Category: Feline Weirdness

Dear Buddy: Why Do Cats Follow Their Humans Around?

Dear Buddy,

Why do cats always follow their humans around? I mean, you guys might not want us to pet you all the time, but you sure do go everywhere we go.

Human in Honolulu


Dear Human,

This is a common misconception, one of those myths about cats like the one that says we love milk or we like it when you talk to us in baby voices.

The sad reality is that you follow us around but you don’t want to admit it, so you come up with elaborate fictions about our habits. My human believes I weave around his legs to rub against them after he wakes up, which is absurd. Clearly he steps in my path and I have to swerve, causing incidental contact. I would prefer not to, but he makes it impossible.

Or how about the myth that we like to bother you guys in the bathroom? Big Buddy knows that every day at certain times I like to put my paws under the bathroom door and cry. I mean, I do it all the time and he knows it, so he decides to use the bathroom at those times and tricks himself into believing that somehow I go into hysterics if I’m not actually inside the bathroom with him.

Do you see how delusional you people are?

What kind of crazy people say “I know my cat is going to knead and purr in this spot in the next 5 to 10 minutes, so I’m going to sit here and force him to knead on me”?

I think you guys need to get help.

Buddy

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

Buddy’s Gate Crashing My Dreams

Buddy has a tendency to show up in my dreams, which I attribute to his relentless insistence on messing with me while I’m asleep, whether it’s yowling in my ear for breakfast, deciding my nose needs grooming or just burrowing into me with a soft “Mrrrrrp!”

Last night, however, was a doozy. I dreamt I was back in high school, but instead of being in class I was in the newsroom at my first-ever newspaper job, which somehow occupied the third floor of the school building. I excused myself to go have a smoke — which I don’t do anymore — and walked down to the first floor where Bud was waiting for me near the door leading outside.

To say I was alarmed to find him just hanging out unsupervised in my high school-slash-workplace would be an understatement.

“Bud!” I said. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came here with you, remember?” Buddy answered, speaking as if it was the most natural thing in the world. “We took the Celica.”

I sighed.

“I can’t have you running around here where someone could snatch you,” I said. “You’re going back in the car until I’m done for the day.”

“No I’m not!”

“Yes you are!”

“Oh yeah?” Buddy asked. “Where’s the car?”

Celica
A black Celica just like the one I owned until it died one day on the highway en route to Long Island.

And that’s when my dream morphed into a recurring nightmare, which is that I’m walking through a parking lot and can’t find my car. (In this case the car I got at 19 years old, a black Celica hatchback that was all sleek looks and underwhelming engine power. I still miss that car!) In these dreams I start to panic, redouble my efforts, and realize the parking lot is so huge, so endless that I’m gonna need a lift, someone to drive me around so I can look for my car

Buddy smile
“I’m a little Buddy, short and sweet! Here are my clawses, here are my feet!”

Maybe I can ease my anxiety in future dreams by dispatching Buddy to look for the car, but in last night’s dream he was clearly responsible for moving it.

“Bud…” I said. “What’d you do with the car?”

Dreams have a way of making it seem perfectly reasonable that a 10-pound house cat can not only speak, but drive a car.

I was absolutely sure that little jerk had hidden my car! (And here’s the standard disclaimer for all new readers: “little jerk” is a term of endearment when it comes to Bud. I love the little guy, obviously.)

I know it was just a dream, but it’s probably not a bad idea to hide my keys from now on…

Unlike Other Animals, Cats Always Take The Free Meal

When presented with a simple tray of food and a food puzzle that requires a little work to get at the yums inside, every animal ever tested has opted for the latter.

Except cats.

Rhesus monkeys, rats, chickens, bears, starlings, gerbils, chimpanzees and a wide range of other animals are drawn to food puzzles, perhaps because the food tastes sweeter to them if they’ve had to work for it, or maybe because it’s just something amusing to do.

“There is an entire body of research that shows that most species including birds, rodents, wolves, primates – even giraffes – prefer to work for their food,” said Mikel Delgado, a cat behaviorist and lead author of the newest study on the phenomenon known as contrafreeloading. “What’s surprising is out of all these species cats seem to be the only ones that showed no strong tendency to contrafreeload.”

Puzzle feeder
A puzzle feeder used in the study. Credit: UC Davis

Delgado, a research affiliate at UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, used a clear puzzle feeder so the cats in her study could see the treats inside. A few feline study participants gave it a shot, but only after grabbing themselves some easy grub first. Other cats just ignored the food puzzle and munched exclusively from the tray.

While this is at least the second study to specifically test whether cats “freeload” their meals, the why of this particular feline behavior remains a mystery. Delgado cautioned against the obvious conclusion — that cats are just lazy — and pointed out that several cats in the study were active and expending energy, just not with the puzzle feeder.

One possible explanation: As hunters and obligate carnivores, cats simply may not enjoy games that simulate foraging the way omnivores and herbivores do.

The study was published on July 26 in the academic journal Animal Cognition. Read it here.

Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 08-31-22 MikelDelgadoProfile jpg (WEBP Image, 800 × 800 pixels)
Mikel Delgado with a kitty. Credit: Community Cats Podcast

Buddy ‘Profoundly Hurt’ When Human Doesn’t Share Food

“Watcha eating, Big Bud? That looks delicious!

So, uh, you’re just gonna sit there eating that in front of me, huh? All that cheesy deliciousness. You know how much I love cheese.

That’s okay, don’t offer me any. I’m just going to sit down in front of you, fix you with my sad, wide-eyed stare, and watch you enjoy those yums.

Yums you won’t even share with your best Little Buddy.

Buddy wants yums!
“I’m going to watch you eat every bite, my eyes looking sadder with each passing second you don’t offer me any.”

What happened to ‘mi casa su casa,’ eh? Mi yummies su yummies. I thought we did everything together, but apparently I was mistaken.

Apparently there’s an end to your selflessness, a line of demarcation that separates the good from the truly delicious. And when it comes to the truly delicious, well, you horde it like Smaug the dragon sitting on his gold, indifferent to the feelings of your best Little Buddy, whose mouth is watering.

I mean, sure, I could pad over to my bowl and munch on some leftover kibble from four hours ago, trying not to think of how much it tastes like cardboard as the smell of that cheese wafts through the air.

I could…What’s this? You’re going into the kitchen? Just a few more feet, open the fridge…yes! Cheese is right there and…oh yeah! Get one of the sharp knives, you know I love my cheese sliced into little Buddy-size cubes. Yes! Careful with the knife. Just a little more. Perfect!

Oh man! You’re the best, Big Bud! I never doubted you for a second! Mmmmm! Let’s eat!

Mmmmm mmmm!

Wait. Hold on! Is it me or does the cheese on your plate look more yummy than the cheese on mine? I know you say it’s the same cheese, I just wanna…hey, lemme get my nose in there, I just wanna sniff it. Maybe take a little bite.

Tell ya what. Why don’t you give me some of the cheese from your plate just so I’m sure it’s the same cheese I’m eating?

Well, sure, you could shoo me away, but I’ll just sit here with my big, accusatory eyes, watching you consume every bite until some of that cheese migrates over to my plate…

Better yet, let’s swap plates. That’s the only way I can be sure that my cheese is just as good as your cheese.

Unless… Unless you knew I’d be suspicious of potential cheese inequity and you put the good cheese on my plate, knowing I would demand we switch.

I’m onto your scheme, human! Switch it back! I want my original cheese! Buddy cannot be fooled so easily.”