BlogPaws 2010 - Blog to Book: Janiss Garza

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BlogPaws 2010 - Blog to Book: Janiss Garza

  1. 1. Dear Sparkle: More Advice From One Cat to Another... (No Humans!) A Proposal Contact: Lisa Grubka Foundry Literary + Media 212-601-9339
  2. 2. Famed Cat Expert Noted Advice Columnist Book Critic Supermodel Award-Winning Author Meet Sparkle the Designer Cat
  3. 3. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Table of Contents Overview � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 4 Q&A with Sparkle ������������� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 6 The Cat Marketplace� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 9 Complementary Books � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 11 Praise for Dear Sparkle: Advice From One Cat to Another � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 14 Sparkle in the Press � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 16 Sparkle on the Internet � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 18 Marketing and Events � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 20 Possible Spin-Off Books and Projects� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 22 Chapter Outline � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 23 Sample Advice From Each Chapter � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 26
  4. 4. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Overview “If cats ruled the world…wait a minute, we already are in charge!” It’s always impressive when a first-time author wins an award. It’s even more impressive when the first-time author is a cat. But mere months after its release, Dear Sparkle: Advice from One Cat to Another won the Wild Card category at the 2007 Hollywood Book Festival. Sparkle the Designer Cat knows how to beat humans at their own game, whether it’s in her advice col- umn or on the literary circuit. Now she’s sharpened her claws to dole out more cat-to-cat advice in Dear Sparkle: More Advice from One Cat to Another. The Dear Sparkle volumes are not your usual human-written cat books. Even when hu- mans want to help, they lack the feline instinct that is both the source and the solution to real cat problems. As a full-blooded feline (100% Somali, as a matter of fact), Sparkle understands what troubles her fellow cats and offers her insight. Whether it’s a confused kitty who doesn’t under- stand why he’s supposed to stay off the couch, a cat who’s furious because the new puppy ate his catnip stash, or a freaked out feral who wants to return to the wild, Sparkle the Designer Cat has the answer for their woes in her latest book. 4
  5. 5. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Sparkle’s advice column began in 2003 as an adjunct to her online diary, www.sparklecat. com, but it soon became the most popular section of her website. Her sage advice and pointed witticisms have earned her thousands of fans on the internet and celebrity status on social net- working sites such as Twitter and MySpace. In late 2006, her advice first became available in book form, and it has been embraced not only by cat owners, but by anyone who enjoys light- hearted, fun books. In addition to being a winner in the Wild Card category at the Hollywood Book Festival, Dear Sparkle was also an honorable mention in the same category at the 2007 New York Book Festival. But enough of the preamble…wouldn’t you rather talk with Sparkle herself? 5
  6. 6. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Q&A with Sparkle Let me get this right…a cat expert who’s a cat? Look at it this way: which would you trust more—a book about France written by a Frenchman or one written by someone who only studied about France in school? I will confess that there are many good cat books out there that were written by humans, but if you examine them between the lines, you’ll find something missing—that unique point of view that only cats have. A true expert has been there and done that. And unless you’re a cat, you probably haven’t used a litter box, eaten much kibble or been yelled at for sharpening your claws on the rug. As a cat, I’ve had all these experiences and many more. So yeah, I’m definitely an expert. So…What Makes You a Cat Expert Among Cats? I confess I started my advice column on my website, sparklecat.com, at a very early age—I was just a little over a year old in September, 2003. At the time I probably didn’t have the right to dole out cat advice. But I’ve always had a talent for observation, and living with two other cats, two humans and (ugh) a dog has taught me some invaluable lessons. Plus I have a couple 6
  7. 7. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal of qualities that many cats (not to mention humans) seem to lack: a logical mind and common sense. Both, I think, are necessary requirements for any advice giver, feline or otherwise. You’re a purebred—how can you possibly relate to the problems of common cats? You’re assuming that just because I can trace my lineage that I can’t relate to a shelter cat or a fe- ral? The two cats I live with came from unfortunate circumstances—one from the meanest shel- ter in Los Angeles, and the other one dumped in a box in the parking lot of a vet clinic—and we all have to deal with the same pair of humans and the same dog, not to mention each other. Trust me, I don’t get preferential treatment because of my background, or because my father appeared on the cover of Cat Fancy magazine in 2001. Sometimes I wish I did get preferential treatment, but actually it’s the other way around—because of my internet success and talents, I’m expected to help support the other cats here. I work for my kibble. The other two cats are freeloaders. What is a Somali anyway? We come from the Abyssinian breed. In fact, with our ticked fur and classic facial markings, we Somalis look quite a bit like them, only a bit plusher and with a big, bushy tail. Humans some- times compare our look to squirrels or foxes—but please don’t do that. It’s insulting. You seem awfully literate for a cat—are you sure you’re not getting human help? Wow, the insults keep coming, don’t they? I do happen to live with a human who is an editor and published author (she co-wrote White Line Fever, the autobiography of heavy metal frontman Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead). She cleans up my writing and makes sure everything is spelled correctly. She is also my personal photographer—together we won First Place in a contest held 7
  8. 8. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal by Cats USA, the annual magazine put out by the humans at Cat Fancy. But the voice expressed in my writing is absolutely my own. Trust me, if either of my roommates were to write a book, it would sound completely different…and a lot less literate. Seriously. They make the LOL Cats sound like geniuses. When you say “No Humans” in your title, do you really mean it? Yes and no. That’s one of the secrets about my book. The advice is definitely geared towards helping cats solve their problems, but between the lines there are usually clues humans can use to avoid the problems suffered by the cats in the first place. I added “No Humans” to the title for two reasons: 1) to let cats know that my book was written specifically for them; and 2) because the only creatures on earth with more curiosity than cats are humans, so they’re bound to pick it up too, and maybe learn something about cat behavior. I’ve made the advice fun and entertain- ing so that the humans don’t realize they’re learning something. Humans are best taught through indirect means, I’ve discovered. Truthfully, is there a place for a cat author in an economic downturn? Like most cats, I don’t sully my paws with finances—I leave that to humans—but I do know one historic fact: in times of bad economy humans still want to be entertained and give gifts, and Dear Sparkle is the perfect inexpensive gift for a cat lover. As pets, it’s our job to offer comfort when our humans are feeling sad. At the same time, humans are always on the lookout to find special ways to better connect with their pets; my book can help with that. And the cat market is big—even bigger than you might know. You’ll find the facts and figures in the next section. 8
  9. 9. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal The Cat Marketplace “As much as we’ve tried to teach them, humans still haven’t learned that their lives should completely revolve around us cats.” According to the Humane Society, there are approximately 74.8 million owned dogs in the United States. This makes dogs the number two most owned pet in the U.S. because there are about 88�3 million owned cats! Thirty-four percent of U.S. households (38.4 million) own at least one cat; more than half of these households have two or more. Through 2008, the U.S. pet industry has suffered few effects from the poor economy; the American Pet Products Association estimates that the pet industry pulled in 43.4 million dollars in 2008—2.2 billion more than in 2007. Even in 2009, this industry is expected to grow, although more slowly, while many other industries are shrinking. Cat Fancy magazine, with over half a million monthly readers (huge for a niche market), has been published since 1965, making it one of the most enduring periodicals of the past 50 years. Our world is becoming increasingly pet centric, and people consider their pets part of the family. Dear Sparkle speaks to today’s cat owner, whether it’s the Baby Boomer whose cats 9
  10. 10. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal are filling in for the children who have grown up and moved away, or the busy professional who comes home from work to her faithful feline friend every night. These readers will find the spirit of their own pets in Sparkle’s unique blend of warmth, sarcasm and pure cattitude. And as the next section shows, cat lovers are definitely book buyers. 10
  11. 11. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Complementary Books “Just as important as content is a book’s tastiness and the quality of its sitting surface.” Cats have an enduring popularity among readers. Here are some cat books (about cats, by cats and cat stories) that share Dear Sparkle’s readership. Some may view such books as competition, but they are more complementary, since people tend to buy more than one cat book, the same way they often own more than one cat. Here are Sparkle’s thoughts on each book: The Devious Book for Cats: A Parody by Joe Garden, Janet Ginsburg, Chris Pauls, and Anita Serwacki (Villard) Based on the best-selling Dangerous Book for Boys, this volume gives advice to cats that is funny, but nowhere near as practical as what I dole out. I have to admit, however, there are some great tips on food stealing. 11
  12. 12. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Bad Cat: 244 Not-So-Pretty Kitties And Cats Gone Bad by Jim Edgar (Workman) It’s mainly a picture book of misbehaving cats with captions that went on to become a series of calendars. It’s pretty amusing, but not very helpful. Stuff on My Cat: The Book and More Stuff on My Cat by Mario Garza (no relation to my human) (Chronicle) Here’s an idea that, like my advice column, started on the internet and took off. In fact, so many people wanted to see photos of random items on cats that there is now a second volume. While as a cat I think the photos are undignified, I have to begrudgingly admit the idea worked. I Can Has Cheezburger? A LOLcat Colleckshun by Professor Happycat (Gotham) Trust me, the average cat is much more literate than the ones you see on icanhascheezburger. com, which is where these humorously captioned LOL cat photos originated. But humans refuse to accept the fact that other creatures may equal or surpass them in intelligence, which explains the popularity of this book. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron (Grand Central) One of the best selling books of 2008, and just a really great story. Proof that a great cat book has a large audience. 12
  13. 13. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal The Cat Behavior Answer Book: Practical Insights & Proven Solutions for Your Feline Ques- tions by Arden Moore (Storey) This is a really useful book by a human cat expert. But it doesn’t have the entertainment value my book has. Humans will buy this book when they need to do something about their cat’s be- havior. They will buy my book when they want to be entertained, and they may not even realize they’re learning something at the same time. 13
  14. 14. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Praise for Dear Sparkle: Advice From One Cat to Another “This book is better than a bag full of kitty treats. (And much healthier!) Sparkle is most defi- nitely the Dear Abby of the feline world.” —Quasi, author of The World Is Your Litter Box “I think Sparkle has re-invented the standard for all know-it-all cats, combining humor, a little bit of wisdom, and a sense for punky, cat-styled interior design. Come to think of it, Sparkle can also inspire people, as well, showing how cats seem to think. This is a fun read.” —Anne Leighton, Cat Fancy contributor, and author of Paws for Thought: How to Understand What Your Cat is Thinking “Sparkle is a feline philosopher par excellence when it comes to sharing cat-on-cat wisdom. If your life seems duller than stale catnip, Dear Sparkle will show you how easy it is to whip your owner and your home into shape. You’ll want to keep this book right beside your litter box. It’s worth its weight in toys and treats!” —Fred (dictated to Karen Wormald, author of How to Work Like a CAT) www.worklikeacat.com “Sparkle takes us to the forefront of our cat’s mind’s eye, giving us a fun and insightful look at what our companions are really thinking. Each passage is filled with clever advice and a hint of witty sarcasm. A great read for both cats and humans!” —Kerry Hyde, PhD, Cat Behaviorist “When it comes to advice, Sparkle is the best. Much better than that of our human, who has 14
  15. 15. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal made many advice faux pas in her time—such as ‘It’s not dinner yet,’ or ‘I just fed you,’ or ‘There’s such a thing as too much dairy,’ whereas Sparkle’s advice is always spot-on. Also, Sparkle is very beautiful. We would be happy to touch noses with her. If there is one thing in life better than an empty cardboard box or a dancing spot of light, it is Sparkle.” —Tsuko and Buzz (dictated to author/writing coach Jami Bernard) www.barncatpublishing.com 15
  16. 16. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Sparkle in the Press “I would hate having to look at the world through a human’s warped perspective.” • The New York Times “Technology Bits,” November 6, 2008 “The Age of Tweety Cats,” twitter profile mentioned http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/the-age-of-tweety-cats/ • Cat Fancy, March 2009 “How Virtual Fundraising Saves Actual Lives,” book mention • Enterpreneur.com, July 2008 “5 Perfect ‘Spare-Time’ Online Businesses,” website mentioned http://www.entrepreneur.com/ebusiness/gettingstarted/article194524.html • Discovery.com, “Daily Cuddle” blog, December 19, 2008 Photo featured • All Pets Radio “Get Real Cat Advice in Feline Columnist’s Book Debut,” book article http://www.allpetsradio.com/article.php?id=320 16
  17. 17. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal • Cats on about.com, April 8, 2004 “Breed of the Week: Somali,” photo and website featured http://cats.about.com/b/2004/04/08/breed-of-the-week-somali-2.htm • Cats USA magazine, 2004 edition Photo featured, first place contest winner 17
  18. 18. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Sparkle on the Internet “While the internet makes a nice cat toy, humans are still advised to invest in more traditional playthings such as cat dancers and high quality catnip mice.” Nowhere is the passion for cats more apparent than the internet. In addition to the many thousands of human-run websites and blogs about cats and cat-related topics, there are also a few thousand blogging cats—blogs and websites that are narrated by the cat itself. Look on MySpace.com and you’ll find thousands of cat profiles. Even twitter.com, near the cutting edge of social networking, features several hundred cat profiles, with the number growing every day. Sparkle has been on the internet since January, 2003 and has nurtured a high-profile internet presence since day one. In addition to her own website, she comments on other blogs, and has earned links either to her own website or one of her social networking sites from high-traffic destinations such as cats.about.com and nytimes.com. 18
  19. 19. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Here are some of Sparkle’s websites and social networking profiles, where she has been and will be promoting Dear Sparkle: http://www�sparklecat�com—her personal website, containing her journal, advice column, book reviews and store. http://www�advicecat�com—This will be the main website to promote Sparkle’s advice books. In development and not yet live. http://www�myspace�com/designercat—her MySpace profile, where she has nearly 2900 friends. http://twitter�com/sparklecat—her Twitter account, where she is quickly heading towards 1000 followers. http://www�youtube�com/user/SparklecatDotCom—her YouTube channel, which features a paw-picked roster of the best cat videos YouTube has to offer, plus her own video clips, many of which have received several thousand views (her top viewed video reached over 14,000 pairs of eyes). http://www�goodkittybook�com—the biggest chapter in Dear Sparkle is the one concerning hu- man behavior issues, so it’s obvious that at some point, Sparkle will have to speak directly to hu- mans herself. This is the site (and possible book) where she will be doing that. In development. 19
  20. 20. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Marketing and Events “Generally, humans really like to please you and they can be manipulated.” While the campaign for Dear Sparkle is already established in the web-based world of social networking, the push in other venues has barely begun. Here are just a few ways that the book can be promoted: • Magazine and webzine interviews� While Sparkle doesn’t do phoners (for obvious reasons), she is more than happy to do interviews for print and internet via email. Some potential outlets for her include Cat Fancy (where her human is already a contributor), high-traffic websites in- cluding catchannel�com (Cat Fancy’s sister site), catster�com, the Animal Planet website (she has already been featured in the discovery.com “Daily Cuddle” blog), and cats�about�com (site guide Franny Syufy is an acquaintance). There is also a long list of cat websites and blogs that Sparkle can contact for interviews. • Other Cat Writers� Sparkle’s human, Janiss Garza, is a member of the Cat Writer’s Associa- tion, an organization of over 200 members who write about cats. This is a supportive group, and most will be more than happy to review the book for their journalistic outlets. 20
  21. 21. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal • Promotional Video� While most promotional book videos aren’t that exciting, mainly because they feature humans, a promotional book video starring a cat has the potential to become a viral phenomenon. • Cat Rescue Events� Cat lovers are passionate about rescuing homeless cats. Tying in Dear Sparkle with rescue and adoption events will result in book sales and create goodwill in the cat community. 21
  22. 22. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Possible Spin-Off Books and Projects “There are no bad cats—just poorly-trained humans.” Here are other projects Sparkle has in the works: • Dear Sparkle: Advice from One Cat to Another� The rights to the original, award-winning book are available. • Good Kitty! Cat Behavior Problems from a Cat’s Perspective� When you read Dear Sparkle, it becomes clear that many cat behavior problems are really human behavior problems. So at some point, Sparkle should write a book directly to humans to help them out. This is the tentative title of that book. 22
  23. 23. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal DEAR SPARKLE CHAPTER OUTLINE Introduction 1 Games Kitties Play We cats can make a toy out of just about any inanimate (or ani- mate) object. Twist-ties, pens, antique porcelain, crickets…ev- erything’s fair game. There’s nothing more joyful than galloping through a dark house at 3 a.m. Unfortunately, not every species has such a well-developed play instinct. Humans, for example— their sense of play is almost as dull as their sense of smell. So it’s no surprise that many cats write me, complaining that they’re not being allowed their full measure of fun. Such letters always sadden me—we cats thrive on play, and a lack of recreation can lead to inappropriate acting out. But then, some humans consider many of our amusements inappropriate to begin with. So you can see why this topic alone keeps me very busy handing out advice. 23
  24. 24. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal 2 Strange Invasions A cat’s home is not her castle—it’s her whole universe, especially if she’s indoors-only, like I am. So you can imagine how aggrieved we are when some strange creature comes along and squats on our property. There are only two types of beings we accept on our turf without complaint: those that give us food and those that are food. Not in either category? Then who needs you? Considering how famous we cats are for protecting our territory, and marking it if necessary, I’m constantly amazed at the ways we cats get our space invaded. You will be too when you read these yowls for help. 3 Cat Vs� Human Sometimes I wonder why we cats have chosen to live with these large, furless creatures known as humans. They’re clumsy, not very bright, and they expect every other crea- ture to speak Human. It’s a rare occurrence when one of them even attempts to learn the most basic Cat language. So no wonder there’s such a huge communication break- down between cats and humans. Usually when there’s a difference of opinion, the cat will win because we are very persistent. But every so often a hu- man comes along who just refuses to get it. That’s when a letter, such as the ones in this chapter, will pop up in my mailbox. 24
  25. 25. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal 4 Litter Box Letters Considering how much humans complain about our litter boxes (especially when we don’t use them), you might guess that this would be the longest chapter in the book. But you guess wrong. Cats don’t have litter box issues. We either like ours or we don’t, and if we don’t, we take our business elsewhere. It’s the humans who think that this is a Big Deal. The only time I get letters from cats about their litter boxes is when their humans are having some weird issues about the confounded things. Just wait ’til you hear some of the weird behavior they exhibit over something that should be a cat’s private matter! 5 Mixed Mailbag Every cat has his or her own unique problems, and not every letter I get can be easily categorized. Some cats don’t have a permanent set of humans or a home of their own. Some are outlaws in ev- ery sense of the word. And although this may be hard for you to believe, some cats are just a little bit insane. But they still write to me for advice. In fact, I’m often the only one they can turn to— they’re certainly not going to approach a human with their dilemma! It’s times like these that require me to use every bit of feline insight I have at my clawtips. Acknowledgements 25
  26. 26. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Sample Advice From Each Chapter 26
  27. 27. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal 1 Games Kitties Play Mayhem After Midnight Dear Sparkle, I have to complain about my humans’ schedule. They are always asleep during the best time for play, which is around 3 or 4 a.m. I do my best to get them up at this hour—I jump on them, run through the house, knock things off their nightstand, you know, the usual—but it never works. They just get mad and yell at me. I don’t understand why they are such grouches. If I did the same to any cat, he’d be up instantly and ready to wrestle! It seems that all my humans want to do is roll over and go back to sleep. Is this because they are old? I am 3 and a half and I know they have to be at least ten times my age. I just thought that maybe humans aged slower than cats, since their life span is so much longer. Is there any way I can get these humans out of bed and excited to play? Signed, Frisky 27
  28. 28. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Dear Frisky, The biggest problem I see here is that you are expecting your humans to behave like cats, and that just isn’t possible. Humans are not as tuned in to the world as cats are. They can’t just drop down and nap at will. Their lumbering bodies are anything but agile. They place excessive im- portance on useless things like sitting in front of a desk and fiddling around with strange, unin- teresting machines. Do you really expect such dull, graceless creatures to understand that 4 a.m. is playtime? It has nothing to do with age; it’s human nature. I hate to bum you out, but it’s better that you know what you’re dealing with. What you really need is a friend who understands about the important things in life, whose schedule more closely resembles your own. I am referring, of course, to another cat. If you had a roommate to pal around with, you wouldn’t feel the need to get your humans up at what they consider an “ungodly hour.” Of course, this will probably still happen since you and your friend will both be jumping on the bed, knocking things off the nightstand and running through the house. But of course, that’s not your problem, and my advice column is for cats, not humans. 28
  29. 29. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal 2 Strange Invasions Pet Sitter Protest Dear Sparkle, Every time my humans leave town, they have this strange woman come over to feed us and spend the night. She’s called a “pet sitter,” and my three roommates (two tabbies from the local rescue, and the fuzzy gray cat who showed up at the back door one day) tell me she’s okay, but I don’t believe them. She smells weird and even the food smells different when she gives it to us. Whenever this woman comes over, I spend most of my time under the bed until my humans ret urn. Now they are pulling out those dreaded suitcases again, which means that pet sitter is com- ing back. Is there some way to get her out of the house so I can have some peace…or is it true, like my roommates say, that I can use her to my advantage? Signed, Dubious 29
  30. 30. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Dear Dubious, I have to agree with you—pet sitters do smell weird and unfamiliar, and the food does taste dif- ferent when they serve it. I think that’s mainly because their scent mingles with the food dish and hangs in the air after they’ve left us to eat. Humans have a really bad sense of smell, so they have no clue what a big deal this is. I can’t blame you for hiding under the bed when this stranger comes by. But it would probably be better for you if you came out of hiding to see just what this pet sitter is all about. It’s true that pet sitters can be manipulated, just like any other human, but not as much as your roommates may believe. Most of them have a bunch of rules that they follow. Some of these rules were even set down by your own humans before they left. So if you’re an overweight cat who thinks you might weasel an extra treat or two out of the pet sitter, you’re probably out of luck—your humans have already warned her not to give you any. And she’s probably not going to give you any out-of-the-ordinary food or treats, no matter how yummy, because it might not agree with you. Even worse, if the vet has prescribed you any medication, you will still have to take it. On the other hand, if you like to play, you can probably get her to pull out your favorite toys. In fact, her job is to keep you happy so it’s likely she will play with you for longer periods of time than your humans do. And—surprise!—I bet she will also keep your litter box cleaner than your humans do. So pet sitters are a mixed bag. If you are expecting special food or if you are sick, you’re not going to enjoy her very much. But in a lot of ways, she might treat you even better than your humans do. This goes especially for the sleepover ones like you’re getting. So hold your nose and give her a chance. If you decide you still don’t like her, you can always annoy her by wrestling on the bed with your roommates all night. That should at least show her who rules your home. 30
  31. 31. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal 3 Cat Vs� Human Boyfriend Blues Dear Sparkle, My human and I live by ourselves in a big apartment that overlooks a yard that attracts lots of birds. I even have my own window perch so I can nap when I’m not bird watching. I think our life is perfect, but my human apparently doesn’t agree because lately she’s been seeing this guy—a lot! Sometimes she’s gone all night. Other times, he comes over and stays overnight. I don’t like this guy. He’s big and loud and obnoxious and he smells funny. He watches noisy things on TV, with people screaming a lot. Sometimes he screams at the TV. He’s very strange and I don’t know what my human sees in him. Can I get rid of him somehow? He’s not mean to me or anything—in fact, I usually hang out under the bed while he’s around so I don’t see all that much of him. But my human’s talking like she wants to move in with him, which means we would have to leave this cool apartment! This guy has to go. Any tips on what to do? Signed, Concerned 31
  32. 32. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Dear Concerned, I know how worrisome new humans can be. They are oversized, unpredictable creatures—plus there’s that odd smell they all seem to have! And from the sounds of it, the one you’re dealing with is less pleasant than most. He’s extra-large, loud, and he’s turning your own human into a nitwit. I can totally understand why you’d want to get rid of him. That said, however, I do have to admit that you’re jumping to conclusions here. Since you spend most of your time hiding from this new human, things may not be as bad as you have assumed. Instead of going into a panic and resorting to your most drastic measures, such as pee- ing on his clothing or sharpening your claws on his pants leg (while he’s still wearing the pants, of course), you should assess the situation first. So next time he comes over, get out from un- der the bed and check him out. Walk over to him and give him a few cautious sniffs (try not to wrinkle your nose), then step back and see what he does. For your sake, I hope he’s not one of those obnoxious types who immediately makes a grab for you. Some male humans try to make a good impression by showing off how good they are with the female human’s cat. This always backfires, because as you know, we hate it when humans are too forward. If he tries this, I sug- gest you scoot right back under the bed until he learns some manners. If he acknowledges your presence but then lets you be, that’s good. Worse case scenario is if he pushes you away. Then sure, go ahead and pee on his stuff. He deserves it. But if he behaves himself, take some time to get to know him. Chances are he’ll be nice to you (he does want your human to be nice to him, after all). Maybe your human will even encourage him to give you treats or play with you. The situation can be manipulated in your favor, you know. As for the moving part, I wouldn’t get too nervous just yet. Male humans hate change almost as much as we cats do, so he may not be in any hurry to make a new home with you and 32
  33. 33. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal your human. In fact, if he is slow enough maybe your human will grow tired of him and stop seeing him. On the other hand, it’s also possible that you could wind up in a new home with even more space and a yard that has a better selection of birds than what you already have. So calm down! You really don’t know what’s going to happen and stressing out about the possibilities is useless. Just keep a watchful eye on the situation, and that should give you a better idea on how to proceed. 33
  34. 34. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal 4 Litter Box Letters Sandbox Silliness Dear Sparkle, I am two months old and my favorite thing to do is play. I suppose that’s logical, since I’m a kit- ten! I haven’t met an object, animate or inanimate, that I haven’t been able to turn into a cat toy. My human loves to watch me jump around and chase things, and sometimes she even plays with me, except lately things have gotten kind of weird. One of my favorite games is to leap into the litter box and roll around and kick out as much of the litter as possible. My human doesn’t like it when I do this—when she catches me, she calls me “Icky” and “Smelly” (neither of which are my name) and then she does the unthinkable: she gives me a bath! Lately this has been happen- ing on a daily basis, and I am very, very unhappy about this, as you might imagine. What do you suggest? Should I stay away from the litter box completely? I thought it was there just for me, but now I have no idea what it’s for. Signed, Perpetually Playful 34
  35. 35. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal Dear Playful, I must commend you on your vocabulary—it’s quite advanced for such a young kitten. I also admire your ingenuity at creating cat toys out of every object you encounter. You must have an incredible imagination. But I have to agree with your human—your playing in the litter box is a little strange. I think litter boxes are kind of disgusting and spend lots of time trying to get that gritty feeling of the litter out from between my toes. It is icky and smelly! But that’s really my human’s fault—she really could do a better job of keeping it clean. And since you seem to like spending so much time in your litter box maybe your human should work even harder to keep it spotless. It’s not your fault that you wind up smelling icky because your human left you with a dirty litter box. And besides that, if she really wants to keep you from playing there, the best thing she can do is distract you with a better toy. All that bathing and negativity will do is make you hate the litter box and never use it for its original purpose. If I sound a little put off by this habit of yours, don’t worry too much—you’re not the first kitten I’ve heard of who makes his litter box into a plaything. From what I gather, the ones that do will grow out of it after a few weeks. Kittens bore easily, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were off very soon, making a toy out of yet another object that your human deems inappropriate. If that happens, feel free to write in again and we’ll suss it out. 35
  36. 36. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal 5 Mixed Mailbag Rebel With Four Paws Dear Sparkle, I was born in an abandoned shed on the outskirts of town. It sounds like a tough life, but it re- ally wasn’t—there were dozens of us cats and kittens living in the area and while we did have to scrounge for food now and again, a couple of women would come by nearly every day and feed us. But then they started putting out these boxes with yummy tuna in them! You know I had to check that out, and next thing, I was trapped in the box and taken away. You can imagine how panicked I was—I screamed and thrashed around the box like crazy and tried to tear myself out of it. So now I’m being held prisoner in this place with a bunch of other cats. Most of the other cats seem to think this is okay and they kiss up to the humans who have us locked up. I won’t do it—I hide every time they come in and try to hang out with us. I don’t really like humans, even though I do appreciate the food they give us. Honestly, I just want my freedom back. I’m five months old—almost six—so as you can tell I am almost grown up and I can do just fine on my 36
  37. 37. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal own. How do I get outta here? Signed, Freaked Out and Feral Dear FOF, You may think you’re grown up at five months, but trust me, humans still think you’re a kitten. And really, you are, even though it may not seem that way. In your world, cats might have kittens when they’re barely seven months old. And that’s what these humans who have captured you are trying to prevent. I imagine that along with picking up overly-curious kittens like yourself, they are also doing something called TNR, which stands for Trap, Neuter and Return. They find colo- nies of homeless cats, capture as many as they can and spay and neuter them so that they don’t produce more kittens, thus keeping the population down. This is actually a good thing because it means fewer cats wind up in pounds, or are killed by predators, dogs and mean humans. Some- times these people also capture kittens and try to “socialize” them (make them human-friendly, in other words), and then find them homes. It sounds like this was the intention with you—but obviously, you are a hard case. Unfortunately, if you have been held prisoner for a while, and not just spayed and released, chances are that the humans have no intention of setting you free. In spite of your bad attitude when you were captured, you were deemed “adoptable,” and they are probably intent on making you human-friendly somehow. As you can tell by your fellow inmates, often their tactics work… and sometimes they don’t. But even if you never warm up to humans, you probably won’t be set free again—you’ll just be held in limbo with a group of other cats like yourself, who were cap- tured wild and who prefer to stay that way. You can deal with this one of two ways: make friends 37
  38. 38. Dear Sparkle: A Proposal with the other cats, eat the food the humans leave for you and continue to hide. Or suck it up, make friends with the humans, get adopted…and figure out an escape route as soon as you get to your new home. Oh, or you could always figure out a way to tolerate human companionship for real (after a few months of goading, pleading and a lot of effort on the humans’ behalf), but I get the feeling this may be below you. 38

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