Tag: domestic cats

Reason #22 To Keep Your Cats Indoors: Bubonic Plague!

A cat in Colorado has tested positive for the Bubonic Plague.

You read that right. The same bacterial infection that was called the Plague of Justinian back in the 6th century BC, killed one out of every four people living in the Mediterranean, then flared up occasionally every century or two before returning with a vengeance in 14th century Europe, where it was called the Black Death and killed a third of the population on the continent.

That plague.

The kitty ranges near a public park and likely caught the infection from a rat, local health authorities told KUSA, an NBC news affiliate.

Like many infections, it was never completely eradicated, and WHO statistics show about 100 people die annually of plague.

“While plague is a serious disease, and cases of animal-borne disease in household pets is never something we like to see, it is normal and expected for some animals to contract plague in Jefferson County each year,” said Jim Rada, director of Environmental Health Services for the county. “The good news is that modern antibiotics are effective against plague, and as long as it is treated promptly, severe complications, illness or death can be avoided.”

When we think of outdoor dangers to cats, we tend to think of abusive humans, vehicle traffic or poisons, but this is a reminder that nature can be lethal as well.

Worship Us, Oh Puny Humans!

Pain In The Bud

Dear Buddy,

Did you hear the news about the cat mummies and the big trove of cat statues found by archaeologists in Egypt? My dad says Egypt is a special place ‘cause that’s where humans used to worship us a long time ago. Is that true? Why did they stop?

Kitten in Kentucky


Dear KiK,

Your dad is right! Egypt is a magical land, a place where humans were once keenly aware of our status as the most awesome species on Earth.

Egypt is where you’ll find the biggest litter box on the planet. It stretches for miles and miles until finally the horizon reveals a huge weather-worn statue of a cat and three stone pyramids jutting out of the litter.

The Great Sphinx and Pyramids of GizaThe Great Sphinx of Giza keeps watch over the world’s most sacred litter box.

It is said that by pooping in front of the Great Sphinx and reverently burying…

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Cat Defends His Territory From An Elephant In Thailand

So this story about a cat fearlessly staring down an elephant in Thailand has gone viral, and the photo is admittedly pretty incredible. Bud would’ve soiled himself and bolted, but this cat is truly brave.

“This is my territorah!” we imagine the cat declaring. “Find your own trees!”

The cat’s name is Simba, he’s three years old, and the photos were taken on the night of Nov. 17 in Thailand’s Nakhon Nayok province, about 112 km (70 miles in the Proper American Method of Measuring Distance™) northeast of Bangkok.

Beyond that, though, it’s actually a sad story: You know things are truly dire when we’ve destroyed so much wildlife habitat that elephants are coming up to people’s houses and eating the trees and shrubs in their gardens. Elephants usually do everything they can to avoid humans, and for good reason: Conflicts almost always end poorly for the elephants.

We hope this photo draws the attention of the right people, who can perhaps mitigate the situation or put resources into moving the elephants to a more suitable range.

catandelephant

P.S. Buddy disputes any and all allegations that he would have soiled himself or run away from elephants. In fact, the elephants are lucky they don’t share a continent with Buddy!

Does Your Cat Like To Teleport?

I was working on a writing project late one night when I got up from my desk, intending to head to the kitchen for a beverage when I almost stumbled over Buddy, who was lounging care free and belly-up in my bedroom doorway.

“Not a good place to lounge, Bud,” I said, stepping over him as he stretched and yawned.

I took another step, looked up…and saw Bud sitting on the dinner table about 12 feet ahead of me, fixing me with his quizzical Buddy Stare. WTF? I thought.

teleportingcat

I did a double-take, looking down at the doorway where the little dude had been laying just a second ago, then turned back toward the table. Buddy regarded me, head cocked slightly to one side as his tail gently thumped the table.

For a long second I entertained the possibility that there were two cats, that somehow a gray tabby who looked a lot like Bud had gotten inside, and for some unfathomable reason Buddy was perfectly nonchalant about it.

“No teleporting in the house!” I told him. “It’s rude!”

“Mrrreppp,” Bud replied, hopping down from the table and stepping toward the kitchen.

teleportingcat2

The story comes to mind because we had another teleporting incident last night, with little man lounging on my bed, then appearing on my desk chair half a second later.

It’s easy to forget how quick and silent cats can be when it suits them, especially since the majority of their time is spent sleeping, eating and lounging. Their little legs can accelerate them to 30 miles per hour, which leaves average humans in the dust and even surpasses the fastest human runners.

Not bad for a species known for its unmatched laziness.

Please share feline teleportation stories if you’ve got ’em. We must further investigate this additional facet of feline weirdness!

No, A Study Did Not Conclude Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats

“Study finds dogs are more than twice as smart as cats,” the clickbait headline reads:

A study gives dog owners solid scientific evidence that dogs really are smarter than cats.

A study led by Vanderbilt University counted for the first time the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brains of cats and dogs and found that dogs have more than twice as many neurons as cats.

The research found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million. These neurons are the brain cells associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior, which are all considered hallmarks of intelligence.
That’s from a story published Aug. 30 on Local12.com, the website of a Cincinatti-area news station.
So what’s wrong with the story?
  • It’s dishonest: The study was conducted in 2017, but the Local12 story presents it as news in August of 2019.
  • It quotes the study’s lead author, giving the impression a reporter from Local12 spoke to her. That did not happen. The quotes were copied and pasted from the press release that originally announced the study two years ago.
  • It misinterprets the study’s results: Neither neuron count nor brain size — relative or absolute — are reliable indicators of intelligence.
This is what passes for news in 2019: Old, recycled content presented as new information, slapped together by a web producer who didn’t bother to read more than the study’s abstract.
It’s all about traffic and designing pieces of content ready-made for Facebook feeds.
But what about the central claim, that the number of neurons in an animal’s brain correlates to intelligence?
If that were true, we’d be living on a planet dominated not by humans, but by elephants: Earth’s largest terrestrial animal has some 260 billion neurons compared to an average of 100 billion for humans.

Elephants
“Hear that, son? We have more neurons than humans!”

Research suggests the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex, as opposed to the entire brain, may be a better indicator of intelligence. Indeed, that’s what the study focuses on. The cerebral cortex is associated with higher cognitive functions. As you’d expect, humans have unusually high neuron counts in that region of the brain.
But by that measurement, humans aren’t at the top either.
If neuron density in the cerebral cortex was the primary indicator of intelligence, the long-finned pilot whale would reign supreme, and other types of whales and dolphins would rival humans.
Not only do pilot whales have twice as many cortical neurons as humans, their brains have much more surface area, which scientists once believed corresponded to intelligence.

Pilot Whales
“Actually we are the Earth’s smartest creatures according to cortical neuron count. Suck it!”

So if we’re keeping score, intelligence is not determined by:
  • The number of neurons in the brain
  • The number of neurons in the cerebral cortex
  • Brain size
  • Brain size relative to body mass
  • Brain surface area
  • Brain “folds”
At one time or another, each of those things was thought of as the way to measure smarts. So if none of those things are true markers of intelligence, what is?
That’s the million-dollar question. We don’t have an answer, which is why scientists conduct this kind of research in the first place.
Contrary to what the article claims, cortical neuron count does not provide “solid scientific evidence that dogs really are smarter than cats.”
But that doesn’t make for a clickable, shareable headline, does it?
In truth, we can’t even define what “more intelligent” really means because each species sees the world differently, and has different priorities to enable it to survive and thrive.
When we measure intelligence, we measure it on a human scale, according to how we humans see the world. That’s hardly an impartial way of evaluating the intelligence of animals with much different needs and ways of seeing the world, and it doesn’t yield many useful insights.
Keeping that in mind is particularly important when it comes to studying cats, who have their own agendas and priorities. Dogs are eager to please and obedient. Cats only listen when it suits them.
That doesn’t mean one is smarter than the other, it simply means they’re different