Why These Cat Videos Are Animal Cruelty

If you’ve been on the internet recently, you may have seen a video or two of a cat partaking of a tasty cold treat and then freezing, mouth agape, eyes starting to roll as the cat gets an ice cream headache. On the surface, the faces they make might look funny, but they are actually the horrifying expression of a cat’s agony. It is no more funny than whatever expression your cat would make if someone hit it with a baseball bat, kicked it, or threw it against a brick wall.

The cat has no idea what is happening. It has no way to know that it isn’t dying, that the pain is transient, that it will be okay.  Inflicting all of that on an animal that depends on you is absolutely cruel.

It isn’t funny, it isn’t a joke, and it most certainly isn’t ethical.

Kitten Trapped in Storm Drain Rescued after 96 Hours!

This video from Cole & Marmalade‘s channel shows Cali the kitten was trapped in a storm drain for 96 hours until the efforts of Sierra Pacific FurBabies, a non profit rescue organization in CA, finally paid off!

For more on this story, you can read the article here. For more on Cole and Marmalade, you can visit their site here.

RCRS: Freya the Amazing

Real Cats, Real Stories is a little segment we like to do to highlight the felines who have overcome the odds, who have touched our hearts, and who have shown us that they are so much more than internet memes make them out to be. If you have a story about a cat that you’d like to share, send it to us! (stories at littlecatdiaries.com)

Back in November of 2015, a little kitty followed my daughter home (cats love her, always have, and that’s how we got 3 of our 4 cats). This kitty was about 6 months old, and just so pretty. I thought we’d take her in, try to find her owners or a new home after we got her spayed. By the time we had the money to get her spayed and her shots, and all that good stuff, it was obvious she was already pregnant. We hadn’t let her out, so she was pregnant when she followed my daughter home. I had never seen such a young cat get pregnant.

We named her Freya, but soon just called her Bunny, which devolved into Bun-Bun because she was an impressive jumper.

Freya (Bunny)
She had the power of Sad Eyes, which is irresistible.

The day we took her in, she made instant friends with our then 6-year-old male. Our two female cats (then 17 and 10) had a truce going, but they weren’t buds. Bunny knew exactly how to act to make friends with them. She would go up to them (not too close), and flop down on her side, purring and friendly, and she soon became better friends with all our cats than they were with each other. It was amazing.

As her due date got closer, she slept with me, so I would be there when she went into labor. On the morning of January 27, 2015, she thoughtfully waited until I woke up to inform me that the babies were on their way. She wanted to have them under my vanity sink instead of the box or the closet where I had set up places, so I grabbed a box, took all the stuff out of the cabinet, and put down a clean towel just in time for her to have kitten #1.

She had 6 kittens in all, which is a HUGE litter, especially for a very young, first time momma. I took this picture after kitten #5, thinking that was the end of it. Nope! Stiles came into the world about 5 minutes later.

Bunny's Babies: Birthday

There were a lot of amazing things about Bunny and her kittens. The first was how young she was, then there’s the large litter she had, but one of the most stunning things was that 3 of the kittens appeared to be younger than their siblings by about 2 weeks.

I had heard of kittens in a single litter being younger than their littermates, but I had never seen it before Bunny had her babies. Since she had gone into heat at a very early age, and littermates can have different fathers, it sometimes happens that very young cats can go into heat even in the first weeks of pregnancy. It’s not common for the difference in age to be more than a few days, but Bunny was special in a lot of ways.

Each kitten looked different: Bucky (the biggest) is an orange tabby, Stiles is a grey tabby with white splotches, Juno (Bunny Junior) looks a lot like her mother, Steve was an albino, Cleo is a stunning calico, and Kiri has beautiful seal point coloring (like a Siamese). Stiles, Cleo, and Kiri also have the beautiful medium-length fur that Bunny has. Stiles’s fur lays flat, but his little sisters are very fluffy. Like Bunny, they are also amazingly soft.

Bunny was a great mother, especially considering her age. She was attentive, but since she was extremely social, she was fine with us helping out, and she was also happy to have Kiki and Kagetora help her bathe the kittens. It was very much a group effort. I’ll add more details about this in my post about Stiles.

We found homes for all the kittens except Juno, so when she was old enough, she went to the Tulsa SPCA with Freya. For reasons I’m not clear on, the SPCA renamed Freya to Deliah. I know Juno was adopted quickly because she never appeared on their website, but Freya was there for several weeks. We had moved to a different state, so I felt helpless every time I checked and saw that she was still there, but she did eventually find a home.

I miss her like crazy, but I know she’s out there somewhere, being loved and pampered, just as she deserves. I see her in Stiles’s face and eyes all the time. My sister and niece adopted Cleo and Kiri, and I see Freya in them (especially Cleo) when my sister sends pictures.

She changed my life, and many of the ways I think about cats. Her empathy and intelligence, passed on to her babies as well, continues to change and shape not only my life, but the lives of the people and cats that I strive to help. If I believed in fate, I would surely believe that some special magic brought her into our lives to teach us things that I’m still learning.

Wherever you are, my sweet Bun Bun, I love you, and I think of you often. Thank you.

Q&A: Do Cats Understand Right from Wrong?

Q: There is a room that my cat isn’t allowed to go into. I keep the door closed, but when I do leave it open she goes in there. When I catch her, she looks ashamed. Does she understand that what she’s doing is wrong?

A: First, some semantics:

  • Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
  • Shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

She isn’t displaying shame, that’s a purely human construct, but let’s explore if she should.

It depends on what your definition of right and wrong are. Do you truly believe that going into a room, that is usually inaccessible to you, in the house that you live in is wrong? Even if you never agreed not to do it? Even if it makes no sense to you? It isn’t a broken social contract, so it isn’t wrong.

Doesn’t sound wrong from the cat’s point of view, so let’s look at your actions. It’s only wrong if you believe yourself to be superior to the cat. In that case, it’s just a misunderstanding, so you aren’t that wrong.

To understand your cat, you must first understand this: Your cat is smarter and has a much longer memory than a dog. Unlike what many people choose to believe, she also doesn’t consider herself to be better than you are. She considers you to be her friend, her equal, her ally. She doesn’t think you’re her boss or her slave.

All you have to do to remain in the right is to keep the door to the room closed, and don’t ever punish a cat. She will think you’re insane and you will lose more of her trust each time. That includes scolding in this case.

So, in the end, she would have every right to feel shame for your ridiculous behavior in this matter, but she’s above all that. She’ll still think of you as her friend, even if you’re a little odd.

Lucky you!

Fireworks Safety for Cats

There are a lot of dangers for cats around holidays, and July 4th in the U.S. is one of the worst.

More pets go missing during the 4th of July than any other day of the year. Make sure your cats are microchipped and wearing tags with up-to-date information.

If you let your cats outside, it’s important to keep them inside from the 3rd to the 5th. Even cats who would never usually run away can become scared and disoriented by the fireworks, and they can get lost very easily under these circumstances. They also may try to bolt out the door if given a chance.

If you know your cat is upset by fireworks, make a cozy place (inside a padded box, a closet, or other space where they will feel safe, and can ride out the worst of it in peace.

Not only are the sounds scary, they can be dangerous. As we explained in our previous article, Of Cats and Crinkle Noises, high-pitched noises can cause siezures in cats. We learned this sad truth last year when our precious hero, Kagetora, had a seizure after a rapid-fire succession of fireworks went off. I snapped this photo a few seconds after the seizure.

Kagetora Post-Seizure

Thankfully, he suffered no lasting effects, but we will be playing whale song this year to drown out the noise of fireworks.

Fireworks Safety for Pets

Q&A: When Your Cats Don’t Get Along

Q: I have 2 cats that used to get along, but now they fight all the time. Both cats are under 2, and they are related (the older cat sired the younger). The younger cat is not neutered. When the older cat reached puberty, he started being aggressive with the younger cat. I got the older one (21 months) neutered, but it hasn’t helped. What can I do?

A:  Are you sure they’re fighting and not playing? It can be hard to tell the difference if you aren’t used to doing so.

The main way you tell is with one question: is there blood?

If not, they’re likely playing rough, which is common, especially in young males.

Males usually reach sexual maturity between 5 and 8 months (but it can be as early as 4 months and as late as 10 months). Males should be neutered between 4 and 6 months of age.

Make sure that you do the following:

  • You need to get the younger cat neutered as well. Since the younger cat is still intact, he still poses a territorial threat to his elder. This is absolutely crucial, so get it done ASAP.
  • Play with both of them (together if that works, or separately) 15 minutes 2 times a day. This will significantly lower aggression.
  • Make sure your cats are able to climb and explore SmartCat Multi-Level Cat Climber and/or Premier Kitty Pad Cat Tree If you have high spots, like the tops of bookshelves and things, you can get some wide shelves or a tall kitty tree to give them access. I turned a cheap cat tree into a ladder. I bolted the cat tree to the bookshelves and the wall, and anchored the bookshelf to the wall as well. Then I stuck the cat bed to the top with velcro so I can remove it to wash, but it won’t slide around. Like this:

  • Have nice window spots to watch what’s going on outside. Get a window perch or 2 if your windows don’t have a place for the cats to sit. Window Perches

Add a little oasis in one corner somewhere. This has been shown to lower aggression and to fight obesity, as well as other benefits. I read a few studies, and was dubious that it would help, but it really, really has. My cats are calmer, healthier, and generally happier since I created the oasis.

If none of this solves the problem (it will improve the situation, but may not solve the underlying issue), then it’s time to reset the relationship. Basically, turn it off and back on again. That just means re-introducing your cats.

You should read this in its entirety: Aggression Between Cats in Your Household Dealing with aggression can be hard, but you can usually make it work if you’re willing to put in the effort. Specifics on re-introduction:

If the Aggression Is Mild or Between Two Cats Who Used to Get Along

  • Put your cats in different rooms for several days (up to 2 weeks), with separate bedding, litter, and water. This way they can hear and smell each other, but don’t have to interact.
  • Put the cats’ food bowls on opposite sides of a closed door. This will encourage them to be close together while they’re doing something that makes them feel good.
  • Each day, have the cats switch rooms so that they both experience some variation and get access to each other’s scents.
  • After a few days of eating on either side of a closed door, if both of your cats appear relaxed, crack the door open one inch. If they remain calm, open the door a bit more, then a bit more. If the cats remain relaxed, they may be ready to begin eating together without the door, but with supervision. If they react with any signs of aggressive behavior: growling, spitting, hissing, swatting, etc., separate them again and follow the more gradual reintroduction instructions below.
  • Some people have had success with rubbing a bit of tuna juice on their cats’ bodies and heads. Grooming is a very zen exercise for them. If things go really well, the cats may actually groom each other because they can’t reach the juice on their own heads.
  • You can also play the sound of a purring cat to your older cat before, during, and after a meet with the younger cat to help him chill.

If the Aggression Is Severe or Occurs Between Cats Who Have Never Gotten Along

  • Separate your cats as described above but for a longer period of time, and reintroduce them at a much slower pace, like several days to a few weeks.
  • Instead of simply opening the door to reintroduce the cats, provide daily reintroduction sessions that very gradually move the cats closer and closer together under supervision.
  • During the sessions, you might find it easier to control your cats with harnesses and leashes, or by confining one or both of your cats in crates.
  • During the sessions, keep both cats distracted with food or play. Start out with them far apart. Keep the sessions short. Make it easy for them to succeed.
  • Separate your cats between reintroduction sessions to prevent a relapse.
  • Only when your cats can peacefully eat and play within a couple feet of each other should they be left alone together unsupervised. Trust them only for short periods together at first and increase their times together gradually.
  • Behavioral medication may be helpful in reducing a domineering cat’s aggression and a skittish cat’s fear, making the reintroduction go more smoothly and quickly.

Finally, if none of this works, take the older cat back to the vet for a full check-up. He may be lashing out because he is in pain, or has some other issue.

Further reading:

Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats

How Good Is a Cat’s Memory?

Cats have excellent memories. A lot of research has been done on cats’ memory. This body of research shows that there is little difference between reference material stored in the cats’ brains and humans’ brains. When compared to dogs, research has proven that cats have close to 200 times more retention.

Neurons are important in memory and learning, and cats have nearly twice the number of neurons that dogs have. The way that memories are encoded means that each neuron stores a part of a memory, and when the right combination of neurons is activated, the cat will recall a memory.

In the short-term, cats can remember things for about 16 hours. If it’s important enough for the cat to remember it later, the memory can last the rest of its life. Cats do a great deal of learning and remembering from 2–7 years of age, much like children and teenagers are learning machines. Cats must be socialized before they are 2. Just like humans, these early stages of life determine a great deal about what the cat will be like when they’re older.

For instance, if a cat isn’t around humans a lot when it is young, even if it is friendly and likes humans, it will not meow or vocalize to humans the way that kittens who are raised with humans will. I have a super cuddly cat who was a stray for his formative years, and he is just like our other cats except that he doesn’t meow.

Our 11-year-old female has lived with her littermate on and off over the years (he belongs to my sister, and we have shared houses on and off). Even when it’s been several years since they’ve seen each other, she and her brother always act like they were never apart. Cats seem to be able to remember their friends, whether it is another cat, a human, a dog, etc. for many years.

They also remember paths they have walked a lot in the past. They remember where to find food in a place where they have not been in 10 years. If it’s important to a cat, whether emotionally or a necessity, they will remember it.

Unfortunately, with a similar brain structure to humans comes the pitfalls. Elderly cats can be prone to dementia, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases. So it’s important to keep a cat active, and keep its mind engaged to guard against such ailments.

Side note: Although we sometimes compare qualities and physiology of cats to that of dogs, they are completely different animals, and it’s a lot like comparing an elephant to a giraffe. We here at LCD love dogs as well, and nothing we say should be used to try to prove that one is better or worse than the other. We are only using these comparisons to demonstrate that you can’t view cats and dogs the same way. They are very different.

The Tale of the Tail

Have you ever stepped on a cat’s tail? Even when you barely touch it (like when you realize, right before you put your weight on the foot, that the cat is there), they will scream like it is the worst agony imaginable. They also scream if their tail gets caught in a door, and any other situation that they perceive as RED ALERT! TAIL THREAT DETECTED! DEFCON 1! DEFCON 1!!!!

Why do they react this way?

A cat’s tail has 19 to 23 vertebrae (about 10% of all the bones in a cat’s body are in the tail), a vast network of nerves, several groups of muscles, ligaments, and tendons that give it the ability to move and sway. It can help them balance (acting as a rudder), and it is an integral and important aspect of their body language. Some cats have far more sensitivity in their tails than others.

It’s an important instinct to protect their tails that causes the reaction that might seem a little overly dramatic to us. There really isn’t a human body part to compare it to. So it’s important to take the cat’s reaction to touching its tail very seriously. If they don’t want you to touch it, hands off.

Most cats don’t mind if you touch their tail briefly while you’re petting them, but any grabbing of the tail, or touching it when they aren’t expecting it can be upsetting to the cat because their tails are important, sensitive, and they are vulnerable.

Stiles has quite a long tail (30 cm, or 12 inches, which is roughly 2/3 of his body length), and he’s very sensitive about it when he’s walking around, the tip curled to make a question mark as it slowly sways. Yet he’s fine with us touching it as we pet him when he’s in our laps in cuddle mode. Kagome is very protective of her tail, and will bop you with a large furry paw if you get too close to it. Kiki and Kagetora don’t seem to mind at all.

Stiles’s fabulously long tail is evident in most photos. This one is my favorite:


Q&A: Can Cats Recognize Their Owners in Photos or Videos?

Cats rely a great deal on smell to identify individuals. That’s not the only factor, but it’s a main one. Many photos are also too small, and the idea of having a small, flat piece of paper being a representation of the real 3D world is not a natural assumption.

Cats do recognize faces. In a study published in Journal of Vision, it was shown that cats, but not dogs, can recognize the faces of their owners. They are better at recognizing the faces of other cats, but they can pick out their owner’s face from a line-up of life-sized head shots 54% of the time. That’s pretty good.

Cats also rely on body language, the way a person moves, and other things to recognize individuals. But most of them do recognize their owner’s voice.

A 2013 study published in Animal Cognition showed that cats also recognize their owners’ voices, and can tell them apart from stranger’s voices. Their hearing is much much better than a dogs’ or humans’ hearing (PDF), so they aren’t usually fooled into thinking the sounds from TV, computers, radios, etc. are real when they are adults. But they can still recognize the sound of their owner’s voice, or things like their mother cat’s call.

I had a video of a cat we fostered. Her name was Freya, but we called her Bunny. She was 6 months old when we began fostering her, and it turned out that she was already pregnant. (More on that later.) She was Stiles’s mother. The video had audio of Bunny calling her babies, and also a bit of Stiles’s sister, Cleo. When Stiles heard the video, he ran in, and started pawing at the speakers, and was in great distress because he couldn’t find them. I put him on my desk, and he watched that video 3 times, but I decided it might be doing more harm than good, so I took him in the other room and played with him until he was sleepy.

The video: https://youtu.be/5NwINsxG13c

Our oldest cat, who is 18, is strongly bonded with my daughter. She spends most of her time in my daughter’s room. My daughter went out of town with my sister a few weeks ago, and Kagome wasn’t doing well. So my daughter recorded some videos, and I put on one of her unlaundered shirts, then played the video. Kagome listened very carefully. I played it again, and she started purring immediately.

And finally, two of my cats, Kikiyo and Stiles, will come running every time they hear elephants, whales, or David Attenborough.

Of Cats and Crinkle Noises

Cats love soft rustling sounds, and the sound of paper and plastic bags crinkling. They have ultrasonic hearing (there is actually pretty good evidence that even deaf cats can hear in the ultrasonic range). This helps them hunt, especially small rodents like mice or rats who make noises in that range. It’s a sort of soft rustling, crinkly sound that they like.

So they like noises in that range when playing, but they also like it when they’re looking for a nice place to nap. The sound can mimic that of a bed of dry grass and brush, which make a nice place for a cat to sleep. 3 of my 4 cats love the sound.

However, you should be cautious, especially with older cats. The higher pitched sound of tinfoil (AKA aluminum foil) crinkling, along with other high-pitched sounds, can cause seizures in cats. Colloquially referred to as Tom and Jerry Syndrome, its official name is Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures (FARS).

Other sounds that can cause seizures are clanging spoons, clanging pots, metals on ceramics, and clinking coins, among a long list of noises in that range.

The lead author of the study that uncovered this problem, Dr Mark Lowrie of Davies Veterinary Specialists, said in an interview:

“The sounds responsible are high-pitched sounds, often relatively quiet sounds, with increasing loudness and persistence of a sound only serving to enhance the severity of the epileptic seizures.

“Avoiding these sounds eliminated the seizures in 72 out of 96 cats.

“The reason for cats being so sensitive to these seemingly benign high-pitched sounds may have its origin in the ultrasonic hearing range of the species.

“Mice and rats communicate in the ultrasonic frequency range and it is believe that cats developed a secondary ultrasonic sensitive hearing range presumably as an evolutionary advantage in catching rats and mice, their natural prey.”

This explains why even deaf cats can have these seizures.

Further reading:

Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures in Cats

‘Tom and Jerry syndrome’ causes seizures in old cats

Audiogenic reflex seizures in cats

The world of cats at your fingertips.