Thursday 31 May 2012


By Barbara (UK)

You can see the four earlier posts on Barbara's walk by clicking on this link.
Click on this to see a large format version.
Poster by Ruth AKA Kattaddorra

This is the final installment of the series of four written by my sister Ruth ‘Sharing the fun of fund raising for needy cats’.
The day of the walk dawned and it was pouring down! The forecast had said rain to start with but clearing…it didn’t clear! Anyway I got ready with the help of my dear (patient) sister and we both went up to my work so Ruth could take some photos and she’d said she would go over the road to a shop and get me a Cats Protection balloon filled with helium to attach to the pushchair. As it turned out she got two and free of charge as the shop owner said it was to help a charity, so there was another kind soul.

My manager Jenette was at work already as she was manning the office in my absence, she hooted with laughter when she saw me but said I looked good, just not like me, she also donated £10 which was lovely. Then we waited for Julee to arrive, she had to travel about 45 minutes to get to us and got lost at the very end, after phoning for directions she was soon with us and then changed into her doggy costume. She’d made it herself and admitted she’s no seamstress, so that made two of us, but she had to be stapled into her suit as she hadn’t had time to put a zip in!

Finally we were ready and Ruth took our photos indoors and outside, once the photos were done we’d had to cover the pusschair with plastic as it was raining so heavily. Then we said cheerio to Ruth and Jenette and set off on our journey. We made our way through the shops, knocked on the window of the hairdressers that Ruth and I go to and they came out to see us and started our collecting boxes off, despite having already sponsored us.
On we went, past the cemetery, past the last of the houses and onto the bypass, still pouring rain. We got a couple of beeps on car horns and a few waves but didn’t meet anyone except two horses looking over a gate and they were scared of us, or maybe the balloons. Eventually we came to the end of the bypass and made our way to the Bishop Auckland branch of Funeralcare where we had a quick cuppa and set off again for the last bit of the walk, down into the town centre where we positioned ourselves outside of the shopping arcade, dripping wet but still in good spirits.

Most people ignored us! They were of course huddled up in their coats and covered by brollies then Julee hit on the idea of handing the little CP furry stickers out to kids, which made some of the mothers feel obliged to stop and put some coppers in our boxes, one or two cat lovers came along to have cat conversations with but not as many as we expected, purely due to the rotten weather.

We stood for about an hour and a half and we had a laugh but really we were wasting our time so we phoned my manager and she came to pick us up and bring us back home, my feet were squelching in my shoes and my shoulders soaked through so I was glad to call it a day. We’d only collected £23.42 in our boxes.

I really enjoyed it, despite the soaking, I’d thought the walk would be hard going but it flew over, it would have been nice to have some sunshine but it wasn’t to be.

We haven’t got all the sponsor money in yet so I can’t give the total amount raised until we do but I know that each of the two charities, Cats Protection Wear Valley & Darlington, and Hope Animal Shelter will get £200 each at the very least plus the £100 each from the Co-operative Booster Fund.

I can’t believe I’ll get away with no aches and pains from today, but it was so, so worth it for the sake of cats!

Thank you very much to everyone who sponsored me for the walk and everyone who has been interested in the event. I’ll post the final total as a comment on this article as soon as possible.

Barbara avatar

Meeting the Asiatic Lions of Gir Forest

By Rudolph.A.Furtado (Mumbai, India).

I have been on a four day "Lion Safari Camp" with B.N.H.S (Bombay Natural History Society) tour group  between Wednesday (16-5-2012) to Saturday (19-5-2012) to the Gir forests of Gujarat in India.

The Gir Forest is home to the last species of the Asiatic lion in the world numbering only about 400 approx. It is situated in the north-west of India (see map).

We visited the "Gir National Park" on 5 different occasions on 3 different days, lucky to spot the rare elusive lion. On the last day we saw an entire pride of 6 lions, sitting across our jeep trek road, approx 50 meters away from us. It was a life scene straight out of a "National Geographic Documentary".
Pride of lions walking in a single file
A young lion spotted in the undergrowth bushes of Gir Forest
The pride sighted on Friday (18-5-2012). A rare situation
Doesn't cat Matata my Persian cat resemble a miniature lion?

What baffled and surprised me was the behaviour of these totally wild lions towards the Guards (Wild-Life rangers) of the park. When a lion was spotted in the forest undergrowth by a guard  the tourist jeeps were allowed to approach closer to the lion for photography and viewing. We spotted a lion on all 3 different days of a 3 hour safari ride inside the jungle and every time a forest ranger kept watch on the tourists and the lion.

These guards were familiar to the lions akin to our house-hold cats, hence allowed the guards to approach them on foot and a ordinary wooden baton within a 50 meters distance.

Remember, these are genuine wild forest lions that prey on other jungle species for survival including the nomadic Maldhari's tribal cattle. Yet these same lions have never ever attacked a forest ranger, very strange and also demonstrates that all wild species are basically scared of humans.

On the last day we spotted a pride of 6 lions  relaxing on a mound, later walking in a file alongside the tourist road. The pride was led by a matriarch lioness and there were 3 cubs, a juvenile male lion and another mature lioness.

They resembled a mother cat with her kittens, reminding me of my own cats back home in Mumbai. For the first time in my life I got to observe natural wild lions and realized that our small house-hold cats mimic the behaviour of the "Big Cats".

Read my blog " The Last Asiatic Lion in Gir Forest":-


USDA Too Slow to Shut Down Dodgy Zoos

Great Cats of Indiana has been closed. Hurrah! It took about ten years to do it. In the meantime the great cats inside were turned into cats that weren't so great; just depressed, underweight tigers and lions with medical problems, and in poor health and condition.

I have written about the dodgy private zoos of America before. There have been some high profile cases, which have resulted in deaths.

Lion at Great Cats of Indiana - I don't the name of the photographer, sorry.

Apparently the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had filed a complaint about Great Cats of Indiana in 2007 and there have been breaches of regulations going back to 2002. A court application was filed by the USDA, as I understand it, in 2007 but the place was still open until now.

Earlier inspections revealed negligent medical treatment of a cougar, leopard and lion. For example, the cougar had half a tail and a bloody open would where it had been severed.

I am informed that the USDA often make cursory inspections of private zoos that are poorly managed to avoid having to report animal abuse as it reflects badly on the them. Also it takes at least 6 years normally for cases to be heard at court (src: Big Cat Rescue).

Then recently the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Law Enforcement received a complaint about the Great Cats of Indiana. They investigated on May 23rd. Corporal Todd Pekny went around to the place and saw emaciated animals in very poor conditions, which demonstrated neglect by the director of the place Rob Craig.

On May 29th they removed seven cats from the facility and they are now at a undisclosed USDA facility.

There it is. Neglect by a private zoo keeper and a government department that might also be accused of neglect. The losers? Of course it has to be cats.

The Crow and the Bengal Cat

This happened about two hours ago, in London, in my communal garden and in a neighbour's garden. It is a slice of cruel natural life.

Daniel an F3 Bengal cat
A young crow was attacked by an F3 Bengal cat called Daniel when he was out in the garden under the supervision of his caretaker.

The crow escaped from Daniel and managed to get into a neigbouring garden. A while later there was an enormous commotion. Crows and magpies were circling around and squawking feverishly. This went and on until I went out to investigate.

I looked over the wall into my neighbour's garden. I saw the young crow that had escaped from Daniel on the ground, wings outstretched and on his back.

On top of him was another crow who was stabbing his beak into the other crow's neck and head. The crow was deliberately killing the other bird.

As I looked over the wall the attacking crow jumped off and flew away. The attacked crow flapped both wings gently and died.

The squawking and screaming stopped. All was quiet.

Was this a deliberate killing of a competitor or potential competitor? And were the other birds looking on and enjoying the whole process like a gladiatorial fight?

Date: 31st May 2012 - Time: 12:05

Purina Pet Treats Made In China Killing Dogs

There are several reasons I chose to write about Purina® pet treats made in China killing dogs. First of all, many of us cat lovers also have dogs. And if we have dogs, there's a chance our cats may get a hold of one of these treats.

Photo by Nestlé (on Flickr)
The products being investigated by the FDA are Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch dog treats. Both products are made in China for the Nestle Purina® company. The FDA has now logged more than 900 complaints from owners whose dogs have gotten sick or died after eating these treats. Most were diagnosed with kidney failure.

Dog owners should be warned as these products haven't undergone an official recall and are still on the shelves at retailers across America. Readers, keep in mind that just because a product is available for sale it doesn't mean it's safe!

Another reason I'm writing on this issue as it brings to mind an article I wrote last year about Purina One® cat food. Its at While no mandatory recall has been made, comments continue to trickle in on this article from cat owners whose cats have become ill or died after eating Purina® products.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea and fever. This leads to kidney failure and death for the dog or cat eating the Purina® product.

This has been going on for several years. The same holds true with Purina Beneful Dog Food. Symptoms from eating the tainted dog food (it sometimes has a mold like growth on it) are glazed eyes, weakness, white gums, lack of appetite and loss of control of bodily functions. This information has been verified by on

Although the symptoms are totally different for the Purina One® cat food than for the Purina dog foods, Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch dog treats, I would use caution before feeding any Purina products.

Purina has stated they consider the safety of their dog and cat foods as their top priority, yet the cases continue to mount and neither the FDA nor Nestle Purina is doing much about it other than taking down information and testing samples. I'm not sure how many deaths it will take before a recall is issued. If it's your pet, then it's one to many.

Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, recently blasted the head of the FDA over the situation back in April of 2012. Brown criticized Dr. Margaret Hamburg at a Senate Appropriations hearing over the concern Chinese made treats were tainted yet allowed to remain on store shelves.

Until the FDA has found the cause as to why so many pets are dying, dog and cat owners both need to be vigilant about the food they feed their pets, as well as any treats. If you plan on changing pet food brands, do a little Internet research and be sure there are no health concerns linked with the food you plan to feed your pet.

If any of you have experienced any health problems with any brand of pet food or any treats, please be kind enough to give everyone a first hand account of your experience. You could be saving a life.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

My Yellow Tabby Tomcat

Hi All! My name is Stefan and I have a 3 year old yellow tabby tomcat called Base. I will say some words on the big differences existing in the temperament and personality of my cats. It is my third attempt to raise and live with a cat in my life. I had in the past a cat who lived 4 years and another gray short-haired cat who lived 8 years before I adopted Base - so I can say a few words about this ;)


So, Base is totally different from Petrica (the former gray tabby). Petrica was a very quiet person, he watched TV, slept almost all day and never left the apartment. And he made a crisis out of transporting him in my car. 

Base is totally the opposite… he a strong personality, and is a very restless kind of animal. He is always running and jumping, asking for food or litter, and having a powerful and tonal voice when he meows. He patrols the entire building (6 floors), sleeps occasionally in the neighborhood (a old lady feeds him), and escaped twice outdoors - I recovered him with major injuries due to the fights he got into. He has also fallen twice from the 4th floor but fortunately things were O.K. and he escaped (i say that he has only seven lives remaining from the nine that he had :).

But the most specific thing is that he loves to travel in my car. I had taken him in my care for a year and a half almost daily in the city for two or more hours... he enjoys that ;)

I must recognize that he is a real challenge for me, but I like this and I try to keep up with all he is doing ;) Well, that is a part of the story, what else can I say ?

You can see the two of us here :¬if_t=group_activity#!/profile.php?id=100000360893678

and Base only in the attached pictures. All the best to all cat lovers from Bucharest, Romania.

Stefan Muresan (Bucharest, Romania)

PS - I like very much the blog ;)

Note from Michael (Admin): Red tabby cats are in general known to be leader (alpha) type cats and it is no surprise to me that Base behaves in that sort of way -  adventurous etc.

Caboodle Ranch Custody Hearing Continues

All testimony in the custody hearing of the Caboodle Ranch cats concluded on May 29, 2012 and each side has until June 11 to submit their proposed order as to the fate of the Caboodle Ranch cats. On or before this date, the judge, who is a cat owner, will issue a ruling and draft an order based on his decision. This practice is common in this type of hearing.
Caboodle Ranch in happier times

The judge has requested briefs on whether the court or the sheriff has authority over disposition of the cats. Also in question is whether the court is permitted to return a portion of the cats or whether this is an all or nothing decision.

A good many supporters of Caboodle Ranch turned out to witness the trial.

Ron Grant testified on behalf of Caboodle Ranch. It was stated in an article at that their attorneys hope to prove the case against them is based on heresay, lies and that the PETA photos were "doctored."

Neither Nanette Entriken nor Craig Grant testified at the hearing. Craig was unable to testify because of his pending criminal charges.

According to Caboodle Ranch, Inc. Facebook page, the judge told Craig he has a "Servant's Heart!" On the other hand, the judge was concerned at the decline in health of the Caboodle Ranch cats between the inspection on January12, 2012 and the time the cats were seized.

Regardless of the judge's ruling on the custody case, the cats will remain as evidence until the criminal case has been tried and a decision made on whether Grant is guilty of any wrong-doing.

Whether Craig Grant is innocent or guilty, I find it very disturbing these cats must remain in cages until the entire situation is settled. Why can't they be placed into some kind of foster care situation? These poor cats are probably wondering what they did to deserve this. Holding them hostage is just making this situation much worse. The cats have all been examined and treated and I'm sure it would harm no one to allow them to live in a loving home until this custody fight is over.

Comments anyone? I only have one question that keeps nagging away at me. How do you "doctor" a photo of a cats eyeball hanging out? Is this something that can be done with Photoshop? I'm completely serious here. I can understand how photos could have been entered into evidence showing parts of the ranch not in use. But the injuries of the cats were very graphic and I would think this would be hard to manipulate digitally.

I'd especially love to hear from anyone from either side who was at the hearing. Comments can be made on this page and it can be shared on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus One using the buttons below.

Selected associated articles from Elisa:
  1. Caboodle Ranch: Cat Heaven Or Cat Hell? - this is a very well visited web page.
  2. Caboodle Ranch Faces Class Action Lawsuit
  3. Caboodle Ranch Owner Speaks Out

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Cat foods that can cause health problems

We know that cats are true carnivores. They have a "unique metabolism" which means that there are some foods that should not be eaten at a quantity that is greater than 10% of a cat's overall diet in order to avoid potential health problems.

Meat and Diary Products

Despite being carnivores (meat eaters) cats cannot "survive on just lean meat"1. It has excessive amounts of phosphorus in relation to calcium and it is deficient in:
  • sodium
  • copper
  • iron
  • iodine
  • vitamins
A cat living on solely a lean meat diet may develop:
  • skeletal abnormalities
  • malformed joints
  • essential fatty acid deficiencies
  • secondary hyperparathyroidism
Liver contains levels of vitamin A that are too high and it can result in unresolvable bone deformities that are painful.

As to diary products, cats like them but cow's milk contains "large quantities of fermentable sugars". To break these down an enzyme called "lactase" is required. In adult cats the lactase levels have declined from kittenhood. If there is insufficient lactase in the cat's gut the fermentable sugars reach the colon where they cause "osmotic diarrhea". Cats drinking milk sold for people and eating human diary products can get diarrhea. There are specialist cat milk products. Assume cats are lactose intolerant.


Raw fish: contains thiaminase (an enzyme). This destroys thiamine (vitamin B1). This causes thiamin deficiency in cats  - see signs. Some more on thiamin deficiency.
Fish packed in oil: Feeding too much fish can cause pansteatitis due to vitamin E deficiency.
Cheap tinned fish (e.g tuna): this apparently can contain "preformed histamine" which causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Vegetarian Diet

Some people like to feed their cats a vegetarian diet. There are few people who do, thankfully. However some people advocate it as more healthy.  Clearly these diets are ususally supplemented with vitamins etc. (taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid).

The cat requires meat in his/her diet. A supplemented vegetarian diet has been found to be less healthy that a conventional well balanced meat diet2.

Baby Foods

These can be deficient in arginine. Arginine is very important to cats. It may contain onion powder. This can cause "oxidative anemia". 

Dog Food

Cats might eat dog food if it is presented to them. However it may contain insufficient quantities of:
for a cat. See: Taurine Deficiency in Cats. Stick to high quality wet cat food.

Associated: Raw Food Diet for a Cat and home made raw food diet.


1. The Welfare of Cats page 237 ISBN
2. As I but page 238.

Monday 28 May 2012

Requirements of Cats Kept in the Home

The requirements of cats kept in the home is important in America but less so in Britain for the obvious reason that a lot more cats are kept indoors permanently in America than in Britain. There is a definite culture difference with respect to cat caretaking between the countries. One reason may be that there are more purebred cats in the US and also going outdoors may be more hazardous with respect to predation by wild animals.

However, keeping cats indoors reduces the home range for the cats significantly. It also places individual cats in close proximity to each other. However studies indicate that neutered male and female domestic cats can be housed successfully indoors if there is enough space of sufficient quality and provided the cats have become used to these sorts of conditions from kittenhood. Cats require more space than we think and they need to be able to get away from each other and and out of sight of each other from time to time.

Harmonious group - Photo by Bibi

In one study1 of 14 cats who had 10 square meters of space each, it was found that most of the cats had a favorite spot. Sometimes a spot was shared and sometimes a spot was unique to an individual cat. In sharing places cats lived peacefully together by time sharing these places and thereby avoiding each other.

Male cats have larger home ranges than female cats generally and this is demonstrated in respect of full-time indoor domestic cats. In this study males had ranges of 4-5 rooms while females had ranges of 3-3.6 rooms. Females are therefore slightly more suited to indoor life.

Another scientist2 recommended two resting places for each cat; one on the floor enclosed on three sides (my comment: for a cat to hide and feel safe. What about protection from above?) and the other should be elevated with a good viewpoint (my comment: there is no doubt that cats like high vantage points and can spend long periods on perches). This recommendation is important in preventing behavioral problems in multi-cat households.

In addition, positioning scratching posts or a "scratching surface" (my comment for posts: large, heavy and tall) at places of exit and entry in the home and near sleeping places is helpful. Litter boxes should be in quiet areas. They should be cleaned daily.

Another species of companion animal such as a dog is beneficial provided the cats are socialised to dogs. Elisa, a regular contributor this this website has a dog, Dreyfuss who loves cats and the cats in her home often love him and rest on him. Elisa has a harmonious multi-cat home. Elisa's caring, cat orientated input contributes greatly.

Interactions with the human caretaker are important. Domestic cats are not "adapted to living in close proximity to each other". Moving away and dispersing to avoid aggression is harder for a full-time indoor cat. Cat behavior problems can be due to stressful environmental situations - "social factors". This is a reference to interactions between cats and cats to human.

Related cats are more likely to get on that unrelated cats. Four or more unrelated cats in a house are more likely to have behavioral problems than less cats that are related.

Cats introduced to a multi-cat household are chosen by the owner and these cats may not get on. They may not see each other as part of the same social group and be forced to live in close proximity to each other. This is likely to cause stress.

  1. The Multi-cat Household
  2. Multi-cat Household
  1. Mertens and Schär 1988
  2. Schroll 
  3. Generally: The Welfare of Cats ISBN 978-1-4020-6143-1

Casual T. Cat

Casual T. Cat was a brown cat that walked upright (anthropomorphized). He was the cartoon cat who was electrocuted to death when a baby grabs his tail and stuffs it into a wall electrical socket. The baby had been playing with an electrical cord beforehand.

This grizzly scene was in a public service announcement safety commercial produced for American television by the American Academy of Pediatricians.

The title of the commercial was: The Shocking Adventurer of Casual T. Cat. The lesson was: "Childproof your home".

It was first seen on television in 1989. The characters in the animated short film were made of plasticine clay, using Claymation or clay animation. In this form of animation the characters are photographed, adjustments made to their positioning etc. and then re-photographed and so on. The still images are then pieced together and played as a movie creating the illusion of moving characters with a sense of three dimensions as these are three dimensional objects.

Sadly, as far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing on the Internet that shows us what the characters looked like. Sorry!

Sunday 27 May 2012

Captain Jack Cartoon

Captain Jack is a cat cartoon character. He is a suave adult comic books hero who was created by Mike Kazaleh, a freelance funny-animal comic animator and artist.

Captain Jack first appeared in 1986 in the comic book The Adventures of Captain Jack published by Fantagraphics Books who say they are a "Publisher of Comic Books and Graphic Novels by the World's Greatest Cartoonists". However, I cannot find a reference to this comic book character nor the creator of the character on the Fantagraphics Books' website.

Captain Jack
Captain Jack is a grey and white cat. Technically speaking he is a bicolor cat - solid and white. He likes to live well and wears a smart uniform and often smokes a cigar.

Captain Jack is a space adventurer of the 23rd century, specifically 2200. He commands a crew that includes a dog called Herman Feldman who has a side kick, a small dog with a red tail who is conveniently called Beezlebub, a play on the name, as you have no doubt guessed, of Beelzebub, meaning the devil. The crew also includes a terrier faced robot called Adam Fink.

In one adventure Captain Jack went to rescue Stanley Tomcat who had actually decided that he wanted to stay on a planet that he liked. In another space adventure Jack travels to a farming planet to help out with harvesting. The only occupants of the planet are raccoons: Fred and Janet.

Note: The picture is from a comic book cover and is published under the principles of fair use as this page promotes the cartoon and does not have a detrimental effect on the commercial rights of the character.

For more on cat cartoon characters please see: Cartoon Cats.

Boo Cartoon Cat (Funky Phantom)

Boo Cartoon cat with Mudsy and Skip, April and Augie

Boo is a cartoon cat and companion of Jonathan Wellington "Mudsy" Muddlemore. They are both ghosts from the American War of Independence (1775–1783) - American Revolutionary War. 

They featured in a Saturday morning cartoon called The Funky Phantom, which had 17 episodes. The Funky Phantom was made by an Australian production company called Air Programs International and was first aired on television in 1971. It was made for Hanna-Barbera Productions who I presume were in contract with ABC television in the USA.

Johnathan Muddlemore (together with his companion cat) was fighting in the American War of Independence, when they bumped into a couple of British soldiers in an old house that had a large free-standing clock in the hall. It was one of the old fashioned grandfather clocks you see in antique shops. They hid in the clock where they unfortunately met their demise as they couldn't get out .

Moving to the time the cartoon was made, some 230 years later, we see that Skip, April and Augie, three teenagers and their irritable, bulldog Elmo enter the same old house near midnight to get out of a storm and on seeing the clock and noticing the time was wrong (at 6:30pm), reset the time to midnight. The clock chimes midnight...

That set things released the captives inside the clock, now the ghosts of Johnathan Muddlemore and his cat Boo. They were known henceforth as the benevolent Funky Phantom and Boo - Mudsy and Boo. Mudsy and Boo joined and supported Skip, April and Augie becoming a quintet righting wrongs across the nation. They battled evil ghosts as well as an apparition called the Headless Horseman.

Don Messick did the voice of Boo and Daws Butler did the voice of Mudsy. The first episode airing on 9th November 1971 was Don't Fool With a Phantom. The last episode was Ghost Grabbers which was on television on 1st January 1972.

Associated: Cartoon Cats  - lots of cartoon cats and videos etc.

The Abandoned Tiger

People who care about the domestic cat, who keep and love a domestic cat do not necessarily care about the tiger. This is not a criticism. You can like cats but the tiger and wild cats generally are different. They are somewhere else - in the wild. We are no longer connected to the wild. In fact we don't want any more wild places. We just want to control the whole planet. Wild places by definition are out of our control.

Good people in Europe and North America who have learnt about the domestic cat and do a good job in caring for their cat through experience and knowledge often know little about the tiger. This beast is out there somewhere, thousands of miles away in wood or forest, slinking around avoiding humans. A lack of knowledge about the tiger leads to a lack of action to protect the tiger. Combine that with a long history of poor and corrupt management in the places where the tiger lives and you have the abandoned tiger. It actually goes beyond that; people are fearful of the tiger. They want rid of it. There is no place for the tiger on the planet in the modern age.

I think it is fair to say that many of the world's experts on tiger conservation see that the tiger cannot and will not survive on this planet in the wild much longer. Communally we have abandoned the tiger to commercial exploitation and to being pushed out of its habitat.

Valmik Taper makes an emotional plea for sanity in a very scientific book on the tiger published in 1999: Riding the Tiger - Tiger conservation in human dominated landscapes. The title tells us the problem. The tiger is now forced to live in human dominated landscapes. There is no longer any room for the tiger except in the far north in the Himalayas in Bhutan perhaps. Even that won't last.

The Bengal tiger is a subspecies of tiger. It is the most numerous by far of the remaining tiger subspecies. It mainly lives in India. Valmik Taper says that 50% of the entire wild  tiger population lives in India. He makes these points which I have summarised because on the internet people want to skim and move on:
  • Large areas of forest in the north and west of India have disappeared.  This is the home of the tiger. Island habitats are left. (my comment: will they survive and can the tiger survive in these small areas)
  • The problems in conservation of the tiger "mount" he says. In other words they are getting worse and we are not making progress.
  • In 1999 there were 23 Tiger Project reserves, total area: 33,000 square kms. Of this total he says that about one third of this area is almost lost and one third has an "uncertain future". The remaining third may be saved.
  • Outside the Tiger Project reserves the tiger's habitat is even more precarious.
  • There is "endless pressure on habitat, incessant poaching, and...unplanned large scale development..." (such as mining and dams etc.). 
  • There is a persistent lack of political will to protect the tiger (my comment: I don't think the politicians of India want to save the tiger because it gets in the way of big business and politicians and big business are great friends).
  • Valmik Taper says that the lack of political will is due to a change in the political landscape. Where there was once a single large political party, the Congress Party, there are now 11 different parties that "rule the Tiger States". The federal government has power in 2 of them. You can see the problem. Political will has been "dissipated" he says.
  • As to the management of financing the Tiger Project, it is chaotic and tortuous, nothing less. The delivery of funding is far to slow preventing effective management on the ground.
  • There is a lack of understanding of wildlife amongst people in authority.
  • There are occasions when the authorities have not enforced the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Act) allowing mining in the Madhav National Park for instance. 16 square kms were lost. The Act is interpreted on the whims of ministers ignoring the purpose of the Act.
  • India is being modernised. It is becoming much more of a consumer society. (my comment: consumerism works against tiger conservation because it inevitably leads to the use and abuse of natural resources for financial profit).
  • "Timber mafias", (Valmik Taper's phrase, a great phrase), "rip great scars in the vital corridors that link habitats together". Well said.
  • Even traditional ways are criticised by Valmik Taper. And rightly so. Mass tribal hunts that take place annually results in large numbers of tiger prey being killed.
Valmik Taper proposes a number of solutions. I don't feel inclined to discuss them here because I don't think they will be implemented. This is because of the lack of political will that Mr Taper so eloquently writes about. Without the will and coordination of India's leaders, nothing will happen.

Note: The book's ISBN is 0-521-64835-1 Cambridge University Press.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Cat Hoarder The Truth?

There is another cat hoarding story going around the internet (May 26th 2012) and what is useful in this case is that we have the alleged cat hoarder on video having her say in the matter and defending herself. To hear her and listen to what she says helps us understand where the truth lies and gives us a bit of an insight into cat hoarding. In the United States cat hoarding stories are probably second only to feral cat population stories.

This case concerns an 81 year old Frenchwoman, Lucienne Touboul, living in Arizona - an immediate culture clash. She has a strong French accent and she speaks poor English. I also sense that she may be suffering from slight dementia problems, which would be normal at 81 years of age. You can see immediately that there will be a communication problem with Arizona police who I would expect to be not that patient or sympathetic and I am afraid to say they may be prejudiced. I am not saying they are being racist but there will be an enormous clash of culture. This culture clash has certainly made things worse for Lucienne Touboul. In fact it may be at the heart of the problem. It is probably more that just about culture. They could well be a stereotyping problem too.

This is the link to the video:

There is no doubt that Touboul wishes to help unwanted cats. And there is no doubt that there are lots of cats that need to be wanted. She has good intentions but is unable to execute her desires to care for unwanted cats because of her age which affects her physical and mental capacity. She kept 64 cats. I believe this is the second time she has had a run in with the authorities. The last time she had 104 and they were put down. So she has a history.

On the last occasion, in 2010, she kept ten cats in a freezer. She admits to keeping dead cats in the freezer in preparation for burial. It appears that the police have interpreted this in some way as a desire by Lucienne Touboul to eat her dead cats. She denies this and a friend of hers has said that it is a misinterpretation of "catfish soup" that she eats. When you listen to Lucienne Touboul you can see the problems. I believe her and feel that the police have done her a disservice. She does have the crazy cat woman look about her. You know what I mean. If you are foreign, speak with a strange accent, are old, say slightly unconventional things and unintelligible things and keep lots of cats, you are going to look like a crazy cat woman and a cat hoarder to the police.

Keeping a lot of cats cannot automatically be cat hoarding can it? Lynea Lattanzio who keeps hundreds of cats is not a cat hoarder. There has to an element of animal cruelty about it too. And if Lucienne Touboul is unable to cope and execute her decent intentions there will be negligence in keeping a large number of cats and that will lead to poor conditions and cat caretaking leaving cats exposed to poor health. I don't know whether that qualifies as cat cruelty in a criminal sense.

The humane society showed kittens with conjunctivitis as an indication of animal cruelty. I think this is incorrect. URIs are commonplace in kittens and this woman simply failed to cope.  The Humane Society seem to have indicated that they may have to euthanise all the cats. That seems like an overreaction. It is more the action of people who want to get rid of surplus cats and this is a convenient moment to do it. I don't like it. It looks wrong to me.

She is not a criminal. She needs some help and so do the cats. The heavy handed police who lack sensitivity and understanding have mismanaged the situation.

Animal Testing and European Directive (Directive 2010/63/EU)

I have seen the petition on the Care2 petition website. It is headlined, "Stop the UK Government from legalising the use of stray pets in lab experiments!" The petition basically says that the new legislation (law) created by the Commission of the European Union (EU) will have a detrimental impact on stray pets, and on animals generally, who are used in animal testing in the UK.

The new law is in the form of a directive. This is legislation that the institutions of the EU create and then hands out to members of the European Union who are then obliged to incorporate what is European law into national law. The UK is part of the EU.

When Europe creates new law on animal testing it is important for people who are concerned about animal welfare. Most of these people want animal testing stopped completely or a least controlled and restricted more severely and efficiently. It is an opportunity to improve animal welfare law. By "improve" I mean to reduce and restrict animal testing.

My personal view is that animal testing should be stopped completely. We have no right to harm animals and cause pain and suffering to them for our benefit. If stopping animal testing results in more humans suffering health problems, then I accept that.

EU directives are complicated and I am not sure that the author of the petition has it correct. In any case I have checked Directive 2010/63/EU and the section that refers to stray and feral cats. It is reproduced below and you can make your own minds up. I think the problem is that the new law does not go far enough to protect animals used in laboratories.

However, in general the declared purpose of Directive 2010/63/EU is to update the previous directive (1986 Directive 86/609/EEC). They say the aim is:

 "to strengthen legislation, and improve the welfare of those animals still needed to be used, as well as to firmly anchor the principle of the Three Rs, to Replace, Reduce and Refine the use of animals, in EU legislation."

Both directives are concerned with the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

Some selected sections are:

Principle of replacement, reduction and refinement

1. Member States shall ensure that, wherever possible, a scientifically satisfactory method or testing strategy, not entailing the use of live animals, shall be used instead of a procedure.

2. Member States shall ensure that the number of animals used in projects is reduced to a minimum without compromising the objectives of the project.

And for stray and feral cats the directive states:

Article 11

Stray and feral animals of domestic species

1. Stray and feral animals of domestic species shall not be used in procedures.

2. The competent authorities may only grant exemptions from paragraph 1 subject to the following conditions:

(a) there is an essential need for studies concerning the health and welfare of the animals or serious threats to the environment or to human or animal health; and

(b) there is scientific justification to the effect that the purpose of the procedure can be achieved only by the use of a stray or a feral animal.

I think the problem that concerns people is:
  1. That the introduction of new EU legislation was an opportunity to curb animal testing and the opportunity has been missed despite the fact the legislators say they have tightened the law and;
  2. The implementation of this EU law is down to the governments of the countries in the EU. How it is done concerns people because there appears to be a certain amount of leeway. Big business will take the opportunity to loosen control of animal testing where possible. There is considerable lobbying going on because the big companies are eager to retain animal testing and to stop further restrictions being implemented.
You can read more on these pages if you wish:

Friendship Between Cats

This is about domestic cats and relationships between conspecifics. Conspecifics are organisms of the same species. We know that the domestic cat forms friendships with us too.

This is quite a difficult subject because of the word "friendship". It is a word that was created by humans for humans. Scientists running studies about the behavior of domestic cats don't usually like to refer to the idea of friendship in relation to cats. They use terms such as "affiliative relationships", "close relationships" or "preferred associates"1. The same thing effectively.

If you look in the index of respected books on the domestic cat you don't see "friendship". Information is therefore hard to find. However, concerned and observant cat caretakers can see friendship between cats all the time.

We often see friendship between cats in feral cat colonies. These are groups of cats that have formed naturally because of a suitable food source. The cats are free to choose who should be in the group and their friends.

In multi-cat households where the home owner decides which cat to bring into the group, the existing cats don't have a choice. However the domestic cat's learned adaptability allows him/her to fit in and become settled over time - it can take months and more. Amongst these groups friendships are formed.

Pairs of cats or sub-groups of cats form obvious bonds. Cat caretakers report that their cats often play, groom and sleep together. The friendships formed are stable and long lasting unencumbered by the emotional issues that affect human to human relationships.

Cats are "not asocial" so says S.L. Crowell-Davis in The Welfare of Cats. There are lots of signs of the presence of close relationships amongst cats living in groups. These signs can be called "affiliative behaviours". Affiliative behaviors include: touching noses on greeting (with tail up perhaps), allogrooming (grooming - licking, each other), allorubbing (rubbing against each other), playing together and resting/sleeping together.

From Cat House on the Kings.
It may take time for cats in group to become familiar with each other, the precursor to forming friendships and to remaining close to each other throughout the day. Cats that are related (e.g. sisters) are naturally close to each other and are more likely to be close to each other and allogroom than cats that are not related but equally familiar with each other.

When friends (preferred associates) greet each other than often touch noses. It is irrelevant whether the friendship is between males or females or male to female. Gender does not play a role in the greeting of touching noses!

As an aside I have seen very vigorous head butting of the domestic cat to the human. Head butting is scent exchange and a greeting behavior. It is an act of friendship. These forms of friendly behavior can be fairly vigorous as I say. Sometimes cats will rub their heads, tails and bodies together for several minutes. Tails are very tactile and sensitive. You only have to place your hand close to a cat's tail and it will move. They almost seem to be a substitute for a hand, a limb without a claw.

Cats who are preferred associates will often purr while they rub against each other quite vigorously. This is also a form of scent exchange and common sense dictates that rubbing together or wrapping a tail around another cat is a similar to a hug in human terms.

Apparently the above signs of friendship are seen more frequently between feral cats and occur when the cats are reunited after hunting separately. This seems to make sense as the domestic cat in a household, particularly full-time indoor cats, are not separated and so do not need to employ greeting behaviors.

Sometimes a couple of friendly cats will start grooming each other when one of them approaches the other and lowers his/her head - offering it up for a session of licking. The cat wishing to be licked will, understandably, be cooperative and position himself in a convenient manner to receive the maximum benefit.

Friendly cats often rest and sleep together. You see it all the time in photographs on the internet. Sometimes the reason is to keep warm in cold conditions. However, feral cats do it even when it is hot. Cats sleep and rest together because they have a strong bond - a close friendship. Apparently males make half as many bodily contacts as females. In one large study of feral cats, "64% of interactions involved licking", while rubbing was used in 29%. Females and kittens started the contact apparently much more often than males2.

The formation of friendships between cats may in part be dependent on the comfort of the cats. Where there is a steady supply of food, cats become more sociable. The same could be said about people.

Playing together is another sign of friendship between cats. As expected the desire to play is dependent on the character of the individual cat. Cats have their character, which is a reason why it is probably incorrect to speak of cat breed characteristics. Play between cats is most commonly seen between the ages of four weeks and four months of age. Adult cats also play but some rarely play. The desire to express friendship through play is probably dependent on inherited character (genetics), early experiences and the "timing of particular experiences"1.

Despite the harsh life and poor diet of adult feral cats they still play. Play burns calories. Under difficult conditions you would have thought that feral cats would limit what might be seen as a wasteful expenditure of calories. Clearly play is important, which means that friendship is important to cats. This reflects the feelings of their human caretakers.

1. The Welfare of Cats ISBN 978-1-4020-6143-1. This is an excellent book. It is a bit technical but that makes it more reliable.

2. Encyclopedia of the Cat page 84 ISBN 978-1-4053-2149-5

Thursday 24 May 2012

Cat Obesity Effects and Management

Some more notes on cat obesity. The first point to notice is that cat obesity is defined as being greater than 15% over the ideal weight (9-12 lbs for a male and 7-10 lbs for a female cat - but cats vary considerably from breed to breed and from individual to individual). I am surprised because 16% over normal weight is not a lot overweight and yet a cat will be classified as obese.

Cat obesity is the biggest problem regarding the feeding of cats in the USA and Western Europe. Apparently, up to 20% of cats in these regions are obese. My late lady cat Binnie was obese at one time so I have first hand experience of cat obesity.

Nearly all cat obesity problems are because the cat eats too much in relation to the lifestyle that he or she leads. By eating too much I mean that the calorie intake is too high. By lifestyle I am particularly referring to the level of exercise the cat partakes in. As usual it is all about how much goes in and how much is burnt off.

There are a lot of charts on assessing cat weight but we don't really need them because anybody can assess whether there cat is overweight. We simply need to use a common sense method. Essentially use common sense and you can feel your cat's shoulder blades and their spine when they are within a good weight range. You should be able to feel your cat's ribs under a layer of fat when they are of the correct weight.

Obese grey cat
Obese gray cat. Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay


Problems that can be associated with an obese cat:
  • breathing difficulties - the recent, well circulated story of Meow the 39 lb cat sadly illustrates this problem.
  • FLUTD - feline lower urinary tract disease.
  • higher risks of failure during veterinary surgery.
  • response to infectious diseases is poorer.
  • resistance to insulin - development of diabetes.
  • the inability of the heart to work harder when called upon (reduced cardiac reserve).
  • the accumulation of fat in the liver cells.

Reducing weight

It can difficult to reduce the weight of your cat. I think we all know that. This because:
  • we don't see the effect of a diet quickly
  • we lose discipline
  • our cat pesters us successfully
  • cats have specialist diets being obligate carnivores
  • cats are less food orientated than dogs
  • cats sometimes have a strong preference for a particular food type.

There are various ways to feed a cat. For weight loss there is no secret that the method is lower calorie intake and/or more exercise. The former is probably easier to achieve than the latter. How many calories does a cat need?

The reduction in food intake should not be more than 30% lower than normal (or 70% of normal). It can be dangerous from a health standpoint to try and force a cat to eat a food that he or she does not like. However, feeding a food that he is less keen on, especially at night when you are asleep so don't have to deal with the emotional problems can be successful in my experience. Weight loss should be managed otherwise it can cause fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) which is linked to sustained loss of appetite. Weight loss should be no more than 1.5% of body weight her week. This is to avoid the possibility of a cat developing fatty liver disease which can happen when a cat becomes anorexic.

Bearing in mind that cat caretakers may, and often do, struggle to diet their cat, it is probably sensible to get your veterinarian involved from both the standpoint of advice on a feeding regime and the type of food that is suitable together with the motivation that this may bring to the task at hand.

Apparently as a cat's calorie intake is reduced the cat's calorie requirements are reduced (the basal metabolic rate falls). This would seem to work against the diet being successful. The answer to this problem is to try and encourage your cat to exercise more.

Cats are very persuasive companions. It is difficult to resist their demands for a meal. We need to bite the bullet and to a certain extent be cruel to be kind.

Night time dieting as mentioned above works for me as my cat accepts the fact that I am asleep and won't pester me for food.

Source: Myself and The Welfare of Cats ISBN 978-1-4020-6143-1

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Housing Cats at Shelters

The method of housing cats at shelters has an effect on how adoptable the cat is to potential adopters. It also affects the amount of stress suffered by the cat at the shelter. I'd like to summarise the conclusions of three studies into housing at shelters.

Ottway and Hawkins 2003

Cats that did not know each other and who were housed in communal groups were more stressed than cats that were either (1) housed singly or where (2) cats where housed as a group but the cats were familiar with each other.

Durman 1991

When cats are housed in small groups of 4-7 cats in rooms in a shelter, newly introduced cats were stressed and were aggressive towards other cats. After four days of attempts to escape and vocalisations that showed signs of stress, these signs subsided. However, other signs of stress such as sitting underneath shelving changed more slowly. After two weeks an "equilibrium" was reached. After one year cats were more likely to have formed friendships.

Gourkow 2001

Cats kept alone in small stainless steel cages with food, water, litter tray and bedding with visits and handling by a number of different people where "less likely to be adopted" or adopted later than the other cats. The other cats were handled by one or two people only in the same way each time and were housed:
  1. as single cats in the same stainless steel cage but it had wooden shelving and an area to hide;
  2. in groups of eight cats in a communal cage with hiding places and shelving;
  3. as for 2 but with more furniture.

Overall conclusion (mine): new cats at shelters are probably better off being housed singly or in their original group until acclimatized to the new surroundings and then introduced to other groups if there is a space problem at the shelter. The environment should be "enriched" and provide hiding spaces. Being kept apart initial also allows checks on health and behavior etc.

A Bevy of Black Cats!

I think you'll like this photograph, if you haven't seen it before. It was taken in 1961 at an audition for a suitable black cat for a film staring Vincent Price called, Tales of Terror. Obviously it was a horror film. I believe that this photo is in the public domain and if not I have reproduced it in small scale and claim fair use on the basis that it is educational! Which it is.
Photo by Ralph Crane at Life Magazine

So what is nice about this rare sight? Firstly, all the cats are on leads and they are behaving themselves nicely in a strange place on the street in the company of a great number of other black cats. I don't think I have ever seen so many cats looking pretty calm and organised.

I wonder whether black cats are particularly well behaved. I don't think so. Black cats are more healthy though. It's to do with the underlying reason why they have black fur.

See also black cat pictures.

American Veterinary Workers Against Declawing

The American Veterinary Workers Against Declawing Facebook community is fantastic. It is for American veterinary workers who are working in, or have worked in, the veterinary business. It is brave of people who currently work in the business to publicly fight against declawing. I admire them tremendously.

I particularly like the concept of people inside the business working for a better service for cats. Vets have to admit that the declawing process is not for the benefit of cats. It can't be, can it? So working to stop declawing is working towards a better service for cats.

I would hope that there will a gradual shift - and it will be gradual because declawing is an entrenched problem - towards a more enlightened attitude within the profession through the efforts of this Facebook community.

I find Facebook hard to navigate so I am unable to discover who started the community. Whoever she or he is deserves a big pat on the back and a cuddle! :)

If you have time please visit their Facebook page and click on their like button. The Facebook like button will take over our lives one day!

They have some excellent links to webpage on their Facebook page. One is The Future of the Veterinary Profession by Michael W. Fox, BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS on the website of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. I don't know how this association squares up with or is related to the AVMA. As far as I am aware, Michael Fox is a well known advocate for ethical veterinary behavior. I admire him.

He makes some very good points in his article. One is that he sees vets torn between the calling of a vet - to help animals - and the need to make a good living from working as a vet. In the desire to make money, which we cannot criticise the vet for, he or she drifts into areas that are opposed to his or her calling. Mr Fox says that these conflicting objectives can be reconciled. Of course he is correct. All the vets in Europe manage to resolve the problem so why can't American vets?

I don't think it is pure financial greed that leads American vets to declaw. It is partly a mentality that sees declawing as acceptable: humans can do what they like with animals because we are superior etc. that kind of argument.

Which brings me nicely to another point that Michael Fox makes. The interests of the human should not automatically be considered more important than those of the cat. A true respect for the cat would prevent declawing. I genuinely feel that it is time for the human to move on from what I consider unenlightened and old fashioned views about them and us, animals and humans. We are all together on the planet trying to survive and we are equal in that onerous task.

In declawing a cat a vet has three competing interests and motivators. The person who owns the cat requests or agrees to the operation. That person is seen as the client. If the cat was seen as the client and the person seen as the cat's guardian and not the owner, it would alter the relationship between cat and vet to the point where declawing would become impossible. The first two competing interests are then (1) what is right for the cat (2) what is right for the cat's guardian. These should not be competing because a guardian should have the interests of the cat at heart.

The third interest is that of the vet. He needs to make a living. He can do it just fine without declawing cats. He should be prepared to take the plunge and stop it. He would find new ways to raise revenue and in the long term he would see that he had a better life. He will certainly see that he will have no mental conflict between his calling, his original driving force and what he does now, mutilate cats against the welfare of the cat.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Tiger Foot Size

Tiger foot size: More than 11 centimetres or 4.3 inches is the width of the hind feet of an individual male tiger in Nepal's Royal Chitwan National Park so says Charles McDougall, a scientist working as a Smithsonian Research Associate. A website says that the Sunquists in Wild Cats of the World write that the width of the tiger's front paw varies from between 15 and 17.5 cms (although I could not find this in the book). There has to be considerable variation because Amur (Siberian tigers) are generally larger than Bengal tigers and, of course, individual tigers vary in size.

The image below is approximately to scale - a life sized male tiger paw print - at just under 14 centimetres across - top to bottom in the picture. It is on its side and cropped because it would be far too large for the page if it was presented upright. Female Bengal tiger hind paws in the area he studied were less than 11 cms in width, says Mr McDougall

Tiger Foot Size

Imagine a tiger walking in front of you. I just think it is interesting to get a feel for the actual size of a tiger's foot. Charles McDougall could identify individual adult tigers from pugmarks (foot prints best seen in moist compact sand).

He could do this when the tiger had incurred an injury to the foot. Tiger foot injuries usually affect the forefeet because it is with the forelimbs that tiger fight. When two tigers fought he found that the paw pads of one tiger had become more splayed out. This was particularly so for the right forefoot. Perhaps this tiger was right handed?

Note (tiger foot size) : Inserted photo by Ma Rui. Read more about the tiger.

Monday 21 May 2012

The Spirituality of the Cat

We know that the current Pope (2012 - Pope Benedict XVI) adores cats. This might be because when he was growing up, his parents kept cats. I feel certain that Pope Benedict XVI's parents were very good cat caretakers. The Pope has a gentle character. He is like an academic. We know that smart people like cats. Educated older women are a typical profile. Einstein kept cats (a male called "Tiger") and so did Hemingway (polydactyl Maine Coon type), Dickens and Churchill (he has a fondness for cats). There is a long list of great men who appreciated the cat companion.

It is sad therefore that the Pope under the Vatican rules is forbidden from keeping his cat (any "pet") in his apartment. He must miss Chico, his black and white short haired cat, very much. However, he couldn't turn down the chance of being the Pope for that reason, could he?

Previous Popes have kept companion animals. Leo XII  kept a dog and a cat for instance. I wonder why this rather harsh Vatican rule exists. Cats are common on the streets of Rome and Italy generally. If you eat at a restaurant in Rome you are likely to see a feral cat wander by asking for a bit of what you are eating (I give them it - what else?). In general they are treated well. Italian law protects against animal cruelty and veterinary-led operations such as tail docking and declawing are outlawed in typical European style.

Cat amongst Rome's ruins - Photo Steve James (Flickr)

I think we can say with some confidence that the domestic cat and clergy make a nice partnership. That is certainly borne out by history and the current Pope is no exception. He has a particular affinity towards cats.

It is why I have called this post "The Spirituality of the Cat". The domestic cat does have a kind of spirituality. Their presence is calming. They have some extraordinary skills. They have a naturalness and honesty that we have comprehensively lost. Perhaps the clergy see the spirituality in the domestic cat and are drawn to it.

Stop Drinking Starbucks Frappuccino and Save a Cat

You won't though will you? I guess Starbucks is pretty addictive. Apparently it cost $124.56 USD per year in America if you drink two Frappuccino's per month. On average it costs about the same to spay/neuter, vaccinate and feed a shelter cat per year. Just think of the effect it would have on shelter cats in America. Sure, Starbucks would moan! But who cares...

Only 15% of Americans adopt shelter animals. I guess that is why 4 million out of a total population of 7 million shelter animals are euthanised yearly. If every American adopted a companion animal from a shelter they would save collectively about $2.4 billion and countless cat and dog lives. Maybe there should be a law for one year that everyone has to adopt from a shelter! Go on, think out of the box.

There are 8,800 American breeders of companion animals. There are 70 people inspecting the breeders. I think the cat and dog associations should self regulate and inspect their members. They should know best and it would improve the image of the associations and breeding in general.

How many cats did Mark Twain keep? Not sure but I read 11. Would that make him a hoarder? No, and he loved, respected and appreciated the domestic cat. He made some very quotable sayings about cats.

Americans spend about $50 billion annually on their pets. That is more that on video games, digital music and movies combined. Americans love their companion animals. But more needs to be done to help the animals that are on the fringes or cast out of this enormous financial market.

Source for data: Associated: Pet Care Costs.

Food Selection in Domestic Cats

There is no question that cats have food preferences. Some cats are finickity eaters. For me, one of the most important factors in feeding cats is variety. Cats do become bored with their food if they are fed the same food day in and day out. They will eat it if hungry enough but you will see signs of boredom with a certain food if it is provided monotonously.

It may be a food that he liked but now seems to dislike. A change to something else for a while will rejuvenate his interest in the food that he became bored with. The different food may even be a food that in the past he did not show a great interest in, yet all of sudden he likes it. There is a counter argument though that says that we should not try too hard, too often, to please our cat as it can lead to cat obesity, a modern cat health problem. It is about good cat caretaking ultimately.

There is the perennial question of whether cats will eat dog food or food that is missing vital nutrients. Apparently cats cannot tell through taste if a food presented to them is deficient in nutrients or if it is not a balanced food. However, if a deficient food is provided for a long time a cat will eat less of it or refuse it because he will learn that the taste of the food is connected to the illness that he suffers as a consequence of eating it. This is not an accurate assessment by a cat, obviously, as feeling unwell may be due to a reason unconnected with the food eaten.

We are told that the palatability of food is decided on taste primarily. However, in my experience, the domestic cat will smell food as a initial check on palatability and perhaps to see if it is a type that he has liked before. Cats don't seem to be able to check visually at close range. It is down to smell then taste.

It seems that today, in the modern world (2012), cats can fail to self regulate intake resulting in obesity. This may be due to overfeeding treats. If treats of human cooked food are more palatable than commercially available cat food what does that tell us about the palatability of cat food or the drift to human preferences by the domestic cat? My cat prefers human cooked food, most times not always.

A cat's taste buds are located on the tongue - upper surface and back of tongue - and on the palate. A cat's taste buds can detect the freshness of food. This is based on taste bud receptors that can detect certain chemicals in the tissues of dead animals. It seems that the quantity and therefore strength of taste of these chemicals informs the cat as to how fresh the food is e.g. how long the prey has been dead. Cats don't like carrion (carcasses of dead animals).

Cat's can detect amino acids that contain sulphur. Taurine is in this category and an essential ingredient for a cat. Accordingly, cats are able to gauge palatability based on the taurine content of food (taurine deficiency in cats and taurine for Bengal cats).

Cats don't like sweet foods. Although there is a lot of sugar in dry cat food. It is a hidden ingredient.

As to feral cats, they prefer voles, young rabbits and hares over mice and rats. Mice and are caught not always eaten. Shrews are rarely eaten after being caught. This is put down to the diet of the shew: insects.

Small wild cats make several kills in a 24 hour day. Some travel miles at night in search of food. It is very challenging. The mode of feeding of wild cats and feral cats - small prey, frequent feeding - dictates how we feed our domestic cat. You'll notice that cats eat less and more frequently than humans. This is hard wired from the wild cat ancestor, the African wildcat.

Geriatric cats lose their sense of taste and smell so need a high palatability cat food if they have a weight loss problem. Old cats do lose weight.

Associated: Feeding feral cats.

One Reason to Dislike Politicians

There are many reasons to dislike politicians. In Europe, what about introducing the Eurozone, a concept that was and remains impossible in the long term. There will be some form of break up in due course. The politicians didn't provide any rules for getting out of the Eurozone....

Well, the Euozone crisis is part of the debt crisis and the debt crisis is about mismanagement by politicians and big business who work hand in hand. The average man pays for all the mistakes.

But the politicians are not content to just tax the people a bit more and put us through "austerity".  In Italy they wanted to tax the cats, the dogs and any animal which receives our affection.

The idea to tax companion animals in Italy is a sure sign of desperation, which must mean that things are bad in Italy.

Fortunately the proposal by an faceless politician has been savaged :). Not by a dog but by the sensible public.

The Italians and indeed any country in Europe would do better to spend less rather than tax more if they want to resolve their debt problems. The Eurocrats in Brussels can and should, but won't do the same.

Sunday 20 May 2012

A Note About Aerosols and Cats

It just occurred to me this morning, when I was spraying a dog bite wound on my knee with an antiseptic aerosol spray, that the sound of an aerosol spray in use can frighten cats. My cat, Charlie, showed signs of being frightened by it.

This must be due to the noise it makes, which is little like a cat hiss. We know that cats hiss to mimic a snake as a way of frightening predators or animals that threaten him or her.

It seems that the cat, in recognising that the hissing sound is frightening, are frightened by the sound of the jet coming from the aerosol.

I am reminded of a recently advertised device that stops cats going to places where a person does not want them to go. It makes a sound similar to an aerosol and is probably similar to an aerosol in function.

I think the answer is to not use an aerosol when close to your cat. Although I expect some cats won't mind. However, as cat hissing is an inherited characteristic I would expect most cats to be disturbed by the sound of an aerosol.

Note: Yes, I was bitten by a dog yesterday on the street while I went to the shops to buy a newspaper. Nasty wound and wrecked trousers but I'm alright. I was an entirely unprovoked attack as I walked past the dog, one of three on leads being managed (poorly) by their owner.

Another Private Zoo Disaster Waiting to Happen?

May 2012: I wrote about Joe Exotic's private zoo a while ago (see article). I think he has the largest collection of big cats in America. His real name is Joe Schreibvogel. Mr Exotic is your archetypical American big cat obsessive. I am sure at the beginning he had no intention of ending up with nearly 170 big cats and up to 800 (yes 800) other animals in an area that would normally be quite large at 54 acres but must be considered pitifully cramped when you take into consideration the demands for territory of the large wild cat species and other animals. It just gradually happened in the same way a cat hoarder ends up with hundreds of domestic cats.

Having changed his name to "Exotic" it would appear he is also obsessed with the exotic. In my humble opinion what he has created is very far indeed from anything that is remotely exotic. It is sad, unhealthy and dangerous.

Mr Schreibvogel came to my attention in a television documentary program. He was visited by and interviewed by Louis Theroux an English broadcaster who asks telling questions is a very dry and apparently innocent manner. He is able to elicit honest answers to difficult questions. Even though the television program was about seven months ago (Oct 2011) it is still clear in my memory. It clearly had an impact. It was bound to because Mr Schreibvogel's edifice to self-indulgence is so odd.

During interviewing three episodes come to mind. When challenged by Louis about keeping a tiger is a small cage for a long time, Mr Schreibvogel said that what the tiger does not know he won't miss (i.e. the young tiger had never experienced a natural environment). Incidentally, in the wild tigers commonly travel 15-20 kilometers per day and 16-32 kms per night. Let's say they like space, up to 300 square kilometers of it, rather than a 15 foot square cage. I disagree with Mr Exotic because I believe that the desire for a large territory is hard wired into the big cat and inherited. The point is that Mr Schreibvogel simply finds a way to justify what he does whether it is considered cruel or not. Mr Schreibvogel likes his freedom under the famous American constitution but he refuses to give it to a tiger and in doing so he disrespects the tiger. He says that the tiger will be extinct in the wild in 15 years or so. He should know because what he does contributes to that process.

Mr Schreibvogel likes to breed big cat hybrids. He seems to do this without any concern for best breeding practice and inbreeding or preserving genetic purity. As far as I am aware he breeds generic tigers and sells them for profit. Generic tigers are hybrids. There are no conservation benefits to this process. It is just manufacturing tigers for the American commercial marketplace. Does that sound good or acceptable to you?

Mr Schreibvogel also made it clear that under certain unspecified circumstances he would be prepared to kill all the animals under his control. I presume that he meant that if things went wrong he would kill them and perhaps himself. I got the distinct impression that he meant that. He still grieves for this brother who is buried on his land. That is sad but I feel it still affects him emotionally. Is it a contributing factor that makes him unsuitable to keep such a large private zoo?

That is why I have the title: Another Private Zoo Disaster Waiting to Happen? I am  referring to the horrors of October 2011 at the private zoo near Zanesville, Ohio owned by Terry Thompson. As you might recall, he committed suicide and released all his animals. The police shot 48 of them. They said they had to. Everything about these large private zoos are bad for the animals. They live in cages, and then in this case get shot at the end of that misery.  I don't think that the Terry Thompson incident is a freak one-off event because the circumstances under which the events unfolded remain in place. It could happen again and Mr Schreibvogel could the next person to be in the news.

He is certainly under pressure from the authorities and he must always be under financial pressure. Perhaps the unspecified circumstances under which he kills his animals are gradually arriving. Who knows? A recent CBS news story refers to allegations of animal abuse at his private zoo.  Mr Exotic likes to exercise his constitutional rights. If it is legal he has the right to do it, he declares. Yes, agreed. However, the law is frequently an ass and outmoded. Times change. The law follows. The time of the private big cat zoo is over.

All the world's attention should be on how to save the tiger in the wild and to stop pretending it can be done in captivity. If Mr Exotic did something like that he'd get my respect.

Note: If I was the authority dealing with Mr Exotic and wanted to close him down I'd ensure that the animals were protected before taking action.

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