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Infinite Cat Project Archives for March 28-April 1, 2016.

Mewsings: March 28, 2015 - "Any cat who misses a mouse pretends it was aiming for the dead leaf."
- Charlotte Gray

box of cats

Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: "This is where I store my cats."

Cat Mewvie: Spokanimal.

cats do not try to please

Today's Kitty Komic

rachel schlueter

Feline Street Art: "Sick Kitten" by Marion Peck

borneo marbled cat

New photos of rare marbled cat in Borneo.
by Laura Geggel

A secret photo shoot deep in the forests of Malaysian Borneo is helping researchers determine just how many marbled cats — rare, tree-climbing felines — live in the region, according to a new study.

Marbled cats (Pardofelis marmorata) are extremely elusive creatures. To get a better idea of the cats' stomping grounds, the researchers placed camera traps in eight forests and two palm oil plantations in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, they said.

After four months of secret, motion-triggered infrared photography, the researchers found that marbled cats are most numerous in the lowlands where the forest is undisturbed. However, they did find a few cats in selectively logged areas.

"We show that marbled cats can still survive in logged forests," said study lead researcher Andrew Hearn, a doctoral candidate at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. "This lends further weight to the argument that such disturbed forests are important to the conservation of biodiversity and should be preserved wherever possible."

Little is known about the cats, which are named for their marble-patterned fur. They live in dense tropical forests, and are rarely seen, except for the odd camera-trap sighting. Perhaps that's because the species is listed as "near threatened," according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) red list, largely due to habitat loss and poaching.

In the new study, the researchers used the surreptitiously taken photos to identify individual cats and estimate the species' population density and distribution. They found that the lowland Danum Valley Conservation Area had about 19.5 cats per 39 square miles (100 square kilometers). Tawau Hills Park had fewer — about seven cats per 39 square miles. The Tabin Wildlife Reserve, which was selectively logged from 1969 to 1989, had an estimated density of about 10 cats per 39 square miles.

These estimates provide "tentative evidence" that undisturbed, lowland hill forests have the highest densities of marbled cats, Hearn said. Other areas, including disturbed lowlands and undisturbed highlands, had lower densities of the cats, he said.

The camera traps didn't record any marbled-cat sightings within the plantations, although one cat was spotted walking along the forest-plantation boundary, the researchers added. They also photographed cubs in the Tabin North, Tawau and Ulu Segama forests.

The results of this exhaustive study suggest that the marbled-cat population may be somewhat higher in northern Borneo than it is elsewhere, but more studies are needed to verify this, Hearn said. For instance, researchers could use camera traps in other places in which the cats are found in the Indomalayan ecorealm, a region extending from eastern India and Nepal to Yunnan province, China; and throughout mainland Southeast Asia to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

But enforced regulations could increase the number of Borneo's marbled cats even more. Although poaching is illegal, the researchers found used shotgun cartridges in seven of the eight forests. However, they didn't come across any evidence that poachers are shooting marbled cats, the scientists wrote in the study.

Laws governing logging and forest conservation may also help preserve the population of marbled cats, Hearn said.

" We provide further evidence that logged forest may still be used by these cats, and should be preserved," he said.

Mewsings: March 29, 2015 - "A cat pours his body on the floor like water. It is restful just to see him."
- William Lyon Phelps

really cool cat

Gratuitous Kittiness: "What's happenin', man?"

Cat Mewvie: The Cat and Baby monologues.

cosy cat bed comic

Today's Kitty Komic

my little cat friends

Feline Art: "My Little Friends". Artist unknown.

Mewsings: March 30, 2015 - "I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior." - Hippolyte Taine

cat on pillow

Gratuitous Kittiness: "I'll see me in my dreams."

Cat Mewvie: Nothing like a hot bath.

cat comic live and let live

Today's Kitty Komic

laser cats by bill main

Feline Art: "Laser Catst" by Bill Main.

black cat

In praise of black cats.
by Jill Pertler

I never planned to be the mom of a black cat. I might have chosen a different color, had there been a choice. But there was only one kitten available for adoption the day I went to the rescue shelter five years ago. I could have waited a couple of days for another fur ball to become ready, but patience has never been my strong suit. Besides, the little black beauty sitting in a cage crying switched her sounds over to purring the second we picked her up. In that regard, I suppose she chose us as much as we chose her — even though we didn't really choose her because we didn't have a choice.

Since that day I've become a flagrant fan of black felines. Our little princess is sweet, friendly and brings a unique personality to our home. She's also something of a looker, with her sleek ebony coat, jet-black button nose and sea-green eyes.

It's come to my attention, however, that not everyone is on the black catwagon. Some people (used to be me) avoid black cats like they are bad luck. Catlore has associated them with witches and misfortune, which is unfortunate. When I do an Internet search for "black cat" I find words like sorcery, diabolism, weird, omen, death and evil. My kitten is none of the above. Well, maybe just a little weird on days ending in Y, but who among us isn't a little weird some or all of the time?

Historically, black cats have gotten a bum rap and I'm here today to set the record straight.
There are many reasons to own a black cat (or allow them to own you). I could come up with at least 13, but today, I'll stick to an even seven.

1. Black cats can free you from irrational superstitions. When you live with a black cat, she will cross your path all the time, and you'll come to understand there isn't a smidgen of bad luck in the crossing, unless you are carrying a full basket of laundry up the stairs and she decides to race you, which she probably will.

2. Black is the new black. For cats and clothing. If you own a black cat, you can wear your black yoga pants, black T-shirt, black tuxedo and little black dress without a worry because any errant black cat hairs will be nearly invisible on your garments.

3. Black cat owners are loyal. Once people get a taste of sharing their life with an ebony kitty, they seek out another dark-furred feline when the (sad) time comes for a new cat. You, too, can be part of this elite club. It even comes with a free black T-shirt. (Not really, but it sounded like a good idea.)

4. It isn't practical for most of us to own a real-live panther. (Believe it or not, possessing a wild carnivore is legal in some states. That one surprised me, too.) You can't own a wild carnivore, but you can a domestic one that is actually a distant relative to the panther, aka, a black cat. Domestic or not, most days my kitty is pretty sure she's a wild carnivore. Especially when I'm folding laundry.

5. Black makes everything look better. Your cat will look good on any color couch, counter and on top of the fridge. In addition, everyone knows black is slenderizing. Hold a black cat and you'll appear 20 pounds lighter.

6. Sad fact, but a fact nonetheless: black cats are the least likely to be adopted and most likely to be euthanized in animal shelters. Let's put a stop to this. Adopt a black cat (or two) today! They'll sleep on your head, swish their tail in your face and remind you at 6 a.m. that they haven't had their breakfast yet. They'll also purr on your lap, rub up against your legs and give you kisses and hugs when they decide you've earned it.

7. Finally, it's been proven that people who share their life with a black cat are smarter, happier, wealthier, more athletic, successful, energized, vibrant, sexy and better looking than nonblack cat owners — at least as reported by their black cats.

Mewsings: March 31, 2015 - "A cat can purr its way out of anything." - Donna McCrohan

downward-facing cat

Gratuitous Kittiness: Downward-facing cat.

Cat Mewvie: Slo-mo double-jump.

cat and vulnerable mouse

Today's Kitty Komic

cat hair-do

Feline Art: Artist unknown.

Mewsings: April 1, 2015 - "There is, incidently, no way of talking about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person." - Dan Greenberg

kitten is a bookmark

Gratuitous Kittiness: "I is a bookmark."

Cat Mewvie: Meow.

ignorant dog comic

Today's Kitty Komic

yark by bill biskup

Feline Art: "Yarn" by Bill Biskup.

cat perception

What's really going on in your cat's head?
by Felicity Muth

Unsurprisingly, scientists use dogs in behavioural experiments a lot more often than cats. There are whole ‘canine cognition’ lab groups and conferences, which has led to a much greater understanding of our canine friends (see for example the blog ‘Dog Spies’). Cats are generally less cooperative and more nervous in social situations, meaning it’s difficult to use them in experiments. However, a recent paper in Animal Cognition by Shreve & Udell at Oregon State University reviewed what we do know about our (sometimes unfriendly) friends regarding how they think. I’m going to divide what we know about cat cognition into two main areas over two posts: firstly, what we know about cat cognition per se and secondly cat cognition that relates to their relationship with humans.

One of the best-studied areas of cat cognition is cat perception; their ability to hear, smell, see and use their whiskers to detect stimuli. Olfactory perception (ability to smell) is particularly important to young kittens, especially in governing their relationship with their mother. In contrast, kittens don’t respond to auditory stimuli until 11-16 days old and visual stimuli until 16-21 days old. Olfactory cues continue to be very important to cats throughout their lives: adult cats use scent to mark territories and smell the territories of other cats. Like dogs, they also gain social information from the scent of other cats. However, despite the importance of smell to cats, the vast majority of experiments on cat behaviour have focused on vision in cats, meaning our current understanding of how cats perceive the world is fairly limited.

Object permanence
Object permanence is the ability to ‘keep in mind’ an object even when it goes out of view – or the ability to know that just because something has disappeared doesn’t mean that it’s gone forever. For example, if you saw a ball roll under a couch, even though you can’t see it any more, you know that it’s still there. Humans develop the ability to do this pretty young: babies can keep in mind objects before the age of two. Anyone who’s ever kicked a toy mouse under a piece of furniture and had a cat sit there and stare at it would guess correctly that yes, cats have object permanence too. For example, in one experiment, the experimenter showed a cat where they were hiding some food, and later the cat searched for the food there. What’s more, cats not only seem to be able to keep an object ‘in mind’ when it goes out of sight, but also reason about where the object must have moved to even when they don’t see the experimenter moving it. To test this, an experimenter shows the cat food being hidden in a container, which is then placed behind a screen. The experimenter then surreptitiously removes the food and shows the cat the empty container. If the cat reasons that, because the food is no longer in the container, it is probably behind the screen, then she should go to search for the food behind the screen. Cats may not be quite as good at this ‘invisible displacement test’ as dogs are, but it’s hard to say whether their poorer performance is a true reflection of their abilities or just due to the way in which they’ve been tested.

One thing animal cognition scientists often look into is whether an animal understands ‘folk physics’. This is, understanding how objects in their world relate to one another. For example, birds are tested in scenarios where they have to pull on string to access food hanging at the end of it. To get to the food, the bird has to understand how to pull up the string (using its beak and feet) to access the food. Questions of this sort have hardly been addressed in cats at all. However, one study attempted to do this by giving cats the chance to pull on bits of string to access food. Some of the string was attached to the food in a way that ‘made sense’ whereas other bits of string were placed horizontally to the food or crossed over in a way that wouldn’t make sense (at least to us) to pull on to get food. In this experiment, it didn’t seem like the cats understood what was going on: they pulled on all the bits of string indiscriminately. However, this could be because of the limitations of the design of the experiment rather than the limitations of the cats. For one thing, it could just be that cats love pulling string, whether or not it seems to be attached to food.

Quantity discrimination
There is limited research in this area, but cats can be trained to discriminate between two dots and three dots, indicating that they can tell the difference between (at least, small) quantities.

Social cognition
While many people think of domestic cats as solitary, free-roaming domestic cats seem to choose to hang out with particular individuals while they are out and about. While some of these interactions are aggressive, others are just investigatory or even affiliative. Cats also have different relationships with different people. Cats generally learn how to socialise within the first two and seven weeks of life (with both other cats and humans). Generally speaking, those exposed to more humans during this critical time will be friendlier towards humans for the rest of their lives.


The Infinite Cat Project
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