The butt wiggle: Why do cats do this before they pounce?

We’ve all seen our cats do it: They crouch down very low, zero in on their prey, whatever it is, then wiggle their butts right before launching themselves into the air and pouncing. It’s so cute, and so hilarious, that nobody can really get enough of it. What is that, though? Why do cats do the butt wiggle right before they pounce?

The butt wiggle has to do with hunting behavior

There’s an actual reason for this that has to do with how cats hunt. Yes, they’re stealthy hunters, but one would think that wiggling their butts like that would belie their position and scare away their prey. However, you have definitely seen how they launch themselves – they must be properly grounded and balanced in order to launch successfully.

Enter the butt wiggle. This helps your kitty get her back feet in the exact position she needs for that launch. It’s rather like the way an athlete will position his or her feet right before jumping, taking off in a sprint, diving, etc.

Watch below (and don’t drink anything beforehand):

Big cats do the butt wiggle, too

In the wild, the big cousins of our furry feline friends—lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, etc.—actually dig their feet into the ground a bit for leverage before launching after their prey. The wiggle of a big cat is likely much slower than that of your little cat, but it’s still there, and it’s done for the same reason.

In our house, all four cats do the butt wiggle before launching themselves after their own “prey,” which is usually a toy attached to a string, which is attached to a stick. They do it to varying degrees; Chase will actually stop and start his wiggling, as will Kali. Gizmo‘s is very brief, and Aria‘s seems to last forever.

We love watching all of them do it.

If you’d like to see more of the butt wiggle, click here. Buzzfeed has a great compilation of feline butt wiggle .gifs.

Bringing back critically endangered Iberian lynxes

The Iberian lynx nearly went extinct 15 years ago. There were only about 100 adults left in the wild, and only 25 breeding females. That’s a small enough population to ensure extinction, and European conservationists knew that. Some of us (myself included) rail against captive breeding programs for conservation, because oftentimes, they simply result in breeding these poor animals for life in a cage. In the case of Iberian lynxes, that may not be so.

Conservationists began capturing young lynxes to ensure their health and breeding capabilities, and breeding them. In 2010, he first Iberian lynxes that are part of this program were born in captivity. In 2014 and 2015, they’d been able to release more than 120 lynxes, and there were 400 lynxes in Southern Spain by the end of 2015.

This program could help bring lynxes back to the U.K., too

This program is so successful that they’re now considering a very similar program to re-introduce Eurasian lynxes to the U.K. U.K. Lynx Trust believes that the U.K. could support hundreds of lynxes, but they would start very slowly, with three males and three females, most likely from Romania.

The first birth would be the first lynx born in the U.K. in 1,300 years.

Eurasian lynxes and Iberian lynxes are different in that Iberian lynxes are smaller, and their coloring is different. There are other differences, too. Iberian lynxes also seem to be localized to Spain. They aren’t even found in Portugal.

Eurasian lynxes, on the other hand, are far more widespread, but, as stated earlier, haven’t been seen in the U.K. in a very long time. The Eurasian lynx was native to the U.K., as well as much of the rest of Europe. Like the Iberian lynx, the Eurasian lynx became endangered in part by habitat destruction, which would be par for the course since an awful lot of endangerment and extinction has occurred because of habitat destructions.

Bringing back Iberian lynxes, and Eurasian lynxes, is quite a popular idea

There is very strong public support for both programs. Of course, many in the farming industry are worried about it, because they fear the lynxes will prey on their livestock. Lynxes have been known to prey on sheep, but they are completely harmless to deer. However, the benefits and support of reintroducing these cats to their native areas through breeding programs is popular.

Basically, the idea of captive breeding might be repulsive to many of us, but these programs are being used not just to bring back lynxes, but also such endangered species as the South China Tiger. Successful breeding and introduction into the wild may be just the recipe we need to save some of these beautiful cats.

Devo’s ‘Whip It’ To help with Big Cats in Circuses

Remember Devo? The band from the early ’80s whose iconic song, “Whip It,” is still played today? They’re taking that song and rebranding it for an amazing cause – big cats in circuses. The song, which the group says was about overcoming adversity, can apply to this problem, too. Now, Devo’s “Whip It” will help PETA in the fight to release big cats from circuses.

Problems with big cats in circuses have been present for forever

Ringling Bros. has come under heavy fire for their use of animals, like big cats, in circuses. It’s so bad that, as recently as 2013, PETA was repeatedly asking the city of Chicago to investigate the circus for the way it treats its animals. The USDA has also repeatedly cited Ringling Bros. for their terrible treatment of animals in general, and tigers in specific.

They’ve kept tigers in very small cages, and in boxcars without good climate control. Their tigers have almost died from the heat inside the cars.

Where does “Whip It” come in?

“Whip It” has a long history of use in commercials and videos, but the whole point here is to bring attention to the abuse—including whipping—that goes on in circus training. PETA’s senior vice president, Dan Mathews, was able to ask for Devo’s help in fighting big cats in circuses in part because he’s known the singer/bassist, Gerald Casale, for a long time.

They’re focused on the use of cattle prods to train elephants, which is a major focus of many animal rights groups fighting animals in circuses. Mathews asked Casale to direct a video aimed at raising awareness of the problem, which then moved Casale to do something about it.

Devo will donate a portion of the proceeds to PETA to help fight for this cause.

Using “Whip It” to do this only makes sense:

“Obviously, ‘Whip It’ being the song that has perennially produced the most royalty income and been the most used in TV and movies and video games, it was the obvious choice. Not to mention the irony of the title and the gallows humor there.”

Ringling Bros. has announced that they will start retiring elephants from their circus, but this effort won’t solve the problem of big cats in circuses. Still, some progress is better than no progress at all. We can only hope that this is merely a first step, and that Devo’s and PETA’s work will help.

Why do Cats Make ‘Stinky Face’?

You’ve seen your cat stick her nose into something, whether it’s a blanket, a spot on the carpet, whatever, then look up with her mouth slightly open and her eyes slightly narrowed. It looks exactly like she’s saying, “Ewwwwww, what is that nasty smell?” There’s a reason that cats do “stinky face,” and it actually has nothing to do with whether they find a smell distasteful.

What, exactly does “stinky face” mean?

Cats have a gland known as the Jacobson’s gland, or the vomeronasal organ, in their mouths that allows them to “taste” the air and better identify scents. It’s in the roof of your cat’s mouth, and she uses it to analyze the scent of other cats. This is especially useful when cats smell another cat’s urine, but you might see your cat do this with feces, and even old vomit spots, depending on how well they were cleaned.

“Stinky face” is also called the flehmen reaction, and it’s not limited to domestic cats. Big cats make this face, too. They, like our furry feline friends at home, actually make this face when they like the smell and want to identify it. This is also how intact male cats identify a female cat in heat.

This is a good explanation of “stinky face:”

Did you know “stinky face” can be helpful to you?

We’ve had problems with some of our cats urinating on our furniture, so whenever I see one of our cats making “stinky face,” I immediately go smell the spot myself to see if I can figure it out. Sometimes I regret it, and sometimes I can’t smell anything. Sometimes, I catch one of my cats making “stinky face” when they’re smelling a spot in which another cat has lain or bathed.

In fact, the “stinky face” I see on Chase and Gizmo is often how I’ve found urine spots. It can be almost as helpful as a UV light. The problems we have with our cats urinating outside the boxes is stress; we’ve had them evaluated by the vet several times for medical problems. They don’t do it nearly as much they used to, but the flehmen reaction has been very helpful in telling us when someone has gone outside the litter boxes.

If you’ve ever seen your cat make “stinky face,” it’s simply because she’s trying to analyze a scent she’s encountered, and doesn’t mean she’s encountered something unpleasant like it does with us. She’s just trying to identify what she smells.

Saving Wild Tigers May Require Interesting Scientific Measure

Tigers’ Roars are Unique, Like our Cats’ Meows

Just as our own cats’ meows are distinctive enough for us to identify them, so too are tigers’ roars, according to the Prusten Project. The founder of the project, Courtney Dunn, says that they can hear the differences in tigers’ roars, and they wondered if software could see it, too. Apparently, it can, which is a major breakthrough in identifying individual tigers in the wild.

One key difference in tigers’ roars

The project looked at recordings of different tigers’ roars in zoos and sanctuaries around the U.S., and found that there are a number of differences. For instance, female tigers tend to have higher frequency roars than male tigers. Because of that, the researchers were able to tell which tigers’ roars came from a male, and which ones came from a female.

This actually is not terribly surprising, given the similarities between tigers and our own furry feline friends. My four cats have four very distinctive meows. As such, I can generally tell who’s meowing, even from all the way across the house, or on different floors.

Chase’s voice is unusually high-pitched for a male cat, and has an almost metallic timber to it. Kali’s voice is quieter, and more rich than her brother’s. Aria’s got a very high-pitched squeak that used to sound like she was singing, but we believe age has rusted her singing voice. Gizmo’s mew is a little lower-pitched, almost sad, and very smooth, despite her age.

Tigers and domestic cats share a lot of DNA, making the differences in tigers’ roars seem natural

Genetic research shows that the domestic cat and the tiger diverged some ten million years ago. Tigers and domestic house cats share 95.6 percent of their DNA, making them strikingly similar despite all the obvious differences. I imagine that the reason we have trouble thinking about tigers’ roars as being unique from one another is because, compared to our own cats at home, we so rarely actually hear tigers’ roars.

Listen to your cats’ meows carefully. Chances are, you can already identify each of your cats by its meow. If you listened to tigers’ roars as carefully as the Prusten Project does, you might start to hear the differences, too. In the meantime, scientists are hoping to expand their research beyond zoos and sanctuaries, and into the wild. This has the potential to help with tracking individual tigers, which, in turn, can help with conservation efforts.

Why we Need to Stop Trophy Hunting Lions NOW

Yesterday was World Lion Day, with a special focus on the problem of trophy hunting. We all know, by now, what happened to Cecil the lion, who lived in a refuge in Zimbabwe. An American dentist shot and killed Cecil to bring him home as a trophy. Trophy hunting lions has ripple effects across an entire pride, and across the environment. Lions, and animals in general, are not trophies, and it’s high time for the world to wake up.

The effects of trophy hunting lions aren’t limited to the ones that are hunted

Lion populations are shrinking worldwide, and while there are several causes, one of them is, in fact, trophy hunting. National Geographic says that 600 lions fall to trophy hunting every year, and nearly two-thirds of that is at the hands of wealthy Americans. This is absolutely sick.

That’s not the total number of lions that die each year due to trophy hunting, though. Trophy hunting lions, particularly the prized male lions, destabilizes the pride, and often results in the death of an entire generation of lion cubs. So the number of lions killed because of trophy hunting is well into the thousands, possibly the tens of thousands, each year.

We’re already seeing this, as the New York Post reports that another male lion has killed one of Cecil’s eight cubs. Cecil’s brother, Jericho, has been protecting the cubs, but unless he can successfully take over the pride, he can’t protect them forever. Those cubs will very likely die if another male takes over the pride.

Trophy hunting lions, or other animals, does not bring much money into poor communities

People like to claim that trophy hunting lions, and other animals, brings millions of dollars into poor communities, but that is an empty claim. It’s so untrue that even a pro-hunting group, known as the International Council for Game and Wildlife, says that only three percent of the revenue from trophy hunting actually goes into communities. The rest goes to governments, or foreign outfitters.

Regardless, that is a very poor justification for continuing to destabilize ecosystems just for some bragging rights. Far, far more money pours into Africa from tourists who come just to watch the wildlife, according to the National Geographic piece.

One focus of World Lion Day

World Lion Day efforts in Africa focus on the need for humans to learn to coexist with these majestic creatures, in addition to ending trophy hunting. Trophy hunting lions isn’t the only problem they face. People often hunt down and kill lions that kill their livestock, or kill other people. This phenomenon isn’t limited to African lions, or the continent of Africa, either. Here in the U.S., it has long been common practice to kill a predator that kills livestock. This is one reason why lifting Illinois’ bobcat hunting ban was such a bad idea.

It’s long past time to stop trophy hunting lions, and to end this barbaric practice altogether. Animals are not trophies, and they’re not bragging rights. They’re a vital part of the planet, and a vital part of our own existence.

Sad Day as Illinois Lifts Bobcat Hunting Ban

Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill that lifts Illinois’ bobcat hunting ban on July 15. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016, according to the Chicago Tribune, and will allow hunters to kill one bobcat per season. The cat, which is not nearly as big as some in the Illinois general assembly said it is, was hunted until it nearly disappeared from the state. It was taken off of the threatened species list in 1999.

One of the problems is that, in lifting the bobcat hunting ban, Rauner ignored the vast majority of voters in Illinois. A month ago, the Humane Society of the United States posted the results of a poll showing that over 70 percent of Illinois voters wanted the bobcat hunting ban to remain in place. That was true in all parts of the state.

The general assembly pushed myths and lies to get support for lifting the bobcat hunting ban

The Tribune correctly notes that bobcats are reclusive creatures. Yet, as I pointed out when I last wrote about this, some in the general assembly built their cases on falsehoods. State representative Ed Sullivan (D-Mundelein) actually asked others to imagine a 60-pound bobcat that can kill something ten times its weight. He also asked them to imagine one carrying off a child, or even a small woman. This is literally not possible for bobcats

Bobcats are small, roughly 17-30 pounds, and they do not like people. We’re not their natural prey, and they instinctively stay away from us. Big Cat Rescue says that, when we see bobcats, it’s generally because we’ve either taken their habitat, or hunters have taken their prey. Bobcats are smart, though, and they are able to live alongside humans with no trouble. They can also help to keep rodent populations in check, which is an asset to farmers and ranchers.

The Tribune says that some people would dispute that bobcats can live alongside us with no trouble, saying that people are worried for their children’s safety and also that of their livestock. The biggest problem we have when it comes to wild predators is misinformation, and these fears are based on misinformation.

Bobcats are a vital part of the Illinois ecosystem

Furthermore, as former Governor Pat Quinn said when he vetoed the bobcat hunting ban in January of this year, bobcats are a valuable part of the ecosystem. Rauner, however, loves sport hunting and fishing. That is likely why he signed the bill; he’s kowtowing to his own recreation, and to the hunters in Illinois.

Killing one bobcat per hunter, per season, doesn’t sound like much. It doesn’t sound like that kind of a limit will allow hunters to once again devastate Illinois’ bobcat population, but it adds up. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that there’s no reason to hunt bobcats other than to “protect” the hunters’ favorite game from competition. They also want the trophies, and some likely want to make some money selling the fur.

We needed the bobcat hunting ban to remain in effect. Unfortunately, the lies, the misinformation, and the special interests won the day.

These 3 Endangered Cats are Facing Extinction

Scientists at Stanford University are warning that we’ve entered a mass extinction event not seen since the end of the dinosaurs. Species are dying out as much as 100 times faster than seen between mass extinctions. Habitat loss, pollution, and climate change are all human-caused, and are fueling the fire, and extinctions aren’t limited to the dodo, the Formosan clouded leopard, or the Cape lion. The black rhinoceros was just recently declared extinct, and several hundred other species since 1500 have vanished. More cats are slated to join that list, too. Here are the three most endangered cats in the world.

Endangered Cats: The South China Tiger

When it comes to endangered cats, the South China tiger ranks way up there. They are the most endangered tiger left in the world. According to The Telegraph, in the 1950s, there were 4,000 South China tigers in existence. In 2008, there were less than 100. However, of those 100 (or less), it’s thought that only 10 remained in the wild. The rest lived in zoos.

A breeding program in South Africa may be the key to saving the South China tiger, though. A charity organization, known as Save China’s Tigers, is working to breed these tigers, keep them wild and train them to hunt and take care of themselves, and then release them back into the wild. That’s astonishing, considering that most efforts at conserving endangered cats consist of breeding them for life in a cage. Zoos’ efforts are admirable, but conservation really needs to happen in the wild.

Endangered Cats: The Amur Leopard

Another of the most endangered cats out there is the Amur leopard, which is primarily found in Russia. According to The Telegraph, in 2011, there were less than 50 Amur leopards left in the wild, making them one of the most seriously endangered cats in the world. While they used to live in China, too, as of four years ago, they were considered extinct there.

In the winter, the fur of the Amur leopard can grow to three inches long, to protect them from the cold. One of the biggest dangers they face is from poachers who want those valuable pelts. The World Wildlife Federation says that the forests in which Amur leopards live are easily accessible, and that their pelts are highly prized.

Various conservation efforts have helped to slow the Amur leopard’s decline, including better wildlife management, and relocating leopards from other areas to help prevent inbreeding. That’s the strategy that helped bring the Florida panther back from the brink of extinction, and it may help the Amur leopard, too.

Endangered Cats: The Iberian Lynx

This beautiful, rare cat is another of the most endangered cats, with only two confirmed breeding populations left in southern Spain. The World Wildlife Federation believes that there are less than 150 Iberian lynxes left in the wild, and possibly as few as 84. These numbers are not sufficient to sustain the species, and, like the other critically endangered cats, the Iberian lynx faces extinction.

The main threats to the Iberian lynx are habitat loss, hunting, and car hits. The interesting thing about hunting is that these cats are regarded both as trophies, and as vermin. Hunters want both their fur and their meat, but also view them as a threat to game populations. That’s a major problem with hunting everywhere; the predators are often hunted to the brink because they’re competition for game.

Conservation efforts have slowly started growing the Iberian lynx population again, though, so there is some hope that this beautiful cat won’t become extinct. Seven adults were imported into a new region of Spain, which could help establish a third breeding population.

These endangered cats are but a small percentage of all endangered species, and we humans sit around and bicker about whether allowing species to go extinct is good or bad for the planet – or, more commonly, good or bad for profit. All these animals represent important parts of the ecosystem – an ecosystem that we’re destroying.

Illinois Seeks to Lift Crucial Bobcat Hunting Ban

Big cats are returning to Illinois, after decades of decline due to hunting and habitat loss. Illinois is currently home to a few cougars, and a growing bobcat population, which the state general assembly considers to be good enough news that they’re working on lifting our bobcat hunting ban.

Illinois banned bobcat hunting back in the 1970s, when they ended up on the threatened species list due to habitat loss and overhunting. Downstate, people are supposedly upset about bobcats threatening livestock and pets, as the cats apparently grow out of control. In the northern part of the state, people are worried that lifting the bobcat hunting ban will return them to the threatened species list, or worse, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois lawmakers used scare tactics to convince others to vote for lifting the bobcat hunting ban

The bill to lift the bobcat hunting ban went to Governor Rauner’s desk three days ago, with groups petitioning him to veto it, just as Governor Quinn did five months ago. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune talked about just how the general assembly pushed the bill through, with various lawmakers using scare tactics to make their arguments. Representative Ed Sullivan (D-Mundelein) said:

“Imagine a bobcat that’s 60 pounds that could attack and kill something 10 times its weight. Think of a small child or a small woman or a small boy that could be attacked and carried away. That’s why we kill these things. That’s why we hunt them.”

This is utter nonsense, as bobcats are not nearly that big. The average northern bobcat, which is what we have here in Illinois, is 20 to 30 pounds, max. They’re not that much bigger than the domestic house cat. They’re able to hunt animals as big as deer, but their preferred prey is rabbits, rodents and birds.

Rep. Sullivan was not only fear-mongering, he either got his facts wrong, or he was outright lying to scare people into voting to lift the bobcat hunting ban. The op-ed in the Tribune rightly mentions that bobcats are shy of humans, which is quite true. When they have the option, they will avoid us, rather than confront us, let alone hunt us. They do not stalk humans; not even children.

Clayton Nielsen, a wildlife biologist from Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, says that bobcats are no threat to people.

“Bobcats are active mainly at dawn and dusk, and have no desire for a fight. The bobcat’s story is the same as for most wildlife: if they can flee, they will.”

The real reasons hunters want the bobcat hunting ban lifted

The biggest reasons that people want to hunt bobcats are because they make good trophies, and because their pelts are valuable. The state’s bobcat population is 3,000 to 5,000 now, which is what lawmakers have decided is a good number to warrant lifting our bobcat hunting ban.

Let Governor Rauner know he should veto this bill

Many groups have filed petitions to pressure Governor Rauner to veto the bill. The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club has asked people to write to Rauner and tell him to veto the bill. The Humane Society of Illinois has a form you can fill out and send directly to the Governor’s office, asking him to veto it. He has not yet signed it, so there’s still time to tell him to veto the bill. Click here to sign the Humane Society’s letter and let Bruce Rauner know that you stand with Illinois bobcats, and against people who want to hunt these creatures back onto the endangered list.

**Please note: You may have to be a resident of Illinois to send this letter, so if you can’t sign it and send it yourself, please pass it on to people who can.**