Newsday Tuesday – Animal Rescue in Disaster

Hurricanes sure have been in the news, lately. And the aftermath of these storms result in many stories of stranded, soaked, lost, frightened pets who were left behind or somehow separated from their people. Thank heavens for the brave and tireless souls who work long hours in disaster zones rescuing cats, dogs, and other critters.

Here’s a link showing 20 successful cat rescues from a variety of hurricanes. My favorite photo is the one of the kitten snuggling against the boot of a rescuer. Heart wrenching.

Here you can learn how to prepare for your pets in a disaster:

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Mindful Monday – Children and Pets

It has long been thought that children in households with pets are healthier physically and emotionally than children without pets in their life. But a report issued by the Rand Corporation just last month claims this is not necessarily true. While they noted a slight increase in the overall health of children living in a home with pets—because they tend to get more exercise than children without pets—researchers do not believe there is a significant difference.

Evidently former studies, stating that pets are beneficial to children’s health and well-being, were conducted among smaller groups of families and there were fewer additional factors considered—such as financial status of the family, ethnicity, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I believe pets presented in the right light, are essential to the health and well-being of children. And I’ve written articles on the topic for Cat Fancy Magazine, a popular horse magazine, and others. These articles focused on the opportunity pets provide to teach children responsibility and compassion.

Every thinking and aware parent knows that they can’t just bring home a pet and expect their small child to take full responsibility for the kitten, puppy, hamster, etc. Children need guidance and instruction and a role model to follow in caring for a critter. And this means that the parents need to hang out with their child and the pet to make sure the animal receives the care it requires. It may mean nagging, at times. But the parent is definitely responsible for teaching the child how to behave around a pet, treat the pet, and to give them age-appropriate responsibilities with regard to caring for the pet.

While a pet may not be appropriate in every household, I believe that every child should have the opportunity to interact with one or more animals. Some kids are animal magnets. Some just don’t naturally warm up to cats and dogs. Some have learned to fear or dislike animals or they’re simply indifferent where animals are concerned. This is not a typical response, however. I believe it is taught by parents and other caregivers, siblings, relatives with pet phobias and lack of understanding of animals.

What are some ways that you can instill a compassion for and an understanding for animals without necessarily having one in your household? Arrange for the child to interact with a neighbor’s or friend’s quiet, calm, tolerant pet. Volunteer with them at an animal shelter. Visit the zoo or animal shelter often and teach your child about the various animals. Read books and watch movies where animals are portrayed in a positive manner. Share some of the animal videos you enjoy on the Internet with the child—web cams on bird nests in the spring, for example.

Dogs, cats, and horses are often used as therapy for autistic children, slow learners, and emotionally traumatized children. There’s story after story of positive relationships between a child and an animal. Here are a few:

Now if you want to read the results of Rand’s recent study, here’s the link:

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Frivolous Friday – Cats Always Land on Their Feet and Other Feline Myths

If you have a cat, you’re probably already able to separate myth from fact where your kitty-cat’s concerned. You know that keeping her indoors doesn’t make her the most unhappy cat on the block, that you do not have to allow her to have at least one litter before having her spayed, that giving her garlic or chocolate is not a good idea, that cats do need veterinary care sometimes even if they live inside. Here are a few sites that bust some common cat myths.

I’ve included this post because it’s kind of entertaining. It’s an old tale explaining why a cat is thought to always fall on her feet.


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Thoughts for Thursday – Rags (the cat) Speaks Out!

Corral Cat Caper, a Klepto Cat MysteryAs you may know, there are cozy mysteries with ordinary cats doing extraordinary things, like the Klepto Cat Mysteries. And there are those where the cats actually speak. There’s such a controversy between the two styles of writing cat stories that a reporter for the Wall Street Journal tackled the issue a few years ago. I was one of the lucky few who were interviewed for that article. As I said, while the cats (and dogs and horses) in the Klepto Cat Mysteries often dominate the stories, they do not have speaking parts. That is…until Dru Ann Asked Rags (yes the cat) to write a post for her Drus Book Musing blog.

If you’d like to know more about what Rags thinks, how is mind works, and what he would say if he could, here’s your chance.  In this interview, he talks about some of is catscapades. I think you’ll find it interesting. Here’s the link.


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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – How do Cats Choose Their Person?

You might think you’ve chosen the cat or kitten you just adopted. But probably it was the other way around. Tell me this, did the cat stare you right in the eyes before you melted in her paws? Did he rub against his cage as if he wanted to get closer to you as you approached? Did she reach her paw out toward you and mew? When you held her did she cuddle in your arms? Yeah, the cat chose you.

In some cases a cat will appear at your door and even hang around when you refuse to feed him until you break down and feed him. My parents have acquired two cats who seemed to appear from the baranca behind their house. First Spooky came and won their heart. My folks agreed that they would not feed the calico because they sure didn’t want a cat. However, Mama caught Daddy sneaking food to her and when Mama was afraid he hadn’t fed her, she would. Yup, Spooky had chosen her people and she stayed with them until her dying day.

Smokey came to them shortly after Spooky left them. There was little hesitation when it came to feeding him. He enjoyed a wonderful life with them for many years.

One summer day several years ago, a large orange cat come to our back door. In fact, he came back again and again, usually in the morning, and we started giving him a handout. One morning he appeared with a post-it note on his head that said, “Don’t feed me. I belong to Tyler.” Good to know that the golden cat had a home—nice to meet a new neighbor in the process.

Here’s a link that shows how cats choose their people.

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Newsday Tuesday – Agility Competition for Your Cat

Yesterday we talked a lot about the fact that cats can’t be trained. However, did you know that there are competitions for cats? Yes, there are cats who participate in agility courses. I recall watching a cat agility competition once on the computer. I found it charming and humorous that they kept having to take time out and do-overs in order to accommodate the cats in the contest. Not every cat, you see, wanted to do his routine on command. And the judges made allowances for this.

What does a cat agility course look like? It is a series of jumps, tunnels and other obstacles in a variety of arrangements and there’s evidently no right or wrong way for a cat to approach the challenges. The contestant cats are allowed to think for themselves—figure things out.

Think about it, cats are naturally agile. According to experts, a cat can run 30 mph. No wonder you can’t catch an escaped cat without tricking it. However, tricking a cat is also difficult since they can jump 6 times its height and his memory is so long. Yeah, a cat’s short-term memory, they say, is 16 hours. A dog’s is 10 minutes. And how high can a dog jump? Only one times its height.

The first cat agility competition was in 2003 and I guess this is quite the sport now at many cat shows

Do you think your cat would do well on the agility course for cats circuit? Keep in mind that your cat would probably not do it to please you, like a dog might. A cat does agility competition because it pleases them. Learn more at the following sites.

Show schedule

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Mindful Monday – The Intelligent Cat

How smart is your cat? Of course there’s the age-old question, which is smarter a dog or a cat? As they say, dog’s have masters, cats have staff. Dogs come when they’re called, cats take a message and get back to you. And psychologists are beginning to figure out why cats, even though they may actually be smarter than dogs in some was, can’t be trained to obediently work as dogs do. Ever hear of a drug cat or a rescue cat? However, cats are known to solve harder problems than dogs can—that is if they want to.

You might enjoy reading this article by Dr. Berit Brogaard and grad student Kristian Marlow on how the cat’s and the dog’s brains work. For example, a cat’s brain has about twice as many neurons as a dog’s. And cats have longer-lasting memories than dogs do. So why aren’t cats being put to work to do good?

Cats do help and give on their own terms and without training. We’ve reported here incidents where cats have become self-prescribed mentors to younger cats or ailing cats—even other animals. Cats have become heroes—alerting their family to danger, fighting to protect someone or another animal. Some say that cats are too smart to become enslaved by humans, but they certainly can act on their own when inspired to do so.

So what makes cats difficult or impossible to train? While cats can evidently solve more complex problems than dogs can, they’re more impulsive and have less patience than a dog. And there’s the motivation factor. Dogs are much more social than cats. While the dog follows the pack leader’s lead, a cat will make the choice as to whether he wants to comply and when.

Learn more about this study here:

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Frivolous Friday – Cats Who Deserved and Got a Chance

How many cats do you know who’ve been offered a second chance? This is the topic I’ve chosen for today’s blog. The Internet is full of stories of injured cats and kittens born with deformities who now live happy lives among people who love them. Many of those cats and kittens faced euthanasia. Either the veterinarian recommended it or well-meaning people suggested it. But thankfully in many of these cats’ situations, one person held fast to their conviction that this kitty should be given a chance.

I adopted a pregnant mother cat some years ago partly because the shelter had her scheduled for euthanasia. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her, except that someone had not taken responsibility to have her spayed. Yes she was pregnant and had been abandoned and for that, the shelter director decided she should be put on death row.

Not on my watch. Maggie turned out to be a lovely, lovely pet and her kittens were all born healthy. We kept Daisy and found homes for the other two kittens.

My friend Johanna found a struggling black kitten at the same shelter many years later and asked about adopting her. They told her she was very ill and she would not make it. They planned to kill that kitten, too. Johanna adopted her, took her to the vet to start treatment. The vet told her Nikki was very ill and would not make it. Johanna did not believe it. So she took time off work and nursed Nikki until she improved. Nikki grew into a beautiful cat who lived a good long life. I believe Nikki was close to 17 when she died.

While scouring the Internet for stories of cats who had been given up on, I found story after story of cats born with deformities, injured cats, unwanted/abandoned cats, abused cats and neglected cats that were rescued and saved and who thrived.

Read about Princess, the kitten with club feet here:

If you like happy-ending cat stories, here’s a site you might enjoy:

There are hundreds—possibly thousands of people working behind the scenes to rescue and rehabilitate and place cats in loving homes and thousands of people who have adopted such cats or who operate facilities for special needs or elderly cats. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Paws.


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Thoughts for Thursday – Cats May Grasp More Concepts Than We Know

There’s a study reported in Science Daily showing that cats understand some of elements of physics as well as the principle of cause and effect. If you’re interested in this fascinating topic, learn more here:

We all learn things from our cats over time—generally different things from different cats. But it isn’t easy to figure out how the cat’s mind actually works. I have examples in my Catscapades book of true cat tales demonstrating that a cat can read what’s in our mind. I share some pretty amazing stories in that book. One example we experience here with our current cats still astounds us.

When we decide to give Lily and Sophie a little catnip treat, one of us will go to the fridge and open the freezer door to remove a baggie or plastic container of catnip. It doesn’t matter where the cats are at the moment—asleep in the back of the house, even—here they all come eager for the treat.

It isn’t the freezer door being opened that clues them in. We often open the freezer to get ice, ice cream, etc. It isn’t the sound of the container in our hands, because the cats are already at our feet begging or waiting at the catnip-drop-station even before we take the package out of the freezer. The cats are reading our mind. I’ll think, “I’m going to get some catnip for the cats.” And they hear that thought. I’m convinced of it.

Ever try to catch your cat for a veterinary visit? How often do you walk up to your cat and pet him during the day? Does he ever run from you or look at you suspiciously? However, on the day you’re taking him to the vet, when you walk up to him, how does he react? Suspicious, right? He may slither off the bed and under it when he sees you coming. And this is not because you’ve brought his carrier in from the garage. No, you can’t do that—it’s a dead giveaway and you’ll never capture the cat who needs to go to the vet. The cat sees the picture in your mind of him riding to the veterinarian in the car inside his carrier and he freaks out. Is anyone else as convinced of this as I am?


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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – The Incredible Way of Cat

We love our cats. We endlessly observe them. And we marvel at the things they do, their reactions, their habits and new activities and interests. But we can only judge our cats by our limited intelligence. Do you ever get the idea that your cat has outsmarted or out-thought you? If you’ve had more than a handful of cats in your life, you know how different they can be. Each of the cats you’ve known have had different personalities and aptitudes, right? They express their cleverness in totally different ways. Even in something as common as their eating habits.

How does your cat approach food? Is she a beggar? Does she devour her meals or pick at them? Is she willing to share food or does she bully any person or animal who comes near while she’s eating? Does she steal food from the other pets in the household? What cute (or annoying) ploys does she use to get her meals? Does your cat seem to have a built-in clock when it comes to mealtime?

In our household, Sophie is a private diner. She won’t let you see her eat. If you happen to walk through the room while she’s eating, she will bolt. So when we feed her, we have to sit quietly until she’s finished eating.

Lily, on the other hand, is obsessed with food. Food is high on her list of priorities. I’d venture to say she lives for food—and maybe petting and other creature comforts. She joins us in the kitchen when we’re cooking or cleaning up on the off chance that something edible falls on the floor or we take pity on her and give her a morsel. She lets us know when it’s time for her meals. And she’ll eat under practically any circumstances—except thunder. Thunder sends her under the bed or into the closet.

But as fanatical as she is about food, she doesn’t mind sharing. And she will help herself to Sophie’s food if we don’t’ watch her.

Lily is also a beggar. She watches me while I eat in hopes of getting a handout. And if I become distracted while I’m eating, she’s not above stealing a morsel from my plate. She has quite a palate. She will eat just about anything I eat. And since she’s on a special diet for a low-functioning kidney, she can no longer eat from the array of human foods.

Our white odd-eye cat, Winfield, was our food monitor. He knew our nightly bedtime routine and he had a routine of his own. He’d go to the service porch and check his food and water bowls. If they were full, he’d amble off to bed. If they were less than half full, he’d wait next to them until we walked through the room turning off lights, etc., and he wouldn’t let us pass until we filled them.

I’m no scientist, but, like many of you, I’ve spent a lifetime observing and loving cats. It sure seems to me that cats can plan ahead. They can think beyond our comprehension. In fact there was a book published earlier this year called, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” by Frans de Waal. As clever as we think we are in figuring out what our cat’s needs are and what they’re telling us, I wonder if we are really ‘getting’ them. It occurs to me that we just haven’t yet learned to speak “Cat.”

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