Caturday felid trifecta: Marx for cats; world’s oldest living cat dies; why your cat doesn’t follow orders; and lagniappe

October 22, 2022 • 9:30 am

Yes, there’s a book coming out called “Marx For Cats”, and it’s apparently not a joke, according to David Rieff’s Substack column. As he notes:

Duke University Press is about to publish Marx for Cats: A Radical Bestiary by a professor at the City University of New York named Leigh Claire La Berge. The gambit of the book, Professor La Berge writes, “is that the history of Western Capitalism can be told through the cat and that doing so reveal a heretofore unrecognized animality at the heart of Marx’s critique.” Cats, it seems, “have long been creatures of economic critique and communist possibility.” However, Professor La Berge insists, “a specter is haunting Marxism, the specter of the cat and the time has come for a feline critique, both of capitalism and of Marxism.”

It would be pleasant to imagine that Professor La Berge was mounting an elaborate, Alan Sokol-style prank (including on Duke University Press), but this is anything but the case. To the contrary – guess what? – the joke’s on us: she is in deadly earnest. There is even a video on, yes, in which La Berge in all seriousness explains key Marxian concepts to an audience of cats, going so far as to pose questions to them such as, “What is a commodity?”, and then, “Is art a commodity?” At one point, she even them a passage from Marx’s text, “Bourgeois Revolutions.”

Rieff doesn’t pull punches about what he thinks of the book:

What would a generation ago have been called delusional – the stuff of people in lunatic asylums who imagined themselves to be Christ or Cleopatra – is now called cutting edge critical theory. . .

. . . If ever there were a demonstration of what one sardonic person on twitter, who styles herself ‘Uppity Witch,’ and tweets at @senjii2022, has called the “deep vein of puerile immaturity that drives modern culture,” it is Marx for Cats. And yet increasingly that is precisely what not only what the humanities within the Academe have become, but also what the culture in general has become: a subsidized play pen in which those within its confines produce nothing so productive as a sand castle, but instead deliver their daft fancies with a passionate conviction born of the belief that theirs is not a but the emancipatory project of our time. I do not see how such a culture can be saved, nor any earthly reason why it should be mourned, and only hope to live long enough to assist at its funeral rites.

Well, judge for yourself. The book isn’t yet listed on the author’s webpage on Amazon, so you’ll have to listen to the videos below.

There are ten videos on the Marx for Cats Vimeo page, but I couldn’t be arsed to do more than sample them.

And here’s the video. Note: it’s 96 minutes long. Author Leigh Claire is introduced at 6:15 in, gives her spiel for 30 minutes, and then she has a conversation with the moderator. After listening to some of these, I wouldn’t recommend spending much time; these are snoozerinos. The only good bit are the kitties, to which she lectures in deadly earnest (see here, for instance).



From I Heart Cats, we learn of the sad passing of the world’s oldest cat. Click on the screenshot to read:

The moggy’s name was Rubble:

Ordinarily, when we think about a cat living for a really long time, an age around 20 will likely come to mind. But one feisty feline named Rubble shattered the previous record by making it to the ripe old age of 31.

After living his life without many health problems, Rubble suddenly became ill and passed away shortly before his 32nd birthday.

By reaching the age of 31, (150 in human years) Rubble managed to narrowly beat the former record holder, Scooter the Siamese. The Texas native had lived to be 30 years old before he passed away in 2016.

Michele, Rubble’s mom, was gifted the stunning Maine Coon right around her 20th birthday. It was shortly after she moved out of her parent’s place, and she had found living alone to be lonely. It was perfect timing that a friend of her sister was looking for homes for a litter of kittens. The pair had been together ever since.

I think they’ve got it wrong here. If you look at Wikipedia’s list of oldest cats, you’ll find these who have beat Rubble:

. . . not long before his upcoming birthday, Rubble stopped eating his beloved favorite foods and opted only to drink water instead. This is when his family realized that Rubble was nearing the end of his time here on earth.  The owner said this:

“He became very thin. I went to work as usual and when I got home my husband said Rubble had gone over the road as he did every day and never came back, so we believe he went off to die as cats do.”

RIP, Rubble. You may not have held the record, but you ha a good run.  BTW, Creme Puff and Granpa Rexs Allen, were owned by the same guy. It’s worth investigating them, especially to see the diet to which their staff attributed the cats’ longevity.

Here’s a 30th birthday shot:


Here’s an article from Science Norway that explains why you can’t get your cat to follow orders. Click on screenshot to read:

The answer is pretty obvious, and much of it is based on their evolutionary history and how they were domesticated (remember, nearly all wild cats, including the closest ancestor of house cats, are solitary:

The reason why it can be hard to get a cat to do what you want is that a cat does not basically accept the premise that you are the boss. Or even that there are bosses.

Moreover, according to the biologist John Bradshaw the cat doesn’t even think of us as a different species. It thinks we are big cats.

As cats have not been bred over the millennia like dogs, they are not as domesticated. They have been kept for their natural ability to keep rodent populations down, but have never been bred to perform any special function.

They are not designed by nurture or nature to fetch sticks or guard the house. And as 85 percent of cats mate with wild males, the species has remained relatively wild.

Bradshaw says that the way cats relate to humans is driven more by instincts than by learned behaviour.

Actually, you can train cats, as you’ll know if you’ve seen videos of performing cats in “cat circuses”. Of course they can’t do anything more elaborate

Here’s the author’s list for how to train a cat if you’re foolish enough to try. The bon mot of Samuel Johnson applies here:

“Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

Checklist for training cats:

  • Have patience.
  • Find the reason for the problem.
  • Use a reward as an inducement: If the cat will not use its cage, reward it every time it gets close to the cage. Then give it more if it steps inside it.
  • Use phrases like ‘good’ or ‘smart kitty’ and do so right before giving the cat something good or petting it. Then it will associate the phrase with an agreeable moment and this will be a reward in itself.
  • Clicker training, more commonly used on canine than feline training, might work with your cat.
  • Never use punishments.
  • Scents can help. There are special cat sprays that can be applied on spots to make the location feel safe and recognizable for the cat. Or you can use the cat’s own scent by petting it with cotton gloves, especially in the areas of its scent glands around its cheeks and ears. Then you rub the scent around the area where you want the cat to feel secure and comfortable.
  • And remember: A kitten is easier to train than an adult cat.


Lagniappe: The world’s biggest cat (I won’t vouch for it) has also passed away. Click on screenshot:

Weighing an impressive 28lbs. and reaching lengths of four feet, Samson, also called Catstradamus, was an enormous cat. As a Maine Coon, he was expected to be large as the males of the breed average 13 – 18 pounds and lengths of up to 40 inches. Making others in his breed look like little kitties, Samson was something else with his amazing size. But at ten years old, his big body was feeling its size and age.

On Instagram, dad Jonathan Zurbel explained that hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis sometimes made it difficult for Samson to walk. But with his family giving due diligence to their furry king’s quality of life, Samson still enjoyed a good living. But an unexpected trip to the vet changed everything, and suddenly, Samson was gone, leaving his family, including kitty sibling Dante, to mourn their deal furry angel.

Here’s the huge cat:

The site gives more details, and here’s an Instagram post.

h/t: cesar

9 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: Marx for cats; world’s oldest living cat dies; why your cat doesn’t follow orders; and lagniappe

  1. Why can’t the sweating professor be in fact “mounting an elaborate, Alan Sokol-style prank”? One would think that the aim of such a thing is to not break character right away.

  2. Longevity in cats is an interesting thing. We have a 19 yr old kitty, Jetta, who spent her first 14 years outside hunting wild game and managing to elude predators. She always had sheltered places to sleep, commercial cat food free choice, and routine veterinary care. She is in remarkably good health.

    She has lived inside only now for most of the last 3-4 years. She has age-related conditions that are well-controlled by medication and supplements. My veterinarian husband theorizes that the wild game she ate for so many years, in addition to regular cat food, contributes greatly to her good health even now.

    Our experience with scores of cats and his observations of clinic patients is that living outdoors with the amenities of shelter, access to food, and veterinary care, while eating a diet rich in whole animals is the healthiest lifestyle choice for a cat. I know this flies in the face of the “it’s animal abuse to let your cat go outside” folks, but it is what my husband observes.

    Cats are obligate carnivores…..they require meat for essential nutrients. But there seems to be something very beneficial about eating the entire animal that has been nibbling on grasses and seeds and still has remains of that in its digestive tract…not to mention the rodent gut flora, etc. Even a light to moderate intestinal parasite load might actually be advantageous.

    We are fortunate to live in a rural area where it is relatively safe for cats to be outside. Not everyone does….and I understand that. I am just offering this as an alternative view to what we often read about cats, longevity, and outside living.

    1. Janis, I don’t doubt anything about your account or your love for your cats. Agreed they are carnivores that need to eat meat.

      But could I offer a counter view? I live in a suburb next to a 1500 acre conservation area. My neighbours’ outdoor cats wipe out the small birds & mammals that live in the woods around my apartment. The cats often *don’t* eat those prey. One lovely moggie used the space under my grill as a meat locker to store dozens of whole bird and vole corpses (nb no rats, just native wildlife). Those cats could have lived indoors and eaten beef and pork and chicken from the grocery store. They didn’t have to live outdoors and eat wildlife.

      I’m agnostic about whether grass-fed mice and birds are better food for cats, or whether occasional intestinal parasites are a net benefit for the host. But I don’t think it’s good or right or necessary for pets to eat wildlife. Dogs like fresh meat too, but if my neighbours turned their dogs out to hunt and kill deer in the woods there would be hell to pay.

      I hesitate to post this on Jerry’s ailurophilic site. I have no hate for cats. I had two who I adopted from the SPCA. They got me through my postdoc years, lived with me and then with my wife and me in four different cities, and the cats got old with us as my kids grew up. They were our first fur babies. But we kept the cats indoors, and that seems like the better practice.

      1. Hi, Mike…..I appreciate your comments!

        There are a number of things I could address:
        Do pet cats who hunt really “wipe out” populations of native species? Yes, I’ve seen the studies, but I see flaws.
        Since some pet cats hunt more than they need to survive, does this negate the idea that the whole food diet is better? (Your account of the “meat locker” made me chuckle. Maybe he wanted you to grill them for him!!)
        Dogs like fresh meat, too. Why did my dog always seem to prefer rotten deer carcass parts she could drag home and enjoy in the front yard??? Ugh…
        Your “good or right or necessary” criteria are pretty hard to determine, but I would have a hard time saying it is “bad or wrong” for pets to eat wildlife….although I agree it might not be necessary. (We might change our tune on that if all of a sudden no pets were controlling those populations, though. Who knows?)

        Your determination that keeping your cats indoors seemed like a better practice probably holds merit. I consider our property quite safe for our outside cats. They keep a pretty good rodent-free perimeter around the house….and mostly sleep under the house or in outbuildings where they are protected from predators. However, urban and suburban cat owners might reasonably conclude that despite possible health benefits of wild game in the diet, inside only is the better choice for their pets….indeed perhaps the only good choice. I can totally respect that, too.

        1. Hi Janis! Yep my neighbourhood is safe for outdoor cats too but the cats don’t make it safe for the small wildlife. Maybe we agree to disagree about how much that matters? I’m glad your cats are happy!

  3. I think they’ve got it wrong here. If you look at Wikipedia’s list of oldest cats, you’ll find these who have beat Rubble

    I think the claim is that Rubble was the oldest cat still alive at the time of his sad demise, not that he was the oldest cat who has ever lived? But yes, it’s an ambiguous claim.

  4. Oops, I meant to add my thanks for another interesting trifecta. Though I suspect that Manx cats are more interesting than Marx(ist) ones…

  5. I vowed never to have a cat again after the huskies nextdoor murdered my most special wonderful dapper idiosyncratic kitten about 8 years ago..
    But now I have a cat in my house again: meet Mitzi van der Merwe. She was a township tramp, but now she is a strictly indoor lady. Very affectionate, she claws affectionately. She does catch rats. But she is not allowed outside to kill my beloved chamaeleons and sunbirds. I have 2 mongrels outside that chase any cat away (when they intrude into the house though, Mitzi chases them out, talk about territory).. All in all a happy situation. Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possible – as Panglosse used to say.

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