Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
As you can see, I celebrated Christmas with the family - own plate, own cracker, and (more importantly my own portion of turkey). But it still puzzles me. What is the point of it? And why Christmas not New Year or winter solstice? I find human celebrations confusing.
My research in the art history world suggests that it is something to do with a family that loved cats. There's a painting in Venice of the Annunciation by Lorenzo Lotto showing a human called Mary who had her own (rather startled) tabby. The Lotto painting shows a tabby cat scampering across the floor just as an angel is telling Mary of the birth of a baby. Tabbies were popular with this particular family.
There's a charming ginger and white cat painted by Frederico Barocci about 1575 sort of begging in the nativity scene showing Mary, Joseph, the child and the infant John the Baptist. Perhaps the ginger and white lived with Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist and cousin of the family. And Leonardo da Vinci sketched a nativity scene with a cat twice - can't be sure of the colour except that it is not black.
The Lotto tabby may be an ancestor of the tabby that appears Jan Vermeyen’s picture of the Holy Family at home later on after returning from Egypt. The cat is lying at the feet of the Virgin Mary on what looks like its own little bed. That makes me think that the family loved cats.
There was also a tabby at the birth of St John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus, according to a sixteenth century Book of Hours. And there was one even earlier at the birth of the Virgin herself, according to an alterpiece in Romania, c. 1480-1500. You can just see it in the background of the painting at the bottom left hand side. I think it is yet another tabby.
Tabbies were there in the home before and after the birth of Jesus. But what about the stable? A black cat, like me, may have been there in the stable. We black cats are less prized than tabbies so it's more likely that we were just pushed out to live as pest controllers out of doors in Bethlehem. The stable would have been a warm place in winter, with the ox and the ass, so we cats would have been there at night sharing the space with that young travelling couple tired from coming all the way from Nazareth. I like to think that the heavily pregnant girl would have smiled to see a cat there purring her a better welcome than she had got at the inn.
I can't find any paintings of black cats with this family. But I really hope that one of my ancestors was part of this great event, perhaps somehow living on the margins of domestication, catching mice in the stable and sneaking the odd meal from the waste food of the inn. They say He came for those who were outcast, poor, and marginalised. Please may we cats be remembered too when He comes into his kingdom - as that human once said.
And any humans reading this spare a thought for the cats still out in the cold - give money to no-kill rescue shelters. In the financial meltdown they will need it.
George, Cats Protection rescue cat.
PS For more cat paintings take a look at http://larsdatter.com/cats.htm
Friday, December 12, 2008
They've done it again. Some time as the days get longer here they try to put a silly red hat on me. Why? What's it all about? They've gone funny in the household. Odd things on the TV - less wildlife more choirboys (and I don't like small boys). The only bit I like are the tinkly things that later on they will hang on a tree. That's more like fun. I read in your book, The Joy of Cats, published under HER name, that a mad Victorian clergyman hung herrings on his tree. Why can't she do this instead balancing this hat on me? As you can see, I am not pleased at all.
This is the time of year when humans go slightly mad. Some of their behaviour is extremely vexing - loud tuneless caterwauling carols, the influx of strange humans turning up at all hours, inter-human aggression due to tiredness and drunkeness, human kittens and juveniles wanting to "pet" us, and thoughtless behaviour like dressing up cats. We don't need clothes or hats, thank you very much. We are not naked apes. We have our own fur coats which suit us much better.
However, Christmas is a time of opportunities. Take the tree. Twinkling balls hang from it - so nice to play with. I enjoy batting them about and if they fall off they move over a wooden floor in a mouse-like fashion. And have you tried climbing it? Right at the top, for some reason, is a particularly bright star. Go for it. Every human in the house will react with a gratifying squeal of excitement as you exhibit your skillful ascent - before the tree crashes to the ground.
Christmas food. Turkey - yum yum. Get to the kitchen early on, while the bird is uncooked. At this point you may get one or two bits cut off to tidy it up for the oven. Even if you don't receive them, note that they have gone into the trashcan. This is usually easily overturned later in the day and you can rummage round for that nice bit of skin taken off the breast area. It's fun to hunt for it. More fun than being given it.
Throughout the morning there will be interesting things on the kitchen surfaces or dining areas. It's no trouble to jump up and take a look to see what is on offer. At various Christmases, I have found the following - bread sauce, ice cream, brandy butter, cream, custard, sausagemeat balls, forcemeat balls (not so good as the sausage meat but worth licking), butter, goose fat, and smoked salmon.
There are hazards. One year I ate the whole of a piece of string used to tie up the turkey which was unwisely left within my range. That was a visit to the vet on Boxing day - very expensive for the human and I didn't appreciate the laxative either (dangerous to pull it out). But my human followed me about attentively and checked the litter tray ceaselessly. The silly woman seemed to want her string back. Can't think why - the turkey flavour would have gone completely. More on Christmas accidents next week and after that cats and their role in the nativity story.
Keep up the Christmas capers - to make those humans properly attentive.
PS. Other cats please let me know of their Christmas experiences and email photos via my website, www.celiahaddon.com
Friday, December 05, 2008
George, old boy,
It's bin far too long. Club suitable as to grub and heat, staff quite civilised after years of my hard work, excellent mousing. Many birds, so many it's hard to decide which one to hunt. Humans keep dogs, but dogs keep their distance. Would suggest you come here for a while if it didn't involve travel and those damn cage things. Only trouble, hesitate to mention it, is the new one. Gel called Arabella, bloody silly name. Arrived in a bag, took staff by surprise, I expect. Tiny thing, long white gloves on all her legs, face you could only call pert, very young indeed and much too bumptious. Climbs humans like hills, sits on heads, dives into their very odd morning meal: called mewsel or something. Then skids down their backs and you know how ridiculously sensitive they are to fleshwounds. Attacks dogs, just when we'd come to terms. Usually pursues own tail, but sometimes mine, and she bites. Obviously dreams of being a lion and anything that moves is a gazelle, humans included. Staff have tried games, affection and isolation, but nothing seems to civilise the creature. Dogs say she's a rat with military training. Myself, suspect she's some kind of subversive. My suggestion she leave, this being a gentleman's club, not taken kindly by Arabella or by the staff. So I ask you: how to tame a kitten who can't be kept out of anything. She's even taken my chair and my place in the middle of the fireplace and a gentleman hardly knows whether to swipe or smile.
Humans ineffective as usual, so most grateful for your advice.
Your friend Ze.
She's young, she's flighty and she's a female cat! Whaddya expect? She may not even have been neutered. Why do you think humans sometimes call their females sex kittens? It could have been of the greatest interest, except that you had the alteration, the op, the snip, the cut. I dream of sex kittens but waking it is no such matter. Like you, that part of my life disappeared for ever after humans snipped me.
Perhaps this is just as well. We can relax into the deep peace of the chaise longue instead of the hurly burly of life on the tiles. None of this helps much with your troubles with Arabella. I think this is a claw and order issue. Stop this gentleman nonsense. Biff her but biff her with claws retracted. That kind of swipe - rough but not vicious - should establish yourself as top cat again.
Wny on earth haven't your humans installed another chair especially for her? And what about the double bed? Is there space for both, preferably with humans in between? Maybe an electric blanket or a snugglesafe on the spare room would help give her a warm night. And why only one fireplace when there are two cats? I hope they have at least installed another litter tray and also a second feeding station. You need two of everything.
Cats don't share. Geddit, you stupid humans? Sharing is a doggy thing not a feline thing. We compete or we ignore.
We need our own space which means our own feeding station, our own beds (plural), our own chairs and our own place at the fireside. Two of everything if there are two cats. That way we don't have to share. Sharing is stressful for us. The ideal relationship inside the same house is one where each cat has about 3 metres distance at all times from the other, different places to sleep, to eat and to defecate. A proper distance should be available at all times.
Sometimes I despair of 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