Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Study Narrows Date of Cat Domestication

According to recent article on the Time Magazine Website, a Chinese Academy of Sciences study has
narrowed the date of  cat domestication to 5,300 years ago.  The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Before this, estimates have ranged from "as far back as 9,500 years ago (based on wildcat remains buried near human remains on Cyprus) to 4,000 years ago (when domesticated cats first began appearing in Egyptian art) to as recently as 2,300 years ago, based on DNA evidence and archaeological digs."

According to the article, "The threshold of all domestication is traditionally thought of as the point at which a human-animal relationship becomes what’s known as commensal — when the animal begins eating from the human-food supply and the humans know it and permit it. Rodents and crop-scavenging crows do not have a commensal relationship with us, even though they eat themselves full at our table. House pets and farm animals do.
The investigators in the current study, led by Yaowu Hu, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, excavated a site in Shaanxi, China, where an agricultural village was known to have stood less than 6,000 years ago. The scientists unearthed cat skeletons buried within the boundaries of the village that were physically similar to wildcats but smaller — well within the range of domesticated cats. As with many such skeletal troves, it was not easy to determine exactly how many individuals contributed to the tangle of bones, but the investigators were certain of at least two. Carbon dating gave a slightly different age estimate for both, which averaged out to 5,300 years.
The key to determining what the animals ate and whether that indicated domestication was to analyze the bones in a different way — this time using isotope analysis to detect the particular mix of minerals and other nutrients that went into building the skeleton in the first place. One elemental profile would indicate a meat-heavy diet; another plant- or grain-based; another, different combinations of all of them."

Read more: Earliest Cat Domestication Traced to China 5,300 Years Ago |

Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday Presents for Your Furry Friends?

A recent article in the Salem News prompted a discussion around the office on what we are all getting our furry friends for the holidays.  Most of us have both cats and dogs for companion animals, and we all like to spoil them around the holidays.  While we are opening presents, we like to give them something to open as well!

Some Cats Just Want The Box!
The Salem News Article  "Christmas Goes to the Dogs.... and Cats" said that "Half of all dog owners purchased Christmas gifts for their pooches last year, spending $11 on average per gift, according to the American Pet Products Association. And more than a third of cat owners put something under the tree for their cats, spending on average $8 for those catnip mice or treats."

Are you going to be one of these people who gets your companion animal a gift?  Let us know in the comments what you might be getting them!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Last Minute Holiday Gifts for the Cat Lover

Uh oh!  Do you need a last minute holiday gift for the cat lover in your life, and want to support Alley Cat Rescue?  There is still time to order them an Alley Cat Rescue t-shirt or sweatshirt!  Let them wear their heart on their sleeve.

Email us at and we will email you an order form!  You can also call our office at 301-277-5595 to order (just leave a message if we are not available and we will get back to you as soon as possible).

Check our our awesome merchandise.

Black T-shirt with White Writing, Alley Cat Rescue- Small through XX-Large ($18)

Blue T-shirt with Navy Writing, Neuter is Cuter- Small through X-Large ($18)

Grey T-shirt with Maroon Writing, Spay or Neuter, Save A Life Today- Small through X-Large ($18)

 Long-Sleeved T-Shirt

Red with White Writing, I am a Cat Angel- Small through X-Large ($20)


Dark Grey with Ear-tipped Cat- Small through X-Large ($30)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Throw Back Thursday: The Professor

Throw Back Thursday is  social media trend where people post photos and stories of some of their favorite memories.  This is one of my personal favorite memories of an Alley Cat Rescue cat.
- Kylie Riser, Executive Director

In 2008, I had been working at Alley Cat Rescue for two years when an adorable litter of kittens came through our doors.  They were sweet as could be, but about two weeks too young to adopted out.  When they came in, as per our standard procedure, they were checked out by our vet and given a clean bill of health.  Once they weighed 2 pounds, they could be spayed and neutered and adopted out.  But after a few days, we noticed that something was not right with the kittens.  They were weak and lethargic.  At their age, we had a terrible feeling that they could have distemper, and we were proved right.  Despite our early intervention, fate had other plans for these kittens.  Except for one of them.

The exact survival rate for cats and kittens with distemper is hard to find, but most estimates put it at less than 10%.  The Professor defied the odds.  But his illness was not without consequences, and we know that he would need some intense help to get anywhere close to being a "regular" cat.  The Professor and his siblings were names after the characters on Gilligan's Island.

After a discussion with my husband, Scott, and once he took one look at The Professor and fell in love, we decided to do everything we could to give him a normal life.  You see, the disease had caused some brain damage, and at this point The Professor could not walk, stand up, use a litter box, or really any "normal" cat functions.  But he loved getting attention, and we could tell that with some work and determination, that he could like a happy life.  

We started by sitting with him every day after work, and trying to help him build strength.  We would move his limbs, and then help him sit up.  For the first few days, he would just flop over on to his side.  But quickly we saw him sitting up for longer and longer.  And after a few weeks, he could even get himself into a sitting position.

Aspen (left) and The Professor (right)
watch the squirrels
Once he was able to sit up, we had work on walking.  Scott and I would take turns holding him up and moving him around, and he seemed to know what we wanted him to do.  Since he was getting stronger, it really didn't take long before he got the hang of walking again! He even started trying to play with Aspen, our tuxedo cat and Bear, our shepherd-mix dog, who loves kittens and wants to take care of them.

As he got stronger, he would explore more and more of the house.  He eventually figured out where a heating pipe ran through the kitchen floor and that there was a spot that was always warm there, and would go curl up on it.

One of the best days was the first time The Professor had the strength to jump on the couch.  Scott and I
had been sitting there, and we weren't expecting it all.  We were so excited we both starting shouting!

The Professor was an amazing cat who went from the brink of dying to leading an almost normal life.  Did he walk a little stiffly?  Yes.  Could he run and keep up with his buddy Aspen? He sure tried his best! Did he always have a little gunk in his eyes?  Yes, but we kept at bay with warm washcloths. He wasn't perfect, but he loved us, and watching the squirrels, and playing with his friends, and we loved him.

The Professor was our companion until February 2009, when his damaged immune system could not keep up with life, and we had to send him over the rainbow bridge.  We know that wherever he is, he has found the warm spot to sleep on.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Caring for Outdoor Community Cats in Winter

Outdoor stray, abandoned and wild cats rely on the kindness of a compassionate public to help them survive. Although they can get by on their own and often do so in remote areas where there are few humans living.
However in urban areas, people who feed cats usually want to provide them with shelter from the elements. oweverIn one survey, shelter for feral cats was found to be more important than food. Wet weather especially can have adverse, and even serious, effects on cats. They can become hypothermic and could even freeze to death. The biggest problem is if the animals get wet and cannot find a warm place to dry their fur. Most feral cats can usually cope with cold weather, as is well documented on Marion Island, where as we mentioned before, it either rains and snows for over 300 days each year. And yet the feral cat population grew from just 5 cats to over 6,000! And yet the feral cat population thrived, until they were all killed by scientists
Domestic housecats, if dumped outside and left to fend for themselves, probably suffer more from cold weather conditions than feral cats, who develop a thicker coat in the fall. Outdoor cats need a warm, dry shelter to protect them from wet weather, as well as extra nutrition and fresh water, which can be a problem during freezing weather.
The body temperature of felines is higher than the body temperature in humans – around 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, if you feel the cold, the cats will usually feel the cold as well.
You can build a simple shelter or you can provide other types of protection against the elements. Shelters provide a safe haven to keep cats dry and warm and will prevent them from roaming. With this provision managed colonies can be very hardy in the wintertime.
A feeding station will help to keep food and water dry and will help with freezing weather. Bedding should be straw or made of a synthetic fleece material such as that used to make horse saddle covers. Blankets, sheets and towels retain moisture and remain damp and should not be used during winter.

If you are unable to build a shelter, you can use any type of strong box or crate, or buy a dog “igloo” from your pet supply company. Mylar insulation is made of polyester and aluminum that reflects radiant heat. It is used to keep houses cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This type of insulation is normally used in attics and is a perfect material to use to insulate outdoor cat shelters.

·         -You should insulate the shelter with thick plastic or other material such as Mylar mentioned above to keep out wind and cold.
·       -  You could buy a dog house and modify it, blocking off part of the larger opening to make it smaller and therefore warmer inside for the cats.
·        - Size should be approximately 3’ x 3 ’ and 2' high.
·         -Cats will cuddle together inside for warmth
·        - Build enough shelters so that around 6 cats can stay in each one
·         -Use straw for the bedding NOT HAY or blankets or towels.

More guidelines:
·       -  It is safer to have 2 small openings for the cats to enter and be able to get away if danger presents itself. Put the openings on the side of the shelter that is protected from the wind. Two openings will give a chance at escape should a pesky raccoon for instance or any other animal try to enter the shelter.
·         -Raise the shelter off the ground by placing it securely on bricks or on a wooden pallet. If left on the ground it will retain moisture and will rot.
·       -  Clean shelters each spring and autumn by replacing the bedding with fresh hay.
·       -  A feeding station – a simple structure with a sloping roof and floor will help keep food dry and provide a dry place for cats to eat. Fresh water can be a problem during freezing weather. Hot water can be poured into their water bowls, which may give them an opportunity to drink once it cools. Use smaller, deeper dishes, which will keep water unfrozen for a while. For porch cats a heated water dish can be used if there is electricity.
·         -Feral cats will huddle next to each other to keep themselves warm. This is one reason they become such social animals: it is a survival ploy for them.

If you have outdoor porch cats they will enjoy living under your porch.  You just need to provide them with fresh hay and they will burrow into it. You could leave fleece beds there as well for them. It is always amazing to see how much outdoor, wild cats enjoy such creature comforts!