Friday, September 24, 2010

Family, pets, and feral populations

In Russia there are dogs that have figured out how to use the subway system to travel to locations with better food. From what I can tell, most Russians aren't particularly bothered. The article there calls them stray, but I've seen them also referred to as feral dogs the way that we refer to feral cats in the US.

In the US, 30% of Americans consider pets family but Trap, Neuter Return (TNR) groups, such as Alley Cat Allies, always have a tough sell convincing people not to just poison feral cat colonies.

I feel like these are related somehow but I'm not sure. Maybe because so many Americans do have a familial relationship with their pets, it's more difficult for us to accept feral cat colonies?  I don't have an answer yet but I want to explore and find one.

In England, it's considered best for cats to be outdoor animals or at least only confined inside at night. In the US we build giant catios (patios for cats) to keep our kitties entertained while also safe and secure, as we point to figures showing that indoor cats live significantly longer. We round up strays and bring them to shelters and seem certain that this is the way to handle things.

In Italy, we saw a ton of freely roaming dogs and cats. The winery where we stayed fed and cared for a dog and a cat that had shown up in the past and hung around, but they weren't allowed inside the buildings because that would be considered dirty.

I do volunteer at an open access shelter and my gut reaction is that it's better not to let strays wander all over the city. I also support TNR and not taking feral cats into a shelter where they will likely end up euthanized or miserable. In the southern US, a far smaller percentage of pets are fixed than in the northeastern US. I want to know why.

Yes, part of me wants to know why the differences are there because I think that trying to change people's behavior (i.e. get more people to spay/neuter) without first understanding the reason for that behavior is doomed to failure. A large part of it is simply a desire to know more and explore.

A cat-like curiosity if you will.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Monday Bit of Cute

I've been trying to get some cleaning done this holiday but was just distracted by how sweet Toby was being with his new "friend." My nana had a collection of small stuffed dogs that she gave me to me when she started preparing for the day that she and my grandpa might have to move into a nursing home.

If you don't already know, my nana and grandpa were the first to really teach me about dogs and how to interact with them. I really credit them and their dog Mickey with inspiring my love of animals so it means a lot that she gave me her little stuffed dogs. I have no qualms about a respectful display of stuffed animals in an adult apartment. There are also Andy Warhol cat prints and a full bar.

After setting up a new headboard to make reading in bed a little more comfortable, I placed a few of the stuffed dogs there. That night I woke up to all but one of them being dropped onto me by a stretching Toby. Since then, Toby has been spending the majority of his time up there, curled up with the little brown and white stuffed dog. I tried to snap the photo while he was napping with his head resting on the dog, but Toby of course woke up at the sound of my approach.

It's still a cute shot all the same, I think. I'll be visiting my nana and grandpa in two weeks and am looking forward to telling them that Toby has adopted one of the dogs. He hasn't rough played with the dog at all, just curled up with it and purred.

I wonder if he'll be so sanguine about it the first time he meets a real dog...