I’ve never been more grateful that I’ve weaned Buddy off of Temptations.
The treats, which are famously irresistible to cats thanks to some strange alchemy that definitely isn’t healthy for them, now come in Tasty Human flavor in a new promotion for Halloween. (They’re heavy on corn and other fillers, as usual, but the meat ingredients in Tasty Human flavor come from chicken, liver and beef. Apparently we taste like KFC and burgers.)
The commercial spots are clever and humorous.
“I read that if our cats were bigger, they’d try to eat us!” a man whispers as ominous music plays and his cute cat grooms himself in the background. “So this Halloween, I’m gonna keep him satisfied with these.”
The man tosses a nervous look over his shoulder at his cat as the music swells with a horror movie-style orchestral stab, then he shakes the bag.
I won’t be buying any.
The popular cat treats are made by Mars, the almost $40 billion pet food and candy multinational that has had its own significant controversies, particularly with the use of slave labor in sourcing particular ingredients. Many of its pet food brands, such as Whiskas, are loaded with cheap carbohydrates and use by-product meal as their primary protein sources.
But I stopped feeding the Budster Temptations before I knew any of that, and for an entirely different reason: The little guy turned into a full-fledged kitty crack addict when he ate them.
Like any cat, Bud loves his treats, but when I fed him Temptations he had a one-track mind: The first thing he’d do in the morning was follow me to the kitchen, sit in front of the treat cabinet and meow incessantly for his precious Temps. It got to the point where he was turning his nose up at wet food he’d always liked and pestering me for Temptations instead. He was going full-on Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
I weaned him off once, stupidly folded less than a year later when I bought a bag for him on impulse (we were out of treats and the grocery store did not have any other kind), and had to wean him off the kitty crack a second time when he returned to his cracktastic ways.
Nowadays the little dude gets natural treats with non by-product meat as the main ingredients, and he behaves like a normal cat: He still loves his snacks, but he doesn’t ignore his wet food and howl at me for kitty crack.
I may be late to the party on this one, but I’m fascinated by this story about a guy who lost his cat and recovered what he thought was his little guy three weeks later, only for his actual cat to come home the following week.
Some people commenting on the photo claim there are obvious differences, but in my opinion the differences are very small and probably indistinguishable unless the moggies are side by side. The markings are virtually identical on both cats, and the deviations look mostly like they’re attributable to angle, position and shadows.
People who aren’t familiar with cats might wonder how someone can “reunite” with a cat who doesn’t know them, but that can also be explained away by feline quirks: It’s not unusual for cats to behave differently, even to people and other kitties they know well, after a period of separation.
If the cat was acting a bit off, it would be easy to chalk it up to readjustment and re-acclimating to the sights, sounds and smells of home.
The most unbelievable aspect, for me at least, is how both cats in the photo seem to be cool with having a doppleganger and sharing territory.
Maybe the photo’s not representative of their interactions, but if somehow I found Bud’s doppleganger on the street and brought him home, the consequences would include an epic shitstorm of proportions I probably cannot even imagine.
“WTF is THIS?!?” I can imagine Bud thinking, expressing his incredulity with annoyed chirps and meows. “This is a joke, right? Right? Speak before I murder you!”
“I’m Little Buddy, yes I’m the real Buddy, all you other Little Buddies are acting all funny, so will the real Little Buddy please stand up? Please stand up, please stand up!”
The truth is I’ve never seen a Bud doppleganger, or a Buddyganger, if you will. Over the years I’ve done more than a few image searches for gray tabbies while looking for funny photos of cats who look like Bud, and none of them bear more than a superficial resemblance to His Grace.
Bud has three major characteristics setting him apart from other cats with the same coat pattern and coloring:
His bright green eyes complemented by “guyliner,” which itself is ringed by neat white lines.
The unique white patch on his chest. It’s just a tuft of white fur, but I’ve never seen a gray tabby with a marking that matches its size, shape and position.
Most of all, his pronounced mouth and nose area, alternately called a muzzle, snout or rostrum on various species, terms which are sometimes used for cats as well.
The latter was one of the first things I really noticed after meeting him for the first time and taking him home. Even as a baby it was pronounced in a way that very few cat mouths are.
Finally, while it doesn’t have any bearing on the strictly visual comparison with similar-looking kitties, I can’t imagine another cat acting like Buddy. He’s such a weirdo, so unique in his voice, vocalizations and habits, so opinionated and willing to express those opinions as loudly and often as possible, that I just can’t picture another cat fooling me.
Can cats sense ghosts? My Mr. Cuddles sometimes stares at blank walls or gets up and starts zooming around the house for no apparent reason at 3 a.m.
I’m pretty sure he can see and sense ghosts. After all, what other explanation can there be for that kind of behavior? But since you’re the smartest cat in the world and an expert on everything, I thought I’d ask you first.
Ghost Believer in Great Britain
Dear Ghost Believer,
First I’d like to take the opportunity to set the record straight: I did NOT run screaming when I watched The Ring with my human, and I did NOT run to my litter box and cry when we watched Alien. Those are vicious lies invented by Los Gatos, the criminal catnip cartel, who will stop at nothing to discredit me. Now for the answer to your question:
According to Occam’s razor, “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” Or to put it another way, “It is pointless to do with more what can be done with fewer.”
Consider, my friend, that the burden of proof rests with the person who claims ghosts exist. Not once in the history of humans — or cats — has anyone been able to provide legitimate evidence of the supernatural. In fact, the word supernatural itself precludes existence on the physical plane: If we can see it, hear it, smell it and feel it, it exists in the physical world, and therefore cannot be supernatural.
This is why, invariably, supernatural phenomena turn out to be things we just don’t understand yet, and by understanding them we remove all the mystery.
The sun isn’t a god riding a chariot across the sky, it’s a star and our world is caught in its orbit. Lightning isn’t an angry Zeus hurling bolts from Olympus, it’s an electrostatic discharge that produces a flash of extreme heat in the atmosphere, leading to a visible flash and a shockwave we call thunder. The Pythia at Delphi wasn’t an oracle who communed with the gods, she was just really, really high off gases that seeped up from a fault line beneath the temple.
So, too, do our odd feline behaviors have mundane explanations:
We can hear things you can’t hear. If you see us staring at blank walls, we’re probably engaged in deep thought (I like to ponder the Fermi paradox and quantum entanglement), or maybe we’re looking in the direction of a sound we can hear, but falls outside of your hearing range. (We felines can hear sounds up to 64,000 Hz, while your inferior human ears can’t catch anything above 20,000 Hz.) That means you may be oblivious to the mice chirping behind the wall, but we know all about them.
We can see things you can’t see. You think it’s pitch black? That’s cute. While you stumble around with your eyes useless in the dark, we can see just fine. In fact, even the tiniest sliver of light — an amount imperceptible to you — is enough for us to successfully navigate obstacles in a room or catch movement in our field of vision. You may think we’re pawing at invisible entities at bedtime, but really we’re just swatting flies in the dark.
We can feel micro-changes in air density. Our whiskers aren’t just about making us look good. They help us navigate tight spaces and they’re super-sensitive. How sensitive? They’re so packed with nerves and blood vessels at the base that they’re at least as sensitive as your fingertips! You can silently pass wind in the hallway and we’ll be aware of it in the bedroom as our whiskers register the tiniest shifts in air current. Your farts stink, by the way.
We can smell things you can’t smell. Speaking of stinky, did you know we have 200 million olfactory receptors? You humans only have five million. Who’s the superior species now, huh? You think we’re furry little wizards who can sense you coming home, or possess powers of precognition, but the truth is we just pick up your nasty Axe body spray from half a mile away. Ghosts don’t wear Axe body spray, or Curve, or Cool Water for that matter.
By now you should have noticed a common theme. You might have bigger brains than us because your heads are huge, but we know all about all sorts of good stuff happening around us while you humans remain oblivious to it. Heck, sometimes you don’t even see or hear things happening right in front of you because you’ve always got your faces buried in those stupid screens!
If we did sense ghosts, you can be sure we’d meow at them for treats and demand they let us in the bathroom, but we don’t. Also, I personally wouldn’t be scared, but lesser cats might get freaked out if they see ghosts, and you’d know because they’d go all white and try to hide under the blankets.
MATO GROSSO DO SUL, Brazil — Fisherman and naturalists working in the Pantanal have reported a strange sight in recent weeks — a domestic cat tagging along with jaguars.
The gray tabby was observed lounging on the banks of the Amazon, napping in a tree and struggling to take bites out of a caiman killed by a generous jaguar, witnesses reported.
“HQ, we’ve got something extraordinary here,” a naturalist was heard reporting over local radio channels. “A jaguarundi is — no, scratch that — a house cat! A house cat is following a group of jaguars from the river bank into the deeper jungle.”
The feline in question was identified as Buddy the Cat of New York after his concerned human reached out to local authorities and appealed to the Brazilian press for his safe return.
“He does this all the time,” the New York man, identified as Big Buddy, told an interviewer from Folha De S. Paulo. “First he broke into the tiger exhibit at the Bronx Zoo and tried to get the tigers to accept him, only to be claimed as a cub by one of the tigresses. It took weeks to convince the zoo to get him out, and when I got him home I had to bathe him five times just to get the stink of tiger saliva off his fur.
“Then somehow he made his way to Tanzania, where he wandered around the Maasai Steppe for a few weeks trying to get into a lion pride. He failed miserably in that endeavor, too. Now with the jaguars. It never ends.”
The exasperated New York man claimed responsibility for his failure to keep his “ridiculous” cat from adventuring, but also blamed the transportation industry for accommodating Buddy.
“Who the hell allows an unaccompanied cat to take a bus or board an airplane?” he asked. “How did he end up in first class, sipping champagne and buzzing the stewardesses for more turkey every five minutes? I’m told he got quite drunk and threatened to become combative if he didn’t get an entire fried turkey.”
Asked why his cat was obsessed with ingratiating himself to larger cat species, Big Buddy answered without hesitation.
“He’s a dumbass,” the human said. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very cute, very loving little guy, and often a good boy, but a dumbass all the same.”
Buddy’s human said the 10-pound domestic cat often tears around the house, ambushing animate and inanimate objects and practicing his roar, “but he sounds like Elmo singing a funk song in falsetto.”
As of press time, Buddy the Cat still hadn’t returned home. Jaguars are known to be extraordinarily laid back compared to other big cats, and a loosely-affiliated group of the South American apex predators seemed to tolerate the domestic kitty.
“I can’t leave now,” Buddy told reporters. “They’ve begun to accept me! It would be a violation of trust if I just left them to eat all this delicious food by themselves.”
Kinich Ahau, the local jaguar elder, said his extended family had taken a liking to Buddy.
“Have you heard of this turkey? We did not know of it. It is wondrous!” the great jaguar said. “Buddy, or Kinich Bajo as he is known to us, has also shared great wisdom in the form of new and comfortable napping techniques. On the first night, we observed him construct a soft bed of leaves for himself in the crook of a branch, and over the following suns and moons we have come to appreciate softer napping spots.”
Buddy had sparked a renaissance in jaguarian napping technique, Kinich Ahau said.
“Nobody naps like Buddy,” he said. “No one!”
With the fond support of the Amazon’s jaguars, Buddy was set to undergo an ancient shamanistic ritual involving the imbibing of Ayahuasca, a powerful psychoactive brew said to reveal cosmological secrets to those who drink it as part of a spiritual ceremony.
“We would not have invited Kinich Bajo, or Buddy as you call him, to commune with the ancient B’alam (jaguar) spirits if we did not sense a deep spirituality and wisdom inside him,” said an elder jaguar shaman named Mike the Melanistic. “He has shown us the way in matters of snacking and napping, and now as we welcome him to our ethereal fraternity, we shall accompany him on his journey to the stars, where he will drink of the deep knowledge of our ancestors.”
Buddy himself told a reporter he was looking forward to the ceremony.
“It’ll grant me, like, awesome powers and shit,” he said. “I’ll be able to disappear in a puff of mist like the jaguars do, my muscles will get bigger and, like, I’ll be able to sniff out snacks from up to a mile away. Pretty cool, if you ask me.”
At press time the jaguar shaman elders said the ceremony does not, in fact, grant such powers.
A week ago we kicked off Bud’s Book Club with a short story, The Game of Rat and Dragon, and a non-fiction book, Man-Eaters of Kumaon. This post deals exclusively with the former. (If you haven’t read the story yet, it’s available here free. Most people will be able to read the story in less than a half hour at a moderate reading pace.)
By now everyone who’s read the story knows what it’s about: Cats, of course! But the story requires a bit of world-building setup before the kitties are introduced:
In an unspecified future humans have become a true spacefaring species, mastering interstellar travel and founding colonies in new star systems.
It’s a lot like the days of colonial powers founding settlements in the New World, but without the ugliness of terrestrial colonization or the quaintness of crossing a mere ocean.
Using a form of traveling called planoforming — essentially faster-than-light (FTL) jumps — human ships are able to reach distant star systems without traveling for the decades or centuries it would normally take to cross the unfathomable distances between solar systems.
Just when it looks like no obstacle remains for humanity to spread out into the galaxy, the intrepid explorers on the rim of human-occupied space realize there’s an insidious threat lurking in the void between stars.
Huge entities, invisible to the human eye, live in the vacuum of the interstellar medium. They haunt the void and attack human ships without warning. They are “beasts more clever than beasts, demons more tangible than demons, hungry vortices of aliveness and hate compounded by unknown means out of the thin tenuous matter between the stars,” author Cordwainer Smith writes.
When the mysterious entities attack, most people are mercifully killed in an instant, but the unlucky ones survive in a permanent state of insanity, their minds unable to cope with whatever alien malevolence they’ve witnessed.
As they learn more from each disastrous encounter, humans come to understand these creatures prefer the deep dark, shying away from star systems and their abundant sunlight.
But without a way to make it across the void, it becomes clear the era of human exploration and colonization is over unless something can be done to stop the enemy.
To extend the nautical theme, you can think of the dragons as giant krakens who prey on trade ships and passenger liners crossing between the American colonies and Europe during the Age of Sail. Although pushing the boundaries of new frontiers has always been dangerous, you can imagine how quickly intercontinental trade and settlement would grind to a halt if, say, half of all ships were sunk en route.
Humans can’t see the dragons, but that isn’t the primary reason they can’t successfully fight them. After all, the history of human warfare proves we’ve become adept at destroying enemies we can’t see, whether a ship’s dropping depth charges on a submarine hidden in murky waters, or some 20-year-old kid on an aircraft carrier hundreds of miles out to sea is using a joystick to lob drone-fired missiles on mainland buildings.
The real problem is that people just aren’t quick enough, unable to target and fire on the dragons before the entities react and speed away to safety.
So they turn to cats.
Kitties to the rescue
With their incredible reflexes, reaction time and hunting instincts, cats are more than a match for the dragons, and here’s where the story starts to get really fun. Cats, we’re told, travel alongside human vessels in their own little football-shaped ships that are equipped with precision miniature nuclear warheads.
Cats are happy to destroy the dragons — if their humans present the conflict as a game, make the “dragons” look like rats, and offer substantial rewards in the form of fish and poultry.
That’s why the cats are called Partners: Using some sort of brain link, specially trained humans pair up with the cats, mentally project images of the dragons as “gigantic rats,” and act like spotters so the kitties can pounce on their space rodents before the latter can hurt the human passengers.
Because the dragons are harmed by light, the cats lob “ultra-vivid miniature photonuclear bombs, which [convert] a few ounces of a magnesium isotope into pure visible radiance,” neutralizing the threat before anyone can be harmed.
The mind link between human being and cat is a two-way connection, affording cats a close-up view of human thought patterns just as the humans can feel the kitty’s mental processes.
We learn that our hero, Underhill, loves the feline Partners, and he’s deeply offended when a fellow soldier mocks his work by meowing at him. We also learn the cats understand that, while their task is dressed up as a fun hunting game, they face real danger when they fight the dragons.
The mind of a cat
Through Underhill’s eyes, we meet several of the Partners.
My favorite is an unnamed tomcat, described as “a greedy old character, a tough old male whose mind was full of slobbering thoughts of food, veritable oceans full of half-spoiled fish. Father Moontree had once said that he burped cod liver oil for weeks after drawing that particular glutton, so strongly had the telepathic image of fish impressed itself upon his mind. Yet the glutton was a glutton for danger as well as for fish. He had killed sixty-three Dragons, more than any other Partner in the service, and was quite literally worth his weight in gold.”
We’re told that the cats recognize the complexity of human minds, but aren’t necessarily impressed by them. The things humans concern themselves with and worry about are “silly” from a cat’s perspective (which, perhaps not coincidentally, is how the philosopher John Gray imagines how cats view us), and cats can quickly grow bored with a human too focused on highly abstract thoughts or subjects that simply don’t have much bearing on feline life:
“Usually the Partners didn’t care much about the human minds with which they were paired for the journey. The Partners seemed to take the attitude that human minds were complex and fouled up beyond belief, anyhow. No Partner ever questioned the superiority of the human mind, though very few of the Partners were much impressed by that superiority.
The Partners liked people. They were willing to fight with them. They were even willing to die for them. But when a Partner liked an individual the way, for example, that Captain Wow or the Lady May liked Underhill, the liking had nothing to do with intellect. It was a matter of temperament, of feel.
Underhill knew perfectly well that Captain Wow regarded his, Underhill’s, brains as silly. What Captain Wow liked was Underhill’s friendly emotional structure, the cheerfulness and glint of wicked amusement that shot through Underhill’s unconscious thought patterns, and the gaiety with which Underhill faced danger. The words, the history books, the ideas, the science—Underhill could sense all that in his own mind, reflected back from Captain Wow’s mind, as so much rubbish.”
Underhill is as fond of Captain Wow and Lady May, a friendly Persian, as they are of him. He’s happy when he’s called upon to defend a ship and finds out he’s been paired with the latter:
“When he had first come into contact with her mind, he was astonished at its clarity. With her he remembered her kittenhood. He remembered every mating experience she had ever had. He saw in a half-recognizable gallery all the other pinlighters with whom she had been paired for the fight. And he saw himself radiant, cheerful and desirable.”
What’s unique about this story — and what makes it particularly memorable, in my opinion — is Cordwainer Smith’s decision to explore the feline mind.
Out on a limb, from a feline world view
Minds, human or animal, are called “black boxes” for a reason. Even with the benefit of advanced science, even with fMRI and other forms of imaging, even with algorithmic AI that can read thoughts and sketch rudimentary images from our minds, we really don’t know what others are thinking, human or animal.
Smith goes out on a limb by imagining what must go on in the minds of cats, and it’s obvious he’s not only a cat lover, but he had a lifetime of experience with our furry friends when he wrote the story.
The idea that cats are all about emotion and tangible things — and are bored by things humans concern themselves with — seems dead on, as does the idea that cats aren’t impressed by our intellectual superiority, which only counts as superiority in human terms. Even if they had opposable thumbs and the means to create, would cats be interested in the kind of things we do?
Probably not. God only knows what kind of structures cats might build and what songs they’d write, but I’m pretty sure my cat would write paeans to turkey.
Did you like the story? What are your thoughts?
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.