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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Where's the best place to leave this dead mouse?


I have been inspired by Smudge's last comment to tackle the question of where is the best place to leave a dead mouse - in order to delight or horrify our humans. I suggest the following possibilities:
1. At the side of the bed, where the human foot will land on it as a human gets up in the morning.
2. Floating in the lavatory.
3. In a bedroom slipper, concealed so that it will only be discovered when toe meets mouse.
4. Under the human's pillow near the nightdress.
5. On the pillow at night just near the human nose.
6. In the shower
7. In a handbag.
8. In an envelope file on the desk.
9. Inside a filing cabinet.
10. In the toaster. Only one mouse at a time. If you have a human who only toasts one piece of bread this has the possibility of toasted mouse first thing in the morning.
Any more you can think of? The aim is maximum surprise and human emotional reaction. All contributions in comments please.

Major TV network reads this blog.


I blogged the floods with a picture (blog below this one) and gave my survival tips. NBC, the major (and best) American TV network, read it and sent a camera crew to do those ridiculous labradors.....
I've been on the TV, of course, before this. But not on camera.
Maybe a presenter's job beckons...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

How to survive flooding - take to the beds



Rain, thunder, stormy winds and floods hit Oxfordshire. I did the only thing a cat can do. I found a nice dry place and settled down to sleep through the crisis. William and I took to the beds, not the boats, as sensible cats do in these circumstances. I bet that the two cats in Noah's Ark were tucked away somewhere warm sleeping out the journey - perhaps behind the Aga in the Ark kitchen.
I expect Noah had trouble with the dogs, specially if they were labradors. What ridiculous creatures they are. During the flood they were jumping in and out of the water, getting in the way, and generally enjoying the crisis. (You can just see them in the picture). They could have got on with rescuing cats from drowning but instead they went chasing after balls and making fools of themselves. But when they left the water and shook themselves all over their humans, they gave me an idea I hadn't thought of before.
We napped and the rain pounded down for hours. We gave up going outside and started using the litter trays. After all, that's why they are there. Who wants to venture out in driving rain or sink paws into the wet earth in the soaked kitchen garden? There were small floods on the paving just outside the cat flap, larger pools near the garage and a lake near the garden shed. The pond overflowed, as usual, and the garden was boggy throughout.
Later, when the storm became a little less fierce, I ventured out, got very wet and rushed back inside. This was the only fun moment in the day. I leapt on to Ronnie's lap and shook myself. His reaction was gratifyingly extreme - loud shouts of "Get that bloody cat off me."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A COMMUNICATION FROM THE HON. MISS RUBY FOO


Greetings Underlings!
We are please to communicate with you and inform of the momentous events that have overtaken one in recent days. Having been callously evicted from one's Oxford lodgings by persons who failed to heed one's lineage, we found ourselves in deeply distressing circumstances.
We feel it appropriate to drawl a veil of discretion over this period of our existence, but suffice it to say it involved a thankfully brief encounter with local male of the low, working class variety. We consider this momentary association to be of a painful memory, as were its consequences. We consider it would be wiser for all concerned if one "moved on", as the contemporary term would have it.
Followng the "incident", one was graciously aided by the kindly offices of a human from an admirable organisation the purpose of which is the rescue of members of my species who have fallen upon hard and distressing times.
Following a period of recuperation in comfortable quarters, one allowed oneself to be transported to a new place of residence set in the heart of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. If one is to voice a small criticism of this journey it is in regard to the condition of the conveyance used. We found it a battered and aged mechanial brougham, one that had clearly seen better days. Those of one's background are more used to transportation of a more stately nature. However, we will let it pass.
The new place of residence proved both comfortable and one's new servants, a Mr and Mrs Callan (married couples are always so much better, don't you think?), are amiable and kindly. Mrs Callan, in particular, is affectionate and gentle of touch. Mr Callan is similar, although one wishes he would desist from making what he, doubtless, considers is a Siamese cat call. But that is a small matter
We also greatly commend the food offered in the new abode. This included a choice of gourmet meals and, on several occasions, carefully sliced breast of chicken. We were greatly encouraged by such kind treatment and felt that, following our aforementioned unpleasantaries, would prove a residence worthy of our presence.
The only drawback to this residence is that there is clear evidence of other, and lesser, members of my species. Further investigation has revealed that one, is known locally as "Gorgeous George". He is, one cannot be fail to observe, a bit of a thug who boasts of his violence to other species and is a self confessed drug user - sniffing not injecting, he claims. We could not help but feel certain qualms about the possibilities of fights, corpses in the shrubbery, the thumping sound of rap music, noisy, late night parties, and the wafting smell of catnip.
His companion, however, seems to be a friendly tabby and white gentleman known as William. He is what one believes in popularly known as an "old buffer" with white whiskers, of the kind to be seen snoozing in the afternoons at the Cat Traveller's Club. One shall, needless to say, keep a dignified distance from both these gentlemen, in particular the one called George.
Following another journey in the unsuitable vehicle, we found ourselves in another residence from which there was no view of the countryside and which is, one believes, known as "an apartment". Sadly, our nerves being somewhat frayed, we have yet to fully adjust to our second set of new surroundings.
At present, we have taken refuge behind what one believes is called the "built-in kitchen unit" and will only emerge for nourishment and other personal requirements until such time as one's confidence returns.
Dated this nineteenth Day of July, Two thousand and seven.
(Signed) The Hon.Ruby Foo

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cats Protection kittens make special cats (like me).


Yesterday, while I was hunting down the hedgerows, Celia went off to her local Cats Protection fete - details of the charity on www.cats.org.uk. Never buy a kitten, get a Cats Protection kitten. They will grow into splendid cats like me and in some ways, I suppose, William. At the fete she met her namesake, a tiny (not very well) kitten called Celia. This Celia (named after Shakespeare's Celia in As You Like It) had been picked up on the streets of the nearby market town. She was confused, frightened, lonely but not yet starving. She had been weaned on to solid food. Either she had got separated from her mother or her human family, having sold the others, had chucked her out to live and die.
My Celia once picked a small shivering kitten out of a hedge in a Somerset layby on Christmas Eve. A similar story. A human had sold most of the kittens as Christmas presents, and had decided that the surplus could be thrown away. Or even out of sheer low life ignorance had thought a small kitten might survive in the wild, despite the winter weather.
There are moments when I find humans sickening....
PS. Steffi and Paul Next Door have barred the doors and the cat flap in a very unfriendly way. A strange smell, ever so faintly oriental, has been wafting out from under the front door.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rumours of an oriental asylum seeker next door


There are some ugly rumours around of a new cat coming to live next door. Up till now Steffi and Paul Next Door have been ideal neighbours. Both William and I have been welcomed at any time and given rather nicer cat food than we get with Celia. Beds have been provided for me, George, when I felt like a sleep over in the afternoon. When builders and other human intruders were in the house, Steffi's bed was a very nice alternative.
Moreover they seemd to have a proper attitude towards me. Steffi valued my mousing prowess and at one time wanted to borrow me to get rid of the mice in her London flat. They also had a suitably humble attitude. All this now seems to be at risk.
The first sign of a possible intruder came when I rubbed against Steffi's ankles. There was a distinct smell of cat. Worse still, the smell of an oriental. The only interesting, and possibly less unpleasant aspect to the smell, was that it was female. Do we want a female oriental immigrant next door? No, we don't. She has been living on the street and indeed gave birth there when she was rescued by West Oxon Cats Protection. We feel sorry for her but we don't want asylum seekers like her in our backyards. William and I agree, for once, that while we have fellow feelings (after all we were both Cats Protection kittens) we think she would be happier somewhere else. Perhaps in the village across the fields. Or, since she has been on the street, in the nearby market town. She will find overflowing dustbins from Thai restaurants are available there - the sort of food she has been used to no doubt. More suitable for her than the huntin' rattin' and sportin' countryside, we feel.
Not In My Back Yard. Purrlease.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

George's war chant at the sight of rats


This is my war chant. I borrowed the booms and the ricka ticka from the rather similar Walthamstowe High School for Girls hockey chant used in the l930s. War chanting is the rhythmic expression of rising excitement. This is just the humanised version of my teeth chattering at the sight of prey. Got to explain it to humans, you see.

Boom, boom, boom chicka boom. Boom ricka ticka ticka boom.
Boom screw the cat trap, boom wow the rat trap,
Boom boom boom.
Ratticus Catticus sis boom bah. George is a rat killer. Ya ya ya.

PS. Still working on the rap version.

Monday, July 02, 2007

When did cats domesticate humans?

Humans are anthropocentric in their views about domestication. For years and years they have believed in a myth - that we cats were domesticated by humans. Their general view was that humans went out into the desert, found some wild kittens of Felis silvestris Lybica, brought them home and then brought them up as companion animals about 4000 years ago to become Felis catus. This happened in Ancient Egypt when gods were worshipped in animal form including goddesses like the cat Bastet.
Now those in charge of the cat genome project, headed by Stephen O Brien, chief of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, have had to accept that this isn't how it was. It all started much earlier. The scientist discovered five lineages of mitochondrial DNA in modern cats. Because of this variation, the researchers believe domestication occurred a half-dozen times or so in the Middle East.
According to the genome research the five female ancestors of Felis catus were Felis silvestris Lybica, African wild cats, mousing their way across the deserts some 130,000 years ago. So that settles our ancestry. But how did it happen? Five separate sets of adopted kittens? I think not. More likely five adventurous female Felis silvestris Lybica. The discovery of five different events of domestication suggests domestication was the other way round - or so I think. Cats moved into human life of their own accord.
The theory was that cats turned up in human settlements when man first started growing grain. But now we know that early man settled in one place before the advent of grain farming. And the cats moved in on him. Why? Not because grain brings mice but because human garbage (with or without grain) brings rats and mice. Rats are bigger and better prey. And also because humans offer dry shelter for us. Of course rats can be found among wandering human tribes that don't settle in one place. Celia has seen for herself the rats in a Beduin camp. But because we cats have a decent sense of territory (unlike dogs who started following human tribes much earlier) we don't move around much. Tents are dry shelter but they keep being taken down and set up in a new place. So we had to wait till man was civilised enough to settle in one spot.
Then we moved in. It was nothing to do with captured kittens (a ridiculous idea). We moved in and we began to overcome our disgust at Homo sapiens, a species which hitherto we had avoided at all costs. In order to benefit from their garbage rats and mice (and later more mice when they started grain growing) we had to put up with them. And their buildings gave us valuable warmth and shelter, so we moved a bit closer. Or at least those five desert cats did. And their descendants who could put up with the nearness of mankind flourished better than the descendants that simply couldn't bear being around this blundering species.
There's a posh word for it - commensality. We began living side by side, seperate but equal. (Well, not exactly equal. More like separate but essentially different in status, cats above and humans below.) Then we began to tame them so that they started behaving better to us. They threw us the occasional scrap of food as well as understanding our valuable contribution to the grain economy. We worked as natural pesticides and rodent control operatives. Their babies and children grew up near cats and became socialised to them. We also socialised them by sleeping close to them for warmth and amusing them with our antics.
Some cats have even put forward the theory that Homo sapiens (so called) started settling in one place because they looked at our behaviour and imitated it. First they learned about social hunting from dogs, because they followed the wolf packs and, like hyenas, shooed off the wolves and ate their prey. So they imitated their hunting methods, were successful, and some of the wolves started following them instead. But imitating dogs could only help with primitive hunting and social life. They needed more to become modern and civilised.
They saw that territoriality worked for cats and opted to follow in our paw prints. It makes sense to me. Having a proper home den and a hunting range helps with the safe bearing of kittens, whether cat or human. And this is a great deal more likely that nonsense about humans kidnapping kittens and taming them to their requirements. Everybody knows that, as Saki put it, "the cat is only domesticated as far as it suits his own ends." I would merely add humans are the most completely domesticated species on earth. They show much more of the juvenility of domestication than we do. (More on that later perhaps)
Our lineage dates back 130,000 years (beat that, Debretts!) and we domesticated humans.

Help for cats whose humans show behaviour problems.

This blog is devoted to the study of human behaviour. We cats, who live with this sometimes unpredictable and always feeble minded species, can benefit from seeing their behaviour in its proper scientific context. The study of feline dilemmas, training problems, and difficulties with humans, can only benefit all of us. All of us train our humans - to buy the right food, for instance, but many of us do not have knowledge of how to improve our training methods. The human species is obviously not as intelligent as the cat, but nevertheless can learn quite a lot - if properly managed. Topics of interest include the use of claw and order, purring as a human reward, rubbing your human up the right way, when to bite, spraying as a method of making our wishes known, ignoring the human, human harassment, human inattention and sheer human stupidity. I welcome your questions. Photos can be sent via my secretary's website, www.celiahaddon.com This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online VetTechprogramms.org