By VanEastVet, on Friday, July 17th, 2015
Did you know that the country of England has produced no fewer than three bus-riding cats?
West Midlands, 2007: Several days a week a mysterious cat dubbed Macavity is spotted catching a bus and travelling to a Fish & Chips shop for lunch, presumably a bowl of cartoon fish skeletons.
Plymouth in Devon, 2009: A domestic cat known as Casper is observed riding the local bus every day, keeping a quiet spot near the back and enjoying the pastoral English scenery.
Bridport, 2011: Reports of a third bus-riding cat emerge; Dodger, AKA Artful Dodger, is seen catching the same bus every day for the express purpose of riding the 10-mile loop.
What can we make of all this? First, clearly these are the habits of three singularly remarkable felines, and we should assume that English cat owners are feeding their cats something powerful, and possibly magical. But second, and more importantly, these three incidents point to an ongoing trend of animals adapting to human progress, and urbanization in general. Cats riding busses sounds like something straight out of an English storybook, but on a larger scale their behaviour can be interpreted as an act of social adaptation. Macavity may have had a clear motive at the end of his bus-ride (cartoon fish skeleton), but for Casper and Dodger, their bus-riding behaviour was largely social routine. Both became familiar with their local bus schedules, both came to know the regular passengers (even sitting on their laps during their commutes), and both of their drivers knew to let them off at their stops. In other words, both cats created social routines that successfully introduced them into an exclusively human network, which is pretty remarkable. It is easy to overlook the significance behind the actions of these bus-riding cats because, on the surface, their stories are blindingly adorable. However, when filtered through the prism of these scrappier, more urban animals, these other examples of social adaptation translate more clearly as survival.
In Moscow, Russia, there is a whole population of stray dogs known as Metro Dogs, who use the subway system to travel into the city to beg for food. Some of the strays keep a permanent home in the subways, others make the journey underground to make the commute every day, and others still seem to be inclined to take longer journeys for exploration’s sake alone, memorizing complex routes across multiple lines. The Metro Dogs have become a regular and accepted aspect of Moscow commuter culture.
City birds all over North America having starting lining their nests with the filters of used cigarette butts. Why? It is theorized that these birds recognize the anti-parasitic properties of the cellulose in the filters, and use it to reduce the number of mites in the nest. The birds have grown so intelligent that they are able to identify high-nicotine brands of cigarettes for their superior anti-parasitic qualities.
In parts of Canada, squirrels have learned to gather and resell used bus tickets for currency, using the profits to buy pre-shelled discount nuts in bulk. The squirrels collect used tickets from recycling bins, and sell them at an extreme discount to students and curious tourists. The trade has become so prevalent, that a number of cities have been forced to adopt electronic ticketing technology to combat the economic drain.
Clearly the squirrel one is made up, but not completely outside the realm of possibility. Do not be surprised if you see a squirrel in line at the No Frills.