Tag Archives: cats

Not A Good Day to be Claritin-Free

When I was a little girl, one of the things I wanted most was a cat.  I wanted a cat like some little girls want a horse (say, for example, my sister). She at least had the sense not to beg.  A horse truly would have been beyond our means, but I thought a cat was quite reasonable.  They are certainly cheaper.  But my mother flatly refused, without ever really giving an explanation.  I thought she just didn’t like them.  That does happen.  But as it turns out, maybe she knew something I didn’t.

When we left home, my sister and I both eventually made our dreams come true.  I got a cat, she got a horse.  That’s when I found out I’m allergic to cats.  And so is my sister.  She is wildly allergic, I’m less so, but I think that’s due to exposure.  I eventually got to the point where I could tolerate my own cats, but I couldn’t be in the same room with someone else’s cat.  Then that got better and I could be in the same room, but I just couldn’t touch them.  That’s very hard to do with cats, who are twining themselves around your ankles and purring, and looking generally very cute and begging to be petted.  But if I succumbed, I would be rewarded with my eyes swelling almost shut and itching, and finding it hard to breathe.  So it wasn’t hard to exercise some discipline there.

Eventually that got better too.  The experts call this “immunomodulation”.  I just learned that word today, and what a good word it is.  Sixteen letters, even.  That would be a great Jeopardy clue.  Normally that has to be accomplished with drugs, but it can also be done by exposure, which leads to greater tolerance.  Most of the time.

As an aside, I have to say that I once saw an allergist after an unfortunate encounter with fire ants, and I got the standard test for all sorts of allergens, including cats.  The test showed that I am not allergic to cats, so I promptly dismissed the test.  Now that I know more than I did then about medical tests of all kinds, I know that I was right.  Tests are inadequate.  Period.  They are an aid, but they are not infallible.  I also tend to have what are undoubtedly allergy symptoms every spring and fall, but the test did not show any allergy to pollen, the likely cause.  In spite of that, I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to oak pollen.  The tests did show that I am seriously allergic to fire ant stings  Duh.  This reminds me of my former car, which had a “low traction” light.   You could be sliding across ice and spinning around three times before the light came on.  Duh.  Thanks for telling me.  Lucky for me, the allergist was very smart.  I’ve been lucky that way–to find doctors who are very smart.  He said, I know you’re allergic to something–I just don’t know what it is.

So the exposure thing has worked well for me, except some times.  Because immunomodulation (I just had to say that again) does not mean you’re cured.  One of those times was last night, when I suddenly couldn’t breathe.  Normally I buy Claritin in packs of 10 tabs, which is not cheap, but I don’t need them that often.  Maybe once every three months.  So here I am, pawing through my handbag in the middle of the night, and I can’t find any.  Arrgh!  This is like trying to use the copier in my office, and it’s out of paper.  Who!!!! I scream,was the last person to use this copier without replacing the paper?  In this case, that would be me.  So, I had three choices.  Go to the pharmacy.  Go to the ER.  Lie down and concentrate only on breathing.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.   I picked Option 3.  In between screaming at the cat to get away.  Get Away Now!  Get Away or You Die!  That kind of thing.

So I must end with a story about Fakesister.  Sorry FS, you will now become the unwitting star of this post.  If I have as much trouble as I do, you can imagine what it must be like for Fakesister.  So one day, I accompanied Fakesister to her horse barn.  Where there are horse barns, there is horse food.  Where there is horse food, there are rodents.  Where there are rodents, there are cats.  Ergo, horse barns equal barn cats. QED.

So her horse Hoover has the condo of stalls, and it’s large enough for Fakesister to keep her own tack cabinet in it.  It contains all the minor accessories needed for horse care–brushes, hoof picks, bridles, and bags of baby carrots, etc.  On this day, she is preparing to open the cabinet when out of nowhere, a tiny black barn cat appears.  (Barn cats all seem to be small and stunted.)  The cat is weaving itself through her ankles and I’m like…Alarm!  Alarm!  But she’s wearing leather riding boots, so no harm done. The cat isn’t actually touching her.

So Fakesister opens the cabinet, and what to my wondering eyes should appear?  A bag of cat treats.   I thought, Are you crazy?! But here is what I think the deal is.  My sister loves all creatures, as do I.  It isn’t just allergies that are genetic.

Politically Incorrect: Cats and Songbirds

Yesterday, a friend of a friend on Facebook posted this article: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2012/06/man_likely_sickened_by_plague.html

In case you’re too impatient to read it, the story is that a man in Oregon is suffering from one of the three forms of plague (who knew there were three kinds?), the fifth case in Oregon since 1995.  This occurred after the man was bitten by a feral cat while trying to take a mouse away from it.  The FOF’s comment was, not to mention that cats kill 500,000 songbirds a year.

I instantly jumped to the concept of, what sane person would try to take a mouse away from a feral cat?

Let’s go back to the 500,000 songbirds a year.  Is that in Oregon?  Is that nationwide?  Or is that worldwide?  And is that even true?  Who said so?

Last week, I heard a story on NPR about migrating songbirds becoming confused by the flashing red lights on TV and cell phone towers.  Sometimes they die by the thousands, especially in bad weather, in a single night. They become disoriented and fly until they exhaust themselves or start running into each other.  Then they either drop to the ground and die of exhaustion and stress, or are picked off by predators.  I knew this already, but the new thing is that the FCC has determined that solid red lights (which don’t seem to bother the birds nearly as much) are completely sufficient to warn pilots of towers.  They are not requiring the removal of existing ones, but requiring that future towers be built without flashing lights.  My conclusion is that people are more dangerous to birds than cats are.  Think Silent Spring.

In about forty-three years of owning cats, I’ve had ONE cat who killed ONE bird, and that was more or less by accident.  I figure that any bird who allows itself to be killed by a cat deserves to be chopped from the gene pool.  Birds have a major advantage.  They can fly.  A cat who kills a bird did the bird species a favor.  It’s like catching fish.  You only ever get the slow and dumb ones.

In that same forty-three years, I have never kept a cat inside.  I’ve had cats who roamed, and cats who could barely be coaxed to go outside.  But it would take a heap of cats a heap of years to kill half a million songbirds.  And then they could write Shakespeare too, given half a million typewriters.

One of my friends commented  that anyone who lets a cat outside should at least bell it.  I actually tried that once, and it was horrible.  The cat was so terrified by the bell that it wouldn’t move and practically clawed itself to death trying to get the bell off.  If a bird can’t detect a cat, a bell isn’t going to help anyway.

I think it’s just the way nature works.  It’s ugly and bloody, but everybody has to eat.  We kill millions of cows every year but we do it in a “civilized” way, so that we can avoid the blood and gore and get cow parts in a shrink-wrapped package from the grocery store.

These days it seems like having a cat carries some sort of special responsibility to the Planet.  I object to that.

Animal Hoarding

Like “Fatal Attractions”, “Animal Hoarding” is one of those programs on Animal Planet you watch so that you can say, “At least I’m not that bad”.  It’s a bit like slowing down at the scene of a traffic accident to see if you can see any dead bodies on the road.  You don’t want to, you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help yourself. 

Disclaimer:  At the height of my animal ownership I had four dogs and two cats.  I began to sense that I had a certain kinship with these people, and I had to apply the brakes.  I’m now down to two dogs and one cat.  Due to attrition so to speak.  I am not in the same league with these people, however. 

One of the things animal hoarders seem to have in common is the inability to tell you how many animals they have.  That’s the first thing that separates me.  I can’t imagine not knowing where all your animals are and what they’re doing at any one given moment.  Another thing they have in common is the gradual recognition (way too late) that they have crossed a line somewhere.  That instead of “saving” the animals, they have become the very sort of people they hate.  But they don’t know how to get out of it, and how to stop. 

Each episode of Animal Hoarding tells two stories.  One last night was about a guy “Peter” who kept chickens in his house.  Roosters, mostly.  The scene at his house was like bedlam.  The crowing alone was deafening.  And although it wasn’t shown, I suspect there were lots of fights.  (Me:  Chickens?  In the house?  At least I’m not that bad.)  He did not want to give any of them up, for fear they would be killed.  Especially the roosters.  It turns out there are rescue groups, even for chickens.  The one in this episode was called “Backyard Chickens”.  Who knew? 

The other story was about a woman named “Kitten”, which just seems like a cruel joke, because her problem was cat hoarding.  Like “Peter”, she couldn’t tell you how many cats she had.  When asked, both of them said things like “Around 60–maybe 70”.  Well Kitten had a lot fewer cats than she thought she had, because some of them were dead and she didn’t even know it. 

They eventually brought in a team to take away her cats.  The team came in wearing coveralls and respirator masks and carrying shovels.  They literally shoveled out her house, and in the process they moved out all the furniture.  Under one piece of furniture, which looked like a chest of drawers or something similar, they found a live possum.  I guess cat food must be tasty to possums.  Who knew? 

It may seem that I’m making light of this, but I’m not.  Animal Planet shows a disclaimer before and during every episode which says that animal hoarding is being considered as a psychological diagnosis all its own.  Perhaps they mean for inclusion in the DSM. 

At this point, I would have to disagree.  I think animal hoarding is merely a symptom.  A response,a behavioral response, to some underlying problem we already have a name for.  Like depression. 

In Kitten’s case, they made her live cat-free for a certain period of time.  This gave her time to think, and to re-establish relationships with her family.  The carrot was that if she did well, she would get one (ONE) of her cats back.  Her favorite one.  At the end of the program, it shows the cat coming back home, and I was in tears.  Happy for her, and at the same time hoping she’d come far enough not to restart the bad path she had taken.

Stormy the Cat Kills a Sock

Yesterday, Stormy killed a sock.  First she hooked it with her front claws.  Then while it was firmly in hand, so to speak, she rolled over on her side and kicked it to death with her back feet.  When Troughton the Doberman came over to investigate, she flattened her entire body on top of the sock, front legs splayed out and gripping the carpet, tail swishing ominously. 

When it comes to live prey, Stormy only catches and eats lizards (green anoles) and those giant roaches we are so blessed to have in Florida.  She’d like to catch a bird, but is probably too fat and slow to accomplish it.    Yesterday she thought she had one cornered inside the computer.  I was listening to hawk calls on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.  That hawk outside my window, which I still think is a Cooper’s hawk, does not sound quite right.  But Stormy intended to kill it, whatever it was, and I have the scratches to prove it.  (Note to self:  Before listening to bird calls, put cat outside.)

This got me thinking about how it is that cats distinguish between food and non-food species.  If you are non-food, you must be kept warm, groomed, and purred over.  Is it just because we’re bigger? 

And this made me think about a long-ago cultural anthropology class, where we touched on linguistics.  They contrasted the fact that the Inuit (it was so long ago that we still called them “Eskimos”) have 50-something words for snow, whereas there is a tribe in Africa (or was it South America?) which has only two words for plants.  Translated, these two words mean either “edible” or “inedible”.  The theory was that language develops in response to a need for it.  Whether or not that theory has any merit, it seems to make a sort of intuitive sense.  If you’re an Inuit, it’s important to recognize whether the snow is soft and powdery or crusted over.  As for plants, edible and inedible, it was surmised that this is all this tribe really needed to know.  Of course I can immediately come up with a major gap in that theory, which is that it doesn’t explain the evolution of art.  Technically speaking, art isn’t necessary for survival. 

Stormy is a lot like the African tribe.  There are only two things she needs to know:  edible, or inedible?  The question still remains as to how she tells the difference.  As for the sock, even Stormy knows that’s inedible.  It was more like staying in practice.  At the moment, it’s winter here, and there is a distinct shortage of lizards and roaches.

Fakename’s Animal Planet: Special Edition

By popular request…okay, so it was a suggestion by Fakesister…today we bring you the Eastern Kingsnake. 

Eastern Kingsnake

Fakesister encountered this snake while riding her horse Hoover yesterday, so it’s a miracle Fakesister is still alive–not because of the snake, but because of the horse.  My entire knowledge of horses comes from Fakesister, and here is what I know:  horses are afraid of new things, of things that vaguely look like something you were afraid of last week, and something one of your ancestors was afraid of in prehistory when you were still a precursor to a horse. 

We know for a fact that Hoover is scared of water hoses, and a moving water hose-ish object would likely be too much to bear.  We can only conclude that Hoover didn’t see it. 

I am reluctantly adding the Eastern Kingsnake to my list of favored animals, because they eat things worse than them.  They are resistant to pit viper venom, so they eat other snakes, like copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and also rodents.  Unfortunately, they also eat things I like, like lizards, birds, and turtle eggs.  Of course, so does my cat, or at least she would if she could find any turtle eggs or birds that are slow enough.  I have yet to figure out how she catches lizards. 

Speaking of cats, you always think of cats as being totally fearless predators, but they are also smart enough to run away when they are outnumbered or faced with overwhelming force.  This week, my cat was faced with just such a situation.  For some reason, she likes to come in the bathroom just as I’ve finished my shower (possibly to see if any lizards have been flushed up) but on this particular day she was stymied by the prescence of two pink and gold flip-flops guarding the doorway.  She approached them carefully.  When neither of them moved, she leaped a foot in the air and sailed over them.  This prevented either of the flip-flops from reaching up and grabbing her by the cat equivalent of an ankle. 

It’s like the cat version of a teen slasher movie.  No!  Do not go into that deserted looking house, and whatever you do, don’t go in the basement!

Here There Be…Cats

Back when the earth used to be flat, you were advised not to sail past a certain point lest you fall off, but fortunately before you got there you would reach the point on the map which said, “Here There Be Dragons”.  I think most people turned back before they ever got to the dragons.  I certainly would have. 

Unfortunately, cats are not nearly as avoidable.  I don’t do a whole lot of hating (although Sarah Palin is a severe test for me), but I verge on hating people who hate cats.  If you’re a cat hater, you need to have a really good excuse, and it can’t be mythological.  Even my sister, who is wildly allergic to them, doesn’t hate cats.  She also is not fond of their chipmunk-killing tendencies, but she still doesn’t hate them.  She admires them a bit, I think, from afar. 

I have serious issues with people who say that cats aren’t smart, or trainable, or affectionate.  Like I said, mythology not allowed. 

The people who really amaze me are those who are scared of cats.  I have an employee who has to go once a month to her landlord to pay the rent (my guess is:  in cash.  Let’s not tell the IRS.)  The landlord has a cat, which my employee swears “jumped out” at her once.  Must be a watchcat.  Now when she pays the rent, she stands on the street and calls the landlord on her cell phone to say, come get the money.  This is a woman who has a pit bull for a pet.  Go figure.   

Which brings me to horses.  Where there be horses in barns, there be barn cats.  And why, I’d like to know, is that?  I can’t claim to know much about horses.  I can’t even name the parts of a horse.  Wait…hoof.  Isn’t that a horse part?  Fakesister is the horse expert in this family (and knows enough for several other families as well) and she says you have to understand horses in the context of their history as prey animals.  The slightest twig on the ground may create panic.  You know–Here There Be Boa Constrictors. 

So horses, barn cats.  Prey, predator.  Why does that work? Maybe you think cats are attracted to the relative warmth of a structure like a barn.  Here’s my theory.  While we may not be capable of communicating with either horses or cats, I think they understand each other well.  The horses say, look, I’ll put up with your barbarian habits as long as you protect me from…oh EEK!  There’s a mouse!

Smart Dogs

I pretty much think “smart dogs” is an oxymoron, like the two most famous ones George Carlin made popular:  “military intelligence” and “jumbo shrimp”.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have three dogs and I love them all, but there are other qualities I love them for.   What those are, I have yet to figure out, but intelligence is not one of them.  Let me tell you how smart my dogs are:  if they were people, they would still be sending money to Bernie Madoff, c/o Federal Penitentiary, USA.  Especially if he had ever patted them on the head once and said, “Good doggie”.

It amazes me that dog owners want to brag about how smart their dogs are.  I mean, the dog does something completely doggish, like stand at the door and bark to go out, and the owners are ready to enroll him in Yale.  It never ceases to amaze me how much people are invested in the intelligence of their dogs, like it’s a reflection on them.  Tying your worth to the intelligence of your dog makes the same kind of sense Grandpa uses to convince himself his manliness is restored by buying a candy-apple red sports car. 

People mistakenly think dogs are smarter than cats, because dogs, allegedly, can be trained.  So let me get this straight.  Why is it such a big accomplishment for a dog to sit on command?  The only thing dogs like better than sitting is lying down.  I picture the cat watching this display of dog “intelligence” and saying to itself, “Would you look at that fool.  He still thinks he’s going to get a treat for that, even though the last time that happened was Tuesday, November 3rd, 1996.”

In the dog v. cat intelligence contest, I submit the following example.  I first caught on to who was smartest when this happened:  in one of the places I used to live, I had a sunroom (aka, “Florida room”, in these parts) where I kept the water bowl that was shared by the dogs and the cats.  When the bowl ran out of water, I would take it to the sink to fill it up.  All the dogs would follow me and stand around panting and salivating, sometimes jumping up to put their front paws on the edge of the sink.  Meanwhile, the cats parked themselves in the Florida room in the exact spot they knew the bowl would be returning to.  I rest my case. 

Just this week I dropped a microscopic piece of chicken on the floor, which was instantly snarfed up by my dog The Beast.  He spent the next hour scouring every corner of the house, growling the whole time at the other two dogs to stay away from the chicken that absolutely must be there somewhere. 

There actually are some “smart” dogs, which I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t actually had one in the past, but even that was relative.  There was a certain absence of creativity in his approach to problem-solving.  His idea of solving a problem was to eat it.  Thankfully, I don’t measure my own intelligence by that of my dogs, which is very fortunate given the dogs I have now.  If I were only as smart as they were, I’d have to sign myself up for Barack Obama’s bowling team. 


Cat Abuse Update #2

The last time I posted about this incident, in which someone sodomized three kittens with lit fireworks was January 3rd.    The youngest kitten, who was only 4 months old, had to be euthanized right away.  The other two kittens were 8 months old, a sister and brother named Blackie and Little Jim. 

Blackie was being treated in a clinic in Valdosta, but Little Jim was so severely burned that he had to be sent to the University of Florida vet school.  They were keeping him in a medically induced coma, and it was estimated that it could cost $20,000 or so for his treatment, if he survived.  It was my opinion that they should let him go and not put him through the agony of treatment.  He died two days after my post, which in my opinion is the merciful outcome.  http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/37111479.html

The Humane Society has now offered a $2,500 reward in addition to the $500 the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department has already offered.  Oh…but Brooks County said that the $500 was given to them by a donor.  What do you want to bet someone complained about them spending $500 on a cat?  It still amazes me that people don’t get the connection between animal abuse and crimes against people. And those are just the people who defend and excuse the killers. 

As for the killers. whatever you call it officially, I call it a failure to identify.  A failure to identify with the fact that this (cat, dog, horse, whale, person) has a brain, lungs, heart…it breathes and has heartbeats just like you, and it feels pain.   I think people who would torture helpless animals already feel dead inside themselves.  Once you get to that place, I don’t know if you can be helped to be different.

The Former Evil Nick

Nick is my friend Judith’s cat.  He used to be called Evil Nick, and I’m not sure why, but some time ago Judith informed me that I was no longer to address him as Evil Nick–henceforth, he would just be Nick.  I think what happened was that Nick got too old to be evil anymore. 

Nick is now, I believe, 19 years old, and very few cats live to be that age.  He has terrible arthritis in his hips.  A couple of visits ago, I tried to pet him–you know, the usual thing, running my hand from the top of his head down his back and he cried out.  I jerked my hand up like he was on fire.  Mostly because when a cat cries out like that, it means you are about to lose part of your hand.  But Judith said no, it was just that I probably hurt him. 

Oh no!  Looking back, I think it was more like that Nick was afraid that I was going to hurt him, and he was warning me.  I’m very gentle with animals, and I hate it when people roughhouse with them.  There are, sad to say, people who believe that you have to be rough with them to make them tough.  Hello.  I have a Doberman.  He doesn’t need my help to be tough.  He needs my help to be nice. 

Last night I visited my friend Judith and the Former Evil Nick.  He now pretty much has his own chair, and sleeps on a heating pad, but Judith decided she wanted his chair and he needed to move to another chair.  Grrr, he said. 

It used to be that I would visit and one of the prime directives was that Evil Nick could not be allowed to go outside.  Now, he is allowed.  He doesn’t wander far, I guess.  So last night during my visit, I was allowed to let him out. Something like two hours later when I was ready to leave, he still hadn’t returned. 

It had gotten colder, and I stepped outside and called to him.  Not that he would come back to me or my voice, but I was hoping.  I was so afraid that he would get somewhere, with his arthritis, and not be able to get up.  That he would want to come home but not be able to do it.  And I had to let go of it.  I’ve been there myself.  I’ve already made the choice between freedom and protection for cats. 

But hey, Nick, if you’re listening…please come home.  We have food waiting for you, and a nice warm chair with a heating pad in it with your name on it.

Puppy Mills…One Dog’s Tale

Finally.  The Humane Society of the U.S. has finally linked Petland to the sale of puppies bred in puppy mills, like anybody with a shred of sense didn’t know that already.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27822309?GT1=43001

As a former volunteer for a dog rescue group, I’ve seen some horrific things.  Bitches with one eye–and the good eye bleeding and infected and on the way to going blind–but still able to conceive and drop puppies.  The msnbc.com article references another article describing mills where dogs are stacked in wire cages on top of one another, so that the dogs on top are urinating and defecating on top of the dogs (and puppies) below, and into their food. 

The dog I want to remember is Solomon, who was a purebred male Sheltie.  My friend Mark bought him from a “breeder” (read:  puppy mill) when he was 5 years old.  Apparently Solly, as we called him, was losing his oomph.  Solly had lived his entire five years in a cage, let out only into another cage to breed with a female.  He had been debarked–that is a whole other discussion.  I had a problem with it.  Solly could make a sort of whispery sound, but he couldn’t bark like a real dog and summon help if he needed it. 

But once the “breeder” let him go, at a tidy price, Solly was never a happy dog.  He had thyroid issues.  He was terrified of open spaces…not surprising when you’ve lived your whole life in a cage.  Although he could live with them, he was terrified of other dogs, he never had a friend…except for Mark, whom he worshipped.  Also not surprising.  Talk about your knight in shining armor. 

The important thing is, never, ever buy a dog from a pet store.  I’m still thinking about how I feel about buying hamsters and rats and gerbils and guinea pigs from pet stores.  And parrots and parakeets and lizards. 

And while I’m on the subject, I’d like to point out that I’m not the perfect pet owner.  I think I’ve kllled an animal or two or five from neglect and ignorance.  I’m just trying to get better.  My current pack consists of two rescued dogs, a rescued cat, and a dog who is sort of rescued…more like inherited.  Circling around my planet, they’ve had to form a peaceful group, because I insist.  It seems it really isn’t that hard to do.  You have to want that peaceful planet, and not look for a dog or cat because it matches your furniture.  Go forth and find a dog you are truly saving, like my friend Mark saved Solomon.