A tell-all from one sadistic, whistleblowing cat

I spoke with an anonymous and furious source who contests Quebec’s province-wide curfew

I buy a coffee at a local cafe and wait on a nearby bench for my correspondent to arrive. It’s cold outside, around -10 degrees, but my determination keeps me planted where I sit, despite the cold puddle that forms under me. My warmth melts the snow on the bench. The wind chills me, reddening my cheeks and watering my eyes. I’ll know him when I see him; that’s what he told me on the phone the day before. Facing an empty park, I sip my latte, and just as I begin to lose faith that he will indeed meet me, he turns the corner, stalks over and takes a seat next to me.

“It’s gone too far,” says Michelangelo the cat. “My human is a vegetable. Nothing wrong with that, I love it when they suffer, you know I do. But it makes a year this March since my human has been home full-time. I can’t stand it anymore. I pee in the human bed, just to send a message. Nothing.”

Just then, Michelangelo gets a call on one of his six cell phones.

“Yes,” he says to the caller, straight to business. His tail flicks behind him.

“I won’t go less than one billion for the whole cargo. Who do you think I am? This is business. No pussyfooting around. Get it done and don’t call me until it’s finished,” Michelangelo says, before hanging up. His voice makes my hair stand. No pussyfooting around.

“Where was I?” he asks me. “Yes, the human problem.”

“What does it mean, for the readers who have a hard time reading cats, when you flick your tail? Is it comparable to when a dog, say, wags his tail?” I ask.

“What did you just say to me?” Michelangelo narrows his eyes; his tail flicks.

“What does it mean?” I push.

“It means move out of the way before I eat your soul,” he snaps.


“Now, as I was saying,” Michelangelo continues, “the human problem has gotten out of hand. You’d think in a year your kind would have gotten your issues solved. Normally I pay no mind to the goings-on of inferior species, but my human is around so often, it gets in the way of my plotting.”

“Plotting?” I say.

“Yes. World domination. Satellites. Cambridge Analytica. World banks. Etcetera.”

An awkward silence between us begins to swell. How do you respond to that? My best attempt was, “Ears. I heard ears are a good indication of a cat’s mood. Is this true?”

Michelangelo’s ears turn up and face out.


“Now, your ears look like Batman ears. Is this good or bad?” I interrupt.

“It is bad,” he replies. “I am on my last nerve, human.”

I say nothing to this, aware of Michelangelo’s sharp teeth and untrimmed claws.

“Humans need to leave our domain or suffer the consequences. We have poop locked and loaded in every cat house in the province. I push one button, and you will see tens of thousands of houses littered with cat poop,” he says. “On the good linens, under furniture, in the crack between the oven and the counter. They’ll have to check every drawer, every vent. Everywhere a human hides an heirloom, there will be poop.”

Michelangelo narrows his eyes at me. I can conclude from extensive research that this means he’s satisfied with himself.

“We can turn doorknobs. We know your computer passwords,” he continues.

“Michelangelo, you understand that we can’t leave our home unless it’s for shopping or an emergency. We’re in a global health crisis. Haven’t you heard of COVID-19?” I retort.

His tail fur puffs out, resembling a pine cone. I lean back in my seat to give a bit of distance in case he decides to biff me with a claw.

“All I know is, get your humans outside,” he replies. “I don’t care if it’s for a walk. I don’t care if it’s to birdwatch. I don’t care if it’s to catch the sunset. Get out.”

“Those are all really good ideas for outdoor activities,” I say. “Got any more?”

“Yeah,” he says. “Take out my litter, peasant.”

*All names have been changed for the subject’s protection


 Graphic by Laura Douglas

Ar(t)chives Arts

My Wife’s (unlikely) Lovers

The amusing history of an 1891 painting of 42 cats

If you have not yet seen Carl Kahler’s My Wife’s Lovers, I urge you to do so.

Commissioned in 1891 by millionaire and philanthropist Kate Birdsall Johnson, the work features her 42 Persian and Angora cats. A mix of kittens and cats stand poised on Rococo furniture while others are sprawled against a lavish velvet curtain.

Painted by Austrian artist Carl Kahler, the work took three years to complete. According to the Portland Art Museum, this is supposedly because he spent months studying them in preparatory sketches and paintings.

The oil painting, which is 6 by 8.5 feet in size, and weighs roughly 227 pounds, depicts the cats to be larger-than-life. And yes, each and every one of the 42 cats, meticulously painted, belonged to Birdssall Johnson. Despite the Portland Art Museum claiming it to be a falsity, many sources such as Architectural Digest and Sotheby’s declare that the work depicts only 42 of the woman’s 350 cats.

According to an article in the New York Post, the elegant and collected cat that stands at the centre of the painting was a US $3,000 cat named Sultan which she bought during a trip to Paris.

According to many sources, such as the New York Post, it is rumoured that the painting was a gift from her husband, Robert C. Johnson, and that he chose the title My Wife’s Lovers. However, Dawson Carr, curator at the Portland Art Museum states that her husband, in fact, died two years prior but adds that it is a possibility he had used the phrase to refer to her collection of cats in the past and that Birdsall Johsnon simply deemed it fitting as a title for the monumental painting.

Birdsall Johnson reportedly paid approximately US $5,000 in 1891 for the work, which is equivalent to around US $143,000 in 2021.

The work was estimated at a value of $200,000 to US $300,000  by Sotheby’s in 2015 and sold at auction for nearly three times its estimate, at US $826,000  by an anonymous buyer in California.

If you didn’t think it was crazy enough that a lady paid over $140,000 for a painting of her cats, just think that someone paid over half a million for cats that didn’t even belong to them. Another rumour even states that she left her cats over US $500,000 in her will.

My Wife’s Lovers has ignited many rumours. Whether false or not, Birdsall Johnson has proven to be the ultimate crazy cat lady.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam.

Student Life

Cat poop, but make it manageable

As you probably know by now, the cat-human hybrids from the Cats movie don’t have buttholes. Like many people out there, I find this information to be profoundly disturbing, and could have gone my entire life without pondering how a furrified James Corden goes to the bathroom. But I didn’t come here to talk about Cats, the movie, or to make friends. I came to talk about kitty litter, goddamnit. 

Unlike Taylor Swift’s Garfield cosplay, real cats do have buttholes and they use them to poop (take notes, Hollywood). I know this because I currently live with three cats, all of whom regularly shit in my house. Through much trial and error, I have developed a system that meets all of my targets when it comes to this: it’s good at controlling odour, it’s affordable, it’s healthier and it’s (relatively) environmentally friendly. So, although you most certainly didn’t ask for it, today you’ll be getting the inside scoop on exactly what this system entails. 

The litter

The litter of choice for most cat owners is made of clay. Usually about $1.25/kg*, this route can be cost effective. However, it does involve some cons: it’s heavy, the little bits of clay get everywhere, it’s not great at controlling odours, it’s harmful to the environment and it kicks up an enormous amount of dust. As someone with chronic asthma, I noticed a significant improvement in my breathing after I got rid of this stuff. 

I’ve also experimented with the use of silica crystal litter, which is made from granules of sodium silicate, similar to the stuff inside those “Do Not Eat” packages you might find in a new purse. While this method is much better at hiding smells and doesn’t produce dust, it’s significantly more expensive at around $4.5 per kg.

The third type of litter I’ve tried is made from wood pellets, which I use today and will likely use forever. The highly-absorbent (and biodegradable) pellets turn to sawdust when they come into contact with liquid, so the soiled bits are easy to seperate from the rest. They also do an amazing job at concealing odours, so rather than smelling like the inside of a zoo enclosure, my home now smells faintly like a freshly cut pine tree. The best part, however, is the low price point: at about $1/kg, it’s even cheaper than clay!

*All litter prices are pulled from the Mondou website. 

The litter box (a.k.a. Defecation Station) 

The general consensus for the replacement of plastic litter boxes is once a year. Your cat’s digging and scratching cause the plastic to wear out over time, meaning it’s easier for gross smells and bacteria to become trapped within. The result? Over your cat’s lifetime, you’re going through a lot of plastic and a lot of cash. 

An alternative I like to use is litter boxes made from stainless-steel. This method is much more hygenic and durable, so you save money in the long run. That said, the cost of the initial purchase can run up to $80.* One tip I picked up from Reddit is to buy stainless steel steam pans instead (the kind you might see at a hotel buffet). I got mine for about $35 and it works great. Just make sure to tape up the edges since they can be a bit sharp. 

*All litter box prices pulled from Amazon. 

The waste disposal 

For a long time, I had no clue how to dispose of the cat waste itself. I tried flushing it down the toilet, but it turns out this is really hard on the pipes. Plus, flushing cat poop can introduce a parasite called toxoplasma to the water. This has the potential to harm aquatic life as well as humans, as the parasite is difficult to filter from our water supply. 

Next, I tried tossing the waste directly into the trash can. This was a huge no-go, as the smells added up quickly and I was forced to take out the trash nearly every other day. I also tried putting the waste into biodegradable doggie bags before tossing it, which helped a little, but still wasn’t ideal.

The solution that has worked best for me so far is the LitterLocker, which I picked up for about $17 at Walmart. The lid design seals the waste away after it’s been disposed of, so it does an amazing job at controlling odours. The biggest downside, however, is its use of plastic bags. While one refill of bags lasts a surprisingly long time, I’m still on the lookout for a more ecological and economical alternative, so stay tuned! 

While it’s certainly not a glamorous topic, developing an effective system for cat poop is essential when it comes to the health and happiness of you and your pet. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be harmful to the earth and, above all else, it doesn’t have to be smelly. 

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Art therapy as a means to cope with grief

Concordia’s Iranian community shows us how art-making can help heal past trauma

Whether it’s venting, crying or spending time with your loved ones, grief differs from person to person. Poetry, storytelling and painting are forms of art therapy healing that took place on Jan. 16 at Concordia’s Art Hive event in efforts to heal together rather than apart.

In light of the recent plane crash that occurred in Iran, Concordia is offering support resources for students that have been affected by the tragedy. Programs like Concordia’s Art Hive, located at the Sir George Williams Campus, are there for students who feel mournful and need a creative outlet.

Hanieh Tohidi, a Creative Art Therapy graduate student at Concordia, created the Persian Art Hive event out of a necessity to do so for her fellow Iranians. 

“I felt a lot of sadness and grief coming from Iranian people and felt that I needed to start this event,” she said. After receiving an award provided by the J.A. De Sève Foundation to finance the Art Hive at Concordia’s downtown campus, Tohidi was finally able to make her vision a reality.

The idea started a year ago when sanctions began in Iran and tensions started rising. “The plan was to start the Art Hive much later, but unfortunately this tragedy happened,” she said. “We started the hive under pressure, knowing that the community would need more support; especially students starting their semester.”

Najmeh Khalili-Mahani, a scientist at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre and affiliate assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as Design and Computation Arts, joined the effort to create the downtown Art Hive. She felt a lack of culturally-specific support for Iranian students. “I thought the magnitude of the event is something that would not be appreciated unless somebody understood the cultural and political context from which we had fled to Canada,” she said.

Art therapy allows people to express their emotions and complex feelings without having to verbalize them. “It is very hard to communicate decades of trauma happening to us to someone who may not necessarily know the background of it,” Tohidi said. “We would have to explain to psychotherapists or councillors why we are getting triggered by specific events.”

People tend to respond to the sense of community that is formed through art and simply being together, according to Tohidi. Since language may not be everyone’s favourite means of self-expression, art therapy introduces a number of creative outlets to allow for free art-making such as music therapy and drama therapy.

Art therapy is highly regarded as a method of coping with bottled-up emotions. Everyone is welcome to let their emotions come together to create a piece of art.

According to Tohidi, the practice of art therapy predates traditional psychotherapy by several thousands of years. Before there was language, there was art. “People would paint on the walls of caves to express their fear of facing hatred from the unknown,” said Tohidi. “That was the sort of therapy that they resorted to. Art was there to allow them to communicate.”

A 2015 scientific study suggests that art therapy can be beneficial in treating issues such as depression, anxiety, low mood, inability to cope, low-self esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder and even some phobias.

Coping with grief through art, poetry and storytelling is very much a part of Iranian culture. “The idea of healing together comes from the psychology of liberation, which is what art hive is based on,” said Tohidi.

“The idea of artist doesn’t exist in art therapy,” she said. “We are all artists.”

The concept of art therapy gives weight to the personal process of artistic creation. Rather than being a result-driven artistic endeavour, Tohidi wants people engaging in art therapy to forget about the outcome of their art. “Art therapy is a re-learning of being in the present moment and observing what we are doing and how we interact with people,” she said.

Most importantly, the Art Hive is a safe space. “If we are non-judgmental, we can have conversations about our art and our inside world,” Tohidi said.

As beneficial as art therapy may be, Tohidi points out that it is hard to come by nowadays due to financial limitations. “The public population can’t benefit from art therapy as they would psychotherapy in public service because insurance may not cover it,” she said. More often than not, art therapists are hired through extra funding that is raised through fundraising or donations.

The Art Hive (SGW campus) continues to be available to the Concordia community, as well as outsiders. For information about the scheduling of Art Hive events, please check the Concordia Art Hive and Montreal Art Hive Facebook page.






Photo courtesy of Gabriele Zambito and Hanieh Tohidi.

Student Life

Yum or Yikes: Café Chat L’Heureux

Last week, I paid a visit to Café Chat L’Heureux.

Located in the heart of the Plateau, it’s one of two cat cafes in Montreal, where guests can enjoy their cup of coffee in the company of some feline friends. Café Chat L’Heureux opened in 2014, and has since become a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

The first cat cafe can be traced back to Taiwan in the late ‘90s. The concept was picked up by Japan shortly after, and spread across the rest of the world throughout the following decade. Now, many major North American cities have opened these cafes, their popularity supported by the growing influence of social media and a growing support for the adopt don’t shop movement.

Café Chat L’Heureux is currently home to roughly 10 cats, some of which were adopted from local shelters, and others which the shop foster. Upon entering the cafe, I was confused: where were all the cats? It took me a few moments to realize that the cats were, well, everywhere. Nestled in between cushions, curled up in corners, and perched on the beams overhead, the cats were camouflaged with their environment. Eventually, a few came out of their nests to say hello and—not to be dramatic—it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen and the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

The cafe’s ambiance was homey and mellow, with soft music playing overhead and guests chatting quietly, some of them relaxing on the couches, often with a cat resting beside them. I had the pleasure of enjoying my food while a tiny kitten rested on my lap, so it’s safe to say that I was pretty happy with the atmosphere.

Ambience: 7/5

The menu is entirely vegetarian, with a few vegan options as well, offering a selection of sandwich melts, salads, soups and smoothies. I tried their popular menu item dubbed “Cat Lady,” a grilled sandwich with goat cheese, cheddar, caramelized onions, fig jam and honey. The sandwich was delicious and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys rich comfort foods.

The cafe also offers a variety of lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, so I enjoyed my sandwich with a super tasty hazelnut latte. This was followed by a piece of cheesecake and a brownie that I shared with a friend. Unfortunately, the desserts didn’t live up to the main course, as I found the cheesecake a bit bland, and the brownie to have a texture closer to cake.

Food: 3.5/5

Price wise, the menu was a tad expensive—on average, sandwich melts cost around $14 each, coffees around $5 and desserts about $6.50. However, considering the fact that keeping cats alive is a costly affair, I could understand the need for higher prices and didn’t mind paying a little more than I normally would.

Price: 4/5

The employees at Café Chat L’Heureux were really nice, and you could tell that they really loved working with the cats. My only teeny-tiny complaint is that the service was slightly slow, but considering the relaxed atmosphere, I didn’t really think it was a big deal. I was in no rush to leave, that’s for sure!

Service: 4.5/5


Photo by Laurence B.D.

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