Au revoir mon cher animal de compagnie

France is a pretty progressive country. But they need to work on their relationships with their pets. Every summer, most French receive six weeks of summer holiday around July and August. This is a time to leave home, and when they leave home, they abandon their cats to live on the street or take them to shelters. They also turn in their dogs to shelters. With everyone on holiday at the same time, it is difficult to find someone to care for their pets. And unfortunately, it is culturally acceptable. On the plus side, the government is working to change public opinion on this accepted practice. I first learned of this problem in a radio story on NPR:  http://www.npr.org/2012/07/11/156609037/in-france-the-abandoned-dog-days-of-summer. According to this article, the problem also exists in Spain and Italy.

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Tosh Kitty, at our workplace at a community cat feeding station. Tosh would occasionally nip when fearful. Tosh is now an indoor kitty. 

In a somewhat related note, a woman and her dog were attacked by a group of six feral cats in Belfort, in northern France. She was walking her poodle and both were injured in the attack. Feral cat colonies develop when cats are abandoned by their owners. Usually, feral cats and community cats are harmless, either shy of people or friendly with them. It is very uncommon for cats to attack in this way. It is unfortunate for both the cats and for the people and animals that are attacked. (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2013/07/27/Woman-attacked-by-feral-cats-in-eastern-France/UPI-64121374939056/?st_rec=46591376935738)

So why do cats attack random people on the rare occasion? According to Dr. J Righetti, an animal behaviorist, (http://www.purina.com.au/cats/behaviour/cat-attacks) cats attacks can be linked to redirection of aggression due to fear, anger, or over stimulation. Cats also bite during mating season. Medical conditions, such as pain, can cause cats to bite. Finally, cats are predators and attacking is an instinctive behavior.

Final note, the best ways to address this problem: fix community cats, provide health assistance for them, and don’t abandon pets.

 

 

‘Tis the Season – for Kittens

Well, kitten season has begun! I received an excited text from a friend in Stockton. She spotted a small black fuzzy kitten ball under Highway 99. My friend was driving through the underpass when she saw the lone kitten cowering from a pit bull dog on a leash. She asked the dog owner to hand her the kitten. It was too young for the shelter, so she brought little fur ball home to foster it until it was ready for adoption.

Smitten by a Kitten
Smitten by a Kitten

These dear friends have already fostered three kittens from a stray in their neighborhood. No doubt, they have excellent karma and cat angels are protecting them from the great beyond. I set about looking for a home for Fluff-a-Lump by posting her story on Facebook. Unfortunately for my friends, they were smitten, bitten by the charm of a kitten. They decided to keep Miss Indigo (“she is sweet and she cuddles”).

So what is kitten season? It is the part of the year that kittens begin to show up at shelters. It starts in the spring and extends through the fall, with a peak period in July or so. We really should have non-kitten season (winter) as it is a much smaller season.

And, at what age does a shelter start adopting out kittens? It seems 12 weeks is a good amount of time to wean a kitten from its mother. Some wean as early as eight weeks. Once a kitten has weaned, the shelter will fix them before distribution.

Finally, what should you do if you see a solo kitten? Back up 20 feet and wait to see if mama is near. Sometimes, mother kitties will search out food, leaving their babies alone for a time (what! no sitter!). If you do find a small homeless family, provide some food and water, and let the mother finish raising her kittens. This will give the babies the greatest chance for survival.

Why o why, o why, do we have so many kittens? Every cat I KNOW has been fixed.

 

 

 

Just When You Think There is Nothing Left to Write About, a Stranger Shows Up at the Back Door

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It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a stranger around our neighborhood – a hobo of sorts, looking for a handout and a safe place to sleep. Monday, I was thinking, “what can I possibly write about this week?” And on Tuesday, “Ring Tail Cat” came to the back door. I immediately recognized the tell tale signs: a thick burly neck like a linebacker, tattered ears, rough fur, and skittishness. He came sniffing around at breakfast. My kitties were hoping I would see the interloper. As I moved toward Ring Tail Cat, he took off. I called him and he stopped at a safe distance to watch. Later, he sat in the sun on a neighbor’s deck next to another cat where they had a screaming match. Fortunately, no one threw a punch.

I’ve not seen him in the neighborhood. So at this point, I needed to investigate. Step 1: Set up a food bowl with a critter camera to capture a picture (Check!). Step 2: Ask the neighbors if they know who owns him. Sometimes cats maintain multiple families (they loosely define the concepts of home and relatives) (In progress!). Step 3: If no owner materializes, then I work to get closer, and eventually touch and pet the cat. Step 4: (This is the hard part) Shove kitty cat into a carrier for a $30 visit to Forgotten Felines, where the can scan him for a chip. If no chip and one is certain there is no owner, fixing, shots, flea’ing, worming, the works! Step 5: Release cat back into the yard and watch him run like crazy. Actually, surprisingly, they continue to hang around, which I find amazing!

So if any of you know who this critter kitter is, let me know! Otherwise, I am on step 2 and working towards step 3.

Aoshima, Japanese Island of Cats

First things first – I saw a big feral kitty today! Actually, it was a bobcat and it was walking on a gravel road where I work! What a treat. I watched it for a good minute, and moved closer, separated by a eight-foot fence. As I neared, the bobcat dipped into dense shrubs, where he could continue watching a jackrabbit, also on the road. After a few minutes, the rabbit hopped away to safety (for now – it’s not easy being prey).

Next up – Japan has always followed its own unique cultural path. And Aoshima, an island overrun by cats is no different. In fact, Aoshima is just one of 11 Japanese islands inundated with cats. Japan also has a fox island and at least one rabbit island. These islands are places where these an animals have been allowed to breed in an out-of-control manner with no predators and no “fixing”. There are fun YouTube videos showing tourists feeding the animals and being inundated by them. They are great tourist attractions. But I feel like some of the animals may eventually suffer from lack of care and food. The responsible thing to do is manage breeding to stop the overpopulation.

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Cat of Aoshima, sitting at the harbor (The Atlantic Monthly, 2015)

The Atlantic Magazine wrote an article on Aoshima. Here is the link:

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/03/a-visit-to-aoshima-a-cat-island-in-japan/386647/

These islands have many more cats that human residents. The big question is, how did these animal populations grow out of control? One theory is that small resident populations believe that the cats would bring good luck and fortune. Some believe the cats protect the islands from tsunamis and fisherman believe the cats help them predict the weather and fishing potential. So they have supported the population growth, but they also feed the animals.

Most of these islands have “terminal populations”. That is, their human populations are elderly and declining. So what will happen to the cats when the elderly residents pass away. I can only hope that Japan will adopt a policy of compassionate care for these community cats.

If you are curious about the rabbit island, Okunoshima, you can read about it in wikipedia.

 

Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Through a comment received from a reader, I was surprised and happy to learn that the Island of Lanai in Hawaii has a cat sanctuary. The sanctuary has more than 515 cats and all have been fixed. The purpose of this non-profit is to reduce impacts to endangered bird species and to provide humane support for these formerly homeless community cats.

The non-profit sanctuary was founded in 2008. Hopefully, by 2028 (the 20-year life span of a long-lived cat), the population will begin to drop as fewer kittens arrive and older cats live to their natural life span.

And, if anyone is interested in moving to Hawaii, they are currently hiring a technician to care for, clean, and feed 515+ cats, at $13/hour plus benefits. It sounds like an ideal job, ehem, except for the cleaning part. I wonder if I can get my husband to move to Lanai!

In reading the reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp, the visitors frequently commented on how most of the cats at the sanctuary are very friendly and affectionate. It has been my experience that most homeless cats are very friendly and loyal and they live and let live with their kitty-colleagues. They have had a taste of a difficult life and are so appreciative of support and love and care from humans. Sometimes, these homeless cats start out frightened but can be coaxed into loving pets with a little bit of work. The effort is worth it!

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For more information, go to: http://lanaicatsanctuary.org/ or visit their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/LanaiCatSanctuary/posts/?ref=page_internal

The images in this post were gleaned from Yelp and uploaded to Yelp by visitors to the sanctuary.

The next time I visit Hawaii, this will be a “must visit” stop.

Pick of the Litter – Thrift Shopping, Donating, Volunteering

Forgotten Felines operates a thrift store on Piner Street in Santa Rosa called, “Pick of the Litter”. They can always use some help at the store, if you are interested in volunteering.  If you visit their web site, you can review their volunteer opportunities for merchandising assistant, sales-floor assistant and warehouse assistant. To apply for a position, contact FF’s volunteer coordinator at 707 576 7999. The web page URL is: http://www.forgottenfelines.com/volunteer-thrift-stores.shtml

Or, if you are a shopper, it is a typical thrift store with a little twist – they usually have a cat or two hanging out in a large cage at the back of the store. Plus, you can purchase cat supplies, like collars, toys, potted grass, and the ever-popular “crazy cat lady” bumper sticker. It is a clean and well organized store, a good place to treasure hunt. The store is on the north side of Piner Road at 1701A Piner. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 to 5 pm and on Sunday from 11 to 4.  Also, if you go to their web site at:  http://www.forgottenfelines.com/pol-santa-rosa.shtml, they have a calendar where you can see their daily specials. For example, every Tuesday, all shoes and clothes are discounted by 50%. There is a different special every day of the week.

Final note, I really like to donate my extra stuff to Pick of the Litter for a couple of reasons:

  1. The proceeds go to community cat care.
  2.  Some of the other thrift stores, like Goodwill and Salvation Army get so much stuff that they end up throwing things away. Pick of the Litter can really use your “hand-me-downs”.
Tiga Kitty. Lived at our workplace in 2016 and was “homed” after about six months.

The Controversy Over Feral Cats

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Cat feeding station at work

People are divided over how to manage feral cats. Forgotten Felines advocates:

Trap. Fix. Return.

The goal is the humane care for homeless cats. The ultimate goal is to eliminate litters of homeless kittens.

Others strongly believe that no cats should be allowed to roam free. This includes pet cats, because free-roaming cats cause problems. The problems include:

  • They kill birds, amphibians, and reptiles.
  • They fight with each other.
  • They spread disease from cat to cat and feral to pet.
  • They poop in gardens.
  • Cat poop can sometimes contain a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, that can cause flu-like symptoms in humans.

However, providing “trap.fix.return” support for homeless cats has several positive impacts that hopefully outweigh the negative impacts:

  • Cats also kill rodents, notably mice and rats.
  • Rodents can spread diseases, so if cats reduce a rodent population, they effectively reduce the spread of disease.
  • Use of cats to reduce rats eliminates the needs to use pesticides and other poisons. The more we can reduce the use of poisons in our environment, the healthier our environment will be for us, for wildlife, and for our children.
  • Caring for homeless cats is very rewarding for the volunteers who engage. Time spent with animals is soothing and comforting.
  • The U.S. has historically been a compassionate nation, caring for those in need, be they homeless people or homeless animals. The open arms of the U.S. have defined who we are as a nation – just look at the importance of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to the world. I believe this compassion extends to how we treat both human and animal suffering.
  • Many of these cats are capable of becoming pets (even 100% indoor pets). You’ll never have a more devoted pet than a feral cat.

Several years ago, PBS News Hour had a video article on the controversy. You can watch it here, if so inclined:

PBS News Hour: Why activists are fighting over feral felines

 

Medical Assistance for Community Cats

 

Bella Cat, a former community cat
Bella Cat, a former community cat

Oy vey! Where to start. There is a colony near my house that has a number of old cats. One of the cats, Bella, was looking particularly bad. I do not maintain this colony, but I buy some cat food for them, and visit and brush them. Several weeks ago, it was raining hard and so I took Bella cat home to get her out of the rain. She seemed content in our “guest room”. But her saliva smelled like rotting flesh from a distance of 5 feet. I took her to a vet with the intent of getting an antibiotic. The vet said she was in bad shape and suffering and recommended the cat be put down. So trusting this vet, I had the vet put down the cat ($182). THEN, I notified the primary caregiver for the colony. Needless to say, she was beside herself with anger, called me a few choice names and hung up on me. She also told me (aka, the Grim Reaper) to stay away from her cats. I can’t blame her.

I thought I had done the right thing for the cat. But then I contacted Forgotten Felines and they had a completely different perspective. They said the standard for quality of life is different for feral cats, as compared to house cats. Vets may have a higher expectation. I explained to FF the diagnosis. FF said that all of the ailments the vet mentioned were manageable! They also said (this is the more important piece of information), that they can accommodate health care visits at their Wednesday clinics for community cats living in a colony! An appointment is required. The charge is $30 and the cats are seen by volunteering vets. So, lesson learned. Rest in peace Bella.