Thursday, October 29, 2020

Spot the witches hat answer image

 This where the witches hat is in this bank of feline faces at night. It is circled in red. It is well hidden :) . If you have arrived here first, please ignore and go to this page instead.

It's National Cat Day in the US. What Can I Do?

National Cat Day was started to heighten the awareness of people to rescue cats in shelters and to encourage cat lovers to celebrate the life of their cat companions. So what can we do on this day? It must be about improving the lives of our cats. That must be the underlying purpose of National Cat Day. I would like to suggest one overarching goal which affects every aspect of cat caregiving: respecting the cat. So what does respecting the cat mean? First it means reminding ourselves that we are living with another species of animal. It means not treating our domestic cat companions as little people although that is very nice to do and what one is almost compelled to do but it can lead to relating and interacting with our cats in the wrong way.

Picture: Figo Pet Insurance

Respecting the cat really means understanding the cat which is going require some book work if you like. If not book work then some thought and consideration. Perhaps watching some videos or reading articles like this one. You have to understand domestic cat behaviour to respect the cat. You have to understand a little bit about their anatomy, their diet and their physiology. You need to get into the head of your cat is best you can to understand their desires and motivations. Then you need to allow them as best as possible to express those desires and motivations. The more they can do this the happier they will be. A domestic cat is happiest when he is able to behave as naturally as possible. That means creating an environment where you can do this. And the concept of ownership should be rejigged to to one of 'relationship'. The concept of ownership does not sit well with good cat caretaking.
Another aspect of respecting the cat is to remind ourselves that we are a human-animal and much larger than a domestic cat. How do they see us? Do they respect the human? Well we don't know for sure how they view us but they probably relate to us as if we are cats. This is because they do not change their behaviour around us. They behave as if they were behaving towards another cat, perhaps a mother cat. This indicates that they think of us as cats. Dogs, conversely, relate to people differently than they do towards other dogs. This indicates that they view us as a species other than a dog.
So we need to remind ourselves that we are much larger than them and that they live in our world. We have complete control over that world. We can make it good and we can make it bad. We have to also realise that domestic cats are not "independent" to the point where they can be left alone all day. They are social animals. They have learned to be sociable with their human companions and other cats and dogs. Therefore we need to be around them, interacting with them.
As one last point worth making and that is the obesity epidemic. This is almost like loving a cat too much. It almost inevitably boils down to providing a cat with too much food and not enough activity. The simple fix for feline obesity is to feed in a more controlled way and interact with your cat to play a lot more. The first is easier to do than the second and it means providing high quality cat food, no dry cat food ideally, and rationing the portions. Your cat will complain initially until he gets used to it. Obesity causes health problems and loving a cat by providing too many treats causing health problems is not truly loving your cat or respecting him or her either.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Halloween perpetuates the link between black cats and witches

For a tenuous reason, Halloween and black cats are linked. The origins of today's Halloween are rather murky. We are not sure why we have Halloween today except there is one thing that is sure, it is a form of human entertainment. It's an excuse for a holiday, a break from the mundane and routine. The word Halloween means "Saints' evening". A million miles away from haunted houses, bonfires and watching horror films.

Jet black Bombay cat. Photo: Helmi Flick. With her permission.

Bombay cat. In public domain.

The link to watching horror films at this time is an indirect link to the horrors of the Dark Ages (around the 1200s) when cats were persecuted in Europe and when people believed in witches and their familiars namely their domestic cat companion. The cat was seen to be imbued with the devil and that unfortunate association has stuck right through to the 21st century in some parts of the world and in some people's minds.

That's why at Halloween in America, where it is practised widely, some animal shelters do not allow black cats to be adopted at this time. This is because they are concerned that the adopters are not bone fide with respect to the reasons why they want to adopt. They think that they may be involved in some gruesome activity to celebrate Halloween which results in the cat being harmed or killed.

Why black cats are linked to Halloween

However, looking at it from the other direction, you could argue that the fact that animal shelters prevent the adoption of a black cat at this time perpetuates black cat bias or prejudice which, incidentally, is another reason why unscrupulous people are encouraged to abuse black cats at this time.

Perhaps we should totally disconnect black cats from Halloween and treat them as any other domestic cat. The focus should be on the people adopting the cat. If there's any suspicion that they are not genuine they should be barred from adopting. Placing the focus on black cats and you succumb to the prejudice against them.

Shutting your cat out of the bedroom at night

You want to shut your cat out of the bedroom at night or you have already done it. Quite a lot of people do this. There is no absolute right or wrong but for me it is wrong. Domestic cats are meant to be part of the family. You're meant to love them as a family member. You treat them as a family member, as a son or a child or even a husband! And you know what, you'll get used to your cat being on and off your bed at night. It might bother you for a while and then your brain learns to ignore it and you're back to normal. And your cat is happy. They really want to be there as it is the smelliest place in the home -- of you.

Montage by Michael based on images in the public domain.

To lock them out of the bedroom is a bit like preventing your wife from driving the family car. Or it's banning your husband from watching the television. Or it's withholding sex with your partner for the next three months. You are removing quite a big chunk out of the life of your cat. The bedroom is an important place for a domestic cat.

It is a room where the smell of a cat's caregiver is the strongest. The bed clothes smell of you and your husband or wife if you have one. The smell is very reassuring to your cat. Cats identify people by their body odour. It's perhaps the most important room in the house for a cat. Jackson Galaxy the famous cat behaviourist calls bedrooms 'scent soakers'. They are soaked in the scent of humans.

To lock your cat out of such a room is very unfriendly. It is unkindly and it is not the behaviour of a good cat caregiver. I'm going to be a purist here. I believe that when you adopt a cat you adopt him or her for their lifetime. You've heard that one before haven't you? It's obvious though. And when you adopt a cat there is an unwritten contract which states that you accept and respect your cat. You accept their behaviour. You don't qualify the relationship or place conditions on it.

This means that you accept them coming into your bedroom. That's respecting your cat. If you really, really hate the thought of your cat coming into your bedroom because she disturbs your sleep then you should find a compromise. Perhaps you might put your cat's bed in the corner of the room and gently encourage her to sleep there at night. That might work. It will allow her to be surrounded by the smell of her human companion and it would keep the peace, hopefully.

You will find that all the true and great cat owners allow their cat to sleep on their bed at night and whenever they like. This is because they want to please their cat. And they want to be near their cat. It's really great having your cat in bed at night particularly if you live alone. Even if you don't live alone it is perfectly fine. You should get used to it and learn to enjoy it. That's what respecting the cat means and it is part of cat ownership or let's rephrase that guardianship.

Forget all those stories about diseases being transmitted from cat to person and the bed is a place where those diseases can attack you! It's pretty well all scaremongering. The experts even say that toddlers should sleep with cats because it boosts their immune system. If you place a toddler in a sterile environment their body does not develop immunity to anything. Another reason why sleeping with your cat is good for you. And yes, your cat might be active at two or three or four in the morning. That's the way it is with domestic cats. They prefer to be active at those times and when you adopted your cat you knew that didn't you?

Australian scientist claims that diseases transmitted by cats to people cost the Australian economy AU$6 billion annually

I find this extraordinary. Unfortunately I don't have access to the full article by Donna Lu on the website because you have to subscribe to the site and I don't want to do that (but see update below please). But the opening paragraphs state that diseases transmitted by the domestic cat to people, including cat scratch disease, cost the Australian economy more than AU$6 billion per year (4.2 US dollars). The costings are based upon the impact on human health and livestock production. Clearly they are inferring that domestic cat spread disease to livestock as well or is it that people are incapacitated and therefore can't farm? They may be referring to toxoplasmosis. No doubt they are because this disease always comes up in these sorts of discussions. The author emphasises cat scratch disease and bites.

Prof Sarah Legge. Photo: Australian National University.

Well, there you are. I will have to speculate as to how they have calculated this cost. But they must be saying is that cat owners and non-cat owners are being bitten or scratched by domestic and stray cats which removes them from the workplace for a day or two while they recover. Or perhaps they go to hospital but this is normally extremely rare.

99% of cat bites and scratches do pretty well nothing in terms of interfering with one's day-to-day living. That's my personal experience. Toxoplasmosis is almost always asymptomatic in people i.e. no symptoms. Cat scratch disease is rare in people. Certainly, cats can cause it but I would speculate that one in 500 or 1000 scratches results in cat scratch disease. It needs to be treated. Bites are not uncommon but most often are irritations more than injuries that need to be dealt with immediately. That said when bitten by a cat you have to be vigilant and watch the area where you were bitten. As soon as it looks as if it's becoming infected you must take antibiotics as prescribed by a doctor to ensure that they are the right antibiotics. This is an absolute must as stated. Because if you let an infection caused by a cat bite get worse it can cause a serious injury and it can lead to hospitalisation.

Zoonotic diseases transmitted by cats to people are on the whole pretty rare and therefore have difficulty in understanding how they arrive at a AU$6 billion cost.


I have found an article on a Chinese website which discusses the research by Prof Sarah Legge of the Australian National University and the University of Queensland. She argues that annually over 500 people die in Australia and there are 11,000 hospitalisations due do diseases transmitted by cats to people. The costs include medical treatment, reasonable relevant expenses, lost income et cetera.

She refers to toxoplasmosis as mentioned, roundworm and cat scratch disease. Of these toxoplasmosis has the biggest negative impact on the Australian economy. She claims that it has possible long-term effects on behaviour and mental health. Note, the word "possible". She doesn't know and therefore how can she make calculations on the back of it.

She claims that the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis causes 200 deaths and 6,500 hospitalisations due to car accidents which could be avoided in Australia annually. She believes that the disease causes mental health disorders which I presume are translated into poor driving! She claims that one in five cases of schizophrenia and one in 10 cases of suicide were caused by toxoplasmosis. She wants domestic cats to be kept indoors all the time in Australia and for people to wash their hands thoroughly after handling cat litter or gardening. This is to stop transmission of toxoplasma gondii oocysts in the soil or faeces in the litter tray to the hands and from the hands to the mouth and therefore ingested.

She also claims that feral cats around towns are a reservoir for disease.

Human behavior

We have to discuss human behaviour in this equation. Most cases of toxoplasmosis are caused by mishandling of raw foods in the kitchen. That's due to careless human behaviour. Being scratched or bitten by cat is often put down to careless human behaviour. Contracting toxoplasmosis through mishandling of cat litter or when gardening, once again, can be put down at least in part two careless human behaviour. Therefore this vast economic loss to the economy in Australia as stated is in large part due to human behaviour. It is unreasonable to blame the cat exclusively as this professor is.

Cat owner coughs and his cats run in terror

Firstly sorry if the video formatting is strange. I have no control over it. It still works - just.

For me, being a cat lover and a purist, this video which might be described as a "funny cat video" is a bit disturbing because apparently the owner of these five cats is amused by the fact that when he coughs loudly his cats run away in terror. Of course, as the floor is hard they slip and slide on it which is an added aspect of the video which makes it even more funny. That's why it was filmed in the first place and why it was uploaded to the Internet. Funny cat videos are hugely popular and have been for a decade. But what about the cats? Why did a simple cough terrify them? I think that we need to ask that question and answer it. The only possible reasonable reason is that this man has used his voice to frighten his cats in the past. Perhaps he has shouted at them or ordered them about and they've become sensitive to his voice when the sound he makes is aggressive in nature. Perhaps I'm wrong and to protect myself I would say that what I'm saying are allegations. I don't know for sure but it is strange that making an innocuous sound can terrorise cats like this. I don't find it funny. What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Mother cat defends her kittens ferociously and with courage against imaginary threat

Ginger cat desperately escapes second-floor inferno started by ex-boyfriend

It is alleged that the former boyfriend of the tenant of this apartment set it alight while intoxicated. The apartment became an inferno and I will presume that the tenant's ginger cat had to escape under desperate circumstances. You will see in the video the cat being forced to make a decision that they did not want to make which was to jump from the second floor. The cat waited as long as possible and was singed. You will see his or her back smoking and black. It is unpleasant. The cat jumps into a crowd below and his fall was broken, I believe, by one of their number. The cat appears to have avoided serious harm but probably suffered from smoke inhalation and the heat may have damaged his heart. It is known that firefighters can suffer from heart disease prematurely because they are constantly working in very high temperatures. Also of course the smoke inhalation may leave this cat with some permanent damage. As far as we know there are no other injuries such as breakages.

Ginger tabby jumped from burning apartment. Photo: NYCACC.

The man who started the fire is allegedly Willie Manning, aged 61. He has been charged with burglary, arson, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and criminal contempt. Apparently and allegedly he has had 30 arrests before according to the New York Post. He is being treated in hospital and was found unconscious either inside or outside the flat, the report is unclear.

The police were able to enter the apartment so I suspect that they saw him there and brought him out. The video that you see on this page was captured apparently by Aaron Ganaway. Seven people including two police officers were injured apparently by the blaze. It happened in Harlem, New York. We will see the cat clambering down the side of the building to get as low as possible to the ground before leaping. Three officers below clapped their hands and encouraged the cat to jump. The cat was taken to the Animal Care Centres of New York City where it was reported that he was in pretty good shape according to NBC.


Comment: The moral of the story: it appears to be a domestic dispute in which the companion animal of the victim suffered. Companion animals are often victims as well as one of the partners in domestic disputes for the obvious reason that the man in a male-female partnership uses the cat companion of the female as leverage in an emotional war. It is very effective and it stops women leaving the family home because she is unable to find a place for her companion animal at a refuge. This is changing as refugees for victims of domestic violence are opening their doors to companion animals as well although, as I understand it, many still don't.

Uncomfortably, for me, in many house fires, the cats not infrequently die in the fire while their owner escapes. I've noticed this. The obvious reason is that in a fire people panic and understandably so. But I wish they were able to have the presence of mind to quickly find their cat and bring them with them to the outside. No doubt cats hide when a fire starts and become almost invisible but I still believe more could be done to save cats in house fires. Some of the best photographs are of firefighters rescuing domestic cats from a burning house and then giving them oxygen in a specially manufactured animal device.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Domestic cat sleeps on the floor belly up in busy restaurant!

This cute and confident female tabby cat named Thongdang is seen sleeping comfortably on her back on the wooden floor in a restaurant in Chachoengsao, central Thailand. Such confidence is unusual. With strangers around you'd have thought she'd be more concerned and cautious but no. She's got used to the atmosphere of the place and her experience tells her that it is safe. Of course that feeling might change is someone inadvertently steps on her.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Covid-19 is stopping people smoking which benefits cats and dogs

Cigarette smokers are more vulnerable to Covid-19 than non-smokers. The fear of getting Covid-19 and becoming seriously ill is driving a significant percentage of smokers to stop the habit in the UK. The reduction in the number of smokers is considered to be phenomenal by the director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health, Hazel Cheeseman. More than 643k gave up in the 12 months to August compared to 307k in 2019.

Nearly one in four people trying to stop smoking achieved their objective. An app, the Zoe Covid symptom tracker, reveals from data collected from more than 2.4 million UK participants that cigarette smokers were twice as likely to end up in hospital with Covid-19 compared to non-smokers.

Cigarette smoke is dangerous to pets. Photo: Pixabay.

In addition to the fear of Covid-19 it is believed that the change in lifestyle due to lockdowns may have kickstarted a desire to stop smoking. The normal cues and triggers to smoke may have been removed from the lifestyle of smokers in which case they smoke less or stop entirely. 

Perhaps it is fair to say that quite a lot of people have re-evaluated their lifestyles anyway during the lockdown. This has given people the opportunity to slow and think. It is believed, too, that more people believe that there should be a greater commitment to the environment from the government. People started to enjoy cleaner air and a quieter environment. It is a shame that humans were unable to carry those benefits forward into the future.

Nonetheless, I think we can celebrate an improvement in the welfare of thousands of companion cats and dogs in the UK because they will be breathing cleaner air thanks to the belated desire of their owners to stop that ghastly habit. Cigarette smoke contains around 7,000 noxious substances, many of which poisonous to people and their pets.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Charming Ragdoll kitten picture

Picture of a Ragdoll kitten by Jon Cartwright

It is perhaps fair to say that there is no more photogenic cat than the Ragdoll. The crystal blue eyes, the symmetrical facial markings and the baby-like face combined with the luxurious, long fur make this cat the most photogenic of all. But don't make the presumption that all Ragdoll cats are like ragdolls i.e. floppy and compliant. They are individuals and you might even meet one which for good reason tends towards aggressiveness. That would be shocking wouldn't it? They are, rightly, one of the most popular cat breeds especially at the moment because they are designed to be full-time indoor cats and the modern world is going towards that way of cat caretaking because of increased urbanisation, increased population size et cetera. If you are considering buying a purebred cat you should consider a Ragdoll. Although I would always recommend going down to your local rescue centre and giving an unwanted cat the life they deserve in a warm and loving home.

Flying Kitty

Awesome jump by a standard domestic cat. It is a reminder of the huge jumping ability of the domestic cat. It is about long levers for hind legs and fast-twitch muscles. Advice to prey animal: don't mess with a domestic cat. It looks like the bird - a magpie - was trying to chase away the cat, perhaps to protect its offspring. She paid the ultimate price sadly.

Flying kitty from r/gifs

Picture of a domestic cat showing webbed feet

This is a great picture showing us that the domestic cat has webbed feet. Of course, it is a Sphynx cat which is hairless, which in turn allows us to see their toes more clearly. And what is readily apparent is the enormous amount of webbing between the toes. It couldn't be more obvious. And there is nothing to suggest that the hairless cat have more webbing than non-hairless cats. This is what you might expect for any domestic cat. So why do domestic cats have webbed feet? There can only be one reason which is that they evolved to be able to swim at least reasonably adequately in order to survive in the water and prey for animals in and around water.

Picture of domestic cat showing webbed feet
Photo of Sphynx cat with webbed feet typical of all domestic cats. Photo in public domain.

There are, as you might know, some wild cat species which spend a lot of their time in and around water. One of these is the aptly named fishing cat. Another is the flat-headed cat. They are both small cats. The wild cat ancestor of the domestic cat is the North African Wildcat and this cat normally lives in quite arid scrub land which is why they are bad drinkers but no doubt they encounter moments when they have to wade into the water and swim, and through evolution over millennia, they ended up with webbed feet. That is the theory, those are my thoughts and they are based upon common sense.

Coronavirus facemasks have taken away our smile

This is not directly about cats or any other animal except the human-animal! But Giles Coren made a nice point in his amusing column in The Times newspaper today. Actually it was his cat Mo Tenzing who had the idea. With the coronavirus pandemic going on and on and on and with the prospect of wearing masks more and more and more we are going to lose our smile. And the smile is a very important aspect of human body language. It signals friendliness. We use it instinctively all the time to instigate friendly interactions with other people. I wonder whether this might be contributing to the additional stress encountered by many citizens of many countries? Is Britain going to become less friendly and more hostile because of face coverings? Another negative spin off from this damnable virus. Another is face mask pollution.

Giles Coren. Photo in public domain. Is that a smile Giles?

Giles Coren could not get the human-to-cat slow-blink, friendly greeting to work. His cat, Mo Tenzing, simply wouldn't respond to it by reciprocating his love blink. I get that because it doesn't always work.

The key really is to develop a routine, friendly interaction with your cat and that can be done with sounds and body language. It does not have to be a slow-blink as recommended by many cat behaviourists and which has been proved to work by scientists in a study. You can elicit the same reaction from your cat by making a friendly sound which he recognises as being friendly and when accompanied by friendly body language. 

Your cat will get into a rhythm when you make this sound (whatever it is as long as it sounds warm and friendly) he will slow-blink towards you. I can pretty well guarantee that. But don't expect it to happen every time because domestic cats are not robots and you can't just push a button and expect them to do something.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Financial Times lesbian journalist falls in love with a cat

Horatia Harrod (great name by the way - I had no idea whether it was male or female) is a lesbian journalist working for the Financial Times on the life and arts section of the newspaper. Her wife more or less told her that she could not love her truly unless she loved animals. As she said, the stakes were raised in their relationship. 

Then, came along a cat. A friend had fallen in love with a woman who was allergic to cats and therefore they had to give up her cat. So Horatia had her hands on a cat to look after and it seems that quite quickly she fell in love with Hopper, a slender, green-eyed, white-socked female of eight-years-of-age.

Hopper made the long months of the summer lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic enjoyable for her. She would watch her stalk through the long grass which reminded her of the wider world. She got into routines with her cat and every evening she would play with Hopper. And then when lockdown neared an end she worried that Hopper would miss her. And, yes, she will or has depending on the timing of their separation. 

We have a convert to join the ranks of cat lovers. I love that and thank you Horatia for loving this cat. Hopper has found a very good home by the sound of it. She will enjoy a good life and it is a gift that you will give her. She will repay that gift many times over.

Photo: Love for a cat. Clipart in public domain.

Why do cats lick you?

Photo: iStock

Why do cats lick you? It's an often asked question and it is equally often answered so I will be brief, very brief. Domestic cats do not relate to us as if we are a different species of animal to them. Therefore, we conclude that they believe that we are large domestic cats, specifically a mother cat who cares for them in feeding them and providing security and warmth. On that premise, we "lick" them by stroking them with our hands. Or we groom them with our flea combs. They sense that we are licking them. In return they lick us. It is part of a mutual bonding process and it is called allogrooming. It is as straightforward as that and I hope that you find the answer useful.

Why do cats eat grass?

I am referring to the domestic cat. Although, it should be said, that wild cat species do eat vegetation as well such as the snow leopard which in particular likes to eat a certain bush! So why do domestic cats eat grass? There have been many theories for this and perhaps the most prevalent is that domestic cats want to make themselves sick, to sick up hairballs. Or, a slight alternative to this theory is that grass helps to push hairballs out of their digestive system so that they are defecated i.e. it is roughage. Another theory is that when cats are ill they want to make themselves sick so the grass is eaten to achieve this. And a further theory is that they like eating grass because it tastes nice.

The best theory is that the juice of grass contains folic acid, a vitamin which is not available to them within the flesh of animals. Folic acid is a naturally occurring B vitamin, specifically vitamin B-9. It is also called folate and is important in prenatal health in people. It is especially important to pregnant cats and dogs and it plays an important role in the production of haemoglobin. It is part of the cell multiplication process and helps to synthesise DNA. 

Domestic cats can also eat grass which is in the belly of prey animals such as rabbits. So cats eat vegetation or plant matter via their prey animals in any case. It is not something which is bizarre or out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary is that 50% of dry cat food is plant-based! How about that for a carnivore? People say that you should never feed a domestic cat a plant-based diet but we're doing it all the time anyway seems to me.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Modern prefabricated homes should come with a catio option

This is a very quick note about something which interests me and has done for a long time. In the UK there is a pressing need to build new homes because of a growing population, partly due to mass immigration over many years. 

A modern prefab home - Koto Design. Super-looking house. Picture: the manufacturer.

The UK government is finding ways to achieve quick housebuilding and they have committed to expanding the flat-pack, prefabricated factory manufactured method of building new homes. I like these prefabricated homes. They should be of better quality and more consistent quality because they are built within a factory using machinery and precision engineering.

It all points to a higher quality home but this is a great opportunity to build into the design of these homes the catio option. Looking forward many years there will come a time when there is more pressure on cat owners to keep their cats inside. With that in mind there is a need to provide homes where it is easier to stimulate domestic cats and the catio is a means to that end. 

They can get a sense of the outside, have climbing spaces, smell the air and generally meet some of their innate, natural desires. Let's seriously think about the catio option in prefabricated homes, please.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Ford in Australia team up with fantasist big cat hunters to promote their SUV Puma

When you look at the pictures of the supposed big cats that these fantasists produce as evidence that they are roaming around the interior of the Australian continent, you are driven to a single conclusion namely that they are fantasists. In one picture there is a black cat on top of a tree stump and for all the world it looks like a domestic cat. How they can let their imagination run so wild as to believe that this is a black panther is beyond me.

Ford's new hybrid SUV the Puma. Photo: Ford

But Ford have jumped onto the bandwagon in their desire to promote their new Ford Puma SUV. It's just been launched and of course the name - as is commonplace - has been plucked from the wild cat species. The puma is a mountain lion which has the biggest distribution of all the wild cat species. And sometimes the puma can be black i.e. melanistic. So why not dive in and join up with these fantasists to promote the vehicle?

They think this is a big cat! Come on, please stop this. Photo Black Panther Sightings on FB.

At least Ford's new sport utility vehicle runs on a high-tech hybrid engine. I suppose they had to do that because you cannot, these days, bring out a new car unless it is at least a hybrid. But it is really time to stop pretending that there are big cats roaming around the countryside in countries where there are no big cats. These people are like UFO hunters. They are one and the same in terms of their mentality.

Perhaps it is a throwback to Neanderthal human thinking when people in that era genuinely had to fight for survival against the big cats. A time when they had to compete with them to survive. Maybe it's in our blood to be fearful of big cats and when you're fearful of them you think they are everywhere lurking in the forests and in the dark. Your imagination runs wild and you transform a sweet little black domestic cat into a black panther like the picture on this page. Compare the cat with the trees and fence and you know that it is a black domestic cat.

Cats & Dogs: Paws Unite! - a tired sequel


I have watched this trailer and it does not appeal to me. It looks tired but I am not an ideal reviewer. It's about a cockatoo and a lizard plotting to undermine the peace between dogs and cats. The central players are a red, tabby and white cat and a sheepdog. It's been criticised for less than good CGI and that the mouths of the animals don't look convincing when they are speaking. 

To be honest, it is not the kind of film that I would watch anyway despite being an animal advocate and lover. I guess it is for children predominantly and I am well beyond that age group.

Personally, it seems to me that filmmakers rely too heavily on CGI which they have to do in this instance but I think in general they have run out of ideas. If you look back at the old films the ideas are better. The storylines are superior. Is it possible for creativity to dry up in the film business? I think it's possible for creativity to dry up in general across all the media including book fiction. It seems to me that the stories are a recycling or navel gazing. It is boring.

When you think of the huge amount of material churned out by the "creatives" the quality is bound to be diluted. It's a dilution of ideas. That's my phrase of the day :) .

There is only so many ideas that humankind can have to entertain ourselves. And when the ideas dry up you recycle the old ones and jazz them up with CGI. That's why I say this sequel is tired. It's an ideas deficit.

How can cats jump so high?

Cats can jump high because their hind legs are made up of long levers and they are driven by fast-twitch fatiguing muscles. Long levers create speed. Think of those plastic devices in which you placed a tennis ball at one end which are used to throw the ball a long distance for your dog to chase. This plastic extension to your arm with a clamp at the end to hold a tennis ball extends the leverage of the arm. In extending the leverage the ball is thrown further and with less effort. Long levers increase the mechanical advantage.

Caracal jumping vertically. They are perhaps the best vertical jumper of all the cats. Photo: public domain.

As for the muscles, they mainly consist of fast-twitch fatiguing cells. These muscles propel cats to leap several times their own length in a single jump. They use up all their energy in that moment. These levers and fast twitch muscles also allow the domestic cat to reach impressive speeds of about 48 km/h or 30 mph, maximum. 

Running at speed is enhanced by the fact that the domestic cat has a floating shoulder. Unlike a human's collarbone which connects the shoulder and breastbone the domestic cat's vestigial clavicle floats and is only anchored by muscle. This allows a freedom of movement which lengthens the cat's stride and range of motion.

Cats need to be good jumpers because they like to be high up for safety. They live in a vertical world and many wild cat species like to climb trees. I guess you know all that. The leopard takes large prey items into trees which reminds us of this cat's enormous strength. The small margay lives in trees and has a double jointed ankle to allow them to hang onto branches like monkeys. Yes, the cat is a beautifully engineered predator and their muscles and levers maximise their jumping ability. Finally, the medium-sized wild cat species, the caracal can jump the highest of all cats and certainly relative to their size vertically from a standing start (see picture).

Why do cats purr?

Cats don't just purr when they are contented. Therefore, you need to find an answer to the question which covers all circumstances under which domestic as purr. Dr Desmond Morris, the celebrated zoologist and animal behaviourist came up with the right answer in 1986. I'm a bit surprised that is not more widely cited so I will mention it here. In fact, I will quote him verbatim if I may:

"A more precise explanation, which fits all cases, is that purring signals a friendly social mood, and it can be given as a signal to, say, a vet from an injured cat indicating the need for friendship, or as a signal to an owner, saying thank you for friendship given". 

I don't think I can explain it any better than that. The point that he is stressing is that domestic cats purr when they are in a veterinarian's clinic, on the consulting table where they are clearly nervous and stressed. And sometimes they purr when they are about to be euthanised by a veterinarian. Clearly under these circumstances domestic cats are not happy and contented. This is why Dr Desmond Morris was obliged to come up with an all-encompassing reason for the production of this sound. He did that. 

There is another answer to the question, "Why do cats purr?" and it is this: there are different reasons for purring depending on the circumstances. It is a flexible sound that means contendness when being petted or when the cat is on a lap and it means a need for companionship when about to be euthanised.

People sometimes ask whether the wild cat species purr. Some do and some don't. The bobcat and lynx can purr and it is a very impressive sound. The big cats can't but they can roar instead. The small wild cat species can purr but when they do so it is a slightly different sound to the gentle and melodious domestic cat purr.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Phenotype and genotype of tabby cats

The picture shows the phenotype and genotype of tabby cats. "Phenotype" means the physical characteristics of an organism, in this instance, a domestic cat and the word "genotype" means its genetic makeup. The genes that make the tabby coat are shown in this image. There is a certain way of symbolising genes as you can see. Read more about the tabby cat by clicking on this link and this link for info on tabby cat coats.

Pictures: Helmi Flick with her permission.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Why do domestic cats sleep so much?

This is a very common question. It has been answered many times. I have a problem with the question because I don't believe that cats do sleep "so much". They snooze a lot more than humans (if they are not geriatric humans!). But domestic cats don't genuinely sleep with dreams et cetera much longer than people. They may even enjoy deep sleep for shorter periods than humans. Certainly they are more flexible as to when they sleep and for how long than humans.

Photo: Michael

I believe that people get mixed up between sleeping and snoozing. There must be a difference. If you want to work out how long a domestic cat actually sleeps I think you will find it is about 5 to 8 hours during a 24 hour period. It might be longer and it might be shorter but it is probably shorter than for humans. And I stress I'm referring to deep, real sleep.

But a domestic cat will snooze either side of sleep for quite long periods so the combination of the two might amount to about 15 hours per day. It might even be longer if a domestic cat lives in a small apartment and has nothing to do. Domestic cats are good survivors. If they have to kill time they will kill it by snoozing and sleeping most of the day. They have nothing to do, they have no prey to catch. They have no stresses or problems in terms of surviving because they are cosseted and confined. The may have stress regarding being confined or being separated from their human caretaker but not regarding hunting.

But don't mix up sleeping and snoozing. They are quite different. The latter is a form of rest and when a domestic cat snoozes they are very alert. They can leap into action within a fraction of a second. There ears swivel to a distant sound even before we can hear it. They open their eyes quickly. They respond to all kinds of stimuli quickly when snoozing and therefore they cannot be sleeping. Let's make sure we differentiate the two because there is a misconception on the internet and it's been promulgated for years that domestic cats sleep nearly the entire 24-hour day when it simply isn't true.

The wild cats are a bit different obviously. It could be said that the lion does sleep a lot because they are pretty efficient hunters (they hunt a lot at night) and if they are efficient at hunting and eating then they have time to rest and sleep. However, I would doubt too whether lions sleep more than domestic cats who are allowed outside. Once again, they will rest for long periods if prey is abundant and they are managing survival but this is not genuine sleep.