Category: Veterinarian

Some Jerk Stole the Baby Yoda Cat

Two weeks after a sickly stray named Joy was rescued off the streets, someone stole the still-ailing animal from the local Humane Society.

Thanks to her resemblance to the Internet-breaking Star Wars character, Joy and her story went viral, with kind donors opening up their wallets to help pay for the kitty’s veterinary bills. Per New York’s ABC affiliate:

A North Carolina woman found Joy with a large neck wound and an upper respiratory tract infection in mid-December. The woman asked Humane Society of Rowan County for help, and one of the non-profit’s veterinarians started treating Joy for her injuries. In the meantime, Joy captured the hearts of internet users for her resemblance to “The Child,” the breakout star from the “Star Wars: The Mandalorian” series.

In six days, Facebook users donated over $1,250 to help Humane Society of Rowan County pay for Joy’s medical bills.

But the story didn’t just attract the attention of the kind-hearted, and a few days ago someone made off with the viral feline after claiming Joy was their long-lost pet, according to the Humane Society of Rowan County.

Baby Yoda
A Star Wars fan who couldn’t wait to hand his or her money to Disney for a Baby Yoda doll decided to steal a cat who bears a resemblance to the character instead.

Making matters worse, Joy wasn’t ready for her forever home yet, and was supposed to remain under veterinary care and supervision while the Humane Society took applications from potential adopters.

It is with heavy hearts that we announce that Joy is no longer in our care. Joy was released without our knowledge or consent to a person claiming ownership.

It is likely that HSRC will still be responsible for Joy’s vet bills.

We wish we could provide more details but are unable to at this time. We pray that Joy, still with unhealed wounds and not fully recovered, will be given proper medical care and make a full recovery.

Return the cat, nerd! And while you’re at it, consider switching your allegiance to a decidedly more feline-friendly science fiction franchise. You’ll live long and prosper! 🙂

Rescuing A Pet From War: How Americans Help Cats, Dogs Escape Hell

With so much human suffering in war-torn countries, the animals often get overlooked.

For every family huddled in a basement during an air raid there’s a mother cat trying to get her kittens to safety as forces she can’t comprehend rend the sky and shatter the Earth. For every shoeless kid playing in the mud, there’s a rib-thin dog nosing through the trash for a morsel.

But not everyone looks past them: More than 1,000 American service members have adopted cats and dogs from Afghanistan alone, according to the country’s only animal shelter.

“When you think about a soldier that’s been on the front lines for years, away from family and friends, that animal has probably been one of the only positive things throughout the whole process,” said Pen Farthing, a former member of the UK’s military who founded Nowzad, the sole clinic and shelter for animals in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Dan Brissey is one of them. The Delaware man, who was deployed to Kabul with the Maryland National Guard as an engineer, found himself caring for an orphan kitten during his deployment.

He named the kitten Sully and, knowing he couldn’t leave Afghanistan without her, reached out to Farthing and Nowzad.

Brissey and Sully
Brissey and Sully, the cat he adopted after caring for her in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: Dan Brissey

Taking an animal back home is prohibitively expensive, Farthing said, with airlines charging a premium to fly animals from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

They don’t provide discounts for the service, and in all it costs more than $3,000 to bring a cat back to the US and more than $5,000 for a dog.

Brissey paid a hefty sum, then turned to the internet to help raise the rest, and raise people did: Not only have they covered the cost to bring Sully back, there was enough left over to bring her more feral sister to the US as well. Both kittens will live with Brissey and his family.

brissysully
Sully will be reunited with Brissey after a brief period in quarantine. Credit: Dan Brissey

A common response to stories like this is “Why are we helping animals when so many people need help?”

The truth is, they’re not mutually exclusive things. A guy like Brissey spends his entire deployment working on civic projects to benefit the locals. Service members build critical infrastructure like water lines and power stations. They repair roads, keep neighborhoods safe and restore schools.

And in addition to the humanitarian aid distributed directly by the US, thousands of NGOs are on the ground in those countries, using private donations to staff medical clinics and build new housing. Americans are exceedingly generous when it comes to charitable giving.

So it’s not one or the other. We can help people as well as animals. A thousand dogs and cats helped by Nowzad in Afghanistan might not seem like much, but to each of them it makes a life of difference.

For people accustomed to living in peace, with well-funded animal charities taking cats and dogs off the streets, it’s difficult to imagine the reality on the ground in war-torn countries.

“There has been no form of stray animal control in Afghanistan now for nearly 40 years, because of various ongoing conflicts,” Farthing said. “There are stray dogs on every single street corner.”

For American service personnel — many of whom are animal lovers — helping just seems like the right thing to do.

“I just want to do what I can for her,” Brissey told military.com “Take care of her and give her a good home.”

Study: We’re All Terrible At Reading Our Cats’ Facial Expressions

Most of us completely suck at deciphering our cats’ facial expressions, according to a new study.

That might come as a surprise to some because it’s often claimed cats don’t have facial expressions, or they can’t be read. They do, and they can.

The researchers from Ontario’s University of Guelph used a series of short clips selected from YouTube cat videos. They stripped all the context and blacked out everything but each cat’s face so participants wouldn’t be able to read body language or identify what the cats were doing.

The people who participated in the study — more than 6,000 in all — had only the faces to go on, and they were asked to assess whether each cat’s facial expression was positive or negative.

It turns out reading feline facial expressions is especially difficult: On average, participants got only 11.85 out of 20 questions right. That’s less than 60 percent.

Here’s the crazy part: Researchers found cat owners were no better at interpreting cat expressions than random people. Veterinarians scored the highest, a result that makes perfect sense.

surprised-cat-1
“No, I did NOT drink from the toilet! How dare you impugn my character with such vulgar accusations, good sir!”

Less than 15 percent of people are “cat whisperers,” study author Georgia Mason said, and can correctly interpret a cat’s mood based on the face alone.

“Anyone who writes cats off as sort of moody or distant is probably underestimating them,” Mason said. “The point is they are signaling, it’s just subtle and you need expertise and maybe intuition to see it.”

If you’re wondering what the test looks like, you can take an abbreviated version of it online. Here’s my score:

5FE0F41B-9178-4408-83F0-C9922A09A206

I’m a cat whisperer! Okay, not really. I scored a lousy four out of eight in the advanced version of the test.

I’m accustomed to reading feline body language — whiskers, ears, tails and fur provide a wealth of information about a cat’s mood — and absent most of that information, I found it difficult to gauge based on their faces alone.

On the positive side, scientists say the lessons from these studies can be applied to our companion cats eventually.

“We’re hoping [to conduct] more research to develop tools to help people read their cat better,” Mason said. “That would make living with a cat more rewarding.”

Top photo credit: BBC Science Focus

angrycat.jpg
Is this cat: A) very angry, B) extremely angry, or C) ready to kill her human?

Study Says Most US Cats Are Obese: How Do We Handle the Problem?

The subject of fat cats has come up quite a bit lately here on Pain In The Bud.

First we wrote about Barsik, the 40-pound chonkster who requires a stroller for transport because he’s too big for a carrier. On Thursday we blogged about Mikhail Galin, who hatched an elaborate plan to board his 22-pound tabby on a flight after Russian Airlines told him his feline was too fat to fly. And we’ve been following the struggles of Cinder, a 25-pound kitty who really hates treadmills.

Much to his chagrin, Buddy is in on the action too: I’ve cut back on his treats and portion size more as a preventive measure. He’s not fat, but he’s not as ripped as he thinks he is either.

So how do we deal with the feline obesity crisis? We asked Julia Lewis, DVM, who knows a thing or two about cats: Dr. Lewis graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the nation’s top veterinary school, and has 25 years’ experience working with shelters, universities and most recently in public health, where she provides wellness care to pets of the homeless on the west coast.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Pain In The Bud: A new study says more than half of all US pet cats are overweight or obese. Why are so many cats so chonky?

Dr. Lewis: We Americans like everything big: cars, houses, and unfortunately pets. Too many people equate food with love for themselves as well as their kids and pets. Yet another reason for people to have a family veterinarian that they trust is to have someone objectively tell them if their pets are in the healthy size range.

Fat Cats: M&Ms With Obstacles!
Meme imitates life.

PITB: How do cat owners react when you broach the subject?

Dr. Lewis: I’m glad I’m not in private practice. I feel uncomfortable telling people their pets are overweight because I happen to pack too many extra pounds myself. I’m nervous that when I tell pet owners their pets should lose weight, the owners will think to themselves that I should practice what I preach. (Although I try really hard to keep my own pets in decent weight so that I can practice what I preach from a professional perspective). However, when I have told people their pets can stand to lose some weight, I try to do it with humor so that the owners realize that I’m not making a judgement about them. Descriptions I’ve used to broach the subject include the pets appear Rubenesque. (One used by a particularly flamboyant resident that I had when I was a student.) I’ve also used roly-poly and fluffy. When the weight is in the severely large range, I have used round as a descriptor. Mostly, owners who realize their pets may have a problem really only want advice and that’s what I try to do for them, like I did for you when you wanted to put Buddy on calorie restriction. I also try to understand that it’s hard to lose weight, for oneself as well as their loved ones, whether two-legged or four.

PITB: What about cat owners? What’s the best way for those of us who aren’t veterinarians to determine if our cats are heavier than their ideal weight?

Dr. Lewis: Body condition is very subjective. Pets come in all sizes. This is especially true for dogs since there are such diverse breeds. Think about the extreme size and weight differences between a Chihuahua or Yorkie compared to a Great Dane or a Mastiff. Cats do have breeds, but for the most part there the size difference isn’t as extreme. Yet cats come in petite, average, and large frames. It’s not unusual for certain breeds like oriental short hairs to average only about 6 to 8 pounds and breeds like the Main Coon to average in the teens up to 25 pounds.

Cat weight chart
While healthy weights vary according to breed and size, the eye test is a good way to gauge your cat’s fitness.

That’s why it’s important to have an objective determination of body condition. Use of the body condition scoring charts puts everyone on the same page when describing a pet’s body condition.

PITB: What about fur? Does the eye test work for long-haired and extra fluffy cats?

Dr. Lewis: Beyond having a chart, owners need to be trained on how to assess their pet’s body to compare to the chart beyond just a visual measurement. Fur can interfere with accurate visual assessments of how much fat a pet may be carrying. Pet owners should have their veterinarian show them how to feel (palpate) their pets to determine how much padding beyond the fur their pets have.

PITB: Okay, so let’s say we’ve committed, we’ve talked to the veterinarian and we have a plan. How should we handle the sometimes incessant meowing and crying from a hungry cat? After all, we wouldn’t be their servants if they weren’t so persuasive.

Dr. Lewis: Dealing with pets that show their displeasure in not eating whenever and whatever they want is difficult. I have my own pets so I can really empathize. My dogs are pretty good about only eating when they’re fed but my cat is another story. But as hard as it is, ignoring them does work. I don’t react to my cat when he starts screaming. I’ve certainly not given in to him by giving him food. So, he doesn’t usually bother to yowl at me when he thinks he should be fed. My husband does give in and when my cat sees my husband, he gets incredibly vocal and demanding. So we’ve each trained the cat to give us very different behaviors. In an effort to get my cat to stop being so demanding, I’ve trained him to dance for his food. He now knows that even when we get up to feed him, he still can’t just dive right into the food, he has to do some spins. I tend to make him spin more than my husband, and that’s another reason he isn’t quite as insistent about making me feed him. One thing my cat is really good about is that he doesn’t get physical with us when he wants food. He’s just loud. If a cat does tend to get physical, owner may have to engage them in a vigorous play session before feeding to dissipate some of that pent-up frustration and energy.

081718-wabc-bruno-fat-cat-img1
Bruno, a Russian Blue from Chicago, came into the shelter at a hefty 25 pounds. The quirky cat, who sometimes walks on his hind legs only, was adopted by a couple who put him on a diet. (Source: ABC7NY)

We’d like to thank Julia for taking the time to answer our questions and provide expert advice on a tough subject. Buddy, however, would not like to thank Julia for being complicit in the Great Treat Famine of 2019. He considers it a crime to come between a cat and his snacks.

Has your cat struggled to keep the pounds off? Tell us about it in the comments!

Cats Hate Treadmills More Than People Do

Meet Cinderblock, or Cinder for short. In the video below, a veterinarian’s got her on a treadmill, and Cinder is having NONE of it. Is it just me, or does that meow sound a hell of a lot like “No!”?

To make matters worse, it’s an underwater treadmill. Water and exercise, the bane of cats everywhere!

Anyway, Cinder takes the opportunity to provide a master class in how to get by with the absolute least amount of effort:

Cinder was surrendered to the veterinarian by her owner, who said she could no longer care for the portly kitty and asked for her to be euthanized. The veterinarian, Brita Kiffney, had a better idea.

“I couldn’t do it and asked her to relinquish her to me,” Kiffney told CNN. “She agreed and was grateful, as she really didn’t want to euthanize Cinder but was overwhelmed with the care of her father. So, she is morbidly obese, due to overfeeding by the father.

Now Cinder is on an involuntary weight loss journey, which Kiffney is documenting with a new Youtube channel, Cinder Gets Fit. Recent updates like the video below show the reluctant chonkster didn’t get away with the one-paw treadmill workout for long:

We wish Cinder and Brita the best of luck!