Readers’ cats: trifecta!

It’s Monday—another damn week. But the snow is gone in Chicago, and I think it’s gone for good. Ceiling Cat has decided that it’s spring, and we should celebrate by depicting three of his Prophets on Earth, blessed be their names.

Reader Ed Suominen, an ex-Christian, is co-author with Robert Price of the lovely book Evolving out of Eden: Christian Responses to Evolution. I highly recommend it. But he also has a cat (a big ‘un), and sent me a picture of it with a short note; I’ve since obtained the cat’s name:

Jerry, I thought you’d like this pic I took of my eighteen-pounder immersed in warm feline bliss today. Ah, to have such simple needs…

His name is Frisky II. Each successive orange cat in the household adopts the Frisky name when it replaces another, much like the Pope.

Alas, Frisky I got mishandled by a bird of prey (we have owls, hawks, crows, and bald eagles out here) and eventually died from the trauma to his neck. There were big talon marks and spinal damage. In many places, cats are a threat to birds, but in our woods it is also the other way around.

Frisky II has been a real survivor, but eventually there will have to be a Frisky III.

This is from reader Natalie in Berlin:

Pic not fab, but funny, to complement your squirrel days, here is Princesse eyeing a red squirrel in the bird feeder of my mum’s garden. “If only I could share your world…” she’s pondering…


Finally, a shop cat sent by reader Joe McClain, who is the science writer in residence at the College of William and Mary, my alma mater. The colonial outfits are of course because Colonial Williamsburg, a reconstruction of the original town, is full of workers—and tourists—dressing as they did in the 17th and 18th centuries. I love the printer’s cat!

Thought you might be interested in this photo that I must say in the interest of full disclosure also includes my granddaughters Maeve (straw hat) and Saoirse. They are speaking with Shilling, who is the Shop Cat at the Printing Shop at Colonial Williamsburg. The printer warned everyone that while Shilling is usually very friendly, he just had an unspecified and unpleasant encounter and suggested that the kids not try to pet him. I think that Shilling has an excellent coloration for a printer, because you can’t really tell where he’s gotten inky. (And an all-black cat would vanish into the dim recesses of the shop.)



  1. Paul
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 4:54 am | Permalink


  2. Thanny
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    That Williamsburg cat is almost certainly a she.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 17, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      Something to do with the colour-controlling genes being randomly silenced in the embryonic skin, because of the double-X chromosome. So, for the same reason, the only human tetrachromats (four different colour-sensing pigments in the retina) that I’ve heard of are also female.

      • Marie Mercer
        Posted March 30, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        This cat is definitely a girl. As noted, her name is Shilling, she lives in the historic area and is owned by the woman in charge of the livestock at Colonial Williamsburg.
        I created a fan page on facebook for my favorite cat. It’s called Shilling, Queen of DoG Street. If you’d like to contribute any pictures, videos, comments, please feel free.

  3. JBlilie
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    One of our kitties looks as if she’s dipped her back foor into the inkwell and then tried to wash it off. Hail Shilling!

  4. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Princesse [:] “If only I could share your world…” she’s pondering…

    Or maybe … “why don’t that squirrl get indoors to meet me, where it’s nice and warm. I’m not going out there!”

  5. Andrea Kenner
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Calico cats are an interesting study in genetics. According to Wikipedia (, “Because genetic determination of some coat colors in cats is linked to the X chromosome, calicoes are nearly always female.”

  6. BillyJoe
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    “Maeve…and Saoirse”

    Unuusual naimes!
    Irish, I’m guessing.
    Pronounced mayve and searsha?

    My daughter has two unrelated Irish friends called Ilish (eye lish) and Ilish (ay lish). The ‘I’ is acute in the second case. They both have sisters called Siobhan (shiv von).

    Interesting world.

  7. Posted March 17, 2014 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Waaaaiiit a minit. Shilling is a he? Are you sure? This appears to be a calico cat, although the color pattern is maybe unusual. If it is a calico then it should be a female. Basic cat genetics: calicos and tortoiseshell cats are females. They are a classic example of how mammals deal with ‘dosage compensation’ of X-linked genes in mammals.
    If this is not a calico, then my apologies.

    • Posted March 17, 2014 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      Yes, it may be a calico, although it looks like a very strange one. I used “he” simply because Joe used “he.” If I find out Shilling is a female, I’ll correct it. There may be anomalous male calicos, too.

      • Posted March 17, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        I seem to remember the printer using the masculine pronoun, but I could be wrong. I will try to find out. One fine day, I’ll take a wale and visit the print shop and Shilling.

        • Marie Mercer
          Posted March 30, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          Shilling is female.

      • Avis James
        Posted March 17, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        There are XXY male cats. They are rare.

        • Posted March 17, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

          Yes. ‘Klinefelter’ male cats.
          I used to teach genetics, and every couple semesters I would have a very puzzled student tell me that they have a male calico/tortoiseshell cat. I doubt there are so many XXY kitties out there. Maybe it is hard to sex a cat.

  8. Posted March 17, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I see Maeve was named in honor of the Queen who created all of everything last Thursday. ‘Tis a good name!


    • Posted March 17, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Thank you! We like her. She is a little skeptic, too. We were watching “Mary Poppins.” At the scene in which the tea party floats up to the ceiling, Maeve said “I don’t believe that.” At age two!

      • Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Well, you’re certainly doing something right!

        …that would actually be a really interesting “teachable moment” for a two-year-old — how to evaluate evidence, why it doesn’t instinctually feel right, when “willing suspension of disbelief” is a good thing, and so on.


  9. Posted March 17, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    It appears that Shilling is indeed a she! And not only that, it appears that she rules that whole end of Duke of Gloucester Street, not just the printing shop. Here is a relevant blog post. I’ll report back on any Shilling sightings.

  10. natalielaberlinoise
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    The Williamsburg Trio is wonderful. I’ve been wrecking my brain for a good caption. Can’t come up with more than this:

    “The mice and chips over here, please!”

    Well, I am no Paul Merton. Any good comedians in the WEIT readership who could help?

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