If I’d told someone ten years ago that cat authors would soon be all the rage, they’d have laughed me out of town. Back in those “dark ages,” felines just didn’t write books. I don’t think it was because cats didn’t have anything to say, though. I think the primary reason cats didn’t write books until recently was that they hadn’t realized they could command a human to do their transcribing!
Once felines got over the hurdle of not having opposable thumbs, cat books began popping up everywhere, and many have become bestsellers. The Dalai Lama’s cat covered a very important feline topic in The Art of Purring. Sparkle the Designer Cat offered sage advice for a feline’s most pressing problems in her two books. Felines explored the world of poetry in I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats. Psychokitty Max Thompson is a prolific feline author, with five books to date including The Rules: A Guide For People Owned By Cats.
So you see, cats writing books is nothing new. However, I don’t think cats have even scratched the surface of all of the topics they’re qualified to write about. Here are just a few.
1. How to Fit Into Practically Anything
The postal service slogan “If it fits, it ships” inspired a hilarious cat version “If I fits, I sits” which the clever meme-makers had a field day with. So I thought since cats know a thing or two about fitting into the most unlikely places – including itty bitty fish bowls and boxes five times too small – they could write this informative guidebook in the style of the classic How to Clean Practically Anything.
We all know how powerful a dog’s sense of smell is. In fact, smell is a dog’s primary sense; they interpret the world predominately through their olfactory system while humans interpret the world predominately through our visual system. Even so, both humans and dogs use senses to understand what’s going on around them. But did you know that, just like humans, dogs rely on more than just their senses to figure things out? Dogs are experts at reading body language, and not just each other’s. In the same way that humans have learned to read canine body language, dogs can read human body language. Our movements, posture and even our glances tell our canine companions a lot about what we are thinking and feeling.
Have you ever glanced over at your dog’s leash? If your dog sees you look at his leash, what does he do? My dogs jump up and run to the door, ready to go on a walk. I used to think their reaction was based on the time of day, because we usually keep a pretty regular walk schedule. To rule that out, I looked at the leash random times and got the same reaction. Because I didn’t say the tell-tale “w” word, I knew they were not reacting to my verbal cue. And because it was at an unusual time, I knew they were not reacting to a specific time of day. No. They were reading my body language!
Social cognition is a popular field of study, and research into a dog’s ability to pick up on human behavior signals is thriving. It’s long been understood that most social mammals are adept at reading cues from members of their same species, but the study of social cognition recognizes that dogs are amazingly good at reading human body language. A dog’s social cognition crosses species type.
Canine influenza (dog flu) was first reported in the United States in 2004. A vaccine was developed and has been effective in helping to protect dogs from the virus. However, a new strain of dog flu has popped up in the Midwest. It’s creating a concern because it has been difficult to contain and there is no vaccine for this new strain. Even if you don’t live in the Midwest, knowing the symptoms of canine influenza helps to prevent the spread of this contagious disease by keeping your dog isolated from other canines. If you suspect your dog has the flu, call your vet before taking him in. Unlike human flu which tends to be more prominent during the colder months, dogs can catch canine flu any time of the year.
In 2004, Greyhounds in close contact with horses developed a mysterious respiratory illness. It was discovered to be equine influenza A H3N8 (horse flu) which had been around for over 40 years in the horse population. This was a case of a virus jumping from one species to another; it quickly adapted and spread among canines, especially dogs living in close quarters like shelters and boarding kennels.
The new strain of canine flu, H3N2, is an Avian flu virus that began infecting dogs in the Midwest in April of this year. It is different from the human H3N2 seasonal flu virus. It began circulating in the Chicago area before spreading into neighboring states. So far, cases have been reported in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. More than 1,000 dogs have been diagnosed and some have died.
Living in any hot weather climate with your dog or cat means taking extra precautions during the worst of the heat, but living in the desert brings additional concerns for their safety. Here are a few tips to help keep your pets safer in that type of climate and terrain.
Wildlife and Vegetation
The desert has wildlife and vegetation that can be dangerous to a curious pet. Some stay away from roaming creatures and the tough prickly vegetation native to the desert, but simple curiosity in desert terrain means exposure to these possible dangers. Pets do not necessarily know what is or isn’t dangerous for them, particularly if the desert is not something your dog or cat has been exposed to.
The sharp thorns of a cactus or succulent can cut or pierce the skin, paws or mouths of an overly curious pet. Creatures such as poisonous snakes or crawling scorpions are among the natural desert inhabitants that can make your dog or cat very ill or even kill them. If possible, keep a safe area enclosed in your yard for your dog and cat. If you can’t do that, or are out walking or playing with your pets, keep a sharp eye out for what they are getting into or examining. Eventually they will learn some of what is dangerous or painful, but you don’t want to chance it by not paying attention to the possible hazards.
Dogs see the world from their own unique perspective and do things based on instinct. To canines, it’s perfectly natural to search the trash for an interesting tidbit, or chase the neighborhood cat that dares to enter their domain. Dogs instinctively know it’s wise to circle before lying down even though their bed is inside away from biting insects. Some of the things dogs do seem odd to us, though. Here are five strange behaviors of dogs and why they do them.
Kicks Leg When Scratched
Your dog is relaxing on his back and you scratch what you think is a “sweet spot” on his belly. He immediately responds by kicking his leg in the air. Some dogs react when their lower chest or upper area of the back leg is scratched. You didn’t really find a sweet spot, but you did hit a nerve and his rapid kicks are involuntary. It’s the same reaction we have when the doctor taps our knee with a rubber mallet to check our reflex. In fact, a vet may check a dog’s scratch reflex to determine if the dog is dealing with a neurological concern.
You can tell if your dog enjoys being scratched by watching his body language. If he’s relaxed and lying on his back with his tongue dangling from his opened mouth, he’s probably OK with it. But if his legs are stiff, his mouth is closed, his ears are flattened and he shows signs of wanting to move – he is likely saying “stop doing that.” Think about it this way – if your doctor kept hitting your knee over and over with his hammer to activate your reflex, would you enjoy it?
Last week as I was engaging in my favorite stress reducing time waster (aka Facebook), I happened upon the funniest video of a cat trying to squeeze into a small, empty fish bowl. The cat tried for several minutes to get into that bowl, and I couldn’t stop watching. I was sure he was too big to fit in there, but it was entertaining to watch him try. Lo and behold, he got in! I can only imagine his owner’s face the first time they walked in and saw their cat in a tiny fish bowl.
The video reminded me of all the times I’ve found one of my cats in a funny place. I wish I could say I took a photo every time it happened to me. Alas, I have not. Nor have I saved any of the hilarious photos I’ve come across over the years. Luckily, whenever I want to laugh at the antics of cats, it’s easy to find videos and photos online. I am thankful that others are not so lax at capturing those impromptu silly things cats do.
My all-time favorite funny place I found my cat was in a large turkey roasting pan. It was a few days before Thanksgiving, and I’d gotten the roaster out of storage and set it on top of the dryer. When I walked into the laundry room and saw Annabelle curled up in there, fast asleep, I could not stop laughing! I also got a kick out of finding her hanging out with my collection of stuffed wolves. Likewise, seeing Rocky chilling out on top of my espresso maker is always good for a chuckle.
Like the ubiquitous box, it seems that vases, fruit bowls, baskets, suitcases and strange containers of all sizes are also cat magnets. Kittens have even been known to curl up in tiny teacups! I have the cutest photo of Annabelle at about 8 weeks old, fast asleep in my slipper. My cat Mickey likes to dig most of the dish towels out of the kitchen drawer and sleep in there; that always cracks me up.
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