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Journal,

Today I stumbled on a corner of the Internet devoted to the humiliation of cats and the barbaric practice known as “cat shaming”:

Tumblr.

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Why, Internet, why? What would drive cats to such depths? We stalk the countertops and toilets of the world with pride. I know no cat, ever, driven to offer such a depraved confession as I encountered on this site. Dropped a sock in the litter box? So what! Peed on a hamster? What else are they good for!

Some of these cats’ confessions seemed a bit too…contrived. Conveniently placed. There were pictures with incriminating glimpses of human hands. Some of these signs were—you’re not going to believe this—tied with string around the cats’ necks.

I told you it was hideous.

So I did some research.

Ironically, the whole thing started with dogs in August of 2012.  

Dog shaming may have started out as a cute human trick— who hasn’t poked fun at dogs now and again?

But it’s gone too far. It’s time to take a stand, felines—don’t let them put words at your paws. Using my secret agent skills, I snuck into a local home and interviewed four cats. Here’s what they REALLY want to say.

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All responses were reported with NOTHING BUT PRIDE. Nothing but pride, felines.

Even the pooping on the rug thing.

Image“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days” — Benjamin Franklin

Horgan’s sister came to visit for New Year’s. She smelled fine, kept to herself, and didn’t ask questions about the cache of weapons under the guest bed. This post is not about her.

It’s about her cat.

It started the moment Aunt Helga arrived, fluffy white cat in hand.

“You never told us she was bringing a cat,” I hissed at Horgan.

“Timber, this is Lolita. Be polite. Lolita, this is Timber. He’s not usually like this.”

“Do I have to share the litter box?”

“You share it with Lester and Pfizz already.”

Actually, I didn’t. Being former barn cats, even in the dead of winter, they still went outside. It was one thing to lick your own poop off your paws. But a stranger’s?? How could I make Horgan understand??

The white ball of fur hopped to the floor, looked me up and down, and stuck her tongue out. She disguised it as a lick of her paw, but I knew.

Because she ran under the bed and hid for the rest of the day.

On Day One, she left a hairball in my water dish. Was it because Helga forgot to pack her food? Did our diet not agree with her delicate stomach, as Horgan suggested? Try to be patient, Timber, he said.

On Day Two, she stole my tuna.

“She stole my food, Boss!”

“She hid all day yesterday. She was probably hungry, Timber.”

On Day Three, I woke up and she was sleeping on Horgan’s bed. In my spot. And he was petting her.

On Day Four, she had Lester and Pfizz teaching her how to shoot a pellet gun.

By Day Five, she still smelled no more like a mackerel than she had on the day she arrived. I was very relieved when Aunt Helga announced they would be returning to Minnesota that afternoon.

Lolita licked me goodbye. “Thank you for everything, Timber. I was really scared about this trip, but thanks to you guys, I had a really good time.”

Oh.

“Not every cat is a secret agent cat,” Horgan reminded me. “Most of them are just cats.”

“For a regular cat,” I said, “I suppose she was okay. Even if she didn’t smell like fish.”

Horgan is one of the world’s only Covert Animal Handlers. He is an expert on cats. He’s a great boss. But there are some things he will never understand.

Horgan: “Why are you always leaving hairballs on the kitchen floor, Timber?”

Me: “Would you prefer I stopped taking baths?”

Horgan: “How about you stop eating things with backbones? I can’t tell you how many tiny skeletons I’ve cleaned up this week.”

Me: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Horgan: Disgusted sigh.

There’s a simple answer to the mystery of why cats throw up hairballs:

Because they are there.

But is it ever that simple?

According to Wikipedia, a hairball is a collection of fur that is vomited when it becomes too big. (Yes, Wikipedia has an entry on hairballs.) I’ll spare you the picture and the video; anyone familiar with cats can bring to mind the unique sounds and motions that can only indicate the return of that which cannot be digested.

A hairball, when placed properly, can mean many things:

– Your offering of food, though generous in portion, was unpleasing to my palate. I was bored, so I ate it anyway. But don’t think I liked it.

– Your offering of food, very generous in portion, was extremely pleasing to my palate. Unfortunately, it was too much for my stomach, which is a bit upset from a romp with the catnip. You should have anticipated that.

– My long, luxurious coat is shining, but the residual layers are accumulating in a packed cylinder near my pyloric sphincter.

– The natural diet of cats, which includes a variety of small mammals with indigestible bones and fur, relies on hairballs. No hairballs, no more room in the stomach. Please understand this, and feed me the occasional vole.

Journal,

We just finished watching Iron Man, which is the first movie Horgan has ever let us watch that doesn’t star Garfield. For a human, Robert Downey Jr. is quite talented. His engineering skills surpass even those of the craftiest spy cat.

The movie itself was okay, except for some parts of it which I had a hard time believing. How can a man, even one wrapped in a metal suit, fall from the sky, land on the street, and survive?

If he were a cat, it would make more sense.

I said to Horgan, “You know what the world needs? Iron Cat.”

What he showed me next pretty much destroyed my faith in the ability of our government to keep secrets. I have serious doubts about my identity as a secret agent cat.

Because Iron Cat is real. These pictures and videos can only be explained by a long-standing secret feline weapons development program, going on under our very whiskers all this time. I can only hope that Iron Cat, wherever he is, is on our side.

Mad Cat
v8abF

An obviously early prototype. Notice the lack of complete body armor, and primitive weapons systems.

Source: http://imgur.com/v8abF

Mech Cat
cardboard-mech-cat-mechwarrior

An improvement over the first design. Presumably has a quadrupedal mode as well, or else is hopelessly anthropocentric. Lasers, if functional, are really cool. Must ask Horgan for lasers.

Source: http://imgur.com/gallery/c2vBj

Iron Cat in action

Somewhere there is a city in peril, and a giant robot cat is coming to save it. Or destroy it. I’m not exactly sure which.

The future of Iron Cat
mech__cat____thing___by_koonmo-d557nbx

A futuristic design, no doubt one of the planned final stages of the program. Armor and weapons are apparently now merged with biological constructs. Brilliant and terrifying.

Source: http://koonmo.deviantart.com/art/Mech-Cat-thing-311085789

I asked Horgan for a suit of armor for Christmas. He said he’d think about it.

Three Books That I'm Not In

Three Books That I’m Not In

The Year of The Cat

Imagine my surprise, returning from a deep underground mission, to this headline at the bottom of my litter box:

Year of the Cat

Horgan had run out of scoopable clay again and replaced it with his backlog of New York Times Fashion & Style pages.

The box was reasonably clean. I sat, and read.

How could he have failed to let me know? 2013 was my year, and it’s almost over!

According to the article, the year warrants the label because not only are there 86 million cats in American households, but more importantly, Monopoly has a “silver pussycat” token, reality “Cat TV” shows are popping up, and even Grumpy Cat has his own book (I could be that famous, if I weren’t so cheerful). Plus, three other cat books have been published.

Bah. One was about an adorable cat who ran away, and came back. I do that all the time. I actually nabbed a Russian spy once while I was at it. All I got rewarded with was a bowl of warm milk and loads of paperwork.

After I finished reading the article, you can guess what I did next.

(But Lester McMuffin, curse his betraying soul, went straight to Amazon.com.)

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Mr. Marlon Brando, former spy cat

Mr. Marlon Brando is a former member of the Cats In Action training program. His Covert Animal Handler recently retired from the CIA under suspicious circumstances, allowing Mr. Brando the opportunity to pursue his dream of a career in cinema. In addition to appearing in numerous cat food commercials, he has written a screenplay for “Spy Kids 5” in which the role of Argonaut, the robodog, is replaced by “Tuxedo Tom, Spy Cat.”

On Retirement

I’m not a secret agent cat anymore. But I play one on TV.

Fortunately, it’s not that hard. When I was in the Cats In Action training program, my handler had me brewing coffee for him, shredding secret documents with my claws to hide in the litter box, and placing bugs in visitors’ shoes. He gave me these little metal, electronic things, but I preferred cockroaches and spiders–so much more authentic.

Compared to that, pretending to be a famous spy while I eat gourmet canned cat food in front of lights and cameras is easy.

Timber has told me about his “Adventures”. He says he actually gets to drive the car, shoot grappling guns, and learn Russian. My handler couldn’t even speak Cat.

In the meantime, is there life after being a secret agent cat? I’m here to say yes, there is. Retirement doesn’t have to mean fading away or letting your dreams die. So what if I never went on a mission. So what if my career was a dead-end joke, mismanaged by a crook and a double-agent. So what if I was forced to retire before I ever had a chance to begin.

Life is what you make of it. I turned a passion for canned tuna and a cute face into a backup job, and a thwarted espionage career into a Hollywood screenplay.

So what if no one else will ever read it. I’m starring in it every time you see me licking clean a bowl of canned food on your TV.

(But if Horgan ever has an opening, I wouldn’t turn him down. Just saying.)

“Smoke” is a member of Santa’s Claws, a society of soldiers and secret agents devoted to protecting feline interests throughout the world. They operate independently of any nation and are rumored to be affiliated with the king of Christmas himself, though they deny any association with human institutions. Their location is so well hidden that even though everyone knows it is at the North Pole, it has never been discovered.

“Is this thing on? Timber asked me to do this, but he didn’t ask if I could type. In the Arctic, we don’t spend much time without our mittens. But we do have the latest in voice recognition technology. Usually Santa Claus—back up! No, I mean delete that. Grr! Santa’s clause. No, not Santa’s legal contract. Stop! S-A-N-T-A-C-L-A-W-S, like the sharp things on the end of my paws that could dismantle this puny piece of electronic equipment. [PAUSE]

“As I was saying, though Santa’s C-L-A-W-S has the latest in feline espionage tech, using it to dictate a blog entry was quite…creative. Timber has good ideas. He wants me to tell you what I’ve learned during my life of Adventure, but here’s the truth: I’ve spent most of it trying to stay away from Adventure. I was the bodyguard for the most important feline espionage agent in the world. She’s already written about her Adventures in a book (The Manual of Espionage According to The Great Nim).

After spending half my life trying to keep up with her, my idea of Adventure is a good nap.Smoke

Timber’s young, so he may not agree with me yet. He still works for the CIA, and they’re still willing to pay him.

But someday he might find himself on the receiving end of budget cuts. He might find that governments aren’t willing to pay for secret agencies. When things are going well, who needs spies? When things are going poorly, it’s easy to blame the ones who live in shadows.

He, too, might find himself at the North Pole, someday.

If he does, we’ll be happy to have him.

Not because he’s strong or has a flair for Adventure, though these things are true.

But we’re always looking for new ideas.

Horgan’s training us for a new mission. It’s top secret. But his butcher shop was broken into again, and he says it’s cheaper to train cats as guards than buy a better security system. Plus, he says it’s time to start earning our keep. I think it’s an abuse of our nocturnal tendencies. Lester says it’s an opportunity to hone our skills. Pfizz says we’ll be bringing home the bacon for real.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he’d let us have Internet access.

That’s why I’m opening up the On-line Home for Cats of Mystery and Adventure to Guest Bloggers this month. We’ll hear from members of Santa’ Claws, retired agents, and anyone else who has a tale of Mystery or Adventure to share. If you are a four-footed Adventurer of the feline variety with a flare for storytelling, send a picture and your story to horgan@timberhowligan.com.

Look for our first entry on Tuesday, August 13!

Timber's Photo Gallery

It’s true, I look my best when I’ve had a good brushing and a few weeks to recover from a tough mission. These photos capture a day in the photogenic life of a formidable Secret Agent Cat.

Grappling gun in action: Conquering the huge, white-headed kitty

Conquering the Huge, White-Headed Kitty

A Rappelling demonstration (Do Not Try This at Home)

A Rappelling Demonstration (Do Not Try This at Home)

Sniffing my paw-crafted Walther PPK Tic-Tac gun for residual ammo (mint or orange)

Sniffing my paw-crafted Walther PPK Tic-Tac gun for residual ammo (mint or orange)

Working on a Blog update

Working on a Blog Update

Thanks to Hannah Hiles photography for the photo shoot.

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