by Kim Pederson…….
I’ve broken a solemn vow. When Survivor debuted about a hundred years ago or so, I said I would never watch a “reality” show. I managed to keep my self-promise until now. What happened? Hekla, Katla, Vigdis, Bubbi, and Por — that’s what happened. You might think these are Norse gods of some ilk or perhaps the participants in a Norwegian version of Big Brother, which would be Storebror if you want to get picky. However, these five individuals are neither superhuman nor subhuman. They are kittens and the current stars of Keeping Up with the Kattarshians, which Time Magazine describes as “the reality show you never knew you needed.“
The current stars of the show, which is sponsored in part by the Icelandic Cat Protection Society, are the kittens of a pregnant cat found in Reykjavik and brought to a shelter. The kids were born in a foster home and then, when they weaned, moved on to stardom.
Not much happening with the Kattarshians at the moment. The kittens are snuggled together in the top bunk in their “bedroom.” If you stare at them for a while, you can see an ear twitch now and then. But that’s the beauty of this particular reality show. If you ever need what Trevor Noah calls “your moment of Zen,” go there, watch cats sleep, breathe deeply, and feel the stress evaporate. Or watch them when they’re playing, have a few good chuckles and grins, and feel the stress disappear. It’s been proven that owning a cat reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. I’m sure watching them has the same effect, perhaps even more so since there are no litter box duties involved.
In 2014, according to National Geographic, the US had eighty million cats residing with people and the world had three cats to every dog (ha! take that dog people!). Theory has it that humans and cats came together five or six thousand years ago (some say nine thousand) when wild cats started to hang around human granaries and eat the mice that were eating the grain. The humans noticed this and made an offer to the cats: you keep the mice from eating our food and we’ll give you a warm, dry place to sleep when you like. The cats thought about it for about two seconds and then said, “Deal.” The rest is history.
Research has shown that as cats spent more and more time with us, their genetic makeup changed (ours, too, most likely). Specifically, the genes linked to fear and motivation shifted so that they became less fearful of new situations and more driven by rewards, as in when they jump on the bed at night and stare at you until you give in and break out the treats. Our relationships with these animals are either mutualistic (when both benefit from it) or commensal (when one benefits and the other just hands out the Friskies).
But I’m spending way too much time on this and I’m missing out on my cat watching. Three kittens just got up. The red tabby Por is playing with some fuzzy toy in the foreground, while some of the others spectate. The tortoiseshell Vigdis is still curled up in the top bunk. That looks very appealing at the moment as opposed to opening the newspaper or turning on the radio or TV. Oh, look. Either Hekla or Katla (they look alike) has gotten back in the bunk with Vigdis. This looks like a trend. I feel like I should join in. If I book a ticket to Iceland now, I can get there in a few hours. Then I just have to get them to skooch over a bit to make room for me. I’m sure they would.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.