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Infinite Cat Project Archives for January 16-20, 2017.

Mewsings: January 16, 2017 - "A cat sees us as the dogs. A cat sees himself as the human." - Unknown

kitten in toy truck

Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: "Are you my mommy?"

Cat Mewvie: Big lounging kitty.

cats like special water

Today's Kitty Komic

cat painting by denise laurent

Feline Art: "Lick Me" by Denise Laurent.

cat news

Why are some people afraid if cats?

LONDON - The language of phobia is so common today that we scarcely give it a second thought. Yet it was not until the end of the 19th century that medicine turned its attention to forms of irrational fear, following the initial medical diagnosis of agoraphobia – fear of open, public spaces – by the German physician Carl Westphal in 1871.

Westphal had been puzzled why three of his patients, all professional men leading otherwise full lives, became struck with fear when having to cross an open city space. All were aware of the irrationality of their fears, but were powerless to overcome them.

The idea that individuals who were otherwise sane and rational could nonetheless be afflicted with forms of inexplicable fear was quickly taken up, both in the medical and popular culture of the era.

When the American psychologist G Stanley Hall published his Synthetic Genetic Study of Fear in the American Journal of Psychology in 1914 he identified no less than 136 different forms of pathological fear, all with their own Greek or Latinate names.

These stretched from the more general categories of agoraphobia and claustrophobia or haptophobia (fear of touch), to very specific forms such as amakaphobia (fear of carriages), pteronophobia (fear of feathers), and what appears a very Victorian, moral category, hypegiaphobia (fear of responsibility). There was also, of course, ailurophobia: the fear of cats.
This urge to classify created a vivid cultural and psychological map of the fears and anxieties of a society that had experienced the rapid social changes of industrialisation and the decline of religion in the post-Darwinian era. Society was turning inwards, and to the sciences of the mind, for answers.

Hall’s research on phobias stretches back to the 1890s, when he sent out hundreds of questionnaires for people to fill in about the forms of their fears. Many of the answers were from school children. The answers make fascinating reading, although Hall, infuriatingly, only gives us snippets.

There is, for example, the English lady who claimed she had been “robbed of the joy of childhood by religious fears” and had decided instead to turn to the devil “who she found kinder”. A boy of ten was more resourceful and decided to meet his fears head on. Hall wrote of him: “Decided to go to hell when he died; rubbed brimstone on him to get used to it, etc.” A world of possibilities is opened up in that “etc”. What else did the boy do to ensure he ended up in hell?

To our eyes, it is clear that there were obvious social and religious causes for these particular forms of fear. But Hall argued, in Darwinian vein, that fears and phobias are largely the product of our evolutionary past, and come to us as inherited forms from our remote ancestry.

One particular phobia that attracted considerable medical and popular attention was ailurophobia – that fear of cats.

Medics themselves tapped into the public interest, writing in the pages of popular magazines. The American neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell, for example, reworked a paper first published in the _Transactions of the Association of American Physicians in 1905 for the Ladies Home Journal of 1906, giving it the far snappier title, “Cat Fear”.

Like Hall, Mitchell also sent out questionnaires, exploring forms and potential causes of fear of cats. He was also interested in the seeming ability of some sufferers to be able to detect, without seeing it, when a cat is in a room.

Mitchell collected testimony from “trustworthy observers” of various practical experiments undertaken – cats tempted with cream into cupboards, and then unsuspecting sufferers lured into the room to see if they detected the alien presence. Initially he was sceptical: the hysterical girl who claimed she always knew when a cat was in the room was right only a third of the time. But he concluded that many of his cases could indeed detect hidden cats, even when they could neither see nor smell them.

In trying to account for the phenomenon he ruled out asthma, and evolutionary inherited fears (those terrified of cats are often perfectly comfortable on seeing lions). As to the detection, he suggested that perhaps emanations from the cat “may affect the nervous system through the nasal membrane, although unrecognised as odors”. Mitchell nonetheless remained baffled by “unreasonable terror of cats”. He concluded with the observation that victims of cat fear record “how even strange cats seem to have an unusual desire to be near them, to jump on their laps or to follow them”.

The dawn of the internet appears to have intensified our cultural fascination with cats. Where Mitchell and Hall sent out questionnaires to obtain data on fears, millions now write, in a reversal of roles, to self-declared experts to share their experiences, and have their questions answered. According to one such site, Cat World, one of the most frequently asked questions is “Why do cats go to people who do not like them?”

Taking a leaf out of Stanley Hall’s book, the answers invariably invoke evolution: the frightened person is not a threat. But like Mitchell, they still seem unable to answer the key question: why do only some people develop such terror in the first place? And that is, of course, another area for today’s researchers."

Mewsings: January 17, 2017 - "Time spent with cats is never wasted." - May Sarton

cat selfie and dogs

Gratuitous Kittiness: "Me and my crew."

Cat Mewvie: Wild cats.

executive cat chasing mouse comic

Today's Kitty Komic

floating cat lady art

Feline Art: "Floaty Cat Lady"

Mewsings: January 18, 2017 - "One is never sure, watching two cats washing each other, whether it's affection, the taste or a trial run for the jugular." - Helen Thomson

cat hiding under doormat

Gratuitous Kittiness: "Dude! Go Away! Can't you see I'm hiding?"

Cat Mewvie: Kittens dance, kittens sing, kittens do most anything.

cat dragged in comic

Today's Kitty Komic

zentangle cats

Feline Art: "Zentangle Cats" by Marcia Smith-Connell.

cat x-ray

When a kitty eats a kitty

A cat called Kitty underwent life-saving surgery after swallowing a toy cat - also named Kitty.

The ginger tabby's worried owners took her to the vets after she gulped down the plastic figure from the Kitty in My Pocket children's toy range.

An X-ray revealed the toy had become lodged in the pet's abdomen and threatened to perforate her intestine.

But following a successful operation at Manchester Vet Centre, Kitty is now home and recovering well.

Owner Paul Grice, 38, of Denton, Tameside, said: "We were really upset as we'd had Kitty from a little kitten. You get yourself worked up and it's totally out of your hands.

"We had absolutely no idea that she'd swallowed anything and only found out as a result of the X-ray. What are the chances of a cat called Kitty swallowing a cat called Kitty?"

Image caption Vet Ann Mee said it is more common for dogs to run into trouble after swallowing items

Vet Ann Mee said: "Kitty was very poorly, she was dehydrated and lethargic.

"Sometimes, when we have a foreign body present, we can milk them through to the large intestines to allow the animal to pass it naturally.

"But this was a hard plastic toy with a prominent tail and ears which had got caught in the intestinal wall. Any attempt to move it down would have ruptured the intestinal wall itself."

Paul's wife Michelle, 36, said: "Kitty is glued to my little girl. If we'd lost her it doesn't bear thinking about. We're just thrilled to have her home."

Mewsings: January 19, 2017 - "The cat, which is a solitary beast, is single minded and goes its way alone; but the dog, like his master, is confused in his mind." - H.G. Wells

cat on stair post

Gratuitous Kittiness: "I is a finial."

Cat Mewvie: Socializing feral kitties.

comic cats love clean clothes

Today's Kitty Komic

cat hair finger puppets

Feline Art: Cat-hair finger puppets.

Mewsings: January 20, 2017 - "Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance." - Dan Greenburg

cat with several toy mice

Gratuitous Kittiness: "All my mice belong to me!"

Cat Mewvie: It's all about the luv.

cat and ballbuster

Today's Kitty Komic

fat orange russian cat

Feline Art: A fat, orange, Russian cat. Hmmm. Never saw THAT before.

cat with mouth open

It's probably best that cats can't talk.
by Paul Sassone

Catterbox is billed as the "world's first talking cat collar."

What you do is put the collar on your cat (not as easy as it sounds). The collar records the sounds your cat makes, translates those sounds into human speak and plays the translations out loud. Not only that, but you get to pick the voice – maybe a stylish English accent. Or perhaps your cat could sound like John Wayne. Lady Gaga?

It's not that cats don't communicate with humans now. But, they use mostly nonverbal forms of expression.

Our cat, Kate, uses facial expressions and paw gestures to tell us what she wants and doesn't want.

Kate's basic gesture vocabulary consists of the following:

"My mouth doesn't like that."

"Don't touch me."

"I believe I asked for ice water."

"What's that you're eating?"

"Nap time. Please cover me with my blue blanket."

The Catterbox intrigued me. What would Kate tell us if we could actually translate her utterances, such as "Gak" and "Rowww" into English? On what secrets of the animal world could she enlighten us? Maybe Kate could finally explain to me why she dotes on my wife but won't give me a single purr. And she could tell me in, say, Helen Mirren's voice.

I wonder how much one of those Catterbox collars costs?

They are priceless, actually. Because they don't exist. The Catterbox is an elaborate commercial for a brand of cat treats. Apparently we cat owners will believe anything – including talking cats, I'm ashamed to admit.

But, once my initial disappointment over not being able to discuss with my cat whether "War and Peace" or "Anna Karenina" is Tolstoy's masterpiece, I realized that cats having the ability to talk might not be a good thing.

We all know how stubborn cats are. It wouldn't be long before cats discovered politics.

Soon, cats would start debating political issues. They would choose up sides – red cats, blue cats, liberal cats, conservative cats.

And pretty soon cats would be introducing bills in Congress to ban dogs from entering the country.

No, it's best we maintain the status quo when it come to cats speaking.

"Gak," I say.

Whatever that means.


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