Friday, March 23, 2012

I can't do everything for you, scientists

You know, I'm not an expert on cats. I'm not trying to pretend that I am or mislead anyone. I'm just your average crazy cat lady with my (more than a) half dozen felines. I base my theories on what I see and attempt to form the most logical conclusions and explanations based on these experiences. It's understandable that perhaps, sometimes, my theories might be incorrect. So far they haven't, of course.

However, I would expect that a professional - someone who gets paid to deal with cats on a regular basis - would have better knowledge about the bundles of fur they're handling. You would think that people like scientists and vets would be aware of the extra-terrestrial qualities of of the animals they care for and study, but apparently not.

Consider this article, which attempts, poorly, to answer the question "Why does my cat sleep all day?"

This is the explanation they've concocted:
Biologists pin this feline affinity for sleep on two things: Their typically protein-rich diet, which requires long periods of rest to aid in proper digestion, and their naturally crepuscular (dawn and dusk) predatory pattern, which blather blather blather . . .

If you don't understand/care about the explanation, let me sum it up: Scientists are guessing that cats sleep a lot because they eat lots of cheeseburgers and like to party at various times during the day. I think they've confused cats with college students.

F(r)at cat.

Yeah, that must be it. Who among us doesn't become exhausted after eating a chicken sandwich or running a lap around the house?

Come on, science. I know you're all about animals and biology and I know that you're big on astronomy and space and aliens. Now it's time to put those two concepts together. This is the explanation I've come up with, which seems a far more practical explanation for why cats sleep 25 hours a day. Surely, if a small-town gal like me can come up with something like this, the professionals should be able to come up with something equally solid.

Here, I'll even get you started with a research question: How does that sleeping-cat-energy get absorbed by the mothership? Is there a way we can harness that energy to power other things, maybe like automatic food dispensers?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cats are squirreltastic

Hello again! Long time, no post. When I'm away at school, I rarely have the time, nor the inspiration, to write about my furry felines who stay at home. I only get to see them on the weekends every few weeks and my mother (henceforth their grandmother) hasn't been keeping data logs on their behavior like I asked her. "Alien cats?" she said. "That's silly" she said. "You're wasting all the tinfoil" she said.

Yesterday I came across a video produced by a very angry, very animated . . . squirrel. The squirrel, despite its high-pitched voice and adorably huge eyes, hates everyone and everything and spends his free time complaining about human beings and throwing nuts at them. Warning - the following video uses (some) strong language.

In Foamy Fan Mail VIII, Foamy (the Squirrel) receives a fan letter regarding a contest he had. The transcript goes:

Letter: Dear Foamy, in October, when you had the Foamy-Look-Alike contest, how come the pictures I submitted didn't win?
Foamy: *sigh* Dear Annie Leibovitz, well a simple explanation for this - you sent in pictures of a damn cat! AM I A CAT? No! I am not a cat. I don't look like a cat, I don't think like a cat, and I don't know any cats that have a t-shirt with the logo "Squirrely Rap" on it. SSSQUUUIRRREEELLLLY.

I have to disagree, especially with the comment "I don't look like a cat."

Yes, Foamy, yes you do. All squirrels do. And it's only since yesterday when I came to understand why.

First off, for those of you who are skeptical about the whole "Squirrels look like cats" claim, go outside and start walking until you come across a squirrel. Take note of its spastic, jerky movements, its cute fluffiness, and it's general caffeinated-like demeanor. Seem familiar? That's because it is. I would know. I'm and expert on both squirrels and cats at this point, given my observational studies on felines and the fact that my school campus is teeming with squirrels. Seriously. I'm pretty sure the humans are barely taking the lead with a student to tree rodent ratio of, like, 2 to 1. They're everywhere.

Here's a visual aid to illustrate their likeness:


A shallow-minded thinker might go "They're clearly related by some distant ancestor. That's just proof of evolution! That cats evolved along with squirrels right here on Earth!" But you and I know better than that. No, no, this is evidence, alright - evidence that cats are also psychologists. They know exactly how we think.

See, I don't think that cats just stumbled across Earth, thought it was a decent enough place, plunked their ship down, and took over the world. There are many, many variables they must have considered - such as oxygen, gravity, presence of water (but not too much), and on and on. And I'll bet they knew that the intelligent species* on any particular planet would notice something was off if every single creature on the planet had scales except one species. Yeah, that's discreet.

I imagine that they must have taken the appearance of other creatures in the world into consideration in choosing the planet of their choice. They had to blend into the crowd.

Nailed it.

* Not as intelligent as them, obviously. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So Is There Any Particular Reason Why You're Sitting In The Water Bowl, Human?

So it's 7:00 AM and you've just woken up - you're shuffling your way into the bathroom to do your business and start the day. You close the door and groggily turn on the water, take your clothes off, and climb in. Thirty seconds later, the door is flung wide open and in saunters a cat.

Or maybe you're trying to concentrate on the loo and suddenly you hear scratching noises on the door. Then it stops. A minute later, *SCRITCH SCRITCH*. Then nothing. Finally it's *SCRITCH SCRITCH SCRITCH SCRATCH SCRITCH SCRATCH SCRITCH SCRITCH MEOW SCRITCH SCRITCH* until you just give up and let them in, where they proceed to sit down right between your legs, peering up and watching you intently.

There are a lot of theories going around about why cats enjoy spending so much time with you in the bathroom. One popular explanation is that your cat is like a child and will only do more of whatever you don't want him to do. Tell a kid to stop flicking the light switch on and off? They'll do it more. Purposefully try to keep your cat out of the bathroom? No matter how hard or how long, they'll do whatever it takes to get on the other side of the door. Mr. Jingles has never let you tell him what to do and he's not about to start now.

Theory #2.

The one theory I can get behind is that your cat wants to understand you just as much as you want to understand him. When you sit on that white porcelain thing or immerse yourself in a tub of water, he really just doesn't get it.

In other words, he thinks you're a freak.

In a prior post, I commented on one of my cats chillaxin' in the litter box and I explained that this wasn't a typical behavior. They don't sit in their litter boxes, so why do we sit in giant water bowls? Cats don't like large bodies of water. The fact that you don't yell and screech and flail around every time you get in is a foreign concept to him.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's a Cutesplosion!

Babies. They're cute. Big eyes, soft skin, and little noses result in massive amounts of squealing, hugging, and kissing. This isn't unique to human babies; these traits are universal. Puppies, kittens, monkeys - hell, even baby alligators trigger that special caring/nurturing mode inside of us.

Rawr! When I grow up I'm gonna be big and strong, just like my mommy!

Scientists believe in an evolutionary reason behind cuteness. Cute babies are healthy babies and cute babies get more attention from mom. Let's say someone has a set of fraternal twins; whoever has the most symmetrical face, the biggest eyes, and the nicest smile is going to get more attention. Same with animals. Endangered species that are considered cute have a better chance of surviving than more homely species simply because more people will care (Leonard 2007).

In order to understand why cats are so cute, it's important to explain what makes a baby anything so appealing in the first place.

In terms of evolution, there are certain subtle characteristics about a person that indicate just how healthy it is. It's not that there's some checklist or anything, it's simply that the bigger a human baby's eyes or the smaller it's mouth, the more healthy it is (healthy meaning fewer genetic mutations). Symmetry is also a big factor; it plays a role in not just how we react to babies, but how we find mates attractive, as well.

Large and symmetrical heads, big eyes, and a small mouth and nose make babies very appealing to us. These traits also apply to cats - and to the extreme. Proportionate to size their bodies, cats have the biggest eyes of any land mammal. Include soft fur and you excessive cuteness stuffed into a small, purry package. The cuter something is, the more we want it in our homes and on our laps.

And you know what? They know it's our weakness and they use it against us. A kitten could go into a store and demand that you put all the tuna into the duffel bag and nobody gets hurt and you'd be all like "Okie-dokie, but only if you let me rub your little tummy-wummy first!"

Cats don't just manipulate us in appearance, though. Oh, no - cats have learned to work us into a puddle of obedient mush with meowing and purring. A study by behavioral ecologist Karen McComb found that, as with babies, humans can distinguish between the different kinds of purrs from a cat. We know the difference between a hungry/whining (pleading) purr and one of content (Peeples 2009). To persuade us to fulfill their desires, cats can also employ a high-frequency meow that is incredibly similar to the cry of a human baby.

Have you fallen victim to feline adorability?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

World Cat Day? Pfft, I Don't Think So

When I first created this blog (just a month ago), I stumbled upon the Cat Blogosphere. It's been a great way to get my name out there and to check out other cat blogs. It's proven to be a good source of information, too, and I recently learned that such a thing exists as "World Cat Day," which is today. You know what I think?


We currently have 53 official cat days: 52 Caturdays (they come after Fridays and before Sundays) and now this World Cat Day. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure that my cats dominate the house six hours a day, seven days a week. As far as I'm concerned, every day is Caturday.

Anyway, in the spirit of WCD, I'm going to share the story of how I acquired one of my cats, Boom Boom. It's really a very interesting story.

About six years ago in the month of October, back when I was in ninth grade, this black stray cat started hanging out near our house. She had three kittens who were already about four or five months old. She was a very small, rail thin cat, and she became very friendly very quickly. In a matter of days from when we first started feeding her, she had let us pet her.

We (my mother and I) could tell she was pregnant, but we didn't have any idea how far along she was. We put a box and some towels out on the front porch (not the best place, but the only place she'd really hang out) and the next day, we found four healthy newborns. A week later, they all disappeared. Fast forward to the day before Thanksgiving.

It was a dark and stormy night (no, srsly, it was raining and thundering and it was, like, midnight). We heard scratching and meowing at the door. On the mat lay two soaking wet kittens with Mama (the mother cat) running around. I walked around the porch and found another one who had tried to scramble away. We brought them in and warmed them up. The fourth kitten was nowhere to be found and we thought something bad had happened to it in the month they had been gone.

The next day it was Thanksgiving. The turkey was in the oven, we had company over. Every now and then, my mother and I thought we heard meowing outside, but we just wrote it off to being crazy. As the day wore on, though, it seemed to get more real. When we went outside, we heard distinct meowing coming from the gully. It was the fourth and final kitten.

A gully (example) is sort of like a ditch or a channel in a semi-hilly area, caused by longtime erosion, usually from rainfall. It's more or less a small stream. The problem was that this area was surrounded, on both sides, but yards of very thick, prickly and thorny bushes and trees. There was no way we could access the area besides hacking and cutting our way through.

We spent more than an hour cutting only to find that the gully was incredibly steep from the side we were on. If the fire department wouldn't come for a kitten, they would at least come for us. My mother had considered sliding down the gully on a sled.

We went to the other side and find a more accessible area, though. After a bit more cutting, we were finally able to retrieve the kitten, safe and sound.

At first we wondered why Mama would leave her fourth kitten behind. After cleaning him up and putting him in the box with the others, the reason became obvious - he was almost twice as big as the others. When you're a big human, you might not notice the difference, but to a little cat like Mama, she very well might not have been able to lug him up that steep slope.

Boom Boom - Appropriately named.

Unfortunately, with three other cats in the house, we couldn't keep them all - only two. The others were sent to the shelter (sadly), but went to loving homes. The second one we kept, Foxy, only stayed with us for several months. One day, after insisting on being an indoor-outdoor cat, she simply never returned home.

Boom Boom is a very friendly cat and loves to wrestle with Nicky. A few years ago, he had a horrible ear mite infection that has since destroyed his ears (he can hear fine, but his ear flaps are really. . . ugly looking).

One of the weird things about this cat is that he has a fear of the dryer. . . which is problematic because that's where the litter box is. When he has to go, he creeps into the bathroom, hunkered down, ever so slowly. Even the slightest noise can send him sky rocketing in the air. Every now and then his fear has a serious relapse and he starts going potty outside the box in various rooms downstairs. Right now we have two litter boxes, one upstairs in the bathroom (by the dryer) and one downstairs. . . Our downstairs is all open, meaning you can sit in the living room and see the dining room. And such. Blech.

He's a good boy (for the most part). When he was a kitten, he loved to climb the curtains. That's something he hasn't exactly grown out of. At sixteen pounds, do you have any idea how many bent and broken curtain rods we've been through?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Can Has Proofburgers?

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.

- Anonymous

It is a well known fact that in Ancient Egypt, cats were thought of very highly. So much so that the culture had two feline goddesses, Mafdet and Bastet. Cats protected the weak, pathetic humans from dangerous creatures, such as snakes and scorpions. When they were domesticated (lol), they took care of pests like mice and rats. Egyptians were so passionate about their cats that the murder of a cat was punishable by death.
A Greek historian named Diodorus wrote that a group of Egyptians killed a Roman soldier who had accidentally ran over a cat with his chariot (Lendering 2006). Now, I'm not a violent person . . . but I can relate.

Here's a not-so well known fact: Some extra-terrestrial enthusiasts believe that aliens and UFOs have been depicted in Egyptian art and writing. Do a google search on "Ancient Egypt Aliens" and you'll see what I mean.

Ancient Aliens (also known as Ancient Astronauts) have appeared in a multitude of cultures all over the world in different points of history. Mayan writing, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Spanish and French petroglyphs (cave art) are just some examples of where creatures, not native to this planet, have popped up.

There's a lot of skepticism out there. I'm not here to argue what's real and what isn't. No, no, forget all that. All I'm saying is that there's something funny going on here. Consider the following two statements:

1. There are illustrations in ancient Egyptian art that look a lot like aliens and ufos.
2. Humans got really chummy with cats in ancient Egypt, so much so that they were worshipped.


Just saying.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Brb, Reading Ur Mindz. . . Well that was quick.

If there are multiple cats living in your house (as there should be), you've probably noticed the intricate and complex relationships they form with their fellow house cats. They might be BFFs or barely able to tolerate one another. Mr. Jingles might like to play wrestle with Sir Meowsalot but will only cuddle on the couch with Fred. My two boys, Nicky and Boom Boom, are nearly inseparable and do everything together, even if it means sharing one lap. The girls are a bit more independent, but Missy enjoys playing with Nicky and Boom Boom from time to time, while Cleo is content with grooming and preening herself.

So how do these relationships form? They don't meow about the weather or debate over which human in the house is more stupid. They don't chat idly by the food bowl.

Or do they?

Merriam-Webster defines telepathy as "communication from one mind to another by extrasensory means," extrasensory meaning beyond the five senses. Cats don't meow-chat and I don't know how much information you can get about some one's personality by licking them.

Purrhaps (sorry) they communicate telepathically, chatting via the brain wave channel. Now, it might seem far fetched - I mean, cats are aliens and they can read minds? You have to admit, though, it explains a lot.

Have you ever entered a room where your friends suddenly go quiet when they look at you, and you can tell they were talking about you by the guilty expressions on their faces? And have you ever noticed how cats sometimes look at you in the exact same way when you walk in? Yeah, that's because they're talking about you. The furry backstabbers.

If cats can read other cats' minds, can they read our minds? It's difficult to say. While our brain power is significantly inferior to theirs, there's also a cross-species situation going on. Cats and humans simply think differently. We see a paper cup for drinking water, they see a toy to roll around. We see socks for warming our feet, they see prey to attack. We see car keys that we use to get to work, they see a jingly toy to bat under the nearly impossible to move curio cabinet.

I suspect that cats can read our minds to a degree. How else could they possibly know when it's bath time? Without so much as a word, I just look in their direction and they're off, running up the stairs. They then precede to hide just out of reach under the bed, peering back at me. Mockingly.

And even if they can't read our minds, that sure as hell doesn't stop them from trying. As I explained in the previous blog post, Cleo makes it a habit to bore holes in the back of my head with her eyes. The way she stares at me. . . with such concentration . . . perhaps she's trying to get inside my head?

Some of you may be concerned about the idea of mind reading cats. I mean, it's bad enough that they invade our homes, beds, and pantries, but our thoughts, too? Fear not, I believe I have found a solution!

The solution.

Don't thank me, thank Julian Huxley. In 1927, he wrote a science fiction novel called "The Tissue-Culture King" that featured tin foil hats as a means of protection against mind control and unwanted telepathy. Since then, it's appeared in a variety of stories and movies (all supposedly fiction). Whatever the case, when I put on my own tin foil hat, Cleo's intense gaze no longer unnerved me. Either the tin foil hat blocked her brain waves (or guarded mine) or she was confused about the shiny thing sitting on my head. Either way, it worked.