Tag Archives: feral cats

Wolf Cats Are On The Prowl: More About Lykoi

lykoi-in-south-africaYou may’ve heard of “Lykoi” cats or maybe you haven’t. They’re sometimes called ‘wolf’ cats or even ‘werewolf’ kitties and there have been a few articles about them since the breed became recognized a few years ago. To be accurate, they aren’t really a breed, they are cats with a naturally occurring genetic mutation that began appearing in feral cat populations worldwide in the last two decades.

Cats with ‘Lykoi’ traits have been recorded in the Americas, Europe, Australia, and even South Africa. Since 2011 (when monitoring of these cats began,) there have been over thirty recognized mutations worldwide. These kitties vary widely in their fur patterns ranging from almost completely black to gray to white to almost furless. But all of them share dog-like traits (including extreme loyalty to their family and being very scent-motivated,) large ears (usually furless or furless on the back,) and a charming little ‘wolf-like’ face. They are highly intelligent and inquisitive. They also ‘molt’ periodically, losing patches of their fur.

Some Lykoi are born full-coated but may lose hair as they grow older, giving them a patchy look. Others are born with little fur and a few are fully coated. If you visit sites featuring Lykoi cats and kittens, you’ll see a wide variety of fur patterns and fur to furless coats.

When these kitties first began appearing online many folks believed they were a cross between Sphynx and Devon Rex cats. But testing has proven not only that they are a natural mutation, but that despite their hair loss that they are completely healthy. Many vets are still unaware of this new variation of cats. My own vet wanted to test my new kitten for a fungal infection when she noticed the backs of her ears were hair-free.

The word, Lykoi, means ‘wolves’ in Greek and was coined by Dr. Johnny Gobble, the veterinarian who first discovered these unique kitties and who, with his wife, Brittney, has been working to spread awareness about them. Gobble found his first pair of Lykoi in Virginia where he writes that the cats are occasionally spotted in people’s backyards.

Although there are now breeders specializing in Lykoi cats and the International Cat Association added Lykoi to the cat registry of recognized breeds in 2011, you don’t have to go to a breeder to find a Lykoi kitty. They show up from time to time in shelters and in feral cat colonies. My own kitten was a feral who lost his mother and siblings and who ended up in a high-kill shelter, but was saved at the last minute by Nashville Cat Rescue.

I’ve also noted a cat with Lykoi traits (gray and white pattern) who has visited the feral cat colony I care for throughout the summer. He’s a large cat with a loping gait who could be mistaken for a small dog or bob cat from a distance. When I first saw him up close and noticed his furless ears and ‘thinning fur,’ I worried he could be ill. But, as it turns out, he’s very healthy and, hopefully, will be caught, neutered, and rehomed as a barn cat in the near future.

If you’re interested in Lykoi cats, you can find out quite a bit about them with a simple online search. If you work with feral cats or volunteer at a shelter, be on the lookout for them, and, should you spot a Lykoi, please reach out to a local Lykoi breeder to see if they can provide a home. Many shelters and even some veterinarians aren’t aware of this mutation. So let’s do what we can to get the word out that these little “werewolves” are friendly and healthy and looking for fur-ever homes.

 

 

 


Caring For Stray & Community Cats In Summer

feral save summerIt’s hard to be a feral or community cat. Spring and fall seem to last no time at all compared to cold, wet winters and scorching summers. For caregivers, summer brings a relief from worrying about ice, snow, and below zero temperatures, but has its own set of challenges including summer storms, heat advisories, and parasites. Simple kindnesses like providing shade and cool water and making sure that shelters are tick and flea-free can not only make feral kitties happier, they can save lives.

If you’d like to give your ‘community critters’ a helping hand this summer, here are a few things you can do to help:

Provide Shelter

There’s no better way to beat the heat than a little shade. Offering feral and community cats a way to shelter from the sun is a great way to make their lives easier. Many pet and online stores offer shelters that are both insulated from the cold and reflective of sunlight and heat. But if you’re making your own warm weather shelters, you’ll want to find material that is reflective of sunlight (light colors work best) and weatherproof.

Although you can find ready-made dog and cat houses at your local pet store, it’s easy enough to make them yourself and much cheaper. You might even want to make a day of it with friends or your children. Lots of websites offer great tips on crafting ‘cat houses’ for feral kitties or strays who might need a little TLC this summer. For a few examples check out the Humane Society’s website, as well as Neighborhood Cat’s website and Alley Cat Allies. Although some of these designs are specifically for winter shelters, they can be used in summer as well.

If you do decide to use bedding or straw, you will want to change it every other week to keep the shelter clean and free of parasites. The most important thing is that the bedding be kept dry. So be sure to place your ‘cat house’ in an area sheltered from the wind and rain. Shaded areas will also help keep the heat to a minimum.

cat tryFresh Water & Kibble

Be sure to place fresh water and kibble near (by not right beside) the shelters. Leaving food right beside the shelters will attract predators and make the shelters less attractive (and safe) for their occupants.

Place water bowls in the shade and make sure you choose light colors to reflect heat. You may even want to place a large block of ice in the center of the water dish so it can melt throughout the day and provide your community kitties with a cool treat. I’ve seen a few kitties who enjoy playing with ice chips in water, as well as licking ice.

As for food, dry kibble is the easiest to provide (cost-wise and because it doesn’t attract insects like ‘wet’ food). But if you can afford some canned cat food, it is always a welcome addition to a feral or stray cats’ diet. If you feed your feral community at a set time each day, the cats will quickly adjust to your schedule and show up while the food is still fresh from the can.

As a warning, the strong smell of ‘wet’ food does tend to attract hornets and other stinging insects, as well as flies. So be sure to clean up any food left after your feral kitties have had their fill.

You can find many more tips on feeding and caring for feral and community cats on Alley Cat Allies website: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=295. They also have a great network for people who care for stray and feral animals in case you’re looking for help or just a sympathetic ear.

feral help3Summer Precautions

There are also some very simple things you can do to protect outside cats, dogs, and other critters year-round like knocking on the hood of your car to warn animals who may’ve taken refuge there that you’re about to start the engine. You may also want to honk your horn once so they can take flight before you do. This is good advice summer and winter. Your car is an attractive patch of shade to critters who are trying to beat the heat.

If you chose to use fertilizers, mulch, or other garden care supplies, look for products that are pet-friendly, as well as plants that both you and your furry friends can enjoy. Many fertilizers, insecticides, and even mulches are toxic to animals and harmful to people. You can find animal-friendly products at most larger garden stores or you might want to consider organic, do-it-yourself options, as well as plants that are pet (and child!) safe.

Summer pests like fleas, ticks, and mosquitos are another hazard to consider. You might not have the resources to apply tick/flea repellent to an entire colony of feral cats, but if you can afford Frontline or another similar product and heartworm products that protect against heart worms like Heartgard, they are the best option. In addition to repellents, you can help keep feeding and rest areas free of parasites by encouraging parasite-predators like birds and ‘possums. Consider setting up a bird and/or a bat feeder. Both will help cut down on ticks and mosquitos, as will changing water frequently. Stagnant water attracts lots of unsavory biting creatures including mosquitoes. If you live in an area with ‘possums, they’re going to show up for the kibble you leave out and will probably munch a few ticks while they’re visiting.

Consider a Donation

cat fosterSummer is kitten season. So it’s not only a hard time of year for outdoor animals, but also for those who care for them. You might want to consider donating your time or extra cash to a local organization that cares of stray and community animals or volunteer to become a kitten foster. At this time of year, volunteers are always needed to help socialize and feed kittens and pregnant cats, clean and clear out bedding, and provide food and water to the feral communities that sometimes double in size as kittens are born into the colony. Even donations of old (but clean) bedding, cleaning supplies, and wet and dry food are welcome.

Summer can be a beautiful time of year. Let’s make sure that it’s a safe and happy one for feral communities too.

P.S. If you’re a little confused about the difference between a feral and a stray cat, here’s a quick primer. But, in general, a stray cat is an animal who has had a home at some point and who is socialized. A feral cat is a wild creature who may or may not seek human attention.

Feral cats often live in colonies with other cats. These colonies, if given a little help, can be safe and stable places for the cats to live out their lives. TNR (trap-neuter-release) helps control the colony population and cut down on disease. Some feral cats may choose to become socialized and may find homes. Others prefer to live their lives ‘wild’ accepting help only when they need it.

Best Friends Animal Society maintains a very happy and successful feral colony in addition to providing support for other animal care networks and adoptions. To learn more about how you can help stray and feral animals near you, you can visit their website.


Ten Ways You Can Make the World Brighter For Animals

sleepysweetiesWhen it comes to making the world a better place for animals (and humans) the task can seem overwhelming. Everywhere you look, there’s a sad story. Although it might not seem like it, many of those stories are a chance for a happy ending.

Thanks for Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram and Tumblr and so many other sites,) stories that once would’ve only reached a few people locally are now being read by animal-lovers around the world. And because of it, lost dogs and cats (and even teddy bears) are finding their way home, programs like Pup My Ride are able to organize volunteers nationwide to transport  homeless pets to their forever homes, and people around the world are able to reach out to support the animals and people affected by global disasters.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Whether that kindness is volunteering locally in a very hands-on way, donating to a charity that can help animals nationally or even globally, or simply spreading the word in your community about animals in need, your act of kindness is literally only a click, call, or perhaps a short drive away. The most important thing is that we all get out there and do something. Every act of kindness counts, no matter the size, and, together, the amount of good we can do for animals (and for each other) is limitless.

If you’d like a few ideas on how you can make the world a little brighter for animals, here’s a short list:

  1. Volunteer at a local rescue or sanctuary: Your community shelters and sanctuaries need you! Sign up to walk the dogs, pet the cats, or get really hands-on and clean animal living areas monthly, weekly, or daily. Most non-profits rely on volunteers so that they can use the money that would be spent on employee labor to help the animals. If you’d like to help out but you don’t feel like you work well with animals, you can always offer to work in the front office or at animal fairs. There are probably more opportunities than you realize. Just give your favorite shelter a call or shoot them an email or message on Facebook to see how you can help.
  1. Volunteer your talents: Even if you can’t volunteer your time or money to a local shelter, you can still support them by offering to donate your skills. Photography, marketing, writing, accounting, and even office skills like filing are needed. Groups like VolunteerMatch connect charities with the volunteers who need them. Volunteer a few hours a week, a month, or a day. You can also find volunteer wish lists posted on some larger organization’s websites that allow you to volunteer from home or from your neighborhood.
  1. Donate: Don’t knock monetary donations. Sometimes your time is at a premium. Donating a few dollars when you are able can make a big difference. You may even want to set up a monthly donation, and be sure to check with your employer to see if they match charitable contributions. You may be able to double the amount of your donation. 

trioMany animal groups also have wish lists that range from pet food and toys to cleaning supplies to gently-used towels and carriers. These items are huge help to animal aid organizations.

  1. Spread the word: It might seem like a small thing, but a like or a share can save an animal’s life. Consider devoting a few posts or tweets each week to messages of hope. Share that pic of a cute pup looking for a home on Facebook. Retweet your favorite animal charities’ fundraising messages. And ask your friends to do the same!
  1. Volun-cation: Consider using your vacation time as a way to help animals. Many larger sanctuaries like Best Friends Animal Society welcome visitors who are willing to volunteer. You can stay on site and offer to help out for a few days, a week, or more. Or you can stay closer to home and simply volunteer a day or a week during your time off to your local shelter. Kitten season and winter are always a busy time at shelters and sanctuaries.
  1. Start your own shelter/sanctuary: Look for opportunities to help the feral and community critters near you. Stray animals are everywhere once you take the time to look – including unsupported feral cat colonies. Providing food and water and shelter (especially in winter,) can be the difference between life and death for some animals. And access to neutering and health care can change a struggling colony into a safe space for animals. You may even be able to find homes for some feral kitties as barn cats – or as pets. Your local pet community center will be able to provide you with more information on how you can help – and let you know about local laws. And there are national organizations that also offer help like Alley Cat Allies.
  1. Make caring a community project: If you do find a feral colony in need, consider enlisting likeminded co-workers or neighbors to help. Taking care of a colony is very hard work and it helps to have support – even if that’s just others donating food, transportation for animals that need neutering or health care, or repairing shelters seasonally. You can bond over your love of animals and your commitment to caring for others. Community projects that embrace kindness are a great way for children to learn to respect animals and work with others.
  1. Wild critters need love too: Most people think first of domestic animals like dogs and cats when they think about helping animals. But your local “critters,” including birds and bees, could use a helping hand too. There are simple ways you can support local wildlife like planting for bees and birds (and raccoons and ‘possums,) offering water with a bird bath or water basin, and choosing native plants that support local creatures.

happy_mouse_flowers1You can turn your yard and garden into a sanctuary by providing nesting places for birds, partially burying terracotta pots for toads who need a little shade, and planting berry and seed-bearing plants. You’ll be helping yourself, as well as the critters. Birds and ‘possums decrease dangerous pest populations like ticks.  Creating a thriving eco-system in your yard and garden, is helpful to everyone involved, as well as being a beautiful addition to your community.

  1. Shop kind: Even if you aren’t ready to become a vegan or even a vegetarian, consider skipping meat for a single meal or for one day a week. By doing so you’ll be reducing the number of animals who suffer as part of the meat and dairy industry. You can also support local farms that you know allow their animals a free-range lifestyle and companies who promote ethical treatment of animals and their employees. Steer away from companies who aren’t upfront about how they treat animals or people. Companies with a commitment to ethics usually include it on their website and are more than willing to tell consumers about their practices.
  1. Know that even small acts of kindness do change the world. It may seem, sometimes, that small acts of kindness don’t make much of a dent, but they really, really do. Every act of kindness counts – no matter the size. As Margaret Mead wrote many years ago, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Caring For Stray & Feral Cats In Winter

cold nightWinter has always made me sad. Not because I dislike the cold or snow, but because if you care for stray and feral critters, you are keenly aware of just how difficult the colder months can be for them. But there are a few things you can do to make their lives a little easier this winter. Simple kindnesses like shelter and extra food and water can save lives, as can things like knocking on the hood of your car before you turn on your engine to make sure that no outdoors cats (or squirrels or even raccoons) have taken shelter there.

If you’d like to give your ‘community critters’ a helping hand this winter, here are a few things you can do to help:

Provide Shelter

Although you can find ready-made dog and cat houses at your local pet store, it’s easy enough to make them yourself and much cheaper. You might even want to make a day of it with friends or your children. Lots of website’s offer great tips on crafting ‘cat houses’ for feral kitties or strays who might need a little TLC this winter. For a few examples check out the Humane Society’s website, as well as Neighborhood Cat’s website and Alley Cat Allies.

The shelter should be small and cozy to trap in body heat and filled with a material that traps heat like straw, newspaper, or rags. You will want to change out the bedding at least monthly to keep the shelter clean and free of parasites. The most important thing is that the bedding be kept dry. So be sure to place your ‘cat house’ in an area sheltered from the wind and rain.

Fresh Water & Kibble

Be sure to place fresh water and kibble near (by not right beside) the shelters. Leaving food right beside the shelters will attract predators and make the shelters less attractive (and safe) for their occupants.

You can find heated water dishes at most pet supply stores. If they’re out of your budget, then you’ll need to change the water frequently to prevent freezing. Place the bowls in the sun and make sure you choose darker colors that absorb more heat. This will help (but not fully prevent) the water from freezing.

As for food, dry kibble is the easiest to provide (cost-wise and because it doesn’t freeze like ‘wet’ food). But if you can afford some canned cat food, it is always a welcome addition to a feral or stray cats’ diet. If you feed your feral community at a set time each day, the cats will quickly adjust to your schedule and show up while the food is still warm.

You can find many more tips on feeding and caring for feral and community cats on Alley Cat Allies website: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=295. They also have a great network for people who care for stray and feral animals in case you’re looking for help or just a sympathetic ear.

Winter Precautions

There are also some very simple things you can do to protect outside cats, dogs, and other critters during the winter like knocking on the hood of your car to warn animals who may’ve taken refuge there that you’re about to start the engine. You may also want to honk your horn once so they can take flight before you do.

If you chose to ‘salt’ your drive, be sure to use a pet-friendly agent and not a toxic one. Many de-icers are toxic to animals and harmful to people. You can find animal-friendly de-icers at most larger convenience stores or you can use good old-fashioned salt to clear your walkway.

If you have an indoor dog, always be sure to clean his or her paws after walks in winter. Even if you do choose a ‘safe’ de-icer, your neighbors may not and dogs may pick up residue on their paws. As a rule, it’s always best to clean your dog’s paws after a walk and before they enter the house – or you may want to invest in a good sturdy pair of dog ‘boots.’ You can find them at most pet stores and they’ll keep your dog’s paws dry and clean year-round.

Anti-freeze is another winter danger for pets and stray/feral animals alike. Be sure to keep anti-freeze and all other toxic and poison cleaning agents and car supplies out of the reach of your furry friends. Anti-freeze is yet another good reason to clean your dog’s paws after a walk. No matter how careful you are with your pets, you can’t guarantee that others will be as conscientious.

Consider a Donation

Winter is not only a hard time of year for outdoor animals, but also for those who care for them. You might want to consider donating your time or extra cash to a local organization that cares of stray and community animals. At this time of year, volunteers are always needed to help winter-ize shelters, clean and clear out bedding, and provide food and water to the feral communities that sometimes double in size during the cold months as new animals seek shelter. Even donations of old (but clean) bedding, cleaning supplies, and wet and dry food are welcome.

Winter can be a beautiful time of year. Let’s make sure that it’s a safe and happy one for feral communities too.

P.S. If you’re a little confused about the difference between a feral and a stray cat, here’s a quick primer. But, in general, a stray cat is an animal who has had a home at some point and who is socialized. A feral cat is a wild creature who may or may not seek human attention.

Feral cats often live in colonies with other cats. These colonies, if given a little help, can be safe and stable places for the cats to live out their lives. TNR (trap-neuter-release) helps control the colony population and cut down on disease. Some feral cats may choose to become socialized and may find homes. Others prefer to live their lives ‘wild’ accepting help only when they need it.

Best Friends Animal Society maintains a very happy and successful feral colony in addition to providing support for other animal care networks and adoptions. To learn more about how you can help stray and feral animals near you, you can visit their website.


Warm for the Holidays: Winterizing Your Pet

sleepysweeties

Those cold winter months are right around the corner. Antifreeze and snow chains are being added to cars. Gutters and roofs are receiving inspections and heating systems are being checked for the long months ahead. But, your house and car aren’t the only things that need special attention—outside pets need cold weather consideration as well. And, though the optimal course would be to bring your furry friend inside for the winter months, if that’s not possible, you should make sure that he has a weatherproof, dry, heat-retaining place to weather the cold months.

Although all my cats are cushion-sitters whose pampered paws have never touched grass, I do keep a small dog-house outside for the benefit of my neighbor’s roaming duo of felines, George and Fionna.  I also like to put out a bit of extra food in the ‘stray’ bowl during the winter months.  Although most of it is pilfered by the ravaging squirrel hordes in my backyard, Fionna does usually stop by for a nibble in the winter months.  Extra calories are a requirement for outside animals and Fionna has never been one to turn down a spare bowl of Purina.

If you have a pet that spends all or part of his time outdoors, you’ll want to make sure he has fresh food and water.  Keeping food and especially water unthawed during the colder months can be tricky.  But most pet stores now carry several varieties of heated dishes that keep Fluffy or Fido’s food and water ice-free in all but the most extreme temperatures.  I tend to find that food disappears quickly during the winter months.  So I refill the outside dish a few times a day.  Last winter, Mr. Cat, my current house-cat-in-training, had just made his appearance and I was desperate to keep him in kibble and water through the dark months.  This year, with Mr. Cat safely indoors and no feral cats in the area, there’s no real reason to keep out kibble.  But old habits die hard and I find myself still filling the stray bowl.  I seldom find it full at day’s end.

As for dog houses and other outdoor pet shelters, one problem that I have noted is that they tend to sweat if you’re in an area that has much temperature fluctuation.  Here in Tennessee, we can wake up to a balmy 30 degrees and see temperatures around zero by nightfall.  This can lead to wet bedding and, even worse, wet cedar chips.  Plastic lining under bedding does tend to help and heated bedding dries quickly. So your pet’s house and bedding need to be checked daily for moisture during the winter months.  And look for a shelter that is slightly raised off the ground—they stay a bit warmer.

If your dog is short-haired, you’ll want to invest in a pet-sweater and/or boots for those long walks during the winter months. You may even want to knit a sweater yourself. There are patterns available to make both pet clothing and sweaters which can be purchased at your local fabric supply shop. If you do decide to knit Fido some winter-wear, make sure you weather-proof the fabric. You’ll also need to make sure that your dog isn’t allergic to the fabric used or the weather-proofing spray.

Staying warm and dry while on his winter walks is just important to your dog as it is to you! If you don’t use footwear for your dog, make sure to inspect his paws daily for chapping, frostbite, or ice crystal formation between the paws. There was a reason Puss wore boots in the fairytale. No dog or cat wants a frostbitten paw! As a personal note, I wouldn’t attempt to actually try adding boots and a cap to your cat’s winter ensemble.  The cute little Santa hats that my Grandmother knitted for Tig and Lo ended up as chew toys—although I was able to snap one cute picture before the yarn-unraveling frenzy began.

In addition to the cold itself, winter months provide other related dangers for outdoor pets such as anti-freeze poisoning, shocks and burns from exterior holiday lights, as well as vehicle hazards. Anti-freeze, de-icer, and other winter chemicals should be stored safely and out of any pet’s reach.   And remember, just because your pet isn’t outside, doesn’t mean you don’t have neighbors’ pets who are. Make sure holiday lights are high and out of the reach of all pets–whether they are yours or not. And, be certain that no dangerous substances are left lying about to be sniffed or licked. Actual salt can be used to thaw frozen walks instead of chemical melting solution and pet-friendly ice-melt is also available.   Cats are also attracted to cars in the cold months.  You may want to rap your hood (or honk your horn) before starting your car on frosty mornings just to make sure that no one small and furry has taken residence during the night.

Even the most festive of times can be a hazard for pets.  Each year pets and rushed to the vet after ingesting tinsel, toxic holiday foods, and decorative plants is also a problem. Holly, poinsettias, Xmas cactus, and peace lilies, as well as onions and onion powder, potatoes, and chocolate should be kept well out of your pet’s reach. Keep pets away from live trees and their water.  And keep a close eye on your pet for signs of poisoning. Fatigue, nausea, weakness, drooling, leg-dragging and muscular tremors, coma, and convulsions are all signs of poisoning. Encourage friends and holiday guests not to give pets table scraps – no matter how sweetly or insistently they ask for them.  You might want to even consider keeping a jar of pet treats around just in case some kindhearted soul can’t resist throwing poor ole Fluffy something to eat during your celebrations.

Winter can be a time of great fun and wonder with its holidays, snowy days, and nights spent in front of roaring fires (whether real or artificial). Just make sure that you take time to consider your best friend’s needs when those winter days roll around so that your furry family can enjoy a Winter Wonderland as well.  And, please find two of my personal recipes for holiday treats below. I hope your pets enjoy them and that you all have a safe holiday season!

Lady Dog’s Peanutbutter Biscuits:

  • 4 cups of whole wheat or self-rising flour
  • ½ tbsp. Baking powder
  • ½ c. shortening (veggie)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. Peanut butter (creamy)
  • ¼ c. carob chips

Preheat your oven to 375.  Sift flour and baking soda with carob chips in a mixing bowl.  Add milk, shortening, egg, and peanutbutter mixing thoroughly.  Knead dough and roll on a cutting board.  Cut into shapes using cookie cutters or a biscuit cutter.  Bake on a cookie sheet (ungreased) 15-20 minutes at 375.  Cool and store.  These can be stored 2 weeks in an airtight container or frozen.  This recipe will make 2 dozen biscuit sized bones.

**This recipe is for dogs only.  Cats and carob do not mix.

Granny Whiskers’ Rice and Nip Pudding:

  • ½ c. rice (white or brown)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • ½ cup cream (or half and half)
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tbsp. Catnip
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube or ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. oil

In a deep pan, add rice, oil, and water and bring to a boil for 15-20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, heat milk, cream, and butter over medium heat until all butter is melted.  Add bouillon cube and dissolve.  Add rice and simmer over medium low one hour.  Combine egg and catnip.  Simmer 15 minutes more until mixture is thick and serve warm.

snow cat3


Pat the Cat

Pat the Cat It was a dark and stormy night—one of those early autumn thunderstorms that rattles the eaves and deposits a hundred stray branches in my yard.  A wet and noisy night that sends cats scurrying to the basement to hide under the pool table or to form shaky little cat-lumps under the bed-comforter.  Thunderstorms were always Lady’s great fear—the combination of thunderous booms with the occasional light show sent shivers through her little Cockerspaniel heart.  As for myself, I always worry that the lawn furniture will end up in the street and usually awake to find that one or two terracotta pots didn’t survive the night. 

 But, this particular night, silent due to storm-struck cats, I heard a tiny meow.  Peering out the window into the wet I thought I could see a small shape huddled on my doorstep. After opening the door slowly so as not to scare her, I found a dainty Maine Coone kitten holding up one wet paw.  Her collar says her name was Pat.  Pat the Cat—a nursery rhyme name if ever there was.  And, instead of running to the safety of the bushes, she promptly mews and steps slyly onto the living room carpet.

 I can tell right away that Pat is a cat who is used to the finer things.  She doesn’t like being picked up and locked in the garage.  She doesn’t like the plastic “guest cat” bowls into which I pour her kibble and water.  And, most of all, she doesn’t like being left alone while she hears me and my other cats just outside the door. 

 But, not knowing Pat or her vaccination history (or lack thereof,) I can’t risk bringing her inside with my other cats.  The garage is safe and warm and most importantly dry.  Though the garage may have a spider or two lurking in the rafters and few mole-crickets under the stored garden pots, it is a cat-friendly environment.  Pat will just have to get used it to for a few days until I hopefully locate her owners.  My ferocious quartet of divas sit pawing at Pat’s door and making hissing noises until I chase them upstairs.  There is an enemy in the house—no matter than she weighs only three pounds.

 Pat’s collar has a phone number and no address.  The phone number is, remarkably, from another town.  I call and leave a message.  And, hope that someone would return my call in the morning.  How could a kitten end up twenty miles from her home?  Was she stolen, transported by accident in a home delivery truck, or perhaps her people had just moved and haven’t had a chance to update her collar.  I am anxious to find out Pat’s story.  And, when I check on little Pat, I find her a little dusty, but contently curled up on an old blanket.  Her kibble has a good-sized dent in it and the toy mice and balls that I had left for her are scattered to the four corners of the garage.

 In the morning, there is still no answer from Pat’s number.  I check www.Petfinder.com  and call the local shelters to see if anyone had called about a missing Pat.  No posters in any of the three local vet’s offices, no word at the animal shelters, nothing online about Pat.  Surely, someone is looking for a tiny lost Maine Coon!  Her collar is dark blue leather with tiny silver rhinestones and a breakaway clasp.  Someone has made sure to add a reflective strip to keep Pat safe from cars.  And Pat is, herself, very fat and well-groomed.  Just from looking, you can tell that Pat is a very loved cat and one who hasn’t been on her own for long.  After drying out from the storm and polishing off her kibble, Pat makes sure to groom each of her paws–although she doesn’t seem to have mastered the art of cleaning her nose.  I watch her drink kitten-milk contently and look up with milk-rimmed whiskers.

 Pets are lost all the time.  My neighborhood is full of flyers with captions of Lost Dog and Lost Cat.  Occasionally, a Lost Parrot or Lost Gerbil adds themselves to the wanted boards and telephone poles on our streets.  My vet has a board devoted to notices for missing and found pets.  And, we have several in-city online sites devoted to finding lost animals. 

Still, despite their owners’ vigilance, many pets are never found.  They find new homes, they end up in shelters, and they sometimes meet with bad ends.  I’ve known pets who disappeared for months only to return home and some that despite their owners’ endless searching never reappeared.  I have, myself, taken in several found cats whose owners (if they had any) I was never able to locate.  I hope Pat isn’t one of these lost cats.  I hope that someone is searching for her and that they will very shortly have their pet back in their lives. 

After taking Pat (and a found cat poster) to the vet, I find that she is not microchipped.  No surprise there—most pets in my neighborhood are sans microchip.  The only microchipped pet in my neighbor, other than my own, that I know is Ryder—microchips are a requirement for pets that émigré to France, as my neighbor and her cat are planning to do.  Many countries in Europe now require microchips for pets along with other standard vaccinations as a prerequisite for admittance of pets from abroad.  This is not the case in the US, and most pets remain un-microchipped and unlikely to returned home if they are lost. 

 Lost pet sites advocate thinking of found animals as “lost” as opposed to “stray.” And, Pat certainly seems to fit that bill.  A gregarious little cat, I’m sure that on a sunny day she would’ve paraded up to the first human she saw and demanded help (and soft food).  Still, after three days, I can find no trace of Pat’s owners.  I continue to leave voice mail messages with no reply.  I email found cat posters to the shelters near Pat’s phone number and call the vets in her town.  Still no luck.  Pat continues her hiatus in my basement and my cats continue to grouse. 

Finally a full ten days from finding Pat, I receive a frantic phone call at work.  It is Pat’s owners—they want to know if I still have little Pat.  I tell them that I do and they arrange to pick up their kitty.  It turns out that they were on vacation and left Pat with a friend in my neighborhood.  How Pat has escaped or why her temporary sitter did not see her posters is a mystery.  But, Pat’s owners are so happy to have her back.  Pat practically jumps into their arms, purring and rolling, her little eyes fill with happiness.  Pat’s story, it seems, does have a happy ending.

 Still, Pat’s AWOL status has me worried.  How many Pats, I wonder, are there out there who never find their way home?  How many little kitties, dogs, lizards, and gerbils end up far from their owners?  Some probably find very good new homes.  Many are probably adopted by people who believe they are taking in a stray dog or cat.  After days, weeks, or months on their own, many cats and dogs (and certainly most house pets) have a scruffy appearance.  Lost cats and dogs are sometimes shy or aggressive and may seem feral to those that find them.  But, that doesn’t mean they are feral.  They may just be far from home, out-of-depth in a neighborhood that isn’t their own.  Without the familiar sites and sounds of home, some animals hide and others shiver and cower when people approach.  Although cowering or aggression responses can indicate abuse, in many animals they indicate only fear. 

 I worry about all these little furry souls out in a big, hostile world, where an outstretched hand could be a friend—or any enemy.  And, I’m not really sure what to do.  Pat’s owners may’ve begun checking shelters and websites if I hadn’t called, but they may’ve not known best how to find their kitty.  If they had been gone for a month instead of a week, Pat’s posters would have, most likely, been covered with the pictures of newer lost pets.  They may’ve never found their cat and never known whether she was safe and sound in a new home or lost in the wild. 

 It is heart wrenching to think of all the lost animals that are out there.  Every lost poster has a story behind it—a little girl without her tabby or a little boy searching for a beagle or an iguana.  These pets are loved and though they may find a new hearth and home, their loss leaves a hole in their first owners’ lives.   So, they next time you see a roaming dog or take in a lost cat, remember to check the lost pet sites.  Keep your eyes peeled for posters and make a few calls to shelters and local vets.  Check for missing animals not just in your town, but a few zip codes away as well.  You never know just how far an animal has traveled before finding his or her way to you.

Amazing journeys are real and some stories do have happy endings.  But, most of all be thankful for your own pets and mindful of their safety.  Even inside pets need collars.  Keep recent digital and hard copy photos of all your pets, as well as good vaccination records for identification purposes.  Think about microchipping—especially if your pets are sometimes outdoors.  And, make a list of places to look before you need them—hopefully you never will!


Selling Hope

hope

A long time ago I realized there are only two types of people in this world.  Those that make it a better place and those that make it worse.  Unfortunately, the latter outnumber the former ten to one.  Not because most people are particularly bad, but because they’d rather not get involved.  And believe me, I get it. 

I work with CRM (consumer relationship management) all day, every day.  Marketing is, in the end, about being conciliatory.  It’s about finding the heart of product or service that touches the greatest number of people.  You can do that by studying people and trying to connect with them through a brand or you can twist your product into the shape they’re looking for – whether it’s what they really want (or need) or not.  The first path is much harder than the second, but it’s also the only path that works in the long-run.  It’s better to have fewer consumers who are true brand loyalists than lots of one-shot sales.  Life is a lot like that too.  You can convince yourself that by doing nothing you aren’t hurting anyone and, at best, that may be true.  It’s been my experience though that minding your own business and accepting the way things are does as much damage as the people who actually go around lighting fires and kicking puppies. 

More than two hundred years ago Edmund Burke wrote “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one. . .” – a nice sentiment which was adapted into “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” which, from a marketing point-of-view, is a much better sound byte.  Regardless of what ole Edmund said or wrote, he had the truth of it.  A good deal of the terrible things in the world happen with an audience.  Case in point, a co-worker told me that she once saw a woman take off her shoe and beat her child with it.  The child was apparently in her car-seat crying, so the woman took off her shoe and hit the baby. 

My co-worker, who is often fond of telling everyone what a good person she is, called the police while this woman continued to hit a toddler.  With a shoe.  And she wasn’t the only person watching this scene, there were, apparently, a group of people who were outraged – but not enough to actually do anything.  This happened maybe ten years ago and it’s a story this particular person likes to repeat which infuriates me each and every time I hear it.  Life is just too short to wait for someone to come to the rescue.  Sometimes, you need to step in and do something yourself.

Doing something will, most likely, make you unpopular and will definitely earn you bad looks from your neighbors.  I take care of feral cats.  I try to find homes for strays, practice TNR for truly feral critters in the colony, and try to make sure that animals that already have a hard life don’t have a harder one.  I don’t expect anyone to praise me or give me a cookie.  I do hope that those who don’t want to help don’t actually try to stop me from helping, that they don’t shoot the cats, trap them and have them euthanized, or poison them.  My hopes often prove fruitless.  I learned a long time ago that you can’t save the world – all you can do is try to mop up the mess and apply a few bandages.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.  Sometimes a thankless task is more rewarding than one with guaranteed success. 

And, hey, sometimes you’re wrong.  Sometimes you may not save the world, but you save one cat or one person or change someone’s point-of-view.  That’s what keeps you going.  The poets have hope all wrong.  It isn’t delicate.  It isn’t a “thing with feathers,” it’s a thing with claws.  It scraps on even when all the odds are against it. 

That’s why no matter how tough things are, you can always have hope, and you can always convince others to have hope too.  Hope is hard (and sometimes bitter,) but apathy is like a plain oatmeal – cozy but bland.  Hope is the toy surprise in life’s box of cereal.  You may have to dig a bit to get it, but it’s always there – guaranteed.  And in the end, isn’t that what life’s really about – the toy surprise.  It may not be what you wanted or even what you expected.  But it’s the joy of opening it that makes it all worthwhile – that one moment when you, well, have hope that it’s exactly what you were looking for.  The world is a cruel place, but if you persevere it may just surprise you.