Friday 11 June 2010

Laser declawing is as bad as the knife

This is a photomontage created by Ruth who is a passionate anti-declaw campaigner. I admire her greatly for her consistency and perseverance.
The point that she is making is that although vets say laser declawing usually causes less pain, it still causes pain and in any event it is still unnecessary mutilation of the cat.

declawing by any method is cruel

Vets in the USA should be spending their time educating cat keepers not chasing the almighty dollar with new methods and gimmicks to deceive the public into thinking that declawing is acceptable and reasonable.

Traditional, Classic and Modern Siamese

I think this is quite a nice picture for showing the three types of Siamese cats. The original Siamese cat shape is the top one. The is the Traditional Siamese and it has the nickname, “Applehead Siamese” because of the apple shape head (i.e. rounded in comparison to the long Modern Siamese head shape).
The Modern Siamese is the bottom one and the backlash or change away from the slender (oriental body shape) is the middle Siamese cat that I would call a classic Siamese cat and which is now a new breed called the Thai cat and which is registered with TICA but not the other cat associations.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Indoor Outdoor Cat Debate

I feel that I have to revisit the indoor outdoor cat debate. People have strong views about the subject. And they are often very polarised views. In the USA people tend to keep cats in full-time. This is a culture thing, the norm it seems. One reason for this, I sense, is because there is a much greater possibility in the US for cats that are outside to be attacked by large wild animals. There are few large wild animals in the UK that would attack a cat. It is extremely rare for a domestic cat in the UK to be attacked by a wild animal whereas in the USA coyotes are commonplace it seems to me and they attack cats. Coyotes are dog like animals to people who are unfamiliar with them.

I see many indoor outdoor cat debates on the internet and many words written but I have never seen anyone mention or discuss the philosophical or more profound issues behind the whole thing.

We must admit that the outdoors is the cat's natural home. It is full of fantastic stimulation, the smells, sounds and activity is exactly what a cat needs to satisfy its natural innate drives. Deny these to a cat and you are asking for trouble, I say. But the full-time indoor advocates will rightly say that to let a cat outside is to place a cat into a potentially very dangerous environment. I suspect that more domestic cats die from road traffic accidents than any other cause. The car is the enemy of the domestic cat.

We have responsibilities towards our cat, of course. The first responsibility is to keep him or her safe. That points to a full-time indoor cat existence as the correct choice. We also have a responsibility to make our cat's life as natural and therefore as interesting as possible. I would wager a bet that the lives of a great percentage of full-time indoor cats is not very interesting. We like our cats there for us, nice and safe but do we do the extra work required to make their lives interesting in what is a very unnatural and potentially unstimulating environment.

So, is a long boring life better than a interesting short one?  I think on average and in general it comes down to this choice.

I think that to keep a cat indoors full-time is a complete admission of failure on our part. I believe that people generally should not keep cats at all if it means providing them with such an unnatural life. That is a provocative thing to say and if followed would lead to there being far fewer domestic cats in the world but that I say is not a bad outcome.

We need to raise the bar in terms of standards of cat caretaking. I think we need to turn the clock back in respect of keeping cats. The outdoors of 2010 is very different to the outdoors of thousands of years ago when the cat was first domesticated. With human population growth we have massively increased the dangers for outdoor domestic cats. As mentioned the car is the biggest killer. Lower human population would result in less cars. We can't turn the clock back in terms of human population but we have created a hostile world for the domestic cat and we then fix the problem by making the cat's life dull by keeping the cat indoors. I just feel that we have it all wrong at a fundamental level or that we can do a lot better.

As a compromise the cat enclosure must be the best solution but few people take up this option. The next best "solution" is to let a cat outdoors but take precautions. This is a compromise again but one that I think strikes a better balance between safety and letting our cat live a normal interesting life.

How do we achieve cat safety outdoors? We also need to ensure that our cats do not cause a nuisance to neighbors who don't like cats.

Careful preparation and/or thought is required. One suggestion from Dr Bruce Fogle the well known veterinarian and writer is to train your cat to speak back to you when you call his or her name. If a cat can do this, you will be in a better position to find your cat if it has gone missing, is trapped, injured or too frightened to return home.

He suggests that the best way to train your cat to "meow on command" is to hold a food treat in front of your cat while it is hungry and repeat its name. During training most cats will meow to demand the food. When this happens the cat should be rewarded with food and plenty of verbal praise. The sound to which your cat meows need not be your voice, Dr Fogle says. It might, for example, be the sound of a dry food container being shaken. This may be more appropriate if more than one person will do the calling. A cat is more likely to respond the voice of one person.

I would be remiss if, in the indoor outdoor cat debate, I did not mention cat identification. For an outdoor cat this seems sensible. The modern method is to microchip. Dr Fogle says this is a safe option. I am not entirely sure that that s true (Microchipping pets including cats). There is some risk in microchipping. He also suggests that an outdoor cat should always were a collar with an identity tag containing the cat caretaker's telephone number. Collars can be dangerous too so it should be one of the fail-safe kind that prevents the possibility of strangulation. A person should be able to slip two fingers under a collar that fits correctly. If travelling with a cat the ID tag should contain a local telephone number of course.

Outdoor cats should also use cat friendly gardens. There are such things. But God knows how many people even think of this never mind create one. The cat friendly garden should cater for a cat's natural behavior. One such piece of behavior is scratching. Wooden posts can be used to edge flower beds. These are ideal as scratching posts. If the wooden posts can be placed at different angles and heights so much the better as some cats like to scratch horizontally and some like vertical objects.

Posts at the edges or boundary of the garden could also serve as places where a cat can mark his territory by spraying. This would mainly apply to unneutered male cats. Most cats should be neutered for obvious reasons. Garden decorations such as brick for paths are cat friendly as brick retains heat. Cats as we know like a bit of warmth to lounge on.

If you want to avoid your cat using your garden as it would cat litter, soil can be covered using ground covering plants that are effective all the year. I am sure the local garden center can advise. Personally, I would prepare a special area where my cat could go to the toilet!

Such a toilet could be a small sand pit, for example. It should be sifted regularly like cat litter. It should be sited away from children play areas as there is a slight risk of passing toxoplasma (feral cats spread disease).

Other outdoor cat hazards to be aware of are:
However, one good element of outdoor life is that we have the chance to grow herbs in the garden and cats love herbs and that goes far beyond catnip. See these posts:
The last and obvious note to make about outdoor cat life is the fitting of a cat flap. In my experience cats use cat flaps naturally in much the same way that they use cat litter naturally. They will be drawn to using it because it leads outside to the smells and sounds that are so attractive to cat. A bit of commonsense and gentle encouragement can help if the cat is reluctant.

Checklist for a safer outdoor life:
  1. Prevent access to roads - this is a difficult call but vital. We must be aware of the potential for being killed by a car. If there is a road nearby the only way a cat should be let out is under close supervision (with a leash for example) or in an enclosed garden or enclosure. Or if the cat is very old and will not travel far. 
  2. Train the meow response to calling the cat's name.
  3. Provide ID tag and microchip.
  4. Make garden interesting and useful.
  5. Don't force a cat outdoors. These suggestions only really applies to cats who crave outdoor life and who have problems adjusting to FT indoor living. Some cats demonstrate clear signs of distress when confined to indoor life.
  6. Vaccinate cat - outdoor cats are obviously more open to receiving infectious and contagious diseases
Indoor Outdoor Cat Debate - Note: 

Photo of cat on wall: by lambertwm
Photo of feral cat in tree: by * starrynight1
Photo of cat on patio looking at another cat: by :: Wendy :: 

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Wednesday 2 June 2010

Harmony in a Meadow in Oklahoma

Well, this is not about cats. A relief to change the topic for a while, to be honest. But there is a connection between the photograph below and cats.

The photograph was taken in a meadow or very large field belonging to A1 Savannahs near Ponca City in Oklahoma. A1 Savannahs is probably the best cat breeder anywhere.

I spent a very enjoyable 12 days there recently. I stayed in the guest house, a large three bedroomed house next to the farm.

Harmony - A1 Savannahs Farm
Harmonious serene dawn in sunny Oklahoma May 2010
- photo by Michael @ PoC

The cattery is of course on the farm and next to this glorious field.

For an English person (me) the weather in Oklahoma is more extreme than in Britain. Although it is probably more accurate to say that the weather in England is more dull than anywhere else.

There were storms about while I was there. The hail storms are ferocious. The hail can be very large and damage property and people. Staying in the guest house it was like someone throwing tons of stones onto the roof of the house at 4 in the morning.

However, on the morning of this photograph the weather was fine and hot. A hot day was to come. I had determined to go out into the field at dawn, at sunrise to see what the light and the farm animals could produce in the way of a photo.

Luckily things clicked nicely together. First the animals followed me into the meadow. All of them, it seemed. They swarmed all over me. They were very curious.

All I had to do was to move away from them towards the rising sun and then look back. That sounds easy but it was not that easy. I waited and stalked these lovely animals for quite some time until they formed a nice composition.

A major factor in the success of the image is that these animals were all best friends! They got on like a house on fire, sticking together and following one another around. One of the horses gave a ram a love bite.

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Wednesday 19 May 2010

Daria F2 Savannah Kitten

This is a wonderful F2 Savannah kitten from A1 Savannahs that will grow into being a fine looking and behaving adult cat of real presence. The photo was taken by me yesterday under what I would consider to be difficult conditions as it was very dark at the time. The only light was from a tungsten light source.

Daria an F2 Savannah kitten from A1 Savannahs

In order to get workable sharp picture I had to use flash light and the only flash light that I had was on the camera.

It was fortunate that Daria went into this tunnel cat play area. Using a shutter speed that allowed some of the background to also show despite not being illuminated by the flash I was also lucky enough to get a nice wildcat type expression.

I had all but given up getting a decent photograph and at the last gasp got one that works OK.

Daria already has a new owner and was about to be picked up or shipped out. The photo was taken at A1 Savannahs and Daria was born on their farm and raised by Kathrin and Martin Stucki.
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