Caturday felid trifecta: Why Socks was the best cat, Nazca giant felid drawing discovered in Peru, cats help jailbirds (and lagniappe)

October 31, 2020 • 9:45 am

Remember Socks, the White House cat under the Clintons?  Here, from Revelist, is a list of reasons why he was the best of all the Clintons (click on screenshot):

Here are a few:


Here he is with Buddy, the White House d*g:


Many readers sent me news articles about the recent discovery of a faintly etched cat among Peru’s famous “Nazca lines“. (I saw them once by hiring, for the stupendous sum of $15, a small plane to fly me over the most famous figures.) Besides the one below from the New York Times, you can read about it in the BBC News and ArsTechnica:

The figure is 37 meters long and is undoubtedly a cat. But is it a puma (Puma concolor), an Andean mountain cat (Leopardus jacobita), or some other species?  We don’t know, nor do we know why these figures, mostly visible only from the air (this cat is an exception) were constructed. All we know is that they were made by the Nazca people between 500 BC and 500 AD and are endangered by human encroachment and weather. Here’s a video about the cat figure.

Here’s one of the most famous Nazca zoomorphic figures (I can’t remember if I saw this one), a hummingbird:


From the Indy Star we have a touching story about inmates at a maximum-security prison who are allowed to take care of cats, which is a fantastic idea.  The cats all eventually get adopted by people outside the prison.

Click below to read the piece

A few excerpts:

Cats can’t judge men on their wrongdoings. They cannot gauge the gravity of crime, and cannot judge the ink on people’s skin.

Cats are unable to distinguish between street clothes and prison uniforms –– and that’s exactly what makes the relationship between the men at Pendleton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison outside of Indianapolis, and the cats that live there, so special.

For six hours a day, seven days a week, a handful of men receive unqualified love from the more than 20 cats that live in the prison as part of the FORWARD program, or Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication. In exchange for care and a place to stay before being adopted, the cats at Pendleton offer inmates untampered, non-judgemental affection.

(from paper): A Pendleton Correctional Facility inmate prepares to feed the cats inside the facility’s Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication (F.O.R.W.A.R.D) program on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar

“The evidence from the research shows these pet programs actually have a fantastic effect on increased personal responsibility for offenders,” Solinas-Saunders said. “It increases self-esteem and self-efficacy. It also increases empathy, which is something we are really appreciating these days, in terms of understanding each other’s pain.”

Beyond that, pet programs have resulted in improved relationships within the facility, between the involved offenders and other incarcerated individuals, and between offenders and the staff and administrators –– which is exactly the intended outcome of programs aimed toward rehabilitation.

Pendleton Correctional Facility inmates participating in the Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication (F.O.R.W.A.R.D) program pose for a photo while holding a few of the many cats up for adoption through the program on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar

[Anthony] LaRussa, who is behind bars for conspiracy to commit robbery — which was botched and ended with accomplices murdering four people — has been involved in the program since 2017, when he fell for a 7-year-old cat named Clover. He and his wife have since adopted Clover, and she lives at home with LaRussa’s wife.

Every day, LaRussa and his peers start their morning by 7 a.m. They report to the cat sanctuary, where, like clockwork, the cats await them, dozens of tiny faces longing for the door to open.

“They know these cats depend on them on a daily basis,” said Christina Conyers, an administrative assistant with the program. “It’s their human. They need them.”

The caregivers spend their days cleaning the cat sanctuary, changing litter boxes, and feeding and giving water to the cats. Everything but medical care is under the inmates’ purview –– trimming nails, brushing hair and cleaning ears are all among their daily duties.

The work, albeit behind prison walls, is a full-time job.

“I believe it’s changed me a lot,” LaRussa said. “I’ve grown, from even just the little time that I’ve been here until now. We’re all incarcerated. Whether you are selfish or not, you learn to care about something other than yourself. Now, it’s all about (the cats) and trying to help them in the best way possible.”

Pendleton Correctional Facility inmate Anthony LaRussa shows some of the cat profiles he wrote inside the facility’s Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication (F.O.R.W.A.R.D) program on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. LaRussa wrote more than 30 profiles to help with the cat adoptions. Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar


Lagniappe from reader Kristin Wells:

Attached are two pictures taken at what was Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida and is now open for tours. The property has close to sixty cats, not all polydactyl.

The first picture is of two of the resident polydactyl cats making themselves at home on the bed that once belonged to Hemingway.
While not very clear, the second picture is of a polydactyl that has extra toes on all four paws instead of just the usual front paws.

That reminds me of a joke that I made up. It has to be told verbally.

Q: “How many paws does a cat have?”
A: “Six: forepaws plus two hind paws.”

I’ll be here all year, folks.

h/t: Su, Vera, Enrico

16 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: Why Socks was the best cat, Nazca giant felid drawing discovered in Peru, cats help jailbirds (and lagniappe)

  1. Presidential pets usually are the most beautiful, honorable, and trustworthy things that make the White House a home for four to eight years, until now. Clinton and Socks, Obama and Bo, W and Barney, but now we have tRump and Mitch…I mean, can you imagine having to clean out McConnell’s litter box every day? 🤢🤮

    1. I would suspect there is not need to clean Mitch’s litter box. He never uses it. He Sh**s every where else, instead.

    1. I’d never even heard of the kodkod, but how adorably pissed off they look!
      Leopardus guigna, I am pleased to meet you!

  2. That prison program just warms my heart so much. Reforming the US prison system and making it rehabilitative rather than retributive is one of my biggest issue and, unfortunately, not one that either of the major parties seem to care about.

    I still have a book from when I visited the capital called Socks Goes to Washington: The Diary of America’s First Cat. It’s written in Socks’ voice with illustrations. The illustrations really make it come to life. I especially love the following two entries:

    “I like to scare the Secret Service guys by up and down the hall for no apparent reason.”

    “The inauguration was fun. There were lots of balloons for me to pop, and I looked up Stevie Nicks’ dress.”

  3. I loved the prison cats story.

    I’m involved with the “Good D-g Foundation” of NYC

    They visit hospitals, sit while children with learning disabilities read to them (the kids like a non-judgmental listener), visit hospitals and nursing homes, and accept my large monetary donations willingly.

    There’s an exam! If your pooch is “social enough” they only need to take the 8 week class, not the 13 week one.

    My boy, seen here having a relax with me.

    He passed with flying colors. I have no children (“And if my genes don’t like it they can jump in the lake” – S. Pinker), but I felt like a parent at Harvard graduation day when m’boy aced it! 🙂

    D.A. NYC

    1. David Anderson – For a year and a half I had a d0g, picked up by a stray. Looked very similar to yours, but definitely a mixed breed. Enrolled her in an obedience class, and the advanced one after that. We did very well, in part because the Instructor was somewhat of a dick, and told us, “She’s OK as a starter dog, until you get a real one.” We were determined to do better than the purebreds in the class.

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