Tony B. (the Cat) Conquers 3rd Beam

November 7, 2022

By Tony B. (photos by Karen)

Karen thought you needed a break from all the recent heavy stuff about my namesake, so she sat me at the keyboard for this one.

The guy who designed our house probably didn’t realize he “Catified” the living room with the three big wooden beams that hide the ductwork. From the house’s front to back, we call them 1st, 2nd and 3rd beams.

Karen says every cat has loved 1st and 2nd beams, and they have the scars to prove it. She made them even more irresistible with tall bookcases between them on the floor below, right beside the fireplace mantle. We cats can go upstairs > downstairs without stairs. Max does it all the time, even though the leap down from the mantle makes his teeth rattle.

[SECRET: An alternate, arguably easier, route is to leap from 1st beam to the gray perch, but it takes more precise aim.]

Strolling along 1st and 2nd beam is easy-peasy because you just step off the balcony. The first night Karen brought me home, Roc says I shot out of the carrier and onto 1st beam within minutes. Within a day or so, I did it again, only to slip and fall off.

But falling off 1st or even 2nd beam is a rite of passage here. Every cat has done it, but none have ever hit the furniture nor been injured, even though Karen says we don’t always land on our feet.

3rd beam is another story. You need mega cat guts to go out there because it’s beyond the balcony. It requires a full-body stretch across empty space.

Karen says all my Cats Working predecessors attempted 3rd beam at least once as young cats. Once was usually enough, and then they avoided it for the rest of their lives.

The exception was Yul, an enormous black cat who, according to legend, was a diabolical genius, even after one of his daredevil stunts cost him his tail. He looks like he’s got zero fucks to give, right?…

If reincarnation is a thing, Karen says Roc could be Yul. As soon as he figured out the logistics, Roc claimed 3rd beam as his exclusive turf, and Max and the late Adele were happy to let him have it. He goes out there all the time like it’s nothing…

I’ve been studying Roc’s technique closely…

Last week when I told Max I was going for it before I age out, Max stared at me and muttered something about “a death wish.” Karen freaked when she saw me up there looking serious. And there was no turning back when Roc called me a “chicken”…

Readers, I did it. And it felt GREAT!

What nobody told me is that getting out there is the easy part. The potentially deadly move is the dismount.

Pulling yourself back onto the balcony takes so much upper body strength, Roc separated the wood at the bottom of the banister. Karen glued the wood back, but decided to leave it taped because she knew Roc would just break it again.

I’ll admit it, that first dismount was scary. If I fell, I was definitely hitting something sharp going down. (And be humiliated as the first 3rd beam kitty fail ever.) So, here goes…

I nailed it! It gave me such a rush, I couldn’t wait to do it again…and again…and AGAIN!

BTW, I found this clip of Roc from two years ago — doing a stunt, of course. He’s such a showoff…

Next thing you know, Roc and I pulled off what’s never been done before…

3RD BEAM DOUBLE KITTY

Karen shook her head and said, “I just hope that beam is strong enough.”

Wait, WHAT?

So, I’ve officially conquered our final frontier (if you don’t count behind the washer/dryer). And I didn’t even use up one of my nine lives.


Max Discovers His Winter Retreat

September 20, 2022

By Karen

Being a confirmed kitty of habit, throughout our brutally hot and humid Virginia summer Max has split his time between his Max Cave upstairs or the rocker down in the living room.

Over a year ago, my sister gave me a bed neither of her cats wanted. I’ve left it everywhere but the bathroom: on the Man Cave floor and sofa, on MY bedroom floor and bed, my closet floor, and most recently on the big living room chair that Tony once claimed, but no dice. NOBODY would even give that bed a try.

I don’t get it. It’s super-cushiony, covered with long soft “fur,” and just the right size. NONE of their other beds are this inviting.

But the bed’s prospects did a complete 180 last week after Max and I shared the trauma of his annual vet checkup.

The practice has a brand-new vet fresh out of school, whom they billed as interested in cats. I requested her, thinking she might be more cat-savvy than our usual vet, who’s always struck me as a dog person.

Big mistake. She was not good. At all. Max didn’t need shots, so she just listened to his heart and lungs and said they sounded good. His blood work last year (age 10) was fine, so she said we could skip it.

I asked if she’d checked his ears, and she replied that she saw some stuff and if he’d been bothered by it. I said no, so she left it there. I guess a $55 visit doesn’t cover a couple of Q-tips.

I’d brought a stool sample, which came up “negative” ($42).

Never again with the poop ripoff. Last time I had a cat with a parasite, it was Rex with a tapeworm back in the ‘80s.

I also brought up Max’s teeth, which have never been cleaned. She said he has “some” tartar and the front desk would give me an “estimate,” which is always “worst case,” just so clients aren’t surprised later.

An estimate? Max could use a scaling, he doesn’t need his transmission rebuilt, FFS.

OMG. The “estimate” was a full page describing teeth cleaning as a full-blown, all-day surgical procedure, complete with X-rays.

If all goes well and it’s just scaling: $950.

The estimate also said the vet recommended “2-4 extractions” (what happened to “some tartar”!!??), which would EACH run $200-$300 EXTRA.

So, “worst case” (4 extractions) would be: $2,150.

Oh, and the vet had only one cat, whom she didn’t name or seem particularly fond of.

Then when Max and I staggered out of that den of extortion, my car’s key fob suddenly wouldn’t open the doors, but the locks went crazy, and I spent 10-15 panicked minutes trying to us into the car.

When we finally got home, Max ran straight to MY BEDROOM (where he hasn’t been in many months) and spent the rest of the day on the desk. He was freaked out, too.

I know this is a long lead-in, but later that night after we’d both calmed down…

Max was sitting on the couch with me, and I decided to try one more time and put that fuzzy new bed at the end of the couch.

VOILA!…

Here’s an aerial shot I took from the balcony the next morning…

Max’s been hanging out there from morning meditation until after I go to bed. During the night, he goes up to the Man Cave for a poop and a nosh.

Max totally relaxes during evening TV time with me nearby. Here’s his stretch we call Starboard (right side, for landlubbers), one leg…

Starboard, double leg…

Port (left), one leg…

Port, double leg…

Roc and Tony have noticed there’s a hot new ticket in the house, but so far, neither have challenged Max for possession…

“It’s about time those two accept who’s man of THIS house!”

Roc’s even happy to bask in the sunny spot on the floor and let Max have his bed…

“Is it wicked of me to pretend Roc is lying there in a coma?”

With one of my crazy little pillows (that keep cats from scratching the couch back), Max sums it up…

“And a home without cats is no home at all.”

PS: Happy ending to the lock subplot: My sister’s amazingly handy boyfriend fixed the locks with a cheap, simple part as my birthday present!


Tony Bourdain (the Cat) Confidential

August 22, 2022

By Karen, with Tony’s permission

Our wild child Tony B. is letting me share more intimate details of his lifestyle with you.

But first, let’s correct misconception about this angelic face. Tony is neither cuddly nor a cuddler. He allows a daily designated time to display affection (keep reading), and that’s it. His demeanor toward me is cordial and mostly respectful, but I sense he’s always aware of maintaining his personal space.

Although fully equipped to shred, he’s not one to flash claws and scratch in anger. But he will bite if you pet him — hard enough to make a point, but not draw blood. It’s probably a hand phobia from his earliest kittenhood when he had lots of medical issues, and we’re still working to overcome that.

Otherwise, he’s extremely sensitive and gentle. If he wants something, he’ll pat my leg with a soft paw, never claws. He totally understands boundaries. If he’s engaged in mischief and I firmly say “Tony, no,” he backs right off and looks concerned that he offended me.

Mornings, Tony seems to know the second I wake up. He has a signature move to signal his arrival, which is to flap his huge bat ears. Only Tony’s ears make that distinctive sound.

Then he leaps onto the bed to knead his favorite blankie, kept there so I can lure him in for a few minutes of “Pet Practice.” When he’s all kneaded out, he’ll settle quietly beside me and let me pet him without biting.

If he lasts five minutes, it’s a win, and it’s the only time we spend affectionately together all day.

He enjoys scoping out the neighbors from the big kitchen window…

“Hmm… hope that little human doesn’t pee on our bushes like the dogs do.”

Being a highly private cat, Tony recently staked out a me-space in my closet that the late Adele preferred in her final months. I put a bed in there fearing he might never return because I had intruded, but he seems to appreciate it…

“At times a kitty needs to get away from it all. And by ‘all,’ I mean Roc.”

The Man Cave Café (a.k.a. bathroom) recently got a new lounge…

“No, I haven’t leaked my butt all over the tub. I’m on a rug, silly!”

Since I used Gerber baby food a few years ago to trick Max into taking meds for a cold, Max gets a spoonful of chicken or turkey for breakfast, the only wet food he’ll touch. Tony never fails to materialize on the counter as soon as he hears the clink of the little spoon I use because he has to lick it clean. It’s his special little treat, and he never asks for more or tries to steal Max’s. He has a highly developed sense of fair play.

When I do my Calm app meditation, once Max vacates, Tony will occasionally drop by. As gentle as he is, he has no qualms about walking all over me, which would include my face if it’s in his path…

“Are we meditating yet?”

On this day, he immediately lost interest in me, sauntered over to Roc napping by the sliding door, who told him to scram. When Tony returned, you can see the second he realized I was filming him, which always makes him self-conscious. You can catch his meow if you listen closely…

The gray kitty perch has become Tony territory (he lets Roc maul the sisal posts), where he hangs out most evenings while we watch TV…

“Nothing like a little nap before bedtime.”

Other times, Tony throws himself on the floor as if he wants his belly rubbed, but I know he’s bluffing…

“Come on, it’s so cute. Rub it. You can trust me.”

Before we all head off to bed, Tony enjoys a snack of graham crackers [Note: HONEY grahams only; cinnamon is very bad for cats]…

“My sweet tooth MUST be fed!”

I think Tony sleeps upstairs with Max on the Man Cave sofa because maybe it feels cooler right by the window during our steamy nights…

“Downward Cat pose always gives me the best dreams.”

Happy 3rd Birthday to Our Own Tony B.

June 6, 2022

By Roc (with Max observing)

The world may celebrate D Day today, but here at Cats Working, we celebrate T Day.

Our little bro, Tony Bourdain, is already three years old. Can you believe it? It seems like only yesterday Karen surprised us with this scrawny 5-month-old kitten who tore through the place like a Tasmanian Devil. Here he is during the 10 seconds Karen got him to wear a collar…

“Do you think my body will ever catch up with my ears?”

Here he is today (well, yesterday), his own little man-kitty, staking his claim to the bed so Karen couldn’t finish making it, just like I taught him…

“There’s nothing like lying on clean sheets I didn’t have to lick myself.”

He also likes to hang out with our resident trolls…

“Trolls’ names (L-R) are Phillip, Per and Gunnar. Karen says don’t ask her why.”

He’s still being really cautious about trying out Karen’s sisal handiwork on the kitty perch, even after I demonstrated for him how sturdy it is by dangling from the dangles…

“See, Tony? This new stuff feels GREAT on your pads!”

Thanks to this being his special day, Tony and I got bacon for breakfast. Max wasn’t interested. Next in our daily routine is making Karen open the window — in all weather — so Tony and I can make sure the neighborhood wildlife isn’t doing anything perverted in our yard…

“With the plant stand behind me, I feel like a mighty jungle kitty lurking in the underbrush, ready to POUNCE!”

Later, when Karen goes upstairs to start her workday, Tony always beats her to the balcony and leaps onto the perch as if he’s always been there. On this day, he spooked her with this calculating look…

“She’ll wonder all day what dirty tricks I’m plotting.”

Now that the weather is heating up, one of his favorite daytime hangouts is under Karen’s desk. This is not as eccentric as it looks. He’s catching the breeze from the fan Karen runs from Max’s Man Cave to keep the whole upstairs cooled off…

“When I’m down here, why do I always feel like I’m being watched?”

Tonight, Tony is treating us all to a boiled shrimp dinner. Max may join in, or maybe not. You never know with Max and people food. I’ll surely eat my fill — and Tony’s, too, if he turns his head for a second. I love shrimp!

Speaking of shrimps, we wish our crazy Tony a very 3rd Happy B-Day and many more…

“Why do humans always say, ‘Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup’?”

Success Report: DIY Kitty Perch Rescue

May 31, 2022

By Roc

Remember that fantastic gray kitty perch Karen put together for us as an early Christmas present during the pandemic…

Tony sleeps up top evenings, and we’ve kept it looking nice. I can count on one paw the times Max has ever touched it.

Tony and I found one sisal post PERFECT for wonderful claw-grabbing s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s and we’ve been giving it daily workouts — until this happened…

I can’t blame Tony. I’m the only kitty with the size and strength to commit vandalism of this magnitude. I even get a criminal look in my eyes when I’m pondering my next big caper…

Around these parts, they call me “KMD” (Kitty of Massive Destruction).

This development upset Karen because 1) Loss of a popular scratching place put us one step closer to digging in to the furniture, and 2) It looked bad, not that the living room is what you’d call a showplace even on a good day.

The sisal was flimsy, and the post underneath turns out to be crappy cardboard. Which explains how Karen got the thing dirt-cheap. What did she expect for less than three figures? Mahogany?

Out of respect (and aversion to Karen’s screaming), Tony and I have steered clear of that post since the destruction.

After determining it might be fixable, Karen turned to the trusty internet and discovered a cottage industry for restoring sisal kitty scratchers.

She bought 164 ft. of MEEXPAWS 1/4” sisal rope from Amazon, which came nicely coiled, and with a roll of double-stick tape…

Photo: Amazon

But Karen didn’t want to use tape or glue because they might not withstand our assaults, and they’d ruin the cardboard if the post needed fixing again. What to do, what to do?

We don’t own a big staple gun, and Karen was considering nailing it when she found this perfectly brilliant man with a YouTube video, “My cat tree repair without tools or glue”…

We tackled the project this past weekend. I supervised nearby, of course. Karen first removed the original sisal, which had been stapled.

Immediately upon untying the new bale of sisal, all 164 feet unraveled at our feet into a tangled mess, which Karen then had to fling around the post with every row she wrapped.

Sorry, no photos of that because I have no thumbs for the iPhone and if Karen had let go for a second in mid-wrapping, it would have all come undone.

As she used up rope, it got a little easier. Finally, she made it to the bottom and tied it off. Voila!…

The color’s a bit off, but it’s heavier rope, so even BETTER than before.

I say that even though Tony and I have so far refused to be the guinea pigs to test it, even though Karen gave us an hilarious demonstration to refresh our memories on how to scratch a post.

Karen was so pleased with the result, she’s gotten ideas about our other perches. But first, she needed to salvage the remaining sisal, a job not made any easier by Tony romping all over it, biting at it like she was playing. We’ve got this much left…

Karen thinks there’s enough left to give Tony’s favorite blue perch at the top of the stairs a refurb…

We’ll need to get more sisal for the short perch by the living room window that screams for attention…

And then there’s that tall perch next to the couch…

The lower level there where Mickey and the Teds hang out could also use some love…

I’m glad Adele isn’t here to see this because she believed “Every Cat’s an Artist” and called all these perches “art installations.” She’d be spitting mad and fluff-tailed to have her creative endeavors sisaled over.

Speaking of outrage, Karen has been wondering why we all suddenly stopped fighting over Max’s favorite kitty bed near the sliding glass door. She found her answer while taking these photos…

There was a hairball on Max’s favorite cuddle toy, Cattey. By the color, it could belong to anybody, but she’ll never find out who because we’re cats, not rats…

(PS: You’ll be relieved to know that Cattey is fine. The hairball had dried out and came off without leaving a stain. I hope you weren’t eating dinner while you read this.)

UPDATE FROM KAREN: A few hours after Roc posted this story, I went downstairs and caught him giving the new sisal post a going over. He looked at me with his, “Am I in the doghouse?” expression, but the sisal stood up to him hanging on it beautifully. So, it looks like full steam ahead on sprucing up the other perches.


Our Poltergeist Strikes Again… and Again

April 4, 2022

By Karen

Last year, I told you how Roc and I witnessed a book being pushed or pulled out of the bookcase in my bedroom when nobody had touched it.

[OMG… in pulling up the link to that previous post, I just realized the new development I’m about to tell you started within a week or so of the book, in July 2021. It never occurred to me the two incidents might be related.]

It was a Thursday morning that July when the wall switch that powers the garbage disposal went suddenly dead. The disposal itself was fine and relatively new; I just couldn’t turn it on. I wondered if the tiny ants who sometimes invade the kitchen in warm weather might have caused the problem.

I quickly learned how you don’t appreciate your disposal until it’s gone. For the four days I waited for a repairman, I had to scrape uneaten cat food and other yucky bits into the “stinky bag” I always keep in the freezer for onions, banana peels, chicken bones, et cetera, until trash day because rancid garbage makes me gag.

The repairman removed the switch plate and didn’t see any ants. When he touched two wires together, the garbage disposal roared to life. So, it appeared to be a simple loose connection. Who knows how that happened after 39 years?

As a precaution, I had him replace the whole switch, and he showed me how he twined the wires together to be extra-secure.

All was well until last Monday morning. I’d just scraped a pile of Roc and Tony’s rejected cat mush down the disposal when I flipped the switch and it was dead again.

The repair company couldn’t send someone until Friday, so I had to scoop the now-soaking-wet cat mush out of the disposal with my hand and into the stinky bag.

As the week dragged by, I kept flipping the switch to make sure it wasn’t a bad dream, but it was futile.

When the second repairman finally arrived, I flipped the switch for him once and it was dead. Then I flipped it again.

IT WORKED!! WTF??

And it worked every time after that. He checked out the new switch and everything looked fine. And no ants.

I felt like a complete fool, now out $99 for the unnecessary call. The repairman probably thought I’m a pathetic cat lady with more money than brains who calls in bogus issues for somebody to talk to.

Now, I throw anything down the garbage disposal with trepidation. Fool me twice… Or is “something” trying to get my attention using the electricity? This incident brought to mind what happened one night in October 2021.

I told you how the living room lamp mysteriously blew a bulb at a crucial moment while I was watching the Anthony Bourdain documentary, Roadrunner. The timing of that gave me chills.

What’s next?

UPDATE – IT JUST HAPPENED AGAIN: I first drafted this post two days ago, so the Phantom of the Garbage Disposal knew I was writing about it.

Yesterday morning, I was tidying up the Man Cave Café (a.k.a. upstairs bathroom). Max was sitting in the Man Cave (bedroom/junkroom) on the end table beside the couch, and Roc was standing at the opposite end of the couch. My back was turned when I heard a thump.

It was this small Amazon box holding my collection of plastic store “poop bags” nicely folded for future use…

As you can see, the box was securely tucked between other boxes. I haven’t touched it since I put it there weeks ago, and the cats were nowhere within striking distance. Now, that box was on the floor. Max and Roc were looking at the spot where it came from, but not spooked at all.

I recreated the moment to show you where/how the box landed, and Tony insisted on assisting me…

I have logistical questions about how the box landed with its top facing up without actually being lifted (or was it?). I put it back in position and pulled it out every which way. It always landed where Tony is standing. So, whatever’s doing this stuff is flexing its muscles. I swear I’m not making any of this up.


Just Got to Vent About Our Vet(rinarian)

January 14, 2022

By Karen

I won’t name them, but CW cats and this veterinary practice go back to the 1990s (with one prolonged breakup midway until our defection practice began going downhill). We have seen at least two generations of these vets.

They made life hell during the late Cole’s kidney failure, needlessly costing me hundreds of dollars on prescriptions by limiting the sources to their extortionately priced selves (like $5 a pill vs. 30 pills for $10 online) or one pricey online pharmacy they “partner” with (i.e., probably skim a cut from).

I fought the drug price battle until Cole’s last breath, and recall one day driving to their office THREE times because their dumb-as-doorknobs staff was incapable of producing a correct written prescription and refused to fax it anywhere. I had to snail-mail it to my supplier while the clock ticked down on Cole’s waning life. Their blithe obstruction would have made Mitch McConnell proud.

After Cole died, I went full Karen on the practice administrator over their failure to cooperate. But nothing has changed. The pandemic made it worse. Much worse.

Cole’s prescription issues resurfaced with Adele’s subsequent kidney failure battle, although they did allow me to use Sam’s Club, right down the street. Since they knew I could — and would — drive over and raise hell within minutes of any prescription screwup, that went smoother, although it still cost me much more than it should have.

What I’ll never forget about their treatment of Adele was that they were in a new building (the same move that doomed the alternate practice I mentioned in the opening), and it had a special area for euthanasia. On Adele’s last day alive, they told me to call from the parking lot so we could arrive through a private entrance.

I called, and got a recording that they’d gone to lunch and to call back in a few hours.

THEY had set the appointment to kill one of their patients and just FORGOT it?

So, Adele’s last trip was right past the dogs in their damn lobby.

Max, Roc and Tony haven’t had major issues, so our contacts have been mercifully infrequent.

However, the practice does periodically annoy me with their comical mass emails. They call us “Family” and share new policies to inconvenience us from the tone-deaf perspective that our primary concern is the happiness, safety and well-being of their staff. (Examples on request.)

So, yesterday I took Roc in for his annual checkup, this year a mere courtesy call because he’s fine and doesn’t need any shots.

They let me choose sitting out in the parking lot or accompanying him. I chose the latter. I was double-masked; the vet wore only a blue paper mask, like the one I had on under my triple-ply cloth mask.

As their policy dictates, I sat across the exam room while Roc rested calmly, facing away from me, in his carrier on the exam table, which was inexplicably retracted so it only fit the carrier and the scale.

Full length requires too much extra wiping down between patients perhaps?

Turns out their new “procedure” is to dismantle the carrier, which looks like this, with seven fasteners…

Roc is a most congenial cat and has ridden drama-free in this carrier since he was a kitten. I told the vet to tip it slightly and he’d walk right out. She ignored me, mumbling about “an article saying this is better” — because she knows Roc SO well.

Roc, for the first time ever, felt his safe place taken apart by strangers. Think it bothered him?

Well, when I took out the carrier today for the photo, I set it down beside Roc and he bolted. So, thanks a lot, Vet, for Roc’s new carrier phobia.

During his exam, Roc stood like a thoroughbred while the vet and her assistant pawed him from head to toe. The vet said a cat earlier had put up a fuss.

MY cat didn’t. He was a pro. But you treated him like he was a problem.

Bottom line: These few stories I’ve shared just scratch the surface. We need a new vet.

I’m glad I got that off my chest. Ready for some Cats Working Christmas videos? Their big surprises this year (which Tony almost sniffed out prematurely as I was charging them in the bathroom) were Floppy Fish!

Tony and Roc were immediately intrigued (you’ll see Roc’s tail go by when he loses interest)…

Then Tony decided to show Floppy who’s boss while Max looked on…

Roc’s attack strategy is total domination…

Max didn’t quite know what to make of them and seemed more interested in the rest of Christmas (you get to see everyone in their celebratory mess)…

Tony and Roc enjoyed their annual viewing of Video Catnip, and here’s just a snippet. It’s 25 minutes long and they watched it TWICE…

Here’s the gang relaxing after toys, treats, and ‘nip…

BONUS: Tony watched the snow fall in the backyard last week from the Man Cave window…


What’s Been Up at Cats Working

November 19, 2021

By Karen

Virginia FINALLY cooled off and now the leaves are falling like mad. The acorns are crazy, too, so it’s like walking on marbles to go anywhere in the yard.

My house sprung a new quirk in the form of a weird tapping in the living room wall behind the TV. It had some intelligence because it would stop if I walked near it or went out on the deck or into the crawlspace to investigate. But I never saw anything.

The pest control guy I hired also heard it but couldn’t find the source, so he left some chemicals. I haven’t heard it for two days since then, so whatever it was may have moved on or died.

Speaking of the deck, one of my house’s good qualities is how high it is. This is the view from the deck. It feels like living in a treehouse…

Last night I was too tired to cook, so I popped this Lean Cuisine into the microwave…

The instructions were a little weird — 9 minutes at 50% power. I watched TV in the living room while waiting for the microwave to ding, but it just kept running and running and running.

Eventually, I realized something was wrong and this is what I found. These meals never look like what’s on the box, but this was ridiculous…

The timer showed 66 minutes left at 50% power. I must have accidentally punched in 90 instead of 9, so I’m glad it was only at half-power or I might have burned the house down.

But I know you’re dying to for cat news, so enough about me. The other morning, Tony toyed with being a tabby…

“Do these stripes make me look fat?”

He’s also been enjoying some fresh brown paper from Chewy.com delivery. He thinks it’s an invisibility cloak…

“You can’t see me, right?”

Lately, Max has been spending nights on my bed, but his favorite spot is between my legs, which means I can’t move. So, I relocated from the living room a cat bed they’ve all ignored for ages. Max actually slept in it the first night and made it the hottest new ticket in town. The next morning, Roc relinquished his claim on his own favorite bed to Tony so he could grab Max’s spot…

The following morning right after breakfast, guess where I found Tony staked out?…

Tony wouldn’t budge even after Roc showed up. Roc often bullies Max, but he knows better than to mess with the Tonester…

Almost forgot. Back in October for my birthday, my sister gave me this personalized mat. You’ll notice the kitties on it are furatomically correct…


Conversation with Tom Vitale, Conclusion

October 27, 2021

By Karen

Tom Vitale is author of In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain. Days after the interview excerpt with him that follows, I was watching the Roadrunner documentary DVD and had another “Cats Working May be Haunted” moment related to today’s post.

In the same instant the video shifted to Asia the girlfriend, the table lamp blew its bulb. My light bulbs always fail when I first switch lamps on, not after they’ve been burning a few hours. Maybe it was coincidence, but it creeped me out.

Commenters here have discussed Tom’s treatment of Asia in the book, so I had to ask him about…

Anthony Bourdain’s Last Girlfriend

CW: On page 217, you wrote…

“Tony’s ethic of relentlessly pushing the envelope — the very drive responsible for getting us where we were — had reached such a fever pitch, it felt like the pace was becoming unsustainable.”

It seemed you felt this while you were making the 2016 Rome episode with Asia. Why then? Was she trying to direct? What was the dynamic?

TV: A lot of scene ideas, like the boxing and pasta, and the stornellis [Italian street songs] that were so beautiful, were her idea. Those Roman folk songs are dirty and hilariously dark. She made a lot of creative contributions, but she was definitely not directing the episode. But it was very high stakes because Tony wanted to not fuck it up.

I think that period in general was particularly tough. The shoot with President Obama was coming up and completely top-secret. Constant battles with the accounting department were grating. Tony wanted to do fancier, more expensive things just as they were clamping down on the spending.

CW: Were you on the shoot with Tony and Asia in Southern Italy?

TV: I did do that one, yes.

CW: How were they together then? It seemed joyous. He was in love, and they were having fun at the beach, on the boat. Was the vibe good? Putting it in historical perspective, they had come out as a couple, right?

TV: I think we were in Portugal when they became public in February 2017. And Italy was June 2017.

CW: They were in their honeymoon phase.

TV: But it was an incredibly difficult shoot for a host of reasons. Italy is one of the greatest countries to visit, but also the most difficult and stressful from the production standpoint. For example, we set up this whole scene for a big party at a farm, then at the last minute the police shut us down because the location was being used as refugee resettlement area and it didn’t have the right permits. We lost an entire day of shooting due to some stupid bureaucratic miscommunication. Things like that were happening.

On the other side, I don’t think Tony was ever so nice and happy, to me, as he was on that shoot.

CW: Something we’ve debated at Cats Working is how you went to Rome seeking answers and met with Asia. She asked about his will and supposedly missing fortune. In the book, it seems like the first thing out of her mouth, but was it really further into the conversation?

TV: No, she pretty much opened with that.

CW: So, in so many words you conveyed her priority. Some seemed to fault you because they felt you were giving her a pass. Did she ever take any responsibility at all?

TV: I certainly don’t think she wanted Tony to kill himself. That probably screwed up her life in a lot of ways, too. I’m not saying she handled things the right way, by any stretch of imagination. But in my book — I wasn’t in Hong Kong or Florence — I only write about things I saw.

It was really difficult for me in that when Tony got together with her, he became a lot nicer to me. She was always very good to me. I think it’s unquestionable she played some role in his downfall. I guess I was blinded to the fact that something wrong was happening, whether it was her fault or not, because he got nicer to me.

CW: It sounds like she didn’t feel you were any threat, like maybe she did Zach or Helen.

TV: I knew how important pleasing her was to Tony. I moved mountains to make things happen, whatever he wanted, as I always did for Tony.

CW: Maybe she thought you were her ally. Perhaps you can confirm or debunk a rumor that circulated after he died. Did he ever buy her a house in Rome?

TV: No, he didn’t.

CW: In hindsight, that now makes sense. Where your book made my eyes Boing! out like a cartoon was when Tony told you she would be moving to New York in fall 2018.

TV: That was the plan.

CW: We dodged a bullet there, in a twisted way. The mess it would have created for everyone related to both of them. And to promote her “career,” he’d have found ways to get her in our faces every day.

TV: He was in love. He acted like a teenager about it. But he reacted to a lot of things like a teenager. That was part of his magic. He was really a romantic.

CW: He did have a certain boundless child-like enthusiasm. When he found something he really loved, a place a food, a person… That’s what made him inspiring for so many people. He pulled out all the stops.

TV: Back to the topic of giving Asia too much of a pass, in the book I don’t try to judge. It’s up to the reader, in the same way it was to me, to try to derive meaning from those things. It wasn’t always clear.

CW: I think you were even-handed. The Oral Biography seems more damning.

TV: I’m sure everything in the Oral Biography is true. What I include in my book is what I saw directly.

CW: That’s what sets your book apart. The Biography puts several degrees of separation between Tony and the reader. Your book is firsthand. Plus, you’re fair to the point of being too hard on yourself. Tom, the fact that you could go toe-to-toe with Tony for so many years and survive, while creating amazing TV, is proof that you’re much stronger than you probably think you are.

TV: Tony used to talk about how your greatest humiliations are most entertaining or funny for other people to read. I don’t think I 100% consciously set out to do that. But after having been steeped in Tony’s storytelling process for so long, I see the book is definitely a collection of my biggest fuckups and worst moments and failures. He was right, again. Those do make the most interesting stories.

CW: On page 282 you wrote…

“I’ve struggled with persistent questions of whether he actually cared enough about me to give me his best.”

I think if you can’t picture what his best would have looked like — had it been even better than what you got from him — that answers your question. I believe he did give you his best.

TV: He did.

CW: And I think a lot of people would agree.

BONUS: Tom loves cats.

Tom back home after a shoot, sacked out with the late Frida, aka “Mr. Whiskers”

CW: Being Cats Working, I have to ask about the many random shots of cats on your B roll that made it into the shows.

TV: Tony would joke a lot about my cats and my relationship with cats. I adore cats. So, the camera guys knew whenever a cat was around they would film it, and I’d use it in the edit.

CW: Do you have any cats currently?

TV: I do, Lucy and Tabby.

CW: Are they both females?

TV: They are. Both Tabby and Lucy are tabby white, which is half white, half tabby. But I think Lucy, because of her very distinctive meow and incredible elegance, is actually at least half or mostly Siamese. They’re rescue cats.


Tony Leads a Revolution & Other Cat News

August 27, 2021

By Karen

When I named him Tony Bourdain, I should have known Tony the cat would be a rebel. The hill he’s chosen to have me die on is apparently collars. For decades, all of my cats have worn collars without incident. Until Tony…

“Some kitties are born to greatness. I’d rather claw my way to the top,” says Tony the Troublemaker.

You may remember, last year at the beginning of the pandemic, after Tony destroyed his orange collar, he got a blue one

“Does is bring out the pink in my nose?”

It didn’t take him long to scare the crap out of me by working his jaw under it to choke himself. I think he cut his tongue in the struggle because the collar was bloody by the time I heard his screams and snapped it off of him.

That was the end of collars for Tony, until this past April when Max’s birthday wish was for everyone to get new collars.

The ones I found were light and super-soft, but Tony popped out of his almost immediately. Roc and Max, who have both always worn collars, seemed fine with theirs.

But Tony must have been applying peer pressure behind my back, because Roc eventually popped his collar off, repeatedly, until I gave up.

Max held out until about a week ago, when he turned up naked one morning. Several days later, I found his collar at the base of his favorite perch…

Max would have let me put it back on him, but it’s looking shabby now. To go for his annual checkup and shots yesterday, he did agree to wear Tony’s like-new collar to the vet’s. Who do you think wore it better?…

Another Mysterious Incident…

A few weeks ago, I found this mouse in the hall outside my bedroom…

None of current cats have EVER played with it, and I have no idea which toy box it came from. But it’s tatty, so somebody must have loved it once. I just don’t remember who.

After several days undisturbed on the floor, it disappeared and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Then it reappeared and I saw Roc give it a few half-hearted kicks, but nobody has touched it since.

Tony and Roc have favorite toys (yellow sparkle ball, Fuglen the bird, respectively) they carry around, but they never just carry around random stuff, so red mouse is our new mystery.

RAL’s 2022 Calendar Went to the Dogs…

Because the contest got so cut-throat last summer when Tony came in 12th and became Mr. July 2021 on the Richmond Animal League calendar, I’d never get mixed up in this event again. The contest for the 2022 calendar wrapped up last Saturday and I caught the last 30 minutes. It raised a bit less than Tony’s calendar (approx. $66K vs. $80+K), but the competition was no less vicious and only three cats made the final cut.

Another black dog comfortably dominated by $6.5K until the last eight minutes, when a pair of dogs in third place threw in $6.6K and claimed the No. 1 spot.

The top fundraising cat, in fourth place with just over $3K, was a tux named Popeye Hailey…

“Popeye is a chip off the old Maxie in his snazzy collar,” says Max.

Also winning was a black cat named Thackery the Bestest…

“Black cats rock!” says Roc.

A tortie came in 11th place. Next year’s calendar will have nine dogs and only three cats.

The real drama was a cat named Father Christmas we were all rooting for because he looks like Tony’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather…

“The family resemblance is unmistakable,” says Tony.

But in the LAST THREE MINUTES, some stupid dog in a bandana made a last-ditch donation and pushed Father Christmas off the calendar into 13th place by only $21.

FUN FACT: The roughly $2.5K that Tony’s fans contributed last year would have put him in seventh place in this year’s contest.

Roc Dreams He’s a Tabby…

With humidity, the weather here has been feeling like 100+ for weeks on end now and we’re all wiped out. I happened to catch Roc this morning in Max’s favorite perch spot, masquerading in stripes as a tabby…

Max Rediscovers the Upstairs Perch…

Max hasn’t gone near the blue perch since I dragged it to the top of the stairs last November after building them a grand new perch for early Christmas.

This week, he rediscovered it and its fabulous aerial view of the front yard and neighborhood. Tony, who has been claiming exclusive rights, was none too pleased…

“Max, you can borrow it for a little while, but I’ll BE BACK!” says Tony the Terminator.

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