Caturday felid trifecta: The return of Maru, with a new kitten; indifferent cats; Thai sailors rescues cats on sinking boat (and lagnaippe)

March 20, 2021 • 9:00 am

Whatever happened to Maru? Well, the pudgy Japanese Scottish Fold cat has his own Wikipedia page, which informs us that his owner, “mugumogo”, has adopted to additional cats: Hana in 2013 and Miri in 2020. Maru is now 13—a Senior Cat—and still loves to climb into boxes of any size.

I used to love watching Maru videos (he’s the most-watched animal on the Internet), and don’t know why I haven’t lately. Fortunately, an alert reader reminded me, and here are two newish videos. The first one features Miri playing with Hana and Maru getting into a decrepit box (or rather crushing it).  Maru then squeezes into a plastic bucket, and he’s sticking out a lot!

Here playful Kitten Miri watches Maru execute a tricky forward roll into a narrow plastic container. She then apes her older brother, doing her own forward roll. I swear, Maru’s penchant for squeezing into tiny containers must bespeak some fundamental insecurity, like Linus’s need for his blanket.

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CAT SCIENCE! The article below reports on a 2020 paper in Animal Behavior and Cognition paper that purports to test whether your cat would favor someone observed to help you (opening a jar) over someone who refused to help you. (Sample size: 36 moggies.) Previous work showed that dogs favor the helper. Unsurprisingly, cats don’t. DUH!

Their summary:

In the experiment, a cat watched as her owner tried to open a box to get at something inside. Two strangers sat on either side of the owner and the owner turned to one of them and asked for help. In “helper” trials, the stranger helped the owner to open the box. In “non-helper” trials, the stranger refused. The other stranger sat passively, doing nothing.

Then, both strangers offered the cat a treat, and the scientists watched to see which the cat approached first. Did she prefer to take food from a helper over a passive bystander? This would indicate a positivity bias, showing the helpful interaction made the cat feel more warmly towards the stranger. Or did she avoid taking food from the non-helper? This negativity bias might mean the cat felt distrustful.

When this method was used to test dogs, they showed a clear negativity bias. The dogs preferred not to take food from a stranger who refused help to their owner. In contrast, the cats in the new study were completely indifferent. They showed no preference for the helpful person and no avoidance of the unhelpful person. Apparently, as far as cats are concerned, food is food.

There’s also a summary in Gizmodo, which adds a possible reason:

Dogs have been in humanity’s orbit longer than cats, for one. And even before we started teaming up to tackle common goals, dogs’ ancient ancestors were thought to frequently cooperate with one another to hunt and survive. Cats, as the researchers politely put it, “originated from a less gregarious ancestor than did dogs,” and we haven’t bred or trained them to perform specific tasks with us anywhere near as much as we have with dogs.

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Many readers sent me articles about how the Thai navy rescued four ginger cats that were marooned on a sinking ship. It was a lovely thing to do, and is described in the PuffHo article below, as well as by  the BBC and The Washington Post.

Four cats were marooned on a sinking and burning boat. Several days before that, the sailors had been rescued, but the bastards left four cats behind. No worries, though, the Thai Navy to the rescue!

From the WaPo:

Wide-eyed and panicked, the felines huddled together. When the help they so desperately needed arrived, it came in the form of a 23-year-old sailor and his team of Thai navy officials.

In what can only be described as the purr-fect rescue mission, the sailors said they had approached the capsized vessel in a bid to check for oil spills but soon noticed the animals were on board.

“I used my camera to zoom in to the boat, and I saw one or two cats popping their heads out,” explained First-Class Petty Officer Wichit Pukdeelon of the navy’s air and coastal defense division.

Photo from Reuters. Poor scared kitties!

Wide-eyed and panicked, the felines huddled together. When the help they so desperately needed arrived, it came in the form of a 23-year-old sailor and his team of Thai navy officials.

In what can only be described as the purr-fect rescue mission, the sailors said they had approached the capsized vessel in a bid to check for oil spills but soon noticed the animals were on board.

“I used my camera to zoom in to the boat, and I saw one or two cats popping their heads out,” explained First-Class Petty Officer Wichit Pukdeelon of the navy’s air and coastal defense division.

According to local media, crew members of the capsized boat were rescued by a passing ship on Tuesday, but somehow the four cats had been left behind.

Knowing they had to move fast to save the abandoned animals, Thatsaphon Saii jumped into the ocean, battling strong currents. After paddling some 50 feet to reach the boat, Saii was captured on camera swimming the animals to safety — with one of the cats perched delicately upon his back as he returned to his crew, who were on standby with a rope.

“I immediately took off my shirt and put on a life jacket so I could jump into the sea. The flames were at the back of the boat, but it was starting to sink, so I knew I had to be quick,” he recalled, adding that he was “so relieved” that the navy had been able to rescue the cats.

Look at this guy saving a kitty. He deserves a medal! Apparently he made four trips to the boat.

A Thai navy officer swims with a rescued cat on his back in the Andaman Sea on Tuesday. (First Petty Officer Wichit Pukdeelon via Reuters) (Po1 Wichit Pukdeelon/Po1 Wichit Pukdeelon Via Reuters)

The group were swiftly branded “heroes” after footage of the incident circulated widely on social media, with the young sailor in particular causing a stir among animal lovers online.

Many embraced the pawsitive news amid the bleakness of a the coronavirus pandemic.

“This made my week,” wrote one user on Twitter. “Good things can happen,” wrote another.

Once back at the navy’s official command post, the cats were wiped down and dried off with towels and fed by their rescuers, who cradled them, played with them and posed for photographs alongside their new furry friends, who now have a very global fan base.

There are videos at the BBC and HuffPo; here are two screenshots:

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Lagnaippe:  From Mental Floss (click on screenshot):

There are two questions to be answered? Why do cats sleep in bed with you? (Mine always did.) And why do they sleep at the foot of the bed? There are speculative answers at the article below, masquerading as demonstrated truths.

h/t: Ginger K., Tom, Peter

14 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: The return of Maru, with a new kitten; indifferent cats; Thai sailors rescues cats on sinking boat (and lagnaippe)

  1. This is too intoxicating . . . and I’m not a cat fan. Maybe it’s the music and the subtitles. Curses on you–and thanks for the half hour of meditation.

  2. “They showed no preference for the helpful person and no avoidance of the unhelpful person. Apparently, as far as cats are concerned, food is food.” – not surprising to those of us who are on a cat’s staff, but at least it’s been scientifically verified now!

  3. (Sample size: 36 moggies.)

    Surely there is a quantum of uncertainty in the counting of cats? They’re not exactly known for sitting still when instructed, or indeed, for being herded. Schrödinger’s 1927 work clearly shows the unhelpfulness of boxing them so as to convert the problem of counting cats into that of counting boxes. You’ll get a good count of boxes, but remain uncertain about the number of cats.
    Could this be the foundation of a new variant of Bistromathics? Moggymath? Mathecatics?

  4. Why do cats prefer sleeping on the foot of the bed? One reason might be that the foot will normally be near a door or other escape route if needed. Being able to flee or defend the entrance to the den would have been important in the evolutionary history of cats. Other possibilities are that 1) the angle formed by the knee of a sleeping person provides a comfy place to curl up or 2) a blanket at the foot of a bed marks-off a reliably secure place to sleep. I suspect cats that sleep near their staff are judged to be more friendly and loyal and end up receiving better care, thereby selecting for the behavior.

  5. I agree with the linked article. Cats sleep at the foot of my bed because they fear being rolled upon. They also like to push themselves against my legs in order to better absorb warmth. I’m a side sleeper who has to turn over every so often so rolling onto them is a real threat. When I do have to roll over, they wait until I’m still again and then push themselves into my leg or foot again.

    Sometimes one of them (we have two) likes to sleep wrapped around my head which also has no danger of being rolled upon.

    Being close to larger animals who are unthreatening seems like it would be selected behavior. Same for not getting too close to avoid being crushed. Although it is safer to be around larger beasts than not, they don’t rely on them for protection. If they perceive an immediate threat, they look for the closest tree or equivalent, all of which seems reasonable from an evolutionary perspective.

  6. My cat sleeps on MY pillow or directly on to of me (lying on my shoulder facing belly down).
    My wife got used to it. In winter she crawls below the blanket, sleeping besides my lower legs). She seems not to be worried to be rolled over (so far she survied 15 years like that)
    Michael

  7. I’d honestly like to know the reason why my cats love to lay ON TOP of my chest and start kneading my neck while I lay on my bed to sleep.

    Am I some sort of scratching post for them or is it an altruistic gesture from them because I keep feeding them? There has to be some sort of ulterior motive to it.

    1. One of my cats has recently started lying on my upper chest, kneading my collar bones. She has no front claws, but it still hurts.

  8. Why do cats prefer sleeping on the foot of the bed? I wish…. I’m sure my little cat has a body temperature 2-degrees higher than mine. She absolutely insists on being either between my arm and rib area when I’m on my back or around my head when I’m on my side. These positions, her unwelcome excess body heat and just generally moving around, grooming and purring make me, I’m sure, loose 1.5 hours of sleep most nights. …Yet, I love and indulge the little bugger. 😊

  9. How did that brave sailor persuade, not just one, but FOUR kitties to trust themselves to his shoulders? You’d think such a small life-raft wouldn’t compare well with what was left of the ship?

    Or was it simply because he was a human being?

  10. My kitty always – but always – slept in the crook of my knees such that when I travelled I’d put a pillow there to be able to relax.

    These days I have a d*g and we’re emotionally closer even if he sleeps next to the bed. We get into all sorts of adventures downstairs and I learned that (socially) living in NYC with a dog is a totally different experience to living alone. So many new friends that I’m “neighborhood famous” 🙂
    D.A.
    NYC

    — my loyal retainer and partner in crime here –
    https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2020/06/10/photos-of-readers-93/

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