Tag: whiskers

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

Reason #488 To Keep Your Cats Indoors: They Hunt Whether They’re Hungry Or Not

A new study from the UK debunks the claim that cats need access to the outdoors to supplement their diets with wild kills.

Cats who spend a significant amount of time outdoors and regularly kill local wildlife still get 96 percent of their nutrition from meals provided by their humans, according to research by a team at the University of Exeter.

The scientists connected with cat owners through ads on social media, TV and in print publications, specifically seeking out “cat owners living throughout southwest England whose cats regularly captured wild animals and brought them back to the house,” the study’s authors said.

They gave the owners a questionnaire to collect some basic information on the kitties — age, sex, breed, whether they had unrestricted access to the outdoors, and how much time they spend outside — then split the 90 participating cats into six groups.

Cat hunting
A domestic tabby cat stalking in the grass. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To set a baseline, the scientists trimmed small sections of whisker from each of the cats, then trimmed a second sample at the end of the study.

By comparing stable isotope ratios in the whisker samples, they were able to determine what the cats were eating. Despite regular access to the outdoors and successful hunts, pet food accounted for the vast majority of their diets.

As a result, the researchers concluded, outdoor cats hunt because they’re driven by predatory instinct, not hunger.

“When food from owners is available, our study shows that cats rely almost entirely on this for nutrition,” said Martina Cecchetti, the study’s lead author.

“Some owners may worry about restricting hunting because cats need nutrition from wild prey, but in fact, it seems even prolific hunters don’t actually eat much of the prey they catch,” Cecchetti said. “As predators, some cats may hunt instinctively even if they are not hungry – so-called ‘surplus killing’ – to capture and store prey to eat later.”

A second component of the study was designed to find the best mitigation strategy to change the behavior of outdoor cats.

Each group was given a different strategy: In one group, cats were outfitted with bells on their collars, while another group wore reflective break-away collars and cats from a third group were fitted with BirdBeSafe collars. The other groups were told to make habit changes inside the home. For example, one set of cats was fed a higher-protein diet without grain filler, another group was fed with puzzle feeders, and the last group was given extra interactive play time.

While high-protein diets and play time helped cut down on hunting, the BirdBeSafe collars had the biggest impact on hunting success. The collars come in bright colors designed to stand out to avian eyes, taking away stealth and the element of surprise from cats.

The study was sponsored by Songbird Survival, a British non-profit that funds bird conservation research and looks for ways to mitigate the dwindling numbers of many avian species.

Susan Morgan, Songbird Survival’s executive director, said her group hopes cat owners will do their part to help: “Pet owners can help us reverse the shocking decline in songbirds via three simple, ‘win-win’ steps: fit collars with a Birdsbesafe cover; feed cats a premium meaty diet; play with cats for five to ten minutes a day to ‘scratch that itch’ to hunt.”

Of course there’s an obvious solution the study didn’t include: Keeping cats indoors. While keeping cats indoors is common in the US, cat ownership culture in the UK is different — another subject for another post.

Read the full text of the study here. Header image credit Pexels. Body images credit BeSafeCollar.

Previously:

1024px-Florida_panther_kittens
A pair of young mountain lions in Florida. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/WOConservation

Dear Buddy: MOAR Treats!

Dear Buddy,

You’re always going on about food as if your Big Buddy doesn’t ply you with snacks. I know he does, because you’re getting chubby.

But that’s beside the point: You’re a cat! You don’t need humans to feed you. You could venture outside and grab yourself a nice juicy mouse or a plump bird!

It’s time for you to get in touch with your roots and your inner predator, Buddy.

– Rodent Hunter in Rhode Island

Dear Rodent Hunter,

First of all, I am NOT chubby. It’s called a primordial pouch, okay? Cats from fierce warrior lineages have them to protect us from the claws of our opponents and the talons of raptors. (The avian kind, not the dinosaurs, although if dinosaurs were still around I’d kick their asses too.)

Secondly, I would totally go outside and hunt me some snacks, but I can’t. It’s in my contract. When you make a living off your devastating good looks like I do, you can’t just get into scraps like a common cat.

– Buddy

Dear Buddy,

If you say so. But humans are constantly leaving tasty treats all over the place. You just need to know where and when to look.

For example, did you know humans eat whipped cream in the bathroom? It’s true! The next time your Big Buddy is shaving his whiskers, find some way to make a distraction that will draw him out of the bathroom.

While he’s distracted you can eat the whipped cream. There will be entire globs of it all around the sink! Just gobble it all down really fast and get out before Big Buddy realizes you’re eating his yummy snacks.

You’ll have plenty of time to savor the taste of that delicious whipped cream once you’re out of the bathroom. When you taste it, I want you to think of me. That’s the taste of victory, Buddy!

– Rodent Hunter in Rhode Island

Dear Rodent Hunter,

Thanks, my friend! It’s nice to know my readers love me so much. Big Buddy usually shaves at night.

Tonight I feast on sweet, yummy whipped cream!

– Buddy

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Mmmm, so creamy and delicious!

Rodent Hunter,

WHAT THE &$@#, DUDE?!? That was NOT whipped cream! It didn’t taste like victory either. It was gross! I had to wash my mouth out eight times and eat half a bowl of kibble just to get the taste off my tongue, and then I got sick.

Do you think Big Buddy knew I was going to steal his whipped cream? He knew, right? That’s why he put that disgusting fake whipped cream for me to find. It’s the only logical explanation.

– Buddy

Dear Buddy,

You’re as sharp as you are handsome, Buddy! That’s got to be what happened. Your Big Buddy must’ve known and he played a prank on you. Makes total sense.

I eat the whipped cream all the time when my human shaves, and it is creamy and delicious! Maybe you should try again. Be really slick about it so your human doesn’t know you’re coming and put the fake whipped cream out for you. Be stealthy!

When you outsmart your human and you get that first taste of milky, creamy, silky deliciousness, remember that you’re a genius and you’ve earned it. Your persistence will pay off!

Let me know how it goes. 🙂

– RH

Dear RH,

I was outwitted again. 😦 I don’t know how he knew I was going to steal his whipped cream again, but somehow Big Buddy found out and pulled another fast one on me. What’s that saying? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on you again!

Well I won’t give him the satisfaction of a third time! I’m done trying to steal whipped cream for the time being.

– Buddy

Dear Buddy,

I’m really sorry to hear that, bro. You’re really missing out on a yummy treat. Oh well.

What about…? Nah. Nevermind. It’s better you don’t know about the cakes.

– RH

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Did you know humans keep delicious cake in the bathroom? It’s true!

RH,

Come on, dude! Don’t hold out on me! What are these cakes you speak of? I’m already getting hungry.

– Buddy

Buddy,

Okay, okay. If you insist. But I must warn you, these things are so delicious you might never go back to cat food again.

They’re called urinal cakes and they’re usually pink, like the color of fresh turkey…