Readers’ domestic-life photos: a writer’s new kitten

I thought I’d take a break from wildlife today to show some domesticated animals, and that of course means cats. And not just cats, but Bengal cats, one of which I’m contemplating acquiring. (No cracks, please, on acquiring breeder cats rather than shelter ones; I’ve done my share of the latter!). But wait—there’s more! This is not just a Bengal cat, but Joyce Carol Oates’ Bengal cat—her new kitten, Cleopatra.

First, some background. When I was in New York for the ill-fated New Yorker’s Cats versus Dogs Debate (dogs won by cheating; see post here), there was one bright spot amidst our humiliating defeat. And that was the presence of Bengal cat breeder Anthony Hutcherson, who brought two of his cats to be displayed onstage during the debate. Here are some snaps I took in the Green Room, the first of Anthony displaying his cats’ splendor (I’ve shown the following three pictures before).  Aren’t those beautiful animals?


Anthony was a delightful fellow, and you can read about him in Ariel Levy’s profile in a 2013 New Yorker, “Living-room leopards“. Since he was a little boy, Anthony’s goal was always to breed domestic cats that looked like leopards (and now tigers as well). Isn’t that an odd aspiration for a child? But, as you can see, Anthony has both persisted and succeeded.

Everyone fell in love with Anthony’s cats, for they were not only gorgeous but sweet-tempered. One of them was on stage for the full two hours, sitting patiently in Anthony’s lap (and mine, too, for I wanted a turn!).  In the green room beforehand, knowing that Joyce was a cat fan (she wrote a children’s book about her own cat called Naughty Cherie, which I brought to be autographed), I put one of Anthony’s Bengals in her arms. She was a bit wary at first, but soon, like me, was completely smitten. Here she is with “Jungletrax”:


And here’s Ariel, along with Malcolm Gladwell, admiring one of Anthony’s Bengals. Malcolm was on Team D*g, but he has a secret love of felids:


After the talk, and in subsequent emails, Anthony offered both Joyce and me a gratis Bengal kitten from his cattery. I have temporized about this, as I travel a lot and know that Bengals are supposed to need lots of attention and affection.  I need to be sure that I’m around often enough to provide that, but my hankering for a Bengal is keen.

But Joyce went for it, and picked up her marbled Bengal from Anthony in Maryland just yesterday. I hope to learn from her experience whether Anthony’s kittens and cats differ appreciably from “regular” cats in behavior and activity.

Below are the photos and captions (indented) that Joyce sent Anthony and me, reproduced with permission.  The cat’s name is Cleopatra, and it has not escaped my notice that “Anthony and Cleopatra” go together nicely. (I’m not sure who named the cat.) I think Joyce was too excited to focus the camera, for her excitement was palpable in her emails. When I wrote yesterday, knowing that she was picking up the cat, and loudly demanding photos and information, Joyce wrote this:

Just arrived home with Cleo (Cleopatra).

And then this, with a photo of the cat (Charlie is not a cat but Joyce’s husband):

Cleo is right at home! she is a bundle of energy. (aren’t kitties supposed to sleep 20 hours a day?  oh– not Bengals?)

much affection,
Cherie (outside the door, keenly intrigued)

Bengals supposedly love water, so it’s no surprise that Cleo’s in the sink! Here’s the first photo we got:

ready for my close-up….
Bengal kitten discovers toilet roll!

And so the mischief begins. . .

Almost sleepy-looking– but this is deceptive.  she is not sleepy.
much purring.

I’ll be following Cleo’s life, I hope, as she grows up—also hoping that she’ll not only get along with Cherie, but become a lovely pet. If that’s the case, I’ll get a Bengal, too! (Have a look at this latest litter at the cattery.)

Thanks to Joyce for the photos and commentary, and, as always, to Anthony for breeding such lovely and sweet-tempered cats, and following his childhood dream, which brings happiness to a lot of people.


  1. darrelle
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you would have to have super-human strength of will, free will even, to say no to such a kitten!

    • Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Yes, the answer has already been determined; I just don’t know it yet!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        So who does know the answer?
        Has Dawkins written the answer, sealed it into an envelope and sent it to Randi for safe keeping?

      • gluonspring
        Posted September 2, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Get two. They can keep each other company while you are traveling!

        We had two, then three, cats, and when we would travel for a week or even two (admittedly less often than you do) we would put out a couple extra litter boxes, fill the kitchen with bowls of water, and leave mounds of food. We’d usually leave with both (or all 3) curled up on the couch together. When we came back we’d usually find all three curled up in exactly the same position, as though they hadn’t moved an inch while we were gone. Only the missing food and added poop hinted at any cat activity in our absence.

        Perhaps our cats suffered a great deal from our absences, but if so, I could never detect it. If longevity is a measure of happiness, they were very happy… one lived to be 20 years old, the other 17 (the third is still alive at 13).

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      You can’t herd a cat,
      ’cause they are bad at that.
      You can’t herd free will,
      ’cause nature, it has nil.

  2. E.A. Blair
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Francesco Marculiano has published I Could Pee On This and Other Poems By Cats and I Knead My Mommy and Other Poems By Kittens. When I saw the picture of the kitten with the toilet paper, I immediately thought of this item from the former title:

    I’m doing this for you
    So please don’t interrupt
    I’m just keeping them honest
    So please take note
    And now thanks to me we all know
    There really were one thousand sheets
    in this toilet paper roll.

    My two cats show no interest in the toilet paper roll (which is always positioned properly, in the over-the-top orientation), so I’ve never had to deal with the situation.

    Mr. Marculiano has just released another book, You Need More Sleep and Other Advice From Cats. He also has published I Could Chew On This and Other Poems By D*gs, but the less said about that the better.

    • Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      You WILL hear from Diana MacPherson in the comments—that I guarantee.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 2, 2015 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        But perhaps only if the roll in the illustration has its orientation reversed…

        [Somewhere deep underground, in Diana’s secret headquarters, a small but insistent alarm bell rings. Diana’s computer, ceaselessly scanning the Internets, has detected the tell-tale signal. Other circuits cut in, analysing and checking for false positives, scanning for video evidence… after a short interval the alarm stops and a ‘Ding’ announces the all clear. The picture indicates that the toilet roll in question is correctly* oriented. Diana can relax – until the next time]


        *in Diana’s universe, not mine 😉

  3. Posted September 2, 2015 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Such a cute kitteh, little Cleo looks like a real handfull, so full of mischief, but it’s impossible to get mad at her!

    Here’s a site dedicated to cats in sinks:

  4. Merilee
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 8:03 am | Permalink


  5. Posted September 2, 2015 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Thanks for a nice shot of happiness this morning! I needed it.

    What beautiful beasties!

  6. Jstackpo
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    If you don’t happen to be a famous author (non-sexist word there, thank you), how much does the breeder charge (I presume he makes a partial(?)living doing this) to assign new staff to one of those little beauties?

    • Posted September 2, 2015 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure, but I think it’s about $1500 and goes upwards from that as the cat gets more and more leopard-like. Those aren’t Anthony’s fees, which I don’t know, but what I’ve seen on the internet. But really, that’s a small price to pay for so many years of beauty and happiness!

  7. Randy Schenck
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Just a suggestion but for someone in your situation — need to find a good friend who also likes cats and would like to be a cat sitter. Hard to find maybe but that would be the best way for the traveling person to become staff to a cat. Heck, people find baby sitters, why not have a regular cat sitter.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      I was just thinking there are pet sitters, especially in big cities. That might be an option if nothing else.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted September 2, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      The Care dot com site includes listings for pet sitters. Their Chicago page has 495 listings.

  8. tubby
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Cats in sinks isn’t just a Bengal thing or a love of water thing. A quick search will probably show you hundreds of images of cats curling up for a nap in sinks. Orson himself used to be a big fan of bathroom sinks until I moved into a place where the sink is scalloped and probably uncomfortable to sleep in.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted September 2, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Maybe they like the feel of the porcelain. My late cat Kveldulf liked to lie in the bathtub*. I threw in a ping pong ball, and he could stay at the drain end of the tub and bat the thing around all he wanted and the slope of the tub always brought it back to him. He also liked to play with golf balls. I think he sometimes liked the different noises the two different balls mad as they rolled around.

      *He liked water, too, and sometimes joined me in the shower, or jumped in as the tub was draining and chased the soap scum and other floaty things as they swirled down the drain.

  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I very much hope that you get your Bengal kitty. Things around here (in WEIT) are plenty interesting, but we could always use more cats.

  10. tomh
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I have a Bengal cat for a neighbor, and I promise you, they make wonderful companions. He makes regular rounds of the neighborhood. The biggest difference I notice? They are LOUD.

  11. Posted September 2, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    You can travel with cats — even go hiking with them, as superbly evidenced on this here Web site by Leon. And I’d think one of Anthony’s Bengals would be especially likely to be a good travel cat.

    It would mean a bit more planning on your part, of making sure that whatever hotels or other accommodations would be okay with a cat…but that’s about it, and a very small price to pay.


  12. Mark R.
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Wow! What a beautiful kitty. A reader’s poll would surely indicate you procuring a Bengal in the future. A natural addition to the Hili Dialogues.
    Though traveling and leaving pets behind is a predicament. We’ll usually have a friend house-sit…or take the d*gs with if not flying.

    • Posted September 2, 2015 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t be an authoritative voice on the matter, but I’m pretty sure flying with cats is no big deal as far as the airlines are concerned. And if the cat is okay in a car and in public in general, no big deal for the cat, either.


      • darrelle
        Posted September 2, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Flying with a cat can be an issue. One trans-continental flight our cat ended up unexpectedly making the flight in the cargo hold, which we were totally unprepared for. We had contacted the airline well before hand to find out all the requirements. We were told a carrier of certain dimensions could be placed under our seats. When we arrived to check in, with properly sized carrier, we were told we couldn’t take the cat on board.

        Discussion and explanations were useless. The poor cat ended up in the cargo compartment with the luggage. She was a wreck afterwards.

        • gluonspring
          Posted September 2, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Odd. My wife has flown with one or another of our cats several times and was able to put them under the seat each time without issue. I wonder what the variable is?

          • darrelle
            Posted September 2, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            My guess is an employee who didn’t know what the rules were but was very self assured.

            • Posted September 3, 2015 at 10:46 am | Permalink

              Little Napoleons, like moths to the flame, are drawn to petty positions of bureaucratic authority.


      • Posted September 2, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        I flew my cats twice (and felt bad both times). I think they were terrified the first time (they flew in the hold each in their own kennel — the holds are pressurized and heated — there are vents in the deck). When I came to claim them, they saw me coming from across a large room and stood up and meowed loudly.

        The second time, I had but one kitty and she flew in the cabin with me — and hated it. She was quiet; but rather uncomfortable in her smallish kennel. I could tell.

        The airlines are fine with it, as long as you follow the rules and there is a small fee. (It was small the last time I did it — maybe that’s changed.)

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted September 2, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        I only flew once, with my cat Astrið (1981 – 1987). She loved riding in the car, but went into an absolute panic whenever I tried to put her in a carrier. In the car, she either settled in the front seat or on the deck at the rear window.

        So when I flew with her, I went to the vet to get some kitty tranks so she wouldn’t be howling all during the flight. The pills made her docile, and the flight was underbooked, so I had an empty space next to me and could put her carrier on the seat instead of underneath. The carrier had a hatch I could open to reach in and pet her.

        The flight attendants (all of whom would have been called “stewardesses” ten years previously) went crazy. All during the flight, they came to me and said, “Oh, can I pet the kitty again?” which was usually followed by “Can I get you anything?” A couple of times they stayed around for some conversation. I never received so much feminine attention before or since.

        What’s applicable to others, though, is that if you have a cat that’s amenable to a carrier, flying is possible.

        • Posted September 3, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          The flight attendants (all of whom would have been called “stewardesses” ten years previously) went crazy. All during the flight, they came to me and said, “Oh, can I pet the kitty again?” which was usually followed by “Can I get you anything?” A couple of times they stayed around for some conversation. I never received so much feminine attention before or since.

          Being in public with a cat is a great way to attract attention, start conversations, and the like. Be prepared for lots of repetition along the lines of, “I’ve never seen anything like that before!” But where the conversation goes after that is up to the participants….


  13. Posted September 2, 2015 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    OMG, Jerry, a Bengal?! They’re not beautiful. They’re breathtaking!

    I knew one who turned up like a stray at the door of an older couple, traveled cross country with them in their motorhome, walked on a leash, followed directions — in plain spoken English — and was, on top of all that, the softest, most beautiful, most huggable thing you can imagine. He was loyal and yet he was sociable.

    You can’t turn down a breathtaking, high quality Bengal! You can, very much, travel with her or him. Oh, you are so lucky!

  14. starskeptic
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Bengal = high maintenance breed.

    • Posted September 3, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      Cat lovers love doing the maintenance; else they wouldn’t be into cats, so high maintenance is actually a positive quality. For Bengals from what I understand, maintenance is just being able to be a good companion – play fetch, pet, cuddle, exercise its mind etc.

      Sounds great to me (me – who will upon retirement in a few years get one or two).

      (And I must confess, me – who will also be getting a Golden Doodle mini).

    • Posted September 3, 2015 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      Not particularly. No long hair to keep brushed, no long hair to cause excessive hairballs, no need to constantly treat for and clean up after said hairballs.

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