About DeccaCats

Two cats and an author. We blog about life as seen by two Siamese cats (brothers) and review books about cats from time to time. Our "author" writes historical romance, mostly Victorian and usually with a touch if suspense and mystery.

Review: ‘Furry Paw, Middle Claw’ tells serious, thoughtful story

It’s easy to tell when a book has been written from the heart — it’s got a genuine quality that shines from every page.

Barry Jackson cover art

‘Furry Paw, Middle Claw,’
Hardcover; $24.99; 217 Pages

“Furry Paw, Third Claw,” by Barry Jackson, is just such a book. Though it is a novel, it draws heavily on Jackson’s life and the many cats that, willingly or not, he came to know and share his home with.

Told from the human point of view, the cats nonetheless dominate the narrative. Like many men, when Dean Parker meets Melissa, the love of his life, his choice was to accept her, cats and all, or face life without her. He grudgingly accepts the two cats into his home, secretly hoping he can somehow get rid of them or — a hope even more vain — change Melissa.

He uses lots of humor to tell of his secret battle with the cats to be the dominate animal in his own home, but it is the humor of hindsight. This is a serious story, involving quite a bit of loss and heartache.

The novel really is about Parker’s journey out of a lonely childhood darkened by the knowledge his mother didn’t want him to an adulthood in which he learns to be a loving family man with a deeper understanding of himself and the cosmos. Along the way, nearly a dozen cats come in and out of his life — each with lessons to impart.

These lessons aren’t easy, nor are they conveyed with a sweet purr and a cuddly demeanor. We can’t imagine many men putting up with the spraying, shedding, smelly litter boxes, yowling, clawing and generally untamed behavior that Parker endures. Melissa is a rescuer, quick to adopt street cats, feral kittens and felines with serious wounds or illnesses. At one point, Parker calculates that over the course of their marriage, he and Melissa have spent $121,000 caring for their cats. (And there would be still more to come!)

And it’s not long before four cats at a time becomes the norm in their household. Parker eventually begins to appreciate their better qualities — and love Melissa all the more for her generous heart. The real turning point for him comes, though, when their son Craig is diagnosed with autism and one cat in particular, Dash, becomes the boy’s friend, companion and pathway into the wider world.

Looking back on his life toward the end of the novel, Parker comments,

“I believe it was my destiny to live my adult life with Melissa, Craig, and the cats. Cats came into my life in the same way I found Melissa and Theo [a friend], by chance or by fate. They recognized my moods and helped me just by being there with their love that knew no limits. However, life with the kitties was not always roses: hairballs in shoes, sinks used as litter pans, a dead vole brought to my pillow, birds carted into the house to be shredded beyond recognition, and tens of thousands of dollars of vet bills. It was always easy to forgive the cats for their transgressions because they were innocent. Forgiving people was not as easy.”

The title of the novel, “Furry Paw, Middle Claw” means just what you think it might. This is a realistic book; Jackson doesn’t make any attempt in the novel to get inside his cats’ heads or sentimentalize them. He describes their behaviors, good and bad, and their effects on Dean Parker and his family. Parker’s transformation into cat lover is gradual, therefore believable, and never quite total — just like Parker’s coming to terms with his emotionally abusive childhood and the place he makes for himself in the world.

Jackson, a CPA who has served a chief operating officer of several New York City law firms (according to his officials biography), live in New Jersey with his wife and four cats. This is his first novel. While his writing in spots shows the greenness of a new author, the novel is very readable and rewarding.

“Furry Paw, Middle Claw,” published June 1, is available for Kindle and in hardback from Amazon or the publisher at www.turnthepagepublishing.com (ISBN: 978-1-938501-10-4).

We give this book four paws!

A Day in the Life: Mischief goes to the vet

I knew something was up right away. Decca kept stopping and looking at my face while she was getting ready for work.

Mischief loves his new blanket.

Mischief loves his new blanket.

Sure, I’m handsome, but this was different.

Then she was on the phone — at 7:15 in the morning! I didn’t know — then — who she was talking to, but I heard my name and something about a “weeping eye.” My eye??

Before she stopped talking I was halfway up the steps, and when she started calling me, I was under the bed. In the guest room, just to throw her off.

But it didn’t work. By 7:30, I was shivering in my cat carrier, in a cold car, torn away from my breakfast, my warm bed and Trouble, who didn’t even say good-bye. He was too busy hiding by then, looking out for his own skin. Some brother!

By now you’ve guessed what I only suspected. Decca took me to the vet. And then she left me there.

Now, don’t get me wrong. They are very nice people at the animal clinic, but this is not how I planned to spend my day. I’ve got new toys to play with, birds to watch, the fabulous fuzzy blanket I got for Christmas. And the sun was out today.

Mischief checks out his carrier.

Did I really fit in that??

Instead, I got a cage, too many distractions to count and did I mention the dogs? I couldn’t see them, but do they ever stop barking? Is that what dogs do when they’re home? Have they no self-control?

I, on the other hand, practiced my vocal scales when I was alone and purred whenever anyone came by. Everyone was so friendly! And even though I fussed all the way there (and, as it turned out, all the way home), I was a perfect gentleman while I was there. I heard Dr. T. tell Decca I was “a very good boy” and “very sweet.”

Let me tell you — it wasn’t easy. I didn’t mind so much being weighed — or even having my eyes and ears peered at. But someone took my temperature when I wasn’t looking. Delicacy prevents me from discussing that further. If you haven’t been through this, you don’t want to know.

In the end, I was pronounced fit and healthy. Since my eye wasn’t scratched — and it had stopped weeping by this time, of course — Dr. T. asked a lot of questions about new things in our home.

Christmas tree? Nope. Different litter? Nope. Plants, dust, anything heavily scented? No, no and no.

Siamese cat in carrier.

Trouble thinks it’s funny to take a nap in his carrier.

We finally narrowed it down to my new blanket, which I’ve been burrowing my face into for hours at a time, I like it so much. So Decca’s going to throw it in the washing machine and then watch to see if this happens again.

Meanwhile, I was really happy to get home tonight, only to have to put up with Trouble. He should be acting Shakespeare on the stage, he’s so dramatic. I’m the one who spent the day in a strange place with strange people and noises. So why is he hiding under the chair? He wouldn’t even come out for his dinner. So I did something I’ve never done before.

I ate it.

Water, water everywhere: Do you have enough?

Decca’s been reading too much stuff about how it’s important to keep your cat “challenged.”

Trouble inspects.

Trouble checks out the parts for the new drinklng fountain.

We were excited when the big box — a box! — came into the house just before Christmas but not so much when she told us the contents were for us, too. Not only was there no tissue paper, but the new thing had “some assembly required.”

And then we found out it was practical. “Practical” is kind of like getting underwear for Christmas (except we don’t wear underwear, we like to steal it) or socks (ditto).

two cats and a water fountain

Mischief gets it: Where’s the water? Trouble just wants the box.

Now that it’s together and operating, though, we like our new Drinkwell 360, though Decca had to experiment with the number of fountain streams before she found the one we like best and Trouble was a little slow warming up to it. He loved our old Drinkwell, but some folks just don’t like change.

Having a water fountain is a lot of fun. We can pretend we’re wild creatures in the jungle, pausing from the hunt to refresh ourselves at a clear mountain stream — or that someone left the water running at the bathroom sink. Whatever.

Mischief takes a drink.

So refreshing!

It’s good for us, too, since we drink more water and it’s filtered. Water is important for everyone, but indoor cats, a lot of experts say, don’t drink enough water, especially if they eat mostly dry food. Decca keeps a close eye on our health. Dehydration can cause problems, but drinking too much water can be a sign of trouble, too, particularly in older cats. It’s a classic symptom of feline diabetes.

Here’s a fun fact: Did you know it took a team of scientists to discover how cats drink? A lot of physics is involved. Cats lap four times a second when they drink! You can read about it here. And here is a video.

Trouble keeps his distance.

Trouble isn’t sure he likes change.

Getting back to that “challenging” stuff, another box came last week. A “puzzle” feeder?? We can hardly wait.

Update: Since we posted this, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about our water fountain. It’s called the Drinkwell 360, and you can read about the vet who invented it and where to buy it here.

Thanks for visiting our blog. We hope to see you again in 2013 — Happy New Year!

Peace on earth, goodwill toward all

We’re cats, not poets, but at this most holy season, we wish you blessings:

Amid pain, may you experience healing.
Amid suffering, may you help and be helped.
In times of despair, may you find hope.

DeccaCats Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas from Trouble and Mischief! (See our tree? That’s all we’re allowed to have.)

If you fall into doubt, may you discover faith.
If you find yourself in conflict, may you know peace.
In the midst of clamor, may you hear that still, small voice within that calms and says all will be well.

As winter begins, remember the longest night is already behind us. Each dawn brings us closer to a new spring.

As the old year dies away, a new year begins. May it bring you wisdom, joy and love.

In an imperfect world, may you see the promise of tomorrow.

Remembering family at the holidays

We notice things when Decca’s got the TV on. She thinks we’re sleeping next to her on the sofa, but we’re all ears even if our eyes are shut. So what we’ve been hearing a lot of lately is “special time for family.”

This holiday season, we are looking forward to time with our families, treats, gifts, lots of hugs and smiles — and did we mention gifts? And food?

Our mama, Sophie.

Our mama, Sophie.

That got us to thinking about family. We haven’t seen our feline family since the day we left the farm where we were born. We were 12 weeks old when we came to live with Decca. But our human family is pretty big and grows. We’ve got Decca and her family and friends; our sitter, Cassie; everybody at the veterinarian who makes sure we’re healthy, though we don’t really like going to see them.

The one thing they all have in common is that they love us, fuss over us and take care of us (even Decca’s friends who say they are “allergic” to us — what is that?? And friends we don’t see very often, like Sherry, who brought us fabulous toys and who gave us the climber/napper tower with the carpeting that matches our eyes).

Baby days

But that first family we left behind was pretty wonderful, too. Decca found a picture of our Mama Sophie that she snapped with her phone she came to meet us — we were so tiny then and now we’ve grown bigger than she is.

We’re hoping we can coax Decca to go back and get a photo of our papa. We didn’t spend much time with him, because he lived with his buddies in a big special “man cave” on the farm, while the mothers and little ones had the run of the house until we kittens were weaned. Then the mamas got to relax, while we went to live in the nursery with our aunts and cousins. That’s when we had the most fun, climbing, wrestling, meowing, and watching the crows and chickens and ponies and the outside cats, before we fell into a big kitten pile to nap.

Most Fridays we tweet “lessons from our mother,” but those patient aunties of ours taught us a lot as well. Mama Sophie schooled us in how to navigate the world, whether it was stalking our toys and food bowls (and her), sharing with our litter mates or learning the quirky, crazy things humans do. She showed us it was OK not to be afraid of the washing machine, the dishwasher, the blender, the vacuum cleaner or all the other loud things humans have in their houses. She also showed us by example how to let our humans know we love them — all it takes is a bump, a purr or a little kiss now and then.

It was the aunts, though, who had the harder task of teaching us to get along with others. From them we learned team work and playing fair. And they were a real comfort at night, when it was quiet and, tired from a busy day, we would remember we missed Mama Sophie.

The world community

Since Decca let us go on the Internet, we’ve discovered we have a third family. We’ve written about them here already — the friends we’ve found all over the world.

And from them, we learned about our fourth — and biggest — family: All the cats and dogs and other creatures out there who depend on each other — and us — sometimes
for their very lives. One at a time, we may not be able to do much for the cold, the homeless, the hungry, the endangered, but all of us little ones doing all our little bits can add up to mighty results.

Decca does things like “ring the bell” for the Salvation Army, donating clothes to Goodwill, buying locally grown food as much as possible and she encourages us to get important information out about good causes and organizations using Twitter.

We love retweeting important and inspiring messages and joining with others trying to make the world a better place for all creatures.

Giving what we can

Decca gave us this huge piece of paper that was used as packing in a box. (She didn't let us keep the box!) Can you see Mischief?

Decca gave us this huge piece of paper that was used as packing in a box. (She didn’t let us keep the box!) Can you see Mischief?

We also accidentally found a way to help our local humane society more. Decca used to feed us special, rather expensive food (we won’t name it) and one day we both refused to eat it. She was unhappy with us, tried getting it from a different place, waited a couple of months and tried again — we just won’t eat it anymore. The food she found that we do like now is just as nutritional (she checked) but costs less. So that lets Decca give more to help the animals waiting for their forever homes!

We’ve been playing a lot more with crumpled paper, empty boxes and other fun things we find around the house; Decca’s smart — she’ll figure out we don’t need new toys in our Christmas stocking and give the money she didn’t spend to those who need it more.

What about you? Who is your family, and how will you celebrate the joys of the season with them?

Review: ‘Purrs of Wisdom’ aptly named

Ingrid King’s cat Ruby graces the cover of her new book.

We know that living with cats can make people happier and less stressed. But can cats also help humans be healthier, more organized and smarter?

We think so, but don’t take our word for it — read “Purrs of Wisdom,” the new book by Ingrid King, who writes the award-winning blog, “The Conscious Cat,” and produces a wonderful website that she accurately describes as “a comprehensive resource for conscious living, health, and happiness for cats and their humans.”

Much of “Purrs of Wisdom” is drawn from Ms. King’s interesting, helpful — and, yes, wise — blog. Her regular readers should be very happy to find all that good advice drawn together in one volume. New readers will discover many pearls — urr, purrs — to enrich their lives and increase their appreciation of the cats they know.

We read the book straight through, but we admit that’s not the best way to approach it. Just as you might be tempted to wolf down a whole bag of treats if you get the chance, it’s better to enjoy the chapters one or two at a time and really savor their goodness. Otherwise you might be tempted to skim over some important lessons thinking they are repetitious when Ms. King really is providing constructive emphasis and subtle new angles on key points.

King bases “Purrs of Wisdom” — and “The Conscious Cat” — on her own daily observations and interactions with the cats who share her life. This results in a practical simplicity that we find is the book’s chief appeal. You can read any chapter and act on it immediately.

There are chapters on healthy eating, the importance of sleep, learning from nature, eliminating negativity from your life, techniques to find your dreams, aging gracefully and much more. Unfortunately for humans, they can’t purr, she notes. But just learning to breathe correctly, for example, can have a similar healing effect on the human body and mind.

All this she tells with heartfelt love for her feline mentors.

The golden thread running throughout the book is essential catness: Live in the moment and discover the importance of contemplation and gratitude. Observe the cats you know, then emulate them.

Cats are centered beings, and you can be, too. From that inner calm flows all the good in life.

It’s easy to see that Ms. King is a true cat person — her cats are not mere “pets” but genuine companions and guides. Cats changed her life and helped her reach her dreams. That can happen for you, too, if you are willing to watch and learn.

The book is available on Kindle at the moment but is expected to be in print soon.

We give this book four paws!

An award? For us?? Why, thank you!

cupcakesAs we wrote last week, the Internet is an awesome place — we make new friends every day, learn about new places without leaving our cosy home and — hard as it is to believe (we’re meezers, after all) — discover an inner humility we never suspected we had, because our online friends are so kind and giving.

Mischief is bedazzled

Mischief is awestruck by Nerissa’s nomination — are those stars in those baby-blue eyes?

One of them is Nerissa, a really sweet cat who blogs about life here. We linked to his blog a while back, under “Websites We Recommend” in the column to the right, but imagine our surprise when we got our paws on Decca’s computer today (finally!) and found out he had nominated us for the One Sweet Blog Award!

Thank you, Nerissa — you should see us blushing!

This is a perfect example of what we were trying to say. Do nice things and nice things come back to you. Last month, we learned a word for that from the Dalai Lama’s Cat: karma.

We happily accept your nomination, Nerissa, along with what you call “the strings” that are attached. Our Decca, though, says we should consider those not strings but an opportunity to “pay it forward.”

All we have to do is say “thank you, Nerissa,” (done!), link to your blog (done!) and nominate five other blogs for the award.

And here they are. We hope that, like Nerissa and us, our nominees will consider this a happy occasion and a chance to call attention to some deserving “sweet” bloggers they may enjoy as well. Share the love and pass it along to others!

  • Cory Cat
  • Savannah’s Paw Tracks
  • Moses the Cat
  • Housecat Confidential
  • Jacqueline’s Cat House
  • It’s a small, small world — and wonderful

    We’re just two cats who live with a writer in the northeastern United States. We’re so “indoors” we back away when the front door is open in case somebody gets the wrong idea and thinks we want to go out. No thanks!

    cats lounge on their tree

    Here we are, watching the world go by from our sunny front window.

    We like our comfy lives — warm, dry, fluffy beds, a big soft couch and toys whenever we want them, lots of windows that let us bask in the sunshine or watch the world go by, as the mood takes us. Also, our home is in a busy neighborhood next to a highway where traffic whizzes by too fast, so we know we’re better off in here

    cats at the patio door

    Check out the body language — that chipmunk is back!

    A bonus is that we always know where the food bowls are (and that they’re safe from that pesky chipmunk that takes all the birdseed from the feeder if we look away for even a moment). Our water supply is cool and clean as well.

    Since we started this blog, though, we’ve had quite an education in world geography. As of this writing, visitors from 22 countries — every continent but Africa and Antarctica — have come to this site. (If you’re interested, we’ve listed them below)

    Whether they’ve been pleased or disappointed with what they’ve found here, we thank all our visitors with our warmest purrs. What a privilege to be noticed so widely!

    cat with book in box

    We liked the Kindle version so much, we just had to have the actual book.

    We’d especially like to thank HHC (aka The Dalai Lama’s Cat). If she and her Transcriber hadn’t noticed our review of her book a couple of weeks ago and then graciously consented to an interview, none of this would have happened.

    Here’s a shout-out, too, to the wonderful web of friends growing on Twitter. We love all of you!

    All of this just goes to show what a little courtesy and kindness can do. Two virtually unknown cats — nobody really special except to ourselves and our Decca — have been able to reach out from their little world into a greater one of fun, information, advice, sympathy and friendship.

    It warms our hearts with the hope that we contribute in our own small way to understanding between peoples and nations. What a small world it is, indeed! Just look:

    United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, India, France, Cyprus, Denmark, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Germany, Slovenia, Chile, Switzerland, Singapore, Brazil and Hungary.

    Philosophers and diplomats no doubt have said it better than we can: No matter where you live or what language you speak, more unites us than divides us. We should embrace whatever helps us remember, acknowledge and act on the things that bring us together. Even if it’s just two cats amusing themselves with a blog.

    We invite you to join us on our journey.

    Five questions: An interview with The Dalai Lama’s Cat

    We are most honored to bring you an exclusive interview with HHC (“His Holiness’s Cat”), whose fascinating and insightful memoir, The Dalai Lama’s Cat (reviewed below), was published earlier this month. Thank you, HHC, for taking the time to answer our questions!

    portrait view of HHC

    HHC (Used by permission)

    1. Why did you decide to write the book?

    The book was inspired by a very famous actress who I am far too discrete to name.  She’s blonde, legally blonde, and when she came to visit His Holiness she made a remark about ‘What stories this cat could tell.’  That was really how the whole thing started. 
    2. If there is one thought or idea you hope readers take away, what would that be?
    The importance of loving kindness.  This isn’t just fluffy kitten stuff.  It’s perfectly true and you can test it against your own experience.  When you think of the times in your life when you’ve been most content, you invariably find that other beings have been your focus.  When were you grumpiest?  Who were you thinking about then?  The Dalai Lama calls this paradox ‘being wisely selfish.’  The more we think of others’ happiness, the happier we become ourselves.
    3. What was the most difficult part to write?

    Revealing details of my romantic entanglement with a street cat.  Dear reader, it was my hormones speaking.  What can I say?
    4. How has publishing the book changed your life?

    I’ve suddenly discovered all these Facebook cat lovers I never dreamed humans would be so interested!
    5. What’s next for you?

    A long sleep.
    Bonus question!  What was it like to work with a human?

    Like most humans my Transcriber doesn’t speak Cat very well.  What part of “I’m bored now, show me the tuna” does he not get?

    But in fairness, his heart is in the right place, and it’s nice to have this opportunity to share some of the great insights I’ve learned sitting on the lap of The Dalai Lama.

    (You can order the book in print or digital form HERE).

    Worth reading: ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat’

    ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat,’ by David Michie (Hay House, 2012), is available in print or in digital format.

    Many readers will no doubt call The Dalai Lama’s Cat charming, delightful or even touching. Author David Michie’s new book is all those things, but we like it best for its gentle power.

    As he tells the story of a stolen kitten rescued from certain death to become a most admired companion of the revered teacher, Michie interweaves the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism, but he never preaches. The journey of HHC (His Holiness’s Cat) – aka the Snow Lion of Jokhang, aka Mousie-Tung, aka Rinpoche – from self-centeredness to self-awareness is natural, not forced.

    We could see a lot of our baby selves in the frightened little Himalayan in her early days, though we’ve led much more privileged lives ourselves. Torn abruptly from her mother, her need for reassurance, physical security and food – lots of food – is understandable. And like all young ones, her perceptions of reality become her reality, with herself as the only reference point that matters. And from there stems much misunderstanding and needless suffering.

    But because HHC, like all cats, is a keen observer, she quickly learns by example that her way is rarely the best way. Her baby steps on the road to enlightenment are frequently amusing, but in the end, they are instructive. We wish we were more like her!

    Her horror when instinct overwhelms her and she attacks a mouse; her embarrassment when she must acknowledge the results of her gluttony; her chagrin when she begins to see that no one should be judged by appearance; her growing pleasure when she realizes that true happiness comes from serving others – these are all moments any reader can relate to.

    (Thanks to the incident with the mouse, we are looking at our toy mice differently.  Is this kind of play helping us to develop compassion for all creatures? That chipmunk that taunts us from the patio – how does he feel, seeing our narrowed eyes and lashing tails? As HH would say, we all have choices.)

    Chief among HHC’s teachers-by-example, apart from His Holiness himself, of course, are his assistants, Chogyal and Tenzin, the voluble Mrs. Trinci and local restaurateur Franc – who, for too long, sadly, confuses the outward trappings of practice with the inward peace that comes mindfulness and genuine humility. Michie deftly sketches these key figures in HHC’s life; each, often unwittingly, leads HHC to insight.

    We especially liked the chapter in which both HHC and two young monks discover that all can redirect their steps onto a better path, no matter how unpromising their beginnings. Truly, we cannot know how our actions today will ultimately affect others.

    We also catch through HHC’s eyes glimpses of His Holiness’s busy life, including a parade of celebrities and state leaders from around the world (and HHC is discreet about these encounters), as well as intimate moments shared between HH and HHC (but, again, our feline narrator is discreet).

    Nearly every page features the best kind of humor – warm, inclusive and never mocking. As HHC discovers, the proper object of humor is ourselves. From there, compassion grows most surely.

    We recommend this book highly. Suitable for older children through adults, it can be read as an entertaining story, but we predict you will find yourself going back from time to time just to reread favorite parts or to remind yourself of a particular instructive moment. Through HHC’s personal journey, we found much encouragement toward right living (we certainly could be more mindful about our Fancy Feast).  

    Finally: Is this story “true,” as in factual? That’s beside the point. The Dalai Lama’s Cat is what every tale should be – true to universal principles and true to the desire within every living creature to be loved.

    Michie is the author of the non-fiction best-sellers Buddhism for Busy People and Hurry Up and Meditate and a number of novels.

    We appreciate that Michie this time chose to look through the eyes of cat. Too many people stereotype us as selfish and aloof, instead of taking time to understand us for who we are. By telling the tale from HHC’s perspective, Michie reminds readers that, as His Holiness teaches, every individual – cat or human — seeks to enjoy happiness and avoid suffering.

    For those unfamiliar with the Dalai Lama, Buddhism or cats, this book is a splendid introduction. For those already acquainted with these topics, The Dalai Lama’s Cat belongs on your bookshelf with the no-doubt weightier tomes you possess. It is beautiful in its directness and simplicity.

    Follow HHC at @DalaiLamasCat or on Facebook, where you can also read more and see photos of other cats (and people, too).

    We give this book our highest rating: 5 Paws!