The Half Life of a Feral Kitten on Paradise Island

Greyface is a bully. He is the meanest son-of-a-bitch on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. He is a tomcat. He beat up our feral kitties on a regular basis. He would make his rounds around Paradise Island just to terrorize the other cats. Any female cat in heat, he would claim, and sire another load of kittens. His matings could be heard across half the island. The kitties would be bloody after an encounter with Greyface.

On the way to Cabbage Beach, there was a litter of Greyface's kittens. They have his distinctive head shape which is angular and quite unattractive for a cat. The staff from the Atlantis laundry and water recovery plant nearby feed the kittens. One of them is pictured above. They are as skittish as all get out. They are wild to the core, just like their sire.

I am going to switch gears for a minute, and introduce the concept of half-life. Half-life is the period of time it takes for a substance undergoing decay or destruction to decrease by half. The name originally was used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms (radioactive decay), but may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay or destruction. The original term, dating to 1907, was "half-life period", which was later shortened to "half-life" sometime in the early 1950s. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

I once worked with a bunch of ingenious engineers who would just for fun, calculate the half life of the flies that would hatch in a window on a warm day in the winter. I am sure that you have seen this. The sun shines brightly and soon the window is full of buzzing flies. A couple of hours later, the flies are dying like ... well .... flies. There bodies are strewn all over the window sill. The guys would calculate the half life of the flies (the rate at which half of them would be dead) and it would be something like 5 hours.

It struck me that the kittens of Paradise Island have a high mortality rate and indeed they demonstrate a half life. The batch of kittens that the above pictured one belongs to came from a litter of 4. Six months later (now), there are just two left. I thought that I was making a huge contribution to science by discovering that the half life of the kittens is six months. In six months, there were exactly half of the kittens. I was quite proud of my achievement.

Enter my friend Yves. He pointed out to me that my calculations were erroneous, because a cat has nine lives. If there were two cats left after six months, then that means that in the short period of time, they plowed through 18 lives. The calculations were a little more involved. The cats were born in October, which was 180 days duration. There is serendipity in that number because it is easy to divide it by 18, which is the number of lives that the cats went through. When you do so, you get 10 days. So I can positively state that the half life of a Paradise Island kitten is 10 days per life per cat or 10 days/life/cat. In terms of hours, this works out to 240 hour-life-cats.

I fully expect a Nobel Prize in science for discovery this piece of knowledge. Winning a Nobel Prize would be the cat's meow, especially for this.


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