It's said that housecats live together with humans since a long, long time. Almost since 10,000 years already. That's about since the end of the last ice age. Probably it comes together with the first sedentariness. Nomads couldn't move well with cats.
What's actually the reason to live with cats? First, they do some good jobs. They keep the house clean of many other, smaller animals like mice and rats, also many insects. In southern countries they care hunt snakes, spiders, cockroaches, scorpions and lizards.
Second, they are great companions. One can have much fun with them and it's generally a good thing particularly for children to live together with animals; therefore cats are a great choise.
In southern countries housecats don't grow that big as in northern, cooler countries. Living among humans and getting some care, cats have a life expectancy of twelve to fifteen years; in exceptions they can reach up to 25 years. Straying around themselves without a human based home male cats reach an average age of around two years, females around three and a half.
Cats have very good ears, better than dogs or humans. When I was a boy I heard many people claim, cats were loners. Housecats are, on the contrary, in difference to the most kinds of wildcats very sociable and like to live together in smaller or bigger groups. They communicate among each other with sounds, gestics and smells. In communication with humans they use certain sounds they don't use in communication amongst each other, or generally in wildlife. Housecats adapted some 100 noises they learned over the times living with humans. Wild cats avoid being noisy for not attracting enemies (e.g. birds of prey).
Although cats are excellent swimmers, they avoid the contact with water. However, I find it a good idea to wash the cat's I am living with from time to time - particularly when they get smelly. The process of washing must be a real kind of torture for them, and some start crying then as they would be butchered. However, washing Hotzenplotz (see below left) was one day interestingly observed by his very friend, Etzel, another tomcat. While Hotzenplotz was screaming like crazy, Etzel apparently felt he had to help his friend and did so. Suddenly he attacked me and bit me into my knee so that I was bleeding. A surprising example of altruism and solidarity among cats.
Cats in Southeast Asia
The cats here have, except of some well treated pets of the middle-class, normally a much harder life than in Western countries. The ordinary people don't care much for their animals. They let them do what they want, so long they don't bother them. In this case they get a kick.
They don't see the animals as pets, rather as livestock. There is normally no birthcontrol done. Housecats have an extremely high reproduction rate, and many of the young kittens die because they lack food and medical care. The lack of medical care is also a problem for older cats. Many of them get worms, lice and mites (scabies). In bad cases the cats loose parts of their fur and eventually even die. Many of the neglected cats become strayers.
It's not seldom the case that kittens are taken away from their mothers much too early and given away (or being abandoned, though normally not killed. Buddhists, like most Thai People e.g. are, don't like to kill, they probably think they would spoil their 'kharma' by doing so). Cat's who were taken away from their mothers too early have the trait to suck on one's arms or fingers. They also have the tendency to develop less well (in size and health) than kittens who were fed by their mothers at least for two months.
It's also the case that sometimes cats end up in the cooking pot. It's much more common for dogs, but cats are sometimes eaten by people as well. Especially in the poor, rural parts of Southeast Asian countries.
Cats are feeding almost exclusively from meat and fish. There is no other mammal which diet is that much specialized on meat than that of cats. Additionally they eat sometimes a bit grass. Southeast Asian people give their cats food remains from their own food, what includes much rice. Being hungry, cats eat rice mixed with sauce and a bit of fish or meat, and if there is nothing else they even feed of pure white rice.
What's remarkable about the cats in Southeast Asia is the fact, that many, in fact a wide majority of them have crippled tails. I have heared many contradictory stories about that. Some people say, kids play with them and break the tails. A Thai neighbour once told me, Thai People would break the tails of kittens for gaining good luck, particularly money [!]. That maybe happens sometimes, but it's not explaining the phenomenon.
I saw that some cats were born with a crippled tail. It is a genetical defect of the spinal, called 'brachyurie'. The tail is part of the cat's backbone. The crippled tail can come together with other deformations of the spinal, and in some cases also with neurological deficiencies. A defect tail means a handicap for the cat because it needs the tail for maintaining it's balance. A short or anyhow crippled tail is also insofar a problem as cats use their tails as a mean of communication. Brachyurie is not curable.
The Siamese Cat
Siamese Cats are somewhat legendary animals. Their origins are not clear. They are a race from Southeast Asia, and may be a crossing of early domestic and wild cats. There is a theory that early seafarers brought slender cats from the Mediterranean Sea and/or west Asia to the world region, who where mixed into the prototype, forming the new race.
Old records from Ayutthaya mentioned Siamese Cats maybe already in the 15th century, but written records date back not longer than about 200 years into the early Rattanakosin Era. If there were older written records, then they have been destroyed in the Burmese conquest of Ayutthaya in 1767 CE.
However, the oldest written records available are the Tamra Maew, old Thai manuscripts who are made in the form of illustrated poems. They exist in eight different versions. One of them is in the National Museum of Bangkok, six in the National Library of Bangkok and another one in the Museum of Indian Arts in Berlin.
The Tamra Maew lists 17 luck bringing cats and in another rubric some who bring bad luck. The eighth cat in the list is (probably) the Siamese. What we call Siamese Cat is named in Thai wichianmat, which is translatable to 'moon and diamond'. Among the good luck bringing cats is also the Khorat Cat (see below).
The nice cats became known in the west from the early 1870s on, when a first Siamese cat was brought to England.
Siamese Cats are partially albinos, what explains their often white fur and their blue eyes. Meanwhile there happens a separation of Siamese Cats into two subraces. From the 1960s on a tall, slender type of the Siamese Cat with a more pointed head and longer ears became more popular among western customers, what initiated a new breed promoting these traits. It's getting more and more distinguished from the traditional type and is now claimed to be the Siamese Cat, while the traditional form is now, under international breeders standards, called Thai Cat. However, I can not follow nor appreciate such approaches. First, I don't see it as a good thing to breed artificial races for the mere task of creating a new commercial lifestyle product for decadent Westerners. Second, if commercial breeders invent a new 'product', they should invent at least a new name for it. But, Siamese Cat was already an established brand name and sold well, so the business opportunists follow, as always, the most profitable way of marketing.
Other, familiar types of Oriental cats are Balinese Cats, the Javanese Cats, Burmese Cats, Tonkanese Cats, Peterbald Cats, Bengal Cats, Oriental Shorthair, the Khorat Cats and more.
Siamese Cats are vulnerable to a number of diseases who hit them more often than other cats. Also seems their life expectation to be shorter than that of other cats.
I personally saw Siamese Cats in Southeast Asia only in Thailand, with one notable exception of a kitten at the roadside in Vang Vieng / Laos. And they all were of the traditional type.
By the way: In Herge's Tintin cartoons Captain Haddock keeps a Siamese Cat in Marlinspike Hall.
The Khorat Cat
Less known than the famous Siamese Cat, the Khorat Cat (also: Korat Cat) is a natural breed from Thailand. She got her name after the Khorat Province (Nakhon Ratchasima) in Thailand's Isan in the late 19th century, because this breed appears mostly in that region. In Thailand, the Khorat Cat is also called 'Si Sawat', referring to her colour, what is blue-gray. In fact, they appear mostly grey. Their eyes are typically of a bright green. Khorat Cats have the recommendation among Thai People to bring their keepers luck and happiness.
The Khorat Cat is a middle-sized cat; it's a very social and even clingy cat. She loves to be with other cats and also with people.
Housecats and Wildcats
f all the people on earth would disappear, let's say tomorrow morning and, let's say, without further consequences - what would happen with the nature and life and all the species around? Well, Alan Weisman, an American scientist, claims that housecats would be able to survive (Allan Weisman: The world without us. New York, 2007). They are not or only slightly genetically different from the wild form of their species, of whome some are still living wild in remote areas of the world.
Housecats, although fed by humans since a lot of generations, didn't lose their hunting instincts. They go out for mice, the classic, but also for a great deal of other animals. Stamp for example caught frequently lizards, brought two times a certain kind of a snake into the house, discovered once a black scorpion in the garden and, last not least, was trying to catch birds as well. Since housecats can climb pretty well they are a real danger for birds and chicks in their nests. Alan Weisman writes, that a straying cat kills an average of 28 birds a year. Housecats also kill frequently birds. Count that up to all the millions of cats living in a country. Although well-fed housecats might kill less birds, they are a real threat for bird populations.
Brought by humans to the even remotest places of the planet, cats live nowadays almost everywhere, from 6,000 meter high mountains to far away Pacific islands. Many former housecats run wild and live without human company.
The Life of Stamp
Stamp was born in around May 2011 in a 'cat community' in Chiang Khong. It's a family-run restaurant near a school, where the pupils go to eat in their breaks. There are some ten to fifteen cats around, fed by the family who like cats. When Stamp joined me, he was some two or three month old. He was healthy and happy, a bit skinny though. I had to treat him for lice and he got a vaccination against these mites causing scabies.
From the beginning on Stamp was a very nice cat, friendly, trustingly, he liked people and kids. When I called him, he always appeared quickly. When I had guests, he was always curiously around and starting to play with them. He was a bit demanding when he was small, particularly when it came to food. He also was very noisy, screaming around when being hungry or sometimes just moody. Even the neighbours wondered. Later he came over that and got calmer.
Although he was shy at the beginning to leave the house, after a little training he grew more and more self-confident to stroll around in the garden. After a while he came in contact with neighbouring cats. His first encounter was a bad one. A black tomcat who was fighting little Stamp whenever he could, even entering the house, stalking Stamp and plundering the kitchen several times. At nighttime there was sometimes noisy fighting in and around the house.
Somewhat later Stamp made friends with other neighbouring cats. Next door there lived a nice lady, who's name was 'Fook'. She became, after a time she ned to overcome her shyness, Stamp's girlfriend.
Fook soon became pregnant, but the father couldn't be Stamp, because he was still too small for that. She gave birth to four kittens in the neighbour's house. Two of them disappeared without a trace. The others weren't seen much in the first time. When they grew up a bit, they came after a while over to our house. Fook was here anyway meanwhile for most of the time. The two little kittens were quite scared at the beginning, didn't trust neither Stamp nor me. That changed quickly. Stamp was a very social and respectful gentleman, and a nice compagnion for other cats. I fed all the four cats here; although Stamp was the 'first cat' in the house and the biggest of them he let the kittens having food first before he took his part. He also had always playing in his mind and loved to play with his new friends.
Soon all four cats became a gang and spent most of their time here in my house. Until Fook became pregnant again. She became a bit aggressive to the other cats, kept them on distance and went separate ways. Only once a day she looked around, if there was some food. But, even then, she was very distanced and didn't eat much.
Just a week ago she became another four kittens. After that she visited us again more often, but was still a bit on distance to the others. Still more aggressive than before.
Although I expected Stamp being Fook's youngest kittens father, they didn't look like Stamp. They all looked like Fook and her first kids - black and white.
Most cats have a tough life in Southeast Asia. Coming back after an absense of eight months, I found almost all the cats I knew disappeared. Fook was anyhow lost, the four kittens either lost or dead, and only one of the two kittens who lived with us was still alive. The black cat who troubled us for a while was also dead.
Stamp died much too early in December 2012. He was the victim of a traffic accident, knocked over by a car. His lower body was squeezed and both his rear legs were broken. He wasn't dead immediately and suffered a nasty, miserable end which he didn't deserve...
The Hotzenplotz Story
Life is ever going on, for man as for cats. It's particularly interesting to observe cats in communities over generations. When several cats live together, they turn out pretty individual, any cat has it's own personality. And they occupy certain social roles in the community.
Little Hotzenplotz grew up as a single cat. His sister died when both where still very young. The cause of her death wasn't fully clear. Might have been distemper, but there was also a strange incident with Grosse-Liese, a female neighbouring cat who came here and shocked the little kitten by threatening it. Maybe she bit her. The kitten then didn't overcome the psychological shock and died next morning. However, around her snout was somewhat of a dark colour. I suspect combined causes for her death.
After Hotzenplotz grew almost up, in the age of around a year, Kleine-Liese and Zeus, two other kittens, joined the scene. After a few days of acclimatization (Kleine-Liese was particularly shy at the beginning; for the first two days she didn't allow one to touch her) they both started a relaxed, well fed and more and more spoiled life. At one point, much to my surprise, Kleine-Liese, herself still a child of half the size of an adult cat, became already pregnant. On September 22nd 2014, much for her own surprise and excitement then, she dropped three lovely kittens. Since then she is always hungry, hungry, hungry, but she doesn't grow anymore. Her compagnion Zeus, in the same age and of the same size at the time of both of their arrival in early March, is now considerable bigger than Kleine-Liese.
Kleine-Liese is kind of a problem cat. She is noisily demanding food all the time; she is plundering dustbins relentlessly; she is trying to steal food whenever she can and committed already repeatedly troublesome theft. She also had the habit to suck excessively on my or Zeus belly. On the other hand she is also very charming, and she knows very well to apply her charme to get what she wants. Her voice is sometimes pretty noisy and high, but can be lowered to a nefarious whiskey voice. Beautiful eyes she has and a sweet face. However, her tail is heavily zig-zag-crippled and very short. There is the suspicion that she has a deeper impact with that than just the outer appearance.
Kleine-Liese is very much adoring Hotzenplotz. When Hotzenplotz, after long nights outside is coming home, he is often welcomed by all the other cats, particularly Kleine-Liese, who is licking his face and his head and lying down besides him. For nobody else Kleine-Liese shows that much affection than for her beloved Hotzenplotz.
Of Zeus I am not sure if he is her brother or rather not - there are no similarities between the both, in character and physical appearance. Zeus is a quiet, but very lively animal, curious and interested. He loves to play with the small kittens and is also clingy, but never too much and always in a gentle manner.
The three kittens, born on September 22nd 2014, develop very well. After a few days they slowly started to walk like on rubber legs. The muscles weren't trained and they had very little control over their movements. Quickly they improved and learned walking, running, eating and - the opposite. It seems very obvious that Hotzenplotz is the father of the kids. The two little tomcats look mostly orange as he does, and the little girl is dark-greyish, of what I can not conclude any connection to another cat.
Cat's are in the reputation to be 'clean'. That has to do with their habbits to lick their furs frequently and, moreover, with the habit to dig a hole in the ground for placing their excrements. An intersting observation is that they try that even on a hard ground like a tiled floor. Not always using the cats toilet, the kittens sometimes sit in the corner of the kitchen and start to dig an imagined hole into the tiled ground to place their faeces there in the next moment. After finished the business, they close the 'pit' with filling imagined soil in it. That seems to be a proof for an inborn behaviour. In fact they come in contact with the faeces and make their paws dirty. Factually they caused every night a mess in the kitchen where they were locked in for the first two months of their lifes at nighttime, for their safety. Every morning I entered the kitchen there was a stinking job for me to be done. After two month I started to leave them outside over night; they were big enough now to be okay with that.
Still there is somewhat like a cat's possession for cats toilets. Keeping the kittens most of the time outside now, they always try to enter the house when they find the door open. First thing they do when entering the house is to visit the cats toilet. That's a very strange behaviour, it's practically kind of a toilet tourism they do. It's also often so that they love to use the toilet immediately after it got cleaned, and if it is just to go in and play a bit around in it - they love that place so much... It should be mentioned that there is a large, green garden around they can easily relief themselves...
But what about Hotzenplotz now? Hotzenplotz is now a large, adult cat, going his own ways. Straying the neighbourhood sometimes for days, he often is around at nighttime and sleeps in the house at daytime. Although all the cats eat too much fish and get pretty overweight, he is always very reserved when food is served. Kleine-Liese, Zeus and the three kittens eat first and greedy, while Hotzenplotz takes place a meter or so aside and waits for them to finish first, before he takes a share of the food. Getting an extra plate with food he immediately starts to eat, but is mostly avoiding to eat together with the other animals.
Remarkable is his relationship to Etzel, the neigbour's tomcat. When Hotzenplotz was still small, they became friends and were playing around in the garden and the neighbourhood. Growing a bit more up, there was kind of a gay episode in their relationship. Hotzenplotz played the girl and Etzel was after him. After a couple of weeks Hotzenplotz didn't like that anymore and started to emancipate from it. But Etzel was not willing to accept that and started to stalk him. This led to a growing conflict between the two and to serious fightings. Since Hotzenplotz was physically smaller and much less experienced than adult Etzel, he was under severe attacks. One morning he appeared with a large, serious wound at his belly, a big hole in the skin which almost went through opening the inner belly. A doctor stitched the wound and it healed fast then. For a few days he was kept in safety behind a closed kitchen door in the house at night, but after that short episode the fighting between the two tomcats went on. Often in the mornings Hotzenplotz came home, injured and in a rotten mood, full of adrenaline and aggressions. It lasted months until he could defeat Etzel decisively in a fight I could personally witness. From then on the situation relaxed and the fighting ceased, although not completely. Now, the state of the affair is that of a balanced, and not a big drama anymore.
At early or mid June 2013 little Hotzenplotz and his sister, Zaubermaus, moved in. Two lively kittens who brought much action into house and garden. The first image shows them both, beautiful Zaubermaus at the front. Zaubermaus is also seen on the first image left, second row. However, the poor animals died soon due to probably a disease, although her death remains somewhat unclear.
Hotzenplotz, although showing some of the same signs of the disease, came through and was since then a very good comrade.
Growing up, one time he met Etzel, a neighour's cat what is the grey one shown on two photos. First they became friends, later they started fighting. Etzel started the trouble when Hotzenplotz was, though bigger, still an adolescent. Big problem for little Hotzenplotz, because he couldn't cope with the much stronger and more experienced Etzel. Before, Etzel lived also in our house for some two months; when the two kittens Kleine-Liese and Zeus moved in, he moved out again. At the same time an escalation between him and Hotzenplotz emerged. Now, Hotzenplotz is a bit bigger, heavier and maybe stronger than Etzel and the two antagonists live in a state of balanced power. Etzel is still coming from time to time looking for what's going on here. Not always fighting occurs anymore.
Kleine Liese (on the chair lying behind Hotzenplotz), is deeply admiring him. Some time it turned out that she, herself a girl of half the size of an adult cat, was pregnant. No doubt, Hotzenplotz is the father - the similarity between him and the kittens is too apparent.
This sinister looking guy is, apart from a few certain incidents, a very
modest, quiet, social, kitten-loving and devoted tomcat. While Hotzenplotz, who is the father of the kittens below, doesn't care at all for them, but is on the contrary often galled by them, Zeus loves to play with them. That probably has to do with the fact that Zeus is himself still an adolescent.
Zeus and Kleine-Liese are of the same age and were, a few month ago, also of the same size, they used to play a lot with each other. However, since Kleine-Liese became a mother she is mostly occupied with caring for her kittens.
A remarcable observation is about Zeus' eyes expression. When he arrived here he wasn't too shy, but his eyes were always narrowed, giving him a wild and aggressive look. This face expression lifted after a few weeks; now he mostly looks like on the pictures, with round, open eyes.
Besides, in the first months, he was very aggressive when it came to food. When I gave him what with my bare hands, he didn't hesitate to bite me in expectance to get the food quicker, or to force me to let go it. After a time of training and abundance of food, he ceased and is now less wild (except there is chicken served). Now, Zeus ownes a stately fish-belly.
However, time is running. Without anyhow provoking it, Zeus became no more accepted by Hotzenplotz. Hotzenplotz, the 'alpha-cat' in the community, started to stalk and attack young Zeus. I made clear I wouldn't tolerate violence, and it worked when I was physically present - but I couldn't always. Fightings happened, always triggered by Hotzenplotz.
On February 5th 2015, after having lived with us for eleven months, Zeus suddenly disappeared and was never seen since. For he is a black cat there are concerns that he might have attracted weired interests in some savage neighbours who have a trait for magic.
This little animal disappeared at the time of it's arrival for a few hours. I already though it vanished into the neighbourhood, but after nighfall it came reluctantly out of his hideout. Very shy, I couldn't touch her for the first two or three days. Then, slowly, she gained confidence. Months later, by the way, this attitude turned much into the contrary; she is now noisy, demanding and sometimes quite impudent.
Blazingly was her habit to suck on other beings belly; she did that excessively at me, every day, as well as at Zeus. While Zeus was very patient with her, Hotzenplotz didn't allow her to do that at him.
Soon she became Hotzenplotz' biggest (and only) fan. They found closely together and soon later came one of the local storks and brought three kittens.
The last three pictures show how Kleine-Liese used to carry her babies before they learned to walk themselves. For her it wasn't too easy to do that, because she is really still a small cat and has a pretty small snout. Nevertheless was she able to carry all three of them through the whole house, if she felt it was necessary. That includes two longer and steep stairways. The kittens then fall into a rigor. That's the same appearance with larger and adult cats, when one grips them in the neck fur and lifts them.
S o one day, to be exactly on September 22nd 2014, Kleine-Liese became very nervous and started shouting at me. Since her belly was plump enough, I had no doubt what would start now. She dug a hole in my freshly washed laundry, what caused me to prepare her a cozy nest in the kitchen, with a soft blanket. Soon after her amniotic sac bursted and she gave birth to the first kitten - very much to her own surprise. 'What's coming there out of my belly, and what has that to do with me???' she seemd to ask. But her instincts work perfectly, and she licked the little baby, cut the umbilical cord and - woops - the next baby arrived.
Everything run perfectly and she only ned some company who looked for her and encouraged her. It seems that father tomcats don't care at all for their offspring. Hotzenplotz was anyway out in the neigbhbourhood, fighting with Etzel or being after the cat lady next door - who knows?
Very remarkably was the colour of the kitten's eyes, when they opened them after a few days. They were dark-blue, a colour I have seen only once before. That was in the picture 'Dune - The Desert Planet', when the heroes got a portion of the magic elixir what made them great fighters. Same colour of the eyes, they got. But this is not big cinema, and the eye colour got soon brighter and changed into a greenish blue.
The first few days the kittens depended exclusively on her mother's milk. After eight days we faced disaster. In the morning Kleine-Liese was disappeared. She never before left the garden, but this time she was defenitely not around the house. First I expected her to come back soon, but she didn't. In the afternoon I became very nervous about that and searched the neighbourhood - without success. At early evening the kittens began to cry, more and more. Very sad, that. After nightfall they cried nonstop, longing for nourishment. I couldn't help them anyhow. Factually there was little doubt that something terrible happened to Kleine-Liese, otherwise she would have come back since long. Maybe she was caught by a neighbour and killed for food, or killed by a dog or a snake around. There are occasionally bigger snakes in the ricefields around, here and then even a cobra. That was a very, very sad evening, and I expected to witness the kittens dying next day.
At around 2 a.m. Kleine-Liese dropped through the window in my bed. I snapped her and ran into the kitchen, but the kittens were already fed and fine, sleeping peacefully. Kleine-Liese cared for them first before she came to me. I have still no explanation for what happened that day.
After a few more days the little ones started alternatively to suck also eating fish and drinking water. They learned walking and running, and also started to use the kitchen as a toilet. Although there was always a cats toilet, they prefared to use the big one. Every morning I had to clean up the mess. After two month I started to keep them outdoor, what seems safe. Opening the door in the morning meaned then to have a kitten invasion who target the cats toilet. Strangely they prefare it far over all the space in the big garden. Doesn't make me very happy to have a permanently stinking toilet in the kitchen, but that's the drawback of housing baby cats, it seems.
The three kittens are named Loewenherz, Sisowath and Else. Funnily, calling them the shamrock: there are exclusively four-leafed shamrocks in the garden...