Archive for the ‘5. Cats & Critters’ Category

DOMINION: animal abuse

The Bible says in Genesis 1:26 that God said, “and let them (mankind) have dominion over (animals)…”  Mahatma Gandhi said, “the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

According to Daniel Goleman’s bestseller, Emotional Intelligence,  animals with a limbic system in their brain, have emotions.  All mammals, which includes most farm animals, have limbic systems and therefore have feelings and fear, are joyful and love.  Animals also have varying degrees of intelligence, but most importantly, they feel pain and suffer.  As such, what right do people have to support their being tormented, suffer and die gruesome deaths?

Former Beattle  from Britain, Paul McCartney, said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”  In plainer English, if people could see the horrific slaughter of animals, many would find it difficult to eat anything with a face.  I’m the son of a butcher who went with his father most mornings to a few slaughterhouses to purchase the meat we sold at his butcher shop. While there, I saw animals slaughtered, some humanely, some cruelly.  I therefore have firsthand knowledge of what happens in slaughterhouses.

Red meat (beef, veal, lamb, pork) is bad for your health, except that it is high in quality protein.  Chicken (loaded with antibiotics) and fish (containing PCBs and mercury) are not good routine food choices either.   So what should one eat for optimal health, nutrition, and ethics?   Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of The End of Diabetes,  says basically “beans and greens,” and all other vegetables as well.  Meat should be used only for seasoning.

You may believe that farm animals are just dumb animals.  However, if that were true, how do you explain Priscilla the 3-month old pig, who in 1995 was inducted into the Texas Veterinary Medical Association’s Pet Hall of Fame for saving 11-year-old Anthony Melton from drowning by swimming to him, oinking to grab her harness, and then swimming with Anthony hanging on, to shore.  This story was reported in the book, Animal Miracles, and it is not unusual, it happens frequently.

In addition to slaughtering animals for food, we hunt them for sport, experiment on them causing needless suffering and pain, train them to fight each other for our amusement, do not neuter our pets to the extent that there are an estimated 100,000,000 homeless stray and feral cats alone in the U.S., most of which will eventually starve, freeze or thirst to death.  I had my own  cat shelter for ten years in Denver and “trapped, neutered, and returned” (TNR) about 100 feral and stray cats and therefore know of what I speak.

Many animal rights advocates are considered fanatics.  However, Abraham Lincoln, definitely not a fanatic, said “I’m in favor of animal rights as well as human rights.  That is the way of the whole human being.”

Finally, getting back to Mahatma Gandhi, if his assertion is correct that “a nation’s greatness is judged by the way its animals are treated,” is the U.S., or any nation on Earth, great?

 

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THE CHRISTMAS CAT: a story based on fact*

Kimmie the cat lived a quiet and peaceful life in her home on top of a 9,000-ft.-high mountain in the Colorado Rockies.  As Christmas drew near, little Kimmie would sit on her favorite window ledge and watch the snow fall and pile higher and higher.  When it snowed continuously for three days in late December, she knew she wouldn’t see brown soil again until May.  Kimmie was happy and content with her lot in life.  Her number one person, Sharon, was very gentle and kind to her, petting her and singing her to sleep every night.  Her number two person, Mike, wasn’t as gentle as Sharon, but he had a good heart, looked after her, and made sure she had food in her bowl the mornings when Sharon was still sleeping.

On occasion, things would get wild and crazy in Kimmie’s home when a foolish mouse would sneak into it seeking food and shelter, and Kim would chase it and play with it.  But most of the time things were quiet.  However, Christmas was just around the corner so Kimmie was very excited.  You see, Kimmie loved Christmas as no other cat did, because it was around Christmas many years ago that her parents adopted her.

“What will Santa bring me this year?” she thought.  Kimmie usually received cat toys and edible treats for Christmas, in addition to a beautifully-decorated spruce tree that she would pounce on top of and slide down. Kimmie liked doing that even more than playing with a mouse.  Except for one thing, Kimmie had seen and done it all in her 15 years of life.  The thing she had not done was to go outside of her home without being in her pet carrier.  She never had the opportunity to play with a squirrel, rabbit or chipmunk.  But this Christmas she planned to change all of that.

The day before Christmas finally arrived and little Kimmie’s heart beated rapidly in anticipation of her journey outside of her home.  Kim had no way of knowing that a winter storm was headed her way.  She kept a careful eye on the doors when Sharon neared them.  She couldn’t miss even one opportunity because one chance is all she might get.  Finally, that fateful moment arrived when Sharon opened the side door that led directly outside.  Kimmie sprinted to the door as fast as she could.  She was so quick that she was just a blur to Sharon.  The next moment she was in the spacious outdoors with everything white with snow, especially the pine, fir and spruce trees.  She looked back at her snow-covered home and heard Sharon calling her: “Kimmie, Kimmie, come back.  It’s too cold for you out there.”  But little Kimmie had made up her mind…she wanted to explore the woods.  Besides, she could always go home later.  It was very cold outside; much colder than she thought it would be.  She found a trail behind her house and walked and walked for what what seemed like forever.  She could see for miles.  There were endless mountains and wilderness and not a person or a home around.  Kimmie’s little paws quickly became frozen; they were not used to walking on snow.  “It is so beautiful outside,” she thought. “But it sure is cold.”  She came across a rabbit and chased it.  The only thing she ever chased in her house were mice!  “A rabbit is much more fun than a mouse,” she thought.  Then a fox wandered by so she hid.  “It’s my lucky day,” she thought.  “That fox might have caught me and I don’t even have claws to defend myself.”

Meanwhile, back at home, Sharon was filled with grief and guilt and could not stop crying.  She blamed herself for Kimmie getting out.  She called Mike at work and he immediately came home so that they both could scout the woods around their house in an attempt to find Kimmie before the winter storm arrived or before a fox or cayote caught her.  They began by putting out dirty bedsheets on a outside clothesline so that Kimmie might catch their scent in the air and thereby find her way home.  Then they went tramping through the woods with Sharon calling, “Kimmie, Kimmie, come here little sweet pea.”  But Kimmie was nowhere to be found.

By this time Kim was feeling the effects of the relentless cold and began shivering and sneezing.  She hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since she left home early that morning.  Kimmie missed the warmth of her home, the abundant food, and her fluffy cat bed.  She was cold, tired, hungry and thirsty and just wanted to go home. Although she searched and sniffed the air, she just couldn’t find her home.  Meanwhile, Mike and Sharon were getting exhausted and were running out of places to look for her.  They could feel the air turning much colder.  Then it began to snow. They knew that it would be dark in a few hours and temperatures would go down to below zero and eventually to minus 30 degrees.

Then a fateful coincidence happened: Bear, a neighbor’s German Shepard, spotted Kimmie at a distance.  He knew who she was and she knew who he was.  Bear had never seen Kimmie outside of her house so he figured that she had run away and was lost.  He ran over to her and said, “Kimmie, you’re not an outside cat; what are you doing out here?”  Kimmie tearfully replied between sneezes that she ran away that morning to see the woods but now was lost.  Bear replied, “I’ll never understand you cats, you don’t make any sense.  Follow me you crazy cat; you’re far from home, but I know where you live and I’ll get you back there.”  Kimmie followed Bear.  She didn’t realize how far from her home she had traveled.  When her house came into sight she lept for joy.  Bear said, “just keep following me, mouse-eater, you’re not home yet!”  The snow was coming down really heavily now and temperatures were already down to zero.

When Kimmie and Bear reached Kim’s house, little Kimmie meowed loudly for Sharon or Mike to let inside. Bear just looked at Kimmie in amazement.  Then he said to her, “This is how you do it, fur ball: woof, woof, woof!”  Sharon heard Bear’s barking and came quickly to the door.  Sharon said, “what do you want Bear?  You know Garrison doesn’t like me to feed you!”  Then Sharon saw little frozen Kimmie as Kim meowed and sneezed on the top of her lungs.  She said, “Oh Kimmie, Bear found you and brought you home to me!”  Sharon then picked up Kimmie and hugged and kissed her, and said to Bear, “what a wonderful friend you are. You saved my Kimmie!  Come inside and warm yourself by the fire.”  But Bear just barked and went back onto the trail.  He had to get home before the winter snowstorm got any worse.

Kimmie was the happiest cat in the whole world and Sharon and Mike the happiest people.  It was Christmas eve night and the Colorado Blue Spruce Christmas tree hadn’t been decorated yet because Kim’s folks had spent all of their time searching for her.  Kimmie snuggled in Sharon’s lap and just purred and purred as Sharon petted her near the fireplace and talked ever so sweetly to her.  She had just eaten a can of Fancy Feast cat food and was nice and warm.  Only the day before she had been wondering what special treats and toys Santa would bring her for Christmas.  As she basked in love, affection, warmth and abundant good food, she thought to herself, “how naive I’e been.  I already have the best Christmas present a cat could ever have.  It’s a cold world out there away from family and friends.  Truly, there’s no place like home.”

___________________________

*The only things in this story that are not true are: 1)Kimmie did not run away or get lost; and 2)animals can’t speak human languages.  All of the names, places, characters and descriptions in the story are real.

BONNIE THE STREET CAT

 I believe that you have to have pets of your own to fully understand how we “animal people”, feel about them.  I also believe that even referring to “companion animals” as “pets” is somewhat demeaning. Two of the first pets in my adult life were my cats, Bonnie and her kitten, Jenny.  They were special and I’d like to tell you a few of the things that I saw Bonnie do that demonstrates how special she was. One incident was an act of compassion and the other a demonstration of love.  You be the judge as to whether or not I’m attributing human qualities to my cat, Bonnie, or that she really was as special as I contend.

I first met Bonnie when she was a one-year-old homeless street cat.  I put out food and water every day and evening in my backyard for the homeless cats in the neighborhood.  Bonnie was a regular visitor, except that, unlike homeless feral cats that had never been socialized with people, she was very friendly. Suddenly one day she simply stopped coming around.  Months later, Bonnie, who had no name at the time, came onto my porch for some food and water and I decided to let her into my home because it was freezing cold outside.

She walked just a short distance into my parlor, looked around and returned outside to the bitter cold. However, within 5 minutes Bonnie returned to my porch accompanied by a black and white bloated, very sick cat. Both cats ate some of the dry cat food and drank some of the water that I had on my porch, and then both came to my front door and sat on the door mat.

Anyway, when I saw Bonnie with her sick friend, I immediately opened the door and Bonnie’s friend entered my home but Bonnie walked away. I quickly put out some canned cat food as well as a cat bed, litter box and a bowl of water. The sick cat ate and drank like it was starved and terribly thirsty. Meanwhile, I didn’t see Bonnie around again for a few months.

However, when I did see Bonnie again she seemed very fat. She came around every day and got fatter and fatter. It finally dawned on me that Bonnie, whom I thought was a male, was pregnant. From that moment on I couldn’t sleep peacefully at night. All I could think about was Bonnie’s kittens being born in the freezing cold and dying within 5 minutes of birth from the cold.

So one evening, when Bonnie came by for some food and water, I tried to entice her into my home. When I failed to get Bonnie to come in, I grabbed the cat carrier and a can of cat food and ran out and followed her across the street to a parking lot. She was so happy to see me pay attention to her… her tail wagged from side to side just like a dog’s.  I put an opened can of cat food into the carrier and thereby was able to lure her into it and took her to my home and let her loose inside.  The next day the “Cat Care Society” took in Bonnie and found her a foster home where she gave birth to six kittens.

Eight weeks later the Cat Care Society brought Bonnie and her kittens back to the shelter from the foster home and gave me the “pick of the litter” of the kittens. I picked an angel-faced little gray and white ball of fur who my wife named Jenny. However, the Cat Care Society was very concerned about Bonnie. When they separated her from her kittens, she grieved and cried and would not eat but I couldn’t take her home yet because she had to be neutered and then needed a few days to recuperate. “Cat care” thought Bonnie might die. Meanwhile, I brought home Jenny immediately.

When I finally brought home the emaciated and grief-stricken Bonnie, she stealthily approached Jenny, sniffed her, and then began licking her. She was the happiest cat you’ve ever seen!  Meanwhile, for weeks after being reunited with Jenny, whom she discovered on the floor by my sofa, it broke my heart to see Bonnie call and meow all around the sofa, thinking that her other five kittens were there also.

Bonnie and Jenny are now both indoor cats and although Jenny is all grown up, Bonnie still preens her and plays cat games with her like “Stalk,” “Ambush,” “Wrestle,” “Chase,” and “Cat-in-the-Box.” Bonnie is just one of millions of homeless cats on the streets who suffer from starvation, dehydration, being run over, freezing, being attacked by dogs and other cats, and being mangled by auto fans and belts when they snuggle up to a warm auto engine in the bitter cold. Fortunately I was able to save Bonnie and by so doing also saved her kittens, including Jenny.  Bonnie and Jenny’s love for each other and for me, and the compassion that Bonnie showed for a sick cat friend by bringing her to my home for food and help was very touching and made me love her even more.

Do you see why we Animal People” feel the way we do about our “Companion Animals”?

 

TRAP, NEUTER, RETURN” (TNR) PROGRAM FOR FERAL/STRAY CATS (audio interview)

I decided to conduct this conference call on TNR (25-minute audio of interview at the bottom of  written introduction) because it’s the answer to the feral and stray cat population explosion problem.  Ferals and strays starve, thirst,  freeze, are killed by dogs and other cats as well as by cars, and there are very few charitable organizations dealing with the problem.  Moreover, as a bonafide “catman,” who has trapped, neutered, and returned at least 100 cats, this issue is very important to me because I’ve come to know cats as the affectionate (if you feed and water them, scratch their heads, give them a name and talk to them ) creatures that they are.

If you love cats, don’t miss this discussion led by Mike Russo with Alex Mehn and Mark Rheinhardt on the very effective “Trap, Neuter, Return” (TNR) program for feral (afraid of people) cats.  TNR has been questioned recently concerning its effectiveness; however, we in the cat community have first-hand experience and knowledge that it works very well.  I took care of a 30-cat colony for about 10 years during which no kittens were born to any of my cats.

Alex Mehn, at the time of the interview, worked for the “Rocky Mountain Alley Cat Alliance” and its low-cost neutering clinic,”The Feline Fix,” as its TNR coordinator.  Mark Rheinhardt is an attorney on the board of the “Devine Feline” which operates a large van/mobile unit that travels around metropolitan Denver where its volunteers humanely trap feral and stray/homeless cats and have them neutered in the van by a volunteer veterinarian, and later returned to where they were trapped.

The discussion examines all facets of how a TNR program for caring for feral and stray-homeless cats could be implemented through local legislation (and uses Denver as an example of a city that needs TNR legislation and why).

In the TNR discussion, many issues are addressed, such as:

  1. How TNR helps prevent cat “hoarding”
  2. Feline aids and leukemia,
  3. Aggressiveness, zoonotic diseases,
  4. Curtails hunting and killing birds,
  5. The risks to catpeople without TNR, and much more.

To listen to this conference call, please click the red link  below.

Trap, Neuter, Return\” (TNR) program – Audio

 

KIMMIE THE KAT

Many years ago, when I was young and foolish, I was under the mistaken impression that all a man really needed for true happiness was a good woman. But as I’ve gotten older and a little wiser, I’ve come to see the light: a real man needs a good cat! Now I can imagine that some of you reading this are skeptical so I decided to scientifically compare a good woman, my second wife, with a good cat, Kimmie.  My  statistician says that 4 examples will suffice. I’ll keep score.

Before Kimmie the cat came into our lives, my wife, Sharon, and I really wanted a dog but we lived on the fourth floor of a condo in downtown Washington, DC, so a dog was out of the question. Then we got 5-month old Kimmie from the cat lady of Reston, Virginia. When I brought Kimmie home she was dirty and full of fleas, so Sharon and I decided to give her a bath. Fully wet, Kim looked like a drowned rat but a cute drowned rat. Giving Kimmie a bath was a real growth experience for us. I’m sure you cat owners out there know what I’m talking about.

That was Kimmie’s last bath!!!… What did I conclude from this?  Comparing the woman I know best, my wife Sharon, to the cat I know best, Kimmie, I decided that although a woman can take an hour to bathe, a cat can’t bathe itself and also is a real terror to bathe, so in this respect a woman is superior to a cat. Therefore let’s give women one point.

After moving from Washington to the mountains of Colorado I was hoping that some field mice would visit our home so Kimmie could develop her stalking skills.  I even suggested to Sharon that I buy some white mice and turn them loose in the house, but for some unknown reason Sharon did not like my idea. However, the day finally arrived when an unfortunate little field mouse got into our home seeking food and shelter.  Kimmie instinctively chased the mouse and even caught it, but she put it down on the floor and let it run away. She played “cat and mouse” with the mouse for two weeks, catching it, letting it go, catching it again, letting it go again. Finally one night at about 2 am, my wife heard some crunching sounds and that mouse was never seen again!

Now Kimmie is an old pro at catching mice. A mouse only lasts one night and in the morning the mouse’s hind quarters are neatly laid out for Sharon and I to admire. While this might gross out most people, I feel like a proud parent. What does this tell me?  In comparing a typical woman to a typical cat, not only can’t Sharon catch mice, she’s afraid of them…so give one point to Kimmie. The score is now women one, cats one.

When I take kimmie to the vet each year for her annual medical checkup, I get a good laugh.  Kimmie is probably the most timid cat that ever was, but the vet is frightened half to death of her. I hate to ridicule, but if you saw how scared he was of this tiny, eight-pound ball of fur, you’d chuckle too.  Kimmie’s last trip to the vet included her being tranquilized to have her teeth cleaned. That meant she had to stay at the vet’s overnight so she wouldn’t hurt herself while under the influence. When I went the following morning to get Kim to take her home, the vet asked me to go and get her from the back room.  I guess he was tired of my telling him how gentle and timid she was. I went to Kim’s cage, opened its door and was confronted with a hissing, snarling little tigress. I said, “Kim, it’s me…cut the bull; sweet pea, it’s me.” nothing worked. Maybe the vet is not such a scared-y-cat after all. What did I learn from this? …, comparing Sharon going to the doctor to Kimmie going to the vet, Sharon, unlike Kimmie, usually tolerates going to the doctor so she is superior to Kimmie in this regard. the score is therefore women 2, cats 1.

Sharon sleeps late in the morning.  Therefore, when I’m not home, Kimmie goes hungry for awhile early in the morning unless she can get Sharon up to get her breakfast. Being a smart cat, Kim developed a routine where she wiggles her whiskers under Sharon’s nose to tickle her to wake her up. She then follows this by licking Sharon’s hand with her sandpaper cat tongue and then standing on Sharon and meowing loudly into her face. Finally, if Kimmie’s especially hungry and it’s getting late, she climbs to the top of the nearby armoire and leaps from there onto the bed where Sharon is sleeping. If you knew my wife, you’d know that getting her out of bed in the morning is very difficult and that these feline tactics usually don’t work, but Kimmie keeps coming up with new ideas so she can get her morning fix of Purina.

So what does this tell us… comparing Sharon to Kimmie, Kimmie gets up very quickly in the morning, though she does take a lot of “cat naps”. This point therefore goes to cats: the score is women 2, cats 2, a tie score.

So to answer my initial question: “does a man need a good woman or a good cat to be happy?” As a true “cat man,” who never met a cat he didn’t like, I’m glad I have a statistically valid reason for not having to choose between Sharon and Kimmie. On the other hand, Sharon is a true “cat woman,” therefore I’m glad she doesn’t have to really choose between me and Kimmie.

This man needs a good woman and a good cat to be happy!

 

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