Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 2.5

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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26 Comments

  1. I have no idea if the virgin pregnancy story is true or not, however, I’m going to uncritically believe in it and accept the boy as my savior. I might have been a Christian if only the Bible contained more knife fights and oral sex.

  2. Sigh. Death cat is predicting your futurez.

    I had never heard of the pregnant memory myth thing. This is probably due to having trained my brain to blast the theme from the muppet show off the inside of my skull whenever a coworker starts talking about their children or the experience of having same.

  3. No doubt at all about the death-predicting cat.

    The first time our small grey cat, Pangur, ever snuggled down with one of us (she wa s rambunxious 6-month old kitten at the time) was when my wife was in bed with a raging migraine. Totally uncharacteristically of her behavior at the time, she snuggled down by my wife’s feet in bed and purred and didn’t move for hours.

    We’ve had other instances where one of us was sick and the cats would all pile on. There’s no question that they can sense changes in body chemistry.

  4. Death predicting cat doesn’t bother me very much. It’s not like they’re saying “woah, this shit’s real! Psychic cat is Psychic!” They’re just saying “this is what we’re seeing, we don’t know why, but here’s a possible explanation, with the understanding that it’s just speculation without any evidence, oh, and while we have your attention, here’s some information on death and grieving.” Pretty innocuous, really.

  5. I like the explanation for the death cat that was given on House. The cat just likes rooms where the people are nice and quiet and not moving about. Also, there is the chance that the dying either were run a fever or had an electric blanket and the cat liked the extra heat. Throw in a little conformation bias, and you have a great story.

  6. I was teaching 8th grade when the death cat story first surfaced and one of my students hypothesized that maybe the cat’s ability was evolutionarily linked to larger cats picking out weaker or sicker prey animals.

    Regardless of whether that’s true or not, I thought it was a pretty astute observation.

  7. In the death cat case the first thing to rule out would be confirmation bias.

    @Craig: We’ve had other instances where one of us was sick and the cats would all pile on. There’s no question that they can sense changes in body chemistry.

    No question? That’s a bit overstated especially on a skeptical blog.

    Our cats liked people best who they were familiar with, who didn’t look at them or reach for them, and who were as still as possible. I rarely nap except when I’m sick. It would be easy to believe that the illness attracted our cats. On those few occasions I did take a midday nap without being sick I also got cats.

    When I start on my road to becoming a Nobel prize winning cat behavior research scientist I think I’ll start with a simpler hypothesis than “death sensing ability”.

  8. They can disprove preggy brain all they like. All I know is that I’m a professional writer and when I was in my third trimester, I couldn’t remember what word I needed to go where. I gave up trying to work on writing when I couldn’t remember the difference between “they’re”, “their”, and “there” anymore.

    I would absolutely believe that it comes from fatigue instead of the pregnancy directly, but either way, baby make brain go bah-bye, tra la la la la…

  9. @jogleby: While people are doing cat studies, can someone explain to me why cats seem to be attracted to people who hate cats?

    The explanation I’ve heard is that cats take eye contact as a challenge. People who don’t like cats don’t tend look at them and therefore are less threatening. I have no idea how much evidence there is to support this.

  10. @Elyse: Yes, there are numerous studies showing that dogs are really atuned to human behavior, so much so that they react to even unconscious (or at the very least subtle conscious) cues from their human “masters”, over and above cues from other dogs, even. This would probably explain their “sixth” sense and ability to tell when we are sick, etc. I don’t know of any research like this with cats, plus no one would rely on a cat to act as their guide animal.

    “Service-cat” is an oxymoron. This is more of a command that goes around in the cats head. Service cat now!

    I still think “Death Cat” would be a cool band name, tho.

  11. @JOHNEA13:

    That’s a good point, they seem to have neglected the hypothesis that the causation is reversed: the cat’s not predicting death, he’s causing it! I’m going to go with INVISIBLE LASER BEAMS FROM HIS WHISKERS as the means.

  12. I had an aunt who claimed she sometimes saw peoples’ souls packing suitcases. This cat story is inconceivable. And not, Westley-defeating-Inigo Montoya-and-Fezzik inconceivable. I would suppose it more probable that the cat is murdering the patients, rather than it having the mystical, magical powers of near-death awareness. Wasn’t this ridiculous story debunked years ago? It certainly isn’t new.
    And animals’ powers of earthquake prediction is also a silly legend. Look it up! (and don’t look it up on animalscanpredicteartquakes.com -not your best source…)

  13. Only anecdotal, but in the last three months of pregnancy, my wife lost an unbelievable amount of her memory and just basic thinking. She couldn’t remember her student’s names, or books she had just read, or why she had gotten a tub of butter and spatula. (I actually had gotten my hopes up on that one. Thought it was kinky, or at least a grilled cheese sandwich.)

    Could be she was tired, or the hormones, or just overall preoccupation with being pregnant, but we regularly had amazing comic moments due to what we called “her brain’s pregnant pause.”

  14. @Chimbley Sweep:
    I know lack of sleep screws with my memory and ability to concentrate so Occam’s Razor tells me that Pregancy => Fatigue => Memory loss is more likely than a direct causal relationship.

    And of course Occam’s Razor talks to me, are you telling me that you guys can’t hear philosophical sharp objects?

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