Say hello to felis retrowavus, commonly known as the synthwave cat, one of the rarest species of felid on Earth.
Using the same technique GloFish employed to create bioluminescent neon fish for the pet market, scientists engineered felis retrowavus by extracting fluorescent proteins from jellyfish and inserting them into cat embryos, which incorporated the new proteins into their genome.
The result? A new species of cat that glows in fabulous colors like Tigerbrite Orange™, Electro Azure™, RadarGlo Green™, 1984 Pink™ and SithRed™!
Your brand new Neon Feline™ will run, jump and meow just like a regular cat, but unlike a plain old kitty, your Neon Feline™ will snuggle up with you at night and serve as your personal biological night light! Collect them all!
If that sounds like BS, that’s because it is.
Likewise, it should only take a second or two to realize the widely disseminated photo of a “snake cat” is a fake rendered by an AI.
The image has all the hallmarks of an AI generated image fail: Anatomical errors, fuzzy pixels where the AI struggled with the way light hits fur, a misshapen head and a nebulous, blurry background.
Although the media seems to be more obsessed with the snake cat hoax than people are (the snake cat image “mystified the internet,” the New York Post claims), after years of witnessing people take Onion stories seriously and confidently repeat misinformation online, I’m not really surprised when something like this makes the rounds.
The image was accompanied by a clever bit of writing claiming the cat isn’t well known because it’s native to the deep jungle of the Amazon, where scientists have difficulty tracking it. The text even offered a taxonomical name for the cryptid animal.
Enough people apparently fell for it that the staff at Snopes felt the need to debunk the image, even going as far as to check with a biologist who specializes in tropical fauna.
The original author of the snake cat post says he created the image and accompanying text to prove how easy it is for people to be fooled by AI-generated fakes. A noble goal if true, but I’m not sure everyone got the message.
In any case, the “snake cat” proves once again that AI, like all innovations, isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s what we do with the technology that counts.
Now can I interest anyone in a brand new Purple Velvet or Flaming Hot Cheetos SnuggleCat™?
Jinx the cat was so grateful to UK couple Martin Rosinski and Michelle Bowyer for giving her a home that she decided to bring them a gift.
“The first time I was working at home, I heard Michelle making a commotion because Jinx had come in with a mouse and dumped it on the carpet in front of her as a ‘thank you’. That’s their way of expressing love. You can’t tell her off, so we thanked her a lot for it and took it away from her,” Rosinski said.
“Then this started happening more and more often to the point where we would be woken up at 2 a.m. as Jinx would meow loudly and announce, ‘Hey I have a gift. If we didn’t get to her fast enough she would decide to eat it herself, which would involve piles of mouse parts being smeared into the carpet. This was happening at 2 a.m., then again at 4 a.m. on many nights and we’d not get any sleep having to deal with this. Her record was four in one night – that night was a frenzy of three mice and one bird. It was something that was a real cause of stress.”
The solution is pretty simple, right? Keep Jinx inside.
The former stray won’t like it at first. There will be an adjustment period when the meowing will be seriously annoying. But it’s better than allowing your cat to play Predator at night and waking up to find your cat sitting on your chest, proudly presenting a twitching mouse to you.
Rosinski and Bowyer didn’t take Jinx inside.
Instead they created a bespoke intelligent cat flap that allows Jinx to come and go as she pleases, but won’t open if she’s carrying prey. They both have backgrounds in tech: he’s a researcher who also tinkers with software and hardware, and she’s a web developer.
Their system, OnlyCat, uses a camera and an algorithm to determine if Jinx is carrying something in her mouth. If she is, the cat flap won’t grant her access, and Bowyer and Rosinski will get a text informing them Jinx has been up to her hi-jinx again, along with a photo of her entry attempt.
The OnlyCat prototype has prevented Jinx from bringing in 42 prey animals since June of 2021, the couple said. OnlyCat may prevent her from bringing her prey inside, but it hasn’t dissuaded her from killing.
“Two months ago I think something clicked and she realized, ‘I can’t bring these home. It’s just not going to work,’” Rosinski told the UK’s South West News Service. “She still catches them outside but she’s learned that there’s no point even trying to bring them home, which is a relief.”
The couple developed the OnlyCat into a full product, which launches on Aug. 16 at £499. (A little more than $600 USD.) Their site says the retail version of the flap has worked 100 percent of the time in tests, and the developers believe “99%+ accuracy should be achievable for everyone.”
Hamm’s version, which he created for his cat Metric in 2019, initiates a 15-minute lockout timer if Metric tries to enter while carrying a kill, and automatically sends a donation to the National Audubon Society, which protects birds and their habitats. The algorithm was trained using tens of thousands of images of cats approaching normally, and with prey in their mouths. So far, Hamm hasn’t developed a retail version of his AI-enabled cat flap.
We don’t think there’s any one way to raise cats, and it’s obvious there are different cat cultures in various countries.
Nevertheless, seven out of 10 cat owners in the UK allow their cats to roam free, and anecdotes like the ones about Jinx, with her multiple kills a night habit, draw the ire of birders and conservationists.
Maybe it’s time for more people to reconsider allowing their cats to roam free. Like putting a cat on a diet or trying to break a bad habit, there’ll be loud and annoying protests in meow, and it’ll get worse before it gets better, but eventually cats always adjust to changes if given long enough.
As domesticated animals they don’t have a natural habitat anymore, and they don’t actually need to be outside. It’s entirely possible to keep things fun and interesting for the furry little guys, and that’s on us. All that’s required is our time, attention and affection. Interactive play time. Toys that can keep a cat occupied by herself. Catnip. Condos and tunnels. Window perches. Cat TV on Youtube. Simple things to play with, like plastic bottle rings, crinkled tin foil and cardboard boxes.
We don’t think anyone should be required to keep their cats indoors, and that’s the point. We have an opportunity to meet conservationists halfway and make a real effort to reduce feline impact on small wildlife. If we don’t, eventually we’ll be forced to comply by laws that’ll be draconian compared to the voluntary measures we could have taken to prevent the government from getting involved.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.