Tag: outdoor cats

Sunday Cats: ‘Cat Daddies’ Documentary, Misconceptions About Cloning

A trailer for ‘Cat Daddies‘ comes right out with it: Men who love cats are often stereotyped as oddballs.

“People see a cat dad and they think ‘Oh he must be weird and creepy,” says one guy, who is shown hilariously working out his biceps by lifting his cats in place of weights. “I feel like we’re getting to a point where it’s okay [to say] ‘Yeah, I have cats.'”

Another man recalled a conversation with his college buddies in which one of them floated the idea of adopting a few cats.

“The reaction was ‘No man, you can’t do that,'” he says with an amused look on his face.

Of course, PITB readers know it’s perfectly natural for men to love cats, especially cats as muscular, intimidating and tiger-like as Buddy.

But if you’ve ever wondered what the experience is like for guys who want to adopt kitties, ‘Cat Daddies’ takes a look at several men from different backgrounds and their beloved felines, from a homeless man in New York who won’t part with his tabby even it means he won’t get housing, to an Instagram star whose rise to fame has been propelled by his feline masters.

Californians can catch the documentary in person, and help fund a good cause, at an April 16 screening in Long Beach, CA, on behalf of the Little Lion Foundation. The California-based nonprofit specializes in caring for neonatal and young, abandoned kittens, as most shelters aren’t equipped to care for them and such kittens are often euthanized if they land in an animal control or kill shelter.

For the rest of us, check out the Cat Daddies site for a list of virtual screenings and festival events.

Man with kitten
Credit: Tim Douglas/Pexels

A grieving woman explains why she’s cloning her late cat

Kris Stewart adopted Bear, a five-year-old ragdoll “with a big, bold, sassy look,” in March of 2021.

Stewart, the CEO of a senior care company in Canada, described Bear as “the smartest animal I’ve ever owned,” and said the resourceful cat could work out how to open locked doors and windows.

“What I didn’t realize was his need for adventure and exploring,” she wrote in a column for Newsweek.

After “cat-proofing” her backyard and taking Bear on walks via a harness, Stewart decided the ragdoll needed to be outside to be happy. Bear “was off-leash by May 2021,” she wrote.

“Then, one day in January 2022, I let him out about 4.30pm and within about 20 minutes I heard something, saw cars backing up down the street and ran outside. Bear had been hit. Obviously it was my fault. I’m his guardian and I made the wrong decision, and I have to live with that.”

Stewart acknowledges that cloning is a process that involves mistakes, although it’s not clear if she’s aware just how gruesome the process can be. Likening it to “human parents who want to go through IVF rather than adopt,” she said she’s hoping the clone will have the same temperament as her beloved Bear.

“I would much rather replicate Bear’s genetic material into another cat than adopt again because I would love to see the personality of Bear live on,” she wrote. “He was the most brilliant animal I’ve ever owned. Research tells us that a significant portion of personality is carried in genes so I’m willing to take the chance. I’ve said before that Mother Earth is not finished with Bear and Bear is not finished with Mother Earth. So, if I can bring back his genetic material in the form of another cat, I would like to do that. If their personalities are a little different, that’s OK, I’ll be happy regardless.”

Bear the cat
Stewart with Bear.

It’s clear Stewart is devastated by losing Bear, and we don’t want to sound callous by criticizing her decision. Grief leads people to do all sorts of things, and there’s no “correct” way to cope. We all handle it differently.

At the same time, it’s wishful thinking to believe a clone is somehow a continuation of the original, or that cloning can bridge the considerable gap between nature and nurture. That’s just not how it works. Sadly, Mother Earth is done with Bear — there’s no continuity of consciousness.

Even in science fiction stories where cloning technology is flawless and human cloning somehow exists despite considerable moral and religious objections, it’s clear that cloning is, well, cloning: Even if the clone is perfect in every way, even if the process manages to faithfully reproduce personality and memories can somehow be transferred, there is no “bridge” between the original and the copy. For the person who is cloned, life ends when their consciousness blinks out, and nothing can resurrect it.

We hope Stewart finds peace and loves her new cat, but we don’t believe cloning is right answer when grieving the loss of a pet.

Reason #31 To Keep Your Cats Indoors: Actual Cat Burglars

A Portland family is looking for help getting their cat back after a woman snatched the moggie off their porch and ran off with him.

Home security footage shows the woman approaching the Autar family’s home early in the morning on Feb. 20 and crouching down next to the porch where she beckoned the tabby, KiKi, to approach her.

Portland cat stolen
The woman grabs KiKi off the porch of his family’s home in Portland. The family hopes someone recognizes the suspect so they can recover KiKi.

When that didn’t work, the woman walked right up to KiKi and scooped him up.

Karina Autar and her brother, Akash, are students at the University of Oregon and described their parents as “empty-nesters” who dote on KiKi like a child.

“When my dad takes a nap, when my dad goes to sleep, he has to get KiKi on the bed with him,” Karina told KPTV, a Fox affiliate in Portland.

Karina, who adopted KiKi when she was in middle school, said it feels “like a family member is gone.”

With Karina and Akash living on campus 110 miles away in Eugene, Oregon, their parents have turned to neighbors and friends for help. The suspect was wearing a long sleeve pink jacket with a white scarf around her neck, along with black jogging pants and white running shoes. She’s got dark hair highlighted with blonde and while it’s difficult to estimate her age based on the pixelated footage, she may be in her 20s.

Akash Autar spoke directly to the woman in the KTPV segment.

“What you did was really wrong,” he said. “You took someone’s family member. You took someone’s love and joy. I just hope you haven’t done anything mean or bad or harmed him in any way.”

Nubbins The Cat: Is It Ever Right To Steal A Kitty You Believe Has Been Abused Or Neglected?

Troy Farrell’s cat, Nubbins, has been missing since October.

Neighbors told the Sonoma man that a couple who rented an Airbnb two houses down the street had been asking about the nearly tailless tabby and had seemed fond of her. That was Farrell’s only lead, but the owner of the Airbnb rental wouldn’t tell him who rented the place at the time Nubbins vanished.

When I read about Nubbins my first thought was that she was probably snatched up by people who thought they were doing the right thing by “rescuing” a neglected cat.

It turns out that’s exactly what happened.

First a veterinarian from Long Beach, more than 400 miles away, called Farrell and told him Nubbins had been brought into the vet’s practice for a health checkup. When they scanned the kitty’s microchip, Farrell’s contact information came up.

Farrell says he thought his ordeal was over, but the veterinarian — citing obligation to the client — wouldn’t tell him who brought the cat in. Instead, the vet said she’d pass along Farrell’s contact information and ask the couple to return the cat.

When they didn’t return Nubbins, Farrell filed a police report with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, hired a private investigator and implored the local district attorney to look into the case.

“Those are evil people,” Farrell told an interviewer in late January. “Those are people without a conscience, those are people without a heart.”

He said he’s been lost without Nubbins.

“I don’t have kids. She’s my kid and she’s seen me through so many things. And they took her, and I want her back,” Farrell said. “The second I’d open that door or drive up the driveway or go out back … There’s Nubbins just in my lap.”

Nubbins and her kittens
Nubbins in Farrell’s home. Originally a stray who escaped California’s wild fires, Nubbins gave birth to a litter before Farrell had her spayed and chipped.

The ‘catnapper’ comes forward

Now there’s a new development in the case: A man has come forward and admitted he took Nubbins, describing her as a neglected street cat who had been left outside to fend for herself in the cold without access to food or water.

The man detailed the allegations in a letter to Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick, and he’s not hiding his identity or denying he took the cat without asking Farrell. He identified himself as James R. Wakefield, an attorney in private practice out of Irvine, California.

“[W]e were never going to let that cat get put back in the living condition she was in without a fight,” Wakefield wrote in the letter to the sheriff.

While vacationing at the Airbnb in California wine country, Wakefield encountered Nubbins, saying she was “obviously hungry” and “she scarfed down the food” the vacationing couple gave her. Wakefield said that when he asked the Airbnb’s owner about the cat, the man said she was a local stray who needed a home.

Describing him and his wife as “70-year-old catnappers,” Wakefield said they’d do “everything in our ability to protect” Nubbins.

Farrell disagrees. He said the stumped tail and damage to Nubbins’ lip were from her days as a stray, when she escaped California wildfires several years ago and wandered into Farrell’s neighborhood. He took her in, he said, and she’s been his cat since. Nubbins is allowed in and out of the home as she pleases, he said, and always returns after she’s had her day’s adventures.

Nubbins refuses to be an indoor cat, Farrell said, and is well known to neighbors on the block, who also feed her and look out for her. It’s not uncommon for outdoor cats to make small circuits around their neighborhoods, visiting friendly neighbors for snacks and scritches before heading home for the day.

“That cat lives so large it’s not even funny,” Farrell said. “That cat has so many houses, so many people, so many little girls to play with down the block.”

Nubbins the Cat: Lounging
Nubbins lounging outside. Her human, Troy Farrell, says the former stray likes to visit his neighbors every day.

That appears to be true: Farrell’s neighbors have backed up his story to the press, there are videos of the beloved cat hanging out in yards on the street, and one concerned neighbor even wrote a letter to the local newspaper imploring the police to get the situation sorted and return Nubbins to Sonoma.

The police have told Wakefield to return the cat to Farrell, while a spokesman for the district attorney told the Sonoma Index-Tribune that the DA is still reviewing the case. Like many other states, California considers pets as “property,” and authorities would have to determine if Nubbins is “worth” at least $950 to file criminal charges.

If Farrell can’t get Nubbins back via law enforcement his remaining recourse would be a civil trial, the newspaper noted.

Is it ever okay to steal someone’s pet?

This case raises some thorny questions. Farrell seems lost without his cat and has been clearly emotional in interviews with reporters as the saga of Nubbins has stretched on over the months. Meanwhile, I don’t think there’s any doubt Wakefield and his wife thought they were doing the right thing.

At least part of this standoff can be chalked up to misinformation and a lack of information: Matthew Knudsen, the man who rented the vacation home to the Wakefields, told them Nubbins was a stray who didn’t belong to anyone, according to Wakefield’s letter to the sheriff. Farrell said Knudsen owns and rents the house two doors down but doesn’t actually live in the neighborhood and doesn’t know how well Nubbins is cared for.

So from the Wakefields’ point of view, they thought they were rescuing a neglected cat and doing a good thing. At the same time, any cat servant should be able to empathize with the anguish another cat lover feels if their beloved feline goes missing or is stolen.

It’s easy to read the details and think maybe Farrell wasn’t doing right by his cat, and as readers of this blog know, I’m a strong advocate of keeping cats indoors for a long list of reasons, including myriad dangers to outdoor cats and the damage cats can do to local wildlife like birds, small mammals and lizards.

But I also know how easily people tend to toss out accusations of animal abuse and/or neglect. One reader was very upset with me when I posted a photo of Buddy with his paws stuck in the screen door that opens from the living room to the balcony. She strongly felt I was abusing Bud by allowing him to hang there for a few extra seconds while I snapped a few photos.

Context is important in that case too. Buddy loves to lounge on the balcony in the summer, and he’s gotten his claws stuck on that damn door more times than I can count. (The many claw marks on the screen attest to that.) When he gets stuck he cries pitifully until I drop whatever I’m doing, lift him gently off the ground so he can unhook his claws without hurting himself, and reassure him in a soothing voice that he’s okay. It’s the cat dad equivalent of putting a band aid on a scraped knee.

No matter how many times Buddy gets stuck, no matter how many times I tell him “No!” and try to discourage him from scratching the door, he won’t stop doing it. He’s even got a four-foot-tall, sturdy scratcher literally a foot away, just a step inside the door! Clearly he has alternatives.

Not only is Buddy incredibly stubborn, but the day I took the above photographs, he’d already gotten stuck twice — including 20 or 30 minutes prior.

So yeah, I took the photos. Does that make me an animal abuser or guilty of neglect?

That woman thought so. If she’d been in a position to take Buddy, maybe she would have.

At the very least, the saga of Nubbins provides another good reason to keep cats indoors, even if they’re former strays who like to go outside. (Easier said than done, I realize.) But I don’t think there are any bad guys here, just people who thought they were doing the right thing without complete information.

PITB readers: What’s your take on this story?

Reason #94 To Keep Your Cat Indoors: He’s A Bully

Most of the time when we talk about reasons to keep your cat(s) inside, it’s because the great outdoors pose innumerable risks to the lives of cats.

People make a big deal of cats retaining many of their wild instincts, but the truth is they’ve been domestic animals for 10,000 years, and the only “natural habitat” for them is under the care of kind people in a safe home or a managed colony where they’re protected, fed and given veterinary care.

But cats are predators, technically an invasive species in most places, and they have a jerk streak, so there are plenty of valid reasons to protect others from them.

A cat in Pleasant Hill, California — about 20 miles east of Oakland — illustrates that last point perfectly. Apparently he’s been inviting himself into the neighbor’s house via the cat flap, where he bullies the neighbor’s cat, helps himself to its food and adds a final insouciant insult to injury by taking a nap in the neighbor’s house. Then he strolls back into his own home in the morning, enjoys breakfast and has another nap.

Lisa, the offending cat’s human, said she found out about her cat’s jerktastic behavior via social media, and wrote to The San Jose Mercury News’ pet advice columnist for counsel on how to handle the situation. The neighbors have begun hiding their cat’s food in a closet, but understandably they want Lisa’s aggressively napping cat burglar to stay away.

“Not sure how to curtail his activities. Neighbor is not happy with our cat’s behavior,” Lisa wrote. “Locking our cat inside at night is not a good option; he is very vocal when locked up.”

Columnist Joan Morris offered blunt but perfect advice: Stop letting your cat out.

“I think both of you should keep your cats indoors, and the neighbors should lock the cat door, but as it’s your cat burglar that’s causing the issue, it’s up to you to curtail him,” Morris wrote. “Keeping your cat indoors at night is the simplest solution. The adjustment might be difficult — probably more for you than for him — but in time he’ll get used to it.”

I understand it can be very difficult to curtain feline behavior. If there were an Olympics for being annoying, Buddy would take gold many times over for his relentless meowing when he wants something and isn’t getting it. But the one thing you can never do is give in, or the little stinkers will learn that they get what they want when they yowl incessantly.

Do you agree with Morris, or should the bullying moggie get his way?

A_cat_eating_a_meal
“I’m up in your house, eatin’ ur foodz, bro.” Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Reason #488 To Keep Your Cats Indoors: They Hunt Whether They’re Hungry Or Not

A new study from the UK debunks the claim that cats need access to the outdoors to supplement their diets with wild kills.

Cats who spend a significant amount of time outdoors and regularly kill local wildlife still get 96 percent of their nutrition from meals provided by their humans, according to research by a team at the University of Exeter.

The scientists connected with cat owners through ads on social media, TV and in print publications, specifically seeking out “cat owners living throughout southwest England whose cats regularly captured wild animals and brought them back to the house,” the study’s authors said.

They gave the owners a questionnaire to collect some basic information on the kitties — age, sex, breed, whether they had unrestricted access to the outdoors, and how much time they spend outside — then split the 90 participating cats into six groups.

Cat hunting
A domestic tabby cat stalking in the grass. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To set a baseline, the scientists trimmed small sections of whisker from each of the cats, then trimmed a second sample at the end of the study.

By comparing stable isotope ratios in the whisker samples, they were able to determine what the cats were eating. Despite regular access to the outdoors and successful hunts, pet food accounted for the vast majority of their diets.

As a result, the researchers concluded, outdoor cats hunt because they’re driven by predatory instinct, not hunger.

“When food from owners is available, our study shows that cats rely almost entirely on this for nutrition,” said Martina Cecchetti, the study’s lead author.

“Some owners may worry about restricting hunting because cats need nutrition from wild prey, but in fact, it seems even prolific hunters don’t actually eat much of the prey they catch,” Cecchetti said. “As predators, some cats may hunt instinctively even if they are not hungry – so-called ‘surplus killing’ – to capture and store prey to eat later.”

A second component of the study was designed to find the best mitigation strategy to change the behavior of outdoor cats.

Each group was given a different strategy: In one group, cats were outfitted with bells on their collars, while another group wore reflective break-away collars and cats from a third group were fitted with BirdBeSafe collars. The other groups were told to make habit changes inside the home. For example, one set of cats was fed a higher-protein diet without grain filler, another group was fed with puzzle feeders, and the last group was given extra interactive play time.

While high-protein diets and play time helped cut down on hunting, the BirdBeSafe collars had the biggest impact on hunting success. The collars come in bright colors designed to stand out to avian eyes, taking away stealth and the element of surprise from cats.

The study was sponsored by Songbird Survival, a British non-profit that funds bird conservation research and looks for ways to mitigate the dwindling numbers of many avian species.

Susan Morgan, Songbird Survival’s executive director, said her group hopes cat owners will do their part to help: “Pet owners can help us reverse the shocking decline in songbirds via three simple, ‘win-win’ steps: fit collars with a Birdsbesafe cover; feed cats a premium meaty diet; play with cats for five to ten minutes a day to ‘scratch that itch’ to hunt.”

Of course there’s an obvious solution the study didn’t include: Keeping cats indoors. While keeping cats indoors is common in the US, cat ownership culture in the UK is different — another subject for another post.

Read the full text of the study here. Header image credit Pexels. Body images credit BeSafeCollar.

Previously:

1024px-Florida_panther_kittens
A pair of young mountain lions in Florida. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/WOConservation