Theron wasn’t exuberant like most people who walk through the door of the Bangor Humane Society looking to adopt a new pet.
The Maine man told shelter staff he’d resigned himself to adopting a new cat after his Cutie Pie, a gray-and-white medium hair kitty, went missing. He told the staff he hoped bringing home a new feline friend would help “heal his heart.”
Staffers showed him to the section where they housed the adoptable cats so he could browse at his leisure.
“As he perused the kennels, he stopped to examine one of our friends a little more closely and when the cat turned to face him, Theron erupted with joy. THIS WAS HIS CUTIE PIE!!” the shelter’s staff wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.
The staff had no reason to doubt him, but even if they did, Theron had ample proof: Like any human who loves his or her cat, Theron’s smartphone was a virtual gallery of photos of the little guy.
“Theron’s camera roll was full of pictures of Cutie Pie,” shelter staff wrote, “leaving no question that this reunion was the real deal!”
For his part, Cutie Pie must have had quite the ordeal and couldn’t wait to go back to his real home with his human.
“Let me just say I’ve honestly never seen a cat so eager to be in a cat carrier!” shelter staff wrote on Facebook. “He was SO ready to go home!”
I really don’t like to think of the possibility of Bud going missing, but if he did and we found ourselves in a situation similar to the one Theron and Cutie Pie found themselves in, the reunion wouldn’t be nearly as happy or tear-inducing.
“Oh my God! It’s Buddy! Buddy, it’s really you! I’m so glad I found you!”
“Get me out of this cage this very instant! These people are crazy! Do you realize they have not fed me turkey once since I’ve been here?!? Not once! And these accommodations! A bathroom and a food bowl within five feet of each other. Unthinkable! They’ve put me in with the riff-raff, as if I’m a common cat and not a king! I demand to speak with the manager! Actually, nevermind…I demand you take me home this very instant, feed me turkey, give me a massage, and then summon the manager so I can give her a piece of my mind! You’re going to have to make this up to me, you know. I expect the treat cabinet to be restocked with all manner of yums, including Temptations. I had to sleep on a pad. A pad! I tried to tell them, I said ‘I only sleep on top of my Big Buddy!’ And they wouldn’t listen. These people are torturous! I swear, when I get home…”
“I’m sorry we doubted you, Mr. Quaid. Now how can we help you?”
That’s how we imagine the initial call went when Dennis Quaid — the actor — saw photos of Dennis Quiad — the cat — and called the shelter, whose staff were initially suspicious, adoption manager Danielle Ulmer said.
“I was like there is no way this is real, like, someone is pranking us,” Ulmer told WSLS, the local ABC affiliate.
Quaid is co-founder of the podcast company Audio Up, which produces a cast called The Pet Show. Jimmy Jellinek, who hosts the show, worked with the shelter to set up a Zoom call so Quaid could meet his feline counterpart — and the shelter could see they weren’t dealing with an elaborate prank.
“It took us a while for them to actually believe us,” Jellinek said.
Jellinek is expected to fly to Virginia this weekend to pick up Dennis Quaid the Cat and bring him to his forever home in Los Angeles.
“It was really off the wall, but I just couldn’t resist. I had to,” Quaid told WSLS. “I’m out to save all the Dennis Quaids of the world.”
A female Siamese has become the first cat to test positive for COVID-19 in the UK.
The cat almost certainly caught the virus from her COVID-infected owners, authorities said. Christine Middlemiss, the U.K.’s top veterinary official, echoed the CDC in urging people not to freak out:
“There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans,” Middlemiss said. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will update our guidance to pet owners should the situation change.”
Owners who have COVID-like symptoms should social distance from their own pets, says Margaret Hosie, a virologist at the University of Glasgow: “Don’t kiss your cat. Don’t have the cat sleeping in a bed with you, and don’t share food with the cat.”
If your cat is anything like mine, good luck trying to tell him he’s not sleeping in your his bed.
Kleptomaniac cat collects goggles
A cat in Bristol, UK, has an odd obsession with swimming goggles. The four-year-old moggie, Avery, has stolen eight pairs so far this summer.
Avery’s human, Sally Bell, said she’s checked with her neighbors and no one’s told her they’re missing goggles, so Avery must be wandering further than realized.
“He doesn’t play with the goggles, he just leaves them for me. In fact, the pair he brought home the other day had a dead mouse with them – two presents at once,” Bell told the BBC. “I feel so bad in case it’s children who are being brought new goggles and they’re getting into trouble because they keep going missing.”
Terrible human beings are terrible
Someone is shooting cats with pellet guns in a Wyandotte, Michigan, neighborhood. Four cats have been killed and a fifth had a leg amputated after he was shot, WDIV reports. There’s a reward for information leading to the shooter’s arrest, and police want to hear from anyone with information about the cat shootings.
Meanwhile, the Humane Society of Utah is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a sicko who tied a cat down, tortured it and set it on fire.
A woman found Sterling the cat on July 21 and brought him to the veterinarian. Little Sterling made it through surgery and remains under the care of the vet, who’s providing pain medication and making sure the tough kitty is being “loved and spoiled.”
“This level of cruelty should unnerve the community,” said the Humane Society’s Rachel Heatley. “In the interest of public safety, an individual who is capable of torturing an animal needs to be identified and taken off the street as soon as possible.”
Talk to birders, casual conservationists or anyone who says they’re worried about the ecological impact of cats on native bird and mammal populations, and without fail they’ll bring up The Study.
Yeah, that one: A 2013 study, published in Nature Communications, that claimed cats kill “billions” of prey animals each year in the U.S. alone — including 3.7 billion birds and up to 20 billion small mammals in the contiguous states.
– The researchers don’t actually know how many animals cats are responsible for killing. Both the 2013 Nature Communications study and the 2020 Animal Conservation study rely on owner questionnaires to estimate the number of animals pet cats kill outdoors and to assign numerical scores to their cats’ “hunting skills.” In other words, the study authors are relying on people who have no idea what their cats are doing outside to give them supposedly accurate figures on how many birds, rabbits and reptiles little Fluffy and Socks kill every year. As for people evaluating the hunting skills of their cats, how exactly do they do that? Do they consult nonexistent scoreboards? Do they find a dead mouse or two and conclude that Socks is the GOAT hunter?
– The people who took the surveys were self-selected. These aren’t random samples. The questionnaires were given to people who actively volunteered to participate in the studies.
In both cases, researchers supplemented their questionnaire data with estimates of “additional” animals killed by cats. Or to put it bluntly, the research teams invented numbers and plugged them in. They’ll claim they arrived at those numbers via analysis, but again, these are studies that rely on owner questionnaires for the bulk of the predation data. Any conclusions drawn from that data are automatically suspect.
The 2013 study was centered around a meta-analysis of earlier studies, not fresh data. For the numbers they didn’t have, researchers derived figures from older published studies. For example, they added billions of “kills” to the tally and attributed those phantom kills to “unowned cats.” The problem? No one knows exactly how many stray and feral cats roam America’s streets and countrysides, a fact the research team admitted in the 2013 study: “no empirically driven estimate of un-owned cat abundance exists for the contiguous U.S.,” they wrote.
The best estimates claim between 20 million and 120 million feral and stray cats live in the contiguous U.S.That’s a spread of 100 million! How can a research team estimate how many prey animals are killed by cats when they can’t even get a fix on the cat population? The numbers matter: If there are only 20 million ferals and strays, each of them would have to kill more than 1,000 animals a year to account for the study estimates.
Headlines trumpeting the 2020 study say it’s based on GPS data, but that’s only partially true. Yes, the team used GPS data from a small number of cats belonging to self-selected study participants, but that data tells them nothing about how many animals those cats are killing. The GPS data only indicates where cats go when they wander, not what they do. In this study, as in the last, researchers relied on questionnaires, which in turn assumes cat owners have exceptional memories and can account for everything their furry friends do outdoors when no one’s watching them.
The stakes are high, as NPR noted in a story about the 2013 study: The resulting headlines are repeated as gospel in newspapers across the country and on countless news sites, which in turn influences how people feel about cats. They influence politicians and proposed laws as well, with several countries looking to ban outdoor cats.
Nuance, such as the 2013 study’s admission that an unknowable number of animals are killed by “collisions with man-made structures, vehicles [and] poisoning,” is usually left out of those stories.
After all, no one’s seriously proposing an end to the automobile industry despite studies claiming untold billions of animals die as roadkill annually.
In some Australian territories, authorities have open bounties offering $10 for the scalps of adult cats and $5 for the scalps of kittens. Is this what we’ve come to? Killing baby animals based on hysteria over bunk science?
“It’s virtually impossible to determine how many cats live outside, or how many spend some portion of the day outside,” Wayne Pacelle, former president of the Humane Society of the United States, told NPR at the time. The scientists “have thrown out a provocative number for cat predation totals, and their piece has been published in a highly credible publication, but they admit the study has many deficiencies. We don’t quarrel with the conclusion that the impact is big, but the numbers are informed guesswork.”
And that’s the important thing here: Instead of calling for a mass culling of cats based on wild estimates of their environmental impact, we should be working cooperatively on solutions to curb their opportunities to hunt, starting with simple measures like keeping cats indoors.
We don’t need another study with wild estimates of feline impact on small wildlife. What we need are smart plans and the will to implement them as a society.
Like Dolly the sheep, CC the cat’s arrival into this world was accompanied by apocalyptic pronouncements, grave concerns about man’s hubris at playing God and warnings that human clones wouldn’t be far behind.
At the time cloning was revolutionary, something that was only supposed to exist in science fiction movies. Most people were uneasy with it, and much of the public debate centered around ethical concerns.
It was 2001: The world had just gotten over the Y2K scare, the Sept. 11 attacks and an abundance of turn-of-the-century, end-of-the-world prophesies. When people thought of cloning, they pictured tyrannosauruses rampaging through Jurassic Park and Jeff Goldblum’s scientist character lecturing the park’s proprietors on playing with the awesome power of nature.
CC passed away on March 4, 2020 at 18 years old — a full life by feline standards. The real consequences of her existence were less dramatic than predicted, but ultimately disappointing.
Copy Cat’s birth didn’t herald an age of human cloning, but it did open the door to widespread animal cloning — including, as of last year, non-human primates — and eventually, to pet cloning.
A Mixed Legacy
Mark Westhusin, a scientist who was part of the team that successfully cloned CC, sees it as progress.
“CC’s passing makes me reflect on my own life as much as hers,” Westhusin said Wednesday. “Cloning now is becoming so common, but it was incredible when it was beginning. Our work with CC was an important seed to plant to keep the science and the ideas and imagination moving forward.”
CC lived as any typical house cat would, according to Shirley and Duane Kraemer, who adopted the famous feline. Duane Kraemer was also part of the research team involved in CC’s cloning.
When Barbra Streisand admitted she had her dog cloned in 2017, she responded to the backlash by writing an editorial in the New York Times, defending cloning as a way to get over the heartbreak of losing a pet.
There are now several genetics companies that offer pet-cloning services for people who want to bring their dear dogs and cats back to life.
“The human–animal bond is a pretty strong thing,” said Kerry Ryan, a veterinarian who works for pet cloning firm Viagen. “Our pets truly are a part of the family, and people want to have a piece of their pets around forever.”
Clones, But Not Your Real Pets
Except, of course, they really aren’t bringing cats and dogs back to life, and the animals won’t be around forever. Viagen’s customers get a genetic copy, but that doesn’t mean the clone will look or even act the same.
“It can be a genetically identical animal that can come out looking differently than the animal that you had,” veterinarian Katy Nelson told WTOP in 2018.
To the people who can afford dropping between $25,000 and $50,000 to clone their cats and dogs, it doesn’t seem to matter that both nature and nurture will ensure differences.
Pet cloning has also drawn the ire of animal welfare activists and major organizations like the Humane Society and SPCA, who point out that every cloned cat or dog means one less home for strays in shelters.
The Humane Society “opposes cloning of any animals for commercial purposes due to major animal welfare concerns,” HSUS’s Vicki Katrinak told National Geographic. “Companies that offer to clone pets profit off of distraught pet lovers by falsely promising a replica of a beloved pet. With millions of deserving dogs and cats in need of a home, pet cloning is completely unnecessary.”
False Starts, Gene Splicing and Clone Experimentation
Then there’s the truly dark side of cloning.
Each cloning attempt involves implanting eggs into several surrogate cat (or dog) moms, and no one wants to know what happens to the other clones, whether or not they make it to term. There’s no law requiring the companies to disclose the fate of those animals, so for now it remains a mystery.
Not all clones end up in loving homes, either. The lucky handful do, but others are birthed into the world to be experimented on, like a quintet of monkeys cloned by scientists in China.
The scientists who brought the monkeys to life also edited their genes, “cutting out a gene involved in regulating the sleep/wake cycle.” A 2019 story on Phys.org explained the consequences:
“The gene removal created multiple effects in edited monkeys, such as reduced sleep time, increased movement during the night, changed blood hormone levels, increased anxiety and depression, and some schizophrenia-like behaviors.”
Which was precisely the point: The research team wanted to study the unintended consequences of gene-editing on animals to learn more about how it could impact humans.
To be sure, none of this is Copy Cat’s fault.
The famous cat, who was delivered by a surrogate mother, lived for 18 years, a year or two more than the average house cat. She spent the remainder of her days as a typical house cat, albeit one whose vet visits and blood work were carefully pored over as geneticists confirmed she was as healthy as any other kitty.
But as science barrels forward and labs — many of them in countries with no regulations — are bringing cloned animals into this world, we should think about the consequences for animals and the human race.
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.