Monday 17 January 2022

Morten Morland's cartoon 'Operation Dead Meat' showing dead cats and a horse is in bad taste

I regularly see the work of Morten Moreland in The Times newspaper as I get the paper every day. I hope that I have not upset anybody by reproducing the cartoon here. I would hope that I can plead fair use. I know that this cartoon is copyright protected but if it is a problem to the author or anybody else then please leave a comment and I will respond rapidly.

Morten Morland cartoon 'Operation Dead Meat' is in bad taste
Morten Morland's cartoon 'Operation Dead Meat' is in bad taste. It shows dead cats being swung around like inanimate objects. It is horrible.

In the meantime, I fell compelled express my views on the cartoon. As an animal advocate this cartoon is in very bad taste in my opinion. I don't think that I need to explain myself. I am referring particularly to the cats. I am a cat lover and I have a very large website about domestic and wild cats. 

This is treating dead cats like funny objects by Boris Johnson and Nadine Dorries (Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) in the armour. They are spinning dead domestic cats around their heads while sitting on a dead horse. It's just unpleasant. And I don't think it's funny.

The cartoon is a reference, by the way, to the need to shut up the backbench MPs currently in the House of Commons. This is because they want blood because of Boris Johnson's poor performance. So Boris feels that he needs to throw them some red meat which they can consume like lions in a cage at the zoo to keep them quiet.  The 'red meat' will be strong right-wing policies to be instigated rapidly. This will help Boris stay in power. His position is fragile.

And in this instance the phrase "red meat" has been changed to "dead meat" as a reference to Boris. He is going to be ejected from the top job.

Sunday 16 January 2022

Owner-surrendered cats find animal shelters harder to deal with than stray cats

This might be common knowledge among animal shelter workers but I think it's still worth repeating. A study published in 2007: Behavioral differences between owner surrender and stray domestic cats after entering an animal shelter, found that when a cat owner surrendered their domestic cat companion to a shelter the cat found the whole shelter experience more stressful than stray cats brought to the shelter.

Shelter tabby cat keen to be adopted
Shelter tabby cat keen to be adopted. Photo: Pixabay.

I can't read the detailed conclusion or the reasons behind this finding because I have to pay for access to the entire study but I think I can reasonably guess the reason why. 

Domestic cats are used to a friendly environment. Stray cats are used to a hostile environment. When a stray cat goes into a shelter there is perhaps not a lot of difference in the sense of hostility that the environment brings to them. But for a domestic cat it's a shock. They go from what should be a calm, pleasant environment to one which is noisy and where there are a lot of people coming and going and cats and dogs in cages making noises.

It is a foregone conclusion that an owner-surrendered cat is likely to feel stressed. The amount of stress they feel will depend upon their personality and their previous lifestyle.

In this study they examined 86 domestic cats (some of whom were stray cats). They measured their behaviour for the first three days after entering an animal shelter. They labelled the owner-surrendered cats as "OS" and the stray cats as "S".

The conclusion was:

"Results indicate that OS cats showed the greatest behavioral measures of stress and arousal compared to S cats."

They also found that the "mean behavioural stress rating" of cats that had been euthanised due to illness or disease was significantly higher in the OS group compared to the S group.

Further, when they examined archival data from 260 shelter cats that had developed an upper respiratory infection, the OS cats became ill much sooner than the S cats. They concluded that this was because they suffered from more stress than the S cats.

OS cats suffer from more stress than S cats when entering a shelter environment which impacts their behaviour, their health and general well-being. It can also lead to euthanasia as opposed to being adopted.

It's is a known fact that shelters can be very stressful places for cats. It makes them prone to behavioural problems and health issues. These include weight loss, self-trauma, over-grooming, aggression, withdrawal, bladder problems and upper respiratory infections.

A strong suggestion is that the best way to reduce stress in residents who are at a shelter in the long term is to remove them to a foster home which gets them out of the shelter environment. They should stay there until they are adopted. This should not just be a de-stressing tool. And foster carers should be trained and allowed to adopt out cats in their care.

The shelter can make arrangements to advertise the cats online and at their facility in the usual way and then refer potential adopters to the foster carer's home to meet the cat and discuss adoption.

An alternative is to divide shelter cats into two groups: one group is better able to deal with the shelter environment and are fast tracked for adoption while the second group may become more stressed and are therefore subject to more attention to alleviate stress and make their stay more acceptable to them. This should happen as soon as they enter the shelter.

Saturday 15 January 2022

List of the kind of parasites inside stray cats in the Middle East

It may interest cat owners to understand better the kind of endoparasites (parasites living inside an animal) that inhabit stray cats in the Middle East. It concerns and interest me. I'm interested in the health of stray and feral cats. How healthy are they when left entirely alone? We know that feral cats cared for by TNR volunteers can live quite good lives; even better than domestic cat sometimes. But what about stray and feral cats living without any human intervention? The cats at the bottom of the list in terms of health and welfare.

There are some studies about these sorts of cats and one such study took place in Iran (Gastrointestinal parasites of stray cats in Kashan, Iran by Mohsen Arbabi and Hossein Hooshyar of the Department of Medical Parasitology, Kashan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Kashan-Iran). It was published in 2008. The scientists looked at the species i.e. type of gastrointestinal parasites inside stray cats in Kashan, Iran.

Feeding stray cats in Iran
Feeding stray cats in Iran. Not all stray cats are so lucky but these animals are infested with endoparasites. Photograph in the public domain and on Pinterest.

The first point to make is that, perhaps as expected, 95.6% of the 108 cats checked were infested with endoparasites inside the gastrointestinal tract. The second point to note, and a side point, is that all these cats were killed and necropsied. In other words they were cut open and their organs: kidney, heart, liver, lungs, gastrointestinal tract checked for parasites. That is disturbing.

RELATED: 95% of stray cats have worms and 57% scavenge potentially life-threatening refuse.

About two thirds of the cats were male and the remainder were female. They found 15 species of endoparasites including helminths and protozoa. Helminths are parasitic worms i.e. nematodes. Protozoa are single-cells microscopic creatures and parasitic as well in this instance.

RELATED: How do I know if my cat has worms?

Here is the list of parasites found inside these unfortunate cats including the percentage of cats infested:

Nematodea (worms):

  • Toxocara cati 13.3%;
  • Physaloptera preputialis 39.8%,;
  • Rictularia 52.2%;
  • Uncinaria stenocephala 1.8%;
  • Cestodea (tapeworm):
  • Mesocestoides lineatus 7.1%;
  • Taenia taeniaformis 15%;
  • Diplopylidium nolleri 64.6%;
  • Dipylidium caninum 68.1%;
  • Joyeuxiella echinorhyncoides 85% (small worm: maximum length of 9 cm , and often being only 2 to 3 cm in length)

Sporozea (a protozoan with a cyst-forming stage in their life cycle):

  • Isospora rivolta 5.3%;
  • Isospora felis 5.3%;
  • Sarcocystis spp 8%,;
  • Blastocystis spp 16.8%.

Zoomastigophorea (another species of protozoan which are flagellates):

  • Giardia felis 0.9%;
  • Trichomonas spp 1.8%.

They decided that the contamination rate for zoonotic parasites i.e. parasites that can be transmitted between animals and people, was greater than expected in this region of Iran. They suggested, therefore, their control measures should be taken to protect people.

What is the point of this article? Answer: to remind ourselves and to highlight the fact that human carelessness leads to animal suffering. It leads to ill health in animals. And let's not brush the problem under the carpet. Let's take responsibility. These cats are in their predicament because we put them there. This is a humankind problem. It is carelessness and thoughtlessness. And to compound the problem these cats are often persecuted as pest and vermin by ignorant people. It's a double whammy of ignorance and inevitably it is animals who face the consequences primarily.

Friday 14 January 2022

Cat owners think that tabby cats are wilder than non-tabby cats

Mackerel tabby stray cat
Mackerel tabby stray cat. Pic in public domain.

This is an extension of the discussion as to whether a domestic cat's personality is linked to their coat colour and pattern. There's been quite a a lot of discussion about that. In an earlier post I referred to Dr. John Bradshaw who, in his book Cat Sense, did state that sometimes genes which have a say in a cat's personality are physically quite close to genes which control the cat's coat type and colour. So it appears on occasions that there may be a link between coat and personality but it seems to be rather tenuous to me and uncommon. You might like to read that article in which I discuss this. Please click on the link below:

Cat personality linked to coat colour?

In this article I am looking at the assessment of a domestic cat's personality through a particular study.

I'm going to rely on the conclusions of a study by a PhD student at the University of California, Davis. Rebecca Morgan looked at various aspects of domestic cat personality but also whether there was a link between coat colour and type and behavioural characteristics. 

She stated:

"The results of this study indicate that cats do exhibit individual differences in behavior that are quantifiable and predictable based on their owners’ subjective assessments."

There is nothing in that statement which tells us that a cat's coat type and colour, in general, is linked to their personality. It just states that domestic cats have their own personalities which we do fully understand. It does state that these differences are large enough to be measurable. 

This is also something that we understand as cat owners. And assessments of domestic cat personality are going to be subjective. When people assess domestic cat personality it seems to me that it is impossible to do it entirely objectively. You are relying upon people to look at cat behaviour and then assess the individual as to their personality. Subjectivity is going to make the process less accurate. People tend to project their ideas about personality onto their cat.

A good example is another observation by Rebecca Morgan. She said that her study produced evidence that there are higher levels of shyness in cats that have a wilder appearance. From that she means that tabby cats (agouti gene cats) are being assessed as having a wilder appearance and also being shyer (wildness and shyness go together). She also states that tabby cats with a wilder appearance do not have the sex-linked orange pigmentation. So, she's referring to brown/grey tabby cats as being wilder.

Clearly, subjectivity has entered this assessment. I'm not able to read the entire dissertation but I'm confident that people assess tabby cats as potentially wilder than non-tabby cats because the original domestic cats were domesticated wild cats. The North African wildcat has a tabby-type coat. The link is there. People are perceiving the North African wildcat in their tabby domestic cat. And from that starting point they are allowing their imaginations to decide that a tabby cat is wilder than a non-tabby cat.

Solid-coloured cats and bicolour cats look more domesticated. If they look more domesticated, they are more domesticated, is, I guess, the thought process.

Thursday 13 January 2022

Painkilling injection for cats with osteoarthritis which blocks the pain signal reaching the brain

This is a new drug, as I understand it, called Solensia (frunevetmab injection) which has today, Jan 13th, 2022, been approved in America by the US Food and Drug Administration. It is described as the first treatment for the control of pain associated with osteoarthritis in cats. It is the also the first monoclonal antibody new animal drug approved by the FDA for use in any animal.

AP News explains that the cat-specific monoclonal antibody, which is a type of protein, recognises and attaches itself to a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) which is involved in the regulation of pain. When frunevetmab binds to NGF it prevents the pain signal from reaching the brain.

This is an advancement in veterinary medicine for the treatment of pain arising out of osteoarthritis. Treatment options for cats with this disease are very limited.

One issue is that cats live longer, as do people, and when that happens there is a greater likelihood of chronic diseases developing such as osteoarthritis.

Accordingly, this treatment will be most welcome, I suspect, by many veterinarians and cat owners.

The video on this page is I believe designed for veterinarians but it does explain this drug quite nicely. There is a dog version of it with an equally complicated name that is also impossible to pronounce 😎.

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