Michelle Mitchell

Pet Issue 2016

The Mercury Pet Issue Presents... PETS IN ACTION!

Pet? You Are NASTY!

Portland’s Pretty

Great Dogs of History!

Pet Rent, Explained

Make Your Pet Pay Rent!

High on the Nip

A Better Journey

On Second Thought... Maybe You Shouldn’t Get a Dog

CAT CITY: That’s what we should really call Portland, one of the nation’s cat-lady strongholds. Cat ladies get a bad rap, perhaps because a woman who takes care of an adorable creature that isn’t a human baby is instantly threatening to our puritan overlords. Well, secret’s out: Cat ladies are wonderful, and I should know. If they didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have any friends. Here are just four of Portland’s most intriguing cat ladies. They taught me a lot about pet care, fighting cat-lady stigma, witches, and human kindness—things that arguably make Portland, and the world, a better place.

Wendy Weiss, 26

Wendy is a stand-up and stripper. Her cat, Jasper, is a three-year-old black domestic shorthair.

How did you and your cat meet?

Jasper used to live in a house brimming with dogs who kicked his ass. His only escape was the outdoors, which was brimming with cats who kicked his ass. I thought he was too cute to keep getting his ass kicked and I love saving pathetic things, so I took him home to live in my ass-kick-free apartment.

Michelle Mitchell

Do you self-identify as a cat lady? Why or why not?

There’s a limit to the kind of animals you can responsibly own in an apartment. I can’t keep a bear, the obvious choice, because I’m not rich and I fear death. I can’t keep gerbils because they’re fucking stupid (sorry, but they are). Fish like to die and they never tell you the reason. Nobody understands snakes. I don’t have time for a dog. There’s really just no other choice but a cat. If fitting the parameters of my time/money constraints and living situation as a pet owner makes me a cat person, fine. I’m a cat person. Jasper also sleeps under the covers with me and I like those kitty cuddles.

Why do you think the stigma against cat-owning people (especially women) is so pervasive?

Lazy people like to make fun of innocuous things because it’s easy. The only way that will ever stop is if we hunt each and every single one of those people down, find out what they care about, and razz them about it without mercy. Other than that, we could worry about things that actually hurt us as cat owners. Like did you know coughing is a symptom of an enlarged heart, which is a common and fatal condition for cats? Well it is, and Jasper’s got a big ol’ heart, which meds render a nonissue.

Michelle Mitchell

Mary Numair, 30

Mary is a writer and humorist. You might also know her as the rad lady who used funny signs to counter-protest anti-choice bigots outside of Planned Parenthood on NE MLK last year. Her cats are Thunder the Science Cat, age four, “not quite a tuxedo, more like a hairy orca”; and Begonia the Botanist, age three, tabby tuxedo, “very squishy.”

How did you meet your cats?

I met Thunder through my ex, Steven Wilber (comedian human, very kind), in 2013. Steven is still a spiritual parent to Thunder although he has moved to LA. Thunder has anxiety, allergies, and plays a mean game of fetch. His favorite napping spot is near the toilet. He gets confused easily (I often have to help him find treats if they are too hidden), but he is the sweetest little guy. He is also relatively Vine-famous. I adopted Begonia in 2015 while I was working at Purringtons Cat Lounge. (Begonia is actually the very first cat adopted out of Purringtons.) She was a bit naughty there. Aside from blocking the other cats during feeding time, she had been in some trouble for biting and was on her way back to the shelter for “bite quarantine.” I had already fallen in love with the 16-pound ball of sass, so I intervened and took her home to Thunder.

Why do you think the stigma against cat-owning people (especially women) is so pervasive?

I think society still likes to shit on women whenever possible. If a woman devotes her affection and attention to anything other than a husband and children, then she is an atypical female, a spinster. So a female who owns (and frequently talks about) cats becomes closely associated with the antiquated idea of spinsterhood, and misconceptions are drawn from there. The reality is, a lot of cat ladies are married; a lot are not. A lot of cat ladies have children; a lot do not. Also, loving cats is not exclusive to single women. People of all genders and relationship statuses benefit from having a living being to love, and there is nothing “crazy” about that.

What is your cat’s favorite food?

“When Mary mixes our wet food with tuna juice and serves it to us like fine summertime borscht.”—Thunder

“Plastic bags! Plastic bags! Plastic bags!”—Begonia (She is banned from plastic, BTW.)

Michelle Mitchell

Laura Cochrane, AKA Dr. Kind Klaws, 46

Laura is a veterinarian turned cat nail specialist. Her cats are Bert, age 20, a domestic shorthair; Jeffrey, age 14, a Siamese mix; and Petunia, age 16 to 18 (maybe older), a domestic longhair.

Tell us about your work as Dr. Kind Klaws. Why is declawing bad for cats?

Dr. Kind Klaws evolved a few years ago when I realized how many people needed help trimming their cats’ nails or working through scratching issues. Since most cats prefer the comfort of their own environment, all of my services are in-home. I want to make it as easy as possible for people and their cats! In an effort to allow cats to keep their claws, I focus on nail trims, nail caps, and scratching post training....

Declawing is a barbaric surgery that requires 10 separate amputations of the last bone in each toe, since the nail grows from the bone. This is a crippling procedure that has no medical benefit to the cat. It is done solely for the convenience of the person. It doesn’t matter if the most skilled veterinarian does the surgery, that cat is forever changed both physically and emotionally. Declawed cats can have behavioral problems such as biting and not using the litter box.

How did you and your cats meet?

Bert was rescued from a high-kill city shelter in Los Angeles. He was six years old with the worst case of skin allergies I’ve ever seen. He had also been declawed. It was clear that nobody wanted him. I decided to foster him through a local rescue. I’d sit on the couch and he would sit beside me and lean on me. That did it.

Jeffrey was brought into an LA shelter after being hit by a car. His left rear leg was shattered. I was working at the shelter, and a few of us chipped in and paid for his leg amputation surgery. After the surgery, he got really sick with an upper respiratory infection and stopped eating. I nursed him back to health. Being a tripod doesn’t slow him down one bit!

Petunia was neglected and living outside. Her fur was so matted that it formed a helmet on her back. Kids were throwing rocks at her. Her mouth was so infected that all of her teeth had to be removed. She deserved a second chance at life, and that’s what we gave her. She is now super sassy and gets everything she wants!

What are your thoughts on famous cat lady Taylor Swift? Is she boldly rebranding cat lady-dom or hurting the cause?

I think she’s helping dispel the negative cat lady persona, but she’s hurting the cat rescue/adoption cause. Can you imagine if someone like her, with such influence, adopted her next cat and bragged about it, or supported a cat-specific charity like Alley Cat Allies? That would be an amazing way to help cats everywhere!


CD Skehan, 25

CD is an account executive at the Mercury. Her cat, Minx, is 16-plus years old, and “a pound cat, but she looks like a runt Maine coon.”

How did you and your cat meet?

She was an abused rescue kitty! Using my cat-psychology education, I have been able to determine she was starved (she has lots of food-related anxieties). We have been together for 16 years. She has other cat-related anxiety and I’ve had to put her on li’l kitty antidepressants that make her sleep all day. She’s allergic to pollen. When she and I lived with my mother she would chase hawks and fight them over frozen mice (my mother did raptor rescue for birds of prey), so she’s real ferocious. She’s the biggest priss, and couldn’t sit on a pea. I’ve watched her grow old, and go through all the kitty-cat adult-cat old-lady life phases—she’s in her senior years.

Why do you think the stigma against cat-owning people (especially women) is so pervasive?

I think a lot of it is stigma against an old spinster, and a lot of the language has always seemed to be about unmarried women who have replaced the love of a man with something lesser (a cat). I hate that on several levels... I think cats are just a vehicle for disrespecting a woman who chooses not to follow the nuclear family model, and when we challenge that we are defending cat people as a side effect.

I’m much more interested in being associated with a different lady-alone-with-cat stereotype: the witch.

Dressing cats up in costumes: pro or con?

She’s got a few cute outfits, but they’re special-occasion things. She has a fleece dino costume for the cold months because she’s so old, and a li’l Sailor Moon costume, and a pretty floral dress.