I now have a diabetic cat and smart crows in the yard. Egad!
First, 21-year-old Lulu shuffles off this mortal hairball, and now I have another medical dependant of the feline species. Labor Day weekend was no fun for me and less for Fleck, since she spent the whole weekend in the hospital. Turns out you can tell a cat has diabetes by the fact that they get sick and dehydrated, even though they drink enough water to float a veterinary clinic.
Much money and worry later, she is now back to normal, and at a much healthier weight. Two insulin shots a day, and she takes them in stride. The scruff of the neck is the best injection site, as I explained to my own doctor as I prepared to evaluate his shot-giving technique. After he tried to give me my flu shot in the same place, I abandoned any implied critique.
From a Darwinian perspective, it makes sense that the back of a cat’s neck would have evolved fewer nerve endings because that’s where the mom grabs the kittens to carry them around. Who knows, maybe they did have nerves there long ago. But if it hurt, the kittens would have run away from mom and consequently run the risk of being eaten. But the kittens born with no nerve endings were protected and lived to pass those genes along to their kids. Survival of the fittest in the pure sense.
When I’ve told people how good Fleck is about getting her shots, some have said that she probably knows instinctively that I’m doing it for her own good. I prefer to think it’s my medical skills, but I suppose it’s possible. Those “skills” must not be without flaws, however, because sometimes she flinches and pulls away.
I’m certainly not perfect at using a syringe because I accidentally stuck my finger one morning. After I drew two units into the syringe, I attempted to put the orange cap back on over the needle to keep it sterile until the cat was finished eating her breakfast. Well, somehow the needle went through the plastic cap and into my finger. No damage — except for a hero-sized drop of blood — and no injection of insulin into me, but I wasted a syringe in the process. Apparently, I need to drink a full cup of coffee before doing this in the future.
A house cat who’s actually smart enough to know what’s good for her? No more of a stretch than what follows.
One day as I watched a DVR recording of the previous night’s episode of The Daily Show, I was abruptly brought out of my lunchtime trance by the sound of loud hammering on my roof. Were worker elves replacing shingles without my knowledge? I went out the front door and looked up to see two crows’ tailfeathers sticking out over the gutter. They were industriously and energetically pecking at something, and making one hell of a racket doing it. I’ll bet I know what they were working on: corn.
The critter food I put out has kernels of dried corn among other delectables, such as nuts and seeds. The corn must be a little too hard and dry because, more than once, I’ve seen a crow pick up kernels and bring them over to the birdbath where it purposefully drops the corn into the water. After several seconds, the bird picks the corn out of the water and begins to peck at it.
It’s been said that the mark of intelligence in an animal is its ability to use tools. It’s obvious the crow wasn’t using the water to wash down the corn like a vitamin pill. Rather it was using the water as a softening medium to make the corn more edible. That’s using a tool as far as I’m concerned.
Later two elements converged to prove the crow-using-tools theory: winter weather and procrastination. I didn’t get the birdbath stored away before a freeze, and now it’s frozen over. I had tossed out a piece of stale pita bread and a crow snatched it up. Must be the same crow because he picked up the bread and flew over to land on the edge of the birdbath. Are you ahead of me? That’s right, the bird dropped the bread onto the ice.
Obviously, the softening trick didn’t work for the poor guy, so after a moment’s bewilderment, he just started pecking away. But we know his intent, don’t we?
There you have it: proof that some crows are as smart as some cats. But if any of those crows come down with diabetes, they’re on their own.