A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Words with Webster: To Have Kittens

We have two fun Friday features for you today. First up is Real Cat Webster, who has a slang phrase to share. After that, it’s on to Friendly Fill-Ins!

Words with Webster

Words with Webster
Hi, everybody! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Today’s word is a phrase: “to have kittens.” This is a slang term meaning “to be in an agitated mood : become perturbed or upset” (according to my favorite dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s). The Oxford English Dictionary has the first known appearance in print in 1900:
Kitten. In phrases ‘get kittens’, ‘have kittens’. 1. To get angry. 2. To be in great anxiety, or to be afraid. (Dialect Notes 2:44)
But, if it was well known enough to be put in a book in 1900, it must have been in fairly common use before that.

We found one interesting idea of the phrase’s origins from The Phrase Finder site. A post from February 11, 2000, claims that “to have kittens” has much deeper origins, going back to when women actually worried that they might give birth to kittens. An old Scottish superstition said that a woman could have kittens if she ate food that had a cat’s semen on it. (I have to wonder about the conditions that would make that particular scenario believable.) In medieval times, women who felt pain while they were pregnant might believe that it was from kittens inside them trying to get out. Sometimes there’d be a helpful witch around who would provide (or “sell,” more likely) a potion to fix the problem. In 1654 in Scotland, a woman on trial for trying to get an abortion pleaded that she’d done it because she had “cats in her bellie.” (From a post by Joel citing How Did It Begin?, by R. Brasch [1966].)

Photo via Adobe Stock.
Photo via Adobe Stock.
A post by Elyse Bruce on Historically Speaking (January 2, 2014) says that the expression is recognized in all English-speaking countries, although it isn’t often heard. P. G. Wodehouse used it in chapter 7 of his 1960 book titled Jeeves in the Offing:
“Your uncle will be most upset.”
“He’ll have kittens.”
“That’s right.”
“Why kittens?”
“Why not?”
Bruce also repeats the “cats in her bellie” story, but she adds, “Have kittens is difficult to find in newspapers, magazines and books with the trail going cold right before the turn of the century, in the late 1890s.” She puts the term at about 1900.

How accurate is this saying? Well, a long, long time before I was born, Mommy saw some kittens being born, and she remembers the mother being sort of matter-of-fact about finding a safe, comfy place and just getting down to the business of giving birth and taking care of her babies. She says the mother cat was panting and seemed in pain but she (the cat) was calm. This makes me think that this saying doesn’t come from cats actually having kittens. Then again, some mother cats probably get in a bit of a state when they’re about to have kittens. But I’m a boy, so I don’t really know. If you know, please tell me in the comments, because I am trying to learn more about girls!

Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-InsAnd now it’s time for Friendly Fill-Ins, from 15andmeowing and McGuffy’s Reader. They are a fun way to learn a little bit about the authors of the blogs you read. The first two questions, answered by old SoLT this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by Real Cat Paisley, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Old SoLT’s answers:
1. I am the cook in my family.  

2. I have no siblings.

Real Cat Webster’ answers:
3. I am looking forward to window whiffies this Spring.

4. The first sign of Spring this year was snow and sleet. Is that a sign of spring? No? Well, that’s what we got. Mommy says the crocuses started blooming before that, so I guess that is a better sign.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Ancient Maya Kept Big Cats in Captivity as Early as 400 BC

We have an interesting “big cats in archaeology” news short for you today, as a recent study has indicated that as early as 400 BC, the ancient Maya of Central America had big cats that they kept in captivity.

Ruins at Ceibal, Guatemala
Some of the ruins at Ceibal, Guatemala.
Photo by Chixuy (2006) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The first physical evidence of the Maya having a captive big cat

This portion of a mural from Chichen Itza, Mexico, shows a
jaguar grasping a human heart.
Photo via Adobe Stock.

The evidence comes from the site of Ceibal, which is in present-day Guatemala. It was occupied for some 2,000 years, from about 1000 BC to AD 1000. There, archaeologists discovered a mandible and molar believed to be from a jaguar (or possibly a puma). Researchers tested isotopes (different forms of an element’s atoms) of carbon, nitrogen, strontium, and oxygen from these and other animal bones found at the site. The carbon and nitrogen would give clues about what the animal ate, and the strontium and oxygen, which came from tooth enamel, would show where the animal was born and grew up. That analysis showed that, from a young age, the jaguar either ate maize or ate other animals that had eaten maize. A wild cat wouldn’t be expected to have this kind of diet, so it is possible that this jaguar was raised in captivity for ceremonial purposes (i.e., to be sacrificed).  Captive cats had shown up in Maya art before, but this jaguar’s jaw and tooth are the first physical evidence of the Maya keeping a big cat in captivity.

There were dogs too

The same study found that two of the dogs discovered at Ceibal had come from over 100 miles away. These two dogs were from the same time period as the jaguar—about 400 BC—and their presence there is evidence of dogs being traded over long distances by the Maya.

Why are we telling you this?

Because occasionally we like to blog outside the lines to tell you something interesting about our wild cousins, and one should always keep tabs on one’s wild cousins.

Head of a jaguar, Maya, ca. 550-950.
Keep track of your wild cousins!
The Maya carved this head of a jaguar ca. 550-950.
Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011) [CC BY 2.5].


Pappas, Stephanie. 2018. “Big Cats and ‘Ritual’ Dogs Lived in Maya Captivity.” Live Science, March 19. https://www.livescience.com/62061-ritual-dogs-mayan-pyramid.html

Sharpe, Ashley, et al. 2018. “Earliest Isotopic Evidence in the Maya Region for Animal Management and Long-Distance Trade at the Site of Ceibal, Guatemala.” PNAS, March 19. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1713880115

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cat of the Week: Ribbon

Cat of the Week

Each week in this space, we feature an older adult or senior cat (7 years +) in need of adoption or sponsorship. Mature cats make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt an older cat, and help them enjoy the best years of their life.

Cat of the Week: Ribbon

This week we are introducing this handsome tabby named Ribbon. Ribbon is 10 years old and is very sweet. He is also front-paw declawed. He likes to get to know a person first before he gets too friendly, but he loves to snuggle with a nice person who will pet him as much as he wants. This lovable gentleman will make a perfect companion for someone!

Ribbon is currently at the Baltimore Humane Society. Learn more about him here.

Can’t adopt? You can still help! Check out Sammy’s Cat Necessities Fund, which provides money for everyday and medical needs of cats at the Baltimore Humane Society. You can also make a general donation or sponsor a particular animal on this page. Every little bit helps!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cat Classics on Film: Cat People (1982)

Cat Classics on Film

Today’s Cat Classic on Film is the 1982 version of Cat People, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nastassja Kinksi, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard. You may recall that we featured the 1942 version in an earlier post. We liked that earlier version a lot. This later version is based on that film but adds some serious twists to the story.

The plot (contains spoilers)

Cat People (1982)
Irena Gallier (Nastassja Kinski) arrives in New Orleans and is met by Paul (Malcolm McDowell), the brother she has not seen since they were children. They had been split up when both their parents died. From the start, Paul seems to have a distinctly unbrotherly interest in his younger sister. That night, a prostitute is attacked by a black leopard, and the next morning officials from the New Orleans Zoo arrive to tranquilize the cat and take it to the zoo. Meanwhile, Paul has disappeared, leaving Irena alone on her first day in the city. She goes out for a day of sightseeing and ends up at the zoo, where she comes upon the leopard in its new cage. Transfixed by the cat, she begins to sketch him, and that is how curator Oliver Yates (John Heard) finds her after the zoo has closed. Soon, Irena and Oliver have the beginnings of a romance, and Oliver has gotten her a job in the zoo’s gift shop.

The leopard is hard to control, and it soon rips off the arm of a zookeeper (Ed Begley Jr.). Old SoLT found this hilarious. First, the keeper was being a jerk and taunting the cat, so we didn’t have a lot of sympathy for him. Second, the actual ripping is so graphic it is a bit ridiculous. We think a really good sound effect, without the visual, would have been more horrifically effective. Anyway, the keeper quickly bleeds to death, and blood washes over Irena's shoes--in slow motion.

The leopard then escapes, and Paul returns home that evening (you will notice the connection between these events). It becomes crystal clear that his interest in Irena is sexual, but it’s not just because he’s a creep. Many generations ago, their ancestors sacrificed children to leopards. As the cats consumed the children, they became part human. These “cat people” were—and are—incestuous, able to mate only with each other because they would end up killing any regular human they were intimate with.


Let’s just say we couldn’t suspend our disbelief quite far enough to buy that bit of backstory.

Our verdict

We don’t want to tell the whole story, but we do want to touch on the swimming pool scene, which is very similar to the pool scene in the 1942 film, with a lone female swimmer in a darkened room being pursued by an unseen leopard. Only this version not as good as the original, we thought. Actually, nothing about this 1982 film was quite as good as the original. We found the 1942 story (in which Irena was from a village of witches who could transform into cats) more compelling in every way. The 1982 version of Cat People relies too much on gore and nudity, including some nudity that we found gratuitous and stupid.

We’re not trying to say that this is a horrible movie. We just thought it could have been a lot better if the psychological horror had been emphasized over the blood and the naked people. We're way more interested in people's motivations than in their breasts. Cat People does have some things going for it, though. If you're a fan of the sort of horror film that shows an arm being ripped off, you might like this. And if you take this film as its own thing rather than comparing it to the earlier version, it can be enjoyable. The relationship between Irena and Oliver is interesting, as you have to wonder if she's going to end up killing him. And then there is the song by David Bowie ("Putting Out Fire") on the soundtrack. That was easily our favorite thing about this movie.

Overall, though, this is just not our thing. We recommend skipping this version in favor of the 1942 version, which we found more gripping and better in every way.

Cat People is rated R for some language and graphic violence, a lot of nudity, and some sex. 

Click here to see the trailer, and to hear the David Bowie song from the soundtrack.

Half a Paw Up--An Okay Movie

A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good movie; two paws is for a great movie. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!

The links below are Amazon Associates links. If you purchase anything through them, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account. Thank you!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Selfies: Paisley and Webster

Both of the Real Cats did Sunday Selfies this week. For once, old SoLT wasn't running around with her phone on Saturday afternoon, saying "Who wants to do Sunday Selfie?" over and over as she tried to locate a cat.

First up is Real Cat Paisley. Friday night, old SoLT heard Paisley making a strange noise in the kitchen. When she went to investigate, she found Paisley playing with one of the little hearts that Ellen of 15 and Meowing sent us. Paisley almost never does this with toys anymore. She must really love that heart!

Real Cat Paisley with toy heart

Real Cat Webster did his selfie earlier in the week, while he was sitting on old SoLT's lap as she watched TV one evening.

Real Cat Webster selfie_March 14 2018

We're joining the Sunday Selfies blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head!

Sunday Selfies blog hop: The Cat on My Head

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Caturday Art: St. Patrick's Day

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we have some special holiday-themed art for you today. First up is the Real Cats' St. Patrick's card:

Real Cats' St. Patrick's Day Card 2018

Then, Real Cat Webster convinced old SoLT to do this art of him:

This is the Delaunay art effect in LunaPic, with some adjustments made to the colors to bring in more greens. Then in PicMonkey, old SoLT used Dark Edges and a Polaroid frame.

And finally, a huge congratulations to the UMBC men's basketball team, who upset top-seeded Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament last night. Woo-hoo! #RetrieverNation

We're joining the Caturday Art blog hop, hosted by Athena and Marie!

Caturday Art blog hop

Friday, March 16, 2018

Words with Webster: Digitigrade, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun Friday features for you today. First up is Real Cat Webster, who has a footsy word to share. After that, it’s on to Friendly Fill-Ins!

Words with Webster

Words with WebsterHi, everybody! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Today’s word is “digitigrade.” I picked this word because Mommy was looking up some stuff about cats and she found the word and couldn’t pronounce it (no, Mommy, it’s not “digigratitudey”!) and I thought that was funny. So I looked in my favorite dictionary (Merriam-Webster’s) and found out that our word means
(of an animal) walking upon the digits with the posterior part of the foot more or less raised.
In other words, it means walking on the toes. That is what cats do (and dogs and some other mammals too). The Oxford English Dictionary says it more plainly:
That walks on the toes.
The OED also says that “digitigrade” used to refer to
the former tribe Digitigrada of carnivorous mammals, including dogs, cats, mongooses, weasels, etc., whose members walk on their toes (obs.)
The tribe Digitigrada was part of French zoologist Georges Cuvier's classification system. Cuvier (1769-1832) studied paleontology and comparative anatomy and had an idea he called the "correlation of parts." This meant that the structure of one of an animal's organs was functionally related to all its other organs, and those structures and functions developed from how the animal interacted with the environment. Others thought it was the other way around: that an animal's anatomy dictated how it lived.*

Getting back to our word, it looks like "digitigrade" was first used in print in 1827. This quote is from 1833:
The legs also are completely digitigrade; that is to say, the heel is elevated, and does not come into contact with the surface... Digitigrade animals, which tread only upon the toes … have much longer legs than plantigrade animals. (Penny Cyclopedia I.4)
The English word “digitigrade” was borrowed directly from French and ultimately comes from the Latin digitus (“finger”) and -gradus (a suffix meaning “stepping, walking”).

So maybe one reason cats move so quietly is because we’re always walking on our tippy-toes!

Siamese cat standing. Photo via Adobe Stock
This Siamese cat demonstrates the feline digitigrade walking technique.
Photo via Adobe Stock.

* "Georges Cuvier," Encyclopedia Britannicahttps://www.britannica.com/biography/Georges-Cuvier

Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-InsAnd now it’s time for Friendly Fill-Ins, from 15andmeowing and McGuffy’s Reader. They are a fun way to learn a little bit about the authors of the blogs you read. The first two questions, answered by Real Cat Paisley this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by old SoLT, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Real Cat Paisley’s answers:

1. When I am nervous, I hide somewhere safe and take a nap until I feel better.

2. When I am angry, I hiss at whoever ticked me off (usually Webster, because sometimes boys are just annoying).

Old SoLT’s answers:

3. Today, I know for sure that these days I’m more comfortable admitting I don’t know much than thinking I know anything for sure.

4. For St. Patrick’s day, I don’t usually do anything special. I don’t even wear green, and I am part Irish! I do think about my Irish ancestors and wish I knew more about them, but I do that even when it's not St. Paddy's Day.