Sunday, July 1, 2012


With Independence Day being in the middle of the week this year, it feels different than a long weekend type of holiday.  Many of you will probably enjoy some time off either before or after the 4th of July to take advantage of the extra day.  Do you think of the holiday as Independence Day or the 4th of July?

As is the habit here at Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye likes to feature "lighter" reading during a holiday week so that our readers can relax a little without having to absorb a lot of medical information.  Interesting stories can be just what you need for your week (?) of relaxation.

This week's issue features some more tidbits about cats...much to the delight of our cat-owning readers, and perhaps to the chagrin of our dog-owning readers.  As I've noted before, you never know if a cat is in your future...or you may have a friend who has cats and these articles will give you a better appreciation of things feline.

Cat Survives 19-Story Drop from Apartment

 Sugar the cat turned in one of her nine lives this week, miraculously surviving a 19-story drop from an apartment building. Her owner, Brittany Kirk, said the cat slipped out the window she usually leaves cracked open. Workers from the Animal Rescue League examined Sugar after the 200-foot fall and found no injuries except for some slight bruising on the lungs. Vets says the height of the drop actually helped the cat walk away from the accident. Longer falls give felines a chance to relax and orient themselves, allowing them to spread out their limbs, like a flying squirrel, and slow the descent. Kirk is just happy to have her windows closed and an understandably skittish Sugar back in her arms.

Adapted from:

Cat physics – and we are not making this up

Even falling and skulking cats obey the laws of physics, research shows.  Cats may skulk, and cats may fall – but no matter what they do, cats must obey the laws of physics. Scientists have tried repeatedly to figure out how they manage to do it.

At the extreme, physicists analysed what happens to a dropped cat. That's a cat in free-fall, a cat hurtling earthwards with nothing but kitty cunning to keep it from crashing.In 1969, TR Kane and MP Scher of Stanford University, in California, published a monograph called A Dynamical Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon. It remains one of the few studies about cats ever published in the International Journal of Solids and Structures. Kane and Scher explain:

"It is well known that falling cats usually land on their feet and, moreover, that they can manage to do so even if released from complete rest while upside-down … numerous attempts have been made to discover a relatively simple mechanical system whose motion, when proceeding in accordance with the laws of dynamics, possesses the salient features of the motion of the falling cat. The present paper constitutes such an attempt."

And what an attempt it is!

Kane and Scher neither lifted nor dropped a single cat. Instead, they created a mathematical abstraction of a cat: two imaginary cylinder-like chunks, joined at a single point so the parts could (as with a feline spine) bend, but not twist. When they used a computer to plot the theoretical bendings of this theoretical falling chunky-cat, the motions resembled what they saw in old photographs of an actual falling cat. They conclude that their theory "explains the phenomenon under consideration".

In 1993, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, applied some heavier-duty mathematics and physics tools to the same question. Richard Montgomery's study, called Gauge Theory of the Falling Cat, leaps and bends across 26 pages of a mathematics journal. Then it mutters that "the original solutions of Kane and Scher [are] both the optimal and the simplest solutions".

But cats rarely fall from the sky. More commonly, they skulk. And skulking cats are just as provocative, to a physics-minded scientist, as plummeting cats.

In 2008, Kristin Bishop of the University of California, Davis, together with Anita Pai and Daniel Schmitt of Duke University in North Carolina, published a report called Whole Body Mechanics of Stealthy Walking in Cats, in the journal PLoS One.

They studied six cats, three of which "were partially shaved and marked with contrasting, non-toxic paint to aid in kinematic analysis". They discovered "a previously unrecognised mechanical relationship" between "crouched postures", "changes in footfall pattern", and the amount of energy needed to produce those crouched-posture footfall patterns.

Cats that intend to skulk, in Bishop, Pai and Schmitt's view, are hemmed in by the laws of the physical universe. They must make "a tradeoff between stealthy walking", which uses a lot of energy, and plain old, energy-efficient cat-walking.

Adapted from:
New Cat Owners...Prepare to Sneeze

Based on a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, it seems that a lot of people are going to be taking stock of their Kleenex reserves - and not because they're suffering from the ill effects of flu season.

So what's this all about? Well, the study found that people who got their first cat as an adult were almost twice as likely to develop an allergy to felines than those who were cat-less.

Why Having Childhood Cats May Have Helped You

The news isn't too surprising, since developing this type of allergy requires repeated exposure to an allergen. Still, if the odds seem a bit daunting, keep in mind that there are other factors to consider: The same study concluded that adults are less likely to develop allergic reactions to a new feline if they grew up with a cat - although adults who already have other allergies or asthma are at an even higher risk of developing a cat allergy.

"An adult who had a cat as a child, if not already sensitized [allergic] to cats, is less likely to develop cat sensitization," says one of the study's authors, Dr. Mario Olivieri, M.D., of the University Hospital of Verona in Italy. "That person's risk of becoming sensitized decreases by 40 percent."

Adapted from: 

Cat Divorce: Israeli Man Divorces Wife Over Her 550 Cats

Talk about one crazy cat lady.

A man from southern Israel is divorcing his wife because she adopted 550 pet cats, the Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

According to the paper, the unnamed man complained in his divorce docs that the hundreds of kitties hindered his home life at every turn: they blocked the entrance to the bathroom, swarmed the kitchen, and stalked him at mealtime by stealing his food off the table.

And though the couple reportedly gave reconciliation a shot at the behest of the rabbinical court, the wife ultimately choose the cats over her husband, and the pair decided to go their separate ways.

Adapted from:

The Cat’s 10,000-Year Journey to Purring on Your Lap

Most of the time, it feels quite natural to have a kitty prowling your home or curled up on the bed. On occasion, though, you might look at one and wonder how it got there. A new article in Scientific American plots out the journey:

10,000-12,000 years ago (ya): The house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus) takes up residence in the homes and trash heaps of early Fertile Crescent settlements. Wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica) follow their prey into human homes. “[T]hese food sources would have encouraged cats to adapt to living with people; in the lingo of evolutionary biology, natural selection favored those cats that were able to cohabitate with humans and thereby gain access to the trash and mice.” Being cute didn’t hurt them, either, when they were first trying to make their homes in ours.

9,500 ya: An adult human is buried next to an eight-month-old cat, both oriented in a westward direction, on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Cats aren’t native to the island, so they must have been brought over by boat, likely from the nearby Levantine coast. This burial is taken as evidence of “a special, intentional relationship with cats.”

9,000 ya: The domestic cat has made it to Israel; an archaeological deposit from this time period contains a feline molar tooth.

4,000 ya: The domestic cat can be found in Pakistan, as evidenced by another tooth.

3,700 ya: Another find in Israel, an ivory cat statuette, “suggests the cat was a common sight around homes and villages in the Fertile Crescent before its introduction to Egypt.”

3,600 ya: Images of cats frequently appear in paintings from Egypt’s New Kingdom period. The cats can be seen under chairs, eating from bowls and sometimes collared. “The abundance of these illustrations signifies that cats had become common members of Egyptian households by this time.”

2,900 ya: The cat finds it rightful place, having become the image of the Egyptian goddess Bastet. At Bastet’s sacred city of Bubastis, house cats were sacrificed, mummified and buried by the ton (the sheer quantity indicates that Egyptians must have been actively breeding cats at this time).

2,500 ya: Though cat export was banned by the Egyptians, the animals nevertheless have found their way to Greece. “Later, grain ships sailed directly from Alexandria to destinations throughout the Roman Empire, and cats are certain to have been onboard to keep the rats in check. Thus introduced, cats could have established colonies in port cities and then fanned out from there.”

2,000 ya: Cats follow Roman expansion and become common throughout Europe, though they curiously make it to the British Isles before the Romans.

almost 2,000 ya: Cats spread to Asia along trade routes. With no local wildcats with which to breed, domestic cats become genetically isolated here. Genetic drift leads to several “natural breeds,” including the Korat and Siamese.

500 ya: Christopher Columbus or other explorers bring domestic cats to the Americas.

400 ya: European explorers, probably, bring cats to Australia.

200 ya: Most modern breeds are developed on the British Isles in the 19th century. In 1871, the first fancy cat breeds compete in a cat show at the Crystal Palace in London. A Persian wins.

2 ya: The genome sequence of an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon is published.

A Brief History of House Cats

By David Zax

On any of the surprising number of Web sites dedicated entirely to wisdom about cats, one will find quotations like these: "As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat" (attributed to Ellen Perry Berkeley); "The phrase 'domestic cat' is an oxymoron" (attributed to George F. Will); and "A dog is a man's best friend. A cat is a cat's best friend" (attributed to Robet J. Vogel). Of course, there is such a thing as the domestic cat, and cats and humans have enjoyed a mostly symbiotic relationship for thousands of years. But the quips do illuminate a very real ambivalence in the long relationship between cats and humans, as this history of the house cat shows.

The Mystery of the Ancient House Cat

It has taken a while for scientists to piece together the riddle of just when and where cats first became domesticated. One would think that the archaeological record might answer the question easily, but wild cats and domesticated cats have remarkably similar skeletons, complicating the matter. Some clues first came from the island of Cyprus in 1983, when archaeologists found a cat's jawbone dating back 8,000 years. Since it seemed highly unlikely that humans would have brought wild cats over to the island (a "spitting, scratching, panic-stricken wild feline would have been the last kind of boat companion they would have wanted," writes Desmond Morris in Catworld: A Feline Encyclopedia), the finding suggested that domestication occurred before 8,000 years ago.

In 2004, the unearthing of an even older site at Cyprus, in which a cat had been deliberately buried with a human, made it even more certain that the island's ancient cats were domesticated, and pushed the domestication date back at least another 1,500 years.

Just last month, a study published in the research journal Science secured more pieces in the cat-domestication puzzle based on genetic analyses. All domestic cats, the authors declared, descended from a Middle Eastern wildcat, Felis sylvestris, which literally means "cat of the woods." Cats were first domesticated in the Near East, and some of the study authors speculate that the process began up to 12,000 years ago.

Civilization's Pet

While 12,000 years ago might seem a bold estimate—nearly 3,000 before the date of the Cyprus tomb's cat—it actually is a perfectly logical one, since that is precisely when the first agricultural societies began to flourish in the Middle East's Fertile Crescent.

When humans were predominantly hunters, dogs were of great use, and thus were domesticated long before cats. Cats, on the other hand, only became useful to people when we began to settle down, till the earth and—crucially—store surplus crops. With grain stores came mice, and when the first wild cats wandered into town, the stage was set for what the Science study authors call "one of the more successful 'biological experiments' ever undertaken." The cats were delighted by the abundance of prey in the storehouses; people were delighted by the pest control.

"We think what happened is that the cats sort of domesticated themselves," Carlos Driscoll, one of the study authors, told the Washington Post. The cats invited themselves in, and over time, as people favored cats with more docile traits, certain cats adapted to this new environment, producing the dozens of breeds of house cats known today. In the United States, cats are the most popular house pet, with 90 million domesticated cats slinking around 34 percent of U.S. homes.

God and Devil: The Cat in History

If cats seem ambivalent towards us, as the quotations from cat fan-sites indicate, then it may be a reflection of the wildly mixed feelings humans, too, have shown cats over the millennia.
The ancient Egyptian reverence for cats is well-known—and well-documented in the archaeological record: scientists found a cat cemetery in Beni-Hassan brimming with 300,000 cat mummies. Bastet, an Egyptian goddess of love, had the head of a cat, and to be convicted of killing a cat in Egypt often meant a death sentence for the offender.

Ancient Romans held a similar—albeit tempered and secularized—reverence for cats, which were seen as a symbol of liberty. In the Far East, cats were valued for the protection they offered treasured manuscripts from rodents.

For some reason, however, cats came to be demonized in Europe during the Middle Ages. They were seen by many as being affiliated with witches and the devil, and many were killed in an effort to ward off evil (an action that scholars think ironically helped to spread the plague, which was carried by rats). Not until the 1600s did the public image of cats begin to rally in the West.

Nowadays, of course, cats are superstars: the protagonists of comic strips and television shows. By the mid-90s, cat services and products had become a billion-dollar industry. And yet, even in our popular culture, a bit of the age-old ambivalence remains. The cat doesn't seem to be able to entirely shake its association with evil: After all, how often do you see a movie's maniacal arch-villain, as he lounges in a comfy chair and plots the world's destruction, stroke the head of a Golden Retriever?

The LA Dodgers have really hit the skids the last 2 weeks!  Not only are we 1-9 the last 10 games, but we also haven't scored any runs in 5 of our last 6 games!  You need to score some runs to win a baseball game, duh!  Desperado and Helpful Buckeye are driving down to Phoenix next Sunday with another couple who are also baseball fans to see the Dodgers play the Diamondbacks.  The other couple are D'Backs, it could be interesting.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye went to the Arizona Lavender Festival this past week near the village of Concho, about 120 miles SE of Flagstaff.  What a beautiful display of many varieties of lavender amongst the red rocks!  We learned a lot about the farming of lavender and its use in cooking...we'll be trying several recipes the rest of the summer.  I even bought a few of their plants to see how they do here in Flagstaff.  This turned out to be a great day-trip...what a wonderful experience!

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

No comments:

Post a Comment