Thank you for taking care of my four cats. Please read these instructions carefully at least five times, though ten is preferred and should give you a leg up on my pop phone quizzes.

My four cats are like four extensions of myself. Think of them as my arms and legs. If you forget or fail to follow an instruction, think of your failure as cutting off one of my limbs. So for example if you mistakenly serve my cat Sundance raw food, just picture yourself sawing my left arm off at the shoulder.

The most important thing to remember is that I live in the hills and in case you were wondering THERE ARE PACKS OF RABID CAT-EATING COYOTES OUT THERE. So please remember to KEEP ALL DOORS SHUT AND DEAD-BOLTED. If for some unfathomable reason you manage to screw this one up and let one of my cats out, it’s probably best if you throw yourself to the coyotes right after the cat. Otherwise perhaps picture me sawing off one of your arms.

The alarm code is 0510. That’s Lyle’s birthday—May 10th, 2010, in case you were wondering. A beautiful day for him and for me, so that when you press those buttons on the alarm keypad it’s not just an action that prevents a horn blaring in your ear and cops busting in and throwing you against the wall, it’s also a gesture of honor and adoration. 0510—don’t forget it, you have like 15 seconds to get your ass from the door to the keypad, and make sure you SHUT THE GODDAMNED DOOR FIRST.

If you don’t make it, and the alarm goes off, you have precious seconds before the cops storm the house. The alarm company will call you and ask for your name and password. I hope you know your name. The password is, “Butch of the Hole in the Wall Gang.” I’ll explain what this means in the appendix, but it’s witty and definitely fits his personality, which you would know if you read these instructions ten times like I asked and maybe watched “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” at least twice.

Now I’ll give you brief portraits of my cats which I hope will be helpful:

009PICASSO: Tabby, brown. Friendly, but he has standards, so don’t put on airs or go all high-pitched with the voice. Be earthy and real. Fake it if you have to. You will have to. Favorite toy is a shoelace, which he will chase around. Try to master a quick jiggling wrist snap motion with the shoelace or he may become disinterested. Practice snapping 100 times to the left, take a brief rest, then 100 times to the right. Do this for an hour every day, gradually phasing out the rest period. Say nice things about his paintings.

Lyle sun 1

LYLE: Tabby, orange. Birthday is 05/10, that’s 0-5-1-0. Shy at first, but he will open up gradually, after a breaking in period in which you must grovel on the floor before him. Try to be consistent and still as possible with your floor grovelling—so no bathroom breaks or even kneeling, otherwise this breaking in process must be started over from the beginning. Lyle loves the Halo freeze-dried treats, and when I say “loves,” I mean “goes batshit crazy for.”  I suggest first putting on the welding gloves before offering him a treat. The heavy gauge steel ones—not the light welding ones. Note the severed finger limit of liability clause at the end of this document. Sign it before offering Lyle a treat.


9_3_13 009BUTCH: Tuxedo cat, more black than white. My cat psychologist says Butch is the most balanced and stable of my cats. He’s serene but not too sleepy. A born leader and cat-about-town. You can see his profile on EHarmony. Butch can be very Zen, and if you encounter him in a meditative state please do not disturb him. Light a candle and spread some sage around, sprinkle catnip on a pillow and make sure you offer it to him barefoot and with a pure mind, body, and soul. Especially the soul. Don’t make eye contact with him.


SUNDANCE: Tuxedo cat, more white than black. Brother to Butch. Sundance is ivory to Butch’s ebony. Redford to Butch’s Newman (This will be on the quiz). Sundance is the shyest of all my cats, so I have been working on socializing him. It is very important that you continue this process, so please set aside a few hours each day to play board games with him. Don’t insult him by breaking out Candyland—he’s too old for that. Chutes and Ladders is okay if he’s in the mood but it’s very important that you let him slide the token down the chute with his paw. It’s his favorite thing about the game. Feel free to say, “Weeee!” in an encouraging voice as he performs this action. If you play Monopoly with him be careful, he’s the only cat I’ve ever seen pull off a railroads- and utilities-owning strategy.


Feeding times are promptly at 8 am and 8 pm each day. Please, no excuses—stuck in heavy traffic, or “I had to work late,” or “My child got bitten by an anteater!”—there’s just no excuse for not being punctual to feed my cats. I have prepared this detailed food list to assist you in what to feed who, and in what amount:


Picasso:         1 teaspoon at night

Lyle:                1 glob* per feeding

Butch:            1 tablespoon only on Sunday

Sundance:    NO RAW! Feeding raw = sawing off an arm!



Picasso:          Considers this food an insult. Will hate you.

Lyle:                 Nope.

Butch:              Feed him 1/2 can; the Paul Newman half only.

Sundance:      Feed him 1/2 can; Robert Redford half only.



Picasso:          Okay, but don’t try to lace it with medication. Will smell it. And hate you.

Lyle:                 Where’s this crap from? New Zealand? Nice try.

Butch:              1/2 can, mashed with lobster fork**

Sundance:      1/2 can, built up into “food mountain”***



Picasso:           You lick it first, I want to see if you’re trying to pull some shit on me again.

Lyle:                  Cool label. But nope.

Butch:               1/2 can, but if I get scared you have to feed it to me under the bed.

Sundance:      If he’s scared, I’m scared. And I won’t eat his portion, so don’t mix them up.

*1 glob is more than 1 tablespoon and less than 1 hunk.
** Fondue fork is acceptable in a pinch, but regular fork is unacceptable and Butch will smell that he’s being served with an unworthy metal and will refuse food and won’t even look at you again.
*** No Devil’s Tower food mountain, that is frightening to cats. Aim for something pleasant and mildly majestic, like something out of the Adirondacks mountain range.

9_3_13 019



Look, if the Egyptians can do it, you can do it. The Egyptians revered cats and built pyramids, you know. And mummies—they had mummies! Don’t forget the real tiny pieces of old clumped urine and feces that the scooper sometimes can miss. Buy a pair of Velcro gloves—the sticky Velcro on the outside—and then just sift through the litter with your gloved hands. Those little pieces of filth will find you! Once your gloves are thickly coated with little shit- and piss-balls, you can simply discard them. Or scare your children with them!


Don’t worry, I won’t blame you. Not to your face, which is what matters. But look, all I’m saying is that the cats were fine when I left. Cat curses are a bitch to remove, so you know—all your hair falls out at the very least, and I’m talking armpit hair as well as head hair.

My veterinarian’s number is 1-888-ohmygodwhatdidyoudotomycats.

If anything happens, call me anytime, day or night. Even something like vomiting a hairball—please take photos of the scene and be able to describe in detail what the cat was doing before and after the regurgitation event, where exactly you were, and what exactly I was thinking when I entrusted you with my cats.


I hope you enjoy your time with my cats. Help yourself to anything you want around the house—except the coffee, snacks, computer, blow dryer, or garden rake. Feel free to relax, have a cat or two curl up in your lap, and watch a program on my 60” high definition TV—as long as you pick one of the 27 nature programs I’ve recorded for the cats.

Just remember to keep the goddamned door SHUT AT ALL TIMES.

Picasso plus_Auguest 2013 005



  1. Yup, that sounds about right. As I have 5 of my own another 6 in front of my house plus 2 chickens- my instructions would be equivalent to the size of a bible – which nobody reads (the bible or my instructions) hence I just don’t go anywhere 🙂

  2. i think if they organized they could take a coyote. they are quite a bunch and i love each of their personalities. great post, michael, you must have had a riot writing this ) beth

  3. I laughed myself happy reading this very clever “instruction list.” Clearly, you love them very much.
    PS: I know you were being funny but serious about the risks of opened doors. You may wish to consider getting them a cat window patio from these folks: It fits in the window like an air conditioner, and gives indoor cats the sights, smells, and sounds of the great outdoors while remaining safe and secure indoors.

    Thanks again for the chuckles–you’re an excellent writer!

  4. This post made me smile numerous time and left me with a warm fuzzy feeling all over. I’m new to the world of cats, as you know. Your love and adoration of your boys is obvious and contagious and wonderfully unrestrained. They are so lucky to have you.

  5. What a beautiful gang of cats. I’m surprised you don’t require your cat sitters to complete bootcamp before they start – perhaps a rigorous training program that involves waking them up at all hours of the night to see how they respond to different cat-related scenarios. Nice post Michael 🙂

  6. OMG! This is the best thing I have ever read in my life. I used to work kennels and would sometimes have the most outlandish notes on how to take care of the animals. I understand that they are part of the family because I feel the same about my dog but some of the things I would read were just ridiculous. This was great, keep it up!

  7. It’s so nice to have someone come to your house to look after your animals. I found this out the hard way by taking them to a kennel once, and having all sorts of problems when i came back. They are lucky to have you!

  8. What a wonderful piece, Michael 😀
    I can certainly identify with the feeling that no one knows my furry, feline children in the way I do. Having 16 cats, each with his/her own quirk, it is not easy to find a cat minder. Once I get through the different tickle regimes i.e. this one likes a chin / tummy/ ear / nose /paw / tail / tail base/ only 2minute tickle, let alone the eating preferences, the cat minder tends to have unfortunately double booked.

  9. Michael you and your cats are absolutely Hillarious! as it happens i am cat sitting a friends cat while she is still in the hospital, she too is very picky about how and what she eats i have endulged her by letting her out on the patio she likes that unless its cold or rainy.

    • Thanks Jessica :). Yeah, frankly, I think almost any deep lover of an animal can relate to that list… it’s exaggerated but it reflects a lot of truth as well. The piece came from my own real list that is like 8 pages long–and I know no cat sitter really reads it. 🙂 Thanks for reading :).

        • Thanks for your very kind and encouraging words, they are much appreciated. I do seem to be generally happier each day that I write, I guess that’s a common trait based on what you say about your Dad. 🙂

          • He strugled with writing for as long as i can remember finally he was published in 2001 so he took freelancing jobs and worked with CNR for a while when i was young but he persued and finally thanks to my stepmother entered a writing contest and was runner up and the prized was being published and it went on from there.

  10. In the post the Religious leaders and peace actavists HH the karmapa is vegan too another Buddhist leader, Head of Karma kagyu Liniage. he has forbidden meat from entering the monastery in india and in his seat at his USA Monastery.

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