_DSF3349 _DSF3347 _DSF3351Pumpkin, whom I adopted in late April, is warming to me. It’s been a long and gradual process, not at all like a kitten or young cat who instantly bonds, this cat, who had had three other homes before me, and was semi-feral, has had to get used to me, and me to her. She still has moments of mistrust: she’ll enjoy being petted, but if I hover my hand over her, she hisses–she’s afraid–I think perhaps she was hit at some point in the past. Anyway, whatever her history, she now has a forever home with me, which has complicated my life in a good way.

IMG_20140805_0034 RADAR (1994 – 2012)

Because I have been quite depressed, for over a year, for various reasons, starting with the death of our previous cat, Radar, who we had euthanized in our home in December 2012. Then our marriage ended, we had a fire in our building resulting in losses and insurance claims. We sold our condo. I was out of work. 2013 wasn’t a good year and getting a cat was the furthest thing from my mind. Only, being on my own again–the freedom of being newly single–wasn’t actually much fun. And so into it came this cat, through VOKRA, a cat rescue organization in Vancouver, which I’d been visiting online from time to time. I think in some inexplicable way this cat, who had obviously had a troubled life (she turned five a few weeks after I adopted her), needed me as much as I needed her. So we began this long period of adjusting to one another. She purrs more frequently now; she has occasionally jumped onto the bed in the morning; we are still getting to know one another and this slow process of cross-acculturation has been very rewarding. Pumpkin saved my life.


a man and his cat

Tim Kreider sums up the joys and pitfalls of being “a man and his cat”  in the August 3 national edition of the Sunday New York Times.

Kreider writes–

I’ve speculated that people have a certain reservoir of affection that they need to express, and in the absence of any more appropriate object — a child or a lover, a parent or a friend — they will lavish that same devotion on a pug or a Manx or a cockatiel, even on something neurologically incapable of reciprocating that emotion, like a monitor lizard or a day trader or an aloe plant….

…I did not post photographs of my cat online or talk about her to people who couldn’t be expected to care, but at home, alone with the cat, I behaved like some sort of deranged arch-fop. I made up dozens of nonsensical names for the cat over the years — The Quetzal, Quetzal Marie, Mrs. Quetzal Marie the Cat, The Inquetzulous Q’ang Marie. There was a litany I recited aloud to her every morning, a sort of daily exhortation that began, “Who knows, Miss Cat, what fantastical adventures the two of us will have today?”


It’s amusing now to remember the strict limits I’d originally intended to place on the cat. One of the boundaries I meant to set was that the cat would not be allowed upstairs, where I slept. That edict was short-lived. It was not long before I became wounded when the cat declined to sleep with me.

“You’re in love with that cat!” my then-girlfriend Margot once accused me. To be fair, she was a very attractive cat. People would comment on it. My friend Ken described her as “a supermodel cat,” with green eyes dramatically outlined in what he called “cat mascara” and bright pink “nose leather.” Her fur, even at age 19, was rich and soft and pleasant to touch.

Kreider concludes his essay by admitting

we don’t know what goes on inside an animal’s head; we may doubt whether they have anything we’d call consciousness, and we can’t know how much they understand or what their emotions feel like. I will never know what, if anything, the cat thought of me. But I can tell you this: A man who is in a room with a cat — whatever else we might say about that man — is not alone.


James and Bob update


An update to the heart-warming story of James and his cat Bob, who have become publishing sensations after starting out as a homeless recovering heroin addict (James) and an injured and homeless cat (Bob).

James began selling The Big Issue two years ago. It is a weekly newspaper in London which, similar to others in various cities, allows street people to make a modest income by selling newspapers they must first purchase from the publisher. His companion was a cat he had rescued, whom he named Bob. Read more here.

Here is an interview with James, excerpted below.

Only a few years ago James Bowen was sleeping rough on the streets of London. Now he can’t walk down them without being mobbed by fans.

The former Big Issue vendor turned bestselling author has just released his sixth book, For the Love of Bob, and is preparing A Gift From Bob, which will be ready in time for Christmas. In the space of two years he has sold more than one million copies in the UK. James and his scarf-wearing, high-fiving, streetwise cat Bob are in high demand.

“All the attention is a bit scary but so is sleeping rough on the streets of London for the first time. You just adapt. This is an amazing opportunity to show the world how life is on the streets.”

Little over two years later James’ life has been transformed. Back then he could have had no idea about the global celebrities he and Bob would become.

A Street Cat Named Bob has been translated into more than 35 languages and topped charts in the US, Brazil, Portugal and Turkey, while in Germany, Bob, der Streuner held the number one spot for 27 consecutive weeks. He has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter and 200,000 fans on Facebook.

Issue no.1111 of the street newspaper featured this cover:


Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 8.14.20 AM

Within days of its publication the paper was getting hundreds, then thousands of requests for copies. There are still a few available to be mailed out (as of late July 2014). (See also: I wrote the office manager Robert White and founder and editor John Bird to suggest they make the cover available as a limited edition print:

Hello, John. I have a website called Mein Kat, and in it, some months ago, I wrote an article about James and Bob. I’d like to augment that article, and update it, with information about this sellout issue of your paper, and about James’ successes with his books and so on.

To that end, would you send me a high-res digital file of the front cover of  The Big Issue 1111? Also, in terms of added value to the paper, I would suggest making a framable poster print of the cover available for sale. I believe it would sell quite well especially if it is printed in a limited edition of, say, 1,000.

The interview with James continues:

“I did not realise how big this was going to go,” he tells me. “How can such a thing as me rescuing a cat from the street turn out this way? Don’t ask me. But it has brought millions of people to know about homelessness. And that can’t be a bad thing.”


Robert White wrote back (literally within minutes of my email being sent to him):

Had a look at your website, fantastic.  Great to see such great stuff being written about James and Bob.

As requested, please find attached magazine cover.

The magazine is still available to purchase via, however there are only a limited number of magazines available as we are verging on completely selling out.  We have sent out hundreds, if not thousands of this particular magazine across the globe!

Thanks also for your advice on posters for added value, that’s a great idea.

Touline, la chatte des mers

Correspondent Françoise Eggermont sent me this story about a sailor who began a circumnavigation of the world after his cat Gaëlle died, whom he’d lived with in Nice.

For a while Gwendal couldn’t imagine replacing Gaëlle,  but in a port a Canadian girl with the delightful name of Océane was determined to find him a kitten. He named her Touline, and she became his first mate.

Gwendal and Touline

Gwendal with the kitten who would become his new first mate, Touline.

Françoise sent the story as a Word document with the images embedded, and I, no whiz at this, couldn’t figure out how to extract it all into a web page, so instead, here it is as a downloadable pdf file: Touline_Sailing cat

A “Touline”, or rather a “Touline ball”, is almost similar to a monkey’s fist knot, used to throw a mooring line from a ship to another, or from a ship to a quay.

Although she has her sea legs, the little cat has fallen overboard several times, including a harrowing swim at night in the mid-Atlantic.

See Touline on Facebook: and an interview, in French, from Chats et Chatons, by Eric Fournet (n°4, juin 2013), reprinted in La Boiteuse:





Building trust

Pumpkin, age 5, July 2014

Pumpkin, age 5, July 2014

Today, I took Miss Pumpkin to my dear vet, Dr. Nicky Joosting, who along with her partner Thomas run Vancouver Feline Hospital. I think this was only the second time that this cat, five years old, has seen a vet–the first, with her original owners, when she was a kitten and was spayed, in 2009. Mewed in the cat carrier, but only when I was carrying her in our “no pets” building. Once in the co-op car, which I’d picked up earlier, she was silent. Of course I used the seatbelt in the rear seat to strap in the carrier, even though the vet’s isn’t very far away.
And so well behaved at the veterinary clinic! I’d expected bloodshed, or at the very least, three strong people (and me) to hold her down. But no, while she certainly wasn’t amused to be there, she put up with getting a vaccine boost, a light examination (3.8kg, some tartar buildup, but mainly a good strong cat) and a microchip injected into the fold between her shoulder blades.
Dr. Nicky recommends the Indoor Pet Initiative (Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine) for information on creating a safe, comfortable, and stimulating environment for our indoor cats:

I hadn’t been able to clip Pumpkin’s nails. Tried, failed. Called a house-visiting former veterinary assistant, who came a week ago, tried, got fangs buried in her hand, bandaged her up and said good-bye, no nails clipped. Today, Dr. Nicky explained that this cat probably had not been acculturated to handling, and would require months of patient and gentle holding. “Put one paw in your open hand. Don’t close your hand around her paw, don’t stroke it, just let it rest there. That’s all you do for a month. Then, very gently, using a finger, you pull back the hair over one of the nails, and SNIP off the tip with a pair of human-style nail clippers. Do not press on the paw to extend the nail–it hurts the cat.” Dr. Nicky only got two nails clipped before Pumpkin became restless, but she said not to worry, the nails were in no danger of curving around to meet the pads on her paws. One or two nails a week, rather than trying to get even one paw done at one time. Slow and easy.

What I think is interesting is that I chose to adopt a “difficult” cat long after I chose the title Mein Kat for this project, the title of course referring to Mein Kampf, which is translated as “my struggle.” As Dr. Nicky said, Pumpkin hasn’t learned how to signal her gradual annoyance: rather, she switches from contented purr while being handled to eviscerate and kill defense mode instantly, making human detection of her change in reaction difficult to discern. Still, it is rewarding to see incremental advances in her trust: she’ll let me hold her a bit longer; she’s now coming up onto the bed in the morning, where she wouldn’t before; she has accepted my coming and going without having to hide when the door opens and I enter. This gradual trust-building has to done in baby steps–and initially I had tried to get her to accept me too quickly, and it backfired. Each little step is a big deal for both of us, as we learn to live together.

After all, we’ve got years to go on this journey of love and companionship.

_DSF3292 smaller From, some advice on using the cat carrier as a safe place for the cat (I have it open, a towel over it to provide privacy):

FACT (Free Access Crate Training)

FACT is an alternative way to provide a refuge for your cat. FACT is similar to crate-training for dogs. The cat accepts the crate or carrier as her own safe haven. For cats, the carrier should be big enough to hold bedding, food and water bowls, and a litter box big enough for the cat. Place the carrier in a quiet and secure place in the house, for example your bedroom.

Cats prefer to be at a height where they can look down on their surroundings. Putting the carrier on a bench or dresser may make it more attractive to the cat.

For cats who already associate the carrier with scary experiences (like trips to the vet) you can start out slowly. First, put the carrier in a place where the cat usually rests. Take off the top and the door. Put the cat’s favorite blanket in the bottom of the carrier. Create positive associations with the carrier by playing with, petting, and feeding the cat near the carrier. Once she accepts this, attach the top of the carrier and let her get used to it too. Once the cat accepts both the top and the bottom, then add the door. If the cat is reluctant to use the carrier, applying Feliway spray may make her more comfortable.

FACT not only provides the cat with a refuge in your home, but allows the cat to take her personal space with her everywhere she goes. Veterinary visits, boarding, travel, and moving to a new home are easier because the cat feels secure in her space. Having her own space also makes the cat less likely to feel the need to compete with other animals for territory and may help decrease fighting and urine marking. For more detailed information on FACT please visit:

Descartes and the Historical Practice of Vivisection

This is the full text of an essay written for the NMAS (National Museum of Animals and Society) Exhibit “Light in Dark Places: Anti-Vivisection From the Victorian Era to Modern Day

Gary Steiner

John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy

Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA

Please note: Mein Kat was given express permission by Gary Steiner to reproduce his essay. Text © copyright Gary Steiner 2014, all rights are reserved. The images and hyperlinks have been added by Mein Kat’s editor. [Gary will be giving a talk at NMAS July 26)

rene-descartes Although the practice of vivisection has a history that long predates him, the early modern philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) serves as a powerful focal point for a reflection on the motivations and often unexpressed assumptions underlying the use of animals as objects of experimentation. ‘Vivisection‘ literally means “live cutting,” but the practice of experimentation on live animals takes a variety of other forms as well. Moreover, notwithstanding the increasing sensitivity of our society to the fact that nonhuman animals are conscious, feeling creatures who strive for a meaningful life in ways that make them very much like if not identical to human beings, the practice of animal experimentation has persisted into our own time. The persistence of this practice confirms the fact that we are at best ambivalent about our moral relationship to nonhuman animals: On the one hand, we tend to decry unnecessary violence against animals, and we go to great lengths to protect and pamper our companion animals; but on the other hand, many of us tacitly endorse a variety of forms of animal experimentation, just as we tacitly endorse a variety of uses of animals that involve their confinement, their suffering, and ultimately their death.

A relatively recent instance of animal experimentation that reflects the dark side of this ambivalence is the baboon head trauma experiments that were conducted at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s. We know the specifics of the experimental conditions because the experiments were videotaped and the tapes were subsequently stolen and released to the media. In an effort to study the nature and consequences of “acceleration injuries” such as whiplash and the sorts of injuries that occur in football and boxing, the researchers performed the following experiment: they would strap a baboon to a table, cement the baboon’s head securely in a helmet, and “subject it to a sudden jerking movement delivered by a specially designed device” that caused a hydraulic piston to hit the baboon’s head.[1] When confronted with the question of the justifiability of the experiments, the researchers asserted that the animals were anesthetized during the experiments and felt no pain. But when the National Institutes of Health conducted its review of the experiments, it concluded that the animals did indeed feel pain, and the NIH was able to ascertain why: the baboons had been given not any kind of painkiller but rather PCP or “angel dust,” a substance used simply to facilitate the restraint of the baboons. Moreover, it was discovered that the experiments had not proceeded on the basis of any testable hypothesis, and that in this respect, at the very least, the experiments constituted bad science. Nonetheless, the NIH review team voted to renew the grant for the research for an additional five years after its review. The Society of Neuroscience conducted its own investigation and concluded not only “that there is nothing morally wrong with causing severe head injury to baboons,” but that, in the Society’s words, the researcher had made “a convincing case that the procedures represent an ethical and humane way to produce an animal model of human head trauma.”[2] Nonetheless, Penn subsequently abandoned this and all other head injury research on primates at the clinic where these experiments had been conducted.

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Vivisection correspondence

Vivisection [as defined by Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0) ©Oxford University Press 2009]

1.1 The action of cutting or dissecting some part of a living organism; spec. the action or practice of performing dissection, or other painful experiment, upon living animals as a method of physiological or pathological study.

1707 Sloane Jamaica I. 2 How sensible those nervous parts are, need not be told any who have seen vivisections, where the least‥touches‥will cause a sensible motion.    1736 Phil. Trans. XXXIX. 260 Small Parts of large Objects cannot easily be applied to the Microscope without being divided from their Wholes which in the case of Vivi section defeats the Experiment.    1842 Dunglison Med. Lex. 735 Vivisection,‥the act of opening or dissecting living animals.    1852 Lewis Meth. Obs. & Reas. in Pol. I. 161 Of late years in particular vivi⁓section, or anatomical investigation of the living subject, has often been practised upon some of the smaller mammalia.    1879 Browning Tray 43 By vivisection,‥How brain secretes dog’s soul, we’ll see!


Recently an appeal by to end the experimentation on cats at Cardiff University caught my attention. Of course I signed the electronic petition, but I also looked up the email addresses of several of the university’s administrators, and wrote them individual emails. Here is one, followed by their response (and mine): From: Michael Cox Sent: 31 May 2014 16:04 To: Elizabeth Treasure [editor's note: Dr. Treasure is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff] Subject: cat experiments

Dear Professor Treasure,   I certainly didn’t want to start my day, here in Vancouver, BC, reading about cruel experiments to kittens at your university, but read it I did, and I signed the petition sponsored by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. I decided to write to you directly because I want to know why and how the university justifies such experimentation and cruelty on one species for the benefit of another? Are we so privileged that we can inflict any cruel experimentation on another being with impunity? Do your scientists, and more importantly perhaps, your students, believe in the artificial divide between the consciousness of one and the other, that Cartesian reasoning which 20th and particularly 21st century research has proven to be false? How long will Cardiff continue to allow vivisection in the name of education and research? I hope this reaches you. I hope you look into this. And I truly hope that you will put an end—an immediate and decisive end—to the experimentation on animals, and in this instance on kittens and cats, at Cardiff.

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