Caturday felids trifecta: Why people are obsessed with cats; lynx climbs on a logging truck; the rapping cat man of Atlanta (and lagniappe)

January 23, 2021 • 9:30 am

Happy Caturday! We have the usual three items today, plus lagniappe if you’ve been a good girl or boy (or whatever). First, a New Woker video from Open Culture, “Why Humans are obsessed with cats“, narrated by Abigail Tucker, a writer who produced the 2017 New York Times bestseller The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World (that was the book I wanted to write!). She’s also married to columnist Ross Douthat, but I won’t hold it against her.

There’s more text at the Open Culture site, but the nice seven-minute video below says most of what’s important. Her take on why cats are so appealing is spot on. Tucker brings up toxoplasmosis, but I don’t pay attention to that.  Pay attention instead to the “werewolf cat” and then the Bengal Cats at about 5:20.

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From reader Rick we get a three-minute video showing a magnificent lynx. The gorgeous cat jumps atop a Canadian logging truck to suss out the operator and his vehicle. Look at the size of its paws!

Here are the YouTube notes:

Occurred in February 2020 / Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada “I am a logger from Alberta, Canada. I was stopped on the road with my skidder and looked back and to my great surprise, there was a Lynx standing by the tire on my machine. I quickly climbed on the roof and started videoing. He then jumped up on the tire, looked at me, and then jumped again on the arch of my skidder. Only a few feet from me now, he sat and curiously watched me. After a few minutes, he jumped back down on my tire and then with one great big leap, jumped off the tire back on the ground and slowly walked back into the forest never to be seen again.”

This lynx looks a bit thin, as if it needs a few snowshoe hare sandwiches.

 

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Here’s a Washington Post article about rapper Sterling Davis, who gave up his singing and traveling life to. . .

. . . change litter boxes at the Atlanta Humane Society. Then in 2017, he gave himself a new nickname — “TrapKing” — and started a company to humanely trap stray cats, get them spayed, neutered and microchipped, and return them to where they came from. He says the name is a play off the term “rap king,” an honorific bestowed on hip-hop’s best lyricists.

Click on the screenshot to read the piece. I’ll give an excerpt and show a few photos:


Davis, 40, now runs his company, TrapKing Humane Cat Solutions, from his RV, visiting predominantly Black neighborhoods throughout the metro Atlanta area to trap feral felines and educate people about the importance of caring for strays.

“I like to teach kids that the ‘crazy cat lady’ down the street who is feeding all the strays isn’t actually so crazy,” he said. “She’s doing what she can to help. And anyone can do the same.”

The practice of TNR — trap, neuter, release — is the humane alternative to euthanasia for stray cats, Davis added.

“Strays don’t usually do well in homes, but they help with rodent populations,” he said. “So it’s important to neuter them and return them where you got them in order to humanely control their numbers.”

(from WaPo): Sterling Davis with some traps set for stray felines. (Timothy Phillips)

When he went out on his own with his company, Davis sold all his belongings and lived in a van covered with “TrapKing” stickers so that he could afford to have cats neutered and spayed, he said. He now gets funding from donations, mostly through his website, and says he takes a small salary from the company.

He’s since upgraded to an RV, which he shares with three cats named after some of his favorite singers — Damita Jo (Janet Jackson’s middle name), Bowie and Alanis Mewissette.

The back of his RV is outfitted with plenty of room for cages holding the stray cats he picks up each day after enticing them into traps with treats of chicken or mackerel, he said.

Sterling Davis with some trapped cats before taking them to be neutered and microchipped. (Sterling Davis)

The Humane Society now covers the cost of spaying and neutering, said Davis, so he’ll park at the shelter at night to be the first one in the door the next morning. Before the pandemic hit, he also spent a lot of time speaking at schools about his affinity for felines.

. . .With so many stray cats roaming the streets, his cause often feels overwhelming, admitted Davis.

“But if we can get kids to care about these cats and especially teach boys that it’s okay to love them, maybe there’s some hope,” he said.

Boys: please love cats!

Sterling “TrapKing” Davis gives a presentation about cats at an Atlanta school in November 2019. (Mary Tan)

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Lagniappe: Reader Will Meyer sent a picture of his cat and wants to know if other readers have seen this phenomenon:

Do other cats do this Walrus Pose?  Or is it just our Manny?  We’ve known many cats over the years and no other crossed their back legs like this.  Your views?

I haven’t seen it, but perhaps other readers have. Here’s Manny:

h/t: Steve, Barry

15 thoughts on “Caturday felids trifecta: Why people are obsessed with cats; lynx climbs on a logging truck; the rapping cat man of Atlanta (and lagniappe)

  1. With reference to the walrus pose: we have had two cats that favoured this. They were unrelated tabbies, one male one female, and they are the only two I have ever seen adopt the pose. None of the twenty or so cats I grew up with did it and the other six that we have served in the last 47 years have all favoured the standard postures.

  2. Go TrapKing! He seems like a really awesome guy. Though I’ve always wondered about something: when a neutered stray is released back into the wild, do they still have the same status among their pack? Can they still produce the hormones necessary to keep them strong enough to defend themselves and their turf? I know we have some cat experts here, so I would like to learn more about this. Regardless, I love TrapKing and am glad there’s someone out there who cares so much about cats, helping and teaching wherever he can.

    1. My sister worked at a charter high school that had no athletics. She said it was fascinating to see how the social structure adjusted to the absence of jocks. I wonder if it is similar with the neutered cats?

    2. Can they still produce the hormones necessary to keep them strong enough to defend themselves and their turf?

      There are quite a lot of things involved in answering that.
      Not being a vet, I don’t know if neutering a male cat involves removing the balls, or just snipping the tubes as it does in humans. If it’s a vasectomy, then you wouldn’t expect there to be much overall change in hormone outputs from the balls – the vasa are cut and sealed, but not the blood vessels to and from the balls, so that’s a “meh”. for queen cats, it’s likely a bit more variable with a number of operations available depending on clinical need and cost, from tube “tieing” with similarly minimal effects up to full hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and associated organs). Different operations, different effects.
      But there is another aspect too. As most readers here are probably aware from personal experience, most mammals go through a growth burst in “adolescence” when most sexual differentiation occurs in both anatomy and behaviour. If the neutering happens after that set of events, then a lot of the differentiation has already happened, and neutering isn’t going to have huge effects. The nightly chorus and the peeing everywhere might decline (or accentuate) but most of the structural changes have already happened and aren’t going to recede greatly. Unlike, for example, migratory birds where the sex organs can change size by 90% or more during a year in response to brain-sourced (pituitary gland, and others) hormones.
      In short, “it depends”.
      It seems to me that people who attach importance to their own breeding seem more concerned over questions like this than people who don’t consider their reproductive status important. Personally, I’ve never considered the question anything like as important as whether or not the animal (person) is going to be killed, or allowed to be born. “Projection,” I think the psychobabblologists call it.

      1. Thanks very much for the comprehensive reply!

        The difference between neutering a kitten versus a fully grown cat never even occurred, to me, but that’s a great point. If they don’t grow properly, they might not be able to survive, or at least not as well.

        1. … and on the third paw, kittens “brought in from the cold” to shelters are much more likely to get the necessary human socialisation for regular re-homing (human contact before 8th week, IIRC), and then go on to be adopted into human homes, not end up on the streets themselves. Cue a raising of paws from readers who are staff for former “street kittens”.
          I’m not sure what cat-trappers do if they find a queen with milk-heavy dugs. I suspect each shelter/ organisation/ individual has their own policy. Taking the queen in and leaving the kittens to starve would be one sort of “bad optics” ; releasing the queen to go and raise 4-6 new street cats would be other bad optics ; leashing the queen and trying to follow her to the nest would be a third bad optics, even if the chain-mail clothing does it’s job. There probably isn’t a “good” solution.
          If the funds were available and the operation could be done quickly enough to fit a GPS harness to the queen and then allow her to get back to the kittens (and a subsequent intensive track, seek and capture operation) would probably be the least-bad option, but still has significant bad outcomes waiting to be a PR (and fund-raising) nightmare.

  3. The lynx is certainly a most beautiful cat. There have been discussions over the years about reintroducing the Eurasian Lynx into Scotland. The animal became extinct here c.1500. I think it fairly certain this will happen in the near future. Initial release numbers could be in the region of 70. They will certainly have a ready supply of prey; there are some 600,000+ red and roe deer in Scotland, a quite ridiculous surfeit. However, I do hope the lynx fare better than the Scottish Wildcat of which there may now be fewer than 100 pairs. There are also discussions concerning the reintroduction of the wolf (extinct by late 17th C) and the Brown Bear (extinct probably by 7th C). I consider it far less likely that these reintroductions will occur.

    1. However, I do hope the lynx fare better than the Scottish Wildcat of which there may now be fewer than 100 pairs.

      The big concern with the wildcat is more over it’s racial “purity” (to use a woke’s “trigger word”) than the survival of a Scottish population of undomesticated Felis cattus (in it’s various sub-species, domesticus, silvestris, libyca, rabcnesbitti, tomtauntii). They’re definitely around, but do a good job of hiding (I’ve seen many more polecat-for-certain than I have wildcat-was-that-a).
      “Re-wilding” in general is quite a topic. Currently we’ve got several unofficial releases of beavers and one official one (another in Englandshire, I think). Wolves and lynx would seem more likely to be released sooner than bears – I know at least one MSP who in his pre-MSP years espoused the wolf project with enthusiasm. (If it had happened a decade later, someone might have a recording, which could be “interesting”.) There’s that guy up near Lairg who has been promoting the idea for his very large estate – I forget the place’s name, up towards Seana Braigh as I recall – for a couple of decades now, but the “Eeek wolf scary eat babies” fraternity seem totally terrified by the idea, and respond with emotion, not evidence.

  4. Stray cats are notorious mass murderers. That is what cats do. Putting them back after spaying where they came from may not be the most desirable policy.

    1. Returning them to their previously-established territory is a strategy to reduce movement of cats within the “landscape” (urban, but a landscape nonetheless), and to reduce the accessibility of un-neutered cats to each other by diluting the fertile population with infertile members. It results in decreased numbers of feral kittens compared to either “extermination” campaigns or capture-and-random-neutered-release.
      This was old news when I last studied it with any attention in the 1980s. I see no reason to expect it to have changed since then.
      A neutered cat is a dead cat (in population terms) which is truly excellent at taking the food from the mouths of fertile cats, to the point of reducing their ability to breed. It’s not a “final solution” to the undisputed problems of cats in particular and introduced species more widely, but it does help to reduce the problem until people actually decide to do something about the actual problem.
      You’re from .ZA, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn you had an urban feral cat problem, but doesn’t your rural wildlife include enough small felines that feral catus is going to face some real opposition?

  5. Fearsome paws of the lynx. I still have difficulty to believe that these awesome cats are preyed upon by fishers.

  6. I’m very conflicted about what the Trap King is doing, because I also love our wild birds as much as I adore cats. Feral and tame cats are having a devastating effect on our birds. Please understand, I volunteer at a shelter, and I have trapped and neutered cats. I found those feral cats a home with folks who have small sanctuaries for ferals. My own cats are strictly indoors. But obviously those options aren’t available to everyone. I don’t know an a good answer to this situation.

    1. My mother trapped, neutered, and returned (TNR) approx 32 cats (over 25 years). Those cats kept out new feral cats. If she hadn’t had them neutered, the sheer number of cats they would have bred would be shocking and heartbreaking! And also devastating to the bird population. I know satiated cats will hunt birds, but perhaps fewer than hungry cats. Unfixed ferals have short, mean lives, full of pain, hunger, and disease, but the biological imperative to reproduce is powerful and they will. I’m not sure what the solution is because I also love birds, but TNR, as you’ve probably seen, at least alleviates numbers and some pain!

      1. Yes, I’ve practiced TNR in the area where I live, and I know it’s the best we can do right now. I think perhaps more public education about the problems that cats, feral and tame, pose to our bird population would help.

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