Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kitten pranks. Shall I pull these down?

Dear George,
I am only a kitten but I have discovered a good way of getting my new owners' attention. They live in a lovely Cotswold home, with valuable antiques. On the mantlepiece of the drawing room are several beautiful Dresden pieces of china - shepherdesses and the like. I have thought what fun it would be to get up there and pull them down - but they are still a bit high up. In the meantime I am looking round for other things to practise on. Like this pile of magazines. What are your views on pushing things off ledges?

Dear Roxy,
Yes, by all means start practising now. You have hit upon one of the best ways to get human attention - toppling things over, swiping valuable antiques off mantlepieces, pulling down waste paper baskets and spreading their contents over the room. It's all yours, kitten.
What is so satisfying about getting human attention this way, is its complete and utter predictability. Want to be picked up? Just do it. Want to be the centre of all eyes? Just do it. Want to provoke a series of shrieks? Just do it.No sooner do they see you even thinking about it - standing like you are now or just doing the bottom wiggle before the great leap - than they respond with gratifying speed. It is SO easy.
In my opinion this human response shows that there are severe limits on human cognition. If they really had the capacity to reason things out, they would realise that these pranks are a way of getting attention. Sometimes I think a few humans do. But they are incapable of taking the next intellectual step - ie. to work it out that giving attention merely encourages us cats. The only way to stop us is to walk out of the room.
Can humans think? I am not sure.
So... I admire your spirit, Roxy. You are learning fast how to train your humans. As far as the Dresden shepherdesses are concerned, they are the big one. If you go for them, cataclasmic human reactions will result. Not just the occaisonal shrieks, but very many and very loud ones. And probably a complete loss of human temper ( they don't have much control, poor humans). Are you ready for it? Can you cope? If so, JDI - Just Do It.
PS. Would Anonymous who added a comment last week like to email me via A longer version of her/his query would make a nice post. Next week the blog will be silent as my secretary, Celia, is away at college vainly trying to wise up enough to outwit a cat. Some hope!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Of Friendship and sharing - and alternative medicine

Dear George,
I have to thank you for helping me making so many friends through your blog! This means a lot to me since I’m not as outgoing as my sister. But, I can say now… that I have my own little “gang” here…sharing tricks and tips on how to train our humans to…perfection (in serving us, of course) ☺
There are two things I’d like to share with all the cats on your blog.
The first one is an article I’ve just read in the last issue of Namaste Magazine ( regarding the problems with “vaccines”. Its title is “We must be blind” and it was written by Catherine O’Driscoll based on her own experience and research. The second one is about a book entitled “Your Healthy Cat” by H. G. Wolff, D.V.M (subtitled “Homeopathic Medicines for Common Feline Ailments”). We heard our humans talking a lot about the book. We found out that Dr. Wolff is a homeopath/veterinarian from Germany and this is the very first translation of one of his books. ISBN 1-55643-113-9
I’m still curious how we, cats, will take “homeopathic medicine” (even if this alone is a whole chapter in the book). Also, the doctor is talking about weight gain and (Herbie….you won’t like this one) he says that “any cat that weights over 11 lb or 5 kg is overweight. Of course…..he suggests “different” approaches ☹
So, dear George, I wonder what is your take on these two topics? Did you ever take an homeopathic remedy? Or do you know of any cat using homeopathy?
It would be nice to hear from other cats too.
Hugs Cayenne

Dear Cayenne,
I welcome the chance to discuss this. I am totally sceptical about alternative medicine and I'm definitely not in favour of the anti-vaccination movement. Unvaccinated dogs, cats and humans are at risk of serious illnesses. There is no evidence whatsoever that homeopathic nosodes work - and so they create a false sense of security.
Yes, if your cat or dog lives in a country area and doesn't meet other dogs, it can probably get away without being vaccinated and, yes, vets probably vaccinate more than is necessary. Indoor cats in the UK, for instance, only need very basic vaccinations just to ensure they can be put in a cattery. (I know of only one cattery locally that will take a non-vaccinated cat and it is filthy and ill managed and I wouldn't let Celia put me in it even for 24 hours.)
I have been vaccinated against cat 'flu and in my early years against feline leukaemia, because I am a free ranging cat. I get about a bit and Celia wants to protect me. There is no evidence that, if a cat is healthy, vaccinations are dangerous. There's a good discussion about what vaccinations are necessary, to be found on either or the American Association of Feline Practitioners guidelines on In the UK, where there was a big fuss against human vaccination (due to a scientific article which has now been proved to be false), measles and other serious childhood illnesses are now coming back. Children are now at risk of serious illness or death due to bad science.
So, you can see where I stand in this debate, Cayenne. I was a rescue kitten and during my time in Cats Protection, the adults cats in nearby cat chalets, who had been picked up as strays, told me about the miseries of unprotected street life. They were at risk of FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), FLV (feline leukaemia virus), cat 'flu which kills kittens and leaves adults permanently impaired in health, feline enteritis anc chlamydia. Stray cats die of these illnesses if they don't starve first.
Nor do I believe in homeopathy. I don't know of a single properly designed trial that suggests that it works.n Not one. Homeopathic medicines, however, don't do harm because they are so "weak". That's something. And, I will admit that homeopathic vets have one great virtue - not their medicines but the way they treat their feline patients as a whole. They don't just jab in antibiotics. They look at a cat's whole lifestyle. I wish traditional vets would do that too.
While I am on about it, I don't believe in unqualified humans treating cats (or themselves) from a book. Don't let your human do it, Cayenne. If you are ill, you need a properly qualified vet. If she believes in homeopathy, pick a qualified vet who does homeopathy. Luckily I know she is a great cat owner so you needn't worry. There may be useful information in the book but it will be no substitute for proper vet care. When Celia was a pet agony aunt she was horrifed by the number of people who treated cats with remedies that were usually useless and sometimes highly dangerous (herbs for cats with impaired digestive systems, for instance).
So, Cayenne, protect your health. Make sure your human takes the good things from the book but gets proper veterinary treatment when it matters. We are worth it.
PS. I believe the illnesses that plague dogs are more likely the result of inbreeding within a small gene pool (the breed) than from vaccination. Luckily you and me, Cayenne, are proper healthy moggies.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What's happening to my 4 am snack?

Dear George,
As you may possibly notice, from my photo, I am fond of my grub. Indeed, you could say eating is the most important thing in my life. "Always clean the plate" is my motto and I suppose I have to admit that I am well found if not a bit stout. So I have been horribly upset by my humans' change of attitude to late night snacking. I have been accustomed, ever since I was a kitten, to take a light repast at 4am. I require this to be freshly served. My humans have tried to leave food out for me, but I eat it all up before they are asleep. Naturally I wake them at 4 am with a request for my meal. Up till now, they have served me with willing and instant obedience. But I am finding it increasingly difficult to ensure they do this. I can wake them without difficulty but they seem strangely reluctant to go to the kitchen for fresh supplies. They have also put me on a "lite" diet. It's horrible - all full of bran and no tasty fat. Any suggestions?


Dear Herbie,
Of course, you like a 4 am snack. Most of us cats enjoy eating little snacks throughout the day - and the night, if possible. Some scientist measured how often we ate and came up with the fact that we preferred 12-14 small meals every 24 hours rather than two big ones. It makes sense. We are designed to eat a series of small mice rather than one large rabbit (though I personally like a small rabbit when I can catch one).
I admire the way that you have persuaded your humans to let you eat ad lib and when you like it. That shows strength of character. Some cats, slimmer than you, can make a large plate of dried food last throughout the 24 hours just eating a few biscuits at a time. Your preferred method is to eat everything you can in one go.
This habit, alas, is the problem. I am not going to tell you to slim. Why should you? I am not going to tell you to stop waking up your humans. Why should you? Apart from the comfort of the early hours snack, you probably enjoy the way they groan and roll over before complying. It is always amusing to watch a human waking up -- or trying not to be woken. One of the many jokes we enjoy at the expense of this species.
It's also pleasant to receive their caresses - after they have settled down into wake rather than sleep mode. Many cats lead their humans to a full food bowl just for the pleasure of this obedience training exercise, and also to ensure they get some quality human petting.
My advice to you is to draw on the feline virtue of persistence. We are a species that can wait at a mouse hole for eight hours without losing patience. We can outwait, just as we can outwit, any mere human. If they refuse to feed you at 4 am just keep on waking them up. It's more fun if you let them go back to sleep first. A training schedule of a wake-up call every half hour at 4 am, 4.30 am, 5 am, 5.30 am, 6 am and so forth should do the trick. After all they've got to get up and go to work in the morning.
I am sure you will manage without any great difficulty. Remember - persistence, persistence, persistence.
PS. Is there room on the bed for all three of you? It looks to me as you might need a bit more room. Should you start pushing them off?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

My name is Shumba

Dear George,
As promised …I’m back with a name! My name is Shumba! Before I’d tell you the story of my name, I want to thank you and all other cats for your good wishes and suggestions. Alison really appreciated all your ideas. I think she really liked the “Ali & Cali” the best, but she won’t admitted now, since I got a different name ☺ As agreed, Alison came Saturday to get me from the shelter, but Friday I got a little “cosmetic” surgery as you can see and I have to wear this cone for another week. Just to let you know…I’m already sleeping in Alison’s bed! I think she really loves me!
But, let me tell you first the story behind my name! Once upon a time (that means 2-3 generations ago) my mom’s family moved from England to live in South Africa and Rhodesia, so my mommy grew up in South Africa. She loves Africa very, very much.
She is still nostalgic about the places where she grew-up. This weekend as she was trying to find me a name….her aunt (who’s visiting us from Africa) looked at me and said…..Shumba! Why don’t you call her Shumba? It means “lion” in Shona tribe’s language/dialect! Shona is a tribe from Zimbabwe. So, here I am…..Shumba, the Lion ☺ Dear George, I’m adjusting just fine to my new home! I also think Alison will be easy to train but I need some advice from you! I started reading your old posts (lots to catch up with) but I need some “quick tips”…..for my new home, you know. I really love Alison….but I think she needs to know that I’m the Lion in the house! What do you think?

Dear Shumba,
I think it's a gorgeous name. It has dignity. Not too elaborate or pretentious. Just redolent of our important ancestry, as a desert animal. We felids, all of us in the world, share many similarities - hunting, carnivore digestive system, limited sociability (except for our cousins, the lions, who have a small pack system). Of course, we cats, Felis Lybica catus, are the most successful of all feline species. We are everywhere - on small islands in the Pacific, in snowy mountain villages and in hot desert. We are probably the most successful carnivore species in the world - beating even dogs.
Well done to your human for her choice of name. I think Shumba can sound very affectionate as well as dignified. Of course, you can add your title, like Oscar Snuggles has added King of Tidewater ( see When you have developed the relationship you want with your humans, it will be clear what kind of title is appropriate. I personally have, when I feel like it, called myself Prince. It seems to go with my relatively young age. I may upgrade to King of Ringwood (my home) later in life.
Now some tips for a new home. Start as you mean to go on, is my advice. It's no good giving your humans extra slack because they need to settle to your adoption of them. From the beginning you need to make your wants clearly known - as I see you have on the bed. That's right - lots of space to spread out. Don't let them take up the space you need. It's the same with food and recreation. If you let them get away with any personal slackness or lack of training, it will be more difficult to get them into shape later on.

PS. I guess the Elizabethan collar is because you have been spayed.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I'm looking for a name

Dear George, I’m a calico and brown cute girl. I was brought to this shelter on Feb. 2009. The people here (at the shelter) are very nice. They think I’m about 2 years old. I can’t remember much of these 2 years or may be I don’t want to remember. Anyway, this weekend will be one of the happiest in my life as I’ll go to my forever home. Soon after my picture was posted on the shelter’s website, Alison (my new mommy) fell in love with me! She called and everything was arranged for her to pick me up this weekend. I know she’s as thrilled as I am….but we both have one little problem! I can’t remember my name! I’m a shy girl, so I’ll be very quiet for a while getting used to my new home. I heard Alison worrying over “what name should she give me”. Dear George, I wonder if you (and all the other cats, of course) can help my mommy find a name for me? May be you guys can make some suggestions? I promise I’ll write back to let you know of my name. Love No Name yet!

Dear No-Name,
Humans are pretty unreliable, not to say insultingly absurd, about feline names. Dogs may be called Ben or Shep or Jack. We often get lumbered with very elaborate names. One of the oddest names I ever came across was a cat called Little Princess Hazel Honeybunch Thunder Paws Richardson. The Richardson bit was the name of the human, and the rest was the result of the human wanting to make up a name that sounded dignified.
What I don't care for are the insulting names like Dishrag, Vee, Fluffybum, Scraggybag, Pinhead, or Dribble-chops. Yes, they are all real names meant affectionately but pretty sad, really. What kind of human makes up this kind of name? There are also less insulting and longer names such as Zookie McCookie, Milly Molly Mandy, or Adolphus Ignatius Loyola Septimus Mugwumps. These are all real names too.
How would you feel about a literary name such as Gussie Finknottle or Jeeves (think newts and butlers in P G Woodhouse) or Frodo or Gandalph (from Lord of the Rings), Lydia Languish (The Rivals), or even Elizabeth (Pride and Prejudice). A bit much? Well, possibly. Who wants to have the human literary heritage hung round their neck!
What you need is a name that is easy for humans. They need to be able to call you with it. So get thinking, cats. What would YOU like for her?
PS. Thank goodness for humans that get their cats from rescue shelters. Most of us would be dead but for their kindness in rescuing us. Go to the City of Oshawa Animal Services for more information about this excellent cat rescue.

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, This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online