Feline NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences

Most Thursday evenings, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco hosts Classroom Safari. I have long been fascinated by the small wild cats, so it was interesting to see them up close. The delightfully cheeky staff, however, started out the program with a “cat” that wasn’t a cat at all.


This feline-esque creature is actually a genet. It has many cat traits, including its appearance, claws, purring, etc. But it is it’s own subfamily of carnivorous mammal, quite distinct from cats. They bear a resemblance to fishing cats with the sleekness, but their snouts are a bit longer, more like a mongoose. Although genet species are native to Africa, they were introduced into southern Europe as the “common genets”.

Next up was a more familiar small cat, the ocelot, a commonly found wild cat of the Americas.


Ocelots are adorable, but they are wild animals, and our hosts were quick to point out that this ocelot in particular is quite ornery. Their membership in the leopard family is unmistakable. And they are superbly adapted for life in the forests as well as more desert-like scrub of their range.

One of the themes during the presentation was that these wild cats do not make good pets. It is not good for the animals themselves who retain their wild instincts. They also pose a danger for humans and other domesticated animals. One particularly amusing anecdote involved a “club” on Long Island where wealthy women kept ocelots as a fad, only to learn that ocelots eat small dogs. The next cat was another that is often kept as an exotic pet, the serval.


Graceful and athletic, with a sweet face, it’s understandable that people are captivated by these cats. Indeed, the Savannah breed is a cross between a serval and a domestic cat. But their wild instincts are honed for large ranges on the African savannahs and wetlands, including the Sohel region as well as sub-Saharan Africa. Such cats do not adapt well to domestic life.

The next and final cat was one that even as a kitten made our serval friend quite nervous.

Siberian Lynx kitten

This adorable baby is a Siberian Lynx. At first thought it was a caracal with the ear tufts, but once one sees the undercoat and the exceptionally large paws, it is unmistakably a lynx. It also came across a bit of a mini-lion, and as such there is no ambiguity about whether it would make a good pet or not. We’re happy to get a chance to see these cats, and grateful to Classroom Safari for sharing them with us, as well as their work rescuing wild cats.

Many local institutions were on hand as well to talk about their work with cats, wild and domestic. The was the Felidae Conversation Fund, a group that we at CatSynth have long supported. They are involved in small-cat research projects around the world and in our own backyard. The main project they presented at Feline NightLife was the Bay Are Puma Project.


The results show that pumas are doing relatively well in some areas, but not others. In particular, pumas in the East Bay hills seem be quite fat and happy in their wild area amidst the urbanized surroundings. By contrast, Marin County is not sustaining a healthy population, most likely due to habit fragmentation and such. It’s a good reminder that wild cats are not just “exotic”, but animals in our neighborhoods.

On the domestic front, our friends at Cat Town were on hand as well. They are dedicated to helping the most vulnerable shelter cats of the East Bay through their fostering program as well as their cat cafe in Oakland, the first in the Bay Area. We wrote about our first visit to the cafe here. The San Francisco SPCA was also on hand, with several adoptable kittens including this adorable black baby.

Black Kitten

It is clearly a great opportunity to advocate for shelter pets and even maybe initiate some adoptions. It was crowded around the SPCA booth, and I can only imagine it might have been stressful for the kittens. But we also hope some found new homes as a result.

The Cat Man of West Oakland (aka Adam Myatt) is a one-man local institution advocating for domestic cats in our communities. He was worked extensively with Cat Town and co-founded their cat cafe. But he also continues his own work with Hoodcats, documenting the beautiful outdoor cats of Oakland neighborhoods. He had several of his photos, including some cute black cats. We managed to acquire one of those black-cat pictures, along with a classic print, from a vending machine he had a fund-raiser.

Cat Man of West Oakland pictures

We had a lot of fun at Feline Nightlife, with all the cats as well as the cocktails, people watching and general exhibits of NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences. It was a bit different, but we hope to be back for another themed night some time, perhaps something musical?

San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows, 2013

One of our favorite holiday traditions here in San Francisco is the window display at Macy’s flagship Union Square store featuring adoptable pets from the San Francisco SPCA.


There were quite a few kittens on display, some in windows that featured a theme of holidays in the city. Some really knew how to ham it up for the visitors, like this cutie:


They always get a good response from the public including numerous adoptions, which is of course what this event is all about. And we at CatSynth love seeing cats finding new homes.


You can find out more about the program at the SF SPCA’s website, including visiting hours and how to donate to help the city’s homeless pets. And if you live here or you’re visiting SF this holiday season, go downtown and see the cats in person!


Weekend Cat Blogging: SF SPCA Holiday Windows 2011

Each year, the San Francisco SPCA teams up with Macy’s in San Francisco to feature adoptable pets in the holiday window displays at their main store in Union Square.  And we at CatSynth present some of the cats that are featured in the windows and available for adoption.

The windows featured a theme this year that appeared to me as a series of gears and old machinery.  It turns out that the theme is in fact “Make a Wish” and the machinery represents a “wish factory”.  Clearly the wishes here are for loving homes for all the adoptable animals.

The program is always popular with visitors to busy Union Square.  And it has been quite successful, placing many animals in homes and raising funds for the San Francisco SPCA’s many other programs.

The holiday windows continue through January 1, with different animals rotating through each day.  If you are in San Francisco this holiday season, I encourage you to check it out.  Those who aren’t going to be in the area can still enjoy the displays via the live video feeds.

You can find out more about Macy’s SF SPCA Holiday Windows at this website, including hours, volunteer opportunities, and donation information.

Weekend Cat Blogging #341 is hosted by Billy Sweetfeets Gingersnap.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by the always hard-working Nikita and Elivra at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging: SF SPCA Holiday Windows

Every year during the holidays, San Francisco SPCA teams up with Macy’s in San Francisco to feature adoptable pets in the holiday window displays at their main store in Union Square.  For Weekend Cat Blogging, we at CatSynth present some of the cats that are featured in the windows and available for adoption.

While many of the cats go about their normal routines, this particular youngster was hamming it up for the visitors (and their cameras):

Like most holiday window displays, there is an overarching theme to the decor. This year was probably my favorite to date, as it featured scenes reminiscent of New York City during the holidays, with patches of snow on tall buildings, sidewalks and bridges. I particularly liked how the display featured this steel bridge converted into a walkway (and comfortable sleeping platform) for the cats:

At one point during my visit, one of the black kittens came over to play with the sleeping orange kitten:

The black kitten wanted to play and “make friends”, alternately batting and grooming the other one, who seemed to have no interest whatsoever. A similar scene ensued with the two older cats below the bridge, where the darker one came over and started enthusiastically grooming the lighter cat, who was less than enthusiastic about this. Nonetheless, all the antics provided an added dimension to the visit.

You can read more about the program at the official Macy’s SF/SPCA Holiday Windows site. This year, they are also provide live streaming video for those who cannot come to see the windows in person, including mobile streaming page for iPad/iPhone/iPod devices:

The SF SPCA is of course welcoming donations to support this program and all its other efforts.

Weekend Cat Blogging #289 is hosted by the tireless Nikita Cat at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

The Carnival of the Cats will up on Sunday at When Cats Attack!

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.