As with most conspiracy theories, the cats-as-alien-spies theory is surprisingly well-developed—and based on a few kernels of truth and genuine ambiguity. How much? Motherboard decided to take a look at some of the supporting premises, one-by-one. A user who goes by the moniker "RedSpider" summarizes the prevailing wisdom in a handy list on the British tech message board, Digital Kaos.
There is no documentation before ancient Egypt that mentions the existence of cats.
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And in ancient Egypt, they were worshipped as gifts from the gods. As with several of these premises, these propositions are mostly true, but also somewhat disputable. To find out more about the fossil record, I emailed Ryan Haupt , a paleontologist at the University of Wyoming who, as he described it for a previous interview , "studies the lives of modern mammals to better understand what their extinct relatives were doing in the past.
Exporting domestic cats was illegal in ancient Egypt, according to Wild Cats of the World , a book by Mel and Fiona Sunquist, which may explain why they don't appear definitively in the records of other civilizations until thousands of years later than early cat records in Egypt. What older feline skeletons have been found elsewhere don't provide clear "evidence as to whether they were domesticated or not," Haupt said, adding, however, that they "probably" weren't.
As for cat worship, the picture is a bit more complicated than the conspiracy theorist asserts.
Cats were, indeed, revered by the ancient Egyptians, the Sunquists write. Cats were beloved as pets; they were mourned like family members when they died; they were embalmed and buried with varying degrees of pomp according to its owner's wealth; cat cemeteries were plotted along the banks of the Nile; the penalty for killing a cat was death. But cats weren't simply viewed as gifts from the gods. Some of the Egyptian gods were cats, like Bastet , the goddess of joy and love.
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One ancient Egyptian papyrus depicts Ra , the sun god, as a knife-wielding cat with spots. I tried by Twitter and e-mail to contact everyone's favorite Ancient Aliens theorist and founder of Legendary Times Books , Giorgio Tsoukalos to get his opinion, but he didn't reply. Science is baffled by a cat's purr, and cannot determine how the sound is produced.
Feedback, much? I'm not entirely sure what "Feedback much? But the broader assertion is, again, partly true. For this, I started with a bit of internet research. That science doesn't know why cats purr is often taken for granted around the internet, but that only tells part of the story.
It's true that cats possess no special organ for purring. But science does know a thing or two. As noted in a WebMD article :. A rhythmic, repetitive neural oscillator [in the brain] sends messages to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to twitch at the rate of 25 to vibrations per second Hz. This causes a sudden separation of the vocal cords, during both inhalation and exhalation - the unique feline vibrato.
But the purr is usually so low-pitched that we tend to feel it as much as hear it.
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I contacted Dr. Ken Simpson, of Monon Animal Hospital , my vet back in my hometown of Indianapolis to ask what the latest veterinary science said. Full disclosure, he's also my uncle. He said the "physiology remains a slight enigma," but noted that vets have learned a few fascinating things about purring over the years.
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I have also heard that diaphragm movement against over-inflated lung tissue contributes sounds to the purr. In my experience, cats with asthma and hyperinflated lungs have a slightly louder purr. There's evidence the behavior is learned, he noted. He described a deaf cat, for example, who never purred. Another cat patient of his had meningitis as a kitten and was learning-impaired as a result; that cat never purred either. Case studies like that lend themselves to the notion that cat purring does indeed, originate in the brain, and Simpson said he saw "no reason to doubt" the " neural oscillation " theory.
Still there's a certain point where the knowledge plateaus: What, exactly, is the neural oscillator? Why, exactly, does neural oscillation exist?
And why, in behavioral terms, do cats purr? Those questions remain a bit of a mystery. Alien bio-technology? Transmission signals? It's doubtful, considering some wild cats, like cheetahs, purr as well. If you hold a cat's ears back and describe what you see, it is a perfect match to the classic "grey alien," with its almond-shaped eyes, small mouth, and small nose. Left to right, images via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. A cat can see exponentially better than you. Making it appear that it must be more advanced evolutionarily speaking.
The extrapolated version of this, as I've gathered from other cat-as-alien-spy internet detritus, says that cats stare at us with those big eyes because they are, in fact, alien cameras, recording and beaming our actions back to the grey aliens that put them here. I can't find any evidence of anything but standard neuronal circuitry in a cat's brain, but one never knows. We humans have recently managed to build a computer out of living cells , so who knows what alien technology may be hidden in the feline brain?
Leaving that aside, the idea of a cat's eyes being "exponentially better" and that translating into evidence of irrationally advanced evolution is, of course, absurd. Cats eyes have more "rods" in them than "cones"—the former are responsible for providing black-and-white images, which makes them crucial for night vision; the latter add color and help us discern details. Cats, thus, have better night vision, but they only "see better" depending on your definition.
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I like seeing in color, so if you suddenly gave me cat's eyes, I wouldn't describe my vision as "better" at all. A cat's eyes do have a second advantage with regard to night vision. As this New York Times article explains:. Cats also have elliptical pupils that open and close faster and can become larger than our round ones. In addition, cats and some other nocturnal animals have a mirrorlike membrane, the tapetum, on the back of their eyes, which reflects the light passing through the rods back through them in the opposite direction. This "double exposure" allows cats to see well in near darkness.
The head is domed at the top, and the neck very short. The broadly-spaced eyes give the Scottish Fold a "sweet expression". Scottish Folds can be either long- or short-haired, and they may have nearly any coat color or combination of colours including white. Scottish Folds, whether with folded ears or with normal ears, are typically good-natured and placid and adjust to other animals within a household extremely well.
They tend to become very attached to their human caregivers and are by nature quite affectionate. Folds also receive high marks for playfulness, grooming and intelligence. Loneliness is something they heavily dislike and which makes them feel depressed. Folds are also known for sleeping on their backs.