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"You scratch my back & I'll scratch yours" by Bob Gentry 
2001 by Stanyan Entertainment Group

A Thought for Today

Those of us who are owned by cats know they have everything many human beings lack. Intelligence, charm, forgiveness and patience (on their own terms.) A cat is confidence with a tail.


The photograph that tops this page today is of Kubby Kat Too. Bob Gentry snapped it at the time he was taking this year's Christmas photos.

Kub is one of the extraordinary inhabitants of this house that allow me to board with them. Like all cats he has his quirks. He talks a lot and mostly to me. For instance since he was a kitten, he's always perked his ears up, then offers several very loud meows, whenever I sneeze. He even does this while sleeping. I always talk back and say "It's OK, Kub," and he seems satisfied.

This reaction to sneezing applies only to me. The pitch of my sneezes must be different from those of Jenny, Edward, Olga or any of the other household members (including the other three felines). 

Kub loves water. When I get out of the shower every morning he waits patiently for me to wipe my wet feet off on him, then after I've dried off, he expects to get rolled up in the damp towel and then turned out like Cleopatra from a rug onto the bathroom floor.

When a toilet it flushed he puts his front paws on the rim to watch and listen to the water roll down the bowl. He never fails to meow approval at the finish of these mechanics.

Every time I wash my face and hands he's there at the sink to make sure I pass a moist washcloth over his face too. On hot days he likes to be completely wiped down with a wet cloth.

Kubby Kat Too loves personal treatment and wants it often. Walk into a room and from whenever he is he arrives to flop down in front of you as if to say "pet me." He gets petted, patted and scratched often.

He was adopted from Kitten rescuer Kimberly Pauli who found him at a vet hospital where she worked part time.


Kimberly Pauli, whom I mentioned above, has a marvelous and important avocation. For some years now she has been rescuing abandoned kittens from the street, animal shelters and wherever and whenever she can find one or a litter in need of being saved.

Working with responsible and committed veterinarians she nurses the sick ones back to health. Those who arrive hungry and not yet weaned are fed lovingly with an eyedropper. She washes then, cleans their ears and wipes their butts till they are newspaper and then box trained.

Once she gets her hands on a kitten, life for the feline in question is pretty cushy. He or she can romp and play with anywhere from half a dozen to two dozen other kittens in an air-conditioned room with lots of toys, scratching post and carpeted platforms to jump from and roll on.

When a kitten is ready for adoption from Kimberly's Kitten Rescue it doesn't last long. There's usually a lengthy list of people waiting for her hand-raised strays. Word has spread quickly in the West Los Angeles area that there's no kitten like a Kimberley kitten. The difference, of course, between a cat raised and handled from near birth by human hands as opposed to those fancy thoroughbred dudes turned out by kitten mills, is that 'hands on' treatment.

Kittens who've had the human touch early on are not only friendlier and smarter than their pet-shop contemporaries but they grow up to be real honest to God cats. Their feline traits not bred out of them by years of cat factory inbreeding and over breeding...

The cost of nursing, nurturing and saving these kittens from oblivion comes out of her own pocket. So in addition to her paycheck (yep, she holds down a nine to five job in the real world too) she welcomes contributions from friends, cat lovers and sometimes adoptive families. I'm unaware of any Kimberly Kitten who's been deprived of a loving home because of the owner's inability to contribute something. If the home is right, she even throws in a certificate for the spaying or neutering of the four foot.

The only thing she does insist on is knowing that the kitten she's nourished does go to the right home and environment. So, nobody who isn't interested in making the kitten a full partner in the family need apply.

Alas she can't save every kitten in the LA Basin, but she makes a helluva dent and with a few more contributions could do a lot more.

Later in the year I plan to do a proper Q. & A with Kimberly, meanwhile if you'd like to help her Kitten Rescue you can contact her at kpauli@icmtalent.com. And, of course, if you live in the L.A. area you might even wind up with a Kimberly kitten of your own. I'm on my third, including the handsome gentleman above.


I've been collecting various 'cat stuff' for this Flight Plan for some time. The following story comes from Dave Calhoun. I hope it's not true, and knowing kittens I suspect it probably is.


Calling in sick to work makes me uncomfortable. No matter how legitimate my illness, I always sense my boss thinks I am lying. On one occasion, I had a valid reason, but lied anyway because the truth was too humiliating. I simply mentioned that I had sustained a head injury and I hoped I would feel up to coming in the next day. By then, I could think up a doozy to explain the bandage on my crown.

The accident occurred mainly because I conceded to my wife's wishes to adopt a cute little kitty. Initially the new acquisition was no problem, but one morning I was taking my shower after breakfast when I heard my wife, Cyndi, call out to me from the kitchen. "Dave! The garbage disposal is dead. Come reset it."

You know where the button is." I protested through the shower
(pitter-patter). "Reset it yourself!"

"I am scared!" She pleaded. "What if it starts going and sucks me in?" (Pause) "C'mon, it'll only take a second."

So out I came, dripping wet and buck-naked, hoping to make a
statement about how her cowardly behaviour was not without
consequence. I crouched down and stuck my head under the sink to find the button. It is the last action I remember performing. It struck without warning, without respect to my circumstances. 

Nay, it wasn't a hexed disposal drawing me into its gnashing metal teeth. It was our new kitty, clawing playfully at the dangling objects she spied between my legs. She had been poised around the corner and stalked me as I took the bait under the sink. At precisely the second I was most vulnerable, she leapt at the toys I wittingly offered and snagged them with her needle-like claws.

Now when men feel pain or even sense danger anywhere close to their masculine region, they lose all rational thought to control orderly bodily movements. Instinctively, their nerves compel the body to contort inwardly, while rising upwardly at a violent rate of speed. Not even a well-trained monk could calmly stand with his groin supporting the full weight of a kitten and rectify the situation in a step-by-step manner.

Wild animals are sometimes faced with a "fight or flight" syndrome. Men, in this predicament, choose only the "flight" option. Fleeing straight up, I knew at that moment how a cat feels when it is alarmed. It was a dismal irony. But, whereas cats seek great heights to escape, I never made it that far. The sink and cabinet bluntly impeded my ascent; the impact knocked me out cold.

When I awoke, my wife and the paramedics stood over me. Having been fully briefed by my wife, the paramedics snorted as they tried to conduct their work while suppressing their hysterical laughter. 

At the office, colleagues tried to coax an explanation out of me. I kept silent, claiming it was too painful to talk. "What's the matter, cat got your tongue?"


In sending this Coral's only comment was, "Ain't this the truth." 


LAW OF CAT INERTIA - A cat at rest will tend to remain at rest, unless acted upon by some outside force, such as the opening of cat food, or a nearby scurrying mouse. 

LAW OF CAT MOTION - A cat will move in a straight line, unless there is a really good reason to change direction. 

FIRST LAW OF CAT ENERGY CONSERVATION - Cats know that energy can neither be created nor destroyed and will, therefore, use as little energy as possible. 

LAW OF BAG/BOX OCCUPANCY - All bags and boxes in a given room must contain a cat within the earliest possible nanosecond. 

LAW OF FURNITURE REPLACEMENT - A cat's desire to scratch furniture is directly proportional to the cost of the furniture. 

LAW OF CAT COMPOSITION - A cat is composed of Matter + Anti- matter + It Doesn't Matter. 

LAW OF CAT OBEDIENCE - As yet undiscovered. 


Dear Mr. McKuen i am putting down my 13 year old kitty-cat today. i am going to use your poem to say goodbye, You are a beautiful person i really needed you and you were there. thanks, Pat Pagano, Director South East Just Intonation Society

Dear Pat, My heart goes out to you. Nothing is worse than to have to assist in the death of a family member. But you show common sense and courage to be willing to do so when the suffering is so great for a pet that it outweighs keeping them alive for our own selfish reasons - whether it's the vanity of thinking we know best or the fear of losing the companionship our animals offer us that we so often take for granted. 

I lost the brothers Nikki and Bingo in the same week. Nikki died peacefully in his sleep but I was so intent on saving Bingo that at the suggestion of a vet I even tried to force feed him, despite the fact that he was obviously in great pain and ready to go. I've never forgiven myself for trying to prolong his life when he deserved to be helped along his way. Fortunately he died a few days later and in my arms, but not before my own ego had tried to force the last bit of life into him.

Two years later when Magic, the mother of both Bingo and Nikki and the light of Edwards life, was ready to go, I held her so he wouldn't have to while the vet administered the fatal injection. I'd do it again in a minute. That's love, not selfishness.

The kind of love you showed in helping to ease the path of your 13-year-old friend. You have my sympathy, but also my congratulations for having been uncompromisingly loved for thirteen years by your friend and child. Warmly, Rod. 

Ken returns tomorrow with "This One Does It For Me." Sleep warm.

                          RM 1/12/01 Previously unpublished                               

Details of Rod's upcoming concerts and appearances can be obtained via the link below:

Rod McKuen Concerts & Appearances

notable birthdays Aaliyah o Debbie Allen o Fulgencio Batista o John Carpenter o David Chokachi o Ann Cohn o Dizzy Dean o Alexandre Drey o A.J. Foyt o Marilyn Horne o Kathy Jurado o Ethel Merman o Andre Michelin o Ronnie Milsap o Kate Moss o Norman Podhoretz o Elliot Reid o Sade o Francesco Scavullo o Diana Wynyard
Rod's random thoughts I've never known a cat that couldn't calm me down just by walking slowly past my chair.

If a cat has nine lives - then don't forget they're his to do with as he wishes.

Life is less and less defined without the company of cats.


Cats know.
They're as good
as bank clerks
          at sensing
loss or gain,
better than the clergy
or the clairvoyant
at seeing up ahead.
And in the dark
they're more at home
than any ghost.

One year
to the day
that Mama died
Joe turned up missing.
         He was Mama's cat
more than all the others.
He had grieved with us
and been estranged from us
since that Easter night
                       a year ago
when Mama's clothes
        came home.

At first
he stalked the house,
not satisfied to prowl
          only her own rooms.
Finally sure that she was gone
and not in hiding,
he began to talk to each of us,
and then to scold us all
          as if we were to blame
                for her long absence.

One by whiskered one
he finally took on
all the other cats
        till none
would venture near him.

Cats are deliberate.
Nothing that they do
is done by chance.
Whether making love
or making conversation
they work in earnest
for earnestness is all the work
                           they do.
Ed says that when the time comes
cats go off to die alone.
We looked everywhere,
but didn't look for long.
Joe stayed away,
and all the other cats
                       came back.

In retrospect
there's always been
a cat or two in transit
moving in and being loved,
then leaving at his own volition.
Playing, if it pleased him
              preening if it didn't.

Cats that helped us show
the better sides of ourselves
         to each other
or anyway, the calmer one.
It didn't start with Sloopy
and it won't end with Little Joe.

Once Billy found an old Tom
we nicknamed A Marvelous Cat
                              I believe he was,
though why I can't remember.

Currently, there's Paco the Brave
                          and Greta,
Charlie with the mustache
Squeek who talks
along the hallway
announcing himself as he enters
                 every room.

Nickoli and Odyssey I leave out.
They're merely kittens
and kittens you know
are not exactly cats.

              And Nuisance.
Nuisance is the loner.
She dines with Mr. Kelly
                     every night.
She doesn't like most other cats
and bites to signal
when she's tired of being petted,
by even those of us
she knows are friends.
She comes to eat
but sleeps in someone else's yard
                                  or wherever.

Paco's preference
is to be with Edward.
He wanders slow about the house,
his tail long and dragging,
every time that Eddie goes away.

But when Helen
or good company
         comes into town
that tail's straight up and fanning.
He even cleans himself in private
before beginning to show off
his plumage and his Valentino stare.

Greta's friends with everyone.
At the moment she's curled up
                       on my left foot.
Instead of moving to get comfortable,
         I indulge her
just as I did all the other cats
who came and went throughout the years.

Nuisance will be next to go
for she loved Mama, too,
and lately she has started sitting
                                 outside Mamma's room
as if to guard it.
She bares her teeth
at all who travel by.

Knowing cats
we all know what to make of it.

Cats when ready leave at night.
Or maybe it's the daytime.
One is never sure because
              before they're gone
each has managed to become a habit
as comfortable as any well loved child
or a piece of furniture.
They turn up missing
only when you've time
                        to miss them.

Little Joe must have known
we cared for him as much
                         as Mama did.
He should have given us a chance.
But cats are not like anything
                  but cats.
You don't choose them.

With any luck at all
a cat will come along
              and fancy you
for his duration, not your own.

If I thought
that cats were anything
                  but deliberate,
I'd bolt the door on Nuisance.
But I do believe
that she's determined.

After all
she's given us
a full six years
of precious time.

She's entitled to be rid of us
if that's her choice.

- from "And To Each Season," 1972
1960, 1972, 1986, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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