Saturday, July 14, 2018

Huge feline rescue revives optimism in general

 (We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post-programming to bring you this thank-you note.) 

                                                                                                     St. Hubert pix
We’re living in uncertain and often scary times right now. There’s very little we can do to change the way things are going in America except vow to vote in November and work our hardest to win others to our side and assure that they vote too.

With much to feel bummed and angry about, it’s easy to fall into depression or cynicism toward the world at large. But then, at times so low they seem bottomless, something wonderful happens to re-charge us and renew our faith in people (There are humane humans out there!) and the future.

Thank you, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, for rescuing more than 175 cats who were living in horrid conditions that could only have grown worse.  Thank you for removing them from the dilapidated Wantage (Sussex County) house lacking both running water and electricity, and from their owner, who had lost control of the situation.

Thanks to St. Hubert’s, the cats moved from sheer squalor (think: grime, filth, foulness, decay, wretchedness . . . ) to safety and normalcy, starting with medical attention -- including, finally, spaying and neutering.

Thanks to St. Hubert’s, the cats now enjoy clean conditions, loving attention, aromatherapy, catnip, classical music and toys (possibly for the first time).

Thanks to St. Hubert’s, the following summary of the cats’ changed lives can now appear on the organization’s website (

The rescued cats are making wonderful progress.  The Noah’s Ark Campus is dedicated to their care and cannot currently welcome visitors.  All pets for adoption are housed at Madison, North Branch and Everyday Adoption Center inside PetSmart Mt. Olive and are available during regular adoption hours.

It’s wonderful to see the kitties from the Sussex location relaxing, seeking human attention and looking happier and healthier with each passing day.  Easy access to good nutritious food and clean housing, not to mention being parasite free and having their medical needs addressed, is allowing them to return to “normal” feline behaviors.  Some are enjoying playing with toys, probably for the first time ever and individual personalities are becoming more evident. 

Spay/neuter has been completed for about a third of the group and surgeries are taking place daily.  Eight of the cats have just been transferred to Madison and are available for adoption.  On Friday, July 13 the first few pairs were delivered to their new farm homes—we’re lucky to have additional homes waiting for some of the others once they are ready.

With details, images and videos, the back story on this huge and hugely marvelous rescue can be savored there too. There are also options to donate to St. Hubert’s. (Please do!)

Thank you, St. Hubert’s, and everyone else who pitched in on this rescue, for acting on behalf of these cats -- and for the welcome spill-over effect on all of us who learned about it and now feel much more optimistic about everything, including our ability to vanquish the evil dragons that threaten.


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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hard to find, & read -- yet a fascinating book

 "We share the planet with animals. If there’s an animal in need that comes across my radar, I wouldn’t think twice, because there’s no better feeling [than] helping an animal." -Jannet Talbott, of Alberta, Canada, who performed major dental surgery on a local squirrel with her cuticle scissors --The Dodo 

When I learned last spring about the Yale University library’s collection of books about cats, the name “Carl Van Vechten” kept popping up.  It was Van Vechten who created and named that collection for a friend of his who also loved cats, Anna Marble Pollock. 
And it was he who wrote The Tiger in the House (c. 1920), an exhaustive and sometimes exhausting survey of cats in our world, past and (what was for him) present -- 1936. In that year Van Vechten wrote an intro to the third edition of his book, which I’ve finally finished with.  (I can’t honestly say “finished reading” because there are frequent quotes in French I’m not up to; same with gigantic dense paragraphs. But I soldiered on through the whole interlibrary loan copy, and the book is now on its way home.)

In 13 chapters, the author discusses prejudices against cats through the ages; feline traits; cat haters; and “the cat” in such fields as the occult, the law, the theatre, folklore, music, art, fiction and poetry.  Need I mention that Van Vechten was a major ailurophile, and his book is an extended hymn to cats, with no patience for criticism or negative superstition about them?

Among VV’s quotable quotes:
·      *   “A book without animals is seldom a living book.”

·      *   “Naming cats is beyond the power of the literary brain.”

·        *  “Poets are more closely in touch with the spirit of grimalkin*, the soul of a pussy-cat, than either prose writers or painters.”

                           McSnip pic
Toward the book’s end comes this observation: “. . . like all well-bred individualists. . . , the cat seldom interferes with other people’s rights.  His intelligence keeps him from doing many of the fool things that complicate life.  Cats never write operas and they never attend them.  They never sign papers, or pay taxes, or vote for president. . . .”

Nearly a century ago, Van Vetchen depended on the power of the printed word in his own book and his creation of a library of related books to defend and extol cats.  By now, though, cats outnumber dogs as American pets; there are cat shows, movies, books, magazines, specialized veterinarians and the all-pervasive internet -- all focusing on “tigers in the house.”

Talk about dramatic changes. 

Describing how pets are cared for in the US, the newspaper story linked here will probably astonish you, as it did me.  The scope of what’s going on, ostensibly “for” pets (and not for their owners), may even scare you.  Maybe it should.  One example: “Neuticles,” or surgically implanted silicone testicles for sterilized animals. Before you laugh, consider that a half-million animals reportedly have them.

After that, the possibilities are limited only by the imagination. Consider plastic surgery for pets including tummy tucks and eyebrow lifts; French “pawdicures”; psychopharmacology and “life coaches” for frazzled pets; and even gender reassignment.

“You’ve come a long way, kitty!” only begins to say it.

‘Two if by sea’
             PETA pic
2nd alert: The sea kittens are coming!  


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Monday, July 2, 2018

‘Independence day’-- it doesn’t apply to animals

  You’re the family matriarch who remembers everything your family did, and where, and how
they got there.  Everyone else depends on you and your long memory. Suddenly, you are brutally murdered.  But then, surprisingly, your daughters step up and take over family leadership. The luckiest of your surviving babies go to orphanages.

*    You live in an isolated area you’re used to and know your way around.  But then great noise and activity arrive, bringing buildings and highways. You’re disoriented and cut off from your usual travel routes . . . until you notice tube-like structures under the roads that somehow invite you to use them for transit to the other side. 
*    Your family has always lived low, close to the ground. When alarmed, you automatically zoom straight out and away from your home.  Except that now, you could easily be killed by the loud, fast-moving metal boxes speeding along the roads.

  For eons, you and others like you all over the world have been diurnal -- active during daylight, resting at night. Now, you’re moving toward becoming nocturnal: active at night. This has necessitated lifestyle changes, including diet.

Often for the worse, human beings have changed the lives of non-human animals around the world.  We know too well about hunted and lab animals, factory farmed animals and “service animals” of all kinds, from seeing eye dogs through those involved in (human) warfare, and animals engaged in various other forms of involuntary servitude, like pulling carriages. 

                           PAWS pic
But now, the mere presence of humans is causing mammals across continents — including coyotes, elephants and tigers — to alter their sleep schedules so they can avoid “humans’ expanding presence,” according to this news story.   

To avoid being slaughtered for their tusks, elephants have developed new social norms and survival techniques. Daughters have stepped up to lead groups their mothers led, and some elephants have begun traveling at night, a safer time for them.  

Population growth and related development are behind the intrusion of cities and roadways in formerly remote areas. Realizing they were building over animals’ traditional routes to food and water, some planners have advocated for under-highway tunnels that animals might use to maintain their usual travel patterns.  Good luck with that.

Not all birds are arboreal, living instead in brush and low bushes along roadsides. When vehicles roar up, the birds take off -- parallel with their nests, which are under car height.  Startled drivers might exclaim as birds fly right in front of their vehicles, seemingly out of nowhere and for no (known) good reason. Will such birds gradually evolve into higher-flying escapees?

Independence day for humans is just days away. When will it come for animals?

Concise cat compendium!

The online Catster magazine has been churning out good ideas and info lately, much of it too valuable not to share. So, for fellow feline fans, here are articles on (1) how to find a lost cat:   
. . . and (2) what to try when a cat won’t eat.

The publication has also provided a range of summer tips for cats, including hydrating, grooming and heat stroke.

On the subject of hydration and cats, I’m sorry to report that chicken broth added to our cats’ water did absolutely nothing for them; they continued ignoring their water bowls.  Maybe I didn’t use enough broth; maybe I didn’t get Harry and Billy psyched enough about tasty new water, maybe. . . well, who knows.  On to tuna juice?  (But then what about the [canned] tuna itself, since I’ve heard it can sicken cats?)

Finally, this little image of a “sea kitten” is meant to serve as a preview of coming attractions:  it’s time for a “sea change” here, and it’s coming soon to a blog near you!  


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Saturday, June 23, 2018

June animal news highlights -- so far

 The well taught philosophic mind / To all compassion gives; /  Casts round the world an equal eye, / And feels for all that lives. -Anna Letitia Barbauld, poet, essayist and editor (1743-1825) 

Hello again, everyone, and happy summer!  I hope you’re as glad to see this post as I am to be back doing it. The hiatus was good in lots of ways, but I prefer learning, thinking and writing about animals to almost anything else. 

And who wouldn’t be interested in the mix of animal news out there since early June?  To whet your appetite: the raccoon who climbed a Minnesota skyscraper, the tusk-free female elephants in Africa, the bog turtle becoming New Jersey’s state reptile . . .  and more. 

NJ’s state reptile

Let’s start with the bog turtle, a local species in need of all the help it can get.  Thanks to Princeton school kids and others, people may now become more aware of bog turtles and in the process, help them survive and maybe even thrive.  When states make endangered or threatened species their state animals, enhanced protection and preservation can follow.

It’s estimated that fewer than 2,000 of the tiny turtles are left in NJ, with habitat changes and development, both caused by humans, as the main reasons.  Thanks, kids, for caring and fighting the good (legislative) fight!  

. . . and MIA shelter bill

Maybe we should get those student movers and shakers involved with making Senator Linda Greenstein’s animal shelter bill (S725) a reality.  Painfully slow in development and drafting, it’s now languishing in the state legislature, while animals suffer and die in horrible NJ facilities misnamed “shelters.”  Bad enough that some provisions won’t take effect till months or years after passage; worse that it currently looks like a half-hearted effort, at best, to move it forward.

Skyscraping raccoon

On to the wild raccoon who climbed a 25-story building in St.Paul, Minn., while (it seemed) the world watched. With time out for a nap near the top (where a trap awaited), the raccoon made it, using his “strong limbs, five-toed paws with long claws and immense dexterity.”  

Although raccoon specialists weren’t at all surprised by this feat, those with acrophobia probably hoped only that the raccoon wouldn’t look down.  Not to worry.  Once trapped at the top, he was fed soft cat food (!) and transported to a wooded area for release.  

Tusklessness can pay

Tuskless female, Addo      Finbarr O'Reilly/NYTimes
In South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park, 90-95% of the female elephants lack tusks -- in contrast to most African elephant populations, where as few as 2% of females are tusk-free.

“Tusklessness” comes with a huge advantage: it protects these females from poachers intent on slaughter for ivory. And the tusks of bull elephants at Adoo tend to be smaller than elsewhere. Together with the “nearly impenetrable landscape” of “valley thicket,” these factors all deter poachers.

But elephants everywhere are still in jeopardy, if not for their tusks, then for their skin. The newest thing is elephant leather accessories and traditional remedies made from their hides.  According to Adoo Park’s conservation manager, who extols elephants’ intelligence and parenting skills, “I hate to say that they’re close to humans, because we’re the scourge of this planet. They’re not.”

Meanwhile, back in NJ

Two bills crucial for animals -- Nosey’s Law (S1093), named for a long-suffering elephant now in sanctuary, would prohibit elephants and other wild or exotic animals in traveling animal acts, and S1860 (about pets left in hot vehicles and those who help them) -- are posted for full NJ senate votes on Monday, June 25.  Phone your state senator to request support, then help get these two bills successfully through the state assembly by Friday, June 29, before summer recess begins.  


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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Back to basics: cats & dogs (& elephants) in brief

Rejoice, cat-loving readers willing to travel

                                                                                                  MSN image
Those who love cats, both in person and in print, will be delighted to learn about the Anna Marble Pollock Memorial Collection of books about cats, housed in the Beinecke Library of Yale University. With over 1,000 books, the collection was named for a serious cat lover and much-loved friend of Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), the cat-devotee and specialist behind the library. 

(More later on VV’s own cat opus, The Tiger in the House, 3rd ed., c. 1936.)

This cat-book collection in Connecticut cries out for a library-sponsored field trip to New Haven.  Cat-lovers could fill at least one bus. 

The dog’s great; the novel, less so

Essentially a monologue, The Friend (Sigrid Nunez, 2018) tells the story of a man, a woman and a Great Dane.  Named Apollo, the dog attracted me to the novel, even though of course he doesn’t have a speaking role.  He is the grieving pet of a man who committed suicide. 

The woman narrates the story of how she had been mentored by the man, a writer, professor and womanizer.  Of necessity, flash-backs abound, allowing the woman (also grieving) to look back at her long, literary and personal relationship with the man, wonder about his suicide and agree to take in his giant harlequin Dane.  

Harlequin Great Dane
Also a literature prof, the narrator’s musings are replete with allusions to other writers and their works -- if you don’t like this stuff, you’ll never get through the book!  Only gradually does the Dane grow in importance as the woman becomes attuned to his feelings and grows increasingly protective of him -- her companion in mourning -- as he ages.

As for the title?  Reader’s choice.  
In Nosey’s name

Nosey’s Law, a bill named for Nosey, a long-abused elephant, has been released from the Senate Economic Growth Committee.  If passed, this law would make New Jersey the first state in the country to ban the use of wild animals in circuses: an historical humane event!

Please help make it happen by asking your state senator and two assembly members to vote YES when Nosey's Law reaches them for a full vote.  You can find your legislators’ contact info here.   

Worth knowing  

“Catio”: for a while, this was the word to conjure with when it came to cats and the great outdoors.  In myriad shapes, sizes and materials, catios are designed to let indoor cats go outside, protected from the hazards that abound there.  This overview from Adventure Cats is the most comprehensive I’ve seen.  Some of them look so easy, and all are so tempting.

                                                             Cynthia Fuller image 
Yes, cats definitely have, and exhibit, feelings that include grief (after the death of a feline or human housemate, for instance).  This article, with links to still others, spells out ways to help a grieving cat.

Maybe you decided against pairing rugs and cats a long time ago.  OK, but once rug-free, what’s the best flooring in households with cats?  Here’s the (surprising-to-me) answer.

FYI, Readers:  I’m taking a "blog break" till after the summer solstice!  To assure you don’t miss anything once these posts resume, why not subscribe right now?  That’s always easier than remembering to check in.

And please don’t forget to spend some time with the Animal Protection League of NJ’s new website:      


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Sunday, May 27, 2018

In Memoriam

In memory of all the animals who have died from human abuse, misuse and indifference.

Animals in War Memorial. Park Lane, London

Sunday, May 20, 2018

So sad: we live in an age that requires protecting animals

Horse Rescue United 
Will a time ever come when the phrase “protecting animals” isn’t used or even recognized by people in our so-called “civilization”? A time when legislators don’t have to debate about what group or agency can best protect New Jersey animals?  A time when federal laws aren’t necessary to “protect farm animals” (that is, slaughter them more humanely), and when “preserves” need not be established, and patrolled, to protect elephants and other wild animals? 

Speciesism and dominionism, coupled with human carelessness and overriding greed, when  focused on non-human animals who can’t speak or fight for themselves, make for a deadly combination, one requiring ever more animal protection.  

This week’s newspaper described the legal requirement for country prosecutors and municipal police departments to take over enforcing animal-control laws from the NJSPCA.  While my experience with the NJSPCA isn’t extensive, it’s been enough to jaundice my view of its approaches and effectiveness.

However, numerous people (including those charged with the take-over) are arguing for more time to implement the law -- passed in January and effective August 1.  How satisfactorily will this be resolved, and how quickly?  For now, as usual, animals needing all the help they can get are in the middle, left in limbo. (I invite readers with info and insights on this issue to comment.)

Meanwhile, in Chad, African elephants are thriving and multiplying after years of death and decimation by ivory poachers.  But to reach this happy position, it took a leader who cares about animal conservation yet has a horrible human rights record, and “imported” South African experts to set things to rights.  Only lately have locals been encouraged to accept and protect their country’s animals.

So, this desirable result occurred through a seriously flawed process.  

a shining star of protection

Back in New Jersey, animal advocates keep on plugging.  One group -- the Animal Protection League of NJ ( -- marks its 35th anniversary of action for animals this year. Newly re-designed, APL’s website provides an easy overview of the organization’s laudable scope and goals, as well as its needs.  (There is never enough monetary support for activism, and volunteers who speak out and pitch in are always welcome.)

Angi Metler, co-founder and executive director, says, “Our website will always be a work in progress, as we welcome new input and suggestions.  If anyone notices something missing, let us know.”

Why not check out the new APLNJ website right now? 

Aren’t  you thirsty yet?

“Water, water everywhere, / Nor any drop to drink.” Harry and Billy Summers better not try that “Ancient Mariner” line on me, even though it seems to be their mantra. These two cats are, and have long been, “water teetotalers,” which worries me. My only solace: they consume a lot of water with their canned food and they keep getting good vet reports.

Yet I regularly see articles the importance of cat-hydration, together with tips for how to lead a cat to water and make him drink.  So I’ve been sure to keep water (and food too) far removed from litterbox areas; I’ve regularly changed the water in bowls on two floors -- apparently untouched day after day -- and I’ve sometimes added ice cubes and enthusiastically pointed them out.  

No, I haven’t tried a fountain, even though cats reportedly love moving water.  Nor have I taught either of the Summers boys to sit in a sink and turn on the water, as I’ve seen happen online. A can of chicken broth has sat on a counter for weeks while I consider whether and how to add it to their water bowls.  Chicken-flavored water?!

Any suggestions, readers?


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