Sunday 30 March 2014

Domestic Violence Shelters That Take In Companion Animals

There is a need for domestic violence shelters, usually for women, that allow the woman to bring with her, her cat or dog companion. It would seem that a frequently encountered problem for a woman fleeing domestic violence at home is leaving her cat companion behind because the domestic violence shelter that she is going to for sanctuary does not accept companion animals.

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In Britain, there are an estimated 570,000 telephone calls to the police each year from women and occasionally men who are suffering domestic violence. You could probably more than double that figure to well over 1 million because according to the British Crime Survey only 40.2% of actual domestic violence crime is reported to the police.

I'm sure the position is very similar in North America and indeed other countries were it may be worse, particularly those countries where the woman is subservient to the man for various reasons including religious reasons.

Let's say therefore, in the round, that there's lots of domestic violence and most of it is directed at women. Women often look after domestic cats. You can see the dilemma. In New York, USA  at one time there were 50 domestic violence shelters but none would accept a pet.

Now, there are a growing number of pet friendly shelters in various sorts of buildings. There were 4 in 2008 and in 2014 there are 73 such shelters.

One of the shelters is run by the Urban Resource Institute. The shelter that they manage also provides veterinary and other help. This is all very welcome. I do not know whether Great Britain has similar facilities that are easy to locate. Cats Protection provide a specialist service.

Abused Persian cat
It is well-known that domestic violence against the partner often entails violence against the family's companion animal. Sometimes the person who is perpetrating the violence targets the companion animal as a means of emotionally hurting his partner.

Apparently, in the USA, studies have found that about 70% of domestic violence survivors say that the perpetrators of domestic violence also threatened, killed or injured their pets. It is worth noting, also, that the person who suffered the violence delayed getting out of the home because they were worried about what would happen to their pet.

Citing one example, Pamela Isaac says that her boyfriend who was a drug user in the late 1990s not only beat her but used to dangle her cat out of the window to force her into obeying him. This particular relationship ended up with the man setting fire to their apartment with her cat inside. On this occasion the cat was not saved and died.

Probably, the most important “possession" of a woman escaping domestic violence would be her cat. I hope so anyway and therefore it would seem essential that there is somewhere where they can both go to simultaneously.

There would appear to still be a need for more pet friendly domestic violence shelters across United States and I would feel very confident in saying that there is probably a similar need in the UK.


Friday 28 March 2014

People Getting TB from Their Cats

The world's first 2 cases of people getting tuberculosis (TB) from their domestic cats have just been recorded in Berks, UK. This is a transmission of bovine TB to a person from their cat who possibly was bitten by a badger or a rat that was infected. This is a bacterial infection. So the way a cat could transmit TB to her human companion would be that the bacteria in the cat is absorbed into the person through a cut on the person.

It seems that the cat is an intermediary. Clearly the cat would have to be an outdoor/indoor cat. As it happens, a lot of cats in the UK are indoor/outdoor cats. However, it will be a very rare incident for a cat to inflect his caretaker with TB. It has been known for some time that bovine TB is transmissible from animal to human and from animal species to different animal species. This is called a zoonotic disease.

However, an actual case, as far as I'm aware, has never been recorded until now. Apparently, a veterinarian noticed a cluster of cats who had been diagnosed with TB which made him ask some questions and referred the matter to a higher authority whereupon the people connected with the infected cats were screened for TB. Two people were found to have TB and 2 more are suspected of contracting TB. Apparently, one cat is connected to 3 of these people.

I do not believe that this is a big news story in reality. It is the kind of story that the newspapers like to publicise. It is and will be all over the online press the next few days and it has already been on UK television. But in reality, it doesn't change anything on the ground between cat and human caretaker. I suspect nothing will happen. People and cat will carry on as before. This is because the chances of catching TB from your cat are so rare that it can be ignored in my opinion. I will certainly ignore it. That said I am living in London, there are very few badgers around here and my cat hardly goes out! However there are rats in London and rats can also transmit the disease to the domestic cat.

The problem, then, is not whether a person becomes infected with TB because of their cat but the possible wider consequences. The 1st is that the UK is currently going through a badger cull. The intention is to reduce the numbers of cattle contracting TB from badgers. The farmers want this. Animal-rights people and people who like animals do not want to see badgers killed in their thousands just for the possibility that it may reduce TB in a farmer's cattle. In any event, vaccinating badgers is quite possibly a far better way of managing TB in badgers.

It is probably almost certain that the badger culls will be extended because of this recent case of 2 people being infected. That would upset me personally.

Secondly, there are many people who dislike cats and actually hate cats and they will no doubt use this story as ammunition to attack the cat, to say how useless the domestic cat is and how the domestic cat spreads disease etc etc. They will most likely try and kill more cats than usual. Some of these cat haters like to shoot or poison them with mothballs or antifreeze and so on. It is quite disgusting and criminal.

The problem, therefore, for me is that there is always a need to raise the profile of the cat, to make the cat more attractive to everyone for the sake of the cat's welfare. If everyone liked the domestic cat and the stray cat they would respect the animal more and treat the animal better.

It has just occurred to me, that there may be a bit of a conspiracy going on here. In England there is a huge debate about whether the culling of badgers is a good thing and whether it will work. I'm being mischievous but I wonder if somebody dreamt up the idea that if it could be shown that a person was infected by their cat with the TB bacteria and the cat was similarly infected by a badger it would strengthen the case for the culling of badgers in large numbers because not only would cattle be at risk but people also. In the world of politics and big business anything is possible and I wouldn't put it past them to dream up such a devious plan.

It is worth mentioning, that these days TB can be treated with antibiotics. It is a long course of treatment but by and large effective although apparently some strains of the infection are resistant. I'm not sure about the science of this but some types of bacteria become resistant to antibiotics if they are overused.

[This post was dictated by Dragon Dictate and sent to this blog by e-mail using Blogger's e-mail publication process. There may be some typos as a consequence for which I will apologise in advance!]

What Does a Cat Signal with Its Ears?

A cat's ears are expressive because they are very mobile. They are mobile because there are many muscles to control the earflap. A cat's ears can change direction so the ears can pick up sound from different sources and they can also be placed into different postures. Each posture is a reflection of the emotional state of the cat.

There are 5 basic ear signals which are related to the following moods: relaxed, agitated, defensive, alert and aggressive.


When a cat is relaxed the cat's ears point forward. They also point slightly outward. The cat quietly listens and quickly picks up interesting sounds over a large frequency range. A cat's hearing range is wider than ours and can pick up much higher frequencies.


When a cat picks up an interesting sound, the position of the ears indicate an alert mode. The cat stares at the point of interest and the ears become fully erect. The ears rotate slightly so that they point directly forwards. As long as the cat looks towards the interesting sound the ears remain pricked up. If while the cat is focused on this particular sound, another sound is emitted somewhere else one of the cat's ears will turn and face that sound. Only the ear points towards the new sound as the cat remains looking at the original interesting sound. Sometimes a cat will listen behind him by swiveling his ears to the rear (actually half to the rear) while looking ahead. This is commonplace in fact.


An agitated cat will be suffering from frustration, apprehension and might be in a state of emotional conflict.  The cat's ears will demonstrate a nervous twitch. A particular wild cats species called the caracal has the longest ear tufts of all the cats and the tufts is black. These tufts will move more than the ear itself and are used as a means of communication or to provide signals to other cats. The Maine Coon has, for a domestic cat, the longest tufts of hair at the end of its ears of all the domestic cats.

Another purebred cat that has more than the usual amount of visibility in respect of its ear tufts, is the Abyssinian.

Ear damaged in fight


A defensive cat displays flattened ears. The cat's ears are pressed tightly against the head. This protects the ears if a fight starts. There are many photographs on the Internet of stray and feral cats with torn ears from fights so you can see why a cat has developed a method to minimise damage to them.

When viewed from the side, the flattened and ears are almost invisible and the head has a more rounded profile. The well-known cat breed the Scottish Fold has ears that are permanently folded down against its head which gives the appearance that the cat is permanently in a defensive mode.


An aggressive cat has a special ear posture. The cat's ears are rotated but not fully flattened. This posture allows the back of the earflaps to be visible to the opposite cat. This is a position which indicates to the opposite cat that the cat is ready for action and trouble. It is a preliminary behaviour and a signal that the cat is ready to fight. The signal can be made more pronounced and obvious in the species of wild cats because on the back of the earflaps they often have white or light coloured fur in the shape of a filled circle or similar shape. This makes the rotated ear even more visible than usual.

The position of the cat's ear under these circumstances is a warning to the opposite cat. The ears are not signalling that the cat is defensive. The cat is signalling that its ears are ready to be flattened into a defensive position in preparation for a fight; hence that this position is a signal that the fight will imminently start.

You will see the light coloured hair referred to above on the back of the ear flaps of wild cat hybrid domestic cats because their wild cat parents have those spots. The ear spots are called “ocelli". In the wildcat hybrid the spots are not as bright as they are on his or her wildcat parent's ears.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Why Does a Tomcat Spray Urine On the Garden Wall?

Tomcats (this word is usually used to describe a male cat that has not been castrated) mark their territory by squirting a jet of urine backwards onto vertical objects within their environment.

They aim their urine at tree stumps, fence posts, bushes and walls which are landmark features within that territories. Sometimes these features are at the borders of their territory and sometimes they might be at a crossroads but they would usually be in some sort of prominent area and possibly on a path or track that is used by the tomcat and other cats in the area.

They are particularly keen on places where they have sprayed before and where other cats have sprayed before so that they can add a fresh dose of urine to freshen the smell.

We all know that cat urine is very strong smelling and very hard to remove. It is interesting that although cat urine is very strong smelling to a human, another way that a cat marks his territory is by rubbing against objects to leave his scent on the object. We cannot smell this odour.

The odour of a cat's urine fades gradually and the degree of fading is indicative of when it was deposited. This provides a message to a cat who sniffs it telling him or her about the movements of the cat who deposited the urine.

In short, deposited urine on vertical surfaces provides information to cats about what is going on. Apparently, the smell also carries information about the emotional state of the sprayer and the individual's identity so there is some variation in the smell between cats. A sprayer in effect leaves a calling card and leaves a message to other cats who pass by.

It makes no difference to the act of spraying whether a cat wants to urinate or not. Urination and spraying are quite separate behaviours. You will even see cats that have no urine still going through the motions of spraying and marking territory even though no urine is actually involved.

Neutering both male and female cats reduces the incidence of spraying but may not eliminate it. Personally, my cats have never sprayed. The other day, I saw a Siamese cat outside my flat spraying  onto a bush next to a flowerbed. It is the area where the Siamese cat likes to frequent and to urinate and defecate. Clearly, another cat had visited the area and the Siamese cat was just topping up the marker to make sure that her message was loud and clear.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

A Crime? Failing to Take Vet's Advice On Euthanising Your Cat

A woman in the UK was prosecuted for declining to take the advice of a veterinarian who had advised her to euthanise her cat, Ziggy, who was in a poor state because of old age. This was a decision about when to euthanise a cat at the end of his life. This ultimately is a decision for the cat's caretaker on the advice of a vet but the buck stops at the cat owner (the cat's caretaker).

A very old cat soon to be euthanised
What is shocking about this case is that the RSPCA decided to prosecute this woman simply because she had a different idea about when to euthanise her elderly cat, Ziggy. The woman's name is Ms Julie Nadian. The veterinarian who advised her to put down her cat worked for the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals.

Although the prosecution was stopped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) the lady had all her cats taken from her and they have since been in RSPCA care. She continues to be prosecuted for failing to provide a suitable environment for her pets.

However, the big issue really is that she was prosecuted because she failed to agree to euthanise a very old cat at the time that her veterinarian deemed to be correct. The prosecution was clearly incorrect because it is a personal decision of the cat's owner and it is an emotional decision.

However, it does highlight this very tricky decision because if it is delayed it can cause unnecessary suffering and when you do that to a companion animal, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 you are committing a crime.

The prosecution was misconceived as it happens and the case highlights the overzealous approach of the RSPCA to prosecute people perhaps as a way to publicise its services and to try and take proactive steps to prevent people from mistreating their companion animals by frightening them into believing that they could be prosecuted over day-to-day decisions.

Nobody really knows when it is right to put down a pet due to very old age. A veterinarian will provide a cold, objective and scientific assessment while the cat's owner will also be as objective as possible but his or her decision must be affected by her emotional connection with her companion animal which should and indeed must be in the equation when she makes a decision.

It is also almost impossible even for veterinarian to judge exactly how much discomfort or pain a cat is suffering in old age and if he thinks the cat is suffering he can prescribe medication to ease it. That I argue would have been a better decision.

My conclusion is that no one should ever be prosecuted for making an incorrect decision about when to euthanise her cat due to very advanced old age.

Update:  Having received a lot of detail from Julie, I was able to compose another article, which can be seen here. I'm not sure whether Ziggy is in fact an old cat. That does not matter because the basic principles that I discuss here still apply.

Kansas Animal Shelters Looking to Place Cats In Businesses

This is an imaginative new program by the Great Plains SPCA to place shelter cats into businesses such as The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence KS. There are several things that I like about this program.

It is imaginative. It seeks new ways to save the lives of shelter cats. It is time to do this sort of thing: to think out of the box. Also,  cats placed in businesses become working cats, really, and I like it when cats become really useful. It creates a pleasant balance between the domestic cat and the person and I think this is a healthy balance because in almost all cases the domestic cat is cared for by a cat guardian. Perhaps cats like to be useful.

Another benefit of this program is that, provided the business is enlightened enough, they discover that having a cat around improves work productivity and if the business is a shop or store it improves the ambience in the outlet and customers generally welcome it.

The presence of a domestic cat totally changes the feel of a place. It makes a place calm and gives it a soul. That might be a philosophical exaggeration but I think people will understand what I am getting at. One thing for sure is that the presence of a domestic cat makes people feel better.

So we can save the lives of cats and improve the lives of people under this program. This has to be a good thing.

Obviously there are things to think about and concerns about how to make it work. Some people are allergic to cats and some people don't like cats. And the cat requires maintenance. There has to be somebody on hand to look after the cat and there has to be teamwork within the business to ensure that a cat is content, happy and well looked after in his workplace. There is, therefore, some organisation to do but like all benefits to a business there has to be some input and work to achieve those benefits and this is a case in point.

The sort of businesses that particularly suit the presence of a domestic cat are bookshops and coffee shops (the cat cafe immediately comes to mind, of course). But there are also workplaces, offices, where a cat can make employees more productive. Certainly businesses that are involved with the Internet and writing code would suit the presence of a cat, in my opinion. These are semi-unstructured workplaces. They are modern thinking workplaces and therefore should be open to the possibility of having a domestic cat joining them.

I really hope that this program does well and I would like to see lots of shelter cats, some of which will be destined for euthanasia, finding their way into local businesses. It is worth remembering, I think, that this program probably suits adult cats more than young cats because adult cats are more stable and experienced therefore more able to cope with the change of environment.

Thursday 20 March 2014

Feral Cats Are Part of the Ecosystem

Yes, we need to remind ourselves that feral cats are part of the ecosystem. They are integrated into the wildlife. They prey on certain wildlife and certain wildlife preys on them and if that is disturbed there may be unforeseen consequences down the food chain. The feral cat primarily feeds on rodents such as mice and rats. It is a myth that feral cats prey on birds in large numbers. Some people want to get rid of the feral cat completely. I don't think they have thought through the consequences of that objective. What would happen to the rat population?

Some people like to shoot feral cats and these people would like to see all feral cats eradicated. But we know that as feral cats are part of the ecosystem and they prey on rats they cannot be eradicated without massive unforeseen and possibly disastrous consequences. In which case they should not shoot feral cats at all because they shoot them with intention of the long-term objective of eradicating them which, as I just stated, is impossible and unwise.

An example of the unwise nature of trying to eradicate an animal that is considered a pest or a nuisance is the long-term attempt to eradicate the dingo in Australia. If Australians do not wish to eradicate the dingo then they at least they wish to hunt it in large numbers to reduce the population size.

The 70 year hunt of the dingo in Australia going forward will damage native wildlife species and in some cases endangered species. This is the conclusion of a study by the New South Wales University published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society.

The dingo preys on animals such as kangaroos, foxes and possums and these animals prey on other animals such as native rodents. If you kill the dingo there are more animals that can prey on rodents therefore the rodent population falls. However there are other animals such as bandicoots that are preyed upon by these animals. As can be seen in trying to exterminate the dingo there is a knock-on effect which can lead unforeseen and detrimental consequences.

The feral cat preys on rodents as mentioned. If you exterminate the feral cat in Australia, logically that should lead to a sharp increase in the population numbers of bush and swamp rats. Rats can kill native wild life.

Another interesting aspect of the attempt to exterminate animals that are perceived as pests is that you end up with conflicting consequences. Exterminating the dingo results of a fall in the rat population, it seems, while exterminating the feral cat results in a rise in the population numbers of rats. If the authorities wish to exterminate both feral cats and dingos in Australia the consequences will conflict and surely that indicates that there has been a lack of foresight as to the consequences.

In my opinion, it is foolhardy to mess with an ecosystem. If Australians wish to conserve native wildlife than they could achieve much more and in a far more humane manner if they analysed more accurately the impact that they, themselves have on native wildlife species including habitat destruction and take steps to remedy that.

The human is the greatest danger to native wild species in Australia or anywhere else. People should stop passing the buck to animals. It only delays what has to be done. The modern human has a habit of evading responsibility for his actions.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Why does a cat sleep so much?

The domestic cat sleeps no longer than a teenage person, in my opinion. In other words, the domestic cat sleeps for a total of about 8 hours daily, perhaps a little more and the rest of the time the cat is snoozing and resting. You only have to look at the cat's ears while they are “sleeping" to realise that they are not actually sleeping. The slightest noise or disturbance and the ears of a cat prick up immediately and the cat awakens almost instantly. No one can tell me that a cat is genuinely asleep under those circumstances.

F1 Savannah cats snoozing. Photo copyright A1 Savannahs

I believe that there is a lot of incorrect information on the Internet with one author copying from another ad infinitum and eventually creating fact out of fiction.

As far as I'm aware, there has only been one definitive assessment as to how long a cat sleeps and that was with respect to the lion and the lion slept for about 9 hours daily on average. There is a lot of discussion on the Internet about how long the lion sleeps, as well, and that discussion is misleading because you will see times as long as 19 hours and people claiming that the lion sleeps the longest of all the world's cats. I don't believe it. It is more or less Internet chatter.

The conventional viewpoint is that the domestic cat sleeps for around 14 or 15 hours per day. As I mentioned, the domestic cat will only sleep a total of about 8 hours per day and this is made up of small sessions of sleep. It is not continuous as is the case for people.

Some domestic cats, particularly full-time indoor cats, will spend a lot more than 15 hours a day apparently sleeping when in fact they are simply killing time by resting because often there is little to do and the owner of the cat is probably too busy and preoccupied with other things to provide entertainment and stimulation.

I have written a page about this topic which expands on what I have written here.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Why does my cat bury his faeces?

When a cat buries her faeces it is not because the cat is being tidy and clean etc. but because she wishes to make sure that the smell of her faeces is not recognised. Cats nearly always use urine as a way to mark territory but sometimes cats use feces to do the same job.

A cat lives in the human world: it is a world of giants and although we look after our cats we are very large compared to them and we should recognise that. Although we can be very gentle towards our cats, from their perspective we are dominant and they are subservient and when cat is subservient he or she will display subservient behaviour, an example of which is to bury her feces.

You will find that dominant males in feral cat colonies do not bury their faeces because they want to send out a signal that they are the boss and that this is their territory.

Accordingly, when a cat buries her faeces she is doing it because she feels subservient and is playing out a subservient role to us, the caretaker.

Sometimes when a cat uses a litter tray in the home she may not bury her faeces. I would take this as an indication that she does not feel subservient to you and is relaxed, which I would take as a compliment. It would indicate that the person who looks after her cat is a 1st class cat caretaker because one of the 1st objectives of a cat caretaker is to make the cat's environment stress free, friendly, and rich in stimulants. Another less praiseworthy reason for not burying feces in the litter tray is because of practical difficulties. Perhaps the tray is too small, for example.

Why does my cat rub my leg?

Why does my cat rub my leg? This was a very common question about cat behaviour. People may still ask the question and the answer is quite straightforward, so I will keep it short.

Cats also rub against objects to leave scent to make
the place more friendly. Photo by Drab Makyo

When a cat rubs against our legs she transfers some of her scent that is on her to us and some of our scent is transferred to her. This is called “sent exchange". So why do cats do it? Well, cats depend upon their sense of smell far more than we do. If the place smells friendly it is friendly. For us, if the place looks friendly, it is friendly, or it usually is and we use our eyes to ascertain that, whereas the cat uses her nose. Perhaps the cat uses her nose because it is more sensitive than her eyes. The domestic cat's nose is far more sensitive than ours but the domestic cat's eyesight is less good than ours.

The cat deposits her scent on us to make the environment in which she lives more friendly. Our sent on her is a merging of body odour which is an act of friendship, which once again makes the place where she lives more friendly. Perhaps, sent exchange is is analogous to a kiss between human beings as that too is an exchange and a merger.

In short, therefore, the cat rubs against our legs to make the place where she lives more friendly and the relationship between us and her also more friendly. It is often called an act of friendship but is a little bit more than that, in fact.

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