Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why Do Cats?

Our cats easily amuse us, especially when it comes to their love for boxes and bags. Some cat lovers go as far as going to their local grocery store to gather an extra box or two. Plastic bags and gift bags are also favorites for cats. Did you ever come home from a day of shopping or a party to find your cat inside of a bag, playing or hiding? It’s quite funny and the cats probably have no idea how much humor they bring to us by slipping into their favorite hiding spot.

So why boxes? Why bags?  Is it safe for our cats to be in boxes and bags? What is the attraction between cats, bags, and boxes?

Cute Girl

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's National Feral Cat Day!

Park behind a shopping center or restaurant, and you'll see them. Lovely phantoms of our own domesticated cats, living rough and scrounging for food. An estimated 50 million of them live this way in the United States.

If they're lucky, some kind soul cares for their colony, faithfully bringing them food and fresh water daily, providing them with shelters and blankets to fend off the cold, and perhaps even trapping them so they can be neutered or spayed and vaccinated before being returned to their wild home.

But not everyone harbors friendly feelings toward them. The most avid bird advocates use flawed and slanted research to support their argument that feral cats kill billions of songbirds annually when, in reality, habitat loss from human development and predation by other birds both kill more than do cats. Some of these misguided folks even poison or shoot cats they see wandering.

Technically, feral cats are just like our domesticated cats. Their ancestors were once happy pets like ours. But someone turned them out, or moved away and left them behind. Or the cats wandered too far from home and never found their way back. Eventually, they lost their desire to live with humans and became frightened of us. A few can be tamed, but most prefer to live out their lives on their own.

But how long of a life is that? If a feral cat lives 8 years, he's very lucky. Most have considerably shorter life spans. Those colonies that are cared for in a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program live healthier lives, but not necessarily much longer. The big advantages of TNR are that the cats are not a danger for contracting rabies and they're not contributing future generations to expand the colonies, an important step in keeping ferals under control. Many communities have found TNR to be a much more humane and cost-effective way of managing feral cat colonies than the old method of trap-and-euthanize.

Today is the day set aside to raise awareness of the feral cats who live among us. But I prefer a term for them that's just coming into more common use: community cats. These cats are a product and a part of our human community. We need to learn to live peacefully with them.

If you'd like to help a colony of community cats in your area, there are accepted guidelines to follow. Local laws may address the feeding of cat colonies, as well, so be aware of those. These organizations provide information on how to properly implement a TNR program:

We also have a free brochure on you can download to help educate your community's leaders on the concept of TNR for managing feral cat colonies. Because these cats have no voice in the halls of local government, we need to be their advocates there. By presenting rational, factual arguments on their behalf, we can also help our community cats. It's not as thrilling as seeing them come to eat when you're caring for them, but it's a very necessary piece of the overall picture in providing for their welfare.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week!

Did you know that black cats have a much lower likelihood of being adopted from shelters? It's true! Those beautiful "house panthers" are often overlooked by people who think they're evil or bad luck. The same holds true for cats who are seniors, amputees, diabetic, FIV+, blind, deaf, or with other disabilities.

My first cat was a black cat. He was a delightful and loving boy who died of kidney failure at age 11. Now I live with a geriatric tortie, age 23, whose gentleness and wisdom also bring me much joy. We had another cat who died from FIP, but his love and exuberance for life gave us so much pleasure in the five years or so he lived with us. Is there extra time and care required with these special cats? Of course, but when you make the commitment to an animal, you do it. Those cats have all been my family, and I'm a better person for having shared my life with them.

Older cats are actually very nice companions. They're less rambunctious than kittens or younger cats, wiser and more dignified. They have their little quirks, but don't we all! And while checking a diabetic cat's blood sugar and dispensing insulin shots can be a chore, it's actually easier than trying to give any cat a pill.

Cats with disabilities can usually live their lives just as normally as unimpaired cats. Those missing a leg can climb and run just like normal. There was even a story on Alan Thicke's "Animal Miracles" show of a cat who drove a burglar out of the house while her owners slept...and she was completely blind! So there's no reason for these "less-adoptable" cats to be euthanized by the thousands just because someone has to make a judgement call on which cats are more likely to find homes. And yet, they are.

So has dubbed this week, September 17-25, as Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week. (Yes, that's actually nine days, but there are a lot of "less adoptable" animals in shelters.) They want to draw people's attention to all the overlooked, the less-than-perfect, the mistakenly maligned in our shelters, and ask you to take another look at them. Look beyond the flaws, and see the soul inside. That's where you'll find the real beauty in any animal.

For more information on Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable Pet Week, go to Petfinder's web page on it. You'll find promos there you can share on your websites and blogs. And make a trip to your local shelter to see who's waiting for you there.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cat Chef

I run into the exact same problem... Don't worry kitty... You are not alone...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Watching the Weight...Both Ways

With feline obesity at record levels (as my late Frankie here illustrated in showing off his big belly), we're all pretty much aware that we need to be concerned if our cats are getting too fat. But what if they're getting too skinny?

Weight loss in cats can be due to a number of health issues that are also causes for concern. If your cat seems noticeably lighter when you pick her up for a cuddle, it could be due to:
  • parasites
  • hyperthyroidism
  • diabetes
  • food allergy
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • an intestinal tumor
  • periodontal disease
  • feline leukemia
  • feline AIDS
My own little Vixen started losing weight, despite wanting to eat all the time and being fed multiple times throughout the day. At her advanced age (23!), a hyperactive thyroid is the likely culprit. She's been on a kidney diet for years, so her kidneys are already compromised. But her teeth aren't good any more, either, so perhaps that's it. An exam and blood tests at the vet are the only way to be sure. But cats as old as mine are still rare, so she gets a little of the dismissive treatment my mother also experienced toward the end of her life. The unspoken message is, "You've lived a long life, so congratulations! We don't know how to treat someone your age, and can't be bothered with trying to find the source of your discomfort, knowing that you may not live much longer anyway." Hopefully, as cats living into their 20s become more commonplace, more research will be done on geriatric cat conditions and more vets will specialize in geriatric veterinary medicine.

A recent article by veterinarian and radio talk-show host Dr. Heidi Bassler discussed sudden weight loss in cats. Dr. Bassler wrote:

Remember that cats are small creatures, so small weight changes are important. Ounces are significant, and pounds are alarming. A 15-pound cat that loses only 1.5 pounds has lost 10 percent of his body weight.

Cats make their own rules, and they are masters of disguise.

Unexplained weight loss may be the only obvious sign that Fluffy is in the early stages of serious illness. Very often, these cats are still playful, interactive, eating and drinking. But inside their bodies, something is changing so that they are not able to process food for energy as they have in the past.

Obviously, if your cat is losing weight, a trip to the veterinarian is the first step. Once your vet has determined the cause of kitty's sudden new svelteness, a visit to Old Maid Cat Lady's Health Time page may be in order. We carry natural and homeopathic remedies for a variety of ailments, as well as products to help cats gain weight, as well as lose it. Most importantly, don't ignore unexplained weight loss. It could be serious.