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December 6, 2007

The inner lives of small rodents
Posted by Teresa at 08:55 PM *

Patrick’s away this evening. I was sitting on the sofa with my computer when I heard a soft squeaking noise from the dining room. Hiro’s waking up early, I thought. (Hiro Frumentius is my hamster. He’s gone from being a little ash-spotted dab of a thing to a large and respectable full-grown hamster who, from certain angles, looks like a miniature badger.) Then he started squeaking in earnest, and I ran for the dining room.

Hiro’s predecessor, Porco Bruno, was extraordinarily voluble for a hamster. Hiro’s much more normal: i.e., he doesn’t vocalize unless he’s in real distress. By the time I got to his cage, there were unprecedentedly emphatic squeaks, strange hiccupy sounds, and scrabbling noises coming from his igloo. My god, I thought, he’s dying in there. He’s seriously ill. This is going to be awful.

I took the big rock off the top of his igloo, tipped up the entrance so I could see in, and made the “tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk” noise that variously means hello, want to come out and play?, please come out from behind that bathtub, and I have a snack for you. After a moment a small quivering nose appeared from the bedding, and then Hiro emerged: eyes glued nearly shut with sleep, ears folded down, trembling all over.

Without thinking, I said “You’re all right now. It was just a dream.” Hiro’s eyes snapped open. He sniffed my fingers, looked around, and hesitantly walked out of his cage. Aside from being scared out of his small wits, he looked perfectly healthy.

I’ll never know what nameless hamster horror had been threatening him. I went on talking softly to him for a while, and petted him and gave him some Wasabrod; but he still had to run an inspection tour of his entire cage, nosing up under the edges of the computer mousepads that serve him as floor padding, and climbing the walls to sniff at unaccustomed corners.

Comments on The inner lives of small rodents:
#1 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:18 PM:

The rodent dreamt that he was a man, working in a windowless cubicle and fruitlessly drudging away at endless TPS reports. He was very relieved to wake and find that he was, in fact, still a hamster after all.

#2 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:21 PM:

I never know how much to comfort my cat after she has a dream. Not all of them seem to be good dreams.
I am not, however, going to wake the dog during his dreams. He once caught the rabbit, or possibly the cat across the street, and spent the next few minutes growling and tearing it to pieces.

#3 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Poor Hiro. I've been having powerfully bad dreams lately (and waking up panting in terror) but Jim says I'm not making noises in my sleep. (I think it's related to job stress.)

I sympathize.

Plus, my oldest kitty sometimes squeaks and twitches while asleep as if she's terrorized, but she was brought from being feral and will never get totally over it.

#4 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:32 PM:

I must have a very well adjusted puppy - she is as brave as at least a pride of lions, in her sleep, and roundly castigates any and all terrors of the night. She also often wags her tail in her sleep.

Of course, by day, when her eyes are open, she's a mild-mannered if slightly loopy spoodle, who comes whinging to me when the cat whallops her en passant.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:34 PM:

what nameless hamster horror

Lovecraft's "The Shadow over Insmouse"?

#6 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:45 PM:

Poor Hiro! It must have a been a very bad dream indeed.

#7 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:37 PM:

So far, Usagi-bun in his senility just wakes up and thumps at his objects of nightmares. No rabbit screams, thankfully. Although perhaps some of the thumps are demands for food. It's hard to say.

Poor Hiro.

#8 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:38 PM:

What a beautiful little fellow!

I've never caught my lagomorphic Underfoots dreaming, but they do roll onto their backs and play dead fairly often.

#9 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:48 PM:

My husky ex-tom came from the Humane Society a few years ago, and used to panic when the room lights were turned off at night, or if an edge of blanket fell over him. I suspect something like a cloth bag played a nasty role in his past, but I'll probably never know.

He's calmer now about these things. Still does the sudden swift Run Away! from nothing at all a couple of times every day, but I think that's exercise, a trace of kitten play. At times he whimpers in his sleep, next to my leg in bed, but quiets after a few gentle reassuring strokes.

There are people who seem to honestly believe that non-human animals don't dream. How they can possibly think so puzzles me. Maybe it's linked to a belief that only human beings have souls, and that dreaming is an activity of the soul. But (as with the cloth bag) I may never really understand.

#10 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:01 AM:

You make me want a hamster... unfortunately, I've focused all my whining on having a baby, so it's going to be another few years before I can start asking for anything more.

#11 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:01 AM:

Shiva makes noises and twitches when he dreams. The other two don't seem to. And Shiva also sometimes kind of hums. I've found I do it sometimes, too, so I don't know who's copying whom.

New Cats Picture

Whenever Shiva gets upset at being used as a pillow, I remind him that he uses me that way.

#12 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:05 AM:

Pyre @ #9: My two cats were rescued many years ago from a wild pack that lived in an abandoned building near my office. While they are now ridiculously domesticated, the boy cat still has issues about his paws being touched, and will get well-nigh feral when I cut his nails unless I'm very careful. I suspect something to do with the gang that used the basement of the aforementioned abandoned building as a dumping ground for stolen goods and suspicious mattresses. It angers me to think what they might have done to him... he and his sister were only five months old when I took them home. Grr. Grr.

#13 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:14 AM:

Marilee #11 -- how did you get Shiva to accept the new ones like that? I got my Kitty Kitty a companion, but several years later she still won't let him snuggle up to sleep like he so obviously wants to. I haven't tried pointing out that she does that with me, but I suspect that won't work.

Kitty Kitty was a starving ~6 week old when she appeared in my parents' driveway; after my sister gave her a can of tuna she apparently decided to stick around. I'm still not clear how she ended up living in my apartment, but 13 years and 5 moves later, she's still here. She still likes tuna.

#14 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:18 AM:

Still does the sudden swift Run Away! from nothing at all a couple of times every day, but I think that's exercise, a trace of kitten play.

From nothing? Cats can see things we don't, you know. :)

#15 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:18 AM:

All of my felines very clearly dream - sometimes enjoyably, sometimes not so much. I'll pet them gently if they're clearly upset -- it usually either helps them settle down, or wake up enough to get a proper cuddle.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:24 AM:

Here are my blondsters, although they weren't dreaming at the time.

#17 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:26 AM:

Ah, poor Hiro. I'd never considered hamster dreams. Of course, we have a larger mammal who dreams a good deal, often running, grunting, and whining in her sleep. In our house it is said at such moments that "Emily is chasing rabbits." I don't think she dreams of being the predatee except when she's been playing with rough dogs at the park.

#18 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:31 AM:

I HAVE COMPLETED the construction of my burrow and it seems to be successful. All that can be seen from out­ side is a big hole; that, however, really leads nowhere; if you take a few steps you strike against natural firm rock. I can make no boast of having contrived this ruse intentionally; it is simply the remains of one of my many abortive building attempts, but finally it seemed to me advisable to leave this one hole without filling it in. . . . ("The Burrow")

#19 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:34 AM:

The only time I've heard my dog howl is in her sleep. A short little yodel.

Given the nature of her waking obsession, she's probably chasing cats.

#20 ::: Eileen Gunn ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:40 AM:

Teresa, can I call you if I have a bad dream?

#21 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:50 AM:

Tigger has dreams which I can usually calm by loudly saying "Rabbits," which is silly since, as the picture shows, she's a bird dog.

#22 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:57 AM:

The terrier mutt that I grew up with, he was a vocal and active sleeper. He could chase rabbits, dig for marmots, and toss voles all while asleep. It was impressive, and every once in awhile he'd wake himself up look confused.

I still miss that dog.

#23 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 01:10 AM:

When I first welcomed Lofty into my household in December 2004, four complete strangers accompanied her unbeknownst to me.

The Underfoots remain hale and hearty, but Lofty herself succumbed to a retrobulbar abcess back in October. I miss my growly rabbit.

#24 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 02:26 AM:

Serge: There are things that lurk beneath cedar shavings which man was not meant to know?

#25 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 03:44 AM:

That is a delightful little vignette. You made me think fondly of small rodents, not that I need much encouragement.

Zip used to suckle in her sleep when she was a kitten. She must have felt keenly the loss of her mommy, she is still a clingy cat to this day but during the first weeks she was really a postercat for separation anxienty. She was way too young to be adopted.

Still, she never has bad dreams, as Terry used to. She doesn't snore either, another thing Terry used to do. This is good because she can slither under the cover without waking me up and end up playing the furry warm cushion. I'm not complaining, mind you.

#26 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 04:30 AM:

That's such a sweet story. I do wonder what features in hamster nightmares.

I've seen my cat dream quite often but I think she's hunting birds mostly in her dreams. Her back feet will twitch a bit then her front legs and she'll often do a bit of a growl and her whiskers and teeth twitch some more.

I've not seen her have a nightmare yet, it would probably feature loud, ringing mobile phones teaming up with the vacuum cleaner since those two are her 'tormentors' in her waking life.

Here's Nikita dreaming her cat dreams

#27 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 04:40 AM:

One of our three cats -- DJ, the one with the most complicated brain -- sometimes has nightmares and makes scared murfles in his sleep. We pick him up and pet him happier. He also has nursing dreams, which have to be worth some kind of award for sheer cute.

Our cats also have hunting dreams.

A cat my partners once had (long-lived, but no longer present) was a rescue, a former street cat. She'd have nightmares of which the subject was clear, because when she woke up, she'd check the food bowl, stare very hard at it, and devour the contents.

#28 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 04:40 AM:

Liath runs and yips in her sleep, but she always seems to be the hunter, not the hunted.

#29 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 04:59 AM:

You know, I had been wondering if a certain thing had been on here before and I searched and couldn't find it. Lo, now is the perfect time to share the link to the video of the bizarre majesty Metazoa Ludens.

#30 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 05:49 AM:

Teresa: what nameless hamster horror

Serge @ 5: Lovecraft's "The Shadow over Insmouse"?

They must know it was the hamsters; the slithering scurrying hamsters whose scampering will never let me sleep; the daemon hamsters that race behind the padding in this room and beckon me down to greater horrors than I have ever known; the hamsters they can never hear; the hamsters, the hamsters in the walls.

#31 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 06:33 AM:

It had been no Earthly hamster of which I had dreamed. Of that I could be sure. The fur, brightly coloured and patterned with hearts and flowers, was no natural fur. The movements of the limbs were a grotesque parody of all that was normal; not even human. And the scent: it was sharp, spikey, an approximation of a true scent that might, for an instant, seem real before the gaps became apparent.

And yet, dream though it was, there was some residue. Not tangible, but a sense of some ghastly presence, lurking at the edge of ones senses. It was as if there was something, always in that place behind you where your eyes cannot see, and the wind blows away from you.

Something that might almost be chanting.


#32 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 06:43 AM:

vian @ 14:

Still does the sudden swift Run Away! from nothing at all a couple of times every day, but I think that's exercise, a trace of kitten play.
From nothing? Cats can see things we don't, you know. :)
Then I deduce from a recent Crazed Wombat performance that after he'd hunted his own tailtip with great determination for a while, in a single instant it shockingly sprouted enormous fangs and leapt toward his throat, a lethal attack he narrowly escaped by running into the living room, his tailtip as close behind him as if it were attached. Presumably its fangs got lost along the way, because he survived without injury.

#33 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 06:52 AM:

The littlest of our kittens, also the smartest and the most imaginative, will oft wake herself from a scary dream with a series of pathetic cries and launch herself at the nearest lap for a session of therapeutic paw sucking.

(Picture.)

She does that paw sucking a lot, and it's odd to hear the sound coming from under the bed in the middle of the night, especially as it sounds like something else entirely.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 07:01 AM:

Tlönista... Roy G. Ovrebo... Maybe Hiro dreamt of being sent to Arkhamster.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 07:03 AM:

Serge #5: That was a truly magnificent pun.

#36 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 07:14 AM:

My cat Montano was a year or so old when I got him from the pound, and for a long time he would have obviously unsettling dreams. That settled down, and now when I notice him dreaming it seems to be happy dreaming of pursuit - I know he'd love to be an outdoor cat and I'm sure he'd be a very successful hunter if he had to be. He developed increasingly sophisticated play techniques which seem to scratch most of the itch, including a lot of choosing to be surprised by everything for a while. (My favorite is when he turns his back on a stuffed toy and then sits down on it. His rump slides, and he leaps up looking startled, and whirls around to pounce on the toy all over again.)

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 07:15 AM:

Fragano @ 35... You're welcome.

#38 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 08:23 AM:

Bruce #36

My cat does the exact same thing! (the surprise ambush via sitting on the toy) I hadn't heard of other cats doing it as well.
I managed to catch a version of it on camera once It's at around 0:38

#40 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 08:52 AM:

My Sarah has a very active dream life. Her front paws twitch and she whuffs and whimpers. Since her default state upon seeing anything that moves is to want to play with it, I assume that's what she's doing in her sleep.

#41 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 09:05 AM:

Roy @30: Because when the hamsters come out of the walls, it's all over.

#42 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 09:06 AM:

Glad to hear that Hiro is OK. Makes me wonder what he would have nightmares about if he was domesticated from birth. Are we programmed to fear predators from birth?

As for all the references to Cthulhu, I now realize that before finding Making Light years ago, the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" was a nice, simple tale about the Christmas spirit and what kind of a difference one man can make.

Now, however, they keep playing an advertisement for "IaWL" on TV that shows a clip from near the end of the movie where George comes back to his house, grateful for his life, and he sees his children and they rush to him yelling "Daddy!" "Daddy!". And George hugs them and says something like "Mary! Violet! Oh, I could eat you up!"

Right after that, a Cthulhu inpired voice in my head says:

"Num, Num, Num."

I know that didn't happen before I started hanging out on Making Light.

#43 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 09:16 AM:

Serge, I'm sure you're aware that cedar chips follow non-Euclidean geometry.

I don't know, maybe he had a dream that a certain presidential candidate won the election? Ask not for whom the hamster squeals, you know.

#44 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 09:20 AM:

39: the British equivalent, the Ferocious Chicken of Bristol, is of course long gone.

42: yes, actually - or at least goslings are. There's an elegant experiment by (I think) Niko Tinbergen, who raised goslings indoors out of sight of the sky, and then tested their response to a shape flying overhead. The shape looked like a cross with one arm much shorter than the others. So when it flew short arm first, it looked like a bird with a short neck and long tail (ie a hawk) and when it flew short arm last, it looked like a bird with a long neck and short tail (ie a goose). The goslings had never before seen either hawks or geese, but they cowered and froze when the "hawk" silhouette moved overhead, but remained calm when presented with the "goose" silhouette.

TNH: obviously you haven't watched enough bad horror films. If the household pet starts behaving oddly and acting terrified when there's nothing to be seen, you can either

a) say "What's the matter? Little guy seems terrified. Ah, well, probably nothing" shortly before getting horribly killed or
b) run like hell.

I'm now wondering what the hamster equivalent of the Innsmouth Look is.

"The street was deserted save for one old man. His appearance was unusual, and almost to me repellent: his cheeks bulged unnaturally large and were covered by a light down, his front teeth large and protruding from his mouth, his eyes unusually large and dark, his body round and his arms and legs short and thin; and he blinked against the light as though recently awakened, while munching on handfuls of some sort of seed which he drew from his coat pocket.
"Where was the rest of the populace, I found myself wondering? Were they still in bed? Or - I barely could form the thought - in their nests?"

The story grows darker as the narrator stumbles on a network of tunnels underlying Innsmouth, through which the residents scurry incessantly at night; and hears, through the fog, the groaning of the axle of the endlessly turning Innsmouth Wheel...

#45 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:07 AM:

This thread strongly implies that dogs have good dreams, while cats and hamsters have nightmares.

#46 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:30 AM:

Several people have posted about nursing dreams and hunting dreams, which are certainly not nightmares; if I were a cat, I'd certainly enjoy going after birds and/or returning to my kittenhood.

#47 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:55 AM:

Still does the sudden swift Run Away! from nothing at all a couple of times every day, but I think that's exercise, a trace of kitten play

Personally I think it's how cats cast the wards, since (in my experience at least) it tends to happen in the evening at about the same time every day.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:57 AM:

Marc Moskowitz @ 45... This thread strongly implies that dogs have good dreams, while cats and hamsters have nightmares.

That's because the dog chases the cat chases the hamster.

#49 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:58 AM:

Our boy cat, Rupert has bad dreams on occasion and makes decidedly childlike whimpering noises. Rather distressing the first time I heard it. He also snores like an exhausted trucker and is quite talkative in the evenings, when we get home form work. I swear he's telling me about his day. One of the most human-like animals I've ever met.

#50 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Lila, #40: is that cat an ocecat or am I seeing things?

#51 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:26 AM:

I've never had a pet of any kind, not counting boyfriends.

#52 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:29 AM:

When the dog dreams, she often makes noises that we find distressing, but I don't know how to tell if those are actually nightmares. We wake her from them easily and she never seems upset.

#53 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Martin @ #50, that dog is a mutt. (Best guess is Australian shepherd/Australian cattle dog.) So either you're seeing things or you meant to ask someone else that about some other picture.

#54 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Maybe Martin meant Sica's cat? Because Nikita appears to be marvellously spotted.

(We had a cat that would walk past, or up to, a toy, acting like it wasn't there, and then pounce on it or bat at it. And my current furry fiend does the suddenly-start-racing-around thing, too.)

#55 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Keith @ #49:

My aunt's dog Dixie (black Lab) used to tell you about her day, in exhausting detail. I housesat for my aunt once and every time I came back to the house from an errand or whatever Dixie would follow me around for at least five minutes, "talking" enthusiastically.

It wasn't barking, either; it was this series of "Hown yowr mow yahn yahn!" noises that really sounded like she was trying to imitate the rhythm of human speech.

It was hilarious.

All the dogs I have ever known dream. I always used to wonder if their dreams had smells. Mine never do.

#56 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:52 AM:

@41: They are lean and athirst. The hamsters of Tindalos!

(and thus it is explained why hamsters must be contained in spherical, angle-less, objects)

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:09 PM:

Sica, #38: I like your choice of music, too.

TexAnne, #41: The gnurrs come from the voodvork out?

Martin, #50: If you meant Nikita, the side text mentions that she's a Bengal, which is indeed one of the spotted breeds.

My late beloved Mina would not only play fetch with a fuzzy ball, but would bring the ball to you and ask for it to be thrown.

#58 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:13 PM:

My late beloved Mina would not only play fetch with a fuzzy ball, but would bring the ball to you and ask for it to be thrown.

Viola does that--she'll pick up whichever ball of aluminum foil she and her brother haven't yet managed to knock under the stove, bring it upstairs, and drop it on the bed (generally within reach, even) and then stare intently at me and it in turns until I pick it up and throw it for her.

She's only the second cat I've ever had who would play fetch, and Lily didn't initiate the game.

#59 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:22 PM:

If Martin was asking about Nikita, she's not an Ocicat.

She's a Bengal cat so she has some of the wild ALC blood in her (not much though) which makes her a bit of a handful at times but she is a marvelous spotted beastie and I've gratefully accepted her as my Feline Overlord.

I'm also dealing with a mouse infestation atm. and she has been most helpful.

..and yes I have way too many photos of her online (845 and counting) but taking cat photos makes me happy so I indulge. She is a very good model though which doesn't hurt.

#60 ::: Tom Womack ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:24 PM:

'Are we programmed to fear predators from birth?'

Somebody did the experiment, using inbred lab mice ('Swiss mice' are generic lab mice, rather than ones specially imported from Zurich) whose ancestors back for several generations had lived in cages in laboratories, and introducing them to an anaesthetised rat.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T0P-3V8KBBF-2&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=3f882c9153a867599e03f760399d9a00

The mice fled upon contact with the rat, but not upon its distant approach.

http://www.pinktentacle.com/2007/11/scientists-create-fearless-mouse/

is a second-order (blog writing about a Japanese blog writing about the research) account of the fact that disabling some bits of the olfactory bulb causes mice no longer to flee at the smell of predators.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Xopher @ 51... I've never had a pet

Nor an MRI?

#62 ::: Katherine Mankiller ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 01:03 PM:

My cats dream, with little twitchy paws and noses. I think they're chasing something small and fast.

#63 ::: Sylvie G ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 01:12 PM:

My big fuzzy Stix (Welsh springer spaniel/husky mix) whuffs and runs and is utterly charming in his sleep.

I was cruel, though, once; I couldn't help myself - as he was obviously chasing something in his sleep I leaned over him and said, "Get that squirrel!"

It took about twenty minutes before he stopped running around the house and barking...

#64 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 01:44 PM:

greg,

Are we programmed to fear predators from birth?

the pet advice i've heard says yes (we have eight parrots of varying sizes, from african grey to negligible).

they say to never go "shhh" to a bird (which is often difficult, believe me), because it sounds like a snake, even though all my birds & all my birds parents were born in captivity. they also say that if you don't know a bird very well, you should look at it sidelong to be nonthreatening (because predators have eyes on the front of their heads, while prey mostly look with each eye separately).

apparently some parrots get "night terrors" & can fall off their perches & injure themselves while sleeping. mine don't really move much in sleep, except to refold their wings.

nevertheless, here's mike with the three biggest parrots, & katsuhiro being trusting.

#65 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 02:00 PM:

TNH--Hiro = adorable; ditto the photos of all the other befurred and befeathered companions. :D

Most of my cats' dreams appear to be of the giving-chase-to-small-fast-things variety--paws, ears, and whiskers a-twitch, with the occasional snuffle.

The youngest of the bunch, Scooter, was between six and seven weeks old when I retrieved her from under a parked car a bit over a year ago. Either she was separated from her momcat too soon, or she needed lots of comforting (or both), because she developed the habit of nursing on my neck and chin. And she still does it, although far less frequently than before.

And speaking of cats seeing things we can't, I wonder if I should be worried by the fact she's perched on my subwoofer, staring past me into the hall with eyes the size of quarters...

#66 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 02:01 PM:

Serge 61: I actually HAVE had an MRI. I've also had a CAT scan, if having a bunch of cats stare and stare at you qualifies.

But no, no PET scan. The idea of antimatter in my brain is fascinating in a what-if-I-jumped sort of way, but it's never been deemed medically necessary.

#67 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Ardala sometimes snuffles and twitches her paws in her sleep. I've always woken her up. I think now I'll let her catch that dream lizard. She's got a pretty strong prey-drive, but has a semi-feral kitty friend who sometimes greets us on our walks. I give the kitty pets and Ardala greets her in the traditional canine manner. When kitty gets tired of dog snout in the butt, he rears back and waves his paw at Ardala. It's one of the funniest things I've seen. Ardala's disappointed when kitty won't chase her, but she gets over it.

#68 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 02:55 PM:

IIRC a year or three ago, there was a discussion in here about certain prey responses that seemed to be hardwired into all primates and a lot of mammals in general: fear of large flying creatures and fear of snakes.

One cited example was the cringe/freeze response of Madagascar lemurs to shadows from overhead, even though there haven't been lemurvorously large raptor birds in the region for zillions of years. Anecdotally, the first time my cats saw my tape measure auto-retract, they instantly launched several feet straight up into the air (starting from sedentary catloaves) and landed with their fur and eyes fluffed up to several times normal proportions. (They were born feral, but were rescued with their mom before they were weaned; I suppose they might've observed actual snakes in action during those first few weeks, but I wouldn't bet on it.)

#69 ::: Julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 02:56 PM:

Tom@60: Alternately, you can raise a prey animal in the very near vicinity of a good-natured predator animal and the same thing will happen. Anyone who's witnessed my rabbit chase my cat around the house (bunny wants to play; kitty wants none of it) or my socialized rat climb all over either of them will agree. In each case, it was simply raising the rabbit and rat near the cat, combined with many treats, pets, and cooing happily if they all behaved around one another.

Oh, and my cat is a former stray.

I've never seen any of my animals but the cat dream...if she has a bad dream, she'll wake me up demanding affection. I would be scared if my rat had done what Hiro did, I won't lie. Perhaps that's just fallout from having an epileptic rat in the past, but little animals I love should never be in distress.

#70 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 03:03 PM:

Sophie dreams occasionally--less these days. She has been known to twitch all parts simultaneously, but mostly doesn't groan, thank heavens, because it sounds dreadful. She seems quite capable of waking up on her own.

As to looking at things we can't see, it happens all the time, and we call it "chasing demons". What's alarming is when she starts meowing at them. You know she's not doing complaint meowing because she's looking very intently at *something* (not us) and trying to get its attention.

(And she's the only cat I know who licks her catnip mouse.)

#71 ::: Julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 03:07 PM:

joann@70: Really? I've never known a cat who didn't alternately lick and roll all over catnip toys. That is, if they respond to it (and my present cat does not).

#72 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 03:10 PM:

julia #71:

All my other cats chased the things all over the house, and chewed, but didn't lick. Sophie never chased, just chewed a little, and then settled for licking as the most efficient drug-delivery mechanism. She will also make a catloaf over a mouse, presumably smothering it to death.

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 03:14 PM:

Xopher @ 66... You wouldn't like having a positronic brain?

#74 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 03:24 PM:

In fall 2002 I went to the UCSF Neuroscience retreat and heard a fascinating story. As you know, Bob, it is possible to implant very fine wires (in a sort of "comb") into the brain of an animal, and thus detect electrical changes made by neurons firing. When you're lucky, there is a single neuron next to a single wire, which you can track over time.

Some rats with implanted wires ran a simple maze: a straight corridor with a treat pellet at the end. The scientists found three neurons that fired based on what position the rat was in: A, at the start of the maze; B, in the middle; C, near the end. Always the same three, A-B-C, as the rat ran down the track.

Then they left the recording computer on while the rat chilled out and take a nap. In its dreams, suddenly: A-B-C... The rat was dreaming about the maze. And the neural activity in that small chunk of its brain devoted to position/location was the same as if it had been awake.

Ooooooo.

(BTW, loving the rodent Lovecraft pastiches very much.)

#75 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 04:11 PM:

#74: I've had many a nightmare about the daily rat race, too.

#76 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 04:14 PM:

The female protagonist in John D. MacDonald's "Who Killed Janice Gantry?" mentions that she lived in a house with a cat named "Eerie" because he sees things that aren't there.

Our Lady Jane Grey used to do that, but the king was our lilac-point Siamese DC (we named him before the Hayley Mills That Darn Cat movie!). He'd get what we called "the crazies" and chase invisible things all over the house, even up and down 17 steps to the rec room.

#77 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 04:52 PM:

My kids love this post. I read it to them and there was some discussion of what hamsters dream about. (David is currently reading them the Humphrey the Hamster books and so they are very engaged withe the idea of the life of hamsters.)

#78 ::: Dermott McSorley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 04:56 PM:

Just got back to the computer from socializing with two new new rabbits.Cute critters,new members of the family,and yes they are part of the family. O.K. not voting members It's a benevolent dictatorship.Or so I believe ask anyone.On second thought don't ask,they will lie.

#79 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 05:07 PM:

Ardala gets the zoomies - where she'll just race in circles around the house, butt tucked under, ears back, tongue out (for better aerodynamics, I'm sure) until she careens off a wall, bookcase or one of us an arbitrary number of times. Usually she ends by squeaking a toy a bit, or falling over for a belly rub. That usually accounts for most of her energy. She did it once at the dog park when she couldn't get anyone to chase her. The pure silliness of it is enough to compensate for any money we have spent on flea meds, food and nature's miracle.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 05:12 PM:

nerdycellist @ 79... Ah, nature's miracle? It had a hard time coping with all the incidents that were inflicted onto our carpet. The final blow was when our puppy Cagney decided he loved to chew on inkpens.

#81 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Julia @ #71, have you tried your cats with peppermint? I've had several cats that didn't care for catnip but got seriously buzzed from peppermint LifeSavers (or just the wrapper) or from a peppermint teabag sealed in a perforated metal tea ball.

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 05:37 PM:

lila @ 81... have you tried your cats with peppermint?

Tastes just like chicken.

#83 ::: Monica Toth ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Julia, #69: Two of my friends rescued a very odd rabbit from the streets the day after Easter. They noticed it on their drive home -- obviously domesticated, following an outdoor cat that wanted to be left alone. After their fliers and calls to the Humane Society didn't turn up any prior owners, they kept it and named it Arthropod.

Its enchantment with cats of all kinds has led us to speculate whether it is really an alien scientist that chose the wrong body for its investigations. I've watched it cuddle up to Tina, a fat orange tabby, and flinch violently as she (absentmindedly, I'm sure) gave it some cursory licks during her regular grooming. It was fascinating to see the war between its affection and its hardwired prey impulses -- jumping back, then sneaking up to cuddle again, even pressing closer demandingly. Now they keep it in a cage much of the day so that Tina can have her space.

#84 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 06:50 PM:

All these cat-loving rabbit stories remind me that in Chinese astrology "The Year of the Rabbit" = "The Year of the Cat", never mind the differences in shape of tooth or tail or ear. Maybe the ancient astrologers were onto something....

(The spoken word for "cat" is mao in Mandarin, and maau in Cantonese. Such onomatopoeia!)

#85 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 07:12 PM:

nerdycellist #79:

We call the zoomies "cat-racing season". We have been known to place bets, even though there's only one entrant.

#86 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 08:58 PM:

Perhaps the wee beestie dreamed that there were no more sunflower seeds in the world...?

#87 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 09:12 PM:

Tanya (a Siberian Husky/German Shepherd cross) used to dream with whuffles and leg-twiches (when she was having happy dreams), and whines and leg-twitches (when she was having nightmares). I learned to tell which was which, and would wake her from the scary ones - a couple of times, she seemed really relieved that she'd been woken up.

my two cats would have cat races all over the house (usually at night, often at really stupid hours of the morning - annoying, when the bed was fair game for cat races, and I lived in a loft apartment with no door to the bedroom...). Sometimes it was one wanting to play when the other one didn't, but more often it was just "gofasterrunrunrun", as far as I could tell.

#88 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 09:29 PM:

Carrie S. @ 47: Personally I think it's how cats cast the wards, since (in my experience at least) it tends to happen in the evening at about the same time every day.

Okay, I was refraining from retelling the woo-woo cat dream story in my family, but I think I'd better. I wasn't there, so I may get it wrong, but here goes.

Becca's ex -- during the brief period of time she lived with the family unit, prior to my joining the family unit -- once fell asleep and had a dream of small blurry things moving around; she was chasing them and generally catching them. It was a happy, if boring, dream. Then the dream started to get more complicated, introducing a plotline, etc... and then she had an external impression of confusion, what is this? I don't get it! and she and our large orange cat woke up, the cat with a baffled meow.

This large orange cat is nearsighted and if he has dreams they are more or less like that. Minus some fool blundering in and introducing a plotline.

#89 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 09:32 PM:

Our cat Alias (fluffy in mind as well as body) will sometimes fall asleep on the old couch down cellar- and a while later we'll hear piteous wails from below. My husband and I think she wakes up and thinks everyone else is gone, or can't remember where she is. She'll wander around downstairs, crying, and if we call her she'll come running upstairs, frantic and desperate for attention.

(She was the runt of the litter from a malnourished mother. We suspect that had something to do with her behavior. She needs structure and a clear-cut schedule, or she panics-and she acts so proud when she does the "right" thing at the "right" time!)

#90 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 09:32 PM:

(The spoken word for "cat" is mao in Mandarin, and maau in Cantonese. Such onomatopoeia!)

My rescued kitten here has been referred to as 'xiao mao' (little cat). Today I showed it to a local friend, who corrected me: "xiao mao mi." I take it that 'mao mi' is kitten, which I find delightful: see, cats say mao and kittens say mi! So it's a very consistent mode of naming.

#91 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Anna @25: my dog sleep-suckles, too, but only when she's been sleeping curled up on my lap for quite some time. When she wakes up from those dreams, she tends to butt her head softly into me and lick my wrist. I'm her alpha, so maybe she's associating it with momness. I don't know.

She has also had dreams that fairly clearly distressed her -- crying in her dreams followed by confused crying upon waking. Those are far rarer than the happy twitches or the sleep-suckling, and good thing for us monkeys, too -- those distressed little noises cut right through a person.

Also, Wasabrod is a lovely thing to give beings who have had bad dreams.

#92 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Sica, very belatedly @ 38: Wow, I'm delighted to know other cats do the same play thing. :)

#93 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:11 PM:

Teresa might want to keep Hiro away from Turner Classic Movies tonight. Watching The Killer Shrews ("...a maniacal scientist creates a formula that turns your average shrew into a giant man-killing beast...") would be too much for the little guy.

#94 ::: Sebastien Bailard ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:24 PM:

Obviously, Hiro needs to dress up his wardrobe a bit.

#95 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:37 PM:

Serge @ #93 -

The Killer Shrews? OMG, I've got a DVD of that POS. In the annals of low-budget horror, that one stands out.

#96 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:43 PM:

Monet, my family's cat, was taken home slightly too young, and she imprinted on my teddy bear rug. It's a fluffy thing, meant to be a bear rug but cuter, and she nursed on it multiple times daily until I moved away, at which point it was for when I came home and my room opened up again. She'll fall asleep still with her head shoved under its head, like she's sucking the brain out the entrance for the spinal cord.

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:51 PM:

Steve C @ 95... Yeah, the collies dressed up with a fur coat make for rather unconvincing shrews.

#98 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Teresa, you've gone green!

. . . the computer mousepads that serve him as floor padding. . .

You have found a way to recycle excess mousepads.

The world is a better place because of you.

#99 ::: Leslie in CA ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:27 PM:

Both my kitties dream, but they don't seem to be nightmares. Sometimes Chaucer gets into fights in his dreams, and wakes himself up hissing or growling, but he doesn't seem frightened.

He was, however, traumatized by being locked in a motel bathroom and abandoned, after which he came to me via a friend. It took him a long time to get over going frantic whenever he was on either side of a closed door - inside a room or out, it didn't matter.

Little Perkin just twitches during his dreams (so far), but both of them tear around the house in what I call hyperkitty mode.

#100 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:44 PM:

We have a cat who, when catnip is placed on the floor, eats it, blisses out, and sits there; guarding the spot. He will, when he comes down enough, then lick, and chew at the carpet, certain that more goodies are there.

#101 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:53 PM:

A.J. Luxton @ 90:

The spoken word for "cat" is mao in Mandarin, and maau in Cantonese. Such onomatopoeia!)
My rescued kitten here has been referred to as 'xiao mao' (little cat). Today I showed it to a local friend, who corrected me: "xiao mao mi." I take it that 'mao mi' is kitten, which I find delightful: see, cats say mao and kittens say mi! So it's a very consistent mode of naming.
Well, xiao mao and xiao mao mi *both* mean "kitten", because xiao means "little", while mao and mao mi *both* mean "cat".

Actually, mao is "cat" and mi is (among other things) "the sound of 'meow'", so mao mi is essentially a way of saying "a meow-cat".

In English you might say "a meow-cat" to be less ambiguous, when the word "cat" alone might be mistaken to mean a CAT-scan or a caterpillar-tractor.

Spoken Chinese has the same problem with ambiguity, only worse: mao (even with the right intonation) can mean a lot of things; so mao mi makes it clear that you're speaking of a feline.

The written character isn't ambiguous, so you may see just the one character for "cat" mao (or the two for "kitten" xiao mao) written; but for the sake of clarity when read aloud, even in writing you may see "meow" mi (or other words) added.

#102 ::: Pyre screwed up comment #101 ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:02 AM:

*gik*! Sorry about that! I screwed up in post-review editing, and had no idea until I read what has been posted.

Could someone please please erase the first half of that mess, up to the second naming of A.J.? If not, then would kind readers please read it that way? Thanks!

#103 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:05 AM:

Todd Larason, #13, oh, sorry, that's (New)(Cats Picture). The orientals lived here first, and it was Giorgio (the white one) who didn't want to accept Shiva in the beginning. Now he wants to be him. Spirit will cuddle up to either.

Julie L., #68, my cats all try to catch the disappearing end of the tape measure.

Crow Mothers Kitten from Cute Overload.

#104 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:16 AM:

To further illustrate the deep wisdom of the Chinese language:

The written and spoken mi that means "a cat's 'meow'" also means (in other contexts) "don't!"

So, you see, cats meowing in complaint are speaking Chinese!

Or the Chinese when saying "Don't!" are speaking Cat.

Surely this is not an anomaly, not a singular event.

So now I am telling my cat as I pet him, Dzh - dzh - dzh (Yes - yes - yes)...
and he is purring back to me, Dzh - dzh - dzh.

#105 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:25 AM:

Pyre #102: Done.

#106 ::: Pyre screwed up comment #101 ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:30 AM:

James @ 105: Thank you. May your royalties, and professional cents-per-word rate, double!

#107 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:31 AM:

According to my psychology text book, the only mammal that does not dream is an Australian anteater. It has an unusually large forebrain, which may be why it does not need to dream. The things you learn in school.

#108 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:46 AM:

Lydy Nickerson @ 107:

According to my psychology text book, the only mammal that does not dream is an Australian anteater.
When referring to "an Australian anteater" as a "mammal", the book's author(s) must have been thinking of the monotreme "Echidna" (a.k.a. "Spiny Anteater") -- because the "Numbat" (a.k.a. "Banded Anteater") is a marsupial.

The

#109 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:48 AM:

A joke I heard from Patrick:

Why don't anteaters get sick?

Because they're full of anty-bodies.

#110 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:53 AM:

They are jolly and they frolic,
Filled with all that fullsome folic.

#111 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Weirdly, this talk about anteaters is giving me extraordinarily powerful deja vu. Have we had this discussion here before? The feeling's not going away.

#112 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:07 AM:

pyre @108:

But surely both are still mammals, just slightly odd ones?

#113 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:11 AM:

I don't really recall either of the cats dreaming, but the dog seems to dream every night (slumped either right behind my chair [danger Will Robinson! danger!] or in the easy chair next to me), with a lot of twitching, whining and muffled woofs. It looks to me like he dreams about meeting and playing with other dogs, rather than the stereotypical 'chasing rabbits' dreams. Not that he doesn't like to chase rabbits (as does my tiny but fierce female cat, who can catch and kill a bunny twice her size - oh, and eat it, too).

#114 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:13 AM:

ethan @ 111: See open threads 29, 69, and 86.

#115 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:21 AM:

flowery tops @ 112: You're right, and I've just committed the same sort of category error as "humans vs. animals" (treating subset/superset as disjunct sets).

This must be my cue to stop waiting for the pills to kick in, and try going to sleep anyway. G'night.

#116 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:37 AM:

This thread appears to have inspired one of my cats to be exceptionally whiny in an almost impossible to ignore way today - fortunately I haven't had to explain the almost-baby noise to anybody on the phone, this time.

#117 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:55 AM:

Pyre #114: Oh, thank goodness.

#118 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 03:23 AM:

One of our cats has a tendency to elicit long conversations, and to be very indignant (widening eyes, quivery tail, increased proximity, and rising pitch/volume) if we don't meow back until he is bored with our idiot monkey patois of how our hovercraft is full of eels.

#119 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:14 AM:

I was getting comics last night and while I was holding one of the store's cats, she caught sight of a couple of paper snowflakes on string that had been put up as decorations. I could see her little brain go Big dangly thing! Wantwantwant!!.

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 07:20 AM:

David Goldfarb... Your cat's name wouldn't happen to be Krosp, would it?

#121 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 08:32 AM:

Awww. Hiro's adorable.

BTW, just saw this pic in the cheezburger factory (submissions to i can has cheezburger) and thought you'd like it.

#122 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Even before Emperor Horton reached 20 pounds, I thought of his gallops as "thundering hoofbeats" (though he used to achieve this on a wood floor, and now it's carpet). He definitely dream-twitches, snores occasionally, and likes to lick his pouch of catnip.

For unlikely animal bedfellows, it would be hard to beat the clip that was all over the news shows a few days ago, showing a full-grown tigress taking care of piglets in tiger-stripe wraps

#123 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Our cat Alias (fluffy in mind as well as body) will sometimes fall asleep on the old couch down cellar- and a while later we'll hear piteous wails from below. My husband and I think she wakes up and thinks everyone else is gone, or can't remember where she is.

Viola and Sebastian do that sometimes too, she more than he. We generally meow back, and sometimes that contents them; sometimes they have to come and check to make sure it's really us.

#124 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 03:44 PM:

My cat Gremlin will occasionally call out from other parts of the apartment, when I call back she'll sometimes come running up to be petted. Sometimes she just want to catch my eye, sometimes I have no idea what she wants.... I do know that she can hear the neighbors (though the walls) better than I can.

Monica @#83: Back when I had a rabbit, Gremlin would occasionally try to groom (lick) him. Over time, he learned to put up with that for maybe 30 seconds, but the first time it happened, his startle response left him looking like a caricature of "the nerd who just got kissed" -- fur standing out, ears all askew, general demeanor of "WTH?"

#125 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:13 PM:

Lis Riba @ 121... The NRA's new motto: "I'm a rodent and I vote!"

#126 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:18 PM:

My thread crossover alert just sounded.

#127 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Re: meowing back at cats: a rabbit-owner tells me that nervous rabbits thump their back legs, which is remarkably loud on wood floors. He used to try and soothe them, and now he just thumps back--"yes, I hear you, I'm on the alert."

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:35 PM:

As I'm about to feed our three dogs, the youngest one will bark furiously hurryuphurryuphurryup until his dish is down on the floor. Then he just looks at the dish and won't touch the food until he's bitten my fingers a few times. I should have known that calling the little guy Cagney would be a bad idea.

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Abi @ 126... (gulp!)

#130 ::: jean vpxi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:56 PM:

I am a hamster. Something horrible happened to me the other night. A giant, furless paw came down from the sky and took the magic stone from my roof.

But then something wonderful happened. A soft, furless paw picked me up. It stroked me and made funny, but comforting sounds. I don't remember my mother--maybe she was like this? The paw fed me delicious food, then tucked me in again.

Was I dreaming or awake? I don't know. It's strange to be a hamster in this world.

#131 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 07:48 PM:

Dammit, I miss my queen Melisande Anastasia.

My current set of cats ALL have wee little voices (even honkin' huge Seigfried only has a little voice). Angelina, my oldest, can snarl loudly when the kids bug her but otherwise, no talkers anymore.

When I worked at home I realized Melsiande always was carrying on a conversation with herself. Sometimes she'd come up and converse with me and woe betide me if I tried to ignore her. She'd grab my leg with one paw, claws slightly out...

#132 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 08:33 PM:

Our cat Misty is an alarm cat, and you have to pet her and stroke her to activate the snooze button. She loves a good belly rub and will frequently collapse onto her back and expose her abdomen for said rub. Of course, after a while, she takes that as an invitation to demonstrate how good she would be at disemboweling an enemy by wrapping her front paws around the hand, scratching at it with her back paws, and nibbling at my thumb with her teeth.


#133 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 09:05 PM:

My rabbit does nose twitches that sometimes spread to his whole face when he's dreaming.

When he lies on the rug to sleep, he'll compulsively lick at his front paws.

He's played chase after my brother's cat and my cousin's big dog. No sense of self preservation at all.

And he does thump occasionally. We've got a vet/kennel across the street and I suspect he's reacting to the dogs.

#134 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 09:18 PM:

Paula Helm Murray @ 131 -
My current set of cats ALL have wee little voices (even honkin' huge Seigfried only has a little voice). Angelina, my oldest, can snarl loudly when the kids bug her but otherwise, no talkers anymore.

Heh.

We used to call Freyr (the male of my pair - a giant mutt with some painfully obvious Maine Coon somewhere in the background) "beepkitty" because he didn't vocalize for the first decade or so of his life at all - he could purr, and hiss, but did not talk, chitter, chirrup, or any of the other noises cats make - when he tried, he'd get a little sort of croak, or something akin to a kittybeep. Later on, he got a little more adept at talking, but never really got "chatty". (His sister, on the other hand, was quite insistent in her demands - and loud).

#135 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 09:25 PM:

Alias is a Maine Coon, and she rings like a telephone. When she was a kitten the resemblance was even more striking. I almost picked her up and answered her a few times.

#136 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 09:31 PM:

Shiva generally only talks to me, and Spirit usually demands stuff (Ah OOO!), but Giorgio actually howls at 12-hour intervals. About 5pm and 5am, he has big noisy howls and I explain that we have neighbors here and we don't want to bother them, but it takes several explanations and some petting to calm him down. I suppose he could be hearing something, but I don't know what.

#137 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 10:22 PM:

My biggest cat likes to 'sing' in bathrooms (other spaces with a sufficient number of hard surfaces, like stairwells with hardwood flooring appear to be acceptable as well). He's very sweet, and very dumb - and I can only presume that he likes the echo effect, or something.

#138 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 10:24 PM:

Finder (our other cat) isn't as vocal as Alias, but he has very definite "words" for Food, Out, You're Standing On My Tail, etc.

#139 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 11:01 PM:

Scott, one has to actually 'stand' on parts of the current set of cats to make them make a noise bigger than a small 'mer'.

We have a way sufficient space with hard surfaces that sounding off is very possible. We just currently have a much less vocal set of cats. I miss it.

Melisande often would tell me off very specifically and vocallly if she was enthusiastically discomfited by anything.

It was unfortunately part of how I was able to tell when she was failing.

At the end she just kept decelerating, not uncomfortable, not acting ill, just acting tired and done with it all She really hated the car and the vet, so since she was not really suffering or uncomfortable we just let her fade.

And she did announce her end and curled up and went to her final rest on her own. I took her to the crematory place we use before I went to work that sad day.

#140 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 11:24 PM:

and to add to Melisande's issues she was nearly 19 so I didn't expect any vet to trip to turn out well. I let her chose her way since she was not visibly suffering.

#141 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Jewel is loud when she's inside and talking to me; outside, she's much quieter, to the point where you have to look to see if she's at the door wanting in. (Even when she spent four days up a tree, she wasn't making enough noise to get attention. We walked under that tree twice in on hour, calling her, without hearing a peep!)

#142 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 12:44 AM:

One thing we learned the hard way: never give a hamster an unshelled hazelnut. He will spend all night gnawing-gnawing-gnawing-gnawing at the shell to get at the nut.

Nonstop. All night. Really loud.

On the other hand, if you wanted to drive your partner mad: give the hamster an unshelled hazelnut, then go spend the night in a motel :-)

#143 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 01:05 AM:

The posts about animals dreaming reminded me that if I could imagine consciousness as an animal, it would be very much like a waking dream. Totally lived in the present, not much awareness of past emotional states, damn little worry about the future, and at times, very sensual. Sensate awareness of being stroked, of hungers and thirsts, and the needs of the body and heart informing everything.

#144 ::: Nikki Jewell ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 01:36 AM:

A.J. Luxton: I'm so glad to hear your little rescue cat survived and is doing well.

Paula Helm Murray: I'm really sorry about your cat.

My dog - Chocky - is now going through the slow winding-down process. He sleeps for 22 hours per day, and he sleeps very, very soundly - to wake him up for a walk often requires gentle shaking. He doesn't hear voices or keys or doors opening when he's asleep. He still dreams though, always running dreams. We call it 'chasing sausages' rather than cats or squirrels, because he's a very laid-back dog who thinks cats and squirrels are really his best friends.

The cats aren't usually so enthusiastic.

#145 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 02:26 AM:

Steve C. @143 ...
The posts about animals dreaming reminded me that if I could imagine consciousness as an animal, it would be very much like a waking dream. Totally lived in the present, not much awareness of past emotional states, damn little worry about the future, and at times, very sensual. Sensate awareness of being stroked, of hungers and thirsts, and the needs of the body and heart informing everything.

I'd have to say that my felines very clearly have concepts of past and future (past more than future), which do appear to vary with their acuity.

#146 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:05 AM:

My cat loves to lick the catnip banana we've tied to her (useless) scratching post; my roommate's cat seems to react better to fresh catnip and likes rolling around in it.

"Cat" in Mongolian is "Murr."

#147 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:12 AM:

FranW @ 142... if you wanted to drive your partner mad: give the hamster an unshelled hazelnut, then go spend the night in a motel

Badgering with a hamster?

"Hamsters? We ain't got no hamsters. We don't need no hamsters. I don't have to show you any steenking hamsters!"

#148 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:31 AM:

Hamster vanishes--improperly secured cage door suspected.

6 months alter--overweight hamster discovered inside extra-large bag of cat food . . .

True--I swear.

#149 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:45 AM:

I couldn't resist crossing threads to mention our neighbor cat Odie in the Open Thread, after seeing and hearing him amid the snow we just got. Now I'll add a footnote in the proper place: Odie has the harshest, most persistent howl I've ever heard (the Ethel Merman of cat noise?), so it's appropriate that his full name is Odin. But Horton can come up with a remarkably deep, baritone howl when DEMANDING attention, every now and then. At happier times, he trills.

#150 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 12:04 PM:

Faren @ 149... his full name is Odin

We had a black cat that we called Loki, when not declaring him the Beast with Ten Neurons.

#151 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Faren, I too have a very large cat (although not as large as the Emperor) who trills and makes other dainty little noises; it's disconcerting to hear them and look down to see all 14 pounds of Black-thumb Jemmy, Pirate Cat of the Cumberland, flirting for attention.

Last night, Belle, the crazy old aunt of our cats, parked herself by my head and purred all night--which means I slept with a sound like one of those rock tumblers (you know--the kind used for polishing up pretty rocks) in one ear all night.

Has anyone else here had a cat with sinus problems? That results in some very odd noises as well.

A. J. Luxton--I'm impressed that the little stray is still holding its own, with your help.

#152 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Loki was known to make chittering sounds of frustration whenever he could hear a pidgeon just outside the window.

#153 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 01:39 PM:

Fidelio, my boy cat drools when he gets really happy - have you ever heard a drool-purr? Burbly and prone to leaving small wet spots.

Both my cats talk but I blame my boyfriend for that - they were very quiet beasts until he started to encourage them to talk back to him. Now the girl has conversations of the "mek mrrek mrrrr mek mak mak mek!" variety, and the boy says "meow" - by which I mean he doesn't actually meow, he makes a noise that is a fair imitation of a person saying "meow".

They do both have names, incidentally, but I tend to use "boy" and "girl" in stories because people sometimes find their names confusing - the boy is named Dog and the girl is Mouse.

#154 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 01:53 PM:

Steve C. @ 143: My cats definitely have an awareness of time. If I come home later than usual I find them agitated and unhappy; if I am not in bed at my usual time I get cattitude (as they are waiting to curl up on top of me). They've also shown some awareness of weekends vs weekdays insofar as when they expect I should and should not be home. And when I was giving them a treat hot dinner once a week they would pester me for it on that day, but no other.

#155 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 02:26 PM:

Bill, I have indeed heard the drool-purr, courtesy of the late Merlin, a massive gray brindled tabby my landlords had when I moved in. When you held him, you needed a towel.

#156 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Finder used to drool when he got excited. We discovered that he had a decayed tooth, and once the vet extracted it, the drooling stopped.

#157 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 03:22 PM:

One of my present cats, Freya, rarely mews, except for sort of "leaking" sounds when she's playing with her favourite toy or watching the birds through the window. Her sister, Sundae, uses her voice more, particularly when demanding "green stuff" from the refrigerator - preferably cauliflower leaves, but broccoli leaves or dark green lettuce is sometimes acceptable (Freya also likes green leaves, but only after or together with cheese). Sundae's ability to purr, loudly, while drinking or eating always astounds me.

They are both nearly silent compared to all the cats I grew up with - a succession of Siamese.

Bill @ 154 Like your cats, my Freya can tell the time. She gets anxious if we go to bed too late - she wants us snuggled down properly so she can walk all over us and purr loudly. Then she jumps down and goes to have a last eat and drink before coming back to the bed and snuggling next to me.

#158 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 03:59 PM:

fidelio @ 151: The eldest of my cats, Q, looks a lot like Black-thumb Jemmy, and still tends to mew like a kitten most of the time. Considering he's a bit more than nine years old and weighs 23 pounds (as of the vet visit for shots about a month ago), it's most disconcerting...

#159 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 04:53 PM:

We did some cat-related Christmas shopping today at the local Emporium des Pets, and presented Sophie with an early present: a large mouse filled with KittyHooch catnip. That stuff is seriously strong--she actually did chase the mouse a bit and attack it and chew it. (Of course, she also tried to eat the red felt tail, with unsavory results for the carpet--the red dye was not colorfast.)

Has anyone seen any soft leather cat toys? We finally think we've figured out that she has an obsession with leather smell.

#160 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 04:54 PM:

dcb #157:

Ah, another cat that purrs while eating. My husband had never encountered this before.

#161 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 05:25 PM:

joann @ 160 No, I'd not met the purring-while-eating before either. She doesn't purr while eating their usual hard food, but she does purr loudly when eating treats, whether cat foot or human food (e.g. meat from my husband's plate -I'm vegetarian - or a bit of breakfast cereal (dry)).

#162 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 05:38 PM:

I'll add growling-while-eating to the weird things list... (and snoring! Two of my cats occasionally snore, and they're big enough that it's hard to tell if they're feline or human at times)

#163 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 06:15 PM:

My friend Earl takes his dog to doggie day care. He has learned that, every day, the dogs just start running around and around, in a ritual referred to as The Nut Run. His dog is The Queen of the Nut Run.

I think of that whenever my cat Sabrina "goes weird." Not only does she race back and forth for no good reason, but she also produces what I can only describe as a fake growl. It's a vocalization, but it's clearly intended to be taken for a growl.

#164 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 06:31 PM:

#163: Nut Runs happen at dog parks too.

My dog -- a sheepdog -- once got it into her head that the dog leading a Nut Run was trying to get away.

She circled around, headed him off, and knocked him flying. No injuries, but the little guy was understandably shy around Kira after that.

We don't go to dog parks much anymore.

#165 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 06:40 PM:

My grandma's dog was a lab-Bouvier mix, so she had a lot of herd dog in her. Grandma's condo opened into a big lawn, shared among lots of houses, so our parents would let us play with the dog running circles around us and making sure we didn't get any ideas. If a grandchild got too far away, she'd nip at the diaper, so eventually there were powder trails all through the yard.

#166 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 07:04 PM:

Nikita has a very wide variety of meows and other vocalisations. The most common one is the simple "Bored now" meow. Then there's letting me know if the litterbox isn't up to standard and a lot of greeting trills and chirps. I do find the happy sigh noise of a contented half asleep cat one of the most adorably cute noises I've ever heard.

As for purring while eating. Well, she has a thing where sometimes she'll be out in the hallway and meow pretty much non stop. The flavour of that meow being something like "Pay attention to me now, this is serious!" and she gets more and more angry sounding if I continue ignoring her. Then as soon as I come into the room, she'll run to her dry food and start eating and purring madly as long as I sit next to her and pet her a bit. If I leave too soon (by her tastes anyway) the whole thing will start up again. During this she also has the base of her tail fluffed out (not the entire tail, just the base.)

Why she does this, I have no idea. I guess she sometimes wants the company while eating.

#167 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:16 PM:

I read a piece once in Reader's Digest (before it became such a prole American Spectator) about a pup who was raised by a mama cat, along with the cat's kittens. Whenever you petted the dog, it would growl softly - it was trying to purr.

#168 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Pfusand #163: My friend Earl takes his dog to doggie day care.

This Earl, on the other hand, cannot abide dogs of any sort, with the possible exception of rescue or service dogs. Yes, I realize this means that I won't be allowed to visit Doggie Heaven after I die. I'll decline to explain further, lest it trigger the onset of my Cvg Ohyy Trabpvqr Abj rant.

#169 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:39 PM:

I read once that chittering— that weird little open-mouthed sound you'll get from some cats when watching prey through the window— is actually a reflex action, "breaking the kill's neck." Sort of a spastic note of frustration that it's right there and they can't do anything about it. You only tend to get it with indoor cats; cats who can get outdoors are more prone to look for an exit so they can kill the prey for real.Our tortoiseshell does this.

We also have a large black kitty who seems to be a Siamese-Maine Coon cross, and he squeaks, then looks very annoyed at himself. He's also our alarm clock kitty, telling us to go to bed when it gets dark and to get up at 5AM (our weekday alarm— but he gets upset on weekends if we haven't got up until we soothe him down.)

Percival Cat
Percival Cat
Mui (originally Nimuë.)

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:44 PM:

B.Durbin @ 169... cats who can get outdoors are more prone to look for an exit so they can kill the prey for real.Our tortoiseshell does this.

That's one scary turtle that you've got there.

#171 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:03 PM:

Bill, #153, my dear departed Brindle used to drool when she was happy. People always wanted to pick her up and pet her because her father must have had some part Persian (her mother didn't, and she had long thick fur and a partially pushed in face) and I'd warn them about the drool. I don't know if they didn't believe me, but they were always surprised to be wet afterwards.

My Giorgio is an oriental and, as is common with them, a wool-sucker. This means he eats shoelaces when possible. Again, I warn people, and they're surprised when their shoes fall off when they stand up to go.

Ibid #154, my cats know that dry food feeding time is 4pm. They cluster around me and if I don't respond, they start nudging and talking. And Giorgio knows that I usually go to bed at 2am and he will come stand on the arm of the recliner and start nudging me to move so he can sit on the recliner. He's very persistent, even though I clearly outweight him by about 315 pounds.

#172 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:31 PM:

My Temme cat used to drool copiously when being affectionate. To date I've had no other cats that do that, but he also had other "issues' that we had to deal with. (He lurved me. He really really lurved me. He wanted to lurve me more than I'd tolerate....)

And alas, he had issues with the vet, so when he was afflicted with kidney disease at a relatively early age he got put to sleep. (any kind of vet trip resulted in an enraged, biting, slashing, spitting, peeing, pooping violent cat and he weighed around 15 lbs. The last few years of his life I'd get Aja vaccinated and Dr. Daniels would give me the prepped shots and Temme's rabies certificate, I'd give the shots myself.)

In other ways he was so timid. I'm not sure why the vet elicited such a violent reaction.

#173 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:36 PM:

B Durbin @ 169

I've seen cats do that when it would take so long to go out that the prey would have left before they got there (usually it was a bird on the head-height windowsill, so they'd have had a hard time getting to it anyway). That was with two cat-doors between them and Outside, but at the other end of the house.

Those cats would bring us baby jackrabbits as well as mice. How they caught the jackrabbits is unknown.

#174 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:47 PM:

Sica, that whole issue is why there is a cheap bathroom rug in front of the litterbox at my house.

My Queen, Melisande, got hinkty if the litterbox was too chunky and would poop right in front of the box. My new Prince Siegfried (Melisande passed in May 2006, we got Siegfried and Yum! in may this year) has started doing that. I consider myself educated.

#175 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:06 PM:

You know what really bugged me about Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars? Not one single person had brought a non-human living creature alomg.

#176 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:09 PM:

#175: Are you sure? I thought the spaceship had a livestock section. The Rasta stow-away guy sheltered there during a solar flare.

But yes, beyond that, we never see any critters.

#177 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:16 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 176... It has been a long time since I read the first book, so I can't swear to it, but I don't remember anybody having a pet. You'd think they'd have brought cats to deal with the mice and rats who'd have come along uninvited.

#178 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:17 AM:

The hard drive in my laptop died last night -- I'm writing this on a rented machine -- and I lost all my notes for comments on this thread. Sorry about that.

This evening, Hiro had another round of squeaking and thrashing just before waking up. I woke him, and then he got up and was to all appearances just fine. If he were human, I'd be running him through the standard questions for a suspected sleep disorder.

I'm sure my hamsters have non-neurological maladies too, but neurological problems are the ones I can spot.

#179 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:49 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @178 ...
The hard drive in my laptop died last night -- I'm writing this on a rented machine -- and I lost all my notes for comments on this thread. Sorry about that.

Argh! That would be enough to give me neurological complications! [0]

[0] obPartTimeJewishGeekMother ... I hope you have backups?!?

#180 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:00 AM:

One of Katie's roommates used to have a cat named India, who was slightly brain-damaged (also had some problems with the joints in her back legs; it was thought that she was hit by a car while a kitten). India had a great sloppy drooling love for all human beings. Sometimes she would come into the bedroom at night and try to stay with us, but we always had to turf her out eventually because she would not settle down. She kept noticing that there were humans present and getting all excited.

#181 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 06:04 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 164

Our last dog was a Border Collie who came from a working sheep farm as a puppy; no training, but he definitely had all the instincts. The park we took him to for running as a puppy turned into a dog park when he was about 7 or 8, and we had to stop taking him there. He wouldn't herd the dogs most of the time, but he had a really bad habit of trying to stop fights between them, and he didn't take much notice of how big the combatants were. He didn't get hurt because most of his targets were completely dumfounded by getting hit by something fast and hard that wouldn't let them take a minute to figure out what happened to the fight they were in, but we figured it was only a matter of time before he took on a dog with more hostility and advanced combat experience.

We felt really bad about not taking him to that park anymore. It had been a fixture of his daily routine for most of his life, and most of his human friends were people he'd met there. He always preferred humans to dogs; he loved making up games, and most dogs couldn't figure out what he was doing, whereas humans were usually fascinated by him, and had almost as much attention span as he did.

#182 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 06:06 AM:

Perse (short for Persephone) vocalises when she purrs. It's a very pretty sound.

#183 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:30 AM:

Liath is a Glen of Imaal terrier, bred to be "silent when working". I trained her to bark on the command "Say 'Woof!'", so that I could then train her to bark when she needed to get out.

So now she says 'Woof!', rather like Gaspode the Wonder Dog.

#184 ::: Sue Krinard ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:01 AM:

Didn't one of the sequels of the 1950s movie The Fly have someone get shoved into the teleportation booth with a hamster? Yes, it does turn out the way you're thinking.

#185 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:05 AM:

Tabitha, feline-in-charge, used to be a very quiet cat. We think she was dumped on the farm, and she was, while very comfortable with us, always a bit shy. And I can't say she liked the move to Barnetby.

But I think she realised that we hadn't dumped her, and suddenly she was more vocal, and friendly with the neighnours and, I suppose, much more confident.

#186 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Dave Bell @ 185 ...

My feline-in-charge, Sabriel was very clearly dumped by somebody, and had survived on her own in a parking garage for at least a year before she decided to let herself be caught by the person who brought her to me (I strongly suspect the incipient bevy[0] of kittens, which weren't at all apparent when she arrived of being motivation).

Two major cross-country moves later, I was still the only barely tolerable human for Sabriel. Two weeks of vacation away from the house later, I'd gone from being barely tolerated on departure to being followed everywhere on return, and while Sabriel's still often prickly, she's nothing like her former skittish and standoffish self.

[0] Six, as it turns out, out of a roughly six pound cat... all of which survived, thrived, and are 2-3x her size.

#187 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:11 PM:

It's always fun looking at pictures of other people's cats! Though I don't have my own blog, there's a picture of Emperor Horton on a "Forest Cat" blog here (second one down). The age is a guess, since he adopted *us* nine years ago, when he was considerably smaller than now but not a kitten.

#188 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:01 PM:

Sophie does not drool when she's happy, but does occasionally enliven trips to the vet with vast amounts of drool. (She used to do this constantly, but got much better about it after we changed vets when we moved.) She will, on the other hand, have little nose leaks onto upholstery, leading to a plethora of towels on furniture in the winter.

She has a very loud purr, particularly when she's enthusiastic about something, like, say, incipient food. Then it gets two-tone, with trill-chirps, and I start thinking occasionally about some giant engine gone berserk. She may possibly know that it was because of her delighted purring that I picked her out of the array of shelter cats.

#189 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:50 PM:

A two-tone purr? Ah, the feline equivalent of Tuvan throat singing.

#190 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 03:04 PM:

I went away for two weeks in July, about a month and a half after getting the Catina. She was willing to sleep next to my pillow, but not be held. Once I got back, she realized that sometimes, we could sit in the same chair! At the same time! A week later, she finally understood 'lap' and now I can't get away from her.

#191 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Sue 184: Didn't one of the sequels of the 1950s movie The Fly have someone get shoved into the teleportation booth with a hamster? Yes, it does turn out the way you're thinking.

As a laughable flop?

#192 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Earl #189:

No, not quite Tuvan. One tone on the intake, another on the outflow. There are times I can hear this in the next room.

#193 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Xopher @ 191... (Oops. That was me posting that. My apologies.) I don't know if it was a flop, but it was rather ho-hum. I think that some spies from China were also involved. Or maybe that was in the second sequel. Too bad David Cronenberg didn't remake those movies instead of the original. Jeff Goldblum, half-man, half-hamster...

#194 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 05:15 PM:

I think I still have, buried in my desk, a copy of a short story written by a friend of mine in high school: "The Day of the Hamsters". IIRC, it involved an evil genius plotting to terrorize a peaceful planet by deploying an ultrasonic weapon which would simultaneously shatter their (standardized) plastic cages and drive them into a murderous frenzy.

#195 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 05:20 PM:

Joel Polowin... Wasn't Janet Leigh in Night of the Lepus? It had giant white bunnies terrorizing a town.

#196 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:07 PM:

One of the Captain Underpants stories (for kids, natch) has hamsters in robot walkers, blown up to gigantic size. Very silly stuff, including the flipbook and associated "reader's warning"....

#197 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:55 PM:

David Harmon @ 196... "The Horror of the Hamster Harmada"?

#198 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:36 PM:

I don't remember what the title was (and my nephews outgrew them a while ago), but I think this was also the one where the Mad Scientist wanted to make everybody in the world change their names to various sillinesses, because people kept laughing at his name.

#199 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 10:11 PM:

Oops. I meant to post that our tortoiseshell kitty chitters, not that she goes out for the kill.

But when I was growing up, we had some very hunterly cats. One day I came home from school to find four squirrel paws and a tail on the lawn. Almost as much fun as finding the circle of pigeon feathers and hearing about the red-tailed hawk my parents had driven up to see— I swear, it looked like the pigeon very genteely exploded.

#200 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:29 AM:

Guinea pigs occasionally get what I refer to as "Sudden Guinea Pig Terror Syndrome". Your guinea pig is, with no apparent cause, terrified of its cage. It will not move from the spot it is on, sometimes not even for food, and if pressed will run around the cage frantically and try to jump out (and sometimes succeed). It is generally necessary to scrub the entire cage and rearrange it, and even at that it may take days for the guinea pig to feel comfortable again; one of ours spent a night sleeping on my lap for this reason. He wouldn't sleep in the cage, and we were concerned as to the effects of constant stress on a small prey animal. His cagemate was completely unaffected.

#201 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:44 AM:

B. Durbin @ 199... We have a bird feeder in our backyard that is a neighborhood pub for the local volatiles. Sometimes a hawk shows up and everybody disappears before it can make anyone explode. I am always amused that it just sits on top of the feeder, waiting for non-hawks to show up again for a snack.

#202 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:57 AM:

Serge @ 195: I'd never heard of Night of the Lepus but IMDB describes it in some detail. Hmm -- it's got DeForest Kelley shortly after ST:TOS finished. And now I'm wondering if this movie might have been the inspiration for a recent Girl Genius sequence.

#203 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:06 AM:

Joel Polowin... I wonder too. It may simply be that they all dipped from the absurdity pool. Can you think of something more ridiculous than a killer bunny?

#204 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:23 AM:

Night of the Lepus! I don't know if the bad man-being-attacked-by-bunny-suit bits or the scenes of what are obviously normal-size bunnies running through model-railroad sets are the best part.

#205 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Ledasmom... But you forget that having the bunnies hop over the toy train tracks in slow motion made a big difference.

#206 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:41 AM:

#81, Lila -
I suspect that peppermint is the cilantro of the cat world. Our cat recoils in horror if you've got peppermint in your mouth, but my parents have a cat that all but fishes the candy out of your mouth with her paw.

#207 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Speaking of Oh, The Horror!, did you see the "giant spider attacks space shuttle" video on the news yesterday? Very entertaining. (So that's why they really postponed the next flight....)

#208 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:59 PM:

Faren @ 207... Are you sure you didn't have the TV tuned to the SciFi Channel?

#209 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:53 PM:

serge @ #208: check this out.

#210 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:53 PM:

If I remember correctly, some of the model-railroad set shots in "Night of the Lepus" were used several times, giving the impression that everybody could have avoided the giant-killer-bunny threat by simply moving away from the sponge trees.

#211 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Lila @ 209... That was obviously photoshopped so that people trying to tell the Truth would become an object of derision. What is the Truth? Our evil killer-bunny overlords have allied themselves with evil spider overladies from Outer Space.

#212 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:08 PM:

Serge (#82): lila @ 81... have you tried your cats with peppermint?

Tastes just like chicken.

From personal experience: tastes just like rabbit actually. Which may explain the chinese astrological connection (I doubt it, but still).

I'm reminded the selling of cat meat advertised as rabbit's was repeatedly banned in Paris up to the 19th century.

#213 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:28 PM:

MD²... Miaou!

#214 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:51 PM:

I was delighted to realise this morning, that last night I dreamed about my guinea pigs (escaping from their cage again). Maybe small rodents dream about us going to nice cafes, or whatever makes us say wheeeeee! with happiness.

#215 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 08:36 PM:

I haven't had cats for a while - I seem to have become allergic, alas.

I used to have a lovely orange Persian - Pumpkin, from shape and size - who liked nothing better than to climb on my chest, rest her nose on my chin, and purr herself to sleep. She did the two-tone thing as well. I got into the habit of letting her do this while I was on the phone, and was asked more than once if I could hear the funny noise on the line.

Another cat used to sleep on top of the cable box (because it was warm) and invariably would sooner or later roll over, tumbling behind the TV set. After which, there would always be a brief silence followed by a questioning "prrp?" This same cat used to sit in the front window, sunning, looking gorgeously elegant - except for the fact that she was sitting there, eyes shut, with the tip of her tongue sticking out. If you spoke her name, she would open her eyes and look - but not put her tongue back in, since she was only going to go back to sleep anyway.

#216 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 08:16 AM:

#215, Joe McMahon -

I seem to recall reading* that allergies to cats can be a bit cat-specific. I don't recall if it was actually individual-specific, or merely breed-specific. But might be possible that you aren't allergic to all of them. (My sympathies if it really is an "all of them" allergy.)

*Can't remember where I saw it, so I can't say how trustworthy the source was. For what it's worth.

#217 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 08:17 AM:

I meant to also say that I have no earthly idea how you'd check to see if you were compatible with a particular animal.

#218 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 11:42 AM:

R. M. Koske #217:

That should be fairly easy. Stick your nose down in its fur. If you don't sneeze and your eyes don't swell up, you're good. Or it is.

The main allergic component in cats, I have read, manifests itself in the cat's spit. Some cats have the particular allergy-making substance (IIRC, it's an enzyme) but a sizeable minority do not.

I, personally, have a mild allergy to some cats, which appears to sort of back this up.

#219 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 07:11 PM:

R. M. Koske #216: I'm 100% positive that I'm only allergic to some cats, and maybe about 70% sure that it's not breed-specific, but individual-cat-specific. I know there's one siamese in my life I'm allergic to, and one I'm not--though they're different kinds of siamese, so maybe that explains it? Anyway, there are definitely some Vague DSH cats who make me stuffy and turn my neck into a mass of hives and make my throat and right ear itch like hell, and some Vague DSH cats who I'm totally fine with.

#220 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 08:37 AM:

@flowery tops (#214 ):


"Am I a man dreaming I'm a guinea pig, or a guinea pig dreaming I'm a man?"

(This one had been itching me from first thread post.)

#222 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 07:50 PM:

Just to fill in more on noise/behavior, my cat (Gremlin) sometimes trills, besides her usual calls of "where are you", "want!", and "what's that?".

When she's being brushed (and has tangles to deal with, as she's a longhair), she has more sounds, one is a faint peep apparently meaning "careful!", then a louder mew for "that hurt!" (Ignoring that one risks a claw-swat or nip.)

When I'm in bed, she reliably climbs on my chest to be petted or brushed; this is almost the only time I can hear her purr (I'm hard-of-hearing.) She doesn't sleep on my chest (when I quit petting her, she leaves) but often sleeps next to me.

#223 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2007, 10:40 AM:

I was in our local bookshop just now and noticed a hamster with attitude on the jacket of something called Pets with Tourette's ...

#224 ::: Maybear ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Our cats make various trilly-chirpy noises when they're being petted or groomed, especially Snark's ecstatic noise that my husband calls "dweebling". He often refers to her as "Dweebil Cat". He didn't grow up with cats, and is still regularly amazed at their intricate and sometimes startling habits even after a dozen years with me and mine.

Boo (short for Boojum, of course) has this marvelous breathy, purry, trill that she uses when she's getting tummy rubs. She comes up into bed, flops down on her side next to me, and insists that Now Is Tummy Rub Time.

#225 ::: siriosa ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 02:01 AM:

Maybear @224
We have four cats; the littlest one is the talkiest. She loves a good conversation, and then to fall over on her side because it is Time For Bellyrubbing, Right Now, Plz.

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