Cats bringing out the soft side of inmates

Several inmates at a Vancouver-area prison have furry new bunk mates with the goal that the offenders and the cats will teach each other compassion.


YACOLT, Clark County — Princess Natalie glowers from her perch, a small table tucked inside a concrete prison cell. Her thick, black tail twitches and her golden-green eyes narrow as she offers a clearly dissatisfied meow when Joey Contreras picks her up and kisses her head. 

Despite the protestations, Contreras and his cellmate, Joey Walter, say that they have the best jobs of any inmates in Washington: They're paid 35 cents an hour to care for Natalie, a longhair 6-year-old cat with a testy disposition.

Since January, staff at Larch Corrections Center, a minimum-custody prison near Vancouver, have assigned two shelter cats to each live with a pair of inmates in the hope that the relationships will result in better behavior — in both the felons and the cats. "We're feline attendants," jokes Contreras, 28, who is serving time for identity theft, forgery, fraud and possession of stolen property, as he proudly shows off the scratches and bite marks courtesy of Natalie. The cat's terrible temper and fussiness led Contreras to add "Princess" to her name. "She growls and swipes," said Walter, 37, who is behind bars for assaulting a police officer. "We don't know what she's in here for," he jokes. "She won't tell us."

For years, corrections agencies across the nation have adopted programs to allow inmates to interact with animals as a way to teach them responsibility and compassion, two things in rare supply in most prison cells. In Washington, such programs have connected inmates with a veritable menagerie of animals — from honeybees to tadpoles, dogs to butterflies, and now, for the first time, cats.

Dan Pacholke, director of prisons for the state Department of Corrections (DOC), says it's been more than 30 years since dogs were assigned a permanent place in the prison system. Since the early 1980s, inmates at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, in Gig Harbor, have trained dogs for owners with special needs. Since then, dog-training programs have spread to a big portion of the state prisons.

Eleven of the state's 12 prisons have some type of program involving inmate interaction with animals. It will become 12 for 12 later this month when inmates at Airway Heights Corrections Center, near Spokane, will start training dogs, Pacholke said.

Pacholke believes that having inmates work with animals makes "the environment of prisons less tense and less violent." Working with animals "instills empathy, compassion and responsibility" in the offenders, he said.
"They're getting [animals] that are castaways. That irony isn't lost on the inmates. They're encouraged by the success," Pacholke said.

Monique Camacho, a classification counselor at Larch Corrections Center, said inmates interested in participating in the program must have a history of good behavior. They pair each cat with two inmates, and donors provide the necessary supplies — a litter box, scratching post and cat food.

The inmates, designated by DOC as "cat handlers," are paid to leash train, socialize and groom the cats so the animals can ultimately be adopted.

Cuddly Catz, a Vancouver-based nonprofit animal-welfare group that takes in abandoned cats, places the cats in the prison. Their volunteers come out regularly to teach the inmates how to work with the animals, Camacho said.

Cuddly Catz, and a veterinary clinic and a man who makes scratching posts donate everything, from the posts, to the litter boxes, to toys and any necessary medical treatments.

On a recent afternoon, Clementine, a small gray and white cat, spread out on her scratching post, staring at 35-year-old inmate Richard Amaro as he talked about her likes and dislikes. He boasted about her sunny disposition and said he and his cellmate are lucky to be assigned such a mellow cat, compared to their neighbors' cat, the redoubtable Princess Natalie. "This gives you a softer side; it makes you feel like you have a kid at home. When I've been out during the day I remember I've got my daughter at home waiting for me," said Amaro, who is serving time for theft, harassment and contracting without a license. Clementine doesn't make a peep when Amaro clips a leash on her and carries her out of his cell. Amaro walks out of his cellblock to an outdoor gated area, next to the prison's razor-wire fence. He opens the gate, sets his cat on the ground, and she scampers to a log and hunkers down.

The DOC cat program is free for the agency, except for the $1,000 they spent on the outside cat-play area.
Watching the men at the outside cat-play area, Corrections Officer Wes Robinson said he's surprised by the positive change he's seen in Contreras since the arrival of Princess Natalie. Robinson said that he used to supervise Contreras at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, in Aberdeen, and recalls he was a problem inmate. "It just give them something around to take care of. Contreras was a handful," Robinson said. "This takes his mind off things."

Camacho, the counselor at Larch, said that when she and prison Superintendent Eleanor Vernell started brainstorming ideas for new pet programs, she suggested horses. Vernell suggested cats. "I wanted to do something different," said Vernell, who believed "dogs are too macho."

Vernell believes that working with cats is far more complex because inmates have to work harder to earn the animal's affection. "It teaches them responsibility. It teaches them patience. It teaches them how to bond," Vernell said. In the coming months, prison officials hope to expand the program to about a half-dozen cats to pair with each two-man cell, Camacho said. "This forces them to think outside of themselves. They have to make sure the cat is loved and happy," Camacho added.
Jennifer Sullivan:  206-464-8294  or jensullivan@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.


Misao The Big Mama And Fukumaru The Cat: Stunning Pictures Of A Long Friendship

Meet 88-year-old Misao and her odd-eyed companion, Fukumaru.The heartarming friendship between a Japanese grandmother and her beloved cat, documented in a series of photographs, has become a best-selling book in Japan and a viral sensation in the United States.

In 2003, a stray cat happened to give birth to a white male kitten in a barn on Misao Ihara's property. The cat was soon adopted into the family and became Ihara’s inseparable companion. According to Little More Books, Ihara named the cat "Fukumaru" in hope that "the god of fuku (good fortune) would come and everything will be smoothed over like maru (circle)."

Twelve years ago, photographer Miyoko Ihara, Misao's 30-year-old granddaughter who lives with her, began taking photographs of her grandmother and Fukumaru as they went about their lives. Despite being 88 years old, Misao Ihara still goes out to the field everyday in her hometown of Chiba to farm, and Fukumaru accompanies her, helping her with her daily tasks. “Partly because they are both hard of hearing, my grandmother and Fukumaru are always looking into each other’s eyes. They’re really close,” Miyoko Ihara told Nippon.com. “Fukumaru is so happy and contented at my grandmother’s side. When I take a picture of the two of them together it’s like I’m photographing myself as a little girl.”

The photographs documenting their close bond were compiled into a book, "Misao The Big Mama and Fukumaru The Cat" which has taken Japan by storm. Misao Ihara believes it is because of the tranquility of life portrayed in the photographs.

“When I see the way my grandmother is living her life, I really feel that she has a kind of strength that my generation simply can’t match. She gets up with the sun, and goes to bed when it sets. She loves her cat and the vegetables in her field like her own children. If her vegetables come out well, she’s happy. She doesn’t have to worry about questions like ’what is the point of my work?’ Her way of life fills me with admiration and a sort of envy," Miyoko Ihara said.

Loyal Italian Cat, Toldo, Brings Gifts To Owner's Grave.

Source: Huffington Post
A loyal cat has been bringing his owner small gifts everyday in a show of affection. The catch? The cat's owner has been dead for over a year.

Meet Toldo -- a cute, 3-year-old black and white cat living in Montagnana, northern Italy. According to the Corriere Fiorentino, Toldo has been visiting his owner -- Iozzelli Renzo, who died on September 22, 2011, aged 71 -- every day for the past year and leaving small presents at the grave. The gifts usually consist of leaves, sticks, twigs, plastic cups or paper towels.

Story continues after photo ...

cat gifts owners grave

"Even today I went to the cemetery with Toldo. On the way back, someone I know told me the cat has already been there early this morning," Renzo's widow, Ada, told the Corriere Fiorentino.

Neighbors have also seen Toldo wandering around the cemetery through the day. It all started the day of the funeral, when the cat followed the coffin from the house to the cemetery. The next morning, Ada went to the grave again. "We went to the cemetery with my daughter and found a sprig of acacia on the grave. I immediately thought that it was the cat, but my daughter was convinced that I was just in a very emotional state at that moment," she told the news source. That night, however, Renzo's son returned to the cemetery and found Toldo standing guard at the grave, reported Dreuz.info.

Story continues after photo ... 

cat gifts owners grave

Ada says that her late husband shared a particularly strong bond with Toldo -- He'd adopted the feline from a cat colony when he was just 3 months old.

Unfortunately, not everyone believes in the sanctity of the relationship between Toldo and his owner. Ada told La Nazione that people often try to shoo the cat away.

"There are insensitive people who send him away with stones or other things, convinced that the presence of an animal in the cemetery is almost a desecration," she told the news source.  Still, Toldo remains resilient and continues to visit the grave everyday.

"My husband was very affectionate with him. Renzo loved animals. It's almost as if Toldo would be grateful. He is a special cat, one can not help liking him, " Ada said.


Me-yow! This cat has a glow — for a good cause 

Source: NBC News

For brightness, glowworms got nothing on Mr. Green Genes. And for fright factor, neither do black cats. The 6-month-old feline may look like a standard-issue orange tabby in the comfort of daylight, but he turns a ghoulish shade of fluorescent green under the shroud of darkness! But there’s no need to get spooked; Mr. Green Genes is not a ghastly creation out of a Halloween horror story. The glow-in-the-dark cat is the result of a genetic experiment gone right, not awry; he was cloned at the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans to aid endangered species ... and down the line, humans as well. The phosphorescent feline made his national television debut on TODAY Thursday. The studio went dark and Mr. Green Genes’ ears, nose and eyes glowed under an ultraviolet light.

The green gene Betsy Dresser, senior vice president for the institute, explained to TODAY’s Amy Robach the process of producing a kitty that strangely glows, but is otherwise as normal as any of its brethren. “Two of our scientists at the center worked together with the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center,” Dresser said. “They introduced a gene that would then produce a protein that glowed fluorescent green.”

While it’s certainly a neat scientific parlor trick, Dresser told TODAY the research that led to the glowing cloned Mr. Green Genes is vitally serious — both to combat animal diseases via gene therapy and, later, to increase the possibility of inserting good genes into humans while taking bad genes out. But to verify that the gene implants were working, scientists needed to try them out on a cat, because the animals have much of the same genetic makeup as humans. And to see if the genes actually made it into the finished, cloned cat, a gene was inserted that produces a fluorescent protein.  “We wanted to know for sure that we could insert this gene into a cell and have it multiply,” Dresser explained. “If nothing glows, we wouldn’t know if the gene was really inserted. So, because it glows, we know we inserted the gene and were successful with that technique.”

The nose glows While Mr. Green Genes pawed playfully and rolled on his back for handler Kelly Trimble, Dresser explained that all the cat’s skin cells glow with the green fluorescent protein but, because it’s a furry critter, only the eyes, ears and nose display wattage under ultraviolet. “If we were to shave him, he would glow totally,” Dresser told Robach. Dresser was also quick to note there is nothing cruel and unusual involved in producing a cat that glows in the dark. “It’s totally harmless,” Dresser said. “He’s just a normal cat; he doesn’t know he’s glowing.”

As host Amy Robach looks on, Mr. Green Genes’ handlers prepare to expose the cat to an ultraviolet lamp. Normal or not, Mr. Green Genes might one day be considered a pioneer and hero in the advancement of genetics. For example, in endangered animal species that carry a gene making them prone to a specific disease, that gene could be pulled out at the embryo stage to give the species a better chance at surviving and prospering.

For mankind, it might lead to new innovations in treating diabetes, Dresser said. “In a diabetic human, there are genes that make insulin. If we can insert genes that make diabetics produce their own insulin, then we hope to stop diabetes. “It’s helpful to both animals and humans,” she added. But that’s the future. In the present, Mr. Green Genes can look forward to a normal life — unless he’s exposed to a black light, the secret of his glow is safe.

And Mr. Green Genes’ offspring might have a bright future too, Dresser said. “We’ll breed him and we’ll see if his kids glow, too!”

Dogs and Cats in the Fur Trade


Dogs and Cats in the Fur Trade. 
Source: The Humane Society of the United States  

Buying fur or fur trim supports an industry that kills millions of domestic dogs and cats each year—both on purpose and accidentally in traps.

Although most dog and cat victims of the fur trade are raised and killed in China and other parts of Asia, their fur is exported for sale worldwide.

The United States already bans the sale of dog and cat fur (prompted by an HSUS investigation), but recent investigations found that dog fur is still slipping into the country on unlabeled and falsely advertised jackets. In the United States, traps set for wild animals like foxes and bobcats maim or kill countless dogs and cats each year.

Cat 'arrested' for break-in at Brazilian prison

Cat 'arrested' for break-in at Brazilian prison. Source: BBC

The confiscated items strapped to the cat's body included drill bits, files, and a mobile phone.

A cat has been detained in the grounds of a jail in Brazil with contraband goods for prisoners strapped to its body with tape. The white cat was apprehended crossing the main prison gate. The incident took place at a jail in Arapiraca city, 250km (155 miles) south-west of Recife in Alagoas state. The confiscated items included drill bits, files, a mobile phone and charger, plus earphones The cat was taken to a local animal center.

The jail holds some 263 prisoners. A prison spokesperson was quoted by local paper Estado de S. Paulo as saying: "It's tough to find out who's responsible for the action as the cat doesn't speak." Officials said the items could be used to effect a means of escape or for communicating with criminals on the outside. The incident took place at New Year, but the photo has only recently been released.

Caffrey: The Two-Legged Cat

Caffrey: The Two-Legged Cat

The black persian feline was hit by a car.

Source: ABC News
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Caffrey, the black persian cat, has two legs -- both on the same side of its body after it was hit by a car according to the Daily Mail. (Casey Gutteridge / SWNS.com)


A two-faced cat.
Venus's face is split evenly into two colors.Photograph courtesy TODAY Show/NBC

Venus the two-faced cat is currently the most famous feline on the planet. 

The three-year-old tortoiseshell has her own Facebook page and a YouTube video that's been viewed over a million times, and appeared on the Today Show last week. (Watch National Geographic cat videos.)
One look at this cat and you can understand why: One half is solid black with a green eye—the other half has typical orange tabby stripes and a blue eye.

How does a cat end up looking like that? Leslie Lyons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the genetics of domestic cats said she's never seen a cat exactly like Venus. "She is extremely, extremely rare," Lyons said. "But you can explain it and you can understand it."
(See "House Cat Origin Traced to Middle Eastern Wildcat Ancestor.")

Is Venus a Chimera? 

Many reports about Venus refer to the cat as a "chimera." In mythology, a chimera is a mishmash monster made up of parts of different animals. A feline chimera is a cat whose cells contain two types of DNA, caused when two embryos fuse together. Among cats, "chimeras are really not all that rare," Lyons said. In fact, most male tortoiseshell cats are chimeras. The distinctively mottled orange and black coat is a sign that the cat has an extra X chromosome. But female cats, said Lyons, already have two X chromosomes so they can sport that coat without the extra X. That means Venus is not necessarily a chimera. To find out would require genetic testing, said Lyons. With samples of skin from each side of the cat, "we can do a DNA fingerprint—just like on CSI—and the DNA from one side of the body should be different than the other."
(Also see picture: "Lobster Caught 'Half Cooked' in Maine.")

Cat's Blue Eye Another Mystery 

If Venus isn't actually a chimera, then what would explain her amazing face? "Absolute luck," Lyons said. One theory: perhaps the black coloration was randomly activated in all the cells on one side of her face, while the orange coloration was activated on the other, and the two patches met at the midline of her body as she developed. Cat fanciers who are transfixed by Venus's split face may be missing the real story: her single blue eye. Cat eyes are typically green or yellow, not blue.

A blue-eyed cat is typically a Siamese or else a cat with "a lot of white on them," she explained.
Venus appears to have only a white patch on her chest, which to Lyons is not enough to explain the blue eye.
"She is a bit of a mystery."

Seven cats who made the mews in 2012

Obviously they are in no particular order, because how can you say one cat is better than the other when all cats are amazing?

Stray cat: Shankly walks across the pitch at Anfield
Stray cat: Shankly walks across the pitch at Anfield
LAST February this sweet boy achieved the impossible – he made a game of football interesting for a few minutes. He wandered on to the pitch in the middle of a match and had a little sit down, completely unperturbed by the noise of the crowd, (who started chanting “A cat, a cat, a cat”, because nothing gets past football fans). His courageous protest was brought to an abrupt end when a steward picked him up in a most undignified manner and took him away, without so much as a cuddle.Luckily justice prevailed in the end – the cat became a worldwide internet sensation while the mean old steward was never heard of again. (Well not by me, anyway.)


The Downing Street cat fight hit the headlines back in October, reportedly with Freya (No. 11) getting the better of Larry (No. 10). They were probably arguing over which of them was most ashamed of their owner, “It’s me”, “No, it’s me”, “NO IT’S DEFINITELY ME” etc etc etc.

Five facts about Hank.
1. He ran for a US Senate seat in Virginia this year.
2. He came third.
3. He owns more than one tie.
4. Hank has not ruled out a return to politics.
5. I love Hank.

Orville the cat’s life was tragically cut short when he was run over.
His owner Bart Jensen decided that the perfect way to “honour” him was to have him stuffed and turned into a remote control model plane. Funnily enough Bart has received the odd bit of hate mail since he revealed his dead cat-copter to the world in June. His defence is something about how Orville loved birds, and can now fly among them... which obviously makes the whole thing perfectly fine.

5. “CHARLIE CHAPLIN” Every festive season a ­loveable stray looking for a home hits the headlines, so meet Charlie, who has been living in an animal shelter since July.
The staff there reckon she looks like Charlie Chaplin.
I suppose she has a better chance of being adopted if we all just pretend this is true, and accept the hat, rather than saying who she really looks like.
*cough* Kitler *cough*.

The entire orange population of the country was on high alert in August after reports of sightings of literally A LION in Clacton-on-Sea. It was not reem, everyone was well scared but it was well funny ’cos it turned out it was just a cat innit. A cat called Teddy Bear. No you shut up.

The tail (!) of how this incredible moggy inspired James Bowen to turn his life around is now a best-selling novel and future Hollywood movie. It’s a lovely story of triumph over adversity, of love, and hope… and best of all there’s a photo of Bob on the cover happily wearing a really cosy little scarf.

Enough already of the week

“What I would like for Christmas this year is a new kitchen for me nan.” Christopher Maloney

Ho ho ho.. oh no!

“It’s a good job I’ve got Father Christmas’s direct number to grass my kids up or they’d never go to sleep.” Simon Gregson

Thrilling celebrity anecdote of the week

“That awkward moment when you realize you JUST took off last Chrismas’ holiday weight and it is indeed now Christmas AGAIN can I get an amen?” Lady Gaga

Mayan-be not

If you’re reading this, it looks like the Mayans were wrong.
I hope they’re not too embarrassed about their mistake though, after all it’s hardly the end of the world.

Internet cat stars scratch the surface for fame

In this June 2011 photo provided by mugumogu, Scottish fold Maru rests in a cardboard box in Japan. After years of viral YouTube viewing and millions of shares, the cat stars of the Internet are coming into their own in lucrative and altruistic ways. Roly poly Maru, the megastar in Japan with millions of views for nearly 300 videos since 2007, has three books and a calendar, among other swag for sale. (AP Photo/mugumogu) 
In this June 2011 photo provided by mugumogu, Scottish fold Maru rests in a cardboard box in Japan. After years of viral YouTube viewing and millions of shares, the cat stars of the Internet are coming into their own in lucrative and altruistic ways. Roly poly Maru, the megastar in Japan with millions of views for nearly 300 videos since 2007, has three books and a calendar, among other swag for sale. (AP Photo/mugumogu)
NEW YORK (AP) — They frolic in empty boxes and stick their heads under faucet streams of water. They dance on tippy toes and fly through the air with Pop-Tarts. They play piano wearing little frocks and get tickled to distraction to the delight of millions on YouTube

I speak, of course, of the cat stars of the Internet, a place filled with felines and their wacky uploading humans since the dawn of bandwidth. Now, after years of viral viewing, they're coming into their own in lucrative and altruistic ways.

The first Internet Cat Video Film Festival drew a Woodstock-esque crowd of more than 10,000 — people, that is — to a Minneapolis art museum in August. Police closed a span of highway clogged with cars trying to get to the Walker Art Center for the free outdoor slate of 80 videos culled from 10,000 submissions that covered the simple, funny moment to polished animations and works made by trained filmmakers.
"People were spilling out into the streets. It kind of took our breath away. You hit the people that are the cat lovers but you also get people who just like sharing something on the Internet, and it kind of reaches across age groups," said the museum's Scott Stulen, who worked on the festival and helped curate entries.
Corporate kittydom is happy with the higher profile for the cat meme, which actually goes back to the '70s, when swapping VHS tapes was big and the word meme was barely known. It means, by the way, all the crazy, viral themes that spread online faster than you can say nom, nom, nom (cat-vid speak for the sound of a cat eating.)

In addition to the Walker's free night in cat video heaven, Fresh Step litter sponsored Catdance, an evening of felines on screen that coincided with January's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. A fan-voted winner among five scripted finalists — 10 films were commissioned at the launch of the program — will earn $10,000 after online voting ends later this month. 

In November, Friskies gave a lifetime achievement statue to angsty existentialist Henri, le Chat Noir, at the brand's own awards ceremony and donated 250,000 cans of cat food to shelters around the country. Henri, the troubled Tuxedo, won another statue in Minneapolis and will soon begin a collaboration of food-focused videos with Friskies.

Oh, and Henri's putting out his first book in April.

Roly poly Maru, the megastar in Japan with millions of views for nearly 300 videos since 2007, has three books and a calendar, among other swag for sale. The squishy-faced, often blissed-out Scottish fold who loves boxes and bags was used by Uniqlo when the Japanese brand launched its San Francisco store in October. Maru chose boxes, called "Lucky Cubes," stuffed with giveaways for human contest winners.
Not to be outdone, Simon's Cat, a funny feline in a series of line-drawn animated videos out of London, has a book and an online store, as does Henri, who lends his fame and some of his dollars to cat charities.
Even the funny faced Grumpy Cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, coughs up some bucks to animal welfare groups, while captions for her still photos fly around the Internet and she sells T-shirts off her website. She put out some videos after her existence as a living, breathing and not digitally altered feline was questioned, according to her site. 

So why cats?

Cats are fluffy and unpredictable and usually kept behind closed doors, which lends them allure and appeal that other common pets — I'm talking to you, dogs! — don't seem to have when it comes to vapid, funny or deranged video. At least that's what cat fans think.

"Cats are going to do what they want to do and that's one of the reasons that we love them," said David Kargas, a Fresh Step spokesman who worked on Catdance.

These days in the cat video game, acts of charity are expected as much as laughs, said William Braden, the Seattle filmmaker who morphed a pampered family cat named Henry into the French-speaking Henri for a 2006 film school project. Cranking out Henri videos and managing the black-and-white long hair's growing projects are now Braden's full-time job. 

"On the one hand you'd be stupid not to do charity because fans are sensitive," Braden said. "On the other hand, for the love of God, I make a living doing this... . How horrible would I be if I didn't give a little bit of it away?"

The gravy train for cat vid makers is a long one not likely to dead-end any time soon. Consider the ad revenue from YouTube and other social networks and personal websites. But while commercial ads are often included on the sites, so are fans looking to help cats in need.

On the Facebook page of Simon's Cat, for example, people post to find homes for wayward cats. The Facebook page of Oskar the blind cat, who hit it big on YouTube as a kitten when he came home to his older buddy Klaus, raises awareness that disabled cats can make great pets.

Animator Simon Tofield, creator of Simon's Cat, said from London that his first video, "Cat Man Do," changed his life. Inspired by his cat Hugh, one of several he shares his life with, the first video was his attempt to teach himself the computer program Flash. It features the hungry, googly eyed cat character trying to annoy his owner awake, wonking him with a baseball bat at one point. 

The video was put on YouTube four years ago and received millions of views overnight, Tofield said. More than two dozen videos later, Simon's Cat views have exceeded 300 million.

"Before Simon's Cat launched, I was working as a freelance animator, which could be frustrating as you would never know when the next job would come in," Tofield said. "Although I was drawing, which I love, it wasn't as enjoyable as what I'm doing now by drawing and creating my own characters."

Nobody knows the cat meme better than Ben Huh, who with a group of investors bought the I Can Has Cheezburger site in September 2007. The site, now an empire of sites for Huh, allows users to generate captions on cat photos using LOLcat speak, a language with spelling and syntax all its own. 

Huh has none of Braden's guilt about making money off of funny cats on the Internet. He recently starred in his own Bravo reality show, and sees a healthy future ahead as cat memes spread and merge with other content.

"People are mixing and matching and the content can't be put into neat little boxes anymore," said Huh, noting that Grumpy Cat's still photos pop up just about anywhere nowadays. "That's the irony. That has caused the Cat Internet Industrial Complex to continue to grow."

Henri, le Chat Noir: http://www.henrilechatnoir.com/
Simon's Cat: http://www.simonscat.com/
Maru Greatest Hits VI: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uDuls5TyNE
Internet Cat Video Festival: http://www.walkerart.org/openfield/programs/internet-cat-video-film-festival/
Catdance: http://www.freshstep.com/promotions/catdance-festival/

Cruel beyond belief: The moment a truck crammed with FIVE HUNDRED cats was stopped en route to restaurants in China

Source: Daily Mail UK

Some were crammed into rusty cages so small they could not stand up.
Others were gasping for air in sacks. All were starving, exhausted and just hours from being killed and served up as a delicacy in restaurants. These harrowing photographs were taken after 500 cats were found piled on top of each other in a lorry bound for the slaughterhouse.

Disturbing: When the cats were found some had been struggling to breathe through small holes in burlap sacks
Disturbing: When the cats were found some had been struggling to breathe through small holes in burlap sacks 

Caged animals: Many of the 500 cats were crammed together in tiny cages as they made the trip in the back of the truck across China
Caged animals: Many of the 500 cats were crammed together in tiny cages as they made the trip in the back of the truck across China 

Many would have once been pets, stolen off the streets by ‘cat snatchers’. They are taken for slaughter in what animal welfare campaigners describe as ‘hideous conditions’, often without food or water. These cats were saved by chance when police pulled the vehicle over for a routine check in the city of Xuzhou, eastern China, after noticing it had out-of-town licence plates.
They asked the driver what was being transported after hearing muffled whimpers from under the tarpaulin covering the cargo, ‘He said it was a full load of rabbit, but after we instructed him to uncover the load we were shocked to find a full load of living cats,’ said officer Sun Hai. 

Intercepted: The felines were rescued thanks to routine vehicle checks, before they were sold as food
Intercepted: The felines were rescued thanks to routine vehicle checks, before they were sold as food 

Helping hand: Volunteers rushed to give the cats water, before they were transferred to an animal centre for treatment
Helping hand: Volunteers rushed to give the cats water, before they were transferred to an animal centre for treatment 

The lorry driver had not broken any laws, as in China it is not illegal to eat cat meat, nor to sell the animals for slaughter, But the police contacted animal lovers in the city who negotiated for three hours with the driver, before eventually managing to buy the cats for 3,500 Yuan (£350). 

Horrifying: Some of the cats had been stuffed into bags with barely enough room to breathe
Horrifying: Some of the cats had been stuffed into bags with barely enough room to breathe

The rescuers gave the cats food, water and medical attention and took them away to safety. Eating cat meat dates back thousands of years in China, and despite a fledgling animal rights movement it continues to be considered a delicacy in some areas.
One Cantonese dish, called ‘tiger and dragon locked in battle’, is a hot pot of cat and snake meat. The appetite for the dish has already made cats scarce and costly in the southern region of Guangdong, where restaurants have had to look elsewhere for a steady supply. This means the animals are often transported long distances from other areas. Animal welfare groups say many do not survive the journey and are dead before they reach their destination. 

Yesterday Alan Knight, chief executive of International Animal Rescue, said: ‘There are horrendous practices in China and their animal welfare system is abysmal.‘It is a hugely rich country and they really need to take themselves out of the dark ages and into a more humane way of treating and transporting animals.’ 

Lucky escape: Fortunately the haul of cats are now being cared for at an animal centre
Lucky escape: Fortunately the haul of cats are now being cared for at an animal centre 

David Neale, animal welfare director for Animals Asia, said: ‘They are transported in hideous conditions, often with no food or water, to their death. It’s appalling, absolutely horrific. ‘These are animals which in much of the world are pets and they are suffering terribly.’Draft animal protection laws were presented to the Chinese government last year but no legislation has yet been passed.
Cats in the Sea Services 
Sailors and cats have a special relationship that dates back thousands of years. It is likely that the ancient Egyptians were the first seafarers to realize the true value of having cats as shipmates. In addition to offering sailors much needed companionship on long voyages, cats provided protection by ridding ships of vermin. Without the presence of cats, a crew might find their ship overrun with rats and mice that would eat into the provisions, chew through ropes and spread disease. The more superstitious sailors believed that cats protected them by bringing good luck. It was also common for crews to adopt cats from the foreign lands they visited to serve as souvenirs as well as reminders of their pets at home.
Apprentices aboard the USS Pensacola pose with mascot cat and dogs in February 1888. The Pensacola was a screw steamer that participated in Admiral David Farragut's capture of New Orleans in 1862.
Crew of the USS Nahant with their two cats, ca 1898. The Nahant was an ironclad monitor that joined the fleet of Rear Admiral Samual Francis du Pont (for whom Washington, DC's Dupont Circle in named) in the attack on Charleston Harbor in 1863.  
Crewmen on the deck of the USS Olympia using a mirror to play with their cats in 1898. The Olympia served as Admiral George Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila during the Spanish American War. The Olympia currently is docked in Philadelphia and is the world's oldest floating steel warship, but is in desperate need of restoration 

Crewman of the USS Texas pose with mascot dog and cat on the muzzle of one of the ship's 12"/35 guns, ca 1900. Built in 1892, The Texas was the first U.S. battleship and gained a reputation for being jinxed because of a series of accidents. The crew probably hoped the cat and dog would change the ship's luck.
"You may fire when ready, Muffin." Two cats pose in the breech of a 4" caliber naval gun of an unidentified ship prior to World War One. 

"I'll be in my bunk." The cats of the USS Mississippi climb ladders to enter their hammock, ca 1925. The Mississippi was involved in several fierce battles in the Pacific during World War Two and was hit by kamikazes twice. It survived to be among the ships in Tokyo Bay that witnessed Japan's surrender. 
"Do not want!" USS Flusser cat 'Wockle' on the capstan in Venice, Italy, 1924-25. 
"Waiting instructions in the briefing room, pilots on a US Navy aircraft carrier relax by playing with the ship's mascot. Shortly after this picture was taken they were flying far above the Atlantic on a battle-mission." Probably the USS Ranger, July 1944 

"Why don't you leave me alone so I can get some shut eye?" New mascot 'Saipan' of the USS New Mexico tries to get comfortable. The New Mexico provided support during the U.S. Marine invasion of Saipan in 1944, so it it likely the cat was rescued after the battle.  

"After the smoke of battle had cleared on Betio Island, Tarawa, this tiny kitten crept out from beneath a wrecked Japanese tank, to receive a drink from a U.S. Marine." Tawara Invasion, November 1943 

"Here is 'Bilgewater', the mascot of the Coast Guard Academy, circa 1944. He's modeling the new wartime grey cadet uniform." 

"War Veteran - 'Pooli', who rates three service ribbons and four battle stars, shows she can still get into her old uniform as she prepares to celebrate her 15th birthday. The cat served aboard an attack transport during World War II." Los Angeles, 1959 

"I demand your terms of surrender!" French sailors play with a cat as they wait to take over six LSSLs (Landing Ship Support, Light) being given to France by the US Navy under the defense aid pact. Seattle, 1950

"Accepting her fate as an orphan of war, 'Miss Hap' a two-week old Korean kitten chows down on canned milk, piped to her by medicine dropper with the help of Marine Sergeant Frank Praytor ... The Marine adopted the kitten after its mother was killed by a mortar barrage near Bunker Hill. The name, Miss Hap, Sergeant Praytor explained, was given to the kitten 'because she was born at the wrong place at the wrong time'." Korea, ca 1953