Archive for September, 2008

It’s THAT Time of Year (Again)
September 27, 2008

Fall has to be one of my four favorite seasons.  The autumn colors become vivid against a crisp, blue sky.  The leaves crackle under my feet.  The air becomes cool and clean and dry.  Unfortunately, it’s also the time where the Rabies Virus comes to a front again.

 

As an animal control officer I did a lot of research on this nasty, nasty virus.  It seems that Spring and Fall are the two peak times where this virus surfaces.  Not sure why, but it does.  So now is the time to become aware of the signs and symptoms and to keep a sharp eye out.

 

First of all, just because a normally nocturnal animal is out and about during they day does NOT mean it’s rabid.  They’re all preparing for the winter so food collection is of utmost importance at this point.

 

What SHOULD catch your eye, though, is how they behave.  Rabies can show symptoms in two different ways.  The first is that the animal looks to be in a stupor, or that it might have been hit by a car. Animals showing this type of symptom will often stumble around or look like it’s confused or dazed.  Many times people can mistake this type of behavior for an injury and will try and help the animal.  Any time I’ve seen a rabid cat, this is how its symptoms are presented so extreme caution should be taken when approaching what appears to be an injured cat.

 

 The second is that the animal suddenly becomes enraged and will attack anything (or anyone) it sees.  I’ve seen raccoons actually attack cars, other animals, themselves or even people when they exhibit these symptoms.  They actually look possessed and are extremely agile so the further away you can stay from them the better.

 

Now for the kicker; a rabid animal can flip-flop between these signs, being dazed one moment and enraged another.

 

The Rabies Virus attacks the nervous system.  The virus is introduced into the body by direct contact with saliva or bodily fluids from an affected animal.  The virus then travels up to the spinal chord and then into the brain of the victim animal.  The victim animal will then show the symptoms. The closer the bite (site of introduction) is to the base of the brain, the faster the symptoms will appear.  The victim animal, once the symptoms appear, will not survive for long but can transmit the virus to another animal while showing sypmtoms.  There is no cure for Rabies once the symptoms appear.

 

So THAT having been said, it is VERY important to keep watch over your pets.  A pet who has been vaccinated only once for Rabies MAY NOT be completely protected.  The animal needs to build up an immunity to the virus and this can only be done through multiple vaccinations through the years.  IF your animal comes home with a wound that it did not leave with, make sure to contact your veterinarian for a booster vaccination. 

All in all, though, it is rare that a wildlife encounter will be with a rabid animal.  But should you see one that is not acting right, you are urged to contact your local animal control officer immediately.  Keep a close eye (from a safe distance) on where that animal goes so that responding officers can assess what needs to be done.  As there are other diseases that mimic the Rabies Virus, only testing can positively identify if it is the virus or not.

 

And keep your pets vaccinated!  Should Fido or Kitty come into contact with a rabid animal, it does not mean they WILL get the virus.  If their vaccination is current, they will be given another one and you will be advised to watch the animal for a certain period of time.  Again, it’s not a death sentence for a vaccinated pet.

Heeeeere Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!!
September 20, 2008

Well, it’s happening again.  The weather is turning colder and winter is coming!!!  So what are you going to do with that stray cat you’ve been feeding all summer?

 

Fall is the time when it gets very obvious that the stray cat population needs HELP.  Many people feed these critters all summer long, knowing that they’re ok (or as ok as they can be) outside (or in garages, barns, sheds, etc) but now that the weather is turning colder, plans need to be made.

 

Shelters across CT are filling up (or are completely full) by now and it will probably be a wait before the cat you’ve been helping all summer can be surrendered to them.  So it is with that in mind that I’ve come up with a “waiting plan” of sorts…

 

First, if you’ve been taking care of a stray cat (feeding, etc) I thank you.  You’ve taken the first step in helping a forgotten population.

 

NOW is the time to start getting your name on a shelter’s waiting list.  Start calling ALL shelters that take cats and get on their list for intakes.  Go to www.Petfinder.com and look up “cats” in “CT”.  It will give you a listing of shelters that have cats.  CALL THEM NOW.  You may have to call on a daily basis but CALL THEM!

 

Once you’ve gotten your name on a waiting list, it will be, well, a waiting game until your stray can get into the shelter.  So the next step is to ensure that this cat has a shelter of its own while it waits.  Get a small dog carrier (any pet store or place like Wal-Mart will have them).  Make sure to take the door off the carrier.  Place the carrier near where the cat stays and make sure it’s up, off the ground (this will ensure it stays dry and warmer).  See if you can put something over it so that it stays out of the cold winds or rain.  Lastly, make sure you give the cat some sort of bedding to snuggle into during these colder nights.  If it’s a colony, see if you can get a plastic dog house and do the same – Tacking a towel or something over the opening is a great idea and will cut down on the drafts.  This way several cats can keep each other warm while they all wait.

 

Know that the shelters are doing their best to house every stray they can.  Getting angry at them will do nothing but get everyone in a bad mood.  Everyone gets anxious this time of year and everyone wants every stray cat in a warm, safe place.  Understand that all these volunteers (and we would be nothing as shelters without volunteers!) are trying their best.

 

If you notice that the behavior of the stray you are caring for has changed, BEWARE. Spring and fall are peak times for the Rabies virus.  ANY change in an animal’s health or behavior (sudden aggression or looking like it’s been hit by a car) can signal that the cat has contracted the Rabies virus.  There is no cure for this deadly disease.  If you do notice that a stray cat is acting in a manner that suggests it might be ill, CALL THE ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICER IMMEDIATELY.  Animal control officers need to be notified so that the affected cat can be tested and, if it is rabid, the word can be spread about the issue to the neighborhood.  Advise the animal control officer if you or your pets have had contact with the stray.  Follow their instructions and let them take charge of the situation.  NEVER PICK UP A SICK STRAY ANIMAL.  I can not emphasize this enough. 

 

So the long and short of it is this – Shelters are trying to do their best to help the stray cat population.  While they’re trying their best, they also understand your desires to get your stray kitty some help.  Working together, you all can end up with a greater appreciation of rescue work and the cats will benefit, too!

Why Do They DO That?
September 14, 2008

I will admit to everyone who asks that I am NOT a cat lover.  I like them.  I think they’re cool.  But I don’t WANT one, even though I have one.  There is something about waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of retching that really gets to me.  Or, if I don’t wake up to that, it’s stepping on a half eaten mouse (or a vomited half eaten mouse) that really makes me loathe being a cat owner.  I like dogs.  They’re easier to read.  They don’t throw up body parts or leave live birds in your basement for you to find when you go downstairs with an armful of laundry. 

THAT having been said, we get a lot of cats on Lost & Pound.  Now, I like playing with cats and I will admit that.  I like meeting all the different cats that come on to the show.  I even consider taking some of them home – but just consider it – it never actually happens!  I like their personalities and their cute looks.  So, with that in mind, I thought I’d devote a Lost & Pound Blog to cat ownership.  More specifically, to why they do some of the things they do. 

A friend gave me a book called Why Do Cats Sulk by Arline Bleecker.  It’s a really cool book and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand their cat.  Here are a few excerpts from the book…. 

Why don’t cats drink a lot of water?  Apparently cats’ ancestors were desert animals (and apparently this is why they bury their poop in the sand)…Well, their kidneys have adapted to this and can eliminate the toxins in a small amount of liquid (which is why it smells so bad and is so concentrated).  

Why do cats get stuck in trees?  Actually, they don’t.   I quote an unknown source who once said they’d never seen a skeleton of a cat in a tree (and that quote is also in the book!)… The book says that their claws are designed to climb up but not to climb down.  However, they do eventually figure out how to shimmy back down.  It may take a while but they do figure it out. 

Do cats have a memory?  They do when you open the can of cat food!  Actually, it says that a cat’s memory can be up to 200 times more retentive than a dog’s (which is why dogs are big, dumb goofballs!)… 

Why does a cat quiver her jaw when she sees a bird?  Ok – I know this one!  My cat will do that and actually chatter her voice when she sees one. It’s weird!  The book says they don’t know – but I think its cat talk for “oh boy, oh boy!!!” 

Do cats see in color?  Yep!  They see in shades of blue and green but they can tell the difference in certain colors as well. 

Why do all tabbies have an “M” on their foreheads?  Cool question!  It’s a genetic feature passed on…. There are myths as to why this is, but it’s a genetic thing.

What is the purpose of that “pad” midway up the rear of a cat’s leg?  Actually, it’s an anti-skid pad for crash landings – it keeps them from crashing into the wall as they’re racing around a corner… 

Who was the oldest cat?  Puss – a cat who lived in England – She died one day after her 36th birthday. 

How big was the biggest cat?  The average cat weighs 12 pounds.  The heaviest cat was Himmy, an Australian cat who weighed in at 45 pounds.  Before that, it was Spice – a cat from Ridgefield, CT, who weighed in at 43 pounds. 

What is the greatest number of mice killed by a cat?  I thought we’d end with this one.  Think about this as you get up in the middle of the night, in the dark, to use the bathroom.  Think of this one – Towser was a cat used for rodent control in Scotland.  In her 21 years, she killed 28, 899 mice – that’s about 4 mice a day for every day of her life. 

So go get a copy of this book – It’s really full of very interesting facts about the feline!  It made me respect the little buggers a bit more, actually.  But in all honesty, I’m still a dog person – Give me big, slobbery, dumb, goofy dogs any time.  Ok, so maybe a cat or two, too.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone without a cat, actually….Jeeze……