FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas, Dec. 15 (3rd installment)


“Hello there,” I called. “Where are you? The owl’s gone, at least for now. I scared him away.”

“Meaa?” The sound was weak and faint. Another voice, maybe responding to the alarm in the mother’s voice, added, “Me me me . . .” Okay, a queen with a kitten. But where?

I crawled out far enough to look around. “Do that again,” I prompted.

This time there was another growl. And without the owl in the way, I smelled the blood, and my lips curled up. The sound and the smell both came from a rickety wooden step joining the bottom of the house to the ground. I looked around, didn’t see the owl, and in a flash faster than Renfrew could empty a kibble dish, made a four-point landing in front of the step. Hunkering down in the gathering snow, I slunk on my belly to the shallow opening. I stuck my nose in and jerked it back out again, narrowly avoiding the slashing claws of the cat inside.

“Whoa!” I said. “I’m on your side. What’s going on? Did the owl try to take your mouse?”

“Mouse?” she asked.

“Meep!” a small voice squeaked. It wasn’t claiming to be a mouse. It smelled new and catty and bloody, and its cry was puny and shrill. “This is my kitten,” the queen said proudly. “There was another one, but it died. I just had this one, and I will tear you to shreds if you try to hurt her you—you tomcat, you.”

“Why would I do something like that?” I asked. “Some of my best friends used to be kittens, back when I was one. Please, may I come under there too? I don’t know how long that owl will stay gone.” She didn’t say anything, so I scooted a claw length forward with each paw and asked, “Why are you and your kitten out here? It’s snowing.”

“Is that so?” she asked. “Do you think we wouldn’t be inside if we could be? This used to be my house. I’m no stray. A family with a little girl came to my mother when I was a baby and brought me here to live with them and be a friend for the little girl. She dressed me up in doll clothes. I really hated that, but I wouldn’t mind one of those doll blankets now, I can tell you. My poor baby is so c-cold.”

I heard rat-like scrabblings next to her and an occasional meep as the blind kitten stumbled. Its cries were quavery. “If you’ll let me come in, I’ll lie beside you and warm your baby. You can tell me all about it. And I’m not exactly a tomcat. Darcy took me to the vet as soon as I was old enough so I can’t make kittens.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. “The last cat who told me that fathered this one!” Her eyes widened as I blocked some of the light, pulling myself inside, and lay down with my head facing the opposite direction from hers so my tail wrapped around her front and her kitten. The hole went all the way through beneath the step so I could see out the other side.

“You look a little like him, as a matter of fact,” she said, shifting her kitten to a position more comfortable for her. She was a gray-brown tabby whose fur was still matted with rapidly freezing blood and other fluids from giving birth. I snuggled in so that the nursing kitten was sandwiched between us, causing it to “meep” again. “His fur wasn’t as nice though. You do have a lovely coat.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I think I know the cat you’re talking about. He’s my father too. Your kitten is my half-sister.” It may be hard for humans to tell the sex of kittens, but I could smell it. “He makes a lot of kittens, and most of us look like him. I’ve met him though. Kind of nasty.”

“Not if you’re a female in heat,” she said. “Not at first. He got a little rough later, but I sent him off with a nose full of claws. Then my people decided to move. I think Maddy, my little girl, had convinced them to take me with them when they moved; but then when I got pregnant, they just went off and left me. Maybe if they come back and see I only had the one kitten, they’ll take me with them.” Her voice broke, and she disguised her distress by licking her kitten. “They’ve been gone a really long time, and don’t seem to have told anyone else to look after me.”

I was so busy listening to her, feeling sorry for her, wondering if I should tell her what Rocky told me: that her people were probably gone for good and wouldn’t be back, that I didn’t hear the wings until what to my wondering eyes did appear? Long claws of an owl, entirely too near!

New mother cat

New mother cat

The new mom shivered, but I puffed up as big as I could within the confines of the hole and growled. “I thought I told you to hit the clouds, bird! Pfssst!”

The owl didn’t answer this time, but his claws vanished for a split second—then I heard them overhead, on the step, ripping at the rotting wood. One splintering moment later his large eye peered down at us through the hole in the stair. “More than one way to skin a cat,” he said.

“I can’t believe you said that in front of the children!” I scolded.

“I only see the one tender little kitten,” he said. I was glad owls couldn’t lick their beaks and drool, or he’d have been doing that, and it was disgusting.

“She’s not even a beak-full to you,” I said, letting my mouth do the sparring while I figured out what to do with the rest of me—and him. “She’s just newborn and hasn’t even opened her eyes yet, so she can’t be properly terrified of you. Her mom has had a hard time.” It had worked with an eagle I met earlier to tell her about how bad I’d be for her and her babies since while I’m organic I am not exactly additive free, but the owl wasn’t raising babies, and he didn’t give a hoot.

He inserted his talons into the hole and ripped a strip from the stair. I was at a loss for the first time in my young life, really. I am a very clever cat, but he was a very large bird, and I was more impressed than ever with his claws, seeing them at such close range. I could slip outside and attack him, but I hardly had the advantage of surprise. Plus there was nothing to stop him, once I moved, from snatching both the kitten and her mother out of the hole and flying off with them before I could wriggle all the way out from under the stair.

“I want you to think about this carefully,” I told the owl. “You have the reputation for being a wise old bird.” Inspiration struck. “You do realize this is Christmas, don’t you?”

“Why, yes. And as soon as I smelled your friends there, I thought to myself, “Merry Christmas to who? Me!”

“Well, you’re not doing it right,” I told him.


“Christmas. Wise creatures aren’t supposed to eat babies for Christmas.”

“Is that so? I would settle for adult housecat if you keep getting in my way.”

“You, you, you. You’re messing up the story. Think about your place in history.”

“How’s that?” At least he didn’t ask “who?” He looked genuinely curious. As I suspected, owls didn’t get wise by declining to acquire new data.

“Wise—uh—things, are supposed to bring presents to babies at Christmas. Check those scenes in some of the yards around here if you don’t believe me. You go on and check it out. We’re not moving.”

He wasn’t that full of scientific curiosity though.

“Yes, I’m afraid you are. Keep talking though. The hot air you’re spouting will give my wings extra lift when it’s time to carry you to my nest.”

He ripped another strip off and looked at my beautiful gold striped body with what struck me as an unwholesome appetite. “You’re a plump one. If I take you, I can come back for the other two later. Nothing personal, you understand. We’re all hunters here, yes?” He jerked back suddenly, flapping and whirling in a feathered storm. “Who? Who’s there?”

“Hey there, big bird, but have you seen a cat around here? Maybe carrying a doll or dragging a box?”

The owl flapped and sat back on the step he’d been destroying so that some of his tail feathers tickled my nose, and I sneezed.

“This is my lucky day,” the owl said. “Cats of all sizes, and now a big fat raccoon.”

“Hey!” Renfrew said. “Be nice! I am worth way more than a meal. I have treasures. Shiny treasures. Like this!” The owl moved away, and I could see out a hole that had opened in the side of the step when the top of the step was ripped open. The snow had stopped, and bright moonlight now reflected alluringly from the surface of the freshly washed metal box thingy in the coon’s paw.

The owl was on him—or on where he had been—in one hop. Renfrew, however, was out on the sidewalk and halfway up the street squealing his head off.

I hollered too, and the mom cat hissed, “If you’re going to carry on like that, get away from us.”

“I’m calling for help,” I told her.

“I’ve cried and cried for help, and all that I get is things that want to eat me,” she mewed.

That didn’t discourage me, but I didn’t argue with her. I’d come to help her after all, hadn’t I? “Can you carry your kitten?”

“Of course I can! I’m her mother!”

“We need to find a better hiding place for you,” I said with a meaningful look at the stars shining down through the hole the owl had ripped in the step. “Maybe under the house?”

“I can’t go there,” she said. “I thought of that when my people first left. There are big rats in there—bigger than I am. They would kill my kitten.”

“Mrrr,” I said, thinking. “Pick her up and walk with me. Well, trot if you can. We need to cross a couple of yards.”

Renfrew had either been eaten by the owl, or had eaten the owl, or both of them were really busy picking through his new treasure. They weren’t in sight as we crossed the darkened yards. The queen tottered with the kitten and had to stop twice to rest, but refused my offer to carry her baby for her.

Finally we made it to the carport, which was where I thought maybe they would be safer, under the roof, amid all of the stone people, who might scare the owl, and up off the ground in the horse trough thing.

I was surprised now to see Buck’s antlers alongside the lit-up deer in the yard, and Nelda and Gelda grazing beside him.

It made me feel better that friends were there. Not that they could be depended upon to defend the new mother. They’re pretty shy. Still, I said, “Hi, deer—uh—Merry Christmas. Good to see you here. This is, uh—”

“La Toya,” the mother cat said through a mouthful of kitten.

“La Toya and her new kitten. An owl has been after her, and so I thought if she got up in that thing—”

“That’s a manger, Spam,” Nelda said. “It’s where the hay was in the original story. The hay the reindeer seek every Christmas as they fly through the sky following the star.”

“Yes, the manger.” La Toya needed a little boost to help her jump up into the hay—there was real hay—but she managed it and laid down, exhausted.

I wanted to do the same thing, but felt like I needed to stand guard at least until morning.

FATHER CHRISTMAS (Spam the Cat’s First Christmas) 14 Dec.


“Found it where?” I asked.

“Just laying around,” he said. “There’s all sorts of stuff just laying around right now, Spam. You wouldn’t believe the things people put in these boxes and leave on their porches. I’ve noticed a lot more of them lately, so I brought some back to see if there was anything inside. There’s been food in some of them. Here—” he reached a paw back and picked up a piece of something dense and colorful. “Do cats like fruitcake? Didn’t care for it myself.”

“Renfrew, I hate to tell you this, but they don’t leave those boxes laying around for coons to find. They’re calling you the UPS bandit!”

“I’ve been called worse,” he said, dropping the fruitcake and flinging the white box aside in disgust before tearing into another, unopened package.

“You’re taking peoples’ Christmas presents!” I told him.

“They put them outside, Spam. Honest. They didn’t want them.”

“They didn’t put them outside. The delivery guys brought them to the houses and left them outside for people to pick up when they came home. Except you got there first. There’s more of them now because people are ordering Christmas presents delivered.”

I put a claw through the plastic covering the box with a lady doll in a fancy dress inside. “This is some little kid’s dolly.”

He gave it a glance then went back to rooting around among the boxes. “Yes, well, you can’t tell from the outside, can you? A lot of them haven’t had anything shiny or good to eat, but lots have too!” He stuck his paw in a box and held up a sleek silver cell phone. “Look! I have a new phone. It’s all mine.”

I read the label on the torn edge of the box. “No, it’s not. It belongs to this Bert Smashnik guy.” I patted the dolly box. “And this is for—Mrs. Angela Atkins. I bet it’s for her little girl. Her main Christmas present.”

“And your point is?”

I was tempted to extend all of my points and let him see what they were, but didn’t for two reasons. One is that he also has sharp claws and teeth, and is maybe a pound or two heavier than me. The other is that he is my friend and he can be useful. I just had to appeal to his better nature. If only I could find it.

“Renfrew, you don’t even know how to use this stuff!” I told him, patting an iPad still in its package inside its box with the lid ripped off.

“I can feel it and wash it and make it shine!” he said. “And some of it looks like computers, and I can work computers better than you!” He flexed his hand-y paws at me.

“You can plug stuff in, but you can’t really make them work,” I told him. “Not out here in the woods. You need accounts and passwords and all kinds of stuff Darcy and Maddog and Bubba’s partner have already.”

“I could use the ones at your house,” he said.

“Right. Of course you can. So why do you need to take somebody’s Christmas present? I’ve spent my entire life learning how to use a computer, and there is quite a learning curve. Honestly, I don’t think your—uh—temperament is suited for that kind of dull geeky stuff. I’ll tell you what. If you’ll help me return all these things before morning, I’ll help you make a YouTube video showing how cute you are. You’ll be a star.”

He frowned, grumbled, and looked around at the litter with a very territorial gleam in his eye. “I don’t think so, cat. This is mine. I stole it fair and square.”

There was so much there, and I knew he’d lose interest before tomorrow, by which time it would all probably be ruined.

“Let me take the doll at least,” I said. “She’s not shiny, and you don’t really want her, do you? Some poor little girl is going to be really sad tomorrow, and will probably grow up to hate Santa Claws thanks to this childhood trauma. She may even belong to a family that feeds raccoons now, but will become a hunter because she somehow suspects what became of her Christmas doll.”

He stopped fiddling long enough to growl at me. “What do you care, cat? Why should you care if humans get what they want or not? You haven’t seen what I’ve seen. There are cats and dogs wandering all over town, making nuisances of themselves, whose people abandoned them and moved away.”

“Oh no! Why didn’t you tell me? Is it vampires again? Are there more taking other people like the Vampire Marcel took Darcy?”

“I wish. No, they leave because they want to, and they abandon little Fluffikins or Fido because they want to.”

“Renfrew, you’ve changed. You didn’t used to hate humans.”

“I don’t hate them, but I’ve seen some stuff lately that—well, let’s just say I don’t care if they have a special happy day where they keep all their toys and I don’t, even though they just left them on the porch.”

He was justifying his selfishness by making it all someone else’s fault, just like the bad guys on TV always did. I knew times were hard for humans. I’d heard Darcy on the phone to her friends talking about how tough it had been for people to get gifts, or even food for their families this year. It was on the news too. Some people may think it’s un-catlike to care about that stuff, but I have always prided myself on being a good kitty. If nothing else, it makes me stand out from the crowd.

“You’re just being a Scrooge,” I told him.

He looked up. “What’s that?”

“It’s a mean old man in a story. He keeps seeing these ghosts, see . . .” I couldn’t quite remember the whole thing, or which was the right version because since Halloween I’d seen the same story done about twenty different ways.

“What’s a ghost?”

“Kind of like a vampire only deader, and without a body. They’re very scary.”

“Why if they don’t have bodies? That’s silly, being scared of those. Was the Scrooge scared of them?

“No, but they reminded him of stuff. Like some were—uh—the ghosts of the past. That was—er—animal friends who’d either died or been left behind come back to tell him to stop being such a jerk. Then there were the ghosts of Christmas present. I think those were people who found out coons were stealing the Christmas presents intended for their families. They all had ghostly guns. And then there’s the ghosts of the future, and you don’t even want to know what they did.”

“Well, I don’t know any ghosts. Just one noisy cat who’s mad because he didn’t like his present, and is trying to give it back. You can have something else if you want it. I’ve got lots. I’ll even wash it for you to make it shinier.”

“No thanks. I’m taking the doll, and then I’ll be back and return the rest of the things where you got them,” I told him. That was a lot easier said than done, however.

I picked up the package containing the doll box swimming in a shallow jumble of packing peanuts inside the wrapping. The address on the shredded outer cardboard was on Blair Street. That was mostly downhill, so I could drag the dolly, who was about as long and big around without the packaging as my tail. With the packaging, she was clumsy and caught on things, at least until I got out of the trees and onto the snowy path, where the box slid down to bump my nose and front feet as I tried to walk backwards.

I had just made the street when a striped blur waddled past me. “Change your mind?” I shouted after him, dropping the doll box. “How did you get this stuff to your nest anyway? It’s heavy!” Some of the boxes in his stash were much bigger than the doll’s.

He ignored me until he was way ahead of me on the sidewalk along Blair heading down toward the lagoon park. “Minions,” he said. Then he turned, and I saw the shiny metal box he carried in one paw. “Needs washing,” he added, with a white sharp grin under his black mask.

It was just so wrong. My assistant detective apparently had henchcoons in his UPS bandit gang. This was really going to be bad for my corporate image as feline head of the premier interspecies detective agency of Port Deception. Mutiny! That’s what it was. I wasn’t about to let him get away with it! I dropped the doll box behind a convenient picket fence and took off down the sidewalk after the ring-tailed mutineer.

The snowy sidewalk was slick, so I jumped a fence and ran alongside it in the adjoining yards, jumping other fences when I needed to. I passed three dark houses and four with lights on them, fake trees lighted up, real trees lighted up, Santa and his sleigh with the—er—reindeer following the star heading for the hay. And in the next yard, there was the little farmyard scene I’d seen a few other places, with all the people in their bathrobes, clustered inside a three-sided carport. A fake star decorated the roof of the carport, and another bathrobed figure with wings hung above everybody else, plus some fake sheep, a fake donkey, and a horse trough-looking thing holding a doll. Maybe I should put Renfrew’s doll in there?

The yard up ahead was dark. No car sat out front or in the driveway. A low fence separated the lit-up house from the dark one. I crossed into that yard and the next one, also dark, and sat to rest and reflect by having a wash beneath an overgrown hedge. Renfrew had no doubt already made it to the lagoon and ruined the shiny boxy thing’s function, whatever it had been. I couldn’t save all the presents. If I turned around now and went back to his nest and moved them all—took some of them home and stuck them in the house—that would save some of them anyway, and he wouldn’t be there to stop me.

That seemed like a good plan. If the owl had been sitting in a tree when it saw me, which is, I understand, the way owls usually spot someone tasty to eat, I wouldn’t have heard it and would have been a dead cat on a one-way flight to an owl’s nest. But he was on the ground, watching, and when he spotted me and came after me instead of the less accessible prey he’d been hoping would come out and play, the other prey found her voice and let out a long, low growl. The noise tipped me off, my excellent feline instincts for avoiding air strikes kicked in, and I dived for cover deeper into the hedge.

The owl flapped and hooted a little, and I made myself very big, slitted my eyes, arched my back and sprang right at his wide-open eyes.

Oh, yeah, he had talons and a razor sharp beak, but he generally used them on animals dangling helplessly from his talons, not head-on. “Back off, bozo!” I spat at him.

The owl blinked at me, taken aback, his head retreating while his body stayed in the same place. I guess he wasn’t used to his snacks talking back. “I beg your pardon,” he said. “I mistook you for someone else. No need to get huffy. I have to eat too, you know.” And with a ground-dragging unfurling of his massive wings, each of them at least as long as I am from nose to tail tip, he was airborne.

I didn’t trust him to stay gone, not for a moment. But I wasn’t about to stay inside the hedge all night, and I wanted to find the other cat who had warned me of the attack.

Father Christmas Owl

FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas serialized through Dec. 24


Dear Readers,

Happy Holidays! Over the next two and a half weeks, culminating on Dec. 24, I will be serializing FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas,  for your entertainment. If you like humor, cats and oddball takes on the holidays, I think you’ll enjoy it. It is on sale for $2.99 as an e-book or 9.99 as a paper book.

At the bottom of this note is the link to the book on Amazon but you need not buy it if you want to read it all here. I loved writing this and I want to give more people and their cats a chance to love reading it. All proceeds from purchase go to the Humane Society of Jefferson, Co. WA, where I found K.B. Dundee. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (with K.B. Dundee)


Father Christmas

Spam the Cat’s

First Christmas


Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

with  K.B. Dundee

Gypsy Shadow Publishing

All rights reserved

Copyright © January 2012, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Cover Art Copyright © 2012, Karen Gillmore

Gypsy Shadow Publishing, Inc.

Lockhart, TX


Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coin-cidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and email, without prior written permission from the author.

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61950-27-3

First eBook Edition: January, 2012

Second eBook Edition: May, 2012

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012933715

Print ISBN: 978-1-61950-052-5

Published in the United States of America

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Print Edition: February, 2012


This story is dedicated to Kerry Greenwood and Karen Gillmore, whose encouragement has kept me writing and whose friendship made the holidays happy.

Father Christmas deer

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring; not even a mouse. Rats! While I’d been out chasing vampires and zombies, my furry housemates had hunted all the fun prey. Now my fourteen feline roomies were all asleep, our human mom Darcy was gone for the weekend leaving us on our own with just a cat-sitter coming in to feed us, and I felt restless. I was nine months old, and this was my first Christmas.

It felt like something ought to happen. It felt like something was going to happen, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be in my boring house with my boring friends and relatives.

On the other hand, it was snowing outside. We were having a white Christmas. Bah, humbug. Bad weather is what it is, the kind that clots white cold stuff in your paw pads. Unacceptable. I would wait until the weather humans came to their senses to go out, I had decided.

That was before I heard the prancing and pawing of each little hoof, apparently coming from up on my roof. I sat down to think, curling my tail around my front paws, my calm pose betrayed only by a slight flick at the creamy end of my plumy appendage. There were stockings hung by the propane stove with care, but a trip down that chimney would be disastrous for anybody, since they’d just end up inside the stove and wouldn’t be able to get out. I considered waking my mother for a further explanation of the powers of Santa Claws. But then I thought that if anyone would know what was going on, it would be Rocky. I jumped onto the kitchen counter and stood against the corner cupboard. I am a very long cat, even without taking my tail into account. My front feet could just reach the top cabinet, where Rocky liked to lurk during the day. Inserting my paw beneath the door’s trim, I pushed. It smelled like vampire cat in there, but not as though the vampire cat was actually in there. Rocky was out. Well, it was night. He wouldn’t mind the snow.

Some more scrabbling on the roof, and I suddenly thought, what if Rocky has Santa Claws and is feeding on him? He might. He was my friend, but he was definitely no respecter of age, gender, or mythological belief system.

I bolted out my private entrance. Only Rocky and I were able to come and go through that new cat flap that had been installed for me since my last adventure. I had a chip in my neck that activated it. Rocky had my old collar containing a similar chip, the one I’d worn before I went to the vet and got tagged.

The cold air hit me with a shock, and the snow wet my pink paw pads, though the heavy tufts of fur between them formed natural snowshoes. I was a very convenient breed of cat for this climate, actually. Maine Coon cats, or their undocumented relatives like me, were built for cold and wet and according to the Critter Channel, used to be ships’ cats on Viking vessels. I didn’t mind a nice trip around the bay on a nice day, but this snow stuff wasn’t my cup of—well, snow.

I dashed into the snow without the benefit of any sort of vehicle, responding to the clatter, and from a safe distance, gazed back at the roof to see what was the matter. Other than snow.

The feel of the air shifted behind me, and I glanced back to see five deer step out of the moon shadows beneath the big apple tree. Nelda, Buck, and some other deer I knew fairly well—as well as a cat can know a family of deer, anyway—stood behind me, whuffing steam from their nostrils and looking up toward the noise.

I saw nothing special up there. Just weathered red tiles, our smokeless chimney, and snow falling on it.

“You guys weren’t just up there, were you?” I asked Nelda.

“No, silly. How would deer get on your roof?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “You know—it’s Christmas and everything, so I just wondered . . .”

“What’s that got to do with Christmas?” Nelda asked.

“Oh, grandma,” the young doe Gelda said, “Don’t you know anything? Spam is under the impression that all deer are like those horned ones who pull that sled across the sky.”

“What sled?”

“The one that’s on half the lighted windows downtown.”

Nelda shook her head, flipping off snowflakes melting on her muzzle. “Christmas is very confusing. I’ve been through several now and it never makes any sense to me at all. Why is there a sled with captive deer pulling it?”

“It’s simple, Grandma,” Gelda said. “The sled is magic, and the deer are pulling it through the sky, following a star that will show them where there is a manger with fresh hay. There are humans involved too, but that part isn’t clear to me. The lights in the windows symbolize the star, I believe.”

“Spam, that is species profiling, thinking we’d get up on your roof just because it’s Christmas. Just because we live in this wet climate doesn’t make us rain deer, dear,” Buck said, snorting at his own pun. He’s hilarious sometimes. Nelda and the other deer I’ve met are mostly as refined and classy as they look. I love deer. Most cats do, I think. They smell great and they are the prettiest creatures alive, other than cats. They have charisma—animal magnetism. It’s a little lost on human gardeners; but we cats appreciate it, though Rocky says it’s only because if we were a little larger, or they were a little smaller, we would find them tasty instead of merely tasteful. Okay, maybe they’re a little hazy on some of the holiday mythology, but they are terrific critters.

Even Buck is handsome enough, if you like that sort of thing, and a lot of the does seemed to. But he was on the rowdy side and too big for me to be anything but wary of all that head tossing and prancing and showing off his antlers. Fortunately, he had respect for his mother, and she seemed to have decided to like me.

“You must have heard something too!” I said. I don’t like being laughed at. “Otherwise, why were you looking up there?”

“There were strange noises,” Nelda said. “And strange scents.”

Just then, outlined against the snow, a masked face peeped up above the ridge of the roof.

“Renfrew?” I asked the coon. Who else would it be than my friend, sometimes assistant detective, and frequent moocher? “What are you doing up there?”

The coon opened his mouth to reply, then threw up his front paws, dropping something that clattered down the half of the roof facing me before sliding down the back. “Renfrew, wait!” I called, anxious to see what he was up to.

He didn’t answer me, and I ran to the house to try to catch up with him, but he had slid off the roof and left a coon-shaped bare patch in the snow before waddling off toward the woods.


“Merry Christmas!” he called back. In raccoon, of course, which sounded more like, “Iiiiiiiiiriii chirrit-termaaaaw.” But mostly, interspecies, we read thoughts for any real communication—sometimes you just can’t say what you mean with barks, tweets, growls, or neighs—or other sounds. Meows, of course, and other cat language, are quite eloquent; but other species don’t seem to be able to master the accent.

What had that silly coon been up to that he didn’t even take time to stop and beg some kibble? What had he dropped? I thought he meant it was supposed to be my Christmas present. It was caught in the gutter. Double rats! Very inconvenient.

But I didn’t want to miss out on a gift, so I raced around to the back of the house, where the scrap wood box was, and leaped up on it, thinking to mount the roof myself.

I jumped onto the steeply pitched part of the roof and slid much faster than I’d planned to down to the gutter, to the amusement of my deer audience. The snow had made the roof very slick, even with all my claws extended. I put a paw into the gutter, but it rattled and creaked alarmingly, so I pulled my paw back and tippy-toed along the edge until I spotted the gleam of silver and red.

Most cats would wonder why a raccoon would have a packet of batteries. I knew raccoons liked anything shiny. But in Renfrew’s case, he might have wanted them for what they were made for, to power a phone or a radio or camera or something, at least until he decided to wash it. Renfrew was very clever with such things, which had come in handy when we were fighting vampires together.

It was really nice of him to give them to me, in that case, but other than batting them around the floor, I didn’t have a lot of use for them. I’d just tell him this was the package I’d got for him for Christmas and give them back to him. No use wondering where they originally came from.

 Father Christmas Renfrew

Biting down on the edge of the package, I jumped down from the roof. It’s easier to get down than up. Carrying the battery packet in my mouth, I trotted to the edge of the driveway. The slight skim of snow seemed to have discouraged any cars that might normally be on the road this time of night. Understandable. It was pretty slick. Getting colder by the minute too. I cast one look back at my nice warm house. I could go back whenever I wanted to, have a nibble and a drink and settle down in my favorite office chair for a nap. Off to the right, the deer picked their way across the snowy brown grass, then paused. One of Nelda’s legs hovered, suspended bent over the ground. Her head was up, watching the sky, or the stars, and Gelda and Buck followed her gaze. Then they moved on again, crossing the front yard of Bubba’s house and on down the block.

Renfrew doesn’t have a permanent address, being a raccoon of no fixed abode, as Bubba, the retired police dog next door would say, but he did have a general territory, though it was not his exclusively because there were too many raccoons around. He’d tried living under our house for a while, but said the upstairs neighbors were too noisy.

I didn’t have to look hard for him though. A trail of packing peanuts and the noise led me to a tree near the one where we’d first met a couple of months before. Somebody was singing “Silent Night” with a lot of hissing and buzzing and an overlay of a football broadcast kicking in once in awhile that made the night anything but silent.

His den was a dump of more packing peanuts, torn up cardboard boxes, bubble wrap (ooh, fun to pop with your claws! I wondered if I could sneak a piece out of his stash and take it home to play with), and newspaper. Nestled among the packing stuff were various items that the Critter Channel does not usually mention when talking about raccoon habitat.

Renfrew did not look up. His paw hands were busy turning the noisy shiny white box over and over, looking for a way inside.

I dropped the batteries at his feet with relief. My teeth ached from clutching the plastic. “Here,” I told him. “Merry Christmas. These are for you.”

He could have said thank you. Instead he mumbled to himself—raccoons do a lot of mumbling and grumbling, I’ve learned—and kept fiddling with the box.

This gave me a chance to paw through the opened packages, sort of checking to see if there was one I might want to try on for size. A half-torn label was on the largest one, with an address, a Christmas sticker, and a UPS logo. Suspicion dawned.

“Where’d you get this?” I asked Renfrew.

“Found it,” he said, finally looking up with big masked bright eyes full of innocence and wonder.

Interview with PKP and Fluffy of CATS IN CYBERSPACE and PKP FOR PRESIDENT

K.B. (Kittibits) DundeeKB: Today we are interviewing PKP and Fluffy through their guardian and typist, Beth Hilgartner. These two brilliant cats have mastered survival skills essential to any kitty who wants to get a jump start on achieving dominion over the world (as don’t we all?), internet commerce and politics.

KB: First off, can you tell your future readers a bit about yourselves. How did you come to your home? Who is the alpha in your relationship? What’s your favorite food? Favorite toy? And what does PKP stand for? Well (Fluffy here) we are sisters/litter mates, daughters of a mostly feral barn cat, who came to live with Dana and Colin because the woman who owned the barn where our progenitor lived decided that she didn’t want 8 barn cats. She asked Dana if she would take us in and Dana said yes. Little did we know where that simple yes would take us! PKP is definitely the alpha (she says I’m a rabbit, but then, she’s mean). My favorite food is shrimp, but pizza is a close second. I think PKP would say that her favorite food is dog steak, but even she doesn’t get it very often. Really, it’s probably some kind of wild prey, but she also loves shrimp, tuna, and pizza (extra cheese and no tomato sauce). PKP stands for Princess Killer Pinknose. Emphasis on “Killer.” My favorite toy is a suede catnip mouse Dana’s sister made for us. PKP’s favorite toy is … me. She enjoys chasing me around, threatening Grievous Bodily Harm, and making me make undignified noises.

KB: In Cats in Cyberspace, you relate the harrowing tale of how two resourceful felines deal with the recent economic crisis affecting their home and the quality of care they receive from their staff. Please tell our readers a little about what your crisis was and how you decided to handle it. Our human servitors (PKP here) had to take day jobs because they felt it was necessary to squander their money on things like health insurance and paying the mortgage, instead of on buying cream and tuna for us. We hated having them gone, because they shut us in during the day and weren’t around to provide snacks on demand. So in our efforts to find other distractions, Fluffy discovered the Internet, which we could access using Dana’s computer. I immediately saw the potential for transforming our situation, and we set about to make a killing in the stock market.

KB: Did either of you have any prior educational preparation for your eventual accomplishments? Is there a bibliography in your book that other cats might access to obtain hints about how to do something similar to improve their quality of life? (Fluffy here) We both learned to read because Dana (who is a writer) likes to read aloud when she’s working; I think it helps her get the character’s voices properly. We would sit in her lap and read the words on the screen while she said them. We were also very privileged to have contact with the great feline researcher, Short Tailed Tiger, Killer of Voles — the one whose work established that there was meaning to the mouth noises humans make. Since we could read, we found tons of useful information on the Internet, and were able to research and learn about anything we needed to know. I even found an online phonics course to help another cat, Ginger (whose human servitor had never read to her), how to read. (PKP interjects:) And we all know what a great idea THAT was, Fluffy! (Fluffy responds:) Now, PKP; it really helped keep Ginger from tweaking your tail when you were busy. (PKP:) I still think it would have been simpler if you’d just let me kill her. (Fluffy:) Are you sure you want potential fans to see this part of your personality, PKP? Remember, the public needs to be persuaded, not coerced…

KB: The two-leggeds tend to be simple creatures. Have yours put your investment in them to good use and was your ultimate goal achieved? (Fluffy here) Actually, we’re both quite happy with the way things turned out. There were moments (sometimes even LONG moments) of frustration — TwoFeets can be SO obtuse — but in the end, they’ve embraced the changes we engineered, and our quality of life is significantly improved.

KB: Please tell our readers how they may obtain copies of this fascinating and useful book. Is it available in digital format? How may they obtain a print copy? (Fluffy): Though the first book, Cats in Cyberspace, is out of print, the author, Beth Hilgartner, has hard copies. They may be ordered by sending an email to beth@cameoarts.org. The cost is $16, which includes shipping and handling. She also has a few copies of PKP For President, also $16 (which includes S/H). She’ll sign them for you (though why you’d want that, instead of my or PKP’s paw print, I can’t say) for free, and if you buy both copies at once, she’ll give you a deal: $30 for the set (includes S/H). I believe there is an e-book version of PKP For President available; you can also order copies of PKP FOR PRESIDENT from the publisher, Brigantine Media — though I’m not sure they still have signed copies. Beth is considering producing audio versions of both books, so if you are interested in that, drop her an email to let her know. The more interest that’s expressed, the higher up the priority list the project moves.

KB: Now, as to the sequel, PKP for President: Did the recent realization by so many humans that they may obtain enlightenment by gazing at pictures of cats on the internet spur your campaign? Did you post cute pictures of yourself as a campaign tactic, PKP? Fluffy, what was your role in the campaign? Pictures? (This is PKP) Are you kidding? NO! I don’t do “cute” and besides, I didn’t want anyone to know I was a cat. Humans are so species-ist. And my foray into politics really did predate Hank The Cat’s. Though he got a lot of attention on Facebook, really all anyone had to do was click “Like.” MY fans had to read my brilliant political analyses and process my fascinating thought; and really, a lot of them appeared to recognize the power of my insights.

(Fluffy:) My job was to keep PKP from eviscerating anyone literally (there was plenty of virtual evisceration on the web. Her slogan: Let’s put the GUTS back in politics!) and to make sure even nosy, inquisitive, persistent humans (like that annoying investigative reporter) didn’t figure out that PKP is a cat. I learned a lot — and I mean more than a boatload! — about mediation, negotiation, and diplomacy (not to mention manipulation) which will stand me in good stead for my next project: exerting the feline touch on foreign policy.

KB:Would it be spoiling the end of the book to tell us whether or not you won your election, PKP? Really? (PKP) Do I look like Obama? Anyway, the humans would never let a cat really be president. (Hank The Cat’s campaign should prove that. Even with his vast popularity and influence for the causes he supports, he’s not a Senator.) But being the eminence grise in the background? THAT I like.

KB: What incentives did you offer volunteers for your campaign? (PKP) All those details were handled by my webmaster, a student at Columbia (who, with typical TwoFeet blindness, had NO idea he was working for a cat). I believe that he funded the entire operation through the sale of bumper stickers, and employed some of his fellow students to produce and distribute them.

KB: A new election is coming up and both of the dominant human sides are acting really silly. Can we expect a cat with real solutions to be on the ballot? In our state, we now vote totally by mail so my brothers and I can confiscate the ballot, vote on behalf of our mom, and return it. She will think she did it and forgot. (Fluffy here:) I think PKP is actually happy with the role she’s carved out for herself, which allows her plenty of influence while preserving her anonymity. I don’t intend to seek elected office, and Ginger… though she has the larger than life attributes and …um… confidence necessary to a politician, let’s just say that Ginger is intent on achieving fame and fortune through another avenue than politics.

KB: Can you tell us a bit about the platform you ran on in your book? How does it differ from a new platform you would sit on as you campaign for this new election? We assume that this time you will run for President of the United States. It’s the office that most needs a sensible cat in charge and a good spring-board for world domination. (PKP:) Basically, my role in the last election was to point out the total idiocy of the economic policies being advocated by the anti-government extremists, and to propose common sense policies that would improve the country’s economy, curb environmental destruction and catastrophic climate change. We ran my campaign as a protest vote — a way for the average voter to choose something other than the lesser of two evils; but even during the campaign I was perfectly aware that I was not a legal candidate for president. My campaign allowed people to voice their dissatisfaction with the electoral process and political “business-as-usual.” Since the election, I am positioned to exert considerable political influence — though frankly, this unbelievably dysfunctional Congress has even my capabilities strained! So even though a sensible cat as president would be a huge improvement over just about ANY TwoFeet candidate, I will not put myself forward. You should know that I am willing to offer my considerable resources and expertise to a candidate willing to take direction. Maybe Elizabeth Warren would be interested…

KB: Thank you for your time and for your very entertaining stories of your adventures. Re the second book. If you run and are elected as POTUS, should you need lobbyists to give a little claw of warning to those in Congress who might oppose your solutions to the nation’s ridiculous problems, or perhaps to pee on their shoes, we would like to volunteer. (Fluffy here:) PKP isn’t very good at sharing — DON’T look at me like that: you know it’s true! — but in my venture into (for lack of a better term) Feline Diplomacy, some volunteer activists might come in very handy. I’ll certainly keep you all in mind! Thank you for inviting us to chat with you and your readership.


MY Graphic Novel Starring Me, Me, Me-ow, SPAM!

My dear furrriend Karen Gillmore has created a brilliant graphic novel starring none other than meow! SPAM AND THE SASQUATCH is full of adventure, danger, heartbreak and romance! Mom wrote the story and then Miss Karen DREW the story and colored it and put in word balloons and all the stuff to make it come to life. She promises soon to do a Kickstarter so she can make lots of copies for everybody else to have, but gave meow one to sleep on, so I can read it through my tummy. spamandsasquatch

Spamslitterature post April 2013:Intermew with Clawdette, Commanding Officer of Feline Intel, EU and Surprise Guest


Intermew with Clawdette, Commanding Officer General of Feline Intel, EU

Note from K.B. Dundee: Intermew with Madame X a super secret agent of Feline Intel, Czech Republic Today. Please sign in to read this intermew as it will be highly classified and you will need your Top Secret clearance (or at least your user name and password) to access it. Or, if you don’t have them, say “Spam Sent Me.” That should do it.

I was just told that she had me-ow investigated too before she consented to granting this intermew.

K.B.: What shall we call you for the purposes of this intermew, Madame X?

X: (rolls her eyes): I suppose that will do.

K.B.: Please could you give us a broad general idea of what Feline Intel, CR, does–I mean, what’s its mission statement. Please do not tell me anything that would make you or anyone else have to shoot me.

X: My dear, this isn’t James Bond. Well, Feline Intel EU is an official department that works to protect the feline population from crime and terrorism. Our promise is to serve and protect.

K.B.: What is your position in FI? In general, non-shooting terms, I mean?

X: I am the Comanding Officer General of Feline Intel Europe.

K.B.: Is there anything romantic between you and Zvonek 08 or his sidekick, Honza?

X: (widening her eyes) I beg your pardon? That is the most ridiculous thing I have EVER heard!

K.B.: I sort of knew the answer to that because a certain black Bostonian cat ex-husband of yours has already told everybody HE is the love of your life. Do you care to give our readers the juicy details? How about the honeymoon? And did you get a divorce?

X: Firstly, you need to get your facts straight. I have NEVER been married! Bostian cat? How do things like this reach the press? I am furiendly with a number of foreign felines and one of them maybe from Boston.

(Somehow or other, the interviewer misses the signs that he is on the wrong track. He should have been able to tell by Clawdette’s suddenly bared claws, narrowed eyes, and flattened ears but he plunges heedlessly on, digging himself in deeper than a dog who smells a cache of dinosaur bones.)


K.B.: I understand this black cat also married an Australian queen at one time. Are you and she on good terms? Oh, come on, this part isn’t classified. Dish!

X: (coldly) You do realise I have the power to err….make you disappear.


(At that point, a rakish black cat appears on a second screen between intermewer and intermewee. It is an old friend, come to save K.B.’s furry neck from his faux paws and Clawdette’s wrath.


We interrupt this intermew to bring you a special segment patched in from Feline Intel, Boston, HQ

K.B.: (asking the newcomer to identify himself for the benefit of the readers, although this cat and K.B. are longtime friends) And you, sir, are?

Mugger: I’m known to FI Management aka V as “That American!!!” and then he always hisses a lot.  Zvoni, of course, knows me as Mugger.  We’re good friends, Zvoni and I, have shared more than a few milks over the years.  And his little sister is so cute!  But she calls me “Uncle Mugger,” which makes me feel old.

K.B.: How well do you know our guest today, Clawdette?

Mugger:  I am….er…. familiar with Clawdette.  We’ve run into each other now and then.  But a true gentlecat never purrs and tells, but if he did purr and tell, there would be such stories, like maybe a story about deep and secret passions, exotic locales, and near-discoveries, which almost turned my tail white.

K.B.: Is there anything you can tell us now about your clandestine activities with our guest in Feline Intel that in earlier days would have obliged you to kill us?

Mugger: I really can’t go into many details, even now, because there are still so many valiant agents struggling in the field.  You know, K.B., once you’re a secret agent, you are always a secret agent.  And I would never comment on ongoing operations.

K.B.: Thank you, Agent Emeritus Mugger for casting light on the shadier areas of Agent Clawdette’s past.

Mugger:  Shadier areas?  ALL her areas are shady! (Mugger ducks as Clawdette takes a swipe at him.  They then look at each other with great and historical passion.)

The second screen disappears and Clawdette washes her front foot while regaining her composure, then glares meaningfully at K.B., lifting the white whiskers over one narrowed eye.

K.B.: (to the studio audience) Ahem, sorry about that. I suppose, knowing of the–high regard–between Agent Emeritus Mugger and Madame X, I had always assumed “Cousin Charlotte” was a nom de guerre for our current guest.

Now then, Madame X, could you tell us more about your role in Zvonek’s memoirs and the other books he and Metaxa have written with their mum? Do you like how you’re portrayed?

X: (rolling her eyes in an extraordinary show of tolerance for this bumbling ginger cat’s bumbling. If he were her agent, she would have to shoot him) Agent 08 was given permission to write these memoirs and had to be careful how I am portrayed for many reasons, mostly security. The memoirs reveal the more public part of our work and have served as a PR exercise as FI has often been incorrectly portrayed in the media. My character in the book is pretty much the real me: big boss, not tolerant, committed to the cause. Metaxa actually is my ward ..but I will let agent 08 reveal all on that one.

K.B.: If they were to make a movie of your story, which human actress would you want to play you? (for the purpose of voice-overs and animation inspiration?

X: Well somebody French. As you may know I am orginally from Belgium and my second language (first being cat) is French. I am not to familiar with names of human actors, I only follow felines ones.


K.B.: IMHO, the beautiful and majestic Claudia Cardinale would be an excellent choice, Plus her last name sounds like a bird. Tasty!

Madame X, we hear you are quite the socialite. Were you a debutante? Did you have a “coming out” (Or an “I want to go out”) party?

X: Doesn’t everyone ‘come out’? I was a beautiful debutante. (gets a faraway look in her eyes.) My parents were pets of an extremely wealthy family with a huge landscaped garden. We had summer night party near the gazebo.

Everyone of the upper feline society came. It was lovely.


K.B.: Also we understand you are quite the fashionista. Where do you get your marvelous outfits and who is your favorite designer?

X: Have you heard of the house of Pancho? He is the best feline fashion designer and I ONLY wear his designs.

K.B.: Please describe a typical non-classified day for our readers.

X: You really like that word don’t you? Non-classified, mmmm? Well yesterday was one of those so I will tell you what I did. I switched my communicator to code red only. That means it only buzzes for absolute priorities. Then after a long breakfast I usually get my maintenance treatment done. My moisture massage to keep my fur purrfect, nails manicured and then some internet shopping and after a long nap slowly get ready for a night out with the feline A set.

K.B.: Finally, is there something I’ve neglected to ask that you might care to impart to your fans?

X: I never share anything voluntary it’s my training you see. But thank you for taking the time to do the interview. In spite of everything (she growls under her breath.)


Spamslitterature for July: International Kittens of Mystery

K.B. Dundee: Kai, Xena, Tribbles, and Chris Dolley, hereafter known as the International Kittens of Mystery and Pet Monkey-Writer, have produced a wonderful book full of great how-to photos and descriptions of actual exercises for kittens in training to be agents provacatmewer, spies (we’ll have to ask Zvonek 08 if he underwent similar training) and other professions where a kitten who can do derring do is required. We just finished reading it and my co-author totally embarrassed me by laughing aloud–in public, no less–where others could hear her. I would have been mortified had I not  been busy chuckling under my whiskers. The antics of the tiny ginger Tribbles were especially wonderful, of course. But then, gingers always are. 


Tell us first please, Xena and Kai, why you decided to share these super secret training exercises with kittens all over the world? 


Xena: It was part of a damage limitation exercise after the incident with Kai and President Sarkozy’s pet mouse. We needed to show the public what we do and explain the dangers of allowing mice access to state secrets. Plus we wanted to show kittens that you can defend the planet and look cool at the same time. As long as you don’t eat too many enemy agents (looks at Kai) 


K.B. We see that your monkey photographed you as you demonstrated the various aspects of  your strenuous training course to be International Kittens of Mystery. How difficult was it for you to hold a pose–or repeat a pose, often enough for him to get a decent picture? You must be very patient kittens as well as extremely supple. I tried practicing some of your moves but I warn our readers: adult cats beware! These maneuvers, especially the ones involving squeezing beneath furniture or hanging from fence slats, are for kittens only.


Kai: It takes weeks of training on the catwalks of Purris and Mewlan, and on America’s next top kitten agent. I was a stunt kitten on the James Bond films too- 


Xena: until he got too fat.


Kai: I was not fat! 


Xena: Too many voles at the hospitality tent.


Kai: They were enemy voles! Hiding under a pie crust (mmm)


K.B. You have a very high-tech mode of transportation that allows you to flit all over the world from one assignment to another. Could you describe it for the benefit of our readers? Teleporters may scramble the molecules of the teleportees, airlines have–well–airports–and like to insist kittens, even those on important missions, ride in cargo. Are there any built-in disadvantages to wicker bowl travel?


Xena: The Wickerbowl series of personal transporters were invented by Miaow See Tung and Hercule Purro. They’re fast and, when operated correctly, inconspicuous. If I need to be somewhere else fast all I have to do is climb into the bowl, download the destination co-ordinates from our orbiting Kitten Command Center (Wickerbowl Five) and then – poof – the Wickerbowl dematerializes, materializing at the destination less than a second later.


Kai: And a second after that our breakfast re-materializes (makes face). 


Xena: It can take a little getting used to. But we learn – most of us – never to fly on a full stomach. 


K.B. Being an extremely handsome specimen of the ginger sort myself, I found the Tribbles purrticularly intriguing. I’d like to ask them some questions next. Tribbles, please tell us your names and how you got them. I know you are considered the shock troops of IKM cuteness, but do you each have other special skills as well? 


Tribbles: For operational reasons we have to keep our real names secret. But we do have code names. Kinky Tribble has a slight kink in her tail. Spiky Tribble uses too much fur product. Targa Tribble likes his Targa Turbo Sports Wickerbowl. Squidgely Tribble excels at squeezing into tight spaces. And Stinky Tribble has a nervous complaint. But he is very cute … from a distance. 


K.B. What sort of assignments do you get? What was your most dangerous mission? 


Xena: We get all sorts of assignments. Not many people realise the current banking crisis was caused by squirrels speculating on nut derivatives. 


Kai: We had to infiltrate their organisation.


Xena: Now squirrel futures look bleak (grins)


Tribbles: Don’t forget the giant ball of woolon a collision course with Earth.


Xena:  That’s right. Not many asteroids are made of wool, and Bruce Willis wasn’t available, so we were sent instead. It took a lot of unravelling.


K.B.  Have you received any special awards for your contributions?


Kai: We got to keep the asteroid.


Xena: We’re waiting for the 2013 tuna asteroid. It’s huge and it’s due to fly close to Earth next year. 


K.B. Will there be a sequel? A series? A movie deal? A graphic novel? If so, could you give us some hints about your future adventures?


IKM: We may have a German edition coming out later this year. We’re also in discussions with a famous Hollywood director, but he wants to recast our monkeys as cheerleaders and Kai as a puppy. 


Kai: (spit) Sorry. Fur ball.


K.B. Oh, one more thing. What do IKM’s do when they become cats? What career options are available to you then? Do you move up into administration or become trainers for future generations of IKM’s? Or do you feel, as I do, that once a kitten always a kitten and that whole time thing is for monkeys?


IKM: Someof us become trainers. Some of us go on the lecture circuit – the Feline Bureau of Intelligence, the Cat Intelligence Agency. Some of us appear on talk shows – like The Late Show with David LitterTray. And some of us stay in the field. Many cases need mature undercover cats. 


K.B. Is there something I haven’t asked that you would like to tell our readers and please do add links to your wonderful book. 


Kai: You can now buy the book via PayTuna – the easy way to pay for cats of all ages. PayTuna accepts all the major currencies – Tuna, Chicken and even Kibble. 


Xena: Here are the links: 




K.B. I furgot to ask. Is it available in print as well as in e-book format? Thank mew so much, International Kittens of Mystery and Pet Monkey-Writer person. 


IKM: Fur security reasons the book is only available as an e-book at the moment. The e-book has special code that redacts whole chapters if it senses mice, dogs or squirrels looking at the pages.