Category: Feline Ingenuity

Buddy Tears Up The Dance Floor!

NEW YORK –John Tra-who?

Buddy the Cat is known for his movie star good looks, charm and wit, but one fact remained little known until recently — he’s meowgnificent on the dance floor.

The tabby cat set the dance floor on fire this week when he dropped in at New York’s most popular disco club and showed off a series of spectacular moves that left observers shocked — and sparked several cat fights among his admirers.

All jokes aside, how awesome is this commercial?

I’m curious about how this was done. We’re not seeing people in cat costumes. It looks like the paws are practical effects, but the cat faces are rendered with something similar to deepfake tech, with the render following the actors’ performances. Or it may have been done the labor intensive way, with full modeling. Either way, the effect is fantastic: Look at the two cats at the end talking about how Disco Cat learned to slide.

Any readers out there with FX backgrounds who might have some insight?

Dear Buddy: Can Cats Sense Ghosts?

Dear Buddy,

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.

Thanks!

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.

Cat Zeus
“I am Cat Zeus! Fear me, for my lightning bolts are powerful and my epic beard is comprised of cats!”

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!

Buddy's Whiskers
Bud’s Whiskers: Stylish and functional!

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.

Hope that clears things up!

Your friend,

Buddy

Animals Teach Us Our Self Worth Isn’t Tied To What We Do

NPR has an interesting article about the very human tendency to peg our self worth to our careers and our egos to our accomplishments, something most of us are guilty of to one degree or another.

I know I’m guilty of it, and I’m often unhappy when I’m not meeting some arbitrary level of creative output.

But Devon Price, a social psychologist, told NPR a pet chinchilla named Dumptruck — “the opposite of productive, and frankly, rather destructive” — led to a revelation Price had about intrinsic worth.

“I would never look at him and think of his life in terms of, ‘Has he justified his right to exist?'” Price told NPR. “He’s not paying rent. He’s not performing any service. And it would be absurd to even think about his life in those terms.”

The article prompted me to think about Bud, of course. He’s just Bud. A gray-furred, mercurial, amusing little guy whose favorite activities are eating, sleeping and hanging out with his Big Buddy.

How Buddy pulls his weight

Does he do anything to “justify” his existence? Well, according to him, he does.

“What services do I provide?” Buddy repeated when asked. “Well, first of all, I’m delightful. I’m responsible for like 95% of the delightfulness around here, let’s be honest. Yes, delightfulness is a word. Because I say it is!”

He also claims he provides security — “no burglar in their right mind would break in knowing I’m here” — as well as daily wake-up services, and “annoyingness desensitization.”

orange cat on focus photography
Credit: Alexas Fotos/Pexels

Price’s observations are not far from those of John Gray, the British philosopher who published a new book, Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life, earlier this year.

Cats live in the moment, Gray points out, and don’t stress themselves obsessing over “an imagined future.” Some people, especially those who don’t appreciate the full scope of animal cognition, would say cats are so adept at enjoying the present because they’re simple creatures incapable of thinking in the abstract or planning for the future.

That, of course, isn’t true: Cats develop abstract thinking skills early in their development, they understand object permanence, and anyone who’s seen a mother cat care for her babies — fretting over hiding spots, frequently moving her kittens and checking in on them when she must hunt for food — knows our feline friends are most certainly capable of planning and worry. (Or you can just watch my cat when his dinner’s late.)

Human anxiety is compounded by existential concerns, which cats aren’t burdened by. They’re not worried about their place in the world, and it probably never occurs to them that trying to be happy acknowledges the possibility of failure.

Contentment is a cat’s natural state

Cats, Gray points out, just do what makes them happy, whether it’s playing with a favorite toy or shredding a roll of toilet paper. They’re not worried about whether they could have more fun doing something else, or whether they’re making the best use of their time. Cats are “among the wisest animals because they’re spontaneous and playful and content with whatever life presents them,” as one reviewer of Gray’s book put it.

photo of grey tabby kitten lying down
Credit: Anel Rossouw/Pexels

“I would say that a lot of torment in our lives comes from that pressure for finding meaning,” Gray told The Guardian earlier this year. “Unless you adopt a transcendental faith which imagines a wholly other world where meaning is secure from any accident, most of the things that happen to us are pure chance. We struggle with the idea that there is no hidden meaning to find. We can’t become cats in that sense – we probably will need to always have the disposition to tell ourselves stories about our lives – but I would suggest a library of short stories is better than a novel.”

In response to questions about what cats might say to us if they could truly talk, rather than simply communicate, Gray responds with a question of his own: “If they could talk, would they find us sufficiently interesting to talk with?”

Would they consider us buzz kills? Would they roll their eyes, say nothing and return to gleefully knocking beverages off tables?

“Unless cats are hungry or mating or directly threatened, they default to a condition of rest or contentment or tranquility — basically the opposite of humans,” Gray told Vox. “So if cats could philosophize, my guess is they’d do it for their own amusement, not because of some deep need for peace.”

tabby kittens on floral comforter
Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

Stray’s Feline Protagonist Is Picture Perfect

Determined to get inside an apartment, the ginger tabby leaps onto the ledge of an air conditioner unit, then onto the roof, where he drags a piece of debris to the edge, swipes it off and watches it shatter a skylight.

Boom. Kitty door created!

The scene isn’t part of a Youtube video or a documentary about smart cats, it’s a gameplay sequence from the upcoming Stray, a game in which the protagonist is a lost cat who’s been separated from his family and dropped into an eerie, near-future Hong Kong.

The overlap (or Reuleaux triangle) in a Venn diagram of gamers and cat-lovers is pretty sizable, and for that enthusiastic cross-section, there’s no game more highly anticipated than Stray.

Stray
Our hero gets his sustenance from bowls, needs to pause for a scratch every once in a while, and likes to rub against the legs of friendly characters he meets.

Previously we’d seen a short trailer and still screenshots, and now a video from the developers shows off more than four minutes of glorious game footage following the feline protagonist as he explores Hong Kong’s streets, back alleys and noodle shops.

The developers are clearly cat lovers: The kitty hero of Stray moves with the grace, energy and caution of a real domestic feline, and the game forces players to tackle obstacles and challenges the way a cat would. The protagonist cat gains access to a vent shaft, for example, by swiping a coffee mug into fan blades to get them to stop spinning. In another scene, the cat is startled, jumps a full pace back and lands on all fours in a way only cats can.

Everything from gait to reactions is perfectly cat-like. In the opening moments, our kitty hero is clearly injured, nursing one of his back legs as he hobbles down an alley. In a later scene he bats curiously at a drone the way a house cat would with a new toy.

There are no magic abilities or impossible inventories here: As the player, you can only do things a cat can do in real life, although you’re given a boost later on when a friendly character equips you with a harness on which B12, the above-mentioned drone, can dock. B12 can interact with man-made inventions, understand your cat’s intentions and facilitate rudimentary communication.

If, for example, your kitty character is dehydrated and stops to paw at a vending machine, B12 can send a signal to the machine, order it to dispense a beverage, then open it for the adventurous cat. B12 also helps your catagonist fight off enemies. By flashing a purple light at hostile machines, for example, the little drone can render them harmless and deactivate them.

Ultimately, though, the game designers want you to think in cat terms to make your way through the game world, and that means considering feline physiology when encountering obstacles, and feline psychology when trying to solve puzzles.

Stray
“A new toy?!” Stray’s hero cat is curious as he meets B-12 for the first time.

The project’s lead designers are both industry veterans who decided to strike out on their own by forming an independent studio after years of working for UbiSoft, the game industry giant known for game franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Watch_Dogs. Like those games, Stray gives players the opportunity to explore a highly detailed open world.

“Our goal is to create a unique experience playing as a cat. We are inspired everyday by Murtaugh and Riggs, our two cats,” creative director Viv said. “Most of the team are cat owners as well, giving us all a lot of helpful first-hand references. Cats are always so playful, cute and lovingly annoying that it’s an endless stream of gameplay ideas for us.”

Stray_gameplay

For the game’s atmosphere, the creators were inspired by Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City, a former military fortress that became a slum in the days of British-ruled Hong Kong, with Chinese triad gangs serving as de facto authorities in the lawless zone. Today, the former Kowloon Walled City is a park.

“It is also a very unique point of view for an adventure game. Exploring the strange world we are building feels really fresh when you’re sneaking under a car, or walking the rooftops with the inhabitants below unaware of your presence. Or if you want them to be aware, you can just meow endlessly to annoy them.”

Stray was originally slated for a late 2021 release, but it’s looking more likely that we won’t see it until the first quarter of 2022. Given the recent history of highly anticipated and rushed projects like Cyberpunk 2077, few gamers would begrudge a development team taking its time and getting things right rather than going into a months-long crunch period to meet a holiday deadline. Good things come to those who wait, especially in the complex world of game development.

Words of Wisdom From Buddy

Hark! Upon this day rejoice, for we bring you wise words from Buddy the Cat!

We’re often told to follow our dreams, but how many shareable quotes on social media actually tell us how to do so? It turns out there’s a critical step: To follow your dreams, you need to have dreams first! This is where Buddy sagely instructs us to begin, surrendering to sweet slumber so our unconscious can tell us what we really want:

buddy_napquote3
An important and common sense bit of wisdom from Bud.

On Jan. 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated at 43 years old, making him the youngest president since Theodore Roosevelt — and the youngest elected president. (Roosevelt assumed the highest office after then-President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901.) While an impressive feat, it was Kennedy’s speech that continues to reverberate throughout history: “Ask not what your country can do for you,” the newly-sworn-in president told the nation. “Ask what you can do for your country.”

Those were simpler times, before we made the wise decision to politicize viruses, rip each other’s throats out over vaccines, and apprentice ourselves to intellectual giants like Tucker Carlson and Joy Ann Reid, tuning in nightly to drink of their limitless sagacity as they educate us on how to cherry pick facts that support our respective world views and ignore everything that contradicts them.

Still, there are lessons to be learned from those innocent times, and Buddy has repurposed Kennedy’s quote to give it a deeper, more profound (and useful) meaning:

buddy_asknot
JFK has nothing on Buddy.

For our final bit of Buddesian wisdom, we return to the solution to so many of life’s problems: Sleep.

Why confront adversity when you can just take a nap? In this quote, Buddy advises the path of least resistance, a crucial strategy for anyone who finds themselves dealing with stress or anxiety:

buddy_adversityquote
Sink to meet the challenges of life!