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Infinite Cat Project Archives for April 1-5, 2019.

Mewsings, April 1, 2019: "Always the cat remains a little beyond the limits we try to set for him in our blind folly." - Andre Norton

mother cheetah licking cubs face

Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: "Not the face!"

Cat Mewvie: My little pet puma.


cat fish bones comic

Today's Kitty Komic

cat and caterpillar art

Feline Art: Cat photostudy, artist unknown.

chinese cat map

The Chinese village saved by cats.
by Maggie Wong

From the moment you arrive at Houtong Village in northern Taiwan, you'll have no trouble knowing who the real stars are.

There's a cat-shaped bridge, pet food bowls on the side of the walkways, street signs with cat motifs, cat-themed cafes and, of course, furry feline friends roaming freely everywhere.

In the early 1900s, Houtong, in New Taipei City, was the biggest and most technologically advanced coal-mining site in Taiwan. It was a prosperous town with about 6,000 residents and workers, before the mine fell into disuse in 1990.

As most young residents moved away for better opportunities, Houtong became a sleepy village with about 100 residents.

But in 2010, Houtong's fame surged after a cat lover and photographer started blogging about the village's growing stray cat population. Houtong was transformed into a cat-lover mecca while also providing a source of income for local villagers.

Many of the stray cats, now given affectionate nicknames, are taken care of by local villagers as well as a troop of volunteers.

In addition to the village's many cute kitty-themed shops and cafes, the local government has also seized the opportunity to revamp Houtong and highlight its long history.

An award-winning pedestrian cat bridge was built. Metal plates featuring tiny paw designs were embedded into streets. A cat information and education center opened in 2014, featuring elevated cat walkways on the façade of the building.

A museum park dedicated to the town's former mining life opened in 2010, later hosting a cat lantern festival in 2012.

It all appears to be paying off. The town now draws an estimated one million visitors every year.

But Houtong, now under the spotlight, isn't completely purrfect.

According to local reports, the town has become a magnet for those looking for a place to abandon their unwanted pets.

During the most recent survey, the New Taipei City Government Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office estimated that the village is now home to about 286 cats -- 50 heads more than two years ago.

With the constant patting and feeding from visitors, some also flagged concerns about the health of the furry residents. The department works with local residents and volunteers to vaccinate the cats and provide regular medical treatment.

Signs have been erected around town advising visitors how to behave while also pleading pet owners to be responsible.

Mewsings, April 2, 2019: "A cat doesn't know what it wants and wants more of it." - Richard Hexem

cat photobomb

Gratuitous Kittiness: Tiny photobomb!

Cat Mewvie: The kitty in the yoga pants.


two cat comic

Today's Kitty Komic

cat face art

Feline Art: "Cat" by Claudia Sanchez.

Mewsings, April 3, 2019: "For me, one of the pleasures of cats' company is their devotion to bodily comfort."
- Sir Compton Mackenzie

cat in a bag

Gratuitous Kittiness: Kitty mobile home.

Cat Mewvie: Baby likes kitty.


cat faucet drink comic

Today's Kitty Komic

happy kitten painting

Feline Art: "Celtic Cat" by Cheryl Baker.

Mewsings, April 4, 2019: "I saw the most beautiful cat today. It was sitting by the side of the road, its two front feet neatly and graciously together. Then it gravely swished around its tail to completely encircle itself. It was so fit and beautifully neat, that gesture, and so self-satisfied, so complacent."
- Ann Morrow Lindbergher

white fluffy kitten

Gratuitous Kittiness: The final evolution of the Poke-cotton ball.

Cat Mewvie: Brushing the Maine Coon.


cat reality comic

Today's Kitty Komic

space suit cat art

Feline Art: "Where No Cat Has Gone Before" by Elizabeth Jancewicz.

Mewsings, April 5, 2019: "People who love cats have some of the biggest hearts around." - Susan Easterly

caterpillar cat

Gratuitous Kittiness: Caterpillar kitty (iPhone panorama misfire).

Cat Mewvie: Bicycling dreams.


cat lands on feet comic

Today's Kitty Komic

coffee cat art

Feline Art: "Coffee Cat" by Elizabeth Jancewicz.

cat news

Cats know their names as well as dogs.... they're just cats.
by Matthew Schwartz

Call a dog by his name, and his tail wags, he starts panting happily, and he showers you with love and affection.

Call a cat by his name, and... well, cats are a bit harder to read. Does the cat even know what his name is?

So researchers in Japan set out to answer the question: Can a cat understand the difference between its name and any other random word that sounds like it?

Research on cats is slim compared to research on dogs. That may be because cats can't be bothered to participate in the experiments. But in a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, the Japanese researchers devised a way to get results whether or not the cats cared to cooperate.

Researchers conducted a series of experiments in which a person would speak four different words, and then say the cat's name. According to the study, the words chosen were "nouns with the same length and accents as their own names." If the cat acted differently when it heard its name, the scientists would know that the cat could distinguish its own name from other words.
The reason for saying four words before the name was to "habituate" the cats — or get them accustomed to hearing words spoken. Cats often move their heads or ears when hearing words spoken, but that response diminished after four words. Only then was it time to say the name — and see how the cats responded.

Researchers conducted several versions of the experiment, all held at the cat's home, with the owner out of view. In one version, researchers would play a recording of the owner saying the four words with a 15-second pause between each, followed by the cat's name. In another version, an unfamiliar voice would say the words and the name. Sometimes the words weren't just nouns, but the names of other cats that lived in the house.

In any case, the results were clear: Most of the cats moved their head or ears in response to hearing their name. The results, researchers said, showed that the cats could identify their own names among other similar words.

"We conclude that cats can discriminate the content of human utterances based on phonemic differences," the researchers wrote. "This is the first experimental evidence showing cats' ability to understand human verbal utterances."

Do the cats actually understand that the name represents their identity? That part is unclear, lead study author Atsuko Saito of Sophia University in Tokyo told the Associated Press. What is clear is that the cat's name is "salient stimulus," the researchers said, "and may be associated with rewards, such as food, petting, and play."

So whether or not Sprinkles identifies herself as Sprinkles, she knows that the word carries a special meaning.

Jennifer Vonk, a professor at Oakland University specializing in animal cognition, told NPR via email that she loved the study's methodology, which didn't require extensive training and could be done in an environment where the cats were comfortable. "I agree with the authors that it cannot tell us if cats represent their names as a label that identifies them, but it is interesting that they do attend to it as a special signal, probably associated with rewards such as food and petting," said Vonk, who was not involved in the study.

The study found one minor exception to cats recognizing their name: cats who lived with others in a cat cafe. Those cats could distinguish their name from random nouns, but not from the names of the other cats. Researchers offered multiple possible explanations — maybe different cafe customers call their names with different intonation, or maybe customers say a cat's name without offering a reward. "For example, if a visitor calls cat A, but cat B approaches to the visitor and cat B gets petting and treats instead of cat A," that would "make name discrimination less relevant for these cats," researchers wrote.

Peter Pongracz, a professor specializing in the study of animal behavior at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, said by email that the study was "very smartly designed," while noting that the sample that actually demonstrated the "interesting results" was somewhat small.

Pongracz defended the tendency of cats to not respond when called, compared to the obedience of dogs. Dogs have been bred for millennia to be easy-to-train and responsive to humans, he said. Although cats were also domesticated long ago, humans didn't put as much of a premium on training them to respond. "Most cats fare really well with humans by simply being cute," Pongracz said.

If a cat is less effusive in its affection, that doesn't necessarily mean they are individualistic or antisocial, he said; cats respond in their own way. "As the Japanese study showed, cats respond to their name with not necessarily a quick run to their owner, but maybe with a simple, subtle twitch of their ears."

So cat lovers, take note. Even if your cat doesn't greet you with the same ardor as a dog, he loves you just the same.



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