The Essential Halloween Accessory

is a savvy, scrawny, old, torn-eared black cat.

I wanted to write a whole thing about this animated cat to end all animated cats and how he’s like the Cheshire Cat if the Cheshire Cat had been on Alice’s side but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without just stating facts.

Instead, here are some of my favourite caps of the Coraline cat. They’re from Disney Screencaps once again, the site which, apparently, doesn’t stop at Disney.

coraline catcoraline cat 2coraline cat 3coraline cat 4coraline cat 5coraline cat 6cat can talkcat is a bastion of wisdomi've seen that lookmy cat would never do thatcoraline cat 7

Get you a cat in case of other-dimension monsters with nefarious intentions for your eyes.

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Rumours and Riddles: Two Types of Antisocial Cat Personalities

We have been a cat foster home since August, 2015, and in that time we have seen many good felines come and go – the most charming of which were Rumour and Riddle.

We don’t say that lightly. We have had a lot of funny, gorgeous, quirky cats in our home, but R&R win for Most Charming Kittens Ever. We think the two of them would make AMAZING protagonists for a new animated movie about a pair of orphaned kitten brothers with extra toes. (Are you listening, Disney?)

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Riddle and Rumour, in the later days

R&R were our first experience with a pair of littermates, and since then, we’ve unofficially created 2 definite Cat Types, which has helped us socialize fractious cats with differing needs.

The Rumour/Riddle Pair Dynamic

Though we don’t necessarily agree with the usual assumption that every feline relationship has a “dominant” and a “submissive”, we do recognize that cat relationships are complex and impossible for humans to understand at a glance. That was why it took us weeks to realize that in this pair, Rumour was the one in charge.

The thing that threw us off is that good old inclination to assume that extroversion = confidence. Susan Cain would be so disappointed. But when we walked into the room, Rumour would burrow into the furniture and stare up at us with big, sad, scared eyes. Riddle would dance around our feet, looking for a fight and a toy and basically excited about whatever we had to offer, even if it was a blood test or liquid antibiotics.

So how do we know Rumour was in charge? First of all, he ate more. Riddle would scarf down his food while we were in the room, while Rumour slowly crept his way out of his hiding place, hesitant to come within petting reach of us. But we know from our spy cam that when we left the room, Rumour took over the eating, and guarded the bowls from his brother. You could see it in their sizes, too – the larger kitten is usually the bully.

We’ve noticed this pattern many times since. An unsocialized cat who is reserved, stays hidden, and shuts down on contact seems to be a bit of a bully to other cats, when humans are taken out of the equation. We’ve chalked this up to confidence – an insecure cat who isn’t sure he’ll be allowed to eat is more likely to get over his fear and approach the humans, the providers, in order to get an edge on his companion.

While this certainly isn’t all there is to a cat pair, and every cat pair is different, this distinction has been helpful to us in figuring out how to handle the two distinct types of fractious behaviour that these two displayed.

Rumours

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Lucas hiding behind the computer monitors

There are a few characteristics that lead us to believe one of our fosters is a Rumour:

  • Can be touched when cornered in a small space, such as a cage or a teeny tiny hiding spot they’ve found.
  • Excessive hissing
  • “Shutting down” on human contact – allowing you to handle them
  • Refusing to eat in the presence of humans
  • Willing to close their eyes, as long as humans aren’t in petting reach – but won’t sleep
  • Hesitant to move at all – stays in one safe spot regardless of what happens, unless flushed out by force
  • Silence
  • LOVE hiding under beds, behind couches, inside furniture, or anywhere else where reaching them is hindered

These all sound incredibly depressing. And they are. But one upside to a Rumour type is that you can actually handle them, as a result of their paralyzing fear of humanity. And as they get used to being pet, they may begin purring, and ease back on the otherwise nonstop hissing they do (though that depends on the cat).

A couple of tips if you happen to have a Rumour in your life:

  • Keep Rumours in an isolation room. You’ll lose them, otherwise. We lost the original Rumour many times in our isolation room, since he had torn open the lining of the futon and crawled inside. He also hid behind three’s Income Tax Act to great success.
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We even missed him back here at first. He’s good.

  • When they are holed up, sit near them and pet their backs (their faces may be too much too soon). Back off if they become visibly distressed, but don’t go far – when they realize it’s not dangerous, their distress will very. slowly. decrease
  • If you flush a Rumour out of her hiding spot, she will panic and scramble – stay back and give her space to calm down. Allow her to find a new safe place and keep your distance. (It sounds mean, but sometimes their hiding spots are dangerous or inconvenient, and you have to relocate them!)
  • When your Rumour has his eyes trained on you, take note of what makes his ears prick and his neck crane. Whether it’s treats, regular meals, or a certain type of toy, that will be the key to easing the cat out of the safe place. If it’s food, for example, put the food down and sit a few feet away, still and quiet, not meeting his eyes. Eventually, with patience, maybe on the second or third try, he will give in to his obsession and come creeping out to get the food.
  • When the cat advances, DO NOT SCARE HER. Just stay quiet and reward her trust in you by not proving her wrong. Remember, fractious cats don’t find your voice or hands comforting. Basically, repress all instincts to love the cat and let her eat in peace.
  • Once that step is complete, begin using the cat’s motivation, whether it’s food or play, to interact with him. Play with more involved toys, or pet his back while he eats. Yes, he’ll hate it at first, but over time he will learn not to cringe quite so violently at your touch, and it will be awesome.

Riddles

We recognize Riddles based on the following:

  • Unable to hide as a result of extreme curiosity – Riddles can often be found poking their heads out from under a couch to identify a sound or a smell.
  • Constantly on the move – even when they lie down, they are ready to spring into action at any given second
  • Never closing their eyes, not even to blink
  • Aggressive play, especially with distance toys at first, like throwing a ball or using a laser pointer – graduating to wand toys
  • Over time, Riddles will begin following you around and constantly being underfoot
  • Crying, trilling, howling. All brands of cat sound, other than purring. (It takes wild cats a long time to learn how to speak, so if you’ve adopted or fostered a cat who was picked up as a stray, you won’t hear them for a while)
  • Visible attempts to drag Rumours out to play with them
  • You find yourself wondering what the cat’s fur feels like because you have never, ever touched him
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Missy, unable to suppress her curiosity

In general, we feel better about Riddles because they aren’t as sad and scared as Rumours. But despite their efforts to interact with humans, they are incredibly jumpy, squirmy, and practiced escape artists. While it’s easy-ish to get a Rumour to sit and endure some pets, a Riddle won’t even let you get within arm’s reach before racing around the room in a panic. And in the case of a foster cat, it’s going to be difficult to get these guys adopted, because people will HATE the fact that they can’t pet them, so it’s important to focus efforts on that.

Here are some things that have worked for us:

  • Play, a lot. Riddles love to play and will start to forget you’re scary when that blood lust is ringing in their ears (we assume). When they’re in vicious killer mode, they’ll even jump over you or brush past you to land the kill. Then they’ll look sheepish and run away, but it’s still a victory.
  • Riddles are insecure, in our experience, so they will want to be fed and will eat in front of you. Sit by them and make them endure some petting while they gorge themselves. They’ll be pissed, and they will cringe violently at your touch, but over time they’ll ease into it, especially if they have a bossy littermate looking to steal their meal
  • When you catch a Riddle with her eyes trained on your highlighter (true story) or something else you’re doing that she’s really excited about, use it to coax her near. Don’t make eye contact, just carry on, and in her entrancement she may accidentally come closer than she meant to.

 

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Really exciting highlighting going on in Riddle’s eyeline.

  • Let them get bored, so they lie down, for once. We’ve found that they like to chill out near us, so they don’t miss anything fun, so if you sit quietly on the couch, they may even lie down next to you. Out of reach, but every step counts!
  • Hold treats in your palm (once they learn that treats are awesome. Some cats have never had them.) You’ll be surprised at the guts these cats have when a treat is on the line. Stay still and wait, and don’t give in to their sad, beggar eyes. They will eventually give up and take it from your hand, which is both really cute and an important trust step.

Progress

As both types of cat progress, they begin to meet somewhere in the middle as your standard house cat personality. Rumours begin to play more and feel more comfortable prowling the house. Riddles learn to chill out and hopefully even allow you to pet them. Towards the end of our time with the original R&R, they were out and about all the time, lazing near us and begrudgingly allowing us to pet them while they ate their meals.

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Let’s just say Rumour got WORSE at hiding.

Although it’s helpful to categorize behaviours to figure out what to do when your cat is knocking photos off the wall or cowering under a towel in the corner, the most important thing to do is read their reactions and their progress to figure out how far you can push them – handling a feral domestic cat too much too soon is dangerous for both of you, and will hurt the cat’s chances at having a good domestic life. Err on the side of caution, always. The best way to make a fractious cat come around is to be patient, and give them time.

Other Rumours of ours: Lucas, Paisley, Demitri

Other Riddles of ours: Missy, Deniro

 

Disney Cats

Let’s let Walt Disney talk about cats for a little bit.

So, we have some notes:

  1. Cats were actually domesticated in the Middle East, around the place and time that the agricultural revolution happened. Dogs were domesticated long before that, as dogs were happy to tag along while people were mostly still hunter-gatherer types. Cats didn’t see the benefit to sticking around until humans started mass-storing their food, which attracted lots of cat prey.
  2. Egyptians certainly did revere the cat, but at the same time would kill them (by cervical dislocation – not the LEAST humane way, but damn, that’s cold) and mummify them to sell.
  3. Rats are not enemies of humanity. Your Friend the Rat could have told you that.
  4. Plague is carried by fleas, and is itself just a bacterium.
  5. Whiskers are used to determine where prey is when the cat is very close to it – cats have very blurry eyesight that gets worse the closer they get to something.
  6. Cats don’t kill rats that noisily?
  7. Other animals persecuted when people decided everything was a witch: goats, dogs, probably everything, but mostly old women. People are terrible.
  8. The animation in this little excerpt is very nice, displaying cats as graceful and fluid in motion as we know them to be (sometimes). Disney films featuring animated cats don’t always showcase these qualities in their characters.

Let’s take a look at some of the cats who have appeared in Disney animated features over the years, shall we?

Continue reading “Disney Cats”

Rumour and Riddle

What follows is the story, told in photos, of Rumour and Riddle. They were a pair of wild kittens one of the shelter staff trapped. Riddle was trapped first, then Rumour, but the rest of their siblings and their mom are still out there somewhere.

So these two little guys were not happy with their new life at the shelter, even though they were reunited. I offered to take them home and try to socialize them a bit.

With kittens it’s important to socialize them with humans between their first three to seven weeks of life, otherwise they retain an admittedly healthy deep-seated mistrust of humans. These guys were passed that point when they came to the shelter, but they weren’t beyond all socialization attempts.

They came around like champions. At first, we barely saw Rumour, who was by far the scaredy-cat of the pair. He had decided that it was a perfectly reasonable idea to rip open the lining of the futon in the foster cat room and live in there whenever we came by. So that was fun. Continue reading “Rumour and Riddle”

Nigel: A Photo Essay (that is incohesive because it’s Nigel)

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Nigel has been in this world for ten years. Let’s see what ten years of Nigel look like:

2005

2005: Youtube is launched. Nigel is born at some point.

2006: Ban Ki Moon elected as Secretary-General of the United Nations

2006: Ban Ki Moon elected as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Nigel turns 1, and arrives at the local Humane Society.

2007: Conrad Black convicted in Chicago for fraud.

2007: Conrad Black convicted in Chicago for fraud. Nigel turns 2, he is adopted, and shelter staff tell us his birthday is Nov. 14, which may or may not be true.

2008: Barack Obama elected President of the United States

2008: Barack Obama elected President of the United States. Nigel turns 3.

2009: James Cameron's Avatar released in theaters

2009: James Cameron’s Avatar released in theaters. Nigel turns 4.

Continue reading “Nigel: A Photo Essay (that is incohesive because it’s Nigel)”