Lulu is 13 years old and began eliminating outside her litter box last year after a long life of doing her business properly.
Instead of realizing that a change in behavior was almost certainly precipitated by health issues — and attempting to get those issues sorted out — Lulu’s “owner” brought her to a veterinarian to be euthanized.
The vet realized Lulu was healthy and her issues were easily remedied, wisely persuaded the woman to sign over ownership of Lulu and brought the Himalayan to the local SPCA. She’s been there since December.
Lulu had urinary crystals which were remedied after a change in diet, and she hasn’t had an “accident” in months.
Staff at the SPCA want people to know that they don’t have to surrender a cat for litter box issues or other behavioral changes even if they think they can’t afford veterinary treatment.
“If your pet is not behaving or their behavior has changed, the first step is to get them to a vet to see if something is medically wrong. Even if it is not a medical condition, there are numerous resources — many available at Dutchess County SPCA — to help resolve the issue and avoid both euthanasia and surrender to a shelter,” Lyne Meloccaro of the Dutchess County SPCA told People. “Medical assistance, expert guidance, and management plans, and training referrals are all available for you.”
Dutchess County, which is about 75 miles north of New York City, happens to be the former college stomping grounds of Big Buddy. I graduated from Marist College and lived in the area for some years after. The SPCA there does good work, and its law enforcement division has handled some high profile animal-related crimes over the years.
It’s sad that Lulu lost her home after 13 years, but maybe it’s for the best if she ends up with a devoted servant who will really love her. Her caretakers at the SPCA say she’s stubborn, demands affection on her own terms and wants an “emotional support human.”
Lulu is still available for adoption. The SPCA says she’ll do best as an only cat in a quiet household, and we have no doubt she’ll bring joy to the lucky person who brings her home.
A cat in Colorado has tested positive for the Bubonic Plague.
You read that right. The same bacterial infection that was called the Plague of Justinian back in the 6th century BC, killed one out of every four people living in the Mediterranean, then flared up occasionally every century or two before returning with a vengeance in 14th century Europe, where it was called the Black Death and killed a third of the population on the continent.
The kitty ranges near a public park and likely caught the infection from a rat, local health authorities told KUSA, an NBC news affiliate.
Like many infections, it was never completely eradicated, and WHO statistics show about 100 people die annually of plague.
“While plague is a serious disease, and cases of animal-borne disease in household pets is never something we like to see, it is normal and expected for some animals to contract plague in Jefferson County each year,” said Jim Rada, director of Environmental Health Services for the county. “The good news is that modern antibiotics are effective against plague, and as long as it is treated promptly, severe complications, illness or death can be avoided.”
When we think of outdoor dangers to cats, we tend to think of abusive humans, vehicle traffic or poisons, but this is a reminder that nature can be lethal as well.
Back in the Dark Ages of kitty cognitive knowledge, when scientists wouldn’t go near a cat with a 20-foot pole because they were considered impossible to work with, the conventional wisdom was that as long as a cat was fed and watered, its needs were met.
Going away for three days? Leave a few bowls of dry food and water and you’re good to go, or if you really want to splurge, get an automatic feeder, the prevailing wisdom went. Gonna be away for a week or two? Get someone to check in on the cat a few times a week just to make sure food and water is available.
“If you want a dog but you don’t have time to meet all of its needs, get a cat,” people would say. “They take care of themselves.”
It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong the “prevailing wisdom” on cats really was, and thankfully in recent years we’ve seen a boom in research into cat behavior, intelligence and emotional needs. Among the many things verified by those studies is the fact that cats absolutely are emotional animals and are not the cold, indifferent automatons many people insisted they were.
One reason for that enduring myth may be cats’ famous stoicism. Ignore a dog and she might cry, become destructive or pee in your house, but one thing’s for sure — she’s going to let you know she’s not handling the isolation well. Ignore a cat, and he’ll just withdraw.
I’ve seen plenty of examples of the latter in the homes of friends and acquaintances. The cats are just sort of there, existing like the furniture or plants, interacted with rarely and given affection only occasionally. Those poor cats are quiet, seemingly indifferent, expecting nothing and sadly accepting of their place. They are neglected.
But when you pay attention to your cats they come out of their shells, so to speak. They warm to you. They reveal their hidden emotional core.
Of course, when you raise a cat with attention and love, that’s there from the very beginning, and they WILL let you know when they’re not happy with your absence.
Who do we know who’s like that? His name sounds like Bum, or maybe Bunny, or…oh yeah! God forbid I should ignore Buddy. I’ll never hear the end of it. In fact, he’s on my desk right now, butt parked next to the mouse, and I’m sure any minute now he’s going to decide that I’ve been writing for too long and declare it’s Buddy Time.
Of course, the little jerk attacked his own cat sitter, a friend who has been caring for him when I’m away since he was a kitten! That complicates things.
If you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering how long you can really leave your cat alone. The answer is no more than 24 hours without someone dropping by to check on kitty, refill the water and food bowls, and give him some attention.
If you’re gone longer you’re going to want to make concrete plans for a cat sitter to be there every day.
“You should not leave your cat alone for a prolonged period,” veterinary postdoc Mikel Delgado told Inverse. “Cats also have emotional and social needs that can’t be met when they are left alone for extended periods.”
If your cat likes to play, that’s great, but even if the little one doesn’t, your cat sitter can make things easier by simply hanging out, Delgado said.
Despite having real scratchers, including the biggest-available tower scratcher sturdy enough for him to stretch out completely, Buddy likes to scratch anything and everything he can get his paws on.
The couch, area carpets, the screen door leading to the balcony, even my brand new La Z Boy desk chair.
Without fail he gets his claws stuck on things he’s not supposed to scratch, and then he mews pitifully in his kitten voice until I find him and gently lift him up to get him unstuck.
After I free him he gets all affectionate, and then he forgets all about it until the next time he decides it’s a good idea to scratch on things he’s been snagged on before.
Today the little dude was having another go at the new desk chair and got his claws stuck on the protective cover that’s there to stop him from clawing the chair in the first place.
I stood up to help him and he yanked on the cover, pulling his paw loose but dislodging something in the process.
Sure enough, when I looked on the floor, this is what I found:
As you can see, he tore off his entire claw.
I’m surprised he didn’t give any outward indication of pain. He’s been walking around just fine without a limp. I know his instinct will be to hide the pain, like all other cats, but he doesn’t seem very good at that: Just last night he was crying for a few minutes because of an upset stomach, after he’d regurgitated his dinner. (I sat with him and scratched his head. He felt better within 10 minutes.)
I’m pretty sure the claw came from his right paw, but I haven’t had the chance to examine him yet. I’ll have to wait until he’s in a chill mood to handle his paw and take a closer look.
I don’t see anything to indicate the quick was ripped or dislodged in any way. Still, I can’t imagine it’s not bothering him.
Have any of you guys dealt with anything like this before? Is there any reason to worry?
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call Istanbul a city for cats.
Felines are everywhere in this metropolis of 16 million, from the beloved — and famous — cats of the Hagia Sophia, to the shop cats lazing away their afternoons in bookstores and cafes, to neighborhood strays who enjoy the protection and care of entire communities.
Europe’s largest city is an example to the rest of the world, a vision of what life looks like when virtually everyone respects animals and pitches in to care for them.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Başak Bugay, an Istanbul native who loves cats and cares for a small pride of strays in addition to her own beloved cat.
Thanks for joining us, Başak! Can you tell us a little bit about you, what you do for a living and whether you’ve got cats of your own?
I’m a 41-year-old visual artist living and working in Istanbul. Though I was born here, like the majority of Istanbulites, I have my roots in different regions of Anatolia. It’s not really easy to survive as an artist in Turkey, but that is the path I chose.
I live with [my cat] Minnosh in our home! I am so grateful for her presence and feel blessed to be chosen by her. She is one of the kindest souls I have ever met and yet a great inspiration as a survivor. It may sound funny but somehow she reminds me of my beloved grandmother who was a very strong woman… Minnosh (Turkish for “little darling”) came into my life years ago when she was a stray. She would spend the day at my studio and would leave with me at the end of the day.
Sometimes, especially during cold winters, she would follow me to my apartment and spend the night there. Strays are usually very anxious if they don’t have access to go out and it is not easy (in my opinion also not fair) to force them to stay inside. So she was not into being a house cat until the day she had a car accident. She suffered a broken leg and tail. After several surgeries at the vet, I took her home. It’s been 3 years now and she shows no more interest in going outside. She is 11 or 12 years old, having a happy, peaceful retirement at home.
For readers who may not be aware of Istanbul and the special place cats have there, can you tell us a little bit about the city and its relationship with cats?
It has always been a cat city and it is even more today. Istanbul is a big metropolis of more than 16 million inhabitants. As someone who was born and grew up in Istanbul, there are some quarters even I’ve never visited.
The life, culture and social habits vary from neighborhood to neighborhood; whether those neighborhoods are upper or lower class, secular or conservative, strays are everywhere and people take care of them.
For the last few years almost all shops, markets, cafes and even shopping malls or hotels have started to put food cans and shelters in front of their door and some even host them inside. As a good example, a few years ago during snowy winter days, a fashion store opened its doors to stray cats and dogs for them to pass the cold nights inside. Best advertisement ever!
People in Istanbul have the common manner to take care of the animals, punish the ones who treat them badly and reward those who do good things. In my quarter you may see several cat houses and some of them are made by real estate agencies with their logo on the top! In addition, local authorities have special units for strays: They have a 24/7 emergency service, they do sterilization and bring them back to their neighborhood, they vaccinate stray dogs and replace cat/dog houses on the streets. It’s not all rainbows and flowers, but I think things are improving.
Is caring for cats an unwritten rule among the people of Istanbul? Is it embedded in the culture?
Not only the cats but also the dogs and the birds. Although it varies from region to region, it looks like this has been part of our culture for a long time. An important element of Ottoman architecture, for example, is bird shelters on building facades.
Beginning in the 20th century the city was famous for its dogs. Sultan Mahmud II, who could be considered as a dictator of his time, initiated some strict restrictions, in an attempt to westernize the country and institute so-called civilization reforms. One of his decrees was to deport a thousand stray dogs to an isolated island off Istanbul. Despite being a totalitarian dictator, Mahmud II bent to the will of the people who wanted the dogs back, so they were brought back.
People usually say that the love for cats among Turkish people finds its roots in Islam, but it cannot be the only reason, because dogs who are considered “dirty” according to religion are well protected too. Recently the municipality of Konya, which is the most conservative city of Turkey, started a new program to rehabilitate dogs and place them in new homes, with a monthly stipend for caretaking expenses.
With regard to cats, it is said that the story of cats’ domestication had started in Anatolia as the most ancient land where agriculture was developed. That could be another reason why we are a whale for the cats. However I was surprised to see the absence of cats in the east of Turkey; there were really very few even in Van which is famous for its cats. Istanbul and probably the west coast of Turkey has the majority of the cat population in the whole country.
Recently there was a viral video of a man pushing a cart through the street in Istanbul when he came upon a cat drinking from rainwater collected in a puddle in the street. The man waited patiently for the cat to finish drinking, then went on his way. Is that a common scene there? Have you seen any simple acts of kindness toward cats?
Although there are some people who aren’t so nice to cats, yes, this kind of kindness is common and I see it all the time, not only in Istanbul but almost all around in Turkey. There is this story about prophet Mohammed: he wanted to get up but a cat was sleeping on the sleeve of his cardigan. Instead of waking the cat up, he cut his sleeve off. That kind of story might have a cultural impact and influence the behavior of Muslims.
A few weeks ago Izmir (a city of 4.3 million on Turkey’s Aegean coast) had a terrible earthquake, which caused around 100 dead and 1,000 wounded. Rescue teams worked hard to save the animals as much as they did for people. They kept the rescued cats in a shelter, looked for their humans or tried to find new homes for them.
You care for three friendly-looking cats who clearly know and trust you. How’d you get to know them and earn their trust? Do they just hang out at your home?
It is my studio, actually. I have a direct entry from the street so it allows me to be closer to the strays in the neighborhood. I knew their mother and would feed her too. They were all wild, and wouldn’t let me get closer or touch them. Once their mother abandoned them, they didn’t leave the area and I kept feeding them.
Sometimes I’d leave the door open and they’d come in. That’s how they eventually understood that I was harmless. One of them vanished; probably someone in the neighborhood adopted her. One shows no sign of interest in bonding with me. He is very distant but at least doesn’t run away when I go closer. However the other starts to let me pet him and enjoys it very much. I call him Osman.
Those of us living outside Turkey have seen photos of cats casually walking wherever they please: Entering office buildings, shops, homes, government offices. Do cats have free reign in Istanbul? Does anyone ever stop them from going where they please?
Well of course there must be some places they cannot go in but if it’s a private business, such as a restaurant or a shop, the owners would fear to get on the wrong side of people if they don’t get along with the cats. So even if they don’t like it, it’s kind of a must for such a place to welcome the strays.
On second thought, yes, I think they are welcomed almost everywhere. You would see them sitting, lying, sleeping in very awkward places and nobody would disturb them. I don’t know if you have seen the video of the cat messing with the Istanbul Symphony Orchestra players and stayed on the stage during the concert.
Although people of Turkey are quite polarized in terms of almost everything, when it is about animals, they unite and show a common reaction. At least no one objects when it comes to fighting for animal rights.
To be honest I couldn’t live in a city where the cats are absent. I feel very isolated and alone when I go out of Turkey, especially in European cities.
Since there are so many street cats in Istanbul — an estimated 125,000 — what about house cats? Is it common for the people of Istanbul to keep cats as house pets? Are those cats kept indoors or do they wander the streets too?
It is more common now than the past to have pets in the house and they are mostly cats rather than dogs. The old generation also had the culture to take care of the animals, but only if they were out of the house. Whereas many of them lived in stand-alone houses with gardens, most of us now live in apartments. Unfortunately, it is not possible for a house cat to go in and out [of an apartment]. I, for example, know only one house cat who goes around in my neighborhood.
Why do you love cats?
I grew up as an only child and was quite introverted. This is probably why I have always been passionate about bonding and getting to know the animals, although my parents were old fashioned and wouldn’t allow me to adopt one.
We would spend the summer holidays on an island of Istanbul, where our house was in the heart of the forest and surrounded by feral cats. I would chase them all day long but most wouldn’t allow me to get closer. My passion for observing their behaviors made me admire them. I probably understand and know cats better than I do humans. In my opinion they are the strongest animals in terms of evolution with their ability to adapt to humanity without compromising their nature.
And finally, is there anything I didn’t ask, but should have? Is there anything you’d like to tell our readers about you, your city or the cats there?
I mostly talked about the good sides of it, but that doesn’t mean everything is perfect. The biggest problem is, we still don’t have a proper animal rights law in Turkey. Animal abusers or killers exist and they don’t get sentenced for their crime but only pay a small account of money.
If the animal has an owner, it’s considered as damage to property and has a more strict penalty. This has to change immediately. Also there are some epidemics among stray cats such as Coronavirus and feline HIV, which are very hard to treat. The good thing is the vets are usually very helpful. Some do voluntary service or work for a considerable discount. Yet no animal would be left alone in case of an accident or a disease, at least not in my neighborhood.
Thanks to Başak for taking the time to answer our questions, and in a foreign language, no less. I only speak two: English and Buddinese, and the latter isn’t so much a language as it’s a set of 283 different ways to say, “Feed me!” Here in the US, we could learn a lot from the people of Istanbul, their love of cats and their community effort to care for them.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.