Ailurophile, Caturally

Cats & Their Subtle Ways
of Taking Over Our World

The Internet may be the realm of cats. But Japan has been their unofficial land for 15 centuries. Out of its over 6,800 islands, 11 are felines-only places. There, as here or everywhere, an endless stream of news about cats seems to be always pouring. Our duty is to report them. Hey, it’s their world; we just work here.
For sure, they’ve been around way before catching rides on sixth century Chinese boats. And before Egypt and Tibet and New York City threaten to suit us for misrepresentation, they’ve occupied every pore of society, from houses to cafes, from offices to retirement homes, and the very social mores of our age.
The opening of Life of Cats, a two-part show of the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection‘s of cat woodblock prints by Edo-period artists at New York’s Japan Society, presents the perfect opportunity to jump at such an omnipresent, furry, and ever so gracious, subject. The heavy-handed commentary is ours, of course.
The exhibit of almost 200 prints, some popular, others very rare, covers the influential 17th-through-18th centuries period, through works by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Utagawa Yoshiiku, and many others, depicting cats in a variety of settings and situations, both playful and thought provoking.

Divided in five sections – Cats and People, as People, and versus People, Transformed, and at Play – the selections, from the most extensive collection of ukiyo-e prints in the world, offer a journey through pre-industrial and pre-urban Japan through the mid 1800s and beyond. It’s complemented with modern artwork.
In surprising, evocative scenery, the felines are shown as companions, stand-ins for humans, threatening, and just plain child-friendly playful. The technique allows to exquisite detailing and implied hidden contexts, expertly told as stories by the shows’s curator, and Japan Society Gallery’s director, Miwako Tezuka.

Back to contemporary times, Japan’s arguably where the cat cafes first sprouted, but it’s in no way the sole sanctuary Continue reading

Suddenly Last Caturday

A Look Back at
Some Cats We Met

There were cat politicians and those who talk to each other. Vicious accusations and their continuous Web domination. There were psychic cats, avalanche rescue cats, and a pretty Chimera calico. There were feral keepers of Roman ruins, plus a humbly personal memorial.
The Chinese calendar says it’s still the Year of the Dragon, and after February, the Snake will be up. At Colltales, though, these and other stories made sure it’s been a smooth, discreet, Zen-like year of the cat. We thought of taking a stroll back to revisit these masters once more.
In August, we published one of our favorite stories of 2012, about cats who clearly know how to talk to each other. We lined up a few examples that scored high with our readers. We still have no idea what they were talking about, but they did give us hope that, one day, we too will be able to speak with that kind of tenderness.

Another time, we ran a story also about a couple of cats, but the politician kind. As it turns out, people in Hallifax, Canada, almost had Continue reading

Fall Caturday

The Good, the Bad
& the (Quasi) Ugly

It seems that for every animal-related good deed humans manage to accomplish, two other either selfish or borderline despicable are always ready to pop up. Abstracting judgement, though, the end result is pretty similar: pets never fail to fulfill their kind side of the bargain.
All cats featured in today’s post, for instance, show a gentle willingness to play along, regardless if they’re two or they’re many. But of all the people who appear here, there’s just a single human who’s at par with their example. As it’s often the case in life, it had to be an old lady.
The original Life Magazine caption for the 1965 picture (below) of a San Francisco mathematician and his cat mentions that he ‘takes a trip on LSD with his cat, who is on the drug too. He does this every other week.’ Dangerous Minds’ Marc Campbell, who republished the photo, struggles to understand why this guy had to submit his friend to the same whims of his inquiring life. It bothers us a great deal too.
Just a few years before, Life’s Ralph Crane photographed a group of women who brought their mostly black cats for a Hollywood audition. As the leashed felines wait with Zen-like patience, we almost lose ours, just wondering what they did to deserve to go through such an ordeal, besides being beautiful. Also, what movie they were trying to pimp their pets for? And finally, why the hell they were all women?
That’s why 87-year-old Misa, and her friend Fukumaru stand above everyone else. The bi-color-eyed stray has adopted the old lady several years ago, and they’re since inseparable. According to Myoko, her photographer granddaughter, he spends the day side by side with Misa, who still works the fields of her backyard in Japan.
In fact, her story is so moving and multifaceted, that we’re including another one of Myoko’s pictures of these two, the only one that’s not black & white on her Website. There you have it; just four photographs, but you’d need much more than the whole weekend to count all the stories they’re telling. By the way, enjoy your break.

Got Milk?

How Many Laws It Takes to Explain
a Cat’s Gulp? Let Us Count the PhDs

With due respect to Barbra Streisand, the real zen master is the feline, as research upon research piles up to prove it. This time, it took scientists from MIT, Princeton, and Virginia Polytech, to show the world what it already knew: when cats drink, they’re actually solving fundamental hydrodynamic problems you didn’t even know existed.
For starters, they lap their drinks four times a second, way too fast for your inferior human eyes to see anything but a blur. And unlike dogs, for example, they hardly make any noise doing it. Oh, and the toothbrush-like raspy hairs on their tongue have nothing to do with it.
In lay terms, the four engineers reported that the cat’s lapping method depends on its “instinctive ability to calculate the balance between opposing gravitational and inertial forces.” Come again?
Elementary, dear reader. The cat darts its tongue, curving the upper side downward so that the tip lightly touches the surface of the water. The tongue pulls a column of liquid upwards, and quickly traps it inside his month, before it has a chance to give in to gravity and spill. Did we mention that the cat’s chin remains dry during the process?
How did they measure all this? With high tech machines, silly, one of which had been designed for some way less important experiment at the $100 billion International Space Station, before being found in Continue reading

Say it Again

Of Tender Talks Between
Cats & the Live Long Day 

It’s an absolute fact that cats do not talk. They communicate with each other, sure. They know how to express feelings, just like any of us (non-cats), no doubt. But any attempt to put words on their mouths sounds downright stupid. So why we’re so fascinated when two cats seem to be having a conversation?
When they try to do that in movies, the result is rather demeaning. To us, not to cats who couldn’t care less. But when they ‘do’ it themselves, the effect is mesmerizing. So, yes, you may say we’re not ashamed of running with them this Caturday in early August. We promise, we’ll make it painless.
For the record, today’s irony-free post wouldn’t be possible without YouTube, that living membrane of our instant recollections where cats reign supreme, and anyone’s bleak life can be turned into an 2-minute epic. As such, anything we may say here may be utterly superfluous.
The duo above is the latest we’ve found. Getting all anthropomorphic here, they seem to be ‘commenting’ what’s going on outside their window. But whatever it is they’re focused on, we just can’t see it.
So, looking over their ‘shoulders,’ we’re led to wonder, what are they ‘talking’ about?
There’s also a certain suburban quality to the monotony of their outside world, with its muted colors, a silent garden full of barren and unkept plants. Perhaps they too were expecting to see some action out there, but somehow it got postponed to another day. In any event, their staccato-like soft-throaty sound matches perfectly the Continue reading

Cat Fight

Suicides. Blackouts. Parasites.  
Are Felines the New Scapegoats?

There comes a time in the life of any blogger when it’s necessary to make a stand about an issue. Whether it’s because we’ve failed to convey the depth of our convictions. Or perhaps there’s some merit in any claim to the contrary. Or even, out of sheer paranoia, for we fear our five or six readers may be packing for lack of excitement.
Whatever the case may be, let’s put it bluntly, and let’s give it the whole emphasis we can possibly muster and say it out loud: you, out there, stop blaming cats for every ailment afflicting mankind nowadays, or else they may have no other choice but to withdraw support to our lifestyle. Which, if our calculations are correct, will pretty much end life on earth as we know it.
We felt that we had to express ourselves because such claims, that cats are responsible for suicides among Danish girls, or for the blackout that left 600 million Indians in the dark, just to name the latest, threaten the very fabric of our long sealed agreement with such generous and highly ethical species. We’re talking about felines, not humans, of course.
It’s enough that throughout the years we had to put up with false claims that they were in cahoots with demons and witches, bent into stealing the soul of our babies. Or that their supreme sacrifice of getting rid of rats wasn’t what really ended the Black Plague. Or that toxoplasmosis is on the rise and could as well be the next epidemic to wipe us out of this planet.
Really? How soon we forget. At each of these instances, when they Continue reading

Caturday Dreaming

Cats’ Internet Domination Now
Extends to Cutting Edge Research

Since cats so quickly jumped to the top of the Web’s food chain, we feel gladly obliged to every once in a while pay our respects to such a riveting phenomenon. So welcome to the latest disappointments of Henri, le Chat, Steven, the guitar player who won’t bother with an earthquake, and Denis, Cat Burglar and collector extraordinaire.
Plus what’s up with a certain Virginia lady and her backyard full of homeless cats, and the surprising findings of a Google/Stanford’s computer neural network project. That’s right, even machines are teaching themselves to search the Internet for them. Today we’ll get started with Kodi, the Kitten, and his 7-step guide to walking your human.
Or rather, let’s chat a bit first. Way before this phenomenon was even apparent, back in 1997, there was Arthur and his dolphin friends, Shiloh and Thunder. As much as we’re ambivalent about using animals for entertainment purposes, one can’t deny the educational value of exposing children to marine creatures.
Hopefully, this kind of institution, along with zoos, circuses and any settings where wild beasts are showcased to the public, are all on their way out. Holograms, Continue reading

Not Mice

Avalanche Rescue Cats
Group Gets No Respect

Here’s the deal: the world of fake news, and of gossip that passes for news, has got our knickers on a twist. We simply can’t trust anything we read online. Often, it takes due diligence to unmask hoaxes and put-ons. Other times, it’s not so easy. That’s why when one of the big brothers fall for a practical joke, we almost feel their pain. That usually lasts 45 seconds. Then we laugh.
But the case of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Cats Association, which still can be a big, fat urban myth, is just too good to let it pass. And after the traveling feline circuses, and other things people manage to teach their furry companions to do, we’re halfway sold. So we’ll tell you as we know it, and you make your own mind about it.
We did what we could to get to the back paws of this, to no avail. In fact, full disclosure, there’s a link on their own site to a news story about the ‘fictitious association,’ and the group’s vehement disclaimer: they won’t have any of that. We’d love this to be true, though, but instead of butterflies, our stomach is full of red flags about it.
That’s because before some Russians started training cats to behave more like dogs for a paying audience, we just couldn’t believe they were even trainable at all. Partly, of course, because you thought these Continue reading