Category: Veterinarian

Hug Your Cats Tight, Don’t Let Them Out Of Sight

Cats have been a Godsend in this era of social distancing.

People are looking for something — anything — to get their minds off grim reality and the repetitive, depressing 24/7 virus coverage that dominates television.

Cats have delivered. Our furry friends have been covering themselves in glory, providing an endless supply of viral videos and making people smile just by being their endearing, quirky selves.

Most of all they’ve been there for us at home, soothing anxieties and lowering blood pressure with each lap they claim and each affectionate nuzzle. We may be isolated from other people, but when there’s a cat in the house you never feel truly alone. (If for nothing else, their meows at meal time will make sure of that.)

For me it’s not even a question: Without my Buddy, I’d be slipping into depression of a kind that can’t be cured with Netflix bingeing, books or games.

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Little Buddy the Cat on March 27, 2020.

Now we’ve got to return the favor and protect our cats.

The first “confirmed” case of a cat contracting COVID-19 has come from Belgium, where a veterinary lab ran tests on a sick cat with respiratory problems and concluded the cat picked up the virus from her human.

“The cat lived with her owner, who started showing symptoms of the virus a week before the cat did,” said Steven Van Gucht, a public health official in Belgium, according to the Brussels Times. “The cat had diarrhea, kept vomiting and had breathing difficulties. The researchers found the virus in the cat’s feces.”

This is not good news.

Medical diagnostic labs in the US have tested thousands of pets for COVID-19 and haven’t found a single infected animal.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly said there is no evidence of dogs or cats serving as hosts for the virus or infecting humans, although that organization has killed its own credibility with its effusive praise for the Chinese government, and by parroting Chinese insistence that the virus couldn’t be transmitted from human to human. (WHO continued telling the world there was no evidence of contagion through late January, some six weeks after it was clear the virus was multiplying.)

The deadly consequences of misinformation

Unfortunately that didn’t stop innumerable people from abandoning their cats and dogs in China, leaving them in apartments and houses to starve. One Chinese animal welfare group, which is partnered with Humane Society International, says “tens of thousands” of pets were abandoned.

Some Chinese territories instructed people to kill their pets, and there are sickening reports of people clubbing defenseless animals to death in the streets.

That may not be surprising in China, which has an abominable record on human and animal rights, but now there are disturbing reports from all over the world. Shelter operators in the UK, for instance, say they’re fielding calls from people who want to abandon their pets because of the Coronavirus.

“Mostly, it’s people who haven’t got access to the right information online,” Claire Jones, who works at a shelter in Stoke-on-Trent, told the BBC. “It’s a nightmare.”

Misinformation and confusion are compounding the problem, the result of a new media ecosystem in which news is whatever a person’s social circle posts on their feeds and news consumers don’t distinguish between reliable press outlets (Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Reuters, etc) and the thousands of less scrupulous sites masquerading as legitimate sources of news.

Thus, when a dog in China tested positive for trace elements of Coronavirus — but blood tests were negative — sites like Quartz wasted no time pumping out headlines declaring that dogs and cats can be infected.

Exercising caution with information

It looks like the Belgium case is another in which fact and nuance are sacrificed for clicks. Belgian virologist Hans Nauwynck is among the skeptics who believe veterinary authorities in his country acted too rashly.

“Before sending this news out into the world, I would have had some other tests carried out,” Nauwynck told the Brussels Times.

To confirm the positive test, the lab used a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. A PCR test “allows scientists to multiply a very small sample of genetic material to produce a quantity large enough to study,” the Times noted. But the test only confirmed that the cat suffered from a flu-like virus. It did not specifically match the viral infection with COVID-19.

“A clear link between virus excretion and clinical signs cannot be established, in part because other possible causes for the cat’s illness were not excluded,” wrote Ginger Macaulay, a veterinarian in Lexington, South Carolina.

In addition, authorities didn’t rule out the possibility that the sample was contaminated or maintain a forensic chain of possession that would ensure it was properly handled.

“I would advise people to slow down,” Nauwynck said. “There may somehow have been genetic material from the owner in the sample, and so the sample is contaminated.”

To be absolutely certain, he said, more tests should have been done to confirm the initial result, and certainly before making an announcement to the world. Veterinary authorities should have tested for the presence of antibodies in the cat’s system as well, he said, which is a sign that an immune system is fighting off an infection.

“I’m worried that people will be scared by this news and animals will be the ones to suffer, and that’s not right. As scientists we ought to put out clear and full information, and I don’t think that has happened.”

With reports about the infected cat spreading across the globe — and adding to existing fears — the Belgian virologist said panic could override reason, with catastrophic consequences for our little feline friends.

“I wouldn’t wish to be a cat tomorrow.”

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A cat on a lead in China is protected with a face mask. Credit: AsiaWire

Cat Who Was Shot In Head With Arrow Finds A Loving Home

Google News is a wonderful thing if you put it to good use.

A handful of alerts keep me abreast of cat-related news, arming me with potential topics and stories to share with you, the readers of Pain In The Bud.

Unfortunately when it comes to cat news, bad comes with the good. Lots of it.

For every story about lovable chonksters, cute kittens or miraculous reunions with lost cats, there are articles about dying felines rescued from hoarding situations, future serial killers torturing innocent animals and lunatics putting cats in microwaves.

Sometimes I have to stop, click off the browser and go find something to distract me from how disgusting the human race can be.

That’s why I’ve taken a pass on writing about Cupid the Cat — until now. (The story has a happy ending, thankfully.)

Last month, a Good Samaritan contacted the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Virginia, about a stray cat suffering from a horrific injury: The poor boy had been shot in the head with an arrow, leaving the shaft protruding from the side of his face.

The cat’s rescuers dubbed him Cupid because he was found on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, and appealed to the public for help to cover the costs of several surgeries little Cupid would need to survive.

Despite the horrific act of violence committed against him by humans, and despite the pain he was enduring, Cupid was happy to see his rescuers, Chelsea Jones of the Animal Welfare League said.

“When he arrived and we opened his crate, we’re kind of shocked to see this cat with an arrow shaft sticking out of his face, is making biscuits …. That’s when cats knead their paws,” she said. “It’s a very comforting, positive behavior. And he was purring, and he wanted us to scratch his tummy and his chin. And we just could not believe that this cat was being so affectionate and friendly in how much pain he must be in.”

“So, it was kind of right there and then,” Jones said, “we were like, ‘We gotta call this guy Cupid.’”

Veterinarians worked for several hours to remove the arrow, clean the wound and stitch the little guy back up, putting him on antibiotics and painkillers. The arrow miraculously missed Cupid’s brain, eyes and other vital organs, but his rescuers feared he could succumb to a serious infection from the wound.

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Cupid was placed on antibiotics and pain killers after his surgery. Credit: Arlington Animal Welfare League

The Animal Welfare League put out an emergency appeal for $6,500 to cover the cost of Cupid’s surgery. Well-wishers covered the cost within hours, and by week’s end the League had taken in more than $87,000, allowing it to fund life-saving surgery for two other animals in addition to Cupid.

The young cat fought hard and recovered from his wounds, and after whittling down dozens of applications to 14 finalists, the League held a drawing.

“It would be amazing if we could send him home with everyone but only one lucky person gets to take cupid home,” Jones said.

Well, two people: Cupid went home with a loving couple from the Washington, DC, area. No more cold, no more hunger, no more loneliness — and protection from the kind of horrible people who would hurt an innocent animal. Congratulations to Cupid on getting better and finding a forever home!

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Cupid finally has a home — and humans — of his own after an incredible ordeal and a rough start to life. Credit: Arlington Animal Welfare League

This Music Calms Cats, But It Scares The Hell Out of Buddy

In case you didn’t know, music written specifically for cats is a thing.

I’d heard about it a while back, and the project seemed impressive: “Music for Cats” composer David Teie is a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, and he worked with animal behaviorists and veterinarians to come up with kitty-soothing sound textures and test the music’s efficacy on cats visiting the veterinarian.

A 2019 study in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery concluded “Music for Cats” could help our furry friends relax and ease their stress. Keeping in mind an earlier study that suggested cats prefer “feline-centric sounds,” Teie incorporated audio of events cats associate with happy times, like kittens suckling milk from their mothers.

Using Buddy as my test subject, I went to Youtube, selected the track Cozmo’s Air from “Music for Cats” and sat back, expecting Bud to start nodding his furry head at any moment.

Instead his ears pricked up, did their radar-dish swivel toward the speakers, and his eyes went wide. As the song gained volume and intensity, Bud’s ears and whiskers snapped back and he let out a clearly anxious “yerrrrrrrrrrppp!” I tried to calm him down, to no avail, and a second track didn’t improve things.

He wasn’t having it.

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This pretty much sums up Buddy’s reaction to cat music. Credit: Creative Commons

Teie’s cat music is back in the news with the release of the Kickstarter-backed Music for Cats 2, and there are quite a few imitators on Youtube hawking their own supposedly cat-soothing musical efforts. (Though your cat might think she’s in Guantanamo Bay if you subject her to six-hour videos of “cat lullabies.”)

Should I test some of the new music on Buddy to see if he responds more favorably? And for our fellow readers and cat servants, have you played any of this stuff for your cats? If you have, how’d it work out?

Declawing: Florida Moves Ahead On Ban, Ozzy Osbourne Joins PETA Campaign

A ban on declawing passed a key committee vote in Florida this week, while Black Sabbath frontman and reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne has become the new face of a PETA campaign against the harmful practice.

Florida aims to become the second US state to ban the elective and harmful procedure after our home state, New York, passed the country’s first statewide ban on declawing in 2019.

The Florida bill, which was introduced in August, was approved by the state senate’s agricultural committee by a 4-1 vote on Tuesday. It’s expected to pass two more committee votes before it goes to a final vote on the senate floor.

The ban would levy relatively stiff penalties for owners and veterinarians who ignore the law. The former would face fines of $1,000 per cat, while veterinarians would be fined $5,000 per cat, as well as discipline from the state’s Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Meanwhile, Osbourne and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have teamed up for a public announcement campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the damage declawing does to cats.

The ads feature a striking image of Osbourne holding up both hands, with his fingers severed at the first knuckle to illustrate what’s done to cats during the procedure. It’s bloody, like Osbourne’s long-time stage antics, and controversial, like many PETA campaigns.

“Amputating a cat’s toes is twisted and wrong,” Osbourne said, per PETA. “If your couch is more important to you than your cat’s health and happiness, you don’t deserve to have an animal! Get cats a scratching post—don’t mutilate them for life.”

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Ozzy Osbourne poses for a bloody anti-declawing ad in cooperation with PETA. Credit: PETA

Up For Adoption: A Buddy From Hell

Meet Buddy: Not for people who enjoy peace, caretakers with autoimmune diseases, or anyone who dislikes being smacked in the face.

What this 10-pound grey tabby lacks in size, he makes  up for in unmitigated douchebaggery.

LIKES: Turkey, mind-controlling you with toxoplasma gondii, never shutting up, destroying expensive personal belongings (particularly musical instruments), dipping his tail in your beverage just to piss you off. He occasionally enjoys rending human flesh with his claws as well.

DISLIKES: People who don’t give him treats. People who don’t treat him like the center of the universe. Vacuums, tardy service, acts of kindness, substandard service, mirrors, birds, dogs.

Come and meet Buddy, who is free to the first person who’ll claim him! In fact, we’ll play you, and he comes with a litter box, food/water bowls, toys, a harness, treats, scratching posts and heavy duty gloves.

Okay, so clearly I’m not giving Buddy away or taking applications for him. Anyone who wants Buddy will have to pry him from my cold, dead hands. He’s my Buddy.

But this adoption ad from an animal shelter in North Carolina got me thinking about how cats are described to prospective adopters:

Adoption ads for house cats are perfunctory affairs peppered with the same handful of descriptors: Every cat is a sweet, loving cuddle bug looking for a “furrever” home.

If you knew nothing about cats and based your opinion on adoption ads only, you’d think they’re basically cuddly pillows with no variation in personality or disposition.

The person who crafted Perdita’s adoption ad managed to cut through the noise with a funny, brutally honest description of the cat and her many quirks.

World’s worst cat? Even the veterinarian thinks she’s a major jerk? I have to know more.

The ad worked. Not only did it go viral, amassing thousands of shares, upvotes and comments on social media, it’s been talked about on TV and written about in major publications.

Most importantly for little Perdita, the clever ad also prompted more than 50 enthusiastic applicants, and the shelter says it’s “carefully considering” the would-be servants, no doubt trying to find the perfect match for the “World’s Worst Cat.”

At a time when thousands of charitable organizations are competing for donations and deserving pets languish in shelters, Perdita’s story proves rescues can cut through the noise and find homes for even the grumpiest of cats.

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“Buddy doesn’t do hugs, okay? Buddy speaks in the third person, Buddy meows insistently for dinner, but Buddy does not do hugs. Deal with it, human.”