Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Cats

Ooops,

I’ve just realised that the last post could be construed as anti-cat or anti-cat owner. Big mistake.

The last thing I want to do is get on the wrong side of cat lovers. Off the top of my head can think of several reasons why I should be more scared of them than, say, Al Qaeda:

  • There are more of them
  • They are more fanatical
  • They have even more contempt for human life
  • They really are part of a shadowy international network
  • They talk to themselves
  • Given that they usually don’t have kids or go out very much, they are very well funded
  • They really can blend in unnoticed with the rest of society, well mostly

I was cleaning up my back yard a couple of weeks ago when a couple of workman called to me from the top of a building in the middle distance

Workman: ‘Hey mate!’

Me: ‘Yes’

Workman: ‘There’s a lost cat standing on your wall looking at you’

Me: ‘Yes, I can see it’

Workman: ‘The owner’s coming down to get it. Could you…’

Me: ‘What?’

Workman: ‘… keep it there with you’

Me: ‘How?’

Workman: ‘Its name is Seamus’

Me: ‘And?’

Workman: ‘Call it to you’

Me: ‘ Yeah right’

I stare at cat

Me: ‘Seamus. Seamus. Here boy’

Cat blinks unknowingly

Me: ‘Seamus. Seamus’

Cat licks its inner thigh, Saunters off to next garden

Cat owner appears (female, mid thirties) on other side of fence. Proceeds to call out the name Seamus in squeaky voice many hundreds of times. Seamus sits on next door neighbours’ picnic table throughout; 100% unresponsive to its 'owners’' pleadings. Stef gets bored. Goes back inside. Seamus presumably not retrieved as the local area is plastered with posters offering a reward of £150 for its return. Picture of Seamus shows a nondescript tabby cat, same as countless millions of nondescript tabby cats out there.

The moral of the tale? However intellectually challenged Seamus might be, ‘Duh, what’s my name again?’, this is but nothing compared to its owner. Seamus obviously doesn’t give a f*ck, yet mummy is willing to fork out 150 nuggets for its return, even though she could pick up Seamus II from a local pound for nothing. Seamus II would look the same as Seamus I, be just as unaware of its given name and be just as likely to come home in the mornings.

I’ve got no problem with cats, any more than I have with any other animal. It’s the owners that baffle me. They are so committed to their pets. They bestow human qualities on them. They talk to them. They decorate their houses with cat-related objets d’art of breathtaking mawkishness and sentimentality. Meanwhile Mr Tibbles just sits there licking its arse.

Sometimes, Mr Tibbles might trundle outside and slaughter a few furry animals for sport, toying with their twitching carcasses for an hour or so just for a laugh, before going back inside to continue with the important business of licking its arse.

Mmmmm, how many animal lovers have I heard solemnly regurgitate the line ‘Man is the only animal that kills for sport’ ...

UK cat density is currently something like 226 per square kilometer, that’s 500 times greater than in the wild. UK cats accounts for the death of something like 300 million small mammals and birds a year. The only creatures cats won’t go for are rats, they’re too pussy, which is one reason why we share London with 70 odd million rats; that’s about 10 each. When I was a lad gardens, even urban gardens, were havens for all sorts of wildlife. Now there’s nada. Unless you consider watching cat turds drying slowly on balmy summer days as being at one with nature. I’ve done my bit though and bought an infra-red triggered sonic cat scarer for my patch of earth. It works a treat. The only downside being that exposure to it leaves me open to suggestion and becoming involved in Presidential assasination plots, but it’s a price worth paying.

Anyway, I don’t get it at all. Cats are not people. And turning to them as people surrogates is a bad sign.

But, no, the last thing I want to do is get on the wrong side of millions of cat owning sociopaths. So, just to demonstrate my total, and completely insincere, impartiality on the matter of cat ownership here are a few links…

For Cat People

Kitten Cuteness Ratings

For Dog People

Shockwave flash kitten shooting game

For Both

Cat Buckaroo

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cats are ok, well apart from one small thing...Stop shitting in my garden!!!!!!!!!!!

andy

Stef said...

yes, well, err, some of my best friends are cat owners. Honest

Anonymous said...

It's not the owners I have an issue with :D.

Off topic:

I'm still mulling over whether to get the Canon 350d, I wonder if I can cut a deal with a camera shop if I get the battery grip and card at the same time.

andy

Stef said...

My first thought is ... not much of a deal. I'd think you'd be better off finding a best price for each individual item. I reckon the sale price of 350d's has been driven right down and the guys selling the 350d at the best price are looking to recoup on accessories.

A good strategy would be to visit Jessops, get a quote on a combo, then work out if it would be cheaper if you got them to price match each item individually based on best prices you've identified from prior research.

If you see what I mean.

The Store near Tottenham Court Road is a good one for dealing. They're pros there and don't f about.

BTW Prior experience suggests to me that the price of the grip will go South of £100 after a few months.

Redhead said...

Er, being a cat owner for 35+ years, I hesitate to jump in here, but by far the best solution to this is to do what I have always done: keep the cats indoors. They are safer, healthier, live longer, don't decimate the bird pop., and (eventually) learn to come when called.

Stef said...

Seems reasonable to me

I just wish that people who let their cats out belled the little bleeders. Whilst not a perfect solution it would cut down on the slaughter by a large amount. Is that too much to ask?

I wrote this particular post for two reasons

1. I think it's sad, and an indictment on us all, that more and more people are turning to cats as their primary source of companionship.

2. My dislike of political hypocrisy and nonsense thinking. In this case, regarding the subjects of animal welfare and environmentalism.

There is certainly hypocrisy at work here. We hear so much about the cruelty of fox hunting and the impact of industrialisation on our environment, yet no-one seems to give a stuff about the hundreds of millions of animals needlessly mauled to death every year. Our environment is noticeably worse for it.

Most cat owners who I've raised the subject with just say 'Well, that's Nature isn't it'. No, no it's not. Supporting a population of 8 million predators in totally lethal concentrations is not natural.

Stef said...

PS I also think this is more of British thing rather than a US thing - I probably should have made that point a lot clearer.

Coffey0072 said...

Great blog. You're very thorough with discourse!
I vacillate back and forth. Sometimes I think I like cats enough to own one and other times I'm glad that I don't in fact, have one.

Anonymous said...

As 30 something with no children and a cat I would like to say a few things.

I’m not sure of the cat kill figures can be attributed to pets as I’m sure strays would count for more than their fair share in order to survive. In my experience of cat ‘ownership’ the killing years are pretty much a juvenile stage (from 1 – 4yrs) as after that unless a mouse runs across its nose they cant be bothered and prefer to sleep and rely on the food bowl. So considering a domestic cat will probably live till 16 – 17 years old 3 years killing anything small has to be put in proportion.

I too was struck by the lack of bird life in London but I think I remember reading that it can be attributed, at least in part, the decreasing numbers of bushes and trees in peoples gardens, which intern stems from the rise in people building extensions and hence shrinking their gardens. Also changes in agriculture such as loss of hedgerows and chemical sprays, which reduce the weeds in a crop, were mentioned. I can’t recall cats mentioned as cause but if there numbers have risen significantly then I guess they too must have had an impact.

As far as what’s the attraction well for me a large part of it is jealousy of a cats attitude. It pleads for food, you give it, and then it gives you a condesending glare then licks its arse. Brilliant! Imagine if you could have that attitude.

You: Hey boss due, that’s a flash suit you’ve got on today.

Boss: Oh! Thanks.

You: Look, I’m a bit short at the moment do you think you could lend me a few quid and, man! that material sure feels nice?

Boss: Do you think so? Hmmm… Well I think I can lend you 50 quid.

You: Cheers.

10 minutes latter

Boss: Can I get you to …

You: [Slouching in you chair and picking your nose] Fuck off! Can’t you see I’m on a personal call?

Scene repeats daily.

Anonymous said...

As 30 something with no children and a cat I would like to say a few things.

I’m not sure of the cat kill figures can be attributed to pets as I’m sure strays would count for more than their fair share in order to survive. In my experience of cat ‘ownership’ the killing years are pretty much a juvenile stage (from 1 – 4yrs) as after that unless a mouse runs across its nose they cant be bothered and prefer to sleep and rely on the food bowl. So considering a domestic cat will probably live till 16 – 17 years old 3 years killing anything small has to be put in proportion.

I too was struck by the lack of bird life in London but I think I remember reading that it can be attributed, at least in part, the decreasing numbers of bushes and trees in peoples gardens, which intern stems from the rise in people building extensions and hence shrinking their gardens. Also changes in agriculture such as loss of hedgerows and chemical sprays, which reduce the weeds in a crop, were mentioned. I can’t recall cats mentioned as cause but if there numbers have risen significantly then I guess they too must have had an impact.

As far as what’s the attraction well for me a large part of it is jealousy of a cats attitude. It pleads for food, you give it, and then it gives you a condesending glare then licks its arse. Brilliant! Imagine if you could have that attitude.

You: Hey boss due, that’s a flash suit you’ve got on today.

Boss: Oh! Thanks.

You: Look, I’m a bit short at the moment do you think you could lend me a few quid and, man! that material sure feels nice?

Boss: Do you think so? Hmmm… Well I think I can lend you 50 quid.

You: Cheers.

10 minutes latter

Boss: Can I get you to …

You: [Slouching in you chair and picking your nose] Fuck off! Can’t you see I’m on a personal call?

Scene repeats daily.

Stef said...

Coffey0072

Thanks

(Are there really 71 other Coffeys out there - it is a very Big World isn't it)

Anonymous

I hope you weren't too offended after reading my blog. It's just my style.

I enjoy the company of most animals (no double entendre intended) and several of my friends really are serious cat lovers. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I wrote about the cat thing not to bash cat owners per se, I was just commenting in my way about how much lonelier London has become and, yes, the double standards when it comes to issues such as the environment and animal welfare.

I also admit that I find myself quite perplexed when I see pet owners treating their animals as if they were people. They're not. The only difference between a pet and a Sunday Roast is social convention

You make some fair points. Many cat owners don't let their pets out of the house at all. Something like a quarter of British cats are clinically obese and present little threat to our feathered friends. Other cats are just plain worn out. And, yes, there are something like a million feral cats out there.

But, come on, what stops the owners who do let their cats out sticking a bell on their moggies? And am I the only person ever to have heard cat owners proudly describing how their cats bring home mangled carcasses as presents, as if that were a good thing?

Personally, I don't buy the green space reduction explanation. There are still plenty of trees, gardens and green spaces out there. My own small patch of London earth supports enough organically-reared succulent invertebrate life to sustain a couple of squadrons of fledgling sparrows. There are few takers though.

Reduction in green space in London over the last 10 years? Marginal. Reduction in bird population? Severe.

Rats and other factors surely do play a part but the plain fact is that any bird misguided enough to land along my street is faced with a queue of a couple of dozen cats waiting their turn to maul it to death. Slowly.

PS I know exactly what you mean when you explain your attraction to felines. Some cat owners I know personally have said similiar. It's a variation of the old 'treat 'em mean keep 'em keen' system. Pretty perverse if you ask me, but you didn't ;-)

Anonymous said...

I got a EOS350d today, I did a deal with a camera shop. I bought the body, grip (actually the wrong one, so they'll exchange that tomorrow), plus they threw in a 1gig card for nothing. So I guess the camera cost me £599.

Any recommendations for a good wide zoom? (btw don't even mention that £400 model...I'm broke!!!). I tried the camera with my sigma zoom but it doesn't always like it, so I'm going to stick to Canon lens if I can (I've got a Canon 50mm 1.8 and a 75-300mm 4.5/5.6).

andy

Stef said...

A.

Well, you're going to be having fun this weekend (BTW liked your latest stream of photos on Flickr, you'll be running out of South London to photograph soon).

Lens recommendations ...

Avoid Sigmas if you can. Too many focusing problems. Tamrons are less problemmatic.

Wide angles, mmmmm. You'll be looking for something starting at 17mm and going out to 35/40 or 50

I use the Tamron 17-35 (£330) but you're probably too boracic for that. If you do enjoy your 350d you will end up springing for that or the Canon 17-40 at some point.

In the meantime it's the Canon EFS18-55 kit lens for you I think. Less than a ton and sharp at f8 and above. And let that be the only lens you ever buy with a maximum aperture of f5.6.

The only other relevant lenses out there are the Canon 17-85 (pricey and overpriced for its optics) and some crappy Sigmas and Tamrons with potential focus and compatability issues, esp. the Sigmas.

Your 50mm will come in useful for portraits but I doubt the 75-300 will get much use. Certainly for the style of photos you've been posting. Me, I drink far to much coffee to use a soft 300mm zoom lens that works like a 480mm on a DSLR.

Bottom line. You've bought a camera with a high quality sensor that beats a digicam for handling speed and low light work. Sooner or later you're going to want to have a couple of lenses to fully utilise that potential. That will cost you but if you buy decent glass it will hold its resale value and certainly outlast the 350d. I wouldn't lust too much after Canon L's though. As well as being expensive they're huge and weigh a ton. I use the following and am happy with the quality / price / weight / obtrusiveness balance:

Tamron 17-35 f2.8-4 (£330)
Canon EF35 f2 (£160)
Canon EF50 f1.8 (£60)
Tamron 24-135 f3.5-5.6 (£300 ages ago)

Actually I've hurt the Tamron 135 and may spring for a Canon 28-105 (£160) to replace it. I don't go past 50mm enough to pay big bucks for a fast, heavy telephoto and the 28-105 is a very good lens for the money.

I've still got the EFS18-55 that came with my 300d for times when the light will be reasonable and I can't be shagged to carry all the other stuff.

The Tamron 28-75 f2.8 (£240) is very good as well but not wide enough to be used on its own. Many people pair them up with 17-40s or 17-35s.

Reasonably reliable user review site here ...

http://www.fredmiranda.com/reviews/index.php

Anonymous said...

CANON EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

what do you think of this lens Stef, i think it has some problems, but 'perhaps' it's a step up from the Kit-lens?

Stef said...

Re. 20-35mm

Mmmmmmm, doesn't spring to mind as recommendation. I think most of the ones kicking around date to pre digital days when it covered pretty much all of the common wide angles and was therefore quite exciting

On a 350d it would cover 32-55 at not particularly wide apertures. This is considerably less exciting. OK, I use a 17-35 but the extra 3mm at the wide end makes a lot of difference, plus it's a faster lens with decent wide open performance.

Also, I think the pictures you've put up on Flickr to date lie more in the range of a 28-75mm zoom like the Tamron. That would cost about the same as the 20-35 (c£270) plus it's a constant f2.8 which means you'll be able to take portraits with it and use it in available light.

I actually tried buying a 28-75 last week but it was a duff copy. There are a few around. But those people who get a good one, and most do, swear by them.

Bottom line, 20-35 = narrow uninteresting range, not very flexible. It'll take decent pictures but I reckon you'll do better looking at something else.

Stef said...

PS on the 20-35 question

Have a look at the owners' samples on pbase

http://www.pbase.com/cameras/canon/ef_20-35_28

that might help you decide if that's a range you;ll be comfortable with

Anonymous said...

the Tamron looks a better deal, I'm just concerned about compatability problems with my 350 d, error code 99 etc. It doesn't like my Sigma lens.

I take it you've found it works ok on 300d? Any probs?

Cheers for the info mate, very useful

andy

Stef said...

Re. your sigma lens - it is worth calling sigma to see if they'll rechip it for you. If they can they'll probably do it for free. They have to do that otherwise nobody will buy their lenses.

Re. the Tamron 28-75.

I actually bought a copy by mail order last week. The build quality is so-so but acceptable and the image quality bloody fantastic.

I sent it back though because it didn't focus properly at f2.8. Reading the forums this seems to be a common problem.

However, the lens offers stellar image quality for the price. You'd have the pay 3-4x to get a Canon lens with the same image quality. Have a look at the samples on pbase.

Some people have sent soft-focusing 28-75s to Tamron for recalibration and they've come back fully functional. A handful of people have been unhappy with the lens even after a visit to Tamron.

Some people just kept returning their soft lens to the shop until they got a sharp one. I think I might do that when I can be arsed.

NB Sigma are famously crap for Canon compatability. Tamron are not. The 28-75 is an exception. And even those people who had to go to a lot of effort to get a sharp copy think it was worth once they did.

If you decide to buy one buy it in person, make sure your happy with the size and build. Jessops are selling them for £330 which is very naughty. Print off the price list from Bristol Cameras £265+£10 and get Jessops to price match. If you do buy one drop me a comment (on a more recent post please) and I'll link you to a page with test shots of the Tamron box taken with an A1 28-75. That way you can tell if yours is a lemon immediately.

If you get the Tamron you'll then have a mid range zoom, a prime portrait lens and a tele. After that you'll only have to consider a wide at some point: a cheapo 18-55, or non cheapo Tamron 17-35, Canon 17-40. All lenses mentioned in this comment, bar the 18-55, are full frame compatible and will work with a film EOS or any digital EOS you might pick up down the line. Sadly, the filter sizes are all over the place but that's another story