Wednesday 28 February 2018

Caracal Kitten Makes Strange Sound

This super cute, handsome caracal kitten is making a very interesting sound in this video. The kitten is captive. You can tell that by the carrier on which he or she stands. This must be a caracal version of a meow. Apparently she was hungry and is demanding food. She is very insistent; typical of the domestic cat. It got me thinking about caracal vocalizations.

The experts say that this medium-sized wild cat species has the 'basic felid vocal repertoire' by which it is meant that the sounds made are typical of cats and include meowing, gurgling, hissing, growling, spitting and purring. These are all sounds barring gurgling that the domestic cat makes. They also make a sound called the wah-wah call. Other wild cats have this call namely, lynxes, pumas, jaguarundi, servals and the Asiatic and African golden cats (you can read about all these cats on PoC).

One expert, has reported hearing caracals making a harsh, hissing bark when a strange animal was introduced into an enclosure.

You'll also notice the beautiful ear tufts. The caracal has the longest ear tufts on any cat, domestic or wild, on the planet and it is thought that they assist in communication but the function remains unknown. They may accentuate facial expressions. They may facilitate the location of sounds. One expert, Kingdon, believes that they are a 'decorative signalling structure'. I have a post on this: click here to read it.

Sources: Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist and my thanks to the video maker.

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Spike in Black Cat Adoptions Because of Black Panther Film Is Worrying

We are told that the latest CGI, all action, fantasy film for young people called Black Panther has resulted in a sharp spike in adoptions of black cats at shelters in America. On the face of it is excellent news. Of course it is. Black cats are unpopular. Anything to improve their adoption rate must be welcomed.

Photos copyright Helmi Flick
However, being cynical as I am, my mind turned to the apparent fecklessness of this phenomenon. Whereas normally people are reluctant to adopt black cats, when a popular film which is a transient form of entertainment alters opinions overnight such that black cat adoptions rise steeply then it seems to me that the people who are suddenly adopting these cats may change their minds in the not too distant future once they have hit reality and realized that they are not adopting a miniature black panther but a real cat with all the incumbent responsibilities.

Perhaps I'm being too cynical. Of course I welcome the news. Apparently these adopters are keen to adopt black panthers but they can't do that because black panthers are either melanistic leopards, jaguars or cougars. They are large wild cats which are black or near black and pretty well impossible to have as pets. Although it must be said that some people do have mountain lions as pets.

Driven by the desire to have a black panther as a pet they turn to black domestic cats instead and these people name their cats after the names of the characters in the film. It almost seems like they want to play act the film in their living rooms. It doesn't feel good to me.

Incidentally, there is a black cat which is purebred. It is the Bombay Cat. This is a standard shaped domestic cat in all respects save that the coat has been selectively bred to be shiny, jet black like patent leather shoes. They might like to adopt one of these cats. A picture of this cat is featured on this page.

It would be nice to do a follow-up page on this story to see whether the sharp increase in adoptions of black cats persists. One blogger mentioned that her local pet shelters have been cleared out of black cats whereas normally there are between 50 and 60 left languishing in cages because nobody wants them. A pleasant phenomenon indeed but is it enduring?

72% of veterinary patients are dogs and 28% are cats - Discuss

Did you realize that American people take their cat to the vet far less often than people take their dog to the vet despite the fact that there are more companion cats than dogs in the United States? So says the results of a 2012 survey of over 8m patients of over 2 thousand veterinarians across the United States.

The survey, conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association, indicates that if we look at the percentage of patients from the companion dog and cat sector, 72% of veterinary patients are dogs and 28% are cats.

What do you think about that? Why is there this huge disparity? Are dogs less healthy than cats? Or are people more aware of a dog's ill health than with the domestic cat who hides it so well?

Image (modified) in public domain

I'll try and speculate. There are far more purebred dogs than purebred cat breeds. There are far more companion dogs that are purebred. Purebred cats are relatively rare. This is probably because dogs have been domesticated for much longer than cats. Purebred animals are deliberately bred. They are bred primarily for appearance. Inbreeding firms up - fixes - a desired appearance. But the trade off can be less healthy animals due to inherited diseases carried by what should have been dormant recessive genes, which are brought to the fore. I feel pretty sure that this is one reason why there are almost three times the number of dogs as patients as there are cats.

But I doubt that that is the only reason. I sense that a major reason is that the domestic cat is self contained. They amuse themselves and sleep and generally are there but not imposing themselves on their human caretaker to the same extent as a dog. This allows people to become less intimate as to the cat's health and behavior, which in turn means that there are cats that should be at the vet but who are not.

In the same vein, cats hide illness well. Perhaps people take their cat to the vet late in the day at which point less follow up visits take place. An early visit to the vet will probably lead to a request by the vet for a follow up visit. That would add to the statistics.

Or perhaps the reason is much more mundane and simple. People just don't care as much for their cat as people do for their dog. This may be a symptom of the nature of the relationship. Dogs are pack animals and the man (usually) is the leader. There is a close leader/follower bond. This may be a factor.

Alternatively another factor might be that cats are usually preferred by women. A single woman might keep a cat. It is still a man's world - let's be honest, although I don't condone that. In a man's world women will have less earning potential. Their wages are consistently lower. Budgets are tighter. This may lead to fewer visits to the veterinarian. Women, too, may be more able to treat and care for a sick cat than a man is able to treat a sick dog.

From the vet's point of view. He or she wants more cat patients. They see that as an untapped market. Maybe if they stopped declawing cats it would present a more friendly face to the public? Perhaps the vet has blotted his copybook with regards to the cat caretaker. The vet could be seen as far more friendly and empathetic towards cats if he or she stopped mutilating them for profit. There are specialist cat friendly veterinary clinics.

What do you think? Ruth below believes the obstacle of getting cats to vets is a factor......

I think a main reason cats aren't taken to the vet is that most cats really hate to leave home. Pull out the carrier and the cat vanishes-- and then just try to put him into it. It's stressful for both cat and caretaker.

My sister's cat Kobe hasn't been to the vet since the time he had a UTI several years ago. He's an elderly cat now and though we talk about taking him in for a check up we also know that the experience traumatizes him. He seems healthy enough, so why put him through that? Perhaps others with a cat like him feel the same way.

When I was a child we seldom took our cats to the vet. They were all barn cats, so maybe there was that attitude of "it's just a cat." But barn cats are pretty hardy, so perhaps there weren't health problems requiring a vet's care. The idea of a cat getting a check up would have seemed silly to me as a child.

Although in my immediate family people went to the doctor, my paternal grandmother never did. My father was born in a house, not a hospital. When Grandma fell and broke her thumb she just wrapped it in a hankie and had a crooked thumb for the rest of her life. Whatever came up in life, she just handled it on her own. She wasn't one to ask for help. Do more independent spirits like her have cats than have dogs? They would be more likely to try to treat pet health problems with home remedies.

Monday 26 February 2018

Is the African Wild Cat Endangered?

According to the 'experts', the African wildcat is not endangered. The conservation status of this small wild cat species is "Least Concern" with a declining population. As the population is decreasing then no doubt in the future the status will become more precarious, heading gradually towards endangerment in the long term.

African wildcat - photo in public domain
 One complication about writing this post is that the group of experts charged with assessing the conservation status of species of animals and plants, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, ball together several subspecies of wild cat (Felis Sylvestris) and do not distinguish between the African wildcat which itself could be divided between the North African and South African wild cat or the Scottish wild cat as far as I can tell (they do refer to the Chinese mountain cat separately). And therefore when I mention above that the classification is "Least Concern" I'm referring to a group of subspecies of wild cat. Note: there is an ongoing discussion about the classification of the wildcat.

And don't forget that I'm discussing a particular species are wild cat. Another complication is the name of this cat. It is the same name given to all wild cats including the tiger and lion. But the "wild cat" or "wildcat" is a definitive species and in the same bracket or family of cats as the domestic cat.

To conclude, the African wildcat is not endangered but in due course no doubt it will be. Incidentally, the full range of classifications regarding conservation of species is: extinct (fully extinct both in the wild and otherwise), extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened, least concern.

You can see therefore that the African wildcat is at the very end of the range of conservation statuses: the best and where the assessment is that the cat is not under pressure or under a conservation threat. An interesting aspect about this species of wild cat is that there has been a lot of hybridization due to breeding with domestic cats and therefore it may be the case that there are very few purebred African wildcats in Africa or Asia.

Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Four Cats In Different Poses

Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Four Cats In Different Poses is a painting that is, for me, all about the famous Japanese bobtail cat. Kuniyoshi Utagawa (歌川国芳) lived between 1798 and 1861. He was one of the masters of the Japanese ukiyo-e style of woodblock prints and painting and belonged to the Utagawa school.

Ukiyo-e-woodblock-paintingThis is a good era to discuss any cat breed because it is before the recognized cat fancy and it taps in to the long history of this cat breed before photographs of cats were seen. What interests me is the appearance of the cat in these paintings compared to the appearance currently. At the time of this painting the Japanese bobtail had been in known existence for some 800 years. I have discussed the history on the Japanese bobtail page.

I am sure that the cats in the painting below are both bicolor and tricolor. I have marked the tricolor cats with red connecting lines to show what I think is the same area of color. The cats in the top right hand corner and bottom left hand corner of the picture are bicolor Japanese bobtail cats. The bicolor and tricolor were and remain the favorite types of coat for this breed in Japan.

japanese bobtail old and new comparison-2
Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Four Cats In Different Poses (above)


I think the pictures make a nice comparison and the only real difference between the old and modern Japanese bobtail is that the old one is much more cobby (stocky) if the depiction is reasonably accurate. The modern breed standard states in my words that..:
If the body conformation is "cobby" (like a Persian or a Manx cat for example) then the cat will be penalized in competition.
I would suggest that the cats depicted by Kuniyoshi Utagawa in this painting Four Cats In Different Poses, would all be penalized in competition and not win a thing in the show ring today.

It seems as if the modern breeding program has gone for a more “foreign” (slender) appearance (see Cat Body Types) and drifted away from the original appearance. The modern Japanese bobtail should be long, lean and elegant with no cobbiness according to the CFA breed standard. If I am correct and I am speculating, the cat fancy in the USA has refined this cat breed to make it more delicate looking (refined looking if you like) and attractive by modern standards. This is in line with what has happened to the Siamese cat and indeed other breeds (see Siamese cat history).

The Persian went in the other direction becoming excessively rounded including a very flat face (see Persian cats).

beckoning cat
One last thing. The cat that is bottom right of the painting is waving the classic welcome with the palm of the paw outwards. This is the welcoming cat beckoning - the Maneki Neko ("Beckoning Cat"). The beckoning cat is placed outside shops etc. to bring good luck.

Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Four Cats In Different Poses -- The pictures of the painting is in the public domain due to lapse of time (uploaded by user: Petrusbarbygere) and the picture of the woodblock is reproduced under a Wikimedia Commons license. Picture of beckoning cats Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic creative commons license.

From Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Four Cats In Different Poses to Cats in Paintings

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