Friday 13 November 2020

Toothbrush makes newborn kitten purr

This tiny kitten thinks the toothbrush is her mother's tongue so she enjoys being "licked" by her mother. She starts to purr and offers up her chin for a wash. I think it is the first time that I've heard such a young kitten purring and you can see her left arm juddering slightly in pleasure. That is my reading of her behaviour. It is a form of feline allogrooming only the human is using a toothbrush very gently to simulate an adult cat's tongue.

Thursday 5 November 2020

It looks likely that lynx will be re-introduced to England

The Eurasian lynx was exterminated from the UK in the Middle Ages about 1300 years ago. It was over-hunted to extinction. We have a moral duty to right that wrong although farmers do not want to see the lynx reintroduced into England or Scotland, for that matter, because they think this handsome wild cat will attack and eat their sheep. Despite the resistance from farmers, there is talk, again, of wolves and lynx being reintroduced into the UK because the project is being backed by the new head of Natural England, Tony Juniper. 

He became chairman of the organisation last year and is much more of a supporter of rewilding than his predecessor. Between wolves and lynx, he said that it is more likely that the lynx will be reintroduced into England at Thetford Forest which straddles the Norfolk-Suffolk border.

Mr Juniper said that he wanted to build on the success of the reintroduction of beavers in Devon and white-tailed Eagles on the Isle of Wight. In November 2018 Michael Gove the then environment secretary rejected an application for the reintroduction of lynx because at that time Natural England objected to it. But things have changed and Mr Juniper wants to study the feasibility of the project partly because it would help to control deer numbers. One of the prey animals of the Eurasian lynx is the deer although it is at the top end of the scale for size.

I've described this cat as the "Eurasian lynx" because I have to, I believe. I'm being more specific because often people refer to it as the "lynx" without specifying the subspecies. The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the three linked species: Canada lynx, Iberian lynx and Eurasian lynx. The bobcat is also within this family of cats. They are medium-sized cats. They aren't that large.

Another reason why there's more optimism about the project is the success in the Netherlands where wolves have crossed the border from Germany, taking up residence in Holland with minimal impact on people and farmers. The Netherlands is also a highly populated country like the UK and therefore there are bound to be concerns about medium-sized predators roaming around the wild freely but it works.

Another place where either or both wolves and lynx might be reduced is the Kielder Forest in Scotland. It would be a wonderful addition to the UK to have a genuine wild species of a decent size in the countryside. I can see tourism in Thetford Forest to see the lynx. Something like tourists visiting tiger reserves in India.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Tasmanian farmers believe that cat excrement makes their ewes lose their lambs

I have to be brutally frank and state that Tasmanian farmers are behaving in a pretty crude way. I'm told that some of them believe that the excrement from feral cats makes their ewes lose their lambs. This must come from the belief that toxoplasma gondii oocysts in the faeces of cats are ingested by the sheep which causes them to abort. Science proves that this happens but surely there is a less cruel way of dealing with the matter? It looks like ignorant behaviour to me. What I mean is ignorance of decency. I have learned that there is an effective vaccine against toxo. Why can't they use it?

They have a problem with toxoplasmosis although they probably don't realise that cats only shed toxoplasma gondii oocysts for a very short period of time and not all cats carry the disease (but apparently more than half do) but they kill them brutally nonetheless. The problem is that the oocysts are hardy and present a health problem.

I can't show a picture of feral cats strung up on fences as it is too crude and unpleasant so I'll show some sheep in Tasmania instead:

Tasmanian sheep. Picture in public domain.

This stringing up of cats on fences occurs apparently in remote areas of Tasmania and has done so for years. A conservationist has warned that the practice could "polarise" people's attitudes about feral cats. I think what he means is that cat advocates will hate it and therefore hate the people who do it and that will antagonise the ignorant farmers who do it. That's called polarisation.

Dennis Turner, a resident of Tasmania's Midlands said that hanging dead cat from fences is a statement to the government that not enough is being done about feral cats i.e. to get rid of them.

He believes that feral cats are the most destructive pest that you can come across. The uncle of Cindy Brook who lives in Longford, Tasmania, says that her uncle at Blackwood Creek near Cressy often hung dead cats from fences. It obviously isn't against the law to do this. I presume therefore that the Tasmanian law allows farmers to kill feral cats as they wish. In Britain it would be a clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. And the person who did it would be subject to a maximum prison sentence of two years together with a possible fine. In Tasmania? It's all part of day-to-day life. No bother, no worry just go on killing cats because you think they are pests.

The chief executive of Landcare Tasmania, Rod Knight,indicated that he didn't like the practice of stringing up dead cats because the debate about feral cats becomes too emotive and he hinted that it is cruel and unpleasant. Which it is by the way. He thinks it will divert the discussion away from the real issues which it does. It should stop and you don't need to find a justification for stopping it. It's just cruel, plain and simple. That is why it should be stopped.

The Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme has quantified the cost of cat diseases in Australia at 6 billion Australian dollars annually and said that it caused 550 deaths and 8500 hospitalisations in Australia annually. We don't know how those figures were arrived at. No doubt there was a pile of extrapolations and guesswork. Apparently the report says that one in five cases of schizophrenia are caused by toxoplasmosis. They also say that 1 in 10 cases of suicide are caused by this protozoan. Once again we don't know where those numbers come from.

I think I'll leave it there because it's boring. The point to be made is that Tasmania is almost waging a war against the feral cat. The government hates the feral cat it seems to me and ignorant farmers killing them willy-nilly. It looks pretty barbaric and Wild West to me but I'm a cat advocates so what do I know?

Don't do anything bad which your cat will remember

In my experience, domestic cats have a very good memory for bad experiences. Something you may have done which frightened him or her will stick in their minds for a very long time. In fact they may never forget it. You might, for example, accidentally walk on your cat's paw because he's right behind you. Or you might lose your temper one day and shout at your cat. It is likely that your cat will remember these events. It may alter his behaviour. It may create a bit of doubt in his mind. It certainly won't help the relationship. 

Zen cat. Photo: nosenekoshiro (Instagram).

The worst thing you can do is to aggressively slap your cat or shout at him because he's annoyed you. I can understand the desire to do this if you're stressed for whatever reason, and at the moment there are good reasons to be stressed with the coronavirus crisis. It's a particular moment when cats might be the victim of domestic violence. It only takes a moment when tempers are lost and the domestic cat is shouted at or abused even in a very minor way for that cat to remember it. 

It's not a deliberate or conscious memory. Your cat isn't saying I'm gonna remember that and make him pay for it. It's just a mental scar which sits there in the back of the cat's brain and alters his behaviour at least potentially. 

Of course the impact depends upon the individual cat. Each cat reacts differently but it is my belief that there is a level of anxiety in domestic cats which is higher than people believe. Or let's put it this way: millions of cats are very relaxed and content but it doesn't take much to introduce anxiety into their lives. 

This is because they live in a human environment to which they adapt but it is often not the best of environments for a domestic cat who is wild at heart by which I mean in terms of character and behaviour they are a short step from their wild cat ancestors. Always seek to create a calm and friendly environment for your cat. It is an ongoing mission of the concerned cat caretaker/guardian.

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