TNR Summer Camp Fun

Lucky kids can choose from an array of enrichment camps.  Music, art, sports, space –anything goes.  Wouldn’t it be AWESOME if cat-loving kids opted for Trap-Neuter-Return taught at a TNR Camp?

Exploration would include finding trails and tracking paw prints to locate colonies and feeding stations. Curriculum would include feline behavior, wellness, and the benefits of juvenile spay/neuter. Kids would learn how to use humane traps, in-trap care, and how to estimate age and weight for pre-op meds.  They would live in boxes, snack all day, and sleep for hours on top of furniture.

Before the digital age, camp kids wrote letters to their parents to chronicle the day. Remember the 1963 hit, Allan Sherman’s letter from camp?

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah   is a portrait of boredom and loneliness. The song lays out complaints after his first day and the promises made if only he can escape Camp Granada and come home.

Let’s pretend there is a TNR Camp and have some fun with the letter from camp, which might go like this:

Hello muddah, hello faddah. Here I am at Camp Entrada, which is very entertaining and they say we’ll trap some cats if it stops raining.

Now, I don’t want this should scare ya, but the cats here cause hysteria! And the campground wants no litters, so spay/neuter is the rule for three-pound critters.

I set two traps, rather slyly. Turned out it was poison ivy.  Lynyrd Skynyrd knew of shivery: they sang black cats crossing trails cause double misery!!

Traps are vexed by pollinators and the lake has alligators! And the head coach, Mabel Molehundt, nightly bets on eartipped cats as they chase rodents!

Take me home! Oh muddah, faddah, take me home! I miss my bruddah. Don’t leave me to track down all these cats.  I might get eaten by a rat!

Wait a minute; it stopped hailing. Kids are trapping, fun’s prevailing! Now more eartips, gee that’s better.  Muddah, faddah, kindly disregard this letter!

This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf was originally published in the August 2021 issue of Positively Haywood by Vicinitus.

Listen to My Ears

A cat’s ears tell all. “Facing forward, just aside, my happiness is multiplied.”

A friend once commented that I have small ears. They’re likely normal for a cat my size, but she clearly had sent important signals that I had missed.

Her comment brought to mind American novelist Ernest Hemingway who said, “I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.”  Hemingway  admired cats for their emotional honesty.  His Key West colony of 30+ cats included his first polydactyl (six-toed) cat gifted to him by a ship’s captain. 

Cats hear frequencies higher and lower than humans (and dogs), tuning in like RADAR to distinguish between two different sounds 3 feet away that are within 3 inches of each other.  That’s a big MEOW when hunting prey and staying clear of predators.

Kittens are born with closed ear canals.  Watch their ears unfold as they gradually orient to sound during their first month.  A left eartip says a kitten is fixed and vaccinated. 

Cats hear five times better than humans. Their 32 ear muscles (vs. human’s six) allow them to swivel and rotate 180 degrees like a periscope for a sensitivity boost of 15-20%.

It’s because cats hear so extremely well that their ears provide a feline sign language for us to learn.  Here’s a quick & easy way to learn:

or How to Listen No Matter How Small Your Ears

It’s not meows or random growls that tell you how I’m feeling now.
My every mood is clear to see.
It’s what my ears are telling thee.

Slightly forward just aside, my happiness is multiplied.
Swivel quickly, bow to stern? Is something up to cause concern?
Tightly pulled against my head when it’s the bully that I dread.
But straight and flat like Cessna wings? Back off! It’s time to end this thing!

This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf was appeared in the July 2021 issue of Positively Haywood by Vicinitus as “Listen to My Ears”

Gertrude, Patron Saint of Cats

Medieval artists symbolized souls in purgatory as rodents. And because she prayed for purgatory souls, the Patron Saint of Cats, Gertrude of Nivelles, became a cat lady in a sense, chasing forlorn mice into heaven.

Gertrude and her mother Itta co-led their Catholic nunnery in 7th century Belgium.  Gertrude and Itta were among the elite whose resources and connections influenced the king’s favor and support.  They gave refuge to women; healthcare to the poor; and hospitality to pilgrims and animals alike.

I can imagine a cloistered Saint Gertrude hurrying through a colony of lingering strays as they wait for spilled milk or praise for dead rodents laid at her feet.  Without spay/neuter, there would be more than a few.

Gertrude’s life was described as one of exhaustion, praying for souls in purgatory and not really taking care of herself.  With so many unfixed cats around, I can imagine that, too.

Later in history, the inquisition and superstition paired cats with paganism and witchcraft.  In 1233, Pope Gregory IX’s first Voice of Rome proclaimed black cats as Satan’s incarnations. His “Thou shalt not suffer a cat to live” imperiled cats for 100+ years, setting the table for the Black Death to fill purgatory with 200 million souls.

in 1894, French biologist Alexandre Yersin discovered the plague was spread by an airborne germ, Yersina pestis bacillus, which also spreads through infected bites of the Oriental Rat Flea and its host.  Both were plentiful on 14th century trade ships docking at ports depleted of cats.

Comparing the Pope to the Saint, Gertrude was wiser with words:  “Ye shall not possess any beast, my dear sisters, save only a cat.”  Bless her.

Cats in Space

Canine lovers rejoice. Two of the brightest stars in the dark winter sky are the constellations Canis Major and Canis Minor, Latin for the “greater” and “lesser” dogs.  Canis Major outshines its Minor with Sirius or the ‘Dog Star’, a giant blue flame that’s twice the size of our sun.   It’s no accident that satellite radio SiriusXM is named after the night’s single brightest star.

Dogs also get coveted attention as the 11th cycle in the 12-year Chinese zodiac calendar.  The Year of the Dog rolls over again in February 2030.

A dog’s sense of smell is 20 times that of humans, so NASA used them to sniff Mars rocks to discover foreign life forms.  If NASA wanted to distinguish the VARIETY of life forms on space rocks, they would have chosen the cat whose sensitive nose has 30 variants of the protein used to detect scents.  Dogs have only nine compared to human’s two.  No wonder cats are finicky eaters and rely upon familiar scents (and marking) to conquer stress.

Feline lovers who are jealous of attention given to dogs ask, “Where is the cat in space?”

  • No cat constellations.
  • No Cat Star.
  • No Year of the Cat in the Chinese zodiac (and the legend that cat was outwitted by rat for that spot is dubious at best)

There is one space that dogs and cats share in astronomical history:  flight. 

France sent the first cat into space in 1963.  Felicette was one of 14 female cats purchased from a pet store or (more likely) community cats taken from the streets. Felicette’s temperament won her the 15-minute, 100-mile suborbital flight, but some say she was one of the few that could still fit into the capsule after so many ‘training treats’.

Félicette is immortalized as a bronze statue “perched atop Earth, gazing up toward the skies she once traveled”. The piece premiered just last year as a part of the 25th anniversary of France’s International Space University’s Master of Space Studies program.  She is the only cat to survive space flight – and that’s nothing to sniff at.

This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf appeared in the Holiday 2020 edition of Vicinitus Haywood as “Cats in Space”

Would You Rather be a Cat?

Whether you whistle, sing, or hum as you go about your busy day, retired kids of a certain age have tunes and jingles pop into memory for a spin around the brain before moving on.  But it’s the tune that sticks around for days that raises curiosity.  Why this song?  Other than the chorus or few remembered words, what are those forgotten lyrics?  Thank goodness for Internet!

Those who love learning remember Going My Way, the highest grossing movie of 1944 starring Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley.  His “Swinging on a Star” earned the Academy’s Best Music award for songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen and lyricist Johnny Burke.

The lyrics encourage listeners to aspire in life:  be better off through schooling, without which we grow up to be a weak-brained mule, a rudely lazy pig, or an illiterate fish.  The lyrics further warn us that all the monkeys aren’t in the zoo (as everyday we meet a few), so go to school!

I still remember from childhood about the unschooled lives of those four animals and didn’t want to be one.  But what about life as a CAT?  Things look pretty good for indoor pet kitties from where I’m sitting.  It’s the outdoor cat who needs our warning.  Kittens deliver their first litters around six months – two months after their first heat.

To that end, let’s have some fun and mix up the lyrics.  Ready to whistle, sing, or hum along?

Would you like to swing on a star?
Carry moonbeams home in a jar?
And be better off than you are?
Or would you rather be a CAT?

A cat is an animal that lands on its feet.
A move with a powerful complete!
It purrs like an engine tuned to 25 Hertz,
A stretch follows napping on a lap or your shirts!
But if you want a life of chasing rats?
You may grow up to be a CAT!

And it’s not just eartips running free;
You’ll meet full-ears, that’s guaranteed!
Like pursuit of life, liberty –
Don’t show yourself to be a dunce.
Spay/neuter kittens at three months!

This article by our Head Cat, Susan Kumpf appeared in the August 2020 issue of Vicinitus Haywood as “Or Would You Rather be a Cat?”

Never A Mother Day

Our 97-year-old mother resides in an out-of-state nursing home locked down to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak.  This is one of the few years that we have not celebrated with her.  Mother’s Day is her time to brag about her two boys and ours to brag about her.  Mom loves flowers, but none can be delivered.  When we can reach her by phone, we hear a sadness in her voice and the sameness of days without family visits.  She hears concern in ours.

It was not a son’s but a daughter’s relentless letter-writing campaign that made Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914.  Never married and without her own motherhood to celebrate, Anna Jarvis spent her years and personal fortune trying to establish the holiday – and later to rescind it from the national calendar.  A decade of frustration led Jarvis to loudly denounce the crass commercialism of florists, confectioners, and card makers, completely ignoring the financial boon that the new holiday became for a troubled economy.

Our current troubles could use a fresh holiday to bump up spirits.  How about “NEVER A MOTHER DAY” to promote a life without offspring for outdoor cats and kittens?  It’s LUYE’s core mission.

Unfixed cats keep our county shelter filled with unwanted, unplanned litters even in the best of times.   Spaying momcats prevents her next litter; fixing kittens at three months prevents their first.  But the pandemic has put sterilizations on hold and unfixed, mating cats are roaming neighborhoods until the clinic reopens and LUYE’s Eartip Team can resume trapping.

When NEVER A MOTHER DAY catches fire, expect the greeting card industry to fill the racks.  Until then, here’s one suitable for an unfixed community cat whose many litters wish her well:

To My Wild Mother

You birthed me when just six months old,
Yourself still but a kitten.
Had not your instincts taken hold,
My life would be unwritten.

A ball to roll with jingles filled
Was not your gift to me.
Instead you taught survival skills,
A rodent potpourri.

I wish for you an eartip
This Never A Mother Day.
With health and vacs the welcome gifts
Spay/neuter brings to sway.

A last note:  Anna Jarvis died at age 84 – penniless, childless, and blind – in sanitarium care paid by people connected with the floral and greeting card industries.  Her admittance ended her unsuccessful 1943 petition drive to force congress to rescind what became an international holiday worth billions.  Even a fraction of that sum would sterilize cats around the world and end euthanasia as a last resort for homelessness.  What a wonderful world that will be.

This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf appeared in the May 2020 issue of Vicinitus Haywood as “Never a Mother’s Day”

Gifts of the Magi

Domestic cats were rare in Judea.  This must be true since there is no word in ancient Hebrew for a ‘feline friend’ or house cat.   But you can be sure there were cats taking care of business just outside Judea’s doors.

We know from ancient records that Egyptian palace workers watched the diet of their royal working cats to be sure they guarded grain bins from rodents.  Judea’s working cats were just as critical to protect the harvests and health of its citizens.  Who can forget that a bite from an infected rodent flea caused the Bubonic Plague?  Or that your Salmonellosis food poisoning started from rodent feces that spoiled an ingredient in your meal?

The Christmas creche or nativity scene features cattle, sheep, oxen and donkey, but rarely includes a working cat.  I think it should.  And to make it fun, here’s a slightly revised version of Baker & Regney’s 1962 Christmas song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  Bet you can’t read it without humming along!

Said the night wind to the working cat:

Do you see what I see?  Way up in the sky, working cat
Do you see what I see?  A star, a star, dancing in the night
With its tail raised high, twitching bright
With its tail raised high, twitching bright

Said the working cat to the shepherd boy:

Do you hear what I hear?  Way up in the loft, shepherd boy?
Do you hear what I hear?  A mouse – wait, mice! – creeping through the night!
I will find them fast despite poor sight!  They will soon feel claws and my might!”

Said the working cat to the mighty king:

Do you rule where I rule?  Not your palace warm, mighty king
Do you rule where I rule?  Your kingdom now is sleeping safe from harm.
I have killed the rodents that swarm, and the slithering snakes never warm.

Said the king to the working cat so hailed,

Listen to what I say:  Guard the crops of people everywhere!
Listen to what I say:  Guard the night, hunt creatures causing harm.
And spay/neuter ‘til your number falls.  Show your eartip proudly to all!

This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf appeared in the December 2019 issue of Vicinitus Haywood as “The Gifts of the Magi”.