CATS AND TICKS: What You Need to Know
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Many people are aware that humans and dogs can contract diseases from ticks, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme disease. However, cats are also at risk from a deadly tick-borne disease. Cytauxzoon felis is a protozoal parasite that can infect all feline species. It was originally identified in the Midwest in 1976. It was thought to be rare in our area; however, there appear to be pockets of infection here in Chatham County. The parasite enters the bloodstream of a cat while the tick is feeding. It infects various blood cells in the cat, making the cat extremely ill.
Unfortunately, early in the course of this disease, cats may show only vague signs of illness like lethargy (tiredness), decreased appetite, and fever. As the parasites spread in the body, other signs like enlarged liver and spleen, neurologic problems, increased heart rate, clotting problems, difficulty breathing and hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells) can develop. Infected cats often develop icterus or jaundice (yellow color to the whites of the eyes, gums and skin). If left untreated, cats rapidly become extremely ill, and die within a week.
Because the disease progresses so rapidly, it is critically important to seek medical attention immediately for your sick cat. If your veterinarian suspects Cytauxzoonosis, there are several tests that can help confirm it. Your veterinarian will likely run blood work to look for changes consistent with the disease. To confirm the diagnosis, your veterinarian can look for the organisms either in a blood smear, or from an aspirate from the liver or spleen. Finally, there is a new PCR test available through NCSU, with results available within 24 hours.
Until recently, there was no effective treatment for this disease, and euthanasia was the most humane option to end the infected cat's suffering. Clinicians at NCSU are currently conducting a study comparing two antiprotozoal treatment options. With these treatments and intensive supportive care (which can include over a week of oxygen therapy, blood transfusions, IV fluids and various other medications), they have been able to successfully treat 50-66% of the cats admitted into the study. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, treatment can cost over $2000.
Because of the severity of disease and expense of treatment (which is not always successful), we strongly recommend that all cats be on safe and effective tick control. Cats are very sensitive to some products used over-the-counter flea and tick products, especially permethrin. Ask your veterinarian for safe and effective options for tick control. Owners may also want to consider keeping cats indoors, at least during the summer when ticks are most prevalent.
- Dr Rachel Davis, DVM -Hill Creek Veterinary Hospital 919-542-1141
UPDATE ON CYTAUXZOON TICK DISEASE IN CATS:
Researchers at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have recently found that ticks who bite and feed from an infected domestic cat can pick up Cytauxzoon organisms and then transmit them to another cat. This means that cats themselves can also be reservoirs for infection, as bobcats have been in the past.
The safest and healthiest prevention is for your cat is to be kept strictly indoors. Studies show the average life span of indoor cats is about 14 years, though this is reduced to 4 years in cats that are allowed to roam free, exposing themselves to the hazards of outdoor life.
There are many ways to transition your outdoor cat to become a very happy and safe indoor kitty. Please check with your Veterinarian and check out the following websites for other helpful ideas to help with the transition:
It’s Time for Robins!
By Faye Rapoport DesPres
Many bird-watchers in North America think of the American Robin as the quintessential sign of spring. These small gray-brown birds with their orange chests, a common sight throughout the United States and Canada, can actually be found in many part of the U.S. year-round. You’re just not as likely to spot them in winter because they spend more time roosting in trees during the cold months.
Many people see Robins in towns and even in cities, but they also can be found in mountain forests and even in the Alaskan wilderness. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Robins, which are songbirds, are the largest North American thrushes. They eat earthworms and fruit – more earthworms when the worms are most available in the mornings, and more fruit later in the day. In fall and winter, Robins can even become intoxicated if they eat too many honeysuckle berries.
It’s daunting to look at the reality of survival for the Robin. Only 40 percent of Robins’ nests are successful in producing young, and only 25% of the young birds survive into the fall. After that, about half the birds survive from one year to the next, although a lucky Robin might live to be 14. The oldest recorded American Robin was 13 years and 11 months old.
Do you want to hear what a Robin sounds like? Check out their dawn and daytime songs. When I played the dawn song for the first time on my computer, my cat, who was snoozing on a radiator nearby, woke up and looked around for the Robin.
You can also check out this FAQ sheet online or watch video of babies in a Robin’s nest. It’s amazing what we can learn about even the most common birds and animals in our yards, fields and forests. Each is uniquely interesting and important. There’s so much to appreciate about the natural world and the creatures around us.
Ten Wishes for the New Year
By Faye Rapoport DesPres
for Our Place to Paws
It’s the holiday season, and although this is a time of year when many people are happily celebrating, I’ve been thinking lately about those around me – both people and animals – who are struggling. Some don’t have a warm home– or any home –to go to during the cold winter months. Others can’t count on regular meals to keep them healthy and sustained. Maybe they’re lonely, sick, or injured, and no one is caring for them.
I’d wish for so many things if I could make good things happen for people in the coming year. There are small things I can try to make happen in my own little circle, but also bigger things that feel beyond my control.
The same is true for animals, but it feels easier to list ten wishes for animals in the New Year. These are wishes that maybe our little group – Our Place to Paws – can help make come true.
- I wish people would spay and neuter their pets and the feral cat colonies in their communities, so that so many unwanted dogs and cats wouldn’t end up on the streets or in shelters, and often end up being put to sleep.
- I wish more people would adopt from those shelters when they decide to bring home a new pet, because so many wonderful animals are waiting in cages for loving homes.
- I wish more people would get involved or speak up when they witness or suspect animal abuse or neglect, because animals can’t speak for themselves.
- I wish those who are able will continue to contribute what they can – or will start if they haven’t – to the hard working shelters and animal welfare groups who do so much to protect animals.
- I wish more people on earth could understand the importance of protecting endangered species and the natural habitat of all wildlife.
- I wish that every pet could be cared for with loving hands and hearts.
- I wish the love for animals that almost every child seems to be born with could remain with them forever.
- I wish that any person who is lonely, young or old, could have the opportunity to care for and be loved by a pet.
- I wish we could each learn this lesson from our pets – love is about taking care of each other.
- I wish we could respect our differences and focus on what we share – and work together to make this world a better place for both people and animals.
Happy New Year from Our Place to Paws!
The Outdoor King
By Faye Rapoport DesPres
October 16 was National Feral Cat day, an occasion that gave me an opportunity to reflect on the small feral cat colony that my husband and I have been caring for in our Boston-area neighborhood. To date we have rescued six kittens with the help of a non-profit organization called The Cat Connection that runs a capture/neuter/vaccinate/maintain program – the kittens were young enough when captured to be vaccinated, fixed, socialized and adopted to good homes (although we sadly learned later that one of the kittens didn’t make it, at least we knew he didn’t suffer and die outdoors).
One adult cat we helped capture, a long-haired gray male, had a large open gash above one eye, a puncture wound and scars all over his head – he was clearly tame and been in some bad fights. Our guess was that someone had abandoned him outdoors, and this sweet young boy wasn’t equipped for life on the streets. A test at the vet revealed that he was now FIV positive. What could have been a tragic story ended happily, however, because Debbie, a volunteer at The Cat Connection, kept him until he healed. She found him a home with a woman who was happy to adopt him along with another FIV-positive cat. He now has a human and a feline companion, and every chance to live a long and happy life.
Four adult cats we helped capture were returned to the neighborhood because they were too old to be socialized to humans, but they were vaccinated and spayed or neutered first, so at least they would have a better chance at staying healthy, and there would be no spread of disease and no more kittens. One of the ferals, a gray and white tom that The Cat Connection named Franklin, had a respiratory and ear infection when he was brought in. My husband had seen Franklin around the neighborhood for several years and had been unsure at first if he had a home. He called the cat “The Outdoor King” because he seemed impervious to the difficulties of life on the streets, but capturing him proved that this wasn’t true. The vet gave Franklin a two-week antibiotic shot – it’s hard to imagine how he would have conquered those illnesses without veterinary care.
We committed to feeding the remaining cats at a small feeding station in our yard so their lives would be easier. They became regular visitors – two white females with small gray patches between their ears, one large orange tabby and Franklin. The ferals caused no problems – they simply appeared at the back of the yard, ate some food, then disappeared again. The orange tabby became surprisingly tame in a short period of time and we were convinced he also must have had a home in the past. It’s hard for me to understand how people can just dump animals on the street and expect them to survive. We were considering trying to bring the tabby indoors to join our own pets when he suddenly disappeared and never returned. It was heartbreaking; we had become accustomed to hearing his meow through our kitchen window, calling us outdoors for a treat and a petting session. Although we have no idea what happened to him and we want to believe someone else brought him indoors, the incident was a sad reminder that life for feral cats is full of peril – they face danger from illness, cars, predators and human cruelty, and live much shorter lives than indoor cats.
These days our most regular visitor is The Outdoor King. Franklin is a true feral cat – he keeps his distance, hiding in the bushes in the morning until we put the cat food out at the feeding station. He has a round head and green eyes and his ears are still scarred, but now, thanks to regular feedings, he is muscular and robust. On occasion we’ve seen him crossing the street at the edge of our neighborhood and making his way toward the Charles River. My husband called out to him once as he crossed, concerned about him, and Franklin paused for a moment and looked at us, then continued on his way.
Last year, just before we discovered The Cat Connection, we noticed that The Outdoor King was holding one of his front paws up when he walked as if he had broken his leg. We tried to capture him then because we didn’t think he could survive outdoors on just three legs, but without the know-how of volunteers like Debbie and the specialized humane traps provided by the non-profit, we couldn’t catch him. We were sure that was the end for this cat, but it wasn’t. By the time we caught him with the help of the group, he was miraculously walking on four paws again. “These cats are amazing,” was all Debbie said.
When I wake up in the morning now I feed our indoor cats, then head outside to feed Franklin. Almost every morning he is waiting in the bushes for his breakfast. The Cat Connection has set up a small insulated house near the food to serve as a shelter during the cold New England winter.
Sometimes I stop and say a few words to him after I put down the food and water. He still keeps a safe distance, but he watches me as I speak. He waits until I am back in the house and he hears the door close, then he emerges from the bushes. He looks around to make sure the coast is clear, then walks up to the bowl.
Franklin eats for a long time; sometimes he’s still there after twenty minutes. Now and then he stops what he’s doing, looks up at the kitchen window, and notices that I’m watching him. It’s a strange thing to sense a connection with a creature who knows he must trust me just enough to survive. When he looks at me through the window, I wonder if he is saying, “Thank you.” I know it’s a silly thought, just something to make me feel better about the orange tabby who is gone, and the kitten who didn’t make it. But it does make me feel better, so I stand and watch The Outdoor King eat his fill.
Get Smart about Feral Cats
On National Feral Cat Day—and All Year Round
By Becky Robinson, President, Alley Cat Allies
This October 16, 2009 marks the ninth annual National Feral Cat Day—an opportunity for people everywhere to help protect and improve the lives of cats.
Americans care about cats—in fact, over 40% have fed a stray cat. National Feral Cat Day is the perfect occasion to jumpstart American’s admiration of cats by helping communities across the country learn more about feral cats and Trap-Neuter-Return. Many celebrate National Feral Cat Day by educating others and hosting special events, including workshops, fundraisers, and neuter clinic days.
Get started by understanding some basic facts about feral cats:
Feral cats aren’t snugglers. Though feral cats are members of the domestic cat species just like pet cats, they are fearful of humans. Since feral cats are not socialized to humans, they cannot be adopted. They live healthy, happy lives in their outdoor homes.
Traditional approaches for feral cats—such as catch and kill or attempts to relocate—do not work. They are costly, inhumane, and endless. Removing cats from an area creates a vacuum, which more cats move into and breed to fill. Decades of these failed practices prove their futility.
Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of cats. Cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be evaluated, neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped. Cats friendly to humans and kittens are adopted into homes, while healthy adult feral cats are returned to their outdoor home. No more kittens. The population stabilizes and their lives are improved. The behaviors associated with mating, like yowling and fighting, stop. Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane approach for feral cats.
Your community wants compassionate solutions. An overwhelming majority of Americans—81%—believe it is more humane to leave a stray cat outside to live out her life than have her caught and killed, according to a national survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Alley Cat Allies. Your community can be a safer place for feral cats if it embraces Trap-Neuter-Return.
Show your support for stray and feral cats on National Feral Cat Day—and all year round—by educating and informing your friends, neighbors, and veterinarian about these feral cat facts. Write a letter to the editor of your town’s paper, hand out information at special events (like a fair) and public places (like a shopping mall), or place an ad in your community newsletter. Samples for all of these materials are available to download online atwww.alleycat.org/NFCD.
Here are three more things you can do:
1. Direct your veterinarian to our special web center dedicated to feral cat veterinary care atwww.alleycat.org/Veterinarian. What better way to reach out to fellow cat lovers? Put our expert advice in the hands of the professionals people turn to for help.
2. Confirm your ally status. Commit to protecting cats along with Alley Cat Allies on National Feral Cat Day and all year round. Sign the “I’m an Alley Cat Ally” photo pledge and submit your photo online of you and your pets holding the signed pledge. Ask your friends and family to do it too! Find more information online atwww.alleycat.org/NFCD.
3. Host an event. Your efforts help us achieve our goals of protecting and improving the lives of cats. Invite your friends and family and other people who care about cats, and be sure to tell us and others in your local community about it by registering your event online at www.alleycat.org/NFCD.
With your help, we can truly make a difference in cats’ lives by simply sharing with others the fact that feral cats require a different kind of care. Education is an important first step in protecting cats in towns all across the country—you can be their voice.
Help the Humane Society of the United States End Dogfighting in Your City
By The Humane Society of the United States
(Photo by Cindy Deir)
The Humane Society of the United States is proud to present its comprehensive, city-wide approach for ending street dogfighting.
Since 2006, the HSUS has been running a program called End Dogfighting which gets to the root of the problem by working with the community.
The program's multi-pronged approach to mobilizing community members includes:
The HSUS uses methods developed by nationally-recognized, youth anti-violence program Cease Fire in order to steer kids away from dogfighting. Its Anti-Dogfighting Advocates (ADAs) are respected members of the community who also have a heart for dogs.
With their ears to the ground, they stay in the know. When they hear about an upcoming dogfight, they make sure they are there to talk kids out of fighting their dogs. Fighting on the front lines—our ADAs build relationships and bring at-risk kids to our pit bull training classes. Each ADA fills out a daily logs, to help keep track of his work and relationships. Read more about this program and how you can help at the Humane Society for the United State’s Web Site
Why We Love Them
In Memory of Cali
By Faye Rapoport DesPres
Last Wednesday I woke up in the morning, got dressed, and was about to head downstairs to feed our small herd of five cats when I noticed something strange at the bottom of the stairway. The backside of one of them, Cali, was visible, unmoving, beneath the bottom stair. It was unmistakably Cali – our oldest girl had unusual gray, white, orange, brown and black markings, part tabby, part calico -- the New York shelter that I adopted her from twelve years ago referred to her as a “Tabico.”
Cali and her brother, Tribbs, the tuxedo-colored boy I took home the same day, have been my constant companions. They moved with me to Colorado not once, but twice before I settled near Boston, Massachusetts, five years ago. When I got married, Cali and Tribbs were joined by Hamilton, my husband’s rescued silver tabby. A short time later, when my mother-in-law became ill, Cali, Tribbs and Hamilton accepted the addition to our household of her two Scottish Folds – Duncan and Fiona – if a little begrudgingly.
Now Cali was lying still at the bottom of the stairs and I knew something was very wrong. Without thinking I screamed out in fear. My husband jumped out of bed and ran past me and down the stairs.
Read More >>
SPRING IS KITTEN SEASON
Tips for What to Do When You Find a Kitten Outside
By Becky Robinson
Feral cats are members of the domestic cat species who live outdoors and in every landscape across the country. They usually live among humans (or around human habitat), but they are not socialized to people and have no desire to snuggle on the couch. Instead, they live among their own in family groups called "colonies.”
Unless spayed or neutered through a Trap-Neuter-Return program, those colonies grow. As the weather warms, tomcats prowl for mates, females become pregnant, and the cycle of reproduction continues.
Spring is Kitten Season
Spring is prime kitten season and is fast approaching. Should you come across kittens outdoors, you may be tempted to pick them up and bring them home with you, but that might not be in the best interest of the kittens.
Alley Cat Allies has helped thousands of Americans who want to help care for stray and feral cats. Follow these tips for what to do when you find kittens outside.
What to Do When You Find Kittens
Deciding what to do when you find kittens—take them home or leave them outside—depends on a number of variables that you must consider.
- How old are the kittens? If kittens are not handled in the first weeks of their lives, they are not socialized to humans, and are thus ‘feral.’ The older they get the less likely it is that they will become socialized to humans, and so it may be better for them to remain in their outdoor home. Although kittens begin weaning prior to eight weeks of age, they should remain with their mother until then to learn proper behavior and socialization. You can try to determine their age using these basic guidelines:
- Under one week: Kittens’ eyes are shut, ears are folded down, and they are not walking. They are purring and making tiny noises.
- One-two weeks: Kittens’ eyes start to open—they are blue—and focus and ears begin to open. They are crawling, snuggling, and kneading.
- Three weeks: Kittens’ eyes fully open and ears are open and standing up. They are responding to noises and movement and taking their first steps.
- Four-six weeks: Kittens are probably running, playing, digging, and pouncing. They are starting to wean, and eyes have changed from blue to their adult color.
- Eight weeks: Kittens look like little versions of full grown cats. This is the best age at which to begin the socialization process.
- Are the kittens alone? They could be abandoned, or the mother could be looking for food. Wait and observe from a distance for an hour or two. Ultimately, you have to use your own judgment depending on the kitten’s needs and your time and resources.
- If the mother cat does not return, you will need to determine if the kittens are young enough to be socialized and fostered or adopted, or if they are old enough to be trapped, neutered, and returned using the age guideline above. If they are not weaned, they require bottle-feeding and round-the-clock care.
- If the mother does come back, you have multiple options. Remember, the mother is best able to care for the kittens, and they should be with her until they are eight-weeks-old. If the mother is friendly, you can humanely trap the mother, pick up the kittens, and bring the whole family indoors to a confined area until the kittens are old enough to be adopted. If the mother is feral, you can leave the family outside and provide shelter, food, and water. Once the kittens are weaned, you can place them in foster care for adoption. If you feel the mother cat is not caring for the kittens properly or if they are in danger, you can take the kittens away from her and raise them yourself.
In all cases, be sure to spay the mother cat—so there are not future litters of kittens—and the kittens themselves.
Trap-Neuter-Return Will Ensure There are No More Kittens
Always keep in mind that the best way to help all of the cats in the colony is Trap-Neuter-Return. Groups and individuals all over the country use this program to help outdoor cats live healthier lives, without the strains of mating or pregnancy.
Trap-Neuter-Return is a program in which outdoor cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian (at a veterinary hospital or spay/neuter clinic) to be vaccinated and neutered. Cats who are friendly toward humans and young kittens are put up for adoption. Adult feral cats who have undergone Trap-Neuter-Return are identified by their ‘eartip’: while under anesthesia the tip of their left ear is clipped. They are then released to their original colony site.
Get the Facts
Before you decide to take in any kittens you find, visit www.alleycat.org, for more information about how to care for and socialize kittens—a time-consuming, but rewarding process. There you can also find tips on starting a Trap-Neuter-Return program and learn more about our Feral Friends—individuals, groups, and veterinarians in your community who might be able to help.
Becky Robinson is president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies, based in Bethesda, MD. Their website is www.alleycat.org.
By Sandy Bodner
In June 2007, after my niece, Sara Carlisle completed her sophomore year in college, a small group of family members and friends got serious about forming a nonprofit to help Sara save feral cats. Sara had grown up on her family’s farm and loved animals. She started riding horses at the age of three, volunteering at Buddy Dog Humane Society when she was 12, teaching riding as a young teen, and began pre-vet studies when she entered college. As a child, her enthusiasm for animals was compelling; today, it is contagious. So, when she said she wanted to save feral cats, a bunch of us were happy to pitch in. Our initial plan was to provide rescue and free spay/neuter for feral and stray cats in the Acton-Concord-Littleton-Westford areas. We also wanted to produce videos about these activities. Sara’s father gave us access to broadcast quality equipment and we set out to show-by example-what was involved in rescuing cats, volunteering for shelters and fostering kittens.
The summer had barely begun when Sara made her first rescue. She spotted a stray, pregnant cat at a gas station, learned she was being fed, had kittens fairly regularly and belonged to nobody in particular. The cat’s name was Boosty. There is not room to explain the travails Bootsy had suffered; just to mention that her story ends happily. Sara convinced her friend Lucy to foster Bootsy. Lucy kept Bootsy, spayed her and adopted out her kittens to family friends. These were Shelter Me’s first five rescues.
The second and third rescues were two feral cats and their kittens that Sara “acquired” through her friend Meg, the animal control officer in Westford. When Sara took the feral mothers to be spayed, she learned they were both pregnant. You may read the details and even see videos about these adventures at this url: http://www.sheltermeinc.org/wordpress/?p=104
It is complicated to explain, but in the process of spaying the feral moms and saving their newborn kittens, Sara ended up with seven bottle babies of her very own. It was a baptism by fire and a rare opportunity to produce a series of videos about trapping cats, mothering bottle babies, and kitten development. A four-part installment appears on our Blogtails under the title, “3 Moms, 4 Weeks, 22 Kittens.” http://www.sheltermeinc.org/wordpress/?p=22
Our first summer, we built an extended network of family and friends that could be counted on to foster kittens and in many cases, find homes for them. A year and a half later, most of Sara’s friends, her parents’ friends and their business colleagues remain available to foster kittens that are not quite old enough to be placed in a shelter for adoption. Since we began we have facilitated the rescue of 112 cats all told. Our biggest challenge remains the same as it was when we started: recruiting volunteers. Interested? Thinking about joining our team. Call Sandy at 617-549-8523 or email email@example.com to learn more.
New report highlights need to act now to protect wildlife from global warming
Defenders of Wildlife releases "Beyond Cutting Emissions: Protecting Wildlife and Ecosystems in a Warming World."
WASHINGTON, DC – The new administration of President-elect Barack Obama heralds a new era for U.S. action to address the threat of global warming, and the effects that climate change is already having on America’s wildlife and natural places. A report released today by Defenders of Wildlife provides a roadmap for how the next administration can help America’s wildlife and ecosystems survive the impacts of global warming.
“With new leadership in the White House, we can now tackle head-on the impact that global warming is having on our wildlife and wildlands,” said Robert Dewey, vice president for government relations at Defenders of Wildlife. “Global warming is already threatening America’s wildlife and natural systems. While reducing global warming emissions is vital to protecting our communities and environment, it is not enough.”
The report, Beyond Cutting Emissions: Protecting Wildlife and Ecosystems in a Warming World, addresses the pressing need to make wildlife and natural resources more resilient to global warming. Serious damage is already being seen in our ecosystems and wildlife populations, ranging from melting of polar ice caps to increased drought and warming of rivers, lakes and streams. The basic life-sustaining services provided by ecosystems, such as purifying air and water and pollinating crops, are being compromised, threatening human communities around the country and the world.
“Any plan to address global warming must include steps to protect the natural systems that sustain us all,” said Dewey, who discussed Defenders’ proposals on a teleconference this morning. “We are confident that with adequate funding, planning, increased scientific capacity and policy direction we can restore and safeguard America’s wildlife and natural places and secure a healthier future.”
Beyond Cutting Emissions details why a new conservation paradigm – one that has ecosystem resiliency at its core – is necessary if wildlife, natural resources and human communities are to survive the changes wrought by a warming world.
This report includes the following key recommendations:
• Clear federal policy direction to make addressing global warming’s impacts a top priority of federal, state and tribal natural resource agencies;
• A coordinated national strategy for addressing this complex and cross-cutting challenge;
• Enhanced scientific capacity to build the foundation of knowledge about core ecosystem processes necessary to guide effective management actions; and
• Significant and sustained dedicated federal funding to implement the conservation measures necessary to ensure fish, wildlife, and natural ecosystems survive the unavoidable impacts of global warming, which should be achieved by dedicating a portion of the revenues from a climate cap-and-trade system.
“Global warming is the greatest conservation challenge of our time,” Dewey concluded. “We look forward to working with the Obama administration to take early and swift action to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard wildlife, wild places and future generations from the threat of global warming. The price of inaction is too great.”
Read Beyond Cutting Emissions: Protecting Wildlife and Ecosystems in a Warming World.
Listen to an audio recording of today’s teleconference, which also covered other 2009 wildlife priorities.
For more information about Defenders’ priorities for the new administration, read our transition report, Wildlife Conservation Agenda for the Next Administration.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.
WHY FERAL CATS DON’T BELONG IN SHELTERS
National Feral Cat Day, October 16, is a great time to get smart about outdoor cats and why they need a different kind of care.
By Becky Robinson,
President, Alley Cat Allies - www.alleycat.org
What is your usual reaction when you come across an outdoor cat? Is your instinct to call the local shelter or animal control to find her a home?
Chances are, the cat you’ve come across is not homeless at all, but lives quite happily outdoors. Feral cats are domestic cats, but they have no desire to snuggle with you on your couch.
Feral cats live healthy, natural lives within groups called colonies – and have never been socialized to people. They aren’t adoptable, and they don’t belong in shelters. That’s because in our current animal control system, the only happy ending for animals is adoption.
So what happens to animals who aren’t candidates for adoption?
In today’s system, animals who are not placed in homes are killed.
Feral cats live outside, but are killed in pounds and shelters. So think twice before you call your local animal control. Instead, find out if your community supports Trap-Neuter-Return.
Trap-Neuter-Return is a humane approach for feral cats. Through this program, outdoor cats are painlessly trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be evaluated, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped. Cats who are friendly to humans and kittens are adopted into homes. Healthy adult feral cats are returned to their outdoor home.
If your community doesn’t have a Trap-Neuter-Return program, organize one! Visit www.alleycat.org to find out how you can help change shelter policies that don’t address the needs of outdoor cats.
You can join Alley Cat Allies – the national advocate for stray and feral cats – and mark this year’s National Feral Cat Day by pledging to be an “Alley Cat Ally.” The pledge is simple:
#1. Visit www.alleycat.org/NFCD and follow the link to the photo pledge and print out the “I’m an Alley Cat Ally” sign.
#2. Print your name, strike a pose, and snap a picture.
#3. Upload your photo to the Alley Cat Allies photo pledge page.
Allies come in all shapes, ages, and sizes – even species. If you’re camera shy, your furry friend can make the pledge for both of you. The photos will be compiled in Alley Cat Allies’ online scrapbook and will send a message to our nation’s pounds and shelters that Americans everywhere care about outdoor cats and support humane methods of care.
For more information, visit www.alleycat.org.
What You Should Know about our Animal Control System
Over 70% of cats who enter our nation’s animal control pounds and shelters are killed. That number jumps to virtually 100% for feral cats.
The Benefits of Trap-Neuter-Return
Trap-Neuter-Return saves lives and ends the breeding cycle – and the common cat behaviors associated with breeding. Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of cats and makes them better neighbors. Many cities and towns across the U.S. have implemented Trap-Neuter-Return programs.
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District Judge reverses gray wolf delisting throughout Northern Rockies
Judge Molloy acknowledges unreasonable threat to wolf population under current plans; states that USFWS acted prematurely by delisting wolves despite scientific evidence
By Defenders of Wildlife
MISSOULA, Mont. – Judge Donald Molloy of the U.S. District Court in Missoula granted a preliminary injunction placing gray wolves in the Northern Rockies region back under federal protection until a court case challenging the removal of wolves from the federal list of endangered species is decided. Below is a statement by Suzanne Asha Stone, northern Rockies wolf conservation specialist for Defenders of Wildlife, regarding today’s announcement.
“We’re very pleased with today’s decision to restore federal protections to wolves in the Northern Rockies until the ongoing case is ultimately decided by Judge Molloy. This is a very important first step, since it stops the continued and almost indiscriminate killing of wolves under the states’ management plans that could have put the long-term recovery of the wolf at risk.
“The delisting of wolves was inappropriate and illegal in large part because existing state management plans are inadequate to ensure the long term conservation of wolves in the region, allowing far too many wolves to be unnecessarily killed. Responsible, balanced management by the states would benefit wolves, ranchers, hunters and all Northern Rockies residents. While the court continues to weigh our challenge to the delisting decision, we will continue to work to improve the current state plans so that they maintain a healthy wolf population.”
Learn more about how Defenders is working to save wolves >>
How does this affect Northern Rockies wolves? Read our fact sheet to find out more.
Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Western Watersheds Project, and Wildlands Project.
The HSUS Announces Creation of Major New Horse Sanctuary in Oregon
by The Humane Society
WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States announced that it will open a new 1,120-acre horse sanctuary and rescue facility in Douglas County, Ore. — the organization's fourth major animal care facility. The Duchess Sanctuary, the facility's new name, is made possible thanks to a $3.5 million donation from the Roberts Foundation, the Ark Watch Foundation and its founder Celine Myers. Named in honor of the first horse owned by Celine Myers' family and after Black Beauty's mother in Anna Sewell's famous story, The Duchess Sanctuary will be a sister facility to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch located in Murchison, Texas, a 1,300-acre ranch operated by The HSUS and The Fund for Animals.
"The Humane Society of the United States is thrilled to add an extraordinary property to its network of animal-care operations," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "Abused, abandoned and homeless horses will have a safe place at The Duchess Sanctuary, and we could not be more grateful to the Roberts Foundation and the Ark Watch Foundation for supporting this tremendously important and much-needed home for horses."
The Duchess Sanctuary, located south of Eugene, consists of diverse terrain of forest and pasture, and will be managed for horses and for the native wildlife that live on the property.
The first equine residents of the sanctuary will come from The Ark Watch Foundation. Saved from the PMU (pregnant mares' urine) industry, many of the older mares spent 6 months of the year for 20 years attached to urine collection devices in stalls where they could not even turn around. These mares were kept pregnant so their urine could be used to produce Premarin®, commonly prescribed for estrogen replacement therapy to relieve hormonal deficiency symptoms associated with menopause or hysterectomy.
The Predicament of Feral Cats
By Megan Lehman, Forgotten Cats, Inc.
The mission of Forgotten Cats is to reduce the unwanted cat population without killing and to stop the suffering of the thousands of kittens born to abandoned, homeless cats. The term “feral cat” is used to describe homeless cats living in groups, or colonies. Most of these colonies are the result of un-sterilized domestic cats abandoned by irresponsible owners. The offspring of these homeless domestic cats are considered feral because they live outside with minimal or no human contact. The sad fact is that most homeless kittens live desperate lives of loneliness, fear, and starvation until they eventually die. Those feral cats lucky enough to beat the survival odds are sometimes turned into animal control, only to be euthanized because of overcrowding. Others continue to live outdoors, caught between being domestic and wild.
As long as there is habitat and a food supply, these cats will be with us, living in colonies near restaurant dumpsters, around apartment complexes, and in urban and suburban neighborhoods. Feral colonies provide the major service of rodent control, helping to reduce the spread of disease. Unfortunately, abandoned domestic cats have few survival skills and are prone to hardships caused by uncontrolled reproduction, hunger, illness, predators, and man-made hazards like automobiles. They often become targets for animal cruelty because they may still trust and approach humans. Unlike wildlife, the population of feral cats continually increases as irresponsible pet owners abandon more unsterilized domestic cats to start new colonies. Owners who allow their unsterilized pets to roam outside add to the feral population.
A female cat can have 2-3 litters of kittens each year, with up to 6 kittens in each litter. Those kittens reach reproductive age as early as 5 months. An unspayed, abandoned female cat can turn into twenty or more cats within a year. Stray cats and feral kittens are often rounded up by concerned people, but in peak kitten season (May to September), the private no-kill shelters are full. Most are taken to SPCAs, which accepts all surrendered animals.
In 2005 alone, more than 6,000 cats and kittens (an average of 500 per month) were euthanized at Delaware shelters. A cat entering a Delaware SPCA only has a 20% to 30% chance of making it out alive. Most people don’t know that the majority of kittens brought into shelters were born to feral or stray mothers. Those that are not quickly adopted will be euthanized to make room for the next batch coming in the door. Rehoming organizations help save precious lives, but adoption alone cannot address the fundamental root of the problem. Thousands of healthy cats will continue to be euthanized annually without a significant reduction in the breeding population, especially among cats living outdoors. There will simply never be enough homes for them all.
The predicament of feral cats and can only be solved through sterilization (spay/neuter) procedures. It is vital that all cat owners have their animals sterilized in order to cut the flow of stray cats into feral colonies. Even if every owned cat in Delaware was sterilized, the population of feral cats would continue to self-perpetuate until existing feral population was sterilized. Without intervention in the breeding population of feral cats, the cycle of birth, life and death continues.
TNR: The Feral Solution
By Megan Lehman, Forgotten Cats, Inc.
Forgotten Cats, Inc. uses TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) because it is nationally recognized as the only non-lethal method for controlling the feral cat population. More and more organizations and communities have adopted TNR after learning first-hand that trapping and killing feral cats does NOT reduce their numbers in the long term. Felines reproduce rapidly and fill the vacuum left behind when a colony is removed from its territory.
During the TNR process, entire colonies are baited and trapped in humane traps, transported to our clinic, sedated, sterilized (spayed or neutered), vaccinated for rabies and distemper, treated for any wounds, and ear-tipped (snipping off the point of the left ear, for identification purposes). We keep and care for the cats during a short recuperation, then return them to the original site where they were trapped and release them.
When a colony is trapped, approximately 10-20% of the cats turn out to be either tame stray cats that were lost or abandoned, or kittens young enough to be socialized to live with humans. These cats are provided the same medical care as feral cats, but if they are identified as adoptable prior to surgery, they are not eartipped. Adoptable cats are also tested for two diseases: feline leukemia and FIV. They are taken into our foster care network for socialization and are eventually placed up for adoption through our adoption centers.
Ideally and in most cases, the returned colony is cared for by a resident, business owner, or one of our volunteers who provides daily feeding and monitoring. Many caretakers also provide insulated shelters for the winter. The colony no longer breeds and lives out their natural lives free of the burdens of reproduction and disease.
Because cats living outside are territorial, returning the feral cats to their territory helps to stabilize the local population. Any new cats that move in can be quickly identified by the caretaker (because their ears are not tipped) and targeted for TNR.
For more information about the TNR method, visit www.alleycatallies.org.