Showing posts with label safety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label safety. Show all posts

Friday 29 March 2024

Arguments for curbing cats' right to roam and counterarguments

Overview: this is an argument between allowing domestic cats to express their natural desires such as being crepuscular hunters and keeping them much safer indoors, away from road traffic, predators and poisons but unable to behave naturally. 

Which argument wins? Safety versus natural behaviour?

Let’s explore the arguments for curbing domestic cats’ right to roam:

  1. Safety Concerns:

    • Cats who have unrestricted outdoor access are at higher risk of road traffic accidents, injuries, and predation by other animals.
    • Exposure to outdoor hazards such as disease, parasites, and toxins can compromise their well-being .
  2. Wildlife Impact:

    • Free-roaming cats are natural hunters, and their instinct to catch small animals and birds can have a significant impact on local wildlife populations.
    • They contribute to the decline of songbirds and other small mammals, which is a concern for conservation efforts.
  3. Public Health and Disease Transmission:

    • Cats allowed to roam freely can spread diseases to both humans and wildlife. This includes diseases like toxoplasmosis.
    • Their interactions with wildlife can create a pathway for disease transmission.
  4. Cat Overpopulation and Abandonment:

    • The lack of control over outdoor cats has led to an ongoing “cat crisis” in many countries, including the UK.
    • Thousands of lost, abandoned, and unwanted cats contribute to the excess cat population.
    • Charities spend significant resources trying to repatriate them and combat indiscriminate breeding.
  5. Perceived Nuisance:

    • Cats’ natural behaviors, such as scratching, toileting habits, and hunting instincts, can be perceived as a nuisance by some people.
    • Their reputation as pests often leads to negative sentiments toward them.
  6. Ethical Considerations:

    • While some cat owners feel that restricting their cats’ movements is unnatural, there is a need to balance their freedom with responsible ownership.
    • Restricting outdoor access may be necessary to protect both cats and wildlife .

In summary, while cats’ right to roam is legally protected in many places, it’s essential to consider the impact on safety, wildlife, public health, and responsible pet ownership. Finding a balance that ensures cat welfare while minimizing negative consequences is crucial. 🐾

Counterarguments

Let’s explore the arguments for preserving domestic cats’ right to roam:

  1. Legal Status and Freedom:

    • Unlike most other captive animals, domestic cats have the wonderful status under the laws of many countries, including the UK, of the “right to roam.”
    • In the UK, cats do not have to be securely confined and can roam without fear of legal repercussions for their actions.
    • They cannot trespass, so neither the cats nor their owners are liable for any damage, soiling, or nuisance caused by their roaming.
  2. Safety and Well-Being:

    • While indoor cats tend to live longer (often 15+ years), indoor/outdoor cats probably have a lifespan that is a little shorter due to various threats such as road accidents, killed by predators and poisoning by criminals.
    • Allowing cats to roam freely satisfies their natural instincts and contributes to their overall well-being.
  3. Less Likely to Cause Harm:

    • The law recognizes that cats are less likely to cause injury to people or damage property compared to some other animals e.g. dogs. 
    • This distinction justifies their right to roam without strict confinement.
  4. Enhancing Reputation and Well-Being:

    • Some cat owners feel that restricting their cats’ movements is unnatural. There is a need to let the domestic cat express its hunting desires. These are at the core of feline behaviour.
    • However, they are generally in favour of restricting their right to reproduce, which can help manage the cat population.
  5. Balancing Freedom and Responsibility:

    • While preserving cats’ freedom is essential, responsible ownership involves finding a balance.
    • Encouraging neutering, vaccination, and responsible breeding practices can address the drawbacks associated with unrestricted roaming.

In summary, the debate around cats’ right to roam involves weighing their natural instincts, safety, and impact on the environment. Finding a middle ground that protects both cats and their surroundings is crucial. 🐾

Sources: various including: The Conversation, Psyhology Today and Cats.org.uk.

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P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Do cats have to be in a carrier in the car?

Your cat must be in a seatbelt harness or carrier when travelling in a car in the UK. In the USA each state has their own laws on restraining pets in the car but I suspect that all the states have similar laws.

I think the best way to restrain your cat inside a travelling vehicle for longish distances is to put them in a seatbelt harness. This is a harness that connects to the seatbelt as you might imagine! The picture shows how it works. For trips to the vet, the carrier is obviously more suitable.

Your cat must be in a seatbelt harness or carrier when travelling in a car in the UK!
Picture: Zooplus. It costs £8.

The reason why cats and dogs need to be restrained? Because in the UK there is a booklet called the Highway Code which provides all drivers with the rules of the road. It's quite a lengthy booklet and when a new driver takes their driving test in the UK they are tested on the Highway Code. If they fail the paperwork part of the driving test you failed the test.

And if you don't restrain your cat in your car when travelling the police can stop you (do they ever!?) And you could end up with a £5,000 fine in the worst case scenario which would be highly unlikely. In fact I think it would be infinitesimally unlikely but technically possible.

Rule 57


The rule which dictates that you must restrain your darling cat is rule 57 of the above-mentioned Highway Code. Or you might keep your cat in a carrier throughout the journey. There are other pet containers to restrain them when travelling in a car.

I mention that the best way to restrain a cat is through a seatbelt harness but the more typical way to do it would be to leave them in a carrier but the issue for me is that on a long journey you don't want to keep your cat in a carrier. The seatbelt harness would be better.

Or you might put them in the back behind a headrest cage. This is a mesh which attaches to the headrest on the back seat and keeps the dog or cat in the luggage area of the car. But I think people like to have their cat in the passenger compartment so they can talk to them and be involved with them (safely!).

Ireland


When I took my cats to Ireland about 25 years ago with my then wife I didn't give one single thought to rule 57 of the Highway Code. So my two cats were free to move around the car and my little lady cat spent most of the time sitting on a dashboard looking out the front window.

And we smuggled them on to an overnight ferry and then we hired a car in Ireland and drove to my mother-in-law on the west coast. Once again the cats were free to wander around the cabin. Although I don't know whether they have a Highway Code in Ireland. Not that it would have made any difference because as mentioned I totally ignored the Highway Code at that time.

Projectile


But if you want to abide by the law and be a good driver and a good cat caregiver you should restrain your cat. And there's a genuinely good reason for it because if you have an accident your cat or dog might become a missile thrown forwards. Both you and your cat might be harmed, possibly badly. So Rule 57 is common sense.

Peeing


Postscript: I have got to make one last point which is that sometimes cats are very nervous in a vehicle and being nervous they might urinate and if they urinate on your passenger seat and it sinks into the foam you are not going to get it out. Therefore I would strongly suggest that you put down some sort of absorbent or protective material on the seat where your cat is travelling. It will pay dividends.

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P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

The reason why domestic cats curl up in a ball when sleeping

Domestic cats don't always do it but they often curl up into a ball when sleeping. There are two basic reasons why they do this.

Safety: when they curl up into a ball, if they are a tabby cat - and the tabby cat coat is the original camouflaged coat - they look like a snake. Snakes are known within the animal kingdom to be dangerous. So curling up into a ball protects the cat. Also it provides good camouflage against their surroundings.

Let's remember that all domestic cats back in the day, thousand years ago, were tabby cats. So curling up to look like a snake was effective in those days and that trait has carried through to today even though many domestic cat are not tabby cats.


Heat retention: there are two elements to this. When a cat curled up into a ball the surface area of the cat compared to their volume becomes more favourable in terms of retaining heat. This is based on the principle that bigger animals can retain heat better than smaller animals because the surface area of bigger animals compared to their body mass or volume is lower than for small animals and therefore there is less opportunity for heat to be lost into the atmosphere. This is a well known physical property.

And secondly, when the cat is curled up two surfaces are pressed together and therefore rather than body heat being lost into the atmosphere the heat passes from one surface to the other and warms up the cat.


Conservation of energy: cats sleep for long periods. Adopting a curled up position is helpful in the conservation of energy through minimising muscle usage.

Instinctive behaviour: this is all instinctive behaviour from their wild ancestors.

Spread out: Sometimes they spread out and this will normally happen when the ambient temperature is high and they want to cool off. Alternatively, sometimes when they are on their human caregiver's lap they might spread out because it means the heat from the person's lap has more opportunity to pass upwards into the cat. Once again, it's a way of maximising warmth.

Inherited: This desire to be warm is inherited from the domestic cat's wild cat ancestor which lived and still lives in North Africa and Asia. But in North Africa the temperature is high and the domestic cat has retained the need to live in a high temperature environment. And where they can't they have evolved very dense longhaired coats such as for the Siberian cat. Two other examples are the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Maine Coon to a lesser extent because these coast of America is not quite as cold as Siberia!


In conclusion, the reason why domestic cat curl up into a ball when sleeping is to retain heat and to maintain security.

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P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Keeping cats indoors is a rare solution where everybody wins including the cat. Is this correct?

Full-time indoors
Full-time indoors. Image: MikeB (Canva).

In The Guardian today there is an article written by Calla Wahlquist which says that keeping cats indoors is a solution where everybody wins. By "everybody" I presume she means people and cats. She is goes on to state that "cats should be kept indoors for the sake of cats".

For full-time indoor cats their behaviour is neutered as is their anatomy. It is the modern way to turn cats into fluffy plush feline toys. - MikeB

How does she know? How does she know what is good for cats? Is she mind reading domestic cats? No, she's not. All she is doing is stating that when cats are kept indoors, they are protected and therefore safer. But that might not be the same thing as being what's good for cats. Domestic cats might like to take risks. They might not mind being injured or hurt or killed. Perhaps their normal lifestyle is to take risks? Perhaps they are happier when they take risks.

Perhaps they need to be predators outside unsupervised. Perhaps being happy and living a life which is shorter is better than being unhappy and living a life which is longer. A lot of people think that statement is true.

And there is a big hole in her argument. People do keep cats indoors a lot nowadays to protect wildlife and keep their cat safe but they do not enrich the interior of their homes to ensure that their full-time indoor cats are kept entertained; kept happy. They just close the doors on them and confine them to what is a list zoo-like but entirely human environment. Somewhat sterile. Perhaps very sterile.

And that's why you often see people saying that their cat sleeps all day. Absolutely! That's all he or she can do. There is nothing else to do but to sleep/snooze because the poor thing is confined to the indoors all the time and the owner is not entertaining them. He or she is not playing with them. There is no way to express their character. The natural drives are neutered as are they. There is no cat companion to play with. Is that better for the cat?

The reason why people keep cats indoors all the time is for their peace of mind. That is the primary purpose. The secondary purpose is to keep wildlife safe but you will find in studies that the vast majority of people don't really care about keeping wildlife safe. They want to keep their cats safe because they don't want to be anxious about their cat being hurt outside. Or lost or stolen.

The decision to keep a cat indoors full-time is human-centric. It is about human emotions primarily. And in Australia where there is a trend towards keeping cats indoors full-time or curfews on keeping cats indoors at night, this changing human behaviour is a directive from the authorities. It is the conservationists of Australia who are telling the authorities to do all they can to stop domestic cat preying on native mammals and marsupials, especially the small ones. 

And so, the authorities dictate to people to keep the cats indoors. If it wasn't for that directive, I don't think they would do it. Unless of course they've being fully indoctrinated about protecting wildlife which actually might be the case.

I can't even be bothered to read Calla's article because I know what it states before I read it. It's just talking about protecting wildlife and then arguing back from there to say that it's better for cats anyway to keep them indoors. Frankly, it isn't. 

If we really wanted to make the domestic cat's life better, we would allow them to go outside perhaps into a large enclosure which encompasses the entire backyard full of games for the cat to play and trees to climb. No one will do that because it's too expensive. They will just close the front and back door and call the job done. I get it. I understand what's going on but Calla is wrong when she confidently says that everybody wins.

When you keep cats indoors full-time the cat does not win. They lose. They lose their life. They lose a chance to express that predatory drive. To hunt, to chase the feel alive. Their behaviour is neutered as well as their anatomy.

Sunday 18 June 2023

Is cat litter hazardous to toddlers?

Some people ask whether it is safe to put a cat litter tray in a child's bedroom? Other people might ask whether it is safe for a child to play around with cat litter. They might do that if they are curious. And sometimes toddlers might put cat litter in their mouth. Would that harm the child?

Is cat litter safe with toddlers around?
Image: MikeB

Chemically-speaking, cat litter is pretty inert and therefore I think you will find the general consensus is that cat litter is not toxic for children in general terms.

Tidy Cats

But there may well be problems. Although litter is not poisonous as such, some litter such as Tidy Cats Lightweight is extremely dusty. I have written about it and it is a popular page because a lot of people report catastrophic cat health problems after using this litter.

As it is so dusty it could harm a child if they are rummaging around in it, kicking up the dust. The dust particles would get in the eyes, mouth and ears. My advice then is to keep children away from this particular brand of litter.

All clumping litter is dusty to a certain extent which should be noted. It is big weakness in the efficacy and safety of this product.

Absorbent

And clumping cat litter may be dangerous for a child because it is highly absorbent. That is the reason why the material has been selected to be cat litter. It is sodium bentonite. It is mined from clay mines.

Is bentonite cat litter safe?

If a child wanted to eat a bit of cat litter it might do some damage because it would potentially expand in the throat or stomach having absorbed the liquid in those areas of the child's anatomy, possibly causing a blockage.

Toxoplasmosis

We can't ignore the fact that there is likely to be domestic cat faeces and urine in a cat litter tray. It would be highly unwise for a child to dive into a recently used cat litter tray. Although faeces per se are not particularly toxic, if the domestic cat concerned carried Toxoplasma gondii oocysts they may be in their faeces. If they were ingested by a child, he or she would contract toxoplasmosis.

A lot of people in many parts of the world have contracted toxoplasmosis and it is usually asymptomatic. But the domestic cat is often vilified for being the primary vector of this normally benign disease which can rarely be quite serious and cause blindness.

The important thing to note by the way about toxoplasmosis and its transmission from cats with an active toxoplasmosis infection is that they are only capable of passing it on for 7 to 10 days of their entire life when they are suffering from an acute infection. So please don't become overly nervous about it.

There's lots of talk about pregnant mothers getting rid of the domestic cat for this reason. My advice is don't get rid of the cat but take sensible precautions such as using gloves when cleaning the litter or ask somebody else to do it for you.

Cat owners can help themselves with respect to this disease by keeping their cat from roaming and hunting. That's because they get the disease from the prey animals that they kill. Faeces from the litter box should be disposed of carefully to avoid other people coming into contact with it. Litter boxes should be cleaned and disinfected often using boiling water and diluted bleach solution. 

Although it is unwise to overdo this because the litter box then loses its natural feline fragrance which is an attractant to a domestic cat. It makes them want to use that litter box again and again.

Please note that the biggest risk by a wide margin for contracting toxoplasmosis is not domestic cat faeces but eating raw and/or undercooked meat particularly lamb or pork.

Conclusion

The bottom line about kids being around cat litter trays is that it is unwise not because cat litter is chemically toxic because there may be some physical negative consequences as described and a single disease, toxoplasmosis, which is well-discussed on the internet.

One cat needs 4 covered beds in different places as they like to rotate them

This is a really quick note. I was prompted to write it because I was looking for my cat this morning. He had been out and active all night. This is usual for him. He goes to bed at about 11 AM and stays there until the mid or late afternoon. And he likes to rotate the places where he sleeps, which is why it can be tricky to find him sometimes. 

My experience tells me that four different hiding places that are covered and in different locations around the home is about ideal. What are your ideals?

And he particularly likes places in which to sleep that are covered. In fact, he almost insists upon it. The reason is obvious: he feels more secure. Even better for him is when there are four walls and a roof with an entry point in one of the walls as you can see in the photograph.

Domestic cat's sleeping place is covered and enclosed for a sense of security
Domestic cat's sleeping place is covered and enclosed for a sense of security. Image: MikeB

Note about the picture above. You see that well-worn scratching post? That's good as it is infused with his scent due to long usage which will encourage him to continue to use it and avoid the couch or armchair!

It's all about feeling secure and secondly, it's all about having options for a domestic cat to choose from because they like variation. They like variety. They can get bored like people. And they are particularly prone to boredom when they are cosseted and provided for all their lives as they are when living in good homes. 

They can often lack challenges. Domestic cats actually need challenges. They need them to be mentally stimulated.

Domestic cat's sleeping place is covered and enclosed for a sense of security
Domestic cat's sleeping place is covered and enclosed for a sense of security. This is an expensive one at £200! Too expensive but pretty. Image: MikeB

And it's ideal if those little hiding places are off the ground and it doesn't matter if they are high off the ground. It might even be better for some cats. Although of course for older cats they need to be easy to get into because they might suffer from arthritis which makes it very difficult due to pain to climb and jump.

That is the point of the article. Try and provide a variety of little protective hiding places around the home where your cat can sleep. And there might be one or two outside the home if you live in a part of the world where the climate is very amenable for a cat who wants to sleep outside at night. 

Sometimes it's cooler for a cat to sleep outside at night and therefore a similar-type enclosed "bedroom" could be constructed outside as well.

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