Caturday felid trifecta: Are cats psychopaths?; how Iceland monitors its moggies; hundreds of cat mummies unearthed in Egypt

June 4, 2022 • 9:30 am

The Oxford English Dictionary gives this as the relevant definition of “psychopath”:

A mentally ill person who is highly irresponsible and antisocial and also violent or aggressive; (Psychiatry) a person consistently exhibiting psychopathic behaviour. Occasionally also (esp. formerly): any mentally ill or emotionally unstable person.

Well, you can see why that definition has been applied to cats as well, some of whom attack people for no reason and all of whom are “highly responsible.” That’s what led to the following article, which characterizes cats as psychopathic because they appear to show no emotions on their face, are largely indifferent to people, and appear indifferent when taken to new places.

In the 2019 article by Sarah Zhang in the Atlantic, however, she explains these traits. And really, a “normal” cat can’t be seen as chronically mentally ill; mental illness in humans is diagnosed by behaviors that deviate far from the mean, and can make their bearers unhappy. Cats are cats with a few true looney ones.

Click to read (it’s free)

First, dogs and their behavior have been molded to human desire for over ten thousand years. One wonders why cat behavior hasn’t been similarly molded, and I’ve often mused on that without a good solution. At one time I thought that dogs have been trained to do work, and behavior and affinity has been selected for dogs doing jobs. But again, why can’t cats do jobs? I see no reason, for example, that we couldn’t change the size and shape of cats as much as we’ve changed the size and shape of dogs. Is the cat genome somehow more refractory to artificial selection than is the dog genome?

Zhang:

These answers get at the tricky semantics of calling a cat a “psychopath” when it is just … a cat. There’s always an implicit comparison when we talk about cats as aloof little jerks, says Mikel Maria Delgado, a postdoctoral researcher on cat behavior at the University of California at Davis. And that comparison is with dogs, which humans have spent thousands more years domesticating and molding in our image.

Remember, though, that cats have been domesticated for just about the same period as dogs.

What about the lack of facial expression in cats? Zhang says this. which may go back to the wild ancestors of both groups:

Cats, she pointed out, simply don’t have the facial muscles to make the variety of expressions a dog (or human) can. So when we look at a cat staring at us impassively, it looks like a psychopath who cannot feel or show emotion. But that’s just its face. Cats communicate not with facial expressions but through the positions of their ears and tails. Their emotional lives can seem inscrutable—and even nonexistent—until you spend a lot of time getting to know one.

Dogs, on the other hand, have learned to mimic humans. They do that thing where they pull their mouths back into something resembling a smile. They hang their heads in a way that looks super guilty. Just as humans have shaped the physical appearance of dogs, we’ve bred them to be extremely attuned to human social cues. Dogs that repeatedly raise their brows to make cute puppy faces are more likely to be adopted out of shelters.

Yet this cat, used to illustrate this article, does show a facial expression which looks like either excitement or curiosity:

Finally, the difference in attachment:

A common charge against cats is that they do not care about their owners as anything more than a source of wet food. In studies of pet-owner relationships, scientists have found that dogs are more “attached” to owners. These studies frequently rely on protocol called the Ainsworth Strange Situation, in which the pet explores an unfamiliar environment alone, with its owner, or with a stranger. Dogs are more at ease with their owners rather than with strangers. Cats can’t seem to care less about the human there.

Maybe this says something about pet-owner attachment, but Delgado noted that dogs are used to their owners taking them to new places. Cats are territorial, and they might only leave the house to go to the vet, so what looks like indifference to their owners might just be overwhelming anxiety about a new, strange environment. Plus, the Ainsworth Strange Situation was developed by Mary Ainsworth to study parents and infants—another example of us judging cats on human rather than cat terms.

You can read about Ainsworth’s measurements here, but it was meant to apply to humans, and really, we don’t love cats because of their “psychopathic” traits/ In fact, in one case an owner loved a cat because it acted like more like a psychopath:

Talk to experienced cat owners, of course, and you’ll quickly find that psychopathy, or something that looks like it, is hardly a dealbreaker. When the subject came up in the office, my colleague Rachel Gutman launched into a tribute to her childhood cat K.C., who terrorized everyone but her immediate family members and, for some reason, Carmine the electrician. He’d bite anyone who dared to pet him. He’d attack her grandfather’s ankles. He’d pee in her grandmother’s bed when she came to visit. “In conclusion,” she said, “he was the best cat, and I miss him every day.”

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This piece comes from Hakai Magazine, which describes how Icelandic towns are beginning to ban pet cats from roaming outside, as they kill birds and ferals can carry toxoplasmosis, which can infect humans. And you know that, once a cat has had a lot of time outside, it howls frantically to get out. How do Icelanders deal with this? Click to read:

From the piece:

In April, Akureyri—the largest municipality in the country’s north, with a population of 19,000 people and some 2,000 to 3,000 cats—decided to ban their feline residents from night roaming outside. Neighboring Húsavík banned cats several years ago from going outdoors day and night. Other Icelandic towns are considering bans as the issue of free-roaming cats increasingly makes its way from online forums to local politics, with the arguments generally falling into two categories. Some people—the “no animals in my backyard” or NAIMBY-ists—proclaim free-roaming cats are nuisances that should be confined like any other pet. Others think beyond the anthropocentric: cats kill birds and disrupt ecosystems.

. . . Introduce this elegant assassin to places where migratory birds have adapted to a land free of natural predators and the damage can be irreversible, with some alarming examples worldwide. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Invasive Species Specialist Group lists cats as one of the 100 worst invasive species in the world. Their paw prints are all over the scene. Numerous studies have implicated cats in the global extinction of at least 63 species—40 birds, 21 mammals, two reptiles—and contributed to the endangered status of another 587 species. And nowhere do cats, particularly unowned cats, cause more damage than on islands: free-roaming cat islanders are linked to at least 14 percent of global bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions. In Iceland, a country with only one native terrestrial predator, cats have contributed to the dramatic decline of seabirds and have preyed on off-shore bird colonies.

However, Icelanders love their kitties, too. In fact, Reykjavik banned d*gs in the city until 1984:

In a world where we divide ourselves into cat people or dog people, Iceland has traditionally been the land of cat people. The city of Reykjavík banned dogs for much of the last century, until 1984, based on the idea that they were farm animals. The city’s bourgeoisie cats nap on geothermal-heated sidewalks and befriend world-famous guests—in 2011, the New Yorker published Haruki Murakami’s short story “Town of Cats,” probably inspired by his visit to the Reykjavik International Literary Festival, where he noted the lively cat scene. But the felines’ chef-d’œuvre is inducing humans into an annual display honoring the power of cats: each December, the city plants a gigantic metal cat statue downtown at Lækjartorg square opposite the prime minister’s office to celebrate the folkloric Yule Cat, a monster-sized creature who—in the spirit of Christmas!—torments children and eats them alive, specifically those not wearing new clothes for the festivities.

I’ve posted about Iceland’s dreaded Yule Cat before; here’s the metal statue in Reykjavik:

In Australia they shoot feral cats, but some places also impose curfews, and many places urge that cats be provided with “outdoor encloses” like the one below. Some Icelandic towns are compromising with curfews, but how do you call a cat inside in the evening? They’re psychopaths—they won’t come.

Somehow this “catio” doesn’t seem to be a good solution. The cat doesn’t look happy:

In Húsavík, where pet cats are banned from being outside, a one-year-old named Freddie Mercury enjoys his cat patio—a catio. Photo by Egill Bjarnason

 

Last November, the town of Akureyri voted to ban outdoor cats entirely as of 2025. Outraged cat supporters all over the country threatened to boycott the town’s famous dairy products in protest. A local artist rallied support for the Cat Party ahead of local elections scheduled this past May. So, four weeks before election day, the ruling majority softened the total ban to a nighttime curfew, and the debate keeps going, defined by idiosyncratic fervor.

It’s a difficult problem, but the solution is to never let your cat outside (from its kittenhood) if you’re concerned with its hunting. Outdoor cats also have a shorter life than indoor cats for many reasons. This wasn’t a problem for me, as my late cat Teddy, who spent several years as an outdoor cat in Chicago, came in through a catflap installed by the previous owner and Teddy never wanted to go out again. He had had enough. And then I moved him to my crib, and he couldn’t get out. I have to say that he never seemed to be unhappy.

Teddy and I:

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A bonanza of cat mummies has been discovered in Egypt: read this free article from LiveScience by clicking on the screenshot:

From the article:

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed a trove of artifacts at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, including 250 complete mummies in painted wooden sarcophagi and more than 100 bronze statues of ancient Egyptian gods.

The artifacts date to around 2,500 years ago, during Egypt’s Late Period, according to a statement(opens in new tab) from Egypt’s antiquities ministry.

The trove was found at Saqqara’s “Cemetery of Ancient Animals,” a temple complex outside Cairo once dubbed “Bubasteion” — a reference to the ancient Egyptian goddess Bast or Bastet, who was worshiped there in the form of a cat, CBS News reported. The complex was renamed in 2019, however, after archaeologists discovered other types of mummified animals and statues of different Egyptian gods there.

Here are some of the cat statues found (caption from article):

Amongst the discoveries found on May 30, 2022 there we many statuettes and figurines depicting cats and Egyptian deities. This included a cache of 150 bronze statues depicting various gods and goddesses including Bastet, Anubis, Osiris, Amunmeen, Isis, Nefertum and Hathor. (Image credit: Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

From other sites, here are photos of cat mummies in and out of their sarcophagi:

Of course they had to kill the cats to mummify them, and I don’t like that at all!

h/t: Barry, Ginger K.

38 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: Are cats psychopaths?; how Iceland monitors its moggies; hundreds of cat mummies unearthed in Egypt

  1. “Remember, though, that cats have been domesticated for just about the same period as dogs.”

    Maybe so but perhaps only as rodent control rather than as pets. I actually have no idea if that’s true but I just watched “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain”, a film with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10687506/. I can’t say it was a great movie but, if accurate, Wain was a strange fellow indeed. Although he had a weird interest in electricity, he mostly drew cats for a living.

    Anyway, according to the film, cats were not regarded as pets back then. In England at least, Wain was perhaps instrumental in cats’ transition from mouser to cute, adorable companions. They haven’t had enough evolutionary time to develop the facial expressions we seek. How fast should we expect that to happen? Should we expect it at all? It isn’t even clear that modern society would provide much selective pressure in this direction, though I suppose there are many cases where the nice cat is adopted and the others are left to their own devices or put to sleep.

    1. When I was little, the first cats I came to know were those of rural relatives who kept cats outside/in the barn for rodent control. I once saw a cat mother and her young being fed with some fish, but they were not petted much, if at all. The same relatives also “kept” and fed mallards who could roam freely but stayed around (there was a small body of water on the property), those were kept for food.

  2. We built a catio for our two cats (an old friend of mine in Santa Fe builds them for a living) and both the cats (and, one presumes, the local wildlife) LOVE it.

  3. First, dogs and their behavior have been molded to human desire for over ten thousand years. D*gs’ attitude to humans was likened to Stockholm Syndrome on BBC Radio 4 a couple of days ago.

  4. I’m inspired by this thread to post a poem of mine that I wrote about my wife’s cat Buick (her “real” name was Electra, but it got shortened). This was before I became enamored of cats. We currently have two of them–Fiddle and Bow.

    Something Important
     
    On my lap a cat named
    Buick purrs, idling,
    as I idly stoke her
    haunches. A beautiful thing,
     
    I note, though I don’t like
    cats. I’ve never met
    a cat who didn’t know
    something important
     
    I didn’t know and
    wasn’t about to tell me.
    And there’s that famed
    curiosity, not idle
     
    like ours (the need, say,
    to see who’s next in line
    in the therapist’s
    waiting room) but rather
     
    the absurd assumption
    that the world has nothing
    better to do than hide
    cat surprises
     
    in out-of-the-way places.
    “Cats are trees with their
    headlights on,” I tell her,
    just so she’ll know I know.
     
    She stirs, curious,
    then settles in again. 

    Some beautiful things
    never learn their name.

  5. “One wonders why cat behavior hasn’t been similarly molded…”

    My hypothesis is simply that cats are too intelligent to tamely obey as do some canines. They have their own cat way and thats it. You’ll find this with really smart dogs, such as samoyeds, too. As for the ‘cat face’ – cats may not have facial muscles to enable them to assume a sycophantic expression when required but those eyes!

    We’re currently on cats #12 & 13; to date there have been no psychopaths but quite a few very affectionate ones; but the reality is that cats are just interested in cat things – home, territory, food bowls and water bowls, a scratch once in awhile, food bowls, presence of strange cats, bed space etc. did I mention food bowls?

    1. I doubt that it’s got much to do with the relative intelligence of cats and dogs. There are various species that are commonly kept as pets by people that haven’t been moulded much e.g. goldfish, various rodents, cage birds, hissing cockroaches, etc which seem to vary widely in their apparent intelligence. I think that Lorna Salzman at #10 and #11 has a better hypothesis i.e. that the difference lies in the different social behaviour of the parent wild species. Ancestral dogs, i.e. wolves, are social, pack animals so they have an in-built behavioural repertoire that pre adapts them for living with a human and responding to emotional signals. Whether dogs are smarter than cats or not is very hard to measure as they will be differently motivated to take part in any efforts to measure this. The reality though is that both dogs and cats have evolved a modus vivendi with us that suits their needs and gives them what they want – food and shelter and, to differing degrees, company.

      1. While cats aren’t pack animals, they do seem to have a preference for hanging around animals that are both larger than they are and not predatory towards them. I don’t know if any scientific studies have been done on this but it seems likely that this behavior awards them a certain amount of protection from would-be predators. The larger animals represent extra sets of eyes and ears on the lookout for threats. They also are avoided by cat predators, though dogs represent a conundrum because some are threats and some are protective.

  6. Should the picture caption read, “Teddy and I”, or, “Teddy and me”? Assuming the caption is an abbreviation for, “This is Teddy and me”, “me” should be used since it is the accusative case, the object of the sentence.
    BTW, “Pedantic” is an insulting word used to describe someone who annoys others by correcting small errors, caring too much about minor details, or emphasizing their own expertise especially in some narrow or boring subject matter. [end pedantic mode]

    1. Sorry to out-pedantic you, Rick, but “Teddy and I” is correct, since “I” is a subject complement–i.e., a word or phrase that follows a linking verb (in this case “is”) and identifies or describes the subject (in this case, “This”). No doubt someone else will correct you before this gets posted. Gary

      1. It’s a very lovely, heartwarming photo of both of them!
        Yes, in “Teddy and X”, X is a subject and thus officially a nominative case, so the grammar pedants who wrote the Chicago manual of style and the like say it should be “I”. But German students of English for generations were taught it should be “and me” even in the subject case (unlike in German!), because that’s what English speakers used to actually say. And the reason for that is that English no longer has cases in the sense Latin or Turkish or Russian have cases (say I as a good linguist). As the category case no longer makes sense in English, English developed a different kind of rule/categorization of the relics of morphological case in the pronouns, and that is: If it follows a preposition (where once accusative or dative case would follow), it should be me/him/her/them. “And” between nouns is seen as a preposition by the language instinct of English speakers, so they use me. “X and I” is what American children get taught in school, but isn’t it an artificial imposition on the language? Having outpedanted everyone here, I now wait for someone to tell me I’m wrong.

        1. ‘”And’ between nouns is seen as a preposition by the language instinct of English speakers, so they use ‘me’.”

          Hmm. . .I doubt that most English speakers even have language instincts, let alone know what a preposition is. 😊 But my own language instincts balk at “Teddy and me went to the store.” On the other hand, Willie Nelson wrote “We received our education / In the cities of the nation, me and Paul.” So if it’s good enough for Willie, I guess it’s good enough for me.

            1. And if the verb “to be” is understood, as in “this is Teddy and…” then it shoudl be “I”.

        2. “A conjunction is not grammatically equivalent to any of its parts…. So just because “Al Gore and I” is an object that requires object case, it does not mean that “I” is an object that requires object case. By the logic of grammar, the pronoun is free to have any case it wants. ”
          — Steven Pinker

  7. “…which characterizes cats as psychopathic because they appear to show no emotions on their face, are largely indifferent to people, and appear indifferent when taken to new places.”

    I am always baffled by this description of cats. I can’t ever recall having a cat like that.

    Ours are always engaged and social, both with each other and with us, sometimes to the point of complete obnoxiousness. Of our current eight, we have one that would prefer to be an only child. The rest all hang out with each other. The one that would like to be an only is totally bonded with John, and spend a lot of time training him to cater to his whims. John takes him out to the garden after lunch on days when the weather permits. (Our garden is completely enclosed, so he can’t get out.) Billy starts doing the afternoon harangue as soon as food comes out for lunch prep. At night when John goes downstairs to his cave to watch TV or a movie, Billy is right there herding him down there.

    The others are bonded with each other, as well as us. They engage even when it’s not time to eat.

    I’d be interested in others’ views on this.

    L

    1. I agree with you. Cats show emotions all the time, quite obvious once you get to know them. I think the claim of indifference is simply overplayed. Cats typically don’t fawn all over their people at every moment like dogs, though I’ve known a few that do, so this gives them a bad rap with people that expect to be worshiped every moment by their pets. I’d describe cats as more like people than dogs. Generally willing to interact, sometimes feel like playing, sometimes feel like cuddling, and sometimes feel like being alone. And generally expect a certain amount of respect, which they’ll remind you of if you aren’t giving it to them. Unlike dogs (which I also love by the way) which generally are so subservient to their people that they’ll put up with all sorts of disrespect.

      1. “this gives them a bad rap with people that expect to be worshiped every moment by their pets.”

        Indeed. I always say that dogs are desperate for human approval, while cats aren’t nearly as insecure 😛

    2. I agree but I also see what people mean when they say this. I suspect they’re dog lovers. Cats are a bit harder to read but I don’t doubt they have as much emotion as dogs and an attentive cat owner, like me, can read them.

    3. My experiences too, with the cat I grew up with. Its more subtle with them they they are quite social if they are well bonded to humans. Wherever I would be in the house, Chin Chin would soon find me and just hang out.

  8. I know for a fact that cats (1) are not psychopaths, and (2) are capable of real “love,” whatever that means on the emotional level of a cat. From my purely objective experiences — experiences where i don’t need to use my own human interpretation — with many cats in my life and in the lives of other people I know, they definitely have people they like and care about, and whom they genuinely miss. My current cat, which I saved from certain death a few years ago, follows me around like a lost puppy, from room to room, morning to night. She leaves her toys in strategic places as gifts, just like my first cat did with real dead animals (he was a housecat who was allowed outside. A killer in the streets and a sweetie in the sheets). She leaves her favorite toy, which she carries around and sleeps with like a teddy bear, in or on my bed, or at the threshold of my bedroom. She also often leaves the room and comes back 30 seconds later with that toy in her mouth and drops it at my feet. She expresses frustration whenever i leave her alone for too long, even though other people she knows and loves are around to take care of her 24/7. She just doesn’t love those people quite as much as she loves me.

    Those are just a few of the myriad other ways in which my cat shows affection and care, not to mention all the ways she shows aspects like a desire to share things she likes, her level of care for other people, and the fact that she’s never once scratched or bitten a single person (including kids who grabbed her tail). She’s just a sweet cat!

    Of course, some cats are just dicks,, but the same is true of humans 🙂

    1. One of my eight has just turned 17. He has become a prima don. When he thinks he need something, a pet, a chair, his place in bed he gets quite adamant about his seniority rights. The remainder give him room. I have another who’s only 11 who wants to be an only cat and displays displeasure when someone other than me gets too near. I don’t have a problem reading the emotions of my cats and I suspect this to be true of most cat owners/owned.

  9. I can’t believe these responses! None of them show any understanding of evolution. Dogs are social animals and were so before domestication. When you depend on your pack for your existence, signals, noises and body language are VITAL to survival. Domestication had nothing to do with the fact that dogs had to be tuned into all kinds of clues from their pack mates. Evolution weeded out
    the ones who ignored or misunderstood them. Dogs, being a subspecies of wolves, simply transferred their location to humans, where their finally honed responses were needed and appreciated. There are of course aberrant wolves aberrant dogs and aberrant cats…and humans. But most of these species still manifest the original skills and behaviors they had before domestication.
    One thing I have noticed about cats is not only that they can’t be taught but that their responses are unpredictable. With dogs you almost always know how they will respond to a particular action or word or behavior. They never had to be taught anything in the wild, where they live solitary lives after they mature. What counted was their relationship to their mother and pack siblings, and then after they matured they were on their own. Dogs need other dogs. If people abandon them, they form packs.
    Cats just wander around looking for a new home or food.

    1. I was going to say the same about the origins of sociality in dogs. Also, I think many dog behaviors toward humans are those that puppies use to communicate with their parents.

    2. I’ve had cats living in or around my property for probably fifteen years now. Nobody ever feeds them or takes them in, so they’re truly feral. They’re almost always seen at least two at a time, clearly together (you always see the same cats together). The kittens usually remain with the mother once they grow up. My first two cats were inseparable and, when the first died, the second one was never the same again. She became extremely needy and required constant attention, her personality changing overnight to never be the same again. She was inconsolable for the rest of her life of I think three more years.

      I imagine that the natural selection of being taken in by humans led to the evolution of what humans consider cuter and cuter characteristics (cats that didn’t catch humans’ fancies were less likely to be taken in). In the same way, I’m sure their behaviors also went through the same process, with those most likely pleasing to humans eventually dominating those less likely to be so.

      I definitely have been able to predict how every cat I’ve ever had would respond to a word or action, once I got to know them, and once they got to know what those words and actions meant. And there are plenty of videos of people training cats to do all sorts of things, though some cats are more easily trained than others.

    3. My take, in much the same vein, is that it is only in the last few decades – maybe a century or so – where humans have expended significant effort in managing the reproduction of cats – and introducing artificial selection into feline heredity. Some outcomes have been very interesting (the “Bengal” breed that PCC is somewhat fascinated by), some quite disturbing (“sphinxes”, and their implicit profound dependence on human care, being a particular #shudder for me). But that does show that they’re not hugely less malleable than canines, just less moulded.
      Since some people (navies, in particular) are training another branch of the canine family tree – seals – to “productive” work, we may soon get another datum on the relative genetic mutability of the classes. Though we’ve already got the example of the Siberian fur-fox breeding experiments (which may well build on multiple generations of fox selection in Canada, before the breed was exported to Russia – it may not be as “clean” a genetic experiment as often presented).
      Can anyone think of an example of a feline species being trained (and bred) for work?

      A quibble :

      First, dogs and their behavior have been molded to human desire for over ten thousand years.

      I thought the palaeontology was pushing more towards a 20kyr differentiation of early-domesticated “dogs” from “wolves”, than 10kyr. But that’s uncertainty comparable with whether the Siberian fox strain was reproductively isolated from the wild type in 1950 or 1870-odd (as some reports I’ve seen) .

  10. Clarification: I meant CATS, not being social animas. didnt need to be taught or responsive to their pack, as dogs do. They are not social animals and therefore evolution didnt need to provide them with social skills, i.e. strong awareness and responses to their pack mates, or the ability to cooperate with others. Their main relationship is with one owner, and it is a one way relationship.

    1. I don’t think a cats relationship with humans is one-way at all. Our cats clearly enjoy human companionship. They’re not as needy as dogs but our cats often follow me around the house just to see what I’m up to. It’s not always about being fed either. They are good at communicating the “feed me” attitude but other times they are genuinely happy to hang around me.

  11. I was just thinking a rather macabre thought, which is that one could fashion statues that look like those decorated Egyptian cat mummies. Eclectic cat lovers would probably like them.

  12. I disagree with your statement above, or at least find it lacking, Oh Ceiling Cat. (You wrote, “First, dogs and their behavior have been molded to human desire for over ten thousand years. One wonders why cat behavior hasn’t been similarly molded, and I’ve often mused on that without a good solution. . . . . I see no reason, for example, that we couldn’t change the size and shape of cats as much as we’ve changed the size and shape of dogs. Is the cat genome somehow more refractory to artificial selection than is the dog genome?)

    First, there is reason to think that the dog/human relationship goes back perhaps 40,000 year. Cats have been important to humans since we started storing large amounts of grain which was probably before farming, but probably not 30,000 years before. So we’ve had more time to change dogs, other things being equal.

    Second, other things are not equal. As pointed out above, ancestors of dogs were social hunters, animals that evolved to cooperate with each other while doing a complex task. Although cats may keep company with one another, they don’t cooperate with each other to the same extent, and it’s clear that most don’t see a need to cooperate a lot with humans, either.

    Regarding appearance, we have greatly changed the faces of dogs, but not cats. But puppies start out with very short faces which become long as they mature. Much of the change in dog face shape involves keeping the face shorter, which is probably genetically simple. Cat faces start out short and change proportion very little. Cat faces have very little option to get shorter.

    Grump, grump, grump.

  13. Oddly, I’ve just come from Astral Codex Ten, where I was reading a long book review about castrati. And now pet cats being prevented from hunting…an instinct strongly curtailed when a tom is neutered. Currently all right-thinking (note small ‘r’) people want all cats to be spayed or neutered. How long will it be before the tide turns and this is seen as grossly cruel, like castrating boys so we may enjoy their singing voices? And Gawd ‘elp us when the activists start describing the results as trans-kitties, to the ire of the Trans Exclusionary Radical Felines, who want their litter boxes to remain safe spaces.

  14. “Numerous studies have implicated cats in the global extinction of at least 63 species”
    I have written about this before, so I will try to be brief.
    I lived on an island where feral cats were believed to be threatening local bird species. A “specialist” wrote a report, which recommended culling the cats. That was done. The rat population exploded, decimating the birds, as well as seriously disrupting human areas.

    Not only is nature rarely static, it is very complex. Temporary equilibriums arise, then fall aside as some change in climate or species domination occurs. On the ranch, we have some valleys that look like pristine wilderness. Like paradise. The amount of work, done over decades, that is required to keep them that way is staggering.
    If you want your grounds to look like the Garden of Eden, you cannot just remove the influence of man and wait for it to start looking like the set of Finian’s Rainbow. What you need to do, is hire someone like Frederick Law Olmsted and his army of workers.
    I guess it is a philosophy on the nature of nature.
    There are a great many species, from bacteria on up, that were introduced to Iceland. There are similarly species that were present at first human contact, but are gone. All of the species present interact in different ways to create the current state of nature. Nobody can predict, really, what the results of a given change might be. I can say that with two species of rats on Iceland, the cats likely play an important part.

    1. I think of the story that some emperor asked for a line he could use that would always be true. His advisor came up with, “This too shall pass.” I think we can add, “But it’s really more complicated than that.”

  15. “Some Icelandic towns are compromising with curfews, but how do you call a cat inside in the evening? They’re psychopaths—they won’t come.”

    Huh–I call my two cats in every evening and close the cat door. They don’t always respond immediately, but they do come. Just need to train them correctly!

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