When I went to go to collect Moo from his temporary accommodation at the vets to come and live with me, they asked me if I was going to change his name. I remember wondering what I would change it to considering that they’d spent at least a month making a single syllable noise at him.
Japanese scientists have recently studied 78 cats and found that they can actually understand their own names, but that they just choose to ignore the person speaking it. Giving Moo presumably his third name of his life might have been a little confusing for him, then.
To ensure the cats were not just responding to a sound, the participants first read out a list of random nouns, before slipping in the cats’ names at the end. Then the scientists watched closely to see if their ears pricked up, their heads moved or they displayed signs of excitement such as vocalisation or tail movement.
While the cats were found to react to their names, it was not with great enthusiasm. It was instead described as “cautiously wary” which the scientists concluded was because the cat realised that it was about to be disturbed. I know the feeling – when I hear Moo miaow while I’m asleep, I know that his next move will be to stand on me until I get up to give him breakfast.
Talking of breakfast… It has been pointed out that it is actually the noise that the cat has learnt, and Moo definitely knows the sound of “breakfast”. Maybe if I’d have named him “Dreamies” he might like me a bit more.
Last weekend’s Grand National horse race continues to give me mixed feelings. I was driving past some horses the day after the race and they were running around jumping like idiots in their paddock. They were having a great laugh. I remember watching Tiger Roll on the winner’s enclosure last year and he seemed to be loving the attention and, I felt, looked pleased with his achievement.
Since the restrictions on the use of a whip in racing, I wonder whether the horses actually enjoy their runs, too? I say that because we’ve all seen the horses that refuse to run and they’re big animals – if they don’t want to move, they won’t. Their training means that they know what’s coming.
Of course, the fences at Aintree don’t need to be quite as big as they are to reduce the risk of harm and make it safer.
There are risks in any sport. With horse racing, I’m not sure just how much of that risk would be reasonably accepted by the animal and how much it is simply obeying the coercion of its jockey.