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. Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to author Roby Sweet. Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

2016 Cat Oscars: Meow Mix Announces the Year's Best Internet Cat Moments

Now this is how you work it on the red carpet!
Photo by 2002lubava1981 via Adobe Stock.

Tonight’s the night, award-show lovers! It’s time for the Academy Awards, the Oscars…time to watch the stars walk down that red carpet. Time to stay up half the night waiting to see if your favorite is going to win Best Actor. Time to watch with bated breath to see who will win Best…

Oh, who cares?

You know who really deserves an award? Cats. Because cats make life better day in, day out.

You know what I’d like to see on that red carpet? A cat. Napping. That, I would watch.

 The 2016 Cat’s Meow Awards

Because cats are so terrific, I recently partnered with Meow Mix cat food to recognize the year's top four-legged performances in The 2016 Cat's Meow Awards .

That's right – this year's most anticipated awards show honors a flurry of furry faces. 

Meow Mix brand received more than 25,000 submissions from all over the country for the Cat's Meow Awards , which was established to celebrate the best cat moments of the year and the one-of-a-kind bond that only cats and humans share.

Check out these clips from the awards show that matters, The 2016 Cat's Meow Awards:








Con-cat-ulations to the all of the 2016 Cat's Meow Awards finalists and winners! 

But let's face it, cats couldn't care less about glory or fame... that's why Meow Mix brand created a new line of Irresistibles treats so that you can give them the award they're really looking for. With real meat, a wide variety of flavors, and both soft and crunchy textures, your cat will be sure to thank you in his acceptance speech.



Go to https://irresistiblemoments.com/ and share your cat's irresistible moment to get a FREE bag and see tons of other cool cat content.

This is a sponsored post.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats

This book could be titled The Encyclopedia of Community Cat Management, because an encyclopedia is what it really is. Only it’s not some dry old tome filled with short entries that somehow always leave you needing more. Instead, it’s an interesting read, whether you read it cover to cover or dip into one of the chapters to study up on a specific topic.

Another word author Louise Holton could have slipped into the title is “compassion.” Because this guide is filled with compassion for all—the community cats (a.k.a. feral cats), their caretakers, and even those who think feral cats should be eradicated (but let’s talk about them later).

The basics

The contents of ACR’s Guide to Managing Community Cats cover everything we could possibly think of that has anything to do with feral cats—and a lot more. Holton first provides a brief history of the domestic cat and an introduction to feral cats and that so-much-better term “community cats.”

The chapter on the evolution of no-kill animal care is fascinating reading. Just thirty years ago, my own She of Little Talent volunteered in a shelter where each week she saw the employees deciding which cats (and dogs, too, but she mostly remembers the cats) had had their chance at adoption, had failed to get adopted, and needed to be euthanized to make room for some other cat who hadn’t had a chance yet. It was sad, but you know what? That’s just the way it was. “No-kill” was a totally foreign concept. It’s amazing how far we’ve come, but there is still quite a ways to go, because, as Holton reminds us, far too many healthy animals are “humanely killed” each year (there’s an oxymoronic term for you), just because they’re “extra.”

For caretakers and veterinarians 

Holton also introduces us to the practice of trap-neuter-return (TNR), in which a colony of feral cats is evaluated; the cats are safely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and (ideally) microchipped before being returned to the colony site; and the caretaker provides daily care, to include providing food and water, shelter, and litter boxes.

Notice this feral cat's left ear.
That tipped ear tells people that she
belongs with a managed colony.
Photo by twinschoice via Adobe Stock.
The cats are also ear-tipped, having a quarter inch cut off the tip of their left ear. We’d heard about this before, but we never realized how important it is: Ear-tipping identifies a cat as one who is sterilized and belongs to a managed colony. That information could save the cat’s life if he ends up with animal control.

This seems a good place to mention that taking good care of a cat colony is a lot more involved than filling up a food bowl once in a while. To that end, the book includes sections on safe trapping, relocating, providing good winter shelter, and, for veterinarians, how to partner effectively with caretakers to maintain cats’ health.

We were especially pleased to learn that cats in well-managed colonies can live long, healthy lives. This is totally unlike what we’ve heard in the past about feral cats living short and rather horrid lives.

Debunking

That short-and-horrid-lives thing is just one feral-cat myth Holton debunks. You’ve heard of the bazillions of birds and other small creatures killed by feral cats every year? If, like so many of us, you love both cats and birds, you may have been disturbed by these claims, but Holton takes a close look at the studies those numbers come from, and it turns out… Okay, we’re not going to say that the numbers have been cooked, but it does look like those studies are not representative of the larger world.

There is sometimes a certain rabid frothiness to anti-feral-cat and anti-TNR pronouncements, and it’s nice to see Holton’s calm-headed response. May truth and compassion guide our actions always.

And by the way, you want to talk about an invasive species that has a tendency to drive others to extinction? Humans, look in the mirror.

Does this community cat look like he's "extra"?
Like he's living a short, horrid life that is not worth living?
No, we don't think so either.
Photo by twinschoice via Adobe Stock.

 For all cat lovers

Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats is primarily for those involved in or interested in caring for cat colonies, but its information is valuable for all cat lovers. We learned so much from this guide that we couldn’t possibly fit it all into one little review. The chapters that introduce feral cats, the history of no-kill, and the evolution of TNR are worth the price of admission. Plus, you never know when a stray is going to show up on your doorstep and eventually become a member of your household. You never know when the TNR vs. eradication issue is going to come up in your own community. It’s good to have an authoritative resource on your bookshelf to turn to at such times.

Yes, there are some misplaced commas that were a distraction to She of Little Talent’s inner editor, but most normal people will probably not be bothered by them. In the end, it’s Holton’s compassionate voice we will remember and respect.

Very highly recommended!




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

Monday, February 22, 2016

App Review: Neko Atsume


Socks and Cocoa spend some
time playing and sleeping
on the snow sled.
The kitty-collecting game Neko Atsume is all the rage among, for lack of a better term, cat gamers, and it’s easy to see why. First, it’s available for free download on both Android and iOS devices. Second, it reminds us a lot of what it’s like to try to make friends with actual cats (i.e., the cat controls the pace). Third, it’s just so gosh-darn cute!



How Neko Atsume works

Basically, you get a yard area where you can set out food, toys, and other fun items to attract cats. As you collect cats, you get to learn their personality traits, their favorite objects, and their power level (and don’t ask us what the power level means, because even after weeks of game play, we have no idea).

Photo from the Neko Astume game. The
cats in the yard are Snowball, Spots,
Pumpkin, Ginger, Speckles,
and Marshmallow.
When you first start the game, you learn how to set out some food and buy a toy to put in your yard. Then you close the game, and you wait. Five minutes later you open the game to see if anything has happened yet. Nothing has. You close the game again. This time you wait twenty minutes. Nothing has happened. This time you wait overnight, and when you open the game, you discover that all the food is gone, but still you see no cats. With a little glimmer of hope, you refill the food dish and close the game. And you wait. One day. Two days. Each time you open the game, the food is gone but there are no cats in sight, so you refill the food dish and close the game. You begin to wonder if you’re being punked, if the game developers are sitting somewhere laughing at all the millions of fools who download their app just to refill an empty food dish for no apparent purpose.

Then, perhaps on the third day (and I did say “perhaps,” mind you), you open the game and…

There’s a little cat playing with the red ball! And it is the cutest cat you have ever seen in your life. Never mind that the little cat just makes the same back-and-forth motions with the red ball over and over and over… You can’t stop watching.

Cue the cute…and the happiness

Soon there will be more cats. Soon your yard will be full of cats, all being ridiculously cute. Ridiculously cute. I cannot stress this enough. It is absolutely ridiculous how cute these cats are, and it is equally ridiculous how much happiness they seem to induce in people. She of Little Talent and her mother can both attest to the feeling of happiness that will wash through you when you open the game and see a bunch of little cats playing with the toys you set out for them.

Senor Don Gato is one of the "rare" cats in
Neko Atsume. He enjoys dressing up and
spearing stuffed mice with his sword.
Neko Atsume is a drug, basically. But it’s free and has no unpleasant side effects that we’re aware of, so play on.

The cats who visit your yard will leave gifts for you, in the form of fish that you can use to buy them more stuff. Yes, you can spend real money to buy more fish and get even more stuff for your kitties, but you can absolutely enjoy the game without doing that. If you want to buy more fish, though, the prices are reasonable (four dollars will get you a whole mess o’ gold fish). As in all financial dealings, mind your budget and remember you can have a lot of fun for free.

Once in a while, a cat will bring you a “memento”: a cicada skin, a damp matchbox, a scuffed dime. We haven’t figured out the purpose of the mementos yet, or even if they have one, other than to make you feel all gooey inside because a pretend cat brought you a little present (“Oh, Tubbs, you brought me piece of fish jerky. Thank you!”)

You can also take pictures of your cats and save them to each cat’s album. Then, on those occasions when you open the game and don’t see any cats (yes, this will still happen), you can browse through your album and remember all the good times you’ve already shared with your kitties (cue the happiness rush).

Then there are the rare cats you can lure in with specific items. Billy the Kitten likes the cowboy hat, for example. You can find lists online of the rare cats and which items they prefer, if you want to attract a particular cat. Or you can play like we do, being pleasantly surprised by each cat who shows up.

The verdict

Neko Atsume is not an exciting, action-packed game, but it is a lot of fun for cat lovers. We like that you can play and collect lots of cats for free. And we especially like how, if you’re feeling a little down, you can just watch your kitties for a few minutes and feel better.


Very highly recommended!






Friday, February 19, 2016

Cat Proverbs from the Middle Ages

Over the centuries, humans have inserted cats into lots of pithy little sayings, or proverbs. Some you’re undoubtedly already familiar with: “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” Others are less common these days: “The gloved cat does not catch the mouse.”

Origins of “When the cat’s away…”

These mice aren't playing!
Miniatures of cat and mouse, and a mouse,
in a Theological Miscellany by Peraldus. England,
c. 1236–1275.
Public Domain, via the
We went to The Phrase Finder to find the origins of “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” (meaning, of course, that when the authority figure leaves, the mice or children or whatever will eat all the cheese and basically turn the place upside down). Turns out this proverb has been known in English since about 1470. It even shows up in Shakespeare’s Henry V; in act 1 scene 2, Westmoreland warns that if England invades France, Scotland will take advantage, “playing mouse in absence of the cat.” Exeter replies, “It follows then that the cat must stay at home).

Earlier, similar sayings were known in Latin (“When the cat falls asleep, the mouse rejoices and leaps from the hole”) and French (“Where there is no cat, there is no king,” early 1300s).

The first recorded cat proverb

The earliest known cat proverb comes from sometime before 1200: “The cat longs for fish, but he does not want to wet his paws.” It first appeared in Latin (Rogers, p. 20). Interestingly, Shakespeare also used this proverb, in Macbeth, though he allu0ded to it rather than stating it outright. Lady Macbeth is calling her husband a coward for wanting to back out of killing the king. She says he’s “like the poor cat i’ the adage,” he wants the prize but doesn’t want to get his hands dirty (act 1, scene 7).

More useful provebs

We think cat proverbs should be used more often, so here are a few more that have their origins in the Middle Ages. We’re sure you’ll be able to work them into your daily conversations:

 “The gloved cat does not catch the mouse.”
(Sometimes being gentle will get you nowhere. If you want that mouse, you’ll need your claws.)

“Whenever a rat teases a cat, he is leaning against a hole.”
(Someone doing something dangerous will have a hole to bolt to, metaphorically. Unless he’s not very smart; then the cat will eat him. Metaphorically. Or for real.)

“Make yourself a mouse and the cat will eat you.”
(If you act timid and afraid, predators will take advantage of you. Run up to that cat and bop him on the nose, metaphorically. When in the presence of a predator, do not behave like prey.)

Cats catching mice.
Notice they're not wearing gloves.
Detail of a miniature from a 13th-century bestiary, England.
Public Domain, via the

Sources

Rogers, Katharine M. (1998). The Cat and the Human Imagination. Anne Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


The Phrase Finder. (2002, November 19). Re: When the cat’s away the mice will play [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/17/messages/422.html

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Black Cat Syndrome May Be Real, but Shelters Can Do Something About It

Would this cat wait longer to be adopted
than a lighter-colored cat? According to a study
of adoption records from one shelter in western
New York, yes. Photo by Roby Sweet.
In recent cat news, a study of cat adoption records from a New York shelter reveals that “black cat syndrome” is a real thing, and that shelters can do a couple simple things to help combat it.

What is black cat syndrome?

“Black cat syndrome” describes the phenomenon in which mostly dark-colored cats wait longer to be adopted than cats of other colors. Miranda Workman and Christy L. Hoffman, both professors of animal behavior at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, designed a study to look for evidence of the syndrome at a shelter in western New York. They analyzed records of 892 cat adoptions between October 2012 and October 2013, comparing adoptability rates of black or smoke cats to cats of other colors. Using Petfinder.com, the authors looked at things like the number of clicks each cat received per day, how long each cat waited before being adopted, and details of the cats’ online photographs.

On the question of coat color, “The black/smoke cats received significantly fewer clicks per day and had a significantly longer length of availability," Hoffman said.

So, it seems that black cats were less popular online, got fewer looks from potential adopters, and spent more time in the shelter waiting to be noticed. In other words, they suffered from black cat syndrome.

 It's not all bad...

A mostly dark cat photographed
in a mostly dark
cage looks ... unhappy.
Photo by Bruno Passigatti.
But that’s not all the authors found. Digging deeper into things that could influence a cat’s popularity, Workman and Hoffman also looked at several aspects of the cats’ online portraits: Were the photos taken from the front or the side? Did they show only the cat’s head or the whole body? Was the cat looking at the camera? What size were the cat’s pupils? How were the cat’s ears positioned?

Out of all the aspects of the photographs the researchers considered, only two made any difference:

Cats photographed outside of a cage and cats photographed with a toy were more popular than those photographed in a cage or without a toy.

The takeaway

So, shelters, get those black cats out of their cages to take their pictures, and give them a prop that says, “Hey, look at me! I’m playful, fun, and interesting!” Hoffman and Workman summed it up basically the same way, but a little more scientifically: “Strategic use of toys in cats’ photographs may promote adoptions of cats who are typically overlooked.” (By the way, we love that they wrote “cats who are” rather than “cats that are.” Because, you know, a cat is not an object.)

A dark cat outside of a cage
with a toy looks fun, playful,
says, "Take me home!"
Photo by cynoclub.
All of this raises the question of why black cats tend to be overlooked. We can see no rational explanation. Black cats are beautiful, they can make fantastic companions, and black goes with anything, so they’ll always match your outfit.

(By the way again, in a separate study, Hoffman found no evidence for “black dog syndrome”; in fact, that study found that black dogs had a slightly shorter wait for adoption than dogs of other colors. Breed and age were more important factors than coat color in dog adoptions.)

Sources

Canisius College. (2016, February 3). “No Evidence Found for 'Black Dog Syndrome.'” ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 17, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160203185534.htm

Workman, M. K. & Hoffman, C. L. (2015).  “An Evaluation of the Role the Internet Site Petfinder Plays in Cat Adoptions.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science,


Read More

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: The Ninth Life, by Clea Simon

For years, we’ve been reading and loving cat cozies—those fun, light books featuring one or more cats, a quirky amateur sleuth, and a rather delightful murder—and yet somehow, Clea Simon’s The Ninth Life is exactly the book we’ve been waiting for. Compelling is not a word that comes to mind to describe most mysteries we review here, but it is the first word that came to mind as we read the first book in Simon’s new series.

The Ninth Life is not a cozy mystery. It is instead the kind of darker story that grips you by the throat on page one and does not release you until you’ve turned the final page. I say it’s the book we’ve been waiting for partly because it is told entirely from the cat’s point of view, and I can tell you, Clea Simon is a writer who has spent some time thinking about what it’s like to be a cat. The story starts in a most disturbing way, with the cat’s near-drowning. Fortunately, the cat is rescued by a pink-haired girl of perhaps fourteen, but if you think the story is going to get all warm and cuddly from that point on, think again.

Because this girl—Care, her name is—lives the uncertain existence of a child of the streets. It’s not unlike the life of a stray cat, only with the added pressures exerted by those humans who are older, or just bigger and stronger, and are eager to use the younger and weaker for their own ends.

Care names her new feline companion Blackie, and he begins to follow her—and not just for the meager amount of subpar food she’s able to share with him. Blackie sees himself as Care’s protector as the girl tries to solve the mystery of who killed the unnamed “old man” who, until his death, had been her mentor in the field of private investigation. But for this cat, Care’s on her own as she works on the old man’s last case, with precious few clues and surrounded by a bunch of sleazy types with names like Fat Peter (only he’s dead too) and Diamond Jim. And then there’s the younger boy named Tick, whom Care is looking after, or trying to, though we’re not sure what Tick is trying to do to her.

Good thing Blackie is along for the ride. He knows to be wary of everything, for this is not his first rodeo, as they say in some places. Curiously, though he’s older, he also seems brand new in some ways. Blackie seems to be remembering—or perhaps discovering?—who he is as he goes along. “I am a cat…I am older.” He makes this statement as much to himself as to the reader. Blackie also seems to suffer from PTSD after that near-drowning, sometimes waking from nightmares that cause him to lash out at Care, drawing her blood. At first he struggles whenever she picks him up, not understanding her intentions, not really trusting her, fearing she will betray him after the little bit of trust he’s granted her. But Care never turns on him, and so they stick together, surviving in the shadows as the pink-haired girl moves ever closer to a dangerous truth.

The mystery part of this story may or may not involve a stolen emerald necklace—or something much, much bigger. The reader receives bits of the story as Blackie receives them, through others’ conversations and the cat’s keen sense of smell. Those intricate criminal intentions are not always easy to follow, and we still wouldn’t swear we understand them, but when it comes down to it, we don’t really care: The magic in this story is all between Care and Blackie, and there’s plenty of it.

As I said earlier, Clea Simon has clearly spent some time considering what it’s like to be a cat. Blackie (and Care, ultimately) moves through the city as both hunter and prey, vulnerable and dangerous at the same time, depending on who the foe is. He understands both less and more than Care does, and he longs to communicate with her as easily as she talks to him. We especially like the way Blackie grooms when he is upset: “One asserts order however one can.” So true.

We found The Ninth Life to be true edge-of-your-seat reading. The story is stark, as is the setting, yet Simon dots it all with moments of insight and small beauties that offer hope. We’re left feeling that as long as Care and Blackie have each other, they’ll somehow be okay. This story isn’t cute and cuddly, but oh, is it good!

Highly recommended!



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

We received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. We wouldn’t tell you it was good unless we really liked it!


The link below is an Amazon Associates link. If you purchase the book through this link, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account. Thank you!


Friday, February 12, 2016

The Bengal Cat: A Little Wildcat in the Living Room

Bengal cat. Photo by Svetlana Valiskaya.

In our continuing exploration into the leopard cat and its possible domestication in ancient China, today we consider the Bengal cat, a domestic breed that is a cross between the wild leopard cat and a domestic cat. These crosses were being made by the late 19th century, if not earlier, though the breed didn’t become “official” until a century later.

The modern Bengals offered by reputable breeders are at least four generations removed from their wild ancestors but still have that wildcat look, with handsome and vividly colored spotted or marbled coats. Bengals are in the medium to large size range for domestic cats and are known for their active, inquisitive nature. Just like their leopard cat relatives, these cats enjoy water and sometimes jump into the bath or shower. They also enjoy high places.

While, yes, they are domesticated, a Bengal will always be its own cat. They’ve been described as “rambunctious, funny, beautiful and dynamic” (TICA) and “happiest when [they are] the center of attention (Pickeral, 212).

Our favorite thing about Bengals, though, is that they have a rich and interesting history.

Early history

We can’t say for sure when the first cross between a leopard cat and a domestic cat happened. The first record of such a hybrid (at least that we could find) appeared in 1889, when the noted British cat fancier Harrison Weir wrote of a cat he’d seen at the Zoological Society Gardens in Regent’s Park. It was said to be the offspring of a male “wild cat of Bengal and a tabby she-cat.” The cat, Weir said, was “handsome, but very wild.”

The next known record is from 1934, when a leopard cat–domestic hybrid was mentioned in a Belgian scientific journal. Unfortunately, although lots of people know (or have repeated) that this unnamed Belgian scientific journal mentioned this hybrid cat, no one seems to know what said journal actually had to report about said cat.

Breeding begins

We next pick up the Bengal’s story in 1961, when Jean Sugden Mill, an American interested in cat breeding, obtained a wild leopard cat. This cat “got involved” with Mill’s black domestic cat, and the result was one kitten. Some sources give the date of this breeding as 1963 (TICA). This nascent breeding project petered out, but Mill would reappear a little later in the breed’s history.

The leukemia connection

Leopard cat-domestic cat hybrids intrigued cancer
researchers in the 1970s. Domestic cats carry the
genome for a feline leukemia virus in their DNA,
but leopard cats do not. What would happen to
the virus genome in the hybrid cats?
Illustration © Saporob | Dreamstime.com Dna
Leopard cat–domestic hybrids also played a role in leukemia research. Domestic cats carry the genome for the Type C feline leukemia virus in their DNA and pass it on to their offspring; wild leopard cats do not. In the 1970s, a Loma Linda University geneticist named Willard R. Centerwall wondered what would happen to the leukemia genome in hybrids of the two species. He hoped that investigations into that question would help scientists better understand leukemia in humans.

In conjunction with Dr. Raoul Benveniste of the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, Centerwall began a breeding program to produce leopard cat–domestic hybrids and then “backcross” the female hybrids with male leopard cats and domestic cats. (Males in the first generation of hybrids were all sterile, so the hybrids could not be bred to one another.)

There was a problem, though: The half-wild mothers tended to kill their kittens. The solution? Adopt the kittens out to Loma Linda students and employees to be placed with domestic mother cats and their litters. After they were weaned, the hybrids would then be returned to Dr. Centerwall.

Most of these cats were housed at Loma Linda University Medical Center, though some were kept at private homes. Dr. Centerwall described the hybrid offspring as “edgy.” Some could become tame with frequent handling after weaning, but they were “almost impossible to housebreak” (Gleaner). In other words, not great pets.

The breed gets a name

Bengals are known for
being active and playful.
Photo by Eric Isselée.
So far in this history, we haven’t referred to the hybrid cats as “Bengals.” That’s because they didn’t get that name until 1970, when another American, Bill Engler, bred a male leopard cat to two domestic females and called the kittens Bengals. Five years later, Engler had more than 60 Bengals, and the cats were into the third generation.

This is the point where Jean Sugden Mill comes back into the picture. In 1980 she was given some first-generation kittens from Dr. Centerwall, then she received some more hybrids from another cat person (these had also originated from Centerwall) and she started breeding again. In efforts to increase the gene pool, Mill added other cats to her breeding program, including an Indian street cat credited with giving some Bengals a glittery coat. Mill’s efforts resulted in the “ideal” Bengal, a cat named Millwood Penny Ante who became well known on the cat show circuit.

Today the breed is accepted by many (though not all) cat fancy associations, including the American Cat Fanciers Association and The International Cat Association.

Most importantly, Bengals continue to be fascinating.

Sources

Gleaner. (1977, October 3). “Leukemia’s Hereditary Factors Are Studied,” p. 17.

The International Cat Association (TICA). http://tica.org/cat-breeds/item/184

Pickeral, Tamsin. (2013). “Bengal,” in The Elegance of the Cat: An Illustrated History, pp. 212–219. Hauppage, NY: Barron’s.



Weir, Harrison. (1892). Our Cats and All About Them. Kindle edition created from the new edition of 1892.

Monday, February 8, 2016

App Review: Weather Cats

Humans are obsessed with the weather. If you want to know exactly how obsessed, just search for “weather apps” on your phone, and prepare to be overwhelmed. Certain humans (possibly you, if you’re reading this blog) are also obsessed with cats, so it’s really no surprise that there are several apps combining cats and weather. Today we are considering one called Weather Cats.

A screenshot from Weather
Cats. Cute cats.
This app, created by Hamster Factory, is free and has no ads. It is available for iPhone and iPad and requires iOS 8 or later.

We used Weather Cats on She of Little Talent’s iPhone for a couple of weeks. It gives the current day’s weather forecast and a three-day forecast for one location—sometimes. Mostly it only provides a three-day forecast that is, um, unreliable. The day before the Blizzard of 2016 arrived here, Weather Cats claimed the next day would bring “light snow.” We got two feet of snow, which I guess might be considered light…on a snow planet.

But the app does have some cute cat pictures, and you can choose from among six different cat patterns for the background. We like the snow leopard, though the tiger is easier for reading.

The bottom line is this: Weather Cats is not a reliable weather app. It is, however, a reliable cat picture app, though it has only a few pictures. We check Weather Cats once in a while because we like some of the pictures and, hey, it's free, but when it’s time to check the weather, we look out the window.


Friday, February 5, 2016

What Is a Leopard Cat?

Leopard Cat in Bronx Zoo.
By Stavenn (Own work)
[GFDLCC-BY-SA-3.0, or CC BY 2.5],
via Wikimedia Commons; 

If you have been paying attention to this blog, you’ll remember that last week we wrote of new evidence that leopard cats may have been domesticated or almost domesticated 5,000 years ago in parts of China. We thought you might perhaps be curious about these leopard cats, and so this week we report on the species otherwise known as Prionailurus bengalensis.

Leopard cats are found across a
large area of Asia, and populations
show wide variation in size
and color from north to south.
Map from IUCN Red List of  Threatened Species,
species assessors and the authors of the
spatial data. [CC BY-SA 3.0 ],
via Wikimedia Commons.
First off, the leopard cat is the most common small cat in Asia. They have a large range: from Java up through Malaysia, China, and into parts of Russia. They’re found in parts of India, too. Leopard cats are roughly the size of domestic cats, only with longer legs. Their size varies a lot across their range, though, from just 1.2 pounds in Malaysia to 15 pounds in Russia (Sunquist & Sunquist, p. 193). As their name implies, their coats are spotted, giving them the appearance of small leopards. Coloring varies, from yellowish-brown in the south to grayish-brown in the north (“Leopard Cat Facts”).

One really interesting thing about leopard cats is that they like to swim. Let me say that again: They like to swim. Go figure. They’ve even been known to swim to and colonize islands, and one leopard cat that swam to a ship in the Bay of Bengal became the first of its species to be described by scientists (Sunquist & Sunquist, p. 193). We wonder if the cat regretted taking that swim.

Leopard cats eat mostly rats and mice, but they’ll eat other things too, like birds and fish. They hunt mostly at night, whether in trees or on the ground—and, since they sometimes eat fish, they can also hunt either in water or from the shore.

Because of their beautiful coat pattern, leopard cats have been hunted for their pelts. They’re not considered threatened or endangered, but habitat loss is a problem in some areas, and then there’s that killing-for-coats thing. In China in the 1980s, “hundreds of thousands of Leopard Cat skins were exported per year” (IUCN). This trade isn’t as common as it once was, but leopard cats are still hunted for their fur or as food. Sometimes they’re killed for being pests to poultry.

And, in an example of history repeating itself, people are still working on domesticating leopard cats. The cats are sometimes taken from the wild to be made into pets or to be bred with domestic cats. That domestic breeding has produced the popular Bengal cat breed, which we will learn about next week.

Sources

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. “Prionailurus bengalensis.” http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/18146/0

“Leopard cat.” Arkive. http://www.arkive.org/leopard-cat/prionailurus-bengalensis/image-G74417.html

“Leopard Cat Facts.” (March 15, 2015). Big Cat Rescue. https://bigcatrescue.org/leopard-cat-facts/

Sunquist, F., & Sunquist, M. (2014). The Wild Cat Book. University of Chicago Press.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Jaguar Spotted in Arizona

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there were jaguars in North America. The stocky, spotted cats "roamed from Oregon to Pennsylvania" but disappeared from those northern reaches before Europeans colonized the continent (Sunquist & Sunquist, p. 19). For years now, jaguars in North America have been more a rumor than an actual presence, though the cats have been seen sporadically in southern Arizona.

Now, there is video evidence of a male jaguar in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson. The video, released yesterday by Conservation CATalyst, was taken via remote sensor camera. It shows the jaguar, known as El Jefe ("the boss"), padding through the forest and picking his way along a rocky streambed. Here, have a look:



Wasn't that thrilling? Just imagine coming upon that cat while you're out for a walk in the woods!

Sources


CNN. (Feb. 3, 2016). A Wild Jaguar in the United States? There's Video of One in Arizona. http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/03/us/wild-jaguar-video-arizona-feat/index.html

Sunquist, F., & Sunquist M. (2014). The Wild Cat Book. University of Chicago Press.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Adoptable Cat: Max, Looking for a Little Human Companionship

Cats with a Past


Cats and humans need each other. (Really, how any of you humans can survive without the help of at least one of us cats is beyond me.) Max the cat is currently in need of a human to love him, and we just know there’s a human out there somewhere who is waiting to welcome him into their home.

Max is a handsome orange tabby who is 12–14 years old. He is currently in foster care through the Cats R Us organization in the Annapolis, MD, area. His foster caregiver reports that Max is a lovable fellow who gets along with just about anyone. He likes other cats, and even dogs. (Is there anyone Max doesn’t like?)

What Max really needs is a home of his own and someone to spend time with. Perhaps you work from home and need a companion to fill in that empty space in your office (and living room, bedroom, kitchen, and however many other rooms you have)? Max could be your guy! He would also make a nice kitty companion for a retired person. And if you’re away from home during the day, Max will be fine; he’ll just take a good nap.

Update: Max has been adopted! But Cats R Us has lots of other great cats in the Annapolis area. To learn more and to see  the cats, visit http://catsrusrescue.org/adopt/.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book Review: Murder Most Finicky

Murder Most Finicky, by Liz Mugavero, combines three of our favorite things: cats, food, and of course, murder.

Well, I say “cats,” but what I really mean is “cat,” singular. His name is Nutty, and he’s a Maine coon who has the great good fortune to live with one Kristan “Stan” Connor, a former public relations guru who now creates delicious goodies for pets. Every cat should have a person who spends their days thinking up recipes for delectable feline foods—am I right?

Anyway, Stan is looking to partner with one Sheldon Allyn (that’s “Mr. Pastry” to foodies in the know) to open a pet patisserie in Frog Ledge, Connecticut, her hometown. There’s just one little catch, though, and the book opens with Stan being blindfolded and put into the back of a pastry truck by one of Sheldon’s goons…I mean “helpers.” Nutty is also placed into the truck, which is then driven to an undisclosed location for what is supposed to be a weekend retreat for a bunch of “star chefs.”

Turns out the real purpose of this gathering (and “retreat” is hardly the word I would use to describe it) is to prepare a very special meal for a bunch of investors. The event will be featured in a magazine, and there’s the possibility of a television series on a food channel. Stan’s role is to prepare food for one investor’s Siamese cat: a pampered, prize-winning Siamese cat who will undoubtedly be finicky. Nutty is to be the taste-tester. No pressure though, right?

Naturally, things soon take a bad turn. Before the group members have even toured their fancy digs for the weekend, Stan wanders off and finds a dead body. (These things just happen to some people; we don’t know why.) The body is that of Pierre LaPorte, a pastry chef who was supposed to be part of the event. Questions among the group quickly go from “Where’s Pierre?” to “Who slit Pierre's throat?”

What follows is a crazy but surprisingly plausible weekend of suspicion, amateur sleuthing, innuendo, and a little cooking. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone (except Stan) seems to know some secrets about their fellow chefs. After one chef disappears and a replacement fails to show up, it’s starting to look like this event is not a safe place to be, but Sheldon is not about to cancel—not when so much money is at stake. And so the show goes on, all the way to its unexpected conclusion.

Mugavero has given us an intriguingly yummy read. We came to like Stan right away. She is a refreshing bit of normal in a big bunch of crazy. The other chef and baker types are… Well, let’s call them eccentric. Stan, though, is just the kind of person you would trust to cook for your pet; she loves animals and she’s not a wacko. Yes, she seems to have a knack for stumbling across dead bodies, but you can't really blame a person for that.

Mugavero’s writing is lovely, clear, and effortless to read, even when the plot gets complicated (there are several past and present relationships to keep track of). We especially enjoyed the kitchen scene in which cooking for the grand event finally begins. Pots are boiling, vegetables are sautéing, oil is spattering. It sounds like a delightful kitchen to be in, except for that sense of doom hanging over everything (doom is generally a bad thing in a kitchen).

Our one beef with this book is that Nutty the Maine coon is not as much in the center of things as we’d hoped. We like to see the cat as the star of the show, doing lots of catlike things, but here he’s more of a well-fed supporting character. That, though, is a minor point in a book that is 100 percent enjoyable otherwise.

Highly recommended!



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