6

Are Aardvarks Anteaters?

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Greetings from Les Sloth. You may have heard that Cat wants each of us to write about an animal that may be less well-known to our readers. To be perfectly honest, it seems kind of silly. How do we know what you know?

Anyway, I decided to look through an animal directory to find something with an interesting name. The first thing I came across was the aardvark. I didn’t know anything about aardvarks, so I decided to interview one. If the readership is full of aardvark specialists, I apologize for not choosing a more unique creature.

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The first thing I discovered is that they are nocturnal, which is bad. The second thing I learned is that they live in sub-Saharan Africa, which is good. Day in Costa Rica (where I live) is night in Africa. So we would both be awake, which is good.

I spoke with a very pleasant aardvark named Mel. Actually, I can’t pronounce his real name, so he said to call him Mel. The conversation started a little strangely.

Mel: Greetings from Malawi. It is very nice to speak with you.

Les: Thank you for taking the time.

Mel: I only have one ground rule. Do not ask me about Arthur or any of the other aardvark cartoons the humans have on your side of the world.

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(I had no idea what he was talking about, so I agreed not to talk about them.)

Les: Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Mel: I am built sturdily. About 150 pounds, 7 feet long (including tail). I am pale gray with extremely tough skin and sparse fur. My back legs are longer than my front legs.

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Les: Wow. That’s about twice my size.

Mel: Yes, but we don’t have your extremely nice-looking fur coats.

Les: That’s very kind of you to say. Do you have a family?

Mel: We are expecting our first child in late spring. It will be an exciting time for us. Of course, it will share its mother’s burrow for the first year.

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Les: Congratulations! What types of things do you like to eat?

Mel: We mainly eat ants and termites. There is also an aardvark cucumber that is very tasty. I’m told that there is something called an avocado that is popular in the States.

Les: So you’re an anteater? We have anteaters over here. In fact, they are close relatives of sloths. Maybe we’re cousins or something.

Mel: Actually I am an ant eater. I eat ants.

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Les: Anteaters eat ants. And termites. And they look a bit like an aardvark.

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Mel: That is all true. But it is a coincidence. We are the last surviving branch of a prehistoric African family tree.

Les: So you are an ant (pause) eater, not an anteater.

Mel: Exactly!

Les (disappointed): So I guess we’re not related.

Mel: That’s true. But I would like very much to keep in touch as friends. You seem very nice.

Les: Thank you! I’ve enjoyed talking with you as well. Take care of yourself. Don’t get eaten.

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Mel: I wish you survival as well. Farewell for now.

Mel had been so nice that I am sorry we are not related. I did get his address. As soon as I’m done here, I’m going to get online with Amazon and send him some ants. I should have asked if he has a favorite type.

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(all pictures courtesy of Google Images)

6

Unicorns: The Really True Story

 

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With all due respect to the Irish Rovers, they got the story wrong:

 

Here’s what really happened:

A long, long time ago, in the misty Scottish highlands, the head unicorn held a meeting with the entire herd. He reminded everyone of the importance of staying hidden. Humans could see them at the end of a storm if a rainbow appeared.

“Remember that most humans are harmless, particularly the little ones. But there are some who want to profit from us. They know that our horns can purify water and even heal the innocent. They will try to capture us and tie us up. A unicorn that is not free to roam will die.”

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The unicorns all nodded that they understood. Most of them had never seen a human but knew they walked on two feet and didn’t have beautiful fur or feathers.

Not long afterwards, a storm came up in the middle of the day. Some children had been playing in a field and ran for home. One little girl slipped on the wet grass and hit her head on a stone. She was bleeding and didn’t move. The other children ran for her mother.

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Unicorns love rain and were playing in the woods near the field. They heard the screaming and watched the children run away. Two of the young unicorns walked up to the girl and stared at her; they had never been close to a human before. One gently nudged her with a hoof. She moaned but didn’t move. The other unicorn ran in terror.

The unicorn touched her head with his horn. She woke up and recognized that he was a unicorn. She reached out to pet him. Suddenly he looked up. The rain had ended and there was a rainbow. He raced away.

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He didn’t stop until he found the head unicorn. He related that he had touched a small human before he realized the rain had stopped. He admitted that she had seen him.

The head unicorn called a council with the elders. They all agreed that the herd was in grave danger. They knew what had happened to the leprechauns. The humans wouldn’t stop hunting until they found the unicorns. The herd disappeared deep into the highlands; to where the humans couldn’t go.

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In the meantime, the children had brought the girl’s mother to her. The girl was sitting up and was very excited. She started talking about the unicorn. How beautiful it was and how she had almost touched it. She was sure she had been cured by the unicorn’s horn.

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Her mother told her to calm down. She examined the bump on the girl’s head and the dried blood. Remembering that the girl had been unconscious, she asked the other children if they had seen the unicorn. One said that maybe he had gotten there after they left.

Being a practical sort, the mother didn’t believe in unicorns. With no proof, she concluded that it had been a dream. The children believed, but there was never another unicorn sighting.

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A faerie told the unicorns the good news, but they liked their new home and never returned.

So if you’re ever deep in the Scottish highlands at the end of a storm and think you see the flash of a white horn . . .

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14

Cat Forum: Interview with Abby

Snoops and Kommando Kitty here. We have a special treat for you today. We are interviewing Abby. She is a dog who owns a human Cat knows. We weren’t sure what to expect.

(Remember: If it looks like this, we are talking to each other)

Kommando: I have never met a dog.

Snoops: My only experience was in the shelter I lived in for a little while before I found my forever home here. I really didn’t like the dogs there. They smelled weird and barked all the time. Apparently they smell better when they live with a human. I don’t know about the barking.

 

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We’ve never had a dog on here before. How do you feel about cats?

I’m excited to be the first dog on here, thank you for inviting me. As for cats, I’m not sure what a cat is. I’ve never met one. If they are smaller than me, I’m OK with them.

(Wow. Her mom sure has let her lead a sheltered life. She has no idea how pawsome we are.)

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How many humans do you live with? Which one do you own?

I live with my adopted Mom and her family. There are two big humans who I don’t get along with. When I was a baby I did my business on their bed. I was sorry but I didn’t know any better. (sometimes I poop in their shoes now cause I know they don’t like me….I’m not sorry)…..There are a bunch of little humans that I love though so it’s OK. They love me and leave snacks for me all over the house. I love to run around sniffing until I find them. I’ve heard they have a game called hide and seek, maybe that’s what it is.

Anyway, my Mom and I kinda own each other.  I came to live with her after she lost her own Mom, (she went to live somewhere called Heaven, I think it’s over the Rainbow Bridge). We helped each other not be lonely, now I really hate being alone, it makes me sad and I cry.

There is another human, his name is Cody, he loves me too and helped keep me company. He moved to another house though. When he visits I get so excited. I love him as much as I love my Mom. He lets me kiss his face until he can’t breathe and he laughs and laughs. I miss him.

(Wow. She sounds just like us. We hate it when all the humans are gone. This Cody person sounds like he could be a cat person. The treats all over the house thing sounds really good. We need to tell Mom.)

What’s your favorite thing to do with your human?

Mom works at night so we sleep a lot. I love to snuggle under the covers and keep her warm. I have sudden bursts of energy and run laps down the long hallway. It makes everyone smile so I like that too.

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(Wow. Sleeping all the time. Maybe we could make her an honorary cat.)

We heard that you moved here from the South. Do you miss it?

I was so little when I came to Michigan that I don’t remember what it was like in the south. I hear it is warm though so maybe that’s why I don’t like the cold wet stuff that always falls around here. Mom says it’s because I’m spoiled. If I am it’s her fault. I just don’t like the feeling when my feet get wet.

(Her mom’s crazy. No one likes that stuff. Especially the slippery kind.)

Do you get to go outside a lot? Can you come back in when you want?

I mostly go outside to do my business, do cats do that too? I have to wait for someone to open the doors for me to come back in. I’m pretty smart but can’t open the doors myself.

When we go out just to play, Mom keeps me on a long leash. Sometimes I escape when the door is open and I get so excited that I run away. I don’t mean to. It just smells so different out there. One time I ran down the road across from our house. It made Mom mad so she went inside the house…That scared me so I started back home. I was so glad to see her when she came back outside that I went right to her when she called me. I wish I could remember to do that every time…she gave me special treats.

(Someone needs to tell her about litter boxes. Do they make them for dogs?)

We have something called cat TV. It’s what we see out the window. It can be birds or squirrels or rabbits or whatever. Is there something similar for dogs?

Wow, I sit on the back of the couch watching the same thing. That’s cat TV? Maybe I’m a cat. I see strange humans out there and I growl and puff the hair on my back up so they will be afraid of me. There are birds and rabbits out there. I growl at them too, but I don’t think they can hear me because they don’t run away. I must not be very scary.

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(Guess dogs aren’t very scary. Or the animals know dogs won’t eat them. Maybe cats could get closer if we used dog cologne.)

We’ve heard that dogs are rather flexible about what they eat. Do you have a favorite food?

Mom feeds me kibble, but shares her food with me too. I will eat just about anything but my favorite is this sticky stuff called peanut butter. It sticks to the roof of my mouth but it tastes so good I don’t care. The humans will use it to trick you into taking medicine, so you have to be careful. Oh and I love cheese. I hear the noise the wrapper makes and come running to get a bite.

Dogs are social animals, right? Do you get to see a lot of other dogs or other types of animals?

I was never around other animals when I was small. Mom says that’s why I am afraid of other dogs; I never learned to play with them. When dogs come to visit it makes me very nervous. I try to be nice, but get overwhelmed when they try to play. Sometimes I bite them and we fight but if they would leave me and my humans alone I would be OK. Mom calls these visitors her 4 legged grandkids. Does that make them my nieces and nephews?

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When we camp out, at my human Grandparents house, I watch out the window for strange four legged animals. Recently I was watching these really big dogs at the house next door. I wasn’t growling at them so Mom took me to meet them. She said they are called horses. I got brave and touched noses with them. They smell funny.

(Those dogs are all huge. I’m glad Cat’s friend didn’t have one of those for us to interview.)

What’s the best part about where you live? Is there anything you don’t like?

There is a big puddle of water behind our house that the little humans play in. I try to join them but they splash me, and I get scared. It smells funny and there are things living in there that must really like being wet because they never come out. I try to catch them but they are too fast.

I really don’t like to be alone. When Mom goes to work, I sit on the stairs and cry. I’m not allowed upstairs, where the other humans, live unless Mom is with me.  I don’t know the rules and I get in trouble. I would stop if they would teach me, but like I said before, they don’t like me much.

(Those upstairs people sound really mean. We should teach Abby how to sleep while her Mom is gone. It works really well for us.)

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I hope I was able to answer your questions about dogs. I am not a normal dog though. I was brought to my human before I learned how to act like a dog. Some humans think I’m special in the bad way. My Mom just loves me anyway and that’s what matters.

I want to thank you again for asking me to be your guest. I have to say, I think I may like cats if I ever get the chance to spend some time with them. Maybe my humans will get one for to learn from.

(This dog is OK. If they’re all like this, maybe we should stop making fun of them.)

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17

Groundhogs of the World Unite!

The opinions presented in this article are strictly those of the author. The do not reflect the position of The Cheeseland Times or its editorial staff. Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2.

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Did you think that because they gave us a special day that the humans think we are special? You’re wrong.

Humans don’t exchange gifts on Groundhog Day. They don’t have cute cards for Groundhog Day. They don’t say “Happy Groundhog Day!” to each other. If you have been living underground, the entire point of Groundhog Day is to pull a member of several of our communities from their nice, warm beds to tell the humans how soon winter is going to end.

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They’ll tell you that the groundhog emerges from his burrow on February 2. Let me give you a clue humans. We go into true hibernation (low body temperature, slow breathing and heart rate, and low metabolic rate). We sleep from October until March or April in the northern places where you want to see us. We do not wake up on February 2 so we can tell you how much longer you will have to scrape off your car.

How on earth would we know when winter is going to end? Do they think the information comes from some otherworldly spirit with special knowledge? Do they think we inherit it with our other attributes? No. They think we can tell because seeing our shadow on the morning of February 2 has some special meaning.

They refer to it as “the groundhog seeing his shadow.” Listen up, humans. When you wake us up and pull us into the cold upper world, we don’t see anything. We are blinking, trying to wake up. The sun is in our eyes. The reason we look grumpy is because we are grumpy. You would be too if someone did it to you.

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The whole thing really irritates the female groundhogs. Do the humans think they always grab a male? No. They can tell the difference. They could change their stupid saying to “the groundhog seeing its shadow.” Get out of the 20th century humans.

They hold us up under the arms and show us off like some kind of prize. Do they think that’s comfortable? They’re lucky we’re not carnivores. We have to pose for pictures and video. Then they throw us back down our holes and expect us to go back to sleep. After they’ve woken up the entire family.

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We are more than furry shadow-makers. Let me give you a few facts about groundhogs.

We are part of the squirrel family. In fact, we are the largest member of the squirrel family. We are technically marmots. We are the big, friendly branch of the family. But not when we are woken from a deep slumber.

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We mainly eat plants. Clover is especially yummy. We also eat alfalfa and dandelions. Occasionally a slug or a snail is a nice treat. Nuts offer variety. If you’ll notice, humans, you consider several of those things pests. Do you celebrate our contributions to containing those populations? No. You want to see our shadow. You know, you have shadows of your own.

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As a proud member of the groundhog community, I’ll tell them when winter is going to end. Winter ends on the vernal equinox. That’s when there are as many hours of sunlight as there are dark because the sun is directly over the equator. This year that is on March 20th.

In the meantime: leave us alone!

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Gregory Groundhog

You may reach me at gghog@info.ghog or follow me on Twitter @gghog

 

(All pictures courtesy of Google Images)

 

7

biadh airson smuain*

*Scottish Gaelic for

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The four young male rats were gathered for their weekly feast behind Ben’s Burger Barn. They all agreed that Ben had the best dumpster in the area. And if they got there early, it wasn’t very crowded.

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Danny: Mmmm! This is living.

Charlie (mouth full): mumble, mumble

George: Yeah. Saturday mornings are the best.

Steve: Guys, this is my last Saturday here. At least for a while.

(The others look at him, stunned)

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Danny: Where ya going that’s better than here?

Steve: Remember the money I got when that lady called me “dirty vermin” at the concert?

George: And you convinced the judge that you were so traumatized that you couldn’t work for a month?

Steve: She needed to pay. I didn’t want her to do it to anyone else. Anyway, Nicole and I are going to open a restaurant.

Danny: Nicole? Isn’t she that lab rat who convinced you to go to the concert in the first place?

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Steve: She’s wonderful. She’s pretty and smart and really nice.

Danny: Sure. She’s probably going to take your money and run away. You’re a street rat. You don’t belong with her.

Steve: You’re just jealous. You’ll never meet anyone nice hanging around here.

Danny: You sound like my mom. Go ahead. Have your fancy adventure. We’ll see you back here in a month, broke and lonely.

(A month later, Steve does come back.)

Danny: I knew it! It all blew up in your face, and you want to come back to your old friends. I’ll have to think about it.

(The other two rats were happy to have Steve back. They didn’t know what to do.)

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Steve: Actually, things are going good. The restaurant is going to be opening in about six weeks. I wanted to invite you guys for the first night.

George: That’s great Steve, count me in.

Charlie: Me too. Do I get free food?

Danny: Wait a minute boys. I’m not sure we want to associate with the type of people at his restaurant. What kind of place is it?

Steve: It has two rooms. In one room, we have sofas and a fireplace. Folks can have snacks and drinks in there. Maybe read or use their computers. The other room is more of a regular restaurant.

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Danny: Sounds kind of ritzy to me. What’s it called?

Steve: biadh airson smuain

Danny: battah arsa smoon? What does that mean?

Steve: I’m not really sure. But she didn’t like my idea: The Rat’s Nest.

Danny: I told you she was a snob. Rats only?

Steve: The dining room is. The reading room is open to anyone.

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Danny: That’s it. I’m outta here. We are not going to a place that serves anything that walks in the door. C’mon boys.

(The restaurant opened on time. The food got excellent reviews. But the real success was the reading room. It was so hard to find something cosmopolitan in the suburbs.

Finally George and Charlie convinced Danny to see what it was all about.)

Danny: Fine. I’ll go. But just so you guys will stop yammering about it.

(They washed their faces and slicked back their fur. They actually looked pretty good. When they got to the restaurant, there was a line down the block. They told the doorman that they were friends of Steve’s. They were escorted through the reading room to the restaurant. Steve was talking to a customer when they walked in.)

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Steve: Guys! It’s good to see you. Come meet Nicole. Niki, these are the guys I was telling you about: Danny, Charlie and George.

Niki: I’m so glad to meet you. Steve has been wanting to get together for a long time. Please have a seat.

Danny (to Steve): We can’t stay. I can’t afford to eat at a place like this and neither can the guys.

Steve: Don’t worry about it. Get whatever you want. I’ll take care of it.

(The guys ordered steaks. They left the bones, unsure if it was bad manners to eat them in public. When the family next to them started crunching, they happily cleaned their plates.)

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Niki: Did you enjoy your meal?

Charlie: It was great.

George: Even better than the Burger Barn.

Niki (laughing): I’m glad to hear it. Please come back soon.

(The next day, the guys were talking about what a great place Steve had. Three very pretty girl rats were walking the other way. They lived in the neighborhood, but had always ignored Danny’s group.)

Violet: Danny! Hey Danny! Stop.

Danny (puzzled): Hello Violet. What’s up?

Violet: We saw you guys coming out of biadh airson smuain. I never knew you were so civilized.

George: He didn’t really (mumph)

(Charlie put it hand over George’s mouth)

Danny: It was the first time we went. But we’re going back soon.

Violet: And all this time I’ve been thinking you were just a common street rat.

(Violet took Danny’s hand and they walked away talking.)

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(pictures courtesy of Google Images)

8

Inter-Species Peace: An Elephant’s Perspective

 

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You may recall that at last year’s staff meeting, I said that I was following a group of sub-Saharan animals who were trying to model a peace plan. A year later, it doesn’t seem that they have made much progress.

Things got off to a rocky start. A lioness offered to host the first session. She served zebra pate as one of the appetizers. Zebra pate is highly prized by the lions. Not so much by the zebras and other herbivores. The session ended before it began. The hyenas scarfed the pate before they left.

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The lions sent off an apology of sorts: “We are sorry if the vegetarians on our task force were offended by our food. We did not understand that they would be offended if we ate our foods in our homes. We thought it would be sufficient to not eat our guests.”

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A little terrified by these comments, the herbivores refused to meet with the carnivores. Finally a chimpanzee came up with a compromise. First, there would be no food served and no talk of killing. Second, the herbivores would be taken to and from the meetings in a vehicle provided by the humans (with no humans present). Third, the lions would send a male representative since they were the less predatory gender. Fourth, no animal would be allowed to attend meetings without signing the agreement.

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After some discussion, the animals agreed to sign. The chimpanzee thought that the group was on its way to showing the humans how to cooperate. Particularly when they discovered that the male lion was content to sleep in the sun through most of the meetings.

So they moved onto water rights.

Hippo: I don’t think it’s right that the elephants get to drink so much water.

Elephant: At least we don’t lie in it all day and release “organic matter” into it.

Wildebeest: The water does taste like hippo sometimes.

Hippo: How do you know? Have you ever eaten a hippo?

Leopard: Not to create another crisis, but it does taste of hippo.

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Hippo (offended): Fine. At least, I don’t wallow in mud like the warthog over there.

Warthog: What does that have to do with anything? You’re just being a bully.

Chimp: OK everyone, let’s get back on topic. How do we share the water?

Antelope: How about if the meat-eaters would let us get a drink in peace?

Cheetah: You’ve obviously never had to fight for food. We have to take it when we can find it.

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Gnu: I knew this wasn’t going to work. It’s always back to food for the predators.

Cheetah: It’s not our fault that we have to eat meat to survive.

Hyena: Or that some of you are so tasty.

(Everyone glares at him. He slinks away.)

Elephant: See? That’s what I mean.

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Lion (yawning): Will you all just be quiet? I just ate two gazelles and you’re ruining my digestion.

 

  “Ace” Sopp reporting from Nairobi

(pictures courtesy of Google Images)

18

Cat Forum: Interview with Purrseidon

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This month we welcome Purrseidon to Cat Forum. She is a very talented kitty and writes her own blog. It’s called Purrseidon, so it’s really easy to remember. She highly recommends her mom’s blog too.

(Remember: Our comments are in italics. Snoops and Kommando)

How did you find out that you like water so much?

I’ve loved playing in puddles and getting baths as long as I can remember, but I guess my staff first noticed when they caught me playing in Saphera’s water bowl.

(For such a sweet cat, that is sooo weird.)

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Tell us what it’s like to live with a dog. Do you and Mr. M ever gang up on her?

Actually, Saphera is sort of my surrogate mom. I was living feral, when my sisfur, Lucy Fur, died and then the humans who were to become my staff saw that a neighbor dog had me by the scruff of the neck and was shaking me. They managed to save me and when they brought me in, Saphera sort of adopted me – she is very motherly. Truth be told, it would be more likely for us to gang up on M, but we don’t do that and if we ever did, I’m not so sure we’d win – M has some amazingly effective moves.

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If you can’t get to the water, what’s your favorite thing to do?

I like to go hiking and climb my oak tree (but only when those horrid squirrels aren’t around). I also like to play tag with Saphera’s best friend, Livie Lou, who is a chihuahua and just a bit smaller than me, but she is very, very speedy. That all said, water is usually pretty easy to get to, but getting the staff to take me to the beach is a lot harder – they have work and school schedules to juggle and then the weather (including rip currents) is a big factor.

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(Kommando: Maybe she was a dog in her first life, then discovered cats are cooler so she changed for the other eight. Snoops: Then why are there still so many dogs around?)

Do you, Mr M and Saphera each have a favorite human?

Mr. M’s favorite person is mom and my purrsonal human is Master Munchkin. Like I told you, Saphera is very motherly, so she loves babies of all sorts… She does not like most adults (though she makes exception for family) and – I hate to admit this failing, but she doesn’t like adult males with dark skin, so Mr. M avoids her, even though he shares her love of babies – sticky fingers and all. (Eww)

Saphera was found running next to the interstate when she was about 6 months old. Her tail had been broken and she was in rough shape. Obviously, I was not around then (I just turned 2 and she is 8), The staff think she was abused and that she has some form of puppy PTSD. 

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What’s it like to live with a writer? Is she away from home a lot?

Mom and Mr. M collaborate on writing family-friendly fantasy and they are basically home-bodies. They finished The Chatterre Trilogy last year and are currently working on a new episode for Xander de Hunter’s Sea Purrtector series … I help with this, too.

During his youth, Xander de Hunter gained fame in Catamundo’s kickboxing tournaments. When, he and his family moved aboard sailing vessel, Whispurring Winds, Xander became Catamondo’s first Sea Purrtector. Latitudes & Cattitudes is a short (free) prequel to the series. It takes place when Xander is still purrticipating in the kickboxing tournaments. M and mom worked on that one and The Red Claw without me, but I started learning to be a muse during Purr-a-noia and by the time we wrote Me-YEOW!, M started muttering about me and my character, Mischief, trying to replace Xander. That is not exactly true, but Mischief does have my water skills, so I think she would make a wonderful Sea Purrtector. 

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Do you get to eat a lot of fresh fish since you live so close to the ocean?

Not as much as I’d like to eat – I love, love, love sea food. Saphera does, too, but M purrfers chicken.

(Dad would love her. Someone to appreciate the fish he catches. Wish he’d fish for deli ham some time.)

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Tell us one thing about each of your family members that you really like.

Mr. M tends to be quiet and keep to himself, but he is very smart and I learn a lot from him. He is also a big help with the blog and I can depend on him to share information about science and/or space at least one day per week.

Saphera is an excellent watchdog, except that she mainly watches so she knows when to hide, thus M is a better purrtector, but Saphera is a great surrogate mom.

Pop is super smart and knows a lot about music, gardening and loads of interesting stuff. 

Mom is really good about keeping on her writing schedule and still serving tasty meals on time.

Ms. Munchkin is also very smart and she’s learning to be a good cook.

Master Munchkin is my favorite person and we spend as much time together as possible. He reads me a bedtime story every day.

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What’s it like writing a blog every few days?

It’s pretty easy compared to writing a novel, but then, I get a lot of help from M and mom. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank you for choosing me and taking the time to ask these questions…. Purrhaps, if you are ever near Florida’s Space Coast, you’d like to come to a pool party.

 (We need to look up Florida. I don’t think we can walk there. Maybe a business trip so Cheeseland pays for it.)