Friday 12 December 2014

New Zealand's Veterinarians Want a Humane, Scientific and Holistic Approach to Better Manage Cat Population

New Zealand's veterinarians have decided that there is a need in their country to take a serious look at the growing cat population which they say requires urgent action.

I'm pleased to read that they wish to take a humane and scientific approach to what they describe as cat management. In addition, they stress that the focus must always be on responsible cat ownership.

In addition there needs to be an all-encompassing, holistic approach from local and national government in order to achieve real results. I think we can see that when there are ad hoc, piecemeal changes made to legislation it doesn't work very well.

The president of the New Zealand Veterinary Association, Mr Merchant, states that "a strategy to address our growing stray cat population is long overdue, and must include a clear focus on responsible cat ownership."

What Mr Merchant is saying is in stark contrast to what was put forward not so long ago by a NZ scientist who recommended that in effect there should be mass killing of unwanted cats in New Zealand. That provoked outrage from many people. Killing cats is not the answer. It is simply a reaction. The much better method is to prevent the creation of cats through responsible cat caretaking.

What New Zealand's veterinarians are saying really apply to other countries because they have the same problems. I'm a firm believer that the time has come to create an alternative culture and attitude towards the ownership of the domestic cat. For a very long time there has been a laissez-faire attitude which has resulted in too many unwanted cats.

The focus as Mr Merchant says must be on highly responsible cat ownership and there has to be a coordinated approach at various levels of government including animal control organisations in order to reduce the numbers of unwanted cats humanely while at the same time reducing the supply of unwanted cats through better ownership.


Thursday 11 December 2014

What sort of news is cat news?

Cat news is invariably about one of quite a narrow band of topics. One of these topics is feral cats. There are quite a lot of people who dislike feral cats and some of these people are in authority. You could say in fact that the people most likely to dislike feral cats are those who are in authority. Some of these people are scientists and they write up studies about the feral cat and they are often derogatory.

There are critical articles about the feral cat. With respect to the feral cat the real issue is that there are too many of them and they spread disease and of course above all else they kill too many birds and there's a huge amount of bias. With respect to the feral cat these are the stories we see on the Internet.

With respect to the domestic cat,  the most common news story about the household cat is the fact that he/she is far too often unwanted and finds his or her way into shelters where regrettably too many are put to sleep because nobody wants to adopt them. The great story about domestic cats is that there are too many unwanted domestic cats.

Then there is a topic of cat shelters. This is the sharp end where cats that are lost or unwanted and indeed feral cats find their way to be euthanized or to be rehomed. Being the sharp end of the existence of domestic and stray cats, news stories regarding animal and cat shelters are very poignant and they reflect very strongly on humankind and how we relate to cats in general.The existence of many millions of unwanted cats in the USA is a reflection on our relationship with them and our inability to care for them satisfactorily as a whole.

Then we have cat news stories about the wild cat species. These are nearly always about the illegal and abusive trade in iconic cat species such as the tiger. Most of the stories about the wild cat species are to do with conservation and the failure of conservation which has occurred over many years and even decades. Nothing has changed to make one more optimistic about the future of the wild cat species.

If new stories about the wild cat species are not about conservation and its failure then they are about attacks by the big cats upon the indigenous people of the country in which the cats live. These are normally tiger attacks because they are the most newsworthy. However, the newspapers never or hardly ever refer to the underlying reasons why tigers living in the wild attack people. The reason is often because the tiger is old or infirm or has been injured by a person and therefore has to rely upon attacks upon a person rather than the usual prey. In addition people are forced to live in close proximity to tigers because the population of people is expanding. In short, the underlying cause for a tiger attack is humankind.

Another news story we often see with respect to the domestic cat is celebrity cats. This is a new phase and celebrity cats have taken off and you could argue that at the moment celebrity cats are the most common news item concerning the cat. The entire globe has been unable to avoid news about Grumpy Cat, for instance.

Another popular news item regarding the cat is the abuse of outdoor cats. There are many stories on this topic. These are criminal matters and people will note that we hardly ever find out whether a person who has abused the cat is prosecuted and punished as a consequence.

Another popular news item regarding the domestic cat is cat hoarding. Cat hoarding is quite prevalent and is due to a mental health condition by the person involved. Sometimes cat hoarders are quite devious and they give the impression that they are trying to help cats and even ensure that other people send them cats to be rescued but once they are sent to the cat hoarder they quite commonly end up dead due to neglect.

Once again we rarely find out how the stories pan out. We don't know how they end up . We don't find out whether they were successfully prosecuted in the criminal courts and what sort of sentence they received. It is possible that cat hoarding is a symptom of modern life and it may be an expression of anxiety and stress in which case there are probably more cat hoarders today than there were in the past.

Also, with respect to wild cat species you will quite commonly see stories about the conflict between human and cat. This is a conflict which exists because two species, human and cat, are forced to live in close proximity, which is unnatural. The reason why these two species live in close proximity is because there are too many people living in a certain area in that area originally belonged to the cat, which is usually a tiger.

Another topic is considered newsworthy concerning the cat is the private zoos and backyard setups housing exotic big cats in the USA.

There is a gradual building up of a groundswell of opinion against people who keep tigers as pets in their backyard and, in addition, the private zoos where often quite a large number of large wild captive cats are kept. Private zoos are gradually being perceived as places which damage conservation and which reflect a culture of a bygone age.

I think the point has to be made that almost all the news regarding domestic, feral and wild cats emanates from the United States of America. You rarely see any interesting cat stories coming out of the United Kingdom or Europe. Europe is particularly quiet in respect of cat stories.

As for Asia cat stories which come out of that region of the world are often to do with wild cat conservation and in places like China the topics concern a distinct lack of animal welfare which has resulted in practices which the West detest such as eating domestic and stray cats. This is a highly controversial topic and things are changing because there is a groundswell of opinion in China that this must stop.

The above are the major topics which create cat news stories in 2014. I may have missed something out because this article was written without reference to anything.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Increase in Pet Obesity Is a Worrying Trend

British dogs are now amongst the fattest in the world.  35% of British dogs are overweight or obese which is a larger proportion than in France (39%) or Australia (31%).  The United States of America has a special place in obesity rankings as we are told that 55% of cats and dogs in America are obese (USA trends).

In this article I will discuss dogs but the same sort of principles obviously applie to all pets including cats and I have written about cat obesity before.
Obese dog in Morocco. Photo Jeremy Vandel (Flickr)

There appears to be a world trend particularly in developed countries of couch potato owners and obese dogs.  With respect to dogs it isn't just about obesity.  We are also told that many of Britain's dogs are also aggressive and disturbed because they are not getting enough stimulation through play and activity.  This is all part of the couch potato mentality which has begun to afflict British people.

The British say that they are a nation of dog lovers indeed pet lovers but it appears that many of their dogs are unhappy because they are providing their dogs with a life which mirrors their own.

The research was carried out by Alex German who analysed 30 scientific papers.  Mr German runs a specialist veterinary clinic for obese dogs and conducted the research at Liverpool University.  He says that there is a shocking and rapid rise in the weight of the British dog.  He not infrequently sees dogs who are twice the weight they should be. Even greyhounds he says are overweight.

He says that there is a parallel rise in the weights of dogs and people. Fat parents begat fat children and develop fat pets. This is because people treat their cat or dog as another child.  It's all about overfeeding and under exercising and there's no getting around that simple conclusion.

In Britain 64% of adult British citizens are now overweight or obese. The British are doing their best to match up their pets to the same level of obesity. With obesity comes health issues such as diabetes and arthritis. We all know that yet it doesn't change the habits of the couch potato pet owner.

Veterinarians say that being overweight can shorten the life of a dog and I presume therefore a cat by around 2 years on average. Some British people overfeed their pet by as much as 60%. The problem is often treats. Fatty treats such as fast food leftovers and crisps or biscuits and chips given to the dog is the problem.

With respect to exercise, dogs are being taken for shorter walks. This is partly because many people rarely let their dog off their lead in case they run away or perhaps get into a fight. When the dog is taken out on a lead the dog walks a lot less and therefore gets a lot less exercise. Dogs which are allowed off the lead cover 5 times more ground than those on the lead.

Dogs need long walks because without them obsessive-compulsive disorders can develop such as spinning around in circles. Dogs have got their own Facebook which is meeting up with another dog and sniffing the dog. Dogs need to do this sort of thing.

The cure is strict and permanent dieting with increased exercise but will people do this? As long as  people themselves are unable to exercise or eat less it is highly unlikely in my opinion that they will care for their dogs to a higher standard.

A reason why the cat is more reliable than the human

The domestic cat is more reliable than the domestic human! And, yes, there are feral human beings, quite a lot of them actually so I think it is fair to compare the domestic cat with the domestic human.

Why is a domestic cat more reliable than the domestic human?  Well, my theory is that the domestic cat is more pragmatic and practical and less emotional than the human which because of his or her alleged intelligence combined with emotions which are often out of control becomes unreliable on occasions.
The reliable cat. Photo Nikos Koutoulas

Cats have emotions too.  They can be sad and happy, anxious and fearful.  They can be content, and so on, within their relationship with other animals, and I include in this the human animal, but they do not have a connection which is as needy and as demanding on an emotional level as our's is.

I read in a newspaper the other day that over half the people who get divorced regret it and want to get together again.  Some of them do and they make a success of it.  This breakdown in relationships is sometimes due to unfettered emotional reactions to situations within the relationship.  If the couples were more pragmatic and practical like a cat they would stay together and many couples are exactly that. They realise the advantages of staying together. This is how cats think, isn't it?

The domestic cat has this level the practicality and pragmatism in their relationship with us which ensures that they are always doing and requesting the same things. They are much less likely to have emotional hangups about us. They don't envisage us being unfaithful.  We can't be unfaithful with our cat. Yes, some people abandon cats but there is a different emotion at play in that instance.

By reliability I mean a cat companion is always there doing things that we expect him or her to do at the times we expect him or her to do it. They don't let it down. That predictability and reliability is very comforting in a semi-chaotic world where it is almost impossible to remain in control of one's life because so much impinges upon it over which we have no control whatsoever.

Feline reliability is one of the attractions of the domestic cat. Unreliability is one of the behavioural traits of the human animal that repulses many people. It is lovely to have your partner or spouse there for you when you need him or her.  It is a great quality to be reliable. For a person to do as he or she says is a sign of integrity and a very important quality in a relationship.  It fosters trust and understanding.

We trust our cat companions. We can't always trust our human partners.

Saturday 9 August 2014

What do cat lovers think about the Gaza vs Israel conflict?

Cat lovers are generally independent-minded, intelligent people. I'd like to know what they think about the Gaza vs Israel conflict. Are cat lovers for Israel or the Palestinians? Or perhaps they are neutral.

Hamas should not be sending over rockets but they suffer a blockade which prevents them from doing business which hobbles their economy. Israel say they have to retain the blockade to stop Hamas acquiring weapons but Hamas get weapons.

The Gazans complain that with the blockade in place it is like living in a prison and they have a right to freedom like any other people.

The Israelis believe they must not show weakness. They believe they must demonstrate their strength. However, you can't behave that way towards your immediate neighbour.

Hamas's actions are obviously highly provocative but their rockets have not killed a single Israeli civilian as at the date of this post as far as I am aware. There have been 67 Israeli dead but all soldiers.

We know there have been about 1800 Palestinian civilians killed, many of them children.

The Israelis have shelled three UN designated safe houses where uprooted Palestinians had found shelter despite the fact that the UN had told the Israeli authorities about these "safe" buildings on many occasions beforehand and yet the Israelis still shelled them killing many innocent lives. This is surely disappropriate behaviour by Israel in defending their citizens.

The Israelis will say Hamas use these buildings but is that true for UN designated safe zones? I doubt it but I wish to remain neutral.

Both sides are mistaken and stupid. I would have expected more from Israel because they have the Iron Dome mobile defense system funded by the US which is very effective in blowing up Hamas rockets in the air. This defense system appears to have dealt with the almost all the rockets so why does Israel still shell and rocket attack civilian areas in Gaza?

This will damage Israel and in the long term will achieve nothing except for more trouble. It will harden the resolve of Hamas and it will generate more Palestinians who hate Israel. It has also caused widespread protest against Israeli policy in Europe.

Israel can do better. I fully understand why they are being aggressive against Gaza but the time is right for constraint and building relationships rather than creating more instability and hatred.

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