Tag Archives: Cats

How Much is Too Much to Save a Dying Cat?

Max Oppenheim/Getty

s.e. smith | Longreads | November 2017 | 17 minutes (4,363 words)

The veterinarian looks anxious as she enters the room, clearly dreading the conversation she must have many times a night on the late shift at the emergency clinic.

Yes, your pet is dying. No, I’m afraid there’s not much we can do, she is bracing herself to say.

Her scrubs are a rich maroon, coordinating with the jewel-toned surroundings of the hushed exam room in the swanky clinic. Thick doors block the sound from outside, the interstitial space where they’ve left me alone in an echoing silence with a grim steel table and a box of tissues after the technician rushed my cat to the back, somewhere in the bowels of the hospital. The last time I saw her she was gasping for air, eyes huge, expression: betrayed.

I wonder if I will see her again.

It’s the largest veterinary clinic I’ve ever been in and it feels more like a spa, down to the powder blue polo shirts the receptionists all wear. The stack of euthanasia authorizations left out on the counter are the only sign this place is perhaps not what it seems. I have driven a long way to come here, because it is Easter weekend and my vet isn’t in the office, but this cannot wait.

Oddly, I find myself wanting to reassure the vet, to tuck her loose strand of hair behind her ear and offer her a cup of tea from the space-age machine out in the horrifically depressing lobby, filled with people sitting in little clumps with strained faces.

“I know,” I say as she sits opposite me, searching for words, and her shoulders slump in relief. “I knew the cancer would spread eventually, but is there anything we can do to make her comfortable?”

On my way in, struggling with the weight of my cat’s carrier and my bag, I passed a couple carrying one of those cardboard boxes they use to send cats home from the shelter, the takeout container that is supposed to presage many years of happy life together, cartoon kittens and puppies stenciled along the sides. It swung with a peculiar, empty lightness, bouncing in an almost sprightly way that felt at odds with the stricken looks on their faces.

There is a stark finality in the empty cat carrier.

You can take this, your cat won’t be needing it anymore.

Read more…

Themed for Success

The theme cafe is one of the more viral-friendly aspects of Wacky Random Japan, and there are three major subcategories within it. First, and perhaps the most popular theme cafe export, are the animal cafes, most of which are less cafes than indoor petting zoos. The beverages are an afterthought, and an awkward one at that — it’s actually pretty hard to sip your Hitachino Nest Ale, the owl logo pointed out toward the camera, when you have an actual owl on your shoulder, no matter how on-brand. Second are theme restaurants, which are full-service restaurants where the decor, the menu, and the servers’ outfits all revolve around a certain aesthetic, and usually a pretty mall-goth one at that: the Vampire Café, the Prison Restaurant, the (many) Alice in Wonderland cafes. Lastly, there are the maid cafes and their descendants, including the butler cafes and the Macho Café pop-up, where the servers — and their, uh, service — are the stars.

The frivolity and almost willful pointlessness might seem like a leftover from the ’80s bubble era, but the contemporary theme cafe continues the lineage of Western-style cafes that emerged in the 1920s. After “modern” hangouts with names like “Café Printemps” had established themselves in Tokyo among the intellectuals and artists, they began to diversify for a growing middle class; “Europe” was the original theme of Japanese cafes, but once Western-style eateries became more of a norm, new establishments had to step it up. “Rather than small eating and drinking places with tables set with white tablecloths and Parisian or provincial German decor,” writes Elise K. Tipton, a professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Sydney, “the leading cafés became huge multistoried buildings glittering with neon lights, colored glass windows, light-reflective metallic surfaces, and rich furnishings.”

At Eater, journalist Emily Yoshida hits some of Tokyo’s absurd, popular tourist attractions trying to understand specifically what themed destinations offer and why they’re so popular. Her answer? I don’t remember. I got stuck on the part about the owl selfie.

Read the story

The Cat’s Meat Man, From Dickens To Jack The Ripper

Black Cardigan is a great newsletter by writer-editor Carrie Frye, who shares dispatches from her reading life. We’re thrilled to share some of them on Longreads. Go here to sign up for her latest updates.


Harriet Hardiman was ‘a cat’s meat man.’ That is, she went out most days with a handcart full of chopped meat on skewers to sell to cat owners. So, just to emphasize, meat for cats, not of cats. Specifically, horsemeat—gnarly leftovers collected from nearby slaughterhouses. In Victorian-era London, there were hundreds of cat’s meat men (and women and, sometimes, kids), with beats in poor neighborhoods as well as posh ones. Hardiman would have had regular routes, regular customers, as well as regular cats padding behind her as she made her rounds, attracted by the scent of her cart.

I know about Hardiman because she lived at 29 Hanbury Street in Spitalfields, and it was at 29 Hanbury Street where, early one morning, in 1888, the body of Jack the Ripper’s second victim, Annie Chapman, was discovered, lying against the steps at the house’s back entrance. Chapman didn’t live at the house—she lived at a lodging house nearby—but because of where her body was found, everyone at 29 Hanbury was interviewed and questioned. Seventeen people lived there in all. Hardiman occupied two rooms on the house’s ground floor with her 16-year-old son. Their front room served as a cat’s meat shop by day and as their bedroom at night. (The smell!) One side effect of reading about Jack the Ripper is learning about some of the people who lived in these crowded London neighborhoods, and who, because of the investigation and the ongoing fascination with the murders, have had their names, professions, and daily routines recorded and faithfully kept when otherwise they probably wouldn’t have been. “Cat’s meat man” is one of many now obsolete professions—like “sieve maker” and  “laborer in an indigo warehouse”—you’ll bump up against. Reading about the murders themselves gives me nightmares, but I do like this other part of it: that while we still don’t know who Jack the Ripper was (and I doubt we ever will!), we do know something of the people who lived at 29 Hanbury Street. I like especially the “two unmarried sisters who worked at a cigar factory” who lived in a back room on the second floor.

Read more…

The Joy and Pain of Life with Pets

Anyone who has pets knows the alternate joys and pains of the walks, the smells, the snuggling and whining and inconvenient late-night demands, as well as the inevitable misery of their absence once they die. If crapping on the floor was a business, some of us pet-owners would be millionaires. In The Morning News, Gregory Martin writes about his relationship with his ancient cat Tess, relating his cat’s aging to human aging, and exploring what it means to have quality of life.

How many nights in a row would Tess have to pee in the bed before enough was enough? Five? Ten?

When I think about putting Tess down because she’s driving me crazy, ravaging my sleep, I can’t help but wonder: How will things go for me someday when I’m in diapers and think that Christine is my mom?

The more I think about it, the more I think that “How much are you willing to put up with?” is not the right question. Because no matter how tired I am, the answer is always: I could put up with more. Yes, I need four cups of coffee just to get going on the day. But I am not at my limit. To say so would be ridiculous. To even suggest it is to fail to recognize how many people are, actually, at their limit, or beyond it, and not because of their old cat.

Read the story

Cats and Their People: A Reading List

While my boyfriend’s parents are away, their cat(s) and I play. Well, one of them plays. The other, a very, very large tabby, resents my presence and hides under the bed, sneaking downstairs to eat only when Micah, a slim Russian Blue, and I have fallen asleep on the couch. This is my first time cat sitting.

For years, I was an avowed dog person, despite the yapping tendencies of my family’s Bichon Frisé. I liked the validation dogs provide, and I didn’t think cats liked me. I was also allergic to cats, like my mom.

Micah and his brother, Jonah, lived together in a swanky nursing home. When the authorities decided the situation wasn’t ideal for the residents or the felines, my friend Abbie adopted Jonah. Jonah won over everyone he met, including me. Russian Blues are notoriously friendly. They’re extremely affectionate, and never standoffish. In other words, they defy every cat stereotype.

Once I met Jonah, I lamented my allergies. I told Abbie I’d been searching for hypoallergenic breeds online, hoping that I, too, could own a cat. “I’ve been looking at Russian Blues,” I said. Abbie said, “Don’t you know? Jonah is a Russian Blue.” That meant Micah was a Russian Blue, too. I actually got up and danced around the apartment. Hands shaking (not a joke), I texted my boyfriend in all caps. I think I interrupted a family dinner.

A few months after my initial plea, my boyfriend’s parents took Micah home for a trial run. The week up to his homecoming, I felt like a child at Christmas. I could not get out of the office fast enough that Friday. Micah was adjusting to life in his new house, camping out in my boyfriend’s bedroom. He preferred to nap under the desk rather than in the bed of toys my boyfriend had prepared. He forced his head into my hands, begging to be petted. Now, he loves ham and cream cheese. He tends to box with Benny, the largish tabby upstairs. He sleeps on my boyfriend’s chest when he comes home from work. He’s a delight.

To honor all the cool cats in our lives, here is a list of stories. Read more…

Why are cats so big on the Internet? A writer goes to Japan, “where the Internet-feline market began,” to find out:

Marx and I watch a few new cat videos, some of the up-and-comers, those challenging or exceeding Maru’s pageviews. ‘An interesting thing, here in Japan, is that it’s not just the cat partners who post cat stuff. It’s everybody.’ Soezimax, for example, is an action-film maker, one of the most popular partners in Japan, with millions of views. But some of his most popular videos are the ones he posts of the fights he has with his girlfriend’s vicious cat, Sashimi-san, who regularly puts Soezimax to rout. He’s the anti-Maru, the standard-bearer of uncute Internet cat aggression. The videos are slightly alarming, especially when we’re all so used to anodyne felinity. Then Marx brings up Japan’s most popular Internet comedian, who used to post regular videos of himself in a cat café. (In Japan, they have cafés where you go to pet cats.)

‘It’s like,’ Marx says, ‘no matter how successful you are here on the Internet on your own terms, it’s de rigueur that you still have to do something with a cat.’ In a culture of Internet anonymity, bred of island claustrophobia and immobility, the Japanese Internet cat has become a crucial proxy: People who feel inhibited to do what they want online are expressing themselves, cagily, via the animal that only ever does what it wants.

“In Search of the Living, Purring, Singing Heart of the Online Cat-Industrial Complex.” — Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Wired

More Wired