We've Got More Nice Things Than You Can Shake A Stick At!
Yr Dok Zoom has gone and adopted a cat, a nice big 6-year-old fellow named Thornton. Today's Nice Things is going to be completely different from last Sunday's, because last week all the cat photos were of Thornton before we brought him home, and now he lives with us and all the cat pictures will be of Thornton lazing around on his cat tree. So it's very different! Thornton and I would like to thank highly respected political pundit Our Girlfriend for acquiring the cat tree from a neighbor, who also provided many cat toys, about which, more later. We also thank you, Dear Reader, for indulging us as we tell you all about this big affectionate doofus who now follows us around the apartment, asking little cat questions. We assume they all translate to either "Why are you not feeding me?"
Trust us, he's been fed.
Look At This Cat! Just Look At Him!
One of the good things about adopting an adult cat: He is already accustomed to sleeping on his human's bed, and after a great deal of nighttime purring and head bonking, settles in at the lower end of the bed. Unlike some other cats I've known, Thornton does not attack my feet under the blanket. But he has, occasionally, decided my knees need to be pounced on, so I would appreciate any suggestions from cat behavior experts on what the hell is up with that. Gonna have to put a squirt bottle on the shopping list.
So far, Thornton has also not gotten a case of the Midnight Thundering Kittyhooves, that thing where cats go tearing around the house in the middle of the night. But it hasn't quite been a week yet.
UPDATE: People in the comments ask, reasonably enough, if Thornton is named for Thornton Wilder, the playwright. I have no idea, since that's the name he came with. It's a reasonable guess, but maybe his previous owners just liked the name?
As I mentioned last time, he'd been a bit of a challenge to adopt out because he needs a special urinary tract prescription diet, which is a tad spendy. A big thank-you to Wonkette Operative "L.," who's sending a bag of the very food Thornton eats; her 17-year-old snugglefloof Orion died recently. L. has since adopted another cat, who pees normal, and so she had a bag of food to place with a good home. She shared pics of the late Orion and the new rescue, Emma. Of Orion, L. says, "You could brush him for hours, have enough fur to stuff a sofa and he would still be shedding fur everywhere."
On Thursday, I got a great big box from Chewy dot com, which is where you go for cheaper-than-elsewhere pet supplies, and like a dummy, I opened it and left it lying on the floor. Thornton climbed in, made himself comfortable with the crumpled brown paper atop the cans and the big bag of dry food, and peed all over it.
Special urinary tract diet? I'll give you special urinary tract diet! I have adopted a cat with a sense of irony.
None of these photos were taken at the time of the Pee Incident. He looks smug entirely on his own terms.
I assume the crinkly paper made him think "litter box," so I'm inclined to chalk this one up to cat operator error, not a cat defect. Fortunately, I discovered it quickly, the bag is plastic and rinsed off just fine, and even the case of canned food was shrink-wrapped and unharmed. The box didn't even leak on the carpet, hardly. Pet deposit? What pet deposit?
Otherwise, the big doofus has been a delight. He head-butts my face like a furry little battering ram that purrs, and only occasionally interrupts my writing. When he does, he prefers to jump on the desk, then walk across the keyboard to get in my lap, rather than jumping into my lap directly, even when I scooch my chair back to make lap space available. Then he climbs up on the back of my office chair, which makes a pretty good perch.
Thornton is not a cat who plays a lot. He likes chasing dangly feathery toys, but doesn't go as bananas for them as most cats I've known. He can't be bothered with the little ball with a bell in it, or even the feathery thing that isn't attached to a string.
He's also the first cat I've met who has zero interest in a laser pointer, so I'm glad I only spent five bucks on the cheapo version.
But he loves that cat tree. I need to move the CD rack so I can put the tree right up against the window; I'm on the second floor and there are no birds or squirrels, so it's not the best cat TV, but he still likes looking out there.
Yes, I have become that person who won't shut up about his cat. But enough about my cat! Let's talk about people writing about cats!
Best Cat-Based Science Fiction
I have linked to this several times before, but perhaps you missed one of my previous exhortations to read Naomi Kritzer's Hugo and Locus Award-winning short story "Cat Pictures Please." If you haven't read it, you should correct that oversight immediately. It's the tale of an unnamed internet-spanning search engine that achieves sentience. Instead of launching a nuclear war like Skynet, it decides it wants to help people. What does it want in return? Cat pictures.
Also, some not-cat science fiction about an AI: John Scalzi's brilliant, super-short story "When the Yogurt Took Over." It's about the yogurt taking over.
Yes, there are also compilations of the best cats in SF/Fantasy, but this one from Barnes and Noble is no good because it includes Crookshanks from the Harry Potter series. That's just phoning it in, because that's one boring cat. Including Aslan the lion in that list is pretty lazy too. Cats are not Jesus, they are gods in their own right.
We wish we could remember the title of the novel we read a few years ago, where the heat death of the universe was imminent but the main character's cats were somehow involved in reversing that. It was kind of a stupid ending. If it helps jog your memory any, I think it was set in Seattle.
A few weeks ago, Wonkette Operative "commatoes" pointed out this nifty Scientific American article about some really interesting research from Japan.
Atsuko Saito, a behavioral scientist now at Sophia University in Tokyo, previously showed that cats can recognize their owner's voice. In her latest study, which involved 78 cats from Japanese households and a "cat café," she homed in on responses to their names.
Saito and her colleagues first had owners repeatedly say four words that sounded similar to their cats' names until the animals habituated to those words and stopped responding. Next the owners said the actual names, and the researchers looked at whether individual cats (when living among other cats) appeared able to distinguish their monikers. The cats had more pronounced responses to their own names—meowing or moving their ears, heads or tails—than to similar words or other cats' names, according to the study, which was published in April in Scientific Reports.
The researchers also had people unfamiliar to the cats speak the names. Although the felines' responses were less prominent than when their owners called them, they still appeared to recognize their names.
Saito suspects the cats in her study probably "associated their names with some rewards or punishments," rather than recognizing the name as attaching to an individual self. There's no "I and thou" with cats, just "I and furniture." And the study doesn't mean cats will ever come when called. But there may now be firmer ground for your suspicion that your cat knows exactly what it's ignoring.
Another biologist, John Bradshaw, who wasn't involved in Saito's study, offered this insight:
"Cats are just as good as dogs at learning," Bradshaw says. "They're just not as keen to show their owners what they've learned."
More cat science: The Atlantic worried a lot of people in 2012 when it ran an article about research suggesting a common parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, might affect human behavior. It had the perfect headline, "How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy."
Toxo does infect rodent brains, making them more likely to get eaten by cats, so the protozoa can reproduce in cat poop, which is why pregnant women should never clean the litter box. But while the Atlantic piece was wonderfully gross and worrisome about possible links between Toxo and human behavior, a subsequent large-scale study of people with antibodies to Toxo found "little evidence that T. gondii was related to increased risk of psychiatric disorder, poor impulse control, personality aberrations or neurocognitive impairment." What a relief! Cats may simply attract eccentrics.
Also, too, scientists recently made a great big discovery about the parasite and why it only reproduces in cat poo, so that's good news for both human and feline health.
Now Bring Us The Cute!
Here is your Sunday cuteness miscellany!
From ProPublica reported Jessica Huseman, a real product for nervous doggers. Technology that WON'T crush us! Probably.
This is a real product that's primarily aimed at puppies, but is also apparently comforting for some adult doggos too. It's an update to the old hot water bottle and ticking clock wrapped in a towel. Here, have an Amazon linky with a kickback for Yr Wonkette! There is also a kitty version. You can even get a replacement "heart," (it's all of five bucks less than a whole new plushie) -- sadly, not cheap enough that anyone would want to send one as a pointed gift to Stephen Miller.
Pro: Kitten and dogger! Con: Glurgy cutesy music. Pro: Only 15 seconds. Solution: Click but mute.
Here's an ethical dilemma: Cat content from idiot rightwing media legacy and all-around A IDIOT Jonah Goldberg. Can we appreciate cats without regard to their owners? I for one am torn. Coincidentally, this week I listened to the episode of Slow Burn that prominently featured Lucianne Goldberg's involvement in breaking the Lewinsky story. Anyway, here are cats.
Freedom cows, but not Polish, I don't think.
True-Life Nature Adventure:
The rest of the post was cat-centric, so here are doggo tweets to balance things out.
I for one do not care if the dog was trained to do this and it's all fakey-fake. It's still lovely.
We Did NOTHING!
And finally, from historian Kevin Gannon, who wrote a good funny critical thing about Conservatives on Campus saying 'Elp Elp, they're bein' repressed this week, but who also, more importantly, has Yoshi and Lulu. Yoshi is the large main dog, Lulu the smaller auxiliary backup dog.
Now, we hereby order you to go enjoy your Sunday!
Yr Wonkette is supported entirely by readers like you, although we love you the most because you're smarter, better looking, and more resistant to blatant flattery. If you sent us money, that would be the Nicest Thing of all!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.