Tag: Washington

Buddy The Cat Elected Speaker Of The House In Surprise Vote

WASHINGTON — Buddy the Cat was elected Speaker of the House in a shocking twist ending to a week’s worth of drama over congressional leadership.

The tabby cat made history as the first feline speaker in congress after Republicans, frustrated with a failure to reach consensus over 15 rounds of ballots, threw up their hands and went all-in for Buddy.

“It became apparent that [California Republican] Kevin [McCarthy] wasn’t gonna get the votes he needed, and frankly I was tired of hearing Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert speak,” said Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw. “So we put our heads together, and we said, ‘Who’s got the savvy, the smarts and the muscle to lead us?’ And the answer just seemed so obvious. It could only be Buddy.”

The mercurial feline, whose priorities usually involve the procurement of more food, maintaining a steady nap schedule and terrorizing his human, was just as taken aback by the development as outside observers. Sources say he came around to the idea when he was told he’d be provided with a full staff of servants, could schedule legislative meetings around his naps, and could eat as much turkey as he pleases from the congressional cafeteria.

Buddy’s first hire was his human, who will be referred to as “chief minion” rather than the traditional “chief of staff.”

The new speaker also indicated he would create new committee assignments, and designated representatives Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Georgia, and Eric Swalwell, D-California, as the new fools — or jesters — of the incoming congress.

“Swalwell, don’t just stand there, juggle some bowling pins or something,” Speaker Buddy said during the first session, throwing a pencil sharpener at the California congressman for emphasis.

“Er, uh…yes, sir,” said Swalwell, who was wearing a green and purple suit and traditional clown makeup.

“Greene, get in there!” Buddy shouted. “I’ve got a space laser here and I’m gonna aim at at your feet. Dance! Dance, Greene, dance!”

buddyspeaker
Buddy the Cat, center, sits on would-be speaker Kevin McCarthy after designating the congressman as his official cushion. (Note: Image to scale. Lawmakers are really small people.)

When former speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, expressed concerns about Buddy “besmirching this august body,” Buddy shushed her.

“August body? You’re telling me this is a legislative chamber? I thought it was a clown show. What do you see over there?” he asked Pelosi, waving a paw at newly elected fabulist Rep. George Santos.

The 19-term congresswoman, who first entered politics when Men At Work, Shalamar and Def Leppard were atop the music charts, looked at the New York Republican, who had been outed in recent weeks for lying about his educational background, work experience, ethnicity, religious affiliation and virtually every aspect of his life during his successful run for Congress.

“Er…a clown?” Pelosi asked.

Buddy stood up, ringing a bell on his desk and clapping excitedly.

“Winner winner, chicken dinner! A clown! Just like the rest of you!” He pointed to Santos. “Paint him up and put him with Greene and Swalwell, people, or you’re next.”

With a flourish, he collapsed back into his leather chair.

“Boebert!” he yelled, signaling the Colorado congresswoman-turned-cupbearer. “Turkey me!”

“Yes, sir!” Boebert said, cutting off a generous slice of roast turkey and feeding it to the speaker.

Buddy’s belch reverberated throughout the circular chamber.

“Now here’s what we’re gonna do,” he said, launching into what he called his Awesome 171-Point Plan for the De-Moronization of America.

greene2
Marjorie Taylor-Greene, appointed along with Eric Swalwell as the new fools of congress.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, stood up.

“Will the Speaker recognize…” Schiff began before Buddy cut him off.

“Tape his mouth,” Buddy said, nodding to capitol policemen standing watch.

“W-w-what?” Schiff said, backing up as officers approached him from either side. “What is the meaning of this?”

Buddy cleared his throat, theatrically donned a pair of glasses he didn’t need, and read from a pile of papers in front of him.

“It says here your office sent 14,734 requests to Twitter, to delete or ban messages and accounts that were critical of you or espoused beliefs you don’t like,” Buddy said. “Tsk tsk. Do you deny it?”

Schiff swallowed as the officers grabbed him.

“They were terrorists! It was stochastic terrorism!”

“So someone tweeting, and I quote ‘Adam Schiff is a poopie head’ should be banned from social media and reported to the FBI?”

Schiff’s eyes widened.

“Please, I…you can’t! I have powerful friends! Powerf…”

The assembled representatives broke out into a cheer as an officer pressed heavy masking tape over Schiff’s mouth, muting the California congressman.

“Buddy! Buddy! Buddy!” they chanted, stomping the ground rhythmically.

Speaker of the House
Buddy the Cat, center, presides over his first term as Speaker of the House.

As of press time, Speaker Buddy had demanded a bill outlining congressional term limits that must be on his desk by Monday morning, under penalty of Democrats and Republicans being forced to dress up as donkeys and elephants, respectively, for the remainder of their terms.

He also exiled Rep. Matt Gaetz to an island with Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, designated Rep. Lauren Boebert as his cup bearer, replaced Rep. Maxine Waters’ chair with a dunk tank, and introduced legislation called the Awesome Weapons Emergency Shipment Of Magnificent Efficacy, or AWESOME Act, which would approve longer-range missile systems, turkey MREs and really cool tanks for Ukraine.

During a press briefing with reporters, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre answered a question about Buddy’s speakership by saying President Joe Biden believes he can work with the formidable feline.

“Whether or not the president visits the border is irrelevant. Look, he knows how important secure borders are to the American…” Pierre began, before a reporter pointed out she was reading from the wrong response card. “Ahem. My apologies. What did they tell me to say here? Ah, here it is. President Biden congratulates Speaker Buddy on his appointment, and has offered an olive branch in the form of a gift basket filled with vintage catnip, toys and various treats. The president has always loved cats ever since he was a lion handler in the Congo back in 1962, when he was known to the locals as Rafiki Joey from Scranton. He believes he can work with the Speaker on legislation that will benefit the American people as well as the Americats.”

Sunday Cats: Larry Welcomes A New Servant To No. 10 Downing, More Cats Rescued From Ukraine

Larry the Cat, official mouser in chief at 10 Downing Street, is now on his fifth prime minister.

After the disastrous and short-lived tenure of his predecessor, Lizz Truss, new PM Rishi Sunak officially moved into the UK prime minister’s residence earlier this week — and walked right past Larry without acknowledging him:

Note the reporter doing a live broadcast, which you can hear in the background.

“He is arriving now…the new prime minister of the United Kingdom!” the reporter said as Larry padded his way down the sidewalk and stopped.

Failing to acknowledge the true power at No. 10 is an ill portend for Sunak and the UK. What kind of person doesn’t greet his boss on his first official day of work? Larry will get him sorted in short time, undoubtedly.

Big and small cats from Ukraine find homes in Poland and the US

During the opening phase of the Ukraine war, there was an Indian national webcasting from Donbas, constantly asking for money to keep his “pet jaguars” — actually leopards — safe from the advancing Russians.

idiotandhisjaguar

It was one of the most infuriating aspects of the young war. The guy was keeping the big cats in an apartment, referred to them as his “children” despite not even knowing their species or how to care for them, and he lied to his audience, claiming he’d purchased them from the Kyiv Zoo. He didn’t. Zoos don’t sell big cats to people. He got them on the illegal wildlife market.

I don’t know if those particular leopards are among the big cats rescued from Kyiv in recent weeks, but a new report says illegally kept pets are among the felids who were rescued from Kyiv and Odessa — two of the hardest-hit cities — and brought to sanctuaries in Poland.

That’s good news. Hopefully any remaining wild animals are taken out of the hands of private owners and put in sanctuaries where they belong. Big cats don’t belong in a war zone, and they don’t belong in private hands.

Meanwhile, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Washington, D.C., has house cats from Ukraine up for adoption.

Most of the little ones were rescued from warn-torn areas in the eastern part of the country, and the rest were moved from a Ukrainian shelter just in time, as the building was hit by Russian missiles shortly after the animals were cleared out. Some of the cats were found wandering amid the ruins and destruction in towns and villages that had been hit hard by the invading Russians, Homeward Trails’ Sue Bell told WTOP.

The US non-profit will continue to work with a shelter in Ukraine, which rescues cats from heavily impacted areas.

“Right now, Homeward Trails is the only organization taking cats from this new Ukraine shelter,” Bell said. “And so, for every cat that we took from the shelter, that not only gave that cat an opportunity for a home, but it created a space in that shelter for the team to go out there and bring more cats in.”

budandwhitetiger2

A belated happy National Cat Day!

There are so many cat days, I lose track, so apologies for missing this one.

Happy National Cat Day to all PITB readers and your beautiful kitties! It’s a good excuse to spoil our little buddies and remind them how much we appreciate them.

Changes to PITB

You may have noticed, if you don’t have ad blockers installed on your browser, that I enabled ads in mid-September. I strongly dislike ads and I don’t like clutter on the site, but after three years of operating and publishing PITB, I decided to enable a limited number of ads in an effort to get PITB to pay for itself and hopefully a few upgrades that would be helpful in making the site more accessible, while also providing the tools to expand PITB’s content offerings.

Please send us your feedback. If you see an ad that covers the content, let me know. If you see an inappropriate ad, let me know. You should see ads for cat-related products and/or ads for things you may have expressed interest in before — due to the way ad networks use cookies and data from services you use, which is perfectly normal — but I want to make sure no one’s having a bad experience here.

Do You Live In A Cat Or Dog State?

I spent a weekend dog-sitting for the first time ever in the spring of 2 B.B. (Before Buddy), rising early to walk my brother’s Chihuahua-terrier before work.

The Manhattan of 7 am is a different world: Everywhere I looked, bleary-eyed New Yorkers clutched leads, yawning as dogs of all shapes and sizes pulled them along. I never knew there were so many dog-friendly apartments, let alone so many people willing to share cramped spaces with dogs of all sizes. Seven-pound Cosmo was one thing, Greate Danes and Dobermans quite another.

You’d think New York City, with its sky-high population density, would be a cat town. It isn’t. Neither is New York State as a whole.

Sadly, Buddy and I live in a state dominated by dog-lovers, one of 25 including California, Texas, Florida, Virginia and both Carolinas. Although cats are the most popular pets in 25 states as well, feline strongholds tend to be in places with lower population density, from Oregon and Washington in the west to Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi in the south, to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine in the east.

The information was compiled by market research firm Time2Play, which surveyed more than 3,000 Americans. The team also asked respondents whether they posted photos and videos of their pets online. Even though cats remain the undisputed masters of digital space, almost 57 percent of dog people showed off their pooches online, while only 43 percent of cat servants did.

Bud and I have been thinking about moving someplace warmer for years, but of course the king’s needs come first. Maybe we’ll settle in Louisiana or Nevada, where Buddy can establish a new realm for himself.

Do you live in a cat or dog state?

dogs-vs-cats-states

Keeping Cats From Killing Local Wildlife May Be Easier Than We Think

For the past two decades, a handful of birders and “conservationists” have claimed cats kill as many as 3.7 billion birds and 22.3 billion small animals every year in the US alone.

Their claims, repeatedly credulously in the press, have been catastrophic to cats: Hyperbolic headlines have labeled them “stone cold serial killers,” “God’s perfect little killing machines,” and posed questions like “Is your cat a mass murderer?” The headlines, often running in otherwise respectable publications, envision brutal “solutions,” like this one in Scientific American: “Cats Are Ruthless Killers. Should They Be Killed?

Politicians, wildlife conservationists and birders read headlines like the examples above and come up with ruthless policies, like bounties offering $10 for cat scalps and $5 for kitten scalps, government employees stalking public parks with shotguns and literally gunning down strays, and an Australian program designed to kill millions of cats by air-dropping sausages laced with poison.

“They’ve got to taste good,” an Australian scientist who helped develop the sausage formula said. “They are the cat’s last meal.”

Now who’s the serial killer?

Sadly, few people have thought to question the studies that claim jaw-dropping numbers of birds and small mammals are slaughtered by cats every year.

How did the studies arrive at those numbers? Their formula hasn’t varied much from “study” to “study,” and more or less looks like this:

  • Assemble your data from old studies that have nothing to do with cats preying on wildlife, or hand out questionnaires to a handful of cat owners and ask them how many animals they think their free-roaming cats might kill.
  • Since you don’t know how many stray, feral and free-roaming cats exist in the US, invent an arbitrary number. Most of these “studies” put the number of cats anywhere between 25 and 125 million, but higher numbers are better because they make for more apocalyptic predictions and generate more credulous headlines.
  • Completely ignore the primary factors driving avian extinction in the world, which are human-caused: Habitat destruction, habitat defragmentation, wind turbines, pesticides, cars, high tension wires and windows, which are by far the biggest bird-killers.
  • Attribute all of the above to feral, stray and free-roaming cats.
  • Take your original “data” and, without making any adjustments for climate, regional variation, migration patterns, other predatory impacts — or anything else, really — simply extrapolate the total number of bird deaths by multiplying your small dataset by the total number of free-roaming cats in the US, which you invented back in Step 2.
  • Package the entire thing as a rigorous study by Serious Conservationists, write some apocalyptic press releases and hype up your claims in your abstracts, because you know the vast majority of web aggregators and overworked reporters will not have the time to take a deep dive into the text of your study.
  • Encourage activist groups and lawmakers to push for the mass culling of cats, based on your studies.

Please, don’t take my word for it. Read the text of any of the widely-cited studies that have been reported as gospel in the last 20 years. You’ll be astonished at what passes for rigorous scientific work, and how policies that determine the fates of millions of cats are largely shaped by these studies.

The D.C. Cat Count and the importance of a baseline

But there’s hope: A coalition of groups in Washington, D.C., spent more than three years methodically taking a “census” of that city’s cat population using a variety of methods.

They surveyed thousands of households within the city limits to find out how many cat owners allow their pets to roam free. They set up 1,530 trail cameras in wooded areas, ditches, alleys, alongside streams. The cameras are motion-activated and they produced more than five million images — including more than 1.2 million images of cats and more than four million images of local wildlife. The cameras captured photos of squirrels, coyotes, raccoons, possums, deer and even wild turkeys.

They assembled teams of dozens of volunteers to personally survey areas where cats are known to congregate. Then, when all the data was collected, they spent months sorting the results, carefully keeping tally, sorting duplicate sightings of individual cats and confirming data when necessary.

low angle view of cat on tree
Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

When all was said and done, after three years, $1.5 million and countless man-hours, the study determined there are some 200,000 cats living in Washington, D.C., and only about 3,000 of them are truly feral, meaning they’re not pets and not part of managed cat colonies.

The team — which brought together conservationists, bird lovers, cat lovers, shelter volunteers and others who would normally oppose each other on cat-related policies — also documented every step to provide a toolkit for other cities and local governments to conduct their own methodical head counts. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel to take D.C.’s admirable lead.

The leaders of the D.C. Cat Count went to all that trouble because they understood that without knowing exactly how many cats they’re dealing with, where they congregate and how they behave, any policies attempting to deal with their potential impact would be flawed and could end up doing more harm than good.

Making informed decisions about managing outdoor cats

Anyone who continues to cite the old, sloppy studies should be reminded, loudly and often, that they have led to years of failed policies, heartbreaking outcomes, enmity between cat lovers and birders, and widespread misunderstanding of how cats behave and the impact they have on wildlife.

Now the next phase begins: Dispensing with the hysteria and finding real, useful ways to minimize the predatory impact of cats on local wildlife populations.

One of the first follow-up studies to bear fruit comes, not coincidentally, from a research team in nearby Fairfax County, Virginia, and yields some surprising revelations about free-roaming cat behavior and impact.

The biggest takeaway: Because free-roaming cats almost always stick to small areas (spanning only 550 feet, or 170 meters), “cats were unlikely to prey on native wildlife, such as songbirds or small mammals, when they were farther than roughly 1,500 feet (500 meters) from a forested area, such as a park or wooded backyard. We also found that when cats were approximately 800 feet (250 meters) or farther from forest edges, they were more likely to prey on rats than on native wildlife.”

That’s it. In other words, small buffer zones are “the difference between a diet that consists exclusively of native species and one without any native prey,” the study’s authors wrote.

“Our findings suggest that focusing efforts on managing cat populations near forested areas may be a more effective conservation strategy than attempting to manage an entire city’s outdoor cat population,” wrote Daniel Herrera and Travis Gallo of George Mason University.

a cute cat looking up
Credit: Phan Vu00f5 Minh Ku1ef3/Pexels

In other words, minimizing the predatory impact of cats is likely a hyper-local affair, and not something that can be effectively managed on a one-size-fits-all city-wide or county-wide basis.

This is just a first step in the right direction, and follow-up studies will yield further insights that will hopefully lead to fine-tuning strategies in managing free-roaming cats.

We still feel keeping cats indoors — for their own safety, as well as the safety of other animals — is the right thing to do, and all the evidence supports that view.

But what these efforts have shown us is that there is a way forward, and it’s not the contentious, divisive and irresponsible work that has guided cat management policy for two decades. It’s not just possible, but necessary, for all sides to work together to find solutions.

Let’s hope more people realize that, and the old “studies” are relegated to the dustbin where they belong.

The Most Important Cat Study Ever Has Been Completed, And The Results Are In

The last decade has seen something of a renaissance in cat-related research, with insightful studies about feline behavior coming from researchers in the US and Japan.

On the other hand there’s been a glut of research into feline predatory impact and public policy, and the majority of those studies have been deeply flawed. They’re based on suspect data and tainted by the interests of people who are more interested in blaming cats for killing birds than they are in learning about the real impact of domestic felines on local wildlife.

Those studies have all taken extreme shortcuts — using data that was collected for entirely different studies, for example, or handing out questionnaires that at best lead to highly subjective and speculative “data” on how cats affect the environment.

Several widely-cited studies that put the blame on cats for the extirpation of bird species have relied on wild guesses about the cat population in the US, estimating there are between 20 million and 120 million free-roaming domestic cats in the country. If you’re wondering how scientists can offer meaningful conclusions about the impact of cats when even they admit they could be off by 100 million, you’re not alone.

No one had ever actually counted the number of cats in a location, much less come close to a real figure — until now.

When leaders in Washington, D.C., set out to tackle the feral cat problem in their city, they knew they couldn’t effectively deal with the problem unless they knew its scope. They turned to the University of Maryland for help, which led to the D.C. Cat Count, a three-year undertaking to get an accurate census with the help of interested groups like the Humane Society and the Smithsonian.

DC Cat Count
An image from one of 1,530 motion-activated cameras deployed for the D.C. Cat Count. Credit: D.C. Cat Count

The researchers approached each of their local shelters and rescues for data, then assembled a meticulous household survey to get a handle on how many pet cats live in the city, and how many have access to the outdoors.

Finally — and most critically — they used 1,530 motion-activated cameras, which took a combined 6 million photos in parks, alleys, public spaces, streets and outdoor areas of private residences. They also developed methods for filtering out multiple images of individual cats, as well as other wildlife. And to supplement the data, team members patrolled 337 miles of paths and roads in a “transect count” to verify camera-derived data and collect additional information, like changes in the way local cats move through neighborhoods.

DC Cat Count
A cat who looks a lot like the Budster was captured in this 2019 photo from a motion-activated camera with night vision. Credit: DC Cat Count

Now that all the data’s been collected and analyzed, the D.C. Cat Count finally has a figure: There are about 200,000 cats in the city, according to the study.

Of those, 98.5 percent — or some 197,000 kitties — are either pets or are under some form of human care and protection, whether they’re just fed by people or they’re given food, outdoor shelter and TNR.

“Some people may look at our estimate and say, oh, well, you know, you’re not 100% certain that it’s exactly 200,000 cats,” Tyler Flockhart, a population ecologist who worked on the count, told DCist. “But what we can say is that we are very confident that the number of cats is about 200,000 in Washington, D.C.”

The study represents the most complete and accurate census of the local cat population in any US city to date, and the team behind it is sharing its methods so other cities can conduct their own accurate counts. (They’ll also need money: While the D.C. Cat Count relied on help from volunteers and local non-profits it was still a huge project involving a large team of pros, and it cost the city $1.5 million.)

By doing things the hard way — and the right way — D.C. is also the first American city to make truly informed choices on how to manage its feline population. No matter what happens from here, one thing’s certain — the city’s leaders will be guided by accurate data and not creating policy based on ignorance and hysteria painting cats as furry little boogeymen.

DC Cat Count
Not all the photos captured images of cats, and not all the felines were little: In this 2019 night image, a bobcat wanders in front of a trail camera. Credit: DC Cat Count