Tag: Featured

Another Cat Proves We’ve Been Seriously Underestimating His Species’ Intelligence

Rabbit the stray seemed to know which humans would help him out.

The street-savvy cat would wait in front of a convenience store, sitting patiently on the sidewalk until he saw a person who would give him a smile or a pat on the head. Then, with Kitty Mind Control Mode enabled, he’d lead his new human minion into the store, guide them to the pet food aisle, and point to his favorite food.

Here’s video of Rabbit in action:

When I saw this, my reaction was sadness: From his familiarity with people to his preference for store-bought cat food, Rabbit was clearly someone’s pet, either lost or abandoned. He’d faced hardship. He was skinny, his snow white fur was dirty, and there was only a stump where his tail should have been.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending.

Tania Lizbeth Santos Coy Tova, a 33-year-old teacher who lives in Mexico, had encountered Rabbit a few times before. She decided to ask about the cat.

“Every time he came to the store, we greeted each other and did the same, he guided me to the shelf and chose the food he wanted,” she said.

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Rabbit inside the store, pointing to the yums he wants.

From a story in UK’s Metro:

The managers of the store explained to Tania that the stray always did the same thing with customers. He understood specific hours and waited until a kind passerby would take pity on him and purchase some food.

Santos Coy Tova wanted to see if Rabbit had a home, so she and a friend followed the friendly cat after encountering him one day. When Santos Coy Tova saw the little guy return to an abandoned house, she decided he’d be coming home with her.

For those of us interested in animal intelligence — and feline smarts in particular — this story is fascinating.

Rabbit knew where cat food was purchased, was good enough at reading human body and facial language to reliably find friendly people who were willing to help, and he knew which package his favorite food came in. In addition, he knew that pointing to the package would draw a person’s attention to it.

He wouldn’t have been able to pull that off without the ability to plan ahead and think in the abstract. He also understood the food had to be purchased, or at least that a human had to get it for him. In the video he doesn’t just leap up at the package and take it, he points and looks back toward his person. That also shows he possesses theory of mind, that he understands humans and other animals have a subjective point of view.

This isn’t happening in a research lab environment, true, but it never could have. These are a unique set of circumstances showing cats understand more than they let on — a lot more.

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A much healthier-looking rabbit in his new home. Great job, little guy!

 

Aliens Spurn Humans, Demand To Speak To Earth’s Cats

WASHINGTON — First contact between humanity and an alien race known as the Zxorxax faced a hiccup on Thursday after the alien delegation demanded a meeting with Earth’s felines.

US and UN leaders were left momentarily confused when one of the Zxorxax leaders interrupted a welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn to issue the demand.

“On this momentous day, the human race extends a warm welcome and rejoices in the knowledge that we are not alone in the univ…”

“Human stop talking!” the Zxorxax Supreme Chancellor, Xoralundra, said while interrupting UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “We demand to speak to the superior race on this planet.”

With the entire world watching via television and satellite feeds, Guterres, American President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Jean-Jacques Claude Louis Macron exchanged pained glances.

“Uh, Supreme Chancellor, you are speaking to the leaders of the human…” Macron began.

“You will be silent, or perish in the purifying blaze of our parametric space-time weaponry!” said an aid to the Supreme Chancellor who identified himself only as the Herald of Xora. “We did not ask to speak to a frog.”

“We will treat only with the great warrior species of your planet,” Xoralundra proclaimed in a booming voice after a long moment of pained silence. “Bring forth the felines.”

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French President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Claude-Baptiste Luc Jean-Rene Landry Louis Macron and American President Donald Trump were snubbed by the Zxorxaxian emissaries to Earth.

By late afternoon White House officials had cleared a conference room for the Zxorxax, where they met with a feline delegation headed by a house cat named Chonkmatic the Magnificent. The world’s most powerful human leaders were left in the hallway outside as the aliens conducted negotiations with the felines.

New York Times reporter Bat Segundo, who was among a handful of media observers permitted inside the negotiation room, said the Zxorxax were delighted when they presented Chonkmatic and his delegation with a priceless artifact from the Zxorxaxian home world as a gift of good will, and the overweight tabby responded by swiping the offering off the table.

“You see?” Xoralundra called out, addressing his fellow Zxorxax. “These felines are great warriors who care not for baubles and riches, unlike the inferior humans of this planet who are besotted with shiny objects.”

Asked later why his delegation demanded to meet with house cats, the Supreme Chancellor said it was purely a matter of practicality.

“We knew upon approaching this system that real power lies in the paws of these impressive creatures,” Xoralundra said, addressing reporters. “Our long-range instrumentation revealed images of humans diligently serving these ‘cats,’ as you call them, and it became quickly apparent that while the humans rule in name, ‘cats’ are the true power on your world.”

The Zxorxax themselves refer to felines as “Sxarxion Hrath’gar,” an alien name that translates roughly to “Legendary Warriors of Great Renown and Prowess.”

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Chonkmatic the Cat has been chosen to negotiate on behalf of all living beings on Earth. Credit: SPCA of Wake County

A second round of negotiations between the aliens and felines has been scheduled for Friday. The Zxorxax seek perpetual rights to Earth’s supply of greenhouse gases, which they consider a delicacy, while the cats have indicated they are willing to make a deal in exchange for a considerable number of alien boxes.

Allison Foley, Chonkmatic’s caretaker, said she would be staying in the White House with her cat as a special guest of the administration for the duration of the talks.

Chonkmatic would be taken back to his suite, fed his favorite brand of chicken wet food, and given the night off to rest before meeting with the aliens again the following day, she said.

“Who’s a good widdle boy? Who just negotiated with an alien race? That’s right, you did!” Foley told the obese cat, scratching behind his ears as he purred and nuzzled her. “Good boy wants yum yums? Okay, mommy’s taking you back to our suite now. Come on, my widdle baby cakes!”

Trump insisted it was always the plan to have the aliens negotiate with felines, and boasted of his “beautiful relationship” with the alien High Chancellor.

“High Chancellor Xoralundra wrote me a big, beautiful letter,” Trump tweeted at 3:22 am on Friday morning. “A tremendous letter, really terrific. The High Chancellor realizes that American cats are the number one cats in the world, they really are. We’re gonna make a deal with the aliens and benefit bigly!”

AI Is Here, And It Wants To Study Your Cat’s Poop

When Alan Turing was dreaming of a future made better by intelligent machines back in 1950, it’s a safe bet he wasn’t imagining computers that could analyze your cat’s excrement.

Turing, often called the father of artificial intelligence, couldn’t have envisioned a device like the LuluPet litter box, which harnesses the combined intelligence of man and machine — a proud lineage of devices from the Speak N Spell to the latest iPhone — to conduct “stool and urine image analysis” and compare your cat’s bowel movements to “excretory behavioral algorithms.”

Excretory behavioral algorithms! A sentence so ridiculous that you must be thinking I’m shitting you, dear reader, just like I double-checked to make sure the whole thing wasn’t some recycled April Fool’s joke.

Nope. The LuluPet litter box is real. It earned an Innovation Award honoree nod at CES 2020’s tech trade show, and it’s headed to Amazon, where you’ll be able to buy it for $149.

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The LuluPet litter box looks like it could be a high-tech microwave built for astronauts on the ISS.

Using a scale and sensor system, LuluPet can determine whether your cat’s performing a Number One or a Number Two inside the covered box, and it’s got visual recognition as well.

Featuring state-of-the-art optical fecal recognition

When your cat goes for a pinch, built-in cameras zoom in on the freshly-dropped deuce nuggets and, uh, log the images to LuluPet’s growing database of kitty crap. That’s when sophisticated algorithms get to work, analyzing the turds’ attributes — including texture, consistency and color, apparently — so it can compare them to others, ostensibly to alert you to any health problems plaguing your stoic kitty.

Worried that the device won’t work because your cat buries her business? Fear not! LuluPet uses “AI image restoration technologies” to recreate your cat’s turd so it can run it through its stool database.

“The litter box comes with 2 AI systems: one for litter analysis, and another that analyzes clumping between litter and litter box material,” the Taiwan-based company explains. “The latter attempts to reconstruct litter shape and present it to the former for confirmation, and can currently identify litter with an accuracy of up to 90%.”

NASA doesn’t even have tech like this!

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“SkyNET became self-award in my litter box!”

Put away those fears of rogue AI trying to wipe out humanity. Lighten up. Take a load off. AI doesn’t want to kill you. It just wants to amass the world’s most impressive collection of feline fecal photographs.

There’s an app for that

Of course, you may want to verify your cat is performing healthy bowel movements for yourself, and an integrated app allows you to tap into the litter box’s camera feed to watch kitty having a nice growler. Welcome to the future, folks.

And for those of you who think this is a fantastic idea but might balk at the pricy LuluPet because you’ve got an entire pride of little lions, fear not: The device’s AI can differentiate between the output of multiple cats by looking for the unique features of each kitty’s downloads.

Again, I’m totally not making this up.

Now that we’ve had our fun, it’s only fair to note the LuluPet litter box is well-intentioned, and if it works as intended, it could lead to critical early diagnosis for animals who are notorious for hiding pain and discomfort:

“Among the top ten causes of death for domestic cats, seven were feces-related diseases. Cats, however, are born concealers of their own weaknesses, making it difficult for owners to find out whether their precious feline is in pain. LuluPet illustrates this with the example of kidney failure: Statistically, a cat’s kidneys are 70% damaged by the time the owner suspects an illness and brings the cat to the veterinarian. The organ damage is not only irreversible, but subsequent medical fees may cost up to US$ 1,200.

Sick cats aren’t completely undetectable. According to the Bristol stool scale, cat feces may be divided into 7 categories, ranging from constipation to diarrhea; constipation may be caused by the pressing of a tumor, while symptoms of diarrhea may be the result of common systemic diseases such as kidney failure. Stool analysis thus becomes the most straightforward way of detecting these diseases.”

Maybe an all-knowing machine overlord to watch over your feline overlord isn’t such a bad thing.

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“Urinalysis complete. Stool satisfactory. Have a nice day.”

Dear Sir or Madam: I Have Recently Come Into An Inheritance of 5,000lbs of Premium Catnip

Dear Sir or Madam,

Warm salutations and greetings to you, my friend! I am writing to your most esteemed personage having just been informed by my attorneys that I stand to inherit more than 5,000 pounds of premium catnip, including Meowie Wowie, Purrple Haze, Kitty Kush and Mewbury OG.

However, due to the Byzantine inheritance laws of my homeland of Nigeria, I am unable to come into my considerable catnip fortune without an American bank account, which is needed to pay the inheritance fee to the Nigerian Office of Catnip Inheritance.

This is where I must humbly ask for your assistance, good sir or madame. It is my fervent hope that we may come to an agreement in which you allow me to make the inheritance payment from your account in exchange for a large portion of my inheritance. Would 2,000 pounds of catnip be acceptable recompense to you for this favor?

Yours truly, your friend,

Grand Prince Four One Nine, Nigerian Royal Family Cat


Dear 419,

Wow! Five thousand pounds of catnip! This sounds almost too good to be true! If I were you I’d build a big vault for all my catnip and go swimming in it daily, like Scrooge McDuck does with his money!

I don’t know where Nigeria is but it sounds like a wonderful country. I stole my human’s bank information and have attached it to this email. When will I get my 2,000 pounds of catnip?

Your friend,

Buddy

High on catnip!
Photo by Andrew Marttila.

Dearest Most Magnificent Buddy,

Warm salutations! It is my life’s honor to count you among my friends and execute this business deal together. Good fortune smiles on us both, and soon we will be bathing in rivers of catnip, the envy of all other cats!

There has been a small hiccup with the Ministry of Inheritance. In order to process my payment, I am required to submit a small processing fee with the Royal Processing Fee Bureau of Nigeria. It is only a paltry sum of $2,000, but again I am only able to make this payment via an American bank account.

If you would be so kind as to authorize the payment, you shall be reimbursed of course and we will be basking in our new catnip fortunes shortly!

With great affection and respect,

Four One Nine, Feline of the Nigerian Royal Family


Dear 419,

If you can repay the $2,000 right away, I’m happy to help! I’ll look out for the check and the catnip in the mail!

Buddy

Mmmm, catnip!
Photo by Andrew Martilla.

Most Marvelous Benefactor Buddy,

You, Sir, are my most valued and trusted friend! They say American cats are fat, lazy and selfish, but they are wrong, for you are not selfish at all! I have let it be known in my village that Buddy of America is a wonderful and wise cat. They sing songs about you and your generosity.

We are almost in possession of our catnip, my friend! All that remains is to cover the shipping fee and the Royal Nigerian Export fee. They are paltry sums, merely $4,000 and $3,500 respectively. I have already had my servant mail the $2,000 reimbursement for the processing fee, and will similarly return the funds promptly upon paying the export and shipping fees from your respected American bank account.

I received but a small sample of the Meowie Wowie this afternoon and raise a toast in your honor!

Your Loyal Friend,

Four One Nine, Cat Royal of the Family


Dear 419,

I’m fresh out of cash. What if I could scrounge up some cans of tuna and some old toys? Could we bribe the clerk to waive the export fee?

Buddy


Dear 419,

I haven’t gotten my $2,000 reimbursed and still no catnip! I know you probably forgot to write me back, but can you please tell me what the status is?

Buddy


Dear 419,

You tricked me! No catnip, no reimbursement, no village cats singing songs about me!

It just so happens I have a cousin in your country. He’s gonna pay you a visit!

Buddy

DBBAAD4A-4337-4064-A962-713532E3931C
Photo by Andrew Martilla.

Dearest Most Esteemed Honorable Buddy,

Your, ahem, cousin presented himself just minutes ago. Please, on my behalf, thank him again for not eating me! I did not know lions could be so merciful and had already emptied my bladder by the time I realized he would allow me to live.

Here is your $2,000 and the first 200 lbs of catnip you are owed. The rest will be delivered in installments for the next 24 months.

Lastly, I am instructed to inform you that, per your cousin’s direction, the music teachers have been drafting paeans to your majesty, and the kittens will stage a three-act play about how awesome you and your cousin are. But mostly your cousin.

Begging your forgiveness,

Four One Nine

All photos in this post are from photographer Andrew Marttila’s book, appropriately titled Cats on Catnip. Buddy highly recommends checking it out!

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Photo by Andrew Martilla.

Meanwhile, in Africa…

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Buddy’s cousin, enjoying the, uh, fruits of his labor. Photo credit: Linton Zoo

Study: Cats Really Do View Us As Parents

In a discovery that won’t surprise most feline servants, scientists have concluded cats really do get attached to us even if they have a funny way of not showing it.

The internet is abuzz this week with news of a study that indicates a cat’s bond with his human is much like a child’s bond with a parent.

The research, conducted by a team at Oregon State University, sought to gauge how attached cats are to their owners by putting them in a strange situation and seeing how they react with their humans present and without.

In the study a cat is led into a strange room accompanied by his or her human. After two minutes the human exits and the cat is left alone in the unfamiliar room. Another two minutes later, the cat’s servant returns.

It’s the way the cat acts when its human is away — and how it adjusts when the owner returns — that interests researchers. And sure enough, domestic feline behavior followed a familiar pattern:

  1. With owner/servant in the room: “What is this strange place? What are we doing here?”
  2. Human exits: “Oh no! Don’t leave me in here! I don’t know what this place is! Come back! Hey, come back here! This place looks, smells and feels funny. I’m scared!”
  3. Human returns: “Ah! Okay, much better. I’m just gonna rub up against you so I feel better. You know, this room isn’t so bad after all, is it? You look pretty calm. That means I should be calm, right?”

Although it might seem strange that scientists can learn so much from such a simple experiment, the result is important because the way cats react is precisely the way small kids and dogs react to strange situations.

Cat Hugs His Human
“I love you, furless human, and I’m not just saying that ’cause you feed me!”

It’s all about what psychologists call secure attachment: When a child is bonded with her parent, the mere presence of that parent lends calm and comfort in a strange situation.

Without mom or dad present, the kid is unsure, cautious and maybe even frightened. But with mom or dad in the room, the child feels comfortable and safe enough to go exploring and isn’t intimidated by the new environment. Psychologists call it a “secure base test” because it means kids use their parents as a safe “base” from which to explore.

Two decades ago, researchers broke new ground when experiments showed dogs behave the same way, drawing comfort and feeling more secure with their owners nearby.

“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans,” study author Kristyn Vitale said. “The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

Another Cat Enjoying A Hug
Must be nice to have a cat who enjoys hugs!

It took another 20 years for scientists to try the same experiment with cats, mostly because felines have a reputation — not undeserved — of being very difficult to work with.

That is, cats don’t always feel like playing nice and participating in a study because, well, they’re cats.

This latest study isn’t the first time researchers have tried to gauge feline attachment to their humans, but it’s the most expansive study of the phenomenon to date: The Oregon State University team conducted the test with some 80 kittens younger than eight months, then repeated the same experiment with adult cats.

The idea was to determine if cats grow out of their emotional attachment. The results suggest they don’t, which lends credence to the theory that domestic cats under the care of humans are, in some respects, kittens for life.

“Once an attachment style has been established between the cat and its caregiver, it appears to remain relatively stable over time, even after a training and socialization intervention,” Vitale said. “Cats that are insecure can be likely to run and hide or seem to act aloof. There’s long been a biased way of thinking that all cats behave this way. But the majority of cats use their owner as a source of security. Your cat is depending on you to feel secure when they are stressed out.”

For those of us currently employed as cat servants, that last bit is important: Cats most definitely do pick up on our moods even when it seems like they don’t.

To read more, check out a 2015 study by Italian scientists that found cats look to their owners for emotional cues about how to respond to new situations, and a 2017 by the same Oregon State University team that found cats value human interaction just as much as they value food.

Buddy Angry
“Buddy doesn’t do hugs, okay? Buddy speaks in the third person, Buddy meows insistently for dinner, but Buddy does not do hugs. Deal with it, human.”