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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cat of the Week: Buttons in DC

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Each week in this space, we feature a senior cat in need of adoption or sponsorship. Please remember all the older cats in shelters. They make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt a senior cat, and help him or her enjoy the best years of their life.

Today, please meet this handsome tabby named Buttons. Buttons is a 7-year-old male, and we are told he is very social and likes to have a  good time. He likes to play, but he’s also easy-going and enjoys just napping in a sun puddle. Buttons gets along with other cats and could be a good companion for another cat.

Buttons is currently at the New York Avenue NE Adoption Center of the Humane Rescue Alliance. Find out more about him here.

Can’t adopt but still want to help? Learn how you can sponsor an animal at the Humane Rescue Alliance, or check out this page to learn other ways to donate.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: Mrs. Pargeter’s Public Relations


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This book is the eighth in a series by Simon Brett, and it is the first one we have read. In fact, this is the first we have heard of the series, but now that we’ve read book 8, we wish we had time to go back and read the series from the start.

Mrs. Pargeter's Public Relations, by Simon BrettThe action takes place in England and Greece. The titular Mrs. Pargeter is a wealthy widow whose husband had many associates who…well, let’s say they’re a little shady and perhaps not always on the right side of the law. They are fiercely loyal to Mrs. Pargeter though, and that is what really matters. Also, they are not the mean and evil sort of criminals—or reformed criminals, or whatever they are. They are actually rather nice.

You’ll be wondering where the cats come in. Well, being wealthy, Mrs. Pargeter gets invited by various people in various ways to give up bits and pieces of her money in support of various causes. One such cause is the cat charity—PhilliPussies—run by a sort of friend of hers. The charity takes feral cats from Greece, spruces them up, and “repatriates” them to England for adoption. It is at a fundraiser for this charity that Mrs. Pargeter is accosted by the sister-in-law she never met and whose existence she had been 100 percent unaware of. In ensuing days the sister-in-law, who is really not a very nice sort of person, begins making veiled threats.

And then…the body of an old woman associated with the cat charity is discovered in a shallow grave in Epping Forest (“London’s go-to destination for burying bodies in shallow graves”). Mrs. Pargeter and her, um, associates do some investigating on their own, including taking a trip to the Greek island where the cats are collected from. Just what is the deal with this charity?

Which brings me back to the cats. We don’t really get to know any cats in this story. We see a lot of cats in  cages, either being transported or waiting to be transported, but they are not major players. So if you read this book, just don’t expect there to be cats on every page. We did not find this disappointing though, as the story is excellently told. The climactic scenes are gripping, and there is something James Bond-ish about the way Mrs. Pargeter’s associates use their various skills to get out of tense situations. And Mrs. Pargeter…well, I can’t say we liked her, exactly. But we did respect her. She is the best Mrs. Pargeter we can imagine.


Mrs. Pargeter’s Public Relations is a very entertaining book, well worth a read. Recommended!

Two Paws Up--A Great Read!


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!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Selfie: Talk Like Shakespeare Day

We're doing something a little different for today's Sunday Selfie blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head. Today is also Talk Like Shakespeare Day, and Real Cat Webster has prepared a little something special. We hope you enjoy it!


(We used this Shakespearean Insult Kit for Paisley's line.)

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Caturday Art: Webster in Oils

We join Athena's Caturday Art blog hop with this picture of Real Cat Webster resting atop the cat tree:

Webster on cat tree_landscape_2017

Old SoLT kept it simple this week. She just applied a Landscape filter in Lunapic and then added a frame in PicMonkey. Here's the original:



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Friday, April 21, 2017

Words with Webster (Kneazle), Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun features for you today. First up is Real Cat Webster, who has a new cat-related word for you. And then it’s on to Friendly Fill-Ins. Webs, take it away!

Words with Webster

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Hi, friends! Today on Words with Me, I have a really neat word for you: kneazle. Kneazles are creatures from Harry Potter. They look like big cats with spotted fur, large ears, and a lion’s tail. They can be aggressive. They are also very intelligent and can guide their owners home. You need a license to legally own a kneazle, so keep that in mind if you're thinking of getting one!

Cat/kneazle hybrids are possible, and it has been suggested that Crookshanks, Hermione Granger’s cat, is part kneazle. Please enjoy this video of an animatronic kneazle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park:



Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-Ins badgeAnd 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.


1. The most interesting museum I have been to is the Freer|Sackler Galleries, part of the Smithsonian. They’re undergoing renovation now, and I look forward to visiting in the fall when everything is open again.

2. The most interesting historical place I have been to is the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. This is a 6th-century cistern near the Hagia Sophia. Part of Dan Brown’s Inferno takes place there.

3. Pollen is back! Mommy is sneezing a lot.

4. I was surprised that my family has kept the dog they brought home last year. I was sure they would listen to me and take it back.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cat News Brief: Look Into Cat Mummy Reveals Something…Smaller Than Expected

Researchers at Scotland’s University of Aberdeen got a small surprise when they used a CAT scan to take a peek at what was inside an ancient Egyptian cat mummy in their collection. Instead of a full-grown cat, what was inside the mummy’s wrappings was actually just a kitten. Its neck had been broken. While we may think of the Egyptians mummifying their dear, departed pets, there also existed an industry that bred cats specifically to be mummified and sold to worshipers as temple offerings, possibly to Bastet. In this case, the seller might have made more money from a large cat than a kitten, so he likely bulked up the mummy to charge a higher price.


However, Jaromir Malek* has written that, judging from the evidence of other cat mummies, it wasn’t unusual for young cats to be killed and mummified, most likely for sale. So it isn’t clear to us that the seller was cheating the buyer in this case (though he may well have been).


*The Cat in Ancient Egpyt. Revised edition. London: British Museum Press, 2006.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cat of the Week: Carmella in Baltimore

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Each week in this space, we feature a senior cat in need of adoption or sponsorship. Please remember all the older cats in shelters. They make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt a senior cat, and help him or her enjoy the best years of their life.

This week we’re pleased to introduce Carmella, a really sweet, laid-back girl with lovely long fur. Carmella is 8 years old and is medium-sized. She loves to have her beautiful fur brushed every day. She also enjoys being held and just spending quiet time with her special person. Carmella has recently been diagnosed with diabetes. She is getting insulin shots and has special food to eat. She needs to find a new person who will be diligent about continuing her care so she stays healthy and happy.

Wouldn’t it be great to give Carmella the loving home she’s looking for? Learn more about her 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, April 17, 2017

Cat Classics on Film: Rhubarb (1951)

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It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn to baseball…the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, a cat named Rhubarb. Okay, that last one might not make everyone’s list, but it sure makes ours. Who could forget the story of the scrappy yellow cat who went from living under a bush to owning a Major League Baseball team? I am referring, of course, to Rhubarb, the 1951 film directed by Arthur Lubin and based on the book by H. Allen Smith.

The cat and his golf ball collection

Brooklyn Loons owner T. J. Banner (played by Gene Lockhart) has a problem. His team stinks. The team’s manager (played by William Frawley; I Love Lucy, anyone?) and publicist Eric Yeager (Ray Milland) think they need some better players, but Banner knows better. What they really need is some spirit, some fight. They need the same kind of fight exhibited by a certain yellow stray cat who steals rich men’s golf balls right off the green. “Get me that cat,” Banner tells Yeager, basically.

And so the cat who comes to be known as Rhubarb goes from managing his golf ball collection to inspiring a baseball team owner. (By the way, a “rhubarb” in baseball is a dispute on the field. We never knew that before watching this movie.) When Banner dies, he leaves his fortune and his team not to his scheming, selfish daughter but to Rhubarb. Yeager is named as Rhubarb’s guardian. All well and good…well, except for the daughter…and except for the players, who threaten to quit because they’re being made fun of over their new owner. Good thing for Yeager they’re all a bunch of “superstitious screwballs.” All he has to do is convince them that Rhubarb is their good-luck charm, and they’ll love him.

An allergic fiancée, a disinherited daughter, and a catnapping!

Once the Brooklyn Loons have been thoroughly convinced that all their good luck is down to Rhubarb, the cat becomes an indispensable part of the team. He has  a special seat at the ballpark, where each player gives him a few pets before going to bat. He is pursued by, well, I guess you’d call them feline groupies. With the team (now known to one and all as the Rhubarbs) on their way to the World Series, things are definitely looking up.

Success can breed trouble though, and Rhubarb has plenty of that. First off, Yeager’s fiancée seems to be allergic to the cat. And let’s not forget the millionaire’s daughter, who contends in court that the cat currently living in *her* mansion is not the real Rhubarb. Then, worst of all, Rhubarb is catnapped by bookies who are about to lose their shirts betting against the Loons. Will the team get their good-luck charm back in time for the pivotal game of the Series?

Well, it is a comedy, so basically, yes. But only after Rhubarb escapes and runs across the Brooklyn Bridge to get to the stadium.

Another masterful performance from Orangey

Rhubarb is played by Orangey the cat (whom you may also remember from his brilliant performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Orangey does a fantastic acting job in this film. He is convincing as both the down-and-out stray with the golf ball collection and the spruced-up millionaire. He is at once fierce and endearing. Orangey won his first Patsy award (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) for his work in Rhubarb.



Our verdict

We did get quite a few laughs out of this film. I will say it was not side-splittingly funny, but there are plenty of hijinks, mainly related to people trying to catch Rhubarb. It was fun seeing him jump from one place to another, often with a bumbling human a step behind. The story is good, with a variety of characters and a nice bit of drama (though you know things are going to turn out okay in the end, which we think is a plus when you're looking for light entertainment). We especially liked how Yeager and his fiancée proved that Rhubarb was Rhubarb. And we enjoy Ray Milland, so seeing him holding a handsome orange tabby for much of the film was a big plus. (And did you spot Leonard Nimoy in the clip above? He looks so young!)

Rhubarb is a fun film. We recommend watching it on some quiet Saturday night or on a rainy afternoon when your favorite baseball team has been rained out. Make popcorn!

Two Paws Up--A Great 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 link below is an Amazon Associates link. If you purchase the movie through this link, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account. Thank you!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Selfies: Webster and His Card

Today we're joining the Sunday Selfies blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head. This week's selfie comes courtesy of Real Cat Webster, who wanted to pose with his new greeting card, which he appears on the front of (find it on Zazzle!). Old SoLT agreed that this would be a good idea, so she put the card on the floor next to him.

He was just getting a good look at the card, when Real Cat Paisley showed up.


Is that a tortie sticking her nose into the picture?

Then Paisley showed up more. It was at about this point that the dog also showed up, but that happened so fast, old SoLT couldn't get a picture of it.

Paisley pushes in on Webster's photo shoot

Finally, everyone except Webs cleared out, and he got the shot he wanted:

Real Cat Webster posing with his greeting card


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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Caturday Art: Happy Easter!

Today we join Athena's Caturday Art blog hop with this Easter card that captures the moment a chick hatches on Real Cat Webster's head:

The Real Cats 2017 Happy Easter card

Old SoLT took a not very good photo of the Real Cats, messed with it in Lightroom to improve the exposure, applied a filter in LunaPic (she doesn't remember which one), and then used Illustrator to add the lettering and graphics from Adobe Stock.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Book Review: Star Trek Cats

Before we really start this post, please take this short quiz:

  1. Do you like Star Trek?
  2. Do you like cats?


Star Trek Cats, by Jenny ParksIf you answered “yes” to both questions, then have we got a book review for you! We were excited recently to discover the small book Star Trek Cats, by illustrator Jenny Parks. What it is, is a collection of illustrations of scenes from the original series, with cats standing in for the actors. Before you go off and start thinking this is weird, let me just tell you…Captain James T. Kirk is such an orange tabby!


We were a little bit disappointed to find that there is no actual story in this book, but we still have had plenty of fun looking through the pictures. Jenny Parks’s illustrations are so well done, it is hard to stop looking at them. We keep going back through the  book and finding details we missed the first or third time through. Cat lovers who are also fans of the show will enjoy recognizing certain moments: Spock’s mind meld, everyone falling down during a red alert, McCoy insisting he’s “just an old country doctor.”

And yes, there are tribbles.


Highly recommended for that segment of our readership who passed the quiz at the start of this post!


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!

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!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Korat: An Ancient Cat Breed from Thailand

Korat illustration by bullet_chained, via Adobe Stock
The Korat is a blue cat that originated in Thailand,
where they are considered to bring good luck.
Illustration by bullet_chained, via Adobe Stock.


The Korat is a handsome and ancient breed of cat from Thailand (formerly Siam), where they are considered to bring good luck. They are sometimes called Si Sawat in Thailand, meaning “color” and “good fortune.” In fact, pairs of Korats have traditionally been given to newlywed couples in Thailand to bring the marriage good luck. I don’t know about luck, but anyone with a Korat has a blue-coated cat that tends to be playful, affectionate, and loyal.

A coat like pampas grass

The Korat’s blue coat has a silvery, shimmery quality to it that results from the effect of thousands of  individual hairs, each lighter colored at the root and darker near the tip, which is silver. Large green eyes complement the blue coat, giving the Korat a particularly striking face. In a 20th-century copy of an old Thai text, the Korat is described like this:
The cat Mal-Ed has a body color like “Doklao” [dok meaning “flower, and lao meaning “lemon grass” or “pampas grass”]. The hairs are smooth, with roots like clouds and tips like silver. The eyes shine like dewdrops on the lotus leaf.

Korat cat photo by Mikkel Bigandt, via Adobe Stock
A Korat, showing the beautiful silver-tipped blue coat.
Photo by Mikkel Bigandt, via Adobe Stock.

The five hearts of the Korat

There are said to be five hearts associated with the Korat:
  1. The face forms a heart, which you will see if you look at the cat straight on.
  2. The top of the head forms a heart, which you will see if you look down on it.
  3. The nose forms a heart.
  4. The cat’s chest shows a heart shape when the cat is sitting down.
  5. And of course there is the cat’s actual heart.


An ancient breed

The recorded history of the Korat goes back to a book called Cat Book Poems, which was made sometime between 1350 and 1767 and is now in the Bangkok National Library. It describes 17 “good luck” cats, including the Korat. This book was copied sometime in the 19th century, under commission from King Rama V (1853–1910). This copy, called Smud Khoi of Cats, is also in the national museum. Then there is the 20th-century copy quoted above. You can see the 17 lucky cats on this page from Korat World (the Korat is the fifth cat).

The Korat was named by King Rama V. When the king was asked where the cats came from, he answered that they were from the Khorat region, which is in the country’s northeast. It is thought that the cat’s coloring provided good camouflage among the granite rocks common to that region.

Superstitions and stories associated with the Korat

Korat cat face, by Mpc92, via Adobe Stock
Korats have large emerald-green eyes set in a face that suggests
the shape of a heart--one of the breed's "five hearts."
Photo by Mpc92, via Adobe Stock.
  • Traditionally, Korats could only be given as a gift; they could not be bought and sold.
  • It is said that when Thai warriors charged into battle on elephants, some carried their fierce male Korats with them.
  • The Korat’s fur represents wealth and good fortune.
  • The cat’s green eyes are like the green of young plants, representing a good harvest.
  • The cat’s coat is like rain clouds, and rain brings a good harvest.
  • A Korat with a kink in its tail is thought to be especially lucky.


The Korat comes west

It seems that a Korat was exhibited at a cat show in 1896 at Holland House in London. This cat, named Nam Noi and owned by Mrs. B. Spearman, was described as “a blue cat from Siam.” Mrs. Spearman contended that the cat was a Siamese, but it was disqualified from the Siamese class because of its unusual coloring. However, the cat placed first in the “Russian or Any Other Blue” class. A report on the show said this:
Siamese were plentiful. Raheng was a really good male. Nam Noi, a Blue, was entered as a Siamese, and very possibly came from Siam; but that does not make him a Siamese any more than an English cat coming from Persia would be a Persian. To my thinking, Nam Noi was an undoubted Russian. The pick of all the Siamese, however was Rimo and when fullgrown he ought to figure well and be a credit to that excellent studcat, King Kesho. In Russians Nam Noi in its right class won.
Although there do seem to have been a few Korats in the country much earlier, the first of these cats to “officially” arrive in the United Kingdom came in 1972, when a female and two males were brought in. The breed had arrived in the United States several years before, in 1959, when Jean Johnson, owner of Cedar Glen cattery, was given two Korats. Other breeders also imported Korats to establish breeding programs.

Today Korats remain rare, so count yourself lucky if you’ve seen one!




Sources

Coleman, Cheryl. “The Korat.” Cat Fanciers’ Association website. http://cfa.org/Breeds/BreedsKthruR/Korat/KoratArticle.aspx

Lacey, Jen. “Was This the First Korat to Be Shown?” Korat World. http://www.koratworld.com/namnoi.html


Pickeral, Tamsin. The Elegance of the Cat: An Illustrated History. Hauppage, NY: Barron’s, 2013.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cat of the Week: Daisy in Westhampton, New York

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Each week in this space, we feature a senior cat in need of adoption or sponsorship. Please remember all the great older cats in shelters. They make great companions, and they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! If you can’t adopt but still want to help, look into sponsoring a cat in the shelter or in foster care.

Adopt Daisy! She's a diva in need of a loving home. Westhampton, NY. www.bideawee.org
This week we are reintroducing Daisy, who is now nearly 11 years old and who has been with the kind humans at Bideawee for almost a whole year. Daisy is a beautiful, medium-sized tabby girl. She is described as a diva who would do best in a “loving, cat-savvy home with sass and humor.” Sound like your place? Daisy’s ready to come in and take over!

Daisy is currently at Bideawee’s Westhampton, New York, location. Learn more about her here.


Can’t adopt but still want to help Daisy and other cats at Bideawee? Learn how you can sponsor a pet, become a Bideawee member, or make a donation.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: Elementary, She Read


We love Sherlock Holmes, so we could not wait to read Vicki Delany’s new book that is set largely in a bookshop devoted entirely to the fictional detective. It is really too bad that the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium is a fictional place, because we would like to go there. Right now.

A Sherlock emporium

Elementary, She Read, by Vicki Delany
The shop is located at 222 Baker Street in the touristy town of West London on Cape Cod. It is co-owned by Gemma Doyle, an Englishwoman who may be a distant relation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Surprisingly, Gemma is not a Sherlock fanatic. This is surprising both because of where she works and how she notices…everything. Not many details escape her attention: the exact location of every item in her shop, a frayed collar, a recently cut hangnail. She is really very Sherlockian in her ability to notice these little things and deduce explanations from them. 

A valuable magazine and a dead body

Things take a turn for the weird in Gemma’s life when a tour group descends upon her shop and a mysterious woman leaves something behind. What she leaves is not something you’d just stick in the lost and found. It is instead a very valuable magazine, possibly the most expensive magazine in the world. It is something a well-heeled Sherlock collector might, um, kill to get their hands on. We’re not talking People here.

The turn for the weird continues when Gemma and her best friend, Jayne, track the mysterious woman to a local hotel, only to discover her very recently murdered body. Why did the woman leave the magazine hidden in the shop, and why did someone kill her? Naturally, the police have the same questions, and Gemma goes right to the top of the suspect list. This despite the fact that the lead investigator, Ryan, is an old flame of hers. It doesn’t help that the female detective with him zeroes in on Gemma in a really unpleasant way. Talk about tense.

Moriarty the catand a cocker spaniel

And that brings us to the important part of the book, the cat. His name is Moriarty (which might sound rather ominous if you are familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories). He is a black cat who lives in the shop. He loves and is loved by everyone—except Gemma. With nearly everyone else, he’s friendly, jumping into laps, letting people pet him. But if Gemma gets close to him, he might just take a swipe at her. You know, just for kicks.

Although Moriarty is a constant presence in the shop, he remains mysterious. What motivates him? We’re not sure, but we got some valuable insight into his character in this interview he granted our friend Mudpie over at Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & Meows.

Oh, there’s also a dog, a cocker spaniel named violet who lives in Gemma’s home.

Our verdict

We find Elementary, She Read guilty…of making us stay up too late reading, of making us get emotionally involved with a fictional character. We like Gemma Doyle immensely. She is abrupt, abrasive, and annoyingly clever. She would be a difficult person to have as a friend, and yet we would love to have tea with her, just to see her amazing mind at work. Also, old SoLT would like to try to pet Moriarty.

Vicki Delany’s writing is excellent, and the plot is exquisite. We loved the glimpse this book gave us into the world of Sherlock Holmes. It was fun to see books we’ve read and movies and TV shows we’ve watched get mentions, however brief. We did wish for a bit more cat. Maybe in the next book.

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!

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!


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Selfie: Webster Chillin'

For today's Sunday Selfies blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head, we offer this snap of Real Cat Webster just, you know, chillin':

Real Cat Webster takin' it easy


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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Caturday Art: Greek Vase

We are pleased to be joining Athena's Caturday Art blog hop with this picture:

Real Cats in the window, with Greek vase filter from Dreamscope applied

Old SoLT did this in Dreamscope with the Greek vase filter. We just love how it turned out. Sort of a modern take on a Greek vase. The frame is from PicMonkey.

Here is the original. It's an older picture of Real Cats Webster and Paisley, from several years ago, but it's one of old SoLT's favorites of the two of them together:

Real Cats Paisley and Webster in the window


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Friday, April 7, 2017

Words with Webster, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun features for you this Friday. First up is Words with Webster, in which Webs shares some information about eyes. This is followed by Friendly Fill-Ins.

Words with Webster

Words with Webster
Hi, all! Real Cat Webster here. Today in Words with Me, I’ve picked a really interesting word. It’s tapetum (plural tapeta), and it means the reflective layer behind the retina in the eye. My cousin Merriam-Webster says that tapetum is
any of various membranous layers or areas especially of the choroid and retina of the eye; specifically :  a layer in the choroid chiefly of nocturnal mammals that reflects light and is made up of several layers of flattened cells covered by a zone of double refracting crystals.
 Whatever. Basically, it’s what helps us cats see so well at night. Some light that comes into the eye misses the retina’s receptor cells, and the tapetum reflects that light back toward the retina so it has another chance to hit a receptor cell and get “seen.” The tapetum is also what makes our eyes shine in the dark when you point a flashlight or something at us.

Pretty cool, huh? I mean, I’m twelve years old, and all this time I never even knew I had a tapetum!

Friendly Fill-Ins

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And 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 Real Cat Webster,  are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Real Cat Paisley’s answers
1. I don't understand why sleeping late on weekends is so popular. C’mon, human. Five a.m., time to feed the kitty, even on Sundays!

2. My in-case-of-emergency person is Mommy.

Real Cat Webster’s answers
3. There is so much napping to be done! It’s hard to keep up, actually.


4. I would be lost without my family. And my tapeta.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hunting with Cheetahs: A Royal Sport of the Past

Emperor Akbar hunting with cheetahs.
By Painter at the Court of Akbar c. 1602.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It is hard to believe now, but beginning at least a few thousand years ago, humans trained cheetahs as to hunt with them. When we first heard of this, the little bit of information we had raised several questions: When, where, why, how? And of course, What? To understand hunting with cheetahs, let’s start with the cheetahs themselves.

A few cheetah facts

The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is the world’s fastest land animal. The common name “cheetah” actually describes the cat’s spotted coat. It comes from a Hindi word (chita) meaning “spotted” or “sprinkled.” When you picture a cheetah, you probably see a cat with a compact head with black “tear lines” on the face, a small waist, long legs, and a superflexible spine—adaptations that help them run at up to 54 miles per hour for short distances. This remarkable speed is what allows them to catch their prey.

Prince Hunting with Cheetah.India, West Bengal, 1764 or earlier. Opaque watercolor on gold paper. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Public domain.
Prince Hunting with Cheetah.
India, West Bengal, 1764 or earlier.
Opaque watercolor on gold paper.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
These cats are found in much of sub-Saharan Africa, where they hunt on grassy plains and open forests. The Asiatic cheetah (A. jubatus venaticus) is now critically endangered, but it was once found in India and southwestern Asia. There may be only 60 Asiatic cheetahs alive today, all in Iran. The Asiatic subspecies will be the focus of much of this post.

It all starts in Egypt

Mongol hunter and cheetah in Tsonjin Boldog, Tuv aimag, Mongolia. Enerelt at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0].
Mongol hunter and cheetah in
Tsonjin Boldog, Tuv aimag, Mongolia.
Enerelt at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0].
The Egyptians did not only domesticate the felines that would become house cats, they also tamed cheetahs, starting in 1550 BC or earlier. They taught cheetahs to hunt with humans, but they didn’t do it the way you might expect, by catching cubs and raising them among humans. No, they needed cats that already knew how to hunt, and that meant capturing adults to be tamed and trained. During the hunt, the trained cheetahs were kept blindfolded until the right moment. After prey had been flushed out, the cats were let go to run it down.

From Egypt, this hunting method spread to Persia and India, where the practice continued at least into the 20th century (and where the cheetahs were often called “hunting leopards”). Taking adults from the wild likely played a role in the Asiatic cheetah’s quick decline, and as local cheetahs became rare in India, the wealthy imported African cheetahs for use in hunting.

How cheetahs were caught and tamed

An account quoted in the book Wild Cats of the World reveals how adult cheetahs were caught and tamed. It started with staking out a tree that the cats liked to scratch. Nooses were set around the tree to snare the cheetah who came to sharpen his claws. Once the animal was captured, “Women and children [were] told to sit all day long close to the animals, and keep up a conversation so that they should get accustomed to the human voice.” It would take months to train cheetahs for hunting.

Hunting with cheetahs in India, c. 1860. From the Illustrated History of the British Empire in India and the East. Vol. 1. public domain.
Hunting with cheetahs in India, c. 1860. From the
Illustrated History of the British Empire in India
and the East. Vol. 1.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A sport for the wealthy

When we’re talking about hunting with cheetahs, we’re not talking about subsistence hunting. We’re talking about a sport practiced by the wealthy, and often by royalty. Akbar the Great (1542–1605), a Mughal emperor, was the first to keep hunting cheetahs in India. He was presented with his first cheetah, a cat named Fatehbaz, in 1555. He supposedly had 1,000 cheetahs at one time and 9,000 over the course of his reign, but these numbers may be inflated. He used the cheetahs to hunt blackbucks, chinkaras, and antelopes. By the way, he captured adult cheetahs not with nooses as described above but with trapdoors that dropped the cats into pits.
Cheetahs with handlers at Baroda, Gujarat, 1890s. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Cheetahs with handlers at Baroda, Gujarat, 1890s.
The cheetahs belonged to Gaekwar Sayaki Rao III
(ruled 1875-1939), 12th Maharaja of Baroda.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The practice of hunting with cheetahs spread into Russia and Mongolia, as well as Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. There are reports of an Armenian ruler who had 100 cheetahs in 1474.

Hunting technique, as seen in the 1939 video below, involved wheeling blindfolded cheetahs in on carts. In some works of art, cheetahs are depicted riding on horseback behind their handlers. The cheetahs would be gotten close to the prey and then released for the chase.


And today...

While hunting with cheetahs largely ended in the 20th century, it still goes on in some places, among those humans who have the time and resources to do it. Notably, a YouTube video shows a Saudi man hunting deer with a cheetah. We think that, given the cheetah's vulnerable conservation status (as listed by the IUCN), taking them from the wild for use as human entertainment is not okay. Such magnificent felines deserve better.

Sources



Sunquist, Mel, and Fiona Sunquist. Wild Cats of the World. University of Chicago Press, 2002. (p. 20)

Wikipedia. “Asiatic cheetah.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asiatic_cheetah






Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cat of the Week: Ginger in DC



Ginger, 14-y-old calico cat available for adoption through Humane Rescue AllianceEach week in this space, we feature a senior cat in need of adoption or sponsorship. Please remember all the older cats in shelters. They make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt a senior cat, and help him or her enjoy the best years of their life.

Today we’re introducing Ginger, a 14-year-old declawed lady who is just beautiful.  Look at the coloring on her back! Ginger is described as being very mellow. She enjoys lounging in bed for much of the day, as any self-respecting senior cat does. Ginger’s family moved and could not take her with them, so she had to go to the shelter. She enjoys being petted, and she loves having a person to sleep next to at night.

Ginger, 14-y-old calico cat available for adoption through Humane Rescue Alliance
OMC, the colors! Ginger has
the prettiest pattern
on her back.
Ginger is currently in a foster home through the Humane Rescue Alliance. Find out more about her here.

Can’t adopt but still want to help? Learn how you can sponsor an animal at the Humane Rescue Alliance, or check out this page to learn other ways to donate.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cat Classics on Film: Cats & Dogs

Cat Classics on Film badge

Conventional wisdom has it that cats and dogs do not get along. Cats and dogs hate each other, and that’s all there is to it. Well, many of us know that this is not true. Cats and dogs can actually be best buddies. But still the cats vs. dogs theme continues, right along with another theme: Dogs are good, and cats are evil. Dogs are man’s best friend, and cats are evil. Dogs are heroic, and cats are evil.

Cats & Dogs, 2001
Cats and the people who love them are tired of this theme, and so we’re not inclined to have a very high opinion of a movie based entirely on it.

Which brings me to the 2001 film, Cats & Dogs, directed by Lawrence Guterman.

Your pets are really spies

In the world of Cats & Dogs, pets are not just pets. Dogs (some of them, anyway) are secret agents, and one of their missions is to protect the Brody household as Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum) works on his secret formula. This formula will cure humans’ allergies to dogs, making it possible for even more dogs to live with even more humans. Cats do not want this to happen. A fluffy white cat named Mr. Tinkles (evil, obviously; voiced by Sean Hayes) plans to derail Brody’s efforts by stealing the formula and making all humans allergic to dogs. Then he can take over the world.

The movie opens with a rollicking good chase scene as cats sent by Mr. Tinkles abduct the Brodys’ dog, who was the key agent protecting them from the horrors of the cat conspiracy. His disappearance opens the door for a new agent, and a beagle puppy named Lou (Tobey Maguire), who has absolutely no training as a secret agent, moves in.

Lou now has to guard the house while Mr. Tinkles’ minions attempt to break in and steal the anti-allergy formula. He also has to try to be a friend to young Scotty Brody, who basically wants nothing to do with him. There is a little family drama too, with Professor Brody so caught up in working on his formula, he just can’t find time for poor Scotty. Also, Scotty sucks at soccer.



Okay, so we thought it was funny…

Yes, I started out by complaining about the whole “dogs good, cats evil” theme—and for the record, that still annoys me—but we still had a pretty good time watching this movie. A bunch of cats driving a limo and impurrsonating (sorry!) a human? Come on, that’s funny.

This movie has some basic flaws that we think hold it back from being a true cat classic. We wish the story had been a little different, to show cats and dogs working together to protect humans. We wish they could have fit at least one female in among the secret agents. (Okay, yes, there is one, but she’s there mainly to be pretty and be the love interest for one of the male dogs. Yeesh. Hello, 21st century?)

Still and all, Cats & Dogs is basically what you get if you transmogrify Mission: Impossible into a madcap family comedy starring pets. Judged on those terms, it’s not half bad. Just don’t try to take it seriously.

Oh, and ...

Cats rule!


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