Category Archives: Animal Welfare

Neutering Week – Nov 12th-16th, 2018

Community Cats Network, in partnership with Midleton Veterinary Hospital, have organised a neutering week. From the 12th to the 16th of November 2018 you can avail of a special rate for the neutering of your cat: €15 for a male and €25 for a female. The offer is limited to two cats per client/household.

The idea behind the scheme is to encourage pet owners to neuter their cat or strays they may be feeding. Cats can become pregnant as young as four months old and up to three times a year. The problem of cat overpopulation is partly caused by unneutered pet cats and, sadly, there are not enough homes for all the kittens being born. Not only neutering is an effective way to control the feline population, but it also significantly improves the health of the cats and helps to reduce the spread of diseases and lethal viruses such as FIV and FeLV.

 

All cats neutered through this scheme will be eartipped (the tip of the left ear will be slightly cut off while under anaesthetic). This is a standard practice used with feral cats to identify the neutering status of cats without having to bring them to the vet to undergo a 2nd unnecessary surgery (in 2017 only, 18 cats were brought to the vet by our organisation only to find out that they were already neutered). However, owners can decide to have their pet cat microchipped instead, but this cost will be at their own charge.

 

If you have a larger number of cats or cannot handle the cats, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you. You can read more information about our Trap-Neuter-Return programme here.

Availability for the Neutering Week is limited and booking is necessary. Call Midleton Veterinary Hospital on 021 4623672 to reserve. All cats should be brought in a secure pet carrier.

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More Than We Bargain for

It is a lovely Saturday afternoon in Youghal and the lady is in her garden with her children enjoying the rays of the warm sun of May when a little black and white cat walks in and meows. The lady has a humane reaction and offers this little cat some leftovers from the Saturday lunch. The following day, the little cat returns and waits outside the patio door until she gets fed. The lady is a bit concerned and takes some photos to put on social media to find out whether this cat is owned. That Monday morning, the little cat is still in her garden and the lady makes some phone calls to rescues to look for help, but the answer is the same everywhere: “sorry, we are full.” Kitten season has begun and the volunteers for all cat welfare organisations are already wondering how they are going to cope…

Then, one organisation gives a different answer: they can help to have the cat neutered and advertise her on their website for rehoming. It is not really what the lady was hoping for, but it is better than nothing. And so, that evening, the volunteer from Community Cats Network calls in with a cage. The cat is nowhere to be seen though and both caller and volunteer think she may have returned home, or… The volunteer leaves a cage with the lady and they promise to keep in touch. A few days later, the little cat shows up again hungrier than ever, and the following day again. The lady, kind and caring, feeds her and that Monday morning puts her in the cage to bring her to the volunteer. A few hours later, the little cat has been neutered but the reality they did not want to face has also been confirmed: she is just after having kittens. The area is searched, neighbours are called upon, but nobody has heard the small screams of kittens when they are hungry. Options are limited: the lady will have to keep feeding her until she brings her kittens so that all can be neutered and rehomed. That’s the plan anyway, but as we all know, nothing ever goes according to plans!

The weeks pass and the little cat calls down every day for food, but no sign of kittens. And then one evening, on the 8th week, a little head appears from the bushes, and a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th! The lady makes contact and trapping is promptly organised so that the kittens can be neutered and we can move onto the 2nd step: rehoming the feline family. However, the kittens are now nine weeks old and have had no human interaction so they are very skittish. Enquiries are made by both the volunteer and the lady and a rescue space is secured for 3 of the kittens so that only one is returned to the mother, making things a little bit easier for the lady who had never made the decision to take on a family of cats.

The friendly mum and her little kitten were advertised for rehoming, but nobody showed any interest. It was the height of kitten season and little balls of fluff could be found anywhere and everywhere and so the grown-up cat and her baby did not stand a chance. It is now October and the lady feels defeated. It is way more than she bargained for when she gave the first piece of chicken to that little hungry cat. All she wanted to do was to help her out, but now she realises that her whole summer has been dictated by the furry being living in her garden. She never made the decision to adopt a cat – she does not even really like cats – someone else did, but she ended up being the one buying food for that hungry mother, being the one who had to make arrangements when she would be gone for more than a day or two… All she wanted was to be kind and do the right thing for this little cat…

Now, let’s go back in time a few months, a year or two maybe. Where did this little cat come from? She was friendly and used to human interaction. A pet left behind, unneutered, when people had to move out? A cute little kitten taken off the pink pages as “free to good home” whose owner had lost interest in when she grew bigger? Or was she dumped by her owners when they realised she was pregnant and they did not want to deal with a litter of kittens? Whichever it is, she was “owned” at one stage and her owners did not take responsibility for her welfare and that of her kittens. Someone else had to pick up the pieces and do the right thing. Yet, they are not the only people responsible for this – or should we say irresponsible? Very likely, she too was rehomed as a little kitten, unneutered, to what seemed like a lovely and caring family. And so the vicious cycle goes, but the only way to break this cycle is by neutering. Everyone thinks they have found the perfect home for the little kittens they are adopting out. Of course it is a good home; it is a lovely family and they will do the right thing and they will have their new little pet neutered. Yet, the little kitten grew up and had kittens. One? Two? More litters? All the excuses in the world can be heard: “she escaped out of the window and when she came back it was too late, the damage was done”; “we decided to let her have just the one litter for the kids to see the miracle of life, but then she got pregnant again before we knew it, it was more than we could cope with”, “ we always found homes for her kittens, so it was ok”, “we didn’t know she could get pregnant at four months old”, “I really wanted to bring her to be neutered, but I didn’t have the money and my car broke down”, and on, and on… And so kittens keep being rehomed unneutered, and so the cycle goes and other are left to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, kittens keep dying, unseen, because rescues are overloaded, because their mother did not find a kind and caring lady to look after them.

To all of you trying to help kittens, trying to help cats, or just trying to be humane, do the right thing: NEUTER! More and more vets practice early neutering (from as young as 8 weeks old for the most experienced vets), and so kittens can be neutered before being rehomed. This is the only way to break this vicious cycle! If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Read more about early neutering here: https://communitycatsnetwork.wordpress.com/information/neutering/

Oiche mhaith mo Croí

We constantly get calls from people that have sick cats. Following a process of elimination we determine if the cat needs emergency care or not. I arrived for a trapping last night and, low and behold, the carer had fed the cat two hours before I arrived. The probability of the cat coming around again was pretty slim. I was informed that he had
not been looking well for a while. I hung on a bit longer to see if he would show…and he did. The most amazing tom cat approached the patio, holding his head up high, walking tall with all the dignity he could muster. But unfortunately he was in a bad way. He had a large laceration on the side of his neck. He appeared dirty and dishevelled, and broken. Cats are amazing creatures. No matter what happens to them, what they have to go through to make it through another day, their dignity always remains. He looked at me with the two most glorious eyes I have ever seen on a cat. I swear to god he knew I was there to trap him. I put out the trap and filled it with food. He was standing about three feet away from me, saliva dripping from his mouth onto the ground. I turned to him and asked him to go into the trap so we could take his pain away. He looked at me and walked straight into the trap. I know this sounds silly, but it was the nearest thing I could describe to a spiritual experience. The handsome boy was taken home to the feral shed. Jim transferred him into the hospital cage with some warm vet bed and food.
I brought him to the vet today. Most of his teeth were missing and the others were rotting. He had Plasmacelled Pododermatitis on three of his paws, was covered in lice and positive for FIV.
He went for his final sleep today in the vets. I listened to his heart beat after the lethal dose injection was administered. His heart kept beating for a short while, slowed down, and then stopped. Oiche mhaith mo Croí. Maggie & Jim.Lavernes cat

How do we carry out a Trap-Neuter-Return project.

The first contact comes from a multi-faceted approach ranging from telephone calls, emails, website, Facebook or direct contact from vets.

Oral contact with the carer:

  • We telephone the carer to establish what physical condition the colony is in.
  • Establish if any cat or kitten needs emergency care and arrange it immediately.
  • Estimate how many cats and kittens are there.
  • Estimate how old are the kittens
  • Establish how often and what time the cats are being fed and if there are other feeders .
  • If the colony is in good health we post or email you an assessment form

https://communitycatsnetwork.wordpress.com/information/tnr/

 

Arranging the colony assessment:

 

  • The carer fills the assessment form on site or has sent it back to us.
  • We arrive on site at feeding time to visually assess the colony.
  • We discuss the financial cost of the neutering with the carer.
  • We explain the trapping procedure.
  • We arrange a trapping date with the carer.

 

farms cats photo

 

Arranging the neutering and veterinary care:

  • The CCN welfare officer makes contact with the nearest  partner vet to the colony to arrange a time and date for the neutering.
  • The physical health of the colony is discussed with the vet or the veterinary nurse.
  • Extra treatment will be discussed when the vet has assessed the cats in surgery.

 

The trapping:

 

  • Depending on the number of cats to be trapped the Community Cats Network welfare officer decides what traps and cages to bring.
  • The CCN welfare officer arrives 30 minutes before feeding time to set up the traps.
  • The cats are trapped humanely and transferred into feral cat handling cages.
  • The carer signs the Community Cats Network consent form.
  • Depending on the time when trapped and availability of vets, the cats are either taken straight to the vets or held overnight to be taken to the vets the following morning.
  • If the cats are held overnight they are transferred into humane comfortable cages with food water and litter for the cats’ comfort and welfare.

hospital cage completed

          Hospitalisation cage in the opened position to show the                   bedding & feeding area.

 

 

Veterinary treatment and neutering:

  • The CCN welfare officer transfers the cats back into the transport cages and bring them to the allocated vets.
  • The transport cages have information on each cage pertaining to that specific cat. The veterinary nurse or vet will complete the forms once the surgery  has been completed.
  • In the veterinary surgery the feral cats are transferred into a cat restrainer cage to make it safer for the veterinary practice to sedate the cat and cause less stress on the cat.
  • Once the sedative has taken effect the cat is taken out of the cage and given a full health check. The cat’s mouth, ears, teeth, eyes, legs, pads and body are checked for any anomalies or abnormalities.
  • If any abnormalities are found the CCN welfare officer is contacted immediately by the vet to discuss further actions.
  • If everything is normal the surgery continues
  • Female cats will be spayed on the left flank – this is always the left hand side of the body. It provides faster access to the organs being removed. The female will have her uterus and ovaries removed to fully ensure that procreation can never take place. Spaying also removes the possibilities of life threatening uterine infections. Additionally, it also greatly reduces the risk of developing potentially fatal mammary tumors later in life.
  • Male cats will be castrated. Both testicles will be removed. This will remove their ability and want to mate with females of the species. Neutered male cats become less likely to fight after neutering and are less likely to become involved in fights, resulting in bite injuries and the risk of contracting viral infections. Sexual contact in cats can also lead to transmission of deadly viruses.
  • Both female and male cats are left ear-tipped. This is a universal  method indicating the neutered status of a cat.
  • All cats in our care receive a flea and a worm treatment.

 

Eartipped cat                                                     Eartipped cat.

 

Post-operative care:

  • The CCN welfare officer collects the cats from the vets after surgery.
  • The cats are put back into the hospitalisation cages with clean bedding, water and food.
  • The males are kept for a minimum of 16 hours after surgery and females 24 hours.
  • The cats are checked post-op on an average of every 2 to 3 hours to make sure the bedding is clean and they are recovering well.
  • The carer is contacted to make arrangement to return the cats.

Returning the cats:

  • The cats are transferred back into the transport cages and returned to the carer.
  • The carer receives a quantity of food, CCN’s feral cat aftercare handbook and a photographic and health journal of their cats.

 

Sterilisation of the equipment:

  • After the return of the cats the CCN welfare office has to clean and sterilise all the equipment: traps, transport cages, hospitalisation cages and holding area used for the specific colony to avoid contaminating the next colony or transferring infection.

Feral cats colony information:

  • The CCN welfare officer inputs all the information that they have gathered about the colony into our computerised database.
  • Photos and descriptions are then uploaded to our Facebook page.
  • CCN welfare officers are always available for contact with the carer at any stage.

Our Offsprings are the Ferals of Tomorrow

"Our offsprings are the ferals of tomorrow"

“Our offsprings are the ferals of tomorrow”

Phone rings… “Hi, last winter, a stray cat came to my garden.  It was cold and I felt sorry for her, so I started feeding her.  You know, I would hate to see an animal suffer.  Then, in March, she had a litter of kittens, but it was fine, the farmer down the road took all four of them!  But, at the beginning of the summer, she had another litter of kittens.  7 of them! And now, I think she is pregnant again and I can’t find homes for the kittens.  I don’t mind feeding her as she keeps the mice away, but I can’t possibly keep all of them.  I don’t know what to do, can you please help?”

Sounds familiar?

This is a very common type of call received by animal welfare organisations and our answer is simply to have the cat and her kittens neutered straight away before the situation gets completely out of hand.  We discuss with the carer a way to finance the project and proceed to have the whole family neutered.  Then, maybe a couple of kittens may find a home, but at least they won’t be having kittens.  The problem is solved, but is it really?

Let’s rewind a little, back to spring time: “it was fine, the farmer down the road took all four of them!”  The alarm bell in my head is ringing!  Now, were those kittens neutered before going to the farm?  Did the farmer get them neutered?  The answer is more than likely no.

Now, let’s fast-forward to the following spring.  The farmer is happy, his little cats (3 females and a male) are doing a good job on the farm.  In April though, all three females give birth to a litter of kittens each.  It is their first litter and they only have two kittens each.  “Sure,” the farmer thinks, “a few more cats might come in handy; I have a big farm!  And maybe Jo will take a couple for his own farm.”  It’s still all fine, isn’t it?  Yes, except that during the summer, they give birth to more kittens, and again at the beginning of winter, except that those mostly die because of the severe weather.

13 11 26 a

Two years later, the farmer is looking at all the cats on his farm.  There are so many of them that he cannot feed them properly anymore.  His three little female cats have become useless at killing the rats and mice as they are so exhausted from giving birth, as for the tom, he is constantly chasing the females and has been seen at all the neighbouring farms.  Their offsprings are no good either, they have also started giving birth constantly, and now the younger generations are all sickly because they are inbred.  The farmer is looking at all the cats (he can’t even count how many there are) and is scratching his head “what to do?”.  He must admit that he did try to drown the kittens like his father and his grand-father used to do, but the females are very good at hiding the kittens in the hay, and to be honest, he likes the cats and does not want to harm them.  Maybe he should bring them to the vet to have them euthanised?  But, he cannot even catch the cats; they have gone completely wild!  He’ll talk to the vet though and see what he thinks…

14 02 06 c webThe vet is not too keen on having animals euthanised like that and if the farmer can’t catch the cats, how could he?  He’s heard of organisations doing Trap-Neuter-Return though, maybe they could help?  So the farmer gets in touch with such an organisation.  At first, he has a fit when he hears what it will cost, but it has to stop, and he needs his cats to be healthy so that they can do their job on the farm.  All the cats and kittens get trapped, most of them are neutered, but a few have to be euthanised as they are too sick.  They come back to the farm and a few weeks later, they look a lot healthier and the farm is once more clear of rats.  The farmer is still giving out at the vet bill, but he is glad that things have now gone back to normal.  Next time, he’ll make sure that the cats are neutered beforehand.  “Now, if only Jo could do the same thing on his farm, because how many does he have now?  A good 30 for sure!”

Can you remember what the caller said initially?  “I would hate to see an animal suffer.”  Of course, she hadn’t realised what would happen as the farmer is a good guy and wouldn’t harm an animal, but by rehoming unneutered kittens, she has unknowingly been responsible for a great deal of suffering.  Or maybe she thought that it wasn’t her problem?  How about when the cats start to wander away from the farm because there isn’t any food and start to come to her garden where she is still feeding the little stray, the mother of them all?  Does it become her problem then?

Free ads

Websites are full of “Kittens Free to Good Home” ads, but what does it really mean?

I think that in the work we do, convincing people to have kittens neutered before rehoming is actually the biggest challenge.  Sometimes, it’s just because they don’t know that kittens can be neutered at such an early age (see info here), but most of the time, they don’t see the point since they are going to find “good homes” for the kittens.  Why should it be their responsibility?  Times and times again, we explain that if these are actually good homes, then the adopter will not mind giving a donation to cover for the cost of neutering.  In fact, they are quite happy to do so since it saves them the bother of having to bring the kittens.  In other cases, they think that it is not their problem since the cat isn’t actually theirs.  Maybe so, but we all need to start taking responsibility if we want to put a stop to the problem of cat over-population.  It is not one individual’s problem, it actually has become a society’s problem and we all need to start taking responsibility.

Disclaimer: the story above is fictional, although it is based on real experiences.  It wasn’t written with the intention of criticising anyone, but rather with the intention of educating.  Take responsibility too: educate those around you and spread the word about the importance of neutering!

Spay that Stray

The Four Phases of compassion fatigue.

Those of us who work on behalf of and who dedicate our lives to animals go through four phases in our career evolution.  As we are unique, so are our individual stories, but we all go through a similar process and, if we survive that process go on to understand that we have achieved what we wanted in the first place.
Phase One — Honeymoon

Red hot and raring to go, we are out to change the world.  We are high on life. We know we can make a difference; that our efforts on behalf of animals will ease their plight.  We work what seems like 25-hour days yet are energized.  Our enthusiasm overflows, our capacity for challenges is limitless.  We eat, sleep and live in the cause for animals.  Our friends don’t understand our obsession and turn away or just fade away, and we let them for we meet new ones.  Some of us though don’t make new friends; we’re too busy working for animals.  Some of us become loners with only our canine or feline companions to keep us from total isolation but we’re content because we have a cause.  In our zeal we tend to affix simple solutions to complex problems — every animal should be sterilized or no animal should be euthanized.  We’re often late because we try to rescue animals from highways and streets.  We think we understand the problem and we know we can fix it if only people would get out of our way.
Phase Two — Depression

Our phase one enthusiasm has turned sour; the bubble bursts and we crash.  We see the same people coming into the shelter with yet another litter — they haven’t heard our message.  We continue to euthanize, there seems no end to it.  Even our friends — those we still have left — don’t understand us.  We can’t seem to reach anyone.  Animals are still abused and neglected; their plight seems unchanged despite all our efforts.  We’ve lost the boundless energy that characterizes Phase One.  We no longer wish to talk about work, don’t even want to admit where we work.  We’re tired all the time.  We go home from work, lock the doors, turn out the lights, turn off the answering machine and close the window blinds.  We’re too exhausted to cook so we scarf fast food, pizza, potato chips or chocolate.  Some of us buy useless objects we can’t afford.  Some of us turn to alcohol for it takes away our feelings of hopelessness.  We ignore our families and even our pet companions get less attention than we know is right.  We seem powerless to affect any of the changes that drove us to such ecstasies of dedication in Phase One.  We have become horrified by the work we have to do.  Even our dreams are filled with the horror.  Every animal we take in, every animal we euthanize is yet another nail in our coffin of defeat.  Somehow we’re to blame for our failure and it’s destroying us; our wall of isolation gets thicker and thicker.  It blocks the pain and the sadness and makes our life somehow tolerable.  We continue on because every now and then we get a spark of Phase One energy.
Phase Three  — Anger

Our Phase Two depression has turned outward and we’re mad as hell.  Hopelessness turns to rage.  We begin to hate people, any people and all people unless, like our co-workers they dedicate their lives to animals the way we do.  We even hate our co-workers if they dare question us — especially about euthanasia.  It occurs to us, let’s euthanize the owners not the pets.  Let’s take everyone who abuses an animal, or even surrenders an animal and euthanize them instead.  Our rage expands to our out-of-work life.  That guy in front of us on the highway, the one who’s in our way, euthanize him too.  We rage at politicians, television, newspapers, our family.  Everyone is a target for our anger, scorn and derision.  We have lost our perspective and our effectiveness.  We’re unable to connect with life.  Even the animals we come in contact with seem somehow distant and unreal.  Anger is the only bridge to our humanness.  It’s the only thing that penetrates our shield.

Phase Four — Resilience

Gradually and over time the depression of Phase Two and the anger of Phase Three become replaced with a new determination and understanding of what our mission really is.  It is big picture time.  We realize that we have been effective — locally and in some cases regionally and even nationally.  So we haven’t solved the problem — who could — but we have made a difference with dozens, even hundreds and sometimes thousands of animals.  We have changed the way others around us view animals.  We begin to see our proper place in our own community and we begin to see that we are most effective when we balance our work and out-of-work lives.  We realize that work is not our whole world and that if we pay attention to our personal lives we can be more effective at work.  We understand that some days we work 14-hours and some days we knock it off after only 8.  We take vacations and we enjoy our weekends.  We come back refreshed and ready to take on daily challenges.  We see that all people are not all bad.  We understand that ignorance is natural and in most cases curable.  Yes there are truly awful people who abuse and neglect animals but they are a minority.  We don’t hate them.  When we find them we do all we can to stop them from hurting animals.  We recognize that the solutions are just as complex as the problems and bring a multitude of tools to the problem at hand and use them any way we can and we begin to see results — one small step at a time.  We reconnect with the animals.  Our shields come down.  We understand that sadness and pain are a part of our job.  We stop stuffing our feelings with drugs, food or isolation.  We begin to understand that our feelings of anger, depression and sadness are best dealt with if we recognize them and allow them to wash over and past us.  We recognize our incredible potential to help animals.  We are, little by little, changing the world.

The author of this article is Doug Fakkema.

Brief Biography

  • January 1971:  Graduated from San Jose State University in California with a B.A. in radio-TV-film.   
  • September 1971:  I walked into the Lane Humane Society (Eugene, Oregon).  Worked in animal shelters 19 years, mostly as executive director.  
  • July 1990:  Began full-time teaching and consulting around the world, 1.8 million air miles.
  • January 2014: Retired from full time traveling and teaching, but continue to teach Compassion Fatigue classes on a limited schedule.

For more information visit http://www.dougfakkema.com

When we grieve for a Loved Animal

If you are reading this because your beloved pet has died, I offer my heartfelt sympathy. To lose someone you love is very stressful, especially if it was unexpected. Only you know how deep your connection is to your Loved Animal and, the deeper the connection, the more profound your grief. That connection is not gone though. It is possible to maintain it in a different form, throughout the rest of your life, if you want. First, let’s look at what you might experience and what might help you deal with it.

What you can expect

Grief is our reaction to the physical separation from someone we love. It is a normal reaction that is experienced uniquely by everyone. So there is no right or wrong way to grieve (though it is possible to get stuck). Because grief is not really talked about, many people are surprised by the intensity of the pain, for example, and don’t know what to do to grieve. But everyone has grieving instincts that gently nudge them to express their grief. For example, one person might feel the urge to put away everything that reminds them of their pet (for now). While another person might want to keep everything close, as a tangible connection, until their pet’s absence is less of a shock. If you can, lean into your grieving instincts. They will guide you.

It is very natural to experience disruptions in more than one area of functioning because of grief. Your physical body may experience any of a wide variety of temporary changes, from early waking, to increased or decreased appetite, from headaches and digestive upset to numbness or tingling, even fatigue. Your social self might want different things, e.g., you might want to withdraw from others, for a while. Your mind might have some difficulty with standard tasks, such as concentrating or remembering. And depending on what you believe, your spiritual self might struggle with the fact that a loving God or Creator would allow this to happen.

These are all reactions to the shock your whole system has had. Each person will experience a different mix of these grief reactions. And there is no schedule for when they should end. The best thing to do is to be patient with this process and to be gentle with yourself. (It will also help you deal with the stress if you can eat nutritious food, get any kind of exercise and rest as needed. Your motivation to do these things might be low, but they actually help. Trust me.)

Grieving requires actions

Every time we do something to express our grief we inch forward on what is known as our grief journey. Crying and telling your story to others are two of the most obvious, and probably, involuntary ways we grieve. But there are as many grieving actions as there are creative people in the world. Here are some ways that others have found meaningful:

  • Plant a tree or flower in honour of your cat.
  • Keep a journal to allow you to express your thoughts and feelings and to also track the course of your grief journey.
  • While they are still fresh, write down all the good memories you have of your pet, anecdotes and favourite traits in a nice blank book. These memories fade with time so it can be comforting to turn through the pages of such a book.
  • Put some of his or her hair in a precious box or locket.
  • Light a candle.
  • Frame photographs of him or her.
  • Make a donation to an organisation that works on behalf of animals.
  • Volunteer for an animal organisation.
  • Foster an animal who needs a temporary home.

 

There are many other ways to do something that is either comforting or meaningful. Just let yourself do the things that feel appropriate for you. We are all different. This is good to remember when people are giving you advice on how to deal with this big change in your life. What worked for your friend, might not work for you.

Finding support

It is vital to talk to people who can be sensitive to your loss. Even if there is just one person who seems to understand, make use of them. And the online community might offer a resource of support if there is nobody in your immediate circle. As human beings, we have a need to tell our story, usually multiple times. We need others to know what we are dealing with. It is part of the process of making it real. For at first, the shock usually numbs us and we just feel stunned. This is a protective response that gives us time to get used to this change.

Unfortunately, not everyone has experienced a strong connection with an animal and so, cannot understand that it is possible. This may result in insensitive remarks that make things harder for you, at a time when you are least able to deal with them. So, try to be selective about who you talk to about this very personal loss. Don’t feel obliged to tell anyone who asks why you seem to be different. This is not a grief that is universally appreciated as significant, but I can tell you, as a professional and as an animal lover, that loss is loss and grief is grief. We need support when we lose someone we love, no matter whether they had two legs or four. And we need to protect our grieving hearts from the possibility of thoughtless words from people who cannot understand.

Context

When your beloved pet passed away, there were other things going on in your life. Your ability to deal with this real loss is affected by whatever else you must deal with. You could be facing exams or dealing with caring for an elderly parent. You might have a health issue or be worried about money. As human beings, we can only deal with so much. I think of it as a battery that is charged that then runs down. Certain things recharge our batteries. You know what boosts yours. And stressful life events run them down. It’s important to know this as you deal with your loss and figure out how much charge is left in your batteries. Self-care is important all the time, but especially at a time like this. If you make time for the things that feel nurturing to you, it will ease your stress.

Staying connected

It is a common myth that we must forget those we have lost. To grieve someone we must remember them. You might remember your Loved Animal by thinking about him or her each morning as you start your day. You might just say their name from time to time. You might sit by the tree you planted in honour of this tender creature who gave you unconditional love. And though it might sound strange, you could try writing a letter or several, over the years, to express your thoughts and feelings directly to him or her. This can provide relief and there is no reason not to do it. If it feels healthy to you, listen to your grieving instincts. If you are concerned that you are not making progress or you are unsure about whether things are moving in the right direction, I welcome a call or e-mail.

Finally, one of the best ways to remember and stay connected to your pet is to think about the traits they displayed and incorporate one trait into your personality. For example, your pet may have been patient, and you find yourself lacking it. She may have been very loving, and you find it difficult to show your affection easily. Or he may have been compassionate, sitting quietly by those who were distressed, calming them by his presence. You know your pet like nobody else. So you will know of at least one trait that you admired. To adopt that trait for the rest of your life would be an enduring legacy for your Loved Pet.

For more information on grief counselling please contact us.

 

Hazardous plants to your cat.

The following is a fairly comprehensive list of plants that are potentially poisonous or harmful to your cat when eaten.

Contact with some of the plants listed may be sufficient to cause skin irritation (marked *) It is often the fruit or seeds of plants that are potentially harmful. Many of us are already familiar with plants that carry really toxic berries such as Deadly Nightshade. Only a small quantity of these need to be eaten for a fatal result. Other plants in the list may come as a surprise – Daffodils for example. Here, however, it is the bulb that causes harm if ingested.

The fact that the list contains some very common plants should not be cause for concern. Most of these potentially harmful plants taste bad and are unlikely to be eaten in sufficient quantities to cause permanent damage. Woody garden plants are also unlikely to be eaten by your cat – tender household plants pose most risk.

House plants

Amaryllis

Aphelandra

Castor Oil Plant, see Ricinus

Christmas Cherry, see Solanum

Chrysanthemum, see Dendranthema

Codiaeum

Croton, see Codiaeum

Cyclamen

Dumb cane, see Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachia *

Devil’s Ivy, see Epipremnum aureum

Elephant’s Ear, see Alocasia, Caladium

Epipremnum aureum

Ferns

Holly, see Ilex

Hypoestes phyllostachya

Hyacinthus

Ivy, see Hedera

Mistletoe, see Viscum

Nerium oleander

Oleander see Nerium

Ornithogalum

Poinsettia, see Euphorbia

Senecio

Star of Bethlehem, see Ornithogalum umbellatum

Umbrella Plant, see Schefflera

Zebra Plant, see Aphelandra 

 Garden plants

Abrus precatorius

Aconitum *

Actaea

Aesculus

Agrostemma githago

Aleurites

Allium

Alocasia

Alstroemeria *

Anagallis

Impatiens

Ipomoea

Iris

Ivy, see Hedera

Ilex

Jasminum

Juniperus sabina

Kalmia

Laburnum

Lantana

Anagallis

Anemone

Angel’s Trumpets, see Brugmansia

Angel Wings, see Caladium

Apricot, see Prunus armeniaca

Aquilegia

Arisaema

Arum

Astragalus

Atropa

Avocado, see Persea americana

Azalea, see Rhododendron

Baneberry, see Actaea

Bird of Paradise, see Strelitzia

Black-eyed Susan, see Thunbergia

Bloodroot, see Sanguinaria

Box, see Buxus

Broom, see Cytisus

Brugmansia

Bryony

Buckthorn, see Rhamnus

Burning Bush, see Dictamnus

Buttercup, see Ranunculus

Buxus

Cherry Laurel see Prunus laurocerasus

Chincherinchee see Ornithogalum

Caesalpinia

Caladium

Caltha *

Catharanthus

Celastrus

Centaurea cyanus

Cestrum

Chrysanthemum see Dendranthema

Clematis

Colchicum

Columbine see Aquilegia

Conium

Convallaria majalis

Corncockle, see Agrostemma githago

Cornflower, see Centaurea cyanus

Cotoneaster

Crocus, see Colchicum

x Cupressocyparis leylandii *

Cyclamen

Cytisus

Daffodil, see Narcissus

Daphne *

Datura *

Delphinium

Delonix

Dendranthema *

Dicentra

Dictamnus

Digitalis

Echium *

Euonymus

Euphorbia *

Elder, see Sambucus

False acacia, see Robinia

Lantana

Lathyrus

Larkspur, see Delphinium

Lilium

Lily of the Valley, see Convallaria

Linum

Ligustrum

Lobelia (except bedding Lobelia) *

Lords and Ladies (Cuckoo pint), see Arum

Lupinus

Lycopersicon *

Lysichiton

Madagascar periwinkle, see Catharanthus

Marigold, see Tagetes

Melia

Mirabilis jalapa

Monkswood, see Aconitum

Morning Glory, see Ipomoea

Narcissus

Nerium oleander

Nicotiana

Nightshade, deadly, see Atropa

Nightshade, woody, see Solanum

Oak, see Quercus

Onion, see Allium

Oxytropis

Paeonia

Papaver

Parthenocissus

Peach, see Prunus persica

Peony, see Paeonia

Pernettya

Persea americana

Philodendron

Physalis

Phytolacca *

Pokeweed, see Phytolacca

Poppy, see Papaver

Polygonatum

Primula obconica *

Privet see Ligustrum

Prunus armeniaca

Prunus laurocerasus

Prunus persica

Quercus

Rhamus (including R.frangula)

Rhododendron

Rhus *

Ricinus

Robinia

Rosary pea, see Abrus precatorius

Rubber plant, see Ficus

Rudbeckia

Rue, see Ruta

Ruta

Sambucus

Sanguinaria

Schefflera *

Scilla

Skunk cabbage, see Lysichiton

False acacia, see Robinia

Fems

Ficus

Flax see Linum

Frangula see Rhamnus

Fremontodendron *

Foxglove see Digitalis

Four o’clock: see Mirabilis jalapa

Galanthus

Gaultheria

Giant Hog Weed, see Heracleum

mantegazzianum

Gloriosa superba

Glory Lily see Gloriosa

Hedera *

Helleborus *

Hemlock, see Conium

Henbane, see Hyoscyamus

Heracleum mantegazzianum

Hippeastrum

Holly, see Ilex

Horse-chestnut, see Aesculus

Hyacinthus

Hydrangea

Hyoscyamus

Skunk cabbage, see Lysichiton

Snowdrop, see Galanthus

Solandra

Solanum

Solomon’s seal, see Polygonatum

Spindle Tree, see Euonymus

Spurge, see Euphorbia

Strelitzia

Sumach, see Rhus

Sweet pea, see Lathyrus

Tagetes

Tanacetum

Taxus

Tetradymia

Tobacco, see Nicotiana

Tomato, see Lycopersicon

Thornapple, see Datura

Thuja *

Tulipa *

Veratrum

Viscum

Wisteria

Yew, see Taxus

* Contact with these plants may be sufficient to cause skin irritation

If you have any questions about this or other topics please contact us on

Rescuing Feral Cats

Feral cat keeping her distance from humans

Feral cat keeping her distance from humans

Very often we receive enquiries from the public asking us help to “rescue some feral cats”.  This is also a phrase quite often used by animal welfare organisations.  What do they mean by “rescuing feral cats”?  Most of the time, what prompts their demand is the fact that the cats do not live according to their standards.  They are concerned because the cats do not have the same comfortable lives as their own pet cats.  However, we are talking here about feral cats, not domestic cats.  Feral cats do not need rescuing, they need their lives to be improved and this can be done by having them neutered and offering them care (a better diet, suitable shelter and medical treatment when needed).

Feral cats are different from domestic cats.  The majority of them are born outside and may be the descendants of many generations of feral cats who have learnt to survive in their environment.  Cats are clever and know where they can be safe, find food and shelter.  They have learnt to avoid the daily dangers their environment throws at them.  For instance, urban feral cats will tend to hide during the day or find safe gardens where they feel protected; rarely will they run in the middle of the traffic.  Farm cats will find a safe place to hide their kittens from the fox or the resident dog.  In fact feral cats have more chances of survival in their own environment than elsewhere.  Their lives can be greatly improved by having them neutered and by making small changes in their environment, for instance by placing warm shelters in a safe location.

Mother and surrogate mother protecting the kittens while they are eating.

Mother and surrogate mother protecting the kittens while they are eating.

However, rescuing feral cats may be more detrimental to the cats than beneficial.  What happens once the cat has been “rescued”.  More than likely, it will be placed in foster care in a cage or room with the aim of socialising them.  A cat who has lived free in an outdoor environment will obviously be extremely distressed by such a situation.  To increase their stress, they will be forced to interact with a human they have never seen before, so that they can become tame.  Feral cats have learnt to be wary of humans in order to protect themselves.  Although they may trust their carer, as this is the person giving them food, other humans will be seen as potential danger.  Attempting to tame a feral cat is therefore seen by the cat as a form of aggression.  You will often hear from “rescuer” that the cat is doing fine but that s/he is nervous, in fact the cat is probably terrified by the interaction forced upon them.  I am not claiming that a feral cat can never become tame, or at least friendlier, what I am saying is that this is not usually achieved by removing them from their environment and forcing them to become socialised.  Many people involved in animal welfare would be opposed to keeping wild animals behind bars in zoo, so why do the same to feral cats?  What may happened then is that the cat starts to lose its spirit.  It is as if they have lost their will to live.  Some may interpret the fact that a feral cat stops hissing as a sign of becoming tame.  In fact, hissing is a healthy reaction in a feral cat as it shows that the cat is protecting himself.

13 08 27

Feral cat crouched down after a few days in confinement.

What happens when people try to rescue feral cats is that they are trying to fulfil their aptitude at taming them, but often ignore the welfare of the cat in the equation.  Of course, their intentions are good, but this is not necessarily the best route to take.  With kitten season being in full swing, appeals for foster homes for pregnant feral mothers or mothers and their kittens are not a rare occurrence.  These appeals come out of a genuine desire to raise the kittens in a safer place; a desire which is in itself quite understandable.  However, the mother is often forgotten about.  The kittens may be socialised, but what about the stress the mother has to endure during this long period of time?  First of all, she may reject her kittens because of the stress of confinement.  Then, what happens to her once her kittens have been rehomed?  It is impossible to return her to her colony after this length of time as she will not belong to it anymore.  Her nervousness will make her unrehomable as who would want to adopt a nervous cat when there are already so many friendly cats not able to find homes.  Instead of trying to rescue this feral mother, would it not be better to spay her or try to improve the conditions in which she has had her kittens by assisting and educating the carer?

We all have our own experiences when it comes to cats and each of them is different because each cat is different.  However, it is not because feral cats can occasionally be socialised that the lives of so many feral cats should be jeopardised in the expectancy that another socialisation might be successful.  More successes would be achieved if people adopted a more rational approach to dealing with feral cats and took into consideration the actual welfare of the cat instead of their emotional instinct of saving cats according to their own standards rather than those of the cats.

Colony of feral cats living happily.  The cat at the front was only 3 months old when she was neutered.

Colony of feral cats living happily. The cat at the front was only 3 months old when she was neutered.

We are just normal people…

Sometimes, I think people believe we have super powers.  This is a misconception.  The people involved in animal welfare are just normal people, like you.  We are normal people, who care and have decided to act to make this world a little bit better.  We won’t completely change the world, but we might help to achieve a small progress and the animals who cross our path will be offered a chance at a better life.  Sometimes, this is not possible, so we relieve their pain.

We are like you.  Most of us have a job or other commitments and we have little money.  We can’t really accomplish miracles, we are not gods.  However, we believe that we can’t ignore what is going on around us and we are trying to take responsibility and care for our planet, which has been destroyed for centuries by human greed, and its fruits.  One can ignore or one can take responsibility.  It is not the easy path to take, but it is a choice we have made.

We are not the only ones.  There are other people out there who care and will get out of their way to improve this planet and it inhabitants.  They are not motivated by the cuteness, but are just compassionate.

These last few weeks have been particularly difficult for people involved in animal welfare.  Emails and calls about dumped animals have become banal.  We are either asked to take people’s pets or the public ring us about the poor souls that have been thrown on the side of the road.  Kitten season is upon us and we know well this is going to get tougher.

However, every so often, we meet people out of the ordinary, people who have decided to take responsibility.  These people could be you, they could be anybody.  Tonight, I would like to tell you about one of them.

Last week, we received the usual call about a feral cat in a garden; except that the call wasn’t that usual in the end.  Martina had been feeding a few cats (along with the many other animals she has rescued), but noticed that one of them had deteriorated rapidly, losing a lot of hair.  She wasn’t asking us to take her away, just to help her to trap her feral so that she could be seen by a vet.  Catching Pumpkin was very tricky and other cats were trapped before her.  Maggie spent two entire days using whatever inventive device could come to her mind, but Pumpkin would have none of it.  The chicken would tempt her, but a soon as she saw Maggie, she would go away.  Each time we saw Pumpkin, her condition was worse and she would break our hearts.  Martina managed to trap her though and she rang us this afternoon to announce the good news, or what had to become the fatal news.  Deep inside, we all knew that we might not be able to save Pumpkin, but we could help her…

Martina said good-bye to Pumpkin this evening, knowing that she might never see her again; she explained to Pumpkin that whatever would happen in the next few hours would be for her own good, that we would try to do what was best for her.  It was a difficult decision to make…

Pumpkin left us tonight; yet, she had been watched over by her guardian, a compassionate human being who had taken the responsibility of looking after her, feeding and caring for her and her companions.  Hadn’t Martina been there, she would have died alone and in pain.

I petted Pumpkin tonight, after she had been sedated – this was probably the first time she was touched by a human as she was so skittish.  She was looking around with her frightened, but beautiful eyes.  Inside, I thought that it could have been a lot worse if someone, Martina, hadn’t taken responsibility.  Tomorrow, Martina’s wish will be respected and Pumpkin will be buried in a beautiful spot facing the sea; she won’t be rotting on the side of the road or in a dark corner.  She will be given all the dignity she deserves because someone cared.

Martina is just a normal person; she is like you – and so are we…