Sunday 17 December 2017

Can a cat see in pitch black?

The answer to the question, "can a cat see in pitch black?" must be NO because you need some light to impinge upon the retina for the retina to then send a signal to the brain. Pitch black means absolutely no light. Despite the fact that the cat's eyes are more sensitive to ours and their vision at night is excellent, they cannot see in total darkness. No animal can.

Light reflected from the cat's retina. A typical nighttime scene. Hence the phrase "cat's eyes" to mean the center line road markings by reflective glass marbles invented in Yorkshire, UK.

Wilmington, North Carolina, smells like cat urine. Why?

When I read the headline of an online newspaper, Winston-Salem Journal, "N.C. town stinks so badly of "cat pee" that there is an official state memo about it", I felt that this was another attempt to denigrate feral cats and to find a reason to kill them. It seemed as if the article was about a town being overrun by feral cats. However, that positively is not the case.

These cats did not cause the smell! The picture is for illustrative purposes only.
Wilmington has been suffering from a intermittent and faint cat pee odor for many years apparently. The NC Division of Air Quality has received several complaints about a cat urine-like odor. It is investigating but is yet to pin down the cause.

Some residents believe that it's caused by illegal manufacturing which takes place at night and others believe the cause is a naturally occurring swamp gas and/or decaying vegetation.

One resident, Sue Newell, said that she has smelled the odor since the late 1980s which seems extraordinary because you would have thought something would have been done about it by now. She said:

"The pungent odour is a concoction that can include swamp gas and fumes from a number of industrial plants along the Cape Fear River".

Apparently living near downtown Wilmington you will probably wake up to the smell of cat urine. I wish they had not chosen to use the phrase "cat urine" to describe the smell. I'm very sensitive to people who dislike cats using health issues and the like to denigrate the cat particularly feral cats as it can lead to abuse.

I am pessimistic about cat domestication

This morning I am pessimistic about the domestication of the cat. I am in a negative mood. However, I think it is justified. The more you read about the domestic cat, the more you understand the history of domestication of the wild cat, the more you see that it has gone wrong or at least not as intended. It has not gone entirely wrong but there are sufficient fault lines to see that it has turned out rather badly.

One of the problems is that most cat owners don't know about the problems. I am not criticizing them but many are ignorant of the large numbers of cats which are unwanted, euthanized at shelters. Think of the millions upon millions of feral cats in America. Feral cats should not exist. Every feral cat is a symptom of our failure of the domestication of the cat. And there are an estimated 80 million of them in America. They cause untold numbers of arguments between cat lovers and cat haters. Untold numbers of feral cats are shot or abused by cat haters. Millions are euthanized at shelters. Many of them are domestic cats turned feral. They were someone's pet.

Every day we hear stories about cat hoarders living with dead, dying, and injured cats. Sometimes these people are criminals and they are charged with the crime of animal cruelty but sometimes they are simply people who have tried to help resolve the unwanted cat problem and failed. They've lost control and they quite possibly have mental health issues as well.

Every day in the paper "cat news" is nearly always bad cat news. It concerns the shooting of cats or cat abuse. A lot of people like to shoot cats in America. They want to harm cats and I think it is an expression of anger against society. They want to strike back and harm something so they harm what is available to them which will be a stray cat. The stray cat is incredibly vulnerable.

 Increasingly it is becoming apparent that cat owners need to keep their cats inside or at least confined in some way or other. When you ask people why they keep their cats confined they say there are too many nutcases out there who want to hurt cats. And then in America there are predators such as coyotes which kill cats. Perhaps the greatest fear is from neighbors. It just takes one who doesn't like cats and you start seeing cats going missing. It is quite easy to kill a cat surreptitiously at night when outside cats can be active. There is no evidence. There is no proof. It is impossible almost to catch the perpetrator. And then the police are sometimes disinterested in this sort of what they would regard as petty crime and so the criminality against wondering cats goes on.

Many cat owners don't even report the matter. They just believe that their cat is lost and has not returned. They seem to accept it. But all these factors indicate a failure in the domestication of the cat. We can surely do much better than this? Then there is the declawing of cats in America. Millions of cats have been declawed. Once again this operation indicates a failure in our relationship with domestic cats. Veterinarians do it for money. Cat owners are unaware of the true consequences and gravity of the operation. 60% of cat owners in America support declawing. This is partly due to ignorance and a lack of education. The other part is a culture issue.

The veterinarians are largely to blame. There is a gradual change against declawing and one day it will be banned or the veterinarians will stop voluntarily. In the meantime millions more cats will be mutilated. Declawing is a symptom of a broken relationship between human and cat. If people don't like the claws of the cat they should not keep a cat as a companion. That is the answer: not to mutilate the cat.

In China cats are routinely, brutally "murdered" for their flesh to eat because some Chinese think it is beneficial to their health. At the same time many millions of cats are killed for their fur and the same goes for dogs. There are no animal welfare laws in China. These animals are not euthanized brutally killed. Before being brutally killed they are held in cages in the most inhumane of conditions. Vietnam has a similar tradition. America imports Chinese fur and a lot of it will be from domestic and feral cats in China. It seems impossible to stop this. Real fur from China from the skin of a cat is cheaper than artificial fur. That tells us that a lot of cats are being killed and that there is an abundance of cat fur on the market.

Turning to the wild cats. They are under constant pressure from human activity, from poaching and habitat loss. In general their numbers are declining. Sometimes the decline is rapid as is the case for the lions. Tigers are routinely poached for their body parts to be eaten by Chinese for health reasons. This is mumbo-jumbo medicine and a ridiculous tradition which is out of place in the modern world but the Chinese government does nothing about it. Conservationist are engaged in a rearguard action, a reactive conservation process to try and save the tiger but nobody does anything about trying to stop Chinese poaching tigers in India and importing them via Burma and Thailand into China.

The IUCN Red List is, I believe, being lobbied by hunting associations and big business to relax their classification of the wild cat species. When a wild cat species is classified as endangered it is protected and when it comes out of this classification it becomes vulnerable to poaching et cetera and international trade in body parts and live animals. I don't trust the IUCN Red List. Big business will always beat conservationists because they have more money.

Even in countries such as the UK which is meant to be full of animal lovers we have serial cat killers wandering around at night trying to make some sick point by killing cats, mutilating them and leaving the body parts around to try and send a signal to cat owners. They are probably trying to tell them to keep their cats inside. And the truth is that increasingly it is becoming necessary to keep your cat inside, confined to a decent garden cat enclosure together with your house. I don't know how cat owners can live with the anxiety of knowing that there cat is vulnerable to being hurt either deliberately or accidentally when wandering outside. I can't do that. I don't believe a true cat lover can do it either.

It is hard to know how the situation can be improved. It is a very big issue. How can America substantially reduce the number of feral cats from around an estimated 80 million? Perhaps there are many less than that (some estimate 12m - we need to count them more accurately). People don't know the true number of feral cats but it is in the millions. There are constant discussions in council chambers among community leaders as to how best to deal with feral cats. Authorities in Australia are constantly scratching their heads as to how to deal with (kill) feral cats. These are all reactive measures.

I believe there will come a time when there will have to be regulations, much more strict regulations about cat ownership. I regret it but I think it is true. It will be necessary because a minority of cat owners resolutely fail to change their ways from being irresponsible to being responsible, thinking of the wider issue such as neighbors who don't like cats and the environment because domestic and feral cats do prey on wildlife and this causes constant friction, a kind of cat war between ornithologists and cat owners. A solution needs to be found. We can't go on arguing and failing in the domestication of the cat.

Thursday 14 December 2017

How can I make my cat a lap cat?

By Cindy Grant

Our four-legged doggie friends are often more than eager to respond to our commands such as “Up,” “Sit” or “Stay,” yet, the same can not be said of Kitsy. She often bares her nails when the kids want to pick her up, refuses to be picked up or cuddled, or, by accident bites you when you rub him to long.


While many cats love to be touched as much as dogs do, just as many are not that keen about about it. To date, the reason to why this is, is still a mystery and very much misunderstood. Yet, many animal behaviorists believe that similarly to as many humans there are on the planet with their own unique personality traits and preferences, there are cats with the same.

Recent studies have although observed that a friendly cat mom, tend to have friendly kittens. This might indicate that cats learn their behavior through modeling (nurture), very much the same way toddlers observe and then do what their parents does.

Another reason kittens might be more inclined to curl up on your lap is genetics. Some cat breeds can be cuddlier than others, therefore, ensure to find out which ones, before purchasing or adopting if you are interested in a cuddly, curl-up-in your lap type kitten.

  • Birman
  • Burmese/Bombay
  • Kuriliam Bobtail
  • Oriental Shorthair/Siamese
  • Ragdoll
  • Scottish Fold/Scottish Straight
  • Sphynx
  • Tonkinese
  • Cat’s Don’t Like Staring – Cats (especially kittens) often see eye to eye contact with a human (or any animal large than them) as aggression towards him / her. 

If you notice your cat gets anxious or tense when you stare at him, then you know why . . .

To-Do: Glance away regularly instead of gazing for to long at your cat / kitten.
  • Start Socialization Early – Just as with dogs, cats can be socialized when they are a young age, in order to improve their overall social behavior, and perhaps, learn to sit on your lap.

To-Do: When your kitten is between the age of 3 – 7 weeks, gently start to touch him / her. When they are comfortable with touching, move on to picking them up, and hold them just for a couple seconds. Once they are comfortable with that, place them on your lap for a couple sends, and gently stroke them.

If they don’t like any of the above, don’t force them. Be gentle and take your time.
  • Safe Sleeping Quarters Of Their Own Is Key – Cats, like humans, enjoy security. They like to live in an area away from ‘predators,’ often making their sleeping quarters high on a cupboard, inside a basket or atop a shelf. 

In nature, cats instinctively slept inside trees, high on branches, away from the prying eyes of predators. Therefore, even after being domesticated, they still instinctively seek a safe place to make their own.

To-Do: Ensure your cat has a safe place to sleep, where he / she feels comfortable. Naturally, they often select their own ‘hiding spots,’ as sleeping areas. Respect your cats ‘safety nest,’ and don’t bother him / her once they are there.
  • Peace & Tranquility – It is said most cats have a sixth sense. 

More and more human are suspecting the truth to this longtime wisdom. Apart from a secure sleeping spot, your kitsy will enjoy a peaceful and tranquil environment where they can sleep (which they do a lot), stretch, and where you are not stressed, which might make them stressed in turn.

You see, your cat can pick up on your ‘vibes,’ and if your ‘vibes’ are a little on the negative side, they might refuse to sit on your lap.
  • To-Do: Whenever you wish to train your cat to sit on your lap, do so when you are in a good mood.
Strange we know! But true.
    Offer A Bribe – Cats are clever creatures, and know a bribe by a mile away. Although, don’t worry about offering a little snack when you want your cat to sit on your lap. Cat’s love these kind of bribes. LOL.

To-Do: Sit on the floor. Have a couple of treats in your hand, and start by throwing them a couple feet away from you. Each time, wait for your cat to eat the treat, then throw the next treat a little closer. Do so until the last treat is laid out on your lap. Wait for kitsy to jump on your lap, and gently pat him / her if they like it, while keeping the last treat as the final reward.
Cindy has her own website: No Longer Wild.

Thursday 8 June 2017

Open Plan Living Is Not Ideal for Domestic Cats

I wrote about this on the main website. Open plan living is not ideal for domestic cats. This is because it is too open. Cats need, if one is going to be an excellent cat owner, at least one place to hide. In open plan living there are less opportunities to hide. Of course it depends upon the details of the interior space and the owner's preferences.

Some owners like totally sheer, clean areas with minimalistic lines et cetera. It is these sorts of interiors which are not ideal. The need for a domestic cat to hide, however, is not that pressing in my opinion. It may occur in multi-cat households where one cat is perhaps bullying another and the submissive cat is timid.

Or the general ambience of the house is not particularly healthy with respect to a domestic cat. The owner might not be that good. There may be too much activity or too much noise. There may be a stranger in the house for a while. There are numerous factors which can generate an uncomfortable ambience for a cat. Under these circumstances a place to hide would be welcome for the family cat.

However, even in open plan living accommodation a sensible cat owner will ensure that there are some places where their cat can hide. So it is unnecessary to make drastic changes to the interior of one's home. Just a bit of common sense will do.

I can remember when I fostered a tiny feral kitten who I eventually adopted. He hid behind the sideboard. There was quite a lot of space under the sideboard and he managed to crawl under it. He lived there for about a week until I successfully enticed him out permanently with plenty of excellent food, tender loving care and, the best of all, play. So certain items of furniture may be ideal places for a cat to hide behind or under.

A good alternative too is a place which is high up. Cats like vertical travel and they can find sanctuary and safety in a high advantage point. This is where cat trees come in handy. Of course, there is no reason why a cat tree cannot be placed within open plan living accommodation (unless the owner finds it spoils the presentation of the room). Also within these cat trees there are little hiding places into which a cat can crawl.

These are all commonsense issues which are barely worth mentioning but the idea that open plan living is unsuitable for domestic cats comes from Dr Ellis a cat behaviourist and although in principle the idea is not bad I think it is a fairly weak point because there are so many ways to ameliorate the situation for one's cat if one lives in open plan accommodation.

A cat suffering from long-term anxiety may well, as a consequence, suffer health problems (urinary tract issues come to mind). It is vital really to ensure that the home is cat friendly and a place where the cat feels comfortable, reassured and safe. This is a basic tenet of cat caretaking.

There may, now that I think of it, be a connection between poor cat caretaking and open plan living. People who like open plan living may be particularly houseproud and be particularly interested in the interior space where they live. This priority for what the cat owner wants may be detrimental to their cat. There needs to be a compromise.

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