Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Sad, Lonely Inside Cat Gets a Playmate

I had put some pasteboard boxes on the kitchen porch to burn--they take up so much room in our trash-- but they sat there for a long time because there is a burn ban this summer. (You think of the Northwest as a wet place, but in the rain shadow it is really a desert on the ocean!) I discovered a family of mice had moved into one of the boxes, chewing up some newspaper for their nest. I threw the box down the stairs to the ground, but a baby mouse got into the house. I didn't tell my husband because he has a major problem with mice. I put out some rat poison, and hoped between that and a cat in the house, I could get rid of it without him knowing.

Jubilee had so much fun! She would sit in front of whatever piece of furniture it was under. I didn't see it, but could tell where it was by her behavior.  The first night, we heard some loud thuds, followed by meowing. It woke up both Mike and me, but Jubilee is often active and verbal at night, especially when we have the grandchildren here, so he didn't suspect anything. The second night, I got up to use the bathroom, and found Jubilee playing with the mouse in the living room. She had it in her mouth, and I thought, oh, good, now she'll finish it off.  But she dropped it and let it go. She's not that bad of a hunter; she was just having too much fun playing with a live mouse.

Day 3:  Mike drove into Sequim. The grandchildren had left the day before. I took the opportunity while I was alone to get rid of the mouse. With Jubilee shut in the bedroom, I opened up both doors and waited. After a couple of hours I shut the doors and let Jubilee out. I could not see the mouse, but only Jubilee could tell if it was gone. She prowled around the piano and looked in the closet. She lay expectantly in the middle of the living room rug for a little while, then, looking a little dejected, curled up in a sunny spot to take her nap. Things back to normal. No more mouse playmate. Back to lonely inside cat life. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cats in Russian Culture: Revered and Reviled

Cats are recognized for their importance in rodent control in Russia, as they are in much of the world. This April, in St. Petersburg, Russia, the art museum called the State Hermitage Museum, held an exhibit to honor the 60 cats that are kept there to protect the paintings against potential destruction by mice and rats. April 8 was designated "Cat's Day."

The "guard cats" date back to the Hermitage Museum’s founding in 1764, when Catherine the Great created the famous establishment. The Queen provided the mousers with a formal rank and salary. The cats were not celebrated by the museum officials, though, until 1998.

The art of Alexandre Steinlen, an Art Nouveau painter who often painted cats, was featured. Nouveau is renowned for his love of cats.

The Museum also held a children’s contest, of cat drawings. A “Book of Records of Hermitage Cats” was also featured, chronicling the lives of the felines that have continuously resided at the museum.

From the museum's brochure:  "In many countries cats are looked at as a rodent themselves. They are ignored, eaten, and abused. Yet in Russia, the leaders of the country knew the value and wealth of having cats; cats that were in a place of honor – trusted with valuables that are irreplaceable.

"Perhaps the leaders of old realized back then what we should all know today – that cats have their place in the cycle of life and even do their thing in order to help their human companions. Let’s all take a stand with our Russian comrades and say ‘thank you’ to the cats then and now."

But not every Russian comrade is so compassionate.

Just when you think you've heard everything:

tattooing a cat

The cat in the photo is a hairless Sphinx cat. Apparently, it has become a worldwide trend--not just Russia-- to tattoo hairless cats and dogs and even pigs. I think it's disgusting to disfigure an animal like that, even if it weren't so cruel.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Taking a Cat on a Plane

Jubilee is a high-strung Siamese mix,
 but flying with her turned out to be fairly simple.
Flying With Jubilee
I worried about flying across the country with my high-strung Siamese cat, but the whole trip turned out to be quite uneventful. My friend Wanda drove me to the airport. She also happens to be my vet, and gave Jubilee a sedative just before we left. Jubilee meowed at half her normal volume during the two-hour drive to St. Louis, but by the time we got inside the airport, she was totally zonked. She slept on the plane all the way to Seattle, and began to arouse only after we left the airport.

Security at the airport presented a bit of a challenge. I was asked to take off the harness I had put on her to make sure I could restrain her when I had to take her out of the carrier. Duh. Of course they had to x-ray the harness too! Fortunately, my sedated cat lay motionless in my arms. Then I was told to put the cat back in the carrier, and the security woman wiped down my hands to test if I had anything on them, which also would be on the cat.

I had just read about a 50-something guy who stripped naked when security asked to pat him down. He fought an indecent exposure charge and won, when it was ruled that his action was supported under the First Amendment as free speech. Fine, it's free speech. But give security a break. If there are people in the world who will use children as bombs, then why not a cat? I could tell the kitty was actually a bright spot in the lady's day.

We left the cat at my daughter's house while we moved into our new place. My daughter has a black cat, Eloise, the sweetest cat in the world. When the cats met, Jubilee hissed, Eloise jumped back and ran out of the utility room, where her food and litter are. Jubilee took over Eloise's room for the duration of her visit, and poor Eloise had to eat on the porch.

Oh, yes. Siamese. You either have to love them or hate them.

Jubilee has settled in fairly quickly at her new home. She slept the first night on a couch which probably still smelled of her old home, then joined me on my bed the next night, as she always has before. I'm vigilant about knowing where she is when a door is opened, but she seems pretty content.

  • Work with your vet to try sedation medication in advance, to get the right kind and the right dose.
  • Make sure you have a carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. Not all that say they do, really do! If you can spring for a little extra money, airlines sell carriers that are specially designed for that purpose.  
  • Let your cat sleep and play in the carrier some considerable time before the flight. Sprinkle catnip inside the carrier to make it appealing. The carrier will become a safe haven. 
  • The charge for carrying a cat varies with airlines, so shop around.
  • When you call the airline to reserve a space for kitty, ask about security issues, exactly what to do and what will happen, so you won't be caught off guard like I was.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Special for June, the wedding month, at Safe Habor: Tuxedo Cats

The special cat at Safe Harbor this June is the tuxedo cat, in honor of the bridal month. If you adopt a black and white cat, the fee will be $35 instead of $50. Declawed cats are $50, down from the regular $75.

"Tuxedo cat" actually refers to a low-to-medium grade white spotting on the face, paws, throat and chest of an otherwise black cat. But Safe Harbor won't be so particular. If you fall in love with a black and white cat of any pattern, this month it's in the special.

Black and white cats are also known as jellicle cats, after T.S. Eliot's "The Song of the Jellicle Cats" in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.  I found out the term "jellicle" came from Eliot's little niece, when she tried to say "dear little cat." So the great T.S. Eliot was a cat lover! I always assumed Eliot wrote the cat book for the money, or as a favor. He has been elevated in my esteem.

 Some cats are more white than black; these are called Van-pattern cats. There are three varieties:
·         Seychellois Neuvieme - white with colored tail and head splashes (classic Van Pattern)
·         Seychellois Huitieme - white with colored tail and head splashes plus additional splashes of color on the legs
·         Seychellois Septieme - white with splashes of color on the legs and body in addition to those on the head and the colored tail.
In between are the "moo cats,"  because the pattern reminds you of a Holstein cow. "Cap-and-saddle" cats have black on their head and another black area on the back, separated by white.  "Mask-and-mantle" have continuous black on their head and back.  If the markings are more random, the cat is a magpie."

Solid color bicolor cats occur because the white spotting gene masks the color on the fur it affects, along with a recessive allele of the agouti gene, which evens out the usual striped pattern of the colors of the coat. Nose and pad color may be pink, black pink and black, or pink rimmed with black.

Rescue me!
Black and white cats may be long or short haired, and are found in many pure-breeds as well as mixed breeds. Breeds with black and white colors include the Turkish Van, American shorthair, British Shorthair, Manx, Turkish Angora, and Bombay.

Famous tuxedo or black and white cats include Chelsea Clinton's cat Socks, who lived in the White House from 1993 to 2001, Felix the Cat from the Tom and Jerry cartoon, and the cartoon cat Sylvester. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cat Love

Caterwauling in Laos

I woke up at 4 a.m. in Luang Prabang to loud crying. At first I thought children were yelling; then I heard LaChanda, my daughter-in-law, calling to them. I realized the culprits were two male cats. One was the neighbor's blue-eyed white tom, and the other was a black cat who had been trying to muscle into Blue Eyes' territory.  Later that morning, I met Blue Eyes on the sidewalk in front of LaChanda's house. He limped to a place in the shade and flopped over on his side. His limp was not from the fight, but from arthritis. Blue Eyes is getting too old for the night life.  He would love to retire and be a house cat, but his testicle (he has only one; maybe he lost the other in a fight) won't let him.                                     
Why can't they neuter the poor guy? They just don’t do that in Laos. The only cats and dogs that are spayed and neutered belong to foreigners.

In America, a majority of pet owners think it is politically correct to  de-sex every cat that is not part of an intentional breeding program. It’s not the whole answer to the many abused and abandoned animals, but it helps. Rescue organizations even carry on programs of catch and release—trapping feral animals long enough to de-sex them, and releasing them back to where they were found. They can live as they did before without producing more homeless kittens and puppies.
If Blue Eyes could understand what was going on, I think he would agree with Americans: it is a kindness to spay or neuter.

Kittens as Intellectual Property

So I was surprised when I got back to the U.S. to find a heated controversy raging about de-sexing cats. My email was jammed with messages from my gene-pool yahoo group, which consists mainly of cat breeders plus a few interested observers like myself. The hot topic that generated so much discussion: de-sexing cats at eight weeks or earlier. It can be done, but it often leads to problems, such as failure of the animal’s bones to develop properly. And there is the increased risk of death in administering anesthesia to such a young animal.

People want to adopt kittens as young as they can, of course, and the breeders want to sterilize their cats before they sell them. The breeders used to let the owner get the kitten “fixed” later, but some buyers failed to sterilize their cat, even when they signed an agreement with the breeder to do so.
Why are breeders going to such lengths to make sure their kittens can’t reproduce? One email finally revealed the real concern. Breeders don’t want to sell their kittens as pets only to find they are being used in someone else’s breeding program. Kittens are intellectual property, which is not to be stolen. Not so different from Laos, after all, is it?

But for most of our society, birth control for our pets is still a kindness.

Extreme Lovemaking: Feline Edition

As Blue Eyes demonstrated, the male cat is always ready for sex. He stakes out a territory, marking it with a urine spray, and fights any other male cat who might enter it. If he has developed the habit of spraying, he may continue to do it, even after he has been castrated. Another reason to castrate a kitten before he reaches maturity.  A 4-to-6-month-old kitten is not hurt by the procedure.

Female cats can develop sexually by the age of 4 or 5 months, so they also need to be de-sexed early to avoid an accidental pregnancy. LaChanda waited too late, until her cat Minie was already pregnant. She let the kittens be born, but then Minie was already pregnant again before the spaying was scheduled. This time, they decided they couldn't handle any more kittens. Minie had the hysterectomy, with an abortion.

The first time I had a cat spayed, I asked the veterinarian about the effects of a hysterectomy on a cat. Human females undergo extreme hormonal changes, often requiring medication. What was I doing to my cat? But the vet explained that cats don't go through the monthly ovulation cycle that a woman does. When a cat is in heat, she has an uncontrollable urge to find a male, but she does not ovulate unless mating takes place.

Feline sex is not such a pleasant experience for the female. The feline penis has barbs. After the male has mated, the barbs rake the female's insides, stimulating ovulation and also causing considerable pain to the newly pregnant kitty. That is why cat sex usually ends with the female yowling and giving the future father a swipe.

Even with such an unpleasant ending, the female cat may not be finished. Given the opportunity, she could go on to mate with several more toms while she is in heat, and have kittens by each one of them.

They are sweet, aren't they?


Monday, April 30, 2012

Featured in May: Dilute Calico

Safe Harbor's  special for the month of May is the dilute calico. Ordinary calicos are orange, black and white, and dilute cailcos are cream, gray and white.

Safe Harbor is located at 359 Cree Lane (phone 573-243-9823) in Jackson.

Each month, the facility runs a "special" on a certain kind of cat. In May, dilute calicos will be $35 instead of $50. Declawed cats are $50, down from the regular $75.

Calico cats are usually female, because color is carried on the X chromosone. The two main color genes of a cat are red and black , so normally a male can be either black OR red (yellow). White comes from another gene, the Dominant White gene, that masks all the color on the parts of the cat it affects.
Calicos vary a great deal in their looks, because these three colors can combe in soany different ways.

In rare cases, a male cat may have two or more cell lines, and if one is for red color and another for black color, and the cat also has the white masking gene, then you can get a male calico. Such genetic abnormalities usually result in a sterile animal. To learn more about calico cats, check out Cats Are Not Peas, by Laura Gould, a very excellent and readable book on calico cats and genetics, available at Riverside Regional Library in Jackson.

None of these rare male animals have turned up at Safe Harbor. All the calicos, dilute or otherwise, are female.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Jungle Cat?

In Luang Prabang, I saw many cats like this one, with  big round eyes.

The little black and white cat was typical of many street cats in Luang Prabang:  small, lanky, and enormous round eyes. These wide-eyed cats came in all colors, and most of them had kinked tails. (Not surprising--nearly ALL the native cats in Luang Prabang had kinked tails.) In an earlier post, I had speculated that the jungle cat of Malaysia might have had some genetic influence on the domesticated cat of Southeast Asia, but I didn't expect to see such an obvious clue.

Siamese cats are noted for their "hooded" eyes, and I saw this feature among some of the cats in Luang Prabang. They had small, very slanted eyes, very often blue. Not purebred Siamese, they still definitely had the albino gene, and that seemed to go with the hooded eyes. I've posted pictures of the white cat See Cao several times--he is the most typical Siamese-type cat that I saw. But these round-eyed cats are different.

Minie's eyes are more round than her mate's Siamese eyes.
Hmmm...Weir's Siamese cat, 1888:
its eyes look more round than hooded.

Jungle Cat