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Monday, September 29, 2008

Why can't humans grow proper cat's whiskers?

Dear George,
As you can see from my pictures I have elegantly long whiskers from my muzzle and some rather charming whiskers above my eyes, one or two on my cheek and even two on my fore legs. They not only transmit important information to me, but, to my mind, they are gloriously beautiful. Why don't humans have them? 
Fanny

Dear Fanny,
You have to feel sorry for the species,don't you? The most they can manage is facial fur. Some of the male humans, particularly those of various religions, grow quite long and droopy fur on their chins, but other males shave it all off. The females don't even have facial hair - or if they do they wax it off or pull it out. Odd, aren't they?
However even the males with the longest and furriest faces, with what they term "beards' or "sideburns", have non-functioning hair without proper nerve end receptors. 
Human facial fur just sits there for no good reason at all. Sometimes the fur even looks like whiskers. But it doesn't work. It's completely useless for navigating through tight places, or for helping them hold down mice. And, as far as I know, they don't have anything like whiskers on their fore legs, or "arms", just a scatter of useless slender hairs. 
Our whiskers work like a sixth sense. A blindfolded cat can pounce on and hold down a mouse with the information conveyed by his whisker sense. And, as I have discovered, I can switch off my whiskers while I am sleeping. If Celia is stupid enough to stroke them while I am dozing, I take no notice at all. I can control the sensory input, so to speak. When I pounce on a mouse, my whiskers shoot forward towards it, so that when I am carrying it, they can monitor the rodent's struggle without my having to open my mouth. 
Clever stuff, eh? Humans can't do it. No wonder they are so bad at mousing. It's difficult to believe, but I have never ever, in all my life in a human house, seen a human successfully carry a mouse in its jaws. 
A rather pathetic species, really, but I guess we love them all the same.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Humans, not cats, are the true killing machines

Dear George
I spend a lot of time hunting in the nearby hedges, in the village were I live. I brought a mouse home yesterday through the cat flap and there were shrieks as it slipped out of my mouth in the kitchen. My humans don't seem to like the fact that I go hunting almost every day. Yet it's the activity which gives my whole life its joy and meaning.
Yorkshire Patch

Dear Patch,
We all have difficulties with our humans about this one, - that is if we live in a nice family home rather than a barn or stables. Humans like the idea that we keep down the mice numbers but they are also queasy about seeing us doing it. Humans are dreadful hypocrites on this issue.
A few thousand years ago, we noticed that humans needed cats. Indeed mice are the cause of the cat-human relationship. They had started growing grain and building granaries and we moved in. Soon we saw that humans would be better off if we domesticated them, so we moved further into their homes and the close cat-human relationship was off and away. 
However domesticated they are, humans like us don't seem to have lost the killing instinct. Their instinct is worse than ours. We kill mice and usually eat them. They kill each other. That is unimaginable in cat society.
Over the past 9000 years of domestication we have tried to teach them how to live in peace with each other. We keep the peace instinctively. True, there are cat fights over willing females occasionally but more often than not, our toms just line up peacefully for a go. Why fight when there is plenty to go round and our females seem to enjoy it.
We deal with conflict much better than humans do. We avoid it.OK so we do a bit of posturing and hissing but most of the time we just walk round each other. If you look at how cats live together in a home (in a group of unrelated animals which is totally unlike the normal closely related wild cat colony), we manage ourselves by avoiding each other. 
We have our separate beds and favourite places and, unless we are forced to, we eat at seperate times. If we do fight, there may be wounds but we don't kill. We time share rather than sharing - unless we are good friends or relatives in which case we eat together and sleep touching each other.
Humans at low levels of society seem to manage this but once there are thousands of them it all goes wrong. They band together in large packs and slaughter each other. They don't even fight fairly with their feet and hands. They invent weapons which allow themselves to kill each other from thousands of miles away. They even slaughter babies and females. So it is the greatest hypocrisy when they object to the odd dead, or not so dead, mouse.
Yes, we have our hunting instincts. Yes we kill mice and rabbits and lizards and insects. We are predators. But so are humans. They prey on their own kind. We don't kill other cats. They kill each other in the millions. 
Humans could learn from us if they weren't so arrogant.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why do humans disapprove of washing?

Dear George,
Why are humans so odd when we wash. I wash after I have eaten. I wash after a human has stroked me, particularly if I didn't really want to be stroked. I wash when I feel I have nothing better to do. And I wash when I feel embarassed or upset. I was doing this the other day when my humans had guests. Perhaps I was a bit noisy. And perhaps I did expose my tummy. But so what? As you can see I have a particularly beautiful white tummy and I can't see anything wrong with it. Or the bits lower down, come to that. Humans are so prudish.
Jaffa

Dear Jaffa,
First of all, humans don't wash enough anyway. They only wash two or three times a day and instead of using their clean tongue they throw themselves into a huge bowl and wallow in their own dirt. Or they pour water on themselves while standing in a kind of cabinet. All very odd and often very unhygienic. Frankly, we cats are cleaner than they are.
Is it envy that makes them embarrassed when we wash in front of guests? Or a feeling of inferiority? After all, if they wanted to clean up their tummies with their tongue, most of them are too fat and unflexible to be able to do it, even if they did have a longer better tongue. Maybe that makes them feel uneasy. But you are right. They are embarrassed in front of other people.
Rather than let this get on your nerves, Jaffa, why not enjoy teasing them with it. See if you can jump on the dinner table and wash your backside in front of their very noses?If that isn't possible, choose a chair nearby and do it. Make a real performance of it - licking, pulling the hair slightly, breathing heavily and generally making slurpy noises. 
Use the litter tray with a lot of heavy scratching which can be heard even if the tray is out of sight. Then walk back into the room for a thorough wash "down there". This is best done with guests because your own humans are used to this and, if they were on their own, would think nothing of it. But it's fun to see if you can embarrass the guests - their eyes flick on to you and then flick away and a sort of prim expression comes on their face. Then if they are embarrassed, your own humans will often get embarrassed too.
What else to do with washing? Well, it's fun to do it on the bed in the early hours of the morning so that you make the bed shake. Or just near your human's face on the pillow. I'm sure the cats out there will have their own ideas about how to use washing as a way to tease their humans.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

What is this weird human behaviour?


I've heard this weird story from a friend whose human visited another cat lover. He reached down to pet her cat a couple of times gently, and had to defend himself as he was about to have 12 lbs of kitty wreak havoc on his body. The woman grabbed the cat and sat down on the couch, proceeded to put the cat on his back and rub his tummy till he calmed down. While she was doing this - and this is the crazy part - she held a pencil between his teeth. I guess the wood was flying, bits going all over the place. He chewed for a few minutes then was calm again. She apologized and said he had quite a temper and this was the only way to calm him. Is this some new Dr.Phil for cats technique? Or do I just lead a sheltered life? Whatcha think, George?

Dear Goldie,
I think this is just another example of mad and bad humans. Most of us who respond badly to petting are doing so because we are frightened of humans and want to keep our personal space. We may look vicious but we are scared. Personally I like being petted by strangers (I've been criticised for being too much of a human lover)  but many cats do not. They were not brought up in kittenhood to enjoy the promiscuous caresses of passing humans they do not know. So they strike out in order to get humans to retreat - a very effective technique.
What does this woman do then? Grab the cat,roll  it on its back, forcibly pet its tummy (its most sensitive area!), and in order to avoid being bitten (an appropriate feline reaction, in my view), she thrusts a piece of wood in its mouth. A calming technique? Cruel, I think. There is a danger that the cat will break a tooth. There is the emotional damage of being handled in a rough way and forced to comply.
Although I am a cuddly cat, I hate being tickled on my tummy. Most cats do. Sometimes I will allow a little bit of petting there but mostly I respond by grabbing the intruding hand and biting it. My tummy is a no go area and (except for the very occasional caress from Celia) I am the only one who is allow to clean it or touch it. This poor cat, who is already frightened by strangers trying to caress it, is now unable to bite because it has been forcibly gagged. I am amazed it calmed down - perhaps it was freezing with sheer terror.  Cats that are unable to escape do sometimes freeze and go motionless.
The whole story is horrible.

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