After 2015’s Shelter 2 — in which gamers take on the role of a female Lynx protecting her cubs in the wild — proved there’s a real audience for games from a cat’s perspective, there have been a few feline-centric games coming down the development pipeline.
None of them, however, look as unique and fascinating as Stray, a newly-unveiled title in which players take the role of a cat surviving in a post-human future Hong Kong.
The game’s trailer is spectacular, following an orange tabby cat navigating a neon-lit urban landscape populated only by machines. Details about the narrative haven’t been revealed and it’s not clear what happened to humanity in the game’s universe, but cats are alive and well in Stray, and it looks like they’ve manipulated robots into serving them the same way they had humans wrapped around their little paws.
“I will throw my money at anything that lets me play as a cat,” one Youtube user posted.
“There’d better be a meow button,” another wrote.
Although it’s early yet and we haven’t seen gameplay videos, the cat depicted in the trailer is exceptionally well-modeled and rendered by game artists who clearly love the little furballs. The feline’s gait, movements and vocalizations are spot-on.
Stray will be a PS4/5 exclusive at launch (boo!) but will also have a PC release, presumably at least a few months later. We’ll be watching eagerly for more news about this interesting and unique game, which is slated for a 2021 release.
Buddy and I were a bit skeptical when we first heard the story of a cat who padded into the emergency room of a hospital, carrying her kitten by the scruff of the neck, to plead for help for the little one.
The story first appeared on Reddit without any details, but we were able to track down some of the people involved to fill out the narrative and answer some questions.
A woman was waiting in the emergency room of Kucukcekmece Hospital in Istanbul at about 5 p.m. on April 27 when the cat dragged her baby through the open doors.
The witness, Merve Özcan, described the kitten as “a little bit mischievous” in Twitter posts about the incident.
An article in Sözcü, a daily newspaper whose name translates to “spokesperson,” said the mother cat brought her kitten right up to the blue-gowned hospital staff, meowing for attention.
Hospital staff immediately helped — more about that below — and the cat mom followed them, keeping her eyes on her baby as they brought the kitten into a room for treatment.
“While the kitten was being cared for, the mother cat was given milk and food,” the newspaper reported. “Hospital staff ensured full treatment by passing them onto a veterinarian after their intervention.”
The story doesn’t say exactly what was wrong with the kitten, and Özcan did not know either.
While this story would seem insane to most of us, it starts to make a lot more sense when you consider where it happened: Istanbul, a city famous for its massive cat population, and the humans who revere those felines.
Cats are the most beloved animal in Istanbul and the living attraction of this huge city. They are extremely friendly, come in all sorts of cuddly colors and sizes, and always respond with a greedy “meow.” Stray cats usually take the best seats at cafes and restaurants in Istanbul without anyone even bothering moving them. They maneuver around tables and customers, inside and out of the buildings in search of the most comfortable spot.
Caring for the city’s hundreds of thousands of cats is a community effort: People feed them, pet them, bring them to veterinarians when they’re injured, and even build little dwellings for them.
With that in mind, it makes sense that a cat in Istanbul would know to approach humans for help, and to go to a hospital. If the mom cat lives in the area, undoubtedly she’s seen the sick and injured walk through those doors many times.
“Money is not an issue to some people when it comes to cats,” Ozan, a pet shop employee, told Reuters. “They take in cats with broken legs, blind ones or ones with stomach problems and bring them to the clinic. When they see that they are healed, they let them live on the street again.”
In an article titled “Istanbul: The City of Cats,” Goran Tomasevic of Reuters describes the relationship between the city’s inhabitants and their feline friends:
They are so ubiquitous that no one bats an eye at a cat padding across the lobby of a high-rise office building, or when one curls up to sleep on a nearby barstool. Shop owners and locals often know their neighbourhood cats by name and will tell tales about them, as if chatting about a friend.
A 2017 documentary, Kedi (Turkish for cat), explores the world of Istanbul’s street cats and the people who love them. Pictured at the top of this post is Kedi director Ceyda Torun, posing with cats in Istanbul.
Years ago I worked with a guy who started a food pantry from scratch.
This man, a retired software engineer, approached the biggest restaurants, bakeries and food distributors in the area, asking them to donate their leftover/unused food so his pantry could distribute it to the poor.
Many obliged, but they all had the same request: “Don’t tell anyone we’re participating,” they told him.
The request wasn’t prompted by humility. These businesses didn’t want the public to know how much food they waste, and they waste a lot of perfectly good food, a dirty little secret of the restaurant, hospitality and food industries.
The reason I bring this up is because there’s another demographic that depends on the food those businesses toss out: Stray cats.
With restaurants shuttered because of the Coronavirus, stray cats are going hungry and dying for lack of the scraps they scavenge from rubbish bins, dumpsters and sidewalks. It’s happening here in New York, across the United States, and in countries like Turkey, India, Greece and Morocco.
For animals who already live difficult lives, the pandemic made things worse.
Cats aren’t the only animals suffering. One particularly dramatic example was caught on video in a Thai city where thousands of long-tailed macaques live and depend on food given to them by tourists.
Hundreds of starving monkeys stopped traffic in a chaotic brawl over a single piece of food, shrieking, clawing and pushing each other aside to get at it.
As if things weren’t bad enough, stray cats are now competing with former house pets for the little food available.
In India, where bad actors have been spreading false information about COVID-19, animal rights activists are finding abandoned pets — including pedigreed cats and dogs — on the streets after their caretakers abandoned them.
“A lot of this is happening because of misinformation that went viral earlier about pets being carriers of the virus in China. It turned out to be fake, of course, but a lot of damage has been done now,” People For Animals’ Vikram Kochhar told Quartz.
Much of the damage has been done on social media, where conspiracy theories and rumors about contracting COVID-19 from animals are rampant. In China, where pet owners abandoned cats and dogs en masse during the first wave of Coronavirus, some social media users on Mandarin-language platforms called for the “extermination” of cats after a pair of studies conducted by Chinese research labs suggested cats are susceptible to catching the virus.
It isn’t easy to combat waves of viral misinformation, even as health authorities across the world stress cats cannot transmit the virus to humans.
In Greece, abandoned pets — many with their collars still on — are following strays to food sources, especially in larger cities like Athens.
“We are seeing an increase in the numbers of cats in areas where we feed, some appear to have been abandoned, while others have roamed far from their usual spots in search of food,” animal welfare advocate Serafina Avramidou told Barron’s.
In feline-loving Turkey, where taking care of street cats is considered a cooperative responsibility, the central government has told local officials to make sure strays are well fed and taken care of. By making it a government responsibility, their thinking goes, citizens who normally care for the cats will be much more likely to stay inside during the pandemic.
“There are lots of cats on the side streets where there are only closed businesses,” a Turkish Twitter user wrote. “I haven’t seen food anywhere for days. The cats are running after us [looking for food].”
In Istanbul, Muazzez Turan fed some 300 stray cats daily before the pandemic, but said she’s had to stay home: Not only has her country been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, but she has pre-existing medical problems that make her susceptible to complications should she contract the virus.
Still, she said, her mind “was always with the cats,” and she told Turkish news agency Anadolu that she was relieved to hear the strays hadn’t been forgotten.
“I will sleep peacefully for the first time today,” Turan said.
Here in New York, some animal lovers are picking up the slack for closed restaurants as well as at-risk people who normally feed strays.
Among them is Latonya Walker, who told the New York Post she normally spends $600 a month feeding several colonies of strays but expects her costs this month will be “way more since there’s less restaurant garbage they can eat from, and more hungry cats walking around.”
“The cats have no clue what’s going on because nothing has changed for them,” Walker said. “It’s not in my DNA to see a cat suffering and not do anything about it. I’m equipped to make a cat’s life better, so I’m going to.”
People whose profiles are appended with tags like “she/her” and “he/him” outlined why the paper is “problematic,” providing an afternoon’s worth of fresh outrage for the grievance enthusiasts.
The study, by a research team from China’s Nanjing University, has two main conclusions: The more women living on a college campus, the more stray and feral cats live there too. Additionally, the team surveyed men and women about their interactions with strays — with responses indicating women are more likely to care for them — and followed a handful of men and women to watch their interactions with cats.
Is it ground-breaking science? No. Do the results prove women are better caretakers of cats than men? Nope. Did the authors perhaps overextend themselves by mixing up correlation and causation? Probably.
But it’s still research, and studies should not be buried or banished from peer-reviewed journals because a handful of malcontents on Twitter cry sexism. Some aspects of the paper, like the small sample of observed interactions, are thin. But the authors did look at 30 universities, a healthy sample size as far as institutions go.
If follow-up studies indicate that women are indeed more likely to care for cats, so what?
Is reality sexist? Do we need to protect people from even the most mildly controversial things?
As a man who loves cats, I don’t doubt that most caretakers are women. I see the anecdotal proof among the ranks of rescue volunteers. I see it in my readership here — aside from the Extraordinary League of Cat Dads, some 85 percent of this blog’s readers are female.
And that’s perfectly fine!
I would like to see more men warm to the idea of adopting and caring for cats, but the fact that women in general seem to have more empathy for them isn’t sexist. It doesn’t mean every woman loves cats any more than it means all men don’t.
Some readers know I have a background in journalism and spent almost 15 years of my career as a reporter and editor. One thing that appalls me as a journalist is the routine practice of quoting tweets in lieu of speaking to people face to face or picking up the phone and asking questions.
Platforms like Twitter thrive on negativity. Whether 140 or 280 characters, Twitter’s bite-size messages may be good for people who have the attention span of gnats, but they don’t exactly foster productive or nuanced discussion. Perhaps most important of all, people are more likely to say negative things online than they are in a human-to-human conversation, and too often handfuls of loudly-complaining people are mistaken for a majority.
Studies show negative tweets are far more likely to spread than positive or neutral messages, which skews public perception. They also show Twitter opinions are not representative of the general public, in part because most of Twitter’s power users come from similar backgrounds and share world views.
To put it bluntly, Twitter is full of roving bands of grievance artists constantly on the lookout for new things to shit on, and we should stop assigning so much importance to what we think are the prevailing sentiments on social media platforms.
Academic journals are peer-reviewed. Taking the vetting responsibility away from experts and giving it to a few unhappy people on social media is not a smart way to present research.
The study authors’ peers will poke holes in their work if the holes indeed exist, and that’s part of what peer review is for. Not to bury research, but to encourage scientists to rethink it, refine it and try again.
Allyson Seconds was driving through midtown Sacramento on Thursday morning when she saw flashes of fur weaving between cars in traffic.
“I pulled over thinking I’d seen two loose dogs crossing the street and went into rescue mode,” the Sacramento woman recalled. “When I saw they were coyotes I grabbed my phone and took just these four shots of them running and jumping up at a tree.”
Seconds didn’t didn’t understand why the coyotes were so worked up until she reviewed the shots.
“I didn’t realize at first that it was a house cat they were after until I looked at the pictures,” she wrote. “That’s one lucky cat!”
The swift tabby managed to stay a stride ahead of his canid pursuers before going vertical and beating a quick retreat up a tree.
This photo shows the telltale signs of a terrified cat: Kitty’s tail is raised, rigid and three times its normal size while its ears are pinned back against its head.
The next two photos show the end of the chase: In the first we can see just a flash of fur as the cat scurries up the tree, and in the second shot the coyotes look miffed at being outplayed by a domestic cat.
As for Seconds, she understands what so many people and local media reports get wrong. There aren’t “more” coyotes, as if they’ve suddenly decided to start becoming prolific breeders. The reason those of us in urban and suburban neighborhoods see them more often is because we encroach on their habitats with every development, cul-de-sac and ugly strip mall we build.
It’s a story that is sadly repeated across the globe as animals as varied — and endangered — as mountain lions, tigers and orangutans find fewer contiguous plains, jungles and forests to hunt and forage within.
“This is not even close to a coyote damning post,” Seconds wrote on Facebook. “Housing developments and more homeless living at the river are certainly driving them inland from their more suitable terrain but guess what? The coyotes are adapting to city life and we are seeing more and more of them in all corners of our town. They aren’t going anywhere.”
She signed off by making a suggestion we’ve advocated many times on this blog.
“And as for those worried about their cats for reasons illustrated in my photos? Time to start keeping kitty inside.”
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.