Friday 21 January 2022

Chief Executive of Cat Protection quits over 18 cats at colleague's home

NEWS AND COMMENT: Charles Darley was the chief executive of Cat Protection for 3 months. This is Britain's largest cat charity. It is based around cat fostering. The Times reports that he has quit his role because he does not think that Linda Upson, chairwoman of the trustees of the charity, can defend having so many cats in her home on welfare grounds.

Upson and one of her cats
Linda Upson and one of her cats. Photo: Daily Mail.

Upson has 18 cats in her three-bedroom home; 6 are foster cats. The story prompted me to immediately check on the rules that Cats Protection impose upon their fosterers. I know that they have quite strict rules. One of them is to separate the foster cat from any other cats in the home. This is a permanent state of affairs. And on their website, they refer to one cat being fostered. I guess they allow you to have more than one cat especially when there is a litter of kittens to take care of.

That said, Upson was apparently complying with the rules. It's reported that she had undergone regular training and was aware of the requirements for cats in her care. A spokesperson for the charity said that all the cats were happy and healthy and that, "We found the six foster cats in her care were kept in a separate, clean and well-kept area of her house away from her pet cats."

UPDATE Jan 25, 2022 (4 days after I posted): Upson has resigned. This is part of her statement:

"I have today stepped down from my role as Cats Protection’s Chair of Trustees and my role as a Trustee on the Board because I passionately support Cats Protection and do not wish recent news coverage to detract from the charity’s vital work helping cats in need. For the past 20 years I have dedicated my time to cat welfare through my un-paid, voluntary role, leading a volunteer-run branch and serving on the charity’s Advisory Council before joining the Board of Trustees in 2012 and becoming Chair in 2017...."

She said the following about her own cats:

"My cats are aged between nine and 19 years old. I believe they are happy and healthy as each has their own feeding bowl, litter tray and other resources. They are all fully vaccinated and regularly taken for veterinary consultations. I also have no foster cats at this time."

However, Darley, who was three months into a 12-month contract as interim chief executive told The Guardian newspaper: "To have a chair that apparently isn't adhering to best practice is very damaging to the charity, and disastrous for staff morale.
Charles Darley
Charles Darley and young black cat. Photo: Mail Online.

I'm a little confused because on the one hand the charity is saying that she complied with the rules and on the other hand the former chief executive stated that she was not complying with best practice. Perhaps this is a grey area. It's about the quantity of cats in her care.

Upson clearly had six foster cats and therefore 12 of her own cats. To have 18 cats in a three-bedroom home is pretty close to cat hoarding. Obviously, they were kept in good conditions so we're not talking about a typical cat hoarding environment, far from it. But it must be a handful to properly care for 18 cats in a three-bedroom home. It's very hard to keep the home completely free of cat odours for example.

Jackson Galaxy, the well-known American cat behaviourist, television presenter and author, is adamant that cat caregivers should have one cat litter tray for each cat in your care; plus, one more. On this basis Upson should have 19 cat litter trays in her home. That was seen to be impractical.

My personal feeling is that the former chief executive is correct. Even if she was complying technically with the rules and regulations of Cat Protection, she was not following best practice as there are too many cats in her home. You have to think about other things than keeping the place clean. What about the territorial demands of domestic cats?

RELATED: Domestic cat territory – home ranges vary widely.

Cats are very sensitive to the amount of territory they have. They are adaptable. However, with 18 cats in a three-bedroom home you are compressing their home range to a tiny fraction of what they naturally desire. Each cat within her home will have a home range of perhaps 5 yd². Given free-reign a domestic cat will roam over 4 acres to 50 acres or more. Male cats need more home range territory than female cats.

Compressing a large number of cats into a relatively small space is going to, at least potentially, cause stresses which can lead to health problems such as cystitis. Most of us realise that now. And of course, it is harder to keep the cats healthy because the potential for a contagious disease to spread is much higher under these circumstances than if there is one or two cats in the home. This is what he means by failing to follow best practice.

RELATED: 14 links between stress in domestic cats and health implications.

I have quite strong feelings about people keeping large numbers of cat in the home. It doesn't have to be that way. It is, at the end of the day, self-indulgent. I'm sure that people do it for themselves. They might have a hoarding mentality. They satisfy themselves because they like the large number. 

The point I'm trying to get at is that they don't do this in the interests of cat welfare generally but to satisfy a need within themselves. If Upson was generally concerned about cat welfare, she would have one or two cats of her own and then the six foster cats in a separate part of a home. But she has 12 cats of her own as well.

Apparently, according to the Daily Mail website online, staff at the charity were concerned about the number of cats but she was cleared to stay in the job. And also, the charity had previously done research on the subject of cats in cramped housing.

Mail Online reports that Linda Upson "left other staff despairing". They were concerned about how the charity might be seen by others and they were nervous about her being the spokesperson. Upson did not think that it was a problem when she was confronted by others about it.

Cats Protection agree with me that the kind of arrangements at Upson's home can cause animals considerable stress.

The charity's guidelines advise that cats must have "enough space so that they can get away from one another if they want to". Staff at the charity cannot defend Upson's behaviour.

Update: Sponsors of the charity may seek to activate clauses in their contracts allowing them to terminate their sponsorship due to “public embarrassment”. They've been urged to stick with the contract and not walk away from assisting the charity.

Here is a Cats Protection video on cat fostering:

: This is a video from another website which is embedded here. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

Thursday 20 January 2022

Could you recognise your cat's meow over the phone?

You might have heard of the story: a woman recognised the sound of her cat's meow over the phone when she called her veterinarian. I presume that the sounds were in the background while she was talking with veterinary staff who said that the sounds had come from a black rescue cat which had ended up at the veterinary clinic. The woman, Rachel Lawrence, hadn't seen Barnaby in eight months. She had given up seeing him again.

Could you recognise your cat's meow over the phone?
Rachel Lawrence's kids with Barnaby after the reunion. Photo: Rachel Lawrence (SWNS).

She had called her veterinarian because her current cat required veterinary treatment and she was checking on progress. She mulled over the meowing sound that she had heard and developed a conviction that her long lost cat had coincidentally ended up at the same veterinary clinic after he had been found.

In fact, she was confident that it was him. She asked the veterinarian in a subsequent telephone call if he was black and had a distinct white patch on his back foot. The veterinarian confirmed that this was true.

She went to the veterinary clinic to pick him up and it was him by all accounts. She said that she cried buckets. To use her words, "I was howling".

Barnaby has settled in just fine after his eight-month absence. He had changed which is to be expected. She said that he had "loads of scabs and missing fur patches". He had lost a considerable amount of weight which is also to be expected. But he's getting well quite quickly and returning to his old self.

The big question is the one I pose in the title: do you think that you could successfully recognise your cat's meow over the phone in a blind test? I'm not sure that I could. Of course, I know the sound of my cat intimately but the difference between the meow of one cat and another can be distinct but it can also be subtle. I guess success depends upon how distinct the sound of your cat is combined with a bit of luck.

It is probably fair to say that all good cat owners would recognise the sound of their cat in a blind test about 70% of the time at a rough guess. But you couldn't guarantee that you could do it accurately all the time.

I think I have to mention the human mother's innate ability to pick up the sound of their baby when they need help. And there's also a discussion about a baby's ability to recognise their mother's voice. The domestic cat is like a baby too many women and indeed men. People are very sensitive to cat sounds and cats have developed a cry which has undertones of the crying sound of a baby. This has been developed over thousands of years to elicit a response from their human caregiver. This modification has taken place both to the purr and the meow. All these are influencing factors on whether a woman or man can recognise the sound of their cat in a blind test.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Tesla car is a cat-killer when you start up and drive off says Jamie Lynn Spears

Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger sister of singer Britney Spears, and an American actress and singer in her own right, has confessed that she has accidentally ran over her cats with her car when she starts up and drives off. Jamie Spears has acquired $6 million apparently in her career and therefore has disposable income. With that income she decided to buy a Tesla car. Being good for the environment must have been a factor.

Jamie Lynn Spears says that her Tesla car is a cat-killer because it is too silent when it starts up
Jamie Lynn Spears says that her Tesla car is a cat-killer because it is too silent when it starts up. Image: Unilad.

However, in an Instagram story shared by Pop Crave in January 2022, Spears tells us that her Tesla has caused her more grief and happiness.

She said: 

"Someone's got to let Elon Musk know that the Tesla is a secret cat-killer, and it’s a problem that we’ve really got to fix. We have now lost — I don’t even want to tell you how many cats — because they don’t hear the Tesla crank and unfortunate things happen and it’s really devastating and tragic for everyone involved. So, since the Tesla is so quiet, maybe he could make one of those noises that bother cat or animal ears when it cranks up, so that way they know something’s happening, and they aren’t caught off-guard and things don’t end in a very tragic way."

The section in bold typeface is disconcerting. It implies that several cats have been crushed by her car. My interpretation of that statement is this. Domestic cats like to go underneath cars that are parked in the driveway. Or if they are let outside, they often make their way underneath parked cars down the street. This is a classic domestic cat activity. They don't realise the danger.

If your cat is parked in your driveway and if they are allowed outside, they may go underneath your car. You jump in your car to drive off and there is little or no noise from the car to alert your cat that the vehicle is about to move. The cat is surprised and I'm going to guess sometimes they are caught under the wheels. They are killed by their owner's car. This is, I believe, what Jamie Lynn Spears is referring to. If I'm incorrect then please correct me. P.S. It seems that she has said that she has not driven her car over her cats. I'm getting mixed messages. Perhaps someone can clarify.

RELATED: Tesla cars present a danger to domestic cats?

The first thing to do is for Tesla to investigate this properly if they are so minded. They should investigate it because domestic cats are important to people. They are, as we all know, treated as family members. This polite complaint by this celebrity should not be brushed under the carpet in my opinion.

Jamie Lynn Spears is suggesting that Tesla do something about it. My thoughts are these. They could fit a button to the dashboard computer screen or a voice command which is activated when the driver sits by the steering wheel and is about to take off. Or this could be activated automatically.

If a voice command is used the driver could tell their vehicle to emit a sharp high-pitched noise for a few seconds. This should scare the cat away. That kind of solution may be the best one. The manufacturers may be able to retrofit something because they already have a device which creates sound namely the horn and they already have high-tech computer software built-into the Tesla. 

And I will presume that the on-board computer accepts voice commands. If I'm correct it should be fairly easy to add some sort of warning sound to drive away cats underneath the car before setting off in the morning.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Cheating on your husband and loving cats are linked by the Libra star sign

I don't think that this is hard science, if you know what I mean, but it might interest a few people. The website states that the most common traits among women who engage in infidelity in relationships tend to like cats and be Libras. They are also more likely to have one or two cheating parents, use Botox, have a boob job and other cosmetic enhancements.

Libra by Three Leaves on Deviant Art.
Libra by Three Leaves on Deviant Art.

In the UK they enjoy Love Island, like the music of Adele, drink Pinot Grigio, drive a mini and yes be born under the star sign Libra. They do say however that women most likely to cheat on their husbands are Geminis. As it happens, Boris Johnson the UK's Prime Minister is a Gemini. I thought I'd just throw that into the mix because he does have a reputation for creating a very large family which necessitates changing partners from time to time.

Apparently, there is a "cheating gene". You inherit it from your parents which is why if your parents have been cheating on each other or have a history of it in the past then it is likely that you will carry the same gene and also be a less than faithful wife or partner.

And it seems that when children's parents are unfaithful in their relationships, they don't criticise the children for being unfaithful which in turn encourages the children to be unfaithful. That is the theory. Leos, Aries, Sagittarians and Scorpios are also more likely to have affairs.

In order to be totally fair and woke, I have to address what cheating men are likely to be doing, which according to the website is the following.

Have one or two cheating parents, be tall, like rugby, like rock music, wear aftershave, drive a BMW, drink lager, dye your hair, be a Libra and "be the current age of the last year of the decade e.g. 29, 39, 49". I'm not sure what that means. I'm not sure that it is important! No mention of liking cats.

This is a bit of fun, obviously, but perhaps you think there is some validity to astrology. There might. I am sceptical but open-minded about it.

Out of interest, Eminem, Kate Winslet, Kim Kardashian and Will Smith are four celebrities who are Librans.

Do cats judge us? No, in my view.

Do cats judge us? I was going to say that this is a silly question but it isn't that bad. But it is a question based on human behaviour. Judging other people is what humans do. It can be quite a bad habit. Sometimes people don't have the right to judge others because to do so is hypocritical.

Cats don't judge us
Cats don't judge us 😊. Image: MikeB

But when you judge somebody you measure them against standards. These may be personal standards or universally accepted standards of morality and socially acceptable behaviour. It's quite a complicated process.

I don't think babies or young children judge people because they have not learnt about those standards. They not learned about societal standards and they don't have any moral standards of their own. They have not had sufficient time to gain the necessary experience.

I mention that because in many ways domestic cats are like babies. They are far more instinctive than humans. They don't have moral standards in my view. They do expect certain behaviour from other individuals be they a human or another cat. If they don't recognise some forms of human behaviour they might be confused. They may adapt to it. Domestic cats are very adaptable.

But they don't judge people. They tend to accept what is before them in terms of behaviour and if it is unusual to them they will be initially confused and perhaps fearful. The domestic cat world is relatively very simplistic compared to that of humans.

Their world revolves around hunting, snoozing, sleeping, eating and then hunting. Hunting is substituted by play when they are not allowed to hunt or there is nothing to hunt. But there's no complexity in the life which perhaps automatically eliminates the concept of judging others. In their lives there is nothing really to judge.

All domestic cats are excellent hunters. They are top predators. They are behaving in a very similar manner. There is little variation which blocks discretion and options to do things which are unacceptable. So if they were minded to judge other cats there'd be nothing to judge.

I'm probably over complicating the answer. Cats don't judge us. The worst that can happen, as mentioned, is that they are confused by the human environment and human behaviour sometimes. But they work around it and adapt.

These are personal views. You may well have opposing views. If so, tell me, please.

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