Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter: Be Safe This Holiday!

This Sunday is a very important holiday for many people around the world.  Easter brings many things to many people, but it is important to remember that some of our favorite Easter decorations can be very dangerous for our cat and dog friends.

Here are some tips for keeping our furry friends safe during this holiday weekend:

Easter Eggs: They may seem like harmless things to decorate, but those decorations often look like toys to cats, and they can give kitty an upset stomach so keep all decorating supplies out of reach.  If you do an Easter Egg hunt outside, make sure that all hard-boiled eggs are found, otherwise they can rot and be eaten by cats or dogs, making them sick.  Plastic eggs can also be a hazard if your companion animal chews on them and ingests any of the plastic.  It can cause blockages or if sharp can cause tears.

Flowers and plants: Many beautiful flowers and plants we associate with spring and Easter are poisonous to animals.  In particular, the Lilly is extremely poisonous to cats.  The ASPCA runs a poison-control hotline for pets and can be reached at 888-426-445. If you suspect your pet has ingested something that may be poisonous, call them as soon as possible (the hotline does charge a fee) or call your veterinarian.  You can find more poisonous plants by visiting our website at

Easter Basket Dangers: Many things in the typical Easter basket are hazardous to animals.  One thing in particular to watch out for is the plastic grass used for decorating.  Cats LOVE to play with it, and if ingested can cause intestinal blockages, which require expensive surgery to remove and can kill a pet.  Chocolate is also particularly dangerous because it contains theobromine, which cannot be fully metabolized and can cause many health problems.  If you suspect that your companion animal has ingested chocolate, it is imperative to get them to a vet right away.  Sugary treats can also cause digestive problems.
Alley Cat Rescue wants everyone and their fuzzy (or scaly, or slimy, or feathered!) friends to have a wonderful and safe holiday!

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Trap a Homeless Cat (with a little help from the Irish) by Guest Blogger Rosie Sorenson

First Step:  take two swigs of Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Oh, none for me, thanks, but you’re going to need it for your first go-round at trapping a homeless cat.  Pick up the smooth dark bottle, cool to the touch; twist off the black plastic cap (snap!)  Inhale the spirit of Ireland as you hoist the open bottle to your lips, throw back your head, and allow the chocolaty, tingly river of love to linger on your tongue before you wave it on down your throat.  Repeat.  Put the cap back on the bottle and return it carefully to the cupboard (you may need it later!).  Exhale.  You’re ready.
Now, dressed in your black sweatpants, gray sweatshirt, and brown hiking boots, you open the patio door which reminds you with its high-pitched squeal that it needs to be oiled when you return.  The lemon tree’s sweet, lively fragrance envelops you.  You step onto the grainy asphalt deck and bend down, taking care to avoid the fiery pain you sometimes get in your right knee.  You grab the handle of the wire mesh cat trap inside of which is a metal spring-loaded plate that you will set once you’ve arrived at the targeted cat’s outdoor home.  You wipe your feet on the thick sisal door mat, close the patio door with a thud, then carry the trap through the white-carpeted living room to the front door.  You grasp the cool, brass door knob, give it a turn.  It opens onto the white cement landing.  Jake, your short-haired, line-backer-necked gray cat is sleeping in his blue plaid flannel bed near the jade plant.  He briefly opens his eyes and greets you with a short “mew.”  You set down the trap so you can bend over and scratch him under his chin.  “See you later, Jakey,” you say to him in that baby-talk way you adopt when you talk to kitties.   “I’m going off to catch one of your cousins.” 
You pick up the trap with your left hand so your right is free to hold onto the white railing while you walk carefully down the stairs.  The crisp afternoon air and bright sun lift the dread you felt earlier.  Maybe this will be fun, after all. 
You head toward your carport to your white Nissan Altima.  The local Waste Management company truck is rumbling into the driveway for its weekly pick-up, setting off your car alarm as it passes. You reach into your pocket for your keys and press the little “off” button on the remote before the entire neighborhood rises up against you. 
You open the back passenger door, carefully setting the trap on the newspapers and black plastic tarp you previously placed there.  The inside of the car smells musty now; so, as soon as you slide into the driver’s seat, you open the windows.  You run through your mental list to make sure you have everything you need:  several cans of Trader Joe’s tuna for cats, can opener, paper towels, terrycloth towel to cover the trap once he’s inside, cell phone, camera, sun visor, patience, love.  Yep, all set. 
You buckle your seatbelt, insert and turn the key in the ignition, and back carefully out of your carport into the driveway.
You offer up a brief prayer to no one in particular.  Oh, please, let him go into the trap.
You drive to the parking lot near Sammy’s outdoor home.  He’s the one you have set your sights on, a beautiful, Siamese kitten, the son of Lily, a fierce, black kitty who has already been fixed.  Alas, no more beautiful kittens.  
You pile the trap, the paper bag full of the cans of tuna, towels and the rest of your supplies onto an old luggage carrier, strap it all down with colorful bungee cords, and head off down the blacktop path.  You’re worried that the metallic squeaks and moans coming from the rickety cart will scare Sammy away.  The fragrance of the wild sage delights and calms you.   You stop several feet short of Sammy’s favorite dining spot, the plank of plywood covering the drainage ditch.  You release the bungee cords, set the paper bag on the ground, lift off the trap and place it on the plywood.  Buddy, a large black cat, has already come out to check on the proceedings.  Little Bear, a small gray neutered male, is fast approaching.  The others can’t be far behind. 
This is the impossibility of the task you have accepted - how to target the one kitty, Sammy, while keeping the others away from the trap which now reeks mightily of the tuna you’ve placed inside.   
You set the lever on the trap and – wait.   You stand at a distance and watch as Sammy approaches.    Sammy is following suit.  No, no, you silently scream as Little Bear enters the trap and gobbles the tuna you’ve placed in front of the spring-loaded metal plate.  You’ve no choice but to yell at him, thus sending Sammy scampering into the bushes.  You hold out some tuna to entice Buddy to follow you on down the path away from the trap.  It works!  Sammy returns and starts nibbling again, moves slowly into the trap, further, further.  But, wait!  Little Bear sneaks out of the bushes and oh, dang!  He’s going into the trap, too.  The trap is small and the only way Little Bear can get at the rest of the tuna is to nudge Sammy further into the back of the trap.  He does. Bam!  Little Bear backs out just in the nick, leaving Sammy trapped and thrashing.   You holler, “No, no, no, Sammy, it’s all right” as you run toward him, waving the towel, and flinging it over the trap.  Your heart is pounding; Sammy is mewing, his eyes wild. You collapse onto the ground and cry.  However, Little Bear, has already started nibbling at some of the tuna you dropped onto the plywood in front of the trap.
Bailey’s.  Did someone say Baileys?
Rosie is the author of "They Had me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster Hollow." Be sure to check out Rosie's book and pick up a few copies -- great for Easter or Mother's Day gifts! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Importance of Micro-Chipping: Squeaky’s Story

He was saying "cheese"
When not working for Alley Cat Rescue, I also help out a dog walking and pet sitting service. Well, one of my regular clients cares for a feral colony and she mentioned to me that a friendly cat, who she dubbed “Mr. Whiner” because of his constant chatter, started hanging around with her outside cats. She had been feeding him for about a week or two and asked all of her immediate neighbors if he belonged to anyone, but no one claimed ownership of him. She told me that he is super friendly and continually tried to get inside of her house, so she had a feeling that he used to be a housecat. From what she was telling me, I agreed he probably used to have a family but for whatever reason he is now a stray. (With this poor economy, ACR has seen a rise in animals being abandoned when people can no longer afford to care for them or when they must move.) So ACR agreed to take Mr. Whiner and place him in our adoption program to find him another home.

During his examination process, which all new cats receive when they first arrive at our shelter, it was discovered that Mr. Whiner had a micro-chip! Fortunately, we were able to track down the chip number and get the contact information of his previous owners. We also discovered that Mr. Whiner is actually Squeaky (another fitting name for him). When I talked to Squeaky’s dad, he was overjoyed to hear that his cat had been found and couldn’t wait to tell his children about his return. So after a long day, two car rides and a few complimentary pokes (vaccines), Squeaky was reunited with his family!

After the initial shock of having their cat returned, I explained to the family that it was the micro-chip that brought Squeaky home, so it is always a good idea to have all of their pets micro-chipped. They agreed and said that their other cat was also chipped. I also suggested that the next time Squeaky decides to escape and take a little trip, they should post flyers around the neighborhood, because he was found in the neighborhood right next door and if the pet sitting client had seen them, she could have returned him sooner and avoided a trip to a shelter.
ACR is always happy when we are able to reunite pets with their owners, however, this is not usually the case, since most of the cats that come to our shelter are not micro-chipped and there is no way to identify them or who they may have belonged to. Collars with ID tags are a great idea too, but this is not always the best idea for cats, plus collars and tags can come loose or be removed, leaving no way to identify the animal. So please consider micro-chipping your pet(s), so in the event that something would happen to separate them from you, there will be a greater chance of you being reunited.        

Friday, April 08, 2011

Feeding Bans Do NOT Work

Everyday I come across news articles featuring another city or township that is taking the cruel approach to managing feral cat populations, by imposing ordnances that prohibit residents from feeding feral cats. People think that because food is withheld that feral cats will simply go away and the problem is solved, but we all know this is not true.

It’s in a way the case of “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” Cats tend to gather where there is a food source. Then, people will notice the cats hanging around and start feeding them. So even if laws prohibit people from feeding them, they will still find other sources of food, or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.

Countless biologists have observed that feral cats are more scavengers than they are predators. Their begging and opportunistic behavior “has enabled many feral cats almost to give up hunting altogether,” says Peter Neville, a UK biologist; this behavior has contributed to their being domesticated in the first place over 9,000 years ago. Roger Tabor, also a UK biologist, adds, “Although cats are superb hunters, it is their scavenging ability that allows them to survive as feral-living animals and live with us eating food off a saucer...” Feral cats are very resourceful and have been able to survive on garbage and food scraps for centuries.

“Starving out” cats will only make the situation worse for the community and for the cats. Feral cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food and will not easily or quickly leave their territory to search for new food sources. Instead, they tend to move closer into human habitations as they grow hungrier and more desperate. Their malnourished condition will also make them more susceptible to parasitic infestations, such as fleas and roundworms. Plus, feeding bans do nothing to stop reproduction, so malnourished cats will continue to give birth, resulting in the visible deaths of many kittens. (Feed cats are healthier cats.)

Individuals who feed feral cats should not be blamed or penalized for the problem, but rather encouraged for their acts of compassion. City officials should be assisting them with caring for and sterilizing these animals; this is a “community” issue. Simply prohibiting individuals from feeding cats will not solve the problem. Where there is a large number of people living (food source), there will be cats. However, with proper education and TNR programs, their populations can be humanely controlled, and cats become better neighbors.

Under current laws, indi­viduals and rescue organizations work everyday in a shadow of fear from being persecuted for helping animals, and we are tired of working this way. Feeding bans are rarely effective and are nearly impossible to enforce. Repeated experience has shown that people who care about the cats' welfare will go to great lengths, risking their homes, jobs and even their liberty, to feed starving animals. It makes no sense to penalize people who are trying to improve the situation for homeless animals and for being involved in their communities. Out-dated laws HAVE to change and compassionate people should be encouraged to continue to take care of feral colonies. 

Roger Tabor. “Understanding Cats;” Readers Digest, 1997.