Category: cat behavior

Of Claw Sheaths And Sky Raisins

First I’d like to thank everyone who chimed in to reassure me that little Buddy lost his claw sheath, not his entire claw.

I’d never seen such a complete piece of claw come off like that, which is what got me worried. Buddy has the best readers who not only tell him he’s a handsome cat, but look out for his safety too!

The little dude appears just fine and there’s no indication of any injury on his paws.

Which brings us to our next subject: The sudden glut of “sky raisins” for pets living within the cicada “Brood X” territory.

Billions of the large, winged insects have emerged from the ground in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Delaware and parts of Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and northern Georgia. The current brood, dubbed Brood X, is near the end of its 17-year life cycle, and the cicada’s songs are at their most deafening this summer.

Screenshot 2021-06-15 at 05-34-19 Active Periodical Cicada Broods of the United States - CicadaBroodStaticMap pdf
Source: US Forest Service.

As cats and dogs are wont to do, they go after the larger-than-usual insects, and for them, a successful swat out of the air means a tasty treat.

That has lots of people wondering: Is eating cicadas harmful to my pet?

The answer is no, according to veterinarians who spoke to the New York Times, NPR and other press outlets in recent days.

There’s no truth to the rumors that a fungal toxin which affects cicadas can do any harm to cats and dogs, veterinarians say, and at worst, your pet might throw up the exoskeletons if they’ve snacked on a few of the relatively large insects.

“Most pets who ingest a few cicadas will only develop mild stomach upset,” Tina Wismer, a veterinarian with the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center, told the Times.

That said, veterinarians also caution that you shouldn’t let your furry friend gorge on “nature’s snacks.” One or even a few won’t cause any harm, but making an entire meal of them could make your little buddy sick.

Speaking of meals, lest we judge our four-legged pals for their nasty eating habits, it’s worth nothing that plenty of our own species eat cicadas too. Yuck.

Deepfried_cicada
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cats: The Not-So-Ultimate Spider Hunters!

As if Australia doesn’t have enough terrifying critters, there’s the Huntsman spider, a big tarantula-looking monstrosity that welcomes itself into houses.

Luke Jones, who uploaded the below video to TikTok, says it’s “not unusual” to see them hanging onto walls or poking out from behind curtains, and they “get into everything, all the linen clothes on the bed.”

In his position I’d get a hermetically sealed chamber to use as my bedroom, but Luke’s got his own solution: Let his cat take care of the problem. In the video, a woman — presumably Luke’s girlfriend or wife — hoists the couple’s pet cat up so kitty can ruthlessly earn his keep as an exterminator half-heartedly paw at the spider:

Cats are famous for “playing” with their prey, so maybe what we’re seeing is an initially curious cat getting a close look at the Huntsman before unleashing a dose of feline whoop-ass.

One thing I know for sure: If I tried to get Buddy to play exterminator with a spider that large he’d go hide underneath a table.

Ever Wondered How Many Surfaces Your Cat’s Butt Touches? A Kid Has The Answer

I remember the first time I saw my brother’s dog drag his posterior across the living room carpet.

The friendly little good boy, a terrier-Chihuahua mix, had just returned from a walk with my brother. He hopped up onto the couch, then down, leaning back into an odd-for-a-dog sitting position.

Then, with his little back legs spread, he used his front paws to drag his butt across the carpet with a heavy exhale, the canine equivalent of an “Oh yeah!” sigh of relief.

I know there are many feline behaviors that gross out dog loyalists, but thank God we don’t have to watch our kitties use carpets and area rugs as butt-scratchers.

Cats have more dignity than that. Cats are legendarily fastidious animals.

Or are they?

Kaeden, an enterprising sixth-grader from Florida, set out to “tackle the challenging task of answering the internet’s most burning question, drum roll please,” his mother, Kerry Griffin, wrote on Facebook. “Does your cat’s butthole really touch all the surfaces in your home?”

He would go on to present his findings and methodology at his school’s science fair.

Kerry has a doctorate in animal behavior with a concentration in feline behavior that she says she “never used.” She put it to good use for the project, helping her son come up with a plan: They’d use non-toxic lipstick and apply it to the cats’ “bum-bums.” Then they’d place each cat on a sheet of paper and run through commands.

“Both cats have been trained since kittenhood with a variety of commands. They also know how to high-five, spin around, and speak,” Kerry wrote. “They were compensated with lots of praise, pets and their favorite treats, and the lipstick was removed with a baby wipe once we collected our data in just under 10 minutes.”

They tested each cat on soft surfaces, like carpet and bedding, and on hard surfaces like tiled floors. If the cat left lipstick residue on the sheet of paper, it was counted as positive contact.

The results?

“Long and medium haired cat’s buttholes made NO contact with soft or hard surfaces at all,” Kerry wrote. “Short haired cats made NO contact on hard surfaces. But we did see evidence of a slight smear on the soft bedding surface.”

So there you have it. If your cats are long- or medium-hair, congratulations. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to have a little chat with the short-haired Buddy…catbuttproject

Are Cat Fountains Worth It?

Cats need to stay hydrated to avoid serious health problems, but they don’t make it easy.

Our furry friends have low thirst drives given their long evolutionary history of obtaining much of their fluids from meat. They just don’t feel the need to slurp down water the way other animals do.

When cats live in human homes, keeping them hydrated can be even more difficult because they’re mischievous little stinkers.

Buddy’s no exception. The little dude loved to knock his water bowl over and paw at the water, so I replaced his bowl with a wide-bottom stainless-steel one that is virtually impossible for him to upend.

Then I noticed his water was sometimes dirty, or I’d find things in his bowl: hair ties, toys, the little plastic rings from drink bottles, twist ties and other things he likes to play with.

Bud was taking random things from around the house and depositing them in his water bowl, which is probably just another fun game for him. (Some theories suggest this behavior is instinctual as well, that cats are “washing the scent off” toys representing prey or simply hiding it as they would a kill.)

“Cats often put their toys away in a ‘safe’ place after playing with them, and cats look upon their food area as a secure part of their territory,” says a Q&A from Chewy. “This behavior is similar to cats in the wild who often take their prey back to their nest area to hide it from potential predators. Your cat simply might be storing his toy in a secure area to be played with later.”

As far as Buddy’s concerned, the entire apartment is his territory, but he’s especially protective of his little dining nook.

I can imagine the dialogue in Buddy’s head: “Hmmm, bottle cap. Where did I put my favorite bottle cap? Oh, right. My water bowl!”

Little dude gets two fresh wet meals per day, and at night I put out about half a bowl of good dry food as a late-night snack and something to tide him over till morning if he gets peckish overnight. (It usually prevents him from waking me up strictly for food, but he still finds his reasons to interrupt my sleep.)

I put fresh water out for him twice a day at set times, and sometimes randomly if I notice the water’s low, dirty or there’s a toy in it.

Between the wet food and the bowl he probably gets just about enough fluids, but I think we can do better, for his health first and foremost — since so many serious cat ailments, especially in males, are linked to dehydration — and to avoid costly and traumatic veterinary procedures.

Can anyone recommend some good fountains?

I’d like something non-electric, but a cat fountain that uses gravity to release stagnant water kind of seems like it defeats the purpose. I’ve also read that plastics are bad, as dirt and dust can get embedded in the surface. Finally, articles about pet fountains often suggest flat drinking surfaces are best to encourage cats to drink, as their whiskers don’t get caught or wet. I’m not sure how much difference that makes, and it’s probably different for each cat.

Do you have a fountain for your cats? What are your thoughts on how effective it is at getting them to drink more?

Mom Cat Brings Her Sick Babies To Health Clinic

Even those of us who love cats often joke about how aloof they are, and then they go and do something that shows such a profound understanding of human behavior that we’re left thunderstruck.

That was the case in Turkey’s Izmir province, where a ginger tabby dragged her two babies into a health clinic this week one at a time, according to a report in the English-language Turkish news site Daily Sabah:

The official said that they noticed the animal while they were attending to patients as she started “constantly meowing.” When they saw something was wrong with kittens, they took a closer look and discovered the kittens’ eyes were closed tightly. “We gave them some drugs and they started opening their eyes and later, we transferred them to the veterinary department. It was the first time that an animal walked into our clinic, and it was a very emotional moment for us,” the official said.

Both kittens had eye infections and fully recovered.

This isn’t the first time cats have asked humans for help, nor is it the first time a mom cat brought her kittens into a hospital or clinic.

On April 27, 2020, a female cat walked into the emergency room of Kucukcekmece Hospital in Istanbul while carrying her kitten in her mouth, then deposited the “mischievous” little one right in front of a group of hospital employees who were chatting.

Hospital staff gave the mom food and water while they examined her baby.

A mom cat takes her baby to the hospital

istanbul_hospital5

And in May of 2020, a cat in Mexico shocked a woman with his understanding of how the human world works. After she saw him in front of a store and bent down to pet him, he led her into the store, guided her to the pet food aisle and pointed to the exact type of food he wanted.

Not only did this cat understand that he had to be accompanied by a human to get into the store, and precisely where to direct her, but he also knew the packaging of his favorite food and understood that she had to buy it for him. He may not understand the concept of currency, but he does know a human has to get him the food and he can’t just tear into it.

The woman was so moved that she adopted the smart little guy and named him Rabbit.

Rabbit the Cat
Rabbit points to the food he wanted a kind woman to buy for him.

These examples not only show how astonishingly intelligent and observant cats are — or can be, when they’re motivated — they also make it difficult for anyone to cling to old beliefs that cats and other mammals are unthinking, unfeeling automatons. Or the dreaded, all too common “it’s just a cat.”

If cats understand hospitals and health clinics are places where the sick and injured are treated, and they understand abstract social concepts like “a human must obtain this for me,” it makes you wonder what else they observe and fully understand in those furry little heads.