Opinion | Opinion http://www.catster.com/opinion Opinion en-us Mon, 19 Nov 2012 09:00:00 -0800 Mon, 19 Nov 2012 09:00:00 -0800 http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Orion <![CDATA[Swedish Skydiving Cats Ad Sparks Outrage and LOLs]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/skydiving-cats-ad-folksam The Folksam firm’s dreams must be coming true. This huge corporation actually managed to produce an ad that went viral. Of course, it does feature cats, so it was almost a given that it would. The trouble is, some animal lovers are hissing mad because the cats in the ad are skydiving.

Folksam created the ad as a result of a customer request. The company asked for ideas for its next ad, and customer Eva Leijonmark responded with something like this: “Hey, why don’t you film a bunch of skydiving cats writing my name in the sky while R. Kelly’s song ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ plays in the background?”

As soon as the commercial went live, people started freaking out. “That’s not funny or cute. It is cruel,” said one cat lover. Another characterized the ad as disturbing and “wrong on so many levels.”

Um, yeah. Except that anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows there’s no way you could train cats to skydive, and certainly no way you could toss a bunch of them out of an airplane and expect them to perform stunt maneuvers in free-fall. That mid air high-five was kind of a giveaway, after all.

Lena Strand, Folksam’s marketing director, reassured the disgruntled viewers that the company had followed the Animal Welfare Act and the cats were not thrown out of an airplane.

People were shot skydiving, and then they were replaced by cats through the use of green screen, a film technique that allows actors to be filmed against a blank screen, after which the background is edited in. A fan was used to create the effect of wind blowing through the cats’ fur.

The only possible explanation for all the furor over the ad is this item from Time’s most popular articles newsfeed:

The English version of the ad had almost 105,000 views as of November 17. If you want to watch it for yourself, you can see it here. It really is pretty funny and cute.

Sources: Time.com, CNN. Images: screen captures from the Folksam ad video

Mon, 19 Nov 2012 09:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/skydiving-cats-ad-folksam
<![CDATA[What You Think vs. What Cats Think ]]> http://www.catster.com/molz/cat-humor-what-you-think-what-cats-think We often think we know the reasons cats do the things they do. But maybe we don't? Maybe we get it all wrong? Here's a few ways we're getting it all wrong. 

The cat is scratching the chair

Cat on chair by Shutterstock.com.

What the owner thinks: "Good heavens! Peterson is expressing his natural instinct. I'd better get some cat trees so he can do it properly -- and without hurting something so dear to me as this chair."

What the cat thinks: "Why do we have this horrible chair? I HATE this chair. What exactly do I have to do to this chair to get you to remove it from my sight? I'm going to push this chair out the door." 

The cat is pooping outside the litter box

Cat on sofa by Shutterstock.com.

What the owner thinks: "Oh, dear. It looks like Jellybean might not be feeling well. Or perhaps there is something disturbing her emotionally."

What the cat thinks: "That. Was. Amazing. Who knew taking a poop several feet from the litter box could be SO liberating? I haven't had this much fun since I vomited in the toaster. I think I'm going crap on your pillow -- or maybe the couch. This is such an exciting area I'm going to, don't you think?" 

The cat is vomiting

White kitten by Shutterstock.com.

What the owner thinks: "Great pumpkins! Sir Lancelot is terribly ill. I must call the vet and begin a course of treatment."

What the cat thinks: "Blarrg. Did you know cats can vomit at will? Blarrrg. Amazing, huh? Sorry about the rug. And your feet. So, were you going to open that can of cat food in the pantry anytime soon?" 

The cat is bringing dead, partially eaten things to the door

Cat with mouse by Shutterstock.com.

What the owner thinks: "Ah, my little soldier is bringing me his kill, in deference to my status as his savior and protector."

What the cat thinks: "Hmm, I think I got all the good bits -- you want the offal? You seem like the sort who likes rat offal, if you don't mind me saying so."

Tue, 13 Nov 2012 07:00:00 -0800 /molz/cat-humor-what-you-think-what-cats-think
<![CDATA[Let's Talk Spay and Neuter]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/lets-talk-spay-and-neuter When I was a kid growing up in rural Maine back in the nineteen-sev *cough, cough*, almost everybody I knew had a cat or a dog. But almost nobody had their pets spayed or neutered. This wasn't because people were deliberately cruel, but because it simply didn't occur to anyone that it might be a good idea.

I don't think I'd ever even heard of spaying and neutering until I was watching The Price Is Right one day and Bob Barker said at the end of the show, "This is Bob Barker saying good night and remember to have your pet spayed or neutered."

My youngest cat, Dahlia, the day after her spay surgery in 2007. I brought her with me to my office where I could monitor her recovery.

In my family, we didn't spay and neuter the cats we adopted or acquired from friends. Again, I think a lot of that was due to the prevailing mindset about cats and the fact that the procedure was expensive and we simply couldn't afford to do it.

We loved our cats and we took very good care of them otherwise. I even got to serve as a midwife to our sweet little calico girl as she gave birth to three litters. Iris was eventually spayed after her fourth litter. And all of her babies found good homes at my mother's hands.

Ten years later, when it was my turn to adopt my first cats, Sinad and Siouxsie, I knew I wanted to take perfect care of them right from the outset. And I think it was Barker's message that helped me to understand that one of the most important parts of being a good cat caretaker is spaying and neutering.

Since then, every cat in my care has been spayed or neutered. I've paid out of my own pocket to spay cats when their owners couldn't afford to do it, and I've happily contributed to Maine's Help Fix ME program with a check-off on my annual income taxes.

I've also seen the tragic results of failure to spay. A number of years ago, I was visiting a friend's cat who was recovering from illness at a local vet clinic. In the cage next door was a very, very sick female, barely past kittenhood. She'd just had a litter, but she'd retained one of the babies and developed a terrible infection in her uterus. Although she'd had an emergency spay, the toxins were still raging through her system, and the smell of pus and dying flesh permeated the room. Her eyes were glassy with fever and pain, but even so, she welcomed a friendly pat on the head.

I don't know what became of her. When I went to visit my friend's cat the next day, she wasn't there.

That brought home the potentially tragic consequences of failing to have your cat spayed or neutered.

I've always been an advocate of spay/neuter, but after seeing that poor cat, my passion became even stronger. And that was even before I knew about the much higher risk of mammary cancer and other illnesses in unspayed cats. Whenever I can, I help the readers of my cat blog find resources for low-cost (or even free) spay or neuter, and I urge them to have their cats fixed as soon as they can.

I'm grateful that the spay/neuter message is all over the place now. I'm grateful that every animal adopted from a shelter is spayed or neutered before they even leave the place. I'm grateful that there are so many resources to help low-income cat caretakers do the right thing by their feline companions.

What do you think? How has the message changed since you were a child? Have you seen a cat that suffered as a result of not being spayed or neutered? What else do you want to say about spaying and neutering? Speak up and make a comment below.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 09:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/lets-talk-spay-and-neuter
<![CDATA[Let's Talk ... Children and Cats]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/lets-talk-children-and-cats
"Child with Cat," oil on canvas by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1887

"Be gentle with the kitty."

I must have repeated that phrase dozens of times when my nieces -- who were then just barely into toddlerhood -- visited my house.

I remember gently guiding the girls' tiny hands, teaching them how to stroke my cats' fur without grabbing and where to pet them to create those delightful purrs.

"See?" I'd tell the little one sitting in my lap. "The kitty is purring. That means she's happy."

As my nieces grew into preschoolers, I began to see how keenly they observed their environment and yearned to be close to all creatures. And of course, they still really, really wanted to pet the kitties! Sometimes they just couldn't resist squealing in delight or chasing after a cat, which naturally resulted in a hiss or a quick disappearing act — and girls with very sad little faces.

It occurred to me that this would be a great time to not only work with the "take your turn and share" skills they were learning, but to help them understand what they were observing. I'd point out to them things like, "Do you see how Siouxsie's eyes are really big? Do you see that her body is all stiff? That means she's kind of scared."

Kids understand things like being scared, and my gentle-hearted, animal-loving nieces certainly didn't want to frighten Auntie JaneA's cats.

"Do you know what to do when a cat is scared?" I'd ask the girls.

And my second-youngest niece, C. (I'm using her initial because I don't have her parents' explicit permission to use her name), would say in a very serious voice, "Leave her alone?"

And I'd tell her, "That's right. For now, let Siouxsie be. If you sit quietly, I know she'll come up to you and let you pet her."

Kids understand things like patience and gentleness — probably a lot more deeply than many adults give them credit for. Patience is certainly tough for young children, but I was always impressed by how hard my nieces tried to be patient and resist the urge to run after my cats.

Young children's hearts are naturally open, and I believe they hunger for an understanding of how to relate to others ... including animals.

My nieces are among the greatest joys of my life. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to watch them grow into young women. And as for C., she's become a wonderful homesteader's daughter, helping her parents to care for baby goats, chicks, goslings, piglets — and dogs and cats, too.

The last time I asked her, she told me she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

I like to think I had a part in helping C., and all my nieces, learn how to look and listen to what animals are saying through their body language. When children understand that animals are living creatures with feelings, thoughts, and needs, they're much more likely to see animals as part of the family rather than something to be disposed of when the next cool thing comes along. They also learn compassion and kindness.

I believe that intelligent choices driven by compassion and kindness will prove to be the salvation of the world. It's up to all of us to help teach the children in our lives those crucial lessons, and one of the best ways to do so is by allowing them to share their lives with a feline companion.

What do you think? What sort of relationships do the children in your lives have with cats (or any pets, for that matter)? What have you learned from watching children interact with cats? And what do you see as the greatest benefit of allowing children to live with, and learn from, their animal companions?

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 09:30:00 -0800 /the-scoop/lets-talk-children-and-cats
<![CDATA[Let's Talk: Why Are Scientists Blaming Insanity on Cats?]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/lets-talk-why-are-scientists-blaming-insanity-on-cats
LOLcat with caption "BRAAAAAAAINSSSSS"
Once again, cat phobia is taking the media by storm.

The latest outbreak was spawned by an article that appeared in The Atlantic magazine with the attention-grabbing title "How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy." (Cue the drama button.)

Chezch evolutionary biologist Jaroslav Flegr has published a study blaming cats for everything from car crashes to suicide. Why? Apparently, Flegr says, the Toxoplasma gondii parasite — which is carried by some of our feline friends — is "quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents." Oh, and causing mental illness, too.

Big-name researchers are even giving Flegr's research more credibility. Stanford University neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky says Flegr's studies are well-conducted and he has no reason to doubt them. Schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey says, "I admire Jaroslav for doing [this research] I think it bears looking at. I find it completely credible."

Oh, really.

I guess these geniuses missed the memo: The Centers for Disease Control's article on cats and disease says that people are more likely to pick up toxo from eating raw meat and/or poor food handling techniques, or from gardening.

Run! Run like hell! Don't touch meat or put your fingers in the dirt — you're gonna go crazy and then die!

I'm sick to death of "science" that blames cats for everything from bird extinction to insanity. And I'm especially ticked off that articles like the The Atlantic one get picked up by media outlets all over the world. We're not talking the Weekly World News here; we're talking about mainstream outlets many people would find respectable such as Forbes and Business Insider, and wildly popular blogs like Jezebel and BoingBoing.

There are so many easy ways to avoid getting toxoplasmosis from your cat (assuming that in fact your cat is a carrier; the vast majority of indoor-only cats are not) that the CDC is absolutely right when they say we're more likely to pick up the parasite from not practicing proper food safety.

LOLcat with caption "Zombie Cat: Yes he is cute. He will still eat your brains."
The CDC says that more than 60 million people in the United States may be infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Of those who are infected, most have no symptoms because a healthy person's immune system keeps the bug in check. So, cats or no cats, toxo is out there.

The T. gondii parasite is in the cat's feces, and those feces don't even begin shedding the parasite before they've been outside the cat for a day or more — so if you clean your litterboxes at least once a day, you don't have to worry.

Of course, if you're pregnant or you have an immune deficiency due to HIV or antirejection drugs after an organ transplant, you do need to be a bit more careful: wear gloves and the like.

Let's get real here. Texting and drunk driving cause more car crashes than Toxoplasma ever will. People get mental illnesses because of genetics or serious trauma. Cats have saved the lives of so many people suffering severe depression that it's a shame to blame them for causing people to go insane.

It's crap science, not cat crap, that drives me crazy!

What do you think? Have you had toxoplasmosis? Have you gotten diseases from your cat? And what would you say to those who attribute these illnesses only to cats?

Wed, 15 Feb 2012 09:00:05 -0800 /the-scoop/lets-talk-why-are-scientists-blaming-insanity-on-cats
<![CDATA[Here's What Would Happen If All the Cats Died]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/heres-what-would-happen-if-all-the-cats-died
A photo of a cat in the woods, with the cat edited out of the picture
Earlier this week, author Natalie Wolchover wrote an article for Live Science titled "What If All the Cats in the World Suddenly Died?"

Groups like the American Bird Conservancy and all the people who've fallen for the bad science that has scapegoated cats as the number one killer of all the pretty little birdies might rejoice. Legions of cat lovers would certainly grieve the loss of their beloved companions. But amidst all the emotional response, only a few people have any idea of the dire consequences that could result from the disappearance of a predator that is, in fact, crucial to our environment.

Now, I'll start off here by saying that I don't make any claim to be a scientist, but I do remember my college biology classes. There's also a part of my nerdy little heart that has a place for science and ecology that has caused me to do a lot of recreational reading on the subject.

Bird advocates often say that cats are foreign to our environment and therefore our poor feathered friends have no ability to deal with domestic cats. But the truth is, cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, so they are a part of the ecosystem and our ecosystem is designed to accommodate them.

You know what happens when a predator is instantly removed from an ecosystem? If other predators like weasels and foxes don't fill the vacuum left by cats (and trust me, they probably would), a phenomenon called trophic cascade occurs. What that means is, if all the cats instantly died and no other animals took their place, rodent and bird populations would rise exponentially. This would lead to the a vastly increased demand on the available food supply. Seeds and nuts would be consumed to such an extent that grass, trees and wildflowers would stop growing (no seeds = no new plants), and our own vegetable gardens and grain storage facilities would be pillaged, too.

Rats and the fleas they carried were the primary vector of the bubonic plague epidemic of the Middle Ages.

The burgeoning population of rats and birds, crammed together in close quarters due to humans' destruction of their wild habitat, would inevitably lead to outbreaks of disease, which could rapidly become epidemics. Many of these diseases are zoonotic — that is, they infect people, too. Fleas carried on rats (whose population spiraled out of control after the mass execution of cats due to superstition about their association with Satan) caused the vast outbreak of the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages, for example. Although we've got antibiotics to treat the plague now, we're not so lucky with rat-borne diseases like hantavirus or bird-borne diseases like avian flu. Antibiotics don't kill viruses.

Sure, this may all be hyperbole, but there have been plenty of studies, written by respectable scientists, on the important role of domestic cats in the survival of our ecosystem. We also have examples of similar phenomena happening with high-level predators. When wolves were eliminated from Yellowstone National Park in the late 19th century, for example, the elk population exploded. Elk feed on aspen trees and grass, and the grazers' vastly increasing numbers more or less destroyed the vegetation in the park. Even today, 15 years after wolves were reintroduced to the park, the aspen population isn't recovering: it may just be that the extirpation of the gray wolf and the resulting elk population boom have forever altered the environment there.

Of course, some people will say that cats are nowhere near as important as wolves because they only feed on small animals. But if the bird advocates think cats are such a huge danger to the avian population, they must, somewhere in a rational corner of their minds, be able to imagine that a wholesale destruction of cats could result in a similar disaster.

You can't eliminate any one animal from the environment without causing a cascade of unintended consequences that could have pretty horrific outcomes. Life is a web, and the disturbance or destruction of any one strand can send the whole thing into collapse.

Yes, cats are that important. For that matter, so are ants, gnats, mosquitos, venomous snakes, and everything else.

(If you want to see a full list of diseases transmitted by rodents and diseases transmitted by birds, knock yourself out! Then thank your cat for his or her role in controlling prey animal populations.)

Thu, 09 Feb 2012 10:15:17 -0800 /the-scoop/heres-what-would-happen-if-all-the-cats-died
<![CDATA[Let's Talk: Do Sleeping Cats Make You Melt?]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/do-sleeping-cats-make-you-melt
The earliest evidence of Thomas's amazing sleeping talent came about shortly after I adopted him in 2004. How can this possibly be comfortable?

The Huffington Post's Healthy Living site recently posted an article on the importance of sleep ... and the lessons our cats can teach us about the joys of sleep.

I knew almost from the outset that Thomas would be an "awwww-some" sleeper. I captured this photo on a beautiful spring day in 2004, about three months after I adopted him. Yes, he is awake in this picture, but he'd been napping in that very position for the last hour. I have no idea how this crazy leg drape can be comfortable; maybe he was being his own chiropractor and adjusting a wayward vertebra back into place!

Over the next few years, I took tons of photos of my beautiful feline overlords (hooray for digital cameras!) in their most elegant, serene, and ridiculous moments.

Alas, I lost almost all of them when my old computer and my old camera died, at virtually the same time. The only remnants of my experiment — and the vast majority of the pictures I took of my beautiful soulmate, Sinad O'Kitty, who crossed the rainbow bridge far too soon — were a few low-resolution versions I posted on my old LiveJournal account. I was crushed.

But I bravely soldiered on. In 2006, with a new camera in hand and a new computer humming happily on, I relaunched my crazy-cat-lady/photographer hobby.

Thomas, meanwhile, had been growing ever more proficient at his bizarre and incredibly cute sleeping poses. Cats, after all, never stop developing their snoozing skills.

When I moved back to the old family homestead in 2005, Thomas immediately fell in love with the eastward-facing picture windows that adorned my place — and the vast sun puddles that made perfect napping spots. The tummy-up leg spread became Thomas's favorite summer sleeping pose.

2006, at the old homestead: Thomas does the tummy-up leg spread.

But the oddest thing about Thomas's snooze poses is that if he's not snuggling with his best girl, Dahlia and he's not tummy-up on the floor, he always has one leg sticking out. I haven't the faintest idea why; he's just always done that. He is, of course, ridiculously cute when he's in the Reverse Comma (or Modified Croissant) pose, and when I behold a sight like this, I have all I can do not to snorgle him silly:

The Reverse Comma (or if you prefer, the Modified Croissant).

The only reason I don't fall upon him with kisses and petting when he's "in a comma," so to speak, is that I love him enough not to freak him out in the midst of a good, solid nap. Some cats would respond to that kind of treatment with teeth and claws at the ready, but I doubt Thomas would. He's a sweet-natured soul and would most likely run away and hide miserably behind the nearest piece of furniture.

The Huffington Post article lauds cats as the ultimate teachers of the art of sleeping and encourages readers to learn from their feline friends. It includes a slide show of reader-submitted pictures of cats in cute sleeping poses. Of course, I had to enter my champion sleeper because ... well, why not? Check it out, and give Thomas and Dahlia a five-star rating because they are, after all, Too Cute for Words.

How about you? Do your cats' sleeping poses make you melt into a lump of senseless goo? Are you going to submit your own slides to HuffPo's sleeping cat slideshow? If you do, post the link to your slide in a comment so your fellow Catsters can vote for you.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 09:00:35 -0800 /the-scoop/do-sleeping-cats-make-you-melt
<![CDATA[Let's Talk: Respecting Your Elderkitties]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/lets-talk-respecting-your-elderkitties
Siouxsie loves her special "throne."
I grew up knowing the importance of compassion and respect for the older people in my life. But it was kind of an abstract concept until my mother moved my grandmother from her neighborhood in the Bronx to my small coastal Maine home town.

Grandma was already in the early stages of dementia when she moved here, and as time went on, her confusion and disorientation increased. On one 85-degree summer day, a family friend stopped by my workplace and said she'd seen my grandmother walking up a hill — in a fur coat, with a bag of groceries, in the opposite direction from her home. I hopped in my car and drove to find her, rolled down the window, and casually said, "Hi, Grandma. Would you like a ride home?" She allowed as how she would, and I brought her back to her apartment and got her safely inside. That was when my heart, and my mind, opened in a new way, and the idea of respect for the elderly became real.

As my cats age, that open heart and mind are serving me well. My oldest cat, Siouxsie, is 15. She's still remarkably healthy for a cat her age, but I've seen the changes. They're subtle, but they're there.

Siouxsie's once jet-black face is now flecked with white furs. I can see the pain in her eyes and in the very subtle limp she gets on cold, damp days.

When she uses the litterbox, she perches her back feet on the rim when she's having a bowel movement — and because in her pain and/or weakness she can't hold that pose as well as she used to, the result is usually little pieces of poop on the floor.

She can't hop onto the counter or the bed as easily as she used to.

Siouxsie still loves her shoulder rides and "purry hugs."

One night, I woke up to the sound of the most mournful howling I've ever heard. I jumped out of bed and found Siouxsie standing between my coffee table and my couch, looking frightened and confused. I picked her up and comforted her and brought her back to bed with me, where she settled in, curled up next to me under the covers.

Siouxsie gets glucosamine/chondroitin treats and MSM supplements to help with her arthritis pain. She has regular vet visits, so I can be sure her general health remains good, even if she's hurting from time to time.

I clean the poop on the floor without complaint and with a heart full of compassion. If she wakes me up in the middle of the night, lost and confused, I'll gladly lose sleep to help her.

I pick her up gently and put her in the high places where she loves to hang out, and when she decides it's time to leave that perch, I'll help her down if she needs it. If and when she reaches the point that all jumps are painful, I'll get a ramp or stairs so she can climb into bed with me.

I bought her a special bed made of foam, with a supersoft cushion, that allows her to curl up comfortably and stay warm, easing the pain in her hips.

Siouxsie and her sister Sinad (1996-2006), just a week after I adopted them.

But she still loves to play (not as vigorously as she used to, mind you). She eats well, and regularly asks for "purry hugs." She's a happy girl, even if she's not as spry as she used to be.

I don't mind any of this stuff. I'll gladly do everything I can to keep Siouxsie comfortable until the day she closes her eyes and never opens them again. And if she reaches a point where she has no quality of life, I'll make the heartbreaking but courageous and compassionate choice to end her suffering. It's all a part of taking care of a beloved family member who deserves all the extra care and compassion of a human elder in the same situation.

When I adopted Siouxsie as a just-weaned kitten on that June day in 1996, I knew that's what I signed up for: to love, honor, and cherish this cat from cradle to grave.

What about you? What do you do to keep your elderkitties happy and healthy? Are there special accommodations you've made that worked for you? I'd like to know what others are doing so I can keep helping Siouxsie to enjoy her life, as pain-free and happy as possible.

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 08:30:00 -0800 /the-scoop/lets-talk-respecting-your-elderkitties
<![CDATA[Cat Assassination: Has It Really Come to This?]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/cat-assassination-has-it-really-come-to-this
sad cat with caption "I has a sad."
I debated long and hard before sharing this story with you. I hate sharing bad news, and this particular news item almost brought me to tears — but if I don't write about it, I feel like I am part of the problem, one of the millions who stay silent in the face of acts of cruelty like this. And I have to write about it. Writing is just about the only way I can fully process emotions. But rest assured, I haven't shared any gruesome photos!

When the story broke yesterday about a family cat that had been brutally murdered and left on the doorstep of an Arkansas campaign manager, I was appalled and heartbroken, especially when I learned that it was a 5-year-old child who discovered the cat.

Jacob Burris and his family arrived at their Russellville home Sunday morning to find Gato, the murdered feline, on their doorstep, with the word "LIBERAL" spray-painted on the cat's mangled corpse.

"We cannot have peace among men whose hearts find delight in killing any living creature." — Rachel Carson

Burris is the campaign director for Ken Aden, a Democrat running for a congressional seat.

Arkansas is a very conservative state, but Burris says that although people are outspoken about their political positions on a number of issues, they are all still kind to one another. And that's the way it is in most of the U.S.

But how did somebody become so sick with hatred and rage that they felt the need to torture and murder an innocent cat to express that hatred? We'll probably never know for sure.

"Thankfully, there are not that many people who want to do something like this," Aden said. "The majority of people in this district are hard-working folks, but you get the occasional crazy individual out there."

"Cruelty to animals is one of the most significant vices of a low and ignoble people. Wherever one notices them, they constitute a sign of ignorance and brutality which cannot be painted over even by all the evidence of wealth and luxury." — Alexander Von Humbolt

I wouldn't care if the victims of this crime were liberal, conservative, or whatever: Nobody deserves this, least of all that most apolitical of all creatures — a pet cat!

It's sick, it's wrong, and it's heartbreaking.

Aden's opponent, Steve Womack, agrees.

"The thought of brutalizing any animal for the sake of making a political statement is beyond any standard of decency and the person or people responsible for this act should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," said Beau Walker, Womack's chief of staff.

Animal cruelty is a felony in Arkansas, and the Russellville Police Department is investigating the crime. The Humane Society of the United States has put up a $2,500 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the person or people responsible for killing the cat.

I believe we're a better people than this. All of our spiritual, moral and ethical teachings tell us that we need to respect the lives of all creatures on this planet.

"A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast." — Proverbs 12:10

Nothing we do will bring Gato back to life or reverse the trauma Burris's young son experienced when he found the cat dead on the doorstep. But I hope with all my heart that a brutal act like this will bring us together, not tear us farther apart.

I'm sharing this video with you in hopes that it will lift your heart and remind you that it's in every one of us to be wise, kind, and compassionate. This is who we really are as a people. We're not a land of haters, not a land of ignoble cowards. We're all human beings, and we're all in this together. Namast.

(In a reader? Watch the video here.)

Tue, 24 Jan 2012 08:30:58 -0800 /the-scoop/cat-assassination-has-it-really-come-to-this
<![CDATA[Let's Talk: Where Do You Stand in the Great Vaccine Debate?]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/lets-talk-where-do-you-stand-in-the-great-vaccine-debate I just got The Postcard from my vet. You know the one: Your cat is due for her vaccinations. In my case, it was a reminder that my sweet baby girl, Dahlia, is due for her viral respiratory infection (FVRCP) booster. Dahlia enjoys trips to the vet about as much as I enjoy a "girly exam," which is to say not at all, but I'll take her in just the same.

Why?About eight years ago, I started reading books from reputable veterinarians in which they discussed the tragic consequences of overvaccination, including cancers at the injection site and other horrific outcomes. But I didn't take that knowledge and say, "I'm never, ever going to get my cats vaccinated again!" Instead, I talked with my vet and discussed my concerns about whether my cats really needed their shots every year. She agreed with me that the risks of overvaccination outweigh the benefits of protection against disease, and we worked together to design a lifestyle-appropriate vaccination schedule for my cats.

This was long before the American Association of Feline Practitioners developed its vaccination protocol, which was designed to provide maximum disease protection and minimize the risks of side effects.

Chicken the cat, shortly after surgery to remove a vaccine-associated sarcoma.

I've read well-researched articles saying that vaccines confer much better, and longer-lasting, protection than we're told, and that it's pointless to vaccinate cats even every three years. Besides, the risk of vaccine-associated sarcomas (VAS) and their grim consequences can't be overstated. Chicken, the cat you see in this photo, had surgery in 2010 to remove a massive VAS, and she still had to undergo chemo and radiation treatments to get the rest of the cancer. Read her story here.

Some vets argue that the vaccination reminder is the only way they'll get their clients to bring their cats in for a checkup. To some extent, this is probably true: a recent study concluded that cats' wellness care is sadly neglected in comparison to that of dogs.

My cats get annual checkups even when they're not due for shots. And honestly, I wish I could feel okay about not giving my cats any more vaccinations. On the one hand, I agree with veterinarian Dr. Lisa Pierson that cats' immune systems are not any stupider than ours, and if we don't need to get measles shots and tetanus shots every year, why do our cats need to get boosters every year for conditions that affect their health?

My oldest cat, Siouxsie, is 15 now, and I'm concerned about the potential dangers of stressing her immune system with vaccinations. I don't want her to get sick from something designed to keep her healthy. This is actually a subject I'm going to discuss with my vet the next time I visit.

On the other hand, I know that rabies is a very real threat where I live, and that even indoor-only cats can be exposed. I've certainly had more than my fair share of bats flying through my windows in the wee hours. I know that respiratory viruses can kill cats: my Thomas almost died from a URI while he was in the shelter. I know that probably 5 percent of the outdoor cats in my area are FeLV-positive, and I've seen cats dying from FeLV: it's gruesome, and it's nothing I want to risk for my cats.

What we all need to understand is that, as Pierson wrote, "It's very important to understand that no vaccine is 100 percent safe. However, it's also very important to understand that vaccines save lives, and there can be no debating that fact."

After all was said and done, my vet and I agreed that it was appropriate for my cats to receive rabies vaccinations (required by state law) and FVRCP boosters every three years. When I lived on the farm and they went outdoors, they also got FeLV vaccinations because feline leukemia is a problem in the area where I lived, but now that they're indoor-only kitties, that's no longer necessary.

Now I want to hear from you. How often do you vaccinate your cats, and what for? Have you talked with your vet about a vaccine schedule tailored for your cat's lifestyle? Have you been able to argue a case for nonvaccination, and what do you do to ensure that your cats remain immune from viral diseases? What else do you want to say on the subject? Write a comment and sound off!

Wed, 11 Jan 2012 08:30:11 -0800 /the-scoop/lets-talk-where-do-you-stand-in-the-great-vaccine-debate
<![CDATA[Vancouver Shelters Open Their Doors to Homeless People and Their Pets]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/vancouver-shelters-open-their-doors-to-homeless-people-and-their-pets
Daniel Harlan holds his cat, Samantha. Some time ago, a well-meaning person "rescued" her from the homeless encampment where Harlan was staying. Fortunately, Samantha and Harlan were reunited.

Last year I wrote about the Pets for the Homeless, an organization that provides pet food and veterinary care for homeless and low-income people in the United States and Canada. When I researched that story, I found that 5 to 10 percent of America's 3.5 million homeless people own pets, and that the the vast majority would rather sacrifice their own comfort and stay on the streets with their pets rather than be forced to give them up for a night in a shelter.

But Pets for the Homeless isn't the only organization working to change the plight of street people and their animal companions. A couple of years ago in Vancouver, B.C., municipal and provincial governments and a local nonprofit teamed up to change that. Emergency homeless shelters began accepting pets along with their owners, and so far they've helped put a roof over the heads of hundreds of animals and their human companions.

Jill Baron is one of the people who has benefited from the pet-friendly shelters. When she became homeless, she continued to care for three rats and two cats. Sure, she was criticized — a lot of people think homeless people shouldn't have pets — but, like many of us who have struggled with dark times, they gave her a reason to carry on.

I dont think theres any words for it. Its what has kept me alive, Baron said. They have priority over everything else in my life.

And she's never been afraid to sacrifice her own needs to care for her animal companions. Ive gone without food for an entire day — many, many days — to make sure my pets ate well. Not just ate, but ate well," she said.

If only more people who were blessed with a safe home felt the same way. It sickens me that people in secure, permanent housing are willing to discard their pets and sentence them to a life on the street when those pets become an inconvenience.

You can't assume that just because a person is homeless that they're unwilling or unable to care for a pet. Organizations like Pets of the Homeless see people at their clinics every day who know that their animals need to be vetted and vaccinated, spayed, or neutered. Kindness, compassion, and common sense don't disappear the minute you lose your house.

It seems like Vancouver is moving in the right direction. More and more emergency shelters are allowing not only pets but personal belongings like shopping carts; the city's shelter system is making itself more welcoming for all homeless people, whether or not they have pets. But the number of more permanent accommodation facilities (social housing projects and single-room-occupancy buildings) that allow pets remains steady at about 50 percent.

If we really want to help people get off the streets and rebuild their lives, more homeless shelters need to accommodate animals. There's no reason pet caretakers should be left out in the cold — literally —because they've chosen to keep their beloved animal companions.

Yes, I know the Vancouver story is old. But to be honest, I have a bee in my bonnet about homeless people and the need to see them as humans. I have a couple of good friends who endured homelessness, and I know from what they've told me about their lives on the streets that the prejudices against them are incredibly hurtful and that the simplistic "solutions" to homelessness offered up by talking heads are not based in the reality of homelessness.

As the years have gone by and Vancouver's policy has set an example, more and more animal rescue groups and shelter providers are coming to understand just how important pets are to the people who take care of them, and how important it is to allow the homeless to bring their animal companions into shelters, so I'm optimistic about the future of safe housing for homeless people and their pets.

Tue, 10 Jan 2012 08:30:49 -0800 /the-scoop/vancouver-shelters-open-their-doors-to-homeless-people-and-their-pets
<![CDATA[Cat-Poisoning Bird Researcher Trying to Fly the Coop]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/cat-poisoning-bird-researcher-trying-to-fly-the-coop
cat photo with caption "I'm not angry. I'm just ... disappointed."
Well, well, well. Looks like the saga of cat-hating bird "researcher" Nico Dauphin isn't over yet.

Dauphin, who is infamous among cat lovers and TNR advocates for her staunch defense of the ridiculous thesis that outdoor cats are almost entirely responsible for dramatic decreases in the bird population, was found guilty of attempted animal cruelty after she was caught trying to poison cats living near her Washington, D.C., apartment.

The verdict was handed down on Oct. 31. A day or two later, there was much rejoicing when the poor, maligned woman on her lonely hero's quest (ahem) tendered her resignation from the Smithsonian, where she had been working as a postdoctoral fellow, effective immediately.

But had we heard the last of this modern-day Joan of Arc and her valiant battle to protect birds from the rending fangs and heartless predation of cats?


After the multitude of delays she and her attorneys imposed on her trial, it hardly comes as a surprise that the sentencing hearing has been postponed, too.

After a number of administrative and legal shenanigans got Dauphin's sentencing hearing pushed back from Nov. 21 to Dec. 14, she upped the ante by dismissing the defense team that failed to get her out of trouble, hiring new attorneys and requesting a new trial.

Really, Nico? Really?

You're not 11 years old and trying to get your parents' permission to go to a sleepover with boys. Don't try going to your father to to get a "yes" after your mother has said "no."

I can't imagine a second trial will turn out any differently than the first one. The video evidence is still there, the proof of her attitude toward cats is still in print, and the record of her attempts to deny the true meaning of her previously published work is still a matter of public record. Even if Dauphin's new legal team persuades her to keep her mouth shut the next time she's in court, I don't think she has much of a chance of escaping the judge's gavel.

Why is this woman wasting the time and resources of the District of Columbia's court system in an attempt to get out of trouble for a crime she clearly committed? Her "research" has already been discredited by the outcome of the previous trial — it should have been discredited long before that, in my opinion — and she's already lost her position at the Smithsonian. What does she stand to gain from this?

Come on, Nico: You committed a crime and you've been found guilty. Now grow up and accept the consequences of your actions.

Tue, 22 Nov 2011 08:30:42 -0800 /the-scoop/cat-poisoning-bird-researcher-trying-to-fly-the-coop
<![CDATA[Herding Cat Writers in New York]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/herding-cat-writers-in-new-york
Image courtesy of the Guardian Cats blog

I bet most of you had no idea that there's a professional group just for people who write about cats. But yes, Virginia, there is — and it's called, not surprisingly, the Cat Writers' Association.

Today I'm reporting from the annual Cat Writers' Association Conference in White Plains, N.Y. About 100 of us are gathered here, and a lot of names will be familiar to those of you who read Cat Fancy, Cats USA, and other cat magazines and websites. Some of the people whose work has been the inspiration for my own work as a cat advice blogger are also here, and it's an absolute thrill to meet them.

Amy Shojai, author of 22 books on cats and dogs, is here. It was her book Complete Care for Your Aging Cat, as well as Pam Johnson-Bennett's Think Like a Cat, that got me started on my path to learning everything I could about felinekind, and from there, to writing my own cat advice column, Paws and Effect, in 2003. If it hadn't been for these women and their work, I certainly wouldn't know nearly as much as I do about cats. I also wouldn't have had any idea that a cat writers' association exists.

I feel especially honored because I'm giving a workshop of my own. I'm a nerd and I love to teach and speak in public (yes, that's an extremely rare combination), so I'm going to show people how to set up a blog. It's a pretty awesome privilege to have the opportunity to help a group of people for whom I have such profound respect.

The conference is just getting started today, so I don't have lots of incriminating photos or new information yet. But the "swag bag" we've received is full of incredibly awesome goodies that might just cause my cats to forgive me for heartlessly abandoning them for a few days.

Fri, 18 Nov 2011 08:30:54 -0800 /the-scoop/herding-cat-writers-in-new-york
<![CDATA[Cat Recycling Service: It Has to Be a Joke]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/cat-recycling-service-it-has-to-be-a-joke
My Siouxsie provided the perfect LOLmoment for this article: she's sitting in a box with an incredulous look on her face.
Some things are just so awful that they can't be taken seriously the wildly misogynistic stylings of the band Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction or the ridiculous horror-rock of Rob Zombie, for example (full disclosure: I listen to these bands and I laugh every time I hear their music) but it's pretty rare to find such an awful joke in the animal business.

But it looks like just such a thing has cropped up, and it's got animal activists outraged.

A website called FreshCat is supposedly offering people the chance to order a kitten to their specifications gender, color, fur length, etc. and have it shipped overnight to their home. When the cat becomes an adult, the subscriber simply ships it back and gets a replacement kitten. The company also offers a series of "subscriber premiums" such as fur stoles and cat massage tables.

We all know that nobody could get away with recycling kittens, but it's still a pretty sick joke. I wonder what these people are hoping to prove. Maybe they're trying to call attention to how awful it is for people to adopt a kitten and then "get rid of it" when it stops being cute and fluffy.

I could deal with sophomoric humor, especially if I can imagine it's being done to make a point. But what I couldn't deal with was the Zombie Ad!

While I was scanning the site as I prepared to write this post, a political ad urging me to vote a certain way on a referendum question in the upcoming election began playing repeatedly. This referendum question is on the ballot in my home state of Maine! The FreshCat people are supposedly based in Tennessee. There was no way to turn it off because there were no visible controls for the ad no MIDI player, no embedded video, no nothing. I had to close the browser window to make it stop.

It was at that point I decided the site is a very bad joke. I was chuckling at the idea of kitten recycling because I knew it was totally implausible that anyone could even consider a business like this, but after the Zombie Ad, I was just plain creeped out.

But really, I know of a much better joke site calling attention to the importance of spaying and neutering cats: Help Joey is a laugh-a-minute site encouraging people to help pets stop doing "it ... you know, IT ..." by a number of wacky means including purity collars, running vacuum cleaners in areas where cats were congregating to mate, and so on.

Well, okay, Help Joey is a bit off-color, too but it's not downright offensive like FreshCat. As an extra added bonus, Help Joey doesn't play ads on an endless loop!

The Help Joey site was made in partnership with the ASPCA, but although the organization has decided to stop the operation while they "determine the impact" the campaign has had on the very serious issue of the importance of spay/neuter, the site lives on.

Humor is a great way to raise awareness about important issues. But for it to work, you can't come right out with a concept a lot of people will find shocking and offensive. I laughed a lot harder about the "purity collar" webisode on Help Joey than I did about the concept of recycling cats.

Fri, 04 Nov 2011 08:30:12 -0700 /the-scoop/cat-recycling-service-it-has-to-be-a-joke
<![CDATA["Spay Vaccine": Magic Bullet or Waste of Time?]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/spay-vaccine-magic-bullet-or-waste-of-time
An ear-tipped community cat in a colony managed by Community Cats Maryland

Researchers at the University of Florida have discovered that a vaccine used to sterilize wildlife could be a big help in managing feral cat colonies, too.

GonaCon causes the body to produce antibodies that reduce the ability to release sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. After being vaccinated, the cat stays out of heat as long as there are enough antibodies in her system.

While anything that helps to control the population of unwanted cats in our communities is great, I think the vaccine's developers have failed to see the big picture.

Although the research team, led by Julie Levy, DVM, Ph.D., of the Maddies Shelter Medicine Program at UF, hopes that the vaccine will be "less expensive, labor-intensive, and invasive than current methods, such as surgical sterilization," I'm afraid that just won't turn out to be the case.

Let's start with the cost issue. Although GonaCon was developed by researchers at the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service National Wildlife Research Center who have no licensing agreements with the USDA or commercial drug producers, how long will that continue? If the vaccine becomes popular, how long will it be before the drug companies start seeing it as a cash cow and quickly secure a monopoly on the researchers or the patent? In the U.S., where I live, even generic versions of medications can run upward of $300 for a month's supply ... and that's just one prescription! How many feral cat advocacy organizations, independent shelters, and vet clinics will be able to afford the drug if that happens?

Then there's the issue of long-term effectiveness. Although the 15 cats treated with the vaccine had a 93 percent infertility rate for the first year, that decreased to 73 percent the second year. By year five, only 27 percent of the cats remained sterile. What that means to me is more work for community cat colony managers: the animals that receive the vaccine will have to be trapped every year and revaccinated or they will quickly start going back into heat. That makes the vaccine more labor-intensive for cat colony caretakers, not less.

And what about the logistics of identifying cats that have been sterilized? How will colony caretakers, shelter staff, and vets know whether a cat has received the vaccine? When cats are neutered through TNR programs, they have the tip of one ear cut off. This is the international symbol for "this cat has been spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and is under the care of a colony manager." Since the mark is permanent, you can't ear-tip a cat that has had a temporary sterilization. Cat colony managers and feral cat advocacy groups would have to come up with some way of showing that a cat has received the vaccine and when it was given.

Not only that, but the vaccine is only for female cats. While this pushes my political buttons in the most obscenely anthropomorphic way (why are women expected to be solely responsible for birth control?), the fact is that if male cats aren't sterilized, they'll still spray, fight, and roam all over the place in search of mates. This behavior is unpleasant for the people who have to deal with it, but it's often downright fatal for the cats: If they're not seriously injured in fights or motor vehicle accidents, or killed by human neighbors who just don't want to put up with them, unneutered males are much more likely to spread diseases like the feline immunodeficiency virus.

GonaCon may have a place in veterinary medicine. It could be a godsend for people whose cats have medical conditions that make it too risky to anesthetize them for spay surgery. It could be a good stopgap measure for cats who go into heat before their spay surgery is scheduled. And it could be helpful for managing feral cat colonies in areas where surgery is unavailable or too far away to be practical.But with the facts I have at hand, I don't think it has a place in the management of the vast majority of community cat colonies.

Although trap-neuter-return might be more costly in money and labor at the outset, in the long term it saves costs ... and it saves cats' lives.

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 08:30:53 -0700 /the-scoop/spay-vaccine-magic-bullet-or-waste-of-time
<![CDATA[11-Year-Old Boys Save Kitten's Life]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/11-year-old-boys-save-kittens-life
Two 11-year-old boys fished Moses the kitten out of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Photo courtesy of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Once again, it's kids to the rescue!

On a recent Saturday, two schoolboys spotted a kitten floating down a canal in Leeds, northeast England. The tiny creature, who the RSPCA estimates is about 9 weeks old, was in a pink basket that was quickly filling with water.

The boys' parents must have taught them well, because they jumped right into action and rescued the perilously positioned feline. They brought him home, the RSPCA was contacted, and now the kitten, who was given the name Mo (short for Moses), is safely in the organization's care until he's ready to be adopted.

This isn't the first time kids have made the news for taking heroic measures to save cats' lives and protect them from danger. Earlier this year, a 9-year-old boy fought off a knife-wielding bully to save a kitten's life; on another day, four children rescued a kitten a woman and her two sons had beaten almost to death.

It's natural for the media to sit up and take notice when children do kind and brave things, and it's certainly a nice break from the hand-wringing and alarmist "Our children are a menace to society!" stories with which we're constantly inundated. But three stories of children who came to the rescue of cats that were victims of adult cruelty got me wondering, "What's wrong with this picture?"

Clearly these heroic children were raised right or at least, they were blessed with an instinctive moral compass guiding them on the path of compassion and kindness but why should they have to witness the horrors that the Florida kids saw, put their own lives at risk, or wade into canals teeming with God-only-knows-what in the first place? Where were the adults?

How many "grown-ups" saw the abuse? How many "grown-ups" watched as someone set the kitten afloat in a leaking laundry basket? How many "grown-ups" turned their heads and left the children to solve the problem?

It's no wonder there are so many novels about children who face unearthly horrors or undertake perilous quests to save the world from evil while their parents and other adults ignore the problem or outright mock them for their "overactive imaginations"; these stories are based firmly in the truth about the way the world works. Although a lot of these novels are labeled "young adult" stories, they're popular with not-so-young adults, too (think of the Harry Potter series or the Hunger Games trilogy, for example). Why? Because we can relate to the protagonists. We, too, were once those kids who felt alone in a world too big for us to handle, or forced to take on tasks that should have been dealt with by adults.

Let's stop averting our eyes and leaving our children to clean up our mess. Let's make the commitment to let the children in our lives know that we will take action when we see cruelty and violence, and that we do care for and love those who have no voice. Let's teach them not to get over being so idealistic as to think adults should practice the compassion and courage we expect of them.

Every little thing we do helps. Whether it's adopting shelter cats or fostering animals in need of temporary homes and explaining (at an age-appropriate level) why they ended up at the shelter and how important it is to give them homes, taking action if we see a cat or dog stuck in a car on a hot day, or even something as simple as putting a spider outside instead of killing it let's live up to the values our parents taught us.

And maybe someday, if we're lucky, we too will get the chance to be heroes, like the schoolkids who pulled a tiny black-and-white kitten out of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Thu, 29 Sep 2011 10:45:11 -0700 /the-scoop/11-year-old-boys-save-kittens-life
<![CDATA[FeLV Shouldn't Be an Instant Death Sentence]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/felv-shouldnt-be-an-instant-death-sentence
Sienna was the inspiration for Joni Gallo's mission to show people that cats with feline leukemia can and deserve to live a happy life in a loving home.

A lot of people would be scared to adopt a cat like Sienna, Colt, or Dharma.

They're carriers of the feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

Many people think a positive FeLV test means a cat can't live a good life. Well-meaning vets and friends sometimes counsel the caretakers of FeLV-positive cats to get rid of them, or have them euthanized before they get sick.

Joni Gallo didn't listen to that advice. Instead, she turned what could have been a tragedy into a mission: to educate others about FeLV and encourage them to give FeLV-positive cats a chance to have a happy, loving home.

It all started when she brought her new kitten to the vet for his first checkup. Sienna, a gorgeous cream-colored 3-month-old kitten, had been found in an abandoned house with his mother, and Joni couldn't let him stay there. But her heart broke when her vet called to tell her that Sienna had tested positive for FeLV.

Joni was advised not to keep Sienna, but she knew what his fate would have been if he had gone to a shelter: being killed, or living a life without ever finding a real home nobody would want him because of his disease.

A month later, she found out that her other cats, Colt, Dharma, and Karma carried the virus, too.

Although Sienna, Dharma, and Karma have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Colt remains healthy. Joni adopted another FeLV-positive cat, Gabriel, to keep him company.

There are lots of things that people can do to help FeLV-positive cats stay healthy and enjoy a good life, and Joni has made it her life's work to teach people about the joys and struggles of life with feline leukemia.

"Cats with the feline leukemia virus face a tough struggle. They do not need the added burden of people's ignorance and fear," she wrote.

Amen, Joni, and thank you!

Wed, 14 Sep 2011 08:00:09 -0700 /the-scoop/felv-shouldnt-be-an-instant-death-sentence
<![CDATA[Leg-Hold Trap Nearly Kills Cat]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/leg-hold-trap-nearly-kills-cat Lewiston Sun Journal." class="size-medium wp-image-2109" title="cat and vet" src="http://blogs.catster.com/kitty-news-network/files/2011/09/cat-and-vet-300x198.jpg" alt="Veterinarian Stephen Kinney holds a cat that was caught in a leg-hold trap." width="270" height="178" />

If somebody hadn't noticed the sweet orange cat near a department store in Lewiston, Maine, he would have died.

The cat's right front paw was caught in a leg-hold trap, and he'd apparently been there for a while.

It took four days for animal control officers to catch the cat, but they finally got him — presumably because he was so weak from hunger, dehydration, and a raging infection in the wound the horrific trap had inflicted. They rushed the cat to a nearby animal clinic, where veterinarian Stephen Kinney set to work to save its life.

When the cat arrived at his clinic, Kinney said, the wound was seething with maggots and smelled gangrenous. He amputated the cat's leg at the shoulder because otherwise the kitty would have tried to walk on the stump.

Although the little guy has since recovered and has been placed for adoption at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, I'm furious that he even had to endure such cruelty. And I'm even angrier because it was illegal for the trap to be there in the first place!

These are leg-hold traps. They look like medieval torture devices.

First, it's not trapping season in Maine.

Second, according to Maine's trapping rules, leg-hold traps are forbidden within half a mile of the built-up section of any city or town. If you're going to trap in those areas, you have to use a cage trap.

And finally, the "person" who set the trap should have been checking it at least once a day to make sure no animal was caught in it. The fact that the cat suffered in that torture device for days is nothing short of abuse.

This isn't the first time a domestic animal has been caught in a trap designed to catch "varmints" like raccoons, foxes, and skunks. The website Ban Cruel Traps says that trappers admit that for every "target" animal trapped, at least two other "nontarget" animals get caught in this cruel device.

Okay, look — I live in Maine. It's a rural state with a high poverty rate. I understand the traditions of hunting and trapping, and I understand that if it weren't for hunting and trapping, a lot of families would go hungry. We all gotta make a living and we all gotta eat.

I don't like trapping, I don't approve of it, and I wish people didn't do it — but I'm not going to stare down my nose from my comfortable perch on my high horse and demand that trapping be banned forever and ever, amen.

But I will say this: If you're going to trap, you have a moral obligation to check your traps at least once a day and you have a legal obligation to abide by the rules set forth in local statutes.

I don't care how hungry you are: You've still got to do the right thing: not just for the wildlife that will suffer and die in your traps if you neglect them, but for the collateral damage caused when pets and endangered animals are caught in those traps.

I have no idea whether the authorities will ever find the individual who set this trap and what kind of punishment he or she will get for the doubly illegal activities of trapping out of season and placing a leg-hold trap too close to a town. I suspect it would be nothing more than a judicial slap on the wrist — and that aggravates me, too. Along with those in almost every other state, Maine's animal cruelty laws need to be changed. Animal cruelty should be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony, and sentences for those found guilty need to be a lot harsher. Trappers who neglect their traps should also face animal cruelty charges.

This sweet orange cat, who was clearly used to being around people because he was purring and head-bumping the vet as soon as his pain was under control, survived thanks to a sharp-eyed passerby, Lewiston's animal control officers, and the skills of a veterinarian. I hope he has found a wonderful home where he can stay safely indoors from now on. And I hope animal lovers will realize that a lot of other critters aren't so lucky — and act to stop the senseless cruelty caused by illegal and neglected traps.

Mon, 12 Sep 2011 07:15:52 -0700 /the-scoop/leg-hold-trap-nearly-kills-cat
<![CDATA[Hoarders Need Compassion, Not Shaming]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/hoarders-need-compassion-not-shaming Kansas City Star" class="size-medium wp-image-1999" title="cat hoarder2" src="http://blogs.catster.com/kitty-news-network/files/2011/09/cat-hoarder2-167x300.jpg" alt="Cats in crates after being rescued from an animal hoarder." width="167" height="300" />

I have a confession to make, and it's kind of an embarrassing one.

I have a sick fascination with train-wreck "reality" shows like Hoarders. If I had cable TV, I'd probably watch Animal Planet's Confessions: Animal Hoarding series, too.

Although watching shows like this probably means I have a few screws loose, I have to say that Hoarders and other similar series do make it clear just how sad and sick hoarders are. The animal hoarders are the saddest of all because they're not only harming themselves, they're also harming helpless creatures. These people's sense of reality is so distorted that they honestly believe they're doing the right thing, their living conditions are okay (or maybe " a little messy"), and that nobody else could give the animals the love and care that they can.

So when I heard about the removal of 120 live cats and 50 or so dead ones from Dolores Metcalf's home in Kansas City, Missouri, my heart broke not only for the cats living in such wretched conditions but for Metcalf, too.

It's easy to get outraged over what seems like a case of deliberate animal cruelty and willful ignorance and inaction by authorities — especially when you find out that this isn't the first time Metcalf has been busted for hoarding. In 2002, 94 cats, four dogs, a rabbit, and a ferret were removed from her trailer home.

What happened? How was Metcalf able to do this again? Back then, hoarding wasn't recognized as a mental illness, and authorities didn't realize that seizing her animals would not stop the hoarding behavior. In fact, involuntary seizure tends to make hoarders even more desperate and more secretive about their actions.

All you have to do is talk to Metcalf to find out just how much of a sickness hoarding is. In an interview with KCTV News, she said she knows animal control will kill all her cats, that they are her pets, and they're crazy about her.

If Metcalf is like most hoarders, I bet she never even saw half the cats that were living in her home.

And what did she say about the dead cats in the deep-freeze, each of which was wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name? She plans to bury them and have little monuments made for them, but "caskets are expensive."

A hoarder's perspective is just as twisted as that of someone deep in the throes of drug or alcohol addiction.

These people don't need to be shamed; they need to be helped. Unfortunately, hoarders almost always refuse professional help because they see themselves as the saviors of the animals they hoard, the victims of a heartless establishment that wants all of their "beloved pets" to be killed.

Why would hoarders even let neighbors, let alone a therapist, into their lives when they hold this belief so deeply?

With all this in mind, what can we do to prevent hoarding? What do we do to stop hoarders before their animal population gets completely out of control?

If I could suggest just one thing, it would be to have compassion. Hoarders are sick, not evil. I know it's easier said than done when you're crying as you watch cat after sick and dying cat being removed from a hoarder's home.

Have you ever discovered an animal hoarder or worked to rescue hoarded animals? Do you know of any treatment or intervention that's been successful and helped hoarders break free of their disease? What do you think?

Mon, 05 Sep 2011 09:47:39 -0700 /the-scoop/hoarders-need-compassion-not-shaming
<![CDATA[Gimme Shelter: Street People Love Their Pets, Too]]> http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/gimme-shelter-street-people-love-their-pets-too
A homeless man and his cat. Photo by Karla Fernandez via Pets for the Homeless

On a recent visit to Seattle, I met a homeless man near a QFC supermarket on Capitol Hill. He was selling copies of Real Change, a newspaper by and for the city's homeless community. I noticed that he had a small bag of dog food next to his backpack, but there was no dog to be found.

As we talked, he told me -- almost in tears -- that someone had stolen (or possibly "rescued") his dog while he was in the store buying that food. My heart broke for this man, who loved his dog so much that he was willing to share what little he had to take good care of his four-legged friend.

A recent story on the Mother Nature Network website cites research indicating that about 5 to 10 percent of America's 3.5 million homeless people own dogs or cats -- and in some areas, the number is as high as 24 percent.

Homeless people really aren't so different from pet lovers who are blessed with secure accommodations. They are willing to make huge sacrifices for the sake of their animal companions, sometimes even choosing to stay on the streets with their pets rather than accept a night of safety indoors. Shelters don't typically allow dogs or cats, and many homeless pet owners would rather give up comfort than abandon their animal companions.

Pets for the Homeless is working to raise awareness about the needs of these individuals and their pets. The nonprofit also provides food and veterinary care to homeless people's animal companions, and awards grants to veterinarians willing to volunteer their services for the program and to homeless shelters that allow pets.

For homeless people themselves, Pets for the Homeless maintains a list of pet-friendly homeless shelters, food banks and soup kitchens, and organizes collection sites for donations of pet food and supplies.

This organization is providing an incredibly valuable service to our homeless population, helping them to keep their animal friends alive and healthy and getting them spayed or neutered.

We, too, can help, even on an individual level. First, be compassionate. Regardless of their situation or how they came to be on the streets, homeless people are human beings, too. If you don't want to give them money, at least send out a wish, prayer, or whatever you want to call it, for their eventual healing and security.

If you see a homeless person with a pet, ask them if they need some food for their animal companion. Some will refuse your offer, but some will accept with gratitude.

Look for a pet food pantry in your area. If you find one, make a donation of kibble or canned food (with pull-tab tops, not the kind that requires a can opener).

Maybe you can even support Pets for the Homeless so they can continue their vital work of keeping homeless people's animal companions healthy and advocating for shelters to accept pets as well as people.

Tue, 23 Aug 2011 08:00:05 -0700 /the-scoop/gimme-shelter-street-people-love-their-pets-too