Thursday, June 29, 2006

Email from Wa Wa

Last week's katz Tales column in The Star Weekend was devoted to how dumb I am when it comes to communicating with Scoop and Au. They are both very patient with me, and always take the time to praise me when I manage to get it right: opening a new bag of biscuits at 4AM, leaving my desk an hour before deadline to get Au a fresh glass of water, or whatever else they require. In addition, I wrote I'm convinced both cats seem to have the gift of telepathy.

Obviously this struck a chord because my kitties were sent this email:

Dear Scoop and Au,
24-06-2006

My name is Wa Wa. My daddy calls me Wa Wa Pussyboy, or just Wa Wa or just Pussyboy. When he is angry with me, my name becomes merely Wa!

I think many humans are very stupid. Just because they cannot speak or understand our language, they think we do not have a language to communicate with them. I talk with my daddy all the time and he understands me. Other times, I communicate with him in many other ways.

I remember there was this time when he stuck a piece of sticky tape around my arm and I could not get it off myself (he is very naughty sometimes!), I merely had to stretch my arm with the sticky tape stuck on, towards him and he dutifully took the sticky tape off my arm. Just a secret between you and me, frankly I have him wrapped around my fingertips or should I say, my claw tips. I get to boss him around almost all the time and he seems to enjoy that. Even though I am very bossy with him, I do it out of my sincerest love for him.

I hate it most when he goes off to work in the morning and leaves me all by myself for the whole day. I always try to stop him from leaving. How? Easy. I follow him around and try to stop him from getting to the door. I grip his legs to stop him from walking. He understands my intention very well but he always manages to get to work alright anyway.

When I want to play with him, I only need to bring my toy and leave it in front of him and he would dutifully pick the toy up to play with me. We play many games, including (1) fetch (he throws my toy away and I would pick it up and bring it back to him), (2) wrestling (he tries to cup my head), (3) chase (he would chase me all over the apartment until I surrender) and (4) hide and seek (he pretends not to have seen me and walk away while calling out my name and when I follow after him in a hunting posture, he would turn around to chase me).

Whenever I want to go under his blanket, I only need to lift part of his blanket up with my chin and he would let me go under his blanket with no question asked.

So, who says we do not know how to communicate. Because my communication with my daddy is so good that I do not even need to use my even more powerful communication skill, my psychic ability.

Say thank you to your mummy for sharing her story with you, with us.

Love,
Wa Wa Pussyboy.

What do you think? Do cats speak? Are they telepathic?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Prehistoric Kitties

I was reading recently that cats, or the family Felidae if you want to give them their Sunday name, have been around since the Late Eocene Epoch some 43.6 to 36.6 million years ago. Prehistoric cats we would recognise today appeared about 10 million years ago; apart from size and markings that tell you a kitty is a tiger or a lynx or a plain city kitty, the 36 different species of wild cat and more than 50 types of pedigree domestic cat living today have remained almost unchanged in all that time.
Smilodon
If like me you want to know more about those mysterious ancient cat ancestors like the Sabre-toothed cat family, the Metailurus, Machairodus, Megantereon, Dinofelis, Homotherium, Smilodon, and Miracinonyx, check out these sites: Prehistoric Cats And Prehistoric Cat-Like Creatures that's quite scholarly and Extinct Species that's filled with great pics. If you want to look at the sabretoothed cat family, check out the Wikipedia article.

Fingers crossed the Tiger and its modern cousins don't join these lists!

PS Katz Tales is out in the printed version of Malaysia’s national daily The Star Weekend section again tomorrow.
PPS The Smilodon comes from Wikicommons

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How The Tabby Got It's M


There are lots of cat legends, but while talking in the pub the other night (Kusar Cabana in SS15!) I heard one that's new to me the other day on how the tabby cat got it's "M", the typically have dark markings on their foreheads.

Christian legends say the Virgin Mary marked the tabby with an M for Maria as thanks for warming the baby Jesus in the cold stable at Bethlehem, while Muslim legends say the Prophet Mohammed bestowed the mark as thanks for a timely warning from his pet cat Muezza that a poisonous snake had crawled into his coat sleeve.
Photo taken by Bernard Landgraf; courtesy of WikiCommons http://commons.wikimedia.org
Many of the jungle cats, such as tigers, cheetahs, and ocelots also have the M marking. Wonder who was brave enough to pet those big kitties!

This tiger was snapped by Bernard Landgraf; the Ocelot was taken by someone working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both pictures are in the public domain. Source: WikiCommons

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Get What You Want: Cat Style

Affiche pour le
As any ailurophile will tell you, living with cats is a truly humbling experience. Cats are the epitome of sensible living. They never, ever overeat and make themselves ill - even at Christmas. But that's not all. Cats who enjoy human company, find themselves a family they like, move in and live a life of luxury only enjoyed by multimillionaires. They command the most comfortable spots for snoozing, regular meals supplemented with delicious titbits, twice daily massages and recreation on demand.

This black cat by Theophile Alexandre Steinlen painted in 1896 is clearly making a demand for service!

One question is: how do they do it? Better still: how can we live life as comfortably as cats do? According to Joseph Wood Krutch, literary naturalist, the answer is simple, "Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want."

When cats want something they consider is due to them, such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, cuddles or a fresh bowl of cool water, they will ask for it with the loud RAH-OW!! Au demands his bowl of kitty crunchies to be filled up regardless of time of day, if he feels the level is too low. He's dragged me out of bed time and time again at 4AM without the slightest hesitation.

But when a cat is asking for a special favour, their approach is quite different: they turns begging into an artform. Purring vigorously a cat wanting a favour will caress your ankles and pose in the most appealing attitudes until you give in. When Au decides he needs a treat, he specialises is a sweet look, a loud purr and the most affecting pose of starvation – even if he's just had a huge bowl of biscuits. I know it's a con but it works 99% of the time.

Cats really have it sussed; I'm going to try their methods for a week and see if it works for us non-cat people too. Fingers crossed!

PS the black cat is courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Small Tigers

I often see our kitties as soft and harmless versions of their tiger cousins, but as the BBC reports that a tabby cat called Jack from New Jersay in the US managed to tree a black bear (twice!) I'm rethinking this.

For a detailed report and a really cool picture of the treed bear and Jack, check out this link.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Early Bird Solution Wanted

Having developed classic surfer's banner blindness I'm not often conscious of ads on a web site but one called Sticky Paws caught my attention. Don't declaw...get Sticky Paws!® the ad shrieked. Intrigued I clicked through to discover that Sticky Paws is an adhesive tape specially designed to stop cats stretching their claws on the furniture.

We don't have that problem at home. Both our kitties enjoy having a good scratch at our car tyres (thank goodness they aren't tiger sized or there would be trouble!) and both Scoop and Au have their own rugs downstairs and upstairs plus their own cardboard boxes that invite friendly shredding behaviour. There is the odd claw in the sofa but a sharp "NO!" is enough to stop the culprit.

While clawing isn't a problem, the ad did get me thinking about the one thing that drives me nuts about living with Scoop and Au. About 5 minutes before the local mosque starts its predawn broadcast, both fuzzies sit on the edge of the bed and demand an early breakfast. I don't remember what an unbroken night's sleep is, but I think it would be wonderful.

Any ideas anyone?

PS Katz Tales will be published in the Weekend section of the Star tomorrow!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Naming A Cat Is A Serious Business

Felix the CatWhen Felix the Cat first appeared in the 1920's, every second black cat stood in danger of being called Felix. Today's black cats are liable to be called Sooty, stripy cats are often nicknamed Tiger and, given the success of the most famous ginger kitty in the world, many orange cats will be Garfield.

It may seem from the abundance of cats named Fluffy or Sweetie that naming a cat is a frivolous act but for us naming cats is a serious business.

Although I'm a writer, Scoop isn't named after Evelyn Waugh's famous book that made fun of journalism. He got his name because we spent the first 3 days of our acquaintance scooping him out of the house, telling him we moved around a lot and couldn't offer him a proper home. When we finally agreed to let him move in, his name was obvious. (Note: as it turned out, Scoop was quite right. He has moved with us 4 times now without any fuss at all - he even took the move by plane from Kuching, Sarawak to Malacca in West Malaysia in his stride!)

Because of his doggy brown colour, Scoop is also referred to on occasion as Mr Brown.
The cheshire cat (seen here as drawn by John Tenniel (1820-1914) in the 1866 edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
Au's coat is a golden colour in the sunlight. He also loves to play very rough games, pouncing on us from behind doors and inviting us for a roll and bite on the bed or rug. With our squeals on the one hand as he bites too enthusiastically and with Au standing for gold in the chemistry lab, the name seemed suitable.

With deference to his junior cat position, we sometimes call him Mr Kitty. Uninspired perhaps but it's a habit.

It's rare to find a cat with just one name. As the poet knew, cats have three names:

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter,
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George, or Bill Bailey ---
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter ---
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum ---
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover ---
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

--- T.S. Eliot, in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

If you're having trouble naming your kitty, this encyclopaedia of 5000 cat names will let you search by sex, appearance, origin, characteristics and much more. Entries come with etymologies, references and other interesting titbits.

Alternatively, take a look at kittynames that let's you search by sex, appearance, origin, characteristics and much more. There's also a top list of popular names, and a reverse lookup that let's you check your kitty's name. This part is still being worked at though, as Scoop is defined as a "Thick handled utensil with cuplike end used to serve ice-cream," and Au wasn’t listed. As you can imagine, neither is amused!

PS the pictures above, Felix the Cat and The Cheshire Cat ( as drawn by John Tenniel (1820-1914) in the 1866 edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland) are both public domain images.

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Klang Kitties

Daisy, Cutie, Tiger and Bubbles were born on 27th April this year. They are currently living in Klang, Selangor and are looking for a home. Please contact Haw Ying at tanlshy@yahoo.com for information.



Daisy
Here's Daisy with Tiger in the background


Cutie










This is Cutie












Cutie and Tiger - best friends forever!


Everyone reading the paper



We're not just cute, we're also friendly and clean! Hope to hear from you soon.