"The Story Of His Little Kitty Life"

Bide A Wee

In August 1983, I had just moved to Manhattan to start law school, and I wanted a cat. A friend told me about a place called "Bide A Wee," which was sort of like the humane society, but nicer. I was living on the upper West Side, at 112th and Broadway, and Bide A Wee was on the far East Side, just south of the United Nations (410 East 38th Street, to be precise). On 24 August 1983, I took a bus that wended its way over there, and was shown to the room with the cages with the kittens in them. There were quite a few, and I went from cage to cage looking, taking a couple out to play with a little, and having no idea how I would decide.

It turned out that I didn't have to decide at all. As I was looking into one of the upper cages, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my ankle. I looked down to see a tiny grey kitty leg sticking out through the bars of one of the lower cages, with the very sharp claws of a cute little white kitty paw firmly embedded in my leg, and the attached kitty face gazing out at me through the bars of his cage with an expression of pleased triumph: it was I who had been chosen.

I took the tiny little grey and white kitty away in the box they provided, with him meowing continuously as I walked along the busy sidewalks and rode the interminable rush-hour bus home to my microscopic efficiency apartment (with the classic New York City view through the window of a dirty grey wall ten feet across the air shaft). He was used to the little cage back at Bide-A-Wee, though, so the apartment was huge to him, and he had a blast tearing about.

A Name

I had never had a pet before, and had no idea what to name him. I was told to just choose a name and it would become his just because I had decided, but that didn't seem right to me. Just as he had chosen me, I decided he should determine what his name should be. I would just wait and see.

In the end it was obvious.

He began to drive me crazy, particularly by waking up around six in the morning and engaging in frenzied play with anything he could bat around.

When he first saw himself in the mirror, he did not take it kindly. He attacked his image so relentlessly that I had plenty of time to get my camera....

I was listening to the Talking Heads a fair amount around then. Julie and I had been to see them in concert in DC just a few weeks before, in the tour that was filmed for the movie Stop Making Sense. The concert, like the film, began with an amazing version of Psycho Killer, with David Byrne alone on an empty stage with a boombox and acoustic guitar. The kitty's berserk behavior just naturally brought the song to mind, and he was christened Psychokitty.

Under the Lamp: Highly Photogenic

Some of my favorite pictures of Psychokitty are these taken in July 1985 while he was directly under my desklamp:

My all-time favorite is the one at the top of this site, of which I had a very large print framed which hangs in our living room -- here he is in February 1991 lying in front of it (on top of the Webster's Second Edition -- note his tail...):

The Shelf Thingy

I got these really inexpensive grey metal shelves from Sears -- at the top of one of them I attached a leftover shelf piece sticking out, at the end of which I attached or hung things that attracted the cat ... and took pictures of what happened, of course....
Sometimes he'd fall off....

Which wouldn't necessarily deter him....

Kitty Bliss: Long Fingernails...

First Xmas & First Friend

For some reason we didn't take many pictures of him that first Xmas in NYC. However, when the tree had been pretty much de-ornamented and was tied up to be thrown out, he discovered this little green to-be-disposed-of ornament. It was a piece of styrofoam with green thread covering it.
Psycho became completely obsessed with it, chasing it and playing with it for months, long after the threads were gone -- until it finally disintegrated into little bits of dirty grey styrofoam.... (Which for some reason we kept ... and buried with him....)

A Helpful Kitty

Unlike most cats, Psychokitty made an effort to help out.

Here, he helps wash the dishes (while standing full length on his hind feet, front feet unsupported -- there's ice cream on the bowl...):
Helping with the laundry, and assisting my studying:


We developed this sort of game/stunt thing, where he'd climb onto one of the shelving units and leap the six feet to the other one that was parallel to it (they supported a door, thus making my desk (which you see him sitting on above)).

Climbing up:
And leaping! (For obvious reasons, getting a picture of him in the air was difficult -- the second one below was too far at the end of the roll of film (picture 37 on a 36 exposure roll), which is why it's shorter and the right side is funky):