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.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

So Is There Any Particular Reason Why You're Sitting In The Litter Box?

A few days ago, I'm sitting at the computer, when I hear a voice from the other room. "Cleo, what are you doing?" I walk over and find the smaller of my two black cats sitting in the litterbox. Not doing or planning anything, just relaxing. It's like lounging on the couch watching TV. If the couch was a toilet.

It's not the fact that she was sitting in the litterbox that's so bizarre so much as if anyone was to do it. . . she's the one I would least expect to behave in such a way. For the most part, she's a fairly calm, composed, and collected little feline. I wouldn't say snobby, more like high class. She refuses to drink from the water bowl, like the other cats do. No, she'll only enjoy a refreshing drink straight from the running tap.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that she is kind of weird. Now, don't get me wrong, all cats are weird. That's the purpose of this blog. But she's pretty exceptional. She's also pretty. You better tell her that. Right now.

Are you ever minding your own business, in your own little world, doing your own thing, when you suddenly feel that someone is watching you? You feel the eyes on the back of your head, you get nervous, you start to look around. Then you see a little cat staring at you, mouth and nose lost in her black face, only her large, unblinking eyes gazing at you? Into your very soul?

This happens to me on a regular basis. I'll be watching TV or working on the computer or eating my noms and I'll turn to see her staring at me. Now, I'm not being paranoid. I know the difference between looking at something and staring at it. And she is definitely staring at me. With morbid curiosity.

Imagine if you came across an animal you'd never seen before. You don't know what to call it or feed it, you just know that it breathes and makes noise. What is it? What's it supposed to be? Who's responsible for this train wreck?

Her diligent observation leads me to believe that she was sent here as a sort of cat zoologist (but we're on the other side of the bars). Cat zoologists study and observe our behavior, then report their findings back to the mother ship. I don't know what they use this research for - perhaps they use it to enrich their understanding of Planet Earth. Or maybe they use it to pinpoint our weaknesses.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No Sleeping On The Job

It's 3:14 AM and you're in the deepest stage of sleep, the period where your body gets most of the benefits of rest. You're dreaming about a world without litterboxes; it's really a very happy place. You feel warm and content and - and - and you can't breathe? Your chest feels heavy and there's this horrible, moist, fishy aroma in the air.


You wake up, dazed and confused, and see two bright wide eyes peering back at you. It's a cat, sitting on your chest, watching you sleep and slapping you awake. Job well done, cat. You push the feline off the bed and roll over, curling up beneath the sheets. A moment later. . .

Sleep is a precious time you share with your one true love, the pillow. Why doesn't your cat want you to sleep? What did you ever do that was so horribly wrong?

There are two theories about why your cats want to play and hug and cuddle in the middle of the night, while ignoring all attempts at affection during "normal" hours. Today I'll be discussing the slightly more paranoid theory.

It's not that cats don't like us or think we're stupid - quite the opposite, in fact. Cats understand the importance of sleep on a person's cognitive function and motor skills. They also understand the importance of planning ahead, even for something that's a long ways down the road.

Fact: A person with a good night's rest is more likely to put up a fight than someone who needs two cups of coffee in the morning to spell his first name. When the cats' PSA declaring world domination goes on air, the sleep deprived humans will stare at their TV screen in a stupor, submitting to the aliens' demands without struggle.

The best thing you can do when a cat wakes you up in the middle of the night is to stroke and assure them that when the time comes, you won't put up a resistance. The faster the world takeoever is, the sooner everything will be back to normal (for cat owners, anyway).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

H2 NO!

On Tuesday, I brought up a theory about why cats sleep so much. It's just that - a theory. I am not a cat. I do not speak to cats (well, I do, but they just look at me in disdain). I don't actually know what cats are like as aliens. I can only assume and make educated guesses based on the evidence I've seen.

Giving a cat a bath once in a while is both necessary and dangerous. If you don't mind the bloodshed, it's also hilarious. If you've never had the fortune of cleaning a cat, think of it as washing a bar of soap that's covered in cactus needles. And razor blades.

About 70% of the Earth's surface is covered in water. Humans are 65% water. Cats are 65% water. They drink it. They throw their toys on it. They'll sit out in the rain. But if you put them in a tub with two inches of water in it, oh man, they will hurt you. And should you survive the aforementioned ordeal, they will spend days plotting their revenge. Or until their fur dries and you give them some tasty noms.

To be fair, if I looked like this when I got out of the shower, I'd probably be out for blood too.

My theory is that cats have a terrible phobia of large bodies of water. Understandably so, because you can drown in water. Planet Felinus (or whatever you want to call it) is only made up of about 25-40% water, making it significantly easier for cats to avoid anything water related besides little puddles and rain. This enables the phobia, because it didn't give the Original Cats a chance to get over the fear. If many, many generations of cats never see oceans or ponds or bath tubs, that fear will become ingrained into the general personality of cats.

Like all unique creatures, different cats handle this phobia in different ways. Some take the cautious, curious road, such as watching the water faucet for hours on end or staring at you while you take a bath in utter fascination. Others act on their phobia more aggressively, yowling angrily at the sky to make it stop raining or trying to "kill" the bowls of water they're supposed to drink from. No, seriously. We have a two pound rock sitting in the cats' drinking bowl because one of the cats kept tipping the water over and spilling a liter of it on the floor. The laminate wood floor. With plenty of grooves for the water to slip under. Oh, whatever. He sure showed that bowl of water who was boss. Again and again and again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Needz Moar Z's

Cats sleep about 13-16 hours a day, although particularly lazy cats might average between 18-20. Twenty minutes after a two hour nap, they collapse on your favorite chair in exhaustion, ready for another snooze session.

The big question on everyone's mind is why. Why do cats sleep so much? You'd think for a species bent on taking over the world, they'd dedicate more of their time and resources to, you know, world domination and stuff.

When people sleep, they sleep deep. My mother often jokes about how a bomb could go off right outside my window and I wouldn't so much as roll over. She's probably right. For cats, it's a little different.

For the most part, cats sleep very lightly. If you touch a cat, his head will pop right up and he'll be wide awake. Their ears rotate and register all the sounds that go on around them. They're very much aware.

Now, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Believe it or not, cats only need to sleep for two hours a day. The rest of the time? It goes to charging the mother ship.

When you see a cat curled up with its eyes closed and you poke it and it doesn't budge (but it's breathing!) and you wiggle it some more and it still doesn't respond, it's the cat getting its 40 winks. When it's in that light-sleeping stage though, all the energy it gains from rest is going into space.

Part of the reason that our own space program isn't as advanced as we like to imagine it in science fiction is that launching and propelling a craft through space requires massive amounts of energy, which we only know how to provide with fuel and water (solar power is still in the works). The reason cats have been able to travel to other planets is in part due to their ingenious ways of harvesting energy - through the little aliens themselves.

When a cat does its so-called "sleep," it's really radiating a unique form of energy that the mother ship picks up on. Now, in a single nap, a cat may only give off enough energy to power a light bulb, but when you combine all the energy of all the millions of cats on this planet, well then, it looks like you're going places.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tails: Not Just Handles Anymore

Cats are known for their grace and agility. There are countless stories of cats who fall from tall trees and land on their feet, walking away with such nonchalance you'd think it's something they did on a daily basis. How many cat commercials have there been where the star cat elegantly strolls into the room, waiting to be served noms in a crystal dish?

Ask anyone - a vet, a supposed "cat lover," or even a random person on the street and they'll tell you that the cat's tail is what gives it the balance to crawl in high, narrow spaces. I'm sorry, but that's just not true.

Cat Fanciers Association uses the following as a description for our little extra terrestrials:
This elegant cat gracefully glides across the room on its tall, slender legs.

Now, if any of the members of the CFA actually owned a cat, the description would be more like:

This elongatedly furball waddles over to the foodbowl, but decides to plop down first and have a 20 minute bath in the middle of the living room while you're trying to do housework.

There's very little about the common cat that can be associated with grace and poise. At this very moment, there's about a pound of meow mix scattered all over the kitchen floor because someone crashed into it while running around. There have been many mornings where I've come downstairs to find dining room chairs tipped over or curtains lying in a heap. Further evidence can be found here.

The tail, I believe, has a useful purpose in the lives of cats, even if it isn't for balance. Much like an antenna on an old-fashioned cellphones (or, and we're going way back here, on televisions), cats use their tails for easier communication with the mothership. An erect tail can mean many things, from being frightened or being happy to see you, but it can also mean that the cat is transmitting messages to and from space.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Revelation

It was about about 5:00 AM as I was laying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, sweating like a pig. The fan was on, but it did nothing to fight the heat and humidity. Apart from the fan humming and the obnoxious birds outside chirping their cheerful little heads off, it was relatively quiet. I was just about to drift off to sleep when I heard a loud crash coming from downstairs.

I didn't bother to check - I had a good idea of what happened. One of the cats probably had a spell and started flailing all over the place, knocking over a book, chair, or priceless vase in the process. I sighed, images of furballs dancing in my head. But at that moment, I also had my first revelation.

Cats are aliens.

It wasn't the first time the idea had come up, but it was the first time I gave it serious thought. I mean, it makes sense, doesn't it? The way they spazz out at random hours during the night, how they're supposedly nocturnal but they sleep 25 hours a day, why giving a cat a bath is funny, but dangerous (for the humans). They're both parts weird and cute - and perhaps there's a reason for it.