Caturday felid trifecta: “Cats”: the movie; how to tell your cat about Trump; Scottish wildkittens (and lagniappe)

Reader Karl alerted me to the fact that the play “Cats” will become a semi-animated movie at the end of the year. (There’s now a Wikipedia article saying it will be released on December 20.) Among the people playing cats are James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, and Rebel Wilson. The movie, based on the play (which itself is based on T. S. Eliot’s wonderful Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats),was directed by Thomas George Hooper, who also directed Les Misérables and the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech. 

Karl says that the trailer looks amazing, but lots of others have beefed about it. The BBC, for instance, notes that “the trailer suggests that Cats will have uncanny-looking characters in a familiar-looking theatrical setting, and that’s perhaps the wrong way round.” Well, all people have seen is the trailer, so watch the 2½-minute teaser below and judge for yourself.

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A new book is out: How to Tell your Cat About Trump.  You can’t really read much online but it’s free with Kindle Unlimited, and here’s the Amazon précis:

Are you upset about Trump? Do you have a cat? Then this book is for YOU.

Also for people who would have a cat but don’t because of apartment rules or allergies, and people who don’t like cats but dislike President Trump even more.

Contents: Introduction; Is Your Cat A Secret Trump Supporter?; My Bastard Cat Is A Fan Of Trump – What Now?; Signs You Have A Nice Liberal Cat; Reassure Your Cat That Donald Trump Is Not Going To Grab It; Emphasize That None Of This Is Your Cat’s Fault; My Cat Is A Persian – Should I be Worried?; What About Kitlers And Demonic Cats?

And here’s the cover:

I suspect that cats don’t give a rat’s patootie about Trump. All they care about is that they get plenty of food, a warm place to sleep, and a clean litter box. Why should they care who’s in charge of the country?

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Finally, the BBC reports that two Scottish wildcat kittens were born to a mother named Glynis at the Aigas Field Centre near Beauly in the Highlands. You can see a video  as well as some pictures of these adorable cats by clicking on the headline:

Here are the wildkittens, a few weeks old (both photos by Ben Jones)

 

Now while it’s clear that European wildcats (F. silvestris) were present in Britain before humans, it’s not clear to me whether what is known as the “Scottish wildcat” really comprises the descendants of those silvestris ancestors or merely descends from a bunch of feral tabbies—or is a genetic mixture of wildcats that have hybridized with human-raised cats. I can’t be arsed to research this in detail, but while the Wikipedia description below implies that there is a real population, the BBC article describes the species as “functionally extinct” in the wild. I’m betting that DNA analysis could settle the issue, but I’m not sure because domestic cats in Scotland may be genetically similar to the European wildcat if they were derived from them. Perhaps a reader can enlighten us

At any rate, here’s what Wikipedia says about the Scottish wildcat:

Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris syn. Felis silvestris grampia) is a European wildcat population in Scotland. This population is estimated to comprise between 1,000 and 4,000 individuals, of which about 400 cats are thought to meet the morphological and genetic criteria of a wildcat. The Scottish wildcat population used to be widely distributed across Britain, but has declined drastically since the turn of the 20th century due to habitat loss and persecution. It is now limited to north and east Scotland.  It is listed as Endangered in the United Kingdom and is primarily threatened by hybridization with domestic cats. Camera-trapping surveys carried out in the Scottish Highlands between 2010 and 2013 revealed that wildcats live foremost in mixed woodland, whereas feral and domestic cats were photographed mostly in grasslands.

Wildcat Haven, which appears to be the epicenter of Scottish wildcat information, basically assumes that free-living silvestris wildcats still exist, and are the lineal descendants of the pre-human cats. They use as evidence various morphological differences between wildcats and domestic cats (size, jaw configuration, etc.), but this could reflect only the evolution of a population of feral cats that has been around for a long time.  Again, if you know of convincing evidence that the “free-living” population of Scottish wildcats really are European wildcats uncontaminated with genes from domestic cats, let me know.

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Lagniappe: The two sisters, Alcestis Jerry and Octavia Sadie, adopted recently by readers Laurie and Gethyn. Their adoption was made possible by the Official Website Charity™, Feline Friends London:

 

h/t: Bruce, James

19 Comments

  1. Sarah
    Posted July 27, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I think cats would recognize Trump’s moral sense and his view of the ego. Maybe they would be better placed to explain Trump to humans than the other way around.

  2. Michael Fisher
    Posted July 27, 2019 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Why name that splendid kitty pair for tragedies? I must be misunderstanding something.

    • Posted July 27, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Because I am a Classicist and I love the names = )

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted July 28, 2019 at 2:02 am | Permalink

        Yes, I like the names too.

  3. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted July 27, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    The trailer for Cats is quite, quite horrifying. The part that I found most disturbing was that Dame Judi’s cat-character is wearing a fur coat – something about that shat me up in a profound way.

    That’s before you even speculate that the coat itself might be made out of cat fur.

    • Posted July 27, 2019 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      There are so many entirely realistic faux furs around, I can’t believe real fur- of any kind- would be used.

      Above all, they want to make money. There would be a tremendous backlash if that were true.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 27, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Yes, I’m sure it’s not real fur. It might even be a CG fur coat for all I know. That wasn’t my issue with it.

        It just struck me as a rather creepy sight. Rationally speaking it’s no more weird than seeing a human wearing a fur coat, but nevertheless, seeing a cat-thing wearing a fur coat over its own fur is just…weird.

        • Posted July 27, 2019 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          If cats were sentient beings, and if they cared to wear clothing and other embellishments, then they would most definitely wear animal skins. With jewelry made from teeth and bones.

      • Graham Head
        Posted July 27, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        There had been controversy here in the UK where fur that has been sold as fake has turned out to be real. Some real fur is cheaper than fake fur.

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46896429

  4. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted July 27, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Also, not being a musicals fan I had no idea just how many of my most despised tunes came from Cats. ‘Memory’ in particular, which is so hysterically awful that if an alien landed and heard the first two syllables of the song’s chorus they would nuke earth without thinking twice, and no court in the galactic federation would ever be able to convict them of a crime.

    Other than for the curiosity of seeing if it’ll end up being so-bad-it’s-good I can’t really imagine why anyone would want to watch the film version anyway.

    I don’t even like the critically-acclaimed film-musicals; so I don’t think it’s(entirely) down to my being a snob. I know there are plenty of people who feel the same way, and just can’t bear musicals, filmed or theatrical.

    They must be one of the most divisive art-forms in existence.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted July 27, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      I fully concur about musicals and couldn’t watch more than twenty seconds of this disturbing video.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 27, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        It’s pretty unnerving.

        Will it be worse than Dancer In The Dark though? That’s the low-water-mark for terrible film musicals imo.

    • Posted July 27, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I like musicals. Saw Wicked on broadway and was blown away by it. I am curious about the movie, and will probably see it.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 27, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        ‘Wicked’ is the one with the green witch in it right? Isn’t that quite a modern one? So what’s ‘Maleficent’ then?

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted July 28, 2019 at 1:37 am | Permalink

      Saul, you can’t deny that the music somehow ‘catches’ a cat’s caterwauling, now can you? 🙂

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 28, 2019 at 5:22 am | Permalink

        🙂

  5. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted July 28, 2019 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    So much for us denigrating medieval artists for giving cats human faces.
    Although I dislike musicals, I can remember that as a child I loved them, so I’ll definitely watch it with my young children.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted July 28, 2019 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    “I’m betting that DNA analysis could settle the issue, but I’m not sure because domestic cats in Scotland may be genetically similar to the European wildcat if they were derived from them. Perhaps a reader can enlighten us”.

    As much as search for recent data goes, I turned up a review of the conservation status of the wildcat in Scotland with a review of the genetic data [ https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/caturday-felid-trifecta-cats-the-movie-how-to-tell-your-cat-about-trump-scottish-wildkittens-and-lagniappe/ ].

    However, the illustration of phylogenies is incomplete (number of individuals and support data is not quantified) and tells me nothing.

    And it is actually based on data from a decade back [ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5612713/ ]. The European wildcat admixture is ~ 40 % in Scotland, which is on the border of what ADMIXTURE see in domestic cats. “The observed genetic admixture may be explained by the presence of feral domestic cats or by hybridization between wildcats and domestic cats.”

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted July 28, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Oh, and I would love to have someone look into the data and give their opinion.


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