Caturday felid trifecta: Medieval LOLcats, a rare white cougar in Brazil; “grumpy old men” kittens (and lagniappe)

February 6, 2021 • 9:15 am

The staid British Library has surprised us with a post about “Lolcats of the Middle Ages” (yes, that’s the title), and some of them are doozies.  There are five, but I’ll show three with their descriptions.  None of the cats, of course, look like real cats, for, as I’ve noted before, medieval artists had big trouble depicting moggies. Captions are those given by the British Library, and there is more information about the history of cats vs. mice in the text.

Detail of miniatures of cats catching mice, mice stealing eucharistic wafers, and (below), an ancestor of Keyboard Cat: a later marginal doodle of a cat playing a stringed instrument; from a bestiary, England (Salisbury?), 2nd quarter of the 13th century, Harley MS 4751, f. 30v.

Detail of a miniature of a nun spinning thread, as her pet cat plays with the spindle; from the Maastricht Hours, the Netherlands (Liège), 1st quarter of the 14th century, Stowe MS 17, f. 34r; for more on the Maastricht Hours, see our recent post on the manuscript.

Now this is the weirdest one by far. (The story, of course, is bogus.):

And Alexander the Great, whose fictional explorations of the natural world were retold throughout the Middle Ages, included a cat, along with the cock and the dog, as his companions in a proto-submarine.  Here, the animal was not merely a pet, but a natural rebreather, purifying the air so Alexander would not stifle in the enclosed space.  The dog was more unfortunate, chosen as an emergency escape mechanism: water, medieval readers were assured, would expell the impurity of a dog’s dead carcasse.  If Alexander encountered danger, he had only to kill the dog, which would be expelled to the surface, bringing Alexander with it.  As for the cock – everyone knows how valuable they are for telling time with their crows, a useful function underwater, out of sight of the sky.

As we see so often in the painting below, the cat is given a human face:

Detail of a miniature of Alexander exploring the ocean in a glass barrel, accompanied by a cat and a cock; in this version of the story, his unfaithful wife tries to murder him by cutting the cord connecting him with the ship, and it is by killing the cat (not a dog) that he is able to rise to the surface; from Le livre et le vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre, France (Paris), c. 1420, Royal MS 20 B XX, f. 77v.

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This headline from National Geographic is guaranteed to grab you (click on screenshot):

From the article (the cougar or puma is Puma concolor):

Photographs recently resurfaced of a ghostly young male striding through Serra dos Órgãos National Park in southeastern Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Taken in 2013, the photographs were the first confirmed case of a wild cougar with leucism, a genetic mutation that turns most of its body white.

We’ve talked about leucism before: it’s not albinism, which effaces all pigmentation, including in the eyes (so true albinos have pink eyes), and leucism is seen among many animal species (see photos here). Here’s the white cougar, who has a striking resemblance to my last cat, Teddy:

Teddy:

More from the article:

For instance, melanism, a surplus of the black pigment melanin, occurs in 14 of the 40 known wild cat species, but no one has ever recorded a black cougar—either in captivity or in the wild. As for albinism, in which animals are unable to produce any kind of pigment—hence their pink eyes—there are only two records of such cougars, Hunter says: one at a zoo and one wild animal treed by hunters in the western United States. And outside of the Brazilian cougar, there is only one other known example of a cougar with leucism: An online photo taken at an unknown zoo, Hunter says.

“Another white cougar may not appear in my lifetime,” he says.

. . . After the photos were taken, researchers had hoped to capture the Brazilian cat and analyze its genes, but they haven’t seen it again, according to Cecília Cronemberger de Faria, an environmental analyst for the national park where the cat was sighted.

. . .The leucistic cougar’s pale coat is likely not a handicap, he adds: As an ambush predator, it would rely on the forest cover to get very close to a small mammal before attacking. Hunting would be more difficult, he notes, if the white cougar were hunting deer in the open plains of the western U.S.

As for its ability to find a mate, he chuckles, “I’m almost certain a female cougar wouldn’t mind.”

I wouldn’t be so sure!

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Another irresistible headline, this time from My Modern Met (click on screenshot):

The Maine Coon cat breed has earned the nickname “gentle giant” for their large stature and playful personalities, but take one look at this litter of newborns and you might think differently. Tatyana Rastorgueva, who runs, Casvill County House of Cats where the kittens were born, recently shared photos of the group of young Maine Coons whose tiny faces could double as grumpy old men.

The five gray babies have characteristics of curmudgeonly people—including furrowed brows and upturned lips. You’d almost expect them to yell at you to get off their lawn. Looks, however, are deceiving. In the many sweet videos that Rastorgueva has shared since their birth, these kitties are like any other young cats. They are docile (when not at play) and make little chirping noises that’ll melt your heart.

Click on the screenshot to go to the videos, and be sure to turn the sound up:

Did you like these? See more at the catsvil    county Instagram site.

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Lagniappe from Stephen. The YouTube caption says:

This lazy cat was in no mood to move – and she simply sprawled out on the floor of a restaurant. The tabby named Thongdang was filmed sleeping comfortably on her back on the wooden floor in Chachoengsao, central Thailand on July 27. When waitresses had to pass by carrying plates, Thongdang would not move and the staff had to step over the cat. The restaurant boss said: ”She’s the kind of cat that does what she wants and everybody else has to accommodate her. ”But we still love her, even when she lays on the ground and won’t move.”

h/t: Stephen B.,

11 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: Medieval LOLcats, a rare white cougar in Brazil; “grumpy old men” kittens (and lagniappe)

  1. https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/09/09/347093135/behind-every-good-whisky-is-a-trusty-distillery-cat

    When I lived in Scotland I found out about this marvelous animal named Towser whose article I am sharing with you at least part of the article and the other one I found out about recently is one called Hamish McHamish who became something of a local favorite and then Rose to fame and died at the age of 15. Towser won the Guinness book of World records for mice caught in a lifetime clocking in it under 24 years, she caught 28,899 mice within her lifetime working at the Glenturret distillery in Scotland.

    1. The people at Guinness World records actually they came and counted how many she did in a day and then expanded on that, at least according to the Guinness Records website.

  2. Hey, Professor – when you look at those Maine Coon kitties, don’t their faces look like the Medieval pictures? Maybe Medieval cats had those kinds of faces?

    1. nay, you beat me to it. Those first to portraits appear straight from a medieval manuscript.
      Now that hypothesis, that medieval cats actually had more human-like faces, gets another boost.
      A year or so ago we had another cat, a medieval Chartreux (?), with this human-like face. Note that these medieval monks had Chartreux cats. I can’t find back the post* so I’m not really sure it even was a Chartreux.
      *[ it is difficult to recover a particular cat in the archives of a promiscuous ailurophile 🙂 ]

  3. Nay beat me to it! I was just ready to report the natural evolution of cats from Medieval to Modern. I’m only surprised that our evolution expert didn’t think of that!

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