Caturday felid trifecta: BBC cat quiz; hilarious cat signs in a vet’s office; cat study wins Ig Noble Prize; and lagniappe

October 2, 2021 • 9:30 am

Below is a BBC quiz about cats, comprising 7 questions about Felis catus.  You’ll want to take it, of course, so click on the screenshot below:

I just took it this morning and got 6 out of 7 (try to guess the question I missed).  My score:

And put your own score below. I think it’s hard to get a perfect score!

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Pupperish.com has a selection of signs about the meaning of cat behaviors that a vet posted in his office. There are 15 of them at the link below (click on screenshot), but I’ll show only five. The backstory:

Those of us who are cat owners know just how weird some of their behavior is, and sometimes it hard to decipher whether a cat wants to pounce on someone or wants huge cuddles with its owners. Cats are creatures of mystery, and we all wish that they had a universal language that we could understand so that it would be obvious what the hell they want sometimes! Luckily, Adam Ellis did just that and inspired a vet to use the shocking truths in his own clinic. The signs were printed out and put up all over the office for his customers to see, and they are just brilliant!

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Third, and I’m really late on this even though many readers informed me, on September 9 Improbable Research announced the winners of the 2021 Ig Nobel Prize in various fields. The Guardian has a funny summary of the Prize and explains its provenance:

Not to be confused with the more prestigious – and lucrative – Nobel awards, to be announced from Stockholm and Oslo next month, the Ig Nobels celebrate the quirkier realms of science, rewarding research that first makes people laugh and then makes them think.

In a ceremony held online rather than in the usual theatre at Harvard University, real Nobel laureates handed out 10 Ig Nobels to scientists, economists, doctors and mathematicians from 24 countries on six continents.

And the biology prize went to studies of CATS. The links to the winning research go to Research Portal summaries of the papers, not to the original papers.

The 2021 Ig Nobel Prize winners

BIOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN]:
Susanne Schötz, Robert Eklund, and Joost van de Weijer, for analyzing variations in purring, chirping, chattering, trilling, tweedling, murmuring, meowing, moaning, squeaking, hissing, yowling, howling, growling, and other modes of cat–human communication.

REFERENCE: “A Comparative Acoustic Analysis of Purring in Four Cats,” Susanne Schötz and Robert Eklund, Proceedings of Fonetik 2011, Speech, Music and Hearing, KTH, Stockholm, TMH-QPSR, 51.
REFERENCE: “A Phonetic Pilot Study of Vocalisations in Three Cats,” Susanne Schötz, Proceedings of Fonetik 2012, Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
REFERENCE: “A Phonetic Pilot Study of Chirp, Chatter, Tweet and Tweedle in Three Domestic Cats,” Susanne Schötz, Proceedings of Fonetik 2013, Linköping University, Sweden, 2013, pp. 65-68.
REFERENCE: “A Study of Human Perception of Intonation in Domestic Cat Meows,” Susanne Schötz and Joost van de Weijer, Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Speech Prosody, Dubin, Ireland, May 20-23, 2014.
REFERENCE: “Melody in Human–Cat Communication (Meowsic): Origins, Past, Present and Future,” Susanne Schötz, Robert Eklund, and Joost van de Weijer, 2016.
WHO TOOK PART IN THE CEREMONY: Susanne Schötz

One other winner noted by the Guardian, this time the Ig Nobel Peace Prize:

“When I heard I’d won I was a little nervous,” said David Carrier, professor of biology at the University of Utah and recipient of the Ig Nobel peace prize. “I was thinking, do I want this award?” After a little research, he concluded he did.

Prof Carrier and his colleagues set out to test the controversial hypothesis that men evolved beards to protect their faces in fist fights. While Charles Darwin – a man who fully embraced facial hair – suspected beards evolved “as an ornament to charm or excite the opposite sex”, Carrier found evidence for their protective qualities. After dropping weights on to a bone-like material covered in sheep fleece, he concluded that hairy skin absorbs far more energy than smooth skin.

“It’s not that beards provide a lot of protection. A really strong punch is always going to be dangerous,” he said. “What we can say is that they provide some protection to the bones and skin. He now wonders whether beards might also act as obscurants, making the jaw harder to target in a fist fight.

Panselectionist! They could be ornaments sexually selected to appeal to females (remember, our ancestors didn’t shave).

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Lagniappe: Bengals, the world’s most beautiful cat. I could have a kitten for free if I wanted from a great breeder whom I know, but I travel a lot, and Bengals are active and I’d have to get two in a fairly small flat. So this is something on my bucket list that will go unfulfilled. Very sad.

Youtube’s video notes:

Here is a new video of Mommy cat and her kittens. The kittens are 4.5 weeks now. Mommy is nursing and bathing her kittens.This is Bella her [sic] first litter and the video is filmed in 2018.

There’s also a lovely video here of Bella giving birth to the four kittens.

h/t: Matthew, E. A. Blair

23 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: BBC cat quiz; hilarious cat signs in a vet’s office; cat study wins Ig Noble Prize; and lagniappe

  1. That quiz is pretty tough – only 5/7.

    The vet’s cartoons are great – something about the artwork reminds me of the style of the Exploding Kittens playing cards.

  2. I’m ashamed–4/7. Especially since I love cats so much.

    The various hypothesis about why men have beards is fascinating. It never occurred to me that it could be protection from a punch.
    Yes, I thought it was an ornament for females.

    What an amazing looking Bengal family in the video.

    1. 4-get about it. Me too.

      My beard hypothesis: women evolved no-beard as an ornamentation via sexual selection. We like seeing your pretty faces, even if it makes you less cold-tolerant.

    2. Another possibility is that beards make men’s faces, and therefore bodies, appear bigger and more formidable in intergroup aggressive encounters, i.e. in encounters between groups of approximately equal fighting ability, those with bigger beards are more likely to intimidate adversaries. Intimidation may also help explain why cats (have evolved to) fluff up during fights.

    3. I always thought that beards protected (somewhat) the fragile neck like in lions. I had sharper objects than fists in mind though. A small cut in carotid artery or jugular vein can be fatal, not just the bleeding, but air embolism.

  3. I got 5/7. Have to admit that includes a couple lucky guesses, but you can make a case those *ought* to count since correct guessing reflects some underlying knowledge that may help in ruling out distractors, etc.

  4. I deserve the ignoble prize for worst score in cat quiz so far (2/7), but pride myself that one of the few I knew was the cat facial expression one. Also, I didn’t even know Bengal cats existed, but my cat, are they beautiful.

    1. They are wonderful cats. My daughter’s was beautiful and so intelligent and also one of the most gifted athletes I’ve ever seen. She could jump on top of doors into her teens and had a habit of startling people (and my cat-who is beautiful but not as athletic or, to be honest, as smart) from tall places. She was just a gem of a cat, and was really mourned for a long time. It’s true they are extremely active, and I admire the selflessness that went into deciding not to get one (and for free!). It must have been really hard to resist.

    1. As our host wrote above (quoting The Guardian):

      Not to be confused with the more prestigious – and lucrative – Nobel awards, to be announced from Stockholm and Oslo next month, the Ig Nobels celebrate the quirkier realms of science, rewarding research that first makes people laugh and then makes them think.

  5. Our Bengal, Ayesha, is very active at night, often travelling up to two miles around the adjacent farm and houses. We know this because she is fitted with a “CatNav”. You are very selfless (and sensible) not to have one confined to your flat.

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