Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hope in a Rough Day

Nikolai is going to his new home tonight which, while I'm totally thrilled by that, is a little bittersweet since I'll miss having a fuzzy cushion drying my feet as I brush my teeth. I'm happy for him though and excited to get my new foster kitty next week--14 year old grey and white male tabby named LeCat. Send well wishes to Nik at his new home and hope his new mom sends me some updates every so often :)

For once I'm going to write about people here though for the main post. Specifically, the kindness of strangers. There's a community on LJ, Cats_with_Claws in which I participate. I wrote a post there about a declawed older kitty with a health problem who was dropped off at my shelter over the weekend and how this upset me. A girl from Pennsylvania wrote back offering to make fliers and ask rescue workers she knew if they'd be willing to take the poor cat.

Now, I had written the post because I was upset over the human behavior that led to this cat being given up (wealthy couple with a dog who had declawed the kitty and then let her outside who were giving her up because, ohnoes! she needed daily medication after ten years). This girl's natural kindness helped balance that.

It's also a rough day for me because my grandmother got worse and is in the hospital. My normal reaction to this is to cry a bit, shove it down, get through the work day, and then cuddle my Tobycat. However, in a weird way, unrelated as it is, I can't help but think that if strangers are helping care for cats and making things better on that level, surely there's enough good energy in this universe to help my grandmother in whatever way she needs right now--faith, courage, strength, etc.

So the next time you do something nice for an animal, realize that you may be helping a person feel better, too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NIH News: Fewer Test Animals

Not only did the EU and Canada sign an agreement to reduce animals used in product toxicity testing, Japan and the US signed, too!

I've long tried my best to buy products that weren't tested on animals (oddly enough super cheap Suave doesn't do animal testing according to their website) but it's great to know that fewer animals in general are going to be used for testing.

I know plenty of people who don't give two cents about animal testing (worth even less than two years ago). While I will still try to gently encourage animal-friendly products, I don't have to feel as guilty when I fail because at least our government (and other governments) are recognizing the other options out there and committing to reducing the number of animals used. I know some products right now need to be tested on something alive, but this should push more animal-alternative systems to be used which is great news for everyone.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Animals At Least Know to Be Cute if not Polite

I have a vocal tic that sounds like a baby panda hiccuping (or sneezing as this copy of the vid described it)

There are certain common responses to it.
1. Subtle rudeness: the well-coiffed girl giving me a dirty look
2. Unintentional awkwardness: "Ma'am, do you have any ferrets in your suitcase?"
3. Intentional kind humor: my brother-in-law joking that, because I eep during both Christian and Jewish services, it shows I find the divine equally in both
4. Intentional rudeness: "How long have you been at Adoration? You should have left early on."
5. Concern: "Are you okay? Those sound painful"

I have great responses for all of those reactions and genuinely appreciate #3 and, in moderation, #5. However, the reactions I love the most come from animals. Those vary greatly. Here are examples of the ones I remind myself of when dealing with 1, 2, and 4 from the people categories:
1. Toby's occasional concerned headbutts to make sure I"m okay if I have a particularly violent tic.
2. Nik's original fright (he was a very easily startled kitty), now replaced by not even noticing it.
3. The mouthy teething puppy who happened to have her mouth (gently) on my arm just as I eeped. She looked at my arm quizzically and then gently gave it a test squeeze. I am convinced she thought I was a squeak toy. She tried this again a few times that day whenever I would eep when her mouth was near me.
4. The horse who makes a similar noise when he's about to buck just flicks his ears back and suddenly pays closer attention to my signals.
5. The dogs who look up at me and give me another sniff investigation. (many dogs do this and it always makes me laugh. One friend at the shelter thinks they aren't sure if the noise means I'm a dog).
6. The guinea pig who squeaked back.

We all have traits that make us stand out for reasons we wouldn't choose. The animals I encounter help me laugh at my own obviously odd trait. When I get tired of laughing and saying "oh, it's fine, everyone asks me if I have a dog or ferrets, but it's just me!" -well, thinking of those animals makes the fake smile real. So if you have a squeaky voice or something else odd, think of how an animal reacts to it and how they're confused. It makes it easier to forgive people reactions we don't like.

Also, I try to remind myself that everyone wishes they were as darn cute as a baby panda while also sounding like puppies, ferrets, and bucking horses--it's like a completely useless superpower!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Pick Me Up

I do not advocate animals as replacements for people. However, I do think animals are a blessing and help us deal when we miss people, the same way human friends can help us.

Well, before my boyfriend flew off to spend six months teaching in the Holy Lands, there was a day I was having a bad time at work--nothing was going well and I was so frustrated and upset. Jarrod's response was to go over to my apartment (he lived in the other side of my building and had a key for feeding Toby) and take a video of Toby being well, Tobycute. That is the video I believe I uploaded. He actually took two but would kill me if I showed the other one where you hear him encouraging Toby to "talk" to me and meow for the camera.

The videos made me smile and I saved them to my computer because everyone needs a pick me up every now and then.

Well, today I was feeling tired and I missed my boyfriend more than usual. I had read upsetting news on Bad Rap about a man in MI pushing for pit bulls to be banned and made the mistake of reading the comments on the newspaper articles (both about the Michigan man and another about an awesome rescued pittie who had just passed away in the Bay area). Comments on newspaper articles always depress me. When Cleveland helped out feral cats (which totally does help resident people, too) all sorts of ignorant and nasty comments were posted in response to the article. Same thing here. On the one about the great pit bull, people wrote in with the same awful bull about pitties. I'm a bleeding-heart sort of girl and not even having the person I wanted most around to give me a hug when I felt down just sucked.

Then I remembered this video. I went, watched, and smiled. I'm headed to the shelter tonight to walk and hug the pitties there. The video reminds me that while I don't do a lot, I do provide a loving home for the kitties I can and also, importantly, that other people are doing what they can to improve the world and make it a happier place. Even if that's just videotaping their girlfriend's cat when she's having a bad day. It's little, but it's something nice that one person did for another. Humanity has a lot of faults but if we all keep trying to do little nice things when we can, those will build up and we won't have awful comments bogging down newspaper articles and ignorant people calling for the destruction of a breed.

So if you need a smile, watch the video, see my cute Tobias, and go do something nice for someone else. No matter how small the acts, they matter and they do add up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Have You Heard the Good News?

Nick has a very strong potential adopter!! She wants to fill out the paperwork, pay, and pick him up next week so that she can buy all the supplies and be around the house for his first few days. I'm super excited for my Nikolai. I'll miss him, but I'm so glad he got a home.

(Yes, this was a post title that's been in my head since I noticed that Nik cannot help beelining for my cross necklace, I know it's probably just that it's shiny and hanging, but seriously, he was originally "Saint" Nick...I think he's some form Eastern Orthodox)

In other good news, ESPN is starting their series on fight dogs tonight. I won't be able to watch because I'll be at family dinner, but BadRap said it should be available online soon. Sports Illustrated had a wonderful article in December/January about how wonderfully the dogs who survived the bust are doing. Hopefully E-60 (the show) will help more people see how amazing this breed is in general, and also help push the idea that just because a dog was a fight dog doesn't mean he needs to be put down without evaluation (*cough* PETA wanting to euthanize all the dogs from the bust *cough*). HSUS recently changed their position to one in favor of evaluation and I'm excited for positive publicity to help more of the population see how great these dogs can be. Dogs really are individuals and just like some people can bounce back, so can some dogs.

If you get a chance to watch ESPN, I hope you enjoy the show. If not, say something nice about pitties to someone. They need people on their side.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Tough Part of Fostering

Nik came to the shelter after living with a woman who was unable to take care of him. She gave him a ton of food and very little attention/exercise so that he ate so much he grew too fat to clean himself. Because he couldn't clean himself, Nik developed mats in his fur and had to be partially shaved when the woman's family finally took the cat from her (why none of them could take care of their "beloved" relative's cat, I don't know).

He spent from early December through February at the shelter being overlooked because he was a large black adult cat (already three points against people immediately choosing him) who was overwhelmed and had weird shaved patches in his fur along with dandruff from the stress (three more points against him).

Then I brought him home. He's learned to sit for his food, gets along with Toby, climbs onto the bed to cuddle with my feet, and trots to the door when I get home at night. We've figured out his digestive issues, brushed his coat, given him supplemental oil and so much attention that his fur is looking healthy.

It's now late April. He hid during Thursday's Meow Mixer while I was at class. His little heart beat furiously when we sat in the air conditioned RV during today's Bonnets and Bones. He got an application at his first Meow Mixer but then the girl wasn't ready to commit to a cat.

Nikolai is a great little cat. He does silly, funny, sweet things all the time. He tried to chew on my W2 when I was doing my taxes. He still sometimes slips backward when he tries to jump on the bed. He gives me the most intense, serious look when he makes it to the top of the bed. When I was sick this week, he curled up and slept with me all day and then climbed onto my lap when I tried to get up, like a good mom saying "no, you need to rest."

It's tough having this beautiful, wonderful cat and worrying that he'll never find his forever home When the girl said she wasn't ready to commit after applying and seeming perfect (Nik jumped out of another woman's arms to cuddle with this girl), I felt like the mother of the girl who the boy leaves at the alter. Not ready to commit? To the kitty who liked you so much? To this sweet wonderful kitty?

My riding instructor is going to ask around and post a flyer about Nik (with an adorable photo of him). I wrote a new description and took a new photo for the shelter foster page. I know that Nik lives in the now and is happy in my home and I know that he doesn't understand that some girl couldn't commit to him. But I'm a bleeding-heart and I feel sad for him. He should be wanted and adored and told that he will never have another owner for the rest of his life.

I know, I could adopt him. I've been asked why I don't by people who meet him who don't understand fostering. And believe me, I'm not giving Nik back to the shelter or adopting him to someone who wouldn't be right for him just so I can foster another cat. But, right now, I have my reasons for not adopting him.

I live in a small efficiency. I already own one cat. I am only allowed to have two in the apartment. If I adopt another cat, I can't foster. Nik and Toby get along, but they're not great friends. They're male cats and Nik is four years older than Toby. I don't mind cleaning up nervous cat vomit or dealing with a cat who hides or brushing a cat who can't clean himself. I don't mind all the things one deals with in a cat who isn't quite up to standards of easy adoptability. Nik now doesn't vomit regularly or have crazy dandruff from stress and lack of grooming. He has an environment where he is comfortable and can run around and work off some of his extra weight. I'm no cat whisperer, but I did help Nik. There are other kitties who need someone like me.

No matter what gets knocked over broken, attacked, vommitted on, or scratched--I don't get mad. There is a children's book, The Very Bad Bunny that I loved as a child because it seemed to describe me. The Very Bad Bunny didn't mean to be bad and didn't mean any harm, but always caused messes and trouble and problems just by trying to be good or helpful or friendly. I think this is why I don't mind the oddities one deals with in a stressed out kitty. I was lucky enough to have parents who loved me no matter what I broke, colored on, or messed up. Every animal deserves unconditional love. Nik has unconditional love from me, I just want him to find his forever family. He'll make some family so happy. It's hard to not go and push him in people's faces and demand they notice what a wonderful cat he is. I love him so much. It's hard to see people pass him up for younger, thinner models.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yay for Cleveland Cats

I'm celebrating more than Cleveland's trouncing victory over the Yankees tonight, I'm also celebrating the great news my friend Emily sent me.

Cleveland has successfully neutered over 300 feral cats since starting a program where the city pays $30 of the $40 neuter fee for feral cats brought into the Cleveland Animal Protective League. Following examples of programs like Ally Cat Allies and Washington, D.C.'s CatNIPP, Cleveland has shown its desire to be part of the modern movement of animal control by humanely Trapping, Neutering, and Releasing feral cat colonies instead of leaving them be for residents to poison, kill, and complain about.

Neutering colonies has proven more effective than killing or relocating colonies around the country. If feral cats are removed from an area, new ones will move in, fight for territory, and establish new breeding colonies. However, if feral cat colonies are simply neutered and then returned to their living area, they will continue to keep down resident rodent populations and keep out new unfixed colonies while exhibiting fewer disruptive behaviors than before the surgeries.

Cat calling (the kind done by cats, not unruly boys), fighting, territorial marking, and climatic screaming are all behaviors associated with the instinct and act of breeding. Once the relevant organs are removed the instinct to engage in such an act dies down and the associated behaviors to allow, encourage, and mark such an act die down as well. It is much easier on surrounding residents to live near a quietly neutered feral cat colony than by a caterwauling, hormone-fueled one where other neighbors try to inhumanely kill the poor creatures.

We created feral cat colonies by over-breeding and under-sterilizing house cats. Unfortunately, feral cats cannot usually be rehabilitated into homes with humans. They do not understand how to live with people and will not act like house cats. The most effective solution is thankfully the most humane in this case--trap, neuter, and release feral cat colonies to take care of the areas where they live and dramatically decrease the new kittens born, unwanted and uncared for, into the world each spring.

Kittens are cute, but kitten season is full of more death than life in our current world. Let's get breeding down to a manageable amount so that every new kitten can be celebrated, cherished, and cared for her entire life.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

good news

Sometimes you find out great happy news when you wake up too early and browse the internet.

The HSUS has changed their policy on pit bulls :) They now agree with rescues that dogs from fighting siutations need to be evaluated and have just as much of a shot as any other animal for being adoptable or rehabilitated.

Giving my kitties a pat and going back to sleep for a bit, but wanted to share this.

Soon I'll post photos of the super sweet animals the winery/b&b where we stayed in Italy had taken in when they were found wandering the vineyards as strays. Super sweet and obviously well-loved.

For more on the HSUS reversal