What Cats and Castles Have In Common.

This is a castle:

This is a cat:

That is actually my cat, Taffy, lounging in the driveway, using a rock as a pillow. It doesn’t look comfortable at all, but that’s Taffy.

I was thinking about the qualities of Patience last week because I got a call from a friend of a friend, who had discovered four feral kittens, all black as night, on the loose in her neighborhood and needed help in trapping them. She knew that I’m a cat-catcher from way back, so the next evening I loaded up my traps in my car and drove six miles to meet her and several other concerned cat people  who wanted to get these kittens into safe homes. If you remember, trapping feral cats is how I got Taffy in the first place, him and every other cat who has called Top Cat Manor home. (Currently, there are eight cats ruling this roost, and I’ve trapped every one of them.)

So I set four traps and I ask everyone to back away, to give the kittens room to roam. As it turns out, they aren’t four kittens — they are three kittens and a very young mama cat.

For the first four minutes, the kittens sniff at the food that we use as bait for the traps, they pad cautiously around the contraptions, trying to figure out how to get the food. . .

. . . and nobody can stop talking and fidgeting, worrying about how the traps might not work, how the kittens might be too scared or too dumb to figure them out, how horrible it will be if we don’t catch them, etc etc etc, suggesting that we move the traps closer together, further apart, on the other side of the property, use different food, etc etc etc. Some people tried to entice the kittens with their own food,  to hand-feed them to grab them bare-handed. Someone ran home to fetch Portuguese tuna fish, which is supposed to be the very thing no cat can resist.

Everyone who had never trapped cats before (and no one there had ever trapped cats before) could not keep still, or quiet.

And that’s when I noticed that, contrary to what I’ve always thought about myself as a person always in a hurry, I do have great patience. You need great patience to catch cats. You need to watch, and wait, and be calm and careful, which I am, for however long it takes to catch a cat.

You need the same kind of patience to build a castle, as I am going to show you today.

You can see the obvious appeal of this little castle illustration that I found in a children’s book from 1924:

Those towers were a fun challenge to make:

And pointy roofs!

I must have spent an hour trying to get those side towers, because their roofs would not work until I figured out that they had to be faceted, and not smooth as in the illustration:

Beware the people who draw castles, for they are not limited by real life and real physics, so they tend to illustrate impossible constructions.

When the castle was complete, I put it on a small platform in the middle of its book-base:

Then I tried to come up with a way that the pages of the book could shape the hill on which the castle perches:

But I could not come up with anything that worked. So I pulled the castle away from its base, and I decided to cut into the book itself:

I didn’t feel bad about destroying this book. I chose the book because it came into our used book store in deplorable condition — the binding was shot (I had to glue it back in place) and the dust jacket was gone, and it was stained and shabby…which made it worthless as a collectible, but valuable to me as a perch for a castle.

It’s not a book that I would have liked much anyway, even if it had been in perfect condition. The book is a first edition, 1976 copy of Roots, which is a book I don’t like because I don’t like plagiarists and I don’t like liars. In 1978 Alex Haley lost in court in a suit brought by Harold Courlander, an author from Bethesda, Md., who contended there were substantial similarities between Roots and his own earlier novel, The African. The settlement was kept secret, but rumored to be several hundred thousand dollars.

Alex Haley also claimed that the story of Roots came from his maternal grandmother’s recollections of an ancestor’s journey from Gambia in West Africa to slavery in America, but when it was proved by the Times of London that hHaley had fictionalized much of the tale, Haley issued a mealy-mouthed statement that his book was truthful as “a symbolic history of a people.”

So I felt just fine cutting up this book:



Last week at the used book store, we got an old copy of The Goebbels Diaries. It’s a collection of the writings of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. I’m going to feel A-OK cutting up the words of a Nazi.

As for the cat catching, we caught the mama cat and two of her babies within 15 minutes. I took them home with me, and they were picked up the next morning by volunteers from a near-by rescue.

It took three more days to catch the last kitten, who was the runt of the litter.  We assumed it was a “she” because tiny as she was, she was able to survive on her own for those days so she was obviously was the smartest of them all. Oh! I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it was to watch her, day after day, come around looking for food and family, this teeny little thing alone in the world.

By the time we caught her she had become famous in the neighborhood, so she was immediately adopted by the daughter-in-law of one of the home owners in the area. She was taken to a vet, who confirmed she was a she, and she now lives with two other cats who treat her like their own babies and a very accepting Labrador Retriever.

She also as a new name. She’s called Velvet.

As if that weren’t enough to celebrate, the world was also gifted with the simultaneous conviction of Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of Michael Cohen.

It’s been a great week for America and four black cats.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone. May all your quests have happy endings.



21 Comments, RSS

  1. christine August 24, 2018 @ 12:50 pm

    Happy endings and new beginnings! Thanks for sharing the good news!

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:23 am

      It’s always good to hear from you, Christine. And it was, indeed the most happy ending I could have wished for. Four cats, none left behind, all accounted and cared for. BIG sigh of relief.

  2. Leslie August 24, 2018 @ 2:16 pm

    So, what do cats and castles have in common ? Is it that they both require patience? It can’t possibly be merely the letter ‘c’. Little points on top (ears and turrets)?

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:22 am

      I love that, little cat ears sit like turrets atop little cat heads. SOOOOOOO CUTE.

  3. Birdie August 24, 2018 @ 2:17 pm

    If I found kittens it would be so hard to not keep all of them. Who doesn’t love a kitten?

    I think it’s so awesome that you are a cat whisperer and catch feral cats. And the castles are so cool!

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:19 am

      Hi Birdie — Goggle blocks me from commenting on your blog…maybe because I don’t Facebook? I can’t figure it out.

      I have caught a lot of cats in my day, so I tend to detach. And the cats I caught last week had care already lined up so, whew. If they were doomed to be h homeless I might have felt obligated to take one or two…and the herd here at Top Cat Manor would Not have been happy about that.

  4. cat lover August 24, 2018 @ 2:23 pm

    I look forward to reading your blog every Friday. I love cats & art & can’t wait for Trump to be gone, so we share many of the same thoughts…

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:18 am

      Thanks, cat lover — we do have much in common, Number ! bing that we are sane, smart people who recognize pure quality and goodness when we see it (cats) and pure bullshit when it spews in our direction (Republicans).

  5. Susan August 25, 2018 @ 1:10 am

    Your castles are more and more detailed, and intricate. The design details are amazing. The castle perch looks great. So glad to hear you caught all the kittens and mom cat. A bit surprised that Top Cat Manor did not take a kitten. Here is hoping to a better world. One conviction at a time.

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:16 am

      Thank you, Susan! I appreciate your kind words about my castles. Re: kittens: I have 8 cats to ride herd on, which means that I have 8 litter boxes to scoop up twice a day, which is why I can not take in any more cats. I love them to bits, but I can live without latrine duty.

      Oh, the convictions will keep coming, and we will rejoice!!

  6. Kirra August 25, 2018 @ 4:44 am

    Love this castle! You are a slick castle maker now, plus you are improving the mentioned books by turning then into lovely castles. I’ve always thought you must have patience to do the intricate watercolour painting you do, but you are right cat catching and castle making also require it too. Those kittens sound rather cute too.

    I’m trying to be patient as I’m sick with a horrible cough and trying to rest and get better, which is much easier to tell other people to do but isn’t very fun when you feel crappy with a cold.

    In politics Australia is looking like a bunch of idiots, I think the politicians thought they had to compete with the Trump and Brexit situations on the other side of the world but they’re embarrassing us all. Good to hear it was a good week in America!

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:14 am

      I feel your pain. I had a cold last week and I was miserable. Have you started to pack for Austria? Because that’s at least ONE good thing to preoccupy you from the injustice of illness and the news of the Trump rot that is spreading around the world. He is too ugly, too stupid, too corrupt, and too evil to survive the irresistible push of history towards more equality, fairness, acceptance, and righteousness. Right?

  7. Ross August 25, 2018 @ 4:46 am

    Probably surplus to requirements, but have you seen that castle that people have been building in Burgundy using medieval techniques and skills for the last 25 years? I’m sure u-tube must have the videos.

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:09 am

      That is so cool! I did find Guedelon Castle on the inter webs and it’s AMAZING. Thank you for the shout-out.

  8. Megan August 25, 2018 @ 8:01 pm

    As you know I just love Taffy, I think he looks quite comfy with his hard back support, they know comfort so I guess he’d move if it wasn’t just right. Love the castle, who has a copy of The Goebbels Diaries, how extraordinary! Glad it is being repurposed. So happy you caught the feral cats, nothing sadder, I think I shared my story of the cats dumped where I used to work, the RSPCA where called for traps as they were all sick and needed treatment and some animal lover freed them from the traps. Very short sighted. So glad yours are now being taken care of, congratulations. Glad you also kept your cool when people were being fidgety.

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:06 am

      I’m sure that traps you used at the RSPCA were the same humane, HavaHeart traps that I use. They don’t hurt the cat AT ALL. They just surprise the kitten because the trap door makes a noise when it shuts, otherwise the trap is roomy and airy and usually has good food in it. 99% of stray and feral cats are sick or need medical care, so it in the brave ones who trap these babies for their own good, and take responsibility for them. How stupid to let them go — once released, those cats will never go near a trap again, to their detriment.

      Taffy loves you, too.

  9. Brenda Corrieri August 26, 2018 @ 4:54 am

    Hello from England! I have been following your blog for several months. You have a wicked sense of humour and you make me laugh out loud!
    I love castles, cats and I loathe Trump!
    Please continue with your wit and wisdom.
    From a chilly summer day (17c)
    Brenda Corrieri

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 10:03 am

      Hello Brenda! O, to be in England where the castles are real and the Trumps are an ocean away…lucky you. And welcome to the Comments, where only the very best people hang out.

  10. Marilyn August 27, 2018 @ 7:50 pm

    Cat catching, castles, and convictions, what’s not to like about all that. I do LOVE your castles so much. What a fun project.

    • Vivian August 29, 2018 @ 9:58 am

      Yes it is, Marilyn! I assure you that making castles is the best way to keep your mind off of the world, on onto something so simple and satisfying as cutting straight lines, making cone-shaped roofs, and picturing teeny tiny cats strolling through the castle corridors in search of a good place to nap.

  11. Linda June August 29, 2018 @ 7:50 pm

    Loved this blog, love cats, and love your very creative castles! They must love your talent at that bookstore.

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