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Damien Weasel, Cat Scientist (episode two, hydrology)


Damien is an ordinary gray stripey tom, but it’s interesting how much he shares with bengals. Bengals are a mix of some South American wild cat and ordinary gray stripeys…but I wonder how many of their famous weirdnesses they actually owe to the domestic side of their heritage? Damien’s fascination with water isn’t quite as powerful as a bengal’s, but I have to scrape him out of the sink to brush my teeth.

There’s a Norwegian guy on YouTube who’s filmed his bengals a lot. He caught them making peculiar chattering noises at birds out the window. Damien does this, too. I think of it as mimeenking — it sounds like he’s saying “mee…mee.” The “M” sound is rather hard for cats, as I learned when I caught my mother trying to teach the family cat to say “Mama.” It’s a noise Damien makes when he knows he can’t reach something interesting; like a fly buzzing around at ceiling level, or me, tapping on the window from outside. It’s a frustration sound.


Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: March 6, 2007, 8:18 am

I always thought that odd chattering sound cats make was an attempt immitate bird-chirping to bait the prey, er…bird into coming closer. Then, again, I’m usually wrong.

For long seconds of fun, try shining a laser onto your cat’s front paw. If done correctly, the cat will play patticake with itself.

Comment from OmbudsBen
Time: March 6, 2007, 12:44 pm

Nice drawings. Did you do them yourself?

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: March 6, 2007, 1:16 pm

Yeah one of my cats chatters at birds through the window too. And sometimes at nothing at all, I think its just excited. Or really dumb. It sounds amazing thought I’ve never heard that from a cat before.

My previous cat Ash used to sigh when he got comfortable, it was the greatest thing, again the first time I’d ever heard that from a cat before. Cats have amazing vocal abilities.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 6, 2007, 1:19 pm

Yes, thanks. I started life as an illustrator, a few years before computers took over. I liked computers when they arrived, so that’s okay. Just lately I’ve been trying to get back into drawing. I don’t draw much for work and it’s the kind of skill you have to keep up on or it goes flabby.

This time, though, I’m using Photoshop. Sadly, ink and paper don’t have a CTRL-Z.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 6, 2007, 1:25 pm

Oh! Who wrote that old sci-fi story about teaching dogs to talk? The problem is that they don’t have lips to make the consonents. Fitted with artificial lips, they picked up language in no time.

I think I’m conflating that with a more recent story about translating the language of dolphins. Turns out, dolphins are foul-mouthed, obscene, rotten bastards.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: March 6, 2007, 4:44 pm

“Turns out, dolphins are foul-mouthed, obscene, rotten bastards.”

Sooo…they’ll be commenting over at Daily Kos or Huffington’s, I take it?

Comment from Pupster
Time: March 6, 2007, 5:26 pm

“Thanks for all the fish”
-The Dolphins

Comment from Laurie
Time: March 6, 2007, 9:29 pm

Yep, it’s called a “chatter”. Cats do this when they are excited about killing something, which is a favorite cat hobby. Like your drawing activities, cats need to hunt something, anything, to keep their kill muscles from getting flabby. If you observe your cat over a 24 hour period, you will find he spends a total of 18 hours sleeping, 2 hours preparing to sleep, 1 1/2 hours bugging you to feed him, (purring, touching noses and foreheads (hello!), talking, rubbing in hair on your black trousers) 15 minutes eating and drinking water, 10 minutes preparing the sand box, 5 minutes urinating and defecating (Quickly! Vulnerable!), 30 minutes washing, and 1 hour, 30 minutes “playing” (killing something). If your cat chatters while you are feeding him, interpret that as a warning. This is a dangerous animal!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 7, 2007, 6:28 am

So, should I be worried that Damien chatters at me through the window when I tap on the glass?

Comment from Laurie
Time: March 7, 2007, 9:56 am

Are you tapping the window from the inside or outside? When my cat purrs, he sounds like he’s murmuring “Daaaaamien”.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 7, 2007, 10:06 am

From the outside. They sit on the sill and watch out that window. I always stop and meow at them a moment through the glass before going in. Bonus, the neighbors stay the hell away from me.

I went away for two weeks at Christmas and left them in the care of a catsitter. I got home about 10 one night, and Damien was sitting at that window. The look on his face! He started toward the window, then jumped away from it, then hopped up and down, like “Oh my god, it’s! — no it can’t be! — yes it is! — are you sure? — it sure looks like! –oh my god! Oh my god!”

Comment from Laurie
Time: March 7, 2007, 8:30 pm

I can see I’m not getting through to you. Let me just ask one more question: What was the condition of the catsitter? Usually “Oh my god!” is followed by “What did you do with the body?!?”

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 7, 2007, 8:53 pm

How should I know? It was a new catsitter. The last one retired shortly after Damien showed up. I haven’t heard from this one since Christmas, but the cats looked well-fed and the litterbox was in good shape.

If they ate her, I’ll send a bouquet to the widower.

Comment from Sissy Willis
Time: March 8, 2007, 8:28 am

Laurie: I’m astonished that your cats spend 15 minutes a day eating. My two vacuum their breakfasts and suppers and inhale their kitty treats.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: March 8, 2007, 2:13 pm

Dogs are incredibly limited in their vocalization, you really couldn’t get them to talk even with lips. Cats, probably so – although you notice parrots don’t have lips. Neither animal is any smarter, in my opinion, they just are good at different things.

Comment from Laurie
Time: March 8, 2007, 10:58 pm

That 15 minute period includes the inspection routine: Is the bowl sanitized or did dinner get dumped into the breakfast bowl? Is the can food flaked or sliced? Is the dry food fresh? Then there is the sitting, standing or crouching selection period. After inhaling the food, there is the water dish time, followed by sneezing. Finally, there is the hairball removal process which involves picking the most obvious spot on the snowflake colored carpeting in the livingroom. The spot must not be previously stained and best used immediately following carpet shampooing. Some things are far more complicated than one might guess.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 9, 2007, 5:43 am

I was going to post that mine aren’t fussy like that. Then I rememebered: my two won’t drink out of a bowl. They drink out of a drinking glass on the desk in the livingroom.

It started several years ago, when I was doing Chinese ink painting. Charlotte kept drinking the nasty ink water out of the juice glass I was using. I finally gave up and declared it her glass. Damien took to it immediately.

If the level gets low, they dip a paw in it to get their bearings before drinking, and then sling the water off. Not once, but repeatedly. This is not pleasant to sit through. They will both sit patiently while I take it into the kitchen to refill it, however. After which, they stick noses into it and sneeze off the excess.

It’s a shower for me either way.

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