Category: strays and ferals

Sunday Cats: Buddy The Philly Cat Makes A Friend, His Attackers Get A Trial Date

Two Philadelphia minors will head to trial in May after they sicced their dogs on a cat sitting on a porch a month ago.

The juveniles, who are 17 and 12 years old, were walking their dogs in Philadelphia on March 22 when they set them loose on Buddy, a black cat who was cared for by a local family but spent most of his time outside. They shouted encouragement as their dogs mauled Buddy on his family’s porch and Buddy would have been killed if the commotion hadn’t drawn attention from inside.

When one of Buddy’s caretakers stepped outside and tried to stop the dogs, the teens pulled their canines back and fled. They turned themselves in to authorities a few days later after the story went viral and they realized the attack was captured by a doorbell camera system.

They each face felony and misdemeanor charges for animal cruelty, inflicting harm on an animal and other alleged offenses. Since they’re charged as minors the court system is not releasing their names, which is common practice in juvenile cases in most states.

Buddy was so badly injured that veterinarians weren’t sure if he’d make it at first. With a lot of care and love, the little guy pulled through the first few critical days and continued to recover until he was well enough to go to a foster home in early April.

His new caretaker is Katie Venanzi, a veterinarian who specializes in emergency care and operated on him that first day when he was brought in to Blue Pearl Vet Hospital by the Pennsylvania SPCA.

“He was kept secluded in one room initially, but now he has a run of the house and he is doing so well with his foster sibling cat Teddy. His foster parents affectionately say they are the two most awkward cats in Philadelphia, but their relationship is blossoming and we hope it continues that way so that Buddy can officially stay in that home forever,” the SPCA’s Gillian Kocher said. “Hopefully in the coming weeks, we will have some additional details and will let everybody know when we can make an official announcement about Buddy’s adoption, but for now he’s doing wonderfully.”

The reason Buddy was outside in the first place is that, as a stray, he resisted an indoor life when his original family tried to keep him inside.

Venanzi told a local radio station that her and her husband are trying to help Buddy adjust to an indoor life and hope they can adopt him.

“We want to do whatever he needs,” she said. “We understand that he used to live outside. If he is not comfortable living in our house, we are willing to work with other people who are going to give him an opportunity to be in a safe environment but still exposed to the outdoors. We are going to take it day by day and see how he does, but we are really hoping to keep him.”

When Buddy’s story went viral, people around the world responded by making donations to the Pennsylvania SPCA and buying t-shirts with Buddy’s likeness on them, allowing the group to raise thousands. Meanwhile, in a post to social media, the Pennsylvania SPCA noted it had taken in 158 abused animals since Buddy was attacked: “That’s more than five Buddys a day.”

Some of those dogs and cats were shot or stabbed, while others were neglected or starved, Kocher said. Leftover money from Buddy’s surgeries and treatment will be used to help the other abused animals in the SPCA’s care.

How Dare They! Museum Snobs Evict Elderly Cat From Dubrovnik Palace Grounds

In a city that stood in as a filming location for King’s Landing in the hugely popular series Game of Thrones, it was only fitting that a regal cat named Anastasia would choose a palace as her home.

Anastasia chose the Rector’s Palace, a historic building in Dubrovnik, Croatia, as her royal abode, and she’s become a local fixture there for the past 17 years, a familiar feline face appreciated by locals and tourists alike.

People who run shelters in the city of 42,000 have tried to find a home for Anastasia in the past, but she always returns to the Rector’s Palace, so a group of volunteers set up a small cardboard shelter for her on the grounds.

But the snooty museum authority didn’t like the little dwelling and had it removed in May of 2021. In response a local woodworker named Srdjan Kera built a beautiful wooden cat house for Anastasia that combines elements of the palace’s gothic and baroque architecture, boasts a distressed finish that matches the five-century-old building’s facade, features a velvet bed for its resident feline princess, and even has a golden nameplate with “Anastasia” etched into the metal. (Spelled Anastazija in Croatian.)

The little cat palace blends right in under the larger palace’s arcade and even emulates the stonework patterns, but the people who run the museum authority still weren’t impressed and earlier this month ordered the eviction of Anastasia for a second time.

(Credit: Videographer Zvonimir Pandža, clip courtesy of DuList. Click through to see more photos of Anastasia, her local admirers in Dubrovnik and her beautiful cat palace by Srdjan Kera.)

“The opinion of the Dubrovnik Museums is still the same,” the museum authority’s leadership wrote. “The cat house has no place in front of the Rector’s Palace, be it a cardboard box or a stylized dwelling. We emphasize that no one has anything against the cats that stay here for many years and which until recently had no housing,”

The people of Dubrovnik aren’t having it. A petition to return Anastasia to her rightful palatial place has garnered more than 12,000 signatures, a huge number for such a small city. In addition, some 90 percent of readers said they wanted Anastasia to stay at the palace when polled by a local newspaper.

Anastasia needs her house! Give it back,” one local wrote on Facebook. “Apparently, cultural institutions are run by people without culture.”

Kera even told the museum’s leaders that he would pay a fine if it meant Anastasia could stay, pointing out that at her age, she needs a stable, stress-free existence.

“It’s her home,” Kera said. “We’re only talking about one cat, not 70 of them.”

Anastasia's house
Anastasia in her miniature cat palace. Credit: Srdjan Kera

dubrovnik-old-town2
Dubrovnik is a historic city that has been inhabited for more than 1,300 years. Its Mediterranean location and walled old city made it the perfect stand-in for King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Credit: KingsLandingDubrovnik.com

Casco_viejo_de_Dubrovnik,_Croacia,_2014-04-13,_DD_08
A night view of an arcade at Rector’s Palace. Note the detail on the stone benches, which Kera emulated for Anastasia’s cat house. The interior of the palace was used as a shooting location for a scene in season two of Game of Thrones. Credit: Diego Delso/Wikimedia Commons

Keeping Cats From Killing Local Wildlife May Be Easier Than We Think

For the past two decades, a handful of birders and “conservationists” have claimed cats kill as many as 3.7 billion birds and 22.3 billion small animals every year in the US alone.

Their claims, repeatedly credulously in the press, have been catastrophic to cats: Hyperbolic headlines have labeled them “stone cold serial killers,” “God’s perfect little killing machines,” and posed questions like “Is your cat a mass murderer?” The headlines, often running in otherwise respectable publications, envision brutal “solutions,” like this one in Scientific American: “Cats Are Ruthless Killers. Should They Be Killed?

Politicians, wildlife conservationists and birders read headlines like the examples above and come up with ruthless policies, like bounties offering $10 for cat scalps and $5 for kitten scalps, government employees stalking public parks with shotguns and literally gunning down strays, and an Australian program designed to kill millions of cats by air-dropping sausages laced with poison.

“They’ve got to taste good,” an Australian scientist who helped develop the sausage formula said. “They are the cat’s last meal.”

Now who’s the serial killer?

Sadly, few people have thought to question the studies that claim jaw-dropping numbers of birds and small mammals are slaughtered by cats every year.

How did the studies arrive at those numbers? Their formula hasn’t varied much from “study” to “study,” and more or less looks like this:

  • Assemble your data from old studies that have nothing to do with cats preying on wildlife, or hand out questionnaires to a handful of cat owners and ask them how many animals they think their free-roaming cats might kill.
  • Since you don’t know how many stray, feral and free-roaming cats exist in the US, invent an arbitrary number. Most of these “studies” put the number of cats anywhere between 25 and 125 million, but higher numbers are better because they make for more apocalyptic predictions and generate more credulous headlines.
  • Completely ignore the primary factors driving avian extinction in the world, which are human-caused: Habitat destruction, habitat defragmentation, wind turbines, pesticides, cars, high tension wires and windows, which are by far the biggest bird-killers.
  • Attribute all of the above to feral, stray and free-roaming cats.
  • Take your original “data” and, without making any adjustments for climate, regional variation, migration patterns, other predatory impacts — or anything else, really — simply extrapolate the total number of bird deaths by multiplying your small dataset by the total number of free-roaming cats in the US, which you invented back in Step 2.
  • Package the entire thing as a rigorous study by Serious Conservationists, write some apocalyptic press releases and hype up your claims in your abstracts, because you know the vast majority of web aggregators and overworked reporters will not have the time to take a deep dive into the text of your study.
  • Encourage activist groups and lawmakers to push for the mass culling of cats, based on your studies.

Please, don’t take my word for it. Read the text of any of the widely-cited studies that have been reported as gospel in the last 20 years. You’ll be astonished at what passes for rigorous scientific work, and how policies that determine the fates of millions of cats are largely shaped by these studies.

The D.C. Cat Count and the importance of a baseline

But there’s hope: A coalition of groups in Washington, D.C., spent more than three years methodically taking a “census” of that city’s cat population using a variety of methods.

They surveyed thousands of households within the city limits to find out how many cat owners allow their pets to roam free. They set up 1,530 trail cameras in wooded areas, ditches, alleys, alongside streams. The cameras are motion-activated and they produced more than five million images — including more than 1.2 million images of cats and more than four million images of local wildlife. The cameras captured photos of squirrels, coyotes, raccoons, possums, deer and even wild turkeys.

They assembled teams of dozens of volunteers to personally survey areas where cats are known to congregate. Then, when all the data was collected, they spent months sorting the results, carefully keeping tally, sorting duplicate sightings of individual cats and confirming data when necessary.

low angle view of cat on tree
Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

When all was said and done, after three years, $1.5 million and countless man-hours, the study determined there are some 200,000 cats living in Washington, D.C., and only about 3,000 of them are truly feral, meaning they’re not pets and not part of managed cat colonies.

The team — which brought together conservationists, bird lovers, cat lovers, shelter volunteers and others who would normally oppose each other on cat-related policies — also documented every step to provide a toolkit for other cities and local governments to conduct their own methodical head counts. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel to take D.C.’s admirable lead.

The leaders of the D.C. Cat Count went to all that trouble because they understood that without knowing exactly how many cats they’re dealing with, where they congregate and how they behave, any policies attempting to deal with their potential impact would be flawed and could end up doing more harm than good.

Making informed decisions about managing outdoor cats

Anyone who continues to cite the old, sloppy studies should be reminded, loudly and often, that they have led to years of failed policies, heartbreaking outcomes, enmity between cat lovers and birders, and widespread misunderstanding of how cats behave and the impact they have on wildlife.

Now the next phase begins: Dispensing with the hysteria and finding real, useful ways to minimize the predatory impact of cats on local wildlife populations.

One of the first follow-up studies to bear fruit comes, not coincidentally, from a research team in nearby Fairfax County, Virginia, and yields some surprising revelations about free-roaming cat behavior and impact.

The biggest takeaway: Because free-roaming cats almost always stick to small areas (spanning only 550 feet, or 170 meters), “cats were unlikely to prey on native wildlife, such as songbirds or small mammals, when they were farther than roughly 1,500 feet (500 meters) from a forested area, such as a park or wooded backyard. We also found that when cats were approximately 800 feet (250 meters) or farther from forest edges, they were more likely to prey on rats than on native wildlife.”

That’s it. In other words, small buffer zones are “the difference between a diet that consists exclusively of native species and one without any native prey,” the study’s authors wrote.

“Our findings suggest that focusing efforts on managing cat populations near forested areas may be a more effective conservation strategy than attempting to manage an entire city’s outdoor cat population,” wrote Daniel Herrera and Travis Gallo of George Mason University.

a cute cat looking up
Credit: Phan Vu00f5 Minh Ku1ef3/Pexels

In other words, minimizing the predatory impact of cats is likely a hyper-local affair, and not something that can be effectively managed on a one-size-fits-all city-wide or county-wide basis.

This is just a first step in the right direction, and follow-up studies will yield further insights that will hopefully lead to fine-tuning strategies in managing free-roaming cats.

We still feel keeping cats indoors — for their own safety, as well as the safety of other animals — is the right thing to do, and all the evidence supports that view.

But what these efforts have shown us is that there is a way forward, and it’s not the contentious, divisive and irresponsible work that has guided cat management policy for two decades. It’s not just possible, but necessary, for all sides to work together to find solutions.

Let’s hope more people realize that, and the old “studies” are relegated to the dustbin where they belong.

These Men Need To Go To Prison For Siccing Their Dogs On A Cat Named Buddy

I took a pass on this story when I first saw it because there’s only so much senseless violence toward cats people can tolerate, and I don’t want people to feel like they’re going to be stressed out when they visit PITB.

Our primary goal here, after all, is to celebrate cats and have a laugh.

But this story is too infuriating to keep quiet about, and when I realized the victimized cat’s name is Buddy, I couldn’t ignore it.

Buddy, a black cat, was on his front porch in Philadelphia on Tuesday when two men passed by, let their dogs loose and ordered them to attack poor little guy.

The men cheered their dogs on with “Get him!” and “Good boy!”, and Buddy probably would have died there if his human didn’t hear the commotion and run outside to intervene.

The two suspects collected their dogs and ran off, while Buddy’s human rushed the injured kitty to the Pennsylvania SPCA, where he underwent surgery for life-threatening injuries.

“Buddy is still hanging in there,” the SPCA announced on Thursday. “He remains in critical condition, but we are cautiously optimistic.”

Buddy, who suffered bite wounds and other injuries over his entire body, was a stray who was cared for — but not fully adopted — by a Philadelphia family. The family told the SPCA that Buddy “didn’t want to live inside,” so after getting him neutered they let him stay on their porch and fed him daily.

“He has lots of puncture wounds,” the SPCA’s Gillian Kocker told KYW-TV, the local CBS affiliate. “They’re worried about infections, but mostly what they’re doing right now is making sure that he’s comfortable and has the medication he needs, especially pain meds.”

While Buddy is recovering and is under 24-7 monitoring, donors from around the world have chipped in, giving more than $30,000. Any money left over after veterinary costs will be used for “Buddy’s buddies,” the SPCA said, meaning other cats in their care.

If and when Buddy recovers, the SPCA said, he will be placed with another family. Meanwhile, the suspects could face felony charges for animal fighting and cruelty to animals if they’re caught, Kocher said. Let’s hope they are.

Anyone who recognizes the suspects should call the SPCA at 866-601-7722.

In Ukraine, Cats and Dogs Suffer Along With Their Human Companions

If you’ve got a cat who doesn’t handle the Fourth of July well and gets freaked out by the annual fireworks, imagine that multiplied by about a thousand, with no respite.

Then imagine that, instead of reassurance from calm humans who know the explosions are just part of a celebration, the cats and dogs of cities like Kiev pick up on the anxiety of the people around them, sensing their fear, reading their body language.

War takes a terrible toll on humanity, a fact that’s been well-documented for centuries, but much less has been written about the suffering and fate of animals in the crossfire of forces they can’t comprehend. (One outstanding take on animals in war is 2006’s Pride of Baghdad, a heartbreaking account of four lions who escaped Baghdad Zoo as US bombs rained down on the Iraqi capital. While Pride of Baghdad is a fictionalized account of what happened to those lions, the story is sadly, infuriatingly true and remains one of the lesser-known accounts among the tens of thousands of stories told about the toll of that war.)

In Ukraine, where the Russian military has taken control of the local airspace and destroyed the country’s airports, people are taking their pets and what possessions they can as they try to escape by land via routes to the border that are backed up by 15 miles or more.

Ukrainian soldier with stray cat
A soldier holds a cat in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine. Credit: Aleksey Filippov

Meanwhile, as all men of fighting age have been called to stay, stray dogs have been a comfort to Ukrainians on the front line. The soldiers feed the dogs, and the hyper-vigilant dogs alert the soldiers to any unusual activity they pick up on.

“She immediately barks or growls if the enemy is planning an attack. It’s safer and calmer with her – no wonder they say that a dog is man’s best friend,” a 21-year-old Ukrainian soldier named Mykyta told Agency France-Presse as he gave an affectionate pet to a dog adopted by his unit.

Stray cats are cozying up to the soldiers as well. Dmytro, a 29-year-old soldier, said a black cat he named Chernukha has kept him company and helped him cope.

“You come back to the post, lie down on the bed, and here comes Chernukha,” Dmytro told AFP. Chernukha “lies on your stomach and looks at you as if she wants to be petted. It’s a sedative.”

Like many Ukrainians, staff and volunteers who man the country’s shelters have remained defiant and refused to leave. In Kiev, staff at Best Friends shelter are rationing food and trying to locate more.

“It is very difficult and scary for [the animals] and for us. Due to the fighting, suppliers of food for animals are not working,” a shelter staffer told Newsweek. “We need help now with animal food and its transportation to the shelter. We will also be grateful for the financial support.”

Getting food is already difficult and will become more so as Russian troops push further into the capital and civilians hunker down in homes, basements and bomb shelters.

Nastya Aboliesheva, who works for Kiev-based Happy Paw shelter, said “no one is willing to risk their lives to deliver what is needed.”

“Our work now remains important and necessary, because animals do not understand what is happening and also need food and treatment….the main thing that people can help now is not to throw their animals at random, but to be near them or to evacuate with the animals,” she said. “We very much hope that local authorities in Kyiv and other cities will allow people to take animals in boxes to bomb shelters.”

Top image: A Ukrainian soldier petting a cat. Credit: AFP