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Lisa Scottoline: Travels with Barney

Life is full of surprises. So are cats.

Life is full of surprises.

So are cats.

Let me explain.

I have two cats in my life, Vivi and Barney. Vivi lives inside my house, yet will only say hello if I have a treat in my hand, and sometimes not even then. The rest of the time she turns tail.


If you have a cat, you know what I mean.

Cats don’t stop at showing you their butt.

They show you their butthole.

In fact, Vivi lifts up her tail so you can see her butthole better.

She’s funny that way.

My other cat is Barney, and he lives in the barn on my farm. He is super affectionate and he has the run of the place, free to come and go from a heated room that contains a soft bed, scratching post, and toys that he ignores.

He was a stray that came to dinner and never left.

He’s supposed to catch mice, but he doesn’t.

In fact, I think they have a card game.

He never has killed a bird, either, and I know this because I never find any dead ones. Unlike Vivi, who exhibits trophy-hunter levels of cruelty.

Which is why I keep her inside.

You would think I would keep Barney inside, too, but he’s a rambling man.

If I close him in the barn, he meows and meows, then threatens to jump out the hayloft window.

So he remains free to roam, but I worry about him.

My nest may be empty, but my barn isn’t.

Then I got a great idea and put a GPS tracker on his collar, so I get weekly readouts on his captivity.

Yes, I’m invading my cat’s privacy.

And there’s an app for that, called Whistle.

Don’t ask me why it’s called Whistle. I’ve never had a cat that comes when I whistle.

Anyway, I thought I knew everything about Barney, but I don’t.

How much do you know about your cat?

Only what he wants you to know.

Some of the things I could have guessed. For example, he sleeps an average of 18 hours a day. In fairness to him, the GPS tracker can’t tell that he’s sleeping, only that he stays in the same place.

He says he’s just resting his eyes.

According to the tracker, he’s active for only 30 minutes a day.

So he’s still doing better than I am.

Nevertheless, he burns 310 calories daily.


The readout reports that he travels 22 miles a week.


Barney’s motto is work hard, play hard.

Because he’s movin’ and groovin’ when he’s awake.

And last week, his total distance was up 15 miles.

The holidays are busy for cats, too.

I’m sure his mileage, like mine, includes trips to the mall and the grocery store to get brown sugar because the one in the cabinet turned into a brown rock.

And last week, Saturday was his busiest day.

Errand day for cats.

You can guess his least active day:


Nobody likes Mondays.

I bet he gets bummed out on Sunday night, too.

Because over the weekend, he’s a party animal.

Best of all, the GPS app gives a map of exactly where he goes, which put my mind at ease. He never leaves the backyard, so I worry less about him getting hit by cars.

In fact, I decided to walk exactly where he goes and see what he’s up to.

That day, he made 17 stops.

I got tired after the first four.

First, he walks along the fence around the chicken coop.

I don’t think he’s interested in the fence, do you?

He stays watching the chickens for a long time.

Chickens are Cat TV.

Then he walks around the backyard, and I followed the tracker map from stop to stop. By the sixth stop, I got the pattern.

He’s visiting holes in the ground.

I’m guessing they’re groundhog or even foxholes, but I didn’t look inside.

I’m not as brave as Barney.

And evidently, I have groundhogs.

Or maybe Barney was just walking from hole to hole, staring into the abyss.

Nietzsche said if you stare into the abyss long enough, it stares back at you.

Maybe he had a cat, too.

Look for Lisa and Francesca’s humor collection, “I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses,” and Lisa’s novel, “Someone Knows,” in stores now. Also look for Francesca’s debut novel, “Ghosts of Harvard,” coming May 2020.