Friday, February 19, 2016

Feeding Bans Block Progress Toward Humane Cat Care

Alley Cat Rescue believes this is compassion. To some cities and towns though, it's a crime.

Alley Cat Rescue strongly opposes laws that ban the feeding of feral cats and impose fines or other punishment on those who compassionately care for community cats. These laws are cruel and inhumane in their effects on community cats, place blame on caregivers, and don’t bring communities any closer to effectively addressing pet overpopulation.

Cruel and Inhumane
Feral cats cannot be exterminated by attempting to starve them. There is always another source of food available in today’s urban and suburban environments, and as scavengers the cats eventually find food. They are also territorial animals who will not easily or quickly leave a familiar area to search for new food sources.

Instead, they tend to move closer to human habitations, where there is always food to be scavenged, as they grow hungrier and more desperate. Their malnourished condition will also make them more susceptible to parasite infestations, such as fleas and roundworms. A flea infestation can quickly lead to anemia and death in kittens, and can cause adult cats to obsessively scratch, opening wounds in the skin that can become infected.

Lead to more wandering for food
When a cat loses his food source, he will eventually head off in search of a new one. This can lead to a proliferation of cats across a greater geographical area than when there was a food source for a colony to base itself around. Wandering also leads to conflicts, as cats move into the territory of others. Fights over food, mates and territory can led to injury, and the noise from fighting is a common reason for complaint calls to animal control agencies.

Don’t Reduce the Number of Free-Roaming Cats
Feeding bans do not address the reproduction of cats in any way. Even if not fed by caregivers, cats will continue to reproduce. Feeding bans work at cross-purposes with TNR, without which cats remain unsterilized and unvaccinated, have poorer body condition[i], and are at a greater risk for catching and transmitting zoonotic diseases to people and other animals.

Giving even one treat is a misdemeanor crime in some places.
Individuals who feed stray and feral cats should not be blamed or penalized for the existence of cat colonies or pet overpopulation. Rather, they should be embraced by municipalities and encouraged for their acts of compassion and service to their communities. Caretakers often use their own money to feed and sterilize feral cats; without them costs for managing the cats will be passed to the tax-payer. Enforcement, like levying fines and holding court dates, will increase municipal administrative costs, and fewer caregivers will mean an increase in the workload of already-stretched animal control agencies.

Embrace Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Instead
Feeding bans do not improve the lives of free-roaming cats nor do they help communities effectively manage them. Bans make it harder to trap, sterilize, and vaccinate feral cats and punish those who are proactively working to improve their communities. Local governments should instead direct their resources and funds to supporting Trap-Neuter-Return and low-cost spay/neuter programs, which directly address the problems at hand and are proven to reduce feral cat colony size[ii][iii], reduce complaint calls to animal control[iv], and stop the breeding that fills our shelters to capacity.


[i] Scott, Karen C., Julie K. Levy, and Shawn P. Gorman. “Body Condition of Feral Cats and the Effect of Neutering.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 5, no. 3 (2002): 203-213.
[ii] Levy, Julie K., David W. Gale, and Leslie A. Gale. “Evaluation of the Effect of a Long-Term Trap-Neuter-Return and Adoption Program on a Free- Roaming Cat Population.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 222, no. 1 (2003): 42-46.
[iii] Natoli, Eugenia, et. al. “Management of Feral Domestic Cats in the Urban Environment of Rome (Italy).” Preventative Veterinary Medicine 77 (2006): 180-185.
[iv] Hughes, Kathy L., Margaret R. Slater, and Linda Haller. “The Effects of Implementing a Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Program in a Florida County Animal Control Service.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 5 (2002): 285-289.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Problem Pupils or Frightened Feline?

Boo was on high alert after arriving at the ACR shelter. He kept his pupils dilated all the way for weeks in order to see anything coming his way.
A couple of months ago ACR took in 4-year-old Boo. Take one look at his eyes, and you can see what inspired his name. His pupils are almost always maximally dilated, like someone snuck up behind him while he was sleeping and screamed BOO! So, is he sick? Can he see? How bright must the world be with pupils so large!

Thankfully, we’ve found that Boo has no health issues. Some cats just have unique pupils that stay mostly dilated. Boo is also very shy. He’s the type to sit in a corner where he can see everything coming and can’t be snuck up on. While he is prone to minor freak-outs over loud noises, he’s made great progress opening up and learning to trust us. Now, if you get him in a quiet room one-on-one you'll see his pupils shrink and hear his purr machine start right up. 

As we mentioned in a previous blog about a cat’s third eyelid, a cat’s eyes can be indicators of an underlying health issue. A trip to the vet is definitely warranted if you notice a change in the appearance of your cat’s eyes. A visible third eyelid, discharge in the fur around the eye, and squinting or holding one eye shut can be signs of infection or injury.

Boo last week, finally relaxing his mind and pupils.
Key-Gaskell Syndrome, for example, affects the autonomic nervous system and can present as two differently sized pupils. Also known as feline dysautonomia, Key-Gaskell usually sets in over three or four days and other symptoms can include unresponsive pupils (don’t change with light), avoidance of light, coughing, weakness, and a long list of GI tract problems. 

Unfortunately the cause of Key-Gaskell Syndrome is unknown and the symptoms can only be treated. Many cats do not recover from Key-Gaskell. Those that do can take up to a year and still have permanent nervous system issues.

Boo’s pupils do react to light and he has no other symptoms. He’s available for adoption and would be a great fit for a quiet and calm home. Give him a little bit of time and space and we’re sure he’ll switch from nervous to nuzzle.

The Merck Veterinary Manual – Feline dysautonomia
Vetstream – Feline dysautonomia

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Flower Dangers for Felines

A visit to the emergency vet is not your cat's idea of romance. If you're planning to give flower bouquets or plants to friends and family with cats this Valentine's Day, consider whether that colorful arrangement could be harmful to the cats before making a purchase.

Most Dangerous

Keeping plants and flowers that cause organ damage (and possibly death) to cats out of your bouquets should be your top priority. Lilies are a very common bouquet flower that is toxic to cats. All parts of the plant are dangerous when ingested and can quickly lead to kidney and liver failure. Even the pollen is toxic and could make your cat ill if inhaled or groomed from her fur. Avoid lilies and the following plants at all costs, unless your emergency vet has a frequent visitor punch card:

Cats + Lilies = VERY DANGEROUS!
Cardboard Palm
Sago Palms

Dangerous in Large Quantities

Quite a few plants and flowers cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy in cats. Mild-to-moderate stomach upset usually takes care of itself over a day or two, but keep an eye on your cat for persistent or worsening symptoms. These plants are known to cause GI tract problems in cats, with symptoms worsening as the amount ingested goes up.

What to Do

Contact a veterinarian right away if your cat ingests any of the plants on the Most Dangerous list above, and keep a close eye out for signs of distress if your cat eats any plant you didn't purposely give her. If you can, save a sample of the plant your cat ate and bring it with you if you need to visit a vet, as this can help the doctor more quickly identify and treat the problem. Always have your vet's phone number accessible, as well as that of a nearby emergency vet clinic. (Valentine's Day is on a Sunday this year, and not all vet offices are open on weekends.)

It's important to know that ingesting plant material can cause a small amount of vomiting or distress in any particular cat. Some are more sensitive than others. Be especially mindful of plants around kittens, as their small bodies can quickly be affected by even small amounts of plant material.

"Pet-safe" Options

"Cat grass" is a safe and tasty snack for cats.
The lists above are long, without even being comprehensive, so what are some safe flowers and plants for cats? If you like tradition, de-thorned roses are a safe choice for homes with cats and dogs, as well as bamboo arrangements and bonsai trees. African violets and daisies, begonias, Peruvian lily (not a true lily), and many ferns are safe for pets. When visiting a florist, it's good to mention that an arrangement is going to a home with animals and to have a list of plants you need to avoid ready. This will help your florist pick appropriate substitutions and avoid accidentally swapping one toxic plant for another.

Instead of spending Valentine's Day shooing your curious cat away from the beautiful (but dangerous) flowers, why not give her a Cat Grass bouquet of her own? Typically a mixture of wheat grass, rye, oat and barley, cat grass is a tasty treat that's safe for cats and something they'd eat in the wild anyway.

The Best Valentine's Day Option for Pets?

While we don't recommend giving animals as unexpected presents, why not skip the material gifts all together and spend a romantic day with your partner picking out a cat to adopt from your local shelter? Or spend a day playing with cats or walking dogs at a nearby rescue. Shelter animals deserve just as much love as those already in homes, and probably need love and encouragement even more. We prefer this option and would gladly take more time playing with cats and kittens over a fancy bouquet any day of the year!

Top: Bahador via Flickr, "N'Roses", CC BY 2.0
Middle: Samantha Durfee via Flickr, "lily and the lillies," CC-BY-NA-SA 2.0
Bottom: Judy M. Zukoski, used by permission, all rights reserved.