Hello, kitty

Ransom Riggs

In just a few short days of kitten ownership, I've realized something profound: kittens are totally awesome. Whenever geo-political balderdash threatens to send me into a funk, a quick feline belly-rub is tonic. So in honor of young Nico (pictured at left, between knees), here are a few cat-lovin' facts for you ailurophiles out there:

* Cats are one of the most efficient predators among animals their size. They have been known to hunt over 1,000 different species -- then drag the mangled results inside for your approval. (An old cat of mine once left such a gift for me under my bedcovers, Godfather-style. Brutal, amici!)

* Despite the widely-held belief that cats are solitary, even antisocial creatures, feral cats often form small colonies -- called "clowders" -- in the wild. One of the most notorious of these is the large, urban clowder which haunts Rome's Coliseum; city officials are attempting to battle the nuisance by catching and neutering/spaying all of the more than 500 feral cats one at a time.

* Forget the elephant -- cats have a memory 200 times better than that of dogs, which allows them to learn complex tasks such as turning water faucets on and off, opening latches and even using and flushing a toilet. (No joke -- I know a cat named Watson who does this. No litter box necessary, and you don't have to walk him, either.)

* Cats who exhibit the dreaded "evening crazies" are really practicing a deeply-ingrained form of self-defense. Cats are crepuscular, not strictly nocturnal, meaning they're highly active during the twilight hours, thus helping to protect them from the bigger, nastier animals who hunt later at night.

Bonus: this is a very cute music video, starring kittens.