Saturday, May 29, 2010

Birthday news from Victoria

Dear George,

It’s me CAT! And….I’m back with good news...

My humans were so surprised by my letter (May 7) I wrote that they ponder all weekend upon the time (and the way) I showed up in their garden.

It seems that I descended from the blue sky on a cosmic ray…. on Victoria’s Day! So, they decided to call me Victoria…as the Queen (no less). I think it’s quite appropriate since I’m convinced of my royal origin.

They were talking about celebrating my birthday on Victoria’s Day from now on. (it doesn’t really matter when one is actually born, right?).

They start decorating the garden and make guest lists and menus! I enjoy watching them from my secret tree (as you can see in this picture). I’m very happy – I’ll have a “chicken pate” cake and many treats.

The garden will be decorated with bells and ribbons that I can play with (see picture). We won’t have any fireworks since I don’t want to scare the other cats but everything else will be fit for royalty! Just wanted to share the news with you.

And. Of course, wishing that all cats out there find their purrfect house & pets!

Very excited,

CAT Victoria

Dear Victoria,

A lovely name for a lovely cat. Welcome to the world of Named Animals. It's one of the ways we know that a cat is a human-owner and has a domesticated human pet. The naming of cats is a serious matter, wrote the poet T. S. Eliot, and if the copyright charges weren't so high I would give you a verse or two! According to him, you have a secret name all of your own which I won't ask for in a blog that is read by humans. And you probably have a name for your humans too.

I call my humans by their human names of Celia and Ronnie in this blog. But I have a secret name for each which (because I am anxious to spare their feelings) I won't put down here. Tempted to do so at the moment, due to Celia's lack of attention to her secretarial duties. Luckily she has finally finished her exams and is now full of human-centered knowledge about cats.

While she has been studying, so have I. Your humans' reactions to your arrival, Victoria, are of interest to us feline anthropologists. Naming ceremonies and birthdays are part of what we call their species-specific behaviour (stuff humans do that only humans do). Interesting rituals to which there might seem little point, except that they strengthen their attachment to us. And, more importantly, as you point out, result in extra food.

Humans are programmed to offer caretaking to human kittens, and we cats have slipped into this system. By careful manipulation of our behaviour - winsome looks, miaows, furry contact by rubbing, delightful play behaviour, -- we get them to feed us and care for us. It's like cuckoos in the nest. We are a supernormal stimulus to them - ie. we are more attractive than human babies. (Obviously. Furrier and we don't leak at both ends). So they "adopt" us not realising we are domesticating them.

So sweet really. They may not realise but they are adopting us as surrogate babies. We have purrsuaded them of this. We are adopting them. And now it's just a question of enjoying their care - regular meals, nice houses. Simple. Dumb humans, clever cats.....

Love George

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Teach your humans about cats and cancer

Dear George,
You may notice that there is something wrong with my ears.... it was skin cancer. I came into the care of Downham Market Cats Protection
because my owners couldn't afford the treatment and the vets bills. Luckily Cats Protection could and did. So I am now cancer free.
We need keeping indoors when there is a great deal of sun. My owners didn't know this, though my new owners do now. It's particularly important in the middle of the day when the sun is at its height.
Please can you warn other cats so that they can wise up their humans and help protect us.
Love George, your white namesake.

Dear George,
Cats with white faces are very sensitive to sunburn on the non-furry bits - ear tips, eye rims, and nose. Sometimes they suffer from solar dermatitis which is the pre cancerous condition. This may then turn to cancer.
How can humans recognise it? The flesh looks as if it is being eaten away. The ear tips shrink. The area may be crusty and scabby. The tumour is not a lump but more like a red crater with a rim round it.
Some people put sun lotion on their cats but nobody knows if it works. And besides, we normally lick it off. So it is best to make us take a siesta inside the house. We can sun ourselves on the window sill as the sunlight is safe if it has passed through glass.
We cats also need to purrsuade our humans to stop smoking. Scientists have looked at cats with squamous cell cancer and discovered that they are more likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke. The reference, for anybody who doesn't believe this, is at the bottom of my letter. Save your cat's life: give up smoking. I feel strongly about this as my late companion William died of oral cancer and had spent some years exposed to Ronnie's tobacco smoke. Perhaps he would have lived longer without it.

We should all support The Animal Cancer Trust which was set up in the UK to tell humans more about cancer in all sorts of animals including cats. For a special article on cats and cancer go to the Feline Advisory Bureau website.
Stay well.
Love George
PS. Ref is: Snyder et al., (2004), 'Expression and Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma', Veterinary Pathology, 41, 209-214

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is coffee addictive for cats? Is it safe?

Dear George,
Last time I wrote you (if you recall) my female human tried to match her hair color to my eyes color. It didn’t work very well since she …naturally has blue eyes and having her hair in shades of blue…it wasn’t the best choice. So, this time she did her hair to match my …! Aha! That’s right; her hair is beige with darker/brownish points! She really impressed me! To show my appreciation I start keeping her company while she was having her morning coffee!
Soon enough I was very much interested in WHAT was in her cup and she let me inspect! That’s how we started sharing a cup of coffee in the morning as you can see in the picture! I start drinking her coffee and I can tell she was worried but…I LOVE COFFEE! George, coffee has the same effect on me as catnip has on other cats – see the second picture! The other day I knocked-off the coffee maker trying to
get to some coffee. George, I CAN KILL for an ESPRESSO! Do you think I’m coffee addict?
Is this serious? Should I check in a rehab? What do you think? Should I stop?

Dear Tom
Please retrain your owner! Coffee isn't good for cats. The caffeine in it can make them hyperactive. A very useful article on dangers to cats from human food is available from Sarah Hartwell, an expert veterinarian, on There's another article about home poisons (without mentioning coffee) on
We cats are attracted to milk but even on its own that isn't good for many of us. We get diarrhoea from it. Pusskin, the fat cat who wrote in earlier this year, had a really dirty bottom due not just being too fat to reach it but, we think, probably from being given milk. Milk and fish diets were only given to cats because in the nineteenth century they were cheap. A diet of either on its own is not good for cats. But a century ago most cats went out mousing and supplemented the food given by humans anyway.
We cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that our whole digestive system is geared towards not meat, but the flesh, bone, skin and gut contents in the full carcases of mice, rats, small birds and a few insects such as locusts. (Not many of those here in Oxfordshire, alas, even in a good summer. Just a few tiny grasshoppers. I rather fancy trying the crunch of a locust - like pork crackling without the salt.) Unlike dogs, who are designed to be scavengers and eat decaying meat, or humans who are omnibores designed for meat and veg, we cats are designed for whole mice/birds only. We lack one of the liver enzymes which helps dogs and humans cope with getting rid of difficult substances from the body. We can be poisoned by aspirin, for instance, or other drugs that are safe for humans.
Recreational drugs? Yes, do catnip. Cats enjoy it and (with more sense than humans) are moderate users who know when to stop. So do catnip all you like. But don't do coffee. And stop your human enabling you by offfering it.
Tell her to buy some nice cat milk, specially formulated without the ingredient which causes tummy upsets, and give you some of that at breakfast. Of course, it's nice for humans to share breakfast with a cat. Humans have some sort of need to share, a need that we cats don't have. If she wants to share, she can drink some of the cat milk. Why not?
Love George.
PS. Tell her with purrs rather than claws. Any owner who dyes her hair to match her cat is a gem. And thank her for allowing me to use this letter. It is so helpful to get the message out there.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Am I the cat from outer space?

Dear George,

I’m the cat from nowhere and my name is CAT!

I simply appeared one sunny day in some people’s garden. I have no memories of my life before this occasion. They think I was few months old when I showed up in this tree in their garden.

However, I must have excellent training skills since my new human pets really behave.

If, in the beginning they were somehow afraid of me and debating if they should adopt me (ha! they were lucky I adopted them) now, after few months, they don’t talk or care about anything else but me!

George, could I possible be an extra-terrestrial cat? Am I an alien?


Dear CAT,

We cats all have the ability to appear from nowhere. One moment we are not there. The next moment we are there. The right kind of humans marvel at this feline ability. We can disappear within seconds and none of them know where we went or how we did it. This just one of our everlasting mysteries.

Are we aliens? Not really. Unlike them, we are embedded in nature. We are at one with the fields and the gardens and the shrubs and the trees. We can survive without humans (unlike dogs that are completely dependant on them) on uninhabited islands. We don't need human trash or human food to thrive. We are part of the mysterious animal world, that lives in the balance between species and between prey and predator.

Human kind are the alien species. They fight each other to the death (very rare in nature and very rare indeed among adult cats). They exterminate species from the face of the earth - the big cats of the new world, mammoths, giant sloths, the dodo and the passenger pigeon. They killed them all. And they blame us cats for killing birds when they are slaughtering thousands not one at a time, by concreting over the habitat, draining marshes and cutting down forests.

We do our best to civilise humans by adopting them. We hope, if they learn to love a small carnivore like us, they may become more tender hearted to the rest of nature. We try to educate them into the world of balance. We show them how to do less, notice more, and stop rushing, hurrying, and becoming slaves to money and status.

Thank you for adopting your humans, CAT. If they are beginning to love you, then you are bringing out the best in them. This species needs to learn to love. And we can help teach them.

Love George.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Save a black kitten today.

Dear George,
I am a Cats Protection kitten with no name yet, though my mother is called Angel. She was picked up in the street heavily pregnant and gave birth to me and my four black brothers. I am writing to ask you why I have had an offer of a home, while none of my brothers have been so lucky. It seems so unfair. They have lovely blue eyes like me and are just as friendly, but somehow they don't seem to appeal. What can we do to stop colour prejudice among cat lovers?
Adopt Angel and her black kittens at West Oxfordshire CP

Dear Kitten,
You are right. It is very unfair. We black cats in Britain are often the last to find homes because somehow people don't find us as appealing as the other colours. We also get thrown
out on the street more - so that there are more black cats out there trying to survive. Moreover, we are the last to be taken in (apart from Cats Protection who take in all cats that need a home). So the number of stray black cats increases while the number of coloured ones decreases.
It's even worse in the USA where black cats are thought to be unlucky. At Halloween stray black cats are handed in to protect them from being burned alive by Satanists - only to be put down in their thousands in shelters. If your hu
man is going to rescue a black cat, make sure that it is handed into a no-kill shelter. Otherwise it might as well take its chances in the street. At least that is a life of sorts.
Here in the UK they are thought to be lucky - though it doesn't help much. There's also a theory that black cats are wilder by nature, though I think it is just that they get less cuddles as kittens. The prettier ones are picked up more - which makes them tamer.
We can't do much on our own. This is a problem where we need to educate humans. They can be educated. It takes time to get through to this dumb species but it is possible. In the 1990s US shelters were euthanasing about 70% of the cats handed in - the same proportion that were being euthanased in the UK in the 1970's. Nowadays all but about 10 are rehomed in the UK. No-kill shelters have changed the situation. For once, we can help the Americans by setting a good example.
Save a black kitten today.
Love George
Help stop the sick movies that show animals being crushed by signing the petition - there is a link on

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