I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Cuteness as an evolutionary strategy

I've been assured by fellow codexian bloggers that I'll double my readership if I start adding pictures of my cats. At first I thought, yeah, that's not going to happen. Readers of this blog come here for my discussion of politics and religion, as well as the occasional advice on writing. Cuteness has never really been part of the mix.

Then, I thought, well, why not? So, here they are, in all their feline glory:

Isosceles is 14 years old, blind in his right eye, and cannot drink water like a normal cat. He must instead splash the water all over the kitchen, then like his paws. I'm told that this isn't that strange of a behavior, that, having evolved in deserts, cats dislike large still bodies of water. I feel like evolution has had more than enough time to get them out of that habit, but what do I know.

Sarah is about 9 years old and insists on drinking her water straight from the faucet. She also assumes that the bathroom sink was built as a cat bed. She is perhaps the least aloof cat in the world. She has absolutely no fear of strangers, and if you sit down on my house, she has some sort of lap-radar that will bring her running to sit on you.

Since it's been a while since I did a science post, one of the things that most interests me about cats is how humans and cats (and other animals) are co-evolving. We seem to be selecting them for increasing cuteness. It's obvious that they've thrived as a result--there are cats in the US with better health insurance than many kids. Somehow, cats trigger all the instincts in humans that make us treat them as if they are our own babies--small, crying creatures that respond to perpetual nursing.

It's obvious why cats benefit from this relationship. But, it's also easy to see that, by evolving instincts that found cats to be cute, humans increased their survival odds as well. Having lots of cats around is a good way of not having lots of mice and rats around--or, for that matter, spiders, snakes, and various other creepy crawlies that my cats seem hardwired to hunt. So, in some ways, they repay us better than babies, which just lay around all day and are real slackers in the vermin hunting department.

Of course, I don't have a lot of mice or snakes around my house reguardless. And, snakes would be just as good at keeping the mice population down anyway. So, perhaps my theories about cuteness as an evolutionary strategy has a few holes in it.

If any has any suggestions on how to get either of these critters to reliably drink from a water bowl, I'd love to hear it by the way. There's nothing quite like getting into bed and having a cat with cold wet paws walk across your back.

By the way, it remains unlikely I will be posting wacky pictures of them with "I can haz" captions.

Unless the hits on this post really spike. Then, I can't promise anything.


Loren Eaton said...

Aww, what cute little carnivores!

Words In, Words Out said...

hehehe For the second one?

Johnny Cash kitteh

walkz teh line...

Words In, Words Out said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tez Miller said...

It's true - you'll have an influx of visitors. Blame Jenny Rappaport who linked to this post ;-)

Have a lovely day! :-)

Pema said...

I found you and your kitties via ComfortSoup on LiveJournal. Yeah, cats are cute. I've had a few that like the sink as a place to sleep.

Lots of cats prefer to drink water; there are devices on the market that will pump water through a little fountain, which may satisfy your cats' desire to drink from something other than standing water.

James Maxey said...

Wow! I never get this many comments when I talk about the federal debt. The next time I do a post about politics I'll be sure to put the debate into little word balloons on the cat photos.

Pema, I've seen the fountains you're talking about. I saw one in pet smart and it was pretty expensive, about 50 bucks if memory serves, a bit much to pay for a fancy cat dish. Plus, in my heart of hearts, I know that if I spent the money on the fountain, my cats would snub it. I used to buy them little cat toys--catnip mouses, feathery things on sticks... they scorned them all. On the other hand, if they get ahold of a plastic ring from a milk bottle, they'll stay amused for an afternoon.

Pema said...

Wow! I never get this many comments when I talk about the federal debt.

Yes, but now that I've discovered your blog, I may stick around for the politics. I've been known to write a smidgen about politics now and then, myself (just not on blogger, all my blogging is on LiveJournal at Straw Castles). And, I've noticed a rather deafening silence when I do write about politics, which I find distressing, so it's not something I do nearly as often as I might.

James Maxey said...

Pema, the pattern I've noticed is that my political posts will sometimes generate a lot of email, but zero comments. (By a lot I mean two or three emails, not dozens or hundreds.)

It's taken me awhile to realize that many people may possess opinions equally as strong as mine, but have been born with a gene that actually makes them strive to be polite members of society not shouting their opinions from rooftops, as I am doing, metaphorically at least.

So, if I do start posting my cats' political opinions, maybe other people will feel more comfortable posting their cats political opinions.

Whiskers: Catnip has never killed a single user. The fact that the government spends even a dime regulating it is a waste of the taxpayers money.

Fluffy: Whiskers, you ignorant tabby, catnip wrecks households. Cats become obsessed with when and where to get their next fix, and completely ignore important household duties like keeping the house safe from cobras and invisible specks on the wall that must be stared into submission. We need more laws, not fewer!

--Or, perhaps not.

Pema said...

James, Whiskers, and Fluffy: You are all simply too funny.

My cats are far too busy either napping to begging for food to be bothered with having political opinions. However, they do enjoy the occasional sprinkle of catnip over their scratching pad. So far, it has not wrecked our home, but that may be because I only indulge them with it on rare occations.