Suspicious Activity Around Cats

Being a cat is not as easy as you might think. Our 12-year-old cat Jezebelle likes to wander through our front yard with occasional sojourns into other neighborhood yards. This tiny, affectionate kitty is known and loved by everyone on the block.

A couple of weeks ago I went on a hike. As I was returning home, my partner Herb and I received a text from a neighbor: "A man just tried to steal Jezebelle. She escaped. The man sped away in a red van, license number 7....."

I ran home and called for Jezebelle, who came running from a few houses away. I put her in the house for safe keeping.

Meanwhile, Herb called the police and reported what had happened. The police talked to our neighbor and looked up the license plate. The officer told Herb that they had encountered the man before and that he lives in his van.

He asked if Herb wanted to press charges. Herb responded that he had compassion for the man's plight and wanted first to learn what the man had to say for himself. Herb hung up and told his concerned and bewildered coworkers the news.

The next morning on this way to work, Herb saw a red van parked three blocks from the police station. He stopped to check the license plate. It was the same van!

He called the police and talked to the dispatcher.

"I'm calling about the man who tried to steal my cat yesterday."

"You're calling about what?"

"My cat. A man tried to steal my cat, and I see his van."

"This is the police department. Are you sure you have the right number?"

"Yes, I talked to an officer yesterday, and there's a police report. He's just three blocks from your office. If you send someone now, you can still intercept him."

The dispatcher made Herb go through the whole story again until she understood the situation. An officer was dispatched. By then, of course, the van was gone.

A few minutes later, one of Herb's coworkers saw a red van on her way to visit an ailing friend. Remembering Herb's story from the day before, she texted Herb with the van's license plate number. Same van! She told Herb that the driver was changing clothes in a parking lot, which, it so happens, adjoined the property of the police department.

Herb called the police department. The dispatcher (a different one) listened to his story. Herb  pleaded, "Just send someone out your back door, and you'll see him!" As precious moments passed, she tried to make sense of the situation. So Herb switched tactics.

"Are all of you dispatchers in the same room."

"Yes, we are."

"Then please just stand up and say, 'Who talked to the crazy guy about the cat and red van?'"


"Just ask!"

"Ok....Who talked to the crazy guy about the cat and red van?"

A muffled voice is heard: "Oh, that was me! I'll take it."

Soon an officer was dispatched. As Herb waited on the phone, his coworker called to say the van was on the move. She followed. A genuine car chase ensued!

Herb connected his coworker with the police. The van travelled about a mile to a locksmith, located next to a pet grooming salon. Why was he going to a locksmith? Were incarcerated, elderly kitties being held for ransom somewhere?

Herb received a text from his coworker: "Got him!" The police officer questioned the man and then called Herb, who, after hearing the story, agreed with the officer that there was no need to press charges. What happened?

The man explained that he sees Jezebelle in our yard everyday and just wanted to pet her. He knew he should have stopped to explain to our neighbor what he was doing, but he just got back in his van and drove off.

The officer admonished the man for unsafe driving and disturbing behavior. "You can understand how stopping in the middle of the street, running into someone's yard chasing after one of their pets, and then speeding away, would raise concerns. You can't just stop in the middle of the street like that. And you can't run into people's yards after their pets."

The man said he understood and that it would not happen again. The officer replied, "We now have you on record as someone having 'suspicious activity around cats'."

Over the next few days I slowly began to coax Jezebelle back outside. She was in no hurry to leave the safety of indoor kitty life. Adding to her trauma was an incident three days beforehand when another neighbor's black behemoth of a dog escaped his back yard and bounded onto our front porch, where Herb saw the dog with Jezebelle in his mouth, shaking her violently back and forth.

But that's a story for another time. Suffice it to say, Jezebelle escaped unharmed. Tonight, she snoozes, curled into the tiniest ball of fur, snuggled safely between her two humans.

Kitty Community

Our family includes two dogs (a sweet, behemoth of an Airedale and a Fox Terrier with an Othello-sized jealousy streak) and two cats (a sleek, black Siamese and her curvaceous, calico daughter). The dogs, Flash and Cowboy, stay indoors except for their walks and daily romps in the backyard. They lie next to their humans, follow them around the house, and wait impatiently for the next treat or playtime with their addiction of choice: The Kong! Neither will go outside to play without the other by his side.

The cats, Jezebel and Bebe, are much more independent. While Jezebel snuggles next to us every night, most of her day is spent outside. She and Bebe go their separate ways and roam the neighborhood, making friends and mostly taking naps in the sunniest spots they can find. Yet even these independent cats seek community: someone to lay next to, someone to groom and be groomed by, and someone with whom to dine.

We Americans emphasize the individual. Other societies emphasize community. Neither is right or wrong, good or bad, but a balance is needed.

When I visited Japan, I learned to greet people by their family name because that family identity is the most precious and accurate way of introducing one's self, more so than one's individual name. You simply won't find an empty bottle or scrap of paper lying on the sidewalk, even in major cities like Tokyo. Why? Because each person sees the sidewalk as her or his responsibility to keep clean on behalf of the whole community. In America our streets our littered with the debris of our self-preoccupation.

The downside of Japanese identification with the community is that the needs of the individual are often compromised for the sake of community, family, and corporate loyalty. Commuter trains are full of dapper business people just leaving work at 10pm on a Friday night.

Jezebel and Bebe embody a middle path that balances independence and belonging to one another. Most of us have lost the sense of being part of a village, much less the greater whole of humanity. Living alone, or in our nuclear families or with small families of choice, we feel starved for deeper human connection. Our self-centered stories fail to give us the context for who we are.

So how do we experience that balance of community and individuality? I asked the cats. They told me it's all about listening to the purr deep within you. Sometimes that purr compels you to be alone and explore the limits of your freedom. However, that purr always leads you back home, back to where your heart beats to the rhythm of another's heart. Back to where you are always welcomed with nourishment. Back home with the collective where you start to understand deep in your fur what all your individual wanderings meant. Curled up together, you can deeply least until the dogs arrive.

For reflection: Where do you sense an opportunity for deeper community? What is your next step in that direction?

P.S. If you live in the Bay Area, come join us for our weekly experiment with community: Tuesday Night Live.

Kitties on the Savannah: A Haiku

Here is a photo I took of our two cats, Jezebel and Beebee, lazing in the backyard (the savannah) underneath Mexican Bamboo. Below is a haiku inspired by the photo. Please share a haiku that comes to you as you view the photo. (A traditional haiku is 3 lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables.)

Savannah kitties...

Zen, docile, they purrrrrrrrrrr with love: 

"Come close little bird."

P.S. Would you like six months of free spiritual direction/spiritual guidance? In order to complete the spiritual direction certificate program I'm taking, I need to offer six hour-long sessions at no charge. Please contact me if you or someone you know is interested. For more information, check out my page on spiritual guidance.

Supernova Cat: A Haiku

Here is a photo I took recently of our beloved cat Bebe. Below is a haiku inspired by the photo. Please share a haiku that comes to you as you view the photo. (A traditional haiku is 3 lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables.)

Luxurious fur

Clothes supernova halo

That is Life Itself.   

P.S. If you or someone you know has lost a pet, please join us for a night to remember and celebrate the lives of our animal companions on Wednesday, April 3 in San Rafael, California. For more details, go to the Classes webpage.

Pet Alley

The Chasm Between Us by Scott Quinn

Each night

My partner and I plop into bed,


Ready for comfort in each other’s arms.

Such a blissful notion,

And a naïve one,

For we are not alone.


There arises between us

A chasm

A breach

An interloping space

That cannot be broached,

At least not with any lasting effect.


It begins with a bounce,

Then a poke,

Then a demanding look

As the Fox Terrier

Reclaims his daytime territory

From misguided humans

Who mistakenly believe it to be their sleeping nest.

Inserting himself horizontally in the bed

So that minimal space remains for

Either human,

He then allows them,

With both insistence and feigned apathy,

The right to stroke his fur

As payment for squatting down for the night.


Soon he is joined by his nemesis,

The mistress of the night,

Whose wide whiskers

And pitch black fur

Portend of dark omens.

With her inboard motor

At full throttle

She treads with deliberate pace

Across each human,

Kneading all soft tissue with

Her Siamese technique.



The Fox Terrier begrudgingly

Allows her admittance

While forbidding the Airedale,

Three times his size

Yet with only one-third the temper,

From entering the entering room.

With teeth bared from a narrow snout,

His alien grimace and growl

(The likes of which have not been seen

Since Sigourney Weaver saved humanity in space)

Cause all critters to flee except for the black cat,

Whose path he dare not cross.


And so,

They lay between us.

Twenty-five pounds of snoring dog,

Miraculously claiming over half the bed,

Until, with no assistance from His Majesty,

Who lies rigid like a wheelbarrow full of bricks,

He is turned vertically for the night.

And two feet away,

Our masseur also settles in for the night.

Two balls of fur

Set aside their enmity for a few hours

To share the bed

Nuzzled up against their human companions.


And thus,

A chasm

Between my partner and me,

A space known as “Pet Alley”.



Each night,

A miracle of Biblical proportions occurs

As the fox and the feline lay down together.


Fat Cat and the Kibble-Shaker

Below is a short story without an ending. Read it and notice what your gut reaction is. What do you think happens next? There’s no right or wrong answer, but your first response is likely the most honest and the most instructive. Your response may reveal something about the lens through which you are processing life. Whether or not it provides any insight, have fun with it! The story:

Once upon a time in Catlandia, there was a very rich tabby named Fat Cat. He had made his riches in Kitty City years ago and now lived high on the mouse in his kitty castle. How he had made his riches was somewhat of a mystery. He had more frozen mice and rats in his freezers than 1,000 cats could eat in nine lifetimes, but he always hissed when taxed two rodents a year by the Internal Ratting Service.

Catlandia was not without its problems. Over--mousing had led to a dangerous decline in the rodent population. The same was true of the fish population.

Once two intrepid reporters, Tiger and Hairball, began working for CMN, the Catlandia Mews Network. They reported on the impending food crisis and tried to keep tabs on Fat Cat's friends who ran the Cat Council. One day Tiger and Hairball decided to investigate how Fat Cat got so rich...and thus so fat. When Fat Cat caught a whiff of their plans, he put a stop to the whole endeavor by purchasing CMN. Tiger and Hairball were reassigned to covering stories about the lives of kitty celebrities. They never reported on anything of significance again.

One day an older cat named Shadow arrived. She had lived in Kitty City and knew how Fat Cat had become wealthy. Shadow wanted Tiger and Hairball to broadcast the truth, but they were preoccupied with the breakup of "TomCat", a famous kitty couple.

Shadow was born near a stream in Kitty City. There she frolicked all day, catching fish and rodents, just like her mother had taught her. One day Fat Cat arrived. He convinced the people of Kitty City that they could have more food with less effort if they paid him to use his new invention: The Kibble-Shaker. The Kibble-Shaker, though Fat Cat never revealed the full details of how it worked, essentially created underground explosions forcing rodents out of their holes and fish out of their streams. Sure enough, within a short period of time mice, rats and fish were popping up everywhere for easy catching. Fat Cat took his pay (mostly in frozen rodents) and left town.

Shortly afterwards, however, things went terribly wrong. Because the rodents were forced out of their holes before they could raise their young, there was no next generation of vermin to feed on. Even worse, the underground explosions had polluted the water. Not only did most of the fish die, but the cats had to travel great distances to find something to drink. When they tracked down Fat Cat, he claimed it was all a coincidence and that they couldn't prove The Kibble-Shaker had anything to do with their plight.

Shadow shared the story throughout Catlandia, but no one seemed interested.  Not only were they wrapped up in the "TomCat" drama, but they had also bought into the Cat Council's propaganda that the best way to keep safe and fed was to make sure Fat Cat kept as many of his frozen rodents as possible in the hope that a few tidbits would trickle down to feed the rest of the cats. If anyone held him accountable for past infractions, they feared they'd have even less food than their already declining supply.

One day Shadow happened upon a hidden structure just outside of Catlandia. A stealthy kitty if ever there was one, Shadow slinked around a corner and peeked inside to see Fat Cat and his friends eating a grand feast of Rat Souffle and Trout with a Mouse Reduction. She listened carefully as Fat Cat caterwalled to the clowder of cats: "Mewwwww..... Now that I have all those felines eating out of my paw, I can introduce my greatest invention. The Kibble-Shaker is coming to Catlandia!"

What happens next?