Caturday felid trifecta: Airport hires therapy cat to calm nervous travelers; lonely cat song; and which cats climb down trees head first; and lagniappe

June 24, 2023 • 9:45 am

If you find good cat-related items, send them along for future Caturdays. Thanks!

This is from the Independent (click to read); the cat’s entire name is “Duke Ellington Morris”.

From the article (and a a photo). At 14, though, he should be retired!

cat has been hired as the newest employee of a US airport to help calm nervous flyers.

Duke Ellington Morris, known as “Duke”, is the latest member of San Francisco International Airport’s “Wag Brigade”.

The appointment of the 14-year-old black and white cat was announced by the airport’s Twitter account, with the caption: “Purrlease welcome our newest Wag Brigade member, Duke Ellington Morris!”

Underneath, a professional snap of Duke wearing a tiny pilot’s hat and shirt collar was also shared.

The Wag Brigade programme was first launched by the California airport in 2013, with the aim of using animals to help sooth anxious travellers.

The Duke!


Initially the scheme was limited to dogs, but over time it has been expanded to include other specially trained animals including cats, rabbits, and even the “world’s first therapy pig”, LilLou.

Animals are selected for their temperament and behaviour, and must be certified by San Francisco’s SPCA and have completed its Animal Assisted Therapy (ATT) programme.

Before getting the call up to wear the special “Pet Me” vest at San Francisco airport, Duke was initially rescued by the SPCA from a feral cat colony in 2010 while he was still a kitten.

He was adopted by a five-year-old girl and her mother, who had him certified as a therapy animal.

On his Instagram account, run by his owners, Duke’s latest appointment was announced with a post reading: “Happy is not the word… elated!”

Here’s Duke’s Instagram page and a photo of him with his staff. The caption for this one, apparently from the cat: “I picked her out as my guardian on November 1, 2010, when she was a sassy 5 year old. Best decision of my life.”  Clearly this was written by Duke:


Here’s a great Kiffness video of a cat meowing, almost in English, about its loneliness. A musician turns it into a plaintive song: “Sometimes I’m alone.”

Here’s the original video (click below or here to go to the plaintive cat).


In this article from Explore Cats, we get the answer to the question all ailurophiles have asked: “Can any species of cat climb down a tree head first?”  We know that a treed cat has to climb down backwards because its recurved claws will only give it a grasp when it’s facing forwards (see this article for more explanation). But is that true of all cats species?

The answer is no, and click on the screenshot below to see why:

The way to do it is to evolve the ability to rotate your ankles 180°, so you can walk down head first with your paws backwards. By “rotating 180 degrees,” they mean upside-down, as if you were able to walk on the tops of your feet.

From the article:

. . .certain wild cats have the hypermobility needed. Three wild cats are known to be able to rotate their rear ankles 180 degrees.

These arboreal cats have adapted to a life that is spent significantly in trees. Hypermobility provides these cats with the ability to move swiftly up and down trees.

The ability to rotate their ankles 180 degrees also gives these three species of felines the ability to climb down trees by holding on with their hind legs only as well as the ability to hang from tree limbs with just one rear paw.

Three known species of wild cats are known to have evolved hypermobility: Margery, clouded leopards, and marbled cats.

The Margay

The margay (Leopardus Wiedii) is considered by many researchers to be the most adapted to life in the trees. The margay is a small spotted cat that is native to Central and South America. Smaller than a house cat, the margay only weights 2.6 to 4 kg (5.7 to 8.8 lb).

Margays are found mostly in dense forests that range from tropical evergreen forest to tropical dry forest and high cloud forest.  The wild cat’s range once extended as far north at Texas but is now distributed from Mexico through Central America to Brazil and Paraguay.

In addition to ankles that are able to rotate 180 degrees, margay cats have large paw pads that help them to grip tree bark. Nocturnal cats, the agility of margays helps them to hunt small primates and squirrels as well as amphibians, reptiles, birds and eggs.

A video:

And here’s Professor Ceiling Cat actually holding a margay, which was pretty tame and was resident of a bar in Playas Del Coco, Costa Rica. The photo is from August, 1974 when I was taking an Organization for Tropical Studies Course in Costa Rica, and it’s a photo of a 35mm slide. The cat bit my ring, and for years afterwards, until the Turkish puzzle ring fell apart, it had a dent from the margay’s tooth.

This is the only time in my life that I held a species of cat other than a housecat.

Marbled Cat.

The marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) is a small wild cat native with a distribution from eastern Himalayas to Southeast Asia. Like the margay cat, the marbled cat is also adapted to life in the trees and has the ability to rotate its ankles 180 degrees (Kitchener et al., 2010). This lets the marbled cat descend trees head first as well as hang on to a branch with one hind leg only.

The marbled cat lives in forest up to 2,500 m (8,200 ft) altitude. Similar in size to a domestic cat, the marbled cat weighs between 2 and 5 kg (4.4 and 11.0 lb).

This is a short video as the cat is elusive:


Finally, the clouded leopard, perhaps the most beautiful of cats:

These arboreal cats (Neofelis nebulosa) live in dense forests from the foothills of the Himalayas through mainland Southeast Asia into southern China.

The largest of the wild cats with hypermobility, clouded leopards weigh between 11.5 and 23 kg (25 and 51 lb).

Notice the rotated ankles in this tweet:

I found this video:


Lagniappe from reader Divy: Her master Jango approves of the paper by Luana and me:


h/t: Su, Ginger K., Debra

5 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: Airport hires therapy cat to calm nervous travelers; lonely cat song; and which cats climb down trees head first; and lagniappe

  1. Some cat bit your ring in a beach bar in Costa Rica?

    Child of the 70s you may be, but that line of your autobiography is likely to attract the editorial “please rephrase” blue pencil.

  2. PCC, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to hold more non-housecat felids in the near future!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *