Tag: COVID-19

Buddy Quarantines His Human After Learning Cats Can Get COVID

NEW YORK — Citing a recent article about the possibility of humans infecting their pet cats with Coronavirus, Buddy the Cat took the extraordinary step of quarantining his human, sources said.

The tabby cat, who is normally infamous for his deep loathing of barriers, had constructed an elaborate series of intra-apartmental checkpoints and procedures designed to keep him separate from his human, Big Buddy.

Under the new procedures, Big Buddy was banned from his own bedroom and had his snuggling privileges revoked.

“I just can’t take the chance, especially not with this Omicron variant infecting everyone,” Buddy said of his decision. “It’s not just about getting sick. Did you know sometimes COVID destroys your sense of taste and smell? It’s true! What life is worth living if you can’t taste every delicious morsel of turkey, if you can’t savor the aroma of dirty socks?”

As of Friday, the cautious cat had placed ads on Craigslist and other local sites.

“Seeking Temporary Servant,” the ad reads. “Must serve my meals, clean my poops, feed me snacks, allow me to sleep on you, and give me massages while telling me what a good boy I am. Applicants must agree I am a very handsome cat, and you will be expected to write a short essay about why you’re excited to serve me. THIS IS NOT AN ENTRY LEVEL POSITION. Experienced cat servants only!!!”

Cat in mask
“Back away, human, and return to your designated quarantine zone!”

The new quarantine measures mark the second time Buddy has taken drastic action in response to fears about COVID. The silver tabby constructed an air tight, clinically sealed dome around his food and water bowls in November after three snow leopards at a Nebraska zoo fell ill and died from the virus.

A second, larger dome meant to encapsulate his human’s his bed was under construction when Buddy was convinced to delay his plans for the holidays in order to spend time with friends and family. Now construction on the bubble has resumed.

Pharmacy techs at CVS refused to vaccinate the domestic shorthair after he showed up for an appointment in early January. A spokesman for the pharmacy chain said the vaccines were not FDA approved for cats, and Buddy isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.

Meanwhile, efforts to get Big Buddy to secure a dose for Buddy have been fruitless.

“I’m not asking much,” Buddy said. “All I want him to do is steal a vaccine from a highly secure area, educate himself on how to inject me, calculate an appropriate dose for my species and body weight, and give me the jab. How hard is that?”

With A Three-Fold Increase in Cat Thefts, UK Chooses Microchip Mandate

Mandates in the wake of COVID-19 haven’t been especially popular with a weary public, but surveys show one proposed directive has almost universal support in the UK: Requiring all cat owners get their pets microchipped.

Cat thefts in the UK have tripled in the last five years, with the pandemic contributing to the increase since early 2020, police say. Authorities say they hope compulsory microchipping — and consolidating the many chip ID databases into one — will help discourage people from stealing while making it easier to reunite felines with their families.

Thieves mostly target pedigreed kitties over moggies, with Bengals as the most commonly-stolen cats, followed by British Shorthairs and Persians, according to police statistics. Thieves try for breed cats because of resale value, police say.

Dog thefts have skyrocketed as well, with thieves targeting Chihuahuas, Jack Russell Terriers and German Shepards, among other popular breeds. The price of breed dogs has ballooned by as much as 89 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, when demand for new pets and a slowdown in breeding created a boom market.

For context, an estimated 3.2 million British families welcomed new pets, mostly cats and dogs, into their homes since the first lockdowns in late winter and spring of 2020, the BBC reported. Like their counterparts here in the States, UK shelters experienced unprecedented adoption rates as people battled loneliness and depression during the initial COVID waves and last year’s long winter when the virus came back with a vengeance.

“The number one reason behind pet theft is because the prices for pets have gone up drastically,” Becky Thwaites, spokeswoman for UK pet charity Blue Cross, told SWLondoner. “This happened exponentially over lockdown, as responsible breeders stopped breeding due to social distancing guidance, but more people were wanting pets.”

Despite the spike in animal thefts, only about one percent of all such crimes have led to an arrest, according to a public information request by a UK animal welfare group. 

Police have been reluctant to pour resources into those cases, partly because the law lacks serious consequences for people who steal animals. While the maximum sentence for stealing a pet is seven years in jail, under current UK law sentences are pegged to the value of the stolen item. (Unlike the US, the UK does not make a distinction between prison and jail.)

But for people who love their cats, it’s not about the monetary value — it’s about sentiment, love and the distress to human and animal when they’re separated.

Abductions instead of thefts

To change that, a new pet theft task force — set up earlier this year to study the growing problem — recommended a change in the law. Instead of treating pet thefts as property thefts, under the proposal they would be treated as abductions, with all the increased charges and consequences that come with the classification.

Treating animal thefts as abductions “acknowledges that animals are far more than just property and will give police an additional tool to bring these sickening individuals to justice,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC.

Advocates say treating pet thefts as abductions makes sense not just as a legal adjustment, but also as a reflection of the way cats and dogs are stolen. While some thieves stalk dog parks and lure pets away with treats, others have taken to more brazen and violent means like taking animals by force and jumping people while they’re walking their dogs.

The change would require owners to have their kittens chipped by 20 weeks and adult cats chipped upon adoption from a shelter or rescue.  Failure to microchip a pet would result in a warning and a three-week grace period. After that, cat owners would face a steep fine of £500, equal to $660 in USD.

Consolidating chip databases

There are about 10.8 million pet cats in the UK, although widespread chipping alone won’t solve the problem of pet thefts and lost pets flooding shelters. There are currently 16 different microchip databases in the UK. They don’t always share information and scans don’t cover each of the databases, so even if a cat is recovered, brought to a shelter and scanned, there’s no guarantee the kitty will be returned home.

The existence of so many non-cooperating databases operated by private companies “can pose a huge barrier to successful reunification of pets” said the British Veterinary Association’s Malcolm Morley.

UK authorities and the animal welfare groups pushing for the change are cognizant of the problem and want to streamline the 16 existing database into one central repository of cat microchip registration. That will take time and will have to include compromise on the part of the various private companies running the existing fractured databases.

“Every day, we see how important microchipping is for cats and for the people who love them,” said Pet Protection’s Jacqui Cuff, “whether it’s reuniting a lost cat with their owner, identifying an injured cat, or helping to ensure an owner can be informed in the sad event that their cat has been hit and killed by a car.”

UPDATE: Airline Investigates Cat Breastfeeding Incident, Flight Attendant Speaks Out

When we first heard about an airline passenger grossing out her fellow travelers by breastfeeding her cat, we figured at least kitty was happy with the situation — but apparently not, according to a flight attendant who was involved in the incident.

Instead of purring and kneading in a milk coma, the cat — likely a Sphinx — wanted nothing to do with feeding from the woman’s breast on the flight in late November, flight attendant Ainsley Elizabeth said.

“This woman had one of those, like, hairless cats swaddled up in a blanket so it looked like a baby,” Elizabeth said in a video about the incident. “Her shirt was up and she was trying to get the cat to latch and she wouldn’t put the cat back in the carrier. And the cat was screaming for its life.”

“What does she do at home if she’s doing that in public?” Elizabeth asked. “And then security met the flight just to tell her that she couldn’t do that again, cause it was weird and gross.”

Elizabeth has since deleted the social media account she used to upload the video.

As we noted in our earlier post, the woman was uncooperative when flight attendants asked her to stop, prompting the pilot to send a message ahead to the destination airport via ACARS, short for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System.

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An ACARS message sent from Delta Air flight DL1360 to ATL, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The bizarre incident happened aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Syracuse, NY, to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Delta airlines has begun an investigation into the Great Breastfeeding At 40,000 Feet saga, after the incident went viral last week and garnered headlines around the world — including newspapers in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and dozens of non English-speaking nations.

Initially the passenger was reprimanded, but an investigation could result in more serious consequences, like a ban on using the airline.

Airline aisle during flight
In-air confrontations have skyrocketed in 2021, mostly due to disagreements over COVID-19 safety rules such as wearing masks. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The story comes amid a general surge in violent attacks and tense confrontations aboard passenger jets — and now the FBI is getting involved.

As of Nov. 4, the FAA had logged 5,033 cases involving “unruly passengers,” including 37 that were referred to the FBI for criminal prosecution.

That puts 2021 on track for more cases than all other years combined, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. The majority of those incidents — as many as three out of every four — are related to confrontations over mask policies due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Teddy Andrews, a long time flight attendant with American Airlines, testified before a congressional committee in September, recalling an incident in which a passenger called him the n-word when Andrews asked the man to wear his mask.

“These days I come to work anticipating disruptive behavior,” Andrews told USA Today. “Our colleagues are anxious, fearful. What is going to happen on the next flight? How will this passenger react if I remind them to wear their mask? Will complying with airline policies set them off? Can I avoid engaging, or would that be an evasion of my duties?”

I Was A Good Boy On Halloween, Now Give Me Snacks!

Bud won’t tolerate a costume and I wouldn’t make him wear one, but he’s cool with wearing a festive scarf courtesy of my mom, who insists she doesn’t like him but somehow ends up buying stuff for him.

The cool thing about having an unusually curious and friendly cat is that he dashes to the door like a dog whenever someone knocks. Halloween is no exception, and Bud has been helping me hand out candy since he was a kitten.

When trick or treaters come by, the little guy can’t wait to see who’s in the other side of the door. He sits on the threshold and just takes it all in — the new people, the funny costumes, the strange human ritual that involves helping children get an epic sugar high and upset stomach.

For Bud it’s a night of excitement without any anxiety since no one’s actually stepping into his territory. They all keep a respectful distance, like supplicants with an audience before a powerful but benevolent king, and in turn the king allows his servant to reward their fealty with gifts of candy.

Bud on Halloween
“Let’s just get this over with, human. Remember, you said I could have catnip AND extra yums if I wear this infernal scarf!”

Sadly Halloween was a dud this year even more than last year, which was our first pandemic All Hallow’s Eve. Living in an apartment building, especially on the first floor, usually means a steady stream of kids, but this year I had maybe six or seven knocks on the door, and the kids were trick or treating in ones and twos. (All kids are chaperoned by parents these days too. It makes me wonder how my brother and I — and our friends — survived as kids, going out into the big bad world ourselves to trick or treat!)

unrecognizable men in glowing halloween masks driving car at night
You’d think Halloween was Purge Night by how parents hover over their kids. Credit: Erik Mclean/Pexels.com

 

Going To Asia? Leave Your Pets At Home, Plus: Aussie Former Soldier Pleads In Shelter Assault

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been kind to pets, but the virus itself has done little damage to animals compared to the actions of scared and misinformed people.

After finally admitting it had a human-to-human transmissible virus on its hands — months after it knew privately about the virus outbreak — the Chinese government waged a war on pets in the first few weeks of 2020 as the world watched in horror.

People abandoned pets en masse in empty homes and apartments, while government authorities shot dogs and cats on sight to prevent the spread of the virus even though there was no evidence they could be infected, much less pass the virus to people. As paranoia and misinformation spread, people even resorted to clubbing pets to death on the streets.

Now we know cats can get the virus, but there’s still no evidence they can transmit it to humans, which makes the practice of killing COVID-infected pets even more infuriating in addition to pointless.

The latest incident is from Vietnam, where authorities killed 15 dogs and a cat belonging to a local bricklayer who returned to his home province after work dried up. Authorities seized his pets and “destroyed them” last week in what a government official is now calling a mistake prompted by “COVID prevention pressure and local coercion.”

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Pham Minh Hung, 49, with his dogs as he returned home to Ca Mau, Vietnam. Credit: Pham Minh Hung

That story follows an incident in the Chinese city of Harbin, where three cats were euthanized in late September — over the owner’s objections — by authorities who said they were worried the pets would “re-infect” their owners.

Pet ownership and respect for animals among the public has increased in countries like China and Vietnam in recent years, prompted by an increase in disposable income and the influence of the internet. Both cases caused widespread backlash in their respective countries, with users defying laws prohibiting criticism of government to complain about the pet killings.

“It doesn’t seem very realistic that the cats would contaminate the environment so badly that they would be a risk for their owner to re-contract COVID,” Rachael Tarlinton, a virology professor at the UK’s University of Nottingham, told Reuters.

He REALLY Wanted His Cat Back

Meanwhile in Australia, a former soldier has pleaded guilty to reduced charges after he “stormed” a pet shelter in Melbourne’s suburbs to recover his cat in January.

Prosecutors say 45-year-old Tony Wittman was outfitted with a fake but real-looking rifle and full military gear when he went to the Lost Dog’s Home in Cranbourne West late on a January night, holding a female employee at gunpoint while demanding to know where the cats were kept.

Wittman had called the shelter 10 minutes before it closed earlier that night, Australian media reported at the time, and was told the shelter had recovered his cat, but that he’d have to wait until morning to claim her.

Wittman, who threatened to shoot the employee if she didn’t comply with his demands, told the court he suffers from PTSD and felt he needed to retrieve the lost feline immediately because he “loves his cat and relies on his cat for support.”

Wittman got spooked and left the shelter before taking his cat. He dumped his tactical vest and other gear in bushes not far from the shelter.

The incident was captured on the shelter’s security cameras, and Wittman was caught when he dropped by the following morning to pick up his cat as if nothing had happened.

“The victim and her work colleagues are absolutely traumatised by what’s happened,” a detective told the court in an earlier hearing. “He’s aware of their workplace. He lives close by. He has shown a complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the general public.”

Wittman’s lawyers were able to negotiate a deal with prosecutors in exchange for a guilty plea to lesser charges