Wednesday, April 13, 2016

(Secret) Killing in the Name of Conservation?

There are two efforts in Scotland to save the endangered Scottish Wildcat. One has created success on the ground through the humane approaches of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and community engagement, while the other has gone back on its word and decided that trap-and-kill is the right solution.

The Scottish Wildcat, also known as the Highland Tiger in media campaigns, is an isolated breed that lives in some of the harshest areas of Scotland. Years of habitat loss and targeting by game managers and landowners reduced their numbers drastically, with some estimates claiming only 35 individual cats left in the wild. Inter-breeding, or hybridization, with feral cats has also decreased the number of pure Scottish Wildcats left.

Wildcat Haven has been working to save Scottish Wildcats since 2008. By working in the field and going door-to-door in the community to promote responsible pet guardianship, the importance of spaying and neutering, and the practice of TNR, they’ve succeeded in building an 800-square-mile “safe-zone” for the Wildcats, free of intact feral cats.

A section of the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan, listing no lethal control methods. (emphasis by ACR)

The Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan, a separate, government sponsored plan led by Scottish National Heritage (SNH) that began in 2013, also aims to save the Wildcat. As published, the Action Plan has the same goal as Wildcat Haven does, and purports to use the same non-lethal methods in working toward its goal. However, documents recently acquired by Wildcat Haven through a Freedom of Information request show trap-and-kill is and has already been employed by Action Plan participants.

It’s always heartbreaking to learn that cats have been trapped and killed by government organizations or municipalities aiming to reduce their numbers through brute force. It’s especially hard to take when it seemed as if those groups had smartly chosen non-lethal methods for managing feral cats.

"Humane dispatch" protocol from Scottish National Heritage calls for shooting defenseless trapped cats in the head.

Despite the language in the Plan, application documents show that licensed trappers are required to shoot any trapped feral cat who does not appear to be a Scottish Wildcat. How appearance can be used to definitively judge genetics, and how the language in the trapping application can possibly jibe with the stated goals of the Plan, a mysteries to us.  

The Action Plan appears to support TNR, but...
Scottish National Heritage and Action Plan participants have misled the public. They’ve watched the work of groups like Wildcat Haven succeed, yet have chosen to ignore those successful feral cat management strategies. They’ve also ignored the latest scientific research showing trap-and-kill actually increases the number of feral cats in a given area. (Lazenby here) No wonder the chief scientist for Wildcat Haven, Dr. Paul O’Donoghue, reportedly left his position with the Action Plan in 2014 over concerns with its methods!

SNH has also chosen to IGNORE the public’s support for TNR over lethal control methods. We believe the protocol of killing has remained hidden until now because the leaders of the Action Plan know the public does not support it. So, we must take it upon ourselves to remind them!

Please share your feelings with the top groups and officials involved in the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan on their social media accounts listed below. Tell them you only support humane programs like TNR and that their senseless killing of defenseless cats will not go unnoticed. Spread your message of compassionate cat management even further by liking and sharing each other’s posts. Together we can shine a light on this deadly Plan and expose it for what it is; cruel and inhumane.

Aileen McLeod, Environment Minister. 
   Twitter: @AileenMcLeodMSP

Scottish National Heritage
   Twitter: @SNH_Tweets

Save Our Wildcats/Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan
   Twitter: @SaveOurWildcats

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
   Twitter: @rzss

Edinburgh Zoo
   Twitter: @EdinburghZoo

photo: Peter Trimming via Flickr/ACR, CC BY 2.0

Friday, April 08, 2016

Heartworms in Cats, Learn the Risks

April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Most people think of dogs when they think of heartworms but cats can also get the disease, even indoor cats since mosquitoes can travel inside the home. Heartworm is a parasitic disease that involves long thin worms that live in the blood vessels and heart of infected animals. Heartworm disease causes lung disease and heart failure, and is often fatal. 

Feline heartworm disease develops when a cat is bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae. As the mosquito feeds, these larvae make their way into the cat's bloodstream, typically residing in the pulmonary (lung) arteries and the right side of the heart. Infection often leads to severe lung disease and sudden death. Just one or two worms can adversely affect a cat’s health.

Symptoms of the disease include coughing, labored raspy breathing, and vomiting. Because respiratory problems are the predominant symptoms, a cat may be first diagnosed with asthma or a respiratory infection. To confirm a heartworm diagnosis, a vet will perform a blood test to look for heartworm antibodies, along with a chest x-ray. A physical examination may also reveal a heart murmur or irregular heart rhythm.

Currently, no medications exist to treat heartworm infection in cats. Once a cat has been diagnosed with the disease, managing the symptoms is really the only option. Therefore, the best defense against the disease is through routine prevention. Various preventatives are available, including monthly oral (HeartGard) and topical (Advantage Multi) formulas. Regularly-scheduled testing to monitor the success of any prevention program is also recommended. 

According to PetMD, “the prevalence rate of heartworm disease in unprotected cats that have not received the proper preventative medication … is significantly lower than that of unprotected dogs -- approximately one-tenth the rate of dogs.” The risk of infection varies from one region of the country to another and even from community to community. However, higher rates of incidents are reported in hot, humid areas like the Southeast and Hawaii. Caretakers of outdoor cats living in high-risk areas should consider providing a routine preventative, and they are advised to monitor colony sites for standing water -- which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes -- and ensure all water is discarded.

For more information on preventing heartworm disease in cats, be sure to speak with your veterinarian. 

American Heartworm Society. “Feline Heartworm Facts.”, n.d. Web. 06 April 2016.
American Heartworm Society. “Heartworm Incidence 2013.”, n.d. Web. 06 April 2016.
PetMD, LLC. "Heartworm Disease in Cats.”, n.d. Web. 06 April 2016.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Buffy the Cat Makes the Most of His Nine Lives

by Maggie Funkhouser

From taking swings on the green to box seats at baseball games, Buff the Cat is no ordinary feline. Traveling to new places and going on exciting adventures is what Buffy does best. Like no other cat, Buffy enjoys the constant change of scenery and learning new tricks.

Buffy the Cat loves to be at the center of attention, with all cameras focused on him. It’s a good thing his Dad, Paul Smulson, is there to capture every special moment from all angles. And thanks to Buffy’s BFF - Buff’s Fan Forever - Sandy Robins puts into words exactly what’s on this orange tabby’s mind.

Buffy will have you laughing out loud, awing over his cute antics, and at times, wondering with amazement how a cat would even be so calm and relaxed on such big adventures. Playing in the salty surf, no problem! Riding waves on a friend’s boat, just another weekend pastime. Busting bad guys with the Chicago P.D., Buffy’s the best detective on the beat.

It goes without saying, Buffy’s purrsonality definitely proceeds him; no wonder he receives the VIP treatment everywhere he goes! So it’s only fitting that Buffy is the purrfect spokescat for National Tabby Day happening on April 30th. Tabbies are after all the most sophisticated cats of the feline world … and Buffy effortlessly sets the bar high.

Pick up your copy of "The Extraordinary Life of Buffy the Cat" on Amazon.