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A Cat Tale – Livin’ the Good Life

posted September 30th, 2014 by
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Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

 

 

“Hi there! It’s Rio here. That’s me in the first picture, basking under the sunlamp in my ‘beach house’.  At least that’s what Mom calls it. You see, I moved here with my roommate, Oso, last winter when it was very cold outside. Mom set up double adjoining crates on a table in the barn and furnished them with nice, warm beds and heating pads. Sure is lots better than life on the street!”

 

 

“I was found in a shed at an apartment complex where people moved away and left me. I was a pregnant teenage mom when some nice lady found me. She took care of me and found homes for my babies, then got me ‘fixed’ so that wouldn’t happen again.”

 

 

“Oso tells me that another nice lady helped her even more because her situation was worse. She was found with four babies behind a vacant house and was so young that she didn’t know how to care for them. The lady helped feed them and gave her assurance; so much, in fact, that she was able to nurse another orphan.”

 

Unfortunately, this happens all too often. People get a cute little kitten, but care little about it when the novelty wears off. Then circumstances change, so they simply move away and leave it because they cannot afford the pet deposit at the new apartment. Every apartment manager could repeat this story verbatim.

 

Others fail to get veterinary care and let their cat outside because it is crying to get out. Chances are that the cat wants outside because it is a female “in heat.” Many do not realize that a female cat can become pregnant as young as four months of age. Since they didn’t care properly for one cat, they certainly do not care for a litter of kittens either. Hence they are abandoned.

Now back to our story. Rio and Oso were found in different neighborhoods but under similar circumstances. Their plights became known through a network of emails. (Email through personal contacts is the most effective way to rehome rescue cats because shelters are usually full.) Ideally, all of these cats would be placed in loving indoor homes. However, many now prefer life outside, and therefore, make ideal barn cats.

It so happened that Nancy, one person in this network, was looking for barn cats to control the mice in her husband’s shop. She had barn cats in other outbuildings on the ranch, but the cat guardian of this building had died recently. She sought two cats, so they could have the companionship of each other. Rio and Oso should fill the bill.

“Hi! Oso speaking now. I’m the sleek, black little girl with big eyes. The lady who found me called me ‘Hooter’ because my eyes were as big as an owl’s, but Nancy renamed me the minute she saw me. She said that I was ‘oh, so beautiful.’ Hence my name became ‘Oso.’

“I met Rio, formerly called ‘Stripes,’ at Camille’s Cathouse where we were introduced. We were both recovering from our spaying and bunked together in a double cage. I wasn’t sure about Rio at first because she seemed a little rowdy. However, we decided that we were now starting our lives anew, so we might as well be friends. Nancy came to visit us regularly and spoke to us gently, using our new names. Plus, she brought us treats!

“When we first came to our home in the shop, we stayed in our cage (aka: beach house). After we were here for a couple of weeks, Nancy opened the cages at night, so we could explore. What fun!  There are lots of nooks and crannies for mice. Rio is the best hunter, but I help her; we usually bring our prizes to show the people. Mom still feeds us morning and evening, ’cause the cat food has a lot more nutrients than just mice.

“Rio has told you a little about life here. Let me tell you more. When Mom Nancy introduced us to her husband, he talked to us and petted us, and then he went to work. Oh, the noise! He ran these big machines that made a lot of noise, but we knew we were safe. Sometimes he stops work and fires up the grill. Yummy! It has become a tradition to share his lunch with us. Now we just hang out during the day up high, away from the noise, but always come when called.”

This illustrates several things:

 

1. When cats are introduced to the barn, they must be confined in order to learn that this is their new home;

 

2. Give them a comfortable bed to keep them warm;

 

3. Introduce yourself to them gently;

 

4.  Feed them daily, so they know that you are their food source. Cats cannot live healthy lives by mice alone;

 

5. Give them food in small quantities, so they look forward to your next visit;

 

6. Call them by name, so they learn to come when called.

 

“It’s spring now, and Mom opens the door to let us outside during the day. The sun is glorious!  We really don’t need the sunlamps now, but still appreciate our nice soft beds. We stay close to the shop, ’cause that’s our home, but we have gotten to meet some other cats and even horses and dogs.

“We have a special cat door up off the ground that only we can access, so we can come and go during the day, but Mom locks us in at night after she feeds us to keep us safe from all the wild things. Yes, we’re livin’ the good life as barn cats!”

Room for One More

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Camille Hulen

Last March, a friend asked me if I could help with some kittens she had found. They had been abandoned by their mama cat on a patio in a “not so nice” neighborhood from which she had rescued several other cats.

She transported the kittens to my home in the filthy box in which they had been found, and I was horrified. These babies were probably about 10 days old, barely trying to open their eyes, which were covered in matter.

Abandoned kittens usually have fleas, but this was worse; these kittens were covered with both fleas and maggots. I later learned that the yellow crud on them was actually maggot eggs. We set about bathing them in Dawn, picking off fleas and maggots, and then started the feeding.

I stayed awake that night, feeding them every two hours, and continued cleaning. I took them to my vet the next day because I was so uncertain about treatment for the maggots. As he flushed the maggots from their eyes, his advice was to simply continue what I was doing. They were too frail for any other medical treatment.

From experience, I knew that the best care for starving kittens is to feed them small amounts very frequently, for they would naturally be nursing on mama continuously. As the week progressed, I knew that I had three survivors!

My personal cats, of course, were curious but not happy. The older ones tried to ignore them because they had seen this act before. “Mom’s at it again,” I imagine they were thinking. One cat, though, was so incensed that he hissed and growled every time he walked by the room they were in. My two big dogs were interested too, but I dare not introduce them to a tiny critter smaller than one of their big paws.

About a month later, the kittens were sure on their feet and stable enough to scamper about, so it was time to meet the dogs. It was love at first sight—my dogs had been taught as puppies to respect cats. They sniffed them gingerly as I watched carefully.

Soon two of the three kittens had been adopted, and Wooly Bully, my 85-pound dog, spoke up. “I want this one, Mom,” he said (not actually, but I’m certain he would have if he could). It was clear that he loved this little white kitten, and the feeling was mutual. Wooly Bully would nuzzle the kitten, sometimes even with open mouth, much to my consternation. The 2 pound kitten would reciprocate and grab the big dog by the muzzle. They would seek each out, chasing around the living room, dog on floor, kitten on top of sofas. What fun!

As the kitten grew, he cried at the door whenever he saw the dogs outside on the patio. Many is the time we had to retrieve him when he was part way out the cat door to join them, for he was still far too little for the outside world. Eventually the day came, though, when he could play chase with “his dog” in the yard. When I would call him and he failed to come, Wooly Bully would find him and point him out.

So what do you do when your dog wants to adopt a kitten? You say “yes,” of course. You name the white kitten Tahoe after the beautiful white snows of Lake Tahoe which you remember fondly, and Tahoe becomes part of the family. What do the other cats think? Most of them have accepted Tahoe, and will cuddle and groom him, while one cat still grumbles. I try to explain, “You were a rescue also. There’s room for one more.” 

To Declaw or not to Declaw?

posted November 24th, 2012 by
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 Claws are an integral part of a cat’s anatomy. They are used for balance, climbing, striking in defense, capturing prey and marking territory. In spite of this, one of the most frequent questions asked by new cat owners is, “Should I declaw my cat?”

This is a very controversial and emotionally charged issue in the cat world. Many feel that this is cruel mutilation— so much, in fact, that many countries, such as England, Australia and New Zealand, have outlawed it. Others feel that declawing saves the lives of many cats that would otherwise be given up to shelters and, ultimately, euthanized.

The most valid justification for declawing is to prevent injury or infection to a member of the household who may be elderly with thin skin, on blood thinners, or whose immune system is compromised. However, declawing is done primarily to prevent damage to furnishings.

If you are considering declawing, consider this. Declawing is serious surgery. It is not simply removal of the claw, but bone as well. Bone must be removed, or the claw will grow back. Many would equivocate this to the removal of a human fingertip down to the first knuckle. There are various techniques, but all involve removal of the bone down to the first joint.

The newest laser techniques can certainly be more precise if properly executed, but as with any surgery, there is some pain and discomfort; so pain management medication is indicated. Most cats recover quickly without complication. To prevent infection, special litter should be used during recuperation.

What are the long-term effects of declawing? Some say that it alters a cat’s personality, although no scientific study has supported this. However, I can testify from personal observation that cats without claws are more prone to biting. After all, you have removed their first line of defense, so this makes common sense, doesn’t it? And, in light of this, declawed cats should remain indoors.

What are the alternatives? Perhaps the simplest is regular kitty manicures. It may take a while for Kitty to get used to this, but you can easily clip your cat’s claws at home with an inexpensive pair of clippers from the pet store. I have found this easiest to do when the unsuspecting kitty is in a mellow mood sitting on my lap. If all else fails, your veterinarian will gladly do it for you. The claws can still do some damage to furniture, but it is minimized. Another alternative is plastic nail caps. These are applied with super glue to the clipped claws and last for about a month. (Caution: other cats may laugh at the big boy cat with blue fingernails!)

A scratching post is an absolute necessity in any cat friendly home. A variety of styles are available, and some can actually be attractive. The post should be tall enough and sturdy enough for the cat to extend full length to use it; sisal rope is usually the most desirable covering. It is easier to train a kitten than an adult cat, but start training Kitty to use it when she first comes to live with you, regardless of age. Whenever the cat scratches something inappropriately, take her to the post. Catnip will often entice her to use it.

In spite of the lengths and expense to which some people will go to declaw their cats, many declawed cats are found abandoned on the street. I must ask, “Did they really want a cat to begin with? Or did they want just another toy for their own satisfaction? Do they not realize that all the furnishings and material goods in the world cannot replace the love of a cat?”

Camille Hulen