Friday 4 April 2014

Are Your Living Conditions Unsuitable for Cat Welfare?

Are your living conditions suitable for your cat? Are your living conditions good enough for you but not good enough for your cat so that you could end up being prosecuted as a criminal in the United Kingdom under the Animal Welfare Act 2006? You might think that this is some sort of joke or spoof article but it is not because it actually happened to an amateur folksinger who lives in Hull, England.

Apparently, in the UK it is possible for a person to decide that their living conditions are suitable for them, although they might be poor living conditions in terms of clutter and lack of cleanliness, but aren't suitable and substandard for their cat if the RSPCA and the police say so.

The story concerns a lady whose name is Ms Nadian. I won't go into the full details but you can read about her story on this page. She was prosecuted for several things concerning her cats, one of which, incidentally, was failing to take a veterinarian's advice in euthanising one of her cats. As it happens, all the prosecutions were dropped due to a lack of sufficient evidence. In reality, it was the gradual dawning upon the prosecution (The Crown Prosecution Service) that this was a misguided prosecution.

Apparently, the RSPCA called the police requesting that they enter the lady's home to take her cats. We are told that the police failed to obtain a warrant to enter her home. The police forced the front door down claiming to exercise powers under section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, a provision which covers emergencies such as capturing fugitives. It was clearly inappropriate in this instance.

On entering her home both the RSPCA and the police state in witness statements that the living conditions for Ms Nadian were suitable in respect of cat welfare. They refer to strong smells clutter and filth. As I understand it, Ms Nadian would readily admit that she has difficulty in keeping her home tidy and clean for various reasons. She has been described as a vulnerable person but I would also describe her as a cat loving person and somebody who has a decent knowledge about the domestic cat.

I find it a little bit disturbing that the police and the authorities generally can decide that her living accommodation is suitable for a person but unsuitable for a cat. This, on my reading of this situation, is what has happened in this instance.

This whole matter has been badly handled, in my opinion. What this lady required was some help to perhaps tidy up her home and that simple matter would have resolved the whole thing. Ms Nadian's new veterinarian has undertaken to monitor her cats while this lady's bungalow has been cleaned and tidied. Problem solved.

Neither this lady nor her cats should not have been put through this highly stressful situation by an overzealous RSPCA and unthinking police. The whole matter was kick-started by a rather nasty veterinarian who disliked the fact that this lady disagreed with her regarding the euthanasia of one of her cats. The veterinarian reported her to the RSPCA for something which the lady was entitled to do, as it happens.

In any case, it would seem that quite possibly hundreds of thousands of people living in the UK who look after a cat or cats are open to a charge of failing to provide a suitable environment for their domestic cats to live in under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Do you find that rather shocking? I do.

Cat Found in Charity Sofa

This little feline story is an amusing warning to others and a lesson in cat behavior and how they can hide in places and be difficult to find and see. A couple bought a sofa from a charity shop. The three-seater sofa had been donated to the charity shop run by St Luke's Hospice, Grays, Essex.

Emanating from this desirable piece of furniture was a meow, a soft and muted meow. The meowing came from a cat whose name is Crockett. The purchasers investigated and noticed two claws poking through the fabric of the couch. They had purchased a sofa with a cat inside it, an added, little bonus!

Crockett's owners, Pauline and Bill said that there had been very upset to lose him. Apparently, Crockett has slipped into the sofa as it was being taken apart before being moved.

Talking about cats and furniture, I have another warning concerning loungers. These are pieces of furniture which change shape and in doing so the machinery underneath the chair can crush a small cat or kitten who happens to have crawled into that space.

I do not think that furniture which changes shape such as loungers or chairs that are suitable for senior people are in fact suitable for homes where there is a domestic cat. It is too dangerous for the cat. It's as simple as that. Unless the owners do something about the chair and modify it slightly to make sure that it is safe and that it prevents the cat from crawling into the space below the seat, then personally I would not recommend that a cat owner buys one.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Feline Excess Urination

A person visiting a major website about the domestic cat said that he was on a fixed retirement income, had not taken his domestic cat to the veterinary surgeon and that his cat was urinating much more than normal and he wondered why. He said that he was going through about 90 lbs of cat litter every month compared to 35 pounds normally and he wanted some advice.

The obvious answer is to take the cat to the vet but it is amazing how often people don't want to do that and they ask questions on the Internet and hope to get a good answer and fix the problem which is highly unlikely, meanwhile his cat is suffering.

One of the feline diseases that causes this is diabetes. The cat does not produce enough insulin. This results in an elevated blood sugar level. In turn, excess glucose is eliminated by the kidneys resulting in frequent urination. As a result, the cat drink more water.

Another disease that causes a cat to drink more water and urinate more often is kidney disease. Both diabetes and kidney disease are fairly commonplace amongst the domestic cat population. And both of these diseases cannot be cured by a cat caretaker. They both require careful handling and a proper diagnosis.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease can result in frequent urination and passing blood. The cat may urinate outside of the litter box.

Increased drinking and urination with very dilute urine may indicate that a cat has Cushing's disease. About 75% of cats with Cushing's disease also have diabetes mellitus. This is not a complete list.

There's no doubt that when a cat is consistently peeing more than normal, as a matter of urgency, the cat's owner should take her/his cat to the vet.

Early Humans Defended Themselves against Sabre-toothed Tigers With Spears

About 300,000 years ago sabre-toothed tigers were roaming around North Central Germany near Hanover. We know this because the remains of a sabre-toothed tiger were preserved in rock strata 300,000 years ago. I think it is worth stating at the outset that the sabre-toothed tiger is not actually a tiger as we know today. It was a different species of wild cat. It is probably more sensible to describe the cat as a “sabre-toothed cat".

The estimates are that this large wild cat weighed nearly 440 pounds. It had razor-sharp claws and canine teeth that were more than 4 inches in length. Clearly, this was a formidable predator for early humans.

Humans would have defended themselves using a 6 foot to 7 and 1/2 foot long spear. The spears were used as hunting weapons. It has been speculated that the early humans of this era hunted hores and in the area in question they camped along a 300 foot stretch of a shallow lake.

Source: a report by the Lower Saxony Heritage Authority.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Cat Facial Expressions

I would expect that a lot of people would say that cats do not make facial expressions. People who live with cats and who love their cats and therefore know them will understand that cats do make facial expressions. They are more subtle than the facial expressions of people. Is that because there are less facial muscles and/or because the feline face is covered in hair? Or perhaps a cat has less emotions that a person and therefore does not need to express them so much through his or her face. I'm not sure, but I am sure that cats do make facial expressions and here's a very good example:


This photograph has been praised, in fact, for showing both the human and the feline expression. This white cat with a very charming face has a very concerned and anxious expression. There is also a slight indication that she is relieved and that she feels secure being held by this fireman who himself has an expression which conveys to me that he is genuinely concerned about this cat's welfare and that he is pleased to have saved her from a fire.

It is a good photograph because, for me, it shows both human and cat in a similar light; both under some stress, both showing expressions that reflect the circumstances under which they have come together. It's a photograph of equality. I like that.

Cat Food Wars - Dominance and Subservience

This is not exactly a war over cat food but you can see how stresses can be built up in multi-cat households in areas where there are food bowls and where there is the cat litter. Cats will or might compete for either. These are areas where a hierarchy between cats is shown up and where a dominant cat will push out a more subservient cat.


I think this is quite an interesting animated GIF, which are a series of still images strung together to make a video that repeats itself. Each image is in the GIF format.

Clearly in this instance the ginger tabby is dominant over the bicolour ginger and white who is overweight so perhaps being pushed out of the food bowl is a good thing. I wonder if the slight overweight problem that the bicolour cat has is linked in any way to his or her subservience to the ginger cat? Perhaps he's pushed out and therefore he is keen to get at the food when there is a chance and hence he eats too much as a precaution against not being able to get to a food bowl when they are put down.

The experts would say that it is important to make sure that a subservient cat has a place to hide and then each cat gets its own food bowl and as best as possible is allowed to get to it. Cat litter trays should also be considered carefully in multi-cat households because you can get competition around a cat litter tray. All this means is that the subservient cat is liable to become stressed and it is a cat owner's duty to make sure that all her cats are content!

This does, though, seemed to be a setup situation. Although, it does not detract from what can go on in multi-cat households.



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.

Copyright protected. Please do not copy.

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.

Source: thetowntalk.com

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.

RELAXED

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.

ALERT

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.

AGITATED

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


DEFENSIVE

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.

AGGRESSIVE

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.

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