Sunday Story Time

Cat Watch 2014: What’s it like being a cat?

Cats are at a crucial point in their evolutionary journey as they transform from solitary hunters to domestic pets, a study by the BBC and the Royal Veterinary College has revealed.

Our felines are adapting quickly to life in densely-packed cities, changing their behaviour to fit in with our 21st Century lives. They are time-sharing territory with other cats, killing less prey and learning to communicate with each other and people, research for BBC Two’s Cat Watch 2014 found.

In the first of a three-part series on the lives of modern domestic cats, we look at how our pets experience the world.

Cats’ highly-developed senses, honed through millions of years of evolution, make them highly efficient predators. In fact, our pets interact with the world in a very different way to us.

Seeing like a cat

BBC video cap

BBC video cap

Cats see the world in muted colours, making it easier for them to see movement without distractions. They also have large eyes for their size, allowing them to see well in low-level light.

However, they can’t focus on anything less than a foot away, so use their whiskers for detecting objects closer to their bodies.

Diagram of a cat's eye
Moving like a cat…
Source: BBCNews Read and see more

Sunday Story Time

Experience: my dog found my cancer

‘None of the oncologists I met was sceptical about Mia’s role in diagnosing my cancer – they have heard it before’

Emilie Clark with Mia: ‘She fixed her eyes on mine and stared intently. She seemed certain there was a problem.’ Photograph: Mark Chilvers for the Guardian

I met my miniature dachshund, Mia, at a rescue centre five years ago. She was one of a litter of 12-week-old puppies confiscated from a puppy farm. I hoped she would be my assistance dog for my health problems. Since birth, I have suffered with a type of heart arrhythmia called ventricular tachycardia. My heart races and, if I don’t take medication immediately to slow it, I lose consciousness. I’ve had to be rushed to hospital to have it restarted. Unrelated to that, at 19 I started to lose my hearing and now struggle with high-pitched sounds such as the phone or doorbell ringing.

I was studying to be a vet, so the idea of having an assistance dog appealed to me – I love animals. The theory was that Mia would alert me when the phone was ringing or when my heart rate was speeding up and I had to take emergency medication. When she was 16 weeks old, she was assessed by a charity that trains pets to become assistance dogs. I hoped the immediate and instinctive bond Mia and I shared when we met meant she’d be suitable.

She qualified as my assistance dog just before her second birthday. Mia learned to alert me just before my arrhythmia starts by making a horrible screeching noise and jumping up at me. She ferrets in my handbag and brings me my heart medicine. She puts her paw on my leg to inform me when the phone’s ringing. Once we were in B&Q when the fire alarm sounded and, executing her training perfectly, she lay on the floor and stared at me, hard, to tell me a siren was blaring.

One evening in November 2011, I was at my computer when Mia leapt on to my lap and nuzzled into the flesh at the top of my left breast. She closed her eyes and licked furiously. That frightened me because it’s what she does when I have a bruise or cut.

I pushed her gently away but she fixed her eyes on mine and stared at me intently, as she does when she’s alerting me to something. I was uneasy now. Mia seemed certain there was a problem with the area at the top of my breast. I couldn’t distinguish anything – my breasts are naturally lumpy – so it was difficult. All evening Mia attempted to leap on to my lap and tend to the area of skin where she perceived a problem. The following morning, I visited my GP with a sense of dread. I asked for an ultrasound or a mammogram. I didn’t start the consultation by telling him that my dog had alerted me to the possible abnormality – I was aware it might sound far-fetched, but when he was dismissive, saying it was unlikely I had breast cancer because I was only 24, I explained.

“I know dogs detect cancer and my dog is determined there’s something wrong with my breast,” I said firmly. Then I informed him that, as I trusted my dog, I wasn’t leaving his surgery until he’d made me a hospital appointment.

My faith in Mia’s diagnostic abilities wasn’t misplaced. I had an ultrasound within a week and, sure enough, there was a lump that a biopsy later confirmed was grade 2a breast cancer. Two days later, I was in surgery having the lump removed. Then I started radiotherapy – five days a week for three weeks. I was angry. I was only 24 and I’d already suffered so many health problems.

It made everything else harder. Training to be a vet requires 100% dedication and, with fighting cancer and having intense and exhausting radiotherapy, I couldn’t give that, so I had to drop out of university. They were really hard times. My relationship broke up and I had to move back home with my parents. Mia was by my side through it all. Cuddling her after bad news or a gruelling session of treatment alleviated some of the pain.

None of the oncologists I met during my ordeal was sceptical about Mia’s role in diagnosing my cancer – they had heard it before. There’s a charity called Medical Detection Dogs that trains dogs to sniff out cancer, and its work is endorsed by Cancer Research UK. Scientists are researching how dogs possess this diagnostic ability so that humans can harness it.

Fortunately, my cancer hadn’t spread but it will be another 16 months of scans before doctors grant me the all clear. Meanwhile, I’m rebuilding my life. No matter what life serves up, the bond between Mia and me will always be incredibly strong.

Source: TheGuardian

Sunday Story Time

What our pets are trying to tell us

When your cat lies on its back and shows its tummy, does it want it stroked? Why does your bunny tremble all the time? And is there something about the way Fido wags his tail?

A bayby guinea pig ‘popcorning’. Photograph: Alamy

We are – or so we like to tell ourselves – a nation of animal lovers. And like most lovers, it turns out that we are perennially obtuse and perpetually baffled by what the objects of our affection are trying to tell us. A plethora of recent studies have attempted to explain what various types of pet are trying to tell us:



The latest research – from the University of Trento, Italy – claims that dogs wag their tails slightly more to the left when they are sad or apprehensive and slightly more to the right when they are happy. You may not be able to pick up on this without a protractor or video film that you can then slow down – as the researchers did – to make the difference visible to the naked eye, but other dogs can. Of course, dog owners have always felt that their canine companions are as subtle, complex and sensitive as any human – if not more so – and not the slavering, witless, genital-licking beasts they seem to be, but now they know.



A video put together by the Cats Protection charity (it wastes no funds on apostrophes) unmasks the true meaning of a cat showing you its tummy. It doesn’t want it scratched – it’s just a way of showing trust. Repay that gift by rubbing the cat’s head instead. This may lessen by some infinitesimal fraction the almost infinite contempt in which your pet customarily holds you. Then again, the video also says that four out of 10 people believe their cat intentionally sheds hair to mark its territory, meaning that at least 40% of cats are entirely correct in their disdain.


So cute! So fluffy! So quiveringly lovely! Yes, well – they’re quivering because somewhere deep in their primal brains, they are aware that they are prey animals and are programmed to assume that everything, everywhere, is out to get them. So when you or a well-meaning child looms over them, they fear the worst and react accordingly. Better, according to rabbit experts, to interact with them at ground level and resist petting them too much.

Guinea pigs


No recent studies on these, but I take any excuse to remind you of my favourite fact from our resident guinea pig expert Emine Saner: the term for when these freakish fur lozenges run around and twist up into the air is “popcorning”. You’re most welcome.


Nobody knows. There was a study ages ago that claimed goldfish are quite happy swimming around in a tiny bowl with just a plastic castle and some blue gravel for company because they only have a three-second memory. It sounds too good to be true and probably is. As with life, so with fish.


Pick your Puppy

An extra post today, reblogging one that has left me teary-eyed.

Source: Momma’s Gone City

Wishes Granted: Theo and Beau

Our quest for a puppy began last Christmas, while we were still living in New York City. We had trekked the three excited kids twelve blocks to Macy’s in Herald Square on a blustery day, made our way through Santa Land and eventually to greet the wish granter. Jack and Zoe perched themselves on Santa’s lap on the 8th floor and asked-in unison-for a puppy. While I’ll likely not forget the sound of our hearts breaking, Justin and I smiled and sort choked in disbelief. We were certain their requests would be one of the items on their heavily tracked Christmas gift lists, surely one near the top. A puppy didn’t even make an appearance.

With the pending move, our student-loan-ridden financial situation, and basic red tape about dogs being banned from our residence in NYC, we were approaching a conversation that we had hoped to avoid for at least a year. While it was sort of a sad moment for us as parents, the anticipation and excitement and feeling of “reward” for completing our journey in dental school was far more enticing than a simple wish granted by the big man in red. We wanted to instill in the kids that having a puppy is a big deal, and that he would need attention and love just like we do.

Fast forward to Monday, November 4th. Justin and I had been stalking the shelters both on line and in person for months, and finally agreed to bring the kids to be apart of the adoption process. I took them all myself one day, determined not to leave without a puppy. Acting on impulse is something I’m very, very good at (clearly to my own detriment). We didn’t find one on that day, but our puppy landed in our arms on the day we visited a few weeks later.

Visiting animal shelters was something that used to make me inevitably cry. I suspect that the suffering of the children and dogs that we saw in Guatemala “hardened” me a bit, as I wasn’t nearly as emotional as I had expected to be. We found him tucked together with his two siblings in the back yard of the Santa Cruz SPCA. Big Bird-as he was named at the shelter-was the shyest of them all to meet us, though he bounded instantly into Beau’s lap as soon as he entered their pen. The look on his little furry face was enough to seal the deal for me, we had met our newest family member.

Go and read the rest, see some wonderful photos, the boy and his dog are inseparable, even for naps.

Follow that up with the update; Hello, World

Sunday Story Time

The Different Types of Tabby Patterns

People sometimes call the average domestic cat a Tabby, but tabby is not a cat breed — it is actually the pattern of kitty’s coat. And it happens to be the most common of all the feline coat patterns.

Technically speaking, no matter what color or markings you see on your cat, all felines possess the tabby gene. Other colors or patterns may hide those tabby markings, but they’re always present.

Sometimes you can see those faint tabby markings on a solid-colored cat who is sitting in the bright sun. And have you ever seen a solid red or orange or cream cat without the familiar tabby markings? You won’t, because the gene that makes a cat red or cream also makes the tabby markings visible.

All tabbies have thin pencil lines on their faces, expressive markings around the eyes, and a distinct letter “M” on their foreheads. Some believe the “M” is for Mau, the word for “cat” in ancient Egypt. Others think the “M” stands for Mohammed, who loved tabbies. Still others believe it is the blessing of the Virgin Mary.

There are five types of tabby coat patterns, each possessing its own unique markings. We’ve listed them below alongside photos of Catster members who illustrate each pattern.

See if you can figure out which tabby your cat is:

Classic Tabby

The classic tabby has bold, swirling patterns along its sides — much like a marble cake.

It is called a “blotched tabby” in some regions. The pattern of circular smudges on the classic tabby’s body closely resembles a bullseye.

Classic marbled cake-like tabby markings modeled by purrfect Catster member Abby.

Mackerel Tabby

A mackerel tabby has…

Read on –  Source: Catster