Happy Holidays my furiends,
Our neck of the woods has not seen as much snow as usual but The Human isn’t griping about it since our garage door broke. That means she can’t get her car in our out of the garage and she has to scrape snow off of it every morning. This has done nothing to put her in the Christmas spirit which has resulted in little yuletide cheer at our house. In her defense, she’s been busy doing what she calls “working” (she just finished a story that will be coming out in fall of 2022 about Christmas Cats). And, that working stuff provides us with Christmas goodies like a jar of Meowijuana Purple Passion Silver Vine & Catnip blend and catnip infused paper bags so we’re not going to complain.
While we wait for Christmas, we did a little dreaming of what we think is a purrfect holiday.
Billi, a 13-year-old cat in Florida, presses a button that voices the word “dog” — twice. She then sits and looks at her human as though she’s waiting for a response. Her human, Kendra Baker says, “Dog outside, hmm
There have been “famous” talking dogs but Billi is blazing trails for felines. At the beginning of the pandemic, Billi’s human found herself with a lot of time on her hands. She had seen videos of “talking dogs” and decided to order a device to test the talents of her feline.
Baker said, “I was concerned because they [the buttons] were quite large for a little tiny kitty, and I was not sure that she was actually going to be heavy enough to press them. So I started with a word that I’d really not recommend that you start with, which is ‘food,’ because it becomes very motivating for them. And Billi loves food.”
Billi was a champ at pushing the food button and today she has 50 words on her board and has become part of the ongoing research project called TheyCanTalk, whose goal is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC devices. While the study is mostly made up of dogs, about 5 percent of the animals using AAC devices are now felines. It turns out that many cats have been successful at using the device.
The cognitive scientist and founder of “How They Can Talk”, Leo Trottier, was “pessimistic” about cats using the buttons, but was pleasantly surprised when they started to see felines catch on. (Clearly this man knew nothing about humans!)
The consensus is that Billi appears to string words together less frequently than dogs. (Another swipe at felines!) But Billi’s human has a theory about why Billi is a single button pusher.
“Billi is very, very deliberate when she presses a button and knows exactly which one she’s looking for, she takes her time . . . and if she is going to string a sentence together, she’ll take a thinking loop and then she’ll come back — very rarely does she go from one directly to another.”
We felines are constantly getting a bad rap by people who don’t know or understand us very well. I am hoping this study will enlighten some of them.
There is one interesting observation that has come from Billi’s antics; her human says she’s noticed a shift in Billi’s happiness since introducing the buttons to the talkative kitty. She believes this is because cats like stimulation and play and Billi’s work with the board is something fun for her to do.
A woman is the proud owner of five white cats, named Foxy, Bacon, Harry, Larry and Szymon, and it seems their light-colored coats give them incredible camouflage abilities. She shared a clip to her TikTok account, @5crazycats, captioned: “When your landlord is coming for an inspection and doesn’t allow pets.”
The film shows her bed, which is covered with toys, and she pans the pillows revealing a sloth, stuffed cat, yellow duck, a Pikachu, a teddy bear, an incredibly life-like cat cushion, a monkey, another teddy and more cat toys.
“Can you see Larry???” the on-screen caption asks.
People watching the video had a hard time finding the feline but there were some determined Tik Tokers who found him.
She is talking about doing a film and hiding all five felines.
Earlier this year the U.K. government announced plans to make it easier for pet owners to rent and released an announcement, “Landlords will no longer be able to issue blanket bans on pets. Instead, consent for pets will be the default position, and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason.”
The Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shelter in Lynwood Washington has enriched the environment for it’s felines. They are now looking for donations of flat-panel TVs so all the cats can get screen time.
Felines in forever homes have the opportunity to scan the outside from a window but in shelters, particularly older ones, cats don’t get to do this. Providing the TVs gives them a digital window to the outside world — of birds, squirrels and other eye candy for cats.
“This stimulation engages a cat’s brain, which can help to prevent boredom, loneliness and even depression,” said Rachel Bird, PAWS animal behavior specialist. “The TV encourages the cats to listen and look around, and many cats will approach the front of their kennel to investigate, which helps to make them more visible to adopters.”
The shelter doesn’t have a budget for cat entertainment electronics. Lynn Jefferson, the PAWS web and graphic designer, is on a mission to outfit every room with a TV. At least nine TVs are needed. She has three, including one that came from her home.
“Immediately after turning on the TV mounted above the cat cages, cats could be seen in their cages watching the TV,” Jefferson said. “The bird and nature sounds also bring a soothing peaceful atmosphere to the room while potential adopters walk through and interact with the cats. It’s a win-win situation for all.”
Employees in nearby offices said the sounds of chirping birds were soothing.
Jefferson said donations don’t have to be smart TVs.
“For only $35, I can turn any older TV into a cat video cinema experience,” Jefferson said. “All I need is a player, HDMI cable and a USB flash drive.”
Newer shelters, such as the PAWS Cat City in Seattle, have colony rooms and “catios” (cat patios) where felines mingle with others of their ilk and can see outside.
There is lots of entertainment for felines (I watch cat TV with my Human often) and the PAWS cats already have their favorite shows.
“They really like the birds flying in and out, and the squirrels,” Jefferson said.
The felines are not allowed to watch TV all night and the screens are shut off at night so all kitties get their beauty rest.
You know how I love stories about lost felines who are reunited with their humans. I think each story can teach us something about how you humans can look for your cat’s when they’re lost. This is the story of Chara who, on Nov. 3, escaped from a bathroom window.
Chara, the 8-year old feline was lost for 36 days. During that time Chara’s humans made countless social media posts, flooded neighborhoods with missing cat signs, consulted with non-profit search and rescue groups and even considered using a pet psychic, but Chara remained missing.
Then, in early December someone called and said they’d seen a cat that looked like Chara. A trail camera was placed in the yard of the home that had reported the sighting. Photos of the cat passing by were taken and on Thursday, Dec. 9, Chara was caught in a trap set up near the home.
Chara was home in time for Christmas, a holiday that he loves. In his 36 days on the road, Chara lost approximately four pounds and had some “battle scars” but other than that was no worse for the wear.
Michael Cohen credited his girlfriend for her tireless efforts and optimism that Chara would eventually be found.
“If it wasn’t for Stephanie, this miracle wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t think we ever would see him again, there was no way they ever would have seen him again. She was out there every night calling his name, hoping to find him,”
The community was also a great help in bringing Chara home. And again, this is why I say, “Never give up!”