Thursday 8 October 2020

Modern prefabricated homes should have a catio option

Modern prefabrication techniques for the building of homes is far superior than the way it was after the Second World War. Even some of those small prefabs, that were put up quickly, still stand today so I think we can expect good things about modern factory built homes. It goes without saying, when you think about it, that if a house is built in segments and those segments are manufactured within an enclosed space where conditions are warm and stable and where machinery is used to cut the parts accurately, that the homes are going to be of a higher quality than if they are built piecemeal by possibly unskilled or semi-skilled people in all weathers using old-fashioned techniques.

Timber prefab home which should have the catio option. Photo in public domain.

Perhaps a problem with prefab homes is their image because in the UK people perceive the prefab home as the Second World War version. Times have changed dramatically. I would expect factory built, prefabricated homes to be of substantially superior quality than conventionally built homes. And they will be cheaper and they can be erected far more quickly, perhaps in days.

The government of the UK has to build homes rapidly to accommodate a rapidly increasing population in part due to mass immigration over the preceding 20 years.

The government is considering using some of its £3 billion housebuilding fund to support this new generation of prefabs to ease the housing crisis. It is reported that the government wants to see 100,000 new homes constructed off-site in a factory in a rush to build new homes. In November, the UK government is going to publish a White Paper on this project.

With that background in mind, and knowing how beneficial some outside space is to a domestic cat if they are confined to the home, modern prefab homes should come with a catio option. What I mean is this: the manufacturers should build into their designs the option to tack on to the side of the building a catio. I would not expect this to be hugely complicated because these are, after all, kit houses built in sections.

There are very many cat owners in the UK. And the British people need to be encouraged to keep their cats inside. There is a default culture in the UK that the domestic cat is allowed to go outside no matter how dangerous it might be because of road traffic, for instance. Providing an option of a catio would encourage them to consider keeping their cats full-time indoors. In America this is an option which is often taken up partly because in that grand country they have predators such as the coyote which preys upon domestic cats.

In the UK we don't have the same animal predators of the domestic cat but we do have human activity in a much more compressed urban environment than in the USA. There's more traffic on more roads presenting an ongoing danger. I want to see Britons encouraged to consider keeping their cats inside and in this regard a catio option on prefab houses for the future would be beneficial.

Looking very long-term into the future there will come a time that even in the UK there will be calls to keep cats indoors in the interest of wildlife predation. There is talk today about domestic cats preying upon wildlife. Wildlife is under huge pressure from human activity. The domestic cat contributes to this and there is a general decline in biodiversity in the UK. I foresee a change in attitude perhaps in 20 to 30 years time. In preparation for that moment, let's consider the catio option for prefab homes.

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Are domestic cats native to North America?

No, domestic cats are not native to North America. In other words, the domestic cat does not originate from a wild cat species in North America. You can tell that because the only small wildcat that could possibly have been the precursor to the domestic cat is the ocelot which at one time lived in North America but no longer (although some people claim it still exists in America). The domestic cat could not have originated from the ocelot because it's too large. The domestic cat is a domesticated and socialised North African wildcat. So the domestic cat is native to Africa and the Middle East. The domestic cat exists in North America because they were imported by Europeans to the east coast in the 1600s.

The cat hating fraternity like to remind the cat loving fraternity that the domestic cat is an invasive species in North America. And because the cat is an invasive species and because they prey on birds there are some people who think that the domestic cat should be exterminated in North America. These are ornithologists and bird lovers! The problem with the idea that the domestic cat is non-native and an invasive species is; when do you start considering a cat to be part of the country? If a domestic cat has been in the country for 400 years I think you can say that the cat is no longer non-native. Well technically you can't say that but over such a long period of time the concept of "non-native" becomes a bit pointless.

Investing in ethical companies with a concern for the environment

The public has demonstrated a changing culture or let's say it's an ongoing process and we are perhaps at the beginning of it. People with money to invest see the advantages of investing in funds which support businesses which are run ethically and which have a concern for the environment and sustainability. It is dawning on people that you can make a profit out of sustainability and environmental concerns. There was a time many years ago when the modus operandi in the West was to abuse and use nature as much as you could get away with to enhance profits. Developing countries still have that mentality by-and-large. They state this because the West abused nature in their pursuit of economic wealth then they can do the same until they have caught up. China is an example of this.

But the West has moved on and certainly in the UK there are signs that ethical investing i.e. sustainable funds are outperforming mainstream funds for the first time. As people see that they can make decent returns from these funds a barrier to investing in them has been removed. Perhaps there was a time when you had to trade off good returns for ethical investing but that isn't the case anymore.

If the big fund managers now see the advantages of investing in good corporate governance and ethical corporate cultures might not this drive businesses into behaving more ethically? Perhaps we are creating a virtuous cycle: investors buy shares in the better companies which are concerned for the environment and in turn the companies adjust their cultures to attract investments by becoming more environmentally concerned. A virtuous cycle or circle.

There's no doubt that there was a great movement perhaps beginning with the Greta Thunberg movement and reinforced by the coronavirus pandemic, in my view. The pandemic crisis has given people time to think and they can see that abuses of nature can produce this sort of devastating catastrophe. 

It's fair to say that most people see that the pandemic started in China in a wet food market where wild animals were slaughtered in uncontrolled conditions which allowed a zoonotic disease to transmit from possibly a pangolin to a worker. It is thought that the pangolin was infected by a bat. The point is that wet markets are considered to be an abuse of nature, a careless approach to interacting with wild animals and it's come back to bite people on the bum. It is Karma if you believe in that sort of thing. I foresee a big shift in attitude within humankind for the future and soaring business in investments in companies concerned with protecting nature.

Monday 5 October 2020

Why do domestic cats have vertical pupils?

Domestic cats have vertical pupils for two reasons:

  1. On a scientific level it is said that a vertical pupil provides better depth perception which allows a domestic cat to measure distance better and/or focus on prey better. A scientific study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, decided that with vertical slits, predators see vertical lines behind the point of focus quite sharply but horizontal lines at the same distance are blurred. This allows them to have a greater ability to pinpoint prey animals.
  2. The vertical pupil in conjunction with the eyelid allows the cat to restrict light to the retina more effectively than a circular pupil under bright light conditions. The eyelid passes down the vertical pupil like a blind which, to use a photographic term, stops down the lens to a smaller aperture than normal. This is needed to protect the retina which has a mirror-like film behind it (the Tapetum lucidum), which reflects light back to magnify the capture of light so that they can see better under dark conditions.

Photo in public domain.

Saturday 3 October 2020

Pronouncing "felidae" and "carnivora"

These are two words which are often used when you're discussing cats. Some people aren't sure how to pronounce these word so I thought I would have a go myself. I made the video a long time ago. It was done very quickly as you can tell and spontaneously. The scientists like to use Latin in taxonomy i.e. the classification of the species. And they like to use Latin when sounding important! "Felidae" refers to the family of cats which are mammals in the taxonomic order called "carnivora". Taxonomy is still slightly unsettled. It has changed a lot because of DNA analysis of the species which is far more precise. Over 100 years ago the classification of the species was all done through observation and even the best scientists got mixed up sometimes. Because one species of cat can look different in different places the scientists thought they were looking at two different species. Some small wild cat species' coats look quite different depending on their location so they can be forgiven for getting mixed up. 

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