Build it and they will Climb

Some lucky cats in Pittsburgh are about to get the ultimate cat fort. The Epic Cat Fort which is planned to be completed in March this year, and housed in the formerly abandoned St. Clements Church and school in Tarentum, will be over “40 feet by 80 feet” and consist of connecting catwalks. The fort is only a temporary exhibit, but for a short time it will be every cats dream and serve the purpose of showcasing adoptable cats from Animal Friends, a local animal rescue league.

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Build it and they will climb – Image: Phillip Rhodes

Cat lover and creator, Phillip Rhodes, is looking for help from volunteers, artists and sponsors to help complete the project which is set to be unveiled on March 10. If you lack the technical skills don’t worry you can always sign up for litter box patrol!

The Epic Cat Fort is also an event for the community, but people are asked to leave their cats at home. For more details on the event and how you can get involved be sure to check out their site here.

When The Vikings Came

Shrouded in myth, the Vikings have been regarded as both explorers and warriors but, much of what we know about them has changed including the role they played in helping  our four-legged feline friends make their way around the world.

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Recent studies into ancient cat DNA has revealed that domestic cats hitched a ride on Viking boats  (Photo: Shutterstock) Image ScienceNordic

Researchers actually know very little about how cats were ‘domesticated’ so the first large-scale study of ancient feline DNA presented this past September in the UK is a big first step towards understanding how our beloved house cats came to be. Eva-Maria Geigl, an evolutionary geneticist at the Institut Jacques Monod in Paris, and her colleagues analyzed mitochondrial DNA from the remains of 209 cats that lived between about 15,000 years ago and the eighteenth century AD, from more than 30 archaeological sites across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The first wave of cat expansion is something that most are familiar with – wild cats from the Middle East moved with early farming communities to the fertile Eastern Mediterranean. The cats were attracted by the rodents, who were attracted by the grains being stored by the farmers, and humans seeing the benefits they provided decided to keep the cats around. The discovery of a 9,500 year-old grave in Cyprus containing a cat buried with a human, suggests that the connection between felines and humans go as far back as 12,000 years.

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(Upper right) A human skeleton in Cyprus in a 9,500-year-old grave. Inches away, a cat was carefully buried, as seen in the lower section of the image.  Image – NBC News

During the second wave of expansion thousands of years later, cats descended from those in Egypt (It is generally thought that Ancient Egyptians tamed wild cats about 6,000 years ago) quickly spread throughout Eurasia and Africa. “A mitochondrial lineage common in Egyptian cat mummies from the end of the fourth century BC to the fourth century AD was also carried by cats in Bulgaria, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa from around the same time.” It is very likely that sea-faring people like the Vikings kept cats on board their boats to help keep the rodent population down said researchers, who also discovered cat remains, with the same maternal DNA lineage present in the Egyptian cat mummies, at a Viking site in northern Germany dating to between the eighth and eleventh century AD.

Upon seeing the results of the first large-scale study of ancient feline DNA at the conference, Population Geneticist Pontus Skoglund from Harvard Medical School told Nature that he “didn’t even know there were Viking cats.” However, according to conservator Kristian Gregersen from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, the Vikings most certainly had domestic cats and that “people commonly wore cat skins by the late Viking Age.”

Interestingly this evidence seems to support the theory that two very popular and robust breeds the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest Cat, could have been brought to America and elsewhere by the Vikings. If you are wondering what that journey may have looked like be sure to click on the link or image below to check out this awesome, we wish it were real, flash-video by Joel Veitch.

VIKING KITTENS – by Joel

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Left or Right?

Here is a fun experiment that you can do at home which will determine whether your cat is left or right handed…or pawed. Just like humans cats tend to favor either the right or the left and, the more complex a task the more prevalent the favored paw becomes.

To perform this at home you will need treats, a glass and a willing cat. Maru and his sister Hana demonstrate in their video how to carry out the experiment.

In case you were wondering a genuine, controlled experiment by real scientists was carried out and they found that out of 42 cats studied preference was linked to gender “females had a greater preference for using their right paw; males were more inclined to adopt their left paw.” Some cats were even shown to be ambidextrous, switching from paw to paw, when the task was repeated over a few times. Besides the treat jar test they had the cats reach for a toy suspended overhead as well as moving along the ground.

Do try this at  home I tried this with Spinner, see video below, who used his right paw on all attempts, after he tried to stick his head in the glass. He clearly favors his right not even attempting to lift his left which is not quit in line with the study. However, I am not sure if right pawed male cats are more prevalent outside of the original study group or, that it has something specifically to do with the fact that Spinners has Vestibular Syndrome.

If you try this at home please leave a comment below letting me know the gender of your cat and outcome of the test.

Important Cat Jobs

This is why your cat sleeps so much. They are busy, very busy.

Let’s Talk About Your Cat!

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Let’s Talk About Your Cat is back and features two ‘little Lions’ from Toronto. Thanks to Kay for sharing her story and beautiful photos!

Q What are your cats/names/age/color/breed

K The last name of the boys is ‘Singh’ which is derived from the Sanskrit for “Lion”. It’s widely used in various parts of India and for my particular family ancestry it’s the last name given to males in the Sikh religion.

Sahib-Puppy Singh, or Sahib, is a 6-year-old domestic short hair. He is all black with some white spots and green eyes.

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Sahib-Puppy Singh means ‘Sir Puppy Lion’

Niku-Monster Singh, or Niku is a 4-year-old domestic short hair. He is also black with some white spots and yellow eyes.

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Niku-Monster Singh means ‘Little Monster Lion’

They are “Two Singhs from Toronto” aka Two Lions from Toronto!

Q Describe your cats personalities

K Sahib is my big boy, a conversationalist, a hide-n-seek player who likes to tell me how his day is going and what he wants and when he wants it. For example when its time for me to open the door and let him roam the building corridor and visit the neighbor or, when he would like dinner to be served. He also has a cuddle schedule whereby around 7:30pm each night he walks out of the bedroom and announces his arrival into the living room and proceeds to sit on my lap positioning himself such that his head is tucked into the crook of my left arm. During daylight savings it takes a few week to adjust his schedule to the new 7:30pm but it does happen. Sahib prefers to eat spider plants over cat grass and patiently waits for me to bring home each new spider plant for my coffee table or shelf decoration and then he requests it for his dietary enjoyment instead of my aesthetic needs.

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Sahib requests about 15 mins of a neck massage while he drools onto my arm. If I stop short of the 15 minutes he lifts his head up and lets me know we aren’t done with a short chirp.

K Niku is a funny little guy with a funny way of doing just about everything. He opens the door of the bedroom closet and hides when someone buzzes my apartment, he bathes his face and front paws in the water dish, he sleeps under blankets and in boxes, he stands up on his hind legs for tricks and treats, he chases reflections of light up and down walls and will go from restful nap to 60 mph in 2 seconds for the right bright light reflection.  Niku must sit inside every gym bag, suitcase, laundry basket, tote bag that enters and leaves my home. Although Niku prefers to not be lifted off the ground or picked up in general, he does like to always be near me and frequently sits next to me and extends one leg so his paw is lightly resting on my leg or shoulder or foot.  When its time for Niku-Monster’s cuddles it’s a fun performance, he comes over to me and puts his face into mine and I scratch his chin and cheeks and around his ears, then he stumbles away from me and goes to his big brother Sahib and gets some brotherly face grooming for a minute or two. Then he staggers back to me for more scratches around his neck and then back to his brother again for more. This goes on for a few minutes until eventually he topples over into a drunken stupor of purring and mouth breathing cuteness.

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Niku the vampire kitty his top canines stick out just a tiny bit and can be seen over his bottom lip when his mouth is fully closed.

Q How did your cats come into your life?

K Sahib was a feral cat from a rescue agency and Niku is from my next door neighbor. I did an enormous about of research before I adopted Sahib to ensure my lifestyle was suitable for a pet and also so I knew how to be prepared.  Everyone around me knew I was researching.  At my office my coworkers and bosses acknowledged my cat adoption alongside other employee family child births and child adoptions which was really fun and nice.

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Cat research!

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Sahib on adoption day

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First day meeting Niku

Q What is your first memory or experience with cats?

K I grew up on a farm and had a few cats as pets. Because it was farm life I wasn’t able to form much of a bond with them and was always afraid of getting scratched as a child.  Then in primary school I had friends with cats but unfortunately learned only negative superstitious ramblings about black cats. As an adult I learned from a Temple Grandin book that black cats actually tend to have the mildest and friendliest of temperaments among the domestic cat breeds. I cannot remember the exact details except there was some evolutionary theory behind it supported by black cat population patterns and domesticity research.

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Niku left, Sahib Right

Q Anything else people should know? 

K I held a birthday party for my cats one year which turned into the best indulgence for a cat owner. It was heaven for me, I designed all the games, and I used prizes and treats for the humans to keep them interested!

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Birthday celebrations an afternoon of cat talk, cat trivia and a cat slide show.

K Adopting cats and living with animals increased my already sensitive nature to a new level. I had to use more intuition and grow a sense of ‘felt knowing’ with my two cats to understand their needs and requests. I learned, adjusted and became even more aware of non verbal temperament and tonality not only in them, but also in the others around me. It’s hard to explain, some will understand this and others might laugh at it, but this is what happened and as a result I think much more deeply about the effects of my actions and behaviors because I’ve seen how little it takes to impact others in my environment.

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Sahib Top, Niku Bottom

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Sahib left, Niku right

Sahib the conversationalist, has a short discussion with mom 

If you would like to have your cat featured on Let’s Talk About Your Cat, contact me at purrandroar(at)gmail(dot)com

Tunnel Vision

With my planned post still evolving, and because it’s on the more serious side, I decided to get side tracked with this.

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Ozzy is an 8-year-old tom cat from Scotland – All Images itv.com Credit: SWNS

Ozzy got his unique condition after falling from a windowsill and hitting his head as a kitten. He is kept safely indoors but apparently sneaks out…and then can’t find his way back. Ian and Evelyn McDougall, aged 57 and 61, took Ozzy in after his accident and were taken by his resemblance to the hypnotized panther Baghera from Disney’s Jungle Book.

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Image itv.com Credit: SWNS

Owner Ian McDougall tells itv.com they took him in because he was the runt of the litter and they figured he has tunnel vision “he can look at one bit and then it’s a bit further away. It’s very comical when he’s chasing a fly. He’s got real character about him.”

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Owner Ian with Ozzy – Image itv.com Credit: SWNS

“He’s a bit daft at times but he is very friendly. The condition doesn’t hinder him in the house, he’s used to the house. He’s definitely a house cat.”

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Once home Ozzy started sleeping in their bed – Image itv.com Credit: SWNS

In June Ozzy got out unseen through an open door behind the owners son and was later discovered under a parked car. Ozzy was brought in to the ScottishSPCA frightened and suffering from some minor injuries to his neck but was cleaned up and treated. His owners were very relieved to spot him on the SSPCA Facebook page and bring him home. Apparently this wasn’t Ozzy’s first escape attempt, but it will hopefully be his last as he is reportedly now under even stricter house arrest for his own safety.

Cool Cats

Looking for a way of keeping your cats hydrated and cool in the summer? How about a DIY giant ice ball…with a happy face. From the same household who brought us cats enjoying a grid of boxes comes 10 Cats to Enjoy Ice Ball.

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Cool project…cool cats