Saturday, January 31, 2009
Interrupting human computer behaviour
My human housekeeper, Jilly, is failing in her duties. Her time should be spent caring for the four of us, keeping the water bowl clean and filled up, renewing the dry food in the kitchen feeding bowl, heating the house to a tolerable level for cats, turning down the beds for us, providing a warm lap at all times and providing emotional support at all times. It's not much to ask. She doesn't have specifically to cook for us. Although we appreciate it when she shares her meals, we don't demand cooked food for every one of the 12 or so meals we like to take through the day and night. However, her care is substandard. She is spending a lot of time staring into a square lighted box, where a series of mouse tracks appear. I think it may be obsessive compulsive disorder or a kind of stereotypy. Any ideas of how to prevent this stereotypic behaviour in humans?
There are several stereotypies or obsessive disorders in humans. As you say, one of them is the compulsive vigilance associated with the square screen of a computer, across which mouse tracks are seen. I am told that 30 years ago, this kind of behaviour was almost unknown, as computers were not found in the territory that humans share with cats, ie the household home. Such installations, with their ability to turn humans into computer addicts, were only found in the human hunting territory, ie the so called office, and then rarely.
However, for many years, there has been another square screen. This can be black and white or nowadays in a black and white version with some semi-coloured green and red version. (Humans appear to see a wider range of colour than us as they describe this as "coloured" TV.) The screen has a series of very small flickering dots through which we can see vague shapes and the humans appear to see as definite shapes. Humans also watch this obsessively.
The human obsession with TV is relatively easy to live with. First, the screen emits interesting noises such as mouse squeaks, bird song and occasionally (on Animal Cops Houston, my favourite programme where very large women rescue very small kittens and cops turn up armed to the teeth to help subdue animal hoarders) cat noises. There are also snooker games with moving coloured balls, just about clear enough for us cats to follow. I take an intermittent interest in TV programmes, myself, though obviously I am not an obsessive watcher like my human.
However, we can also use TV-watching time for my own interests. Humans have an unfortunate habit of being busy around the house doing displacement activities when they should be cat caring. A human watching TV offers an inviting lap and, even though humans are not as intelligent as cats, they are capable of doing two things at once - stroking us at the same time as watching.
TV watching can be interrupted by jumping on top of the set and looking cute. Angling a tail across the screen, attacking the screen, sitting in front of the screen and mimicking the human compulsive viewing. This activities will often distract the human and make them attentive to us again. I have added a photo of myself on top of the TV to show the sort of thing.
These can also be used to interrupt a human at its computer. Other possibilities involved the keyboard, a device which seems to influence the mouse tracks on the screen. Press this with your paws. Anywhere will do.There will be a satisfying change on the screen. If you simply stand immobile on the keyboard, a series of identical tracks will appear from left to right continuing downwards in ever increasing lines.
Then there is the "mouse". I have not mastered feline use of the computer mouse. Any suggestions for this or other TV games?
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