Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Felidae Spotlight: The Domestic Cat

I've never much understood why we put up with cats as pets. They seem to take a bit more than they give. Half the time, they act like spoil brats--tearing up the carpets and furniture when they don't get their way--and the other half, they go out of their way to give us plenty of affection. I suppose self-maintenance is a plus as well. You don't have to bathe them, and I wouldn't recommend trying it either. Good way to lose an arm. Either way, cats fascinate us, and I am driven to write a spotlight about them.

Domestic cats come in an uncountable array of different shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. For this reason, I am not going to go into their looks as much as what they seem to mean to us. Yes, this will be an unusual spotlight, to be sure. The term "domestic cat" mainly refers to a class of felines that are common to civilized areas. They are smaller than the big beasts found in jungles and prairies. These cats can also be feral--living by their wits in the wild; however, they pose very little danger to us humans.

The personality of a cat can range from unbearably narcissistic to a sloth-like laziness with an indomitable indifference to the world around them. With either one, it is a very selfish attitude. Cats live for themselves. Their loyalty always comes at a price. Every bit of love they give is on the grounds that they will have their needs met on a timely basis. If needs fail to be met, punishment can be as benign as persistent meowing or as violent as a random scratch.

Cats are remarkably agile, and they know this well. They can climb trees with ease, but can sometimes find themselves afraid of heights and have to be helped down. They enjoy a good hunt preferring small prey like bugs, rodents, and birds. They are skilled at stealth combat--especially at night. Most cats see very easily in low light environments but can freeze up in total darkness. Many cats are known to play with their food before killing it. This usually means knocking it around until it is too tired to run anymore. It's mean, but cats are often quite mean.

You may find it interesting that feral cats almost never meow. That is their silly way of trying to communicate with us. Domestic cats will often meow to other cats--domestic or not. I doubt that there is really any intelligence behind the noise. I get the impression that they are simply trying to mimic us to better make it clear that we should be giving them better attention. Very selfish!

Domestic cats have extremely keen senses all around. The reason we often say that cats have nine lives is because they have a knack for getting out of danger in just the nick of time. They are hyper aware of their surroundings and can usually figure out what is going on even when they are not in the exact room where something is happening.

I am sure we have all noticed a cat licking itself. Cats are remarkable groomers. Their tongues have little hooked hairs on it that are especially useful for grooming fur. These "tongue-baths" are apart of the feline's personal hygiene. Recently, I put a bunch of gravy on my finger and let my cat lick it off. It was the strangest feeling ever! Those little hooks really catch anything they touch. It is like cats come with their own bristled brush.

Domestic and feral cats are all over the place in fiction. I only have time to name three. We all remember Tom from the "Tom and Jerry" short cartoons. The cat and mouse show has almost become its own genre. This series was very straight forward in its presentation of the trope. Tom--not always trying to eat the mouse--would often just try and be mean to poor Jerry for the fun of it. It was more of a rivalry thing. To this day, the series continued with new shorts and even a series of movies. With the exception of "Tom and Jerry: The Movie," the characters never talk.

The Loony Tunes character Sylvester is a good example of a domestic cat. He is often pitted against a prey that keeps besting him. Sometimes, it is Tweety Bird, and other times, it can be Speedy Gonzales. There are even a couple shorts where he is expected to chase down a giant mouse who is really a kangaroo. One of my favorite characters from his cartoons came in the form of his son--simply called Junior. His over-the-top expression of humiliation from his father's failures--such as having to place a bag over his head as to not be seen in public--was some of my favorite moments. He was also quite cute for a kitten.

There are a number of films--short or otherwise--about domestic cats that are well worth your time. Disney's "The Aristocats" is a great example. Warner Brothers also did their own cat movie called "Cats Don't Dance." My personal favorite is Don Bluth's Banjo the Woodpile Cat. But likely the most carefully crafted domestic cat movie would have to be the German movie "Felidae" which paid special care to the creatures and their peculiar habits. The movie is so close to reality and depicts the felines in even sexual situations that is is often never found in America. I highly recommend it--if you can find a copy--but I warn you that it is not suitable for children.

Much of my own personal love of cats were found through observing my own pet "Cupcake" and from watching videos of them on You Tube--something nearly everyone can enjoy on the internet. There was this one video in particular that captured my interest in only a few minutes. I felt like I was watching a soap opera in another language, but they were real cats meowing at each other. There was even surprises when an unexpected cat came onto the scene which led to startling revelations! Left to their own devices, I see domestic cats as living out a soap opera, and it would be fun to see them doing this as people.

As I said before, there are many kinds of domestic cats. They are fun pets to have, but you have to decide beforehand if you are willing to put up with their selfishness. If you can, be prepared for a lot of love at the cost of a lot more petting.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Meow!

Cat Playing With Prey

Cupcake, My Cat

Sylvester Cat and Junior

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Rodent Spotlight: Indian Giant Squirrel

I've been considering doing this for a long time now. It's been quite a while since I did a Rodent Spotlight, but I knew I had missed a few of them. In last week's spotlight for the brown palm civet, I mentioned that the creature often hijacked the nest of the Indian giant squirrel. Well, as it turns out, the Indian giant squirrel is really awesome! So, welcome back to the first Rodent Spotlight since June of 2015.

Is the Indian giant squirrel really a giant? Compared to the eastern gray squirrel, not exactly. The Indian giant squirrel has a body length of 14 inches which is larger by 2 inches. Where the creature shines is its tail which is a whopping 2 feet long. This tail is so long that most of the pictures I found showed the tail hanging from the branch it was sitting on. So, by tail, the Indian giant squirrel wins the size contest by a large degree.

Despite having an incredibly long tail, it is still very nimble when running along the tree branches. Most squirrels have to jump from branch to branch, but some can jump father than others. This particular species of squirrel can leap a distance of 20 feet. That is pretty incredible!

Like many herbivores, the Indian giant squirrel has to deal with a number of predators. Even though they are incredible runners, this squirrel tends to just flatten itself down to its branch and stay perfectly still. It does this a lot, and it rather fits into its personality. It is a very shy and timid animal that really doesn't like exposing itself to anyone. This trait makes the squirrel difficult to find and photograph.

The thing that really blows my mind about this creature is its various color schemes. Creamy-beige, tan, rust, and brown. These colors can be combined in some very brilliant shades and designs. I find them very fun to look at. These descriptions do not really do the creature justice, so I recommend giving the attached images a good look-through.

Another thing that distinguishes the Indian giant squirrel are their nests--yes, the same nests stolen by the civets. They make these very large globe-shaped nests made out of twigs and leaves. They usually make a number of these nests, and this is probably a good idea if they are going to continue being stolen. I imagine these nests would not only be roomy but even warm in the colder months.

I don't know of any fiction for the Indian giant squirrel, but I think there should be with how lovely they look. Personally, I find it rather endearing that they are so brilliantly colored yet so entirely shy. When I look at them as characters, I see a race of people who are entirely sweethearted and wonderful; however, they are worried that bad people will take advantage of them. They do not trust anyone. Convincing them to trust you is hard, but I am sure it would be rewarding in the long run. I really like them.

So, did you enjoy the return of Rodent Spotlight? Remember, that's how this whole thing started. Next week, we'll move on to another fun animal. Look forward to it!

Thank you for reading my blog. If you enjoyed it, you can comment below or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Chipper chip chip!

Avoiding Predator


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Viverridae Spotlight: Brown Palm Civet

I gotta tell ya... Finding information on civets is difficult. It is much easier to find information on the weird ones that makes perfume and coffee than the other breeds. The brown palm civet is likely the final civet I will be writing about--despite there being a number of others. I really just jumped on this guy because of his looks.

From head to tail, the brown palm civet is 24 inches with a surprising tail length of 20 inches. Their fur can be a range from light to very dark brown. Their tail is often tipped with white or pale yellow. They can be found in the Western Ghats of India--a very small area in reality.

The brown palm civet is primarily a fungivore. This means that it loves fruit. It does much of its feeding at night and spends its days up in trees sleeping and just generally relaxed. This particular civet is actually endemic to its location. As it eats these fruit, it carries it around, and the seeds fall out all over the place. It actually helps perpetuate the plants in that area. The fact that they do this is so important that if you were to remove the civets from this area, the act would take the fruit trees along with it given some time.

As I said earlier, the brown palm civet spends its days in trees, but it is not enough that they get to lay on a branch. It rather enjoys the nest made by a local rodent called the Indian giant squirrel. If he finds a squirrel nest, he'll settle right down in it whether it's occupied or not. What a jerk! Otherwise, this civet will just find a comfortable place to hang loose.

I do not know any fiction specifically for the brown palm civet, but I'd like to think they are the relaxed sort individually. Most of the pictures I find of them show them being rather lazy up in trees. They remind me a lot of tiny panthers. As a character, they would likely make for good moochers and fridge-raiders. Naturally, the house he always visits happens to be home to a squirrel.

This is it for the civets. I hope you enjoyed them! They ended up being a favorite of mine, and it makes me smile that there are such hidden beauties in the animal kingdom. Stay tuned for next week where there will be a brief return to an old order.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Viverridae Spotlight: Asian and Banded Palm Civet

This is actually the very first spotlight I ever did that mentioned two separate animals in the title. I felt I had to do this because I really think the two go together for this blog. Before I begin, however, I want to point out something that I missed in the last blog. Apparently, all civets are under the suborder feliformia--same as cats and hyenas. A friend of mine who is a big fan of hyenas corrected me. The reason it happened was because none of my sources told me that. He slid a new source my way which explained the issue. I'll still be calling the series Viverridae Spotlight as my interest in civets are a bit more focused--if not entirely obsessive.

The Asian palm civet can be found in South and Southeast Asia. They have a body length of 21 inches with a tail of 19 inches. They only weigh 11 pounds. Their fur is dark and mottled and their faces have a mask which make them similar to raccoons.

They are a mostly solitary species. They are omnivores, but it seems the thing they really love are coffee beans. We'll get back to that little box of insanity in a bit. The majority of their diet is fruit and vegetable matter, but they will also nose about looking for insects. Additionally, there is a a particular type of flower--called a palm flower--which very well may be where the Asian palm civet gets its name. The palm flower produces a sap that tends to ferment into a sweet liquor called a toddy. For this reason, the Asian palm civet is commonly referred to as a "toddy cat."

Now, about those coffee beans. The weird thing about the African civet was that they literally produced perfume from their anus. This is not the case with the Asian palm civet; however, there is still a remarkable interest in this one's anus. Apparently in Indonesia, there is a special kind of coffee called Kobi Luwak which is made from beans that have been fully digested by the Asian palm civet. That's right. They dig around in the creature's faeces for these beans and then sell them at the shops. It's very trendy! Would you drink coffee from a civet's anus? I sure wouldn't!

The banded palm civet is a similar breed; however, it is slightly bigger, lives in different locations, and has a far more distinct coat. This creature can be found Thailand and Indonesia. It is well-known for its gorgeous stripped pattern upon its back. One of the reasons I brought this creature up with the former was due to the fiction section of this spotlight.

Many, many times in these spotlights, I have referenced Gary Kilworth's book series "Welkin Weasels."  In his 6th book "Heastward Ho!" the pangolin emperor of Far Kathay--basically China--employed banded palm civets as his personal guards. It was actually the very first time I had heard of civets. There was a lot of fascination in the book about their stripes and how many stripes they had. It made me want to learn more about them, The reason I connect this creature to the Asian palm civet was because information on the banded variety was hard to come by, and so I chose to introduce him by way of a close relative.

I still chuckle about my little paragraph last week about the perfume-selling African civets. So what about the coffee-loving Asian palm civets? Should I go there? Probably not. I mean... who wants to talk about a civet who likes a crappy brand coffee, right?

I love the civets, and if I can find more of them to do spotlights on, I will! They are a lot of fun and look very pretty. Still, I keep wondering at why all the fascination about them seem centered about their rear ends.

Thank you for reading this blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Thank you!

Asian Palm Civet

Asian Palm Civet

Banded Palm Civet

Banded Palm Civet

Illustration from "Heastward Ho!" (Banded Civets on left and right)