Happy Easter from the Easter Buddy! Bud and I wish our readers a happy, safe and relaxing Easter, socially distanced though it may be. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a return to some semblance of normality later this year.
In the meantime, though, our little buddies have helped us get through these dark months, entertaining us and keeping us company through the initial wave of the pandemic, the lockdowns and the long winter.
Could you imagine the past year without your cats? We can’t. Make sure to thank your own little buddies for being there for you during this pandemic!
The four lucky felines who were rescued from a sinking ship by Thai sailors on Wednesday were dehydrated and spooked by their ordeal but otherwise doing well, the Thai Royal Navy said.
Their brush with danger began when the Phamonsin Nava 10, a local fishing vessel, caught fire and capsized in the Andaman Sea, a section of waters off the west coast of Thailand and Myanmar. The ship was about eight miles from Koh Adang, the nearest island.
The Phamonsin Nava’s eight human crew members abandoned ship and took their chances in the water until a nearby fishing vessel was able to scoop them up. It’s still not entirely clear why the crew left the cats, who were forced to huddle together on a perilous perch as the ship sank.
The cats would have been doomed if not for the timely arrival of a ship from the Thai Royal Navy’s Air and Coastal Defense Command, which was dispatched to assess the abandoned ship for a potential oil spill. Wichit Pukdeelon, one of the sailors on the Thai navy vessel, spotted motion on the sinking ship and used his camera’s zoom function to locate the frightened feline quartet.
With nowhere else to retreat, the terrified cats were huddled together on a wooden beam. One of the sailors, 23-year-old Thatsaphon Saii, swam to the wreck and rescued each of the cats separately by placing them on his shoulders for the swim back to his ship.
“I immediately took off my shirt and put on a life jacket so I could jump into the sea. The flames were at the back of the boat but it was starting to sink, so I knew I had to be quick,” Sai told the Daily Mail. “I’m so relieved that we were able to save the kittens. They would have drowned or died of thirst if they went into the sea.”
Thatsaphon Saii, seated, carried the cats on his back to the safety of the Thai navy vessel. Credit: Wichit Pukdeelon/Thai Royal Navy
Saii, Pukdeelon and the rest of their team are caring for the cats at their base on Koh Lipe, an island that together with Koh Adang and several others forms part of a maritime national park. Their heroics have made them celebrities in their country, with thousands of appreciative fans from Thailand sending them congratulatory messages online.
When I was looking to adopt a cat I spent hours on the web reading about cat care, kitten proofing, behavior and, of course, breed.
Run a Google search about looking for the right cat and you’ll get several pages of nearly identical results about different cat breeds, what their personalities are like and what to expect from them.
Yet it turned out advice from a friend — who grew up with cats and has two of his own — was more accurate than anything I’d read online.
“When it comes to cats it’s a crapshoot, man,” my friend told me. “You never know what you’re gonna get.”
I wanted an engaged, friendly pet, and all the breed guides suggested Siamese are the best choice. But what I heard from shelter staffers echoed my friend’s observation: Don’t depend on a breed description because every cat is unique.
In the end I adopted Buddy, a gray tabby domestic shorthair. No particular breed, in other words. (Though he thinks he’s his own special kind of cat, and he’s not wrong.)
Buddy, it turns out, is vocal, bold and friendly. He’s constantly by my side. He’s got a vibrant language of trills, meows and chirps with which he shares his opinion on everything. Where other cats hide when guests are over or a delivery guy knocks on the door, Buddy runs up, curious to see who’s on the other side and if they’re going to be his newest friends.
So why is it so difficult to pin down a cat’s personality, and why don’t cats fit the behavioral profiles of their breeds the way dogs do?
The answer lies in how both animals were domesticated, and their respective paths to becoming companion animals.
Dogs have been working animals for 30,000 years. The earliest dogs helped their humans hunt and guarded their camps at night, alerting them to dangerous situations or intruders. Later, when humans domesticated livestock and developed agriculture, dogs were bred for different purposes: Some herded sheep, some scared off wolves and coyotes, others pulled sleds.
Today we’ve got dogs who sniff out explosives, drugs and diseases. Police dogs catch a scent and help officers track down suspects. Therapy dogs bring joy to the elderly, sick and injured, while guide dogs make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently.
The point is, human hands have indelibly shaped canis familiaris since long before recorded history. These days dogs are valued primarily for their companionship, but virtually every breed has a lineage that began with practicality, meaning humans shaped them for disposition and ability. A dog’s breed is a good indication of its temperament.
Cats? Not so much.
Cats are famously self-domesticated: When humans developed agriculture and began storing grain, rodents flocked to the abundant new food sources, to the dismay of early human societies.
That’s when cats just showed up, exterminating rodents while showing no interest in grain. Humans didn’t need to breed felines to hunt mice and rats — it’s as natural to cats as grooming and burying their business.
Cats didn’t take on many other jobs in addition to their mousing duties, mostly because they’re famously resistant to following orders, but their hunting skills were so valuable to early societies that they didn’t need to do anything else to earn their keep.
Because of that, no one bothered breeding cats until fairly recently, and the vast majority of cat breeding focuses on changing the way cats look, not how they behave.
We like to attribute qualities to cat breeds, and some of them are based in truth. Siamese do tend to talk more than other cats, ragdolls really do go limp when they’re picked up, and Maine Coons are famously chill despite dwarfing most other domestic cats.
But without the behaviorally-specific lineage common to dogs, cat breed behavioral attributes are more like broad stereotypes.
Beyond that, a cat’s personality is primarily determined by genetics and how they were raised in kittenhood. That’s why it’s crucial to handle and socialize kittens when they’re just weeks old, and why ferals will always fear humans.
It’s also why you should take stereotypes about cat breeds with a grain of salt when looking to adopt. If you’re adopting an adult, any good rescue will have information on the cat’s personality, likes and dislikes. If you’re adopting a kitten, you’re pulling the lever on a slot machine.
My advice is to put aside preconceptions about breeds, keep an open mind about looks, and find a cat who connects with you. Like people, no two cats are the same, and a cat’s personality is much more important than the color of its fur when it comes to bonding with an animal who will be in your life for the next 15 to 20 years.
Featured image: Natalie Chettle holds Rupert, a Maine Coone.
NEW YORK — One of the east coast’s most ruthless mafioso cats was sprung from the big house on Saturday, officials from animal control confirmed.
Fat Tony Purrtellini, a capo in the Cattazio crime family, escaped in the chaos following a prison brawl between felines and a group of Chihuahuas, witnesses said.
“It was absolute bedlam,” said Fuzzy, a British shorthair who witnessed the scene. “A rowdy group of Los Gatos were talking all sorts of rubbish and told the Chihuahuas they would be knifed if they didn’t stop yapping, but that only made the Chihuahuas yap even louder. Then Fat Tony tossed fuel on the fire by telling the Gatos that the Chihuahuas barked at their mums.”
The chaotic scene was compounded by the Chihuahuas’ loose relationship with reality, a source at animal control said.
”Chihuahuas think they’re the size of Great Danes,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Someone really needs to give those dogs a mirror.”
As the Gatos rained blows on the pint-size dogs and the dogs retaliated by biting the cats’ tails, Fat Tony Purrtellini was spirited away by a mysterious hooded figure.
“It were Harry Mewdini, I’m sure of it,” one inmate said with hushed reverence. “I’ll never forget that face.”
Mewdini is singlehandedly responsible for at least two dozen jailbreaks, federal authorities say. The mysterious cat was originally a magician who worked birthday parties on the Chuck-E-Cheese circuit, wowing kittens by escaping Schroedinger’s box and making balloon mice until he caught the eye of the Cattazio crime family, which had several members serving time and saw promise in Mewdini’s skills.
The impact of Fat Tony’s escape was already felt on the street, where Gatos crews were posting extra look-outs and beefing up security because of the portly feline’s reputation for ruthless drive-by sprayings.
Others were stocking up on Purrtellini’s favorite snacks — including soppressata, mortadella, capicola and prosciutto — to bribe the infamous meowbster.
“You let your guard down for one minute,” said a nip dealer who refused to give his name for fear of reprisals, “and that’s when Fat Tony rolls up with his crew. We’re all terrified of getting soaked.”
The Dickensian moniker tops a new list of 2020’s most popular male cat names, followed by Charlie and Leo, two names with regal connotations. You can’t throw a dart at a history book without hitting a King Charles, while Leo conjures images of the famed Spartan King Leonidas as well as panthera leo, aka the African lion, often mistakenly called the king of the jungle. (Tigers, not lions, occupy jungles. They’re also the largest cats on the planet.)
Rounding out the royalty-themed names are Simba (at number seven), the eponymous Lion King, Loki (at eighth-most-popular) of son-of-Odin Asgardian fame, George (10) and Louie (13), as in Louis XIV, le Roi Soleil, the Sun King of Versailles.
Here are the top 24, which might seem like an arbitrary number until you read through the list:
Yep. Buddy’s not sure if he should be insulted at the lack of recognition, or happy that the feline Buddies are an apparently exclusive club.
The list was compiled by Rover.com, a site that allows people to connect with pet sitters and dog walkers. The list is based on the most popular names of cats belonging to the site’s registered users.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.