“I wrote 63 songs this year. They’re all about Jeter.” Just kidding. The game we love, the players we hate, and more.

Culture and Criticism

From Norman Mailer to Wendy Pepper — everything on film, TV, books, music, and snacks (shut up, raisins), plus the Girls’ Bike Club.

Donors Choose and Contests

Helping public schools, winning prizes, sending a crazy lady in a tomato costume out in public.

Stories, True and Otherwise

Monologues, travelogues, fiction, and fart humor. And hens. Don’t forget the hens.

The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

Prints: Not Charming

Submitted by on February 24, 2014 – 10:00 PM32 Comments


It’s not the pawprints themselves. …Well, it’s not JUST the pawprints themselves.

I found said pawprints on top of the microwave, which is the sort of thing that is objectively revolting but which longtime pet owners choose to find hilarious instead lest we begin sobbing/retching uncontrollably instead. Another rationalization a pet owner MIGHT use is that she is actually LUCKY that “it was only” the little one who chose to cross the appliances on her travels, versus the old orange one (would have gotten marooned up there, then tried to leverage the trauma with a great deal of hammy wailing and hobbling about) or the late great fat one (would have left not prints, but rather a large dent with a couple of incriminating tabby hairs clinging to the sides) (…aw. RIP the Crisco Kid).

But the thing is, what the hell? You can’t tell from the photo, but the wall is at the back there. The cat walked across the microwave from BEHIND it. Even if it had enough clearance for her to fit back there — and even Mabel is not that bitty, and also she is not that bitty anymore anyway, generally, because eight pounds doesn’t sound fat for a cat, except if said cat’s paw would fit on a nickel — what’s the rationale? Well, and “who dumped a bag of Hecker’s back there evidently HOBEY” because I do Swiffer back there, and this is up there with the mystery-bathtub-eyeshadow pawprint on the “henh?” scale.

I have a theory. I wish I didn’t, because I developed this theory while planted on my left (facial) cheek with both OTHER cheeks in the air, peering under the oven to see if I could find the parts of my phone that fell out of my inadequately deep vintage-dress pocket (…grr, get the knack, sixties), hit the ground, and skidded under the oven and cabinets. Just like everywhere else I’ve ever lived, Far Thill has indoor terrain, hills inside, nearly every cabinet and bookshelf shimmed to Jesus, allowing all manner of hair elastics, free-spirited chickpeas and peanut M&Ms and scallion bits that fell on their sides and rolled to the light, bolts, caramel-corn spheres, berries, beads, and tiny pinecones lovingly transported home from a honeymoon IN THE TOE OF A SNEAKER to roll underneath along with, by conservative count, 194,385 cat toys and crumpled Post-Its thanks to a certain enthusiastic but minuscule warrior feline, and having watched in mingled amusement and terror just last night as Mabel pounced on a subscription card from New York that I absentmindedly hucked into the closet and TORE IT LIMB FROM LIMB like a tiny fuzzy wood-chipper, including the gnashing sounds but with additional Manson lamps and the fwumping of a Christmas-tree tail, MY THEORY IS THIS.

Mabel, having vowed to end Zebra Mousie, either flailed ZM or back-paw rage-pedaled ZM behind the microwave, then went back there after ZM and clambered all the way behind the shelving unit where all the sawdust and lost scissors live. Her mission to fish out and destroy ZM failed, so she stomped across the microwave, leaving her tiny mark as a lesson to…some? Me? Zebra Mousie, currently perfecting a “you’ll nevah get me, coppah” Cagney impression in the exact center of the underside of that cabinet, just out of reach of the average hanger?

Once the two-man extraction team had finally fished the phone battery out from under the under-sink (don’t ask), I didn’t care to investigate further, mostly because a piece of stray kibble had lodged itself in my face, but also everyone’s better off if Zebra Mousie just stays disappeared. But one day, we’ll remodel. And then we’ll have an answer. Today, we give the Brussels sprout SOMEONE mistook for a hockey puck a proper Christian burial.




  • LaSalleUGirl says:

    That is the most masterful compound-complex sentence that this English Ph.D. has ever seen. I’m seriously tempted to diagram it just to prove I can.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:


  • cayenne says:

    Brilliant. I’ve missed your “Life With Cats” stories. Thanks for this one.

    I’ve always been amazed at how an otherwise normally sized and solid-appearing animal can manage to shoehorn itself through a teeny opening that makes the mouse hole in a Tweety & Sylvester cartoon look like a giant portal into Narnia.

    My late black beastie wasn’t a huge kitty by any stretch of the description, and yet she was a 11-lb adult cat when she squeezed herself through a <2" aperture in the kitchen cabinetry's kickboard and into the guts of the dishwasher. After a massive freak-out on my part, I managed to lure her back out with tuna, and while she was distracted by her very undeserved treat, I got out the duct tape and blocked that sucker right up.

    I've no idea how she physically managed that feat without dislocating her head, and have long since concluded based on that episode (and others that involved small spaces but no potentially kitty-shredding machinery), that cats have a special talent for distorting space-time. I have no doubt that when scientists manage to find a way to evacuate the planet in advance of some incoming chunk of cosmic clutter, the ships will powered by space-time-folding cats.

  • LSol says:

    cayenne said it more eloquent that I would, but I pretty much believe that cats don’t have to obey the same laws of physics the rest of us do.

    I’m still trying to figure out how a small cat (normal 6 month old size when fully grown) was able to knock a framed print off of a mantle without disturbing a single one of the glass candle holders placed in front of it. Said print was not hung, only leaning against the wall, sitting on the mantle. It wasn’t a wide mantle either.

    Also, the less said about stick-like object that operates the mini-blinds, the better. (Though I’d like to know if it has a name other than “stick-like object”.)

  • Paula says:

    Oh God, I am weeping with laughter.

    I recently made a cake and left it on the counter. My cat somehow got one paw print in the geometric center of said (frosted) cake. No other paw prints. It was a sheet cake. The cat is not that big. Where had he put his other three feet? And no, he NEVER goes on the counter, why?

    I suspect he jumped up, one paw landed on the unseen cake, and he did that thing cats do when they change direction mid-move. Ack! Cake! Abort! Abort!

    And despite vigorous cleaning efforts, including moving furniture and switching vacuum attachments, two large-dog kongs remain missing for over a year. WTH? Am considering Amber Alert.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …it’s the sheet cake detail that makes it art. Dying.

  • Leigh in CO says:

    @LaSalleUGir: Please post a link to the diagram when you’re done.

    My day is made and it’s only 7:30.

  • Beadgirl says:

    “he did that thing cats do when they change direction mid-move. Ack! Cake! Abort! Abort!”

    Oh my God YES. I was sitting in the tub once, with Cat One sitting on the edge watching me. Out of nowhere Cat Two comes bounding in and deliberately pushes Cat One into the tub. Somehow Cat One managed to push off against the water (not my leg, not the bottom of the tub, the WATER) and launch herself back out of the tub.

  • Veronica B. says:

    And I shall toast the first Cat Blog Entry in years. Boy do these always make me laugh hysterically.

    I had to have the kitchen floor repaired a few months ago and I could have opened my own PetCo franchise with what the contractors found under the stove and refrigerator. AND knitted two afghans. (Contractor to me while fending off the hoards of Dust Kitties: “Lady, didn’t you say you have ASTHMA?!?”)

  • Cora says:

    Somebody help me please — Paula’s story reminds me of a scene in what I thought was Robinson Crusoe but now I’m not sure: one day the stranded guy goes to the beach and sees one footprint in the sand, but no evidence of a boat or other prints or anything else. I’m googling like hell but can’t find it — help! IS it Robinson Crusoe? If so, then Paula, I think you may have solved that mystery (cat people in the Pacific. Of course.)

  • cayenne says:

    @Cora – it is Robinson Crusoe, chapter 11 “Finds Print of a Man’s Foot on the Sand”.

  • frogprof says:

    Oh good Lord, WHEN will I learn not to read cat stories at work?! I am about to herniate myself holding in the chortles.

  • Veronica B. says:

    frogpof – Yeah, the last time Sars regularly wrote cat entries I worked in a cube farm. Pretty sure my coworkers thought I was having a seizure as I’d try to keep in the hysterical laughter. Thankfully I have the same job but now work from home, although the cats did not appreciate their naps being interrupted by my guffaws.

  • ferretrick says:

    I’m jealous of y’all with these acrobatic cats that do fun things. Mine is just fat and lazy and only bestirs himself for food and milk. Oh, he did bring me a mouse once. That was already dead in the trap. I have the feline equivalent of the relative who does their Christmas shopping at the dollar store.

  • JenV says:

    My theory regarding cats’ ability to fit through tiny crevices is that there is an additional state of matter previously unknown to science, thus bringing the count to five states: liquid, solid, plasma, gas, and cat. The “cat” state of matter has properties of both liquids and solids, thus allowing them to just sort of schlurrrp* their way through tiny openings.

    (*Yes, this is the scientific term.)

  • Melanie says:

    It was “free-spirited chickpeas” that got me.

  • attica says:

    I saw on a nature program that it’s because cats’ skeletons aren’t fused in the same way other critters’ aren’t. They kind of float amid the kitty viscera. Hence they can compress their bodies into impossibly small openings just by wanting to. If they can get their head through, they can get through.

  • Cora says:

    @cayenne: bless you, thank you. After your fillip it finally occurred to me to look it up on Project Gutenberg; Defoe is not subtle with chapter titles, is he? I particularly like chapters eight, “SURVEYS HIS POSITION” and ten, “TAMES GOATS”. {Which in their brevity remind me of “Have met/Was bitch”.} Anyway, the second paragraph of said chapter is all about cats! Icky read, and FUCK HIM for shooting them; but he mentions that one of the English cats that got shipwrecked with him “multiplied by I know not what kind of creature”.

    This is key. I think Mabel, cayenne’s dishwasher spelunker, LSol’s choosy destructionist, Beadgirl’s feline descendant of Jesus and Paula’s one paw in the sheetcake are all descended from Defoe’s Frankencat. I don’t care if it’s fiction.

  • Sherry says:

    Attica beat me too it. If the head goes in, so does the cat. And it can be done at great speeds, as one of my cats demonstrated this morning a she dove and squeezed herself into a hole between the kitchen cabinet and the wall to avoid another cat bent on mayhem.

    My yard stick is the go-to tool of choice for retrieving various victims of cat mischief. Mine prefer to lodge their detritus underneath the washer and dryer, and it works perfectly for fishing expeditions.

  • Georgia says:

    I don’t own a cat, but did once have a friends’ two cats at my place for a couple weeks. Cat 1: Totally chill, normal cat (if such a thing exists). Slept all the time, no fuss. Cat 2: Initially seemed like simply a curious cat–jumped on the counter, scratched at closed doors–the usual shenanigans.

    Then came the morning when I walked into the kitchen and noticed a curtain rod on the floor, looked up, noticed the ceiling tiles mostly busted out of their frames, and realized Cat 2 had attempted to climb into the drop ceiling but, lacking the necessary upper body strength, had collapsed everything in his path when he fell.. Perhaps most amazing is that I slept through all of this.

  • RobinP says:

    @LSol: the stick-like object is called a wand.

  • Cat_slave says:

    Yay, wonderful, cat stories :-)

    I cleaned under an enormous kitchen cupboard with about 1 cm space under it the other day, and found the cat’s stash of favourite toys (the small ones). I think she couldn’t get them out herself, but I’m not completely sure…

    I can also remember some toys that just disappeared completely, in a very small studio I used to live. I super cleaned it when moving out, but they were gone. I can only assume the cats I had then devoured them.

  • Lizard says:

    @ferretrick: Ha! I’m more of a dog person than cat, but your comment made my week.

  • Becca says:

    @ferretrick It’s a knockoff mouse! I’m having a ball imagining your cat’s thought process upon finding the mouse in the trap. “If I put a couple of teeth marks here, and smooth down the fur here…good as freshly caught! Whew, that’s one gift checked off the list.”

  • Rill says:

    Two kitty household here. My older big boy is a laid back, chill, let-me-know-when-dinner-is-ready cat. However, our younger boy is the polar opposite of Manwich; neurotic, mouthy, and a bit of a pack-rat, especially if there is something he wants and does not want to share he will squirrel it away in his secret hidey-hole. This includes toys and recently-purchased bags of treats.
    It is rather hilarious catching him in the act and he will stop, casually avert his eyes all “it’s not me” sometimes while the object of his affection is stuck precariously at the end his claw. When we moved from our last place, we found a whole treasure trove of MIA cat toys, shiny things, and almost a dozen chewed on half-emptied bags of treats.
    This is also the cat that when younger, somehow squeezed himself through a tiny hole in our loveseat and managed to get stuck without us knowing. Nothing gets the blood pumping like sitting on the couch and getting bumped in the butt by some unknown creature while watching TV. “What the..??” (muffled yowling) “Oh my god, NOW he’s in the COUCH? Murray!!”

  • bluesabriel says:

    Oh, my gosh, I’ve missed cat stories. I recently moved two felines from Florida to Texas and immediately thought of your description of moving with cats. Thankfully, mine was less traumatic, though given how prone to drama mine are, I was prepared for the worst.

    @Paula- You also had me laughing until I cried. Where did he put his other three feet? Heeeee!

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Ha, I’ve got Harvey on my lap right now and am balancing the laptop on the arm of the couch.

    We’ve given up on all ordinary ideas of “sanitary” or “clean.” Cat hair is everywhere. On the tablecloths and napkins, on the plates, everywhere. What, just eat around it!

    While we have invested thought and money into our cats’ amusments, they care for only two things: the scratch post (on the third one) and fur mousies. They love the fir mousies. While Peanut dive bombs down the hall and totally Matrixes his shit as he tosses and catches them, Harvey tends to take his mousie under the dining room table, and growling low in his throat and glaring right at you, masticate it to a slimy dead mass.

    I just found half a chewed up mousie on the floor! WHERE IS THE OTHER HALF?

  • RunawayShinobi says:

    “I just found half a chewed up mousie on the floor! WHERE IS THE OTHER HALF?”

    That was exactly my reaction the other night when I got home to find the back half of a mouse on the bedroom floor. Only, a real one. Ah, the joys of outdoor cats in spring.

  • Jaybird says:

    When I was in high school, we moved to a small town, into a house that sported a good-sized pond in the front yard. Our Maine coon cat, Misty, had a deep and abiding interest in frogs’ legs. She kept leaving the moribund and immobile frogs thrashing around on the front porch, like teensy broken-down Volkswagens. I thought it was creepy, but not as creepy as the time I came home from school to find my mom actually drawing a chalk outline around the decapitated squirrel Misty had brought home for dinner.

  • Kristin says:

    I’m reading this sitting at the reference desk. Fairly certain students think I’m having some sort of spell or episode as I try to contain my laughter.

  • Mingles' Mommy says:

    I remember reading and loving a post you wrote about how you would mysteriously find things on the floor (I believe once it was an apple that had “tried to commit suicide by hurling itself off the fridge).

    Your posts prepared me for my future as a cat owner; I too find many, many things that either tried to kill themselves or were murdered by my idiot cat, who feels that anything that is in his way at any given time deserves to be smashed. Love it.

  • Aunty Pol says:

    I’m dying here at my desk. As a long time cat parent this all sounds like normal life..that’s why we dubbed the fridge the Rainbow Fridge since that’s where all the toys get hocky pucked to. We had a set of 3 Burmesse triplets who perfected their skills as wee kits and would cry buckets until one of us rescued the victim of the moment. Bless their hearts they were our Overlords for 13 glorious years.

    Waving from Houston .

Leave a comment!

Please familiarize yourself with the Tomato Nation commenting policy before posting.
It is in the FAQ. Thanks, friend.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>