Frivolous Friday – My Pet’s Smarter Than Your Pet

You see articles all the time featuring reasons why dogs are smarter than cats or cats are smarter than dogs. But I came across one this week saying that a raccoon may be smarter than either the cat or the dog.

How do researchers decide which animal is smarter, anyway? One scientist says that asking which species is smarter is like asking if a hammer is a better tool than a screwdriver. The truth is that each is designed for a specific problem—so determining which animal is smarter depends on the problem you’re trying to solve.

It seems that the determining factors are the size of the brain and the number of neurons. According to Neuroscientists, dogs have twice as many neurons than cats. But a more recent study included a smattering of other animals—ferrets, mongoose, hyenas, bears, oh my! And, of course, the wily raccoon. The raccoon, they say, has as many neurons as dogs do. Makes sense. I mean, just look at how incredibly adept they are at finding what they need—food, for example. But then, they have hands as opposed to paws and hands can certainly get you into more places than mere paws can—drawers, ice chests, tents, windows, and so forth.

Here’s an article saying that raccoons are smarter than humans because they have pretty much outsmarted every tactic we’ve used over the years to keep them out of the trash, including a rather sophisticated system in Toronto that they recently figured out.

Here’s an article about a particular raccoon whose owner say she’s smarter than a human toddler. Melanie (the raccoon) lives in the UK and can do things most toddlers can do and maybe some things they can’t—ride a bike, for example. She also has a great memory. Here’s her story.

Where does your cat fit in the battle of animal smarts? Does it really matter? I think we love our pets for the unique being they are rather than whether or not they can go to the frig and bring us a tub of ice cream, meow to a tune, or become an escape artist.


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Thoughts for Thursday – What Does Your Cat Smell?

Monday we focused on a cat’s ability to see beyond what we see. Tuesday, we discussed the cat’s amazing hearing. Another super power cats possess is their sense of smell. In fact, I wonder how our cats can even stand to use their litter box when I need a clothespin on my nose to even clean it. Yes, I clean the litter boxes regularly, but whew! Sometimes they’re pretty ripe. Maybe cats have a way of holding their little noses.

Cats sure do use their noses. Have you ever noticed that a cat will smell their plate of food or a handout they’re offered before taking a bite? Lily and Sophie will stand at the screen door or an open window and sniff the air with their heads held high, I guess to determine what sort of critter is out and about in our yard. And our cats use their cute little noses to identify visitors.

They generally go to another room when someone visits our home. But as soon as the guest leave—I mean immediately—here come Lily and Sophie with wriggling noses. Even though they might have been out of sight the entire time the visitor was here, they go straight to the spot the guest was sitting and sniff the area for several seconds.

I’ll never forget the evening some neighbors come by with their children to exchange Christmas gifts. They gave us an ornament, which I hung on the tree. The Christmas tree had been up and decorated for a week by then, so the cats were accustomed to it. And that night, after our friends left, here came the cats. They did their usual sniffing around the areas where the people had been sitting and the children had been playing, then one of them walked directly to the new ornament and examined it.

How did he know that ornament was new or that these people had brought it? Actually, I don’t know what he knew—but he sure seemed to recognize that the ornament was a new addition to our house. Was it by sight, by scent, or by telepathy?

Here are a couple of sites where you can learn more about your cat’s amazing sense of smell.

One of the most interesting things I learned from this research is that cats have unique nose-prints. No two cat’s nose prints are the same. So if you ever wanted to find out which of your cats has been “nosing” around in your belongings. Just take nose prints and you’ll surely find the culprit.

Speaking of a cat’s nose—did you know that a cat can sniff out drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and, of course, catnip every bit as well as a dog can? They have all of the same capabilities as dogs do—and cats have been—and may still be—used for this purpose. Only problem is they aren’t as easy to train as a dog is. As we’ve reported here, cats have also been known to sniff out cancer and, certainly, the scent of someone or an animal that is dying. And you thought the nose on your cat’s face was there just to make her more adorable.


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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – Meet Some of the Cats Who Inspire My Cat Characters

As you know, I pattern some of the cats in my Klepto Cat Mysteries after cats I’ve known. Rags, the star klepto cat, is a compilation of my mom’s confident grey-and-white cat, Smokey, and our toy-toting kitty, Lily.

I’ve also brought cats into my stories who have traits and even appearances similar to other cats I’ve known and I sometimes use and embellish actual events I’ve witnessed with my cats over the years. In Catnapped (the first book in the Klepto Cat Mystery), the theme is based on a real experience occurring in one of my daughter’s hometown. Cats were being picked up from quiet neighborhoods and being carried off. My daughter actually caught someone taking her cat from her front lawn and was able to stopPAWSitively Sinister, a Klepto Cat Mystery him. Just as in my story, residents reacted and set a couple of plans into motion, finally discovering who was taking the cats and why. While Catnapped is based on the story my daughter told me, my story is greatly and more interestingly embellished.

The Siamese cat I introduced in Book Nine, Mansion of Meows, and that I featured in a few subsequent books, is a compilation of the many Siamese beauties I’ve known, including my grandmother’s series of apple-head Siamese cats.

The horse in the stories, Peaches, is reminiscent of a foal we raised to become quite a good competitor in local horse shows. Her name was also Peaches.

Dolly is a tabby—a sweet girl who has taken on a few of Rags’s naughty traits. I used our Lily when creating Dolly’s character. And I’ve definitely called on the precious personality of my Himalayan, Katy, to create a couple of the cats in my stories—specifically Buffy and also Layla.

Recently, I met another walker in the meadows where I walk most days. She was leading a dog on a leash and a cat was following along behind. I took pictures of the cat and ended up creating a character from her.

This week, I met up with the woman and her dog and cat again and told her that her cat had become a character in my Klepto Cat Mysteries. She was thrilled and ran out immediately to buy the book. Well, that’s one way to make a sale. (She’s the one wearing the necklace.)

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Newsday Tuesday – What Does Your Cat See?

Do cats really see in the dark? Can they see things as clearly as we do?  Here’s a fascinating article that not only explains how a cat’s vision differs from ours, it show pictures of the difference.

The general scientific consensus is that cats cannot see in total darkness, but their eyes are created to see better in dim light. However, they don’t see with the same clarity that we do. Their range of sight is larger—more panoramic, but they don’t see the vibrancy of colors and their view is kind of opaque in comparison to what we see.

In this article, we learn that we can actually see objects from greater distances than cats can. While we might be able to identify an item from 100 to 200 feet, for example, a cat might need to be as close as 20 feet to make out see the same object.

What makes the difference? All sorts of things—the way the eyes are set on the cat’s head, the way the eyes are designed. And here are some interesting facts. For cats, understanding their environment isn’t all about vision. They also use their whiskers, their excellent hearing, and scents.

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Mindful Monday – What Does Your Cat Hear?

Do you ever wonder about your cat’s level of hearing? What are they listening to when they turn and twist their ears seemingly to catch sounds from a distance or maybe close—sounds we can’t detect at all? Is it a beetle walking through a tangle of weeds? Or a weed-whacker two blocks away?

You’ve probably noticed how sensitive your cat is to loud sounds. Cats will often sort of recoil upon hearing the roar of a loud car or motorcycle outside. Lily is suspicious of delivery trucks and garbage trucks. Yesterday she went on high alert when a helicopter flew over too low. As much as she loves to eat, loud noises such as these will even disrupt her dinner.

It’s true that cats have more sensitive hearing than humans. They can hear sounds that we may not notice, and they’re also sensitive to loud noises and may even develop hearing loss when exposed to loud sounds for extended periods. Maybe you’ve noticed your cat leave the room when a movie you’re watching becomes noisy. I see Sophie stare at the TV sometimes. I thought she was just watching the movement across the screen. Perhaps, however, she is bothered by the sounds of loud speaking, a ships horn, or gunfire, for example. If you’re interested in knowing more about the workings of your cat’s ears—and you should be—here are a couple of sites I recommend: and Here’s one that gives some ideas about protecting your cat from those household sounds that freak him out:

Both of our cats are suspicious of strangers and are generally aware when someone is approaching before we are. I suppose they hear a car parking out front or someone walking up our walkway. Who says cats aren’t good watchdogs? They also recognize the sound of us returning to the house after being gone. Sophie listens for the sound of Dennis’s car and will often greet him as he comes in the door.

I know that Lily’s hearing is sensitive by her reaction to the sound of water early in the morning. Lily’s morning ritual includes a sip of water from the bathtub spigot. She waits in anticipation for me to turn on the faucet each morning. But if I turn it a tad too far, the water makes a gurgling sound as it goes down the drain and she doesn’t like that. She’ll sit on the edge of the tub staring at me when that happens, waiting for me to fix it so there’s no gurgling. As soon as the water is dripping at the level that’s comfortable for her, she’ll take a drink.

Can a cat hear butterfly wings in the air or lizard feet on pavement? They can sure spot these critters when they’re outside. You’ve seen it happen—the cat is sitting peacefully or wandering around seemingly oblivious to her surroundings, when she suddenly leaps after a butterfly or chases after a lizard. I’ve seen Lily suddenly focus on a moth or fly high on the wall–something we did not see and certainly didn’t hear. You have to wonder which of her senses she used to become aware of the critter. Is it her hearing or something else? Cats certainly are fascinating little fur beings who are well-equipped with amazing survival techniques. And hearing is an important one.

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Frivolous Friday – How Much Does Your Cat Love You?

Here’s an article that will make cat lovers happy. It concludes that our cats really do love us. Oh they might act aloof, walk away in the middle of a good petting session, snub us when we return home, refuse to come when called, and avoid our loving overtures. But one group of researchers actually believe that at least some cats genuinely love their humans. They did a scientific study at Oregon University involving 38 cats and half of those cats actually chose human companionship over all other entertainment choices. Here’s the article.

Here’s another version of the study results.  And another one.

And if you’ve ever wondered what makes a cat choose a particular person over another—why a cat loves him and not you—here’s an explanation:

In our house, Lily chooses my lap only. She doesn’t spend a lot of lap-time, but when she wants a lap, it’s always mine. Sophie, however, prefers Dennis, but she will take advantage of my lap when it’s available and his isn’t. Over all, Dennis belongs to Sophie and I belong to Lily.

Some cats will choose to play with one person and cuddle with another. If one person in the household typically does the feeding, that’s the person who will have the cat entourage at feeding time. Around here, Dennis offers treats twice a day. So he’s the one who gets the kitty-stares at 8 a.m. and 3:15. I usually feed the cats their lunch. When I’m not here, they go looking for Dennis around 11:30 or twelve. They do seem to know how to take care of themselves. They aren’t going to let anyone forget to dole out the goodies.

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Thoughts for Thursday – Can You Turn Your Shy Cat Friendly

Cats and kittens that haven’t been handled much tend to be a bit shy. They might make up to one or two people after a lot of exposure to loving gestures, but they may continue to shun others. Anyone who has adopted feral and formerly feral cats and those who’ve had little human contact during their formative weeks, have probably experienced the hidey cat.

I’ve had several cats who run for cover under the bed or blankets upon hearing the doorbell or footsteps on the porch. One of my daughters asked me once if I really did have a cat or was he imaginary because she had never seen anything of the cat except a streak of fur dashing off as she’d enter my house.

You might wonder if your staunch hidey cat will ever become cordial. I’ve seen it happen three times. Katy came from a kitten-mill. While she adapted to those of us in the household quite readily, the intrusion of guests frightened her. The only people she’d make up to were those who spent the night here. By morning, overnight guests were, in Katy’s eyes, part of the family. She was also relaxed with close neighbors when they’d come into the house. We believed that was because she recognized them and their scent through open windows over time.

As Katy aged, she seemed to forget that she was afraid of strangers or she just didn’t have the energy to run and hide anymore. In fact, she’d invite petting from visitors. I’m so glad she got to experience the love she deserved—not only from us, but others—before she walked over the rainbow bridge at the age of nearly 18.

Sophie had spent her first ten weeks living on the streets with her mother cat. When we brought her home, she became a hidey cat, only allowing a few random people to see her. We still can’t figure out how she hand-picks them. She might hide from a cat-loving neighbor or friend and wander out to greet a delivery person or visitor who isn’t at all interested in cats. At Christmas this year, we entertained 20 or so family members, including all ages of children. Once everyone had left, Sophie stepped out from under the sofa in the living room where we’d congregated over the four hours or so. She’d been with us the entire time, only none of us knew it.

Lily was one of 15 kittens born to 3 mother cats eight years ago. The whole kit and caboodle of cats and kittens were kept in an attic until adoption day. So she didn’t get a lot of attention, until she came to us. At the time, we had Winfield, a friendly cat and Sophie, a hidey cat. Lily could have copied either one of these models, she chose to hide with Sophie.

Lily is also a glutton. She loves meal time and treats, and handouts. So I’ve begun giving guests of all ages a couple of kitty treats for Lily and she’s finally starting to greet guests rather than hide from them.

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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – Cats and Politics

I couldn’t resist sharing this op-ed piece with you. The title is, “In this Era of Dog-Eat-Dog Politics, We Need More Cats,” by Cameron Smith.

Herein, he compares the way of politics as following the methods a dog uses to handle any challenges before them (or not), to deal with issues, and so forth. And he suggests that maybe politicians should take a more cat-like approach instead. It’s a good read.

I got a kick out of some of his phrases and analogies. He says that a cat doesn’t waste energy and, in fact, even has a nap named after them. He suggests that maybe we need more patience in politics such as the cat demonstrates when hunting, for example.

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Newsday Tuesday – Imperfect Cats That Make Purrfect Pets

Just like with people or any other species, cats are sometimes born with deformities or afflictions. Sometimes there’s an accident or an illness that requires amputation. In most cases, the cat continues on, adapting to his plight. And sometimes there’s a perfect human companion ready and able to love such a cat.

I came across this story of Sam and Scooter—and what a great love story it is. Sam started out hating cats and now is a wonderful companion to Scooter, a cat with a spine deformity that renders his back legs useless. Shhhh. Don’t tell Scooter that he’s handicapped. Here’s the story and some video that will warm your heart.

If you’ve ever considered taking in a special-needs cat or you’ve somehow acquired one and you are at a loss as to how to help him, you must visit this site. This provides detailed tips and help for properly caring for cats with all sorts of problems—blindness, amputations, paralysis—and there are ideas for making things easier for the aging cat.

While often the cat shows his human how it’s done by adapting to challenges all by himself, it’s wise for any caretaker of any cat, especially those with special needs, to have some knowledge of the cat’s requirements and limitations as well as his abilities. Cats that are challenged in some way will often find some incredibly creative ways to overcome. All they need is an understanding, caring person at their side (or as it is with most cats, at their beck and call). Check out this site.


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Mindful Monday – Who Owns Cats? Plus Let’s Celebrate the Tabby!

It used to be that cats were associated with old people—you know, the little old lady who lives alone with her cat. But that’s no longer the case. Even the hippest among us might have one or more cats. Young and old alike from all walks of life volunteer at animal shelters, manage feral cat colonies, campaign on behalf of cat welfare, solicit funds for local fire departments to purchase pet oxygen masks, and more.

Yes, men and women of all ages love and care for cats. Practically everyone I know has one or more cats. Is that because cat people are attracted to other cat people?

Here in the US, there’s certainly a large segment of society who can’t resist a kitten or a needy cat. But the Japanese win the prize for the highest percentage of cat ownership in the world. And they seem to be first and foremost with so many creative ideas with regard to cats. They came up with Hello Kitty, the cat train (where kittens ride in hopes of going home with a passenger), cat cafés, and, perhaps, the only island where there are more resident cats than people. They probably have the largest feral cat population in the world, too.

In Malaysia, cats are considered good luck. If traveling there, be sure to visit the Kuching Cat Museum. And you’ll even find cats in celebrities’ homes. You might be surprised at some of the celebrities who are crazy about their cats. Ricky Gervais, for example, from The Office. Actor, James Franco, has posed for a calendar with his cat. The rock star, Morrissey is a hardcore cat lover as is Drew Barrymore. Cher evidently often shares stories and pictures of her cat, Mr. Big, on Instagram and Twitter. Even George Clooney has a pet cat, as does John Travolta.

So we cat lovers are in good company even if some of us are crazy cat ladies.

Celebrate Your Tabby

Today is National Tabby Day. If you have a tabby—that is, a cat with either long or short hair and with shades of black, grey, and white or orange and white stripes, dots, patches and/or swirls, celebrate him or her today. Our Lily is considered a dilute torbie because her tabby markings also include smidges and smudges of orange and her markings are soft and subtle.

Did you know that the tabby coat pattern is the most predominant among cats? Maybe that’s because it was handed down from the original African wild cat. And many tabbies have the M marking on their forehead. Here’s a great site with a lot more information about our precious tabby kitties.

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