Getting the two cats to coexist at CatSynth HQ has a long and sometimes bumpy road. Sam Sam in particular has a tough time of it. But things are starting progress to the point were we at least of tolerance and respect. Sam Sam mostly stays on the mezzanine level of HQ, splitting her time between the bedroom and the studio, but she is starting to come out more and reassert herself as the sassy queen of the house.
Big Merp has the run of the downstairs level and enjoying both the relaxing and fun of living here.
He does sometimes come upstairs. In this photo, he jumped up on the main studio console that houses the Nord Stage, Prophet 12 and Pro Tools workstation, and has found a nice hiding place behind the monitor.
From his perch, he supervised part of the postproduction for our latest CatSynth TV, which you can now see here.
Sam Sam also hangs out in the studio a lot. In this video she gives as a little mew as a greeting.
We have exciting news. Big Merp (aka “Marlon”) has come to live with us at CatSynth HQ!
That is a soulful face a cat who has seen a lot in his short life (our vet thinks he actually isn’t that old, but life on the streets can certainly age one quicky). Due to circumstances beyond the scope of this site, our buddy in Oakland found himself needing a new place to live – otherwise, he would be back out on the streets. We’ve come to know him and love him over the past year, so it seemed like the obvious solution to welcome him into our home. Things were rather tentative at first, a new place and concept in a new city.
But it didn’t take long for him to get comfortable, and now he practically owns the place.
Sam Sam, on the other hand, is not too pleased with this intruder into her idyllic life. She has been a bit nervous and skittish, often looking for places to hid and decompress.
She has mostly stayed on the upstairs level while Big Merp mostly stays downstairs for the time being. Their encounters to date haven’t been all that friendly, but Sam Sam is slowly gaining confidence. She prefers to stay upstairs, and I’m doing my best to shower her with affection and remind her that this is still her home and she is my special little girl.
Merp is a very friendly cat, but Sam Sam has had some bad experiences in her past and it’s understandable she’s taking a little longer to adjust. I certainly hope that in the long run, they get along.
We recently joined our friend Serena Toxicatfor a visit to Cat Town in Oakland. Our visit was featured in a recent episode of CatSynth TV.
Cat Town is an organization that helps foster and adopt out cats in the East Bay, with a particular emphasis on cats with special needs or those who otherwise have a hard time in a traditional shelter setting. From their official website
Cat Town Adoption Center and RAWR Cafe are dedicated to helping cats in Oakland and the surrounding areas find both foster and forever homes. They are particularly focused on cats with special needs or who otherwise don’t do as well in a standard shelter setting.
The way it works is that you come to the cafe, order coffee and other treats, and then move into the cat area during a reserved appointment time. One initially comes into the bright and spacious open play area, adorned with murals and unique cat furniture depicting Oakland landmarks and local color.
But the cats are the real stars.
Many of the cats have the “clipped ear” suggesting they were fixed as part of TNR programs for outdoor cats.
The cats are well cared for, and are doing well in this environment where they receive a lot of individualized attention. In addition to the play area, there are quiet spaces for rest and alone time, as well as a newer second adoption space with rooms for the cats. This space, too, is adorned with interesting feline-and-local-themed murals.
Cat Town works closely with local animal services, as well as Adam Myatt — aka the Cat Man of West Oakland who co-founded the space. We have encountered and supported work documenting the street cats of his neighborhood over the years.
If you are in Oakland or the surrounding areas, we do recommend a visit to Cat Town. Bookings and purchases at the cafe support the cats, and you might end up with a new companion. For more information please visit cattownoakland.org.
The end-of-year colage has become a long-standing tradition here at CatSynth, and one that I particularly enjoy. It was a complex year, and the images reflect that. Our cats Sam Sam and “Big Merp” (who has pretty much become an indoor-outdoor cat at his new home in Oakland), some great shows including outstanding performances with CDP and Vacuum Tree Head, a wonderful and restorative visit back to New York. It was also dark and fiery at times, as when the Camp Fire leveled the town of Paradise and bathed our sky in smoke and ash – beautiful and tragic all at once.
Another New Year tradition at CatSynth is to share some stats from the past year. First, the basics:
169 Cat-and-music posts
78 episodes of CatSynth TV
Our top posts for the year, using the somewhat shaky measurements of Google Analytics:
It was heartening to see such a diverse set of posts top the list. However, this belies the fact that blog readership is way down, and eclipsed by Facebook and YouTube / CatSynth TV. Most of our referrals to the blog come from these two sources; but most activity stays on Facebook and YouTube. On the plus side, CatSynth TV viewership has grown significantly. Here are the top videos for the year.
Clearly, the NAMM reviews and synth demos dominate the channel, though I am proud of the diversity of art, music, and culture topics shared there as well. Overall, we at CatSynth do see the writing on the wall, and the efforts in 2019 will probably accelerate the shift from blog to video in terms of time, energy and investment.
On a more personal and introspective note, 2018 was a year we accomplished a lot. At the same time, it ends feeling like I both did too much and didn’t do enough. There are still so many things going on, even as we tried to consolidate and focus. One of the challenges going into 2019 will be looking at how to stay organized and even more focused, without giving up on all that we do. Also, like birthdays, a new year is a reminder that time is passing, and we are getting a bit older. Taking care of myself will also be a priority.
Thank you all as always for sharing this past year with us, and wish wish everyone a Happy New Year!
This weekend we check in on our feline pal in Oakland, Marlon. We have dubbed him “Big Merp” for his large size and vocalizations that sound like “merp“.
This the face of a cat who has lived life hard, and just wants to chill out in his older years. Fortunately, he is getting that opportunity as he has been spending more and more time indoors. This included getting to stay indoors during the worst of the smoke from the wildfires to our north last month.
As we have mentioned before, it is clear he was a pet cat at one point in his life. He enjoys the comforts of indoors, attention from humans, and food. Lots of food. His friend Hissy is not so sure about the indoor life and is still wary of humans, but she does come around for food and to hang out with Big Merp.
The two of them clearly share a connection, even though they don’t always have the same outlook on life. We hope Hissy does learn to trust people a bit more in the future.
We close with a reminder to readers to be kind to the cats – and other animals – that share our neighborhoods and spaces with us.
We at CatSynth took a break from our busy schedule of art, friends, and family in New York to visit the Brooklyn Cat Cafe.
The concept of the “cat cafe” originated in Japan, but has spread around the world, including at least three in New York. Like Cat Town in Oakland, it is an all-volunteer effort focused on finding foster and forever homes for the cats in their care. It is located in a small storefront on Atlantic Avenue in the shadow of the bridges and downtown Brooklyn, but a peek inside reveals a space covered in cats.
Many were napping, like the line above, but they are also quite playful and affectionate. They are, of course, cats.
This sweet black kitty greeted me with a nose kisses.
Hilda was perhaps the most playful on this evening, looking visitors in the eyes as she played with various toys. She especially liked this wires dangling from the main table.
Burton was a big fellow and quite a character. A very friendly cat, he minded me a big of our friend Marlon, aka “the big merp” in Oakland, but with Sam Sam’s markings.
One of the hardest parts of traveling is leaving behind my cats. So having cat cafes is in the cities I visit is most welcome. The change to play with cats, cuddle them, and pet them can brighten the stormiest night.
The cats are clearly loved and well cared for, and there are rules for visitors that help ensure a safe and respectful space for them. Most of these fall under the rubric of “don’t be a jerk”, but there are also reminders of the fact that each cat has a different level of comfort with human behavior. If a cat is wary of being pet, respect their boundaries. If a cat needs a break from human interaction and wants to hide (and I can certainly sympathize with that), let them. And the result is a place filled with love among human and feline alike, and many cats have found their forever homes through visits to the cafe.
The Brooklyn Cat Cafe is run by the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, which is dedicated to finding homes for cats and other animals in their community. They opened the cafe in 2016.
By our one-year anniversary in May of 2017, the cafe had welcomed over 35,000 visitors — an average of over 95 visitors cuddling with our cats per day — and placed over 250 cats in permanent adoptive homes.
To find out more about the cafe, including visiting, adopting cats, and how to donate or volunteer, please visit their website.
On this Veterans Day, we salute some of the cats who have served in their countries armed forces.
First up is Able Seacat Simon,
Simon has the distinction of being the only cat awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal after being wounded during a battle on the Yangtze River. From his Wikipedia page:
The badly wounded cat crawled on deck, and was rushed to the medical bay, where the ship’s surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night. He managed to survive, however, and after a period of recovery, returned to his former duties in spite of the indifference he faced from the new captain Lieutenant Commander John Kerans. While anchored in the river, the ship had become overrun with rats, and Simon took on the task of removing them with vigour, as well as raising the morale of the sailors.
When Simon died in 1949 he was buried with full military honors and lies in PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford.
Cats in the military have most often been ship cats, who have perform the practical function of ridding the ships of rodents and other potential pests, as well as boosting the crew’s morale. You can find many examples in this post from the Naval History Blog.
Cats have also served on land. Pfc Hammer served with an Army unit in Iraq in 2004.
The cat, dubbed Pfc. Hammer, experienced the war right alongside the soldiers. He jumped at the sound of nearby gunfire and unexpected explosions when they did. He would always take the soldiers’ minds off of the war at just the right time.
During a mortar attack on the unit Hammer ran to the bunker with everyone else. The nearest soldier picked up the cat and tucked the feline inside his body armor for safe keeping until the attack was over.
In the true spirit of “no soldier left behind”, the unit made sure that Hammer was able to come back to the U.S. with them. With the help of Alley Cat Allies and Military Mascots, he was relocated stateside and no lives with fellow veteran Staff Sgt. Rick Bousfield and his family.
If you have stories of cats who have served in war, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.