Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Secret Life of Cats

I'm paraphrasing when I say: what our pets do when we're not around does not concern us. This is not quite true, of course. All pet owners have stories about the small (and large) liberties taken by their four-legged friends when The Man ain't around to keep them down.

In our house, we have the curious case of Mika the cat - who, incidently, is now responsible for the majority of Google-hits on this humble site. Mika is smart enough to know what she's not allowed to do, and cocky enough to prove it from time to time by taking short cuts across the kitchen table or soaking in the therapeutic waters of a convenient sink. Her secret life - those hours when the house is empty of Human Overlords - is a subject of significant speculation around our dinner table. We've invented a fantastic mythology about this Secret Life, spanning everything from her choice in music to the ingenious means by which she scratches those itches she cannot reach through traditional means.

This week we set out to use science to provide facts and evidence as to Mika's Secret Life. Using a battered laptop, a cheap webcam, and some free software, we rigged up some spy technology to follow her movements in the kitchen and family room parts of our home while we Human Overlords were away for the day. The results answered some questions and raised many more.

Through the 9 hours she was on her own, she spent all of 40 morning-minutes in the kitchen. First was a leisurely nap in a sunpatch on the kitchen table. This was followed by a patrol of the kitchen counter and quick lie-down in the kitchen sink. Then - nothing. She spent the rest of the day elsewhere in the house, away from the cat tree where we typically find her.

So while we've confirmed that young Mika is queen of the kitchen when we're not around, we have a new mystery on our hands. Where is she spending her days? What is she doing? We'll be expanding our surveillance program, but I wonder if we'll be ready for the Truth.


Adam Kantor said...

I often wanted to try this with our cats but the technology wasn't quite there at the time. I just knew they were up to something but couldn't get the proof to back it up.

I think your next move is to attach a camera to Mika, you know, like the CIA did.

David said...

Cat voyeur! Peeper! Big Brother!

You have been reported to the Cat Privacy Coalition.

Sonny Drysdale said...

... an interesting idea, Crazy L - but I worry about the slippery slope.

What if those same cameras are on the next time you call in 'sick'?

Or when your neighbour's cat calls in sick?

Crazylegs said...

AK - The tech is not bad. I'm running the MikaCam on an old PII-400 with 128Mb of RAM - running a stripped down XP. It's not super fast, but it works. I had never heard of Acoustic Kitty, but I laughed out loud. Can you imagine 'Day of the Dolphin' with kitties?

David - Bring it on, man. My cat is my propertay....

Sonny - Who says the cameras aren't on right now?

Kid Dork said...

I imagine you, CL, to be London's version of Brainiac Five. You take bits of string, wire, and a cheese scraper and come up with wonders.

A cat camera? Joyous. I'm just surprised Butch hasn't arrived and made a comment.

Any day now...he should be along...

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