Tuesday 31 March 2009

Cat in Hell's Chance

This post explains the origin of the phrase, "Cat in hell's chance". It is used like this, "He didn't have a cat in hell's chance the poor devil.....", meaning he had no hope. It normally refers to a life threatening situation in which the person is killed or injured although it might be used in the context of, for example, a sporting occasion when a sportsman is trying to achieve the seemingly impossible.

This phrase is an abbreviation of the phrase,"No more chance than a cat in hell without claws". This referred to the hopeless situation of being without weapons (claws) when needed.

This turns my mind to the hideous (for me) practice of declawing. About 20 million cats are declawed in the United States and each one is wrong. It is big bucks though for the vets. Sorry but true. Some cats haven't got a cat in hell's chance of keeping the top of their toe. Declawing is a misdescription to assuage the guilt of those involved in it. A lot more than the claw is amputated. Please read these:

Cat in Hell's Chance to Home Page

Let the Cat Out of the Bag

This post explains the origin of the phrase, "let the cat out of the bag". It dates back to the 18th century and refers to a market day trick. Piglets were taken to market in a small bag. The con man or trickster would put a cat in the bag instead of a pig. When and if the buyer insisted on seeing the pig the seller would say that the pig might escape if he opened the bag. If the cat did escape (I hope many did) the con man's game was up, he was exposed and he had let the cat out of the bag (meaning in modern parlance, disclosing a secret).

Another old phrase is linked to this one, "Never buy a pig in a poke". Both are rarely used today, the former is more current than the latter, however. The word "poke" refers to the bag in which the cat (or pig was placed). The phrase is saying that a buyer should not trust a seller of a pig when the pig is kept in the bag (or poke).

Let the Cat Out of the Bag to Home Page

Morris the Famous Rescue Cat

free logo - http://www.sparklee.com

Morris the famous rescue cat was a cat destined to be just a statistic, one of many millions of homeless, unloved and unnamed or claimed rescue cats until someone playing God at the Hinsdale Humane Society at 22 N. Elm Street, Hinsdale, Illinois, USA plucked him off the conveyor belt to heaven and he began the road to stardom. To how many of us does that happen? It happened to Morris in 1968, so he is now in heaven, over the rainbow bridge, but his successors have all been rescue cats of the same appearance.

Morris was handed to an animal handler who adopted him and Morris eventually found himself representing 9Lives brand cat food as the advertising mascot. The current Morris is a very male looking orange tabby cat. He actually looks intact (not neutered but I am probably mistaken). I cannot at the moment find a photo that is copyright free or licensed for use. But I can say that his current successor is a chunky (cat fancy language is cobby) boy or some presence.

His handler currently is Rose Ordile. Rose always wanted to work with animals and she has been handling Morris for the last 7 years or so. Morris is also 9Lives spokesperson and teaches people about animal care and encouraging adopting cats from cat rescue centers and shelters.

Morris fronted Morris's Million Cat Rescue program and travelled the country in pursuit of the one million cat rescues mark. It was achieved in June 2008. Well done Morris and 9Lives. Many people who live with male orange tabby cats call him Morris, unsurprisingly.

Morris the Famous Rescue Cat to Home Page

Cat Midnight Crazies

I never was a victim of cat midnight crazies until now. For some reason my darling girl cat is waking me up every night like an alarm clock at about 15 minutes past 1 in the morning. It is always the same time.

It is clear to me that she wants me to get involved, to wake up. "Come on you've had enough sleep, now get up you lazy sod!" That is what she is saying if you would like a translation. Her voice becomes ever more insistent. In the end she looks p*ssed off and is almost screaming at me while I mumble back, "I'm coming, I'm coming...". But is the right thing to respond?

Well, the experts say that we shouldn't as that only encourages more of the same. Or they say keep a spray gun by your bed to give her a squirt when she wakes you. Or, lock your cat in a spare room during the night. In the old days people used to put their cats out (outside) and lock the door to keep 'em out. Another technique is to try and calm her down before you go to bed. Yet another method is to tire out your cat about a hour before you go to bed etc.

Personally, I don't believe in these, if I am honest. I see the point and the purpose but we are never going to eliminate what is hard wired into a cat, namely that she or he is a night hunter. Plus our cat is not going to sleep like us, for several hours in one go between certain hours and as a routine. Cats nap in the day and then tend to go in the opposite direction to us at night. We go inside and to bed and the cat does the reverse, gets up, goes out and wanders about.

Despite what we do and all our best efforts we are going to struggle to overcome that lifestyle or train it out of her or him. It took about 5 million years to train into the cat after all. Like all "How to Train Your Cat" ideas and programs it is one more example of trying to get a cat to fit in with out way of life and lifestyle. As a cat is very often a member of the family, we are obliged to treat her that way, I think. And the only way we can do that is to accept it and work around it a bit.

Personally, I just put up with cat midnight crazies. I help her up onto the bed (she is old and can no longer jump up) and she lies next to me for a while and then goes to a different part of the bed and finally off the bed. At which point she has got my interaction and is satisfied until the morning. I don't mind her waking me at about 4:30 am.

I know, though, that I am a cat mad crazy cad. But the principle is the same for all people who live with a cat, which is to find a way to live with her, allowing her, as best we can, to do what is natural. A bit of compromise is called for. We chose to live with a cat not a hybrid person/cat. The cat midnight crazies are crazy to us but normal for our cat.

Cat Midnight Crazies to Home Page

Monday 30 March 2009

Lamb and Carrot Cat Food

Um....Lamb and Carrot Cat Food looks like a kind off casserole. It actually looks like human food. Meat and two veg type food. Am I correct is guessing that cat food manufacturers are preparing food that sounds, looks and smells attractive to us as we are the first judge as to what to buy? OK the food has to be edible for a cat. And it has to smell good to a cat.......But...

Lamb and Carrot cat food. Nice tasty carrots

But the whole packaging thing "Lamb and Carrots" and the look of it gives me the impression that they decided that as we buy the stuff we need to be impressed. They also probably decided that cats are often a member of the family and that people who live with cats look upon cats as people. All true but this is not a good reason to dress up the food to look like human food. When did a cat eat carrots in the wild?

Maybe the manufacturers also decided that a wildcat would eat carrots sometimes because they might be in the gut of a rodent. I am not sure. But cats only eat flesh. They eat animals not vegetables. They are carnivores. Perhaps the manufacturers can make acceptable cat food out of anything by adding the right supplements. After all there is vegetarian cat food, which sells pretty well. It has to replicate eating flesh, though, so it must contain some sort of meat substitute.

Lamb and Carrot cat food. What is typically left over after eating it. This is often chucked away. And in the summer be quick as it breeds maggots!

Anyway, what is so typical of cats eating products like lamb and carrot cat food is that they leave the "cardboard" tasting lumps and lick off the chemically flavored gravy or jelly. They come back when hungry and finish it off sometimes but a lot of the time it has to be thrown out. This is an indictment of the quality of lamb and carrot cat food, surely?

Here it is, Whiskas Lamb and Carrot cat food. Um...that smells good. But is it good? The only food we should buy our cats, if we can afford it, is the best quality cat food. This is invariably eaten in its entirety much more often, on the first sitting, which indicates that it is more suitable for a cat.

Lamb and Carrot Cat Food to Home Page

Chartreux on a Stamp

chartreux cat on a stamp
Chartreux on a Stamp - a stamp from Azerbaijan.

Well, I am surprised and pleased to see this. OK, it was 1995 but it is very rare to have purebred cats on the stamps of a country. The cat depicted, the Chartreux, is one of the grey cat breeds. It is also a breed that is meant to look as it did some 400 years ago. The breeders are sworn to maintain the naturalness of the cat.

Azerbaijan is a neighbor of Georgia and is close to Russia. It is a sort of a satellite of Russia. Well, that is the way I see it. It is a small country. Russia does have quite a well developed cat fancy (cat breeders and cat shows etc.) and it may be that this is a spin off from the USSR years when Azerbaijan was a part of the Soviet Union. Here is where it is:

The Chartreux is a rare cat. As at 2005, 150m (manat) (the value) stamps were worth 1/30th of a dollar. So postage was incredibly cheap but of course earning would have been very low by USA standards.

Chartreux on a Stamp to Home Page

Chartreux on a Stamp -- Photo of Stamp: This is not copyrighted and the user Butko at Wikimedia uploaded the photo.

Boy with Cats by Francisco de Goya

boy with cats and magpie by Francisco de Goya
Boy with Cats by Francisco de Goya - This is my title. The subject was the son of the Count and Countess of Altimara. His name was Don Manuel Osorio de Zuniga. The boy was about the same age as Goya's son Xavier. The painting was commissioned by the Bank of Spain.

We can see that he has a pet magpie on a string, which was no doubt considered acceptable in Spain at that time. In Asia it is still very common (not a magpie on a string but birds caged etc.!). There are also some caged birds. And, yes, of course cats, what else. This is another post in the series on cats in paintings. How many cats can you see and what type? And my heavens they are well behaved. Maybe they (the magpie and cats) grew up together and were somewhat socialized? This painting of a boy with cats was painted in 1784.

Here is a video on
Francisco de Goya showing some of his work. Cats were not a central part of his life!

Boy with Cats by Francisco de Goya to Home Page

Cat by Francisco Domingo Marqués

Cat by Francisco Domingo Marqués. I do not know when it was painted and the answer is not available to me despite a decent search. The artist was Spanish and he lived 1842-1920. Once again this is the era of the beginning of the cat fancy in England in the mid late 1800s.

The cat is a tabby and white, a very commonly seen type of cat (not a breed of cat) on the continent in Europe and in warmer climates. This is a young cat and to me she is female. The artist did not specialise in animals but painted them occasionally. I have a feeling that he lived with one or two and painted them. Here is a video showing the kind of subject matter that he painted:

This is another post in the series of Cats in Paintings, which contains a list of all the posts so far.

Cat by Francisco Domingo Marqués to Home Page

The Cat's Paw

The Cats Paw by Edwin Landseer
The Cat's Paw by Edwin Landseer is a fascinating painting. What the devil is going on and why? Edwin Landseer was a very well know (in his lifetime) English artist of great talent who specialised in paintings and sculptures of animals, particularly stags, horses and dogs. Maybe he didn't like cats! Judging by the painting above it is possible.

In the painting there are 6 cats (are there more? - not sure). Four are looking at the monkey who is holding a tabby and white cat. One, a black and white cat (see the white left hind leg) is on the monkey's back. This cat is barely seen in this image. The monkey is deliberately holding the paw of the cat on a hot stove while protecting his own foot by turning it at an angle. The monkey looks like he is enjoying it. The cat is in agony, of course.

I cannot find information about Landseer's motivation for painting this work of art, The Cat's Paw. It was painted in 1824 and it is an oil on panel. Landseer died in 1873 and was declared insane in 1872 at the request of his family having suffered for a long time from depression and melancholy (this doesn't mean that he was insane of course). At the time of making the painting he was 22 years old.

My rather rash and speculative guess is that Mr Landseer was a hunting and fishing man. He liked dogs, stags and horses, as stated. Such a person is more a pack animal and pack animals are less likely to be cat lovers. He may have disliked cats and this was one way of showing it. I think he wants to be the monkey!

The Cats Paw to Cats in Paintings

Children Playing with a Cat

Children Playing with a Cat by Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt's painting entitled, "Children Playing with a Cat" 1908.

This is a post in the series of Cats in Paintings. There are lots of cats in paintings as can be imaged (see Cats in Paintings). Cats are very popular subjects. I am very impressed by Mary Cassatt having just read her biography. She was an American lady born into a well-to-do family but was determined to follow her chosen career of an artist and make a living out of it. Her father objected but helped a bit financially (only a little bit mind you). She more or less made it on her own and against the odds as women at the time she was alive (1845- 1926) were frankly treated as second class citizens. They were "in the shadow of the man". Women still struggle get out of that shadow today.

Mary Cassat was born in Allegheny City (Pittsburg now), Pennsylvania but spent much of her working (painting) life in France. It was the time when Paris, France was the center of the Impressionist movement and it seems that she was inspired and motivated by the place and the people. She befriended some well known artists such as Edgar Degas and exhibited with the Impressionists.

At the time Children Playing with a Cat was created Mary Cassatt was concentrating entirely on mother and child subjects. It was a time when her was had a greater element of sentimentality about it. This was probably disliked by some of her Impressionist friends from whom she had gained inspiration and advice. At the time she was 63 years of age and had been awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1904 by the State.

Looking at the picture brings to my mind how she achieved it. You know what they say about working with animals and children. I will presume that she worked from life and not a photograph, although photography was very much around at the time. Perhaps it was achieved in a series of shortish sittings.

Mary Cassatt's brother was better known than her during her life. He was Alexander J. Cassatt (1839 – 1906) the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1899 to 1906. Although Mary Cassatt struggled to achieve recognition in her lifetime, particularly in the USA, her paintings are now very valuable, one being sold for $2.87m (2005)

Child and cat by Mary Cassatt
Sara holding a cat by Mary Cassatt - another sentimental and charming painting by this artist dated 1908 as well.

As to the cat in the painting it is almost certainly a very typical tabby and white. A straight forward moggie. I expect that is was painted in France, Paris, where she lived.

Children Playing with a Cat to Cats in Paintings

Children Playing with a Cat - Top Photo/painting: This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. The image is part of the Wikimedia library and it was uploaded by Cobalty.

Children Playing with a Cat - Lower picture is of the artist in a self portrait (cropped) and from the Wikimedia library (uploaded by user Civvi) and now in the public domain.

Bottom picture same as for the others uploaded into Wikimedia by Cobalty.

Angora Kitten

Angora Kitten
Angora kitten by Arthur Heyer. See copyright below.

The kitten in the painting is described by the artist as a "Junge Angorakatze" (Young Angora cat). This is a Persian cat, I am sure. The artist is well known. He was a German-Hungarian painter who lived from 1872 to 1931. This nicely covers the beginning of the cat fancy in England. Arthur Heyer specialized in feline and canine subjects. He seemed to like Persian cats and I would not be surprised to hear if he lived with a companion Persian cat, possibly a white one!

He often painted scenes of cats and dogs together. His cats and kittens paintings are his most popular. It is interesting that he called this cat an Angora cat. At that time this was the terminology for a long haired cat. Both the Turkish Angora and Persian (traditional appearance by modern standards) were around at the time of Arthur Heyer. The use of the term "Angora cat" is confusing and I am still not completely clear on how the term was used in the early years of the cat fancy. See Angora cat. I think Heyer also lived with a bulldog as bulldogs and white Persians feature a lot in his work. His work is still very popular and sold widely on the internet.

Angora Kitten to Persian Cat Transformation (Traditional to Modern apperance)

Angora Kitten - Photo of painting: this is in the public domain as copyright has expired. It is from the Wikimedia Commons library and the person who uploaded it was user Mazbln.

Embossed Bengal Pattern

The embossed Bengal pattern is a little startling to people outside the cat fancy. The marble pattern on a Bengal cat can be "raised" up from the background fur. Breeders call it an embossed pattern. So not only is the fur that produces the pattern darker and of a high contrast (to the background color) it is also of a different length. I have never felt this pattern but I suspect that the pattern part of the fur also feels different. Here is a picture:

Embossed coat Bengal cat
Embossed coat Bengal cat - From Roman Bengals. I have given a link to their website in exchange for use of the picture. Roman Bengals is owned by Steven J. Garrett. They have a really nice website. The embossing on this kitten is amazing. It is very pronounced and the hair looks finer in the raised areas and longer in the center of the embossed area. It is like a mountain range! The spots are raised too. The dark area of the spots is also raised more in the middle of the spot. There would seem to be two types of fur in place here. A cat has three types of fur maximum (some have a single coat). The three "layers" are guard, awn and down (the last being the undercoat). It looks to me as if the down hairs are coming through to the surface as it seems that the darker hairs are finer but I could well be wrong. Perhaps someone could make a comment?

If I am being picky this is not true embossing as the fur is raised. When something is embossed the embossed area is depressed. It is "reverse embossing". But that is beside the point. It is very attractive and no doubt desirable as is a high contrast and a good pattern.

Embossed Bengal Pattern to Home Bengal cat SUNDOG (he has an embossed Bengal pattern too).

Sunday 29 March 2009

Gentleman Jim Corbett

The hunter-naturalist and cat killer Gentleman Jim Corbett was a fraud. He was a fraud to himself, too. He deceived himself into believing that he was a conservationist. How can you be a conservationist and a devout wildcat hunter and killer? Sure he hunted "man-eaters". Big cats, which were forced to attack people. But the underlying reason why these animals attacked people, usually women and children, is because of the activities of humankind. Take, for example, the famous man eating leopard the "Panar Leopard", shot by hero Corbett after a long battle of wits. This cat (not much bigger than a big dog with an average weight of about 135 lbs or under 10 stones) was hurt by a poacher and was thereafter forced to prey on children and women. We (people) caused the problem and we resolved the problem by eliminating it. The leopard lost out twice, once when shot by the poacher and then when killed by Corbett. He was no doubt hailed as a hero but I don't see it that way.

William Corbett
Gentleman Jim Corbett - gentleman?

All man eaters are going to be similar in one form or another to the Panar Leopard as a leopard will chose the easiest prey and if there is a more natural prey it will go for that. People are not the natural prey of leopards. Something has gone wrong if the leopard attacks people and the cause of that wrong is more than likely to be us. We cannot therefore praise someone as "a man of decency, honor and humanity" etc. when he has missed the point completely. He was deluded. At the time he and the others involved owed a moral debt to help the leopard not to kill it. Apparently he turned to photo safaris later in life, so I think he saw the light.

And to say he is "an Indian-born British hunter, conservationist and naturalist", (Wikipedia author) is an oxymoron (a figure of speech that combines two apparently contradictory terms). Lets look at the definitions:
  • hunter - "a person or animal that seeks out and kills or captures game"
  • conservationist - "one that practices or advocates conservation, especially of natural resources"
  • conservation - "The protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife..."
  • naturalist - " One versed in natural history, especially in zoology or botany."
A person who kills cannot be involved in the preservation of wildlife when the wildlife in question is already endangered or likely to be endangered if killed needlessly. The leopard could have been trapped and placed in a reserve.

Hunter-Naturalist and Cat Killer Jim Corbett to Home Page

Gentleman Jim Corbett - Photo: published under Wikimedia® creative commons license license = Attribution-ShareAlike License

Gentleman Jim Corbett - Definitions: http://www.thefreedictionary.com

There are no Wildcats

I say that there are no wildcats left because there are no wild places left. We differentiate between cats in the wild and cats in captivity but in the modern world, the here and now, these two extremes seem to me to be part of a continuous spectrum. A wildcat in captivity is obvious. There will be a fence somewhere. It might be a cage or a fence could enclose a relatively large area for us but a small area for the wildcat. Take a cheetah, its home range depends on availability of prey but varies between 34 km2 (13 sq mi), to 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi) in Namibia. How many enclosures enclose 13 square miles?

The tiger and lion are similar. What is the the size of a major game reserve? The Kaziranga National Park in India is a major reserve and covers 430 square kilometers. But a road runs through it. Tourists are welcome. And tea estates are in the reserve. This is a large area, almost large enough but it is not a truly wild place. The wild animals live with human animals.

In Namibia the cheetah lives on farm land. How can a large wildcat live on farm land and hope to remain wild? It doesn't. It often dies at the hands of farmers (see Farmers Killing Cheetahs). There are no wildcats anymore because the truly wild places have all gone. The wildcats including the big cats are forced to live with people and that cannot work because we are frightened of each other.

For a wildcat to be truly wild it has to be able to behave in a manner that is exactly in tune with its character. In a space that is too small it cannot do this. The larger wildcats need lots of space as the cheetah figures above show (src: Wikipedia). For example, a tigress could have a territory of 20 square kilometers. The male territory is larger, covering 60–100 km2. Do you think that there is that kind of space left in the countries that is the tiger's range?

In the Kaziranga National Park, in India, tigers will wander to the borders of the park and at that point there will be a direct interaction between human and tiger. See Poisoning Tigers, for example. There are many others. I really do not believe that there is sufficient space to accommodate the big cats in Asia. It is a highly populated (for humans) part of the world. There is a correlation between human population increase in Asia (the home of the tiger) and tiger population decrease.

Date Human Pop. Asia Tiger Pop. Wild
1900 947,000,000 100,000
2008 4,054,000,000 (4+ times increase) 2,000 (50 x decrease)

I may be exaggerating, slightly, when I say that there are no wildcats left but they are not wild in the true sense. I have just made a post about a leopard that "terrorized villagers". The two have been forced together. Unfortunately it is the leopard that occupies the human land not the other way around. That means that the leopard is the one that is beholden to the top predator, man, with the usual consequences.

There are no Wildcats to Home Page

Man Eating Leopard

What makes a man eating leopard? It is the activities of people, the human animal. We create the situations in which leopards are forced to attack people, usually, perhaps always, children and women. So what do we do?

famous man eating leopard 1910
"Panar Leopard" -- Famous man eating leopard shot dead 1910. This cat was forced to attack easy small human prey because it was injured by a poacher.

  • expand human population without any thought for the wider implications for sustainability of resources on the planet. This leads to leopard habitat loss. This then leads to a lack of prey for the leopard and the leopard is forced to live in close proximity to people.
  • provoke hostility towards the leopard being fearful of the fact that leopards are "man eaters". The classic clichéd fear response.
It is said that no one knows why leopards become man eaters. Well there is one thing we know. If there was sufficient prey for a tired and old leopard it wouldn't need to go near people and I am sure leopards are happy to steer clear of people. So one reason is, as mentioned, human activity in reducing prey populations either by killing leopard prey ourselves or eroding the habitat in which the prey lives.

Beyond that obvious reason there is then the fact that for an injured or old leopard, a child is easy prey. If that is the case why don't we take precautions? I keep saying this but we created the conditions under which a man eating leopard develops so we owe it to the leopard to solve the problem but not at the expense of the leopard. The trouble is it takes a certain mentality to do that and that mentality does not exist very often in villages in India.

Take the oak jungles of Danpur, where a man eating leopard once roamed about 35 years ago. There is little natural prey there, apparently. I guess there was at one time. This leopard attacked children and women. Indians feel that once a leopard has eaten human flesh it wideer Indiall come for more and they fear most the female man eating leopard because they think that she will teach her young to attack and eat people. I know of no scientific research to support this. This is most likely to be anecdotal or just plain story telling. I don't know but my gut feel is that a leopard will simply take the most convenient prey. The easiest available prey. It will not bypass easy prey just to have a taste of human flesh - come on guys. "The leopard consumes virtually any animal it can hunt down and catch" (src: Wikipedia). The preferred prey weight is 25 kg (55 lb). In southern India the preferred prey is the chital, a deer. The leopard will only resort to attacking people if conditions demand it.

Even today when the leopard is formally declared Near Threatened (NT) under the IUCN Red List, we still don't know enough about this cat. I also think that NT is an under assessment brought on by political and business pressure. I am not sure about the Red List. It can work two ways. It can highlight problems with species loss and mask problems. I really am not sure about its accuracy. We rely on it too much, I think.

From Man Eating Leopard to Home Page

Man Eating Leopard - Photos: upper photo of dead leopard published under Wikimedia® creative commons license license = Attribution-ShareAlike License. Lower photo of chital by vandan desai published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

Leopard Terrorizes an Indian Village

The news announcement is, "Leopard terrorizes an Indian Village". But who is being terrorized the most and who is doing the terrorizing? Here we have a wild leopard running through a suburban park and over roof tops and walls surrounded by many people at close range. The cat does not attack these people but runs on by. This leopard is frightened. Out of its environment. Eventually in a park area, surrounded once again by perhaps a hundred excited people, mostly men wishing to show to the world their macho skills the leopard is jumped on by a large Indian man. I also read of man eating leopards. If a man can catch a leopard using his bare hands as is the case here how can they be man eating? The truth is that man eating leopards are attacking children and women but not men because they have too. We created the situation under which the leopard does this. I would have thought some sensible precautions and scare tactics would suffice. We owe the leopard that. The cougar in America is a similar sized cat and that can be frightened off. There is not need to shoot a cougar.

The leopard is not a "big cat" in the way we know it. It is the size of a large dog and the weight of a lightish man. So the animal is not that hard to tackle and really in this instance I saw no reason to tackle the animal at all. Why not try and guide the animal back to its world? An excited mob of people will not help. Sorry to be critical again but I just don't see this as the right thing to do. And we should remember that we, people, caused this cat to come out of its natural environment to the human one. Let it go back unharmed.

After the newsreader said that a leopard terrorises an Indian village, she says the leopard "succumbed to its injuries". I presume injuries inflicted during its capture. There were people with sticks as well. What happened? The leopard basically got killed by an Indian mob who were ostensibly protecting themselves from a leopard that wanted to get away! The news reader should have announced, "Mob terrorise a leopard and kills it!"

I am fascinated and I am afraid appalled by the social stresses of forcing large wildcat and human animal together. It happens all over the world and frequently in places like India where there is a high human population and a consequential shrinking wildcat habitat. This forces the cat to encroach onto "human territory" and frequently to have to look for prey near or in human settlements. Come on India, you can do better. And yes, I know we in the UK totally screwed up in respect of our large wildlife species many years ago, killing them all off, so I have no right to criticise etc.. But I just don't want to see such a fine animal killed needlessly. Why can't people live in harmony with the leopard and the tiger in India?

Here is another example of us screwing up. This time in Africa in relocating a leopard. In this case you can see the size of the leopard and even in this attack the man comes away relatively unharmed:

Leopard Terrorizes an Indian Village to Home Page

Saturday 28 March 2009

Lion and a Ferret

This is a well watched video of a lion and a ferret playing or perhaps a better description is that the ferret wants to play and the lion cub kinda puts up with it.

The key factor is that it shows once again the power of socialization. If animals that normally fight are put together when young (for domestic cats it usually means the first 6 months of life) then there is absolutely no problems. See Cats are Less Flexible than Dogs.

In this case the lion was raised by a person who appears to work at a zoo in Turkey. The person took on the task of raising the lion after the mother lion refused to do so. That is why she is in a living room with a ferret. The lion was raised by this person until 5 and half years of age and then transported to a sanctuary. Any animal can get on with any animal including a lion and a ferret. See also Cats and Dogs Living Together (in India).

Lion and a Ferret to Home Page

Leopard Rescued from a Well

I like India and the Indian people but I have been critical of the authorities in India in respect of preserving their wildcats. I am not the only one as Maneka Gandhi does too! But I have just seen the 6 o'clock news on television and there is a nice story about a leopard rescued from a well in India. Good on the authorities. I am pleased to see this. Here is the video:

What is quite interesting is that this is a fresh news story today in the UK but the video above was uploaded on 28th February about one month ago and the actual event must have happened some time before that (yes, see below).

Also it is not uncommon for stories coming out of Asia of the leopard being killed in significant numbers and these just rate as a small story and as a part of everyday life (see, for example, Leopard Deaths are Uninteresting). I can understand that. In the UK (London) we are used to reading about teenagers being stabbed to death. It happens so often it is boring.

The rescue took place in Nasik, 21 st February 2009. Wildlife authorities on February 21 rescued a leopard. The authorities didn't do it all well, though as the intention was to trap it bnut it apparently vanished into sugar cane. I find this odd as the leopard was drugged in the well to allow it to carried up from the well. What happened? This is the location:

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It is peculiar though. On the one hand a leopard is rescued from a well with great effort but on the other a leopard death is, it seems, treated as nothing. Were there other reasons for getting the leopard from the well? Just a purely practical reason of the well becoming unusable would be a good one. Am I being cynical? Apparently the leopard was chasing a dog when he fell down the well. That sounds strange to me too. See also: Tiger Project.

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Cats Have Different Characters

Many people don't realize that cats have different characters. And these character differences are often very noticeable to us, human animals. In some parts of the world people think of the cat as something that is unfeeling and robotic. These people think that humans own the world and animals were created to support humans and for humans to do as they please with.

If they were in my position they might think differently. I live with one companion cat, Binnie, an old girl of about 16+ years. She is overweight in mainly because she is frightened and defensive, making her static. I found her on the streets of London when she was young. So she is defensive, gentle and sweet natured. She likes to be handled gently and she likes a good brush and combing. Binnie will get grumpy sometimes when I don't respond to her requests. For example, she gets bored at night and wants me to interact with her so she calls out sometimes in a voice which pulls at my heart strings, wakes me up and I can't fail to cuddle her on the bed.

I had acquired 2 more part-timers (time share cats) but this has swelled to 3 more recently. The next is Timmy an intact (not neutered) male who is your classic alley cat. He is placid, calm and pushes his weight around with the others. He is top boy but I am above him! He is a bit like a young human sportsman; laid back. Nothing phases him but he likes his space and just does his own thing.

Then we have Pippa, a small girl cat (you can see these three on the Three Stray Cats site). She is athletic, friendly and nervous. She is very wary of danger and cautious. But very loving, sweet and loyal. She is the one who stays and comes back despite being pushed around by Binnie. Now Binnie wouldn't say Bo to a goose but she has to push someone around so its the cat at the bottom of the pile. Pippa has a sweet girly voice. Timmy has a stronger voice and Binnie (a big girl) is in between.

A newcomer is Martine. She is a fantastic looking moggie, a spotted tabby and white with a superbly striped tail. She trills like a Maine Coon cat and in fact may have some Maine Coon in her. Her face has the look of a Maine Coon but she is much smaller and a short haired cat. She is very active, inquisitive and wants to join in and play. So play I do. Timmy took at swipe at her and she gave a swipe back, the gutsy girl. After a while they get on.

These are the big character differences. There are aslo subtle differences that show in the facial expressions. Timmy looks a bit p*ssed off and swaggers a bit and Pippa looks concerned and impish. Binnie looks like a matriarch or an old school teacher and behaves like one, while Martine is like a rather glamorous youngish women who flirts a bit!

Cats have different characters and the more sensitive to cats we are the more apparent this is.

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Cats Have Different Characters -- Photo: Timmy Top Cat

Communicating with Cats

What is the best way of communicating with cats? Love (but it must be unconditional love) is the underlying sentiment that facilitates the connection between animal and human animal, there is no doubt about that.

People who are very close to each other can sense the other's feelings and this answers the question before it has been asked. For example, a person is anxious. This is picked up by the partner. The partner is able to work out what causes the anxiety by what has happened recently. The partner figures out a solution and delivers it!

We use out intuition to aid communication. Intuition is described as "the immediate apprehension of an object by the mind without the intervention of any reasoning process" (Oxford English Dictionary). I believe that intuition works like this. We collect over time and through experience information that is stored in the brain. When we observe generally and in an open way, our database grows faster. Intuition clicks in when we apply this general experience to what is happening before us. We sometimes get a rather vague answer but we get a "feel", an intuitive feel for what is going on. We can firm this up with further work. In respect of communicating with cats intuition naturally plays a major part. The experience we gain in living with a cat or cats gives us this database of information which the brain applies to get a sense of what our cat is communicating to us. Unconditional love of our cat and animals opens the channel for receiving the information upon which intuition can work.

An unconditional love of our cat allows us to be open to a cat's way of communicating. And like people cats communicate in different ways. Examples are, the type of meow, the body language, the routines, the look on her face (yes it does change subtly). I have mentioned this before but we need not and in my opinion should not "train" our cat to do as we please. This is one way communication and will be much less successful for obvious reasons that two way communication (real communication).

Whereas unconditional love of our cat allows us to be sensitive to our cat's needs and emotions and thereby opening the channels of communication, a sound "framework" of routine and a feeling of security allows our cat to feel free to communicate with us. Routine is important for a cat (and of course all animals) and creates as sense of certainty and therefore security, in which, our cat can express herself.

There would seem to be a kind of hierarchy at work here. The starting point is the unconditional love of out cats. This opens channels and allows are intuitive skills to work. At that point we are communicating with our cat and we can firm things up and make communication more precise by testing whether we are right. So for example our cat is meowing at night. The meow is quite demanding in tone. My intuition tells me that she wants to come on the bed with me (she is old and can't jump up). I call out and she calls back and eventually comes over to the bed. She peers up at me and grabs the bedside. I lean over and assist her up. If I am correct she will stay on the bed. My communication is at the intuitive level and tangible level (the act of assisting her on to bed). "Suck and see" has a role in communicating with cats but the more accurate we become in understanding our cat the less we need suck and see.

To return to unconditional love. It is above all a form of love that accepts the other faults, irritating traits and all. It is a love that prevents us imparting our will on the other, which lets the other express themselves freely. If unconditional love is returned, and it always is by cats, we have a nicely balanced relationship and an environment in which harmony grows and communication flows...............

Communicating with Cats to Home Page

Dream About Cats

Last night I had a dream about cats. First, I dreamed about exams. This is reliving the agonies of all the exams I took (60 hours worth and more). The cat dream went like this:

I was on a bed on top of a car at night. The car was pointing out over suburban parkland that is typical in London. The car's headlights were on and they picked up a cat moving in the distance, about 70 yards away. The cat was moving just as a domestic cat would at night, stealthily, on the hunt. The cat came nearer. I immediately saw that it was larger than a normal domestic cat, with a spotted tabby coat and a short tail. This was an American Bobcat. I was excited and a kept a close eye, watching the cat intently, which was now about 10 yards away and next to an old building. We were on the borders of parkland and homes.

The building looked derelict and the Bobcat squeezed underneath the outer wall of the building that was broken and dropped down into the basement. It was all quite eerie and a bit scary. I got down from this ridiculous bed on top of the car and went towards the building. I struggled to see what was down there but found a broken, very low window and peered in, taking a risk of falling down into this dark place.

The basement was as expected, in a way; derelict. The floor though was odd. It was covered in sand. Not prepared sand just the kind of sand that is present on dusty/sandy floors. In one corner though there was a pile of sand about 10 feet high. And the whole room of about 30 feet by 20 feet was populated by feral cats! They were everywhere. Some were on the mound of sand squabbling over a piece of food. These cats all had semi-long hair that was a grubby white. One was in the center of the room with a friendly mouse or rat on him or her. All the cats looked unkempt and frankly sick. A number of them looked up at me, interested and asking, with sad eyes, for help. There was no sign of the American Bobcat. It was a scene of a kind of horror.

The dream moved on in a fragmented way. On one occasion a group of feral cats came out and wandered down the street (it was daytime by now) in danger of being hit by traffic but they looked happy and playful and also in better health. Some of them turned to wildcats.

This dream about cats is a reflection about my concern for the most vulnerable of our lost companion cats, the feral cat. They are generally treated horrendously both in the developed and less developed parts of the world and my heart cries out to them. I had a dream about cats and it is one in which I dream that the feral cat is one day free from the pain of a short life.

Dream About Cats to Home Page

Friday 27 March 2009

Do British Shorthair Cats Like to be Hugged?

The British Shorthair cat is a fine cat but the characteristics of a cat are generally personal to the cat. So we can't really say a British Shorthair is a cat that likes to be hugged or not. It really depends on the individual.

Perhaps some cat breeds are more placid and therefore accepting of being hugged etc but the individual traits, I think, outweigh cat breed characteristics. Placid cats are, for example, the Ragdoll and Persian. There are others. The Chartreux is meant to be affectionate. And the Chartreux is a classic looking cat with a long history. It is what might be called, a traditional cat. Further the Chartreux has only one color, blue (blue/grey) and the most well known color for the Brit SH is, yes, blue.

So the answer to the question, "Do British Shorthair Cats Like to be Hugged?" is yes if she or he likes to be hugged. We, as humans are the same.

Photo is free to use. She is Sky one of Helmi and Ken Flick's cats.

Cat Neutering Increases Body Weight

feral cats undergoing neuteringIn research carried out on feral cats it was found that cat neutering increases body weight significantly with increased body fat, in line with confined and socialized companion cats (see: http://www.psyeta.org/jaaws/abv5n3.shtml). What is the science behind this?

The Purina site says that the reason is a change in metabolism and "activity levels normally decline with maturity". I don't understand the connection in the second reason. As to the first reason, "metabolism" is defined as "the set of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms in order to maintain life" (Wikipedia). Another website endorses this reason saying that the cat's metabolic rate deceases by about 20%. Obviously food intake needs to be reduced accordingly. A vet's site in the UK says that there is also an increase in appetite so reducing intake of food is going to be hard.

Another site says that neutering causes a hormonal change. So the change is metabolic and appetite caused by an altered hormonal balance. Wikipedia says, "[they] have an increased risk of obesity. Theories for this include reduced metabolism, reduced activity, and eating more due to altered feeding behavior". In short we don't know exactly what is going on.

I would like to know what is actually happening inside the body? Well, I found a proper scientific paper on the subject. These are some summarized notes from this paper (http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/132/6/1730S):
  • It has been shown that cat neutering significantly increases body weight after neutering.
  • Body weight is dependent of energy intake versus energy expenditure
  • Neutering decreases the normal concentrations of gonadal (an ovary or testis) hormones altering the regulation of body fat mass.
  • Food intake immediately increases significantly after neutering leading to body weights greater than in intact cats by 3 weeks after neutering.
  • The weight gain, due to increased body fat mass, continued and then leveled off when it was 28% higher than in intact cats.
  • Food intake increase is sufficient to be the cause of weight gain.
  • "Circulating leptin and insulin concentrations indicate that the food-intake response is not suppressed by the negative feedback normally imposed by the hormones." - this is quoted for accuracy. In return for this breach of copyright a link to the paper is made here:
Neutering Induces Changes in Food Intake, Body Weight, Plasma Insulin and Leptin Concentrations in Normal and Lipoprotein Lipase–Deficient Male Cats by Marc L. Kanchuk, Robert C. Backus3, Christopher C. Calvert, James G. Morris and Quinton R. Rogers

KEY WORDS: • neutering • food intake • body weight • leptin • insulin • cats

Cat Neutering Increases Body Weight -- Photo Feral cats undergoing TNR - by Feral Indeed! and published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

Link Between Cat Abuse and Child Abuse

The link between cat abuse and child abuse is illustrated in this fictional story based on a true story:
Chrissie, Laura's 8 year old daughter, came running in from the porch. Tears were streaming down her face. She was making those heaving sobs that come from the heart. It took her mother all of 5 minutes to calm her down before she was able to speak. Her mother was shocked. She had never seen her daughter so upset.

"Daddy said that if he saw the cat on the porch again he'll kill it. It just happened, Mummy". He took my cat from me and killed it in his hands. He just snapped little kitty's neck and threw her in the trash bin..."

Little Chrissie calmed down that day. But the pain remained for a long time.
"Cat abuse" can, naturally be substituted by animal abuse but it seems that cats are more vulnerable than dogs and therefore more likely to be abused by an abusive person in a household. Cats and dogs are the most common companion animal in households, which is why I mention these animals. I talk about cats as this is a cat site.

cat abuse
Photo by kayi1117

Apparently, there is little data and information on the number of incidences when children have witnessed both violence against their mother (most often) and the family's companion animal(s). As companion animals are very often considered to be a "family member" such experiences will probably be as traumatic as violence against human family members, maybe even more so. Certainly the combination of violence against animal and human is worth investigating. And the two, commonly, go together. In some States in the United States legislation in respect of animal violence proscribes an evaluation as to anger management in sentencing that includes as it is often caused by psychological problems.

Perhaps, as mentioned, cats are more frequently abused by violent spouses because they are more vulnerable. I don't know. I am making an assumption. There is, though, an undeniable link between cat abuse and child abuse and in these families the child is at an increased risk of abuse too. This is hardly surprising as a child is also a vulnerable creature at the mercy of a violent person.

It has been surmised that a child exposed to companion animal and parent abuse may lead to a propensity for the child to become abusive when adult to people and animals. This would be a learned process. Children learn from their parents by observation. Children who then, for example, are violent towards the family cat (in externalizing their problems) will inevitably harden their heart to violence leading to possible violence against people and criminality.

In research carried out in the USA, a survey of 50 shelters for battered women were asked the following questions and they provided the answers as indicated:

Question % of respondents answering "Yes"
Do women who come to your shelter talk about companion animal abuse? 85.4
Do children who come to your shelter talk about companion animal abuse? 63.0
Have you seen a combination of domestic violence and companion animal abuse, in your experience? 83.3

For the full report and discussion please see this web page: http://www.psyeta.org/sa/sa5.3/Ascione.html (this is the source other than from me of this post). I have been selective, modified and summarized. But actually it is frankly obvious that there is a link between companion animal or cat abuse and child abuse in the family. Both are vulnerable and a violent person will express that against the easiest targets. So it will both or either direct abuse of the child or indirect in the case of Chrissie above who will possibly or probably suffer psychological damage as a result of her experiences.

Link between cat abuse and child abuse -- Photo published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

Percentage of Cats in Households

Costa Rica guard dogIn my opinion the percentage of cats in households measures a country's development. We all know that the world has developed at different rates. It could be argued that some countries are literally hundreds of years behind others engaging in tribal warfare and living in anarchy (Somalia, as at the date of this post, is an example). There are many others. I am not critical of these countries. It is just a sad fact of the world and unsettling because it makes unified action impossible. We all pull in different directions.

What I mean when I say that the percentage of cats in households measures a country's development is this. Cats are considered non-utilitarian. They cannot perform a duty for the "owner". Well that is what people in certain countries think. In fact cats perform a major "work function" namely to make us happier and to slow us down (and healthier). But people from some countries perceive "utility" in a more tangible way. If a pet can be a companion and be useful as well, so much the better, and in countries where human survival is more problematic a useful pet is more interesting to people and more valuable as it facilitates survival.

On that argument we would expect to see the domestic dog more popular than the domestic cat in countries where life is harder. There are few surveys of this kind but one on Costa Rica serves the purpose:

Country % households keeping Dog % keeping Cat
Costa Rica 53.0 14.8
Australia 39.7 26.5
USA 32-39.4 27-32.4
UK 28 22
Incidence of cats and dogs among households expressed as percentages of all households. The USA figures are quite old and I believe there are more cats than dogs currently but the point of the post is made.

There is a stark difference in the percentage of cats in households in Costa Rica to the other countries listed. The void is filled by the domestic dog. A popular use for a dog is as a guard dog (see picture above of a Costa Rica guard dog). Sometimes they are cruelly chained up all the time. In some parts of the world (or areas of countries of the world) the cat is considered so useless as to be only fit for consumption (yes, a use but a wrong one I argue - Cat Meat Name and Shame and Cat Meat Philosophy).

Percentage of Cats in Households -- Source:
  • http://www.psyeta.org - Costa Rica, USA and Australia figures
  • www.pfma.org.uk - UK figures
Photo of a Costa Rica guard dog by dipthongasaurus rex and published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

Thursday 26 March 2009

Green Cat Toy

What is a green cat toy? They are good for the environment. But they are also good for the cat, equally importantly. Without intending to be critical or hostile to other countries and cultures I would check where there toy came from. Certain countries have a bit of a history of supplying products that are less than healthy or just plain dangerous and that applies to human toys for babies or children. I can remember a health scare with respect to childrens' toys about a year ago from an Asian country. The same country recently supplied a poisonous ingredient for cat and pet food. See Melamine in Cat Food. So, I would focus on cat toys made in the West.

Other negative factors to think about might be:
  • Toys made from plastic and painted plastic. The chemicals in plastic might present a hazard when chewed and paint can also contain chemicals (like lead). Paint from the less developed countries can contain lead. Lead used to be in paints in the UK at one time (exterior paints) to make it more durable.
  • Any painted toy should be a No No.
  • Toys that are small or have small bits attached. This might include threads and stringy bits that can be swallowed. Perhaps the best thing is to pull the toy about a bit without destroying it before buying!
  • Toys made with fillings that can be ingested. This might include polystyrene bits. Cats do like to tear things to bits and chew what's left. I would have thought it possible to feel what is more or less in the interior of a toy.
  • Plastic bags are a big no no as they are potentially dangerous (suffocation).

Cats don't know if the toy is expensive and/or manufactured and the simplest of homemade toys or just bits of rubbish can be good toys and very much a green cat toy as it is good recycling Zach in the video has the right idea and he makes a great green cat toy, the greenest imaginable:
  • Cardboard boxes are one of the favorites judging by the videos around. The box should be completely empty.
  • Catnip stuffed toys. My Timmy a stray likes these but on one occasion broke it up and started to eat the foam like interior so I took it off him. They are generally safe it seems provided there are no bits on them that can come off and be eaten. Cats can be very destructive with catnip toys as the catnip drives them to destroy it!
  • Crumpled up paper balls are simple and effective and a nice bit of recycling.
  • Balls of various types are always fun for a cat at least for a while; pushing and prodding it around the place.
  • A piece of cable or string that is held at one end by us and dragged slowly in front of my cat on the bed keeps her interested for the longest time. I get tired of the game well before she does. String "managed" like this is safe (i.e. we can react and protect). A lump of some sort on the end of the string helps (provided it is safe lump). I use cable sometimes like a power cord but stop her chewing it by always just beating her.
  • Any toy that has had any potential nasty bits removed is OK. I would be surprised if a cat toy manufacturer made a toy that had bits on it that could be eaten but some from Asia might (this, as mentioned, is not an attack on Asia, just a reality).
Green Cat Toy -- Some more reading:

From Green Cat Toys to Home Page

Stopping the Inappropriate Elimination of Cats

cat litter box with heart shapped urineThe are an endless number of articles about stopping the inappropriate elimination of cats as it is most common reason for people to give up their cats to rescue centers. Firstly, I should like to differentiate between inappropriate elimination and territorial marking (spraying for hormonal reasons which can largely be stopped through neutering). The latter is not the subject of this post although it can be highly inappropriate for people.

Also, inappropriate elimination can be due to medical reasons (e.g. urinary tract infections such as cystitis), anxiety marking and/or not liking the litter box. If a neutered cat is spraying it is probably due to anxiety and the cause of that is probably something that we are involved in (e.g. letting stray cats wander in). If the cause of the anxiety cannot be identified vets sometimes prescribe Prozac incidentally, which has a high success rate (but which I find rather sad to be honest).

This post is about stopping the inappropriate elimination of cats for cat litter reasons.

Inappropriate elimination has been described as the use of places in the home that are not suitable (outside the litter box) rather than as a communication signal in territorial marking. In this form of going to the toilet, cats often deposit one of the two forms of excrement in the litter box and inappropriately use another place for the other form.

Some factors that cause inappropriate elimination that are litter box related:
  • unclean litter box
  • not enough litter boxes for the cats in the home
  • the litter box design
  • the type of litter (scented litters are sometimes dislikes by cats although we might like them)
  • Plastic liners to the box
  • chemical odors that linger in the box from cleaning it (e.g. chlorine)
These are called "initiating factors". This means that these are factors that start the problem (for us) of inappropriate elimination. These factors cause the cat to become averse to using the litter box and using another location. Lets remember that to us it is a litter box but for the cat it is just one area of the home to go to the toilet. Over time the cat becomes habituated to using the wrong area and the presence of the urine or feces makes the area acceptable and usual. This is a reinforcing process.

Once all medical, hormonal and anxiety related problems are resolved the way to break the cycle and to build a method for stopping the inappropriate elimination of cats is to:
  1. Make the litter box as pleasant as possible for the cat in question. This puts a stop to one of the initiating factors;
  2. Change the type of box to find a suitable one and;
  3. Alter the type of location may be varied and;
  4. Alter the type of litter;
  5. Clean the litter box frequently. The frequency of litter cleaning should be increased to one or twice daily. This tackles one reason for inappropriate elimination: an unclean litter tray;
  6. Make the area where inappropriate elimination is taking place as unpleasant for the cat. This can be achieved by covering area with smooth plastic or placing food in the area for example (changed significance);
  7. Use special odor eliminators in the area of inappropriate elimination. This is important too. Zero Odor is one example, there are others such as Nature’s Miracle.
  8. Use positive reinforcement with food treats when going to the litter will help.
Some people take their cats to the vet for putting down because they are incapable of stopping the inappropriate elimination of cats, which as can be seen is really our problem. Following these techniques can save cats' lives as there is a success rate in the order of 72%.

From Stopping the Inappropriate Elimination of Cats to Home Page

Major source:
  • http://www.psyeta.org
  • http://www.tufts.edu
Stopping the Inappropriate Elimination of Cats - Photo: by lynx81(new window) published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

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