Pet Issue 2016
HIGHONTHENIP is an unambiguous name for a cat Instagram.
“I was high and thought it would be a really good idea to start a blog for my cats,” explains Heather Sielaff—one half of Highonthenip’s team (or one quarter if we include its subjects). “I originally posted it as a Blogspot, but once I wasn’t high, I forgot about it.”
Two brother cats, Britches and Hoover, are the primary subjects. They’re indoor gray British shorthairs. It’s hard to tell them apart, except that Hoover is noticeably larger. (He’s often photographed with much loving attention paid to his chub rolls.)
Britches and Hoover are local boys, adopted from Cat Adoption Team in Sherwood, Oregon. The shelter originally gave them appliance-related names because their litter looked like the contents of a dumped-out vacuum cleaner bag—gray puffs. Hoover’s name stuck. Oreck did not.
“It sounded too serious and wizardly,” Heather says. “So we changed his name to Britches. Britches is the dominant cat and calls the shots regarding who gets to sleep in the choice locations around the house. Hoover is lazy and a bit grumpy, but he has what we call 'Hoover’s time to shine,’ which involves intense purring, rolling, and prancing once a day for about 20 minutes. Shining stops abruptly and without warning.”
At this point I wonder if I should abandon the pretense that I wrote this article for any other reason than to learn more about these cats—but there’s more to Highonthenip than its simple feline framing. These are above-average cat photos. Britches and Hoover are captured in waterfalls of light, exploring the dazzling colors of their yellow/green eyes or with artful use of focus. There’s one photo of Britches in front of a painting of Britches, assuming a mirrored position to his painted self. It’s beautiful. (It’s also this week’s Mercury cover.)
“It was not set up at all,” Heather says. “I walked into our home office and Britches—who’s not supposed to be in there—was sitting on the shelf in front of his own portrait. I went to take the picture and he tilted his head, same pose as the portrait. Maybe he set up the shot?”
Britches and Hoover are highly emotive cat models as well as masters of a wide-eyed expression of wildness. As an art critic, I love the close-up shots of their faces—the attention to that indignity, but also its mysterious form. I know! I’m sorry! I’m still talking about a cat Instagram.
The secret to the way Highonthenip satisfies both my desire to look at cats and my aesthetic predilections is undoubtedly found in the cat owners themselves, Heather and Jonathan Sielaff.
Heather owns and operates the bright, airy Milk Milk Lemonade shop—a phrase you might recall from the popular childhood rhyme about body parts—on SE Belmont. It’s also home base for her hand-mixed fragrance line OLO. Milk Milk Lemonade has a minimal-design-meets-boob-joke feel going on, a fairly good reflection of Heather’s personality.
“Anything silly or slightly offensive is probably my fault,” she says about her collaboration with husband Jonathan. “Jonathan keeps me in check. This would be a 100 percent joke store if left to my own devices.”
Jonathan is one-half of the experimental Portland duo Golden Retriever, and one-third of the drone folk supergroup Dreamboat. Years ago, I followed his Instagram because I liked his bands and after a while I grew to obsess over his cats. His love of taking photos began, much like Heather’s approach to her fragrance line, as a hobby he was surprisingly good at. He’ll have a show of his photos at the SE Belmont Stumptown in September of this year. Much of Highonthenip and all of the uncredited OLO and Milk Milk Lemonade photos are his work.
If you were thinking of checking out Britches and Hoover in the flesh, unfortunately they never come into the shop. “Alas,” says Heather, “we have to keep the cat hair out of the perfume.”
“Hoover does not like excessive attention—even from us.” Jonathan says.
“I’ve had two people confess to stalking our cats,” Heather says. (I hope she’s not talking about me here. I am a journalist and clearly doing journalism.) “But that’s only one person per cat,” she continues. “I feel like everyone has had at least one stalker in their life—so maybe this is normal.”