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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Monday, April 30, 2007

Pollinating Honey Bees Are Dying Off in Droves as Entomologists Grope Around in the Dark for the Cause


"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
-- Albert Einstein

Beekeeping is big business in America and Europe but not for the obvious reason. Bees are raised in large colonies not for their honey but rather to pollinate crops. Besides, cheaper imports from China and Argentina have pretty much put most honey producers in the United States out of business. In Deutschland, eighty per cent of the honey consumed domestically is imported.

Now, farm-raised honey bees (Apis mellifera) are inexplicably abandoning their hives never to be seen again. Researchers believe that the bees are either too weak or too disoriented to find their way back home.

The disaster was first detected last autumn by beekeepers in the eastern United States who christened the phenomenon as Fall Dwindle Disease. Since then it has spread to the West Coast and to Deutschland, Angleterre, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. (See photo above of a European honey bee extracting nectar from an aster.)

Now dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), it has claimed an estimated sixty per cent of the bees on the East Coast and seventy per cent of those on the West Coast. All totaled, an estimated twenty-five per cent of the 2.4 million bees raised commercially have died since last autumn. Deutschland also has lost about a quarter of its bees.

Reports in the media are not exactly clear, but it appears that most of the bees that are dying are honey bees. They are not, however, the only commercially farmed pollinators. For instance, the alfalfa leafcutter bee is raised to pollinate alfalfa in the western part of the United States and Canada while bumblebees are used to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes and other crops. In England, however, bumblebees have been in decline for a number for years.

The corpses of those left behind in the hives contain as many as five or more viruses as well as fungal infections. This has in turn led researchers to hypothesize that their immune systems have been suppressed in some unknown fashion.

Bees from other colonies, wax moths, and hive beetles, who normally scavenge abandoned hives for honey and pollen, are staying away and this suggests that there is something toxic inside the hives.

Under appreciated and even looked down upon as pests by the uneducated, bees are one of the wonders of creation. Not only do they serve as a model of political and social cooperation, but they are indispensable for life on earth.

Pollination is a fairly complex affair but it is generally divided into biotic, which accounts for a whopping eighty per cent of the total, and abiotic. Biotic pollination is performed by bees, wasps, ants, beetles, moths, butterflies, flies, bats, birds, and mammals, such as bears, who scatter seeds through their excrement.

Abiotic pollination, which accounts for the remaining twenty per cent, consists of the fertilization of grasses, conifers, and deciduous trees by the wind and aquatic plants by water. Of this total, ninety-eight per cent is done by the wind and two per cent by water.

It is commercially farmed honey bees, however, that perform the lion's share of biotic pollination. In the United States, one-third of agricultural crops are pollinated by honey bees. These include most fruits, vegetables, and nuts which when combined are worth between fifteen and twenty-five billion dollars a year.

This, quite naturally, requires an enormous number of bees. For instance, one-million hives are required to pollinate more than half a million acres of almond trees in California. (See photo above.) Maine's blueberries require fifty-thousand hives, and New York State's apples need at least thirty-thousand hives.

In Deutschland, honey bees are responsible for pollinating crops valued at $3.41 billion. "The honey bee is, after cows and pigs, the third most important animal in agricultural terms," Burkhard Schricker of the Free University in Berlin told Deutsche Welle on April 26th. (See "German Beekeepers Fighting for the Future.")

The impact of CCD on wild bees, which are native to America as opposed to honey bees that are a seventeenth century import from Europe, is unknown. They are, arguably, of even greater value to life on this planet than commercially farmed bees and if something were to happen to them the consequences would indeed be catastrophic.

"If that (the pollination of wild plants) didn't happen any more there would be soil erosion and no more feed for our animals," Schricker added. "In just a few years the landscape wouldn't be green anymore, but brown."

The impact of CCD therefore cannot be underestimated. "We are extremely alarmed," Penn State entomologist Diana Cox-Foster told The Independent on March 1st. (See "Species Under Threat: Honey, Who Shrunk the Bee Population?") "It (CCD) is one of the most alarming insect diseases ever to hit the United States and it has the potential to devastate the U.S. beekeeping industry. In some ways it may be to the insect world what foot-and-mouth disease was to livestock in England."

Many years ago, Albert Einstein uttered an even direr prediction. "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left," he predicted. "No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

While bees in both America and Europe have faced threats before, such as the varroa destructor from Asia (See photo below) and the African honey bee, they were mere child's play compared to CCD. Most troubling of all, scientists do not know what is causing the deaths.

Perplexed entomologists on both sides of the Atlantic have looked at all the usual suspects, such as commercial and residential development, deforestation, the wide scale use of antibiotics and pesticides, the growing of monocultures, and bee predators, but they so far have been unable to come up with anything concrete.

Consequently, they are being forced to expand their inquiries into unchartered waters. For example, the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group, of which Cox-Foster is a member, theorizes that bees could be suffering from a deadly sexually transmitted disease (STD) similar to AIDS. On the other hand, Manfred Hederer, president of the Deutschen Berufs und Erwerbs Imkerbunds (DBIB), thinks that the bees could be dying as the result of some unknown toxin. (See Der Spiegel, April 16, 2007, "Werden Bienen tot telefoniert?")

Hans Hinrich Kaatz of Martin Luther Universitat Halle-Wittenberg in Sachsen-Anhalt blames genetically modified (GM) crops. Between 2001-2004, he led a team of researchers from Friedrich Schiller Universitat in Jena that studied the effects of genetically modified maize on honey bees. The study concluded that GM maize was not in itself toxic to the bees but it did reduce their ability to cope with parasites.

Kaatz believes that a bacterial toxin in maize may have compromised the bees' intestines and thus allowed parasites to gain entry. He admits, however, that the process could have occurred in reverse. (See Der Spiegel, March 22, 2007, "Are GM Crops Killing Bees?")

The fact that millions of hives are ferried in cages all over the country in order to pollinate one crop after another has led some researchers to hypothesize that stress is killing the bees. (See photo below of a mobile apiary.)

To put it another way, honey bees are being worked to death by moneygrubbing capitalists. This would not be surprising in light of how man has so mercilessly exploited both his fellow man and the animals for financial advancement.

"In America, they are all professional beekeepers who move around with their bees and make money by pollinating crops," Schricker told Deutsche Welle in the article cited supra. "They are not as concerned with the well-being of their bees. That is, there is not the same degree of care and supervision. Here, we almost look after every single colony." (See photo below of a German beekeeper attending to his hive.)

Raising large numbers of bees in colonies may also lead to a reduction in the available gene pool which in turn could threaten the species. That is at least the opinion of Juergen Tautz of Universitat Wurzburg who points out that CCD is virtually unknown in Turkey where bees are farmed less intensely.

Joe DeRisi of the University of California's San Francisco campus blames CCD on a fungus known as Nosema ceranae which he believes can be eventually brought under control by an antibiotic known as fumagillin.

His research was, however, quickly discounted by Penn State's Cox-Foster. "By itself, it is probably not the culprit ... but it may be one of the key players," she told the Los Angeles Times on April 26th. (See "Experts May Have Found What's Bugging the Bees.")

Finally, Jochen Kuhn of the Universitat Koblenz-Landau believes that electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones could be to blame. (See "Werden Bienen tot telefoniert?" cited supra.) Although his scholarship has its share of both theoretical and methodological shortcomings, it has already attracted some supporters.

One of them is Dr. George Carlo, who conducted a study on the hazards of mobile phone use for the United States government back during the 1990s. "I am convinced the possibility is real," he told The Independent on April 17th. (See "Are Mobile Phones Wiping Out Our Bees?")

Tautz is not convinced, however. Rather, he tends to place the blame on a lethal combination of mobile phones and stress exacerbated by global warming, GM crops, and a narrower range of available food. "Aber ich bin mir sicher einem gesuden, nicht gestressten Bienenvolk kann Mobilfunk nicht anhaban," he emphasized.

In its survey of the scientific literature, The Independent notes that a Finnish study has uncovered a link between the long-term use of mobile phones and brain tumors and that a Swedish study has blamed them for killing off brain cells. Studies in both India and America also have attributed reduced sperm counts in men to mobile phones.

Concerns about so-called electronic smog are not confined to mobile phones but rather extend to Wi-Fi as well. Studies have found that individuals living near such installations are prone to headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and memory loss; there has even been some discussion of increased risks of cancer and heart disease.

The issue is taken so seriously that the Austrian Medical Association is lobbying against the installation of Wi-Fi in schools in Salzburg and elsewhere around the country. (See The Independent, April 23, 2007, "Dangers in the Airwaves: Is the Wi-Fi Revolution a Health Time Bomb?") Similar concerns have been raised in Old Blighty. (See BBC, April 28, 2007, "Wi-Fi Laptop Fears for Children.")

In addition to hand-pollination, which is both costly and labor intensive, beekeepers in America are relying in the short term on honey bees imported from Australia but it remains to be seen how long they will be able to survive in their new habitat. Because of Australia's severe drought, this might actually be a good move for the bees.

The drought Down Under is so severe that Prime Minister John Howard is threatening to ban irrigation in the continent's bread basket, the Murray-Darling basin in the southeast, if the drought does not ease within six to eight weeks. Such a move would not only mean the deaths of countless farm animals but also the collapse of crops such as rice, cotton, grapes, citrus fruits, olives, and almond trees.

Like most of the political establishment and capitalist media in America, Howard and his cronies have long maintained that climate change is a hoax. After ignoring the situation for six years, he is now alternately championing nuclear power and stoicism. "This (the drought) is very much in the lap of the gods," he told The Independent on April 20th. (See "Australia's Epic Drought: The Situation Is Grim.")

That is, of course, pure baloney. As Friedrich Nietzsche and other have pointed out, man is what he has made of himself and the same can surely be said of the damage that he has inflicted upon the animals and Mother Earth. It is therefore clear that conditions are only going to deteriorate further unless the human race gets serious about drastically reducing its carbon footprint.

If answers are not found soon to both global warming and CCD, the price of food, already sky-high, can be expected to go through the roof and this will sans doute lead to mass starvation and hunger. Unfortunately, the use of maize and other food crops in order to power automobiles is only exacerbating both climate change and the price of food. (See Environmental News Network, April 26, 2007, "Dutch Consider Tough Biofuels Criteria.")

With the food supply for both humans and animals, both pets and livestock, already severely compromised by the widespread use of unhealthy preservatives and even poisonous ingredients, some nutritionists are recommending that consumers eat only organically-grown products and avoid all canned foods. While that is no doubt an option for both the rich and the bourgeoisie, it is beyond the means of the poor and working class.

The difficulties faced by individuals and families forced to rely upon governmental assistance for their daily sustenance was recently brought to national attention when Oregon Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski and Connecticut State Senator Jonathan Harris participated in the food stamp challenge. (See The New York Times, April 22, 2007, "Governor to Try a Food Stamp-Size (sic) Budget.")

While it remains to be seen what steps Europe will be willing to take in order to combat CCD, it is doubtful that anything serious will be undertaken in America where the hazards of global warming, the wide scale use of pesticides, and genetically modified crops are shrugged off without debate.

As far as mobile phones are concerned, the public has become addicted to them and their manufacturers are making money hand over fist from their sale. If individuals do not care about their own brain cells they certainly are not about to give much thought to the demise of honey bees.

Photos: John Stevens of Wikipedia (European honey bee), California Department of Food and Agriculture (bees and almond trees), Scott Bauer of USDA (varroa mite), Wikipedia (mobile apiary), and Deutsche Welle (German beekeeper).

Friday, April 27, 2007

French Chat Named Mimine Walks Eight-Hundred Kilometers to Track Down Family That Abandoned Her

"The wonderful thing about the cat is the way in which, when one of its many mysteries is laid bare, it is only to reveal another. The essential enigma always remains intact, a sphinx within a sphinx within a sphinx."
-- Robert de Laroche, Histoire secrète du chat

There is a considerable amount of truth in the old adage that dogs belong to people whereas cats belong to places. This can be a heartbreaking thing to learn, especially for individuals who change abodes only to later discover that their beloved cat insists upon returning to its old neighborhood.

Mimine

Keeping a cat locked up inside for the first month after relocating sometimes works but not always. Given the opportunity, some cats will return to their old turf no matter how devoted their owners are to them.

Contrary to what the Pet Show's Warren Eckstein and others preach, not all outdoor cats can be made into indoor cats. Unhappy situations of this nature ultimately force individuals to choose between imprisoning their cat inside where it will be miserable or allowing it outside where it will surely return to its old home.

There are of course exceptions to every rule and although it is a considerably rarer phenomenon, some cats belong to people rather than to places. Or, as French writer Francoise Giroud once put it, "On ne possède pas un chat, c'est lui qui vous possède." Mimine is such a cat.

She is a three-year-old brown and gray French cat who spent thirteen-months walking eight-hundred kilometers (498 miles) in order to rejoin her family. As incredible as the journey was in itself, it is even more amazing that she was able to find her family's new address.

Mimine's saga began in March of 2006 when her family relocated from Toulouse in the Bordeaux region of southwest France to Treveray in Meuse in the north. The unidentified family reportedly gave Mimine to another family before they left.

The were, quite naturally, dumbfounded when Mimine showed up on their doorstep in Treveray on April 17th. Although the cat was neither microchipped nor wearing a collar, the family insists nonetheless that it is their old cat.

"Sa robe est la même. Son comportement est le même. Et nos enfants l'ont reconnue," the woman of the house told La Châine Info on April 21st. (See "Un chat fait 800 km pour retrouver ses maîtres!") "Aucune autre chatte ne serait arriveé en courant pour se frotter à nous et réclaimer des caresses alors qu' elle était pleine."

It was, however, Mimine's legendary disdain for croquettes that ultimately convinced the family of her identity.

Despite her perilous ordeal, Mimine arrived in Treveray in good shape except for blisters on her paws and a few ticks that had hitchhiked a ride at her expense. For whatever it is worth, the family has stated that it plans on holding on to Mimine this time around.

Veterinarian Marie-Pierre Francois claims to have verified that the long journey actually took place but she has not revealed how she arrived at this conclusion. Like everyone else, she is at her wit's end to explain how Mimine was able to locate her old family.

Mimine Crossing the Street

"Il est très curieux que le chat ait voyagé aussi loin dans un endroit où il n'est jamais allé," she admitted. "Les chats peuvent utiliser leur sixième sens. La nature nous réserve parfois de belles surprises."

Although rare, cases similar to this one have been previously reported. Usually, however, they have involved cats that either had been stolen or purposefully dumped in far off places and who were able somehow to later find their way back home. In such instances, it is generally believed that they found their way by following the stars.

Mimine's exploits are inexplicable, however. There is not any conceivable way that she could have known that her family had relocated to Treveray or how to get there unless she is psychic.

To be cynical, her adopted family in Toulouse could have driven her to Treveray and let her out on the doorstep of her previous owners. It is also possible that this is a hoax or that the famiiy is mistaken and the cat is not in fact Mimine.

Presumably, Francois explored all of these possibilities before dismissing them and declaring that the trip actually occurred. In that case, Mimine's modus operandi will likely remain a Chinese puzzle.

"The wonderful thing about the cat is the way in which, when one of its many mysteries is laid bare, it is only to reveal another," Robert de Laroche wrote in his book entitled, Histoire secrete du chat. "The essential enigma always remains intact, a sphinx within a sphinx within a sphinx."

As far as Mimine's well-being is concerned, more needs to be known concerning why her caregivers so cruelly abandoned her in the first place. More importantly, animal welfare agencies should make it their business to ensure that they do not repeat their previous mistake and mistreat her again.

Mimine is a special cat and she deserves a good home.

Photos: The Daily Express (Mimine) and Agence France Presse (Mimine on the street). Although these photos accompanied news stories about Mimine, they may not in fact be actual photos of her.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Winnie Saves an Indiana Family of Three from Dying of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


"If it wasn't (sic) for Winnie screaming and hollering and carrying on, we wouldn't be here today."
-- Cathy Keesling

It was 1 a.m. on March 24th and the members of the Keesling family of New Castle, seventy-two kilometers east of Indianapolis, were sound asleep in their beds. Little did they know that a deadly intruder was loose in their house. To be more precise, carbon monoxide from a defective gas pump being used to remove water from their flooded basement was being spread throughout the house by the heating system.

Fourteen-year-old Winnie, a gray-colored American Shorthair, knew what was afoot and decided that she had better do something quick. Jumping in bed with Cathy and Eric, she began nudging her mistress's arm and meowing loudly. Not wishing to have her repose interrupted, Cathy at first tried to ignore her cat's plaintive cries but when she refused to quieten down she was forced to rouse herself.

"It was like one o'clock in the morning, and she came over to my hair, and kept pulling at me," Cathy recalled for KFIE-TV of Evansville on April 11th. (See "Family Pet Saves Their Lives.") "All of a sudden she starts this screaming, real loud, trying to wake me up, when I walked around here, I felt sick."

Thanks to Winnie's heroics, however, Cathy had just enough consciousness left in order to summon emergency personnel. Upon arrival, they found her delusional and the couple's fourteen-year-old son, Michael, unconscious in a hallway.

All three members of the family were fitted with oxygen masks and removed from the house. They were then treated for exposure to carbon monoxide and have since recovered. (See photo above of them with Winnie.)

"If it wasn't (sic) for Winnie screaming and hollering and carrying on, we wouldn't be here today," Cathy told WFIE-TV. She's "my little wonder cat, I guess."

A spokesman for the Henry County Sheriff's Department emphasized just how perilously close the Keeslings came to taking a very long ride on the dragon. "Even if it had been another five minutes, the outcome would have been horrible, would have been a coroner's case for sure," he said.

According to Cathy, heroics of this sort are nothing out of the ordinary for Winnie. For instance, it was only last summer that she warned the family about approaching tornadoes.

Because their senses are so acute, cats are able to detect all sorts of deadly fumes, sudden changes in the weather, slight movements in the earth's tectonic plates, and various other phenomena that elude man's comprehension. They may even be psychic as well.

Winnie has certainly made a believer out of Cathy. "I truly believe cats can sense these kinds of things," she is quoted in the April 6th edition of the Sydney Morning Herald as saying. (See "Cat Wakes from Nap to Save Family.")

Although dogs are justifiably saluted for rescuing individuals in emergencies and for their incomparable tracking ability, cats also save lives. For example, last year a cat in Koln named Mohre saved the life of an infant. (See Cat Defender post of April 21, 2006 entitled "Cat Named Mohre Saves Newborn Infant Abandoned in the Cold on a Doorstep in Koln.")

In spite of all the unconditional love, companionship, and service that they render to the human race, man continues to slaughter tens of millions of cats and dogs each year at shelters all across America. Morality, decency, and self-interest demand that these killings be stopped.

Photo: Associated Press.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bus-Hopping Macavity Earns High Praise from His Fellow Commuters for Being the Perfect Passenger


"Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime -- Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air --
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!"
-- T.S. Eliot, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

Like his namesake from out of the pages of T.S. Eliot's immortal, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, Macavity is a mysterious cat.

The plucky white-colored cat, who sports one blue eye and one green one, first came to the attention of forty-nine-year-old bus driver Bill Knunkhun back in January when he spotted him jumping off the number 331 which he operates between Walsall and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. (See photos above.) The strange thing about the incident, however, is that Khunkhun does not have any recollection of Macavity ever boarding the bus.

When he stopped the following day in front of a row of houses at Churchill Road in Walsall, Macavity ran up to the bus and scampered aboard through the open door just as if he owned the place. The adventurous feline rode about four-hundred meters down the road to where he disembarked in front of a row of shops that just happens to include a fish and chips emporium.

"Because I had seen it jump off the day before I carried on driving and sure enough when I stopped just down the road he jumped off," Khunkhun told the Daily Mail on April 9th. (See "Mystery Cat Takes Regular Bus to the Shops.") "I don't know why he would catch the bus but he seems to like it," he added.

Since that fateful day, Macavity has been a regular rider on the Three-Thirty-One. He takes the bus an average of two to three times a week and he always gets on and off at the same stops. He does not, however, always take Khunkhun's bus; rather, he prefers to spread around his patronage.

So far, there have not been any complaints from either drivers or passengers about Macavity's riding but then again the English are considerably more tolerant about these types of situations than the Americans. In fact, malaprops are as English as afternoon tea.

"I suppose he is the perfect passenger really. He sits quietly, minds his own business and then gets off," nineteen-year-old commuter Paul Brennan told the Daily Mail. "It was quite strange at first but now it just seems normal."

Although Macavity wears a purple collar, apparently no one has checked to see who owns him or where he lives. Actually, his real name is not even Macavity; that is merely a makeshift moniker bestowed upon him by the drivers.

It is also unknown how he gets home since he only travels one-way on the bus. Presumably, he either walks back or is driven home.

How he got started riding in the first place is by far and away the most intriguing question of the entire affair. Since Khunkhun did not see him board the bus on his initial trip, he could have been smuggled aboard by his owner. After all, it is not likely that a driver would fail to notice an unescorted feline hopping aboard.

If that is true, then perhaps Macavity's owner works at one of the shops where he disembarks. Even if his owner showed him the ropes the first time out, it is still quite a remarkable feat for him to have learned to board and get off the bus by himself.

The only other possible explanation is that he figured out all by himself how to cadge bus rides. It is also surprising that he has no fear of buses, especially since they are not only big and noisy but crowded as well. Of course, it is entirely possible that he could be deaf since white-colored cats are prone to that disability.

Although the English love their peripatetic cats and dogs, Macavity's owner is playing Russian roulette with his well-being by allowing him to run loose in the busy streets. This is especially the case since the West Midlands have gotten to be rather crowded. Walsall, for instance, has one-hundred-seventy-one-thousand denizens while its neighbor nine kilometers to the west, Wolverhampton, has two-hundred-forty-thousand inhabitants. (See map.)

Macavity could easily be hit and killed by a motorist or fall victim to the machinations of yobs who make a sport out of abusing and killing cats. The dangers inherent in the situation are magnified exponentially if he is indeed deaf. (See Cat Defender posts of August 17, 2006 and November 30, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Brave Little Fred the Undercover Cat Has His Short, Tragic Life Snuffed Out by Hit-and-Run Driver in Queens" and "Yobs Celebrating Guy Fawkes Day Kill Twelve-Year-Old Cat Named Tigger with Fireworks; Cat Named Sid Is Severely Burned.")

Cats have every right to their liberty and should be allowed outdoors so long as they live in safe neighborhoods. Busy streets are not, however, any place for them. More to the point, if they are going to ride public transportation they should either be on a leash or in a cage and accompanied by their owners.

Whether contrived or on their own initiative, bus-riding cats and dogs are not anything out of the ordinary in England. For instance, a terrier named Ratty regularly takes a fifteen-mile bus ride between Dunnington and York all by his lonesome in order to be served bangers at a bar. He does, however, have to be driven home at night and, worst still, he is lame as the result of having one of his legs crushed underneath the wheels of a car.

In Featherstone, West Yorkshire, a Jack Russell Terrier named Pluto does a daily pub crawl on his own initiative in order to be treated to bitters and crisps. (See Cat Defender post of November 20, 2006 entitled "Ratty's Taste for Bangers Coupled with His Owner's Negligence Places Terrier's Life in Grave Jeopardy.")

Finally, in Southam in Warwickshire, Leila Abbou's cat Milo visits the vet by herself and even car surfs. For those and other unescorted antics she was honored last year by Go-Cat pet food. (See Cat Defender post of December 5, 2006 entitled "Milo, Who Visits the Vet by Her Lonesome, Is Named Old Blighty's 'Most Adventurous Cat'.")

The capitalist media adore stories about cats and dogs that are allowed to run loose in the street but they hardly ever mention the hundreds of thousands of them that are maimed and killed by motorists and animal-haters each year. They know as well as everybody else that photographs of bloodied and mangled companion animals do not sell newspapers. Homeless felines and canines are forced to contend with homicidal motorists and ailurophobes, but pet owners should be more protective of animals under their control.

Cat lovers in Milford, Connecticut have erected a cat crossing sign in their town and that should cut down on feline fatalities somewhat but traffic warning signs are not any substitute for responsible pet ownership. (See Cat Defender post of January 26, 2007 entitled "Cat Activists Succeed in Getting Connecticut Town to Erect a Cat Crossing Sign.")

Despite the obvious risks that Macavity is taking by using public transportation, his gentlemanly behavior serves as an example to all commuters. Most prominently, he does not gas nonstop on an irritating mobile phone while on the bus or pollute the stillness with his boisterous ravings.

He does not attempt to hog two seats or to block the aisle with his paws. Neither does he attempt to cut off the legs of those passengers sitting behind him by pushing back his seat all the way. Should he decide to grab a few winks, as cats often do, he certainly does not snore like a freight train. To put it succinctly, he knows the difference between a bus and a flophouse on wheels.

Since he grooms himself every day and eats a healthy diet, his fellow passengers are not subjected to any obnoxious body odors or smelly ethnic foods. Being neither an intravenous drug user nor a boozer, he does not leave behind any hypodermic syringes or puddles of beer and urine when he gets off the bus as is so often the case with commuters who ride both New Jersey Transit and Academy buses.

Always immaculate, he does not use the bus as his personal toilet. No one will ever catch him shaving in his seat, tying on a tie, or applying make-up, hairspray, and obnoxious-smelling perfume and cologne.

Hopefully, the publicity generated by Macavity's adventures will prompt his owner to act responsibly and start accompanying him on these perilous trips. If not, animal protection groups should intervene in order to guarantee his safety.

Lastly, if the Daily Mail and other English newspapers are so intent upon capitalizing on the exploits of cats like Macavity and dogs like Ratty they at the very least should have the decency to raise an awareness of feline and canine safety issues.

Photos: The Daily Mail (Macavity) and Tourist Net UK (map).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Clouded Leopards of Sumatra and Borneo Are Discovered to Be a Distinct Species from Their Cousins in Mainland Southeast Asia


"The moment we started comparing the skins of the mainland clouded leopard and the leopard found on Borneo, it was clear we were comparing two different species."
-- Andrew C. Kitchener, National Museums of Scotland

The presocratics, Plato, and other ancient thinkers were enthralled by the cosmos. They thought that it was beautiful even though it is barren and dead. Most moderns, both thinkers and pedestrians, only care about money and self-indulgence.

Although man sans doute was his positive attributes, few people would be either so vain or self-deluded as to describe him as either beautiful or noble. The same cannot be said about nature which at even this late date in history continues to astound.

Last month, for instance, researchers announced that the clouded leopards of Borneo, Sumatra, and the Batu Islands (See photo above) are a separate species from their cousins living on mainland southeast Asia. (See photo below).

The announcement was made by researchers at the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in Washington who used DNA testing to identify forty differences between the two groups of cats. Their findings came on the heels of a study conducted by Andrew C. Kitchener of the National Museums of Scotland, Mark A. Beaumont of the University of Reading, and Douglas Richardson of the Singapore Zoo that found significant morphometric differences in the pelts of fifty-seven clouded leopards that they examined.

To their surprise, they found that the clouded leopards of Indonesia (Neofelis nebulosa diardi) have small clouds with many distinct spots within them, gray and dark fur, and twin stripes down their backs. The leopards from mainland southeast Asia (Neofelis nebulosa nebulosa), however, have large clouds with fewer spots inside them and their fur is lighter and tawnier in color. (See December 5, 2006 article in Volume 16, issue 23 of Current Biology entitled "Geographic Variation in the Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, Reveals Two Species.")

"The moment we started comparing the skins of the mainland clouded leopard and the leopard found on Borneo, it was clear we were comparing two different species," Kitchener later told the BBC on March 15th. (See "Island Leopard Deemed New Species.") "It's incredible that no one has ever noticed these differences."

The scientists estimate that the two species split about 1.4 million years ago but so far they have not given any reason for the divergence. Most likely, the islands were at one time connected to the mainland and when they broke off the two cats diverged genetically.

Researchers believe that the remote Japanese island of Iriomote was once connected to mainland China and when it broke away about two million years ago the Iriomote Wildcat (Prionailurus iriomotensis) split from what was destined to become Felis domesticus and became a distinct species. (See Cat Defender post of November 27, 2006 entitled "After Surviving on Its Own for at Least Two Million Years, Rare Japanese Wildcat Faces Toughest Battle Yet.")

Wildlife officials estimate that there are between five-thousand and eleven-thousand clouded leopards remaining on Borneo and between three-thousand and seven-thousand on Sumatra. Like the Sumatran Tiger and Sumatran Rabbit as well as the Asian elephants and orangutans on Borneo, they are threatened by deforestation, poaching, and rising CO2 emissions. (See Cat Defender post of April 13, 2007 entitled "Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers.")

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists the clouded leopard as endangered while the Endangered Species Act bans the trafficking in clouded leopards. Enforcement is lax, however, and medicine, balms, and other assorted products manufactured from poached leopards and tigers are sold openly in Chinatowns all across America.

The nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei who control various parts of Borneo agreed earlier this year to protect two-hundred square kilometers of rainforest in the interior of the island but it remains to be seen if they will stand up to the powerful logging companies and palm oil plantations that are already destroying much of the animals' habitat.


Prior to the recent reclassification, all clouded leopards were thought to belong to a single species with four subspecies. In addition to the Indonesian and southeast Asian subspecies, there is another group in Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus) and one more in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar (Neofelis nebulosa macrosceloides). The clouded leopards of Taiwan are thought, however, to be extinct in the wild. (See map above.)

The leopards of Sumatra and Borneo are now classified as belonging to the species Neofelis diardi whereas the subspecies from southeast Asia, Taiwan, and the India and Nepal region remain within Neofelis nebulosa.

It is sad that the animals of this world who have lived for so long and overcome so much remain so vastly undervalued and unappreciated. They are truly what is beautiful and noble and yet because of his insatiable greed and will to dominate man is killing them off in record numbers and without hardly a twinge of remorse.

Photos: Alain Compost of World Wildlife Fund and BBC (clouded leopard of Indonesia), Nancy Vandermey of Wikipedia (mainland clouded leopard), and Current Biology (map).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers


"Don't create more designer species. Go to the pound and save a life! There are so many cats out there that are being put to sleep because of overpopulation."
-- Arnold Plotnick, New York City veterinarian

About twenty-five rapacious breeders around the world are working feverishly to perfect a new breed of cats known as Toygers. The name is derived from combining the words toy and tiger which is precisely what the new cats are designed to resemble: toy tigers. (See photos above and below.)

Although created by Los Angeles-area breeder Judy Sugden of Eeyaas Cattery in the late 1980s and registered with The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1993, the Toyger is very much still a work in progress and is not expected to be perfected before 2010. Nonetheless, four-hundred imperfect Toygers already have been registered with TICA and beginning next month they will vie with other breeds at cat shows.

The medium-sized cats are being bred to be muscular with short rounded ears, thick chins, wide noses, long muzzles, ropey tails, and white bellies. Sugden's cats have reddish-amber fur with dark stripes and resemble Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae). Meanwhile, Pamela Rohan of the Lake Mountain Cattery in Eagle Mountain, Utah is concentrating her efforts on creating silver Toygers. Cats bred by Jenifer Santee of Santee Pride Cattery in Manteno, Illinois even have webbed feet like Sumatran tigers.

In personality, Toygers resemble canines more than felines in that they walk on leashes, come when called , and even play fetch. They also are reported to be affectionate, intelligent, playful, and aquatic.

Of course, it goes without saying that the idea of creating a miniature tiger is a total sham. For obvious reasons, a tiger cannot be bred to a domestic cat and therefore Toygers actually do not contain any tiger genes.

As usual, the capitalist media is extremely tight-lipped about what goes on at designer pet breeding farms. In its February 23rd issue, Life magazine did reveal, however, that Sugden began by breeding a Bengal cat with its domestic cousin. (See "It's a House Cat! It's a Tiger!") In this context it might be recalled that it was her mother, Jean Mill, who created Bengals back in the 1960s by breeding an Asian Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis) to a domestic cat.

The union of Bengals and domestic cats did not, however, result in offspring that looked anything remotely like tigers. In the mid-1990s, Sugden located and imported a street cat from Kashmir that had spots on its head and bred it to her earlier efforts in order to produce Toygers. Through years of breeding the spots changed into stripes.

As far as the actual breeding is concerned, Sugden denies that either genetic manipulation or artificial insemination are used. She told Life that she instead relies upon an elaborate courtship ritual whereby the cats are introduced to the smells of one another and therefore coaxed into having it off.

This is, quite obviously, a heavily redacted account. In fact, it does not even sound credible. First of all, what does this mysterious Kashmir cat look like? And, how was Sugden able to get them into the country in the first place? (See photo below of her holding one of her creations.)

It is known, however, that breeders keep dozens if not indeed hundreds of cats in cages as virtual guinea pigs so that they can manipulate them at will. These breeding facilities are neither inspected nor regulated by the authorities and this opens the door for all sorts of forced breeding, genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, and other sorts of unspeakable cruelty and killings.

Of paramount concern is the fate of those cats that do not turn out as expected. Most likely the breeders kill them shortly after birth because they are too cheap to house and feed them and too lazy to find homes for them. Besides, shelters around the world already are full of not only purebreds, such as Persians and Siamese, but hybrids such as Bengals and Chausies (a domestic cat and Felis chaus mix) as well.

The death toll in such breeding mills must be over the moon not only owing to the large number of cats deliberately killed off by breeders but also because of miscarriages, premature births, infant mortality, and genetic defects engendered by the breeding process. Just as Persians are prone to kidney woes, Toygers are being born with cleft palates, flattened rib cages, and heart defects. (See National Geographic, March 21, 2007, " 'Toygers' Breed Conservation Awareness, Animal-Rescue Concerns.")

With shelters, veterinarians, and animal control officers exterminating tens of millions of cats each year and bird lovers, wildlife proponents, PETA, and National Geographic repeatedly calling for the roundup and extermination of the United States' estimated seventy-million feral cats, it is difficult to understand how designer cat mills are allowed to operate. The breeders are, of course, motivated by money, ego, and the will to dominate.

Once Toygers are ready for retail sale they are expected to fetch up to $4,000 apiece. In the meantime, breeders are peddling their less-than-perfect creations to other breeders for up to $2,500. Other Toygers are sterilized and sold to individuals for up to $1,200. Rohan, for instance, also peddles Bengals (See photo immediately below) for $2,000 and sterilized versions for $800. (See Daily Herald of Provo, March 4, 2007, "Queen of Utah's Toygers.")

Breeders claim that they are concerned about adding to the already burgeoning surplus of cats and that is why they sterilize the Toygers and Bengals that they sell to private individuals, but that is a lie. The real reason is that they want to hold down competition so that they can get the highest possible return on their investment.

In addition to the money that they make off of breeding hybrids, they garner awards and notoriety by entering their new creations at cat shows. This in turn leads to increased sales and fame for the breeders.

Kristen Krantz of Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue of Kenosha, Wisconsin told Maryann Mott of National Geographic in the article cited supra that last year her organization took in five-hundred purebreds and spent in excess of $60,000 rehabilitating them. In particular, her foster homes are overwhelmed with unwanted Bengals and she already is bracing for an influx of homeless Toygers.

The number of unwanted purebreds is already at epidemic proportions as evinced by the thousands of them advertised every day on Petfinder. "I don't know if a lot of breeders, quite honestly, are really aware of how bad it is," Krantz said. "I think a lot of them are in tremendous denial."

She is soft-soaping the public with fatuous statements of that sort. She knows as well as anyone else that breeders know all there is to know about feline overpopulation since they kill so many of their own unwanted creations. The truth of the matter is that they simply look upon cats as objects of exploitation.

In addition to the money and fame that goes along with creating new species, breeders like to play God. They enjoy deciding which cats are to live and which ones are die every bit as much as they enjoy the creation process.

New York City veterinarian Arnold Plotnick said it best when he told Life, "Don't create more designer species. Go to the pound and save a life! There are so many cats out there that are being put to sleep because of overpopulation."

While the creation of hybrids has been going on since at least the early 1950s, it is now being carried to absurd lengths. In addition to Toygers, Bengals, and Chausies (See photo above on the left), there are also Savannahs (See photo below on the right) which are a cross between African Servals and domestic cats. (See Cat Defender post of May 19, 2005 entitled "Savannahs: More Feline Cruelty Courtesy of the Capitalists and the Bourgeoisie.")

Other popular hybrids are Cheetohs, Serengetis, Orientals, Exotics, Ragdolls, Tonkineses, Ocicats, and Bombays. Although there is some disagreement about their pedigrees, American Bobtails, German Rexes, Peterbalds, Pixie-Bobs, Selkirk Rexes, and Sphynxes are most likely also hybrids. Numerous other breeds, such as American Curls, American Wirehairs, Cornish Rexes, Japanese Bobtails, LaPerms, Manxes, Munchkins, Ojos Azules, and Scottish Folds, are categorized, correctly or incorrectly, as mutations.

Last year, a California company created the world's first allergy-free cat. (See Cat Defender posts of July 10, 2006 and October 10, 2006 entitled, respectively, "More Devilry from the Scientific Community as California Company Creates World's First Hypoallergenic Cat" and "Dodgy Allerca and Dishonest CBS Join Forces to Market an Allergy-Free Cat Named Joshua to a Gullible Public.")

Whether the objective is hybrids, mutations, or allergy-free cats, the motivation is always the same: money and power. Cloning cats, however, failed to generate the gold mine expected and Genetic Savings and Clone of Sausalito was forced to abandon the enterprise and close up shop last fall. (See Cat Defender posts of October 16, 2006 and January 5, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Unable to Turn a Profit, California Cat-Cloning Company Goes Out of Business" and "World's First Cloned Cat, CC, Finally Gives Birth to Three Healthy Kittens at Age Five.")

Because of their canine personalities and size, hybrids require a good deal more attention and expense than do domestic cats. Consequently, the odds are high that a good portion of them are sooner or later going to wind up in shelters where they will be exterminated. They also reportedly have a difficult time adjusting to new homes and this increases the odds that even those that are adopted will be later returned.

As it might be expected, bird lovers are heavily involved in the creation of hybrids. For instance, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES) in New Orleans has used domestic cats to clone African wildcats and is currently experimenting with using them to clone fishing cats, black-footed cats, and rusty-spotted cats. (See Cat Defender post of September 6, 2005 entitled "Clones of Endangered African Wildcats Give Birth to Eight Naturally-Bred Healthy Kittens in New Orleans.")

Scientists at the Superior Scientific Research Council are also using ovaries harvested from domestic cats killed by Madrid veterinarians in order to test the fertility of sperm taken from endangered Iberian lynxes. It is unclear whether these cats are being killed for their eggs or for other reasons, but in either case their deaths are nothing short of cold-blooded murder. (See London's Independent, March 20, 2007, "Pet Cats and Rabbits Come to the Rescue of Endangered Iberian Lynx.")

Although the preservation of endangered wild cats and lynxes is a worthy goal, the torture and killing of domestic cats in the process cannot be morally justified. In particular, it is difficult to imagine that the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) would sit idly by if a breeder decided to manufacture a designer bird by crossing a hawk with a robin.

There is also the matter of the unscrupulous National Geographic to consider. Back on September 7, 2004, Maryann Mott wrote an article entitled "U.S. Faces Growing Feral Cat Problem" in which she called for all feral cats to be rounded up and exterminated. (See Cat Defender post of April 15, 2005 entitled "National Geographic Trying to Exterminate Cats.") Three years later she is promoting the creation of Toygers with an online pictorial and essay that when printed out runs to in excess of a dozen pages in length! Since it hates all felines to begin with, National Geographic is more than happy to endorse the diabolical crimes of cat designers.

The bottom line on Toygers can be summed up by pointing out three rather obvious facts. First of all, a Toyger is not a miniature tiger and never will be one. More to the point, there is something inherently perverted about individuals who want not only to domesticate wild animals but also insist upon having cats that behave like dogs.

Sugden and National Geographic ludicrously attempt to defend the creation of Toygers by arguing that their development is beneficial to tiger conservation. "Wild animals are disappearing in front of our eyes. We can't keep big cats where we have people in massive numbers," she told Life. From that she concludes that the only viable alternative is to keep a smaller version, i.e., a Toyger, at home.

That is pure sophistry and Sugden and her fellow cat breeders belong in the same category as the flatheads in academia who want to implant RFID tags in every animal, both wild and domestic. Neither Frankenstein pets nor tagging are going to save either wildlife or the environment. The only way to save tigers and other animals is to protect their habitats, outlaw hunting, ban and strenuously enforce the trafficking in pelts, body parts, and flesh, and to enact strict curbs on CO2 emissions.

There are estimated to be only about two-hundred-fifty Sumatran tigers (See photo above) left in the wild and their days are numbered as palm oil plantations continue to eat away at their habitat. (See The Guardian, April 4, 2007, "Palm Oil: The Biofuel of the Future Driving an Ecological Disaster Now.") The industrialized world's plan to use palm oil in order to power its automobiles will likely also mean the demise of both the Asian elephant and the orangutans of Borneo. For example, late last fall at least one-thousand orangutans were killed by villagers while fleeing forest fires set by oil exploration and timber companies. (See Stern, November 6, 2006, "One-Thousand Orang-Utans gestorben.")

Also facing extinction is the Sumatran rabbit. (See photo below.) It is so rare in fact that when it was captured on film by a camera trap in January that marked only the fourth time that it had been spotted since 1972. (See Agence France Presse, March 6, 2007, "Rare Sighting of Endangered Indonesian Rabbit.")

The clouded leopards of Sumatra and Borneo, which only last month were determined to be a distinct species from their cousins on mainland southeast Asia, are also threatened by destruction of the rainforest. (See BBC, March 15, 2007, "Island Leopard Deemed New Species.")

Farther afield in India, Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) also are being pushed to the brink and only twelve-hundred of them are estimated to still be alive. (See London's Independent, April 10, 2007, "Tigers Fading Fast in Last Stronghold.") Asiatic lions are also on the decline as the result of poaching and deadly falls into open wells. (See Reuters, April 9, 2007, "India Steps Up Protection for Rare Asiatic Lions.")

Secondly, the capture and imprisonment of both domestic and wild cats is cruel and inhumane and should be immediately outlawed. Cats are not pets! Rather, they are sentient beings with inalienable rights, such as the right to life and the right to be free from all abuse. Included in these rights is the sovereignty over their reproductive organs and DNA. That means no forced sterilizations, captive breeding programs, genetic manipulation, cloning, and vivisection.

Thirdly and lastly, the individuals involved in the creation of designer cats and clones are in it solely for the money, recognition, and sadistic thrills that they get out of torturing and killing animals. Unless they are acting in order to save a life, consumers who purchase these new breeds are almost as morally warped as the sellers.

Buying a cat is not the same as purchasing a teddy bear or some other inanimate object. Individuals who want to have baby tigers and leopards around the house should invest in either virtual or stuffed versions, not domestic cats that have been tortured and manipulated to resemble their cousins in the wild.

Photos: Bob Rohrbaugh of WildFX Cats and National Geographic (Toyger lounging in chair), Mike McGregor of Life (Toyger kittens), Casarocca (Sugden and Toyger), Gabel Le Bonne of Wikipedia (Bengal), Chausie Breed Committee (Chausie), Jason Douglas of Wikipedia (Savannah), Monika Betley of Wikipedia (Sumatran Tiger), and Agence France Presse and Wildlife Conservation Society (Sumatran Rabbit).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Avaricious Philadelphia Music Teacher Plies Her Cat, Nora, with Food in Order to Get Her to Play the Piano


"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans anymore than black people were made for white, or women created for men."
-- Alice Walker

A controversial video that shows a Philadelphia feline named Nora playing the piano has raised serious concerns about the feline's well-being following its debut on YouTube back on January 28th. (See photo above.)

The video, which has been seen by about two and one-half million people around the world, has beguiled some viewers and incensed others. Nora's owner, Betsy Alexander, has been inundated with e-mail and forced to defend herself against charges of staging a cheap publicity stunt in order to line her pockets at her cat's expense.

"I didn't teach her how to do it," Alexander (See mug shot below on the right) declared to the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 20th. (See "Piano-Playing Cat Is YouTube Star.") "She's just imitating and she actually plays when we're not here."

According to Alexander, "When she first started, she played two notes at a time and then learned how to play one note at a time. She sometimes reaches up to the black notes. She has a little bit of rhythm but I don't know if in her mind if that's a song or not."

Barbara Eberlein, one of Alexander's students, backs up her teacher by insisting that Nora's musical aptitude is not a hoax. (See mug shot below on the left.) "Long before Betsy had the idea to videotape her, she should play. Some of her (other) cats would inadvertently walk on keys but this cat just sat down with perfect posture and sometimes even played the same key. If I hit one key over and over that's what she'll do. If I play something with two hands she will use two paws," she related.

Nora is a gray-colored three-year-old former stray that Alexander adopted from PetSmart to go along with her other cats, Miro, Rennie, Max, Clara, and Gabby. She started tickling the ivories at age one and has been playing on a daily basis ever since.

Actually, she is not a true pianist in that she only plays notes as opposed to songs. Moreover, not much is known about her musical likes and dislikes although Eberlein insists that she comes running every time she hears Bach's "Minuet in G." That however could be more indicative of her limited exposure to music rather than a reflection upon her personal tastes.

In any case, Bach is certainly not a bad place to start but if Nora ever expects to play Carnegie Hall she is going to have to expand her repertoire a bit.

Nonetheless, whatever she may lack in musical aptitude Nora more than makes up for in attitude. "She really has the personality of a great composer," Alexander told the Inquirer. "Maybe she's Beethoven. She puts her ear toward the piano, doesn't get along with the other cats, and definitely likes to be in the spotlight."

Almost as soon as the video appeared Alexander was accused of spreading catnip over the keys as an inducement in order to get Nora to play. Although she has vociferously denied this charge, she does admit to rewarding her with treats for playing.

This admission raises the disturbing question of whether Nora has taken up the piano as an act of her own free will or just to procure treats. If the latter is the case, then Alexander is guilty of not only exploiting her for cheap commercial gain but of endangering her welfare as well.

Although there is not any evidence to indicate that she starves Nora in order to get her to play, she does admit that her cat is fat. All of these added treats can lead to obesity and a host of other problems that are caused by overeating.

Although Dog and Cat Radio and Cat Galaxy both offer musical formats tailored to cats, not much is known about their musical tastes. Because of their acute hearing and proclivity toward napping, cats tend to prefer peace and quiet more than anything else and these petits faits call into question the legitimacy of Nora's alleged fondness for the ivories. It certainly looks as if she is just banging away in order to be fed.

Perhaps even more telling is the fact that the video was shot and posted on YouTube with an eye toward fattening Alexander's wallet. This is perfectly obvious by a visit to a web site maintained by Alexander and her spouse, Burnell Yow. At ravenswingstudio.com, the duo are peddling for a pretty penny, inter alia, posters, tote and messenger bags, t-shirts, mugs, postcards, buttons, refrigerator door magnets, mouse pads, pillows, tile boxes, and coasters bearing Nora's image.

The widely accepted notion that domestic cats are sticks-in-the-mud and therefore cannot be trained to perform tricks is erroneous. For instance, the Moscow Cats Theatre, Cole Bros. Circus, Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the Catman of Key West all feature domestic cats in their acts that leap from high platforms, scale poles, jump through hoops, and even push trolleys.

Although the methods used to train domestic cats are a closely guarded corporate secret, it is believed that they are starved into doing tricks. Physical abuse and even drugs may also be used.

It is a dead giveaway that an animal is being mistreated whenever it is forced to behave in an unnatural manner. A performance of the Moscow Cats Theatre in New York City left critic Michael Dale repulsed at the dangerous feats (See photo above) that the cats were forced to perform. (See Broadway World, October 11, 2005, "Moscow Cats Theatre: But Can They Sing 'Memory'?")

The long and the short of the matter is that all animals are sentient beings that have an absolute right to be left alone and to be respected for what they are. Alice Walker put it best when she said, "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans anymore than black people were made for white, or women created for men."

They therefore should not be abused, starved, or forced to perform stupid tricks just so that their owners can make a financial killing. More to the point, cats are neither pianists nor circus performers by nature and to force them into becoming such is cruel and inhumane.

If animal welfare groups in the City of Brotherly Love were doing their jobs they would insist that a veterinarian be called in to examine Nora and the five other cats living at Alexander's Center City residence. If it should be determined that she is endangering Nora's health by plying her with treats in order to get her to play the piano, the cat should be taken away from her and placed in foster care until a good home can be found for her.

Photos: Eric Mencher of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Nora), Ravens Wing Studio (Alexander and Eberlein), and Broadway World (cat scaling pole).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Colorado Springs Cat Named Lucy Confounds Her Owners by Taking Up with a Herd of Deer


"Conquerir l'amitie d'un chat est chose difficile..."
-- Theophile Gautier

Cats are pretty much loners. In the wild they hunt alone and have very little use for their fellow felines except for procreation and to cuddle up with when the nights turn cold.

Domesticated cats live with people but it is generally on their own terms. Although they can be every bit as affectionate as dogs, it usually takes a bit of work in order to earn the love of a cat.

Theophile Gautier put it rather well when he wrote: "Conquerir l'amitie d'un chat est chose difficile. C'est une bete philosophique, rangee, tranquille, tenant a ses habitudes, amie de l'ordre et de la proprete, et qui ne place pas ses affections a l'etourdie. Il veut bien etre votre ami, si vous en etes digne, mais non pas votre esclave."

Sometimes cats can live with dogs, rabbits, and other animals, but generally they prefer to be alone. It is precisely a cat's independence that causes some individuals to love them and others to despise them. It could be argued that the eternal conflict between freedom and tyranny finds no better expression than in the struggle of cats to live as they please in the face of the machinations of ailurophobes who want to take away their liberty and their lives.

Viewed from this backdrop, recent reports of cats bonding with deer are, to say the least, odd. The latest such incident concerns a black and white Colorado Springs cat named Lucy who fraternizes with deer. (See photo above.)

"She came right up and went nose to nose with this little ol' doe," Lucy's owner, Charlotte Plush, told the Colorado Springs Gazette on March 20th. (See "New Cats Gets Cozy with Deer Herd.") "Then she just kind of nuzzled the muzzle."

Lucy's friendship with the deer started a few weeks back and is ongoing. "Whenever they're out there, she'll go see them," Charlotte's daughter, Mary, related. "She'll follow them as they graze up the hill."

Lucy's uncharacteristic behavior has left Charlotte's spouse, Ron, nonplussed. "I honestly don't know what's next. That cat's a real clown," he told the Gazette. His stupefaction has not stopped him, however, from pinning the sobriquet "Runs With Deer" on his resident feline.

Last May, a terminally ill nine-year-old cat named Sammy (See photo above) from Bellingham, Washington was comforted in his dying days by deer. (See Cat Defender post of January 16, 2007 entitled "Dying of Kidney Failure, Nine-Year-Old Cat Named Sammy Is Shown Compassion by an Unexpected Friend.")

At that time, Sammy's owner, Margie Scott, theorized that the deer instinctively knew that he has dying and were empathizing with him. Mary Plush, on the other hand, believes that since Lucy was raised with a dog that she thinks she and the deer are both dogs.

Neither explanation is convincing. The nurturing instinct in all mammals is very strong, however, and there have been innumerable cases of dogs nursing kittens and cats giving their milk to puppies. (See Cat Defender posts of October 15, 2005 and July 7, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Elsa, a Rottweiler Feared in the 'Hood, Shows Her Soft Side by Adopting an Abandoned Kitten" and "Dachshund Named Emma Adopts Quintet of Feral Kittens That Her Mistress Cruelly Stole from Their Mother.")

There has been recorded at least one case of this nurturing instinct being extended from a dog to a fawn. In Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Jennifer Aftanas' two-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback hound Hogan took it upon himself to groom and cuddle up with an orphaned fawn named Bella. (See photo below.)

Bella has since been moved to a rehabilitation facility on the island where she will be monitored until she is deemed ready to be returned to the wild. It is not known how Hogan has reacted to the loss of his little friend. (See Animal Liberation Front, "Dog Fawns Over Orphan After Boys Rescue Deer.")

It is possible that because of the differences in their respective sizes that the deer mistook both Sammy and Lucy as fawns and that the cats in turn mistook them for big cats. Of course, it is also possible that some sort of natural kinship exists between cats and deer.

It would be interesting to know if cats fraternize with horses, cows, and other barnyard animals. Since most barn cats are kept for rodent control as opposed to pets, farmers generally do not pay too much attention to them and as a consequence little is known about their likes and dislikes.

Whatever the case, the curious attraction between cats and deer is a worthy topic for further observation.

Photos: Carol Lawrence of the Colorado Springs Gazette (Lucy and deer), Margie Scott (Sammy and deer), and Jennifer Aftanas of the Animal Liberation Front (Hogan and Bella).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Fires at Private Shelters Claim the Lives of More Than Two Dozen Cats in Connecticut


"I thought I was in hell. Black smoke was pouring out of here, and I knew those cats were gone."
-- Vincent Gugliuzza

More than two dozen cats being warehoused in the private residences of animal rescue workers perished recently in two separate fires in Connecticut. This terrible loss of lives has focused attention on both the advisability of caging felines and the safety of ad hoc shelters.

Based upon various press reports, between twenty-three and twenty-six cats were killed on March 18th when a fire engulfed the residence on Paulette Hepworth and Vincent Gugliuzza of Strays Unlimited at 31 Dock Road in Montville, south of Norwich. At least five felines remain unaccounted for, but twelve cats and four dogs made it out alive and are now recuperating at the Old Mystic Animal Clinic.

"It was an awful thing to happen," Montville Animal Control Officer Jane Greenwood told the Hartford Courant on March 19th. (See "Montville Fire Kills at Least 23 Cats.") "We found cats upstairs and downstairs. They took in cats nobody else wanted," she added.

"I thought I was in hell," Gugliuzza told WFSB-TV of Hartford on March 19th. (See "Dozens of Cats Killed in Shelter Fire.") "Black smoke was pouring out of here, and I knew those cats were gone."

The fire, which was caused by an overloaded extension cord behind a couch in the basement, damaged up to seventy-five per cent of the residence and forced Hepworth and Gugliuzza to decamp to a nearby motel. (See photo above of charred containers of cat food.)

Two days later in Bozrah, a western suburb of Norwich, four more cats and a dog perished when a house belonging to Heidi Jaskiewicz of Helping Paws of Colchester went up in flames. Although several cats are believed to be still hiding in the house, the Bozrah Fire Department was able to rescue seven felines.

One of the lucky ones was a fifteen-year-old brown and white American Shorthair named Molly that firefighter Lisa Greenleaf revived by using a pediatric oxygen mask. (See photo above of her and Molly standing in front of Eddie Aubin and Sandy Nordgren.) She is now recovering at Colchester Veterinary Hospital.

Greenleaf, who used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in order to save the life of another cat, told the Norwich Bulletin on March 22nd, "I made do with what I had." (See "Heroics Save Bozrah Cat.") "I just treated it like it was a baby. You have to treat them with as much value as any family member." (See photo below of her and Molly.)

No reason has been given as to the cause of the blaze and Jaskiewicz has been forced to seek temporary accommodations elsewhere.

Although there is certainly nothing in the news reports to indicate that any of the individuals involved in the fires are anything other than dedicated cat lovers, sheltering a large number of animals under one roof is a serious undertaking. Consequently, measures must be put in place to ensure that they are provided with an environment that is both hygienic and safe.

Being caught flatfooted in an emergency not only costs lives but provides the authorities with a ready-made excuse either to close down or to regulate such shelters. It is therefore incumbent upon animal rescue groups to police themselves.

All public and private funding needs to be taken away from animal control and shelters and instead devoted to finding permanent homes for domestic cats and dogs. Sanctuaries, barns, and managed colonies should be established for feral cats that rescue groups do not have the time to socialize. A cage is no place for any animal.

Despite the disturbing loss of life in both blazes, it is nonetheless encouraging to see that some fire and EMS personnel are beginning to take animal emergency services seriously. In fact, the Bozrah Fire Department is exploring the option of purchasing equipment specifically tailored toward reviving animals.

Unfortunately, some fire departments and rescue squads around the country actually have taken a step backwards when it comes to protecting the lives of animals. For instance, the Fire Department in New Albany, Indiana recently refused to rescue a cat trapped on a rooftop. (See Cat Defender post of February 20, 2007 entitled "Stray Cat Ignominiously Named Stinky Is Rescued from Rooftop by Good Samaritans After Fire Department Refuses to Help.")

Contrary to what some people believe, cats, dogs, and other animals are not second-class citizens; rather, they are valuable members of this society and as such they are fully entitled to very best emergency care available.

Photos: WFSB-TV (charred cat food) and John Shishmanian of the Norwich Bulletin (Molly and Greenleaf).