Friday 25 December 2020

Are tigons fertile?

Tigons are a hybrid cross between a male tiger and a female lion. These are man created - correction person created (I don't want to be sexist although it is always a man who does it) - wild cat hybrids. A lot of private zoo owners in America like to mess around with ad hoc big cat breeding to entertain themselves and any customers who wish to pay money to see their miserable establishments. 

There are a lot of private zoos in America but they've been tarnished and discredited by Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue (BCR) who has exposed them for what they are: seedy, exploitative businesses where young big cats are exploited and where their parents are disposed of when they are no longer financially profitable. Enough of my distaste about private zoos in America.

Picture in the public domain.

Read another post on the same topic with more detail if you wish

The answer to the question in the title as to whether tigons are fertile or not is that the female is often fertile but the male is invariably not fertile. There comes from Sarah Hartwell who is an expert and I trust her implicitly. Other websites and other experts say different things. The Smithsonian Magazine say that they are fertile and that second-generation hybrids are created from first-generation hybrids such as the tigon and the liger. And yet another website said that they are infertile. Clearly there is some disagreement but it seems that it's a grey area as Sarah Hartwell hints namely that some are fertile and some aren't. This probably has led to the disagreements.

Sometimes wild cat hybrids can have what is called hybrid vigour. When you crossbreed different species the resultant offspring can be larger than either of the parents. The tigon can be a large animal as shown in the photograph above. This sort of hybridisation would never occur in the wild because lions and tigers live in entirely different places and therefore never bump into each other. It is only when they are forced together in deliberate breeding in cages that they mate with each other.

It is unnatural and only done for financial profit and only viewed as a form of voyeurism from paying customers. It should be banned and probably will be banned in America because Carole Baskin is introducing new legislation which restricts ownership of big cats by Americans unless under certain specified conditions. The legislation would do away with the sort of exploitative place that I refer to and run by people such as Joe Exotic who you may remember is in prison serving a very long sentence (22 years) because he conspired to murder Carole Baskin. Joe asked Pres. Trump for a pardon! He did not get it.

They are archenemies but Carole Baskin is the good one. They are not the same sort of person which is why Baskin is annoyed at Netflix with their documentary called Tiger King which paints Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin as the same ilk. They certainly are not. Baskin saves the lives of tigers and other wild cat species from abusive private owners. She deserves a lot of recognition for what she does but she has enemies. Probably the enemies are people who like to exploit animals and don't see any reason to be decent and sensitive towards their welfare. There are a lot of people like that regrettably. 

There is one last point to make which is this. Through Darwin's theory of natural selection i.e. the survival of the fittest, animals become more specialised which enhances their prospects of survival in the places where they live. They are adapted to those environments. If you dilute their genes through hybridisation the resultant offspring is less specialised and therefore less likely to survive. Therefore this form of casual hybridisation goes against nature and natural selection as described by Darwin.

Cat thrown away in Russia saved from a waste processing plant

This video, in a tweet on the website, shows us a Russian waste processing plant worker removing a tuxedo cat from a sack inside a box next to a fast moving conveyor belt on which there is a ton of waste products being conveyed to a device which probably crushes it. 

If the worker in the video had decided to throw the sack onto the conveyor belt the cat would have been killed in minutes. So this man has been praised for rescuing this cat. The cat was apparently healthy and has been checked out by a veterinarian. The cat has also been taken to the ministry in charge of waste in Russia where he will be looked after by the employees and I would hope live out the rest of his life safely. 

The minister in charge has praised the employee who saved the cat and in a commonsense way advised that if people don't want to keep their cat they can take the animal to a shelter rather than putting them into a bag and throwing a bag on the rubbish dump. Common sense indeed but it takes a particularly callous person to do it.

This sort of human behaviour is not confined, obviously, to Russia. It happens everywhere on the planet and is a wanton example of animal abuse. To treat a sentient being as an item of rubbish is psychopathic behaviour. But you might be surprised how often it happens. There are countless examples on the Internet of domestic cats being abandoned deep in the countryside in cat carriers which are locked, incidentally, where they die of starvation. Or kittens are thrown out of car windows when crossing a busy junction. The chances of the kitten surviving under those circumstances are remote but some remarkably do. And there are some equally remarkable rescues from busy roads by decent people and sometimes police officers. They rescue the cats at a genuine danager to themselves.

Translation of the tweet: "A cat in a tied sack was found at a waste sorting complex for MSW processing in Ulyanovsk. He could have got into the separator, if not for the vigilance of one of the workers."

The best thing about this Russian cat rescue is that we have it on video, I suppose because the facility has inbuilt security cameras which record everything. The bloke who took the cat out of the sack was obliged to do it under the terms of his employment so it was not a deliberate act of cat rescue. He was just looking for certain objects which cannot be placed on the conveyor belt. He, therefore, had to open the sack to see what was inside. Tuxedo cats are black cats with a small white areas on the front, on their chest. They may have white paws but by and large they are wholly black cats with small areas of white caused by the piebald gene.

Cat micro-chipping to be compulsory in UK but who will enforce it?

The UK government has been discussing the mandatory microchipping of domestic cats for a long time. It makes sense and surveys indicate that the citizens of the UK want compulsory micro-chipping. The current government minister who can introduce a bill for compulsory micro-chipping is Lord Goldsmith who failed to get a seat in the Commons but who was appointed a peer by Boris Johnson. He wanted to keep him in the government. One reason is probably because Boris Johnson's fiancé is Carrie Symonds and as you probably know by now she is very much an environmentalist and an animal welfare advocate. She is a member of a campaign group called Oceana. She speaks a lot about cleaning up the oceans and her presence at the centre of government, in effect, is very welcome for animal advocates. I'm sure that she together with Lord Goldsmith with whom she is friends decided to attempt again to get through Parliament a bill which would make cat microchip in compulsory. It is long overdue but the practicalities are a constant headache.

Having announced that the UK government would be introducing a bill next year, the veterinarians of the UK came out vociferously against it. This is despite the fact that the animal welfare charities and the animal rescue centre such as Cats Protection and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home were very much for such a bill because they would hope that it would reduce the number of unwanted cats in their shelters. When obligatory microchipping came out for dogs in 2016 there was a massive surge in micro-chipping. Nobody appears to have complained about that project but the veterinarians are fearful that if they become obliged to police compulsory micro-chipping cats it will take them away from their core work which is more profitable or should be.

I think their big worry is that the government wants veterinarians to be the front line of this project to both deliver the microchips to cats and then participate in a nationwide registration process and indeed an enforcement process which may be quite time laborious and labour-intensive. They also believe, through the president of their association, that micro-shipping does not necessarily enhance animal welfare. The spokesperson said that there would be more disputes about ownership of cats because of microchipping and that this could lead to the euthanasia of cats at shelters.

What they are alluding to is the situation whereby a cat is brought to a shelter and a microchip has not been updated for instance so the shelter cannot ascertain the owner's name and address or contact details. The cat is then adopted by a thirds party at which point the original owner comes forward having discovered that their cat is at the shelter only to find that they've lost their animal to a new adopter. A dispute commences in which the shelter is the referee. Nobody is happy about that and the outcome is uncertain. In the past when shelters have been in this invidious position they have felt obliged not to disclose to the original owner the new owner's contact details on privacy grounds. This ends up with a deadlock and the genuine owner being unable to reclaim their cat.

In that instance the animal welfare issues are limited except that the cat becomes the centre of a tug-of-war. It is hard, however, to equate poorer animal welfare with micro-chipping. I disagree with the veterinarians. Microchipping is known to help with the reunification of last animals with their owners. This clearly helps improve animal welfare. The bottom line is that the veterinarians are fearful about their income which is constantly under stress.

I suspect that they feel they deserve more than they are paid because they are as qualified as human doctors. Indeed they can call themselves doctors but they cannot get parity with human doctors in terms of salary. This means they constantly try to improve their profit margins as independent veterinary practices or sometimes they sell-out to big veterinary chains in order to improve their income. The fact of the matter is that human doctors are paid by the NHS (tax payers' money) whereas all veterinarians are paid privately which invariably means that money is tighter. That's the root cause of their objection to compulsory micro-chipping in my opinion.

There are some more points to make about micro-chipping. Although it is highly useful it is not entirely safe because you inject quite a large object under the skin of a cat. This can cause injury on the injection and the microchip can move sometimes. And there is always the ongoing issue of microchip data not being updated which nullifies their efficiency. Finally, the registration of microchips is a private affair. It is not a government run operation and therefore these businesses are constantly changing name or going bust or being reformed et cetera. This scrambles, in my opinion, the registration process. 

Or at least it muddies the water and makes things more complicated. These are the downsides, the biggest of which is how to enforce compulsory micro-chipping. Let's think about it. A cat owner does not microchip her cat. The cat is never ill so for years she would be in breach of the law. If she was caught she would be subject to a fine of perhaps £500 but she's never caught because no one knows whether a cat living in a home is microchipped or not. A lot of people don't take their cat to a veterinarian for many years so even if a veterinarian was charged with enforcing the law they wouldn't know about the cat. That's the kind of problem the government is up against in practical terms.

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Coronavirus pandemic has facilitated the sale of kittens online

Because of social distancing and an increased fear of contracting the Covid-19 virus, doors have been opened to unscrupulous kitten and cat sellers who exclusively ply their trade online. It is very dangerous to purchase a kitten online without visiting the breeder at their home and watching the interactions between kitten and mother and asking questions of the breeder. There is no shortcut to this and if you simply select online you really do not know what you are buying for sure.

This is a 5 week old kitten but not Lola mentioned below. Photo: Martin.

As the head of advocacy and government relations at Cats Protection, Jacqui Cuff said, "The Covid-19 pandemic has created the ideal conditions for unscrupulous sellers to thrive, as they appear to have a credible reason for not allowing buyers to view the kitten with their mother first".

It is very difficult for buyers of kittens online to be sure of the kitten's background and health. You simply cannot buy a kitten sight unseen and judging their health and welfare from a photograph online which is often of poor quality. I know people are very keen to adopt pets at the moment for companionship but it is easy to be scammed and the UK is full of scammers believe me. There has been a surge in puppy adoptions for instance and a lot of scammers are in the dog marketplace too.

It can lead to real problems both for the adopter and the kitten or cat. A story highlights this. It concerns a kitten sold online whose name is Lola. She was advertised in October for £200 and it was said that she was 10 weeks of age. She was purchased but the new owner who gave her up to Cats Protection. That early abandonment of itself is instructional. It's points to what I would call impulse buying of a sentient being. This is always very unwise because it's a lifelong commitment. We know that.

It was discovered by Cats Protection staff that Lola was five weeks old when she was sold which is far too young and which may result in behavioural problems due to early weaning. She's been rehomed at nine weeks old but it's just another example of an unscrupulous seller lying.

All the people in the know say that if you want to adopt a cat you must visit the person who is transferring the cat to you either free of charge or for sale. And you have to be sure what you're doing. You have to ask yourself whether you are adopting for the lifetime of the cat and if you can't answer that question in the affirmative then you should stop. Cats are quite expensive to keep. You must have some money in the bank and an income otherwise it is not going to work out very well if at all.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Do owners of full-time indoor cats do enough to satisfy their cat's feeding requirements?

Cats confined to the indoors are dependent upon their owners entirely when it comes to feeding. The way a domestic cat feeds should reflect how their wild ancestor feeds. It is also said that cats naturally eat several small meals per day. The feeding of domestic cats, confined to the indoors, should try and introduce some sort of hunting behaviour which is perhaps attempted with food puzzles. I don't believe in food puzzles because they don't work as far as my cats are concerned but they do attempt to replicate hunting prey. In other words it's an attempt for a full-time indoor cat to feed naturally.

Are some dry cat food pellets toos small promoting swallowing without chewing? Image: PoC.

The feeding of a domestic cat should promote their physical and mental/behavioural health and they should be given a choice to allow them to find what they like best. Choice is a massive factor in the feeding of domestic cats in my view. I strongly believe in having a selection of foods with which I can provide my cat. I know that he likes variety and change.

Note: the link in the tweet above no long works as free access which is disappointing but the feeder is interesting.

Free feeding from a permanently available dry cat food bowl is perhaps the most common way that we feed cats. It's okay provided the cat doing the free feeding is not putting on weight or has gained weight and is classified as obese and is provided with alternatives which must be wet foods to compensate for the lack of moisture in dry cat food. Domestic cats do drink more water when they eat dry foods but it is strongly argued that they do not compensate adequately and therefore they can maintain a state of mild dehydration about which the owner is unaware and which has a slightly damaging effect on the cat's health.

The point of this short post is to say that it is fine to keep your cat indoors all the time in the interest of safety but you can't, I believe, do it casually. It places an added burden upon the cat's human caretaker in terms of feeding arrangements and entertainment. It is much harder to create a natural environment for a cat indoors and if you don't there might be health consequences for the cat. They can become bored, obese and mildly depressed at best. They become stifled but they accept it and adapt to it. But it is not a full life.

The alternative, to allow a cat outside is perhaps equally bad because of the dangers outside. This is a great dilemma for cat owners because neither option is entirely satisfactory. Does this not point to the elephant in the room? The inbuilt partial failure of cat domestication. 

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