Sunday 15 June 2014

Pet Therapy For British Prisoners

16th June 2014 -- Her Majesty's Prison (HMP) Oakwood, near Wolverhampton which is managed by G4S plc have introduced "pet therapy" to try and calm down the inmates. For some reason cats are excluded. The inmates can be responsible for the care of dogs, rabbits and hamsters but not take them to their cells.

There were riots at this prison fairly recently, I recall. I suppose this is a novel attempt to try and stop future discontent and rioting. Do pets calm people down? Well, yes, quite definitely. It has been proven scientifically as far as I remember.

G4S have a poor record. They messed up recruitment when they were contracted to manage security at the Olympics. The army had to step in in their place or in support.

Is pet therapy at a prison a hairbrained scheme? It depends how the prisoners respond. If they embrace it seriously and don't abuse it, it will help I believe.

This is the first scheme of this type in a British prison as far as I know. Let's hope it works but why were cats excluded? Probably because the cat is unsuited  - LOL. Obvious reason. Cats don't like change and some cats won't like the male criminal because they are probably a bit clumsy and insensitive towards a cat. Dangerous for the cat. Also I am sure that most prisoners will be dog types. That is the stereotype.

Chinese Dog Meat Festival

Animal advocates protest against dog meat festival.

Photo: screenshot from Weibo. I have not chosen a dog photo
as they are too disturbing.
Fifteenth of June 2014: The annual dog meat festival is about to take place in Yulin, Guangxi province. This article, then, is not about cats. However, it is very closely related to cats because in this part of China they also consume cat meat, a cultural practice which many people in the West find extremely distasteful. This is a cultural issue.

However, it is more than that because gradually a section of Chinese society are beginning to discover the distasteful nature of eating dog and cat meat.

Up to 10,000 dogs are expected to be eaten during next weekend's festival.  The festival is timed to coincide with the summer solstice and the dog meat is washed down with lychee wine.

Despite this being a long-standing tradition and widely accepted, the event, nowadays, is causing controversy within China. The actress Yang Mi made a plea on China's version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, to the government to ban the festival to which 72,000 people commented. You can see that it is a hot topic with very polarised viewpoints.

Dog lovers are bombarding some restauranteurs with threatening phone calls.  One restauranteur mentioned that she was receiving up to 30 threatening phone calls per day.  There have been attempts to free the dogs from their cages. Some protesters have been detained by the authorities. About 400 dogs were bought by animal advocates with money donated by animal lovers. These dogs have been resettled in Shangrao, Jiangxi province.

Some restaurants are responding to the pressure from animal advocates by substituting dog meat with donkey meat but it is unpopular with their customers as half of them refuse eat it and walk out.

The argument within China for eating dog meat is that they are stray dogs and therefore without an owner (although that need not necessarily be the case), therefore what difference is there between stray dogs and pigs (which no one complains about). The manager of one restaurant says “their protest doesn't make any sense".

I understand the argument for eating dog and cat meat. On the face of it there is little difference between a stray dog or cat and farm livestock.  However, the counter argument is that there is a difference.

Farm livestock is reared to be consumed whereas the role of the cat and dog in all societies is primarily as a companion to their human caretaker - this is an un-written agreement because, let us not forget that, the domestic dog domesticated him/herself in a mutual understanding between the grey wolf and ourselves about 30,000 years ago. To kill the dog for human consumption is seen by some as reneging on an ancient agreement.

Article by Michael. Sources: Times and South China Morning Post

Cats and Mirrors: Signs of Cat Self-awareness

There is a debate going on about whether the domestic cat can be self-aware. The question is whether domestic cats know that they exist and one way to measure this is to look into a mirror and recognise yourself. Humans do this instinctively. We don't question it. We know we exist. We recognise ourselves. In fact it causes lots of problems because many people don't like the way they look or themselves at all. So self-consciousness is a potential problem. Does the domestic cat know he or she exists?

The video above hints at, and some people will say that it is evidence of, cat self-awareness. I am undecided. This beautiful black-and-white cat raises his paws while looking in the mirror apparently to check whether what he is looking at is himself. That is the impression that I get. He's certainly interested in what he's seeing in the bathroom mirror. Perhaps he is unsure what he is looking at but his behaviour hints at the fact that he is questioning whether what he is looking at is, in fact, himself. If that is the case then he at least believes that it is possible that the cat he sees in the mirror is himself.

If a cat sees an image of himself in a mirror believing that it is possibly him then it could be argued that the domestic cat is self-aware.

There is, in fact, a mirror test which is an experiment developed in 1970 by a psychologist, Gordon Gallup Jr. Certain species of animal passed the mirror test including: bottlenose dolphins, European magpies, elephants, killer whales, gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees. The cat is not included in the list. In the test, the animal recognises the mirror as an image of him or herself.

The jury is still out on this but one thing is sure as far, as I am concerned, and that is this: we are gradually learning more about the mental and emotional abilities of domestic cats and all animals and discovering that there is a lot more going on in the brain of animals than we had previously given credit for.

Domestic Cat Lifestyle No Longer Compatible with Their Genes

Domestic Cat Lifestyle No Longer Compatible with Their Genes

The title to this post is a very interesting way of expressing the current problem that we have in caring for our domestic cat companions. It could be argued that currently, in general, we are failing in our care of the cat. This is because their lives are increasingly integrated with ours which results in them being subjected to the same pressures that we have because the way they live is the way we live but they are unsuited to this. The domestic cat is a whisker away from their wild cat ancestor.
Average weight community cats. You don't see obese community cats. Photo by donjd2

We are aware that there has been increasing obesity amongst humans in the West with a resultant increase in human diabetes; the same thing is happening amongst the feline population. An increase in feline diabetes is greatest amongst cats whose lives are more fully integrated with the lives of their human caretaker.

In the UK, whereas 50% of cats kept indoors are obese, half this percentage of cats that are allowed to go outdoors are obese. The conclusion is obvious, namely that the outdoor cat is more able to express his/her natural desires and motivations and in doing so exercise herself.

To keep cats indoors full-time is fully understandable because there are many dangers outside the home, particularly in America where there are predators. The usual danger is of course road traffic. But this creates a dilemma for the cat caretaker. On the one hand there is the need to protect their cat from injury and on the other hand there is the need to protect their cat from becoming overweight with the incumbent multiple health problems that brings.

The basic answer to the epidemic in feline obesity and feline diabetes is to turn the clock back and allow the domestic cat live a more natural life. This is impossible as the world develops and becomes more heavily populated with people. So you can see immediately that we are creating a world environment which is less and less suited to the domestic cat.

Cat caretakers have an ever greater tendency to feed their cats with tasty rich foods combined with high carb. dry food because this is the sort of food that they themselves eat. Being indoors the cat has less opportunity to exercise and the potential result is foreseeable: overweight cat.

Apparently, in the UK, the average weight of cat has ballooned by 25% over the past 10 years. Nowadays, the domestic cat is 400% more likely to become diabetic than 30 years ago.  Something needs to be done but this is an incredibly complicated problem because, as mentioned, the underlying problems are intractable namely the environment that we are creating for our cat companions disallows the possibility that he or she is safe to go outside.

I'm sure there are many cat owners who feel guilty watching their cat balloon up. One such cat caretaker is Michelle Howlett whose cat Daniel, aged 11, ballooned up to 12 kg which is getting on for three times the normal healthy weight for a domestic cat. I'm sure that she knew she was doing the wrong thing but as Lindsey Quilan of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home in London say:
“...  People often give their pets too much food or the wrong types of food as an expression of their love, although it is in fact a form of cruelty."
This is patently true but we can't help it sometimes because we want to please our cat and because people themselves struggle with their weight and tend sometimes to give up the battle.

Thousand years ago you would not have seen obese domestic cats.  They were often barn or street cats.  There were also community cats and sometimes they were domestic cats like you see today. The domestic cat, 1000 years ago, lived a shorter and less healthy life because of a lack of veterinary care but I'd be surprised if they suffered from obesity and diabetes, the modern feline disease of catastrophic proportions.

Saturday 14 June 2014

Was This Baby Cheetah Rejected by Mother?

The video and the story state that a 6 week old cheetah was rejected by its mother in the wild. The cub was given a new home at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The cub has been placed with a 7 week old Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy for companionship and to learn socialisation.

The whole story is based upon the fact that this baby cheetah's mother rejected him or her. I wanted to know why the mother of a baby cheetah rejects him. Does it happen in the wild as stated?

Perhaps the first question is which country does this cheetah come from? The country where they are most populous is Botswana in the South West of the African continent. Perhaps that was his home. He is now a long way from his home. We don't know anything about the story of how he came to be transported to San Diego, USA.

The premier book on the wildcat species is “Wild Cats of the World". Having read quite carefully the section about the reproduction and development of the cheetah, I can't find any references to mother cheetahs abandoning their young. The general tenor of this section of the book indicates to me that cheetah mothers are extremely diligent and demonstrate a lot of commitment and care in raising their young.

We don't know what happened. Perhaps the cheetah mother simply lost her cub in the wild. Or, if one is more cynical, you could argue that this cute little cheetah was stolen by somebody in the wild. Big Cat Rescue states that cheetah mothers may abandon their young if it is too hard to feed then due to scarcity of prey. Perhaps the cheetah never lived in the wild?

In the video, you will note that the baby cheetah has an interesting pelage. The coat is silver-grey. Quite a different colour to the adult cheetah. There is a long mantle of silver-grey fur which covers the crown of the head, the nape of the neck and the back. We fur on the flanks and undersides is dark. The mantle is unique to young cheetahs and no other young felid has such long dorsal hair. As he grows up the mantle is lost. Cheetahs retain the remnants of the mantle as a mane or crest through adolescence.

Author: Michael (see horizontal menu for my details). Source of cheetah information: Wild Cats Of The World by the Sunquists.

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