Zoos around the US are closed because of the Coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the milestones of baby animals like the San Diego Zoo’s Ryder and Skyler, two black-footed kittens.
Black-footed cats are notable not only for their diminutive size — typically maxing out at two or three pounds — and their cuteness, but also for their astonishing hunting skills. The tiny terrors have voracious appetites and a 60 percent success rate when hunting. That eclipses the 25 percent success rate of lions, 32 percent success rate of domestic cats and the zero percent success rate of Buddy.
Ryder, a male, and Skyler, a female, were born in April. They haven’t started hunting yet, but they’ve now reached the stage where they’re eating meat instead of milk, as this video shows:
Russell Crowe was training for the 2005 movie Cinderella Man, in which he plays boxer James J. Braddock, when he “took the bunch of blokes who had been beating me up for their pay check” — his trainers and fellow actors playing boxers in the movie — on a mountain bike ride in rural Australia.
After cresting a “particularly punishing hill” and stopping for a sip of water, Crowe wrote, he heard plaintive mews coming from the trees off the rural Australian trail.
“Underneath the swirl of sounds I heard something out of place. Was that a meow? I started to look around me. I heard it again. I took a few steps of the track into the rain forest. Thick with ferns and vines. One more step and then I saw it. A kitten…”
The baby cat was abandoned, and Crowe says he thinks the cat might have been dumped by a driver who passed the bicyclists a few minutes earlier.
“I looked back down the track and the boys were gaining on me,” he wrote. “I put the kitten in my backpack and rode on.”
After returning to camp, Crowe took the kitten out of his pack, showed it to his friends and told them he was going to give it to his mother, who had been talking about adopting a cat.
“There’s something reassuring in a bunch of big sweaty boxers going crazy over a kitten,” Crowe wrote. “We flew down the hill in a tight group and arrived back at my farm together where I presented my mother with this tiny baby kitten. She was floored. So happy.”
That was in 2003. Cinders lived for 17 years and died on June 9. Crowe shared the story of finding and adopting the beloved cat in a Twitter thread.
Crowe, who was living with his mother while training for the movie, said he was originally opposed to getting a cat because felines are “the notorious enemy of bird life.”
When he found Cinders, he wrote, he felt “this was the universe telling me to respect my mother and give her what she wanted.”
“She had never grown to be fully trusting of humans, but, she loved my mum and my mum loved her.”
“They have only recently been spotted out of their den and seem to be getting more curious each day. They both seem very healthy and have started to show a little bit of personality,” a spokesperson for the sanctuary told the Independent. “They’ve been giving our very small team a lot of joy during this all this uncertainty and put a smile on our faces each morning.”
Their mom (pictured above) has been so protective of her babies that staff at the sanctuary haven’t gotten close enough to determine the gender of the kittens.
Rusty spotted cats are among the smallest felids in the world: As adults they max out at between 2 and 3.5 pounds, with a body between 14 and 19 inches. That’s about a third the size of a typical domestic cat.
Along with black-footed cats, who are about the same size, they’re the tiniest of the entire feline family.
Rusty spotted cats range in parts of India and Sri Lanka, but like so many other wild animals, they’re threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation. They’re famously elusive, difficult to photograph or film in the wild, and the Porfell sanctuary says there are only about 50 of them in captivity around the world. The sanctuary is a participant in a breeding program to help conserve the species.
Like so many other sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, Porfell is hurting due to the SARS-CoV2 outbreak. You can support their efforts via GoFundMe.
NEW YORK — Buddy the Kitten celebrated another successful ambush on Tuesday after violently rousing his human from sleep, sources said.
The 14-week-old gray tabby howled with delight after climbing up onto the bed and launching himself at his human’s face, landing belly-first with a delightful THWAP! as the big stupid human screamed and bolted upright.
Buddy the Kitten promptly retreated to a dark corner of the bedroom, shaking his butt and trilling with joyful anticipation until he heard his human, Big Buddy, begin to snore again.
With a battle cry of “Rrrrrrrrrrr!” the 4.5-lb kitten chomped down on the human’s exposed foot, which was fortuitously left uncovered by the protective blanket when Big Buddy shifted during his sleep.
“Shit!” the human howled, recoiling from the kitten’s shark teeth and claws. “Let me sleep, you little jerk, or I’m selling you to Szechuan Garden II!”
At press time Buddy the Kitten was planning an elaborate new attack involving a makeshift trebuchet and a water balloon, and said he was unconcerned about his human’s threats to sell him to the local Chinese restaurant: “I am a good boy!”
He would likely leave that attack for the following night, the playful kitten said.
“I has to purr in the morning so my human thinks I’m just a sweet little kitten and feeds me turkeys,” Buddy the Kitten said. “Then I make war again! Muahahaha!”
In case you didn’t know, music written specifically for cats is a thing.
I’d heard about it a while back, and the project seemed impressive: “Music for Cats” composer David Teie is a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, and he worked with animal behaviorists and veterinarians to come up with kitty-soothing sound textures and test the music’s efficacy on cats visiting the veterinarian.
A 2019 study in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery concluded “Music for Cats” could help our furry friends relax and ease their stress. Keeping in mind an earlier study that suggested cats prefer “feline-centric sounds,” Teie incorporated audio of events cats associate with happy times, like kittens suckling milk from their mothers.
Using Buddy as my test subject, I went to Youtube, selected the track Cozmo’s Air from “Music for Cats” and sat back, expecting Bud to start nodding his furry head at any moment.
Instead his ears pricked up, did their radar-dish swivel toward the speakers, and his eyes went wide. As the song gained volume and intensity, Bud’s ears and whiskers snapped back and he let out a clearly anxious “yerrrrrrrrrrppp!” I tried to calm him down, to no avail, and a second track didn’t improve things.
He wasn’t having it.
Teie’s cat music is back in the news with the release of the Kickstarter-backed Music for Cats 2, and there are quite a few imitators on Youtube hawking their own supposedly cat-soothing musical efforts. (Though your cat might think she’s in Guantanamo Bay if you subject her to six-hour videos of “cat lullabies.”)
Should I test some of the new music on Buddy to see if he responds more favorably? And for our fellow readers and cat servants, have you played any of this stuff for your cats? If you have, how’d it work out?
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.