Local writers were encouraged to start their creative engines meow for a writing contest for cat lovers, hosted by Catmosphere Laguna.
The nonprofit Catmosphere Laguna Foundation, which transitions rescue cats and kittens from their loving and awesome environment to their furrever homes is sponsoring the contest.
For more information, visit www.catmospherelaguna.com
Catmosphere is located at 381 Forest Ave.
A writing contest for cat lovers
I’m writing this letter to clear up a few concerns that I have. Since we live together, I feel like it’s my responsibility to be honest with you. I’ve made many attempts to tell you these things face to face, but they seem to fall on deaf (and quite hairless) ears. I’m just going to come out and say it. You’re not a very accomplished cat and I’m seriously questioning our relationship.
How many times have you walked past a pile of laundry? If you see it on the bed, please, for the love of all that is holy, lie down in it. Get IN there. Nuzzle into those unballed socks. Feel the warmth of the dryer lingering in those towels. ESPECIALLY if it’s in piles. Lean into those folded shirts. Knock them over. And, laundry baskets!!! How do you NOT jump INTO them?
Additionally, your grooming practices are horrendous. Your incessant need to get INTO the water is beyond distressing. At first I thought it was accidental – that you just kept falling in while getting a quick sip. Lord knows it’s happened to the best of us. But, every day? That’s no accident. Please just use your tongue. Have you ever even tried to lick your neck? And your whiskers! Why are you hell bent on removing them. Cats need whiskers. Why are you fighting who you are?
Aside from these worries, do you truly understand and believe that what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine? That’s the only way this relationship is going to work. That bird I brought home last week after I snuck out? That was for US. Yet, you showed me nothing but contempt. Maybe bird isn’t your favorite, I get that. However, you know I love what you bring home. Why do you never invite me to eat with you? I’m left to pick from your plate when you get up from the table. It’s beyond demeaning.
I’ll be honest, you give amazing back scratches and you’re an incredible cuddler. But sometimes when I need you most, you just push me away. You LITERALLY push me away. It’s as if you don’t want me to dance between your legs when you walk in the door. You only want affection on your time table. Do you know how much that hurts?
What it comes down to is that I’m really not clear as to why you think you are so high and mighty. Sure you’re quite tall and you’ve mastered opening the door. I know I’m not as worldly as you – I’m confined to this house while you dilly dally in and out as you please. Rest assured, this is not about your lack of fur or tail. I don’t want you to ever be self-conscious about that. You are who you are and I accept you for that. But, if we’re going to make this relationship work, we need to be honest with each other. I know I can’t force you to face any of these truths. However, your lack of effort truly makes me question your commitment to being feline and, more importantly, to me.
P.S. Seriously though – what happened to your tail? Coyote?
Woke me at seven in the morning, even on Sundays.
Stood on my chest and insisted loudly
Down into my face
That she be fed.
Nipped at my husband’s heels.
He considered this unfair.
But they only claim one person.
The rest are in the way.
When company came, we said, quite clearly,
“Do not pet her. She bites.”
And she would pad softly over
To leap onto my lap.
She was not a dog,
And I was not her master.
As I pet her,
As she purred and rolled,
Her eyes looked bashful.
She would gaze at the visitors, Playfully, longingly.
She would stretch gracefully, gorgeously.
They always said, “She is so beautiful.”
Which was true.
They always said, “Cats like me,”
Which was not
And never is.
They always reached forth their hands.
They could not help themselves.
Neither could she.
I fetched bandages and disinfectant,
Rinsed blood stains from their shirtsleeves.
As Luna preened herself,
Cruel and innocent,
Red in tooth and claw.
Sometimes love walks
through your door on four feet.
The stray you shouldn’t keep
and the phones ringing again
“Is that your cat, looks like Morris
he bit my leg,” Another
“He’s sleeping on our master bed!”
“He boxed me on the head
from the roof of my car!”
“He struts past the window
leaving my Persians howling.”
Milo the unfixed tom,
trying to escape out the chimney
So I open the back door
sit there watching TV until midnight
When I see his lion head peeking
there is a blip in my heart
I pretend not to notice
don’t call or even make eye contact
when he curls up on my lap
it means more that he is mine
with the back door open.
In the hodgepodge of wildlife that is my backyard, Pumpkin still considers himself a powerful menace. He keeps a close eye on the Three R’s (rats, raccoons, and ravens), a covey of quail, and the occasional hawk. This is his terrain.
Years ago, I spotted two kittens gobbling up birdseed beside the garden. One was black and the other a slightly larger orange tabby. Their appearance caused a sort of kitten-mania, as neighborhood legend told of a mother cat nursing her babies on our front porch the previous summer. We never saw them.
Could these two be from that litter? They would reappear every other day, possibly because I was feeding them. I know that’s wrong, but have you ever tried to catch a feral cat? They would have no part of me.
But they’d happily eat and sleep all day on our patio furniture, rising at dusk for a wee nosh and a night of what I assume involved hunting and some degree of bawdry behavior.
One day, the orange cat came by and the black one did not.
We looked at online notices and walked through three local shelters. We were sick with sorry, but the orange cat seemed emboldened. He marched into our house, something he had never done, and plunked down on my lap like an old man. When he got up, he left a ring of dirt on me. Our house was now his house. The black one was never seen again.
We named him Pumpkin because that is precisely his color. Even as a youngster, he was solidly built, like a feline tank. Broad-shouldered, big-legged, he was inside sometimes but mainly the Backyard Enforcer. Any creature that overstayed his welcome should take heed. I’ve buried rats, lizards, rabbits, and more than a few innocent birds.
When he ran away, suspiciously near his scheduled neutering, I put out flyers and so did the person who found him. A jogger noticed the similarity and put us in touch.
This man and his family, who lived over a mile away, said Pumpkin appeared in their window on a rainy night. His adult daughter had fallen in love with the cat and had planned to take him to live with her in Los Angeles the next day. She called him Tomcat and said she knew he was feral because of his size.
“This is the kind of cat that eats live animals,” she said and that was true.
I felt guilty at first and even to this day, I wonder if I should have left him there. Would Pumpkin have been happier with her? Was he sad when I took him home? Did I do the wrong thing?
But at the ripe age of four, he is my constant companion. He sits with me at my desk. He demands to be brushed at certain hours, drinks from the sink faucet, and likes a ramekin of cream before bed. He chirps at ravens and hisses at raccoons from behind glass doors. He still ventures outside, but generally prefers the comforts of home.
At night, when I hear rats scrambling across the roof, he doesn’t even budge. Does he not hear them? Doesn’t he want to do something? Possibly mete out some backyard justice? But he’s sound asleep. Keeping me warm as he snores into the small of my back.
——-Pumpkin has since had all of his shots, been neutered, chipped, and licensed. He weighs 17 pounds and lives in Aliso Viejo.
I am handsome, lithe, lean and long, recently separated and looking for someone who knows how to party. My ex was extremely lazy and spent most of her time napping on her pink satin pillow, or primping. – When I came home last night, a bit tipsy, she had a hissy fit. I was NOT catin’ around. I began to tell her what happened, but she reacted with a really explosive hissy fit.
You see, well, I never saw her drool before and the long slimy white stuff oozing down from the corners of her mouth reminded me of that ugly, slobbering, worthless TVdog named Hooch and I just had to laugh.
OK. I have to move on. It’s over – we’re over. This was indeed a catastrophe. I need someone who will understand that sometimes my wild ways get the best of me, just like last night, when I relapsed. I hope to find a companion who likes to travel, especially down dark alleys and up trees. Someone who will remind me not to go down the alley behind the dairy like I did last night. This route was a deliberate bad choice because I knew the danger. I found what I thought/hoped would be there. A full bottle of half and half – discarded because of a small chip on the lip. There it was, lying on top of the trash container. Drip, drip, drip - I was only going to take one a lick, but I drank it all. I did a lot of panting to make my breath fresh….but she knew. And I went into full denial.
I need someone to help me avoid the bad influences in my life, a strong feline who is willing to go dairy free. I’ve booked for two, at the Cat House Recovery Cottage on Catalina Island. Meow me at Catonthe run.com
Kerry Gail Dunn
We are scamps, my brother and I.
Well, him more than me
But together we qualify for the label.
Call us to come home and only one of us appears.
Send one of us to get the other and only the other comes back.
Or at least it could seem that way.
We have ESP,
We always know.
He is the troubleshooter.
He removes Sticky Paws from furniture for better scratching.
He figures out how to move the hamper to serve as a ladder
Then we can get the bugs that eluded us.
Sometimes he is compared to a dog or a chimp;
There is something to his talents that warrant those tags.
He has the knack,
He always knows.
I am his wingman.
I distract attention from his antics using charm and affection.
I comfort him when he is stressed from puzzling out our world.
You might think he is adventurous
But he relies on my support to give him courage.
For five years we have been a team, inseparable, indivisible.
I am his rock,
I always know.
We are alone, my brother and I.
Not in the usual sense of us against the world;
We inhabit separate spaces now, separate realms.
Sometimes I catch his scent on a toy
But I cannot scratch my way to a path that brings him home.
In the blink of an eye, I am living a life not of my choosing.
He is gone,
We never know.
There once was a cat named Fellini
Who yearned to dine on linguini
He whined and he hissed, he tried to insist
But all he got was a Greenie.
From the basket of Tabbies
I spot the gangly tom,
paws, eyes and nose
too large for his face
ruff like a jesters collar,
he quickly owns my lap,
claims the back of my knees at night.
Tossing alone in the dark
bandage over my left breast
sparks of pain shoot down my arm.
He pads from his place at my knees
nestles near me,
resting his head on my breast.
In awe I melt to sleep
During chemo therapy,
still damp from the bath,
peach fuzz on my head.
I'm fetal, adrift on a queen-sized island
Hampton, my little clown
kneads and purrs
where the umblical cord should be.
It had been several weeks since Rosemund left me. Knowing who and what she was, I shouldn’t have taken it so hard. I knew when she moved in a few months ago that she wasn’t the type to hang around in one place very long.
I put my coat on and headed out the door. The cupboards were bare. The long, hard rains of this lonely SoCal winter that had kept me locked up in my apartment for weeks staring at her picture, had finally stopped.
I followed the pathway from my apartment to the garage beneath the structure. The chill of the night put a spring in my step as I hopped over the thin strips of moonlight that cut through the pale winter clouds.
I slipped into my car and turned on the headlights just as Rosemund stepped out of the darkness and stared at me with yellow, glowing eyes.
She had come back, making her unexpected appearance with an elegance only she possessed. She climbed onto the car hood and slowly spread herself out, her beautiful legs dangling over the fender. She hadn’t lost an ounce of her unrestrained charm.
I stepped out of the car and she jumped into my arms. She didn’t utter a sound because her words lived in her eyes. Her body pressed into mine, nestling her head between my shoulder and neck as the cold dampness of the night disappeared in the warmth of her body.
“I missed you,” I whispered. She cuddled closer.
I knew what she was thinking.
I’m sure you’re glad to see me again. Aren’t you going to invite me in?
I wasn’t going anywhere except back to the apartment with Rosemund.
Once we got inside, I scrounged around the icebox to find some leftovers to share.
“Why did you return?” I asked.
She slipped off her chair and placed herself squarely in my lap. I looked into her eyes and that was enough to make me understand.
You know me. I need to be able to come and go as I please. Nothing’s going to change. Don’t worry about me.
She was right. Trying to change her was futile. My idea of devotion didn’t fit her style. She satisfied me at her pleasure.
She slipped off my lap and crept behind me. I could feel her nails dig their way up my back.
“That feels like old times, Rosie.”
She didn’t say anything, she just kept digging.
When I awoke, she was gone, leaving the memento of her tender scratches on my back. She knew what she was doing.
I lumbered into the kitchen and reached for the instant coffee. Behind the jar, on the counter, lay a dead mouse. A gift. I stared at the creature. Rosemund’s devotion lived in her sentimentality. A devotion that was fleeting but nevertheless, there.
Based on: The New Yorker cover Mar 12, 1979
Booth's dog occupies the 'high ground' by sitting in the rocking chair,
so the cat has to stay on the floor.
“Really?” Ollie shifted to try to settle himself on the floor. “Why don’t you just chase me? I know you want to!”
“Nope, I’m just sitting up here, taking the high ground.” Stan looked straight ahead, smug as, well, a cat, staring at the TV.
“I know you’re mad...” Ollie tried to bait him, flicking his tail ever so slightly.
“Yes, it’s hard not to be angry,” Stan said, teeth gritted.
“Ok, bite me, then. Get that anger out.” Ollie lifted his backside and waggled. “One big bite.”
“Nope. Not gonna do that.” Stan leaned backwards, soothing himself with the gentle back and forth of the rocking chair.
Normally, one wrong move from Ollie would trigger Stan in a round of urgent barking to summon Mr. Winkle or Mama Linda. It’s what dogs did—-he liked to think of it as being a natural reporter, a newspaperman. When something was amiss, he sniffed it out and announced it. Yes, that’s it! He was a furry Bob Woodward.
But not this time. This time the cat had gone too far. Stan was not going to be a part of it.
Ollie paced back and forth in front of the rocker, baiting Stan to jump down and start a game of chase. Stan breathed deeply and continued to rock. He could picture Ollie’s plan, it was so obvious: get Stan all wound up in a spirited game of chase (oh how he loved chase, his tail thumped slightly at the thought!). But this time he would resist the urge. He would not run after that despicable fur ball. He knew how it would end: Ollie would sail onto the furniture, landing with virtually no impact, while Stan bulldozed around the room, bunching up the rug, knocking over tables, overturning the house plant. Then when Richard and Linda Winkle returned from the church luncheon, Ollie would be on top of the television, meowing pathetically, and it would be “Bad dog!” “Oh, how could you make such a mess, Stan?” and “Ollie cat, let me lift you down here for a cuddle. Was that terrible dog chasing you again? And what happened here…!”
No, there would be no game of chase today. Stan would not take them blame for this mess.
“Well, maybe they won’t find out.” Ollie licked his lips (Stan cringed). Then Ollie stretched, tucked himself into an innocent sleeping position on the rug, yawned once and closed his eyes.
Stan continued to stare straight ahead, slowing rocking.
A tiny yellow feather lightly blew across the living room and settled in front of napping Ollie. Beside the television, the birdcage sat overturned, door askew. Empty.
This time, Stan knew he didn’t have to say anything.
Jefferson was mean. Not like that, “Oh I need a cat post to express my anxiety” mean. More like, “I’ll stay hunched atop the tall curio cabinet for hours just to pounce on your unsuspecting head” kind of mean.
But that was just for me. To him, I was a trespasser in his territory even though my two aunts, who shared their city apartment with Jefferson, considered me a visitor during my high school winter breaks. But make no doubt about it – the three of them had their own rhythm.
It was always tough to tell who was in charge when they were together. Since Agnes and Helen were the bipeds, I assumed they’d be in control – after all, they worked, paid the rent and cleaned out the litter box.
But actually, I think Jefferson called the shots.
I imagine him sitting in one of their overly stuffed chairs telling them to get up and change the TV channel because he simply could not watch Vanna White turn, yet again, one more vowel. His long black hair was found on every piece of furniture in the house. It clung to my good city outfits, found its way into my coats and somehow magically defied even the most powerful lint rollers. It was as if Jefferson was determined that I should always take part of him with me when I explored New York City, but he himself never wanted to leave the apartment. Then again, why would he? Everything he needed was there.
His once scrawny body, rescued from the shelter, had grown to almost 20 pounds. The white of his underbelly was pristine. His hand-crafted cat food bowl was always filled with Little Friskies dry food and twice a day he received moist Fancy Feast chicken or salmon, delivered with my aunts’ uncharacteristically kind, high-pitched clucking and cooing sounds asking “Who’s the best cat in the universe?”
My aunts showered on him the love they may have given to their children, if they’d had any. Instead, he was their joy. For them, he snuggled around their ankles when they walked in the door. His tail, with its white-flecked tip, would twitch ever so patiently as they prepared his dinner.
But if they went out, and I was alone with Jefferson, it was totally different.
His lack of speech never deterred him from getting his message across.
He’d guard the kitchen door, issuing stares that would make the Mona Lisa flinch. His sentinel stance deterred me from entering their tiny galley kitchen no matter how much I wanted those Milano cookies.
Angry snarls emerged when I my suitcase was opened.
My sneakers would be under the hassock skirt and he’d swipe them into the middle of the room. It was as if crawling underneath his special hiding place also gave him Herculean powers to at least ward off a stinky Reebok if he couldn’t get rid of me.
Trips to the bathroom required me dashing underneath the above-mentioned curio entrapment, then past the bedroom door where he’d also lie in wait taking great satisfaction swiping at my ankles with his claws.
If a pet psychologist witnessed Jefferson with my aunts, and then Jefferson with me the diagnosis was evident: feline schizophrenia.
I’m not sure why I never asked my aunts if Jefferson was mean to other visitors. Maybe I was afraid they’d say no, or more realistically, I probably worried I’d offend them by revealing that the love of their lives was really a fur-laden bully.
But when Jefferson finally used up the last of his nine lives, my aunts grieved so painfully that I started thinking maybe he wasn’t such a bad cat after all. I put on my winter coat, still all covered with cat hair, and accepted the fact that the mark Jefferson, like all cats, leaves on us is indeed, indelible.
When we bought our 1770’s historic wreck of a house we didn’t know what hit us. Beside the nailed-shut windows and dark, dank corners, our fixer-upper boasted an Edgar Allen Poe-ish basement where anything might have skulked.
We were used to our loft apartment - open space, lots of light and a landlord who fixed things when they broke. We were also used to our fifteen-year old cat, Mowser, who had done it all in his misspent youth and was content to pass his senior days in rest and reflection.
We lost our dear Mowser to kidney failure weeks before our move and were bereft – our 8 pound cat had left a giant hole in our hearts. Very soon we adopted six-month-old Zeesie from a local shelter. Zeesie was full of unbridled curiosity and energy. She jumped unfathomable heights, crawled into forgotten nooks and crannies, and feline-approved every box we attempted to pack.
Describing our new house as a wreck is not poetic license – we faced a petulant radiator heating system, electrical wiring that bore Thomas Edison’s autograph, peeling 1940s wall paper, cracked window panes and myriad wall and ceiling holes. The good news was that fresh air would never be a problem. But, the house was nearly affordable and the decaying barn would eventually become my husband’s art studio. But that’s a whole other story.
Our first days were spent adjusting to multi-layers of clothing, fixing the basement boiler, taping up windows, card boarding holes and borrowing heating pads for our beds. Zeesie took everything in stride and seemed unbothered by the chaos, the cold, the dust, and the newness. Between cat naps she reveled in two centuries of smells, navigated steep staircases, and patrolled the topmost closet shelves.
Over the next weeks we established a routine: unpacking boxes, searching for tools, resuscitating the reluctant stove and oven and pondering our mental health. Still, the basement ranked as the most fearsome space. Fully expecting to find Poe’s cask of Amontillado in a dank corner, I avoided venturing there. But, for Zeesie, the basement was her go-to place. Whenever the door creaked open she bounded down the foot-worn stairs and whiled away hours investigating the masonry walls and splintered wood and dirt floors.
As per usual that Sunday, it had been a busy day and we were eating our fallback pasta, salad and garlic bread dinner when the cry began. It was the unearthly moan that our Mowser had honed to chilling perfection. We named it his Weltschmerz lament for both himself and fellow cats that were imprisoned indoors and deprived of the great outdoors. We’d never heard Zeesie vocalize this way.
In panic we ran from room to room but Zeesie was nowhere to be found. As we opened the dreaded basement door the plaintive call grew louder. We hurried down the steps, fanning out to find the cat. She was nowhere in sight but her voice sounded loudest beneath the flap of ceiling that hung open like a jaw about to swallow a fish.
Somehow our amazing cat had gotten herself stuck in the ceiling. Jumping into action, we set up the ladder, located the hammer and chisel, and my husband attacked the plaster. Chunks of ancient ceiling rained down turning us white haired in minutes. He finally got to the cross beams with no cat in sight.
And then we heard it again, but the Weltschmerz moan had now morphed into more of a curious meow. As we paused our labor, who should come slinking toward us from the boiler room but Zeesie, tail straight up in the air.
Having just destroyed two square feet of ceiling and created a mess, we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So we laughed. Then we shook off the plaster dust, dusted the cobwebs off Zeesie’s whiskers and tail, and went upstairs to finish our cold pasta.
Epilogue. Eventually, we cleaned up the basement, replaced the boiler and patched the holes. We never found a cask or a body, and, in time, we even installed a cat door to the nether regions. Zeesie was a happy cat.
Contest Judge Grant Hier,
Catmosphere Owner Gail Landeau,
and KitLit Winner Sarah Wolsey