Herding cats isn't all that hard, after all

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/03/13/herding-cats-isnt-all-that-h.html


My friend Jared’s cat was missing. He asked a neighbor whether she’d seen it. “Hmm, come check” said the neighbor.

It turned out the neighbor had gotten sick of bringing her own cat in at night, and had trained her dog to herd the cat in through the one-way cat door. But as Jared put it, “cats are fungible”. So now there were a collection of felines in a small space (with food).

Imagine a large scary animal forcing you into, say, a van. You’re let out into an enclosure and a number of other prisoners are there too. But noone can communicate with anyone else to explain what’s going on. IIRC Jared did indeed get his cat back.


We have four cats, and while any two of them may be friends at a given moment, alliances are fluid, so we almost never have all four together for more than a moment or three.

Except when we play badminton; we’re on a small farm (sort of) and have a round pen set up for the horses (essentially a 20m circle of large metal fence panels) that turned out to be a great location for our net. We try to get out and play twice a day, and when we do, the cats eventually congregate around the perimiter to watch the silly humans jump around. (I guess much the way we sit and watch them defend their positions on the cat tower in the living room.)

So that’s all it takes: just spend half an hour running and jumping around like idiots, and they will all come sit quietly to watch the silliness.


Ice cream or some similarly attractive treat (for my Ruby it’s yogurt) is like a cat magnet. Sometimes pulling is easier than pushing.


But how many cats would let a dog push them around?

When my sister’s cat comes to visit, the cat sort of avoids Pokey, but there can be some paw swiping from the cat.

And every so often when we are walking Pokey sees a cat and thinks he’ll go over to say “hi”, and I say “I don’t think that’s a good idea”. Especially since one time we saw two cats on a porch (on long leashes) and he made a move and they came rushing down the stairs to hiss at him.

He wasn’t going to do anything, just visit.

I think he treats the groundhog living in the area the same way. One time we saw it in the backyard, and he hurried over, but not the pull like when he sees the rare dog he doesn’t like. The groundhog did run for cover. Another time the groundhig was just kind of curled up, not moving, and Pokey just stood there, just looking, almost mesmerized.


My sister had a dog, years ago, who insisted that her cats walk close to the wall. She liked to chase them around, but it was in the manner of a mother dog playing with her pups.

Twice when I was with her, outdoors, I had random cats just walk up right to her and cuddle up.


The cat didn’t seem distressed at all, although it seems unfair to let one animal harass it’s smaller roomates in the name if entertainment.


Border Collies need jobs. This one needs a job that’s better than herding cats.

A friend tells a brilliant story about a German Shepherd. Whenever his humans had a party, the dog would herd all the kids into one section of the kitchen and Keep Them There. The kids would cry and whine, but many parents loved it. “Oh, it’s allright - I’ll bring you something to eat.” XD


Yes, take the dog out to play. Let the cats be.


Herding cats isn’t all that hard, after all

When I saw the headline, I thought it was going to be a Boing Boing Shop post for some weird cat herding gadget at 73% off.




I lost track, I don’t know which kitten has the bean taped to its stomach.


I get audiences for my shower. All three this morning. Two like to lay down on the rug so I have to open the door over them. But they get offended if water from the door drips where they can feel it. Weird kitties.


Battle of wills.

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I had a cat who adored dogs, and he would freak out any visiting dogs because he would wind around under their bellies and chins, and they, being used to snout-whacking cats, would lift their snouts out of whacking distance (not realizing that he wouldn’t claw them), while rolling their eyes down, trying to see what he was doing.


All the farm cats would show up when a buddy of mine milked the cow. His family didn’t need all the milk, so a good portion would go to the cats. But a lifetime of milking and boredom gave my buddy skills. He’d shoot the cats with the milk, often hard enough to “knock” them off whatever they were standing on. You’d think they’d learn to hide, but every time there would be a dozen cats cleaning themselves before it was over.

I, however, did learn to stay at least 20 feet away and near something to duck behind.


I’ve always just used the sound of a can opener.


In that case, cat wins every time.

Cat__Cat__catfood can reflex


Certainly the dog was trying to herd cats, but the cats didn’t really seem to be on board. The moving cat seemed confused as to why this dog suddenly wants to be the alpha.

The cat allows itself to be herded a bit, then realizes that the dog, whom it knows very well, is not going to enforce his herding with barks or snaps, and so the cat goes about its merry way.

The dog has an innate need to do this behavior, and the cat, not being truly threatened, knows it will always run the show,

So, yes, the owner needs to give the dog more things to do. You can’t just have a border collie lie around and be a lapdog. You shouldn’t own a working dog if you can’t keep it occupied.