Helpful Buckeye has been writing Questions On Dogs and Cats long enough to know ahead of time to expect almost-guaranteed reactions when certain things are mentioned. Take this issue's title, for instance. I know that most of our dog-owning readers are already figuring they can skip this issue. Not so fast, my friends! This has more to do with you than you might be aware. Stay tuned....
It has been almost 3 years since Helpful Buckeye addressed the subject of feral cats. Since the problem seems to be getting worse rather than better, it's time to discuss it again...along with more information about the far-reaching implications of the negative side of this situation. When Helpful Buckeye read this article from Utah, it became apparent that this topic has aroused even political interest:
Feral cat bill passes Utah House
The so-called "feral cat" bill allowing animals deemed pests to be shot was passed by the House Friday after several changes. House Bill 210 was stripped of much of its original intent in committee but the bill's sponsor, Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, managed to restore some key language. Oda said the bill is needed to allow farmers and ranchers to control feral animal populations without fear of being charged with animal cruelty.
The House agreed to add back a provision allowing the humane shooting of an animal in an unincorporated area of a county if the shooter "has a reasonable belief" the animal is feral. Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said feral animals are ever-present in rural areas. He said it's not a matter of if they're coming for his cows, but when.
And while many representatives acknowledged the necessity of controlling feral animals in rural areas, Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake, said her family encouraged keeping feral cats, instead of killing them, because they kept the mice population down.
Oda ended up circling his bill before the midday break Friday after a lengthy debate about where such shootings should be allowed. Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake, said the broad language of the bill would allow individuals to shoot animals in unincorporated areas, such as Millcreek. "It's just so not appropriate," Biskupski said.
Later Friday, the bill was amended to apply only to areas where hunting is not prohibited, and quickly passed, 44-28.
Before the vote, Minority Assistant Whip Brian King, D-Salt Lake, said he is concerned the bill provides a loophole for individuals who want to "satisfy their own perverse sense” by killing animals for pleasure. House Minority Leader Dave Litvack, D-Salt Lake, spoke out against the bill earlier Friday, calling it "an embarrassment. We all had a lot of fun with the original bill, I don’t think that’s really where we want to go as a policy of the state of Utah."
There was some fun, too, during the Friday afternoon vote that sent the bill to the Senate. A number of representatives could be heard meowing as they cast their votes.
Adapted from: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705367509/Feral-cat-bill-passes-Utah-House.html
Right here, it's important to provide a definition of the word, "feral":
1) existing in a wild state; not domesticated or cultivated
2) having reverted to the wild state
3) ferocious; savage; brutal....
Bear in mind that this is Felis catus we're talking about, the domestic cat. These feral cats are descendants of cats that were regular domestic cats that spent most or all of their time outdoors, breeding, and having a lot of kittens. Most of them probably haven't ever been handled by a human. Let's see what researchers have to say about the life of a feral cat:
The Secret Lives of Feral Cats
Do feral kitties live good lives? The Washington Post asked that question last week in a story that examined the practice of controlling feral cat populations by trapping cats, spaying or neutering them, and then releasing them back into their former home environments (it’s often called Trap-Neuter-Return or TNR).
The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and other supporters say the nation’s estimated 50 million to 150 million feral felines often live healthy lives. They also say TNR has added benefits: After a cat colony is sterilized, nuisance behaviors such as fighting and yowling are reduced, and the feral population stabilizes. Feral cats can keep rats in check, too.
Skeptics, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and some veterinarians, argue the life of an alley cat is rarely pleasant. In many cases, they say it’s actually more humane to euthanize cats, rather than condemn them to a harsh life on the streets.
Some insight into the lives of both feral and owned kitties comes from a new study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, in which researchers set out to track free-roaming feral and owned cats by placing radio transmitters on 42 kitties in and around Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Twenty-three of those transmitters also had tilt and vibration sensors that measured activity.
The scientists found that the feral cats had home ranges that stretched across large areas; one male kitty’s range covered 1,351 acres (2.1 square miles). They roamed over a wide variety of habitats, most often in urban areas and grasslands, including a restored prairie. In winter, they preferred urban spots, forests and farmland, all places that would provide greater shelter from bad weather and help them keep warm. Cats that had owners, meanwhile, tended to stick close to home, with their range sizes averaging a mere 4.9 acres.
Feral kitties were also more active than cats that had homes. Unowned cats spent 14 percent of their time in what the scientists classified as “high activity” (running or hunting, for example), compared with only 3 percent for kitties with owners. “The unowned cats have to find food to survive, and their activity is significantly greater than the owned cats throughout the day and through the year, especially in winter,” says study co-author Jeff Horn of the University of Illinois.
In addition, the feral cats’ daily activity patterns—sleeping during the day and being active at night, which likely reflects the behavior of their prey, small mammals, as well as lets them better avoid humans—was very different from kitties with homes. Those animals were most active in the morning and evening, when their owners were likely home and awake.
Only one owned kitty died during the study, compared with six feral cats. Two of the feral cats were killed by coyotes, and the researchers believe that at least some of the others were killed by other cats, as the owned kitty was. Cats that live outdoors, even just part of the time, are at risk of death from other cats as well as diseases such as rabies, feline leukemia and parasites, the researchers note.
And of course there’s the fact that cats, owned and unowned, kill wildlife. “Owned cats may have less impact on other wildlife than unowned cats because of their localized ranging behavior, or conversely, they may have a very high impact withing their smaller home ranges,” the scientists write. “Free-roaming cats do kill wildlife and pose a disease risk; cat owners should keep pets indoors.”
But there’s nothing in this study that convinces me that feral cats are living such harsh lives that death would be better, as PETA and other TNR skeptics have contended. Feral cats do have harder and shorter lives than our pets. They have to find their own food and water and shelter, and this isn’t easy. But that’s what any wild creature has to do, and to imply that their lives are worthless because they are hard is, frankly, ridiculous.
That study points out some of the dangers that await any cat that spends much time outdoors. A further comparison of outdoor versus indoor cats:
Should your cat be an indoor or outdoor cat?
Some people think cats need the freedom to roam, while others say indoor cats have a longer life span and better health. The decision is, of course, yours.
On today's Pet Vet, our contributing veterinarian, Randy Aronson, stopped by to talk about this choice. He says the difference in lifespan between an indoor car and his outdoor counterpart is amazing.
"On average, an indoor cat lives twelve years but some cats can live for as many as twenty years," he said. "In comparison, an outdoor cat's life expectancy is less than five years."
Some of the dangers of living outdoors include:
Birds of prey, like hawks and owls, coyotes, automobiles, cacti and their spines, pesticides, spoiled food, poisonous plants, and intentional poisonings.
Adapted from: http://www.kvoa.com/news/pet-vet-indoor-or-outdoor-cat-/
Protecting Pets From Wildlife
As pet owners, we do all we can to safeguard our pets from dangers in and around the house. We can do a lot to keep some risks—like medications, poisonous plants, and antifreeze—away from our pets, but some dangers—like wild animals—may be out of our control. In this podcast, Dr. Bernadine Cruz, associate veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Woods, Calif., talks about what we can do to protect our pets from wildlife.
Listen to this short podcast from the American Veterinary Medical Association at: http://www.avmamedia.org/display.asp?sid=415&NAME=Protecting_Pets_From_Wildlife?utm_source=smartbrief&utm_medium=email
As Dr. Bernadine Cruz points out in this podcast, dogs and cats that are allowed to be outdoors can face conflicts with snakes, coyotes, raccoons, squirrels, scorpions, javelinas, porcupines, ground hogs, skunks, and rats. In addition to bite wounds inflicted by these wild animals, your pet may also come in contact with parasites, bubonic plague, and other diseases. Look around your yard to see if you are offering an attractive situation that might lure wildlife: trash cans, bird feeders, ponds, open crawl spaces, overgrown bushes and shrubs, and fallen fruit. Keeping your pets up-to-date on their vaccines, in particular, their rabies vaccination, will help relieve your worries if there is exposure to a rabid animal.
To close out this part of our discussion on feral cats, here are some important tips on:
How To Care For An Outdoor Cat
Do your cats live outside? Or come in and out of the house? If your cat does spend a lot of time exploring the great outdoors, there are some concerns and dangers you should be aware of. A sad statistic is that the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is half as long as an indoor cat's. In fact, according to PetPlace.com, it may be more like one-third: 5 years.
The purpose of this post, however, isn't to shame you into locking your cats inside. Instead, we want to arm you with the information you need to keep your outdoor (or indoor/outdoor) cat safe in the great big world. To help us with this, we've enlisted the help of former American Veterinary Medical Association president, Dr. Gregory Hammer.
According to Dr. Hammer, the dangers posed to outdoor cats fall under three categories: infection, trauma and parasites. The threat level of each of these risks can vary depending on your location (rural, urban, suburban, etc.), but unfortunately the risks are always significantly higher for outdoor cats.
The more contact your cat has with the outside world, the more likely it is to be exposed to some sort of infectious disease. "The most common diseases to watch out for are distemper, leukemia and upper respiratory infection from contact with other cats," Dr. Hammer tells Paw Nation.
Contact with other neighborhood cats is a primary source for respiratory illnesses and feline leukemia, which is highly contagious between cats. More like HIV than the leukemia that affects humans, feline leukemia (FeLV) is an immuno-suppressive virus that infects the white blood cells. Yet another dangerous infection outdoor cats may be exposed to is, of course, rabies.
What you can do: The mantra here from Dr. Hammer is vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Many of the common infections that can threaten a cat's health -- like distemper, rabies and leukemia -- are preventable with simple vaccines. If you own an outdoor cat, it's imperative to keep these vaccinations current.
Outdoor cats have a greater risk for traumatic injuries. These include, but aren't limited to cat bites, abscesses, dog attacks, and getting hit by cars. When you take these into account (especially car accidents), it's easy to see why the average lifespan of outdoor cats is so much lower.
What you can do: Perhaps the best way to combat these injuries is to focus on treatment. Abscesses are a fairly common result of a territory dispute between two rival cats. If your cat does sustain a wound due to a fight with another animal (even another cat), it's a good idea to have the wound checked out by a vet before it has a chance to get even worse.
Obviously, a cat that lives outdoors is more likely to come in contact with fleas, ticks, lice, and other pesky insects. However, a number of common parasitic threats are less easily detected, e.g. hookworms and roundworms. To make matters worse, many of these internal parasites are transferable to humans.
What you can do: The best chance you have to avoid parasites is by using preventative measures, such as flea-and-tick medications, as well as routine inspections. Dr. Hammer recommends monthly spot checks for external and internal parasites. External parasite checks are fairly straightforward. When it comes to internal parasites, it's probably best to consult with your vet to come up with a workable strategy.
"There are a number of good products available," says Dr. Hammer, "The over-the-counter products can sometimes get the job done, but the prescription products are quite a bit stronger."
Are There Benefits to Letting Your Cat Go Outdoors?
Unfortunately, there aren't many clear advantages for letting your cats roam. "The bad things far outweigh the benefits, I'm afraid," Hammer tells Paw Nation. "I've seen too many bad things happen to outdoor cats."
If your cat loves being outside, one option is to treat your cat more like a dog and train it to walk on a leash. "I have a number of clients that take their cat out in the backyard on a leash like a dog. That's perfectly safe," says Hammer.
That one statement from Dr. Hammer seems to resonate in your mind, over and over..."I've seen too many bad things happen to outdoor cats"....
Magnify that by considering that a feral cat faces all those concerns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...without the prospect of having a home to return to. Yes, the feral cat problem is a big one, both for the public and for the cat. Next week, Helpful Buckeye will introduce even more concerns related to pet animal interactions with wildlife.
The Ohio State basketball team is still in the top 5...even with a few losses. I still don't think we're quite as good as we were last year but we'll be much tougher by the NCAA Tournament.
Helpful Buckeye got tickets this week to see the LA Dodgers in spring training in March. The prospect of getting a new owner who actually cares about the quality of the team is invigorating. Baseball fortunes are looking up!
For Desperado and Helpful Buckeye, 2011 was a year of turmoil. A lot of things happened that were distressing, disrupting, and disturbing. However, through it all, I somehow knew that things would eventually straighten out...and they have...thanks to Desperado. She was my compass for re-acquiring a proper perspective on what lies ahead:
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer, Physician and philosopher
We have been looking at several short excursions around the state of Arizona to places that played an important part in the early history of our state. With the Centennial coming up on 14 February, we'll choose a few of those trips to get under way...beginning with a hike this week down in Sedona. Desperado hasn't been able to hike for more than a year and she's now eager to get back on the trail. As the Latin majors used to say...Carpe Vacationum! Which means, Seize the vacation!~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~