Tag: Halloween

Dear Buddy: Can Cats Sense Ghosts?

Dear Buddy,

Can cats sense ghosts? My Mr. Cuddles sometimes stares at blank walls or gets up and starts zooming around the house for no apparent reason at 3 a.m.

I’m pretty sure he can see and sense ghosts. After all, what other explanation can there be for that kind of behavior? But since you’re the smartest cat in the world and an expert on everything, I thought I’d ask you first.

Thanks!

Ghost Believer in Great Britain


Dear Ghost Believer,

First I’d like to take the opportunity to set the record straight: I did NOT run screaming when I watched The Ring with my human, and I did NOT run to my litter box and cry when we watched Alien. Those are vicious lies invented by Los Gatos, the criminal catnip cartel, who will stop at nothing to discredit me. Now for the answer to your question:

According to Occam’s razor, “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” Or to put it another way, “It is pointless to do with more what can be done with fewer.”

Consider, my friend, that the burden of proof rests with the person who claims ghosts exist. Not once in the history of humans — or cats — has anyone been able to provide legitimate evidence of the supernatural. In fact, the word supernatural itself precludes existence on the physical plane: If we can see it, hear it, smell it and feel it, it exists in the physical world, and therefore cannot be supernatural.

This is why, invariably, supernatural phenomena turn out to be things we just don’t understand yet, and by understanding them we remove all the mystery.

The sun isn’t a god riding a chariot across the sky, it’s a star and our world is caught in its orbit. Lightning isn’t an angry Zeus hurling bolts from Olympus, it’s an electrostatic discharge that produces a flash of extreme heat in the atmosphere, leading to a visible flash and a shockwave we call thunder. The Pythia at Delphi wasn’t an oracle who communed with the gods, she was just really, really high off gases that seeped up from a fault line beneath the temple.

Cat Zeus
“I am Cat Zeus! Fear me, for my lightning bolts are powerful and my epic beard is comprised of cats!”

So, too, do our odd feline behaviors have mundane explanations:

  • We can hear things you can’t hear. If you see us staring at blank walls, we’re probably engaged in deep thought (I like to ponder the Fermi paradox and quantum entanglement), or maybe we’re looking in the direction of a sound we can hear, but falls outside of your hearing range. (We felines can hear sounds up to 64,000 Hz, while your inferior human ears can’t catch anything above 20,000 Hz.) That means you may be oblivious to the mice chirping behind the wall, but we know all about them.
  • We can see things you can’t see. You think it’s pitch black? That’s cute. While you stumble around with your eyes useless in the dark, we can see just fine. In fact, even the tiniest sliver of light — an amount imperceptible to you — is enough for us to successfully navigate obstacles in a room or catch movement in our field of vision. You may think we’re pawing at invisible entities at bedtime, but really we’re just swatting flies in the dark.
  • We can feel micro-changes in air density. Our whiskers aren’t just about making us look good. They help us navigate tight spaces and they’re super-sensitive. How sensitive? They’re so packed with nerves and blood vessels at the base that they’re at least as sensitive as your fingertips! You can silently pass wind in the hallway and we’ll be aware of it in the bedroom as our whiskers register the tiniest shifts in air current. Your farts stink, by the way.
  • We can smell things you can’t smell. Speaking of stinky, did you know we have 200 million olfactory receptors? You humans only have five million. Who’s the superior species now, huh? You think we’re furry little wizards who can sense you coming home, or possess powers of precognition, but the truth is we just pick up your nasty Axe body spray from half a mile away. Ghosts don’t wear Axe body spray, or Curve, or Cool Water for that matter.

By now you should have noticed a common theme. You might have bigger brains than us because your heads are huge, but we know all about all sorts of good stuff happening around us while you humans remain oblivious to it. Heck, sometimes you don’t even see or hear things happening right in front of you because you’ve always got your faces buried in those stupid screens!

Buddy's Whiskers
Bud’s Whiskers: Stylish and functional!

If we did sense ghosts, you can be sure we’d meow at them for treats and demand they let us in the bathroom, but we don’t. Also, I personally wouldn’t be scared, but lesser cats might get freaked out if they see ghosts, and you’d know because they’d go all white and try to hide under the blankets.

Hope that clears things up!

Your friend,

Buddy

Why Do Some Shelters Refuse To Adopt Out Black Cats In October?

Life isn’t easy for strays and shelter cats, and black cats have it rougher than most. They’re less likely to find forever homes and more likely to be euthanized than cats with other fur colors and coat patterns.

As if that wasn’t enough of a disadvantage, black cats are particularly vulnerable at this time of year due to their association with Halloween and lore surrounding Satanic rituals.

On the somewhat less tragic end of the spectrum, some people “adopt” black cats as temporary Halloween decorations, using them as accessories for parties or decorative dioramas. When Halloween is over, the “owners” bring the cats back to the shelter.

But rescue groups and advocates say the most unfortunate black kitties end up in the hands of cultists or people reenacting cult rituals. Those rituals never end well for the poor felines.

As a result, some shelters and rescues put black cat adoptions on hold during October.

black cat holding persons arm
Credit: Ruca Souza/Pexels

The origin of the “evil black cat” trope is usually traced back to the 13th century papal decree called Vox in Rama. (“A voice in Ramah.”) Despite sounding like an Arthur C. Clarke short story, the decree was not entertaining — it called for a renewed push to find and punish heretics, and condemned a Satanic ritual that was allegedly performed among hidden cultists:

Afterwards, they sit down to a meal and when they have arisen from it, the certain statue, which is usual in a set of this kind, a black cat descends backwards, with its tail erect. First the novice, then the master, then each one of the order who are worthy and perfect, kiss the cat on its buttocks. Then each [returns] to his place and, speaking certain responses, they incline their heads toward to cat. “Forgive us!” says the master, and the one next to him repeats this, a third responding, “We know, master!” A fourth says “And we must obey.”

Stripped of context, it’s almost comical: A cat walks around and people line up to kiss its ass? Well, they’re just expressing their fealty as servants and vowing not to be tardy with kitty’s meals!

Alas we’re talking about the dark ages, a time when skepticism wasn’t really a thing and zealots were eager to prove their loyalty and value to powerful leaders. One of them, a German nobleman named Konrad von Marburg, had the pope’s ear, and Marburg was the one responsible for whispering to the pontiff about the supposed back cat ass-kissing rituals.

While the papal decree was real and Marburg really was an overzealous jerk who turned public opinion against the church for his brutal inquisition against heretics real and imagined, there’s debate about how much impact the decree ultimately had, and whether a resulting purge of felines from Europe during the Black Plague resulted from superstition or panic as more people got sick. (Serious academic opinion tends strongly toward the latter, particularly because people mistakenly believed cats were carriers of the disease.)

close up shot of a black cat
Credit: Magda Ehlers/Pexels

Clickbait sites have run wild with the Vox in Rama story, which has grown more outrageous with each retelling, resulting in headlines that make it sound like the Vatican dispatched shock troops to purge cats from the European continent and urged Catholics to slaughter them on sight. In reality, the papal bull dealt with a small area in Germany and was little-known even at the time it was issued.

The dozens of clickbait articles that surface at the top of search results for “Vox in Rama” omit the actual text of the papal bull, and many make the unfounded claim that the pope called for cats to be killed.

Was the decree real? Yes. Did it result in the slaughter of cats? Highly unlikely, and there’s no evidence to support that claim.

Likewise, the “evidence” that black cats are abused on Halloween is purely anecdotal as this Snopes story from 20 years ago notes. The fact-checking site called the claims about black cats used in Satanic rituals “inconclusive.”

But individual shelter managers trust their gut — and the many stories about black cats disappearing this time of year — in deciding it’s better to be safe than sorry, which is why many shelters won’t adopt out in October and others are more rigorous with their adoption screening.

There’s nothing wrong with that. As anyone who’s searched for cat news knows, there are disturbing stories about cat abuse every day, and people are sadly capable of incredible cruelty toward animals.

Better for black cats to be taken off the adoptable list for a few weeks than end up in the hands of people who want to do them harm. As cat lovers, there is something we can do: Consider black cats the next time we’re looking to adopt. Plenty of PITB readers have black cats, and they’ll be the first to tell you the little house panthers are just as sweet and amusing as cats of any other fur color.

close up photo of black cat
Credit: Marcelo Chagas/Pexels

Happy Halloween from Buddy!

Buddy is my little helper this Halloween, as he is every year.

When the doorbell rings he runs excitedly over to the door like a dog, looking back at me like “Come on, dude! People are here! Open the door and give them candy!”

The kids love him.

“Oh, he’s so cute!” one little girl, dressed as a Disney princess, exclaimed just a few minutes ago.

“Look! A kitty cat!” another said, pointing happily.

Unfortunately Buddy will not wear his costume. Maybe that’s for the best, since he could be accused of cultural appropriation. Can cats appropriate culture?

Buddy on Halloween

It was all I could do to get that grainy, poorly-lit iPhone photo above. Sorry! The little dude doesn’t like collars, clothes, costumes or anything else on his body. Not even snacks can bribe him.

I couldn’t get the hat to stay on his head more than a few seconds, and he’s a little escape artist with the poncho. There was no way he would have sat like that long enough for me to get a shot with the Canon, unfortunately.

But he is a good little helper with the trick-or-treaters, and later tonight he’ll nap in my lap as I curse myself for eating too many leftover Twix and Snickers. He’s my buddy!

The Absurd Reason Why People Won’t Adopt Black Cats

Felines are a traditionally misunderstood lot, but no one gets it worse than black cats.

The poor little furballs are much less likely to find forever homes because of superstitions that won’t die, including claims that black cats are bad luck or agents of the devil.

While today is National Black Cat Day, many shelters across the US won’t adopt black cats out around Halloween, and sometimes for the entire month of October. The temporary moratorium is for the safety of black cats, who are much likely to be abducted, abused, killed or ritually sacrificed this time of year, according to animal welfare groups.

As if black cats didn’t have it bad enough, the age of social media has given people another reason to avoid black cats, this time for the most vapid of reasons: They supposedly don’t look good in selfies and Instagram shots.

Handsome Black Cat

Christine Bayka, who founded a rescue shelter more than two decades ago, tells the Telegraph that potential adoptees admit they’re passing on black cats for that reason.

“It happens all the time, I will go through all the questions and say ‘are you flexible about colour?'” Bayka said. “Then they will say, ‘Yes, as long as it’s not black.'”

As usual the fault lies with humans, not cats: If you can’t take a decent shot of a black cat it’s because you don’t know how to use your camera, not because the cat is impossible to photograph properly. After all, we never hear of nature photographers passing up opportunities to snap melanistic jaguars because it’s too difficult.

Black Jaguar
A melanistic jaguar.

But we’re in luck thanks to pro photographers sharing tips on how to capture the sublime beauty of these little panthers. Fuss with a few settings, make sure the lighting is right, choose a high-contrast background and you’re well on your way. There are even tips for getting better shots using your iPhone.

In honor of National Black Cat Day, here’s ample proof that they can look spectacular in photographs:

blackcat1
Focusing on the eyes and adjusting the contrast can yield some fantastic results, capturing the regal side of black cats.

cuteblackcat
Kittens don’t need help looking cute. Just make sure you’re allowing enough light into the scene.

blackcat4
This kitty looks like a legit panther thanks to a dramatic contrast between the black fur and the stone in the background, as well as an emphasis on his piercing yellow eyes.

blackcat5
A dramatic contrast with the background helps this close-up pop.

blackcat2
The classic black on black: This cat is not to be messed with!

blackcat7
With a healthy contrast in colors, details like whiskers and the cat’s tongue stand out.

Black Kitten
Okay, maybe this kitten looks like he’s planning world domination from his secret lair, but he’s looking quite handsome while doing it.

And last but not least, from reader Anna K and her handsome little panther, Frank:

Frank the Cat
Look at those eyes!

 

The Most Interesting Cat In The World

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For the full experience, play this in the background as you read. 🙂

“His scratches are so artful they’re featured on at least 15 hip hop albums. When dinner time arrives, he feeds his human. He makes biscuits for Michelin-starred restaurants. He is….the most interesting cat in the world.”

“I don’t always break things, but when I do, I prefer breaking irreplaceable personal items. Stay Buddy, my friends.”


“His meow can be understood by speakers of 43 different languages. On Halloween, other cats dress like him. When the veterinarian gives him shots, he shoots back. He is…the most interesting cat in the world.”

“I don’t always get the zooms, but when I do, I rocket around at 120 mph. Stay Buddy, my friends.”

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“The owners of the Empire State Building keep a perch for him at the very top of the structure. His litterbox was the inspiration for Calvin Klein’s newest cologne. He’s so adept at knocking things off flat surfaces, the US National Bowling Team recruited him when he was just a kitten. He is…the most interesting cat in the world.”

“I don’t always seek affection, but when I do, it’s always at the time, place and duration of my choosing. Stay Buddy, my friends!”


“His feelings are so strong, he enlisted the Mountain from Game of Thrones as his Emotional Support Human. He always lands on his feet, even in zero gravity. His leap is so graceful, Michael Jordan once asked him for his pawtograph. He is…the most interesting cat in the world.”

“I don’t always want to be let in, but when I do, I want to be let back out again immediately. Stay Buddy, my friends.”