A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Words with Webster: Mackerel and Blotched, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun features for you this Friday. First up is Words with Webster, in which he tells us the difference between mackerel and blotched tabbies. Then, Paisley does Friendly Fill-Ins.

Words with Webster badgeWords with Webster

Hi, friends! I’m Real Cat Webster, welcoming you to this edition of Words with Me. Today we have two words that are kind of related. They’re both used to describe types of tabby patterns in cats. Mommy gets them confused all the time, so I thought I should explain them to her in pictures.

Let’s start with “mackerel.” Mackerel tabbies have narrow stripes that are parallel to each other, like the fish:

Mackerel tabby cat
A mackerel tabby cat, Nouki.
By Quixo2b (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

A mackerel fish.
Image via Adobe Stock.

A “blotched” tabby has dense markings that sort of swirl around and form a bulls-eye pattern on the cat’s side:

Blotched Tabby cat, Buzzing Silver, 1909, public domain
The "blotched" or "classic" tabby. This is Buzzing Silver,
a silver tabby short-hair belonging to Mrs. J. C. Mitchelson
of Tariffville, CT. She won numerous prizes in the show ring.
1909 photo by D. B. Champion (Everybody's Cat Book). Public domain.

This is also called a “classic” tabby pattern, which is kind of confusing since we know from recent DNA studies that the blotched pattern only appeared thousands of years after the mackerel pattern. But humans often do things that don’t make a lot of sense, so there you have it.

By the way, “tabby” is not a breed of cat; it’s a coat pattern. There are also spotted, ticked, and patched tabbies. To learn about them, and to learn more and mackerel and blotched tabbies too, take a look at this article from Cats Center Stage.

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 are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader. Real Cat Paisley provided all the answers this week.

1. My next conquest will be the dog. I’ve noticed she doesn’t fear me as much since I started wearing this #%&! cone. This must change.

2. Fireworks … I don’t see the point. Now string … string is exciting!

3. This week, I am thankful that my surgery turned out okay.

4. Freedom means not having to wear a dumb cone or an equally dumb gowny thing.

Real Cat Paisley in her surgery recovery gown
Real Cat Paisley is slowly getting used to
this little gown we got her to replace the
detested Cone of Shame.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Seven Tidbits on Early Cat Domestication

For years, cat lovers and scientists have believed that cats were first domesticated in ancient Egypt. You may already know this story: The Egyptians began farming and storing grain, which attracted rodents, which attracted the local wildcats, which started hanging around human settlements. Humans encouraged the cats to stick around and eventually made pets of them. The Egyptians went further than that though, believing that the goddess Bastet could take the form of a cat. From Egypt, domestic cats spread to the rest of the world.

But is the traditional story of cat domestication correct?

Well, according to the latest study of cat domestication and dispersal, that original story may be partially correct, but the true picture is more complicated—and more interesting—than that simple tale. This post provides seven brief highlights from the study,[1] which analyzed DNA from ancient and modern cats across a wide temporal and geographic distance. The DNA used for analysis came from Europe, north and east Africa, and southwest Asia, and the time period covered was from about 7000 BC to the present. DNA from 352 ancient cats was analyzed, and modern wildcat DNA was sampled from 28 cats from Bulgaria and east Africa.

What did the researchers find? Here are our chosen tidbits, in roughly chronological order:

1. Cats were first domesticated in the ancient Near East.

Map of Fertile Crescent, public domain.
Map of the Fertile Crescent. Somewhere
in the red-shaded area (most likely in the
larger eastern bit on the right), cats were
first domesticated.
Original image by NormanEinstein.
Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike.
Via Ancient History Encyclopedia.
You’ve heard of Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent, where farming began? Well, according to the DNA analysis by Ottoni and colleagues, that area of southwest Asia is also where domestic cats began sometime in the Neolithic period (8,000 years ago, give or take). Think modern Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Iran. Some of the local wildcats, Felis silvestris lybica, were attracted to the rodents that were attracted to the humans’ stored grain. Eventually, some of those cats were tamed and domesticated.

2. Humans probably began transporting cats from place to place in prehistoric times.

Cats from the Near East may have arrived in southeast Europe by 4400 BC or thereabouts. Some of today’s domestic cats have DNA that came from these Near Eastern cats.

3. There is some evidence to suggest that domesticated cats in Egypt came from southwest Asia.

The idea that the Egyptians got their first cats from the Near East has been suggested before. Now there is evidence (in DNA from ancient cat remains found at a Roman-Egyptian port on the Red Sea and from one Egyptian cat mummy) that this may indeed have happened.

Detail of cat in painting from Tomb of Nebamun, ca. 1350 BC, Thebes, Egypt
Detail from a painting in the
Tomb of Nebamun, ca. 1350 BC,
Thebes, Egypt.
Public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons.

4. Egyptian cats seem to have become very popular, and this study provides “the first evidence for an African origin for one of the mitochondrial lineages of present-day domestic cats.”

It could be that the Egyptians developed a closer relationship with their cats, leading to cats that were tamer than their Near Eastern cousins. That cat napping on your couch could be descended from one of those Egyptian cats.

5. Humans spread cats throughout the eastern Mediterranean during Classical times.

We’re talking about the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Cats became popular across a wider area during this period, and they were recognized as being able to control rodent populations on ships, so the felines really started to get around. By the 6th century BC, cats were showing up on Greek pottery and coins and on a piece of pottery found at the Etruscan site of Vulci (in modern Italy).

6. Cats were further spread during Medieval times, when ships’ cats went along with humans who were traveling for trade or war.

Some evidence comes from a 7th-century cat found at a Viking port on the Baltic Sea and an 8th-century cat found at an Iranian port. There was also trade in pelts of domestic cats, and this too may also have encouraged cats’ spread.

7. Cats probably lived alongside humans for thousands of years before humans began breeding then for specific physical appearances.

The Arkesilas Cup, ca. 565-560 BC, Vulci, Italy.
The Arkesilas Cup, a black-figure kylix by the Arkesilas Painter, found at the Etruscan site
 of Vulci, ca. 565-560 BC. The king of Kyrene (far left) watches as men work with trade goods.
Several animals are depicted, including a cat under the king's chair.
© Marie-Lan Nguyen [Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic], via Wikimedia Commons. 
Hey, cats do what they want! This, by the way, is the tidbit that has led to headlines saying cats domesticated themselves. Because basically they did. Ottoni and colleagues looked at a specific gene that determines whether a tabby cat will have a mackerel or blotched coat pattern. Wildcats have a mackerel pattern, and a blotched pattern is seen in some domestic cats. So, the appearance and spread of the blotched pattern can be taken to mean that humans were beginning to influence cats’ physical appearance. In this study, the earliest occurrence of the blotched-tabby version of the gene was from the time of the Ottoman Empire (dated between AD 500 and 1300). The gene turned up later in other areas (AD 1300–1900).


We have been waiting for a study exactly like this--one that answers so many of our questions about where domestic cats actually come from. Next up on our wish list of cat research would be a study of early cats from farther east (India, China, and so on). We don't know if anyone is working on this, but we do hope so.

[1] Ottoni et al. “The Paleogenetics of Cat Dispersal in the Ancient World.” Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, 0139 (2017).

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cat of the Week: Cuma in Westhampton

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June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. At this time of year, “kitten season,” the young kittens get a lot of attention. But there are lots of older cats in shelters just waiting to be welcomed into a loving forever home. That’s why each week in this space, we feature a senior cat (7 years +) in need of adoption or sponsorship. Mature cats make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt a senior cat, and help him or her enjoy the best years of their life!

Adopt Cuma! Bideawee westhampton, NY
On this last Tuesday of the month, we are reintroducing Cuma, a lovely 11-year-old tabby who is currently at Bideawee’s Westhampton, New York, location. We featured her once before, but she is still waiting for a forever home. Cuma is very sweet but sometimes gets too excited. She needs someone who will be patient and help her chill out in her new home, where it might take some time for her to bond with a new person. Cuma came to the shelter because the other kitties in her former home were sometimes mean to her, and her person wanted her to be safe. Because she can become overexcited, she would do best in a home with no children.

Who's ready to give Cuma the loving home she's been waiting for?

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

Do you know an adoptable senior cat who needs some extra attention or an organization that works with senior cats? Let us know!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: All Cats Are Grey in the Dark

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Today on Mysterious Monday, we are very pleased to introduce a new-to-us series, the Celtic Witch mysteries, by Molly Milligan. All Cats Are Grey in the Dark is the third book in the series, and the first one we’ve read. Judging by this volume, this is a most excellent series for readers who like a little witchcraft with their mysteries.

Welcome to Wales; meet the hedge-witch and her cat

All Cats Are Grey in the Dark (Book 3 in the Celtic Witch mysteries), by Molly Milligan
The story takes place in Wales, and the book starts with a paragraph about how to pronounce Welsh. Our note on that paragraph is “Got It! Ha ha!” So, we did not learn how to speak Welsh (although, joking aside, the explanation is helpful; it’s just a lot to remember) or pronounce gwfhygyff.[1] This in no way reduced our enjoyment of the story, which is well plotted and filled with characters who are, well, characters.

Our protagonist, Bron, is a Welsh witch—a “hedge-witch,” to be exact. We looked this up and learned that a hedge witch is, according to several websites, “a solitary practitioner of the herbal arts.” So, Bron isn’t part of a coven or group that gets together to do witch stuff. In this book though, she has been roped, however unwillingly, into participating in a course called “Unfurl Your Inner Spirit.” This course is the sort of thing that takes place in a remote area, an area with yurts and a cauldron. You just know this thing is bound to go sideways, and it does go rather seriously sideways when one of the participants ends up dead. Poisoned. But by whom?

It seems that nearly everyone is a likely suspect, because nearly everyone had reason to want the victim dead. Bron investigates, with help from her cat, Harkin, who is also her magical partner. Bron and Harkin have a connection, and he can send images to her mind. Not that they always make sense to her. Harkin is not a constant presence in the book, but he is a major player and is important to the plot, just the way we like it.

Details, details

Another thing we like about this book is, it’s full of the sorts of details that add a sense of realism you can’t get from simply describing things. For example, after the death is discovered, Bron finds that the emergency personnel have wrapped a red blanket around her, and she wonders what she’s supposed to do with it once they’ve gone. Is she to turn it in somewhere, or what? That moment put is right there in the scene and wrapped us in a red blanket, while it also gave us a glimpse into Bron and what she was thinking and feeling. There are not too many writers who do this sort of thing really well, and Milligan does.

Yet another of our favorite things is the book’s “unglamorous” look at being a witch. This is not Hollywood witch stuff, where a wand is waved and something magical happens. Here, witches are said to be often “cold, damp, uncomfortable and slightly unsure of what to do.” The otherworldly realm Bron touches is powerful—and dangerous. She and Harkin do not come through it unscathed. The real question is, will they both come through it alive?

Highly 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!

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!

[1] Not an actual Welsh word. Or, if it is a Welsh word and it’s some kind of especially unpleasant curse word, we’re really, really sorry.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Selfie: Paisley in Profile

For today's Sunday Selfies blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head, Real Cat Paisley wanted to catch herself looking relaxed but thoughtful. This took several tries, the first several of which all came out like this:

Real Cat Paisley_failed selfie

But finally she got one that she's happy with:

Real Cat Paisley in profile

Paisley is scheduled for surgery on Monday to remove the lump that might or might not be a mammary tumor. We are all quite anxious for the results. Prayers appreciated!

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Caturday Art: Cat World Domination Day

Today we join Athena's Caturday Art blog hop with this illustration for Cat World Domination Day 2017*:

Real Cat Webster eats the world

This picture was inspired by Real Cat Webster, who has been on a steroid for the past couple of weeks, and it seems to have increased his appetite just a tad (like, he sleeps next to his food dish now).

*No planets were harmed in the making of this post.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Words with Webster: Felis silvestris lybica, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun features for you this Friday. First up is Words with Webster, in which he tells us something scientific. This is followed by Friendly Fill-Ins.

Words with Webster

Words with Webster badge

Hi, all! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Today’s word is Felis silvestris lybica. This is the scientific name for the African Wildcat, which is the wildcat that all us modern domestic cats are descended from. These cats live in Africa, obviously, but are also found from the Arabian Peninsula all the way up to the Caspian Sea. They live in all kinds of habitats. If you want to know a lot more about them, visit the International Society for Endangered Cats. We’ll also have more about them next Thursday, so stay tuned.

But today we’re talking about words, so let's look at the actual name, Felis silvestris lybica (F.s. lybica for short). These three words are the genus, species, and subspecies for the African Wildcat. I checked in Mommy’s Latin and Greek dictionaries to find out what they mean:
  • Felis: Latin for “cat”
  • silvestris: Latin for “wild, untamed” (this word also means “wooded” or “living in woodlands”)
  • lybica: From Libya, which is from the Greek for Africa north of the Sahara. The ancient Greeks got this name from a tribe that lived on the coast of what we call Libya today.

So, basically, the name means “cat, wild, African,” except we usually say it backwards: African wild cat.

Friendly Fill-Ins badgeFriendly Fill-Ins

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 old SoLT this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by Real Cat Paisley, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Old SoLT’s answers:
1. A recurring dream I have is…Well, I don’t really have any anymore. Years ago I used to have plane crash dreams, in which I’d be on the ground and see an airliner crash near me. So that was sort of recurring, but the details were always different. Sometimes I’d be helping rescue people, sometimes there were no survivors. It was always distressing. I also used to have “docu-dreams” that were like little documentaries, with a narrator. And cartoon dreams. These days, I rarely remember my dreams.

2. Turn your ideas into actual blog posts (I keep telling myself)!

Real Cat Paisley’s answers:
3. Mommy is driving me crazy! (He he! You thought I was going to say “the dog,” didn’t you?)

4. Lately, I have been having to get drops in my ears every day, and I do not like it, at all, and that is why Mommy is driving me crazy.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Majimeow: Etiquette Mascot of the Taipei Metro System

Cats could teach humans a lot, if humans would only pay attention. For example, cats know a lot about etiquette. That’s probably why the metro in Taipei, Taiwan, uses a cute cat named Majimeow as the face of a campaign to promote civil behavior in stations and on trains.

Majimeow--wear a mask if you're sick
Wear a mask if you're sick, Majimeow reminds riders in this message.

Majimeow is a white cat with a large, round head. She appears on a series of posters in which she is the victim of others’ thoughtlessness. Majimeow often has a cloud over her head, the result of frustration with her fellow commuters’ behavior. Sometimes tears pour down her face as a result of their rudeness. Commuters are reminded of things like
Majimeow--Move your stuff so others can sit
Move your stuff so others can sit, or else you'll
make the kitty cry.
  • do not block the doors,
  • do not take up an extra seat with your stuff,
  • keep your voice down, and
  • wear a mask if you’re sick.

Maybe if everyone imagines their fellow commuters as cute cats, it will be easier to be considerate of them. You don’t want to make the kitty cry, do you?

We are fortunate that old SoLT’s friend Joseph was in Taipei recently, and he sent us the photos for this post. Thanks, Joseph!

Scroll down to see them all.

Majimeow--let others off first
Let others off the train before you
get on.

Majimeow--move to the center
Don't block the doors! Move to the center
so others can get on the train.

Majimeow--keep your voice down
Shh! Keep your volume down.

Majimeow--remove your backpack please
Don't stick your backpack in others' faces.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cat of the Week: Ryan in Baltimore

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June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. At this time of year, “kitten season,” the young kittens get a lot of attention. But there are lots of older cats in shelters just waiting to be welcomed into a loving forever home. That’s why each week in this space, we feature a senior cat (7 years +) in need of adoption or sponsorship. Mature cats make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt a senior cat, and help him or her enjoy the best years of their life!

Adopt Ryan the Cat--Baltimore HumaneToday we’re introducing Ryan. He is a big, quiet guy who is 11 years old. Ryan was a lap cat in his previous home. He can be a little shy with new people, but once he gets to know you a little bit, he loves head rubs and chin rubs. What a great friend he would make for someone!

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Syn the Siamese Cat: Star of the Silver Screen

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Today, June 19,  is National Pets in Film Day, and we’re observing the day with this short profile of one of our favorite cat actors, Syn the Siamese Cat, star of Disney’s The Incredible Journey and That Darn Cat.

From the pound to an incredible journey

The Incredible Journey

Syn was “discovered” by trainer Bill Koehler, who found him in a California pound and bought him for five dollars. The people who gave the handsome Siamese up described him as “standoffish,” but Koehler found that he learned quickly. Syn was trained to respond to a bell tone so that, when the bell was rung, Syn would go toward it.

The cat’s first big role was The Incredible Journey (1963), in which he co-starred with a bull terrier and a Labrador retriever in the story of three pets trekking across the Canadian wilderness.

The role of Tao the cat brought several challenges for Syn, one of the greatest of which was pretending to be friends with a bull terrier. The dog was friendly enough, but Syn…well, there was a lot of hissing on his part. Koehler and his associate and “cat man” Al Niemela worked with the animal actors for months, teaching them their “marching order,” the way they would walk along together for much of the film. One day they decided to see if they could get Syn to alter the marching order and jump onto a fence beside the old road where they were filming. The dogs were started down the road doing the tired walk they’d rehearsed so many times. Then Syn was released to follow them, which he did, yowling all the way (Koehler described Syn’s loud vocalizations as “profanity”). Al told him to jump, motioning to the fence, and Syn went immediately toward it and jumped onto the top rail, from where he continued to follow the dogs. The trainers stopped the dogs to let Syn catch up, and when he did, he jumped down from the fence, went straight to the bull terrier, and rubbed against him repeatedly. At last, affection! (Although it did take a moment for the dog to get over his surprise at the cat’s actions.)

Syn the Siamese faces down a bear
Syn when he was facing down a bear in
The Incredible Journey.
Still from movie trailer.
Syn also had to face down a large black bear in the scene in which he protects his buddy the bull terrier. As far as acting goes, this scene was not difficult, because Syn would naturally “oppose anything from a gopher to the National Guard,” Koehler wrote. But still…a bear! (It was actually a trained bear named Carol, but still...a bear!) 

Syn’s brush with death—for real

The scariest part of this movie was something that wasn’t on screen. At one point, Syn and several of the other cats (there were several backup cats) became ill. One morning, they were found lying still and silent in their pens, very unusual for felines who were usually active and vocal. They would not even swallow water from a syringe. They were even worse the next day, when a veterinarian was able to come. He knew immediately that the cats were suffering from some kind of chemical poisoning. A vitamin K injection turned them around, and they all recovered. It was later determined that a well-meaning property owner had sprayed sheep dip along the path where the crew, including the cats, had filmed. He’d wanted to protect the animal actors by keeping the insects at bay, but the cats had gotten the chemical on their fur and ingested it when they licked themselves.

Truly a close call for Syn!

That Darn Cat book cover
Disney created this book based on the movie
That Darn Cat. The color of Syn's eyes
has been enhanced; they were naturally a
beautiful blue, but not quite that blue!

That Darn Cat!

Syn went from one success to another when he starred in his next film, That Darn Cat! (1965). For his role as DC (Darn Cat), Syn had to perform many precise actions, such as moving to specific places and stopping to look in a specific direction. He learned to do all this by following his sound cues (and sometimes getting a treat). This is pretty amazing when you consider all the distractions on the large sound stage where the movie was filmed.  Only a cat with superb concentration would ignore the distractions and follow his cue.

The other major thing Syn had to learn for this role was a lot easier. He had to become friends with Haley Mills, the actress who played his main person in the movie. Mills spent a lot of time petting Syn, carrying him around, and sitting with him in her lap. Syn purred a lot.

For his hard work in That Darn Cat!, Syn was awarded a well-deserved PATSY (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) in 1966. That’s a long way to come for a cat who was left at the pound for being standoffish.


"The Incredible Journey." Cinema Cats. Posted August 22. 2014. http://www.cinemacats.com/?p=3220

"That Darn Cat." Cinema Cats. Posted September 12, 2014. http://www.cinemacats.com/?p=3477

William R. Koehler. The Wonderful World of Disney Animals. New York: Howell Book House, 1979.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Selfie: Layla's First Gotcha Day!

Today for the Sunday Selfies blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head, we are letting Resident Dog Layla get in on the fun, because today is her first Gotcha Day. Here she is enjoying her party:

Layla's first gotcha day celebration

The Real Cats find it hard to believe that Layla has only been here for a year. It seems like such a looooong time (especially to Paisley).  But the humans in the house can hardly believe it's been a whole year since they first met her. Here she is doing one of her favorite things: sitting on the deck and surveying the backyard:

Layla on the back deck

And because this is a cat blog, old SoLT managed to get a shot with both cats and Layla. Here Layla watches as the cats play with their treats puzzle. (If you look closely, you can even spot the tie-dye duct tape that holds part of the treadmill together. Such a classy joint!)

Layla watches the Real Cats do their puzzle

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Caturday Art: Webster's Close-Up

We kept it simple this week for the Caturday Art blog hop, hosted by Athena. Old SoLT just took one of her favorite pictures of Real Cat Webster and used the Landscape effect in LunaPic. We like what it did to his eye and the texture of his fur:

Webster, by Cuddlywumps Publishing

This is the original:

Real Cat Webster, up close

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Words with Webster: Lykoi, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun features for you this Friday. First up is Words with Webster, in which he tells us about a strange new type of cat. This is followed by Friendly Fill-Ins.

Words with Webster: Lykoi

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Our word today is “Lykoi.” I think most of you have probably heard of this before, or you may have heard the other term, “werewolf cat.” The Lykoi is a brand-new breed of cat that has gotten a lot of attention recently because it is…weird. Lykoi are partially hairless, and some people think they look like little wolves. Their appearance is from a natural mutation. The first one was born in 2010. You can learn a lot more about the Lykoi from The International Cat Association and Lykoi Cats.

A young Lykoi cat.
By steptacular (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
The name “Lykoi” is from the Greek for “wolves.” The word has not made it into my favorite dictionary (Merriam-Webster’s) yet, and it is not in the Oxford English Dictionary either. I guess the little werewolf cats have just not been around long enough. Human werewolves have been around for a really long time though, since ancient times. They are said to suffer from “lycanthropy.” That word has been around since 1584, when Reginald Scot described lycanthropy as “a disease, and not a transformation.”

Lykoi don’t have a disease though; they just look different. Purrsonally, I think they’re too cute to be called “werewolf cats,” and that sounds kind of scary anyway. They should just be called wolf cats or Lykoi.

Friendly Fill-Ins

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 old SoLT this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by Real Cat Paisley, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Old SoLT’s answers:
Friendly Fill-Ins badge1. I challenge everyone to go meatless at least one day this week (unless you’re a cat!).

2. I regret disposing of … So, this is kind of amusing. Just last night I was thinking of something I had gotten rid of in a big clear-out several years ago, and I was wishing I still had it, but now I can’t remember what it was. Guess I don’t miss it so much after all.

Real Cat Paisley’s answers:
3. I have a difficult time admitting that I sort of enjoy watching the dog sometimes.

4. If I were given a psychic power, I would like it to be—What are you talking about? I’m a cat. I already have psychic powers! But it’s against the Cat Code to discuss them openly with humans.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Miss Cuddlywumps Converses with Puri Gagarin: Cosmocat

Puri Gagarin looking up at Moon.
Puri Gagarin, Cosmocat, has his eyes on the Moon.
Photo courtesy Puri Gagarin.
 Friends, please help me welcome a very distinguished guest to the blog today. He’s a Siberian who’s got his sights set on the Moon—and beyond. While you and I are napping, he’s training in the Apawllo Program and preparing to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. Who is this cat, I hear you asking? He’s Puri Gagarin, Cosmocat. I can’t wait to learn all about him.

Hi, Puri! We’re so excited that you could join us today. Tell me, how did you get the excellent name Puri Gagarin?

Thank you for having me! My name originates from the fact that I am a Siberian Forest Cat, so it was decided that I should have a Russian name. When it came to actually selecting a Russian name, the fact that I wanted to be a cosmocat really meant that the obvious choice would be to name me after Yuri Gagarin, who was the first man in space and a fellow Russian. That being said, there was concern that if I had the exact same name, then people would become confused—one Yuri Gagarin would be the first man in space, while the other would be the first feline on the Moon. Frankly, it would be a public relations nightmare and could wreak havoc with the history books. To distinguish the two of us, I adopted the first name “Puri,” which is an homage to both Yuri and my feline roots.

It is a distinguished and fitting name, since you will be the first cat on the Moon. Have you always been interested in space?

I was about 12 weeks old when I joined the Apawllo Program and moved to the Training Base, and I certainly wanted to become a cosmocat long before that great day arrived. If I had to pin down a turning point, it would be shortly after I opened my eyes for the first time. I remember looking out a window and seeing the Moon shining in all its glory, and all I could think about was how amazing it would be to chase toys across its surface. Little did I know the technical challenges that would be involved, but that is where the dream was born. Ever since that day, this goal has been basically all I think about.

Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, in a celebratory
parade in Warsaw, Poland, 1961.
Photographer unknown. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
It would be fun to chase toys on the Moon, wouldn’t it? I’m surprised no cat seems to have thought of this before. But space is a harsh environment, and your cosmocat training regimen must be intense. Can you give us an idea of a typical training day?

In a few words: “Rise and Grind.” Every day is intense, and I only average about 16 hours of sleep a day because of these activities, so mentally overcoming exhaustion is a huge component of my preparation. Generally, I break my training up into three segments during a day, so that I can recuperate with lengthy naps between sessions. Activities include chasing toys (reflex training), watching out the window (observational training), reading (important to train the mind), stretching (key for preventing training injuries), and running around the house at full speed (cardio). At least once per week I will also go on extended missions from the Training Base, as it important to get out and explore.

Only 16 hours of sleep? That’s incredible. Tell me, we’ve seen you eyeing the International Space Station. Any plans for a visit there?

Absolutely! It is a great place to spend extended periods in space conducting experiments. I also understand that they have mice on board, so I am planning some specific experiments, such as mouse hunting techniques and testing how far I can bat a mouse in zero gravity. That being said, I promise that no mice will be harmed or eaten during these experiments. I will rather engage them as co-experimenters and work collaboratively for the purposes of science. It is time that we put our inter-species differences behind us and mend these fences.  

Puri Gagarin studies the International Space Station.
Puri studies the International Space Station. He plans to conduct experiments with the help of some
mouse friends when it is his turn to join the crew.
Photo courtesy Puri Gagarin.

Fascinating. Since you want to be the first cat on the Moon, do you have a “first pawstep on the Moon” speech prepared, like Neil Armstrong’s famous “One small step for man…”?

To be honest, this will really depend on what the Public Relations team for the Apawllo Program determines. The program is bigger than me, so I respect that I am part of the team and that whatever those first words are will become an iconic part of feline history. That being said, I know that the current view is to adapt Neil Armstrong’s words, primarily as a sign of respect for the technology developed by humans that will make this feline achievement possible. Most likely, the opening words will be “One small meow for a cat, one giant roar for feline kind.

Puri visiting the David Dunlap Observatory, just north of Toronto, Canada. It's important for a
cosmocat to understand the mysteries of the universe, and an observatory is the purrfect place to learn.
Photo courtesy of Puri Gagarin.
I’d love to hear that being broadcast from the Moon. What would be your ultimate space adventure?

Puri and shuttle
Puri checks out a transport option. In space, a cat must
be thoroughly familiar with his or her vehicle.
Photo courtesy Puri Gagarin.
In a word, it would be Mars. Going to the Moon is really a starting point, but in the grand scheme of things the Moon is relatively close to the Earth and it has already been visited by humans. Mars is the next big milestone, as it will be the first time anyone sets paw or foot on another planet. The challenge is that humans are already eyeing this prize, so the Apawllo Program has some stiff competition from the likes of NASA. Ultimately, I see this as the next big Space Race similar to the 1960s. Whether man or feline gets there first is hard to predict, but I expect it will be a photo-finish either way.

Does your family support your career as a cosmocat?

They do and, frankly, I don’t think I could train properly if I didn’t have their support. As an example, I haven’t been able to master opening a can of wet food and there is no way that I could train so hard without this nourishment. They are also excellent at piloting the Lunar Rover for hours on end to take me to museums and observatories, which are an important part of my educational regimen.  

What does a cosmocat do to relax? Do you have any hobbies?

Could Puri be the first earthling
on Mars?
By NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team
(STScI/AURA) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons.
I think it is important to carve out some private time to relax with family and I definitely keep that a priority. Sometimes I spend my downtime just snuggled in bed with family watching a movie. On an ideal night, we will set up the telescope and spend a family evening under the stars.

That sounds nice. Family is so important, isn’t it? Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank all of my supporters. Sometimes when I am completely exhausted, those moments when I simply have nothing left in my tank, then I will read through some of the comments I receive, and they inspire me to push through and keep training. My supporters are a key element of the Apawllo Program, and without them this mission simply would not be possible.

Thanks, Puri. It was great meeting you and learning about what it’s like to be a cosmocat!

Thank you so much for having me today!   

Close-up of Puri Gagarin in Apawllo capsule mockup
Puri takes a break in the Apawllo capsule mockup.
Photo courtesy Puri Gagarin.

Follow Puri Gagarin the Cosmocat on Instagram to keep up with his training progress!  

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