A proper scientific experiment, with unexpected results

Another Caturday post…

Whilst reading one of my favourite blogs samanthamurdochblog last weekend, apart from adding to my ongoing crystal education, and making me laugh as she always does, Samantha mentioned a self awareness test for animals. It rang a tiny, tiny bell. Somewhere in my brain, behind the Doris Day archive, next to the ‘what is my favourite cake’ index (pretty large), I had tucked away a little snippet of similar information, but, once retrieved, dust blown away and cobwebs removed it just read ‘see if they recognise themselves in a mirror’ without the added and interesting ‘stick something on the cat’ element from Samantha‘s post. And I knew I had previously tried this first version of the test with every single cat I have cared for. With mixed results. No ‘amazing, awesome, this cat is a genius’ results, to be clear. Just mixed from zero reaction to a reflection, to attacking the reflection, to checking around the side of the mirror to find the ‘other’ cat, to running away. So I had fairly low expectations with the current incumbent of the pussycat-in-residence role, Riley. But, you never know, right? Why not try the newer version of the test and see what happens!

So here is the (very) scientific experiment.

Apparatus:

One cat

One bit of not-too-sticky sticky stuff. I am a crafter, so plenty of low tack masking tape on hand. I felted it a few times just to be sure it was barely sticky at all.

One mirror

 

Method:

The googled version of the experiment I found said the animal should be sedated first. Obviously this is not going to happen. I opted for a a catnip treat as a suitable safe alternative. For the cat, of course. I had a glass of wine, to be sociable. Human catnip.

Affix the barely-sticky sticky thing to a part of the body the subject (Riley) cannot see. This took longer than expected. Cats can swivel their head A LOT. I stuck it on his back – saw it. On his shoulder – saw it. Back of his ear – fell off. My care to make sure the sticky stuff was not too sticky was backfiring somewhat. Top of the head – he saw it coming and just threw his head back so again it fell off. About five times. This calls for a bit of sleight of hand: make an interesting diversion with one hand (pretending to be a spider) whilst positioning with the other. Houston, we have contact!

Results:

Now as I wanted to capture the moment my dear pet proved he was indeed self aware, I needed to take pictures, whilst holding the mirror. Really this was a two-person job, but there was only one person around at the time. So I tried holding both bits of kit and took quite a lot of pictures of my knee, the carpet, the corner of the sofa and the ceiling before giving up on the photo shoot and just showing him the bleeping mirror. An instant reaction! Ears pricked and forward, whiskers perked and….and…and nothing. He was reacting to the spot of bright light created by the mirror. Or ‘Tinkerbells’ as we call it, courtesy of my brother-in-law. Once the Tinkerbell disappeared he settled back down, sticky stuff still in place.

But, here’s where it becomes truly great science. Does everyone know the story about Viagra? How it was developed as a drug for cardiac problems but in the clinical trials, where each tester records in great detail all the side effects they have noticed…well, that’s when the target market was changed. It’s the testing you see, where you make great discoveries. And this is what we found out…

Felting (sticking on your clothes a few times to make it even less tacky) a small, normally super-light strip of low tack masking tape, changes the density, or atomic weight, or something science-y anyway, as my pictures clearly and irrefutably demonstrate…

sticky-riley-1sticky-riley-catnipsticky-riley-3sticky-riley-4

After the last photo the sticky paper fell off and he jumped up, right as rain. Clearly it is kryptonite for cats. No doubt the Nobel Prize will be in the post.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Another Caturday Post

Moby

This little furball was my first cat. I had lived with others, but he was the first one that was truly my own. Ferocious, huh?

He was called Moby and he was challenged: he had a twitchy leg from birth, which was resolved but might have meant he would possibly be difficult to home or may not have even been given the chance if I hadn‘t taken him. He became allergic to fleas, or flea poo, but also allergic to the available flea prevention treatments (yep, really), which meant he shed his fur in patches, so his beauty was somewhat impaired. But he was adorable, whatever.

He liked to play with water: a big bowl filled with soapy suds (also liked the bubbles) and a bobbing plastic bottle top or two would keep him amused for ages as a kitten. I have to confess, having realised this, I bought him a set of rubber ducks, which he happily played with….

He was intended to be an indoor cat. I had no experience of this, but had been told it was perfectly reasonable. Within a short time it became clear that, for Moby, it was not acceptable at all, and he needed outdoor access. Given the layout of my home, it didn’t seem it would be possible to do this safely.

Some background here, which you need for later. I lived in the top half of a Victorian house which had been divided in two. For those who don’t know UK architecture, this means large-ish rooms (by UK standards, probably nobody else’s!) and high ceilings (again, probably same caveat!), plus two extra floor levels, making the building overall much taller than a modern house. I had no way to let him out other than onto the street, which I didn’t want to do, and no obvious place for a cat flap.

I started taking him out the front and around the side of the house, through the garden of the downstairs flat and into mine whenever I could. It was OK, but less than ideal. Then one day whilst gardening with him watching, my sister suggested I go inside and call him from the house, which I did. Moby looked up, did the planning and the maths (you can see your cat doing this, right?) and worked out his route from the back garden to the kitchen window. Brilliant! Except I couldn’t leave the window open for him all day, could I? So my wonderful, wonderful dad with his equally wonderful trusty assistant (mum) arrived one weekend with a couple of bits of wood and a bag of tools. When they left I had a rebuilt kitchen window with a one-of-a-kind ‘floating’ cat flap entry. Floating because dad also had to build a landing pad and attach it to the outside wall at the corner to access the cat flap.

(cue Mission Impossible music….)

So, the route was – jump onto wall dividing my garden from my neighbour next door. Follow wall until you come to neighbour’s conservatory. Hop onto this and climb to the top and back. Jump onto neighbour’s roof at the two-storey level and climb to the top and back. Now jump over where the roofs meet (it has upright tiles with a patterned top so is irregular and can‘t just be climbed over) and scramble down a few feet, across a few feet, and hop onto a lower narrow window ledge. Now execute a precise jump onto a 15 x 15” platform which looks like it is floating in mid-air, making sure you don‘t overshoot or you are flying across the garden path, about 40 feet in the air and no hope of a safe landing. Make a sharp left turn and through the cat flap. You are now on the kitchen worktop and know that this is only allowed for entry and exit purposes. No wandering off track or meandering about. Head in a straight line and jump down immediately please. It was pretty impressive, and it worked well and made him a happy cat.

Unfortunately though Moby loved to hunt. So now imagine him scaling the above obstacles to entry with a mouse in his mouth. Umpteen times. The mice were always unharmed, so our mouse-catching skills got pretty good too. Maybe he just thought we needed the training….

One day I nearly lost my sense of humour over his predatory habits. Getting up to go to work I walked into the living room and switched the TV on to check the news. I seemed to have gained an ornament overnight. Eyeing me from the top of the TV was an undamaged very large, very grumpy blackbird. Probably about half the size of Moby. How on earth had he managed that route with that bird in tow?

Have you every tried to catch a blackbird? Or shepherd it off the premises via the window? Oh, and guess what, high ceilings are really, really useful for birds trying to evade ‘capture’…

Have you ever had to tell your boss that the reason you are late for work is that you were trying to catch a blackbird in your living room? It’s a difficult sell, I can tell you!