Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, Natural Selections interviews Fifi, the young cat who lives with first year graduate students here at The Rockefeller University, Sarah Cai, Lindsey Lopes, and Kathryn Eckartt. Fifi is extremely sweet and playful and I enjoyed our meeting. Please contact me if you have sweet, little nonhumans living with you. I’d love to meet them.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Fifi: I turn one on June 14th! That makes me a teenager in human years, which my moms say makes sense because of my sometimes naughty behavior.

 PV: Is there a story behind your name?

F: The shelter that I was adopted from named me Fifi and the name stuck!

PV: What is your first memory?

F: I don’t remember a lot from when I was a baby, but the people at the shelter said that I was found as a stray in NYC when I was six weeks old, and some nice person brought me to the shelter.

PV: Who are your moms? When did you first meet them?

F: My moms are Sarah Cai, Lindsey Lopes, and Kathryn Eckartt. They adopted me last October. I met them while I was hanging out with a bunch of my kitten friends at the shelter, and it was love at first sight.

PV: How do they belong to the Tri-I community?

F: They are all first year graduate students at The Rockefeller University. Sarah just joined Titia de Lange’s lab, Kathryn is in Jeremy Rock’s lab, and Lindsey is still rotating.

PV: Where do you live?

F: I live in Faculty House. I don’t really know what that means, but I like to look out the window at all the cars on the FDR and York Avenue.

 PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

F: Hmm, I’m a city cat, but I definitely wish that I could go outside! Maybe somewhere with a big yard and lots of birds to look at.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

F: I love snacks. Some of my favorites are cat treats, chicken, and black beans…but I’ll definitely try anything if you leave your plate unattended! Except veggies. I don’t like veggies.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

F: What are weekends? Is that when the humans are home more? I like to hang out in my moms’ rooms and knock over things on their desks, dressers, or any flat surface. I also like to nap in the sun.

PV: Besides your moms, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

F: I like pretty much everyone that I meet, especially if they give me snacks!

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

F: Sometimes Lindsey dog-sits and one time I decided that I wanted to try out some dog food, so I jumped onto the bookshelf where the dog’s food was and knocked over the whole bag. I made a hole in the bag with my teeth so I could eat the food…dog food is yummy!

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

F: Yes! Check out my Instagram @fifi_the_kitten.jpg

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

F: I would love it if I had opposable thumbs because then I could get into all the treat jars! My moms had to stop leaving treats out in plastic bags because I would chew through the plastic to get more treats when they weren’t looking.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

 

For this issue, Natural Selections interviews Malu, the dog who lives with Tiago Siebert Altavini (Gilbert Lab, The Rockefeller University) and Patricia Saletti. Malu speaks Portuguese and I only know 10 words of it, but her parents were willing and capable translators for our interview. I love animals, please write me at pviswanath@mail.rockefeller.edu if you have pets!

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Malu: I’m 5, which in human years is about 36 years old.

 

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

M: Malu is actually short for Maria Luiza, which my parents only use when they are mad at me. That doesn’t happen often though.

 

PV: What is your first memory?

M: I’ll never forget the day I met my best friend, Nina. She lives with my grandparents and we spent much of our childhood together. We used to play a lot in the backyard. Unfortunately, I don’t see her much anymore because she lives in Brazil and I live here.

 

PV: Who are your parents? When did you meet them?

M: I live with Patricia and Tiago, my mom and dad. I met them in August 2013 when I moved in with them.

 

PV: How do they belong in the Tri-I community?

M: My dad works in the Gilbert lab as a postdoc. My mom is also a postdoc but works far away in the Bronx, but she has many friends in the Tri-I community.

 

PV: Where do you live?

M: I live in Scholars Residence, the tall building close to the university where my dad works.

 

PV: What are your favorite smells of New York City?

M: Oh, I love to smell everything. My mom always complains that we take too long when we go for a walk. I guess that’s why my dad does most of the walking with me.

 

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

M: Definitely in Brasilia so I could be close to my best friend, Nina. But I have to say I would be tempted to live closer to the beach. I love the beach, it’s like a huge dog park with all that sand.

 

PV: What are your favorite foods?

M: Chicken and carrots! Not necessarily together. I usually get chicken flavored dog food and whenever my dad is cooking I cry by the kitchen countertop to see if he’ll give a little piece of vegetable. If I hear him cutting carrots, I come running. I also like to eat fruits.

 

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in New York City?

M: Going to the dog park. I don’t care much about the other dogs to be honest, but I get to play “catch the ball” a lot, which is my favorite game. I don’t go much anymore though. I got sick after going to one of these parks and now my parents are afraid of taking me again. I also like going to Central Park and to the beach.

 

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

M: I have many friends in the area, but if I had to choose one, it would be Sofia from the Freiwald Lab. We used to be neighbors and I would play with her all the time. I usually stay with her when my parents are out of town. We play a lot and she teaches me Spanish.

 

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

M: I tend to get very excited after my morning walk. When I come back from walking, I run around the house, play with my toys and try really hard to get everyone’s attention. One day I was particularly agitated and decided to jump on the bed. Now, the bed is too tall for me, but on that day I was feeling so energetic I was sure I could do it. I took some distance, ran towards the bed, jumped and hit the side of the bed with my chest and fell to the floor on my back. I didn’t get even close. I didn’t find it too funny at the moment but my parents laughed the whole morning.

 

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

M: No, my parents say I’m too young for social media.

 

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

M: To open the door and go out by myself. I love going out, to the park, to parties, to trips. The problem is sometimes my parents don’t take me with them and I have to stay home by myself until they come back.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

In this issue, Natural Selections interviews Muffin and Velvet, the cats who live with Sarah Mereby (Fuchs Lab, The Rockefeller University) and Eddie Spencer. I wasn’t able to meet these lovely creatures but Sarah graciously transmitted my questions to them and their answers to me. Please write me at pviswanath@mail.rockefeller.edu if you have pets!

Muffin (left) and Velvet (right).

Muffin (top) and Velvet (bottom). Photos by Sarah Mereby and Eddie Spencer.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Velvet: We are 21 years old and 1.5 years old in human years.

 PV: Is there a story behind your names?

V: I was named by the people that work at the shelter that I am from. It is very fitting since my coat is very soft and sleek.

Muffin: I was named by my hoomans. They told me I am super cute and small like a muffin. I’m not so small anymore though.

PV: What is your first memory?

M: My first memory was waking up to find I had been put in a mailbox in the middle of winter. I was so scared! Thankfully I was rescued by the local shelter, which led to me meeting my hoomans. Meeting my hoomans is my favorite memory.

V: My first memory was meeting Muffin at the shelter. The shelter told me that I was the only survivor of all my siblings. Muffin has been my friend and a part of my family ever since.

PV: Which humans do you live with? When did you meet them?

V: We live with Sarah Mereby and Eddie Spencer. We met them at the shelter in January 2018.

PV: How do they belong in the Tri-I community?

M: Sarah is a Research Specialist at The Rockefeller University.

PV: Where do you live?

V: We live in Montclair, NJ. We just moved from Lyndhurst, NJ. We love our new house. We got to learn how to go up and down stairs and there are so many new places for us to hide. Also there are plenty of birds and squirrels to watch from the window.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

V: I would live wherever my hoomans and Muffin would live.

M: I would live in a restaurant since I love to eat and would help eat any leftovers.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

M: I love to eat canned cat food. I do not have a favorite flavor. I eat so quickly that I can’t even remember what flavor I had or whether I had a full bowl to begin with. I also love to try to eat Velvet’s portion. Never know if Velvet had a better flavor or was given more food than me.

V: I love Friskies Shreds. My favorite flavor is salmon. I am very picky and have taught my hoomans to only give my shreds and not pate. Ew. I also like treats: Ahi Tuna flavor! I also like to drink water out of hooman’s glass. It always tastes best when it’s nice and cold. Sharing with hooman is the best. Although I don’t know why they get mad at me when I take a small lick of their water.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

V: We like to hang out with our hoomans on the weekends. That’s the best. We normally like to watch TV with hoomans and sit in our cat tree while looking out the window. We also like to play with hooman. We love our feather toys.

M: I like to snuggle with Eddie.

V: I like to follow hoomans everywhere around the house to make sure to help them if they need my assistance.

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

V: I have met Stephanie who works at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I love making new friends.

M: I can’t remember. I am a bit afraid of meeting new people.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

V: One time hoomans brought home a cat stuffed animal that is about the same size as us. We were so convinced it was real. It was very scary. We both approached it very slowly and pawed at it. We were worried we were being replaced by a new cat. Thankfully it’s just a decoration. It wishes it could be like us.

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

V: You can follow us on the Instagram account @catasticday or use the hashtag #muffinandvelvet.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

M: Being able to open cans of cat food. That’s the dream.

V: Being able to play the piano. I love when hoomans play piano. It’s very relaxing. I’ve attempted to play the piano myself by jumping on the piano keys but it doesn’t sound as good as when hooman plays.

 

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

In the third run of this series, I interview Mocha, the rabbit who lives with Natalie Omattage (Chen Lab, The Rockefeller University). I meet this fluffy one often, as Natalie and I share an apartment. If you would like your pet(s) featured in this series, please contact me at pviswanath@mail.rockefeller.edu.

Pooja Viswanathan: Mocha, I have never met a bunny like you before. What kind of bunny are you?

Mocha: I am a Lionhead bunny. We are named for the mane of fur around our heads! Lionheads are majestic creatures (I may be biased), and we are known for our sassy personalities. Some say I take after my mom, but I’d like to think we are just strong independent women!

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

M: I was originally named Ladybug but I didn’t think it suited me very well. Mom is a big coffee drinker and was inspired by my mocha brown hair!

PV: How old are you? In human years?

M: I’m seven years old—some say that’s about forty-nine in human years, but I still feel pretty young and spry! I was born in 2012, coincidentally, the same year my mom began grad school! I think that’s how I knew we were meant to be together.

PV: What is your first memory?

M: Sadly, one of my first memories was being abandoned in the middle of an alley during a rainstorm. I still get scared during storms to this day. Fortunately, the friendly folks at the Missouri House Rabbit Society (MO HRS) came to my rescue and gave me a warm safe place to sleep and spend time with other bunnies!

PV: Tell us about your mom. When did you first meet her?

M: My mom’s name is Natalie Omattage. We met in April 2014. She had just passed her qualifying exam at Washington University in St. Louis and wanted a furrever friend. I had spent nearly two years at the MO HRS and was very picky about who I wanted to be my next family. As she walked around, we locked eyes, and the rest, as they say, is history. Below is photographic evidence of us meeting for the first time.

PV: How does your mom belong in the Tri-I community?

M: She’s a postdoc in Dr. Jue Chen’s lab at Rockefeller. We made the trek from the Midwest to the Big Apple in September, and haven’t looked back since. I’m definitely a big city bun!

PV: Where do you live?

M: I live with my mom in her room. My cage is a large dog crate, and I also have a wooden bunny castle so I can keep watch over my territory! I’m allowed to wander around the room so long as I don’t chew on Mom’s belongings. I like to test my luck occasionally but Mom says I’m too cute to stay mad at for too long. 😉

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

M: I think I’d want to live in Sri Lanka. All of mom’s family lives there, and I could see myself being a beach bun and living that tropical life!

PV: What is your favorite food?

M: Sticking to the Bugs Bunny stereotype, I really do love carrots! Although, they are high in sugar so I’m not allowed to have very much. My other favorite foods are bok choy and brussel sprouts.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

M: I like to splay out in my cage and relax after a long week of nibbling on hay and playing with my toys. I miss Mom a lot during the work week so I often face her direction when I’m resting. I also like lots of scratches and snuggles when she’s around!

 PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

M: My mom’s partner once took care of me when she was out of town. When we are really happy we binkie, or jump in the air while twisting our body and heads in the opposite direction. It was my first time running around freely on carpet so I binkied the whole time I was staying with him! He had no clue what was happening and thought he had “broken” me and was too scared to tell my mom. When he finally told her what had happened we both had a good chuckle!

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

Rusty

Emma

In the second run of this series, Pooja Viswanathan interviews Emma and Rusty, the cats who live with Jim Keller and Dom Olinares. I met these wonderful creatures one fine evening, and they were very gracious to answer some pressing questions I had for them. If you would like your pet(s) featured in this series, please contact me at pviswanath@rockefeller.edu.

Pooja Viswanathan: How long have you lived in New York City?
Emma: All my life. Forrr 52 years—that’s nine human years.

Rusty: Forrr 32 years, that’s fourrr human years.

PV:  What is your first memory?

E: Hunting and defending my prey from otherrr stray cats on the streets of New York. I took advantage of my big paws and extra thumbs to fight and survive.

R: When I was brought in a shoebox with my siblings to the Humane Society from the freezing cold of winterrr. The tip of my tail had to be removed due to injury, but I was glad to be warm. I have a slightly shorterrr tail now, but it does not affect me at all.

PV: When did you meet your daddies?

E: In 2011, daddy Dom adopted me from the ASPCA, and soon afterrr I trained him to become my slave. Daddy Jim joined us two years laterrr and reformed me, but I still have the last say in everything.
R: When I was a kitten in 2014, my daddies came and picked me up from the Humane Society. I felt like I had always been waiting forrr them. The moment I saw them we werrre bonded. I cannot imagine living without them and my sisterrr.

PV: How do your daddies fit in the Tri-I community?

E: Daddy Jim is a writerrr and editorrr at MSK.

R: Daddy Dom does a lot of really cool experiments as a scientist at Rockefellerrr University.

PV: Where do you live? What is your favorite thing about living here?

E: On the Upperrr East Side. Our new place is very high up and has so many windows. I love it because I can see a lot of flying, feathered prey on the rooftops of adjacent buildings and on the East Riverrr. I chirp and chatterrr when I see them but they neverrr seem to hearrr me. I imagine the many different ways to catch them once I get the chance.

R: I love all the space in our new apartment because I can run around and chase my sisterrr all day and night. All the time is play time!

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

E: I heard a lot about Paris from my daddies’ vacation last spring. I have already conquered New York, and I’d love to move on to anotherrr city of equal caliberrr.

R: You mean without my daddies?! Nowherrre!

PV: What are your favorite foods?

E: Classic chicken pâté, and dry cat food forrr treats. I shed a lot of furrr and I groom myself continuously so I preferrr food that helps me control hairballs.

R: Special treats from my daddies with real fish like sardines! Sometimes daddy Jim will sneak me some cream. Yum!

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

E: Napping on daddy Jim’s lap and then afterrr a while moving to daddy Dom’s lap.

R: Play all day! I bring my toys to my daddies and we play fetch.

PV: Besides your daddies, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

E: I am loath to say that I like anyone else besides daddies Jim and Dom, but I guess I would say Auntie Natalia, who often looks afterrr us when they are away.

R: Auntie Natalia! She takes care of us when our daddies are traveling (even though I don’t like it when they leave!)

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

E:  I’m afraid I can’t find much humorrr in the world today.

R: Well one time I rolled around in the bath tub and came out all glittery because of a bath bomb that had been used the night beforrre. My daddies could not figurrre out wherrre I got the glitterrr at first but then they caught me rolling on the tub again afterrr they had just cleaned me up. I thought it was the funniest thing everrr! I love rolling around in the bath tub when no one is looking, and I come out smelling really nice!

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

E: You can find us both on Instagram using #theemmaandrustyshow.

PV: Which movie do you think will win the Oscar this year?

E: Definitely The Favourite because like Queen Anne, I am a queen who depends on others for everything.  I can relate to having loyal subjects, and I love that hers relentlessly fight over herrr in the film. That is how it should be.

R: Black Pantherrr! Wakanda foreverrr!