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article imageOp-Ed: There's no such thing as 'just a cat'

By Hans Smedbol     Aug 27, 2010 in Crime
An English lady accused of putting a cat into a garbage can, where it languished for 15 hours before being rescued, excused her actions by claiming: "I don't know what the fuss is about. It's just a cat," leading to a global furor raised by cat lovers.
In a comment to a story about Lola the cat, who by misadventure and with a little help, found herself trapped in her family's garbage can for 15 hours, until her plaintive cries for help were heard by a family member, who then promptly rescued her from her dungeon, her "Black Hole", Digital Journalist B. Thomas Cooper, memorably wrote: "There is no such thing as "just a cat". The perpetrator of the cat's misery was identified worldwide in the Daily Mail, a British newspaper. Upon confrontation by outraged questioners, she replied: ""I don't know what the fuss is about. It's just a cat", while identifying herself as a cat lover too, and explaining that she was just playing with the cat, and thought it could be funny to put her in the garbage, expecting that she could work her own way out. This grave misapprehension of the cat's abilities to escape confinement in a garbage can for fifteen hours, led to an unhappy cat, outraged cat owners, and seemingly even more outraged public worlwide, some of whom have been offering the unhappy perpetrator death threats, addressing which, the local police have offered her protection. She is being investigated as was explained in the news story printed here earlier, by Laura Trowbridge. The story of the cat's sufferings broke on August 23rd , when Laura Trowbridge submitted it to Digital Journal.
After posting the surveillance video which caught the woman in the act of depositing the young cat into the garbage can, and walking nonchalantly away, ignoring the cat's plaintive mews, and after being outed by the press, the now unhappy perpetrator of the act at first bluffed it through, stating that she couldn't understand all the fuss, "after all it is just a cat".
People all over the world disagreed with her, and many made their views known. Because of the furor the local authorities are taking it very seriously, offering her protection , while at the same time condemning what she did, and promising to investigate the act and, if necessary charge her with animal cruelty, which if found guilty, could see her incarcerated behind bars, in her own piece of prison, for up to six months, unable to get out of her predicament, just as the imprisoned kitty could not get out unaided from hers. A kind of rough justice is just what that would be. It is highly unlikely that this lady will ever again pull such an act, when such humiliation and legal troubles have followed her misjudged act of cruelty with such public scorn and disgrace.
Unfortunately her attitude, and accompanying actions are more widespread throughout the world than cat lovers may like to contemplate up to the point where cats are turned into chow mein in some Chinese homes, or cat fried rice, known euphemistically as "chicken". In other places they may be tolerated but not encouraged, left alone to pursue their own lives. In some places they are considered valuable helpers because of their slaughtering the rodent pest population wholesale when confronted with one. Some people see some cats as liminal beings, intermediaries between this life and the great unknown, friends to witches and other questionable characters. Some cats get turned into violin strings, while others reign supreme in the family home. People will often be taken aback if a black cat crosses their path.
Cats have been interrelating with humans for so long that there is a rich lore of information about cats and their relationships with humans. Varying between being regarded as objects of worship, minor gods in themselves, and being castigated as the familiars of the Devil and invariable bringers of ill luck, cats are the kind of people that people love to love, love to hate and love to pamper, if only because that cat might be destined for the soup plate, and we gotta take care of dinner don't we? On the other hand we have cat lovers worldwide, who love to have a cat (or more) as a fully fledged member of the family, spoiling said cat with expensive treats, and kibbles.or whatever it may be that kitty particularly loves.
Cats are interesting, lovable, independent, yet affectionate, bossy, yet adorable, annoying yet awesome and mysterious. One can never really get to the bottom of what it is to be a cat,unless one is a feline oneself. Even with years of study, they can surprise you with some new behaviour, or way of communicating with you. We had two cats now, (not at the same time) who were intelligent enough to figure out that if they would climb up the door jamb, and reach over and pull down on the lever entrance handle, in two different houses, that indeed they could open that door, and wander in to be with their people. The second cat, who was named Skanda, was a real little ball of energy, and intelligence. He would bat a bunch of sleigh bells we had hanging outside the door at a good height for him, and when we would hear the bells being batted, and jingling, we would let him in. If that didn't work, then he would let himself in with the door lever, but he would usually try to ring the ."doorbells" first
When you have a cat friend or two in your life, you can understand why the ancient Egyptians used to adore them and even worship them (although in my case worship definitely goes too far.)
It is incomprehensible why anyone who claims to be a cat lover would treat one this way, unless as was stated by a commentator, B. Thomas Cooper, that she might be early onset Alzheimer's, (although i hope not for her sake, as that's a not so great way to go).
About four years ago, we were invited by our tenant to rescue an abandoned cat which she had found in a box with several of his siblings. He was a beautiful, sparky little orange tabby, with unusual orange eyes, long exquisite fur, with the most expressive flag of a tail, handsome, and impressive. My wife fell immediately in love with the little scallawag, and said yes. She named him Skanda in remembrance of the South Indian God, Murugan, who also goes by the name Skanda, among a thousand others. The devotees of this God named him in honour of a man who arrived in India a very long time ago, at the head of a vast army of Macedonians, Greeks and others who joined in as the army progressed across the middle east through Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and finally into India.This man is still remembered today in the West with great respect and reverence, and young boys like to dress up like him and conquer the world. His name was Alexander, called by history "The Great", who in his own lifetime was affirmed at least twice to be the son of a God, Zeus, once at the Oracle of Delphi and further at a temple in the desert wilderness of Egypt, the Oracle of Siwa in a temple to Amun, in the Libyan desert. Alexander saw himself as a son of the God Zeus-Amun from then on, and felt that his destiny lay in attempting to subdue the world under the benevolent rule of the Macedonians, who had inherited the Greek civilization through conquering it. Wherever Alexander traveled and conquered territory, he would establish cities in his own name, and leave his trusted confidants as satraps (lords), confidants who were encouraged to marry the local women, and encouraged to have their men also wed the locals, in an effort to make the yoke of Greek rule, easier to bear.
Thus we have the ancient library, one of the wonders of the ancient world, in the city of Alexandria, in Egypt. There were many Alexandrias left in his wake. When he got to India, the speculation goes, his name was reduced to "Skanda", just as the Arabs remember him under the name Sikander, and a certain city in Afghanistan, named in his honour, is still known under a variation of that name, Kandahar. Skanda is a young energetic, lovable, pious devotee of His Father, the Lord Siva. He is known as a renunciant Swamiji, and also as the worldly "man about town", with two wives, who is also the Chief of Staff, the top General in the Army of the Gods, who could be relied upon to win their ongoing battles against the Asuras, the demons. But really, although Skanda is the General to the Gods, the Lord of War, he is also the Lord of Peace, a fiery, energetic, hot-tempered, rash, "spontaneous" young man, a favourite of many South Indian and Sri Lankan Tamils, and Malayalis, especially girls, and young women.
A statue of Lord Murugan  or Skanda  the South Indian God of War  as well as Renunciant Swamiji.
A statue of Lord Murugan, or Skanda, the South Indian God of War, as well as Renunciant Swamiji.
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So now that you know Who Skanda was, you can visualise what kind of cat our Skanda was, the epitome of playful kitten, the whole time he was with us. He loved to chase things, especially little mousies, and tinkly balls. He loved to leap into your lap at his own initiative, and get a few rubs, before moving on to the next item on his agenda. He was very particular about his food, and we spent a lot of time trying to find food that he would like, but just like a human, his tastes varied, and what he might like now, was off tomorrow. He would like to sleep with my wife, and even crawl under the covers for a short while, until he would get too hot, when he would impatiently jump out of bed, and find somewhere cooler to lie down.Skanda was always up for an interesting paper bag or a box or any smallish space where he could hide out, reaching out to snag your foot as you'd go by. He wouldn't put up with too much rubbing or petting, and would attack you with very sharp needle-like claws and teeth if you went over the boundaries of "good taste" as he would interpret them. He preferred the kind of special kitty cat food, that comes in small expensive bags, and especially the ones that are used to hide kitty pills. He LOVED those, although not necessarily the pills, since he was generally an healthy young tom (neutered). He wasn't afraid of anybody in the animal world, and would take on dogs larger than himself, and even drive them from the yard if they came visiting. He would stalk them and then jump on their noses hissing loudly, and batting them with his claws, all the while emitting sparks of aggression from his eyes. Little dogs were dispatched even quicker if they were foolish enough to pay a visit. Unfortunately, raccoons also live in our neighbourhood which is close to the Kootenay Lake. Skanda may have been afraid of them, because they came in a pack of three or four, and they're largish aggressive predators, some of whom chased him onto our porch hissing and screeching loudly in wounded retreat, ego wounded, the rest of him OK, save a little shaken by the masked "mobsters" who'd ganged up on him. My wife reminds me that many's the time when she would hear angry cat yowls and hisses in the night from our porch, where the raccoons had chased him/ She would get up in all haste and run out of the house with a big stick to chase away those bullies of her darling boy. She says that she wonders what the neighbours must have thought with this mad woman in her nighty chasing down the street yelling and waving her stick at those thugs, the masked bandits.
HRH Skanda  giving us the royal gaze of approval.
HRH Skanda, giving us the royal gaze of approval.
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One day a Jack Russell Terrier came to visit, and go with us for a walk, along with his owner, a friend of ours. The walk went fine, but when we returned, there was trouble when Skanda spied Biggy (the Jack Russell) trotting along towards the garden with the humans. Immediately Skanda's hair stood on end, and he put himself into the Hallowe'en cat pose of outraged felinity, hissing and growling at Biggy, who attempted to get close and show who was the boss.
In Biggy's Jack Russelll world, he is always the boss, the "alpha male", whether it be a large or small dog he's confronting, or a cat. He makes sure everyone knows who's the boss. He can't rest if he thinks that he is not being respected as top dog. He followed the humans into the house and ranged all over it making it his own, eating all the cat food, and drinking his water. Everywhere he went, the odour of dog lingered. Skanda took all of this personally, as if we had purposefully attempted to freak him out, and intimidate him with that dog. He was extremely annoyed, even angry with us and wanted nothing to do with us that evening.
The next day he disappeared. We have no idea what happened to him. One day he was here, but angry, next gone.
Did he run away? Did he get eaten by raccoons? We'll likely never know whether he moved on to a new home, due to his anger at Biggy's lording it over him, or whether in a slip of fate, he was caught by some predator and served up as dinner. We were inconsolable for a very long time. He was like a child to my wife, she loved him so dearly; not that i was not fond of him also.
Skanda taking over the lap  and effectively preventing any real work from getting done  since he wan...
Skanda taking over the lap, and effectively preventing any real work from getting done, since he wanted rubs.
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After mourning for some time, about six months, my wife was at work teaching in the local college, while I was at home with the door open somewhat, when to my surprise, a largish grey and white spotted cat appeared, striding purposefully around checking out all the rooms, "casing the joint" as they say in the old detective novels. Then he disappeared again, only to reappear a day or so later, when he moved in. He was just there, outside looking expectantly at us, untill we opened the door, and he came in.
Because of the regal way that he carried himself, and because he obviously is of the royal blood, in his own mind, and because he's not a skinny boy, but rather a little chubby, I thought of the name Fat Albert, from the BIll Cosby comedy material. Fat Albert morphed into Prince Albert, and then Bert, or Bertie, or Bertie Bert, or any of a dozen other variations on a them, all of them endearments, because he is indeed such a lovable, interesting cat.
Bertie over time has become very communicative, not only with his voice, eyes, and tail, but with his whole body, and by the actions that he undertakes to show us what he wants. As well he has come to talk more and more with his cat voice, responding to our monologue with his own cat language. Bertie is a master at letting you know when he wants something. He will attract your attention in some way, be it just walking around in front of you, or jumping up on your lap, or (worse for the furniture) he'll start scratching one of my wife's prized chairs or the sofa, or the love seat...scratch, scratch, scratch with the well imagined tearing of threads and slow disintegration of the cloth material covering the furniture. After he's got you up, he'll show you want he wants, by leading you closely (stays right on you, in case you might slip away to your own agenda), either to the door, or his food bowl. If one person has already fed him, this does not rule out his manipulation of the other one to come and give him some more too. That way i guess he feels loved, and taken care of, and he settles down contentedly purring, and then eats.
Later he usually prefers to go back outside, his favourite place to be, where he can watch the birds, hide out in the long grasses, sun himself, lie in the shade and watch the grasses sway in the breezes and gusts of wind coming off Kootenay Lake, catch the occasional careless rodent, who got a little too close for comfort, and turned into lunch for Bertie. When he has tired of his adventures outside, he'll slide into the house, have a snack, and head for one of the many chairs or the sofa, love seat, or bed, for a nice long nap. If my wife is sitting at her computer, as she often is, Bertie may jump up and attempt to divert her attention from her work to him, even to the point that he will sometimes attempt to walk on the keyboard, and stick his nose onto the monitor screen. After a bit of this, when we all know who's the boss again, he'll lie down in her lap and remain there for some time. Bertie loves to sleep with us in the bed, often lying right on top of my wife's head, if she'll let him. When I arrive at the bed, Bertie starts purring, as if he is particularly please that we are both there, even though going to sleep. In a while he'll get up again, and want to go outside to pursue his own cat agenda.
Bertie cooling off on the lino.
Bertie cooling off on the lino.
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Bertie is friendly to little dogs, often making friends with passersby. Big dogs are a little more imposing, but Bertie will not let them get away with much before the claws come out. He loves to play hide and seek through the picket fence between our neighbour's Whippet hound and himself, reaching his paws out to Sammy's eager nose,and batting him lightly. They both love to play that game. The cat Mischa next door has been a problem for Bertie, and he is not so friendly, nor is Bertie with him. They've had a few little disagreements now and again. If our door is open for a while, we can be sure that Mischa will sneak in and empty Bertie's bowl, and drink his water. After quite some time of this kind of skirmishing behaviour, they appear to be able to get along better nowadays.
As for the tenant's cat, Clawsy, S/he is an indoor cat, liking to sit at the open bathroom window, looking out and sniffing the air. Sometimes s/he will creep outside of the window a couple feet and "really" experience the wild outdoors. Bertie and Clawsy love to sit and look at each other, inscrutably, with that "royal" gaze. They're seemingly kitty friends, as they never fight. Clawsy is such an indoor cat that when his owners bring him/her outside for a change, he is very scared and wants nothing more than to go back inside into his beloved and well-known apartment, where he is safe, and he can look on the world outside his window without worries. He is in a way, the polar opposite of Bertie, but they seem to get along fine. Incidentally Clawsy is a beautiful sleek black cat with shortish hair, that shines with a lovely lustre.
I've included, as you can see, several pictures of our dear Bertie bert as my wife loves to call him, otherwise known as His Royal Highness, Prince Albert I, He Who has suzerainty over the entire demesne, He Who has many thrones, and two servants, He Who is a living Terror to all creatures smaller than His Royal Self, especially mice, and birds, with the occasional squirrel thrown in for good measure, if it was foolish enough to get close to Him. His Royal Highness would be extremely insulted were we, his subjects and servants to insist that He had to stay in against His Royal Will. He would make sure that we should know His Royal Anger, and we would be anxiously courting His favour, but would get it only if we would let Him out, if and when He wants.
Bertie  has a nap after an exhausting hunting session with his toy mousies.
Bertie has a nap after an exhausting hunting session with his toy mousies.
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We have heard people say cats should remain indoors, but in Bertie's case, I do believe that since He was an outside cat when He came here looking for a Place to live in, that really we do not have the right to confine him within the four walls, especially when he prefers to be outside much of the time, save when exhausted from a night of who knows what, he naps for hours on one of his thrones. Then it's lap time for some schmoozing, little kitty kisses, fond looks, and a loud purr usually accompany these, while sharp claws penetrate clothes and skin in a kitty like rhythm of bliss.
Need I say that we were adopted by this thief of the heart? Probably he had been left when someone moved, or maybe he hid and only came out when his family had gone. Then he went looking for a nice place to live, and after thoroughly checking out the digs here, he decided that most likely we would do...and promptly moved in, remaining with his loving fans ever since, almost a year now. Bertie is the most affectionate cat i have ever seen, and what an unmatched character!!!
Bertie may not speak English, but he DOES speak cat, with his entire body, especially his tail, and his eyes, and his posture; ,including the way he points to things and looks at them and then us, to tell he wants that, while sounding off with a little cat mew. If he wants to go out, he will attract your attention, and then lead you surely, weaving himself in and among your legs, just to make sure he's got you following; but you've gotta watch out that you don't trip! :He'll lead you right to the door, and then look at it, and then you, gesturing with his head what he wants; he really is very communicative if you pay attention to what he does.
I've learned more cat language since Bertie deigned to move in with us, than I'd ever known existed before...it's amazing how a stray cat like our Prince Albert can move in and take over our hearts.
Oh yeah...there's definitely no such thing as "just a cat"!!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Mary bale, Kitten, Animal cruelty, Cat human relations, Prince albert bertie cat
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