Sunday 23 October 2011

Why are lions and hyenas enemies?

Why are lions and hyenas enemies? Answer: because they are both predators of the same prey and they share the same territory. They therefore compete for the same food. The lion dominates this relationship except where hyenas form packs.

It is wrong to say that lions and hyenas are "enemies". They simply compete for prey or carcasses.

The lion is much larger than the hyena. Despite the fact that the hyena is a large predator and has a strong bite and forelimbs the lion will attack and kill the hyena. Hyenas form groups as a defence strategy. Groups of hyenas can force lions off a kill.

One to one, the lion dominates but that dynamic is completely altered when the hyena works together in a mob.

The usual scenario is that the hyenas will wait for lions to move off a kill while lions will force hyenas off their kill.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Cougar Picture

I like camera trap wildcat pictures because the cat is where it should be, in the wild. The quality of the image is invariably less good when taken with a camera trap camera but this is counteracted by the reality of the image.

Here is a cougar picture taken in the Saguaro National Park. The photographer was SaguaroNPS (a Flickr username).

Cougar Picture
The camera was a G6.1 CUDDEBACK.

The map shows you where the Saguaro NP is:

View Larger Map

Feline rabies vaccination side effects

Cat vaccination reaction - photo by Jerry7171 - correct place?

This post concerns the USA. Legislation (law) at national and state level sets out rabies vaccination requirements. Rabies vaccinations should be administered by a veterinarian and this is obligatory in many states.

The recommendations of the Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma Task Force state that rabies vaccines are administered subcutaneously as distal as possible in the right rear leg. Injected "subcutaneously" means injected into the the layer of skin directly below the dermis and epidermis. "Distal as possible" means the farthest away from the center of the body.

There is a link between vaccinations and sarcoma development. This is a possible side effect of a rabies vaccination. A "sarcoma" is cancer in connective and soft tissue. There is a higher than usual risk that this will happen when vaccinating against rabies.

Despite the higher risk sarcomas associated with vaccines for cats is still very rare at one case in 1-10,000 vaccinations.

Some cats are predisposed to the problem. The cause is not altogether clear. It was thought to be due to the aluminium "adjuvant". An adjuvant is substance that is added to improve the immune response. However, investigating the cause is still work in progress.

Sometimes a lump will form after the vaccination. It should go within a month. If not a vet should be consulted.

Giving a cat a vaccine is decided on a balance of risks if there is a choice (i.e. no statutory obligation). Vaccinations should be minimized and older cats might not require vaccinations, particularly full-time indoor cats.

What cats live in the desert?

Sand cat - Photo by Yinghai

The sand cat, a small wild cat, lives in the sandy desert. In the former Soviet Union they like to occupy desert areas of sparse vegetation and sandy ridges and hills. They can live in areas where there is little vegetation but rarely amongst sand dunes. In Africa they are found in the Sahara where it is flat and open and where tufts of grass grow. The sand cat distribution is fragmented - from the western Sahara to Uzbekistan.

Leopards are very adaptable and will live in a wide range of habitats but not true deserts. The African wildcat is found widely throughout Africa but is absent only from true desert and tropical forest.

The Black-footed cat often sleeps in hollow termite hills. This cat prefers desert habitat with little vegetation. This cat gets all the water it needs from prey; rodents, lizards and insects.

Feral cats will not find the desert to their liking. It takes a specialist cat and feral cats are generalists in terms of prey and survival.

How many cats are abused each year?

Cat Abuse - Burned Cat
Photo by:
Animals Abused & Abandoned
We will never know how many cats are abused because most of it is unreported and is not investigated by the police. How are people going to know about it when it happens in the home? If you have a single person in a home with a cat, the person can do what he or she likes with the cat and nothing will come of it. Sometimes though you might see some signs if you are lucky.

You can ignore any official statistics if they exist because they are inaccurate. We occasionally read about horrible cat abuse that is a mainstream media story but this is about a careless and nasty person who got caught.

How many cats are shot in the USA each year? We don't know but there will be tens of thousands. Shooting a cat is a form of abuse.

I say that euthanizing unwanted cats at shelters is arguably cat abuse. They call it euthanasia. It is actually plain and ordinary killing because the cats are healthy.

Killing a cat is an abuse of that cat. It is compounded by the fact that the method of killing at cat shelters is often cruel and highly distressing for the cat. Take gassing a feral cat as an example. I know a lot of people will rejoice at the thought of gassing a feral cat. That does not make it less cruel.

How many cats are abused each year? Hundreds of thousands in the USA alone and a similar percentage of the total cat population in the UK.

Did you know that a cat abuse video is liked by 83% of the people who saw it? No chance for the cat. No chance to know how many cats are abused each year.

African wild cat hybrid

African wildcat
photo by lildude (Flickr)

It appears that the African wild cat hybrid is commonplace in Africa. No one, as far as I am aware, has named the hybrid cat, however. The African wildcat was one of the first wildcats to be domesticated (the other is the European wildcat). It is not hard to see why. Even today, 2011, African wildcats frequently live near human settlements and "frequently interbreed with domestic cats" (1).

The African wildcat is able to adjust to living near and with people. A South African biologist, Ray Smithers, raised a couple of African wildcat kittens.

A major threat to the survival of this species is its interbreeding with domestic cats. Mr Smithers, in 1983, said it was "becoming increasingly difficult to find purebred African wildcats....." The Scottish wildcat suffers from a similar threat.

(1) Source: Wild Cats Of The World ISBN-13: 978-0-226-77999-7 - University of Chicago Press.

Why is the Andean cat endangered?

Andean mountain cat
The reasons why the Andean cat is endangered are listed below:
  • the top threat to the survival of this species is "traditional hunting". Local people consider this cat a sacred animal and stuffed Andean cats are used in festivals probably as a attempt to improve harvests.
  • the probable main prey of the Andean cat, the mountain chinchilla, was hunted nearly to extinction for the fur trade. 
  • the current top prey of this cat the mountain vizcachas has a fragmented range due again to being hunted by local people.
  • habitat destruction through mining is another threat.
  • the hunting of the Andean cat by local people to protect livestock is also a threat and
  • the genetic diversity of this species is low making reproduction less viable due to poor sperm quality because of inbreeding.
In conclusion the Andean cat is endangered by the activities of people in one form or another.

African golden cat population

We don't have a number. The best source of information for the African golden cat population must be the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ because it is the primarily objective of the Red List™ staff to assess species populations and decide if it is declining and if so, why?

What then does the Red List say about the African golden cat population? Precisely nothing in respect of numbers. They say the population is declining. And the assessment comes from skins! There is no camera trapping assessments. No assessments of scats it seems. Just guesses.

I am not blaming anyone. It just goes to show how little we know or care about this rare wild cat species. There is nothing else to say really.

How fast can a cheetah run?

Photo by Don Van Dyke

How fast can a cheetah run? The maximum recorded speed at which a cheetah has run is 64 mph (102.99 kmph) based on my research but most other websites quote about 71 miles per hour.

I think that it is fair to say that there is a degree of exaggeration on the internet as to the top speed of the cheetah. And sites copy each other.

I also think that there is little hard science on this subject. I feel that my page on cheetah speed addresses the question, "how fast does a cheetah run" with accuracy and some precision. I hope you agree.

What wild cats live in Africa?

Smallest wildcat in Africa - Black-footed cat
The following wild cats live in Africa (in descending order of size/weight):
  1. Lion
  2. Leopard
  3. Cheetah
  4. Caracal
  5. Serval
  6. African golden cat
  7. African wildcat
  8. Sand cat
  9. Black-footed cat
See what wildcats live in South America and Southeast Asia.

The Cat at Number 10

The cat at number 10 Downing Street, London, England is called "Larry" (as at October 2011). He is a four year old tabby and white rescue cat selected from the world famous Battersea Dogs and Cats Home for his hunting skills. Larry comes from the streets of London.

It was decided to employ him after a rat was seen scampering across the front door in full view of the cameras!

There have been many "Chief Mousers to the Cabinet Office". Before Larry there was Humphrey. The home of the Prime Minister was vetted as suitable before Larry was allowed to live there! Great stuff.

It is nice that a rescue cat was employed. And it is nice that a cat is showing his worth as a working animal. Many people see the dog as a working animal and the cat as an ornament. This is not necessarily the case. The wild cat was first domesticated for his mousing skills. The Maine Coon was first a semi-feral farm cat. These are the origins of the domestic cat; very much a utility farm animal.

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