Category: cat behavior

Dear Buddy: Why Are Humans So Ungrateful To Their Cats?

Dear Buddy,

My humans are good people who serve me well despite their abysmal hunting skills. Every now and then I kill a juicy mouse or a lizard, you know, to show I can provide and pull my weight around here.

Sometimes I leave my gift on the kitchen counter, and sometimes I leave it on one of their pillows in their my bed. High visibility places, you know? Nothing says “You have been serving me adequately, have a delicious meal on me!” quite like leaving the gift where you know it’ll be stumbled upon.

Unfortunately they’re a bunch of ungrateful jerks! They start acting all dramatic, they put the fresh kill in a paper bag like it’s toxic waste and they throw it out. That’s just adding insult to injury.

Why can’t humans express gratitude?

– Maxwell in Maryland

tenor

Dear Maxwell,

I know exactly what you mean! I used to groom my Big Buddy, using my saliva to shampoo his hair, but he acted like I was the disgusting one.

Well, I solved the problem, yes I did! I wait and quietly groom my butt until my human falls asleep. Then I give my butt a few more thorough licks before climbing on top of my Big Buddy and grooming him, starting with his beard and working my way to his upper lip.

I find that grooming his beard immediately after grooming my butt is best because my poop gives the bristles on my tongue a more malleable quality, which is good for grooming human hair. Plus it leaves his beard smelling nice and familiar, like our home after I use the litterbox!

Humans are just ungrateful creatures, Maxwell, but night time affords many opportunities to help them when they don’t realize it. Why not drop a mouse into your human’s mouth while she’s asleep? Who knows? She might like it!

Your friend,
Buddy

 

 

Study: We’re All Terrible At Reading Our Cats’ Facial Expressions

Most of us completely suck at deciphering our cats’ facial expressions, according to a new study.

That might come as a surprise to some because it’s often claimed cats don’t have facial expressions, or they can’t be read. They do, and they can.

The researchers from Ontario’s University of Guelph used a series of short clips selected from YouTube cat videos. They stripped all the context and blacked out everything but each cat’s face so participants wouldn’t be able to read body language or identify what the cats were doing.

The people who participated in the study — more than 6,000 in all — had only the faces to go on, and they were asked to assess whether each cat’s facial expression was positive or negative.

It turns out reading feline facial expressions is especially difficult: On average, participants got only 11.85 out of 20 questions right. That’s less than 60 percent.

Here’s the crazy part: Researchers found cat owners were no better at interpreting cat expressions than random people. Veterinarians scored the highest, a result that makes perfect sense.

surprised-cat-1
“No, I did NOT drink from the toilet! How dare you impugn my character with such vulgar accusations, good sir!”

Less than 15 percent of people are “cat whisperers,” study author Georgia Mason said, and can correctly interpret a cat’s mood based on the face alone.

“Anyone who writes cats off as sort of moody or distant is probably underestimating them,” Mason said. “The point is they are signaling, it’s just subtle and you need expertise and maybe intuition to see it.”

If you’re wondering what the test looks like, you can take an abbreviated version of it online. Here’s my score:

5FE0F41B-9178-4408-83F0-C9922A09A206

I’m a cat whisperer! Okay, not really. I scored a lousy four out of eight in the advanced version of the test.

I’m accustomed to reading feline body language — whiskers, ears, tails and fur provide a wealth of information about a cat’s mood — and absent most of that information, I found it difficult to gauge based on their faces alone.

On the positive side, scientists say the lessons from these studies can be applied to our companion cats eventually.

“We’re hoping [to conduct] more research to develop tools to help people read their cat better,” Mason said. “That would make living with a cat more rewarding.”

Top photo credit: BBC Science Focus

angrycat.jpg
Is this cat: A) very angry, B) extremely angry, or C) ready to kill her human?

How Long Is Too Long To Leave A Cat Alone?

“If you want a pet but you don’t have time to walk a dog, get a cat.”

“As long as they have food, cats are fine. They don’t care if they’re left alone.”

“Cats are solitary creatures who are content to ignore you.”

Despite taking over the internet and solidifying their status as one of the most endearing animal species, cats are still widely misunderstood, as these oft-spoken sentiments illustrate.

Of course, as we cat servants know, our furry friends do care very much about remaining in the company of their favorite people.

In a new column on Psychology Today, bioethicist Jessica Pierce backs up something we’ve been saying for ages: Cats are social animals, and it’s harmful to think of them as one step above a plant, content to live a solitary existence as long as they’re fed and watered.

The myth of the aloof, independent cat feeds another misconception: that cats are just fine when we’re not around. Indeed, a common piece of advice for someone thinking about acquiring a pet is “if you are gone a lot and don’t have time for a dog, get a cat instead.” Many people believe that cats can be left alone for long hours every day, and can even safely be left alone for days or even weeks, as long as food and freshwater are made available to them.

This is bad advice and does cats a great disservice because domestic cats kept as companion animals in homes likely need their humans just as much as companion dogs do.

So how long is too long to leave a cat alone? Unfortunately no one knows for sure.

There haven’t been studies on the topic, in part because many behavioral scientists still believe cats are too difficult to work with in research settings.

1495125423076
The big tough guy who cries by the door when I step out of the house for 20 minutes.

But new studies — including the research out of Oregon State that showed cats view their humans as parent-like figures — show cats form strong emotional connections to their people, mirroring the behavior of dogs and even human children.

Other recent studies demonstrated that cats crave human attention and affection even more than food, and look to their humans for reassurance when they’re uncertain about things.

Some people will say that’s all fairly obvious and unremarkable, but there are two primary reasons the findings are significant: First, in the scientific community something has to be proven in a controlled, replicable study. Anecdotes don’t count. Secondly, there’s finally enough research to confirm cats absolutely form bonds with their humans, and those bonds are genuine.

Although felines are superficially aloof, when you get to know them better it becomes clear they’re simply good at pretending they’re nonchalant.

buddynotamused
“No more computer, it’s Buddy time!”

While cautioning that cats are individuals with their own personalities and quirks, Pierce suggests looking to research on dogs and loneliness.

“The rough guidelines for dogs—that about four hours alone is comfortable, but longer periods of alone time may compromise welfare—may be a reasonable place to start for cats,” Pierce wrote, “but further research into cat welfare is needed in order to develop empirically-grounded guidelines for leaving cats alone.”

As for Buddy, who is known to meow mournfully and park himself by the front door when I leave, his one-off limit is about 12 hours, or half a day. I’m okay with leaving him alone overnight after he’s been fed, and while he may not like it, he’s fine if left alone for an extended period once in a while. I wouldn’t do that regularly.

Anything more than that, however, and I’ll enlist the aid of a friend to stop by, feed him and play with him. Maybe that way I won’t get the cold shoulder and resentful sniffs when I return.

Amazing Cats: The Puma

What would domestic cats be like if they were the same size as big cats?

It’s a question that seems to pop up often on cat-centric and Q&A sites and the answer is complex, but it turns out nature has given us a pretty good idea with the puma.

Also known as the cougar, mountain lion and the more generic panther (which can be a name for jaguars and leopards as well), the puma is big, but genetically it’s related to small cats and it shares some physical features with our familiar domestic kitties.

It’s capable of the intimidating wild cat scream often heard from the largest felines, but the puma can’t roar like big cats. Instead, it purrs like its smaller relatives, and it can even meow with the best of them!

Visually, the puma is a striking animal — it’s muscular with a shiny tan coat and facial features reminiscent of both panthera and felis. While its ears more closely resemble those of small cats (felis), the puma’s eyes have circular irises like its larger cousins.

The Majestic Puma
Pumas, also known as mountain lions and cougars, are the widest-ranging cats in the world.

It’s also remarkably adaptive. The puma boasts the largest range of any cat, and is found all throughout South and North America. Here in good ol’ ‘Merica, the cat ranges from the coastal mountains of California to the forests of New England, and a subspecies — the famous Florida Panther — occupies swampland and dense jungle habitats.

After the jaguar, it’s the second-largest cat in the Western Hemisphere.

The puma is a wild animal, meaning its place is out in the world fending for itself, protecting its territory, hunting, mating, grooming and sleeping a lot, like all cats do. Pumas are emphatically not pets.

Yet pumas have a disposition closer to house cats than big cats, meaning they’re not hostile to humans by default, and much like feral cats, they’ll go out of their way to avoid humans.

Again — and it cannot be emphasized enough — pumas are wild animals who belong in the wild, but there have been rare cases where the big-little cats have lived with humans when circumstances make it impossible to return them to their natural habitat.

In some cases it’s because the puma is maimed and can no longer hunt for itself, while others remain under human care because they were born into zoos or circuses and literally do not know how to live like wild cats. Those animals are better off in sanctuaries than left to fend for themselves, which they’re unable to do, but should only be cared for by professionals.

Puma leaping
While they aren’t hostile to humans by default, pumas can tip the scales at 220 pounds and are capable of rendering serious damage.

While pumas don’t have any interest in hunting or harming humans, that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. Males can tip the scales at up to 220 pounds, while females can weigh as much as 140.

That’s a LOT of cat: Most of us know the kind of damage 10-pound domestic felines are capable of rendering, especially with sharp claws and teeth that can shred delicate human skin. A 220-pound puma, while not as lethal as a tiger pushing 600-plus pounds, can fatally injure a human being.

Thankfully, these animals are famously elusive and confrontations with humans are exceedingly rare.

buddy_september2019_alt
That’s 10 pounds of pure muscle to you, mister! Everyone knows Buddy is ripped!

 

 

This Might Be The Weirdest Cat Behavior Of All

Are cats the most religious animals?

I’m not asking because I think cats are locked in an eternal good-vs-evil struggle between their deity, the God of Napping, and the evil forces of the Red Dot. We’re all well aware of that.

I’m asking because, well, my cat prays. He eases onto his hind legs, sits straight up, puts his paws together and gestures as if in fervent prayer, just like this guy:

Or this marbled tabby apparently in the middle of her evening vespers to the God of Yums, that from which all sustenance seems to come. The fridge.

And finally this kitty, who baffles his owners as he stands up, presses his paws together and shows excellent prayer form:

Buddy has some bizarre and amusing moves in his repertoire of feline quirks, but the “praying” thing is the one behavior I haven’t come close to decoding. I hadn’t even heard of it until I saw the little guy doing it one day when he was just a few months old.

First thing’s first: No one seriously believes cats are praying or know what prayer is, so I just wanted to get that disclaimer out of the way before my inbox gets flooded with variations of “HAHA U MORAN CAT’S CANT PRAY LOLZ”

Some people think the motion looks more like a begging gesture. Cats are asking for something when they do it, proponents of the begging theory argue.

I think we can rule that out. I’ve heard owners of other “praying” cats say their furry lieges wave their paws like that in various situations, and that’s been my observation as well. Bud does it randomly, and I’ve seen him do it while he was unaware of my presence. He couldn’t have been asking for anything.

There’s no research on this behavior and there’s virtually nothing about it on the web aside from a handful of Youtube videos.

Maybe it feels like stretching or provides some other form of muscle relief. Maybe it’s a cat’s way of limbering up. Maybe it’s an indication of a cat’s mind state, the same way relaxed ears and an upright tail indicate kitty’s happy and relaxed. Or maybe it’s a form of self-soothing for anxiety.

Those are all guesses, and none of them feel quite right. So help a dedicated cat servant out: What’s your take on this behavior, and what prompts cats to do it?

How Do These Nice Russian Ladies Know My Cat?

Dear readers, I think we’re close to proving what we’ve long suspected, that cats can indeed teleport!

I used to think Buddy could only teleport short distances. One time, for example, I stepped over the little guy while chastising him for lounging in the middle of a doorway. I raised my foot, careful not to step on him, took another step…and looked up to find him sitting on a table 10 feet ahead of me, his head cocked at an angle, staring back at me with an amused expression on his face.

IMG_2676
“How do I teleport? Easy. I use a retaining magnetic field to focus a narrow beam of gravitons. These in turn fold space-time consistent with Weyl tensor dynamics until the space-time curvature becomes infinitely large and you produce a singularity. Now, a singularity…”

I did a double take, looking back at the spot on the floor where he had just been, absolutely sure there must be a second gray tabby, a Buddy imposter helping my cat play a joke on me. How can anything move that fast?! He must have teleported!

Now it seems Buddy’s powers of space-time manipulation are greater than I ever imagined.

Enter Lingvistov, a creative team comprised of artist Landysh and writer Asia, who became friends while studying English at a Russian university. After they graduated they decided to put their skills to good use by penning short comic strips and illustrations about cats and their many weird and wonderful habits.

Somewhere along the way, Buddy must have used his powers of teleportation to meet them and serve as a muse, because they’ve got him down to a tee:

Play With Me!
Although we’ve been working hard on correcting the behavior, biting to get what he wants is a classic Buddy move. Credit: Lingvistov

The sneaky little bastard has been fluent in Russian this whole time and hid it from me! That, and his ability to manipulate space-time and teleport at will.

Food O’Clock
”Wakey, wakey, human! Up, before I slappeth you with my paw!” Credit: Lingvistov

Buddy must have napped with them as well. He loves sleeping between my legs, in the “valley” formed by the blanket, and he uses me as his human mattress. He must have demonstrated his preferred sleeping positions for his Russian friends:

Human Mattress
A human mattress. Credit: Lingvistov

Of course there will be skeptics. The teleportation thing doesn’t quite stand up to Occam’s razor, after all. What’s more likely, that Buddy can teleport, or that a woman in Russia has a gray tabby who is just as uniquely obnoxious as my little dude?

Still, I choose to believe he can indeed teleport and one day, when I finally train him to do my bidding, he can put his powers to good use by teleporting to the store to get me a six-pack of beer.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a gift for the cat servant in your life, you can’t go wrong with a Lingvistov print or stationery reminding them of their allegiance to our furry overlords.

Cats love boxes
Ah, the eternally unused cat bed. Credit: Lingvistov

Brave Kitty Saves Her Human From Venomous Snake

His Grace Buddy, King of All Cats, First of His Name, the Most Handsome and Totally Not Scared of Anything, is pleased to issue a Commendation of Bravery to Shelly, a rescue cat who saved her human from a venomous snake.

Shelly’s human, Jimmie Nelson, heard strange noises one night last week and chalked it up to Shelly burning off some energy with a late play session. Nelson went to sleep, oblivious to the danger he was in until the next day when he saw a dead copperhead under his kitchen table.

“On the side of the snake’s neck and head there were claw marks and one big slash, so we knew right then that the cat had definitely killed the snake and then brought it out a few days later to show it to her little dad,” Nelson’s daughter, Teresa Seals, told NBC affiliate WBIR in Tennessee.

D6F359FC-9ED3-46F6-9445-79747A4425B5
Like all great cats, Shelly is a grey tabby.

Copperhead snakes are pit vipers, ambush predators that rely on hemotoxic venom to paralyze and injure their prey. They’re common in the southeastern U.S., though it’s unusual for the snakes to seek out humans or enter homes.

Copperheads don’t provide warnings before they bite and “strike almost immediately when they feel threatened,” according to LiveScience. Although their venom is not as potent as their deadlier cousins in the pit viper family, children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Copperhead bite victims are usually treated with antivenin and painkillers, and recovery can take months.

Nelson, who is 81 and a stroke victim, doesn’t like admitting his affection for his feline master, but Seals knows it’s just an act.

“He loves her, he doesn’t wanna act like he pays attention but I’ve caught him actually petting and loving on her,” she said.

She doesn’t think it’s an accident that Shelly ended up with her father.

“I think the Lord sent the cat to us to save my dad,” she told WBIR.

His Grace King Buddy said he’s honored to award Shelly with the King Buddy Commendation for Feline Bravery, an honor created in 2014 after His Grace defeated a vicious mosquito in single combat. The award itself is a bronze statue of Buddy striking a heroic pose at the moment of victory, paw raised after slaying the insect, muscles rippling from the effort of delivering the death blow.

Jimmie Nelson and Shelly the Cat
Shelly with her servant, Jimmie Nelson of Tennessee.