Thursday 3 August 2023

Artificial intelligence ultimate kitten and flowers picture

The ultimate cute, fuzzy, colourful, saccharin-sweet, kitten-and-flowers picture which would make a nice Christmas card for people into this sort of image. It was created by AI and is on the AI Art and Cat Instagram webpage. Link:

Click on the image for a larger version:

This is by the creator of the image. This message is on Instagram:

"Here's a bit about me (and giant crochet cats). My name is Lydia, and I'm from Ukraine πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦. A couple of months ago, to distract myself from the horrors of war, I immersed myself in the imaginative world of AI. Before that, I was a cat photographer and had always loved cats and animals in general, so it was only natural to start with them.

At first, I incorporated cats into paintings by famous artists, hence the word "art" in my page name. However, I soon realized that almost everyone had already drawn the Mona Lisa with a cat or as a cat. Then, I attempted to draw hybrids of cats and other animals, but AI struggled to achieve that.

When my parents, family, and friends in Ukraine were under bombing, I thought posting random stuff on my Facebook account was inappropriate, so I created a new page and Instagram account.

And now, let's talk about these giant crocheted cats! I used to do lots of various crafts, from crocheting and knitting to sewing soft toys. Now, I draw whatever comes to my mind first. During my vacation in early July, these crocheted cats were born. In AI groups, it's considered a bad form to use watermarks. It was very late at night, and I couldn't access a computer, so I posted them on my page and in the Midjourney Cat group without a caption. By morning, I found that the images had spread across various pages and groups. People from Europe, Asia, Australia, and even South Africa write to me saying they find these cats in crochet groups. 

I never posted them as actual crochet, and unfortunately, I can't do anything about it. Every day, I come across posts with titles like "My 80-year-old grandma finally finished her cat," and so on. Someone even posted it on National Geographic. When I tried to message them, 90% didn't reply, and a couple of times, I received rude responses, claiming that since it's AI, I have no rights to these images. But a few pages did credit me in their posts, though still with headlines not of my creation. Lesson learned. Now, I'll always add captions."

An 80-year-old grandmother and her large crocheted cat

Here are three photographs of an 80-year-old grandma and her extra-large crocheted cat! The credit for the unusual images is the Facebook page: Feedy. They look incredibly real and a lot of people - perhaps the majority of people - think that they are real, but are they?! They are impressive pictures of cats.

My personal view is that they are excellent examples of photo-editing created with the assistance of artificial intelligence to improve them. It would be exceptional for them to be created solely by human hand.

I say this for 2 reasons. The crochet cats are so big as to be unbelievable. I don't see that is it possible to crochet cats this size without an extraordinary amount of expense, effort and skill. 

It is much easier to make them a normal size and then 'enlarge them' digitally. Think about the circumference of the wool.  Who makes wool that thick. It would have to be like rope.

Secondly in the third photo down the lady's left hand is overly-long, abnormally so. Something went wrong there.

That said and as mentioned these are great images in terms of photo-editing skills. There is no information about the creator on the FB page. I think that the creator is a Chinese man! That's about it and I am probably wrong. He makes strange videos too and they feature Chinese people. That's the basis of my assessment.

Update: I am wrong!! The creator is a woman from Ukraine whose name is LYDIA. I found her story on Instagram. You can read it by clicking on this link which takes you to another of her impressive creations. The crochet is by her and I believe so is the AI photo-editing.

The images have also been posted on Russian and Chinese websites. And on other social media platforms. Everywhere pretty well but it is the first time I've seen them! And I am on the internet daily.

The link to the Facebook page is below:

Wednesday 2 August 2023

Ethical breeding of white cats

It occurred to me that there needs to be a policy about the breeding of pure white cats because there is a severe disposition to deafness in cats with white fur caused by the dominant white gene (Leukism). 

Breeds with white fur are considered to have potential welfare problems. The underlying ethics of cat breeding is not to breed cats with welfare problems. That must be the default situation at all cat associations and in all forms of selective breeding.

Pure white cats are cats with no pigmentation within their hair strands. It is the dominant white gene (W) which prevents the pigmentation migrating into the hair strands or it prevents the production of pigmentation in melanocytes. I'm not quite sure which but the result is no pigmentation in the hair strands (Wrong? Please tell me in a comment).

This beautiful Maine Coon is deaf. They should not have been created
This beautiful Maine Coon is deaf. They should not have been created

The dominant white gene also causes a higher incidence of cancer and a lack of pigmentation and tapetum lucidum in the eyes. The high incidence of deafness when deliberately created through an unethical breeding should be banned.

And this got me thinking about what the cat associations do about it. And some of them do something about it I am pleased to note.

For example, the general breeding policy of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in the UK state on their website that, "From 1 June 2016 all white cats, regardless of breed, will require a certificate confirming Bilateral Hearing lodged with the GCCF in order to be registered as active". 

My presumption is that the word "active" means the cat is able to compete at cat shows. So, there is a rule which prevents unethical breeding of white cats causing deafness

The International World EV states at 3.3 that, "For breeding white cats we recommend that white X coloured parents are mated. White parents as well as young white animals are to be tested for deafness by audiometric testing. Cats are to be permanently marked with a microchip before audiometric testing is completed. The microchip number will be noted in the audiometric test certificate regarding the animal."

I presume that this procedure is to identify white cats which are not deaf. Not all white cats are deaf but there is an unsatisfactorily high percentage.

It appears that the general rule is to never breed white cats with white cats otherwise you will get deaf kittens.

Regarding the Cat Fanciers' Association, the premier cat association in the USA, I cannot find anything about the ethical breeding of pure white cats on their website. That may be due to a poor search engine but for whatever reason I can't find it. The same applies to The International Cat Association, another premier American cat association.

The conclusion is that white cats need to be selectively bred with care to minimise the risk of deafness because if you aren't careful you end up breeding i.e. creating a disabled cat because they can't hear properly which affects their behaviour through impaired attention to environmental factors and social communication.

There is an argument that breeders should discontinue breeding cats carrying the dominant white gene. And there is an argument that there should be a prohibition of breeding and exhibiting cats carrying the dominant white gene. This is a reference to the GCCF policy above.

There needs to be behavioural, ophthalmologic, and audiometric examination (electrical reaction audiometry) of cats before use for breeding. This is very important.

Note: cats with white fur determined by genes of the albino-series (gene c) are not likely to suffer from deafness, except when combined with the dominant white gene

The autosomal dominant white gene suppresses all other colour genes causing white fur in 100% of cats, blue eyes in 70% of cats and deafness in 50% of cases.

The breeds where problems may occur are European Shorthair, British Shorthair, Norwegian Forest Cat, Maine Coons, Turkish Angora, Persian, Foreign White, Russian White and the Turkish Van.

In the UK nearly 50% of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company

In the UK nearly 50% of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company
Image: MikeB

In the UK, nearly half of older people (49% of 65+ UK) say that television or pets are their main form of company. Today, on the radio, there was a discussion about loneliness in the UK and that startling piece of information came out in the discussion. It is a shocking statistic I would say. An indictment of the way the British relate to the elderly.

In the UK nearly 50% of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company
Elderly Japanese lady and her odd-eyed white cat who's probably deaf on the left side - the side of the blue eye. Image in the public domain.

And in the UK, over 1 million older people say that they always or often feel lonely. The information provided by Age UK in a document entitled: Evidence Review: Loneliness in Later Life, also tells us that loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Nearly half of people aged 75 and over live alone in the UK. I am one of those people (age: 74). And I have a pet cat, Gabby. And I like to watch television although for many years I was not that keen on it. But it keeps me company.

Fortunately, I have a couple of close friends who I walk with nearly every day. And I've just joined a Scrabble club! I am trying to ensure that I don't become too lonely. I know how it can affect health although I am very health-conscious.

Remarkably, 6% of older people leave their house once a week or less. My God. That means that almost 600,000 people in the UK are hermits or reclusive.

41% of people aged 65 and over in the UK feel out of touch with the pace of modern life. That does not apply to me. I feel fully integrated into modern life and I understand modern life. I can't say that I particularly like it, however.

In the UK nearly 50% of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company
Elderly man and his cat. Video screenshot.

Sometimes I am nostalgic about the old ways of living from the 1970s and even earlier. I was born in 1948. A different world.

The research does point, however, to the great importance that a companion animal can have in the life of a person aged 65 and over in the UK. They are lifeline.

I don't know what the percentage breakdown is between dogs and cats as owned by people aged 65 and over. I suspect that nearly all women in that age bracket live with a cat. And as women live longer than men, I suspect, too, that the predominant pet owned by people in this elderly age bracket is a cat.

They are, too, easier to look after as well because, for instance, you don't need to take them for a walk. A lot of people age 75 and over might have difficulty in walking for any distance. And there is an obesity epidemic in the UK which limits walking ability.

In the UK nearly 50% of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company
Elderly man and his loving cat. Image in the public domain.

So perhaps I can refine this article by saying that it is the domestic cat who is saving the lives of people and keeping them from being lonely. And it's amazing how close a relationship a person can form with their cat when they live alone with them and are indoors nearly all the time. It becomes a different kind of relationship to that which we are familiar with when we are young.

There is a great deal of symbiosis in such a relationship. The one depending upon the other. There is a great mutuality of benefit.

It's perhaps certain that of all the people who benefit from the presence of a domestic cat the most it is the elderly.

But often the presence of a cat is not "in your face" or obvious. They are just there. Their presence chips away at that loneliness which can haunt people. You don't feel alone; that's the point.

RELATED: Picture: elderly woman, Lidiia lives with her cat, Matilda, near the fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

In the UK nearly 50% of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company
Elderly man who rescued his cat from a house fire. Image in the public domain.

And when you are that close to a cat you learn better how to communicate with them and vice versa. There is a great integration of daily rhythms and habits. Elderly people are far more likely to have very deeply entrenched habits and routines. This pleases the domestic cat because life becomes more predictable. Domestic cats like predictability because it brings a feeling of security.

Domestic cats can tend to be a bit nervous because they live in a land of giants i.e. humans. To counteract that there is this beautiful rhythmical lifestyle of elderly people.

It is perhaps ironic that the domestic cat does not suffer from loneliness, not because they live with an elderly person or any other person for that matter, but because they are still, essentially, a solitary creature as inherited from their wild cat ancestor.

Tuesday 1 August 2023

A stressed cat owner cannot be a good cat owner

We know how competently even brilliantly domestic cats can de-stress their owner. It's one reason why we live with cats. They are great companions and they help stop us from getting too wound up because once they are on your lap you have to slow down a bit. And they get in the way when you are on your computer. You either accept that and work around it or you fight it and become more anxious and stressed.

A stressed cat owner may have a stressed as well and a stress cat owner cannot really discharge their responsibilities to a high level.
A stressed cat owner may have a stressed as well and a stress cat owner cannot really discharge their responsibilities to a high level. The image is by Michael.

But the point is that if a cat owner is stressed by their lifestyle, by their work or by any manner of reasons, they are not going to be a great cat caregiver.

Stress leads to anxiety and anxiety leads to depression. You can't be a good cat caregiver if you are stressed and anxious although, as mentioned, there is the counter measure which is that although being stressed prevents you being a good cat caregiver, living with a cat makes you a better cat caregiver because it calms you down! 

The problem is that in the meantime you are likely to interact with your cat in a less than good way because of your anxiety. If you are irritated because of stress then you are going to be irritated by your cat at some point. And you might yell at your cat or behave towards your cat in a brusque and unsatisfactory way. There is no blame in this. It is just a simple fact.

I know for a fact that if I'm stressed, I'm not going to present the best side of me in terms of cat caregiving. I might be irritated because my cat brushes against my bare legs and at that moment in time I don't want to feel that. I want to get on with what I'm doing and my cat is getting in the way of achieving that.

But in having a cat we have to be prepared to compromise and to give way to our cat. We are sharing the same environment as our cat. The environment should be pleasant and mentally stimulating for our cat.

It's an interesting mix because on the one side there is the responsibility of caring for a cat well and this in itself can make a person stressed, and yet on the other side there is the pleasure of looking after a cat and the pleasures that flow from it which helps to de-stress a person.

A person stressed by the responsibilities of caring for their cat

There is an interesting post on the website about a person who adopted a cat and became very stressed because they wanted to do their absolute best in looking after their cat. They did everything possible to make the life of their cat as good as possible.

In striving for this state of affairs, the cat owner became very stressed. They went to the website to ask for advice because the person didn't even feel a bond to their cat after doing so much for them. And they asked, "How can I stop holding the bar up so high for myself and revolve my life around my cat?"

I think the ultimate answer as to how you relate to your cat and care for your cat is that you must simply love her or him. If you love your cat everything good flows from that starting point. You will find out what your cat likes and loves and what makes them happy and indeed what makes you happy. And you will find out whether you are suited to being a cat caregiver. You've got to actually like or even love cats to successfully live with a cat companion. That must be a starting point and it is common sense but some people might not think about that when they decide to adopt a cat.

There's no point in regarding cat caregiving as solely a responsibility and a duty. It should be a pleasure to look after a cat. Then you receive the pleasure of living with your cat. It should be entirely reciprocal with equal mutual benefit.

Human to human relationship

There is another quick point to make which is this: if you are in a relationship with a person which is not going that well and you both live in the same home as your cat, it's going to affect your cat negatively, which probably goes without saying. It is another source of stress for you and it will taint the ambience of the household. Domestic cats pick up on that. They demand, really, a calm and stable household.

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