Category: cat care

Sunday Cats: Expert Fails At Feline Facts, Aussie Karen Lures Cats From Home To Issue Roaming Fine

This is why we always say it’s better for cat servants to regulate themselves than allow the government to get involved.

A Karen in Australia issued a $280 fine to a homeowner for allegedly allowing his cats to roam — after she lured the kitties onto the street herself.

The entire bizarre spectacle was captured on security cameras at the home of Julie and Steven Stephens, a couple in Toowoomba, about 80 miles west of Brisbane. The uniformed Karen, who is employed by the Queensland council, totes a clipboard in one hand as she walks up the Stephens’ driveway in broad daylight.

As one of the curious cats approaches, Karen reaches for a pen in her pocket and starts scribbling on her clipboard, apparently eager to get started on the paperwork, before slowly backpeddling so the kitty will continue to follow her. When the cat reaches the sidewalk, the unnamed woman scoops it up and walks to her government-issued vehicle parked in front of the Stephens’ home.

Steven Stephens was watching the episode unfold via his camera system and bolted outside to stop the government employee from taking his cat, he told Yahoo News Australia.

The Karen wasn’t able to “impound” the cat, but she wrote Stephens a hefty fine for “allowing his cat to roam,” and promised she’d be back to inflict more misery.

“She said she would be back in two weeks with the police to take all but two of our dogs,” Mr Stephens said.

Queensland cat story
A municipal employee from the Queensland council is seen luring a cat away from its home in this still shot from surveillance video. Credit: Steven Stephens

We’re unable to embed the video, but you can watch it at Yahoo News Australia.

Unbelievably, Toowoomba Regional Council “CEO” Brian Pidgeon doubled down and quoted the relevant section of law on pet roaming when a local newspaper asked him about the incident. Pidgeon did acknowledge his employee was accused of luring the Stephens’ cat, but said he couldn’t talk about that because he’s conducting an “internal investigation,” which is bureaucrat-speak for figuring a way to worm his way out of the situation. There is, after all, clear video showing the Karen luring the cat away. There is nothing ambiguous about what happened.

Stephens admitted he and his wife have “too many” dogs according to local law, which has set arbitrary limits on animal custodianship, but said there are good reasons for that. The dogs sooth his wife, he said.

“A few years ago she had a severe car accident, her partner at the time died, she has a metal plate in her head and now has severe depression and anxiety,” Stephens said. “The dogs help with her anxiety.”

The family has been so rattled by the incident, and apparently has so little faith in their local government to treat them fairly, that they told Yahoo News they’re looking to sell their home and move to “a larger parcel of land in the bush.”

That in itself is an extraordinary admission, indicating they don’t expect basic courtesy, honesty or professionalism from the local authorities.

Now imagine how this would have played out if the Stephens family did not have security cameras. The council worker would have said their cats wandered off the family’s property of their own accord, and that would have been it. The Stephens would be forced to pay the fines, have a legal battle on their hands to get their cats back, and would be fretting over the impending confiscation of their dogs.

I know I sound like a broken record with regard to how local governments, guided by bunk “research” studies, impose themselves on pet caretakers, especially those of us who have cats. That’s why it’s important not to give them any reason to interfere — and to make sure everything is recorded, as the Stephens family wisely did.

Who knows what the government Karen’s motivations were. Was she trying to meet a quota? Does she dislike animals? Does she enjoy flexing the little bit of power she has, or inflicting misery on others? By preempting legislation on cat ownership and roaming, we can avoid putting ourselves at the mercy of such people in the first place, which is in the best interest of cat caretakers, and most importantly cats themselves.

Feline fact fail

I’m sure Nigel Barber, PhD., is a nice guy. I don’t mean to give him any grief. But when you present yourself as an expert on a topic and you write an authoritative column on a trusted site that has millions of readers, you really should make sure you’re not spreading misinformation or providing a picture of a situation that is decades behind the current science.

In a column for Psychology Today titled “Does Your Cat Love You?“, Barber rattles off a list of cliches, half-truths and outright falsehoods about cats, the kind of thing you might have expected 20 or 30 years ago before a wealth of research helped us dispel incorrect assumptions about felis catus.

close up of person cuddling cat
Credit: Sevra Karakuu/pexels

After mucking up the domestication timeline, Barber says cats are “fearful of people,” “tend to withdraw from strangers,” and paints an outdated picture of aloof animals who technically don’t need human care to thrive. He also says cats attack people, including their caretakers, without warning or provocation.

Then there’s this nugget:

“As essentially wild predators, cats can be quite unpredictable. Many owners who are devoted to their cats complain that the cat often scratches them unexpectedly. One acquaintance had the cat declawed and found that the pet reverted to using its teeth on her!”

Can you believe it?!?! A woman had her cat declawed, and the cat bit her!

It’s not just that we know cats give off plenty of nonverbal warnings when they’re uncomfortable, or that declawing makes a cat much more likely to bite. Organizations like the Humane Society, SPCA, The Paw Project and others have been saying that for years.

It goes well beyond that — studies, including the most comprehensive study to date on the effects of declawing, have proven without a doubt that cats are much more likely to bite when they’re subjected to the cruel and painful declawing procedure. (See “Pain and adverse behavior in declawed cats,” a 2017 paper in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.)

That’s because declawing a cat not only inflicts a lifetime of physical pain and psychological trauma, it robs felines of their primary defense mechanism, making them feel much more vulnerable. Without claws with which to warn off unwanted handling, the poor declawed cats have only one defensive weapon available to them — their teeth.

An evolutionary psychologist should understand that, and should also understand that scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for cats. It’s not right or wrong, it’s cats being cats. Mutilating innocent animals to protect inanimate objects like furniture is objectively wrong and cruel. When you adopt a cat, scratching comes as part of the package along with all the positives like unconditional love, amusing antics and calming purring.

There are ways to dissuade and train your cats to mostly avoid scratching furniture, but no one should expect their cats will never put a claw on their couches. If you don’t want your furniture scratched, don’t get a cat. End of.

If Your Cats Aren’t As Brave As Buddy, Keep An Eye On Them This 4th Of July

Here in ‘Merica, more pets go missing on July 4 weekend than at any other time in the year.

While you’re firing up the grill, catching up with friends and having a few beers, your poor cat — or dog — could be suffering from spiking anxiety, especially if you live in a neighborhood like mine where kids are constantly setting off fireworks on the nights leading up to the holiday.

Nationally, animal control departments across the nation report a 30 to 60 percent jump in missing pet reports during the holiday weekend, according to statistics compiled by PetAmberAlert. Private shelters see a similar size uptick in lost cats and dogs who end up in the system. All kinds of cats are at risk for bolting, but Persians, Siamese and domestic shorthairs top the list, according to the lost pet tracking service.

We all know that Buddy is a particularly brave cat who once defeated a fly in single combat, has never lost a duel with a stuffed animal, and has a sterling reputation for facing down even the most terrifying threats. Buddy’s also got an advantage thanks to growing up less than a block from a public park where our town hosts its annual Independence Day fireworks show. The little guy has been hearing — and seeing — fireworks this time of year since he was a kitten, so he just shrugs it off.

If your cat isn’t as incredibly brave as Buddy, however, there are precautions you can take:

  1. Make sure Fluffy has a secure, up-to-date collar and a microchip.
  2. Keep your cat(s) in a closed area of the house or in one room before sundown, and make sure there are no open windows. Places to hide are okay as long as you can keep track of who’s hiding.
  3. Distract, and deaden or mitigate the sound. You can distract your furry friends with toys, a new box to play with or some catnip, which can act like a sedative if your cat eats it. Turn on the stereo and choose something you know has a calming effect on your cat(s).
  4. If your little one is especially anxious or jumpy, consider a pheromone diffuser like Feliway and/or a ThunderShirt. Make sure you get one for cats, not dogs.
  5. Play with your feline friend(s) before sundown to tire them out before fireworks start. Things’ll go a lot easier if your cat lays down for a nap and some relaxing music muffles the booming outside.
  6. Screen videos of Buddy the Cat. His heroic demeanor and cool under pressure will inspire your cat(s) to rise to the occasion.

Good luck!

*Claims about Buddy’s bravery are not to be taken literally. Exceptions to Buddy’s bravery include sudden movements, rustling paper bags, vacuums, truck backup beepers, images of Steven Tyler, certain smartphone ringtones, the Seinfeld theme music, blenders, oscillating fans, oven timer chimes, the Windows 10 error sound, Tic-Tacs rattling, certain types of snoring, and the sound of his own farts. This is not a comprehensive list, and Buddy may be startled and/or terrified by other sensory input.

Get Your Buddy Down At The Shelter!

The following is a Very Important Message from Buddy the Cat:

Hi, readers!

I’m going to share a story with you, and it may shock you to your core, but I promise it’s true and it’s a good thing.

You see, as handsome, meowscular, singular, charming, delightful, smart, full of personality and meowscular as I am (did I already say that?), I’m what the British call a moggie. A feline of no particular breed. A “standard issue cat.”

“But Buddy,” you’re thinking. “That’s impossible! How could such an awesome cat as you be a ‘plain old’ moggie?”

Well, I am. That’s why I invented the Buddinese breed, to make myself seem more exotic. But the truth is, Big Buddy adopted me, and my effortless charm and huge personality are a combination of genetics and growing up in an environment where I was doted on, played with, socialized, exposed to lots of different people and places, and just as importantly, given delicious, quality yums to eat.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that you don’t need to spend $5,000 on a Bengal or $20,000 on a Savannah to have an awesome cat. You should be slapped and sterilized if you give that much money to a breeder, let alone when there are so many kitties who need homes.

What I’m trying to say is that, as Adopt A Cat Month comes to a close, your local shelter has its own Buddies waiting for you. Go meet them!

They might not seem like Buddies. They might be depressed that their owners surrendered them, shocked that they’re in a shelter, and muted from spending 90 percent of their time in tiny enclosures. But they are Buddies, I assure you, and if you give them a chance to flourish like Big Buddy did for me, they’ll reveal themselves as the awesome little buddies they are.

Buddy the Buddy
I’m unique and special, but so are the shelter cats!

They just need a home, a human or two who will care about them, and a little love. Oh, and toys. Lots of toys. And turkey. Some of them may prefer other types of food, and they’re wrong about that because turkey is the best, but if they like lesser foods like chicken, salmon or beef, well, give it to them!

Once your Buddies realize they are in their forever homes and they aren’t going back to the shelter, things will revert to the Natural Order™, your cat will come to expect excellent service, and you will be designated as an official servant to a member of felinekind, which is the highest honor a human could hope for.

So go on! Get your Buddy! He’s waiting for you, and you’ll make every bit of difference in his life.

Your friend,

Buddy

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It’s Actually Really Easy To Teach Your Cat To High Five

My cousin thought I was joking when I told him my cat would come when called, sit when told and give me some love with a high five.

“Get outta here,” he said as we watched an NBA playoff game.

“Okay then,” I said. “Hey Bud!”

Buddy popped up from wherever he’d been lounging with a “Mrrrrrrrrppp!” He regarded me quizzically with his parakeet green eyes, knowing there was probably a treat in it for him as he padded toward me.

“Sit,” I said, gesturing for him to park his behind about two feet away from me. He sat.

“High five!” I said as Buddy leaned forward and slapped his paw against my palm.

I tossed him a treat for a job well done. If it were up to Bud, we’d high-five another 10 times.

There are a lot of misconceptions about cats, and one of them is the idea that felines aren’t amenable to training. It’s why people use the phrase “trying to herd cats” to describe an impossible task.

People don’t expect to see a cat complying, and they definitely don’t expect to see our feline friends pulling off tricks, which makes it more fun to defy expectations.

It’s easy to train your cat to pull off simple tricks — so easy that I almost couldn’t believe it when Bud was reliably high fiving me within a week.

Cat High Five
It makes for a good party trick and a way to bond with your feline friend.

Teaching a cat to sit is a prerequisite for high fives. It’s a straightforward and easy process.

After that, it’s really just a matter of building trust with your cat so she’ll allow you first to touch her paw, then to gently take it in your hand and raise it. The first few sessions, all you need to do is touch or hold your cat’s paw. On the second day, start to raise it slightly.

Cats don’t do well with long training sessions anyway, so the time commitment is minimal. One or two sessions a day, 10 to 15 minutes each.

Every time you touch kitty’s paw, bring it a little bit higher than the last time, rewarding your cat with encouragement and a treat. After a few sessions, your cat will anticipate this new ritual you’ve got going and will raise her paw as soon as you start.

The last step is holding kitty’s paw against your outstretched palm for just a second or two, then rewarding her with a treat.

That’s it. You’re done.

Run through the trick a few times a day after your cat’s got it down, to reinforce good high fiving form and whichever affirmations you choose. (I chose to say “Good boy!” each time Bud pulled it off rather than use a clicker.) Either method works, since the important things are consistency and positive reinforcement immediately after your cat does well. You want to make sure you click or say “Good boy!” right away so your cat knows the praise is triggered by a successful high five. (Or an intermediary paw raise if you’re still working on the trick.)

For a more detailed breakdown of how to do it, check out this video from CatManToo, a professional dog trainer who adjusted his methods for cats. This is the method I used to train Bud. Again, you don’t actually need a clicker, just a consistent method of feedback to signal that your cat is doing well:

Someone Has To Rescue This Poor Cat

A real estate agent in Texas was filming video for his TikTok channel, sarcastically providing a voice-over in which he promises a “look at the beauty of rental houses when the tenants move out.”

As the agent, who goes by the name Felix Jaimes on TikTok, showed broken blinds, inexplicably removed wood floor panels, a cracked mirror, dirty bathroom and garbage left everywhere. Then he heard noise coming from another room.

“Honestly I got scared, I thought someone was in there because the house was pretty much empty,” Jaimes explained later in the comments.

But he didn’t find a burglar — just a terrified, depressed-looking cat huddling in the corner of a closet.

“He was obviously scared,” Jaimes wrote. “My heart broke” for him.

“Immediately I thought they left their cat behind. What kind of people do that,” Jaimes asked. “I thought they had just abandoned the place since they destroyed it.”

After calling and sending text messages to the tenant, she called Jaimes back and said she wasn’t finished moving out.

“When I came back, the cat was gone,” Jaimes said.

The video was posted on Dec. 7. It’s not clear from Jaimes’ profile exactly where he is — or where the home is located — in Texas, but perhaps some sharp-eyed Texan will be able to tell from the exterior shots at the beginning of the video.

Regardless, the video is distressing. It seems to me that organizations like county-level SPCAs — which employ animal welfare officers with law enforcement jurisdiction when it comes to animal abuse and welfare investigations — are made to handle cases like this, not just the “saving 50 cats from a hoarding situation” stories we hear all the time.

At the very least, the SPCA’s law enforcement division should locate the owner, interview her, check on the cat and have him brought in for a veterinary exam. If they don’t like what they see, they should confiscate the cat and take extra care to place him with people who know how to treat cats and will give him the love he deserves.

Maybe everything really is on the up-and-up and just looks bad, but someone who really knows cats — and loves them — would never leave their kitty in an empty apartment, cowering in a closet and believing he’s been abandoned. That’s why it should be investigated. Better safe than sorry.