Friday, July 17, 2015

And Australia's "War on Cats" Marches On...

by Maggie Funkhouser

There's more talk in the news about Australia's plan to kill two million feral cats over the next five years in an attempt to protect wildlife; however, there's not much "new" news to report. The Australian government is still blaming cats for declining wildlife populations, with Gregory Andrews, the country's first threatened species commissioner, telling ABC Radio, “... the scientific evidence is crystal clear that they're the biggest threat.”

There's no doubt that wildlife populations are plummeting, but as the Earth enters its sixth mass extinction, scientists warn that the event has been greatly driven by human activity, such as land clearing, climate change, and pollution. Overdevelopment and overconsumption are the reasons for the planet's declining wildlife, not cats.

And if Australia hasn't learned anything from past eradication plans, killing does nothing to stop the breeding cycle and only creates a vacuum that attracts more cats. If catch-and-kill was effective at controlling cat populations, there wouldn't be any feral cats running around. A recent study conducted on Tasmania, the island state off the Southern coast of Australia, illustrates what happens when cats are removed from an area. Regular trapping and shooting of feral cats over a thirteen-month period actually led to an increase in the overall colony populations between 75 and 211 percent. At the end of the study, there were more cats running around than before they started killing.

What is "crystal clear" is Australia's continued pursuit to eradicate feral cats despite the evidence. If the government put half as much taxpayer money into Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs as it does developing poisoned bait and FeralCatScan apps (yes Australia has created an app for people to plug in locations of feral cat colonies so authorities can come out and kill the cats), the country would finally get control of its feral cat population and begin to see a reduction. Until then, we encourage our supporters to please speak up on behalf of the cats, by contacting the listed officials below. Let them know you strongly oppose their plan to use killing as a method of population management and that humane practices, like TNR, should be implemented instead.

Please contact:
The Honorable Greg Hunt, MP                                                                     
Minister for the Environment
Electoral Office
Shop 4, 184 Salmon Street
Hastings, VIC, 3915
Twitter: @GregHuntMP

Mr. Peter Wright, Director
Environmental Biosecurity Section
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601

The Honorable Kim Beazley, AC                                                                       
The Embassy of Australia
1601 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: (202) 797 3000
Fax: (202) 797 3168
Twitter: @AusAmbUSA

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hooray for No New Kittens (Yes, Really!)

Sorry little buddies, but the cage is your home 'til you're all big enough for surgery and adoption.
Those of us in the animal rescue and welfare community know that Spring and Summer are when most kittens are born. Shelters fill up quickly with new kittens who need homes, and are often pushed to the limit of how many cats they can care for. Alley Cat Rescue and our foster volunteers have taken in about 50 kittens this season, and one litter of four even being born at our shelter.

But for Spay Neuter Kingston Initiative (SNKI), which manages 50 colonies in Kingston, Ontario, this kitten season has almost been a relative vacation. They had no kittens born in their managed colonies and zero population growth for the first time since beginning a TNVR (Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return) program in 2009. The group was also able to spay or neuter more than 250 cats, preventing even more kittens from being born. This is concrete proof that Trap-Neuter-Return is an effective way to stop feral cat reproduction and address cat overpopulation. We congratulate them on their success!

It is a sad truth that most cats euthanized at shelters are ferals, and this includes countless kittens. Joanne Boudreau, TNVR coordinator for SNKI, wrote to us that, "We still have a major cat overpopulation problem in the area, cats and kittens are being dumped ... and we are constantly hearing [of] - and being contacted - by people who don't want to bring their cats/kittens down to the local humane society because they euthanize." 

Shelters often do not have the resources to bottle-feed very young kittens or house those not ready for surgery, which unfortunately is why they are euthanized. Spaying and neutering would help address the overpopulation problem, but Boudreau said that there are no low-cost spay/neuter services in the Kingston area.

Mom & eight kittens in ACR foster care.

Please donate today! Your contributions help ACR and our foster volunteers care for kittens like these until they're big enough for spay/neuter and adoption. (And mom will get spayed too. Eight is enough, dear!) 


We at Alley Cat Rescue don't see young age as an appropriate reason for euthanasia, which is why we do whatever is necessary to care for kittens until they are ready for sterilization and adoption. Our work, and that of SNKI, prove that TNR, in conjunction with low-cost spay/neuter, and plenty of volunteer and financial support, can put a stop to overpopulation. Please consider donating today so that we can continue to do right by feral cats and kittens during this busy time of year when the amount of work to be done is especially challenging. We are truly grateful for your support!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tips for Keeping Cats out of Gardens

Cats are our most beloved animal companions. However, for our neighbors with gardens, they can be unwanted visitors. Because cats don’t recognize boundaries between their own yard and a neighbor’s yard, they can roam into unwelcome territory. Here are a few ways to help keep certain outdoor areas cat-free. 
            Creating barriers to the area you wish to keep cat-free helps to make it hard for them to get in. Try installing wire gutter guards on top of your garden fence, as cats don’t like walking on wire and will deter them. Another method is to plant prickly vegetation, like holly bushes, around your garden boundaries. And another option is to place automatic water sprayers around your garden. They have motion-activated sprayers that will go off when a cat comes near it, harmlessly spraying the cat and scaring him off. After a few attempts and being sprayed, the cat should learn this area is off limits.
         If these preventative measures don’t manage to keep the cat out, try to make your garden unappealing to him. Cats don’t like citrus smells, so try putting some orange and lemon peels in your garden. Damp soil is also a turn off for cats; they prefer dry soil. Short twigs or plastic forks stuck vertically into the soil throughout the planted area and rocky/graveled soil will help keep cats out of gardens, because they won’t have access to bare soil. It is also recommended for those who care for free-roaming cats to create simple outdoor litter boxes, using play sand and scooping regularly; providing a dedicated litter box area for outdoors cats will help keep cats out of gardens. For more helpful tips in keeping cats out of gardens, please visit our website.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pesky Pet Parasites

The warmer months of the year are often the times we notice our feline friends being bothered by parasites. There may be more scratching and itching than usual, or you may notice something odd in a cat’s feces when scooping litter. A few of the most common parasites to cats are fleas, tapeworms, mites, and ticks. Each of these parasites can be easily identified and effectively treated.

Fleas are wingless bugs, one to three millimeters long and reddish brown in color, but can also be black. Signs that a cat has a case of fleas include scratching, bald and crusty skin patches, and very small black and white bits in the fur that look like dust, but in fact are flea excretions and eggs. Although they can spread diseases, fleas are mostly a nuisance to a cat until treated. Yet it is important not to leave fleas unaddressed; if left alone, they can cause anemia, skin irritations and infestation by other parasites. A case of fleas on kittens should be addressed immediately as they are especially vulnerable to anemia. 

Excreted tapeworm sections.
Tapeworms look like small grains of white rice. Evidence of a tapeworm infestation can be found in the fur around a cat's anus, in her feces, or in bedding. The most common tapeworm is carried and spread by fleas, so flea treatments can serve a double function of preventing tapeworm infestation.

Dirty ears could be a mite infestation.

Ear mites are another parasite found in cats (and dogs, but to a lesser degree) that if left untreated can lead to infection or even aural hematoma, a rupturing of blood vessels in the ear caused by extreme scratching and head shaking. Signs of an ear mite infection can include excessive scratching of the ears and head shaking, a dark colored waxy secretion, and debris inside the ear that looks like fine coffee grounds.

No wonder ticks are tough to spot!
Unlike fleas, ticks are not bugs. Rather, they are arachnids, like spiders. Ticks spread diseases (most notably Lyme disease) and are only the size of a pinhead before biting a cat. After the bite, ticks swell in size because of the blood they have just ingested. Ticks don’t jump like fleas; instead, they live in tall bush and grass areas and are spread through direct contact.

To remove a tick from a cat, clean the area with rubbing alcohol and very carefully pluck the tick off with tweezers. Take care to remove the entire tick, including the head, as leaving parts embedded in the skin can cause infection. In order to prevent the live tick from coming after the cat again, it should be disposed of by dropping it in a jar of alcohol or flushing down the toilet. Do not try to crush a tick with your fingers; they are difficult to kill this way and submersion in alcohol or flushing provide greater surety that the job has been done.

Topical flea treatment application.
Infestation by any of these parasites can usually be prevented and treated by topical and oral medications. Topical solutions are applied to the back of a cat’s neck, between the shoulder blades, where it cannot be wiped away during grooming. Medications in pill or tablet form can be given alone or with food. 

Some products are developed for individual parasites, such as Capstar for fleas, whereas a product like Advantage Multi treats a host of parasites at once. While these medications are effective, it is very important to choose one that is safe and appropriate for the individual cat. For example, the smallest dose of medicine may still be too much for very young kittens and an alternative or temporary treatment must be used. Also, never use medicines labeled for dogs on cats! These products are formulated especially for dogs and can be dangerous and toxic to felines. That’s why Alley Cat Rescue highly recommends consulting your veterinarian when choosing a parasite treatment, as it is important to know the product is safe and to select the proper dosage. There are many reports of over-the-counter brands causing illness and death in cats, and your vet will be able to recommend the safest product.

Alternative flea treatment for kittens
Stop trying to drink the soap Oliver!
Topical and oral medications are not appropriate for very young or small (under two pounds) kittens. In this case a bath in diluted Dawn dish soap can be used. A rinse-and-repeat method is recommended to get as many of the adult fleas and eggs as possible. For cats who do not take to a bath, use a flea comb to brush out fleas, and rinse the comb in Dawn soap to kill them. Keep in mind this treatment does not prevent reinfestation, and may not rid a kitten of fleas, but it is an effective temporary solution until the kitten is developed enough for medication.

Cat Scratching - Alley Cat Rescue
Flea - By Robert Hooke ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Tapeworm - By KDS444 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Mite - By Uwe Gille (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Tick - By AndrĂ© Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons 
Treatments - Alley Cat Rescue

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Father's Day: A time to tie one on... a cat!

There is no arguing that the neck-tie is the quintessential Father’s Day gift. It can be a reminder of a family’s love hanging right next to one’s heart. But some dads are tie super-enthusiasts with a penchant for going overboard, with various hanging racks and motorized contraptions meant to organize the neckwear only serving to clog up the closet. At some point the closet is full, and some wardrobe editing must be done to accommodate the new ties, but what to do with them? Our cats have a few ideas.

Puppy Dog likes to repurpose old ties as Cat Super Hero capes. He prefers a wide tie, at least three inches, to better direct his flight path. Puppy Dog would also like to cash in on his cuteness, so if there are any big corporations looking for a celebrity spokes-cat, he would like them to know he is available, and that his “cape” is plenty big enough for a logo.

Puppy Dog also took inspiration from his own name to think of using an old tie as a leash. True, we do not often think of cats as particularly leash-friendly, but we have heard from our office kitties that this is mostly due to the unfashionable leash designs currently available. Puppy Dog likes this floral design and pop of color that matches his harness.

Here we have Santa, modeling a nice little number in pale pink as a tail extender. The tail extender is unique in its versatility, as it can act as formal wear, like the train of a wedding dress, or be used to swat others away from a food bowl. It can also be a handy duster for hard-to-reach places, assuming you can convince your kitty to chip in around the house FOR ONCE.

This is Pellusa, who has done to a tie what cats seem to do to everything; make it into sleeping apparatus. A rolled tie can be a comforting pillow, providing soft cushion and the calming and familiar scent of a human companion.

And it may be the old tie doesn’t need repurposing at all. White-collar cats everywhere desire to put their best paws forward when on the job, and a jaunty hand-me-down necktie could be just the ticket for a professional cat like Josephine.

Ties are great, and as you can see have many uses, but if you're planning on getting dad something a bit less traditional for Father's Day this year, please consider buying through our Amazon Smile link, or check out GoodShop. When you designate Alley Cat Rescue as the organization you support, a portion of purchases is donated to ACR, which helps us care for Puppy Dog, Santa, Pellusa, and Josephine, and all the rest of our special furry friends.