Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cats in Cartoons

When I was a little girl, I watched a Saturday morning cartoon series called The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty. It was a parody of the movie The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty, as well as parodying pop-culture characters from Tarzan to Captain Kirk. I don't remember it being great television, and according to Wikipedia, it was only around for 13 episodes. Each episode started out with film of real cats and dogs and a voice over. When it came to the pivotal moment and one of the cats was in trouble, Waldo would wish he was one heroic character or another and that's when the show would shift into cartoon mode. The series aired in the fall of 1975. Here's a look at the title sequence:

I don't know why Waldo popped into my head this afternoon, but remembering that series got me thinking about some other Saturday morning cartoons that involved cats.

Hong Kong Phooey (left) followed the adventures of a janitor-by-day-crimefighter-by-night. HKP was an anthropomorphic dog who talked to and worked with human cops. His sidekick was Spot, a striped cat who usually saved the day in such a way that all the credit went to Hong Kong Phooey. HKP was voiced by the incomparable Scatman Crothers. The series aired from 1974-1976. 

Josie and the Pussy Cats (right) aired from 1970-1972. The characters, created first for the Archie comic books in the '60s, have a band and travel around the country performing and solving mysteries. It's sort of like Scooby-Doo with a girl band and a music video segment in every episode. The Pussy Cats' nemesis is Alexandra Cabot, the conniving sister of the band's manager, Alexander Cabot III. Alexandra has a pet cat named Sebastian, but he's the only "real" cat in the show.

Top Cat (below) was a cartoon series that first aired in prime time during the 1961-1962 television season, a little before my time. Cat-about-town Top Cat led a group of alley cats into get-rick-quick schemes and criminal capers that kept them hounded by the neighborhood beat cop.

The movies also brought us some cartoon cats who later made regular appearances on television.

The Pink Panther was designed for the animated title sequence of the 1963 Blake Edwards movie. In the film, clumsy Inspector Clouseau is searching for the cat burglar who stole the priceless pink diamond known as the Pink Panther. The cartoon was so popular that Warner Brothers, commissioned a series of cartoon shorts featuring the characters. In the late 1960s, the shorts were airing on Saturday morning television while new short cartoons were still being made for theatrical release.
Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes gave us one of the most fmous cartoon cats, Sylvester. The black and white cat was always trying to eat Tweety Bird, but the clever canary is wise to Sylvester's schemes. After uttering, "I tawt I taw a puddy tat!" the bird always manages to foil Sylvester's plots. Sylvester shorts started appearing in theaters in 1945, and since then he has had numerous appearances on television and in film. Some of the cartoons feature his precocious kitten, Sylvester Junior.

The adventures of Tom and Jerry have
entertained audiences for 70 years.

The oldest cat on my list is Tom from Tom and Jerry. Between 1940 and 1957, MGM released 114 cartoon shorts featuring the cat and mouse. Seven of those received Academy Awards for Animated Short Subject. From 1960-1967, another 47 shorts were made, and from 1965-1972, those cartoons aired on television. The shorts had been criticized for its portrayal of a stereotypical black housekeeper, so in some cases, animators replaced that character with a white woman, and for other broadcasts, only the voiceover was changed. New stories for television were created in the '70s, '80s, '90s and the first decade of the 21st century.

Tom and Jerry cartoons have also been criticized for its portrayal of smoking and its use of extreme violence. Though the cartoons never contained any blood or gore, and sometimes Jerry and Tom even seem to be friends, in the course of their adventures, Tom gets sliced in half, flattened by a window, burned in a waffle maker and so forth. Those criticisms led to some episodes being heavily edited for recent TV broadcasts.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot of cartoon cats. What are your favorites?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Catster - Best In Show

Every year, the feline social networking site Catster has a photo contest. The winners of the 2010 event have been announced, and the pictures are great. Visit the World's Coolest Cat Show to view the winners.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Enjoy a Coffee with a Cat

In Seoul, Korea, coffee shops are as commonplace as Starbucks in the U.S. The cafés are all looking for a gimmick to help them stand out, and one such shop, Kwon Hjuk-jin's Cat Café, decided it would stand out by hosting cats along with the people. Patrons enjoy petting the cats, and prominent signs remind them to treat the cats with kindness and respect.

You can read more about the Cat Café in an article at the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, December 20, 2010

DIY Mousie Toy

Several years ago, I tried to make some catnip mice for the cats. What I ended up with were several little padded squares with tails. If only I had found this handy guide on All Free Sewing back then, the toys would have looked like proper mice.

Using their guide (it's not even a pattern, really), you can make a little gray mouse like the one at left, or you can use patterned fabric. It's a great opportunity to turn old clothes, towels or scraps from sewing projects into toys for your pets.

All Free Sewing has guides for other dog and cat projects, too, as well as human clothing, holiday crafts and home décor. The site has sewing tips and tutorials, too, if you're like me and don't have a lot of experience. This mouse toy is simple enough that you can even sew it by hand if you don't have access to a machine.

Have fun making toys for your cats, and please share if you have any other tips for making homemade toys or cat furniture.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In the CATegory - Now I've Seen Everything -

Have you heard about the iPad game for cats? Seriously, someone has created an app that iPad owners can download to amuse their felines.

I don't have an iPad, but if I had one, I would consider downloading this game to see what my cats would do. I'm not sure I could trust them not to claw the screen though. They never seem to worry about the damage their claws do to human skin when I'm playing with them or holding them.

Has anyone tried this? What do you think of the game and, more importantly, what do your cats think of it?

Sign up for Dinovite Emails for a Chance to Win

I received an email today about Dinovite's Healthy Pet Give-Away. I do not work for or have any relationship with Dinovite other than I have previously registered for one of their giveaways (I didn't win) and I am on their email list. I thought some of the readers here might be interested in learning about the giveaway and the product line, so here are the details:

One very lucky dog and one very lucky cat will win a 90 day supply of DINOVITE products specifically designed for him (or her)! Many other runner-ups will win selections of our all natural and organic pet products.

Here are a few things you need to know about our give-away. In order to enter:
* You must own a dog or cat.
* You must click directly through this email to be entered into this give-away. So, forward this email to your friends and family who own a furry friend! All information provided on the form must be valid to win!
* Limit of one entry per person please!

To register , simply click on the link below and fill out our Pet Health Guide questionnaire. This will serve as your entry. Within a couple of hours, watch your email for your pet's FREE Health Report! And, the week of January 24, 2011, watch your email for the announcement of our winners!

Dinovite Healthy Pet Give-Away

By submitting our Health Guide form to register, you are giving DINOVITE permission to email you additional information about natural pet products, pet food and treat recipes, coupons/promotions, newsletters, etc. You can opt out at anytime by simply clicking on the "manage email preferences" at the bottom of DINOVITE emails and choosing to unsubscribe.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

100 Ways to Love a Cat

It takes a while to get through all 100 ways to love your cat, and the tune will stick in your head after a few minutes. This video about nice things to do for your cat is well worth the time watching it and the time spent humming the tune to yourself for the next six weeks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Does Your Pet Mean to You?

I just read a post over at Single Dad Laughing about the rude and insensitive comments people will make to an adoptive parent. People say similarly rude and insensitive things to people who love their pets unconditionally.
Jynx is Feline Leukemia positive so he
can't be around our other cats.
I don't have children, but I have a lot of cats. I love them as much as any parent loves a human child. When I have a big vet bill or buy them special food or medication, some thoughtless people ask how I could possibly spend so much money on an animal; they certainly wouldn't. I guess I'm a better person than them.

Some people have told me that I couldn't love my cats as much as I would love a child, because I didn't give birth to them. Hmmm. Tell that to an adoptive parent. Once, when someone made a comment about it not being the same, I asked her, why? Is it because you can have a conversation with your son and I can only talk to my cats, not with them? She said, yes, that's it. I thought, but didn't bother contining the conversation (because you can't change their minds), what about those parents whose children are born with a condition that keeps them from developing speech or other communicative skills? What about the child who has a head injury or develops severe autism? A lot of parents cannot have meaningful conversations with their children, and they spend a lot of time and money providing not just the medical care that keeps them alive, but also anything and everything they can to give the child some stimulation, some happiness perhaps, in a difficult world.

Would the people who question my love for my cats, my spending on their health and happiness, suggest to those parents that they just let their children die and move on? Get a different kid? Would they tell these parents they can't possibly love their children because they can't talk with them?

I have a lot of respect for people who care for disabled or sick children, whether it's their biological children or they adopted them. It takes far more work and more money than my cats usually require.  My cats can reach the limit of their potential. 
Wicket and Misha
Well, not the limit of their potential to the extent that they will never star in a movie, commercial or Broadway show, because they'd be hiding under something, drenched in the blood of the mommy who dared to take them someplace scary.  But they can play with their toys, watch birds and squirrels through the windows, point out nasty bugs that come in the house, snuggle on a lap, and act deceptively cute when they've done something really bad.

We love each other - my cats, my husband and I - and we are a family. Perhaps it's not a traditional family, but sometimes, like the song says, love is all you need.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to Wrap a Cat

When I was a little girl, my cat Midnight would let me dress her in doll clothes, and I think I could have gift wrapped her. None of my current pride would sit still for it. Would yours?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pill Pockets - A Miracle for Cat Lovers

If you've ever had to give a cat a pill, you know how difficult it can be, especially if it's a maintenance drug or a course of medication that must be given over several days.

Finding Pill Pockets was a blessing. Our cat Quinn had gone through six months of heart medications, sometimes multiple pills several times a day, and many times he would run from us, even when we just wanted to pet him. It was heartbreaking, so when his littermate Remy was diagnosed with a heart murmur, we were so afraid he'd start to fear us as well.

Thankfully, by then we had found Pill Pockets. Made by an independent company at that time, Pill Pockets are now made by Greenies. Here's the way it works: Pill Pockets are very soft and malleable. It's shaped like a cup, so you can drop a pill in, however if you try to hide a whole pill in a full Pocket, unless your cat has a large mouth, s/he may have trouble chewing and swallowing it all.

Remy only has to take one quarter of a small pill per day, and we can easily hide it in half a Pocket. He's been on the medication for about five years and only recently did he begin turning up his nose at the Salmon and Chicken flavors. Fortunately, Greenies, which makes the pockets, has added a new Duck flavor, and he likes that just fine, so far.

We currently have nine cats, and we use the Pill Pockets for their regular worm treatments as well. Those are larger pills, so we quarter them and hide the pieces in half-Pockets. Same with allergy medicines.

It's very easy to break the Pockets into smaller pieces and press them around a small pill or piece of pill. The cat smells only the treat, grabs it, it's very chewy, and they usually don't notice the pill at all. Whole pills, though, tend to get bitten into, meaning the cat tastes the pill and spits it out. That's why we break larger pills apart now.

On the whole, I highly recommend Pill Pockets for helping the medicine go down. By the way, they're also available for dogs.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Steve Martin on Kittens

I was thinking about the whole 92Y vs Steve Martin debacle this morning while looking at my cats, and my brain suddenly recalled a brilliant comic essay written by Mr. Martin and published in his book Pure Drivel. I looked up the title, and it's "Mars Probe Finds Kittens." I thought it might be posted on Mr. Martin's website but I'm not seeing any of his essays there anymore.

Do yourself a favor and look up this essay. It's not very long, but it's brilliant in its accuracy about the behavior of little catlings. I have often recalled it when I had insane crack monkeys tearing through the house and bouncing off the walls.

Steve Martin is in the center of weird

I was looking at my Twitter today, and I noticed some odd tweets from Steve Martin. Stuff about how he'd be erasing his name from signed books and how he'd made love to his wife and she demanded a refund. Funny but weird, right?

Then I saw another tweet, with a link to an article. An NPR blog, actually, and that explained what happened. Earlier this week, Mr. Martin made an appearance at  the 92nd Street Y, which I gather is a real center for arts and culture; they have a regular interview series featuring many well-known figures. He has a new book out which is set against the backdrop of the arts scene - you know, paintings and stuff - and so the interviewer, Deborah Solomon - a journalist, a friend of his, and if not an arts "expert," she has written on the subject - talked with him about art.

In the middle of it, according to this blog and an article in the New York Times, someone passed a note to Ms. Solomon (right). The note said that people watching the interview online were sending emails demanding that the interviewer ask more questions about Mr. Martin's movie career. Ms. Solomon read it aloud, and the live audience cheered. She took some questions from the audience, and the interview wrapped up on time.

That's all a little surreal, but here's where it gets downright rude.

The 92nd Street Y (seen at left) sent a notice to everyone who'd bought a ticket (apparently they were $50 a pop) and basically apologized for the interview and offered them a credit towards a ticket to a different event.

That's just crazy. Let me make a few points:
  • The patrons of the 92nd Street Y are supposedly interested in arts and culture.
  • The interview was, theoretically, not advertised as a comedy show.
  • Any idiot can Google "Steve Martin" and find video clips, interviews, and print articles about his career.
  • Any moron scheduling an appearance with Mr. Martin now should know that he has a book to promote.
  • Ms. Solomon has since said that the organizers gave her no guidelines on topics of conversation.
Switching gears for just a moment, I'm a big fan of Harrison Ford's. I know all his stories. I've read all about his career. I know how he got the scar in real life, how Indiana Jones got the scar, how Jack Trainer got the scar in "Working Girl," and I can tell the story verbatim of how, after his first movie role (a bellhop in "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round"), an executive called him into his office and said, "Kid," (he called him "kid"), "The first film role Tony Curtis had he was delivering a bag of groceries, a bag of groceries, and you took one look at him and you said, 'That guy's going to be a star.'" To which Harrison responded, "I thought you were supposed to think, "That's guy's a grocery delivery boy."

These things still come up every once in a while, but a lot of times, even when he has a new movie out, the interviewers will talk to him about his flying (he's a licensed airplane and helicopter pilot, if you hadn't heard), about his work with Conservation International, about his ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and you end up with great stuff like, "Moose are the El Dorado of ungulates" and the story of how he went to a store on behalf of a friend with a young child, and he asked a stockboy where the diapers were, and the kid sent him to the aisle that had the Depends.

Then there's Michael Palin of Monty Python fame. I tuned in to his "Around the World in 80 Days" expecting a bit of a lark, but it was a serious attempt to recreate the journey described in the Verne novel. It had moments of humor but it was also educational and enlightening and quite enjoyable. On the flip side, I went to a history lecture by another Python alum, Terry Jones, and expected a somewhat dry and trying-to-be-funny-but-embarrassingly-falling-short talk based on one of his books, and it was actually quite entertaining as well.

The point of these digressions is to show that an open-minded, intelligent person sitting quietly and listening to someone who interests them for one reason may find new reasons to admire and appreciate that someone. The same tired stories may not be boring exactly (Harrison could read the phone book to me and I'd be happy) but why not break new ground. That would be even more stimulating. The people who complained had no right to complain. They paid to see an interview with a talented, well-rounded, intelligent artist and that's what they got.

The 92nd Street Y was well within its rights and responsibilities to its patrons to quietly provide refunds or credits to patrons who demanded their money back or even to those who actively expressed some displeasure. I have no idea how many emails the Y received or from whom. It could have been six guys sitting together in a pub firing drunken volleys every three minutes from their iPhones. The cheer from the audience, by the way, is not so telling; a live audience will cheer at anything.

Instead, the Y chose to send a blanket email that assumed everyone was unhappy with the interview and wanted their money back. It was a slap in the face to Mr. Martin and Ms. Solomon. It sets a dangerous precedent for their lecture series - in future, should interviewers and special guests shy away from new territory and open discussion and focus only on old news and the standard stories the guests are famous for? And what if I, upon hearing the same old stories, complain vociferously that I wanted something new? Will I get a credit to see another speaker? What if I'm only in New York for a couple of days - will you refund the money to my charge card? Why charge people to see it at all? You can't please all of the people all of the time, so what's the use in even trying?

The 92nd Street Y owes Mr. Martin and Ms. Solomon public apologies. And  a credit to select another, more intelligent and discerning audience for their next interview.