Today’s trifecta begins with a lovely series of cats standing on glass tables and photographed from below. Click on the screenshot to access the article at My Modern Met.
Lithuanian photographer Andrius Burba is known for his unorthodox approach to animal photography—he uses his camera and a unique setup to capture all sorts of creatures from underneath. From the fluffy underbellies of playful pups to the underside of horses, Burba’s experimental Underlook pet portraits reveal how familiar animals look from unfamiliar angles. His latest series, aptly titled Under-Cats, shows how furry felines look from below.
“The Underlook project started four years ago when I saw a ridiculous looking picture on the Internet,” reveals Burba. “It was a cat sitting on a glass table that was photographed from underneath. I decided to level up the idea and photograph it professionally to see those paws in hi-res and that is how the Underlook project was born.”
Here are some of my favorites, but there are a lot more at the site:
And below is further proof, as if you need it, that cats are smarter than dogs. The first screenshot below (click to access) is from Neuroscience News, summarizing a paper recently published in Animal Cognition (click on second screenshot).
Many animals under domestication (parrots, baboons, lions, bears, etc.) prefer to work for their food rather than simply gobble it from a proffered vessel. Some zookeepers (and some pet-owners) prefer to use puzzles in which animals have to work to get food, assuming that this “enriches” their environment, giving them something to do instead of sitting around bored waiting for the next meal. As Delgado et al. say in their paper above, this phenomenon of preferring to work for food has a name (my bolding):
When tested, many animals will work for food when similar food is freely available, a phenomenon known as contrafreeloading (Inglis et al. 1997 ; Jensen 1963 ). A preference for contrafreeloading is indicated when an animal works for 50% or more of all obtained food (Osborne 1977 ). Contrafreeloading contradicts optimal foraging theory, which suggests that animals should maximize energy gained while minimizing costs (Stephens and Krebs 1986).
The authors used 17 pampered housecats to see if cats would engage in contrafeeding. Delgado et al. gave them a puzzle that contained food, so the cats had to work for it, and next to it was a plate with the same amount of food as in the puzzle, though they gradually changed the relative amounts of food in puzzle and plate. They then observed the fraction of food that the cats ate from using the puzzle as opposed to gobbling from the plate. The fraction of food eaten from the puzzle compared to all food eaten was expressed as CF(feeding), and the lower it is, the less the cats get their food from working (minimum zero with no puzzle food eaten, maximum 1 with all food eaten from puzzle and none from the dish). Here’s a picture of the puzzle next to the food dish:
And the data. I’ve circled the relevant figure: the proportion of food eaten that the cats took from the puzzle (i.e., the degree of “contrafeeding”. I love the names of the cats (they should have been coauthors!
As you see, only two cat got half of their food from the puzzle (0.5), while the other 15 preferred the plate, with 8 out of the 17 cats getting less than 10% of their food from the puzzle, The within-cat comparison of puzzle food vs. dish food was highly significant (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: Cats don’t want to have to work for their food.
This puzzles the authors, but not anybody who knows cats. As they say in the abstract, “Further research is required to understand why domestic cats, unlike other tested species, do not show a strong preference to work for food.”
Seriously? Any cat owner knows the answer to that. Cats prefer to do what they want, and they prefer to relax and be fed than to have to work. Their relaxation time is devoted to self-enrichment, like pondering the universe or thinking about quantum mechanics. Now things are different with big cats in zoos, and I expect that cats like tigers and their relatives have been given enrichment feeding. Their lives are boring, and very unlike those of pampered housecats. But I don’t know if they’ve compared the food eaten by big cats in enrichment feeding versus “regular” feeding.
From Jstor Daily we have six cat poems (an an extract from my second favorite) that you might enjoy. Click on the screenshot to read them.
Here are two. They are fragments; you can see the whole poem by clicking on the title.
“The Blue Cat” by Mary O’Malley
See how magnificently he lies.
Any minute now
He will step across the kitchen tiles
And brush against your bare ankles
With all that fur on skin implies.
“Cat on a Couch” by Barbara Howes
My cat, washing her tail’s tip, is a whorl
Of white shell,
As perfect as a fan
In full half-moon. . . Next moment she’s a hare:
But my two favorite cat poems are these:
“For I will consider my cat Jeoffry“, by Christopher Smart. This a fragment of a longer poem, “Jubilate Agno”, written by Smart when he was confined in a lunatic asylum. But the description of Jeoffry, which is unusual, is also immensely appealing. Read it at the link.
And “Pangur Bán” (“white Pangur”) a ninth-century Old Irish poem written by a monk, who compares his scholarly activities to the doings of his pet white cat. It’s a lovely thing which you can read at the link. It was written in the monk’s notebook (see below; the Wikipedia caption is “The page of the Reichenau Primer on which Pangur Bán is written”, and I’ve outlined the poem’s beginning:
Pangur Bán has been translated by many people, one is W. H. Auden. Samuel Barber set Auden’s translation to music, and here it is sung by Leontyne Price:
Lagnaippe: Reader Woody found this puma-and-cub photo on reddit and calls it “My mom is awesome!”
h/t: j.j., Charles, GInger K.
7 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: Cats from below; cats once again proved smarter than dogs; cat poems; and lagniappe”
The cats on the glass table have the cutest hind paws.
I love to watch how they photographed them.
I wonder if they have run the food test on humans? Working or not for food has always been a questionable business for society. Cats tend to avoid work most of the time anyway. If a human starts doing some kind of work around the cat, the next thing you often see is the cat disappearing.
cats are selfish one whereas dogs are loyal creatures in the planet. i have two cats whose work is to eat sleep and repeat. BTW I enjoyed the photographed of cats.
The puma/cub photo is precious. A blow up would be most encouraging.
Yes, a lovely photo! Some great poems, too.
My cat is a long-haired tuxedo with a gigantic ruff and long wavy fur on her (portly) belly and giant hare-like feet. I have fantasized about getting a glass table solely to see what she would look like pressed against it. Once when I was outside, I caught a glimpse of her pressed to the kitchen window going after a moth or a fly or something, and it was almost as funny as these photos. I don’t know how cats can be both so beautiful and so goofy at the same time. Thank you for posting these.
My favourite cat poem is Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes
by Thomas Gray