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, January 19, 2018

Words with Webster: Flehmen, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

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

Words with Webster

Words with Webster

Hi, everybody! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Today’s word is “flehmen” (I got the idea for this word from Catster). If you have spent much time around cats, you might not recognize this word, but I bet you’ve seen the thing it describes. I looked in my favorite dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s and found out “flehmen” means
a mammalian behavior (as of horses, cows, or elephants) in which the animal inhales with the mouth open and upper lip curled to facilitate exposure of Jacobsen's organ to a scent or pheromone.
I thought that was pretty interesting because I never knew other animals did this; I thought it was just a cat thing. Anyway, you know that thing your cat does sometimes where he opens his mouth and curls his lip and generally gets a funny look on his face when he smells something weird? That’s a flehmen response. Like this:

Flehmen response in a cat, photo via Adobe Stock

But we think you can see it better here:

Flehmen response in tiger. Photo by Ashishmahaur [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Our concern today is with the word rather than the behavior (read the Catster article to find out more about that), so next I went to the Oxford English Dictionary, where I learned that this is a really recent word in English. Its first known use in print was in 1970:
Flehmen or lipcurl was quite common [in a herd of captive giraffes], usually by a male to the urine of a female. (Journal of Mammalogy 51, 270)
Compared to some words we’ve done, “flehmen” had a short trip to get to English. It came straight from the German Flehmen, which according to Dictionary.com means
(of a domestic ungulate) to curl the lip.
So next time you see your cat do this, remember the flehmen response is something she has in common with cows, horses and even elephants and giraffes!


Friendly Fill-InsFriendly 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. I have never been able to sew. I have no aptitude for sewing, no patience for it, and even sewing one button on a shirt is an exercise in frustration.

2. I wish I could still run. It used to feel so good to run when I was much, much younger, but now running just sounds painful—and exhausting.

Real Cat Paisley’s answers:

3.  Curled up on Mommy’s lap is my ideal winter night.

4. Trick a staff member into thinking you haven’t been fed yet and you might get to eat dinner twice. I try this a lot, and sometimes it works!


  1. I see my cats do that a lot, but never knew there was a word for it, thanks for the lesson. And thank you both for these great fill-in answers. Sorry you can't run anymore. Good idea to trick the staff into getting you more food :) Have a nice weekend! XO

  2. We didn't know there was an actual word for that. Great fill-ins. We especially like number 4, for well, obvious reasons!

  3. First used in print in 1970?!? Wow, such a short time ago. Great info again, thanks!

  4. Huh. I've never even heard the word (and I took the equivalent of five years of German too!). When my cats have done it, I get uneasy because it almost seems as if something's wrong ... they can't breathe or are paralyzed or something. Now I know better!

  5. That's such a fun word! My Angel Tara used to make that face whenever I would eat a tangerine in her presence LOL. Ditto on the sewing. I don't even try. Never been a runner either! Mudpie has the same #3 :)

  6. I would LOVE to see a Elephant curl its upper lip to flehmen! That would be something to see! And I LOVED your Friday Fill Ins!
    Great answers!

  7. We have never heard that word before, and weren't even sure we'd seen a cat do it until we saw the photo (then it made sense)! :)
    I love Old SoLT's answer to #1, because I have never been able to sew either, and agree 100% with everything she said about it! Often if a button falls off something, unless it's clothing I really, really love, it goes into the rag bin! LOL

  8. I loved learning the new word! With a new furkid settling into the house I see my other cats doing that!

    I used to sew often, now my sewing machine collects dust. I think the Internet may have something to do with that. :-)

    I do not wish I could run, although I am sure I would love it if I could. These days I wish I could walk better and further without pain. This getting old stuff is no fun.

    I have five inside cats so my lap and Papa Bear's are in constant demand, and it is not uncommon to have two snuggled together there. It is a great excuse not to get up and do anything, wouldn't want to disturb sleeping babies!

    We have a suppertime ritual and I am the only one feeding them unless I am away, so there are no second meals, but there just might be extra treats, and sometimes a bite or two of whatever the humans are eating!

    Josie Two Shoes ~ Friendly Fill-ins

  9. I actually love mending things. Weird, huh? I used to do crewel stitchery, back in the 70s-80s. I kind of miss that.
    With two artificial hips and two artificial knees and a 2x fused ankle, running is not an option. But, I can walk!
    Paisley always has the cutest answers.
    Annie at ~McGuffy's Reader~