Apparently all carnivorans (not quite the same as carnivores) are either doggy or catty.


I learned this from my brother Sasha some time ago, but I was reminded of it on our Galapagos trip, where the sea lions reminded my boys of our dog. The order Carnivora—which includes many but not all carnivorous (and some omnivorous) mammals—is apparently broken down into the doggy carnivorans and the catty ones. The doggies are in the Caniformia family, which includes sea lions and bears, along with the usual suspects. The catties are, naturally, in Feliformia; these include, surprisingly to me, hyenas (who I had thought were more related to dogs).

And if a sea lion feels like there are bugs crawling all over it, that's called caniformication.

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  1. New trivia game in progress, eh?

  2. I was suprised when I learned this too, but if you ever had a spraying cat when you smell a hyena you will recognize the kinship. The civets are feliformia as well, in general feliforms have a better sense of smell. The average cat has a sense of smell many times better than most dogs, the exceptions are hounds like beagles and bloodhounds.

    The feliformia tend to be hypercarnivores and have developed into almost identically shaped catlike apex predators three times in the last 25 million years. The largest form evolving slightly different saber tooth dentition from a housecat size ancestor. But this hyperspecialization has twice been a dead end with extinct after ecological collapse, but in each reiteration their brain volume has increased.

  3. I had to read this just to make sure it had nothing to do with Californication.

    1. Way to ruin the joke.

  4. as another commenter noted, many feliforms are hypercarnivors. Also, many are ‘obligate carnivores.’ Some amount of their protein intake must come from animal sources — organ meat often preferred. Many dry pet foods include soy as the primary protein source, but that alone is not sufficient for healthy cats. This is one of the reasons why you do not see many cats farming soy beans. This besides the fact that cats, as libertarians, object to agricultural subsidy programs

  5. Not any old bugs, just ants.

    Alternatively, it’s when your sea lion wants to jump on the kitchen counter.

    1. The origin of “formication” is indeed the Latin “formica,” meaning ant; but Merriam-Webster’s informs me that the word can also refer to the sensation of insects more generally.

      Nice one about the kitchen counter, though.

    2. I thought it referred to when your sea lion obsessively listens to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
      (…maybe that’s where, “Flea” got his name!)

  6. Lots of dad joke material in that post.

  7. IIRC the Galapagos sea lions are descended from the larger California variety. We saw some very dog-like behavior from Galapagos sea lions at the commercial fish-cleaning station on Santa Cruz island:

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