling down. But his unique and extraordinary talent lay in 'babysitting' abandoned new-born animals, of which there were many over the years. Arnie's favourite creatures were lion cubs; he babysat all four of the zoo's adult lions, as well as some of their cubs.
This cat with the outstanding personality passed away peacefully in January 2013, to be much missed by the many, people and animals alike, who loved him. Arnie's seen with a lion cub in a 2007 clip, Lion cub makes unlikely friend in cat. The zoo also has a page for him at Facebook.
Lakenheath, Suffolk, England
Billy is a tabby-and-white cat living in 2013 in Elveden, a small village a few miles from the Royal Air Force base at Lakenheath, Suffolk in eastern England, home to the USAF 48th Fighter Wing. Billy is a rescue cat, said to be 'proud to be a "moggy", and very proud of his country and its heritage'. He has a presence as 'British Billy' on the Lakenheath/USAF website for the benefit of his many American friends who ask about things they find puzzling about British life and culture, with informative articles where he explains all manner of customs, phrases and aspects of that culture. These range from the significance of various saints' days and holidays, the royal family and the weather, to fish and chips, bangers and mash and even TV programmes. He's a very well-informed feline! Billy has his own e-mail address and Lakenheath base has a Facebook page and Twitter account.
Timperley, Cheshire, UK: May 2013
Businessman Victor Bywater was sleeping soundly at 5.30 a.m. one morning as fire, thought to have been caused by an electrical fault, began to engulf his house, where he lived on his own. He woke only when his one of his cats, Crystal, leapt on his bed, bouncing and meowing frantically. Thus alerted, Mr Bywater fled through the flames and smoke to safety but tragically the black-and-white kitten who saved his life perished in the blaze. His other cat, Fudge, escaped the inferno, but fled. Mr Bywater was taken to hospital in a serious condition with burns to his head and damage to his lungs from smoke inhalation, and was said to be devastated by the loss of his cats. The house was badly damaged and was likely to have to be demolished.
Great Falls, Montana: April 2007
Greg and Trudy Guy were fostering 6-month-old kitten Schnautzie for a local pet shelter when, one night, the cat came to sit on Trudy's chest while she was asleep in bed, patted her on the nose to wake her up and started to sniff the air like a dog. Feeling that Schnautzie was trying to convey a message, Trudy got up to investigate. She heard a 'roaring' sound in the bathroom, and quickly found that the gas pipe outside the bedroom had broken about three inches (7.6 cm) above the shut-off valve, causing gas to flow out, without being regulated, down into the basement. Trudy said, 'I went into the bathroom and opened the window and the gas was just fuming. Our house was saturated in a short time.' Had the furnace switched on automatically on what was a very cold night, the house could easily have blown up, according to firefighters who were called to the scene. Naturally, after Schnautzie's potentially life-saving intervention, the Guys adopted her permanently. A couple of years later her story gained her a Purple Paw award from the Great Falls Animal Foundation.
Saltney, near Chester, England: 2011
The supermarket chain Morrisons opened a store during 2010 in Saltney, near Chester, and attracted a loyal 'customer' in the form of Brutus, a tabby tomcat who lives across the street but likes to spend his days lounging in the store's foyer, heading home only for the odd meal during the day. He waits at the entrance for the shop to open at 8 a.m. and often stays until the doors close at 10 p.m. 'If the sun's coming through the window, he just lies down; if it isn't, he sits on top of the recycling bin,' said store manager Les Williams. He's allowed no further in than the foyer, but has become very popular with customers and loves being petted and made a fuss of.
Sometimes worried shoppers call the telephone number on Brutus's collar tag, but are greeted by his personal answering machine saying: 'Thanks for calling about Brutus. I assume you found him in Morrisons car park and are concerned that he may be lost. He actually goes to Morrisons every day, as I only live across the road and he goes under the bridge and across the stream, so he's unlikely to cross the road. He will make his own way back home later. I really do appreciate your call and the fact that you care, so thanks'. The message continues: 'If you found him somewhere other than Morrisons, please leave a message so I know where to find him.
Brutus has become something of a moggie mascot for the store and even has his own Facebook fan page with more than 2000 followers (mid-2013). The only problem is that some people feed him; recently his owner took him home and kept him in for a while ('just to remind him where he lives')!
Azumino, Japan: 2000s
We aren't sure when Mikè was living, but his story was posted in February 2013. He was that unusual beast, a male tortoiseshell cat, and he would go hill-walking with his humans Mr and Mrs Okada of Azumino. That's a town at the foot of Japan's Northern Alps and is twinned with Grindelwald in Switzerland. While Mikè's achievements were perhaps modest compared with those of, say, Tomba, he became quite well known, and he lived to be at least 15 years old. There's a very short video clip from one of his walks at YouTube, posted in 2010.
New York: August 1949
In 1935 a tiger-striped kitten entered the Greenwich Village, Manhattan's offices of The Villager, a prosperous country-style weekly of the time that's still in existence today. After 3 months the office was free from rats, and Scoopy, as he was named, had made his home and his own office in a box on publisher Isabel Bryan's desk. For the next 14 years his photo and byline graced Scoopy Mewses, a widely read column of jottings and musings, and his fan mail was the magazine's biggest. When he died in 1949, there appeared a sentimental eulogy of this star columnist: 'I shall always think of him,' wrote reader Katherine Caldwell, 'as one of the great ... He had the lofty detachment of a genius and the warm friendliness of a child. When he stared me down with a frigid hauteur, as he sometimes did, I could have been swept up in a teaspoon. But when he moved in on me grandly and condescended to occupy my lap, I felt as though I'd made the Social Register.'
After interviewing numerous applicants, Bryan announced that she had taken on another young tomcat with the same tiger markings and haunting eyes as her late staffer. His name: Scoopy II (pictured). Later there were Scoopys III, IV and V, although none had a very long tenure and the last one died in 1965; however, their columns continue today as Scoopy's Notebook. The original Scoopy's obituary is in TIME (archived copy), but we haven't been able to locate a photo of him.
Central Park, New York: June 2008
Many Manhattan folk walk their dogs in Central Park; few, however, do as Court Hassinger did and take their cat walking on a lead. Radar, a sleek brown Abyssinian who was three when the story was reported by the New York Times, walked well and nearly at heel most of the time, although on an off-day he might tug or squirm, said Court. The cat had a striking bright yellow harness (extra small), and of course got plenty of attention from astonished passers-by. He did slip his harness once, when he was a kitten, but was rescued by three elderly ladies who caught up with him. Back at home after their constitutional, his owner ran a vacuum cleaner over Radar. One by one, he dipped the cat's paws into the hose, and then his tail. Radar closed his eyes in pleasure. Their rapport was unique. 'I let him be what he is,' Court said. For a full account and an excellent short slide show, see the NY Times (archived copy, as the slideshow is no longer included with the current page).
Covent Garden, London: 1990s
This is Muffin, a cat with very fine whiskers who used to live at 'Billy Bunter's Bakery', in the Jubilee Market at London's famous Covent Garden. He was quite shy and loved to hide among the flowers on the flower stalls. We don't have any other information about him, but we're indebted to artist Frances Broomfield, who managed to take a couple of photos of him prior to the delightful painting of him that she also made, included here.
West Richland, WA, USA: December 2012
Sable, a 15-year-old black cat who lived with a family in West Richland, became known as the 'crossing guard cat'. Every weekday during school terms, morning and evening and whatever the weather, he walked to a nearby street corner, positioned himself near the pedestrian crossing and 'supervised' children as they crossed the road to and from Enterprise Middle School. He was equipped with an orange safety jacket to give him the professional look, and the school's principal and the safety adviser awarded him an 'Honorary Safety Patrol Member' certificate. He usually arrived about five minutes before the children began to cross and he knew when it was a weekend and didn't go out then. One of the students said that many teachers had Sable's picture as wallpaper on their computers; and he became quite well known on the internet. He also had many friends among the children, who regarded him as their mascot and 'one of the team'. There's a short video clip at YouTube.
Holyhead, North Wales, UK: December 2012
A nearly blind dog could get around again thanks to his feline guide. Eight-year-old Terfel kept bumping into things and spent most of his time stuck in his basket, after being diagnosed with cataracts. That was until a stray cat arrived, and Terfel's owner Judy Godfrey-Brown took her in. Much to Judy's surprise, the cat named Pwditat (a Welsh spelling of 'Puddy Tat') took to the dog straight away, and they became almost inseparable. She led him out of his basket and into the garden and ever since then helped him to find his way around.
Retired civil servant Judy said: 'I've never seen anything like it most cats and dogs hate each other. But Pwditat immediately seemed to know that Terfel is blind, and she uses her paws to help guide him. They are glued to each other and even sleep together now.'
Later, because of declining health, Judy became no longer able to look after the pair, and they were taken in by her friend Anne Cragg. YouTube clip.
United States: 2010
Lava was a handsome black Bombay cat who did a lot of travelling! His human, Robin Scott Johnson, was an American trucker and Lava accompanied him through most of the US states and Canadian provinces, and even into Mexico. There doesn't seem to be a video of him actually riding in the truck, but see Trucker's Assistant. Lava can also be seen riding in a Zodiac in his very smart lifejacket; and relaxing on a road trip in Johnson's Pajero 4 x 4. There are more clips at Robin's YouTube channel. This beautiful cat was featured on Animal Planet's Cats 101, and there are many more pictures on his Facebook page.
Update: Lava died in November 2017 following a gall bladder infection, aged about 14. He is very much missed.
Peterborough, England: April 2012
Royal Mail postal staff in Peterborough, a city in eastern England, refused to deliver mail to a house where three-year-old cat Snowball lives, claiming that she was a health and safety risk! They said she had attacked three postmen, leaving one with 'quite deep' cuts to a finger, and so they suspended services because of the 'unacceptably high level of risk'. Snowball's owner Ian Wilkinson said, 'It's utterly ridiculous. A postman would have to struggle to even poke a hand to the other side of the letterbox. He added: 'Although I acknowledge that my cat is a very intelligent animal, she is not able to lift up a spring-loaded flap, keep it open, push her paw through a double brush guard and maul an unsuspecting delivery person, in the time it takes to deliver a letter.' Still, after not receiving any letters for a week, Mr Wilkinson decided to fit a cage around his letterbox, and Royal Mail then agreed that deliveries could resume. Read the full story at the Daily Mail.
Rome, Italy: December 2011
When 94-year-old Maria Assunta died late in 2011 she left her entire fortune worth over 13 million dollars (in excess of £8 million) to her beloved 4-year-old black cat Tommaso (Tommasino in some reports), a stray she had rescued from the streets. Maria was the widow of a wealthy Italian property tycoon, and left the cat her fortune because of her 'love of animals', according to her lawyers, and because she had no living relatives. By Italian law Tommaso could not directly inherit the money, but Maria's nurse Stefania who looked after the old lady until the day she died will administer it and make sure Tommaso is well cared for. Tommaso and Stefania, along with another cat, are living outside Rome at an undisclosed address to avoid con artists and potential kidnappers. Read more at ABC News.
Southampton, England: June 2012
Millie, a feisty Bengal feline, was thought to be the world's first-ever feline security guard after taking up a security post at a large toy warehouse in the southern English city of Southampton. She has been hired to guard some of the UK's best-selling toy ranges. Bandai UK's warehouse was on the lookout for a new security guard when workers spotted the attentive moggie roaming the factory floor. Her excellent climbing abilities and loud purr made her a prime candidate for the role. Bengal cats possess similar sentry qualities to dogs, and Millie's human said, 'She has always had a very vigilant personality and doesn't mind long hours alone. I'm not surprised she took up a career as a security guard the toys are lucky to have such an attentive guardian.' Millie appeared to be at home in her new and very responsible job, as toy stocks were being built up for Christmas 2012, and she was going to be paid in cat food and fish at the factory.
Manchester, England: July/August 2012
Lorcan Dillon, from Greater Manchester, England and seven years old in 2012, has selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for him to speak to adults in social situations or to express love for his family. All that started to change in 2010 when beautiful Jessi-Cat, a cream Birman, became Lorcan's best friend, and she helped him to deal with his difficulties. Jessi-Cat was entered into Cats Protection's 2012 National Cat Awards, reached the finals and won the 'Best Friends' category, and then also the 'National Cat of the Year' title. There's a YouTube clip of the two friends, they also appeared on BBC Breakfast, and there's more on the story at the Daily Mail.
In 2013 a book was also published, written by Lorcan's mother Jayne: Jessi-Cat: The Cat that Unlocked a Boy's Heart (Michael O'Mara Books, ISBN 978-1-78243-124-4).
Update: Jessi-Cat became ill and died in June 2019, leaving Lorcan and the family heartbroken. A few months later, though, they welcomed a new kitten, Jolene, born in April 2019, as well as a small dog called Dobby. See Twitter.
Photo by Paul Maven Photography.
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Our featured feline at the head of the page and above, and your companion through Mini-Fragments, is Midge (short for Midget, as she was so small when she arrived with me in 2003). She came from the same place as Maggie (see Fragments), but they weren't sisters and Midge was a little younger. Seeming to be slightly prone to accidents and minor ailments, Midge was nevertheless a cat of great character and it would be impossible here to describe all her quirks and funny ways. Later in life she suffered from arthritis in her front legs, although medication helped, but she was still able to enjoy life and the occasional trip outside to 'help' me in the garden. Midge was very much 'my cat' and a little treasure, so it was very upsetting when she suffered a stroke in February 2018 and the kindest thing seemed to be to put her to sleep. She's often in my thoughts.
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