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October 31, 2010

A Different Breed of Cat

By  Elaine Viets       DSCN0027_0006

My cat Harry is asleep by my feet as I write this. When I go to bed, he will sleep on my feet. Harry is a striped brown-and-black tabby. That cat follows me everywhere.

Even when I leave home, I see versions of Harry.  Harry look-alikes sell cat products. 
Cat bed model 
And cat bookmarks.                                                      Cat litter. Litter-harry

Even Christmas cards. Harry christmas
I saw so many tabbies posing for and pushing products, I seemed to have the only cat on the planet who wasn’t working.

Don’t get me wrong. Harry is a fine feline companion. But other folks enjoy their cats and put them to work. Harry needed to pull his weight – all ten pounds. He was a real success story: Some sub-human shot Harry’s family. A better person brought Harry to my vet’s office. I was mourning the loss of my gray cat, Montana and my vet knew I was a cat short. He said there was no obligation to adopt Harry. I could just look at him.

One look, and I had a new cat. Harry overcame his fear of humans and became a member of our family.

I’ve finally found Harry a job. He’s the cat in my Josie Marcus mystery shopper books. Single mom Josie has a ten-year-old daughter, Amelia. She adopted a cat who looks – and acts – like Harry. He’s even named Harry.

In "An Uplifting Murder," Amelia had to do a report on cats for school. Thanks to her, I learned not all tabbies are alike. There are actually four types: classic, mackerel, spotted and ticked.

The classic tabby – that’s Harry – is more than the sum of his stripes. He also has a butterfly pattern on his shoulders and swirly bull’s eye on his side.

A mackerel tabby has an M on his forehead, like a McDonald’s M, and straight stripes down the Mackerel tabby sides. This cat is legendary. One story says it kept the infant Jesus warm in the manger and a grateful Mary marked the cat’s forehead with an M.

Another tale says the cat-loving Mohammed gave mackerel tabbies that M.

Mackerel tabbies go back even further – to ancient Egypt, where they were worshiped as deities. Some believe cats never got over that. The wily Egyptians didn’t let those cats sit around all day in shrines. They had to catch mice in the granaries.

The spotted tabby is the third type. Spotted tabby These cats are well . . . spotted like Ocicats and American  Bobtails.

The ticked tabby, like this Abyssinian, has bands of color on each hair.

 Ticked tabby

 Ticked tabbies are not to be confused with this cat, which is plain ticked off.

 Ticked off cat 

Harry, my classic tabby, is not losing any sleep over his new job in "An Uplifting Murder." He gives Josie a clue to solve a murder, and that saves someone Josie cares about.

Now only one mystery remains:             

Will the IRS let me deduct Harry’s upkeep as a business expense? That cat has the appetite of a mountain lion.


Read the first chapter of "An Uplifting Murder" here: http://tinyurl.com/3x3jqwz    AnUpliftingMurder

Check out my signing schedule here: http://tinyurl.com/3yyvcsd

Enter my Uplifting Contest to win a $100 gift certificate here: http://tinyurl.com/2c4hkp9




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Sob. I still miss my tabby cat named Andy. Or, "Andrew" when I had something serious to say to him. He was huge and mellow and dignified and loving. He was a serious hunter in his prime. He also liked to visit the neighbors who, fortunately, enjoyed having him as a visitor. He was diabetic and if I was late giving him his shot, he'd stand by the fridge (where I stored the insulin) until I did my job. Eventually, he was cured of diabetes. I told the vet so, they didn't believe me, they tested him, and sure enough. . .he was cured. They admitted it happens now and then. I loved him a lot and he loved me. Thanks for the memories, Elaine.

If I could have a cat (which I can't due to allergies, hence my two Canine American Princesses), I'd have a striped tabby. We had one when I was a non-allergic kid and he was just a swell little guy who used to sleep, eat and play with our two dogs.

Still, we do have an imaginary Dwarf Portuguese Jungle Cat named Flash. He's pretty easy to care for, as long as you don't forget his weekly bowl of single malt scotch.

30 years ago my family had a tabby named Ben, similar to the picture of Harry, eerily so. Ben was a great talkative cat, never came into the bedrooms unless one of us was sick and then he would visit and talk and keep whoever was sick warm. He had a great 'cat house' on the balcony, always slept outside. One night he went a wanderin' and never returned. Ah, he was a lovely cat.

Doc, as a fellow cat-allergic person, that Flash is my kind of housecat, scotch and all!

Elaine, I knew almost nothing about tabbies before this morning. Thanks for enlightenment!

Happy Hallowe'en to all! Woooo-ooooo!!

Thanks so much the tabby refresher course. I rescued my cat, and I was told that she was part persian (she has a really cute flat face) and part domestic longhair. After reading your tabby info, I think she might be part mackerel tabby as she has the "M" on her forehead, but she doesn't have any stripes. So does that also make her part ticked tabby? I guess all that I know for certain is that she's a little bit of several breeds!
P.S. I love the name "Harry"--cute.

Ah, Elaine, our Harry lookalike was named April. An old boyfriend of mine found her in a Blockbuster Video parking lot. When he broke up with me, my parting words to him were, "Can I keep the cat?"

"Oui," he said. (he was French.) "Anyway, she is a beetch."

Yes, she was. But cats are supposed to be. She disappeared, years later, into the canyon, no doubt wandering a little too far from home, playing into the hands (paws) of a coyote or a hawk. But I like to think she's still out there, 15 years later, on a cruise around the world.

gaylin, you're reminding of something else about my Andy-Cat. When I was pregnant, my husband accidentally ran over him (and felt so terrible about it). Andy had a broken pelvis. The vet said there wasn't anything we could do except put him in a play pen and keep him there while he healed. Meanwhile, I was hideously sick all the time with "morning" (hahahah) sickness and I was keeping to a bed way down a hall at the other end of the house. The day we put Andy in the play pen, I was back there lying in bed and I heard something and looked down and saw him beside my bed! With a broken pelvis, he had crawled out of the play pen, and dragged himself down the hall to be with me!

Needless to say, we gently lifted him onto the bed and let him stay. The litter box came up there with him, too, for a little while. I would have given that cat anything he wanted!

Ah, Nancy, I feel your loss. Andy lives on in your memory. What a cat.
I'm facing litter box duty this morning, Doc. Flash is looking more attractive.
Harley, you definitely made the right choice.

I loved this little lesson in tabbies, Elaine! and I adore your Harry. Once I retire, I'm thinking it's time for us to have kitties again, and our Harley the Wonder Corgi is in for a big surprise when they come to live in his house.

You and the Queen of England have something in common, Kaye -- you both have Corgis.

Harry looks so majestic..I love him!!

Elaine, I am really excited to get your new novel AN UPLIFTING MURDER.

Thanks for the post, Elaine. My tabby was named Tabby (How original is that?) and here's the thing she could do: Tabby could use the TV remote. I kid you not. I would come home from work and find the TV on and freak out. I worried about all kinds of things: aliens monitoring my activities; a resident ghost; a weirdo neighbor trying to freak me out. One night, sitting in the TV room, Tabby calmly walked over to the sofa, jumped up and went to the table beside it where I kept the remote. One little tap, and the TV was on.
God rest her wonderful little kitty soul. :)

I just ordered Elaine's newest novel and another goody over at MLB. Something to look forward to in the mail..Yay!

Elaine, terrific blog, and Harry does indeed look like a miniature version of the King of the World!

We just lost "Miss Galore" (GOLDFINGER was on the day she came home ten years ago, shoot me.) The baby of the family, she was the one I bottle fed for ages, and she was the one who found it *quite* amusing to 1) sneak up on me, 2) LEAP onto the back of my office chair, scaring the crap out of me (I'm talking one move; no clawing, no climbing, just poof, there she is), and 3) giving me The Look that says, "Silly Man... we both know I am Too Little and Far Too Cute for you to be genuinely angry with me, why don't we just move along and I will grant you the privilege of scratching my ears as I go to sleep on your shoulders?"

But man, she kept the whole house jumping....:)

Condolences on the loss of Miss Galore, William. Pets know how to steal a piece of our heart, don't they?

Allergic to cats, so I'm now restricted to inanimate substitutes, including the robotic Petster cat. The last cat I attempted to live with was a stray tabby who produced one (barely) living kitten (caesarian delivery following two stillborn kittens) I fed with an eyedropper. When the allergist demanded "you must get rid of the cats," I found them a new, bigger, better home, and cried. I have dozens of photos of those cats. Moved back to St. Louis shortly after, close to nieces and nephews. Doctor had said, "you won't be allergic to the children." It's a fair trade when I stop to think of it -- cats don't really listen to stories for very long . . .

Stories in Kansas City next weekend, in case anyone will be in the area).

William, so sorry to hear about your loss of Miss Galore.

Good memories remain but the pain is so real.

Our family cat Cookie comforted me while I was alone in the house during my dad's recovery from a car accident.
Cats are extremely loving and intuitive.

Cat allergies are so sad when you love cats, Mary. But you were kind enough to find them good homes. Many cat owners don't bother. And cats don't listen to your stories. Mine wander off before I get to the punchline.

What a nice, and poignant post. I had a mackerel tabby with stripes-aptly named Tiger- who was so loving, and attached he ended up sleeping on my head after the 1989 earthquake. He could be counted on comfort. Alas, he too, wandered off and the man who did a house inspection found his bones underneath my house. He must have sick or hurt, and I didn't even know it. I still miss his purring. Sorry for all your losses, and I think Pussy Galore was a great name.

About that TV clicker cat. I knew a St. Louis man who was nearly arrested for making nuisance calls. He was accused of repeatedly dialing a house number and breathing into the phone. An investigation showed that he was at work and the heavy breather was his cat, who kept hitting the redial button when the phone was on "speaker."
The cat was aptly named -- Wheezer.

Elaine, that sure sounds like a fish tale to me! LOL

Ah, William. If there was a man out there who could steal Miss Galore's heart, I am certain it was you. Not Bond, James Bond . . . you.

I'm sorry about Miss Galore, William.

We had a tabby cat too, only the orange version. His name was Patch (don't ask), and he had been part of our family for 18 years when we had to put him down last year.

Now we have just the three, non-shedding dogs. I miss the cat, but not the hair.

It's true, Karen. Wheezer's owner comes to some of my St. Louis signings. Wheezer has gone to his reward.
Laura, I can sweep up enough cat hair some days to knit a new cat.

Elaine, I was just trying to be funny, but what a story! Kind of hard for the cops to believe, I bet.

Well, at least Wheezer wasn't a cat burglar.


We adopted our little mackerel tabby, Sheesh, from the fabulous kitty vet, Dr. Denise. She was feral (Sheesh, not Dr. Denise) so doesn't get too close. But- she does love to sit with our HUGE (25lb) Maine Coon cat, Buffalo (who looks like your pic of the ticked-off kitty), and listen to me pretend to sing them Christmas Carols-- every night of the year! I don't know why, but they will not let me go to bed until they hear "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night," and "Over the River and Through the Woods...!"

Reine, that's sweet! Kitty serenading!! It's like the bedtime reading in the _Cat Who_ mysteries.
My friend's dog knows how to use the window buttons in the car, so a cat dialing the phone makes sense . . . .

Storyteller Mary, I love my kitties. Buffalo has traveled cross country with us and loves staying in hotels. In recent years, however, he has stayed home with Sheesh. I cannot explain their love for my "singing." I mean, I don't even like it. They heard me one day and came running to my room. Now they cry at bedtime until I sing. Kendall tolerates it. He stays nearby but just wants to get to bed. Aaah... "the _Cat Who_ mysteries?" Would they be the Joe Grey books?

Here are Buffalo and Sheesh: http://reenharringtoncarter.blogspot.com/

They look like fun... thanks! ^..^

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