Procyonid Prejudice

How impolite and politically incorrect can you get?

KOMO TV (Seattle) has posted this video on their website. You may have seen the original video posted elsewhere; KOMO’s take on it is, IMNSHO, highly offensive.

They imply that raccoons are lowly thieves, just waiting for an opportunity to make off with whatever food they can get their paws on. Consequently, they say, you should never leave food out for your cats because it only encourages the raccoons villainy.

Um, a couple of points here.

First, raccoons are no more inclined to theft than cats. Anyone who shares a house with a cat can share stories of their furry companion sneaking onto the counter or table and making off with the turkey, roast beef, corn bread, or lemon cake. So let’s not demonize the raccoons, OK?

Second, what are those cats doing outside anyway? It’s well-established that indoor-only cats live longer and stay healthier than outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats. Keep them inside and feed them inside. Not only will they not have to compete with the raccoons, but you can eat the cats’ food yourself when they run off with your dinner.

Third, I don’t see anything in the video that even suggests that that’s a “cats only” bowl. I won’t get into the ugly side of such species-ist “separate but equal” treatment here (though I’ll note that our outside bowl welcomes all visitors, be they feline, procyonid, didelphimorphine, or even galliform (no, not gallifreyan–not that we would turn one away, but we suspect they’d be more likely to knock on the front door and ask for tea). If you insist that the food be reserved for the cats, then mark it as such. Good luck keeping the other-species activists on the outside of the red velvet ropes, though, unless you hire a bouncer.

Fourth and finally, note that the raccoon is willing to share. She takes a handful (pardon me, “pawful”) of food for herself and carries it over to the other side of the carport to eat. Do you see the cats being so considerate? No. Come to that, have you ever seen a cat being that considerate? I certainly haven’t. Note that in this morning’s post ‘Nuki and Yuki are eating from separate bowls. Over and over again, we see the members of our group try to monopolize the food bowl, only sharing when they’re bodily shoved away.

Now consider: is the raccoon’s behaviour that of the mindless thug portrayed by KOMO TV? I think not.

(One final note, if only to protect me from liability: don’t try to pat or hand-feed the raccoons that show up at your bowl. They may not be the evil-minded monsters KOMO portrays them as, but they are wild animals, and they do have strong jaws, sharp teeth, and sharp claws. Knowing they’ll wash your hand before eating it is likely to be of limited consolation.)

Hot Buttered Cats

As has been discussed previously, the most popular posts on this blog seem to be those about butter and cats. Not that this comes as any particular surprise, given the general popularity of cats artery-clogging. Clearly, then, the next step to a massive increase in readers is to combine the two. (“You got your cat on my butter!” “You got your butter in my cat!” “Two great tastes that taste great together.“)

WordPress tells me that this blog has 47 followers. Despite my comments last week about the uselessness of badges, there is something emotionally special about hitting round-numbers. I don’t expect this one post to jump the blog over 1,000 followers, or even 100, but I’d like to see it get past 50. If it does, I’ll share the badge with y’all. And if it does get past 1,000, I’ll certainly share the pony too.

Moving on. Cats and butter.

I’ve already dealt with the popular notion of using buttered toast and cats to create perpetual motion machines, so I’ll need to cover something a little different this time. Let’s talk about the idea that when you move, you should put butter on your cats’ paws to prevent them from wandering away and getting lost.

I’ve seen the idea put forth seriously in discussions of keeping cats safe when moving to a new home. I find it difficult to believe that there are people who believe this works, but then again, there are people who believe that prayer cures all illness, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Let’s break this down a bit.

There are several different explanations given for why buttering a cat’s paws will supposedly prevent it from straying:

  • Cleaning it off gives them something to do until they get used to the new house. Cleaning up the butter isn’t going to take more than a few minutes. I’ve been living in my current house for more than seven years, and I still find myself flipping the wrong light switch or fumbling for the door knob. Is five minutes really going to accustom a cat to the house? That seems unlikely. I’m willing to grant the possibility that cats are more adaptable than I am, but this just seems excessively optimistic. As a counter-example, I’ll note that when we moved in, Velcro spent the better part of two days hiding behind the toilet before he felt comfortable enough to explore the house. (No, I didn’t hide behind the toilet–maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be fumbling for the doorknob now.)
  • While cleaning it off, they pick up the scent of their new home so they can find their way back. Variations on this idea include bringing some of the outside dirt in and using the butter to stick it to the cat’s paws or applying the butter just before letting the cat out. Again, how much are they really going to pick up in the five minutes they spend grooming? And given some of the noxious substances they clean off of themselves, I’m convinced that cats have the ability to turn off their noses while grooming. OK, maybe not literally, but if you had to clean yourself with your tongue after using the toilet, wouldn’t you do your best to not smell what you were doing? More seriously, do you really think your next-door neighbor’s yard smells significantly different than your own, especially if you’ve just moved in and haven’t started spending hours spreading your scent around while gardening? Even more seriously still, if you want the cat to stick around, why are you letting it out in the first place? (I’m not even going to get into the statistics on the lifespan of indoor cats as opposed to indoor/outdoor or outdoor-only cats.)
  • It makes their paws too slippery for them to walk. This is just plain silly. Haven’t the people suggesting this ever heard of carpets? Leaving that aside, even if the cat is on a hardwood, tile, or linoleum floor, spreading the butter so thickly that they can’t walk is going to use a hell of a lot of butter, much of which is going to get spread over your floor, your furniture, and probably you when you make a futile attempt to keep the cat off the furniture. Even if it worked as intended, what would the value be in getting the cat all pissed off and over-excited? Isn’t the point to make them feel better about the new place?

The bottom line is that buttering a cat’s paws to keep it from straying is useless at best, and counter-productive at worst. The best way to keep them from straying is to keep them indoors. If you have to let them out, at least keep them indoors for several days to a few weeks after moving to get them thoroughly used to the new house, and then supervise their first trips outside using a harness and leash.

Oh, and there’s no reason not to give your cat a little butter now and then if they like it. Many people use it as a treat. We use it to encourage them to take pills, and Dad has used it to lubricate the passage of aluminum foil through the feline digestive system*. Note though, that unless there are medical considerations involved, the key word in the first sentence of this paragraph is “little”.


* I’ll say it for you all: Blech! But Dad did assure me that everything came out right in the end.