True Tales of the Cuddliest Coworkers
Around the world, there are cats earning their keep. Some are mousers, like Princess, a black cat who works at Mill Ridge Farm's stables. Some are circus performers, like Tuna and her furry friends in The Amazing Acro-Cats. And some are even politicians, like Mayor Stubbs, an orange tabby who holds office in Talkeetna, Alaska.
In Cats on the Job, we meet these and other whiskered workers who keep their human colleagues company from 9 to 5with the occasional break for a nap or a belly ruband make every day at the office better.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||9.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
LISA ROGAK is author of numerous books, most recently One Big Happy Family: Heartwarming Stories of Animals Caring for One Another. She lives in New Hampshire.
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Cats on the Job
50 Fabulous Felines Who Purr, Mouse, and Even Sing for Their Supper
By Lisa Rogak
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Lisa Rogak
All rights reserved.
Crossing Guard Cat
Some cats are street smart and know the exact moment to cross a busy street to avoid disaster.
But a cat in West Richland, Washington, went one step further: He took a job helping schoolchildren navigate across the road from bus to building.
One day, in the beginning of the 2011 school year, a black cat named Sable showed up at the Enterprise Middle School and watched the crossing guards do their jobs. Monti Franckowiak, safety patrol coordinator at the school, said it didn't take long before Sable pitched in, watching what she did and then mimicking her actions from the other side of the street. "My head is always moving as I keep an eye on everything around me," said Franckowiak. "Sable did the same thing. He'd monitor the students and traffic from his corner, occasionally walk out with the safety patrol as they guided students in the crosswalk, and greet students and community members as they walked by."
The cat showed up like clockwork twice each day, commuting to work from his nearby home, and soon demonstrated such prowess at his job that the school presented him with an official orange safety vest to help him carry out his duties. On days when the crosswalk would become slick, Sable would try to rub up against every student who came by. Franckowiak thought it was the cat's way of telling students to slow down and be careful. On snowy days, Sable still came to work and perched on top of a pile of plowed snow on the corner as he watched over students trudging through the snow.
One bitterly cold December morning, Sable was on the job as usual even though the wind chill was ten degrees. Everything was extra slippery that day and it wasn't long before a boy slipped and fell in the crosswalk. Sable dashed over to him and sniffed his tears and rubbed against his arm. "It's okay, Sable's got this," the boy called out to Franckowiak.
"Sable knew his job was important, and he knew he was keeping those students safe," she said. In fact, many people would drive by slower than the speed limit just so they could get a look at the feline crossing guard.
Safety patrol students regarded Sable as part of the team, and unlike some of his two-legged coworkers, he always showed up on time for his job. As Franckowiak headed out to her post, Sable would already be there pacing at the very edge of the curb as if to say, "Hurry up, let's get to work."
When Ken Cook of Dunbarton, New Hampshire, first launched his postretirement business dabbling in organic vegetables — selling both to consumers at farmers' markets and to local restaurants on a wholesale basis — he knew all along that his feline companion, a buff orange longhaired rescue named Rusty, was going to run the show.
So naturally he named the business Rusty's Heirloom Tomatoes. He also left no doubt who was in charge by placing the cat at the very top of the organizational flowchart, naming him CEO, which is the only way any self-respecting working cat would have it. Cook put himself at the bottom of the totem pole, as grunt and worker bee.
When he started the farm in 2009, Cook fully intended to involve Rusty in all aspects of the work. "We wanted to attract both children and adults to the business and make it fun and educational to learn about the many different kinds of tomatoes," said Cook. "What better way to accomplish that than with a cat?"
Rusty wholeheartedly agreed. In addition to showing up at the farmers' market, customers also visit Rusty's house, which he graciously has allowed Ken and his wife, Greta, to share with him. Sometimes Rusty leads tours of the gardens and the small shed where produce is displayed for sale. Occasionally, the cat becomes so excited about his tomatoes that he'll jump in the trunk of a customer's car so he can see them enjoy the fruits of his labor at home.
Cook also crossbreeds tomatoes, saves seeds, and conducts trial breeding. He even named a tomato after the cat: Rusty's Oxheart. The multicolored red, green, and pink oxheart is traditionally rare, and Ken felt it reflected Rusty's uniqueness.
Once the business took off, CEO Rusty decided to let his human business partners do a little more of the heavy lifting. Rusty runs the farm from a cozy sunroom off the back of the house where he can peruse seed catalogs and farming magazines and help supervise both planting and harvesting by gazing out at the raised beds that cover almost an acre of the farm.
Books and cats go together, well, like books and cats. Fans of the written word — as well as the folks who pen them — have long been aficionados of cats due to their inclination to sit still for long periods of time and be quiet.
So it's no surprise that of all the working cat-egories in this book, by far the highest number of potential candidates to include are the cats who help run bookstores. It was difficult to pick one to profile, but a cat named Boswell in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, finally won the honors. In fact, the store is actually named for its feline employee, though after twenty years in business, there have been five different cats at the bookstore who have gone by that name, ranging from a Maine coon cat to the current resident, a female tuxedo cat.
Nancy Eisenstein, the human owner of Boswell's Books, said that the current Boswell is perfectly suited for the rigors of the job. "She has the ideal personality for a bookstore cat," says Eisenstein. "She's friendly and affectionate without being intrusive and instinctively knows who to greet and who to avoid. She loves children and is infinitely patient with toddlers who want to chase her around the store."
Boswell's job description requires her to excel at a variety of skills: In addition to greeting customers and looking adorable while she sleeps in the window or recycle bin, she serves as the primary focus of the store's marketing program. It helps that the cat is extremely photogenic: Her image appears on the store's logo, bookmarks, and T-shirts as well as Boswell's pin-up calendar. And a local candy maker has created dark and white chocolate truffles shaped like a cat modeled after her.
Indeed, Boswell is so good at her job that she even attracts people who aren't book lovers. "The first step to being successful in retail is getting people into your store," said Eisenstein. "Even nonreaders will come in to meet her, and often leave with earrings, a puzzle or a game that catches their eye on the way out."
Eisenstein feels she's lucked out with Boswell the Fifth, describing how the decision to hire a shelter cat at a store where many different kinds of people are going in and out can be a real crapshoot. "While they may seem friendly with one person, they may not do well interacting with a large number of people every day," she said. "We were extremely fortunate to hire this particular cat, who thrives on being with the public and has such an easygoing temperament."
The insurance industry is typically a pretty buttoned-up business, with little room for the merriment and /or the chaos that would result from having an independent-minded feline employee in charge.
However, the human staff members at Affirmative Risk Management, an insurance claims company in Little Rock, Arkansas, welcome the unpredictability and then some. Not only do they have two office cats, but they also have a couple of canine employees as well.
London — whose official title is Vice President of Claims — is a calico cat named for the venerable British insurance company Lloyd's of London. Her job duties include shredding paper, hacking up hair balls onto legal documents, and killing birds, mice, snakes, and the occasional squirrel on her lunch hour. She'll then drag her prey over to Chantal Roberts, a human colleague who shares her job title, perhaps in the hopes of getting a raise or promotion.
London's energy level is in sharp contrast to ARM's other feline employee, a white and black cat named Cat — short for Catastrophe. As Vice President of Administration, Cat, is pretty laidback and content to spend most of his time overseeing others' work.
As part of their job duties, Cat and London will sit in on job interviews with potential employees, though Roberts admits she often forgets to tell candidates in advance about her animal colleagues because they're such an ingrained part of the office culture. Once, Roberts interviewed a man for a position where he'd be required to visit people at home, and she explained that he would often encounter dogs, cats, and other pets. Right on cue, Harley — ARM's canine Vice President of Operations and Marketing — nosed his way into the conference room to check the guy out, and the man jumped out of his chair.
"I asked if he was afraid of dogs, and he said he wasn't," said Roberts. But then London decided it was her turn to ask the candidate a few questions, so she jumped onto the table in front of the man. "At that point, the man yelled, 'No! Just, no!' and ran out the door, which set off a chain reaction: London was disappointed she didn't get petted, and Harley thought the man was engaging in a game of chase, so he ran after him."
Another time, independent auditors spent the day at the office to review the firm's work. An auditor was working in a conference room when he suddenly yelled. Roberts and a few staffers ran to see what the commotion was, but only found Cat with his head in the auditor's glass of water, calmly drinking. "The auditor seemed dismayed we even thought it was necessary to ask if he wanted another glass," said Roberts.
We all know of cats who prefer to stay indoors, who respond to even the slightest suggestion of leaving the house, let alone getting into a moving car, with a veritable storm of hissing, scratching, and the occasional permanent scar inflicted on the nearest human.
But in Philadelphia, there's a cat who not only loves to hurry out of the house every morning, but who joyfully leaps onto the shoulders of her human, impatiently goading him to get on with the day's work of delivering packages and envelopes to customers. The cat then happily sits atop the man's shoulders while he steers his bike through busy city streets, no less.
Bike courier Rudi Saldia and his able feline assistant — a striped tabby named MJ, short for Mary Jane — cover an average of twenty-five miles on two wheels on their rounds every day. While Saldia stays put on his seat, MJ likes to take in different views and will switch back and forth from one shoulder to the other and occasionally drape herself around his neck.
"MJ enjoys the wind rushing through her fur," said Saldia. "She's so comfortable that she never uses her claws. My shoulders and back are scratch-free."
Both feline and human messengers take their job very seriously, so they rarely notice the shocked reactions of pedestrians, though Saldia says it's hard to ignore when somebody yells, "Oh my God, he has a cat on his shoulder!" The regular customers on his route are used to seeing MJ and usually offer up a cat treat and a few head scratches in exchange for the package. New customers, however, are another story. "They're blown away by the fact she arrived via bicycle," said Saldia.
Whenever a customer or onlooker worries about MJ's safety, Saldia soothes their concern. "I'm very confident that the cat would be better off in an accident than I would be, so I'm not worried about taking her out," he said.
Dog Trainer Cat
Dog trainers typically rely on an arsenal of tools to do their jobs, from treats and clickers to squeaky toys. But one resourceful woman employed a very special orange cat named Cheeto to help her train dogs to work as pet detectives in the important mission of finding lost pets.
Kat Albrecht of Federal Way, Washington, launched the Missing Pet Partnership in 2001 to develop community-based lost pet services, training volunteers and professional pet detectives to search for missing pets, both feline and canine. During training sessions, one special feline was required to serve as the "target cat," to help Albrecht evaluate and train cat-detection dogs to sniff out missing cats. Albrecht already had a target cat named Myron, but one cat was just not enough to meet the demand.
"There's a delicate balance in training a dog to find lost cats, and much of it depends upon having the right cat for the job," said Albrecht. "These cats needed to be trained to crate quietly since the dogs needed to learn to use their nose, not their ears, to find the hidden cat."
Cheeto stood out because he had the ideal mix of traits required of a target cat: he was very gregarious, curious, and fearless. Albrecht added that it helped that Cheeto loved dogs: She had four dogs at home at the time and Cheeto fit right into the pack. The dogs were typically segregated in a room by themselves, but Cheeto would regularly jump over the baby gate divider to spend time with his canine pals.
Cheeto worked once a week, year-round, although he did get most holidays off. When he was working, Cheeto's job was to silently lay inside a soft black mesh Sherpa bag that a volunteer hid in different places, such as a pile of heavy brush, under the deck of a house, or even secured up a tree. Then Cheeto waited for the dog to find him. "Our goal was to teach the dogs that cats hide in various locations, high and low, and that if they used their nose to pinpoint the hiding location of the cat, they would be rewarded," Albrecht explained. That "reward" included both treats and one-on-one time with Cheeto.
Cheeto appeared on a number of TV programs as well as at local pet fairs and was nominated for the PAWS Community Hero Pet Awards in 2012. Sadly, Cheeto passed away in the summer of 2014 due to acute pancreatitis. Though Albrecht greatly misses him, she takes comfort in the hundreds of lost cats found by the dogs that Cheeto helped train.
Apartments in Japan — especially in Tokyo — are not known for their spaciousness. And though Japanese culture highly reveres cats, many landlords prohibit renters from keeping a cat on the premises, which means that many cats languish in shelters and are left without a job to do.
Tokyo Cat Guardian is a Japanese rescue group that's addressing both problems by contracting a number of its feline residents out to live as roommates in apartments throughout the city. In other words, rent an apartment and automatically get a cat as roommate! The plan accomplishes two objectives: It helps landlords to rent their apartments faster, and tenants don't have to buy anything special for their new feline roommate, since everything is already included.
Yoko Yamamoto founded Tokyo Cat Guardian in 2010 because she was dismayed at the large numbers of homeless cats throughout the city, and she soon started to brainstorm ways to save them. She thought about the many landlords who prohibit animals on their properties, and the lightbulb went off. "Our aim is to bring the number of cats put down to zero," she said.
She interviews potential human roommates and helps to facilitate the meeting with the landlord. "We are targeting people who have no experience with keeping cats but who would like to, as well as elderly people who want to live with pets but are hesitant because they are concerned that they won't be able to keep them for a long time," she said.
Once a human tenant is approved, they can move in and the cats can start their jobs, although Yamamoto admits the list of the cat's tasks is pretty short.
"The cat's primary job responsibility is to be happy," she said.
A Tokyo-based real estate company named Livinggold is working with Yamamoto to renovate existing apartments to make them more habitable for the feline roommate, adding elevated catwalks and built-in cat trees and towers.
If the human roommate decides to leave the apartment at the end of the lease, she or he has the option of leaving the feline roommate behind in the apartment or adopting and bringing him along to a new residence, in which case, another cat from Tokyo Cat Guardian moves in to take on the job of roommate.
Many folks are familiar with the concept of a firehouse dog, most often in the form of a Dalmatian. But at a firehouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, an orange-and-white cat named Carlow takes his job as firehouse cat very seriously.
In the spring of 2011, the firefighters of Engine 22 Ladder 13 responded to a call in the Bronx and encountered an abandoned car that seemed to be meowing. They found a tiny, dirty kitten stuck in one of the tires, brought him back to the station, cleaned him up, and named him Carlow after a local bar where they liked to hang out.
Excerpted from Cats on the Job by Lisa Rogak. Copyright © 2015 Lisa Rogak. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Crossing Guard Cat,
Dog Trainer Cat,
Boat Captain Cat,
Exercise Trainer Cat,
Security Guard Cat,
Diabetic Alert Cat,
Military Working Cat,
Fast Food Employee Cat,
Cat Burglar Cat,
Cat Café Cat,
News Anchor Cat,
Writer's Muse Cat,
Furniture Tester Cat,
Hotel Concierge Cat,
Weather Observer Cat,
Tour Guide Cat,
Teaching Assistant Cat,
Music Studio Assistant Cat,
Reiki Practitioner Cat,
Foster Parent Cat,
Train Stationmaster Cat,