Hard-hitting, clear-headed reviews of cats. Also, cat-related news.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Review of the Review

In keeping with the democratic ideals of the Review (an opinion for every cat!), I present the following critique of the Review of Cats, sent in by Feline Rights Activist Joe Bartolotta:

It is no secret that humans set forth a group of hermeneutics in approaching how they classify cats. A “literal” approach, much like Mr. Dicks takes, seeks to observe the actions of the cat in an effort to understand the personality of the cat. There is a “moral” approach, through which a human utilizes observations of cats in an effort to gain some ethical understanding of life. Mark Twain does this when he says; “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” There is an “allegorical” approach to cats, looking at how their constructions of communities can be related to human interactions. T.S. Eliot demonstrates this through his exemplary Old Possum’s Book of Cats. Finally, an “analogical” approach to cats seeks to understand cats as forbearers of the future. Classically, black cats have held this role, but the literary works of Haruki Murakami have expanded this vocation to most other shorthair cats. However, none of these breach an effort to understand cats for their unique ability to master themselves as individual beings.

My issue with Mr. Dicks’ review of cats rests in how I believe he interprets the quality of catness. His standards are set as though he expects our feline brethren to have been constructed through the imagination of Disney animators, rather than through a docile and diffident existence. His expectations that cats should “annoyingly bound onto my lap, then try to climb my shirt” and, “leap nimbly to my shoulders” in order to attain points seems to me to run contrary to the general ethos that I have observed in cats.

My first objection to Mr. Dicks’ reviewing method is that his criterion demonstrates an overwhelming bias. In the first place, this bias favors young cats and kittens. The acts of leaping “nimbly” and “bounding” are more difficult for the mature feline. Furthermore, the demand for the “moderately fluffy” cat demonstrates discrimination against longhair and hairless cats. Why should these cats even agree to be reviewed in the first place by such biased rubric?

My second objection pertains to the lack of emphasis on the substance of the character of the cat. Mr. Dicks contends that a cat must engage in a “volley of meows” in order to gain high marks. However, since Mr. Dicks has not demonstrated the ability to communicate with cats, he cannot place a value judgment on the substance of the meow. To put this in another context, it would be like one human speaking French to another human who cannot. While the human who cannot speak French may experience some pleasure on the sensory level, that person has no ability to tell whether the French speaker is sharing a grocery list or reciting the works of HonorĂ© de Balzac. Clearly, the emphasis on how a cat appeals to human sensory experience complicates Mr. Dicks’ judgment of the substance of a cat’s mew.

However, the objection that makes me write this tome taps into something far more sinister; Mr. Dicks demonstrates that he intends to reinforce the subjugation of cats by humans.

Maybe Mr. Dicks was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by cats that sought his approval, and these cats shaped his interpretation of how a cat should or should not act. Indeed, his declaration, “that cat better impress me,” demonstrates his relationship with cats as one of power. He demonstrates hegemony—cats in a position deprived of power and humans dictating the rubric through which a cat may be qualitatively analyzed. Cats are hereby subjected to become nothing more that serfs—their identities not considered unique and their sense of place in limbo depending upon their ability to satiate the expectations set forth by another species.

It would be foolish to suggest that cats are not aware of the ways in which humans assert dominance over them. However, it is much more astute to observe that cats do not recognize human dominance. Put in another way, cats are content with the fact that humans believe they hold the dominant role in their relationships to cats, but cats themselves do not place much stock into it. As far as cats are concerned, humans can believe whatever they want—the mature cat, comfortable with his or her felinity, does not feel threatened by this relationship. Everything cats do is to avoid hassle.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"The cat sprouted the wings after being sexually harassed"

Field correspondent Cricket sends in this story.

Granny Feng’s tom cat has sprouted two hairy four inch long wings, reports the Huashang News.

"At first, they were just two bumps, but they started to grow quickly, and after a month there were two wings,” she said.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cat Review Number What the Hell?

The Review of Cats has been on hiatus for more than a month now. What has happened, you ask? What has happened, I tell you, is this: in March of this year, I visited my hometown. While there, I discovered that my parents’ back yard has been overrun with cats. Several cats. More than eight cats. Likely more than ten cats. My parents live next to a woods and to a derelict set of train tracks and next to a neighbor’s abandoned shed, and so you can imagine: stray cats love this part of town.

I’d foolishly left my camera back at the Cat Review Headquarters (heretofore known as the CRH), and so borrowed my mother's. The pack of stray cats were quick to spook, but I stalked them with all the care and experience a cat reviewer can bring to the field, and so captured several lovely pictures. I also got some good video, despite my mother’s insistence to try to lure the cats with her siren song (Heeeeere kittty kitttty kitttttttty!) in the background.

There were difficulties with this usage of new equipment. While uploading the photos to the CRC (the Cat Review Computer), I got a slew of images of my nephews playing baseball, of my sister’s new dog, of my sister’s ice cream shop. Then, after getting these images onto my computer and returning to Ames, the Cat Review Computer slipped into a deadly coma, taking my British Lit final and my novel-slash-thesis with it. I held its hand and gingerly stroked its head with a damp cloth but nothing would bring the computer around. Finally the foul-smelling but benevolent giants at the Apple Store, dressed in their ever-worn loin-cloth-and-stethoscope costume, retrieved my documents but wiped the computer’s hard drive. Cat Review Number Four was lost.

Disillusionment sank in. Inspiration evaporated through all pores not immediately covered by clothing. The Review went on hiatus and I traveled the globe in search of the Time-Traveling Eurasian Lynx, but it looked as if I would never return. Then, last Thursday, my roommate John opened our mailbox and envelopes literally spilled out. I arranged them on my desk:

As both cat-review correspondent Molly Magestro and Bil Shehan pointed out, it appeared that somebody had pushed the CAT FLDR button inside our mailbox. Because of the Denver return address, my first assumption was that the envelopes had to be from my friend DaveO. However, the addresses seemed to not have been written by anyone named DaveO. Also, DaveO is not in the habit, that I'm aware of, of drawing hearts on his letters. If only I'd opened the envelopes immediately, I'd have known that they were mailed by new Cat Review Correspondents Allison and Kara.

But discerning the exact origin of these letters was not of the utmost importance. Of the utmost importance was opening them and reviewing the cats that spilled out. So let it begin. Let's get it on. Rev your engines. Tune your ovens to gas mark 3. Sprinkle the pulverized walnuts on the meatloaf. Overfeed the goldfish.

Because several cats were shipped, they will be reviewed en masse. To avoid confusion with earlier cats who have received individual reviews, these cats will be numbered using Spanish. Also, some categories apply to all cats, including

Ability to lie incredibly still and remarkably fat during postage: Flawless, or 100%


Cat Uno: Oscar

I begin with Oscar because this cat is my least favorite cat. The accompanying note reads "Oscar (she's a girl!)" and then "Tim: this cat needs to be rated. She feels left out." My response is: this cat should feel left out. Please examine the unevenness of her stripes, the paunch of her belly, and the close-set front-paw posture. Most importantly, examine the face. This cat displays a mixture of timidity, anger, disappointed entitlement, and desperate hope commonly only viewed in single thirty-five-year-old parents. This cat may be disappointed in life, but let me tell you, life may be disappointed in it.

Rating: Low, or 27%


Cat Dos: Baxter

Allison and Kara note that Baxter "loves to curl up with a ball of yarn and enjoys a long island iced tea." Apparently Baxter enjoyed one too many before this review, because he was incapable even of standing on my desk:

. . . what . . ?

Ability of Cat to Get Blitzed Drunk without My Realizing it: High, or 87%

In addition:

Likelihood that Cat Could Perform Successfully in Some Sort of Chihuahua Impersonation Contest: Moderate-High, or 70%


Cats Tres: Larry, Curly and Moe

These cats appeared to be much younger than the first two. In fact, they seemed to be almost kittens. Is this blog titled "Tim(othy) Dicks's Review of Kittens," I ask you? No, you say. No it is not. Nevertheless, they will be reviewed.

The note accompanying these kittens reads "Tim: These kittens love you. Please rate them." Well, kittens, I have to ask you: how do you know you love me? How well do you even know me? Is there some sort of underground kitten-language tabloid that keeps tabs on (as well as sexy drunken photos of) those who review you? If so, can you send me copies of the articles featuring me?

Ability of Kittens to Flatter Me: Moderate-High, or 58%

Ability to Look Vaguely Terrified: Pretty Damn High, or 78%


Cat Quatro: Betty

Betty is an exceptional cat. She is young, cute, and gifted with the ability to cloud my mind or my camera's lens or both:

Look into her eyes and see your soul's darkest secrets

But months of experience have trained me to overcome even the wiliest tricks of the cleverest cat. I swore softly and adjusted the shutter and steeled myself with a swig of rum and tried again:

Ability of Cat to Stand on My Computer without Pressing any Buttons: Uncannily High, or 99%

Allison's and Kara's accompanying note reads, "Please rate this kitten so she can grow up to be an upstanding cat." Well, Allison and Kara, I hope that this cat will now have the confidence she needs to advance through the world and gain more than her share of cat food.


Cat Cinco: John Lennon

Allison and Kara describe John Lennon as "pretty," but they have to be kidding! Look at this picture(!):

Obviously, this cat has to have some sort of jaw deformity. He looks like he's got a mouthful of marbles or, you know, cat-sized marbles. Or tiny dominoes. Or lemon seeds. He's just got such a huge mouth.

Also, he appears to be a bit too fluffy. However, I will give him high marks for his brilliant orange color. He looks like a damn Oranges-and-Cream Creme Saver.

Ability of Cat to Appear Lightly Dusted with Cayenne Pepper: High, or 77%


Cats Seis: Vodka, Cait, Barkley, Merlot, Marven, and Stitch

Again, the Review's mission usually excludes the reviewing of kittens. These kittens, though, were just damn cute.

Ability of Kittens to Stand as One on My Notebook: Spooky-High, or 98%

These cats run the gamut from rockin to scary. Observe the confused-yet-confident stare of the white Vodka, in contrast with the sickly and timid gaze of Stitch. My favorite of all is Barkley, who has a strange name, but who also appears capable, brilliant, and ready to make a move on somebody. While all his associates stare docilely ahead, Barkley prepares to make a run for the nearest exit.

While reviewing these cats, my phone rang with dinner plans for tonight. When I turned back to the Reviewing Table, I noticed something awful. The Deadly Blue snake I keep beneath the desk had become hungry:

Finally Stitch's terror was merited

Despite my best efforts, he even got to Betty:

Ability to Apetize a Deadly Blue Snake: Very High, or, I Hope they Were at Least Nutritious