Cats Working Says Good-Bye to Adele

September 16, 2019

By Karen

I’m deeply saddened to report that Adele passed away on Thursday, September 12. She was 19 years and 5 months old, the last of the original Cats Working team who inspired my book, How to Work Like a CAT.

Without missing a beat in her routine until the very end, Adele became yet another victim of chronic renal failure, which she lived with for over two years. In her lifetime, she watched four “brothers” who were her world also succumb to CRF — Rex, Fred, Yul, and Cole.

Adele and Yul

This past spring, Adele also began developing a tumor on her neck. It didn’t hurt or bother her and seemed comparatively the least of her ailments, so she didn’t undergo any aggressive diagnosis or treatment for it.

Cole and Adele

Adele drove the daily agenda around here until her days slowly became more bad than good. When most foods lost their appeal (and we tried them ALL) and her meds weren’t helping, and even sleep didn’t bring much relief, we knew it was time to let her go while she still had her dignity. Her death was very peaceful.

Max and Roc are adjusting like a couple of rebels without causes to the newly quiet house and Adele’s empty favorite spots. They’re facing life for the first time since kittenhood without their etiquette coach and disciplinarian. They are better cats thanks to Adele’s tough love.

Max and Adele shared a bed

I’m missing my Delly so much, feeling the weight of accumulated grief from losing another decades-long companion to a scourge of epidemic proportions that veterinary medicine inexplicably seems to NEVER make any headway against. It’s taken me days to bring myself to write this and I’m in tears as I type.

Roc and Adele

Happy Birthday to Me!

April 9, 2012

By Max

My first birthday. You haven’t seen a lot of me lately because I’ve been busy growing up, so let me fill you in…

I got the one thing I wanted most for my birthday — a new feather for Da Bird. I chewed the old one down to a nubbin and it stopped making that swishy sound that turns even Cole into a relentless predator.

Here’s my old Da Bird and my latest attempt at origami.

I’d love to show you my incredible gymnastic feats with Da Bird, but Karen can’t operate the camera and spot me at once.

So here I am resting with my birthday present.

This happens to be a BIG week for Cats Working birthdays, with Adele’s on April 11 and Cole’s on April 15.

It seems since I arrived, Adele has developed a severe case of kitty-perch envy. So for her birthday she got a perch of her own (a few days early). When Karen dragged it in, Adele understood immediately it was for her and claimed possession like a maniac.

Adele was so berserko, you'd think the perch was made of 'nip.

But Cole had to butt in and be a buzz-kill. I’ve grown to realize that growing up in the joint left Cole pretty socially dysfunctional. It makes me thankful I got sprung as a kitten.

Cole’s either brave or crazy. You couldn’t PAY me to go there.

Cole and I get along OK. In fact, he’s a protective big brother, except when he gets carried away impersonating Mitt Romney and bites my neck.

Cole even lets me hang out with him on his special zebra pillow.

Adele accepted Cole’s rude intrusion with surprising grace, and even let him test-drive the perch for a while.

But she kept an eye on Cole to prevent any possible sabotage.

So now we all have our own hangouts and things are already feeling a bit calmer around here.

I bet you’re wondering what’s on TV. Lawrence Welk!

Remember one of my first kitten pictures, when Karen snapped me sacked out in that bed in her office? Well, here’s how I fill it out today.

Karen knitted these cat blankies when she was a TEENAGER, and they're still cozy!

These days, I usually spend mornings helping Karen out around the office. Adele likes to pay a visit after lunch, so I split to the man cave until dinnertime.

Karen says I’m too furry to make a good paperweight.

Every house with cats should have beams like ours.

The ultimate kitty perch.

And in the evening after dinner, I like to watch a little tube with Karen. Here I am with Cole’s Teddy, watching a program about Titanic.

It SANK? And wasted perfectly good RATS? Are you KIDDING ME?!

That’s about it. I wanted to show you how old I am like a typical little kid, but it won’t work with a paw until I’m a few years older.

OK, I can’t count with this thing, so show me again which finger I use to give somebody “the claw.”

PS: Cats Working sends a big “Happy Birthday” to Ariane Bourdain, who turns 5 years old today. Who knew we’d have the same birthday?

Suckered by a Pet Psychic

January 20, 2012

By Karen

On January 17, I consulted a pet psychic as my last hope of resolving ongoing hostilities between the Cats Working felines without resorting to medication (for them, not me).

I did my homework and thought I found a good psychic; her website was impressive. I won’t name her because I’m not out to sink her career, which can be lucrative — $50 for 30 minutes.

When we spoke to schedule the session, I liked her. I prepared questions for her to ask the cats, which I read to her at the start of what became a 2-hour ordeal.

At the appointed hour, I phoned her from the living room while the cats lounged in my bedroom. We started with Adele, who kvetched about “dust in the air” when I vacuum and something I spray in the house. (The only spray I use is Clorox Clean-Up in the kitchen and bathroom when Adele’s not there). Adele also complained her food isn’t “pure” enough.

The psychic seemed to push a raw-meat diet, which is dangerous and nutritionally unbalanced, and then suggested a dog food. She seemed to think cats and dogs can eat the same food.

Then Adele got nasty. She accused me of adopting Cole and Max for myself, not as her companions, and thinks it’s unreasonable for me to expect harmony. She claimed I spend too much time with the boys, fail to “discipline” them, and let them get away with too much. She feels like she’s doing all the work with them. She also thinks I need to “reclaim” my house and put them all in their place.

I was told that my life is out of balance and that the cats crave for me to bring nature to them, if only by getting outdoors more myself. Their hostility toward each other mirrors my feelings about myself.

To correct this, I’m supposed to remind myself that “I love me” when things go wrong, and practice more creative visualization.

Adele urged me to live in the moment. “When you’re with Cole and Max in the moment, you can sense who they are.”

Now, readers, do I seem like I don’t have a good sense of who these cats are?

Then our attention turned to Cole, who cryptically replied, “My instincts run deep,” when asked why he’s still skittish after living here for over 2 years.

We’ve had this longstanding mystery with the Petmate cat fountain. It keeps emptying into the big tray it’s placed in. I know Cole does it, but have never caught him in the act.

Instead of just asking Cole, “How does the water get out of the fountain?”, the psychic pumped me for details on the fountain, then basically repeated them back to me, right down to the “glug, glug” of the water reservoir draining. She said Cole does it by putting his paw in the water.

Really? And I thought he was using a shop vac.

Last, Max told me he’s fun-loving and lets things roll off his back.

Well, DUH! Max is a kitten.

Max also observed that Cole is really smart. I’ll say. Cole can suck a cat fountain dry without getting caught.

Bottom line: The cats’ interpersonal issues are MY fault because of how I live my life. They want more discipline. And I need to stimulate Cole’s and Max’s minds more.

Surprisingly, the late Fred and Yul and their Christmas orbs never came up.

It’s taken me a few days to write about this because it (and its $200 price tag) left me really in the dumps. If you know Cats Working, you understand why.

Adele spent a few hours at the vet that same afternoon, having minor surgery on an injured claw, which she told the psychic she had snagged on the rug. (Good guess!) Adele didn’t think the vet could do much, but I disagreed. As a result, the vet saved the claw (and buh-bye to another $200).

After processing everything, I concluded the psychic thinks cats and dogs are interchangeable and she cribs off Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan a lot. His name even came up.

And all the New-Agey recommendations didn’t come from the cats. They’re not into that stuff.

I’m happy to report that the cats have relaxed into their usual level of bickering. I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

P.T. Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute. This was definitely my minute.

Maxing Out on Christmas

December 22, 2011

By Max

I’m 8 months old now, and for my first Christmas ever, I’m discovering I landed in a home where Christmas is all about us CATS!

It all started when a big wreath showed up on the living room floor.

Adele frisked that thing like she was trained by the TSA.

I took a few sniffs and moved on once I realized it’s all fake.

Turns out, it was my first Christmas test. Karen planted the wreath there to see if I would go bonkers and destroy it. She figured it would be safer for me to attack it on the floor than on the mantel. I passed with honors.

Adele hasn’t been letting anything come into the house without a thorough inspection. No stocking-stuffer has been too small to escape her.

Adele raising "nosy" to an art form.

Then Karen started mumbling about my “stocking.” I thought we had that covered. I’m wearing 4 white furry socks.

Turns out I didn’t need a wearing stocking, but a hanging-by-the-chimney-with-care stocking — a.k.a. Santa Kitty bait.

The best stocking Karen could find is covered with stupid buttons. She sewed my name on it, but assured me it’s still a “work in progress” and she will replace the buttons with jingle bells. But for now, she jazzed it up with a sparkly brooch that looks just like ME!

If anybody asks, I’m saying it’s an homage to my “cute as a button” good looks.

Of course, when Adele saw my bling, she threw a fit and had to have some.

For her Highness, nothing less than gold and diamonds would do.

Cole’s stocking already has so much junk on it, he doesn’t care.

Santa Kitty can’t miss these babies now!

Every new kitty gets a special ornament for the tree, but Karen used my mug shot from the joint when I was 6 weeks old. That explains the dopey look on my face. I guess I’ll have to live with that every Christmas now.

At least I’m not lying naked on a bear-skin rug.

Then Karen dragged out a huge box of branches. When she put them all together, they made a TREE! In our LIVING ROOM!

I wasted no time climbing that thing — about every 5 minutes for a week.

Hmmm… where’s Cole when a kitten needs a boost?

Must remember

It's much easier when I smash the branches real flat!

Rats! I hit a green ceiling & couldn't go any higher.

Could YOU scold this kitty for climbing the tree?

I spent so much time in the tree, Karen was afraid to put anything but my one ornament on it. But then she felt guilty about depriving her little Maxy of his very first Christmas.

I tried to help her decorate, but stringing the lights from inside the tree almost got me strangled, so I climbed down and let Karen finish. She really did a number on it.

Have you ever seen anything so tarted up?

Cole likes to hang out under the tree with all the presents.

“I’m dreaming of a black Christmas…”

Karen’s OK with us hanging out under the tree as long as we don’t try to open any presents.

I wonder who all this junk is for?

We’re allowed to get away with so much, you’d think we would cooperate when Karen wanted us to do one little thing like pose in our Santa hats for your Christmas greeting, but you’d be wrong. Adele complained the hat mussed her ears. Karen did manage to catch Cole off-guard for a second…

If looks could kill...

I took my cue from Cole…

Mmmm... Santa must taste like chicken!

Then, my beloved Cattey betrayed me and made us all look like ingrates. I don’t know who he was trying to impress. There’s no such thing as SantaPillar!

Cattey's even SMILING!

But back to presents. Ours are wrapped in plain brown paper so we’ll know exactly which ones we can tear into Christmas morning.

Adele thinks they're new carriers for taking us to the vet. Always the pessimist.

The 2 flat ones in front are for Karen from us. Boy, is she going to be surprised when she sees her next AmEx bill!

I can hardly wait for Christmas morning. I probably won’t be able to sleep, listening for Santa Kitty to claw his way down our chimney.

Next week, I’ll let you know what was in all those big brown packages.

I hope Santa brings all our Cats Working readers a big pile of good ‘nip. Adele, Cole, Karen and I wish you…

A Merry Maxy Christmas!

Hello, My Name is Max

August 18, 2011

By Max

Yes, the rumors on Twitter are true. Cats Working has a new member. I was sprung, like Cole and Adele (and the late Yul) from the Richmond Animal League.

RAL neutered me at 8 weeks and enrolled me in vocational training at 10 weeks (I’m 18 weeks old now), which is how I can type. RAL don’t shelter no unemployable freeloaders. 

In the joint, they called me Venice, which was unfortunate because Karen’s long-ago ex-husband was named Dennis. But I had no problem starting my new life with a brand-new new collar and a brand-new new identity.

Karen thought I looked like Oscar Hammerstein (yeah, I know, what was she smoking?), but I kept ignoring her until she consulted a character-naming book and read about 2,000 cat names on the Web and finally pulled Max out of her butt.

At LAST! She guessed my REAL name!!

So, since all Karen’s cats have been named for famous humans, my full name is Maxwell Perkins Wormald.

It’s taken me a few days to pull this post together because Karen wanted it illustrated. But this is how they were all coming out because I’m really fast.

That's me, after leaving a little present in Cole's big-cat box.

And then I had to learn how to use a PC. (I’m used to Mac.) I couldn’t wait to get right to work in Karen’s office first thing Monday morning, but my learning curve was interfering with Karen’s work.

I never knew watching someone type could be so much fun!

I literally sat there for HOURS, mesmerized.

When it was my turn to type, I noticed that Karen has an ergonomic keyboard. I really love it!

I quickly realized I type much faster when I sit on the other side of the keyboard.

In fact, since I arrived, I have spent most of my days hanging out in Karen’s office, and I have already learned how to keep this from happening whenever I jump off her desk.

I hadn't been there 10 minutes before all Karen's projects went flying.

Karen moved one of the cat beds in for me, but I found her recycle box just as comfy.

Trying to prove I'm not a golddigger. Hope it's working. I won't always fit in here.

I wasted no time in letting Karen know that even though I’m named after an editor, I can’t be trusted with manuscripts.

Best to dispel early any notions she has of making me her file clerk.

Speaking of trust, yesterday while Karen was trying to take a nap with Cole and Adele to get back in their good graces, I snuck upstairs to use Cole’s box instead of the tiny kitten box Karen gave me. I hate to be treated like a child. Unfortunately, the toilet paper was hanging beyond my reach, so I had to make do.

Glad she doesn't buy that cheapo one-ply stuff. I'd have to unroll twice as much.

My first night “home” (ah, I love how that sounds!) I slept in the room that Cole calls his “man cave,” and I think it left Cole feeling displaced and a little grudgy. But he has nothing to worry about. I moved out the next morning and I’ve had the run of the house ever since, including the coveted crow’s nest of the kitty perch.

Do you think it's true, what they say about boy cats with big tails?

I won’t say Adele and Cole have been mean to me, but they haven’t been exactly cordial. I’ve been using my considerable charm to steadily wear them down.

Who could resist this sweet, innocent face?

It’s working. Last night, Adele shared a game of laser pointer tag with me, and then sat me down for a pow-wow. I did my best to show respect for her vast wisdom. Now she lets me touch her nose.

Why does she keep calling me "Grasshopper?"

Before the evening was over, we were all hanging out together and nobody was hissing, so I think this is all going to work out.

Day 4. Our first group photo. I arranged that lamp shade.

Since I’m named after Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s editor, I know Karen set the bar for my blog posts very high. Cole says that until I get up to speed on current events and start having intelligent opinions — which I suspect he thinks will never happen — I’ll be handling the cat beat.

Adele keeps repeating, like a broken record, “Write what you know.”

So I just thought I’d pop in and introduce myself.

PS: Kittens play hard, but we also rest hard. Here’s me discovering that the bed in Karen’s office isn’t half bad!

Not my most flattering pose, but at least I'm not drooling


Yul Puts the Yule in Christmas

December 22, 2009

By Cole

The no-kill joint where I grew up always had so many animals, holidays were like any other day for us. This is my first Christmas in my own home, and nothing could have prepared me. Actually, nothing could ever prepare anybody for Christmas with Yul.

It’s tradition that Cats Working cats have their own Christmas stockings, and Karen makes them special. She embroidered this one for me herself:

Because Yul was adopted from the joint on December 21, 1996, his stocking got last-minute iron-on letters, but this year, Karen gave him an upgrade:

Now all our stockings are beautiful and Santa Kitty can’t miss them.

I thought getting my own stocking was great, but it was only the beginning. Karen decided to go all out and put up the big Christmas tree. She loads it with sturdy cat ornaments, which started when a previous cat named Rex playfully smashed nearly 2 dozen glass ornaments his first Christmas and pooped tinsel.

No more tinsel. Now we have garland.

At 13, Yul remembers lots of fun Christmases, so he couldn’t resist supervising assembly of what would become our shiny 7’ tree-shaped cat toy…

“The screws for the stand must be in here somewhere.”

After Yul showed Karen where to put every branch, he was proud of their accomplishment.

“See? It’s as easy as licking your whiskers!”

Next came the ornaments. We cats each get our own special ornament (me, too!), and Karen hung them all together, right in front…

Clockwise from top right: Rex, Fred 1993, Yul 1996, Cool Cat Adele, another Adele, and Yours Truly 2009 in the center.

Here’s the tree when Karen and Yul were finished decorating…

Yul got really excited when he found THIS ornament, a favorite of his…

Fat Cat

Actually, there are 3 identical Fat Cats on the tree. Karen placed 2 near the bottom because Yul will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Adele tells me he has tipped the tree over in the past. It took Yul no time to claim the object of his desire…

And to decide that Fat Cat looked hungry after several years in storage and offer him a square meal…

Meanwhile, Karen was arranging silk poinsettias in a pewter pitcher on the kitchen table. Yul loves flower arranging, so that’s what he tackled next, giving the festive centerpiece his own personal touch — literally…

Yul says flowers are best admired up-close and sideways.

From one of my favorite observation posts — a beam across the living room — I politely admired the decorations on the balcony. Unlike Yul, I don’t have to get paws-on to appreciate things.

Once she had the house all decked out, Karen went shopping and brought home a whopping early Christmas surprise. Let me preface this by saying that our blue 4-tier kitty perch has been a fave of mine since I overcame the new-cat jitters and started hanging out downstairs with everybody. It’s about 5’ high, so no one can sneak-attack.

Unfortunately, sharing the perch became a turf issue with Adele. Things improved a little when Karen returned downstairs the kitty condo where I holed up for my first 3 months here. Adele was happy to get that back and has been gracious about sharing it with me…

But Karen thought everyone might be happier with another high perch. Naturally, Yul was on it before she could even remove the price tag…

Yul says, “First cat to shed on it owns it!”

From our old perch, I watched Yul demonstrate how to climb into the “crow’s nest” through a little hole in the bottom.

Yul says, “Nothing to it. Piece o’ tuna, Kid!”

Adele had to try it next. “Seniority,” she told me.

I’m chomping at the bit (uh, at the bottom) for my turn.

Finally, nobody was around and my big chance came to check out the crow’s nest for myself. I’m King of the New Kitty Perch!

Wow, this is a lot higher than it looks!

Karen moved the old perch to the other end of the room. Adele and Yul seem to prefer it there.

Sometimes they look like an old married couple, don’t they?

The new perch is now sitting next to my favorite chair, but I share it with everybody. It’s the only way to survive around here.

Yul says, “Kid, first kitty come, first kitty served.”

As we anticipate the arrival of Santa Kitty, Yul keeps fiddling with the tree, rearranging ornaments, garland, and lights…

“All the best decorators know that a few ornaments on the floor and droopy garland lend casual elegance.”

Sometimes, Adele doesn’t appreciate Yul’s efforts and lets him know in that no-nonsense, direct way I recognize all too well…

“Ow, Adele! Get a manicure! Your talons could use a trim!"

Now there are lots of presents under the tree, and Yul says some have my name on them. What could they possibly be?

Yul says, “I peeked, but it's fun to keep the kid guessing.”

Adele and Yul tell me the best is yet to come. On Christmas morning, we will open our presents, have a breakfast of Fancy Feast® Elegant Medleys, get stoned on ‘nip and nosh on Temptations® treats while we watch Video Catnip. It’s the feline version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

I feel blessed that Karen recognized my potential and selected ME — not a cute little kitten, but a grown-up cat with some emotional baggage — from my dozens of cellmates, and gave me this wonderful life. So I’m leaving all the mischief and destruction to Yul because he’s well-known for it and I don’t want to blow it.

The whole gang at Cats Working — Karen, Adele, Yul, and I — wish all our readers a Merry, Coley Christmas!

Yul needs to show me how to wear this thing with panache.

Your Cat May be Poisonous

April 17, 2008

By Adele

The Hanover Animal Hospital in Mechanicsville, Va., recently did a scary study that made news. They revealed that cats (and dogs) are basically hazardous chemical dumps.

They only tested blood and urine from 35 dogs and 37 cats, but what they found was pretty disturbing. The cats had 23 times the amount of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in their bodies than humans.

BFRs replaced PCBs in furniture, fabrics, carpets, and plastics used in electronics. Greenpeace has been campaigning to get them banned.

Now I guess we’re taking our 9 lives into our paws when we lounge in our favorite places: on the couch, the carpet, in the laundry, or on top of the TV or computer.

But even more disturbing than that – they found 5 times more mercury in cats. Now our love of fish is working against us.

Researchers think the high mercury is due to the fact that once our owners find a brand or flavor of food we like, they’re afraid to switch it and piss us off. They probably haven’t considered that mercury-laced fish might just taste better.

Overall, they found 46 suspicious chemicals in cats, but only 35 in dogs. I see that result as testament to dogs’ lack of creativity in getting into things they shouldn’t.

They think we pets get more exposure to chemicals, pesticides and other nasties because we’re lower to the ground.

Well, DUH!

Scientists are worried about these findings because they say animals can be harbingers of problems in humans. But I’m waiting to hear what the hell this means for CATS and what they’re going to do about it.

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