It was bound to happen sooner or later, but this morning at around 10:03, Stratford Palace entered an alternate universe. Until this very day, our Saturdays have included grooming rituals that go something like this:

  1. The caretaker locates the basket of cat grooming equipment and extracts the super duper fur comb-ma-bob-thingy.
  2. The caretaker locates Bear and shows her the fur comb.
  3. Bear, who loves grooming time, proceeds immediately to the ottoman and jumps up on it.
  4. The caretaker sits down by the ottoman and begins combing through Bear’s lovely coat.
  5. Buddy wanders in and finds a strategic spot from which to watch Bear being groomed.
  6. If the caretaker gets anywhere near Buddy with the fur comb, his fight or flight instincts take over and he either bats wildly at the comb or runs away.

But on this memorable morning, exactly nothing past Step 2 happened in the usual fashion. We pick up with the alternate Step 3.

3. Bear, who usually loves grooming time, ignores the caretaker.

4. The caretaker sits down by the ottoman and beckons again, to no avail.

5. Buddy wanders in and hops on the ottoman.

6. The caretaker combs through Buddy’s fur without incident.

We offer this explanation as a sort of public service announcement to our gentle readers who may have felt a slight tremor, or some other disturbance in the force, at the time of our entry into the alternate universe. It is our goal to return to you as soon as possible, but one does not always have control over such things. Our only hope is that this does not signal the end of the world as we know it. Heaven knows, Buddy heralds that event often enough.



We at Stratford Palace wish you and yours a blessed and joyful Christmas season. Or as Buddy and Bear would say, “Meowy Christmas!”

All your Christmas are ours

All your Christmas are belong to us

The food wars at Stratford Palace have reached epic proportions. One might think that with Bear’s being pleasantly plump (some might say “rotund”) and Buddy’s being stocky (some might say “chunky”), that no food would remain eschewed and that all would instead be chewed. If one did think thus, one would be wrong. Terribly wrong.

The caretaker has for years devoted her shopping life to finding the Perfect Cat Food, only to realize that with Buddy and Bear, no such food exists (nor do perfect cats, but that’s another post entirely). That morsel which is scarfed up one day is on another day rejected with disgust. For a while, Bear ate turkey pate with gusto. Then one day the caretaker set a plate of the usual brand of turkey pate in front of her, and she turned up her nose and refused to eat it. Two subsequent tries were similarly rebuffed. So the caretaker stopped buying turkey and decided to try beef (which had on previous occasions nauseated the cats). But after years of beeflessness, the cats chowed down on it as though they had been lost in the Andes for several days. And then one day, the caretaker re-introduced turkey, and for one brief moment it became ambrosia, only to fall out of favor yet again.

Last weekend, the caretaker splurged on several grain-free dainties such as duck pate, beef and herring, and tuna with salmon. The first can of duck was received as though the heavens had parted and a duck-filled cat bowl had descended from on high. By the third can, Bear was bored and began calling it “Duck and cover” before walking away to pout. The other delicacies have also received mixed reviews. So in response to all of those cutesy names for cat food, the caretaker has developed a few choice names of her own, based on the cats’ reactions:

  • “Chick-indigestion”
  • “Tu-Not”
  • “Duck, Duck, Goose”
  • “Salmon-ella”
  • “Red Herring”
  • “Straw in the Turkey”
  • “Beef Unwellington”

Lest our gentle readers be worried that the cats will waste away to nothing, we haste to add that every third meal is eaten in its entirety, to the point that the plate appears to have been Hoovered. The fine silhouettes pictured below have not yet turned to skin and bone, nor are they likely to.

Bon appetit! Or not.




Today was the day the caretaker has been dreading for months: the annual vet visit x 2. Even though the cats seem quite healthy, the law requires that they be vaccinated against rabies, in the event that the house is overrun by rats, bats, or gnats that are foaming at the mouth. And so to be in compliance with the law, the caretaker called the vet’s office way back in July to make two appointments. When she asked that they be two hours apart, the chirpy clerk asked, “Don’t you want to bring them both in at the same time and save yourself a trip?”

The caretaker chuckled and replied, “I’ve done many crazy things in my lifetime and will do so in the future, but I can honestly say that what you are suggesting will never be one of them.” Little did the chirpy clerk know of the harrowing time when Buddy escaped from his carrier outside another vet’s office and had to be coaxed out from under the car. Or the two times when he bolted out of the examining room door and had to be hunted down in the vet’s office in a scene straight out of Jumanji.

But this morning at the appointed hour, the caretaker readied the carrier and resigned herself to the monumental task of securing Buddy for the trip. He did not acquiesce easily. Indeed, he did not acquiesce at all. The initial attempt resulted in a one-inch gash on the caretaker’s wrist, followed quickly by the frantic loping of a black and white blur through the house. The second attempt was accidentally successful. Instead of trying to put him into the carrier head-first, the caretaker stood the box on end and tried to lower him into it tail first, as he wriggled and protested vehemently. After a few tense minutes (or possibly years), the caretaker lost her hold on him, and he jumped…..straight into the box, upon which the caretaker quickly slammed and locked the door. Mission accomplished, the caretaker began to tend her additional wounds and heaved a sigh of relief. No arteries seemed to be damaged, and whatever else might happen in the next 45 minutes, she would not have to manage the Tasmanian Devil again by herself. She would have the help of a whole staff of vet techs.

The car ride was filled with the sounds of tires on a rainy street, cheery tunes on the radio, and the fierce yowling of a caged beast. He continued his caterwauling in the waiting room, while a polite little girl looked on with interest. She asked the caretaker what his name was, and she inched forward as though to comfort him. The caretaker pronounced his given name, and quickly told the child that she could look at him but she shouldn’t put her hands near him because he might hurt her. Thankfully, the child was obedient, but just at that time a vet tech came in an whisked the caretaker and the boxed cat into an examination room, for the safety of all concerned.

The very nice vet whisked in and said, “So this is Merlin Blacktail.” Yes, indeed, it is he in all his glory. A quick exam revealed that Buddy’s health is excellent. He was pronounced “chunky,” which he instantly took as a compliment. When the vet and the vet tech tried to return him to the box, he rebelled, so the caretaker wisely suggested that they back him in. With the cage door secured behind him, the caretaker drove him home in the rain, thankful that all had gone well with a minimum of bloodshed.

And now to the tale of the second patient. Bear had sensed all morning that she would be the next victim, so when the caretaker returned with Buddy, she found Bear pouting in her bed by the bathroom door. Normally Bear loves her weekly grooming, but today she refused to break her pout, so the caretaker was forced to sit in the hallway floor to groom the diva before her journey.

Mercifully, Bear was much easier to secure in the carrier than Buddy was. The extent of her protest was a slight balk upon being pushed through its door, followed by a subtle hiss when the door was closed. But then the car ride began, and true to form, Bear sang the song of her very oppressed people:

“Ooww ….. Ooww ….. Ooww ….. Ooww.”

The incessant, insistent, irritating sound dripped into the caretaker’s ears and began to eat through her brain, so she turned up the radio a bit, in hopes of distracting Bear. “Listen, Bear. It’s a happy Jesus song. You like happy Jesus songs. Listen to the happy Jesus song!”

But Bear was unimpressed by Jesus songs, happy or otherwise. Her mournful aria continued until the caretaker entered the waiting room again. For some reason, the polite little girl was still there, two hours later, and her face brightened when she saw the caretaker. She waved happily and asked, “Is that another cat?”

The caretaker smiled, waved, and answered, “Yes.”

“Is it a girl?”


“What’s the matter with her?”

“Oh, nothing. She isn’t sick. This is her annual checkup. These are the happy visits to the vet.”

The little girl smiled, and the caretaker congratulated herself on having a keen sense of irony.

But when all was said and done, this was a happy visit. A blood test revealed that Bear’s blood sugar is still under control and she therefore does not need to return to the regimen of daily insulin shots. Such news made the 10-minute drive home, with Bear’s song drowning out the happy Jesus songs, a little more pleasant than it might have been.

Upon returning home, the caretaker was haunted by one thought, and not just because today happens to be Halloween:

Only 365 days until we do this all over again.

Random Scenes

The caretaker has recently been so involved with non-feline projects that she has had no time to record events at Stratford Palace. Until life gets a little less hectic, our gentle readers must content themselves with a few random scenes from the past couple of weeks. They are presented in no particular order, since the caretaker has also been too scatterbrained to keep up with chronology.

Scene the first: Buddy Meets Ellie

Buddy has hopped onto the table to examine the various items thereon. To his great delight, he finds a small stuffed elephant that the caretaker has purchased for her short grandson (the tall one has outgrown plush toys). Ellie has exceptionally soft fur, so Buddy cannot resist becoming better acquainted with her. The caretaker enters the room in time to see him rubbing his face all over hers. He then flips over on his side and hugs her.

Caretaker: Get a room!

Buddy: *Hug*

Buddy and Ellie

Buddy and Ellie

Scene the second: Buddy Plays Chimera

Buddy has hopped onto the table to examine the various items thereon. Having finished his inspection, he lowers his head and glares ominously into the kitchen where the caretaker is preparing her breakfast. She catches a glimpse of him and draws in her breath sharply.

Caretaker: My goodness, Buddy. Aren’t we looking particularly gargoylish this morning!

Buddy: *Glare*

Scene the third: Buddy Defends the World (again)

Buddy has hopped onto the back of the chair in which the caretaker is resting. He suddenly notices that the caretaker’s head is an evil monster that must be defeated. He therefore flops onto his side and begins wildly kicking her in the back of the head. 

Caretaker: “Hey, that hurts! Can you please stop it?”

Buddy: *Kick. Kick kick. Kick*

Scene the fourth: Buddy Gets Underfoot

Buddy is sitting in the doorway monitoring the front yard for suspicious activity. When he notices that the caretaker, who is standing near the table, has begun folding clothes, he draws near to guard her from the evil laundry monster. She takes one step back and bumps into him, nearly falling. Buddy dramatically scurries out of the room screaming bloody murder.

Caretaker: Buddy, are you okay? I didn’t even see you there.


Caretaker: Oh, knock it off. I didn’t hurt you.


And for the rest of the evening, whenever the caretaker walked from room to room, she moved very slowly.

Caretaker: Okay, Buddy. I’m going to my room now. I’ll just walk past you slowly on this side of the hallway. I can see you’re there, and I won’t step on you this time.

Buddy: *Glares at the caretaker’s feet* Marouw!

The End
For Now

Lest our gentle readers be dashed into depths of distress over the contents of the previous post, the caretaker decided to share with you the scene that met her eyes when she walked down the hall with an armload of clean laundry. Here is photographic proof that Stratford Palace is a tiny corner of the world in which house cats and tigers and sock monkeys can dwell in peace.

At least during naptime.

Peace in our time

Peace in our (nap) time

Gentle readers, Stratford Palace has been a most stressful place over the past few months, and none of its denizens has been more affected than its beloved monarch, His Royal Highness Merlin “Buddy” Blacktail, Emperor of the Front Lawn and Protector of the Storm Door. He feels responsible for the safety and well-being of his remaining subjects, especially after Unca Dan wandered off last year, and he appears to have let everyone down. His failures are recounted thusly:

  • He has lost all control over the caretaker. For the past few months, she has had many extra projects and often comes home late from work. Recently she packed a suitcase and was absent without leave for several days. In fact, if she were not so careful to ensure that the cats were always fed regularly, she would have been fired long ago and replaced with a much more amenable hooman. In fact, it is hard for him to imagine that there could be a less amenable one.
  • He has lost all control over Bear. She has recently been hauled away so often that he’s quite sure she is looking for another home. These adventures involve the caretaker shoving Bear unceremoniously into the little box and then taking her away in the big rolling metal box, whilst Buddy is left all alone in the palace. Then when his feline subject returns, she smells as though she has been in a place that houses dogs, and she’s frightfully grumpy and uncooperative.

(At this point, the caretaker must interject the observation that it is difficult to tell whether Buddy is more upset that Bear has been taken away or that she has been brought back. Nevertheless, an upset of some sort has occurred, so Buddy requests that you pity him for it.)

  • Besides all of these changes he has witnessed in his subjects, he has been forced to deal with excessive intrusion from the outside world. Some of these events the caretaker labels as “thunderstorms,” and some she calls “firewerks.” Buddy just prefers to lump them all into the category “The End of the World” and then to behave accordingly.

And so, gentle readers, the photo below indicates the state of Buddy’s current mental health. He is very often to be found under the cot in his throne room, usually out of sight, but sometimes venturing one eye out from under the bedspread to see if conditions in his world have improved yet.

Not taking appointments

His Royal High-Strung Majesty

Perhaps that one-eyed look of hope means Buddy believes all shall soon be well now that Bear’s daily shots have ceased and her trips to the vet will be less frequent. What he does not know is that the caretaker made an appointment this week for his annual checkup and vaccinations. Please, gentle readers, do not break this news to him just yet, as he may never recover his composure. And let’s face it, he never had much of that in the first place.