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So you think you can submerse me, human?

So you think you can submerse me, human?

Don’t listen to the Internet. It is notoriously full of bad advice, especially when it comes to cats and baths. Tire him out? Trim his nails? Lure him in to the lukewarm tub with his favorite toy? Oh yes, by all means talk to him in a soothing voice as you douse his head. Better just stuff him in the toilet, slam the lid, and flush. You’ll be done faster, and your bathroom will look the same when you’re finished.

For your normal, everyday house cat, here’s all you need to know about the dreaded bath:

1. Don’t do it. Cats, like most ovens, are self-cleaning.

Spy cats are a different matter. The job requirements of a feline secret agent take us places no tongue should venture. Garbage cans. Other cats’ litter boxes. Factory farms. The disgust issue aside, spy cats may encounter toxic, deadly substances. Once I almost took down a bioterrorism ring—or at least I think that’s why that belladonna plant was being cultivated in the neighbor’s garden (they don’t call it deadly nightshade for nothing).

Sometimes, only soap and water will suffice. In that instance, refer to this handy step-by-step manual.

How to Bathe your Spy Cat:

1. Remove all leather tool belts, spy cameras, and external electronic devices. These hate getting wet almost as much as cats do.

2. Any implanted electronic devices (listening electrodes, GPS trackers) may stay, provided the wound is well-healed, ideally at least 72 hours post surgery with no signs of drainage or infection.

3. If your spy cat’s fur has come into contact with toxic substances, instruct him not to lick. This is important. Even if your cat knows a bath is forthcoming, the urge to groom is often overwhelming. Sometimes brushing stray furs into place so he feels clean, at least while the tub is filling with lukewarm water, can help.

4. Speaking of tubs, have you checked with Animal Poison Control to make sure the suspected toxin is water soluble? Call (888) 426-4435. The $65 consultation fee will be reimbursed by your CIA handler.

5. All clear for soap and water? Just…make it quick.

6. A word about hair dryers: Don’t go there. We are formidable, not fluffy.

7. Someone once posted that putting a towel over a pet’s head and seeing how long it took the pet to shake it off was a test of intelligence. This is not funny. When your spy cat just sits there with the towel on his head, I assure you he is very intelligently plotting your demise.

8. Clean up. It’s your bathroom, human.

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How not to be stealthy when you're driving spy cats to the job

How not to be stealthy when you’re driving spy cats to the job

Continued from: It’s good to be a spy cat (Part 1)

Black is not my color. But it has some advantages I have come to appreciate. Slipping through shadows. Stealth entrances. And sneaking up on Pfizz.

Tip-tip-tip-toe-POUNCE!

“BLAAAARGH!”

“Boys!” Horgan yelled above the noise of the open window. “This is supposed to be a stake-out! Can’t you at least pretend to be quiet?”

We were in the back seat of Horgan’s pickup on the way to the “assignment.” His sister lives in Cheektowaga, only a short drive from Horgan’s butcher shop in East Aurora. It was blistering hot in the cab of his truck, which didn’t have air conditioning.

I was supposed to infiltrate his sister Hannah’s yard as a “stray cat”. Unfortunately, her own cat, Lilibeth, had met all of us at Thanksgiving—that’s why I needed the disguise. According to Hannah, Lilibeth had been acting strangely. Spending lots of nights away from home. Coming home once with another collar. Hannah tried to keep Lilibeth inside, but she kept getting out. Once she put up signs around the neighborhood, and Lily was found three miles away. Hannah was worried another family was going to steal Lilibeth forever.

I asked Horgan why Hannah didn’t just ask Lilibeth what was going on. “Teach her how to speak Cat. Then she can ask Lilibeth herself.”

Horgan sputtered. “That’s classified information!”

Lester and I shared a look. “It’s not hard,” Lester said. “Most people could do it, if they tried.”

“Yeah,” I added. “It’s mostly about understanding eyebrows and whiskers.”

“And tails,” Pfizz said. “Oh, don’t forget claws.”

“Purr frequencies.” Lester demonstrated with a loud, fast, happy blurt. “Mraow pitch.” A warning rumble.

“Shredding patterns.” Pfizz marked Horgan’s seat with an intricate wavy line of scratches. He tilted his head to look at them. “Although that’s more cryptography than linguistics.”

“What?!” Horgan cried. “That’s enough! Learning Cat is for CIA operatives only—it’s one of our most treasured secrets. I can’t just walk in and start talking to my sister’s cat. That’s what you’re for. My sister can’t know why you’re there.”

Typical. This was such an undercover case, the person I was working for didn’t even know it. Spy cats solve all kinds of problems for humans, and they never appreciate us.

“What am I supposed to do, then?” I asked. “Follow Lily? What if I get trapped in this other house forever?”

Horgan snorted. “Not likely. The reason you’re taking point is you’re fluff–er, long-haired enough to hide the GPS tracker, a spy camera, and a tool belt.”

Now he was talking. I checked the tool belt, which lay underneath Lester’s tail. Lockpicking kit, mini-grenade launcher, and three pebbles for ammunition. I should be fine.

I wondered what Lilibeth had gotten herself into. Hannah kept a fine home, for a human. Clean enough litter box, plenty of kibble, evan a cat flap in the garage door.

Why would Lilibeth want to leave?

to be continued…

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Let’s face it. Cats make great spies. We’re quiet and sneaky. We travel well (as long as it isn’t in the car). We adapt to many environments (though we prefer sunbeams and a gentle breeze).

What could be better than a spy cat? I made the mistake of asking Horgan one day.

“Dropcam,” he said.

Horgan is a Covert Animal Handler, but he does love his gadgets.

I sniffed the camera he was reverently removing from its packing material. “You’re not going to put that on me, are you Boss?” It looked heavy. I’m a big cat, but stealth would be difficult dragging something the size of a grapefruit.

He slipped it into a ceiling mount that hadn’t been there yesterday. “Oh, no, this is something better.”

Oh, no, that was worse. It was a spy camera. I backed under the kitchen table. He hadn’t even had his coffee yet—when had he had time to do all this?

He saw my reaction. “I’m not going to spy on you, Timber. I’m just testing it.”

Uh huh. The way he was just testing the Wii, or the Xbox, or the GoPro. I’m sure that’s why he aimed it’s deceptively cute little eye at the living room, where Pfizz was practicing karate and Lester was looking at Facebook.

I nudged Lester off the computer and looked up this “Dropcam”. It was worse than I imagined. Giraffes. Turtles. Adoptable cats. Maybe even…you.

See for yourself:

TreeHouse Humane Society (Lester says he wants to live there. I had to explain to him what a Humane Society was, even one as nice as this one. In the mean time, he borrowed Horgan’s credit card and placed an order for some stairs and shelves to decorate our walls.)

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Peninsula Humane Society – Cat Room (Pfizz has a theory. Put spy cameras in ALL the humane society cat rooms, and monitor them to see which cats are most successful at their escape attempts. Recruit junior feline agents. I think he’s onto something. The only problem is, these rooms look so nice, none of the cats seem interested in escaping.)

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Dropcam Virtual Zoo (Horgan overheard us. He insists the CIA is not monitoring the Giraffe house to recruit new agents. But he never said anything about the Cheetahs.)

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Dropcams: They’re sleek. They’re quiet. They’re everywhere. Maybe they’re better than spy cats.

But do they keep your toes warm at night?

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