Wednesday 30 September 2020

Cat leaps and knocks over dog food

A pretty classic event in a home where there is a cat. They always scram off after they have created the mayhem. Is this guilt or fear of the noise that they have created? It is the latter in my opinion. It seems that there is a disconnect in their minds between their actions and the noise. I love the woman who shouts after the catastrophe has occurred. You don't know what you are going to face when you investigate. Note: if the video fails to work I apologise. It is embeded from a another website and I have no control over its existence.

The power of Facebook in rescuing animals internationally

This is an uplifting story from both Scotland and Egypt. The story starts badly with pictures of what would have been a beautiful white, long-haired, yellow-eyed cat of what appears to be of Persian origin, covered in purple and cyan paint. We are told that this beautiful cat was badly beaten and then covered in this toxic paint. We don't know the reason. There is no reason. It's the sort of cat abuse that you see anywhere in the world. Probably caused by a couple of kids having fun.

Rainbow - before and after. Photo: Debbie Stephens (SWNS).

Fortunately, the story picks up and gets a lot better because Debbie Stephens saw a picture of this cat on Facebook on the cat rescue page Safe Haven Egypt.

Debbie, 56, agreed with her husband, Craig, to fly this beautiful cat to Scotland. The cat rescue organisation named the cat Rainbow and he's arrived in Scotland after months of delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The picture of the painted cat broke Debbie's heart. She said that he is very loving and that his ordeal has not changed his character. The struggle to adopt was quite long because Debbie first approached Safe Haven Egypt in November 2019.

Rainbow's coat was shaved off and has regrown. A few blotches of paint remain. The cat's name is a reminder to Debbie of what happened to him so she kept it.

"It feels good we have been able to give him a forever home and we are very pleased as he could have died after what he had been through." - Debbie

Safe Haven Egypt is a cat sanctuary run by volunteers in Cairo. They have been in operation since 2015 and it was set up by a couple of friends, Kareema Ibraheem and Walae Besade. Kareema said that when they found Rainbow he was terrified. No doubt he is now relaxed, contented and in good hands. Well done to Debbie and Safe Haven Egypt.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Geoffroy's cat species spotlight

This video from Big Cat Rescue (BCR) shows a melanistic Geoffroy's cat. The point being made right away is that this small wild cat species is not always dark charcoal or black like this. The "normal" colour of their fur varies from smoky grey to lion-coloured and there are many intermediate shades of colouring. The four subspecies (as at 2002) vary considerably in colour as does their body size. Although you can't see them on this melanistic Geoffroy's cat, there are numerous small black spots on the body. The tale is ringed with dark bands. On a sad note, as at 2002, the pelt of Geoffroy's cat was the most frequently traded cat skin after the bobcat.

However, melanistic forms of this cat are common. Melanism is due to a dominant autosomal allele. "Melanism" refers to cats going black or dark charcoal when they should be normally brown with tabby-style markings.

Image: PoC. The cat is a screenshot from the video.

This cat is found in South America only. If you visualise South America and draw a line across the middle, this cat lives below that line and on the right hand side.

They spend most of their time on the ground but they are extremely good climbers. Their habitat varies depending upon where they are. In Chile they like areas of dense cover while in Uruguay they prefer open woodlands and "remnants of open savannas associated with marshes".

In the video you can hear the presenter, one of BCR's staffers, mentioning that they like to sit upright on their haunches or stand on their hind feet while using their tail as a balancing aid. I call this the meerkat position. Some domestic cats do it particularly dwarf domestic cats. Interestingly, it is on record that one individual cat held this position for 10 minutes. That is quite remarkable. The position is normally taken up to check for predators and the scan the landscape.

Sometimes Geoffroy's cat use the crooks of trees as defecation sites. This is unusual as well. In one park, the Torres del Paine NP in Chile, 93% of all faeces were in trees. They are described as "arboreal middens". The faeces were deposited 3 to 5 m above the ground usually where the main trunk splits into several branches.

Melanistic Geoffroy's cat. Screenshot from video.

Even in a landscape which has very few trees this cat likes to go to the toilet in the crooks of trees. In an almost treeless landscape 18% of 190 Geoffroy's cat scats were found in the crooks of trees.

The Geoffroy' cat is mainly nocturnal with their main activity taking place after sunset and before sunrise. In Chilean Patagonia the cat is most active at night or daytime activity was restricted to the early morning or late afternoon.

They mainly feed on small rodents and birds. A male Geoffroy cat in Uruguay had the remains of a hare in its stomach. In one park, 80% of scats contain the remains of small animals and birds occurred in 50% of scats. Sometimes this cat goes fishing and will also eat frogs. They do not have an aversion to water and will jump in water to fish.

It is believed to be a solitary cat and their home ranges vary between about 3 km² for a female to around 12 km² for a male.

Gestation varies between 62 and 67 days. Litter sizes vary from one to 3 kittens with the average observed in captivity being 1.5 kittens. Kittens are born with their eyes closed and they are opened at 19 days of age.

Source: Various - primarily Wild Cats of the World and referenced works.

Is this lion greeting the dog or asking for forgiveness?

A funny bloke on YouTube said that the lion was "taste testing!". It made me laugh. The video maker said that this white lion is asking his dog companion for forgiveness. He picks up the dog's right leg and it is almost as if he kisses the paw. It is a very gentle and friendly act. You will find nothing on this type of lion behaviour in the best books on the wild cat species so we have to work it out for ourselves.

In my opinion the lion is not asking for forgiveness. He is simply greeting the dog in a friendly manner. It's almost like handshaking and it practically mimics the handshake of humans (but not during the corona virus pandemic!). There may be an element of reinforcing friendship in the greeting which is what friendly greetings are all about anyway. 

Immediately after the "handshake" the dog turns and leads the way. The lion follows. Perhaps the dog is the leader in this super duo? This is my interpretation. There is one thing certain: they are very close emotionally. They have formed an incredibly strong bond which clearly indicates that they were raised together and have lived side by side since they were toddlers to use language designed for people.

Emotions and self-awareness

The act of asking for forgiveness requires that the non-human animal or human animal (human) asking knows that they're done something wrong. The way that they know they have done something wrong is by measuring their behaviour against some standard or norm. Those standards and norms come from society in the human world. Can dogs and lions have their own standards and norms that relate to a friendship like this? I would doubt it. 

Also the act of forgiveness probably also requires the ability to be self-aware. You have to be able to look at yourself from outside yourself, objectively. It's as if you are measuring your behaviour against some standard and this requires self-awareness. There are doubts, considerable doubts, as to whether cats can be self-aware. There are also doubts about the higher emotions in domestic and wild cats. Forgiveness is born out of a feeling of guilt and perhaps shame. These are higher emotions. I would doubt that the lion feels these emotions. This is not to in any way denigrate this beautiful relationship and the tender behaviour of this fantastic looking lion. I'm just trying to look at it realistically.


It is well known that cats make friends with other cats and have interspecies friendships with, for example, dogs. Cats have friendly greetings like the tail-up position and the nose touch. Friendship is based upon affection and affection is an emotion which most people agree cats can experience. Of course dogs make friends with other dogs and their owners as well. These thoughts support my assessment that what we see in the video is a very friendly greeting which may have been trained into the lion and the dog by their owner. We don't know.

You cannot say that all cats hate water!

I have to confess that I have become a little bit frustrated and perhaps irritated by a large number of articles on the Internet which state with complete confidence that cats hate water. They are generalising about all cats. You can't generalise like that. You have to drill down and analyse the situation in far more detail.

The originan Van kittens swimming. Please click this link to read about the real Turkish Van

Firstly, you have to decide whether you are referring to cats walking outside in the rain and getting wet or whether you are describing bathing a cat or a cat falling into a bath or pond. When a cat, and I'm referring to a domestic cat in this instance, is submerged in water they will in general dislike it. You can pretty well bank on that. But it depends upon the individual cat as to how much they dislike it. Some may hate it and some may simply put up with it while others will love being in the bath.


However, you have to compare that situation with being out in the rain. We know that in the UK 99% of cats go outside whenever they like through a cat flap. They might go out in the rain. My cat actually goes out when it's raining sometimes. Clearly the rain does not perturb him. Or he is caught in a downpour and comes in soaking wet. It doesn't worry him particularly. Therefore this is, at least, one cat who does not hate water. He just doesn't mind getting wet.

So among the domestic, random bred cats you will find individual cats who might even like water and those who are ambivalent about it and those who dislike it or even hate it. There is a full spectrum of personalities which affects how they relate to getting wet.

Turkish Van

Then you have the cat breeds. There is quite a lot of talk about the Turkish Van swimming in water and liking it. This is a bit of a myth (see picture and link above). All the current Turkish Van cats in Turkey are random bred cats and they will behave just like random bred cats in America or the UK or anywhere else when it comes to getting wet. The person who started the Turkish Van breed was an English lady and she was driving home from Turkey with some cats and they went for a swim in a lake. This does not mean that all Turkish Van cats like to swim in ponds or lakes.

Maine Coon

I read somewhere that the Maine Coon cat likes to swim as well. This is a myth if you've heard it. In general, purebred cats will be no different to random bread cats in this respect.

The wildcat hybrids are much more likely to like or accept getting wet. Photo: in public domain.

Wild cat hybrids

You have to mention the wild cat hybrids. These cats such as the Savannah and Bengal have serval and Asiatic leopard cat DNA in them respectively to varying degrees depending on their filial. This affects their character and their relationship with water. Both the higher filial variants of these breeds are much more amenable to getting wet and even going into showers than the average random bread or purebred cat. 

This is because the serval and the Asiatic leopard cat live in wetter landscapes. The serval lives in and around watercourses and the Asiatic leopard cat lives in rainforests. They are habituated to wetter landscapes and climates. This has been brought forward in their DNA as a form of memory which has been embedded into the characteristics of these two wild cat hybrid domestic cats. That's why they accept or even like water.

Wild Cats

And then if you're talking about cats in general you must talk about the wild cat species. The tiger loves water and spends a lot of time in it. They are great swimmers and can swim in the open sea for miles. The jaguar in South America loves water and spends time in it as well. The small wild cat species, the fishing cat, spends most of its time in and around watercourses where it, yes, fishes. 

There are other the small cat species such as the flat-headed cat which also spends a lot of time on river banks near water. The Geoffroys' cat dives into water to hunt so once again a small wild cat looking much like the domestic cat likes water. All these species actively get into the water and therefore don't mind being wet. You can never say that "all cats hate water". Please don't do it! Rant over.

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