Tag: Veterinarian

How Long Can You Leave Your Cat Alone?

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.

“Oh servant! Servant, come here at once! I’d like a massage!”

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.

Now if you’ll excuse me, His Grace needs me…

How Much Can AI Teach You About Your Cat?

In the photograph, Buddy is sitting on the coffee table in the classic feline upright pose, tail resting to one side with a looping tip, looking directly at me.

The corners of his mouth curve up in what looks like a smile, his eyes are wide and attentive, and his whiskers are relaxed.

He looks to me like a happy cat.

Tably agrees: “Current mood of your cat: Happy. We’re 96% sure.”

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Tably is a new app, currently in beta. Like MeowTalk, Tably uses machine learning and an algorithmic AI to determine a cat’s mood.

Unlike MeowTalk, which deals exclusively with feline vocalizations, Tably relies on technology similar to facial recognition software to map your cat’s face. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to interpreting what facial expressions mean — it compares the cats it analyzes to the Feline Grimace Scale, a veterinary tool developed following years of research and first published as part of a peer-reviewed paper in 2019.

The Feline Grimace Scale analyzes a cat’s eyes, ears, whiskers, muzzle and overall facial expression to determine if the cat is happy, neutral, bothered by something minor, or in genuine pain.

It’s designed as an objective tool to evaluate cats, who are notoriously adept at hiding pain for evolutionary reasons. (A sick or injured cat is a much easier target for predators.)

But the Feline Grimace Scale is for veterinarians, not caretakers. It’s difficult to make any sense of it without training and experience.

That’s where Tably comes in: It makes the Feline Grimace Scale accessible to caretakers, giving us another tool to gauge our cats’ happiness and physical condition. With Tably we don’t have to go through years of veterinary training to glean information from our cats’ expressions, because the software is doing it for us.

Meanwhile, I used MeowTalk early in the morning a few days ago when Buddy kept meowing insistently at me. When Bud wants something he tends to sound whiny, almost unhappy. Most of the time I can tell what he wants, but sometimes he seems frustrated that his slow human isn’t understanding him.

I had put down a fresh bowl of wet food and fresh water minutes earlier. His litter box was clean. He had time to relax on the balcony the previous night in addition to play time with his laser toy.

So what did Buddy want? Just some attention and affection, apparently:

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I’m still not sure why Buddy apparently speaks in dialogue lifted from a cheesy romance novel, but I suppose the important thing is getting an accurate sense of his mood. 🙂

So with these tools now at our disposal, how much can artificial intelligence really tell us about our cats?

As always, there should be a disclaimer here: AI is a misnomer when it comes to machine learning algorithms, which are not actually intelligent.

It’s more accurate to think of these tools as software that learns to analyze a very specific kind of data and output it in a way that’s useful and makes sense to the end users. (In this case the end users are us cat servants.)

Like all machine learning algorithms, they must be “trained.” If you want your algorithm to read feline faces, you’ve got to feed it images of cats by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even by the millions. The more cat faces the software sees, the better it gets at recognizing when something looks off.

At this point, it’s difficult to say how much insight these tools provide. Personally I feel they’ve helped me understand my cat better, but I also realize it’s early days and this kind of software improves when more people use it, providing data and feedback. (Think of it like Waze, which works well because 140 million drivers have it enabled when they’re behind the wheel and feeding real-time data to the server.)

I was surprised when, in response to my earlier posts about MeowTalk and similar efforts, most of PITB’s readers didn’t seem to share the same enthusiasm.

And that, I think, is the key here: Managing expectations. When I downloaded Waze for the first time it had just launched and was pretty much useless. Months later, with a healthy user base, it became the best thing to happen to vehicle navigation since the first GPS units replaced those bulky maps we all relied on. Waze doesn’t just give you information — it analyzes real-time traffic data and finds alternate routes, taking you around construction zones, car accident scenes, clogged highways and congested shopping districts. Waze will even route you around unplowed or poorly plowed streets in a snowstorm.

If Tably and MeowTalk seem underwhelming to you, give them time. If enough of us embrace the technology, it will mature and we’ll have powerful new tools that not only help us find problems before they become serious, but also help us better understand our feline overlords — and strengthen the bonds we share with them.

Buddy is bored
Buddy’s bored of all this AI talk and wants a snack.

Cat Alcatraz: Brazil’s Island of Abandoned Felines

In 2012, veterinarian Amélia Oliveira started a program to trap and neuter hundreds of cats who had been abandoned at Ilha Furtada, an island about 20 miles west of Rio de Janeiro.

Known as Ilha dos Gatos — island of the cats — the island was teeming with starving former pets and their feral offspring. Ilha Furtada has no natural source of drinking water, Oliveira said, and cats without hunting skills would quickly starve.

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Ilha Furtada became a curiosity for boaters and fishermen, and a sore spot for cat advocates trying to stop people from dumping animals there.

With the help of others, Oliveira began a program to end the misery on what’s been called “Cat Alcatraz”: The group managed to neuter more than 380 cats. Former pets were adopted out to new homes, but the ferals would need to remain on the island, so volunteers began feeding them and bringing fresh water on a regular schedule.

With the cooperation of local authorities, the group put up signage around the island and the coast warning that abandoning pets is illegal and asking people not to interfere with the island cats. There were plans for an official survey to quantify the feline population, an initiative to use cameras to dissuade people from dumping their pets on the island…

…and then came the Coronavirus pandemic.

Whatever gains Oliveira and company made over eight years have now been erased as Brazil — one of the countries hardest hit by the virus — has suffered more than 450,000 deaths officially (and likely much more uncounted) and an economy wrecked by waves of infection and lockdown.

ilhafurtado
A “feline shantytown” on Ilha Furtada.

Many owners could no longer afford to feed themselves or their cats while others died, leaving their cats at the mercy of relatives and landlords. Once again, people began abandoning their pets on Ilha Furtada.

“If you don’t take them, they’re going out to Island of the Cats,” people would tell shelter operators, a veterinarian told the Washington Post’s Terrence McKoy.

While the feline population of Furtada Island increased, resources dwindled as lockdowns prevented volunteers from delivering food and water as often as they had in the past.

Now the island has “the appearance of a feline shantytown,” dotted with dilapidated and hastily-constructed shelters for its resident felines.

I recommend reading the entire story, one of just a few highlighting the toll the pandemic has taken on pets.

Brazil Cat Island
Volunteers from Animal Heart Protectors fill a dispenser with food for cats on Furtada Island, popularly known as “Island of the Cats,” in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Credit: AP/Silvia Izquierdo)

Vet’s Lawyer: He Wasn’t Abusing A Cat, He Was ‘Appearing To Abuse A Cat’

The Alabama veterinarian accused of brutalizing a cat he was supposed to be treating pleaded not guilty to criminal charges at his first court hearing on Tuesday, but his legal woes are far from over.

In addition to the two charges of animal cruelty lodged against him by the Ozark Police Department, an ongoing criminal probe and an investigation by the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medicine, veterinarian Richard Timothy Logan now faces a lawsuit from the abused cat’s owners, Richard and Christina Miller.

The 65-year-old veterinarian, who has been practicing animal medicine since 1982, drew the ire of animal rights activists and cat lovers across the country this week after a new video showed a man identified as Logan punching, choking and dropping a cat he was supposed to be treating at the Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital in Ozark, Alabama.

The video shows two separate incidents that happened after the Millers brought their 21-year-old cat, Mimi, in for routine tests and shots in November of 2020.

“(Dr. Logan) is dangling the cat like a hangman’s noose in one video,” said Will Matthews, the Millers’ attorney. “In the other video, he punches the cat as hard as he can punch right in the cat’s mouth.”

Richard Timothy Logan mugshot

The videos, which were combined into one clip, were uploaded by Carrie Pritt, a former employee at the animal hospital.

WTVY, a local news station in Alabama, inexplicably seemed to blame Pritt for the ensuing outrage, saying she “hatched her plan to record Logan after discussing concerns about [him] with friends for several months.”

Hatched her plan? She recorded the vicious abuse of a cat because she was horrified by what she saw. The fact that she was prepared to record the incident strongly suggests it wasn’t the first of its kind.

The natural question is: What had Logan allegedly done in the past that would prompt Pritt to record him? WTVY didn’t ask that question. Instead, at the behest of Logan’s attorney, David Harrison, the station aired a story saying Pritt had taken her own dog in to be treated by Logan months after the November incident with Mimi the cat.

Here’s the bush league lede from the web version of WTVY’s story:

Though her secret recording led to the arrest of an Ozark veterinarian, a woman apparently trusted that vet enough that she later allowed him to treat her dog. However, her attorney said her dog did not receive treatment, though she went to the clinic.

Matthews, who also represents Pritt, said the former employee stopped by the animal hospital to pick up paperwork and was there less than 10 minutes. Her dog was not treated there, he said.

But the TV station ignored that in favor of a headline saying Pritt “trusted [Logan] with her dog.”

Several WTVY stories about the incident also include variations of this line: “Videos posted Facebook on or about April 5 by a former clinic employee shows the incidents, though it is not clear if other circumstances contributed.” [Emphasis ours.]

It’s not clear if other circumstances contributed? Can anyone at WTVY give us a single reason why a veterinarian — a man whose job is to treat animals — would punch, slap, drop and choke a cat in his care?

If the man has been in practice since 1982, as his attorney says, then after four decades as a veterinarian, shouldn’t he know how to restrain a scared cat? That’s a basic, essential part of the job, as is basic compassion for scared and suffering animals.

It turns out the TV station was simply parroting Logan’s attorney, who told the station that the video “shows Logan appearing to abuse a cat, though contributing circumstances, if any, are not known.”

Translation from absurd lawyerspeak: Harrison says Logan wasn’t abusing Mimi, he was just “appearing to abuse a cat,” and besides, the cat must have done something to deserve it.

We’re sure that’s very reassuring to Logan’s clients: “Sorry, we had to beat the everliving crap out of your dog because he didn’t like being on the exam table, you know how it is. That’ll be $250 for the examination and another $125 for the blood work.”

Veterinarians take an oath to relieve animal suffering and to protect animal health and welfare. Allegedly abusing a terrified, screaming cat is nowhere in the job description.

If this nasty mess doesn’t prompt you to take a shower, Logan’s attorney garnishes it with the rotten cherry on top by invoking America’s war dead in an outlandish claim that uploading and sharing the video is unlawful. Harrison — who has already said he’s instructed his client to sue everyone who’s posted the video online — doesn’t seem to understand the difference between due process in court and the public’s right to know a veterinarian in their community is allegedly abusing animals.

“1.5 million Americans have died on foreign soil for us to have the right to be innocent until proven guilty,” Harrison told WTVY.

Cops: Vid Shows Alabama Vet Brutally Abusing Cat

UPDATE: Veterinarian Richard Timothy Logan has pleaded not guilty and the cat’s owners have filed a civil lawsuit against him. Read more here: Vet’s Lawyer: He Wasn’t Abusing A Cat, He Was ‘Appearing To Abuse A Cat’


A longtime veterinarian in Alabama has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty for hitting, choking and dropping a terrified cat in his exam room, according to police.

Richard Timothy Logan, 65, is a veterinarian at Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital in Ozark, Alabama.

A man identified as Logan was examining a calico cat in November, in an exam room at the animal hospital when he grabbed the cat by the scruff of her neck and punched her on the top of her head with a closed fist, video of the exam shows. Still holding the cat by her scruff, he slammed her down onto the exam table, then did it again more forcefully.

Logan then swiped the cat off the exam table, causing her to fall to the floor.

Logan steps out of the frame for several seconds, then the video cuts forward, showing Logan again with his hands on the cat as a veterinary assistant holds the terrified, screaming feline down.

He punches the cat a second time, makes an annoyed gesture, then picks the cat up by her collar and dangles her as she struggles.

Animal rights activists and local people outraged by the video protested outside Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital this week, holding signs of the abused calico and demanding the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medicine — which is conducting its own investigation separate from the criminal probe — revoke Logan’s license.

“We’re hoping for awareness, first of all, of animal abuse and we’re hoping that Dr. Logan will lose his license,” cat owner Rhonda Eller told Alabama’s Dothan Eagle. “There should not be veterinarians that don’t love animals and care for animals. Obviously, they should choose a different profession.”

Some of the protesters were clients of the animal hospital, and were alarmed not only by what they saw on the video — which was anonymously posted to Facebook on April 5 — but what may have happened behind closed doors when they brought their own pets in.

“I’ve been coming here so long, leaving my animals overnight [or] for a week when he said they needed it,” Michele Brown, a client of the hospital, told the Eagle. “What has happened to my animals while they were here and I never knew it?”

Neither Logan nor the animal hospital have issued public statements on the allegations, but Logan’s attorney, David Harrison, is acting as if the video does not show his client terrorizing a cat who was supposed to be in his care.

“He is a good veterinarian and people are destroying this man’s reputation,” Harrison told WTVY, an Alabama local news station. “I have instructed Dr. Logan to file a lawsuit against all who have smeared lies on social media. Facebook is not a court of law.”

Animal abuse protesters
Protesters stand across from Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital in Ozark, Alabama, this week.

Logan was charged with two counts of cruelty to animals.

Under Alabama law, if Logan is convicted, the most severe potential sentence is a $3,000 fine and up to one year in county jail. Because he doesn’t have priors, if he’s convicted he’s not likely to serve any jail time. Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor in Alabama’s penal code.

In the meantime, comments from Dale County District Attorney Kirke Adams do not sound promising.

“While this video is deeply concerning, I would like to take this opportunity to implore people to have this same concern over child victim crimes and gun violence,” Adams said, appearing to downplay the severity of the allegations against Logan.

The cat “is alive and doing better with its owner,” Ozark police wrote in a statement posted to Facebook. Cops say they’ve interviewed the owner as well as “other witnesses.” It’s not clear if those witnesses include the veterinary tech who was present or other employees at the animal hospital, nor did police say who filmed the abuse.

Top photo: Richard Timothy Logan mugshot courtesy Ozark Police Department

Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.