Managing Your Cats

Business experts say sound personnel management is the key to surviving tough times. These are the same business experts whose current advice on “best practices” is “Your business sucks–you should ask for a government handout.”

“. . . so we’re going to stop making widgets, and become a Wall Street investment bank.”


Managing your personal budget is no different. Every member of your household should be evaluated periodically in order to avoid costly litigation down the road, even though you don’t live down the road, you live at your current mailing address.

If there are cats in your house, you will find that fundamental principles of wildlife management are inappropriate tools to achieve your home economic goals. For example: Leave birds alone and they build a nest; leave beavers alone and they build a dam; leave cats alone and they don’t build a multi-level carpeted condo, they scratch the chintz couch, barf on the rug and take a nap.

“It’s not like I’m stealing legal pads from the supply room or something.”


In other words, managing cats is much like “herding cats,” a favorite simile of business advice books, although in this case it’s a tautology. To make the job of managing your cats easier, here is a transcript of my mid-year performance review of Okie and Rocco, two mid-level cats at my house, for the fiscal quarter ending June 30th.

(Clicking sound as tape recorder is turned on.)

ME: Does this thing work? Test–one, two, three . . .

TAPE RECORDER: Test–one, two, three . . .

OKIE: Sounds like Madonna with a head cold.

ME: Okay, I wanted to tape our little session so that we’d have a record of your performance reviews.

ROCCO: If you’re going to fire me, I want my lawyer here.

ME: No, not at all. Basically, the message I want to send is that you’re both doing a good job, despite . . .

OKIE: Despite what?

ME: Well, I’ve noticed a drop off in your performance.

OKIE: Meaning?

ME: Here are your numbers for the first five months of the year. No chipmunks, no mice, no squirrels . . .

OKIE: I’m 70 years old in cat years. Sales is for young guys–I should be a manager.

ROCCO: How about me?

Squirrel Melt–yum!


ME: Off the charts. Chipmunks–14. Birds–3. One squirrel, and a big one.

ROCCO: All right! I can just taste that sales incentive!

ME: Well, actually, these are tough times we’re going through right now . . .

ROCCO: Oh, puh-lease. You’re a lawyer–you make money off of financial misery!

ME: It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

OKIE: I just want to say in my defense, that if I don’t catch chipmunks, you don’t have to clean up the mess outside.

ME: True, but let’s not confuse effort with results.

OKIE: (. . .) What the hell is that supposed to mean?

ME: I don’t know–it’s a business cliche. Anyway, let’s move on to some of the ancillary aspects of your overall performance. We use a number of metrics to evaluate personnel here, and I wanted to talk to both of you about . . .

ROCCO: Here it comes . . .

ME: Climbing on furniture.

ROCCO: Look, I got up on the bar stool last night because that stunod wanted to fight and I was trying to take a nap.

ME: You guys have got to work on your intra-office conflict resolution skills.

OKIE: Fine, if you tell that pervert not to sniff my butt every time he walks by.

ME: Roc–I’ve warned you about our Dignity in the Workplace policy.

ROCCO: I know, but I can’t turn to tab 3 in the Employee Handbook.

ME: I’ll make a copy of the page for you.

ROCCO: (aside) You can put it in the bottom of my kitty box.

ME: That’s another thing. I want you to treat all members of the family with respect. Have you sent thank-you notes to Aunt Chris?

OKIE: What for? There was no catnip in the gift box she sent this year.

ME: You know how Mom feels about drugs in the house.

ROCCO: Speaking of the gift box–there was something else in there you neglected to mention.

ME: What, those cat treats?

ROCCO: Yeah. If I’m doing so well, how about we add those to the menu in the company cafeteria, instead of that crap you buy at the organic food store.

ME: It’s not organic, it’s just low-cal, so your bellies don’t start dragging the ground like a dachsund’s.

TOGETHER: (chanting) Friskies Party Mix–Friskies Party Mix–Friskies Party . . .

ME: All right, I’ll talk to Mom about it.

OKIE: Which means “no.”

ME: Hey!

ROCCO: Why don’t you man up for a change. We’re direct-reports to you on the org-chart, but you never do squat for us.

OKIE: Yeah–you’re nothing but a lap dog.

ME: All right, cool it. Anyway, we’re almost halfway through the year, so stay on course and I’ll let you tear up some wrapping paper at Christmas.

OKIE: And?

ME: And what?

OKIE: Can we bat ornaments off the tree?

ME: Absolutely not!

ROCCO: Can we at least climb up and try to get the star?

ME: This meeting is over!

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

A Public Option for Cats?

We had finished dinner and I was hoping to relax and watch some TV when my wife stopped me on the way to the couch.

“We need to talk,” she said in a somber tone–never a good sign when you hear that.

“About what?”

“Expenses–I can’t believe the bills we have coming due!”

“These things always work out,” I said.

“I had to write a big check today,” she said, her forehead furrowed like a field of soybeans.

“For what?”

“A doctor’s visit–$332!” she said with exasperation as she held out the patient’s copy.

“I thought it only cost a $10 co-pay.”

“Not for me–for the cats.”

I was shocked.  We have two cats, but they seem to be in good health, both physical and mental.

“What was wrong?”

Exercise is important.


“Nothing.  Just shots and a regular checkup–weight, heart–the usual.”

It had somehow escaped my attention until then that while the country was engaged in a fierce partisan debate over healthcare for humans, we had taken our eye off the nation’s pets.  With veterinarian’s bills skyrocketing out of control, pet-related healthcare costs threaten to consume an ever-larger portion of the American worker’s take-home pay, larger than the gut of a widow’s pampered dachshund.

“Does this coat make me look fat?”


“Let me see that,” I said as I grabbed the receipt out of her hand.  I added it up–not that that would have changed anything.

“Let me talk to the guys about this,” I said with firmness, and I walked into the family room where our two cats–Rocco and Okie–were sunning themselves.

“Can I talk to you two for a second?” I said.  They both looked at me like I was a bulk bag of dry cat food from a wholesale club, when they were hoping for Friskies Party Mix.

“I’m kinda busy,” Okie said.

“I wouldn’t call sleeping 16 hours a day ‘busy,’ but perhaps this is a subject on which reasonable species can differ,” I said.

“You’re pretty articulate for a guy who’s just had three glasses of wine,” Rocco said.

“I burned the alcohol off when I saw this!” I said as I thrust the vet’s statement in front of their noses.

“What do you want us to do about it?” Okie asked, barely raising his head from the floor.

“I want you to see how much you guys cost us,” I said.

“Did I tell you to have cats?” Rocco asked as he licked his paw and rubbed his ear.

“. . . like I give a flying you-know-what at a rolling chew toy.”


“No, but we’re all in this together.  Every nickel we have to spend at the vet is less money we have to spend on cat food.”

“I got news for you,” Okie said.  “I don’t think you could spend any less on cat food than you already do.”

“Are you kidding?  That Iams low-call stuff is expensive!”

It was Rocco’s turn to gripe.  “You’re not getting your money’s worth,” he said.  “Why do you think we’re always eating chipmunk guts?”

“You’ll thank me in a couple of years when your stomach isn’t dragging the ground,” I said.

“Are those cat years or human years?” Okie asked.

“Whatever.  It’s for your own good.”

“No, it makes you feel good,” Rocco said.  “It makes us miserable.”

“Look–everybody in this house needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle!” I snapped.

“Or what?” Okie asked.  If he’d had eyebrows, one of them would have been raised.  I didn’t like his tone.

“Or we may have to cut back in other areas,” I said in an even tone.  “Like maybe–one cat instead of two.”

“I told you there’d be death panels!” Rocco said.

“You wouldn’t dare!” Okie said, finally taking the trouble to prop himself up on one leg.  “I’ll call the MSPCA!”

“Go ahead,” I said with a laugh.  “They’re the merchants of death, not me.”

That sobered them up a bit.  “We need a public option,” Rocco said after a few moments.  “For cats.”

I hate to say it, but the level of economic ignorance among American household pets is simply appalling.  “Yeah, that’s just what we need,” I said with a sneer.  “Any cat and his dog can just waltz into an emergency room and get unlimited free healthcare.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Rocco asked.

“You end up ballooning the deficit!” I said with alarm.

John Maynard Keynes:  “When the facts change, I change the kitty box.”


“What was it Keynes said?” Okie asked.  “‘In the long run, we are all dead.’”

I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have a Keynesian cat in the house.  No matter how many times I show him how government “stimulus” programs have failed time and again, prolonging economic downturns and acting as a stealth tax on those at the lower end of the economic spectrum through inflation, he just keeps parroting the same cockamamie theories back at me.

Children:  They’re cute when they’re young.


You may be dead in the long run, and I may be dead in the long run,” I said with determination, “but our children and their grandchildren aren’t dead in the long run.”

They looked at each other for a moment, then broke out laughing.



“Spare me,” Rocco said.  “You may have children, but we sure as hell won’t.”

“Remember?” Okie added.  “You had us neutered before we could get it on with that long-haired bitch next door.”

Available in print and Kindle format on as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Improving Your Cat’s Body Image

It was a beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky, and as I obeyed the Biblical injunction to lift up mine eyes to the hills in the east, I almost stepped in it. Not the Bible, the daily deposit of barf that is becoming the occupational hazard, if not the occupation, of this owner of two adult male cats.

It’s in there somewhere.

Thankfully whichever one had done the deed had done it on the fake Oriental rug, with its variegated pattern, and not the white or the cream wall-to-walls elsewhere in the house, where it would show. I went through the familiar routine, like an elementary school janitor cleaning up the halls, then stopped by the window sill where our tuxedo cat Rocco, the younger and fatter of the two, was sunning himself.

“What? Whadda ya lookin’ at me for?”

“Did you leave me a little present in the foyer?” I asked.

“Not me. Probably Mr. Slimtastic.”

He was referring to Okie, a grey tabby who is indeed becoming thinner as he grows older, the result–our vet says–of a thyroid condition.

“Is it my imagination, or is Okie throwing up a lot these days?”

“I didn’t know your imagination could throw up.”

“What is it with him lately?” I asked by way of ignoring him. “Every morning there’s a pile of upchuck to navigate around.”

Rocco was looking out the window, sizing up a chipmunk that had emerged from a crevice in our stone wall.

“Nyah nyah nyah NYAH nyah–You can’t get me!”


“Sorry, I was lost in thought. I think he’s having problems with his body image.”

I was, to put it mildly, dumbstruck. Okie’s a guy, 63 years old in cat years, salt ‘n pepper fur–he should be settling comfortably into dirty old cathood, not worrying about his waistline.

“Does this couch make me look fat?”

“Are you serious?” I asked, incredulous.

“I’m a dumb animal, incapable of irony–of course I’m serious!”

Like anyone who’s raised someone with a poor body image and an eating disorder, I had to ask myself if I’d done something wrong somewhere along the way. I examined my conscience, the way the nuns taught me back at Sacred Heart Grade School. I promptly throw out the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue every winter as soon as I’ve checked to make sure that all the models were psychology majors at UCLA and are in favor of world peace. I never, ever make a crack about the weight and/or physique of anyone in the house who might care what I thought–like my wife. The only thing I watch on TV during the summer is out-of-shape baseball players like Josh Beckett, who’s got a major league beer gut to go with his nasty fastball.

“I have no idea where he picked that up,” I said, shaking my head.

“Have you noticed where he’s been napping lately?”

“Uh, no.”

“In the magazine basket, where the catalogs from Chicos get tossed.”

He had a point. The improbably thin women who are always laughing and having a good time as they model the latest mail order fashions are probably not the best example for a cat who’s getting on in years.

“Maybe I should talk to him,” I said.

“I would say it couldn’t hurt, but I know you too well,” Rocco said as he rolled over for a nap.

I ambled slowly into the living room–no wait, it’s the family room, the living room’s the one we never go in–where I found Okie asleep on top of a Chicos catalog.

“Hey buddy,” I said, as I scratched his head. He rolled over on his back for a belly rub, then sat up to examine himself.

“Can we switch back to the low-cal Iams?” he asked.

“You know we have to keep you on the high-fat kind because of your thyroid,” I said.

A little paw-candy to impress the other toms with.

“I just hate the way it makes me look!” he said. He licked the yellow fur on his stomach to make it lay down flat.

“Oak old boy–where is this new-found interest in your physique coming from? You’re not trying to attract some young paw-candy at your age, are you?”

“No, I don’t miss my sex drive,” he said with a tone that was world-weary and convincing. “I don’t need that kind of aggravation anymore.”

“Then what is it?”

He looked at me with those big, round, sad eyes he usually only flashes when he wants something really badly, like to go out at night and not come home for two days from a midsummer hunting trip.

“It’s . . . it’s that damned Lady Di cookie tin in the basement.”

Lady Di

“That old thing of mom’s that I put the kids’ crayons in?”

“Yes. Why do you keep it on display down where I have to sleep? All I can think of is her pain, the torment she went through, sticking her finger down her throat every night so she could fit into those skimpy silk dresses after all those sumptuous charity dinners for starving children around the world.”

I put my finger under his chin and raised it so we were looking eye-to-eye.

“Okie–you can’t live your life vicariously through a deceased member of the British royal family. You’ve got to be your own man, er cat, and not follow the frivolous fashions of the moment. Understand?”

“But–you’re always saying ‘A cat can look at a queen.’”

He was right about that. My mom used to say it all the time to get people off their high horses, to mix my metaphors. “Oak,” I said, “that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to go all goo-goo eyed looking at Lady Di pictures. It means that no one’s better than anyone else, that we’re equals, not like in monarchies where commoners aren’t allowed to look directly at the sovereign.”

“Is that kind of like Barbra Streisand telling her housemaids not to look her in the eye?”

“Right. Like Orwell said, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

That seemed to set his mind at ease–I could sense a feeling of peace coming over him. “I always feel better after we have these little talks,” he said with what appeared to be a beatific smile on his face.

“Why’s that?”

“Because you get in such a mellow mood you won’t notice the mouse I threw up in the den.”

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Crazy Like a Cat

Pets have mental health problems too.

          Headline, The Boston Globe

It’s Saturday, so I’m taking a nap when a ten pound weight covered with cat fur lands on my chest.

“Hey.”  It’s Rocco, cat-of-few-words.

“We need to talk.”


“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” I say, and I mean it.

“We need to talk,” he said as he flopped back against a pillow.

“You know you’re not supposed to be on the couch.”

“It’s the only way I can get anybody’s attention around here.”

“I don’t know, that time you brought a live squirrel into the house sure caused mom to sit up and take notice.”

“It was raining out, and I wanted to play with him.”

“If by ‘play’ you mean ‘torture in violation of the Geneva Convention.'”

“I never signed that thing.  Anyway–it’s about Okie,” the elder of our two cats.

“It always is, isn’t it?”

“As Aristotle said, no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”


“I think he’s lost his mind.”

“Wouldn’t be too hard.  It’s easy to lose small things, you know.”  Okie has always been the charming ladies’ man, too dependent on his grey-tabby good looks to cultivate his intellect.

“I’m serious.  He drools, he bites me when I try to wash his head, he doesn’t hunt anymore.”

“I think you’re mistaking guile for madness,” I said.  “If he doesn’t hunt, you have to do all the work.”

The Roc was taken aback, but not too far.  Our den couch isn’t that big.

“You mean, you think he’s acting crazy–on purpose?”

Vincent Gigante, “The Pajama Don”


“It’s been known to happen.  Like Vincent Gigante . . .”

“‘The Pajama Don’?” Roc asked.  Because it was home to Murray Kempton, the most graceful literary stylist ever to write a column for an American newspaper, we subscribe to The New York Post.

“The same.  Okie’s got the game figured out.  You go kill an animal, he gets to ‘roll upon prank to work it in.'”

“In the manner of Christopher Smart’s cat Jeoffry?” Roc asked.

“On the nosey,” I replied.

He stared off into the middle distance, as he is wont to do.  “I hadn’t thought of that,” he said finally.  “Still, I think it’s about time he took that cat-carrier trip from which no feline comes back.”

That’s my Roc, stealing a line from Hamlet.  “That undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns?

“Tragically, I have by the magic of the Add Media button been inserted into this post.”



“Sorry, no can do.”

“Why not?”

“When I did estate plans for you guys Okie signed a mental health care proxy that said he’s not to be put down at your request.”

“Why that . . .” Rocco began, then stopped himself.  “I can’t believe–after all these year . . .”

“Of wrassling with each other like a feline version of WWF . . .”


” . . . that he’d think I don’t have his best interests at heart.”

“It’s right here in black and white,” I said as I pulled the documents from the secure file cabinet we purchased at a office supply store liquidation sale.  “See?  ‘I do NOT consent to euthanasia or commitment to a mental facility at the request of my brother Rocco without a professionally administered sanity test.'”

Rocco looked at me with that RCA Victor befuddled-dog expression he gets whenever he’s painted himself into a cognitive corner.

“Did you say ‘there,’ ‘their’ or ‘they’re’?”


“Well, all right,” he said finally.  “I assume since you’re a professional you can test him.”

“That’s not my area of expertise.”

“Oh, right, I forgot.  You’re a leading expert on the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.”

“It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.”

“Can’t you, like, check the internet?”

“And come up with a cockamamie answer like the kid who wrote a term paper that said coyotes reproduce by laying eggs because somebody monkeyed around with the Wikipedia page the night before it was due?”

“You’re the human, you figure it out.”

And so, after my usual in-depth research–a browser search for “insanity test questions”–I came up with a fairly comprehensive 176-question British exam that looked like it would do the trick, as long as I omitted the somewhat dated references to Herman’s Hermits.

“I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am”:  Drove many insane in 1965.


It wasn’t hard to get some “alone” time with Okie; he’s 91 in cat years, and so spends a lot of time vegging in sunspots on the rugs.  “Oak–got a second?” I asked.

“Sure, as long as you’re not going to put me in a cat carrier.”

“Not if you get a high enough score on a verbal test I’m going to give you.”

His ears perked up, and his eyes opened wide.  “This isn’t . . .”

“I’m afraid it is, old sport,” I said, slipping into Great Gatsby-ese to put him at his ease.  “There have been some suggestions . . .”

“By Rocco?”

“Well, and mom.”

“That wasn’t my vomit.  I swore off chipmunks long ago.”

“There’s really no way to tell, is there?  Anyway, it’s good to have these little . . . what I like to call ‘Sobriety Checkpoints.’  We administer them where I work after someone reaches the age of 68.  It’s just good human resources policy.”

Good for chasing, not for eating.


He snorted, the same snort I’ve heard from him so many times as he watched his younger brother race off, all excited, after . . . a wild turkey.  “What are you going to do if you catch it?” he’d call out, contemptuous of youth’s enthusiasm.

“All right, let’s do it,” he said, and so I began.

“Do you believe you are the ruler of a sovereign nation, and if so which one?”

“That’s easy,” he said.  “I am the master of all I survey, but the U.S. Constitution prohibits titles of nobility.”

“Lucky guess,” Rocco said as he ambled past the doorway.

“You got that one right,” I said.  “Let’s move on.  Can you fly, and if so, do you have landing rights at any major U.S. airport?”

He cocked his head at me, as if I was the crazy one.

“Have you watched me jump to escape from coyotes lately?”

“You haven’t lost your Superman-like ability to leap Sears Tool Sheds in a single bound, I’ll grant you that.”

“Okay–last question.  If I nail this one, you need to leave me alone for the first of my afternoon naps, okay?”

“All right,” I said, and I scanned the list for a question that was both tough and fair.  “Okay, here we go: Are you now, or have you ever been . . .”

“This is descending into McCarthyism.  ‘At long last, have you left no sense of decency?'”

“Are you the owner of any cats, and if so–how many?”


“This is about religion, not politics.  Are you now, or have you ever been, a God or God-like entity?”

He snorted the way he does in the fall when he stays out all night and comes home in the morning with a cold.  “Seriously–that’s the best you can do?”

“This goes to the very heart of the matter: do you still consider yourself a mortal cat?”

cats egypt

He didn’t even take a second to think.  “If you knew anything about cats,” he said, “you’d know humans may be mortals, but cats are divine.”


Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”


Eat, Pray, Love Author’s Cat to Pen Tell-All Book of Her Own

NEW YORK.  The runaway success of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” has, according to The New York Times Book Review, spawned a mini-industry of spin-off titles including the forthcoming “Eat, Pray, Whine” by her former husband and “Eat, Pray, Floss” by her dental hygienist.  “A lot of people claim to know Elizabeth,” says Cheryl Dimarco of Metropolitan Dental Associates, P.C., “but have they ever seen what’s behind her third molars?”

Elizabeth Gilbert:  What’s behind those molars?


The newest entry in the field is being written not by human hands, but by paws, however.  Mitzy, Gilbert’s cat, has an axe to grind about the noted author’s year-long sabbatical to recover from the aftermath of her first marriage, during which the orange tabby was shunted through a succession of petsitters before ending up in a cage at a pet boarding service.

Mitzy:  “What about my needs?”


“If I hear the words ‘self-discovery’ one more time I’m going to hurl Iams Healthy Natural Weight Control Adult Cat Food all over somebody’s dining room rug,” said Mitzy through a publicist hired to promote the “tell-all” tome, tentatively titled “Eat, Sleep, Scratch Furniture.”

“Uh, Splash, when you go on the book tour you’ll get some questions about your name.”


Books by non-human animals have scored publishing successes in the political realm, notably First Cat Socks during the first and second Clinton administrations, First Dog Millie during the presidency of George H. W. Bush, and “My Senator and Me” by a Portugese water dog owned by the late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy named “Splash,” apparently without irony.  All of those books have depicted a warm and close relationship between human and pet, leading some to question whether a bitter feline expose is likely to sell.

“Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass,” said Mitzy as she sharpened her claws on a Restoration Hardware couch leg.  “She’s got so much money, she can buy all the furniture she wants.”


Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

The Woods Where I Last Saw My Cat

The woods where I last saw my cat
are white today.  The snow’s begun to thaw
upon the ground where he likely
met his end, by tooth and claw.

The woods where last we heard of him
are quiet now.  There was a noise that night,
my wife said, she didn’t give it a thought;
no point, even, in turning on the light.

He’d triumphed over every mouse
that dared to winter in our house.
In spring he’d lay in wait to kill
chipmunks hid in walls of stone.
He’d chase wild turkeys up the hill
who bothered him, and him alone.

He’d lost a step or two or three
by the night he met his end;
too much leisure, too much food
will do a fighting cat no good.

The woods where last my cat was seen
are bare of leaves, the pines still green.
I think, as I lift snowshoes over stones,
Perhaps in spring I’ll find his bones.

Big Kitty & Baby Cat

I grew up with a cat whose name was Big Kitty,
   the ruler with terror of our provincial city.
Part Tugboat Annie, part Calamity Jane,
   her main purpose in life was the infliction of pain.

She lived with us and her spinster daughter,
   a kitten no one took, much less would’ve bought her.
The latter cat’s coat was a sort of tortoise shell pattern
   that marked her a mongrel, the spawn of a slattern.

The other kits in the litter quite flew off the shelf,
   but not Baby Cat, who was left by herself.

The sort of thing that would set Big Kitty off
   was a stray remark, a sneer, a scoff
at Baby Cat’s dubious legitimacy,
   her mongrel, miscegenate, odd-looking kittemacy.

Big Kitty was the sort of blowsy blonde you’d find in a feline cocktail lounge.
   Toms would buy her drinks with parasols, and pizza-flavored goldfish.
She never had to scrounge,
   she ate from a gold dish.

But the lady in her would disappear and she’d kick your sorry butt
    if you happened to suggest that her daughter was a mutt.
She’d be all over you like a can of flea powder
    you’d scream real loud, then you’d scream even louder.

We’d watch them come home with vindicated pride
   after tanning some impertinent cat (or dog’s) hide.
The aging mother’d lick her daughter’s mottled fur
   until her offspring would begin to purr.

And then she’d explain
   in her best cat mommin’
“Don’t mind that trash,
   they’re tacky—and common.”

Moral: Even the runt of the litter is some cat’s kitten.

Three Junk Yard Cats

Between Fort Point Channel
And the train tracks there is
a junk yard that opens every
morning about the time I walk by.

The owner rattles the lock and chain
against the fence as he turns the key
in the padlock, and out come three cats,
blinking in the sun if it’s shining,

sniffing the air with wiggling noses
to take in the smell of the ocean
and the tang of fish in the air.
They look around, hardened

in varying degrees according to their
ages, a little like the people getting off
the trains from the west and south;
the younger, spotted one eager for

adventure, the two elders—its parents?—
sitting back and taking it all in.  There must
be wharf rats aplenty, they must think, no
need to hustle after the first one you see.

To a Young Tom Cat on the Eve of His Gelding

Sweet and fearless cat, brazen climber of tables–
  the appointment has been booked,
  the vet will cut your cables.
Your gander, as it were, is cooked.

For a few, brief shining days
  thou lusty feelings knew.
Spring arrived, you prepared to make hay,
  your concupiscence grew.

Now, Rocco, you never love will know,
  nor seed shall sow, nor breed
  an heir to bear your ebony mane (white ruff below).
Forget the procreator’s creed–
An urge is thus interred, as if within an urn.
You shall hardly miss what you barely learned.

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

The Shadow of the Red-Tailed Hawk

The shadow of the red-tailed hawk
  passed over the tuxedo cat
  as we sat outside today,
  watching for chipmunks.

I was startled, as was he.
The hawk had dropped down
  from the tree in front of the 
  house.  He may have had his


  eye on a chipmunk or a mouse,
  but he passed between us and the sun,
  casting a darkened shade on the ground
  where the cat and I were to be found.

The cat started, and looked over his
  shoulder at what flew above.
I turned and stared into the sun and
  didn’t see the bird until he’d come

  to rest on a branch; he gave the two of us
  a withering glance, then climbed higher
  to the top of the tree.  I couldn’t tell if 
  he’d passed over us because of the cat, or me.