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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Theory: Head-to-Ear Size Ratio

I have a theory about the cats at home. For reasons unbeknownst to people at home, including myself until now, several of the cats have developed either huge, all-the-better-to-hear-you-with ears or a massive head. Never both, thank God. It seemed to be some kind of genetic joke that mother nature played every couple of generations. But this humor resulting from inherited largesse on parts of the body easily visible was short lived. I have found the answer. The cats with bigger heads have more of a who-the-hell-is-he-to-tell-me-what-to-do attitude, and overall outlook on life, while the bat-eared version leads more of a hmm?-what-was-that-again existence. No, they’re not deaf. They just seem to have an uncanny ability to follow instructions verbatim, after you tell them a couple of times. To find out what I’m talking about, please refer to the picture below.

Meet the Subjects

The cat on the left is the ferocious tom cat, affectionately called “Rakshasarajavu” (which translates into “Demon King“) by my mother. The one on the left, is one of the newer generation additions to the feline population here at Sri Vilas. We suspect it’s a result of one the tom’s several recent escapades. There’s a hint of inbreeding here, I suspect, but more on that in a later post. Anyway, like I was saying, please draw your attention to the heads and ears of these two. The tom has a larger head -one of the largest I’ve seen on a cat in these parts - and small ears, while his suspected scion has a diminutive noggin and freakishly large ears. At this juncture, I’d like to apologize for the appalling picture quality. It was the only time I could get a shot of the tom cat sitting next to any of the other cats, let alone kittens, being the neighborhood Casanova that he is. The original was a near pitch black image that the PhotoFix function on my trusty K850i resurrected to come up with this. Having explained the low quality of the image, I hope you see what I am referring to. Let me explain the theory by giving you a glimpse into the behavior of these two cats, perhaps even, with a specific example or two.

Subject 1: "Demon King"

The tom cat is always doing the rounds of our neighborhood. He’s been sighted at the intersection almost a half-kilometer away on several occasions, so we can only imagine the extent of his “demon” domain. Whenever he comes up to the house, and I suspect he does this at most other places too, he has a very long, drawn out wail that sounds somewhere between the extra-pathetic cries of your average Indian beggar on the roadside, and the painful moans of one of the extras in a scene from Saving Private Ryan, holding his guts in his hand. It’s more annoying than evocative of sympathy, unfortunately for M. Tom Cat, but it doesn’t stop him from doing it. Everyone at home scolds him or shouts at him when he starts making this god-awful noise - I help out with the occasional piece of flying footwear, making sure I never hit him, of course - but he seems unfazed by all of it. Oftentimes, he seems to challenge the vituperation sent his way with an increase in decibel level. But the fact remains that he never shuts up when asked. Now, for those of you animal lovers who are reading this and going, “But that’s just the way he meows you heartless jackasses!” I beg you to hold onto that thought. When the situation demands, he can emit a series of other cries that sound more like your average cat and less like your wounded banshee. He does this to great effect when he comes around the house at lunch or dinner, and you almost want to pick him and cuddle with him because he sounds like the sweetest little darling kitty cat. I wouldn’t necessarily do that, but I think it’s done to great effect. Why he doesn’t choose to sound more like a normal cat when he meows defied logic, until now. He doesn’t care. He’s living life by giving the world, and us, the permanent finger. And I, well, I put that down to his over-sized head dictating his who-the-hell-are-these-people-anyway attitude to life. Trust me, if you had to hear him come by the house at 4am and wail annoyingly until about daybreak, you’d reach for some sort of projectile too.

Subject 2: Whitey

Moving on the little fella next to the tom cat, called the “Vella Kutty” (which translates into the “White Child” in English) for purposes of easy reference, given the number of cats and kittens, she’s got Dumbo ears on that tiny little head of hers. Scientists and naturalists will tell you that big, funnel-like ears help an animal hear better. I happen to think, and this goes for this kitten and the others that I’ve observed here at home, the large ears move the cat from simply hearing to listening in the sense of following instructions. Case in point, Whitey grew up like many of the other kittens at home; the house was her world and toilet. I stress that second part because having been born during the Monsoon rains a couple of months ago, Whitey and her sisters, like most unfriendly-towards-water-and-otherwise-wet-conditions felines used “to go“ in the house. It wasn’t until they were old enough for us to be able to grab them and put them outside when they got all ready to relieve themselves that the cats finally realized what we were trying to tell them. Or at the very least, they eventually learned why we started acting all strange with our complainy voices and our scrunched up noses whenever they had just “gone” on the floor. But Whitey, well, she seemed to have a preference for indoor plumbing, so to speak. Up until last week, one of us would still find her in various purgative postures and shoo her off like a human being possessed. But that was until one morning when I looked her in the eyes as frankly as any person can look a cat in the eyes and told her that if she really felt the need to relieve herself indoors, she was better off doing it in the bathroom. My first statement was met with a sort of wait-I-didn’t-get-that-last-part wonder in Whitey’s little eyes. So, I repeated myself, slower and with a lot more enunciation. Et voila! Now, as long as she has access to the bathroom, the rest of the house is safe from cat feces. And that’s when it dawned on me that if Whitey could write she’d probably be taking notes right now, poor thing.

I’ve tried repeating the kindly-make-use-of-the-lavatory instruction to some of the newer kittens, but to no avail. In fact, one of the little guys with a larger head, always seems to give me a what-makes-you-think-I’d-ever-do-that glare! But there’s always hope, right?


So, there you have it. My theory on head-to-ear size ratio using a couple of test subjects from the Sri Vilas cat population. Which only leaves out the other 90 percent of the cats. So, how do the rest behave? Well, if you consider either of the test subjects to be on extremes of the scale, the rest of the cats operate boringly somewhere in between.

On the whole, perhaps not scientifically brilliant this observation, but it will teach me to watch what I say to the next pair of Dumbo ears that I come across.

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