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.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Legends of the Manx

A Manx cat with a bit of a tail. A rumpy-riser, perhaps?
1903 photo by Gambier Bolton from
The Book of the Cat by Frances Simpson.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Manx cats originally hail from the Isle of Man, a small island (only 227 square miles) in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The word “Manx” can refer to human inhabitants of the Isle of Man, the Celtic language of the original Manx people, or, of course, to the tailless domestic cats that are our subject today. A tailless cat is an interesting thing to humans, so people have thought up lots of stories for how these cats lost their tails. But first, let’s find out just what makes a Manx a Manx.

Some of them have tails

Interestingly, the one feature (lack of a tail) most people associate with Manx cats is not actually shared by all cats in the breed. There are four classifications of Manx cats:
  • rumpy—tailless, with a little dimple where the tail should be
  • rumpy-riser—has a tail that’s only one to three vertebrae long
  • stumpy—has a somewhat longer, stumpy tail
  • longy—has a tail like other cats, or slightly shorter

The Isle of Man has sometimes
put its famous cats on its coins,
like this silver 15 ECUs coin.
Photo by CTHOE [CC BY-SA 3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons.
Aside from their interesting tails, Manx cats are known for having a rounded face and being short-bodied and heavy. They are muscular cats and have powerful back legs that make them excellent jumpers. Those back legs can also make their movement seem rabbit-like. The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) says, “The Manx cat is the working cat on the Isle of Man and, as such, has a strong constitution, great intelligence, and a personality that is active yet not hyperactive.”

Manx cats have been around for a long time. They were shown in some of Great Britain’s very first cat shows, and they were one of the founding breeds of the CFA in 1906.

Legends of the breed

The Manx has been the inspiration for quite a few stories and legends. I present them here in chronological order:
  • When it was time for all the animals to board the Ark, the Manx cats were sleeping (because, you know, they were cats). They woke up just in time to scamper onto the great ship, cutting it so close that Noah slammed the door on their tails, thus de-tailing the cats.
  • Phoenicians brought tailless cats to the Isle of Man sometime in the period 1500–300 BC. These cats were thought to originate from Japan (those Phoenicians really got around, or so the theory went)—just think “Japanese bobtail.”
  • The cats on the Isle of Man had their tails cut off by Irish invaders, who wore them as plumes in their helmets.
  • The cats swam ashore from a wrecked ship that was part of the Spanish Armada in 1588. These cats also supposedly originated from the Far East, just like the cats the Phoenicians were thought to have carried on their ships.
  • The cats also show up on
    postage stamps
    of the Isle of Man.
    Image via AdobeStock.
  • In 1844, a historian named Joseph Train noted the cats’ resemblance to rabbits (at least in their motion) and suggested that the Manx was a rabbit-cat hybrid.
So far as we know, none of these stories is true.

The real story

Somehow, from somewhere, some cats (possibly from England or Wales) arrived on the Isle of Man by ship. At some point, a mutation occurred that caused taillessness in some of the cats. The cat population of the island was isolated, so there was a lot of inbreeding, and the mutation got passed down through the generations and became common.

Incidentally, a cat having her tail cut off by any means would not automatically have tailless kittens, because her lack of a tail would not be passed down to them. That’s basic genetics.

Also basic genetics is the fact that the gene for taillessness is dominant in the Manx. This is different from other tailless cats, who get the trait through a recessive gene. Manx cats can suffer from some abnormalities in their hindquarters because of this mutation. Kittens that get two copies of the dominant tailless gene (one from each parent) die before birth. Thus, long-tailed Manx cats are needed for breeding to keep the overall population healthy.

A Manx in an 1895 illustration
from The Cat, R. S. Huidekoper,
who called these
cats "a monstrosity."
By Internet Archive Book Images
About the breed, veterinarian Rush Shippen Huidekoper wrote in 1895,
The Manx Cat really can be classed as a monstrosity, having been developed probably by the interbreeding of some freak of nature in the form of a cat which inhabited the Island of Man at an early period. (p. 72)

We think “monstrosity” is a little much, but clearly, not everyone has been a fan of the tailless Manx.

One last story

Our final story is about the Isle of Man’s tailless longhaired cat, which is called the Cymric. These cats have been around for a long time but did not become popular for showing until the 1960s. One story of their origin involves our favorite invaders, the Vikings, who may or may not have brought longhaired cats to the island in the eighth century. Those cats bred with the island’s native shorthaired cats, and voila! The Cymric.

Today, both longhaired and shorthaired varieties compete in the show ring.

Sources



The International Cat Association. http://www.tica.org/cat-breeds/item/233

Huidekoper, Rush Shippe.n The Cat: A Guide to the Classification and Varieties of Cats and a Short Treatise upon Their Care, Diseases, and Treatment. New York: D. Appleton, 1895. https://books.google.com/books?id=k8NJAAAAIAAJ

Pickeral, Tamsin. “Manx and Cymric.” In The Elegance of the Cat: An Illustrated History (pp 33–34). Hauppage, NY: Barron’s, 2013.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Celebrate National Tabby Day at Bideawee Animal Shelter


If you are fortunate enough to be in New York this Saturday, April 30, head over to Bideawee Animal Shelter to celebrate the first annual National Tabby Day. The event will include the official launch of the book featuring Buffy, our favorite inspirationally active cat. Author Sandy Robins will be on hand, and drinks and treats will be available for two- and four-legged attendees.

Of course, a holiday called National Tabby Day would not be complete without cat adoptions, and plenty of cats will be available, all looking for their forever homes. Anyone who adopts on that day will receive a nice starter kit from the event’s sponsors, as well as a photo op with Buffy’s official photographer, Paul Smulson.

We hope that you’ll consider taking an older cat into your home on National Tabby Day. Remember that senior cats make excellent companions and lap warmers, and they (probably) won’t climb your curtains. Just take a look at these great cats at Bideawee, and learn more about any of them at www.bideawee.org. Vital details for National Tabby Day appear at the end of this post!

Pepper



First up is Pepper, a 10-year-old girl who looks lovely in her brown & black tabby pattern.





Earle

Earle is 10 and a half years old. He’s a big boy, all black, and as you can see from his video below, he’s quite playful!


Toby

Toby lived all of his 11 years with the same owner, until she passed away. Naturally he is a bit confused by his new situation, but as you can see, he is a really loving cat who just needs some time and patience. Maybe you can be the one to provide Toby a safe home where he can open up and be happy again. Toby needs a gentle person or family, and he would enjoy the company of another adult cat too.




Rocky

Rocky is just shy of 9 years old. He sports a lovely brown and black tabby pattern.








Annette



Annette is a 12-year-old girl who really rocks her black-and-white tuxedo look.








Wall E

Last but certainly not least is Wall E, who is 15 years old and sports a gray and white coat. He is very shy and sweet, and he will need some extra patience from his new person. But as you can see from his video, your patience will be rewarded with Wall E’s sweet, sweet love.



National Tabby Day Details

Date: Saturday, April 30, 2016
Time: 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Place: Bideawee Animal Shelter
            410 E 38th Street, New York, NY 10016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: Kate & Blake vs. the Cat Heir




This week we review a mystery with a cat in the title, which made us think the cat would be a major player, appearing on at least every other page. It turns out that the cat in Dakota Kahn’s Kate & Blake vs. the Cat Heir is not the major character we hoped he’d be. But you know what? It doesn’t even matter; this book is so much fun we couldn’t help but love it.



Struggling lawyer meets wealthy recluse with a bubbly heiress

Kate Becker is a small-town lawyer who’s barely scraping by while she dreams of better things. Much better things. For example, she’d like a big, fancy office. Meanwhile, she’s stuck in an office so small and cramped she has to climb over her desk to get out of it. She does have a sort-of job with a mysterious person who calls himself the Landowner, but, well, let’s just say that job isn’t getting Kate any closer to her dream. Yet.

Like most small towns, Whispering Pines has its share of secrets. One of Whispering Pines’ major secrets lies in it fancy section, Blue Aspen, where all the well-off people live. Like Jacinda Foster, the rich old woman who thought she had no heirs, until a long-lost niece, PJ, was found. Before PJ entered the picture, Jacinda had no one but her housekeeper and her cat. As you may have guessed from the title of the book, she had willed her entire fortune to the cat. But now, she and PJ have hit it off so well, and Jacinda is so thrilled to have living family, that naturally she wants to update her will. The only problem is, Jacinda’s personal lawyer/secretary has suddenly gone missing.

This is where Kate comes in. The Landowner sends her to find a single piece of paper in the lawyer/secretary’s office: Jacinda’s new will, the one that does not leave everything to her cat.

Unfortunately, Jacinda is found dead before Kate can find the new will. Kate suspects poisoning, and she’s not the sort to just let things go, despite what her fiance, sheriff's deputy Blake Spanner, says. So, as Jacinda’s lawyer, she investigates, setting herself up for danger heaped upon trouble. Soon our new favorite lawyer is embroiled in all sorts of rich-family weirdness, including suicide, scandal, lost or stolen jewels, ghosts… So, you know, all the normal stuff. Basically.

About the cat...and that other pet

About this cat heir… Commodore Scruffington is his name. He’s described as charcoal gray, deserving of his rank, and having “a deep expression on his face, like he was constantly contemplating his fate.”  Personally, we think Commodore Scruffington deserves to inherit Jacinda’s fortune. He makes periodic appearances in the book, but we wished we could see more of him.

Actually, the animal we see most often is a duck named Matador. Because Matador is Kate’s pet duck. Who sleeps with her. This, according to Kate, is normal, and since we like and trust Kate, we choose to believe her, though we wouldn’t want to try it at home.

The verdict

Kate & Blake vs. the Cat Heir is a quick-paced, well-plotted cozy that is a joy to read. Yes, we hoped to see more of the cat, and there are enough typos in the text that they can be a distraction at times…but despite that, the book is very well written, and we love Kate. We can't help it. We’d really like to have coffee with her sometime. We might even consent to meet Matador, though honestly, we are still getting used to the pet-duck thing. In any case, we found Kate & Blake vs. the Cat Heir to be a lot of fun to read, and we highly recommend it. We can’t wait to see what Kate does next!

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!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Which Cat Species Are Endangered? We Take Stock on Earth Day 2016


Four endangered cat species. Clockwise from top left:
Amur Tiger, Andean Cat, Flat-headed Cat, Fishing Cat.
Credits: Amur Tiger in Louisville Zoo by Ltshears [CC BY-SA 3.0].
Andean Cat by Jim Sanderson [CC BY-SA 3.0 ].
Flat-headed Cat by Jim Sanderson [CC BY-SA 3.0].
Fishing Cat in Tennoji Zoo, Osaka, Japan, by pelican [CC BY-SA 2.0].

For Earth Day 2016, we thought we’d take a look at how our wild cousins are doing, so we went to the Internet to collect data, which She of Little Talent put into this table. She even added subspecies and color-coded it, so it might actually be useful. As you can see, some species seem to be doing well, but there is still too much yellow, orange, and red (Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered, respectively) on that list.
To get a Word or pdf file of the list, drop an e-mail to roby@robysweet.com and we’ll send you one.

Conservation Status of Wild Cat Species
Taxonomic Name
Common Name
Status (publication date)*
Panthera leo
Lion
Vulnerable (2015)
P. leo
West African subpopulation
Critically Endangered (2015)
P. leo persica
Asiatic Lion, Indian Lion
Endangered (2008)
Panthera tigris
Tiger
Endangered (2015)
P. tigris altaica
Amur Tiger
Endangered (2011)
P. tigris amoyensis
South China Tiger
Critically Endangered, possibly extinct in wild (2015)
P. tigris corbetti
Indochinese Tiger
Endangered (2011)
P. tigris jacksoni
Malayan Tiger
Critically Endangered (2015)
P. tigris sumatrae
Sumatran Tiger
Critically Endangered (2008)
P. tigris tigris
Bengal Tiger
Endangered (2011)
P. tigris balica
Bali Tiger
Extinct (1940s)
P. tigris sondaica
Javan Tiger
Extinct (mid-1970s)
P. tigris virgata
Caspian Tiger
Extinct (1970s)
Panthera onca
Jaguar
Near Threatened
Panthera uncia
Snow Leopard
Endangered
Panthera pardus
Leopard
Near Threatened
P. pardus kotiya
Sri Lankan Leopard
Endangered (2008)
P. pardus melas
Javan Leopard
Critically Endangered (2008)
P. pardus nimr
Arabian Leopard
Critically Endangered (2008)
P. pardus orientalis
Amur Leopard
Critically Endangered (2008)
P. pardus saxicolor
Persian Leopard
Endangered (2008)
Neofilis nebulosa
Clouded Leopard
Vulnerable
Catopuma badia
Borneo Bay Cat
Endangered
Pardofelis marmorata
Marbled Cat
Near Threatened
Catopuma temminckii
Asiatic Golden Cat
Near Threatened
Leptailurus serval
Serval
Least Concern
Caracal caracal
Caracal
Least Concern
Caracal aurata
African Golden Cat
Vulnerable (2015)
Leopardus pardalis
Ocelot
Least Concern (2015)
Leopardus wiedii
Margay
Near Threatened (2015)
Leopardus geoffroyi
Geoffroy’s Cat
Least Concern (2015)
Leopardus guigna
GuiƱa
Vulnerable (2015)
Leopardus jacobita
Andean Cat
Endangered (2008)
Leopardus tigrinus
Oncilla
Vulnerable (2008)
L. tigrinus oncilla
Central American Oncilla, Central American Little Spotted Cat
Endangered (2008)
Leopardus colocolo
Pampas Cat
Near Threatened (2015)
Lynx lynx
Eurasian Lynx
Least Concern (2015)
L. lynx balcanicus
Balkan Lynx
Critically Endangered (2015)
Lynx pardinus
Iberian Lynx
Endangered (2015)
Lynx canadensis
Canadian Lynx
Least Concern (2015)
Lynx rufus
Bobcat
Least Concern (2008)
Acinonyx jubatus
Cheetah
Vulnerable (2015)
A. jubatus hecki
Northwest African Cheetah, Saharan Cheetah
Critically Endangered (2008)
A. jubatus venaticus
Asiatic Cheetah, Iranian Cheetah
Critically Endangered (2008)
Puma concolor
Puma
Least Concern (2015)
Herpailurus yagouaroundi
Jaguarundi
Least Concern (2015)
Otocolobus manul
Pallas’s Cat (Manul)
Near Threatened (2015)
Prionailurus viverrinus
Fishing Cat
Endangered (2010)
Prionailurus bengalensis
Leopard Cat
Least Concern (2015)
P. bengalensis iriomotensis
Iriomote Cat
Critically Endangered (2015)
P. bengalensis robori
Visayan Leopard Cat
Vulnerable (2008)
Prionailurus planiceps
Flat-headed Cat
Endangered (2015)
Prionailurus rubiginosus
Rusty-spotted Cat
Vulnerable (2008)
Felis nigripes
Black-footed Cat
Vulnerable (2008)
Felis silvestris
Wild Cat
Least Concern (2015)
Felis margarita
Sand Cat
Near Threatened (2011)
Felis chaus
Jungle Cat
Least Concern (2008)
Source: IUCN Red List (www.iucnredlist.org). Accessed April 19, 2016.
*For extinct species, parentheses indicate date of extinction.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Making the Most of All Nine Lives—Book Review

Some cats get out and about more than others do, but at least one cat, a handsome orange tabby named Buffy, gets out and about more than many people do. Buffy is what you might call “inspirationally active.”

Photographic documentation

Of course, when you’re an inspirationally active cat, you want to have your activities documented so you can share them with the world. Accordingly, Buffy has had his staff put together a photo book that shows everyone—felines and humans alike—just how to do this “life” thing. It’s called Making the Most of All Nine Lives: The Extraordinary Life of Buffy the Cat. The pages of this small book show Buffy at his best, whether he’s pumping gas, grocery shopping, or teeing up for a golf shot.

Wait… You didn’t know that cats did any of those things? Well, most cats don’t. (I refer you to the words “extraordinary” and “inspirationally active” above.) But Buffy isn’t most cats; when he isn’t napping or doing other ordinary cat stuff, he gets out there and does things. It’s just lucky for us that Buffy convinced his human, Paul Smulson, to follow him around with a camera and document his activities. He also convinced author Sandy Robins to translate his Buffy-speech into something humans can understand, resulting in captions that let us know exactly what this cat has to say. When you think about it, it’s lucky for us that the humans were able to keep up so we can enjoy Buffy’s day-to-day accomplishments.

Entertaining and fun

Buffy’s book is certainly entertaining, and it’s easy to relate to this cat-about-town. After all, who hasn’t wanted to be Batman, if only for an evening of trick-or-treating (on a way-cool trike, no less)? Or sit in as a judge in a courtroom? Karate chop a board into submission? Go along with the police to bust some bad guys? Buffy has done all that, and a whole lot more. 

Making the Most of All Nine Lives is a fun book. We’ve found ourselves picking it up to browse through the photos again and again, partly because one of us (She of Little Talent) can’t get enough of Buffy in his Batman costume. We had one small beef with the font used in the book’s front matter. We wished the designers had chosen something more readable, at least for the acknowledgments and introduction, as old SoLT’s failing eyes had trouble making out the text. But that’s a relatively small complaint, since the main point of the book is the photos and captions, and those are wonderful…and inspirationally active.

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!)



Come to the book launch on the first annual National Tabby Day!

If you want to be inspirationally active, come on out to Bideawee Animal Shelter in New York City on April 30 to meet Buffy’s staff and get their autographs, and adopt a cat on National Tabby Day. Watch this space to learn more about the events and to meet a few of the cats you might meet at Bideawee that day.

When: Saturday, April 30, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Where: Bideawee Animal Shelter, 410 E 38th Street, New York, NY 10016

Buy from Amazon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Wildcats Go to War: Cat Insignia of the US Army’s 81st Infantry Division

Wildcat insignia of the
US Army's 81st Infantry Division.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
You might forget this sometimes when you’re petting your big lazy tabby who mostly likes to nap a lot, but cats can get pretty fierce. So it’s not so unusual to see cats used on military insignia. Of course we’re talking mainly about wildcats of the large variety—tigers and panthers and such—but our smaller wild cousins have been featured on insignia too. Take, for example, the patch of the US Army’s 81st Infantry Division, otherwise known as the Wildcat Division.

 The US Army’s first divisional patch

Insignia of the various units of the
81st Division in World War I,
US Army (Base Printing Plant, 29th Engrs.,  1919)
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The 81st Infantry Division was first formed in 1917, during World War I. The division, originally called the Stonewall Division, was organized at Camp Jackson, South Carolina, and did some training near Wildcat Creek. The unit took its new name from that creek. Another story says that some of the soldiers trapped a wildcat (we think it must have been a bobcat) and kept it as a mascot.

The patch—a black cat on an olive-green circle—appeared in 1918, when the soldiers started wearing them on the uniforms. After some, uh, conversations, the patch was approved by General John J. Pershing. (It had been unauthorized until then.) This was the army’s first distinctive divisional patch.

The division also adopted the motto “Obedience, Loyalty, Courage.” (Obedience is not one of the first things we think of when we think of cats, but I digress.)

The wildcat insignia basically served two purposes: It identified soldiers as belonging to the 81st Division, and it gave them a sense of pride and helped bond the unit together. They created the same design in different colors to indicate the various parts of the division: headquarters, infantry, artillery, the signal squadron, and the all-important supply train.

A long history of service

Modern 81st Regional Readiness Command
Wildcat desert shoulder patch.
US Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Wildcats fought in France in World War I and in the Pacific in World War II. The division was disbanded between the wars and again in 1946. In 1967, the 81st US Army Reserve Command was formed, and some of its units were sent to Vietnam. The Wildcats also provided relief after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and again in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Under the designation the 81st Regional Readiness Command, Wildcats were deployed after 9/11 during Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.

And through it all, the soldiers of the 81st have always been Wildcats and have honored their slogan: Wildcats Never Quit.

Sources