By Cyndi Hubach, April 24, 2015

Nobody loves cats more than I do. My soulmate in cat form, Jack, died almost exactly a year ago, and I still—well, I won’t even tell you what I still do, but suffice to say, I loved that cat.

Nevertheless, that sweet, soft, purring embodiment of unconditional jack2affection that many of us know to be the cat has a darker alter ego lurking just under the surface—a Mr. Hyde or Frank Underwood, if you will—capable of killing without a breath of hesitation or a moral qualm. This murderous inclination presents a quandary for those of us who feel strong bonds with both the pussycat—a beloved companion—and the myriad creatures they dispatch with such cavalier disregard—um, for life on the planet. How do you solve a problem like the killer housecat?

There is no secret about the feline proclivity for carnage. Just about every year, you can count on a new study detailing gruesome statistics of the cat’s lethality. It’s estimated that cats do in billions, yes billions, of birds, reptiles and rodents in the country every year. And that doesn’t count the additional billions of insects they undoubtedly torture for amusement because well, nobody really counts insects.

Technology has only added to the evidence. Go-pro type cameras affixed to the collars of a several dozen indoor-outdoor cats a few years ago showed persistent stalking, hunting and killing by nearly half of them. (Certain individual cats do show less inclination for bloodlust, and I’m certain that Jack was himself, a pacifist.)

Despite these undeniable facts, cat owners are notoriously reluctant to take responsibility for their bloodthirsty felines. “It’s nature. The circle of life,” they’ll intone, nodding sagely. Well, no. Circle of life implies, you know, a circle. Your cat, as the cameras showed and every cat person knows, doesn’t typically kill to eat; it kills simply to kill, hence the designation: “homicidal maniac.” The poor bird or rodent is, more often than not, dropped once it ceases to be amusing—that is, when it dies.

Another counter to this, “well, nature is cruel” argument is: your cat is not “natural.” Unless you live in the deserts of Israel or Saudi Arabia, your cat is an exotic invasive species; it has no more business prowling around your suburban neighborhood than a kangaroo, but here it is, exquisitely adaptable, stealthily killing whatever luckless creature happens to catch its murderous eye. (And it’s not just the potential prey that’s in danger. Outdoor cats have a significantly reduced lifespan. You don’t do your cat any favors by letting her outside.)

Then there is the, “my cat will go crazy indoors” argument. This is hogwash. If the cat is fixed, and given just a little bit of attention, entertainment and exercise (there’s almost no problem a feather toy can’t solve), she will happily lie around your house taking catnaps all day.

There is one slight argument in favor of those beleaguered cat defenders out there. It turns out that “owned” cats (inasmuch as a cat can be owned) commit a bit less mayhem than true feral or stray cats. But while your indoor-outdoor Felis catus may not be the principal cause of species destruction, she is, more than likely, a contributor. We all know that the wild critters of the world need all the help they can get. Please do the birds, butterflies, lizards, mice, and baby everythings out there a favor, and keep your sweet, loving, killer pussycats indoors, where everyone can stay a little safer.

The toilet of the 21st century factors in water conservation and includes spiffy instructions on a stainless steel decal.  Lo, the toilet of the future, installed thus at UCLAtoilet!

For the purposes of mitigating the drought in California, this is salvific.  For those of us who are hypochondriacs, this is admittedly nerve-wracking, but never fear!  You can always wrap your finger in toilet paper before activating a button!





Photo Courtesy of Leslie Backus.  You Rock!

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By Cyndi Hubach,  April 3, 2015

I got stung by a bee the other day, a painful event both physically and emotionally. I was, after all, tending the flower garden I had planted for them to forage in, plus the bee had launched its assault from the very nice home which I helped provide for them. It seemed ungrateful, to say the least—although the swelling did give my face a fullness it has lacked in recent years, but that’s another story…

Our beekeeper told me the bee might have been testy because the hive was stressed from overcrowding, and within a couple days she stopped by to take out a few frames in order to give them more room. I’ll get to the walking bee in a minute, but generally speaking, backyard bees are thriving these days, and if you’ve got any rosemary or lavender in your yard, you’re probably wondering, “What’s all the fuss is about over so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?” Looks like there’s nothing but (occasionally angry) bees out there to me!

The answer is—which is true for so many questions—unchecked, soul-crushing, bee-killing capitalism (lol). The media has been beebreathless in recent years with news of the imminent extinction of bees, followed by the soon-to-follow extinction of the rest of us. But it turns out these stories really only applied to Apis Mellifera—the ubiquitous European honeybee—and only those honeybees that are trucked all over the country to pollinate the multi-billion dollar almond, apple, citrus, etc. industries.

Working bees continue to be in peril, though after years of frustratingly fruitless (how ironic) research into the cause of CCD, scientists appear to be finally closing in on the answer (Surprise! Pesticides!). What you seldom hear though, is that the honeybees that are kept in backyard hives, as well as most native species, are generally abundant and doing fine. A recent state census shows there are an estimated 4,000 bee species around the country, including about 1,600 in California alone. Research into these native bees has been intensifying recently, as industry looks for a possible replacement should the honeybee go the way of the dodo. Sigh.

In any case, aboriginal bees are incredibly rich in diversity and function, and they are almost nothing like their honey-making cousins. For one thing, most don’t live in colonies, which is what makes honeybees so easy to manage and exploit. Instead, they tend to be solitary creatures, making their nests in the ground or in wood, and I might add, rarely stinging. Most will still pollinate your various fruits and veggies of course; there’s even a species that specializes in squash.

Like all wild creatures, native bees are susceptible to habitat loss due to human development (bumblebees seem to be faring the worst), but you can help out by setting up easy, do-it-yourself bee nests in your yard, and by maintaining a pesticide-free garden with plenty of bee-friendly plants. In some cases, bees actually do better in urban environments because of the year-round food and water we make available to them.

They still die because the life of a bee is difficult and brief.  Most of them live just a few short weeks. We’ve all seen the worrisome sight of a bee walking or even lying dead on the ground, and if you’re like me you think, “Is this Colony Collapse Disorder writ small?” But no, this is just what happens with bees. “Mature bees literally work themselves to death,” says LA beekeeper Leonardo Chalupowicz. While disease or parasite attack is a possibility, “if they’re at the end of their life span, they just die.”

So, don’t worry about that poor bee heading to its doom.  Just do what you can to make things nice for the ones that will follow. The survival of all of us may just depend on it.