Tag: feline behavior

New Human Surprisingly Easy To Manipulate, Rescue Cat Says

NEW YORK — It took only six seconds for Jenna, Mikey’s new human, to open the bathroom door when guilted with mournful meows on Wednesday, the newly-homed cat reported.

The 28-year-old human woman entered the bathroom without her recently-adopted feline at approximately 6:22 pm on Wednesday.

“I said to myself, ‘Mikey, we gotta nip this in the bud right away. We can’t have her thinking she can use the bathroom without us, can we?'” the white moggie said.

Mikey launched into a routine that involved scratching the frame, reaching under the door and meowing frantically — “the classics,” he said.

Six seconds later the bathroom door opened, revealing a concerned Jenna.

“Oh my poor baby, are you okay?” she asked, extending a hand as Mikey padded into the bathroom. “I was worried! It sounded like someone was strangling you!”

Mikey said he milked his new human’s sympathy for all he could get.

“I flopped onto my back, gave out a little ‘Muurrrp!’ and looked at her with my big, sad eyes,” he told reporters. “A few minutes later she was in the kitchen, showering me with snacks. Easy peasy!”

catpaw
Paws under the door: A classic feline manipulative strategy that almost always yields results, especially if you can grab something!

Mikey, who spent almost three months in a local shelter as younger cats were adopted during kitten season, said he’s proceeding cautiously in his new home and plans to use his keen feline powers of observation to develop a meticulous catalogue of which buttons to push at specific times “to yield maximum snackage and massages.”

“I haven’t used my solicitation purr yet,” he said. “So far my human’s been pliable and gives me what I want, when I want it. The other night she spent four hours laying in a very uncomfortable-looking position to avoid disturbing me while I napped on her shoulder. I want to see how far I can take it before bringing out the big guns.”

Patience has paid off, Mikey said.

“Her boyfriend came over the other night,” he said. “I could have hissed, peed in his shoes, chased him off. After all, there can only be one man of the house. But he brought a gift for me, one of those track towers with the ball you swat around, you know? I have to admit, I was impressed that he knew enough to pay tribute to me. That guy’s alright.”

How Long Can You Leave Your Cat Alone?

Back in the Dark Ages of kitty cognitive knowledge, when scientists wouldn’t go near a cat with a 20-foot pole because they were considered impossible to work with, the conventional wisdom was that as long as a cat was fed and watered, its needs were met.

Going away for three days? Leave a few bowls of dry food and water and you’re good to go, or if you really want to splurge, get an automatic feeder, the prevailing wisdom went. Gonna be away for a week or two? Get someone to check in on the cat a few times a week just to make sure food and water is available.

“If you want a dog but you don’t have time to meet all of its needs, get a cat,” people would say. “They take care of themselves.”

It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong the “prevailing wisdom” on cats really was, and thankfully in recent years we’ve seen a boom in research into cat behavior, intelligence and emotional needs. Among the many things verified by those studies is the fact that cats absolutely are emotional animals and are not the cold, indifferent automatons many people insisted they were.

One reason for that enduring myth may be cats’ famous stoicism. Ignore a dog and she might cry, become destructive or pee in your house, but one thing’s for sure — she’s going to let you know she’s not handling the isolation well. Ignore a cat, and he’ll just withdraw.

I’ve seen plenty of examples of the latter in the homes of friends and acquaintances. The cats are just sort of there, existing like the furniture or plants, interacted with rarely and given affection only occasionally. Those poor cats are quiet, seemingly indifferent, expecting nothing and sadly accepting of their place. They are neglected.

But when you pay attention to your cats they come out of their shells, so to speak. They warm to you. They reveal their hidden emotional core.

Of course, when you raise a cat with attention and love, that’s there from the very beginning, and they WILL let you know when they’re not happy with your absence.

Who do we know who’s like that? His name sounds like Bum, or maybe Bunny, or…oh yeah! God forbid I should ignore Buddy. I’ll never hear the end of it. In fact, he’s on my desk right now, butt parked next to the mouse, and I’m sure any minute now he’s going to decide that I’ve been writing for too long and declare it’s Buddy Time.

Of course, the little jerk attacked his own cat sitter, a friend who has been caring for him when I’m away since he was a kitten! That complicates things.

“Oh servant! Servant, come here at once! I’d like a massage!”

If you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering how long you can really leave your cat alone. The answer is no more than 24 hours without someone dropping by to check on kitty, refill the water and food bowls, and give him some attention.

If you’re gone longer you’re going to want to make concrete plans for a cat sitter to be there every day.

“You should not leave your cat alone for a prolonged period,” veterinary postdoc Mikel Delgado told Inverse. “Cats also have emotional and social needs that can’t be met when they are left alone for extended periods.”

If your cat likes to play, that’s great, but even if the little one doesn’t, your cat sitter can make things easier by simply hanging out, Delgado said.

Now if you’ll excuse me, His Grace needs me…

The Very Reverend Buddy: ‘Let Us Pray’

I managed to film a brief clip of Buddy enthusiastically “praying.”

This gesture is also called cat pleading or begging in various corners of the interwebs, but as far as I can tell it really doesn’t have anything to do with asking or pleading. I’ve seen my cat do the same motion while he doesn’t think anyone else is around, while he’s at the window looking at birds, and at other random times.

The gesture is so random that this is the first time I’ve managed to get a decent clip of it. Usually by the time I’ve got my phone pointed at His Grace and begun recording, he’s finished his “prayers.”

I have no clue what it means or why some cats do it. All I know is that it’s a fairly rare thing. Perhaps a cat behaviorist somewhere could offer some insight.

Reverend Bud
“Dear Lord, provide me with turkey.”

Also: Happy Adoptaversary to Holly B, Retro Dee’s cute furball. Holly is named after Buddy Holly, so she’s a little buddy too, and she’s been with Dee for two years now. We wish Holly good health and many more years with her loving human, Dee.

sleepsweird3-1
Holly getting some Z’s in a uniquely feline way. Credit: RetroDee

Study: Cats Will Happily Accept Food From Jerks

Taking studies designed for children and dogs and applying them to cats has been all the rage lately after a series of studies yielded new insights about the way cats bond with their humans.

Earlier studies showed cats, like kids and dogs, look to their humans for reassurance in strange situations and derive comfort from the latter’s presence. Likewise, they’re less confident if they’re forced to face unknown situations without the “security blanket” of their big buddies nearby.

Now a research team in Kyoto has taken another study designed for dogs — known as the “helpful stranger” study — and placed cats in the same situation to find out how they react.

Sure, I'll Take A Treat!
A new study shows cats don’t discriminate when it comes to who’s giving them food.

Both humans and dogs show a preference for what researchers call “prosocial individuals.” In plain language, it means they pay attention to the way strangers treat the people they care about. A dog who sees a stranger respond negatively to its caretaker will avoid the stranger, even if the latter is waving a delicious treat.

In the study, cats watch their owners try to open a box while two strangers are present:

“[C]ats watched as their owner first tried unsuccessfully to open a transparent container to take out an object, and then requested help from a person sitting nearby. In the Helper condition, this second person (helper) helped the owner to open the container, whereas in the Non-Helper condition the actor refused to help, turning away instead. A third, passive (neutral) person sat on the other side of the owner in both conditions.

After the interaction, the actor and the neutral person each offered a piece of food to the cat, and we recorded which person the cat took food from. Cats completed four trials and showed neither a preference for the helper nor avoidance of the non-helper.”

At first glance it looks like cats really don’t care if a person is helpful or friendly toward their “owners.” If a person is offering them yums, why shouldn’t they take them?

That sounds like exactly the sort of thing cats would do, but the research team says we should hold off on judging our food-loving feline friends. It may be that cats simply don’t understand that the stranger(s) aren’t being helpful. After all, if your cat sees you struggling with a package, does she offer to help?

If it is true, it’s not necessarily cats’ fault: We’ve long known they aren’t as well-attuned to human social cues as dogs are, a fact that can be attributed to their route to domestication. There simply wasn’t any reason to carefully breed cats to pick up on those cues, as we did historically with dogs, because cats were already wildly successful at their primary job, which was rodent extermination. Taking on cuddle and companionship duties didn’t happen until later when people began to value the little ones for more than their sharp claws and teeth.

“We consider that cats might not possess the same social evaluation abilities as dogs, at least in this situation, because unlike the latter, they have not been selected to cooperate with humans,” the scientists wrote.

The research team says the results are suggestive, but more studies should be done before drawing any real conclusions about our furry friends. Knowing cats often get a bad rep due to stereotypes and misunderstandings, we agree.

Mom Cat Dies In Fire Protecting Kittens With Her Own Body

One of the most compelling cat stories I’ve ever heard involved a reader of this blog, a woman who took in a white stray she named Snowy.

Snowy was a street cat who was always with a male cat, and the woman fed them both whenever they came by. Soon it became clear Snowy was pregnant, and her trusting tom — the father of her babies — nuzzled her goodbye as Snowy accepted the woman’s invitation to move inside at least temporarily so she’d have a safe place to give birth to her kittens.

In the three weeks that followed, Snowy raised her kittens in the woman’s home, and the tomcat would come by daily to see her and their little ones.

Snowy died when a pair of dogs climbed the porch steps, snapping at her kittens. Snowy fought the dogs off while her babies escaped, but she died from her injuries.

The poor tom who had been her constant companion came by the next night and meowed for her. He showed up again and again, meowing mournfully each night, distraught at her disappearance.

The story shows cats are capable of extraordinary empathy and love: The love between Snowy and her mate, who was protective of Snowy and loving with their babies, an unusual trait in toms. The love Snowy had for her babies, sacrificing her life for theirs. And the love the crestfallen woman had for those kittens when she returned home and found Snowy dead and the kittens hiding.

Another story of a mother who gave her life for her kittens reinforces the idea that cats are capable of great love and empathy.

When a mobile home in Pasco County, Florida, caught fire this week, the man who lived there was able to escape but his cats were trapped and firefighters couldn’t reach them.

Molly the kitten
Molly’s mom sacrificed her life to save the 2 1/2-week-old kitten.

The mother cat covered her kittens with her body, laying on top of them and remaining there even as the fire scorched her.

When firefighters poked through the debris, they found the cat and her kittens. The mom and one of her babies died at the veterinary hospital, but one kitten survived.

“It seemed as if mom did everything possible to protect her kittens, even risking her own life in their defense, but the flames and the smoke were too much,” said Rick Chaboudy, executive director of the Suncoast Animal League. “But mom managed to protect one of her kittens from the blaze, enough to give that kitty a chance at life. Other than her whiskers being burned completely off and a slight odor of smoke, she is doing well with her bottle feeding and her cuddling.”

Staff at the shelter named the kitten Molly after Molly Williams, a former slave who became the first black female firefighter in the US. Molly the kitten is expected to make a full recovery.

What’s that? A tear, you say? Absurd! Buddy and I do not cry. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to toss a football around, talk about trucks and fix some things around the house with power tools.

Buddy the Manly
“In addition to being handsome, I am very meowscular and I know kung fu!”