Caturday felid special: Readers’ polydactylous cats

October 9, 2021 • 9:30 am

The idea for this picture post came from reader Lee Beringsmith, who wrote me an email with a picture of his “Super Scratcher”. To wit:

I have a suggestion for a future Caturday. As a fellow cat lover, how about asking for photos of readers cats with multiple digits?

I have a favorite barn cat, a polydactyl with paws that look like it is well on its way to developing an opposable thumb. I can imagine cat scientist a million years from now finding this fossil as evidence of early Felis catus hand evolution.

I thought that was a good idea, so I asked readers to send me pictures of the polydactylous cats for whom they are staff. The responses are below.

First, though, Wikipedia has an entry for “polydactyl cats” that talks about where they’re found (mostly the East Cost of North America—England and Canada—Southwest England, and Wales), their genetics, and their lore. Here’s some information about the genetics of extra toes:

Polydactyly is a congenital abnormality that can be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. Some cases of polydactyly are caused by mutations in the ZRS, a genetic enhancer that regulates expression of the Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) gene in the limb. The SHH protein is an important signalling molecule involved in patterning of many body elements, including limbs and digits.

Normal cats have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each fore paw, and four toes on each hind paw; polydactyl cats may have as many as nine digits on their front or hind paws. Both Jake, a Canadian polydactyl cat, and Paws, an American polydactyl cat, were recognised by Guinness World Records as having the highest number of toes on a cat, 28. Various combinations of anywhere from four to seven toes per paw are common.  Polydactyly is most commonly found on the front paws only; it is rare for a cat to have polydactyl hind paws only, and polydactyly of all four paws is even less common.

Our first readers’ cat, from Ken Babcock:

Leon is a Snowshoe that runs our household in Santa Barbara, CA.  Snowshoes belong to a Siamese/shorthair breed developed in the 60’s, and Leon has both the polydactylism and crossed eyes that are fairly common in them.  He was a feral rescue socialized through the “Tiny Lions” program at our local Animal Shelter Assistance Program – very successfully, as he’s quite social now, always hanging around whomever’s home.  And he recently developed the habit of being in certain spots at certain times, expecting a good fussing.  I think there’s some OCD as well, as the “spot” is a particular square foot on the couch or bed – and don’t try to move him even six inches from there!  He runs “like a fat kid,” my wife says, maybe due to his oversized feet, but also no doubt from being well fed.  He doesn’t seem to respond to his name, but my wife has trained him to come to “Mr. Pussyman,” which must be said in a loud falsetto.  (Pretty sure she did this for her amusement, so she could hear “Mr. Pussyman!” ringing through the neighborhood when I call him in at night.) Leon has a loud, squeaky purr, and the softest pelt ever.  We’re talking mink quality!

From Roger Lambert:

Here is a pic of our new kitty named  “Q” after the Star Trek character. He has double thumbs all around and is an all around friendly guy.

From Brian Brandt, introduced to the contest by John Stairs. This cat has 26 toes—two shy of the world record!

The story of ToeTruck and Nala:  I had cancer, and not the “good” kind, 11 years ago.  While on chemotherapy, my neighbor started looking for a kitten for me, after I told her not to.  She spotted a couple of little heads popping up in a field in downtown Minneapolis.  Upon further inspection, she found three dead kittens, their dead mother and two barely alive kittens.  It was cold and raining, so exposure probably killed them.  She brought the survivors home, nursed them back to health, and gave them to me.  ToeTruck has two extra toes on each foot, I was going to name him “26”, but everyone liked ToeTruck. He survived by being the biggest and strongest kitten, getting the last of the milk. Nala was the runt, and didn’t need as much.  If you ever get a chance to adopt a Pixie-Bob, do it.  They are more like dogs than cats, very loyal, they come when called, and can’t wait for you to get home, and follow you around the house.  Super smart, easily trained.  Best of both worlds.  ToeTruck (I prefer to spell his name as one word) has fully functional claws, he sharpens them all easily, even though 2 are partially opposable so he can “pick stuff up”.  I should have trained him to pick up a pen and write.  He loves to ride on your shoulder.  He’s almost 11 years old now, and can’t clear a 6 foot fence anymore, but he still jumps up to my shoulder from the floor, everytime I come home.

JAC: From the Pixie-Bob website linked above: “The Pixie-bob is one of the few breeds that allows polydactyl toes in the breed standard, with a maximum of seven toes per paw.”

From Jerry Piven, who sent a picture of his neighbor’s cat, sporting a total of 27 toes. This is the prizewinner for the post!

 

From Keith Gudger:

Here’s a photo of our polydactyl cat “Fenton”.  She has 1 more toe on each foot (all 4) than usual (6 on the front, 5 on the rear). She is an outdoor cat that adopted us and spends her days on our roof and her nights under our deck. A neighbor named her “Fenton” because she’s “black and white” like the sundae at Fenton’s in Berkeley.

From Ned Adams:

Here are two pictures of Smokey, a 13-year old Manx that came with the house we bought from a friend 1 1/2 years ago, right before the pandemic.  So from Smokey’s point of view, the transaction was just about changing his staffing.  Most Manx cats have short stubby tails or no tails at all; Smokey’s is longer than most. He has 6 toes on his front feet and 5 toes on the back feet. [Total: 22].  Smokey is very vocal and not shy about expressing his feelings or needs.  He is very friendly with the staff and known acquaintances, but initially distrustful of strangers.  The first picture shows him at his favorite pastime, watching the activity at our bird feeders.

From Margaret Shofner:

Twinkle Toes showed up in our yard early last year.  He is extremely mellow and would love to be an indoor cat, so he was someone’s pet.  He has clear green eyes and often has his tongue protruding.  We would let him live inside but Cupcakes strongly disapproves.

Kristin Wells sent in pictures of polydactylous cats at Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West: there are dozens of these Super Scratchers there, most descendants of an extra-toed cat given to Hemingway.

Attached are two pictures taken at what was Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida and is now open for tours. The property has close to sixty cats, not all polydactyl. [Since it’s a dominant gene, two heterozygous polydactylous cats can produce normal-toed offspring. I’m not sure whether homozygosity for the mutant gene is lethal.]

And, from Cattitude, here’s a photo of Jake, the world record holder with 28 toes. You can read more about him—and see more photos—at the Cattitude link:

 

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

Caturday felid trifecta: CONTEST, Minneapolis tour of window cats; Simon’s cat goes to the vet; cats’ personality traits; and lagniappe

September 25, 2021 • 9:30 am

First, I give a suggestion broached by reader Lee:

I have a suggestion for a future Caturday. As a fellow cat lover how about asking for photos of readers’ cats with multiple digits?  I have a favorite barn cat, a polydactyl with paws that look like it is well on its way to developing an opposable thumb. I can imagine cat scientists a million years from now finding his fossil as evidence of early Felis catus hand evolution.

Lee’s cat, Bigfoot, is shown below.

So, if you have a polydactylous cat, send me a photo, preferably showing the extra toes (two photos are fine: cat and paw). Deadline is October 10.

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had an article on a very unusual tour: a walking tour of “window cats” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, aimed at seeing cats sitting in windows or displayed by their staff. The tour attracted hundreds of viewers! Here’s an excerpt:

John Edwards, organizer of the annual Wedge Cat Tour, marking its fifth year, was amused by the neighbors’ alarm, considering his harmless intent. “Just show us your cats and there won’t be any trouble,” he joked.

Each summer, Mr. Edwards leads cat lovers through his neighborhood, stopping to see the resident furballs perched in windowsills, or pried off the purr-niture and toted outside to greet the crowd. Biographical details are shared, photos are taken, whiskers are rubbed, and the group moves on.

Over time, the Wedge tour — the only known neighborhood cat tour of its kind — has become a branded affair, complete with commemorative, limited-edition cat-tour buttons, tote bags and T-shirts. For safety’s sake, Edwards has even made handheld “Caution! Cat Tour Approaching” signs.

The tour has drawn big crowds. Due to COVID-19, last year’s event was virtual (an hourlong livestream of Mr. Edwards walking the route ), but in 2019, more than 300 cat tourists viewed 50-some felines.

Here’s one they go to see: “Fish, a 13 year-old cat belonging to Zach Randolph, sits on the porch of Zach’s home in the Wedge neighborhood.”

From the paper: Antranik Tavitan/Minneapolist Star-Tribune via TNS

There’s a lot more. A few more excerpts:

. . .In 2017, on the first tour, he led a small group in an uncharted meander through the neighborhood in search of random cats.

Since then, by pre-registering cats, he planned a 1.5-mile route, which takes several hours to travel.

Cat tourists have seen hairless breeds on leashes, a long-haired diva queen called Nanette Cleopatra Philivant, and the necktie-wearing Saul Blackheart, famous for his love of Joan Jett and ability to change computer settings by walking on keyboards.

On one tour, a guy emerged from an apartment building wearing an enormous black-and-white cat-head mask to present his matching cat to the group.

. . . Nina Hale, whose cat, Rilke, has been participating in the tour since 2018, calls it “a pure show of communal eccentricity” and “a celebration of urban living.” Hale, who takes the tour seriously enough to bring binoculars, said she loves the contrast between the crowd’s fervor for the felines, and the cats who, well, basically don’t give a crap. Rilke is preparing for this year’s tour by practicing “his blank stare of disdain” while Hale looks forward to the “utterly joyous” event. “This is what the world needs right now,” she said.

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This is one of the best “Simon’s Cat” videos ever.  Simon gets a bee sting on his paw and has to go to the vet. As you can imagine, it’s pandemonium. Don’t miss this 13-minute video!

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According to ScienceAlert (click on screenshot; see also here), a group of researchers at the University of Helsinki have studied 7 personality traits in more than 4300 cats; the goal was to gain more knowledge about cat behavior (there’s a paucity of information compared to d*gs) to help with problematic cats, rescuing cats and preventing euthanasia, and improving cat welfare.

The second site says this:

In a questionnaire designed by Professor Hannes Lohi’s research group, personality and behaviour were surveyed through a total of 138 statements. The questionnaire included comprehensive sections on background and health-related information. By employing, among other means, factor analysis to process the data, seven personality and behaviour traits in all were identified.

  • Activity/playfulness
  • Fearfulness
  • Aggression towards humans
  • Sociability towards humans
  • Sociability towards cats
  • Litterbox issues (relieving themselves in inappropriate places, precision in terms of litterbox cleanliness and substrate material)
  • Excessive grooming

“While the number of traits identified in prior research varies, activity/playfulness, fearfulness and aggression are the ones from among the traits identified in our study which occur the most often in prior studies. Litterbox issues and excessive grooming are not personality traits as such, but they can indicate something about the cat’s sensitivity to stress,” [Salla] Mikkola adds.

The ScienceAlert site adds this:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results also revealed that different breeds skew towards different personality traits.

“The most fearful breed was the Russian Blue, while the Abyssinian was the least fearful,” says veterinary scientist Hannes Lohi of the University of Helsinki.

“The Bengal was the most active breed, while the Persian and Exotic were the most passive. The breeds exhibiting the most excessive grooming were the Siamese and Balinese, while the Turkish Van breed scored considerably higher in aggression towards humans and lower in sociability towards cats.”

The point of this research was not to perform behavioral analysis of the felines involved, but to demonstrate the validity of the team’s survey for collecting information on feline behavior.

The variation among breeds was the most salient finding, and is not that surprising. But to see more findings, consult the original paper below, free with the legal Unpaywall app:

Mikkola S, Salonen M, Hakanen E, Sulkama S, Lohi H. Reliability and Validity of Seven Feline Behavior and Personality Traits. Animals (Basel). 2021 Jul 2;11(7):1991. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11071991.

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Lagniappe: Cat is absolutely determined to get in the box!

h/t: Ginger K.

Caturday felid: The unfortunate fall of Jack the Cat

September 18, 2021 • 8:15 am

The friends I’m visiting in Cambridge have two daughters, and we visited one of them yesterday. This daughter, a nurse, has a special love for animals. So does her husband, and they have two cats and a dog.

This is the story of how one of the cats, Jack, accidentally fell from his third-floor apartment, sustained serious injuries, and is laid up for a long time with broken bones. But Jack will eventually be all right thanks to the expert help he got at the U.S.’s best veterinary hospital, Angell Animal Medical Center.

Jack is eleven years old, and is a sweet kitty. I met him in his better days, before last weekend’s accident. Here he is with his sister Bella (jack is the tuxedo cat). (The d*g, not shown, is named Bronson.)

Jack’s most notable peculiarity is his fondness for Venus Williams. His male staff is a tennis maven, but Jack ignores the television matches—except when Venus Williams is playing. When that happens, he’s glued to the set and watches the ball go back and forth. He will not watch any match in which Venus isn’t playing. Go figure.

Jack is an indoor cat, but is allowed on the porch, on the third floor of a Jamaica Plain triple-decker. Last Sunday he went missing, and a neighbor informed the male of Jack’s staff that there was a cat lying on the cement parking space below the porch.  Jack was immediately found and scooped up; he’d clearly fallen from the porch, though we don’t and won’t know how that happened.

He was immediately driven to Angell Medical Center, which fortunately was very close. They were taking only emergency cases, and accepted Jack immediately. They quickly determined that one front paw was broken very badly, and at first the ER vet doct thought the paw would have to be amputated. But Angell, having enormously competent vets, decided they could save the paw.

It was only later that a CAT scan (!) determined that jack had also shattered both joints that joined his lower mandible to his skull, so that had to be taken care of as well.

Of course I wanted to visit Jack, and I did and photographed the poor moggie. Here’s how I first saw him: confined to a bathroom so the other animals wouldn’t disturb him:

Poor Jack! He can move and even walk a bit to his litter box on his injured paw, but most of the time, senses dulled by painkillers, he lies on his blanket. His paw is all bandaged and pinned, and the three buttons around his mouth are to keep it stitched shut until his shattered mandible heals (he can open his mouth 1 cm to eat). He’s also wearing the Cone of Shame:

Below: Jack’s poor wounded paw. He had a fracture of the second and third metacarpal bones, a fourth and fifth left carpometacarpal joint luxation, as well as the mandibular fractures, a collapsed lung, and contusions on the lung (those have largely healed). He’ll be laid up for six weeks, minimum, but in the end he should be all right, although perhaps without the mobility he used to have.

Note the many pins holding his wrist bones together; there’s a cushion on the end so the bits that stick out won’t injure him.

Here’s a photo of the first page of Jack’s medical report, discharge certificate, and instructions for care, which in total runs 3.5 pages. These people are thorough! Fortunately, Jack had medical pet insurance, as this kind of treatment isn’t cheap.

Jack is well loved, and can be picked up gently:

His wounded face is even brushed with a human eye makeup brush:

Here’s the porch from which Jack fell, landing on the cement parking area below. Perhaps he was interested in a squirrel or bird, and fell off in his enthusiasm, or perhaps he was walking on the railing and lost his balance.

It’s well known that cats falling from heights show an unusual phenomenon: they are more likely to be injured when falling from lower stories, as they don’t get a chance to right themselves and land on their feet, as well as increasing air resistance. This turns out to be a statistical artifact, see Greg’s comment below.

Jack will eventually heal, but send him your good wishes for a speedy recovery.

Caturday felid trifecta: Man plays fractious cat; why you can’t outrun a housecat; what is it like to be a cat?; and lagniappe

September 11, 2021 • 9:30 am

It’s time for the weekly cat trifecta, and we have special lagniappe today.

The Animal Rescue Site has a training video for veterinary technicians. Here a man plays a fractious cat, and the site says he should win an Oscar for his performance.  I think this is a joke, but maybe not. . .

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From Wired we have this provocative article (click on the screenshot). If you have a cat, you already know that it can run a lot faster than you—even if you’re Usain Bolt. (Bolt ran his 100 m record sprint at 27 miles per hour, just under the top speed of a house cat.)

and here’s the study it refers to, which I haven’t read as it’s impenetrable (click on screenshot for free access):

As the first article notes, there are three factors at play in determining an animal’s maximum speed: body size, limb length, and whether it’s bipedal or quadrupedal (the latter confers more speed). Previous work had suggested, in contrast, that metabolism was the key, and large animals simply ran out of fuel faster than small ones.  This doesn’t appear to be true:

[Michael] Günther’s team was also able to predict theoretical speed maximums for different body designs at 100 kilograms, or about 220 pounds. A house cat this size could run up to 46 miles per hour; a giant spider, if its legs could somehow sustain its weight, would top out at 35 miles per hour. Unsurprisingly, the average human body design comes in last place here: At 100 kilograms, we can only reach about 24 miles per hour.

But body size isn’t the only feature that comes into play when maximizing speed. In the model, leg length also mattered. Animals with longer legs are able to push their bodies farther forward before their foot must leave the ground, prolonging the time they have to accelerate between midstance and liftoff.

As for why four-legged animals can run faster than humans, Günther says this isn’t because we only have two legs, but because our torsos are positioned upright and feel the full force of gravity. Bipedal creatures have evolved with much more rigid spinal structures to prioritize balance and stability over speed. Animals whose trunks are parallel to the ground, however, evolved with more flexible spines that are optimized for prolonged foot contact with the earth.

But what about muscle fatigue? “It doesn’t play any role,” Günther says.

Oh, and there’s this:

According to the team’s results, the sweet spot for overcoming air drag and inertia lies at around 110 pounds. Not coincidentally, that’s the average weight of both cheetahs and pronghorns.

The paper is way, way above my pay grade. Here’s one of its figures, which has to be a candidate for Worst Figure of the Year:

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What is it like to be a cat? The NYT has an op-ed on a man obsessed with that question (click on screenshot). The author, Farhad Manjoo, doesn’t refer to the piece’s predecessor, Tom Nagel’s famous article, “What is it like to be a bat?“, but he should at least have mentioned it. This is, however, a very nice essay:

Manjoo and his wife treated themselves to two Bengal kittens (be still, my heart), Leo and Luna, five months ago, and now they’re two months older. After admiring their beauty and grace, Manjoo started wondering what was going on inside their heads.  I don’t think any biologist wouldn’t wonder about stuff like that. I often ponder what my ducks’ consciousness is like, but I always draw a complete blank.

The musing get more and more complex:

Like, when my new kittens look at me, what do they see? As their provider of food and shelter, do they regard me as a parent? Or, with my towering (relative) size, my powers over light and dark and my apparently infinite supply of cardboard boxes, am I more like a deity to them?

. . .Watching the cats romp about has become a reliable way to escape all that. I find myself jumping from small questions — does Luna seriously not realize, yet, that she is attached to her tail? — to larger, more abstract and eternal ones: Does Luna even understand that she is — does she, in the way René Descartes conceived it, possess knowledge of a self?

More specifically: What is it like to be my cats? Are they “conscious” in the way I am? What, anyway, is consciousness? And if a cat can be conscious, can a computer?

He’s asking the Big Questions! But yes, cats are conscious, but not in the way he is. (I am guessing, of course.) Computers aren’t conscious—yet.  Manjoo then muses on animal consciousness and why it matters. I haven’t read the linked “Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness” below, but it’s pretty clear that animals have some form of qualia—sensing pain or its absence, and perhaps pleasure. Mammals sure act as if they’re in pain when you hurt them, and even birds, if given a restrictive and cruel pen, as they often are when domesticated, will show a preference for roaming in better surroundings, like a field or open plot. Does that preference not show consciousness of what environment feels better, or is it only a mechanical response to evolved tendencies?

At any rate, the question of animal suffering is a pressing one, as Manjoo points out at the end. I think, along with others, that when our descendants look back on us 200 years hence, they’ll ask “How could people possibly torture animals before killing and eating them?” Will they cancel all carnivores then?

Manjoo muses further (there’s more after this, but I’ll stop here)

There is also evidence that nonmammalian creatures with quite different brain structures possess a conscious self. In 2012, after reviewing research on how animals think, a group of neuroscientists and others who study cognition put out a document declaring animals to be conscious. They wrote that the “weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness,” which they said could likely be found in “nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses.” It is not only possible, then, that my kittens feel the subjective experience of being served chicken slop several times a day — it might be likely that they feel something, even if we have no way of knowing what it is.

Still, I don’t blame you if after all this you’re left asking, Hey, Farhad, I’m glad you like your cats, but why does it matter to anyone what’s playing out in their heads?

I’ll end with a couple thoughts, one slightly obvious and one less so. The obvious reason: Consciousness matters because it confers ethical and moral status. If we agree that our dogs and cats are conscious, then it becomes very difficult to argue that pigs and cows and whales and even catfish and chickens are not. Yet if all these creatures experience consciousness analogous to ours then one has to conclude that our species is engaged in a great moral catastrophe — because in food production facilities all over the world, we routinely treat nonhuman animals as Descartes saw them, as machines without feeling or experience. This view lets us inflict any torture necessary for productive efficiency.

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Lagniappe: A cat defends itself against a cobra. Why didn’t the guy filming the video do something?

Bonus: more lagniappe! I got this picture from reader Frits this morning. It’s titled “Dog behaving badly,” and Frits says this: “Picture made by my wife in Buis-les-Baronnies (the little town in the Drôme Provençale where, irrelevantly, Titania McGrath is supposed to have a gîte).

h/t: Paul, Stephen, Lenora, Tom, Frits

Caturday felid trifecta: Four-eared cat finds forever home; international cat idioms; “more than one way to skin a cat”; and lagniappe

September 4, 2021 • 9:45 am

Meet Yoda, the four-eared cat that has two functional ears and two tiny ones behind them, which aren’t used for hearing. Though the article at I Love My Cat says this may be a genetic mutation, we won’t know unless Yoda has offspring or grand-offspring that are interbred.

The English in the article isn’t great, and in fact is a bit confusing. For example:

Yoda was adopted by Valerie and her husband two years ago after visiting a bar near their home in Chicago. As the couple saw Yoda, they immediately felt in love with him. They quickly asked the owner to adopt him and named the cat Yoda, after the pointy-eared Jedi knight in Star Wars.

Who visited the bar? Yoda or Valerie? And who adopted him—the bar or the couple? (I omit the misspelling.) These are cases of unclear antecdents. Regardless, Yoda’s an adorable moggie and lives near Chicago. Why haven’t I seen him?

You can see why he’s called Yoda:

Yoda lives in Downer’s Grove, a suburb of Chicago. Here’s a video of him:

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Here’s an article from Mental Floss (click on screenshot) giving ten international idioms about cats.

Here they are with explanations. My favorites are #6 and #9.

1.) YOU’RE LIKE A CAT WALKING AROUND HOT PORRIDGE. 

Looking for a more relevant phrase than the medieval hunting-inspired “beat around the bush”? In some Scandinavian languages, evasive behavior is exemplified by a cat who seeks to avoid eating too-hot porridge, as in the Swedish expression att gå som katten runt het gröt or its Danish equivalent, at gå som katten om den varme grød. Cat/porridge interactions might not be an everyday occurrence in your household, but you get the idea.

2.) LET’S CALL A CAT A CAT.

If porridge imagery isn’t your thing, but you still need someone to be direct and tell it like it is, cats can still help you out. The French expression appeler un chat un chat (borrowed by speakers of Dutch, especially in Belgium, as een kat een kat noemen) suggests there’s nothing more straightforward than calling a cat a cat.

3.) YOU’RE JUST BEING SHY-SHY CAT

Even the most sociable cats are bashful when it suits them, but we know it’s only an act. In Indonesian, if a person is acting coy, they’re being malu-malu kucing, or “shy-shy cat.”

4.) WHAT WOULD THE CAT’S SON DO BUT KILL A MOUSE?

This business about apples that “didn’t fall far from the tree” isn’t terribly useful as a metaphor for human behavior. Apples aren’t sentient; we can’t empathize with an apple’s journey. Enter the charming Irish phrase Cad a dhéanfadh mac an chait ach luch a mharú? The cat’s son has free will, yet he succumbs to his natural urge and kills a mouse, thus fulfilling his destiny. Now that’s a narrative we can relate to!

5.) A CAT RAN BETWEEN THEM.

Gossiping about folks who had a falling-out, but the reasons for the conflict are unclear? According to the Russian expression Между ними кошка пробежала (mezhdu nimi koshka probezhala), the whole thing happened because a cat got in the way. Hey, it’s not like you had a more logical explanation.

6.) MY HOUSE/APARTMENT/GARDEN IS LIKE A CAT’S FOREHEAD.

The Japanese expression “猫の額” (neko no hitai, literally “cat’s forehead”) is used to describe small spaces. The tiny-house movement would have far more appeal if people were describing their diminutive dwellings as cats’ foreheads, or—hear us out—designing them to look like cats’ foreheads. So cute!.

7.) THERE’S A LOCKED-UP CAT HERE.

If you’ve ever had to wrestle a cat into a carrier, you know just how dangerous a cornered feline can be. Next time you have suspicions about a situation, instead of saying there’s “something fishy going on,” take a cue from the Spanish phrase aquí hay gato encerrado.

8.) ONE WHO HAS NO DOG HUNTS WITH A CAT. 

While cats are fearsome hunters, they don’t have a great reputation for following directions, so it stands to reason you might prefer a different hunting companion. The idea behind this Portuguese adage, quem não tem cão caça com gato, is that we make do with the resources we have, even if they’re not ideal.

9.) WHO WOULD RAISE A CAT’S TAIL, IF NOT THE CAT HIMSELF?

The Finnish expression kuka kissan hännän nostaa ellei kissa itse invites you to brag about your own accomplishments. Sure, you could “toot your own horn” or “sing your own praises,” but this phrase lets you reframe your boastfulness as self-sufficiency.

10). WHEN THE CAT GOES AWAY, THE MICE REIGN. 

Even the cat-based idioms that already exist in English have some room for improvement, so let’s end by tweaking a classic saying. “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” is all well and good, but is playing really all the mice want to do? Perhaps they’re more ambitious than that. The Swahili adage paka akiondoka, panya hutawala takes things a step further, putting the mice in charge.

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Finally, Grammarphobia explains the phrase “Skinning a cat”, always used in the phrase “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” which in turn means, “There’s more than one way to accomplish this task.”

As the site recounts, it began with the phrase “Skinning a flint,” which meant an impossible task, and is the source of the word for a miser: “skinflint”. How did “cat” get in there?

Then, in the UK, a “flint” became “cat,” presumably because it’s hard to skin a cat, and catskins are pretty useless:

In the 19th century, other versions of the “skin” phrase began appearing. A miser, seeing to get the last atom of use out of a useless thing, would “skin a louse” (1803), “skin a flea … for its hide or tallow” (1819), and finally “skin a cat.”

Here’s the earliest “cat” version in the OED: “I was … brought up amongst fellows would skin a cat” (from Davenport Dunn, 1859, by the Irish novelist Charles James Lever).

We found this parsimonious example in a travel guide: “A certain American once said, that to obtain money a Natalian would skin a cat” (South Africa: A Sketch Book, 1884, by James Stanley Little).

Finally, for unknown reasons, this transmogrified into the meaning we have today, and this happened in America:

Meanwhile, the notion of skinning cats underwent a change in American usage. A new expression, “there is more than one way to skin a cat” (and variants) came to mean “there is more than one means of achieving a given aim,” the OED says.

This is the earliest example we’ve found: “At any rate, thought I, there’s more than one way to skin a cat” (from The New York Transcript, reprinted in The Indiana American, Brookville, Jan. 15, 1836).

The question here is whether the miserly expression “to skin a cat” was the direct source of “more than one way to skin a cat.” There’s no way to know for sure, but our guess is that the first one influenced the second.

We say this because similar proverbs of the “more than one way” variety—and all meaning that there are different means of accomplishing the same goal—existed before cats became part of the expression.

There’s more, especially if you want to read about d*gs:

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Lagniappe: Mary, Queen of Scots made an embroidery, perhaps the only one that exists. And it’s of a cat! Here’s a video about it. Just click on the blue “watch on Vimeo” button.

The embroidery. The video tells you what the cat represents.

h/t: Ginger K., Malcolm

Caturday felid trifecta: Cats interrupting work; cat DNA analysis; baby ocelot born; and lagniappe

August 28, 2021 • 9:30 am

It’s time for the Caturday felidae, and we have three items today plus lagniappe (if you’ve been good).  These are all videos, so the print-averse will be pleased:

First, seven minutes of people on television, Zoom, Skype, and even a concert—all with cat interruptions. Cats don’t care if you’re on the computer! And in cat-loving Turkey, there are three cats on the summit stage, and one on the catwalk, where it licks its bum and then walks the catwalk, swiping at the models.

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This video is somewhat deceptive, as the DNA test of the cats doesn’t appear until 13 minutes in (the rest shows the “evolutionary” relatedness of domestic cat breeds and the three cats of the narrator.

The question is why you want to test your cat’s DNA. If you have a plain moggy, who cares what breed it belongs to? As for health markers, taking your cat to the vet regularly is sufficient to stave off any worries that could come from a DNA test. And if you have a purebred, well, the papers will tell you where it come from.  And I don’t really trust the diagnosis that such pet companies provide.  How many samples did they take to ensure accurate ancestry? The video doesn’t give you a lot of confidence.

If you want a more reliable result, I’d suggest doing your own DNA. BasePaws charges $129 for a standard cat analysis, while 23AndME charges $99 for your own basic human ancestry (another hundred bucks if you want to know what you’re gonna die from).

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Catoholic.net (note that this is not a religious site) announces the rare birth of an ocelot kitten (Leopardus pardalis) at the Audubon Zoo (likely to be renamed) in New Orleans. Although the article announces proudly that with the birth “Hope is restored”, in fact ocelots are not endangered. They are considered “species of least concern,” though some populations are decreasing because of habitat destruction. Here’s part of the announcement:

Kylie Linke, a member of the animal care team at the zoo, reported the following about the health of the kitten and his mother:

“The mother and kitten are doing great and he is eating like a champ. Milagre has been very accepting of us weighing him and always is ready to carry him back into the den when we’re done. He’s gone from around 200g at birth to now weighing more than 700g in just three short weeks! We’re already seeing personality and he’s just starting to zoom around on his own.” 

Regarding the kitten’s name, Linke said, “He doesn’t have a name yet, but he’s already stolen our hearts!”

Born on May 6 of last year, the kitten has now been named Batata (WTF?), and must be a Cat of Size by now. I still object to keeping large, free-ranging mammals in captivity like this, as the excuses they use—education and conservation—can easily be conveyed by watching videos, and ocelots aren’t endangered. Zoos rarely publish research papers, so what they “learn” about animals biologically is minimal (stop right now and read “The Zoo” by H. L. Mencken). It’s one of his wonderful essays, and I’d love to be able to write like this (without the ethnic slurs):

Education your grandmother! Show me a schoolboy who has ever learned anything valuable or important by watching a mangy old lion snoring away in its cage or a family of monkeys fighting for peanuts. To get any useful instruction out of such a spectacle is palpably impossible; not even a college professor is improved by it. The most it can imaginably impart is that the stripes of a certain sort of tiger run one way and the stripes of another sort some other way, that hyenas and polecats smell worse than Greek ‘bus boys, that the Latin name of the raccoon (who was unheard of by the Romans) is Procyon lotor. For the dissemination of such banal knowledge, absurdly emitted and defectively taken in, the taxpayers of the United States are mulcted in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. As well make them pay for teaching policemen the theory of least squares, or for instructing roosters in the laying of eggs.

But zoos, it is argued, are of scientific value. They enable learned men to study this or that. Again the facts blast the theory. No scientific discovery of any value whatsoever, even to the animals themselves, has ever come out of a zoo. The zoo scientist is the old woman of zoology, and his alleged wisdom is usually exhibited, not in the groves of actual learning, but in the yellow journals. He is to biology what the late Camille Flammarion was to astronomy, which is to say, its court jester and reductio ad absurdum. When he leaps into public notice with some new pearl of knowledge, it commonly turns out to be no more than the news that Marie Bashkirtseff, the Russian lady walrus, has had her teeth plugged with zinc and is expecting twins. Or that Pishposh, the man-eating alligator, is down with locomotor ataxia. Or that Damon, the grizzly, has just finished his brother Pythias in the tenth round, chewing off his tail, nose and remaining ear.

Science, of course, has its uses for the lower animals. A diligent study of their livers and lights helps to an understanding of the anatomy and physiology, and particularly of the pathology, of man. They are necessary aids in devising and manufacturing many remedial agents, and in testing the virtues of those already devised; out of the mute agonies of a rabbit or a calf may come relief for a baby with diphtheria, or means for an archdeacon to escape the consequences of his youthful follies. Moreover, something valuable is to be got out of a mere study of their habits, instincts and ways of mind — knowledge that, by analogy, may illuminate the parallel doings of the genus homo, and so enable us to comprehend the primitive mental processes of Congressmen, morons and the rev. clergy.

But it must be obvious that none of these studies can be made in a zoo. The zoo animals, to begin with, provide no material for the biologist; he can find out no more about their insides than what he discerns from a safe distance and through the bars. He is not allowed to try his germs and specifics upon them; he is not allowed to vivisect them. If he would find out what goes on in the animal body under this condition or that, he must turn from the inhabitants of the zoo to the customary guinea pigs and street dogs, and buy or steal them for himself. Nor does he get any chance for profitable inquiry when zoo animals die (usually of lack of exercise or ignorant doctoring), for their carcasses are not handed to him for autopsy, but at once stuffed with gypsum and excelsior and placed in some museum.

Least of all do zoos produce any new knowledge about animal behavior. Such knowledge must be got, not from animals penned up and tortured, but from animals in a state of nature. A college professor studying the habits of the giraffe, for example, and confining his observations to specimens in zoos, would inevitably come to the conclusion that the giraffe is a sedentary and melancholy beast, standing immovable for hours at a time and employing an Italian to feed him hay and cabbages. As well proceed to a study of the psychology of a jurisconsult by first immersing him in Sing Sing, or of a juggler by first cutting off his hands. Knowledge so gained is inaccurate and imbecile knowledge. Not even a college professor, if sober, would give it any faith and credit.

I love that last paragraph.

Granted, for rare species zoos have been important in conservation, particularly in breeding animals to restore them to the wild, but this ocelot and its parents are in the zoo for one reason only: entertainment (at the cost of the animals’ boredom) and dosh for the zoo. Like penitentiaries are prisons for humans, zoos are prisons for animals. The benefit of the penitentiary is that they don’t charge people to come and gawk at the inmates.

That said, Batata is a cutie, and here are two videos:

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Lagniappe from Facebook: what a strange looking cat!

h/t: Chris, Moto

Caturday felid trifecta: Cats from below; cats once again proved smarter than dogs; cat poems; and lagniappe

August 21, 2021 • 9:30 am

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.

The intro:

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

and

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:

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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.

Caturday felid trifecta: Cats and sterilized milk; when to pet a cat; “Stray”, a new cat video game; and lagniappe

August 14, 2021 • 9:30 am

Today we have the customary three items.

First, reader Malcolm sent me a picture of the poster below and its explanation (the poster is in the Victoria and Albert Museum):

Dating from 1894, one of the earliest food posters in our collection advertises pure, sterilised milk, by Swiss artist Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen. The sterilisation process was first developed in 1889, so pasteurised milk was a revolutionary new product when this poster was commissioned by the Quillot Brothers, owners of a dairy in the Vingeanne region of France, around 200 miles from Paris. Steinlen’s design uses the double ploy of both cute cats and an adorable child, demonstrating the deep-rooted appeal of such motifs in product advertising. The design was soon adopted by Swiss company Nestlé for their own early dairy marketing.

If you look at the Steinlen page on Wikipedia, you’ll see he often featured cats in posters, including the famous “Chat Noir” poster that everyone thinks was painted by Toulouse-Lautrec.

The Chat Noir poster, also by Steinlein, advertising a cabaret in Paris:

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This article from Phys Org (click on screenshot) tells us what cat owners already know: you have to let the cat decide whether or not to be petted. If you screw up, especially approaching an exposed belly at the wrong time, you risk getting slashed. As they say, cats have six ends, five of them pointed.

There are three guidelines that follow an acronym:

Nottingham Trent University’s Dr. Lauren Finka, the lead researcher on the study, worked in collaboration with leading animal welfare charity Battersea to develop the guidance for owners and cattery staff to address the fact that many people struggle to recognize when cats might not enjoy being petted.

The guidance and advice follows a simple “CAT’ acronym that encourages people to provide the cat with choice and control (C), pay attention (A) to the cat’s behavior and body language and think about where they are touching (T) the cat.

Well, you knew that already, right? But wait! There’s more!

According to Dr. Finka, providing the cat with choice and control is key to ensure they feel happy and comfortable during interactions. This includes gently offering a hand to the cat and letting it decide if it wants to interact or not, usually indicated by it rubbing against the person’s hand. Owners should allow the cat to move away if it chooses, and not be tempted to pick it up or follow it, as this takes away the cat’s sense of control.

People should also pay close attention to their cat’s behavioral reactions—if they turn their head or move away during the interaction, their ears rotate or become flattened, they shake their head or lick their nose, the fur along their back appears to ‘ripple’ or their tail ‘swishes’ rapidly then take these as signs the cat may need a little break from petting. Similarly, if the cat goes a little still, stops purring or rubbing against you, suddenly starts grooming itself or sharply turns its head to face you, then it is unlikely to welcome further stroking.

And in terms of where cats like to be stroked, most friendly cats will prefer the base of their ears, around their cheeks and under their chin. Avoiding the tummy and the base of their tails and being careful when stroking along their backs is generally advisable, although each cat will have individual preferences, so the key is to pay close attention to how each cat responds when these areas are touched.

SCIENTIFIC observation showed that cats petted according to the CAT guidelines showed fewer signs of aggression or discomfort.

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Although the cat video game Stray, which I believe I mentioned a couple of years back, won’t be released until next year, it already has a substantial Wikipedia site.  A summary of the game from that site is here:

Stray is an upcoming adventure game developed by BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive. Formerly known as HK_Project, the game is scheduled for release in early 2022 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. It follows the story of a stray cat who falls into a world populated by robots and ventures to return to his family.

. . . The game is a third-person adventure game. It has open world elements, with a focus on atmosphere, exploration, and art. The player controls a stray cat who falls into a world populated by robots and ventures to return to his family. They must solve puzzles to progress the narrative, including moving obstacles and traversing platforms. The player is accompanied by a drone companion named B12, who can assist by translating the language of the robots and storing items found throughout the world. One of the game’s enemies are Zurks, who will attack the player in vicious swarms.

Here’s a 4½ minute video introduction.  The only person I know who would get and play this game is Grania, but, sadly, I’ll never get her take on it.  If you’re a gamer and a cat lover, you’ll want it, right?

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In this BBC Earth segment, cubs at the Australia Zoo meet an adult of their species for the first time.  Some day I have to carry one of those babies!

h/t: Susan

Caturday felid trifecta: Two cat songs by Sandra Boynton; cat scratches itself on an iguana; a new statue to Street Cat Bob; and lagniappe

August 7, 2021 • 9:30 am

We he have our usual trio of cat-related items today. The first involves two songs.

Here’s a lovely cat jazz ballad: “C. A. T.”, sung by Sandra Boynton: with catlike piano playing à la Nora. Boynton wrote both songs below.

And a shorter piece, described on YouTube this way:

“A world-weary yet passionate cat chanteuse sings from the heart (in French, of course.) A soulful cello offers exquisite support. Semi-helpful subtitles are included. Song written, animated, and performed by Sandra Boynton, cello played by Yo-Yo Ma, piano played by Michael Ford. Plus there’s a surprise accordion cameo.” There are subtitles in English. It’s a replacement of sorts for the late and dolorous Henri.

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From Top13 we have the story of a Japanese cat who has formed a relationship with an iguana best termed commensal (this is a relationship between members of two species in which one individual gains something and the other nether gains nor loses). In this case, the relationship is described in the headline below (click on it to read the article).

Note: the English (indented) is not mine:

This is the case of a male iguana called Igu Senpai, who despite living with three dogs, a snake, several turtles and birds, he gets along very well with his cat friend as can be seeing on Twitter.

The cat usually spends many hours a day rubbing its head against the solid, scaly head of the iguana, which does not seem to bother it. It is actually a way for both of them to bond, as the reptile is feeling a soft ball of hair caressing it.

Well, if the reptile is gaining something by it (pleasure, not reproduction), I suppose it could be a mutualism instead of a commensalism. After all, the iguana tolerates it.  Here are two pictures and three Twitter videos:

This is the first animal scratching post I know of!

The iguana is hanging around here, suggesting that he at least likes the cat:

And more scratching. Note that the iguana doesn’t bite:

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I never read the 2012 book A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Lifeby James Bowen, but I did see the movie about it, “A Street Cat Named Bob,” which I watched on a plane, and it was very good. Bowen was a busker and a drug addict who took in a homeless cat, and the cat, whom he named Bob, helped wean him off drugs, as well as starting Bowen’s career as speaker and author. (There are now nine books about Bob.) It’s a true story about the salvific ginger tabby, and I’d highly recommend it (it gets a 77% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes). 

Here’s the movie trailer:

Bob died at 14, a celebrity in England. And now, according to the BBC report below (click on screenshot), a sculptor has made a life-sized bronze statue to Bob, which resides in Islington Green. From the article on July 15 (click on title to see it):

Bowen with the statue:

Bowen with the real Bob:

The statue overlooks the Islington Waterstones bookstore, where James wrote his first book recounting their journey together.

Here’s the sculptor, Tanya Russell, molding the Bob statue. Isn’t it a nice rendition of Bob?

If a reader is near the Islington Waterstones, take a selfie with the statue and send it to me, and I’ll put it in a future Caturday post.

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Lagniappe: Camera trap footage of tigers in Thailand:

 

h/t: Greg Mayer, Paul