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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fencing for an apartment windowbox

Naturescape Fencing went out of their way to help me choose the right product at a price I could afford. Their email response and shipping was fast and efficient. Even though I live in Vancouver and they’re on Vancouver Island, I would recommend Neil and Naturescape Fencing without hesitation.


Neil Patterson
Naturescape Fencing
1869 Stewart Rd
Nanoose Bay, BC V9P 9E7

Franklin Cat Tower

Los Angeles architect Peter Sehorsch, inspired by his cat Franklin, created a unique cat tree using an available suspension system from IKEA (Stolmen). The result is an adaptable series of platforms for cats to climb and rest on.

This is how it looks on the promotional pages of his website:

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 9.30.43

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 9.30.58


There are three sizes of platform available, in different finishes (or you can buy them unfinished, with the custom-cut carpet included but not glued onto the shelves–which is how I ordered mine).

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 9.31.14


It took me quite a while to paint each platform (I opted for white paint rather than staining them as I have a small space and wanted it to blend in more; you can judge for yourself if this was a good idea or not). I ordered the single STOLMEN pole and clamps from IKEA, making sure I had sufficient clamps for the 9 small (3 x “Kit 1″) and 2 medium (“Kit 2″) platforms: the clamps come in boxes of four, so I got 12 in total and used 11 of them.

Pumpkin ignored it. I mean, I didn’t try to place her on the structure, but after a week of her not climbing on it, and me getting some comments from friends like “Well, you could always use it for plants,” I decided to move her dry food (which is NOT her primary diet, but I like to give her a little bit of dry in addition to the wet) onto the tower. Nothing. Except…when I got home from work, the dry food was gone. I moved it higher the next day. That night, I heard crunching.



So day by day I moved the bowl up a level, and she now climbs on it not only to get a snack but to hang out. When it’s raining out, she’ll go up there to look out the window.



I’m not suggesting this is for everyone: it is definitely an imposing piece of industrial architecture, with the clamps and bolts visible. I think I should have ordered another three of the small platforms because when I initially built it, I ignored Peter’s suggested spacing of 5 to 5 1/2 inches per platform, in order to spread them out higher…but then after that week of Pumpkin ignoring it, I thought….hmmm…maybe he’s right, and so loosened the clamps (which is easy to do, loosening just one side of a clamp will allow it to slide along the pole) and decreased the distance. Which meant there was a lot of empty pole at the top.

Here’s the PRICELIST for the bits (not including the IKEA components).

Oh, and you know how it goes with IKEA: it looks simple, but then there’s always something that really annoys you! In this case, the pole, which has a narrower gauge section which fits into the lower one, will slide into itself when you’re following the directions on how to attach the foot to the lower section, thus necessitating undoing things to get that section out. It tightens by means of rotating the narrower, upper pole which works a cam-like thingamajig inside that locks it in place. But typical to IKEA, the product description didn’t say that it probably would not be stable with just the pressure fit between floor and ceiling, so I had to use the included braces and thus it looks a little less elegant. But it is secure. 



A review of new cat furniture from Papercut Labs.

Katris. Image courtesy Papercut Lab.

Katris. Image courtesy Papercut Lab.

Building blocks for cats? Modular cat scratcher or cat condo? It’s all of these things in this innovative and environmentally-friendly product from designer Jeff of Papercut Lab. I was fortunate to receive a prototype for review, and have had it in my apartment with tester Miss Kitty Pumpkin for a week now. Her review follows my interview with Jeff:

What prompted you to build this?

I would say our passion to paper design.

We chose Katris as Papercut Lab’s first product to launch because I saw a cat once at a friend’s house and it was scratching on its scratcher. An idea immediately popped into my head for a high quality paper cat scratcher that also can be a great looking accessory in any room. My design team and I started brainstorming and we came up with Katris.

Image courtesy Papercut Lab.

Image courtesy Papercut Lab.

What niche did you see in the market that this product filled, which wasn’t already available?

We saw many cat scratcher products on the market made specifically only for cats but nothing for both the owner and cat to interact. Katris is made for both the owner and cat to enjoy.

What is your background, your experience, what else do you make? Why paper and cardboard products?

As we mentioned on our website, we’re a team full of dedicated individuals who work with paper every day, most of us are in design, paper industry and packaging background. Why paper, because we want to share the possibility of what paper can do with others and have everyone understand the possibility for paper can be endless.

Talk about the environmental aspect of this product.

Our product is made with 100% recyclable and sustainable material.  We understand some cat scratchers, cat trees are made with sisal which is not 100% recyclable, so to put it simply, Katris could easily be recycled into paper, then get easily re-born into another Katris.

Miss Kitty Pumpkin’s Review of Katris

translated by Michael Cox

Miss Pumpkin watches construction of Katris

Miss Pumpkin watches construction of Katris

I was not surprised to hear yet another thump outside the apartment door yesterday, while that guy who feeds me was away. He later came home, I do mean LATER, as in: where’s my dinner??!! later, and proceeded to ignore me while unpacking three large cardboard boxes full of—cardboard. Huh?

And then began construction on a project which, from what I’ve seen since I was kidnapped by him, is what he likes to do for amusement.


He sprinkled catnip on it. Who does he think he’s fooling?

_DSF2994 Time will tell if I will use this, but if I do, I’m not doing it for HIS amusement. Perhaps when he’s gone to work today….

_DSF2990 copy

Addendum to Pumpkin’s review by Michael Cox:


How to lock together a right-angle?

How to lock together a right-angle?

The clips supplied with each Katris module (two per module, along with a small bag of catnip) lock together the pieces in any combination of LINEAR patterns, but if you want to create an L-shape, you’ll have to hammer (with your fist) a clip into the compressed cardboard of an adjoining piece. Here, I would suggest to the designers that they offer either a tool, or instructions, or better yet cut some grooves into the modules to allow for more varied architecture. The clips are designed to hold together two of the narrow edges, each 1 3/4″ (45cm). Thus, one could cut a groove that distance into a wider end of a module, or just jam it in as I did:


Overall I was impressed by the quality of construction. The plastic clips grip well and are easily clicked into place and removed, and I can only hope that my cat will, in time, try it out. Pumpkin is a shy and reserved five-year-old, and we’ve been housemates not even a month, so I’m not unduly concerned by her reticence to try new things out. That said, she’s probably going to want to scratch the new sofa I have on order, so I’m hoping that Katris will tempt her with its multiple scratchy surfaces. If not, I now have a very odd end table.


Painting by Val Nelson (see for more of her work). Represented by Bau-Xi Gallery ( in Vancouver and Toronto, and by Galerie de Bellefeuille in Montreal (

If you have a cat already using a cardboard scratcher, or if you have a kitten who is ripping the place to shreds, Katris by Papercut Lab would be an excellent addition to your cat’s space which adds fun, variety, and an opportunity for creative human and feline play.

Their first production run has sold out, but they tell me they will have more to ship by the end of May.