66 thoughts on “Who says cats aren’t useful?

  1. I wonder where Abbie got the idea you might like such a video!


    Also, you have to read through the comments on the video – some people’s children shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.

      1. Thumbs? Why would thumbs need a babysitter? Maybe a thumbsitter, but I’m not certain that’s a service one could effectively market. Just think of the visual!

          1. I had a friend who used to pick up any kittens he met, look them earnestly in the eye, and implore them to “Grow thumbs!” Don’t know what his big picture was. Afraid to ask.

          2. Reminds me of – me. When I see a bird watching me I go “Hi, old dinosaur!”

            Dunno why, maybe the peppercorn stare.

  2. Let’s say you had somehow trained cats to hunt as a pack. How many do you think it would take to bring down a grown man?

    Just one cat in this video had the girl backing away, imagine thirty of them attacking at once.

      1. Oh, cats much smaller than tigers are quite (potentially) lethal to humans. A jaguar will put its fangs through your skull. Hungry cougars will maul you into submission and then start nomming, whether or not you’re dead yet. A bobcat would have to be rabid to take on a linebacker but would still do considerable damage…and, if your weight is in double-digits, a non-rabid bobcat sufficiently hungry may well imitate the cougar.

        And, any of those cats can potentially be every bit as loving and wonderful as a housecat…but see my earlier note about how Baihu and I roughhouse. Even if he tried really hard, he wouldn’t be able to do serious damage. But were I to try that with a bobcat, I’d need stitches…and your Royal Bengal might well break my neck out of nothing more malicious than kittenish playfulness.

        That’s the real danger of keeping big cats as pets. Not that they’d be any more wild or vicious than a housecat, but that they’d be as (innocently) physically expressive as one.

        Watch how cats, especially kittens, play with each other. It’s cute. It’s even fun to join them…but only up to about 15 pounds or so.



        1. I think big cats go without saying. I was imagining house cats. Like the Russian experiment taming foxes, find traits that enhance pack hunting in cats. In a few generations we could have attack cats. Don’t some of the big cats hunt in groups?

          It might make a good horror movie. Wasn’t there one about rats killing people? That’s just gross, cats are much more appealing to look at.

          1. House cats might have a hard time with major trauma, but they can make humans bleed. Only very small amounts of bleeding are not lethal over time.

            And if they go the Hitchcock route, they could simply bring enough mass.

          2. The Hitchcock method was what I had in mind. I was just having fun with a silly thought experiment.

            I had a cat bite that narrowly missed a vein. I doubt I would have died, but if 20-30 were biting at once, they could bleed you out.

            I guess my point is if you find yourself in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, carry a squirt bottle full of water.

  3. What was the cat really reacting to? Was it making a conscious decision to protect the baby? Was it reacting to circumstances beyond its understanding? Did it feel threatened? Was it playing? Why was the “attack” so prolonged? Did it have claws? Did the babysitter pick the baby up to protect it from the cat? I wonder. Cats, even more than humans, do not make conscious decisions, but react to past events. Right?

  4. I’m more impressed with the other cat, trying to protect the babysitter against its friend who suddenly went psycho (around 1:27).

  5. Ok, I don’t buy for a minute that this cat is protecting the child but putting that aside can any resident expert tell me what the proper reaction would be in such a situation? The cat seems to be feeding off of the fearful reaction of the babysitter so is it best to try to intimidate the cat instead of backing off?

    1. I would have scruffed the cat, deposited it in a room, and closed the door behind it. Alternately, if I had cause to suspect the animal needed the attention of a vet, I would have put it in a carrier (assuming one was available) and headed out the door with it.

      I would also have fully expected to shed a bit of blood, but nothing significant.

      My biggest concern would be for not harming the cat…adult cats really shouldn’t be carried by the scruff except in emergencies, and even then they should be supported. Doing that with a squirming cat can be challenging…normally, you’d support a cat from the chest and the bottom of the feet, but that’s just opening your arm up to be opened up. Rather, putting your hand on the small of the cat’s back and supporting it mostly upright but slightly reclined backwards, with the weight distributed between both hands, is likely to work well. Hold the cat a bit away from your body, and it shouldn’t struggle too much to control.

      But be careful when you release it…it might turn around again to attack. Be sure you’ve got the situation fully under control before letting go; the cat should be physically unable to reach you or others. Exceptions can be made if you know the cat well and what set it off.

      Keep in mind that, once you engage with the cat, it’s going to be in full-throttle adrenaline-fueled fight-or-flight panic mode, and it’s your responsibility to ensure the safety of the cat. And you do not want to let the cat escape, especially outside, where its fear can get it in serious trouble. And, of course, you don’t want to give the cat the chance to engage another person…a person whose response might be to fight back. That’s a fight that the cat will lose, and in a horrible way.

      And be sure to keep your calm! Don’t be angry with the cat; if it understands and reacts to the anger at all, it’ll just scare the cat even more and make the situation that much worse. Expressing injury and indignation at what the cat is doing to you is okay; “Ow! Why’d you do that to me?” might get through.

      “With great power comes great responsibility.” The physical power a human has over a cat is as close to infinite as makes no difference. When exercising that power, your responsibilities become absolute.



        1. I’d add that unfeline people often overreact to being attacked by a pissy pussy. At worst you get a little pain and a little blood, but nobody dies. Cats just separate the wimps from the stalwart, a useful function.

          Same with those who say they are uneasy around cats because they seem “sneaky.” What do they imagine the cat is going to do? Sell them swamp land? Short-sheet the bed?

          1. One of Baihu’s favorite games is patty-cake; as a result, my hands are constantly scratched up. But it’s no worse than what you’d get from going blackberrying, and every bit as much fun.

            His favorite perch is my shoulders, too; as a result, they’re also scratched up. Aw, shucks.

            And, yeah. He can be sneaky. He’ll hide under the bed, ambush my ankles, and then take off running to the other side of the house, expecting me to chase him. I’ll catch up with him in the office where he’s sitting on the desk; we rub noses, he hops on my shoulders, I carry him back to the kitchen…he slides down my back, I chase him back into the bedroom and onto the bed, where we rub noses again before starting a game of patty-cake.

            Cats are quite expressive, and their claws and teeth are a big part of how they express themselves. (We’re constantly biting each other, as well, of course). And though cats do bite and scratch as part of an attack, it’s almost always (with healthy cats) out of playfulness and / or camaraderie. No different, really, from humans slapping each other on the back or punching each other’s shoulders…or donning body armor and using an oblate spheroid as an excuse to assault each other.



          2. Mr Goren,
            I think you need to get a different ‘phone!
            I have never heard of these injuries form Nokia or Apple products.

        2. I’ve never personally witnessed aggression anything like what that cat was displaying, but I’ve had to stuff recalcitrant cats into carriers to take them to Teh Ebil Doktor plenty of times. And Baihu once had a panic attack while we were out on a walk that required me to scruff him as I described above while we quick-marched back home and inside.

          The basic way to physically control a cat is with the scruff; the rest is just feline psychology and concerns about how to avoid injuring the cat.

          And, though you must not hesitate to physically control a cat when necessary, you should also do everything you can to avoid that necessity. Keep the cat happy and healthy and it’s only once a year, at the annual physical / vaccination visit, that you should have to worry about how to physically control a cat — and, then, if done swiftly, confidently, firmly, and gently, it’s not something that even registers on the cat’s consciousness as something to seriously resist.

          I’ve got a new soft-sided carrier that I’ve been taking with us on our walks, and putting Baihu in when he gets spooked. He’s not only decided he feels safe in it, but he’ll actually hop in the carrier in the house when he wants to go for a walk. I’m planning on using it to gradually acclimate him to other stressful settings, like people and the inside of the car, in the hopes that I can turn him into a gregarious people cat…or, at least, a cat who doesn’t run under the bed the instant the UPS guy pulls up to the curb.



        1. i just realised that sounds horrible.
          what i mean is i don’t see a reason for letting my cat attack me and back off. i’ll give it a “nudge” wih my foot, just enough to let it know i’m more powerful.
          cats back away if they’re intimated, they’re not so stupid as to seriously engage in fight with someone bigger than them.

          1. Even with that type of “nudging,” you can still harm the cat, especially if your foot is in motion before it hits the cat. And if you wait until after your foot has made contact before you start your “nudge,” the cat may well grab hold for support, or even climb up your leg.

            If you really can’t bring yourself to take control of the situation, risk of minor scratches and all, then a direct and loud verbal command, such as a drill instructor would give to his recruits, will be your best bet. Maybe couple it with a threatening posture — like a sprinter ready to take off, but with arms stretched out wide. Stare the cat right in the eyes, and look like you’re about to eat it. That should scare the cat enough to hightail it out of there.

            …but only, of course, if you’ve given the cat an obvious escape path. If you’ve cornered the cat, it’ll instead try to escape through you, which will involve it clawing its way up your front, over your head, down your back, and then away. That would, again, be why I’d recommend simply going for the scruff.



          2. As another long-time cat person, I’ll add something that I found by accident once: confronted with a cat that tried to jump on me in an aggressive fit, I managed to completely derail the attack by simply dropping a towel on her head so that she couldn’t see me. The cat stopped cold and spent a few moment taking hold of the changed situation. Then she slowly extracted herself from under the cloth and slinked away as if nothing had excited her in the first place. 😉

          3. yeah, i actually did that once too. more out of panic than thougth, but it worked.

            and ben, of course i’m not trying to hurt the cat, but i don’t see the point in getting hurt and letting the cat think it can do that kind of stuff. and of course this “nudge” i suggested is just a last resort. as you said, getting loud and posturing usually does the trick. after all, that’s what cats do before they attack one another.

          4. malefue, the reason to accept injury to yourself is because, assuming you’re a healthy adult, the injury is inconsequential — no worse than cutting yourself while shaving or banging your shin against some furniture. But there’s a significant likelihood of serious injury to the cat, including broken bones, dislocated joints, and even excruciating death.

            And successfully scruffing the cat is the best way possible to prove to the cat that it’s not going to get away with the behavior. Especially for an adult cat, you’ve just violently dominated it (without causing actual harm) into submission, rendered it utterly helpless, and demonstrated mercy. Believe me, there is no question at all in that cat’s mind that “resistance is futile,” but that it also has no real reason to fear retaliation. You’ve forced the cat (perhaps shamefully) back into kittenhood and established yourself as the parent.

            Once you’ve scruffed that cat, you’re the boss, no two ways about it. But if you kick it, you’re an angry prey beast too big for the cat to take down by itself.



          5. alright, i’ll try that the next time. i just want to make clear that by “nudging” i did not mean kicking. i fear i have made the impression of some kind of animal abuser.
            and points to you for mentioning the borg motto on the day of my monthly star trek marathon.
            i wish i could add your biological and technological distinctiveness to my collective (of one). ; )

          6. Maybe people in different parts of the world just stand differently, but around here a cat is more likely to run between your feet than over you.

      1. Good advice, Ben. Cats can get into an aggressive fit sometimes, maybe out of boredom or if they think someone intrudes on their territory, and it can be frightening to people who are not “cat persons”. But trying to hold a cat that’s attacking you may result in some blood-letting, even if you know the cat well and are accustomed to holding felines. Remember also that cat bites and scratches can easily get infected.

        One thing I found that work is using a large, thick towel to hold the cat and bring him to another room. It’s safer for you than using your bare hands, and safer for the cat also (less risk of reflexively squeezing too hard because the cat’s claws are hurting you.)

        1. I’ve never personally needed to do the “kitty taco” thing, but that’s because I’ve been able to persuade the cat before getting to that point. That’s included pilling, nasty-tasting liquid medicines, and even administering sub-cutaneous fluids. And I’ve pressed a cat’s nose hard into mine while the assistant held her down so the vet could perform cystocentesis to collect urine.

          Patience, persistence, compassion, and firmness have all done the trick — along with knowing when to give up and try again a half-hour later. (That can help the cat know that the indignity is one that will end soon, and the next time it isn’t quite so bad.)

          So, I wouldn’t advise against the kitty taco, but I would note that it’s not necessarily necessary.



  6. Good to hear from another cat wrangler/whisperer. I grew up in a house full of them, and speak their body language and vocalizations like a native. One of my standard stunts when I visit a strange cat at someone’s home is to give it “The Business.” This entails (ahem) letting kitteh have a quick introductory hand sniff, then quickly and unexpectedly administering long, firm, rapid, enveloping strokes along the head, cheeks and spine with alternating hands, simulating (as I imagine it) the aggressing grooming a mother cat gives a kitten. The subject will most often go into that helpless, passive state you see kittens fall into under such maternal overbearance. But hesitation is death – you have to be deft, firm and confident.

    People are usually astonished. “How do you do that?! He won’t let anyone touch him without getting bitten and clawed!” I get away with it about 85% of the time.

    1. Huh! That is how I always have greeted cats. And we had none – but our neighbors. I guess I was lucky, having nice kittehs to be trained by.

      1. I assume we are triggering some auto-adaptive thingy when we do this, using a mommy cat dominance move they are pre-wired to submit to. Of couse that’s just my anecdotal evo-just-so story — got no science in my pocket to back it up. A study seems in order.

  7. Another measure that works is to throw a blanket over the cat. The cat can’t see what’s going on and the blanket provides a few minutes of safety from teeth and claws. Also, the cat can be picked up in the blanket and taken to another room for some quiet time.

    1. I’d be careful with the blanket. Once the cat is covered, it might be hard for you to know exactly where it is, and you’ll remove a lot of the natural feedback your nervous system gets when you try to pick it up. It’d be easy to apply too much of the worng type of force to the worng part of the cat (or even step or kneel on it) and cause serious injury.

      I’m sure there’re situations where it might be appropriate, but my recommendation would still be to accept the (really quite minor) personal injuries to yourself, if any, and go for the scruff. You’ll heal, and so will the cat’s pride. But, if your full weight lands on the cat, or if you dislocate a hip because you didn’t realize what you were holding…well, even if the cat recovered fully (which might not be likely), it would still be torturous grievous bodily harm, and there’s simply no way to justify such a risk when other options are still available.



      1. True about the blanket. Although this is decent for experts who have nothing else, it hides the cat’s teeth and claws. I much prefer bare-handed scruffing as it gives you maximum control over where the teeth and claws are directed. Truly psycho cats are rarely scared away. They almost go into a trance and do not pay much attention to deterrents. Some cats would have to be seriously harmed to even be slowed down. Best to get a door between you (plus baby) and the cat if possible.

        Better yet, introduce the sitter to the cat first and let her know about the cat’s nuttiness!

        1. Oh and ps, leather gloves are a dumb idea too. Takes away all your human dexterity. I’d rather have my hands clawed to hell than my eyes. Cats will go right for the face sometimes.

          1. Indeed, I’m having a hard time thinking of a situation where gloves are a good tool to prevent injury from biting or scratching with any animal. I’m sure there are cases, but I doubt there’re very many.

            With small animals, there’s a significant risk of harm to the animal. And if there’s a reason you shouldn’t let the animal bite you at all — poison or infection (including rabies) — then your hands, gloved or otherwise, are the worng tools for controlling the animal.

            With large animals, the gloves won’t provide significant protection. The jaws will crush bones even if the gloves aren’t punctured, and claws will cut right through anything short of chain mail. Again, hands are the worng tool for protection from teeth and claws.

            Now, of course, there’re plenty of other reasons why gloves would be called for — surgical procedures, preventing rope burns, that sort of thing. But not for defense and control.



          2. Never worked with animals. But Tamar lived quite a while with renal failure and its associated complications, most of that time quite well and only occasional times of misery and discomfort. And Baihu had a couple bouts of cystitis that turned out to be from struvite crystals but took a while to manifest as such (and which has cleared up perfectly since I started adding a tablespoon of water to each of his three or four daily meals). Both cases resulted in me getting to know Dr. Bastek and the rest of the crew at University Animal Hospital much better than one would normally want to. Don’t get me worng — they’re all fantastic people and consummate professionals, Dr. Bastek especially. But I’d just as soon have remained ignorant of that fact.



          3. Gloves are of course used in falconry… and they are sometimes just the right tool for catching elapid snakes. I’ve done lots of the latter, sometimes with gloves but mostly not. The glove’s ideal if a snake is so small that there is no safe place to get hold of it, and its fangs are too short to penetrate. Not recommended otherwise.

        2. Your last sentence really cuts to the heart of the matter.

          There’s no reason that whole incident couldn’t have been prevented, though we don’t know enough about the background, etc., to know what that would have taken. Perhaps the sitter had ben mean to the cat; perhaps the cat is mentally ill and never should have been let out of a bedroom in the first place; perhaps it’s been generally mistreated; perhaps it’s physically ill or in pain…maybe it’s even protecting kittens, or pregnant, or an intact male with a female in heat nearby.

          Regardless, if things get so bad that you have to take control of a cat, the first thing you should do after you’ve got the situation under control is figure out what you need to do to make sure it never ever happens again.



  8. Holy shit! Funny, but that poor girl. Based on her surprise I think you must be right, she must be a visitor of some kind. Is it legal to videotape an employee without their knowledge, though?

    When I worked at a large inner city shelter we had an ambulance service (for wildlife emergencies only) and a woman came in, head to toe in wounds. Her own cat had gone ballistic and she spent weeks in the emergency room – cats have over 60 types of bacteria in their mouth and some are antibiotic resistant. Bite wounds from cats can be are dangerous.

    Kids should be taught how to defend themselves. Rule one, don’t back down unless it’s a bear or something trying to escape humans out of fear. I agree with Ben – scruff the cat. Or stand your ground and protect yourself with the nearest hard object.

    Not a good situation, she would either have to risk injuring the cat or let herself be harmed.

  9. Meant to say also: it looks like this cat has either status or fear-induced aggression. Cats have that tricky combo of being easily agitated and territorial. Having said that, I’ve seen cats who go nuts at the drop of a hat with little explaination. I recognize these cats right away. They are always on edge, and the owners usually tell me they’re such sweet, playful kitties all while the cat’s tail is swinging furiously and their pupils are as big as black holes.

  10. From the look of it, the cat heard the cup break and thought the babysitter was a threat to the child maybe? Protective of the child, maybe a new babysitter the cat never seen before.

  11. @Ben @malefue the other choice would be to have something to “virtually” discourage them, i.e. a soft but heavy object, even better a squirt gun. (For wildlife, fireworks may do nicely as well). The idea is that most animals cannot throw stuff, and when a human “touches” the cat from a distance it terrifies them because they don’t understand how it is done. Of course this assumes that you are armed with the tools before the cat attacks. Even throwing something like a blanket over them may confuse and scare them long enough to distract.

  12. In times of desperation a nice big pan of water works well also, no harm to the cat unless they somehow breathe in the liquid, which is unlikely.

  13. “a video showing a cat’s awesome abilities to protect a child from a mean babysitter who broke the kid’s favorite cup”

    Over 40 comments and no one has challenged all the unfounded conjecture in this sentence fragment? I’m really surprised.

    The child was playing with the cup, so it is more likely that he dropped it, the girl reacted when it broke, and kid started crying.

    How do we know it was kid’s favorite cup?

    Nothing in the 2 minutes of video give any indication that the girl/baysitter is “mean”, in fact, quite the opposite.

    1. Totally agree with this statement.
      I think that a cat which will react in this way is dangerous and any agression towards it is warranted. Self defense comes before consideration of the welfare of the cat.
      Replace the cat with a human and how would you react to a human becoming agressive towards you for no good reason. Even if the cat was reacting to the child crying, and I dont’s think that was shown by the video, once the girl had backed off the cat did not stop.

      1. And what threat, exactly, does the cat pose to you?

        Let’s say it was a gerbil being aggressive. Would you defend yourself from it with a baseball bat?

        Yes, the situation was very likely preventable. But, once it happened, not only is there no need to endanger the cat, doing so is reprehensible.


    1. I blame the toddler. They’re creepy and stare at you like ET and smell funny — and what’s with the “toddling” thing? That’s just weird. I’d be a kwazy kat too if I had to live with a screaming stink bomb toddling at me.

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