Saturday, September 23, 2017

Encore! miscellany of cat briefs continues

 “There are no ordinary cats.” -- Colette
                                                                             Dodo image
Mmm, mmm, good!  It’s hard to imagine craving a nice snack of . . . grass, although it seems that cats do just that. Why?

According to Catster online, it’s a historical habit, even though cats are “obligate carnivores” and could exist on animal protein alone. For felines, the right kind of grass can be a digestive aid, help control hairballs (via vomiting, stimulated by eating grass) and provide nutritional supplements. 

And for cats’ people, that can mean occasional puddles on the rug – a little hair, a little grass, a little clean-up. 

Stop shelter killings!

No matter where you get your facts and figures, animal shelters are no place for cats. For instance, Alley Cat Allies says “More than 70% of all cats entering US shelters are killed.” (Note: not “humanely euthanized,” as it’s sometimes worded, because if healthy cats die in shelters, that’s not humane anything; it's killing.)

Other sources, other numbers, but they all pretty much boil down to “every year, all over the country, our nation’s animal shelters kill millions of healthy cats,” says ACA leader Becky Robinson. Not all those cats who are killed are feral, or community cats, either -- although it’s true that in some places, “feral” equates with automatic killing.  It’s as if Trap-Neuter-Return isn't a perfectly viable alternative.

But, some shelters cry, we are overloaded with cats and have no choice. Wrong!  The live-release rate at Miami Dade County Animal rose from 43% in 2010 to 90% in 2015 – largely because of its “return-to-field” program, through which the shelter “simply stopped accepting and euthanizing stray cats.”  
Instead, those cats are vetted for free and taken back to where they came from. No cats are added to the community, while existing cats are returned vetted, better-behaved and sterile to their outdoor homes. Then, natural attrition gradually occurs.

How old is that cat?        
Those who think cats age seven years for every calendar year have it wrong. Fact is, felines age faster
Billy Summers
during their first two years alive. During her first year, a cat reaches the approximate human age of 15, then “turns” 24 at age 2. After that, it’s four “cat years” for every calendar year – so a 5-year old feline would be about 36 cat years old altogether – 24 for the first two calendar years, then 3 more years x 4 cat years, or 12; and 12 plus 24 = 36.
Cats who live outdoors age much quicker, maybe even twice as fast as indoor cats. (another reason to keep cats indoors!)
Let’s see: Harry Summers is 12 – so at age 2, he was 24 cat years old.  Because he has 10 more years, each one equating to 4 cat years, add 40 years for the original 24. Harry’s now 64 cat years old.  (Yes, I’ll still need you, yes, I’ll still feed you . . .!)

Billy is 10 – so he was 24 cat years old at age 2, then 4 cat years times each of the remaining 8 years, or 32. Billy is 56 cat years old (and I’ll still need and feed you too, Cutie!)

Survival of the polydactyls
From amid the ruination of Hurricane Irma in Key West, Florida, 54 polydactyl cats survived by sheltering in place. So did the staff members who share the one-time home of writer Ernest Hemingway with the felines.
In fact, many of the cats reportedly sought cover inside even before the storm hit, which was seen as a sign of their intelligence.

Known for their six and even seven-toed paws, some of these survivors are descendants of a white polydactyl owned by the Hemingways.  For tourists, the cats can be as much a draw as the home itself.  

Apollo and Zeus, two tigers saved by PAWS


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Saturday, September 16, 2017

A miscellany of info briefs, all about . . . ?!

                                                   Dodo image
Both the subject and the reason for this post come down to one word: ailurophilia.  Relax! – it may sound like a disease, but in fact it’s very healthy, to the point of obsession.  It means “A fondness or love for cats or other felines.” 

(Ailurophilia [ahy-loo r-uh-FIL-ee-uh] combines the Greek aĆ­louro meaning "cat" with philia, meaning “affection, affinity,” while ailurophobia refers to a persistent, irrational fear of cats.)

So many cats, so much to say about them – sometimes serious, sometimes trivial.  For instance on that last one, could what I have read be true: that female cats are “right-pawed,” while male cats are “left-pawed”?  I hope you’ll watch your kitties and see whether that claim is credible. (Which paw does your cat use to swat you with?)

Moving on to serious, let’s look at the plight of tigers in the wild world today, with info here thanks to the Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS (  Both their mission and monthly newsletters are great. 

Endangered species stamp
 *    The largest of the big cats, tigers are on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 4,000 living in less than four percent of their former range.  (Only 100 years ago, 100,000 tigers roamed across Asia.)

*     Reasons for this disastrous decline: Poaching, overhunting by locals, habitat loss and fragmentation, and human-tiger conflicts.

*     5,000-10,000 tigers are held captive in U.S. backyards, petting zoos and even truck stops - more than the number of tigers in the wild!

Animal advocates go up and down when discussing whether it’s better or worse for animals today, compared with earlier times.  Consider this true story from 1938 England: Believing a German aerial bombing campaign was coming, pet owners in London euthanized some 400,000 cats and dogs.
They did this voluntarily, against contrary advice, and prematurely (bombs didn’t fall for seven more months). Besides its built-in huge shock, Hilda Kean’s The Great Cat and Dog Massacre offers a “psychological portrait of a society in wartime,” according to the book review.         
Harry Summers, dining
Which leads to “affection eating.”  Not really, but let’s talk about it anyway, since I often spend feline meal time rooting for Harry and Billy Summers as they eat.  Having noticed as a shelter volunteer that cats there often ignored their food until they’d been talked to and petted, I carried that observation home.  It was clear immediately that our boys stick to their meals if someone’s standing nearby, interested in their progress. 

A useful article on “affection (or attention) eating” in Catster online says “many cats enjoy being stroked or petted while they eat,” and offers reasons why cats may stop eating – and what to do about it.

Black cats: despite lingering (false) ideas about them – bad luck, satanic connections, and so on – they’re “just as cuddly and even just as likely to be adopted as any other cat,” according to Animal Sheltering online from the Humane Society of the US.

In fact, an ASPCA study cited there reports that because there are more black cats than any other-colored felines, it can appear as though they’re being overlooked by adopters (black dogs fall victim to this same misperception).

Get this: 33% of all cats coming into shelters were black cats, with gray cats in second place, at 22%. The good news: 31% of adoptions were black cats and 20% were grays.
Bottom line from HSUS:  “When you’re getting more black cats in, it creates this (false!) perception that black animals aren’t getting adopted as much.”    

   “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”-- Albert Schweitzer

                                                                                   Animal Sheltering image


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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Harvey exposed continuing gaps in animal protection

                                                          Guardians of Rescue pic
Wearing a red jacket and hood, she stands in the rain, holding her dog in her arms. Her face says it all: “She cannot bring her dog Missy into the shelter for flood evacuees in Houston,” read the AP photo caption on August 28.
Where are they now?  Now that hurricanes seem to surround us – and we’re only halfway through hurricane season. Now, with the Gulf Coast in recovery mode from Hurricane Harvey. Now, after Hurricane Irma has ravaged the Caribbean and Florida comes next. Now, while Hurricanes Jose and Katia wait in line.

This has been a horrible time for humans – and animals. Efforts to rescue people have looked comprehensive, with myriad agencies and volunteers tirelessly pitching in, but there seemed to be much less planning for pets. Despite advance storm warnings and federal legislation prompted by Hurricane Katrina’s horrific aftermath for animals, countless terrified pet dogs and cats hid out as high as they could get, not understanding what was going on or where their people were.

Stories and images of pets evacuated with their people have been too scarce. The few pictures of families on the move with their pets have been rare, but welcome. They included one family of six who took their pet pig and dog, and a woman whose family included her own four dogs plus foster dogs and neighbors’ dogs, totaling 20 canines, all in the rescue boat together.

Naturally, it wasn’t all bad for animals, including pets. Early on, I saw horses being walked to safety through flood waters and read about an organization determined to save as many Texas bats as possible.

For me, these are Harvey-rescue highlights:     

*       The Animal Protection League of NJ (  had worked with Guardians of Rescue ( during Super Storm Sandy, finding them hugely helpful, organized, and dedicated,  says Angi Metler, executive director. So “when APL heard the Guardians were going to Texas, we wanted to support their efforts, and they were thrilled that we sent  them as much as we could on their needs list. APLNJ and League of Humane Voters -NJ members donated almost $2,500 in under one day!”

     For starters, APLNJ shipped a pallet full of dog and cat food, crates, blankets, carriers, grass hay, alfalfa, leads, bowls, litter and litter boxes, as well as sustaining meals for the volunteers. 
       *     The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) focused initially on those left behind –rescuing terrified animals and moving area shelter animals who had been up for adoption to other parts of the country. That made room to house pets left homeless when their families evacuated or were rescued, according to ED Wayne Pacelle’s blog.  
       First responders and citizen rescuers who saved pets did so in part because of disaster response policies HSUS had helped implement after Katrina – chief among them, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, requiring state and local officials to make evacuation plans and provide shelter for animal companions. 

      *      Numerous other organizations, and even online publications, stepped up to help. 
Finally, this background about the Red Cross, to which I'll never contribute again. After Hurricane Katrina, I completed a number of survivor bios I had volunteered to write for the organization. Then I learned that the Red Cross had not evacuated pets or admitted them into its hurricane shelters – often forcing residents to make the deadly choice between their own rescue or staying with their beloved animals. I quit immediately.  
Later, the Red Cross was deservedly chastised for both its cruelty to animals and its handling of the mega-money it received, earmarked for Katrina aid.  I will not forget or forgive.  
When hurricanes strike, people and animals alike deserve the most extensive protection possible.


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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Selected short subjects for late summer

Jelly Bean
Your beloved pet has disappeared.  Forget about posting copies of a “LOST PET” sign all over town. Don’t bother wandering around calling her name. Those ways to find lost pets are so yesterday.  Simply “go online,” as a recent newspaper story advises.

It’s this simple: “An animal is lost. A message or picture is broadcast on social media. Hundreds of concerned “friends” . . . will repost on Instagram or retweet a lost pet notice without hesitation.”  The result: “helpful community activity” that often reunites lost pets with their owners.

But despite innumerable “high tech” lost and found pet Facebook groups and even lost and found pet apps, old-fashioned collars and ID tags are reported to still be “the most direct way to get a dog home.”  

(Hey! What about cats?! Especially since we know they’re much less likely to be claimed at shelters and returned home?) 

Only 33 percent of pet owners tag their pets, the story says. That seems like plain negligence to me. Microchips can also be tremendously helpful – if they’re registered, and linked to the right person.   

End macabre discoveries in your pool

Although it’s late in the swimming pool season, it’s never too late to save a life.  Here’s a Dodo article about an invention that allows animals who may get trapped in a pool to get out.  No more sad (and preventable) discoveries in the morning.  

The ASPCA looks at animal shelters

Here’s some compelling summer reading before getting fully back into all the things we do with and for animals the rest of the year. The ASPCA president reports on his organization’s findings – including positive trends -- about animal shelters.

And BTW, if you’re wondering about the status of Senator Linda Greenstein’s bill, S3019, requiring significant improvements in NJ’s animal shelters, we may have to wait till after this fall’s gubernatorial election for it to resurface. And then, prepare for a major campaign that leads (we pray) to victory for the animals.

What, no need for whisker relief?

A while ago, I wrote about cat bowls designed to offer “whisker relief” to cats seeming to be food averse – or bowl averse.  The story was that Dr. Catsby’s stainless steel bowls, very wide and corner-free, would make it easier for sensitive cats to eat because their whiskers wouldn’t be disturbed by high-sided, “cornery” bowls.

I have two of these bowls, practically brand new, for the first two respondents who want to see their cats eat with relish. Anyone out there want to claim one?  Or, if you have two cats with sensitive whiskers, the pair of bowls is yours. Please just let me know in a comment.

The last word on Monarchs

Finally, a P.S. to the Monarch butterfly hoopla in the last post.  I’ve learned there can be obstacles to helping butterflies on their way. Soon after sighting caterpillars on the milkweed plants, I began seeing thick clusters of tiny bright yellow “things” on the branches. I hoped they were Monarch eggs – but guess what: eggs don’t have legs and move around. 

That would be aphids, as I soon found out, and they’re a whole other story I won’t get into now.  Just know that aphids can be combated to maintain milkweed’s viability for Monarchs, and I’ve now done my best for this season.  Bon voyage, kids!  

Vacation time

Much more to follow here ~ after a belated summer break . . . .


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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Life-or-death tests for dogs now being reconsidered

If a rabbit defined intelligence the way man does, then the most intelligent animal would be
a rabbit, followed by the animal most willing to obey the commands of a rabbit.
--Robert Brault (1938- )

A filthy rubber hand on a long pole, waved into a shelter dog’s cage.  If the dog goes for the hand, what does that prove?  Or, on leash, a shelter dog is walked into a “cat room,” where residents are housed in too-small cages, and miserable enough to begin with.  Does the dog snap out and lunge toward them?   

I’ve seen such “tests” used to measure shelter dog aggression, then to determine whether those dogs were fit to be adopted into families . . . or not.  And of course, the “or not” was the worst part.

But now, finally, questions are being raised about the validity of dog-aggression diagnostic tests – tests not thoroughly vetted themselves!  And, at a happy time when reportedly, "efforts to generally improve outcomes for shelter animals are on an upswing," there’s a move away from such tests. 

That means more shelter dogs will live instead of dying because they didn’t “pass” highly questionable tests. Here’s the good-news article, together with a hope that readers will look closely at any diagnostic animal testing they may be involved with.

Personal butterfly festival                

The news is out about Monarch butterfly numbers dropping, with far fewer of them each year reaching Mexico to overwinter. The word “milkweed” invariably comes up in such reports because that plant is Monarchs’ mainstay, the only food caterpillars eat. It’s also where the bright orange, black and white-spotted butterflies lay their eggs.

But threats to Monarchs like habitat loss, pesticides and global warming have caused milkweed to disappear along their route south each year. Aiming to help the Monarchs, numerous campaigns have urged people to plant milkweed for them.

Last fall, I found “swamp milkweed,” the variety recommended for the central NJ area, planted it and protected it over the winter.  My early summer reward: flourishing green-leafed plants (now nearly five feet tall), eventually crowned with pink flowers.

July brought a “did-it-myself” butterfly festival here, as striped caterpillars suddenly appeared, eating their way through the leaves, right down to bare branches. I saw no chrysalises at all, yet soon afterwards, enjoyed a few days of Monarchs swooping around the back yard.  I swear they seemed happy. I was too.
So this year, I did my thrilling bit for Monarchs. It can only get better next summer, when I’ll plant more milkweed and use high tomato cages to help the plants stand tall. And then: let the festival begin.

Animals and the eclipse

It's all around us, impossible to ignore: the Great American Solar Eclipse!  (Sound like something a current high government official might claim as all his doing?  But no, these things have happened for eons, long before any contemporary looney tune came along.)

So. Monday’s total, country-wide eclipse. A human-interest thing.  But since this blog is about non-human animals, a couple questions come to mind. First, how will pets and wild creatures react to the GASE – if they do?  If you know and/or notice animal behavior related to the eclipse, I hope you’ll tell us via a comment here.

And, since we’ve been warned not to look directly at the sun without wearing bona fide eye-protecting glasses, will other animals be injured if they happen to look at the sun at the wrong time?


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Sunday, August 13, 2017

‘Dominionism’ causes worldwide animal suffering & death

How many cows in Macy’s alone?  How many vast acres would those cows fill, grazing contentedly?  How would they spend their days with other cows?

The cows at Macy’s probably outnumber those at Saks Fifth Avenue, where they’re more spread out on display and typically cost more. 

In both stores, the cows come in myriad designs, colors and prices. They may not even be native American cows; some are described as “fine Italian . . .” while others, as “designer . . . ”  

What began as a day trip to NYC for art exhibitions wound up with my wondering about cows. Except that they were described as handbags, backpacks, purses, wallets, pocketbooks . . . .

How many cows does it take to stock Macy’s and Saks, even for a day?  What about a season, or a year?  Multiply that number by all the stores that sell cows (in their many guises) the world over.  An unimaginable, probably incalculable, number.  

And just as slaughterhouses exist to kill animals that people eat, there probably are also “purpose-bred” cattle facilities set up to produce “leather” for people to lug their belongings around in. 
And that’s just carriers of various kinds. There are also cow belts, cow shoes and cow clothes, as well as cow furniture and cow car upholstery. (What am I forgetting?)

All this is a universal case of “Dominionism” -- the worldview or belief held by one species that it has a divine right to use animals and everything else in the living world for its own benefit.

 “ . . .Then they came for the [pigs]”  

You may have thought it couldn’t get worse for pigs – the animals people love to eat. (See
Well, you were wrong.  Dominionism once again rears its ugly head, folks. 

The newest goal for how pigs might serve humans is “donating” their organs for human transplants. It’s been talked about for years, but only now is it becoming a real possibility. Isn’t that great?

“Editing” pigs’ genes may be the step that makes the difference.  If pigs’ genes can be “cleansed” to rid them of retroviruses that could cause disease in humans, a newspaper story reports, “that could be a real game changer,” making it “possible one day to transplant livers, hearts and other organs from pigs into humans.”

Piglets whose genes were edited                                                    NYTimes
Hoopla!  Hey, you lucky pigs: there may be even more you can give your lives for: You could fill the gap between organ supply and demand!  

But, the story mentions, “the prospect also raises thorny questions about animal exploitation and welfare. Already an estimated 100 million pigs are killed in the US each year for food.”  (Animal welfare be damned!)

However, “To some, the idea of growing pigs to create organs is distasteful.” And why is that? Not, alas, because more pigs would then be purpose-bred and killed to serve human needs, but because “Many patients may prefer a human organ.” 

Given the chance, pigs would agree.

Dogs catch a break

A writer recently asked New York Times readers, “Is there nothing nice you can say about the man who, after all, is our president?”  The best response had to be, “He doesn’t have a dog, which is a service to all dogs.”


Thursday, August 17 is Black Cat Appreciation Day. 


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Monday, August 7, 2017

If our pets survive us, then what happens?

Might as well think of such things in the bright light of summer (if this rainy season will ever include such a thing), instead of tackling the subject during dreary winter. OK, here goes: we should assure our pets’ futures in case we check out before they do or in case we become unable to care for them. It’s only right and we should do it. Period.

Here are some thoughts and specifics on this un-fun and painful, but necessary subject. We owe it to our pets to plan for their futures if, as the saying goes, “something happens to us.”  Well, something’s definitely going it happen – the only question is when. And our pets need to be protected.

So if or when we’re not there for them, who will be? Read on for a few possible answers to the question, “If you’re not there, who will care?”

1-- a trusted friend or relative, preferably one who knows the pet(s) and definitely one who understands what we want for them (e.g., a home setting; assured regular vetting).  It’s not enough to say “take care of them” and assume everyone’s on the same page. I once read about a “friend” who took care of them – by having them euthanized!

2 – a provision in a will or a trust for pets. Both options probably require a lawyer’s involvement.

3 –accommodation for the pets at a “sanctuary” or a “pet retirement home” -- a trusted place where, for a fee, the pets will live out their lives in comfort or in some cases, be re-homed. The Guardian Angel program at Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary in Ringoes, is one example of such a facility. (

4 – a veterinarian or other “animal practitioner,” preferably one who knows the pet(s) and whose facility includes space where they can live and be cared for. By that, I do not mean cages – pets who have the run of the house with us should never wind up in cages when they’re without us.  This is another occasion when making expectations crystal clear is absolutely vital for our pets’ futures.
Besides books on this subject, there’s also excellent advice online. The Petfinder site incorporates some basics from the Humane Society of the US, while HSUS material includes a printable PDF detailing the whole concept of planning for our pets’ futures.  Here’s a link to Petfinder:

As with preparing a disaster kit for our pets as well as for ourselves (a topic I’ve researched and written about, and teamed up to do), planning for our pets’ futures can seem like an overwhelming job. But if you break it down into steps or sections and schedule time to do it piecemeal, it can be done – and you’ll be a happy pet parent.

For a future-planning finale that’s either macabre or comforting, we may soon have the option of joint interment with our pets -- something that’s now legal in New York State.

Rest in peaceful togetherness.


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