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Reading today:websites about stray animals

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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003 - 11:39 p.m.

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The hobos drew a cat in front of my house

ma doggy...copyright Wench77
Well, today is going to be about stray animals and feeding things in the great wilds of our cities. It is prompted by Meeyapede's entry of today:"Yes, some things ARE more important than sex". Read it. She is totally right there. Some things are. Like the starving nursing dog wandering the streets alone that she found and fed.

It is a great rant, and like her I cannot believe the insensitivity and just cruelty of most people towards obviously needy fellow creatures. Click on the above link and read it. yes do. And then check your soul and your day to day behaviour. Here are some links that she recommends about Understanding Animal Behaviour, as well as on Cat Aggression and Dog Aggression.

Myself I usually err on the goddamned goodytwoshoes side of the coin. Some things I have done:

*pull over and back up on the highway to make sure a cat hit by a car was actually dead and not suffering
*fed cats on my backporch as a little girl
*gave a dead woodpecker a decent burial in the backalley when I was about 6
*fed a Newfoundland dog cheese through its back fence every day on my way to school when I was about 12
*took home two orphaned meadowvoles and fed them milk with a homemade bottle, and released them when they could eat solid food
*saved a snake from the road and let it go in a nature preserve closeby
*chased away porcupines that my brothers saw, while my dad was getting his gun
*saved mice in the house from Dad's horrid traps, putting them outside in large bottles I'd captured them in with cheese...Dad swore the same ones came back in everyday
*took in an older cat a woman was going to kill cuz her apartment was "too small" see Butler
*stopped the car (full of my dog, and camping gear)on the road near my place, to stay next to and comfort a dog hit by a car, while waiting for spca personnel to show, for 2 hours in the rain (other people DID stop :), and brought a blanket to cover him etc)
*take in a sick kitten a neighbor brought to the door that she found in the street
*capture and take home two stray adolescent cats from a feral litter
*took a cat injured badly from a car accident to the vet, had it put down at my expense (it was NOT going to make it), and put handdrawn signs all over the neighborhood of the cat to inform owners if they were lookng for it
*catch a dog (it helps my dog is a hot sexy female!!) running in rush hour traffic near my place and find where it lived
*two other times, catch dogs wandering alone, and bring them to my front yard until I could find the owners
*feed the stray cats in my backyard, including putting out a place they could sleep in
*nursed four motherless kittens every 3 hours, including during the night and taking them to work

And that list does not cover things like having fed fish in parks, rescued goldfish from a drained pond in the city, fed birds in the countryside. To ease suffering I've stepped on small birds heads after cats had munched their legs and left them flopping, ditto to baby mice too small to live.

One of my very first memories is of a farmer shooting a dog in the head that had been hit by a car, to put it out of its misery. Do not let animals suffer needlessly.

Anyhowz, I am both a softie and a realist, you can see.

I wish I could say that all those interventions of the heart had good results and laudible endings.

A few stories:

* The kitten that was brought to my house sick... the neighbor brought it to me because she knew I'd be the loving take care of it kind. I took it in, washed the goop out of its eyes, cleaned it up, fed it, coddled it all night, and in the morning took it to the vet. The tiny kitten had feline distemper. Fatal. Incurable in the tiny kitten. Nothing to be done. It was already blind and could hardly breathe. It wandered pitifully, hardly standing up. The vet said "oh my gosh!! very very contagious!! Do you have animals at home? Are they vaccinated??"

Thankfully I could say yes. So, this is lesson number one:STRAY ANIMALS MAY HAVE CONTAGIOUS DISEASES!! BE CAREFUL!! If you have contact with a stray animal, do NOT bring it into contact with your own animals, and wash your hands!! Also MAKE SURE ALL YOUR OWN ANIMALS ARE VACCINATED!!!!

*There are the stray adolescent kittens that I took in one fall. They had been born to a stray cat outside, and neighbors out of the kindness of their heart had been feeding them. But that was it. So they were wild. I managed to catch 2 out of 4 by catching them in the kitchen with food. They went totally bezerk. We couldnt handle them to find out if they were male or female... we could barely get them into a box to take them home.

After about two weeks we got a vet over (we hardly saw the cats... they hid under furniture and only ate at night)... and it turned out that unfortunately one was a male and the other a female... and she was already pregnant by her brother... at only about 7 months old. We got them their shots, and the male fixed (at least there was that). I got bit by the female during the exam however. I thought not a lot of it, but then the next day, could not move three fingers AT ALL, and the other two sent a sharp screaming pain up my arm to my elbow. The clinic for me... I ended up on antibiotics for 10 days... cat bite bacteria. so next lesson:BE CAREFUL WITH STRAY ANIMALS... THEY MAY BITE and you MAY NEED MEDICAL ATTENTION

To continue this story... we now had two savage barely older than kittens living at our place... one pregnant. She had the kittens one night in a closet, and within the first evening, dumped them. She was just too young. We realized they were dumped when she was sleeping elsewhere and the miauls in the closet became weaker and weaker.... I ended up saving them with a hot water bottle, and the vet advised the next day to give watered down evaporated milk with a syringe. Unfortunately despite feeding every three hours all night long and at work, three of four inhaled the liquid and died of pneumonia. The fourth was slightly braindamaged, but went to a good home. He died of unknown causes at about 4 years old.

Bad news... his mother escaped outside between our feet one day before we got her fixed, and she went on to produce other litters of stray cats in our neighborhood. The male escaped too, but at least was fixed.

The moral? I dont know, but next time I would leave them in the first place or call in professionals. We didnt stop the cats from reproducing. They got shots only once. They were terrified and freaked out to be inside and escaped as soon as they could despite being offered warmth and food. Most of the babies died.

That was a few years ago... no internet at that time...It can be a saviour, with lots of information sources on what not to do... look up "stray cats" or somesuch in Google to find resources. Here is some information from Havahart about stray and feral cats... with some links. Here are some more links: Cats: Rescue/ Feral Care

*Leaving cats outside: this is a better option I have found... but have suffered consequences from being nice too... once I feed cats outside, they have adopted my backyard and have territorial spats with my cats. They pee on everything, and I mean everything. Pee wars. Tents, clothes on the line, picnic tables, shoes, boots. If I leave the door or window open, they pee on everything inside. It costs a fortune and is sometimes incredibly depressing. One day after cleaning everything, I found again a stray cat inside, and then found MY cat peeing on everything overtop of the other cat's pee. On the sofa, my bed, my clothes, the kitchen cabinets, the carpets. Everything. Understandably my cat is pissed that I have invited these intruders to partake of "his" food.


*Yes, fleas. My mother is nice like me, and feeds stray cats outside. They sleep in the blankets she has left for them in her backyard. And yes, her cats nap there too. One summer I treated her place, her three cats, my dog (who visits there), my two cats, my place, my mom's car, my boyfriend's car, my boyfriend's place, his two cats, and his mother's cat who was visiting, for fleas TWICE, because of my mom's stray cat. It was incredibly expensive, time consuming, demoralizing, AND one of my boyfriend's cats was old, got sick from the anti-flea stuff, never recovered and died a few miserable months later.


*Feeding animals. Let me make that a separate case:


1) Are you sure they are stray??

I cannot tell you the number of times people have fed my animals. Sometimes it is ok. But someone gave my dog chocolate (bad for doggies). Someone else gave it dog biscuits and it had diarrhea for 8 days (it only stopped halfway through a medical treatment for its irritated bowel) and lost 10 pounds. It couldve died from dehydration, cuz the person in question didnt know my dog doesnt digest dog biscuits. Also, I have more than once had a cat with food allergies. Nothing like paying for cortisone shots, as well as hand-cooking New Zealand lamb for your cat, only to find the neighbor is feeding it tins of cheap cat food. And I had been pulling my hair out trying to find out why it is scratching all its fur out as if it were eating that cheap cat food it was allergic to!! Another time, my older male cat ended up nearly dying from a urinary blockage... again someone had been feeding it cheap supermarket cat food with a high ash content, while it was SUPPOSED to be eating only veterinarian special urinary blockage food... the cat was skinny (yes, it's urinary tract wasnt working), so the neighbor felt sorry for it. And yet another time I nearly lost both of my cats to my downstairs neighbor at the time who was feeding my cats caviar and shrimp pate ( they returned home once she stopped feeding them!!)

2)Should you feed stray animals on an ongoing basis??

Hmm, an iffier one. The problem with feeding animals on an ongoing basis, is a feral population establishes itself, and the more food it has, the more it reproduces. This population has no medical attention, is a host population for rabies, fleas and other parasites, and many many infectious diseases. Not to mention pregnancy of barely grown animals who abandon their babies (as I experienced in my home). And territorial fights among eachother and with pets. Perhaps if you capture one, get it fixed, and then let it continue to live in your backyard while taking care of it AS IF it were your pet. That means food and water continually, ALL THE TIME, responsibly, because the animal now depends on you.

But look what happened with those kittens the neighbors had been feeding, but no one took in. They became totally feral and reproduced to make more feral babies. It did not help anyone, least of all the cats. I would suggest a better choice than feeding is to help control the population and find homes for the ones that could be adopted and cared for. Look in your area for rescue associations. Same with dogs. Many breeds have dedicated rescue volunteers and networks.

Here is a fascinating little report from the National Pet Alliance to a feral cat conference, detailing what they found about cats. 40% were UNOWNED!!, and when they caught cats for a spaying program, 70% of the females were lactating, pregnant or in heat! Read it for other sad statistics.

In many countries feral animals are a huge problem. I knew a woman from the Ivory Coast who was terrified of dogs, since in her city, feral dogs run in packs, and will attack anyone with food. They also attack and kill small animals and pets.

In Spain, they thought it was wolves that were maiming and killing hundreds of sheep. The farmers wanted the state to eradicate the wolves. But someone with a videocamera found out it was groups of feral dogs... who had no hunting skills and were torturing hundreds of sheep while eating very few. Some are shot when they attack pets, other farm animals, get rabies, bite people.

Thus are the problems of maintaining stray animals, while leaving them in the environment. Here is a National Geographic article about feral dogs around the world.

3)How about once in awhile feedings.. ie if I see a scary big dog that looks hungry, should I buy it a hamburger and throw it to it?

Another one of those iffy things.Besides the problem of feral populations. What happens if the animal then decides you are the feeder of choice? Worse, what if this starts the scenario of "people who feed bears"? Ie the dog goes "mmm, people... mmm, hamburger... mmm, hamburger mine!!!".. most nuisance bears have been fed by people. My own dog was fed chips by someone in the park one evening. I was young and silly and thought, what harm can it do. Well my dog has followed said people like a shadow, every single time they have showed up in the park for the last 8 years. The people hate it. They cannot eat anything with out a dog (a fat, well-cared for, not hungry dog) following them drooling. My dog comes running ANY time she HEARS anything that sounds like a chip bag opening now.

Just imagine, will you... the totally starved, homeless, scared, not wellsocialized or downright feral dog, meeting up with a kid eating a hamburger on the street the day after you threw one to it. If the dog attacks for the meat, is it the dog's fault? Big mess.

4)How about birds and squirrels? They are so cute!!

Well, same with many other things.. there tend to be too many pigeons and squirrels in cities for the amount of ressources (space, trees, food, territories). Here in Montreal there are signs up in all the parks asking animal lovers to NOT feed pigeons and squirrels. As with most animals, the population explodes when there is more food. If people do not feed them, their fertility does not jump. They reproduce only as much as there is food and space in the environment. When the population jumps... they die of fighting over territory, diseases,etc that come with overcrowding. If you leave them be, they will, like animals in the wild, reproduce naturally to complement the food and space available. Enjoy them as is I would say. (this is the older and wiser Wench... the little girl one wouldve raided her piggy bank and the kitchen cupboards to feed every thing alive!!... one of her favorite songs was "feed the birds" from Mary Poppins.)

Also, people tend to feed completely inappropriate things... pink popcorn, white bread, cake, pizza. This makes the animals fat and overfed AND malnourished. They get all the shit we do on such a diet... disease, tooth decay and overgrowth (they are rodents, meant to chew and gnaw on seeds and nuts), cancer etc. They also become like little fat American kids... they won't eat their fruits and veggies at dinnertime cuz grandma feeds them too much free junkfood. They lose their natural foraging behaviour and become focussed and dependent on humans feeding them. An article here.

Interestingly I have discovered a site about feeding red squirrels, vs grey ones... it seems that they are in danger of dying out. Read more here for great tips and advice.

I would think it is better to feed songbirds and migrating birds, since you are not causing a resident year round problem, but rather helping to refuel on a seasonal basis. In this case, make sure you are feeding something appropriate... birdseed for the right kind of birds for instance, not left over whitebread bagels with cinnamon.

Another thing... food left on the ground in backalleys, parks etc attracts rats, skunks, raccoons, roaches, pet dogs (really, my dog eats more bread in the park than the squirrels do), small children, as well as just being a way to have rotting garbage lying unhealthily around.

Personally, I have an open compost pile so I probably get lots of extra urban wildlife, which i dont mind. But it is only fruit and vegetables, no processed food, rotting meat etc. Mostly I have a problem that I encourage overpopulation of slugs which then eat my basil and strawberries. oh well. I havent the heart to drown them in beer.

5)And stray people?

Well, go ahead. Personally I have offered a sandwich left over from my lunch, or a granola bar to someone who looked hungry on the street. Other times I have been treated with great disdain cuz the person wanted money for pot, not something to eat. And just as there are accountants and CEOs who are Enron-style, so are there streetpeople who are Enron-style. I have seen someone take food offered, and then throw it in a wastebin, to go back begging for money "for food".

I am more likely to give money to someone trying to do something... ie handmade jewelry, squeegeeing a car window, playing music on a little tin flute, reciting poetry they wrote.. cuz at least they arent expecting me to work all day and then get something for nothing. And most people I know who beg chose to do so. Most poor hungry people are too busy working deadbeat jobs and taking care of kids, and have too much pride to beg. Or they are in line at soup kitchens etc. Begging on the streets takes a lot of free time and few responsibilities.

I HAVE given enough money for a real meal to two wet cold kids discussing over a handful of coins if they could afford two sandwiches or one. But they werent begging. I HAVE let people stay for free at my place when they were homeless between jobs. I have rented to streetkids with a pregnant dog. But they were streetwise enough to NOT tell anyone they knew on the street that they had a place, cuz they KNEW that it would be an instant flophouse shooting gallery if people knew.

The "hic" I guess is being a dogooder without getting taken advantage of and being a mark for those who are just see a great opportunity.

I don't plan to start carrying cat food or an extra sandwich. I will continue to leave a shelter for cats in my backyard over the winter, but will no longer provide food. I will continue to give change for the telephone, bus tickets when people ask for "money to catch the bus". I will continue to encourage people doing their own zines, buy food for food baskets for families, give money to street buskers, report people who neglect and mistreat their animals. I may call again the group in Montreal (Animal Rescue Network) which is trying to take care of feral cat populations in the city (they are overwhelmed, and need lots of help with putting out live-catch traps, so that they can get these cats at least vaccinated and fixed before putting them back on the streets. They mostly need people willing to pay for vaccinating and fixing animals).

I will continue to stop if I see a dog without a person, a hurt animal, or someone in need. But throwing food around doesnt help the problem. If you find a dog alone, restrain it if possible (does it have a collar? can you tie it to a post? Is there someone with a yard nearby who could pen it in for a few hours?)...then contact authorities... if it has dogtags, contact the numbers on them... someone may be freaking that their nursing dog (and believe me a nursing dog with 13 puppies will look emaciated until they are weaned no matter what) escaped from their backyard or that their kid let it out of the car "to drink from a puddle" when they went into the 7-11. If you keep an animal for several hours it is important to give it water and appropriate food (ie dog food not a chocolate bar) Here is a short site on what to do if you see a dog or cat beside the highway: When you find a stray dog...I hope the rotweiler didnt get hit by a car.

Comments definitely welcome.

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previous meanderings - future past

Goodbye Michael. May your next life be kinder to you. - Thursday, Jun. 25, 2009
Taking Care of Your Cows - Thursday, Jun. 25, 2009
Saint Joseph robs the cradle and eats spaghetti - Sunday, Jun. 14, 2009
sticky notes and broken irises - Friday, Jun. 12, 2009
The FOODCOMMANDER - Monday, Jun. 08, 2009


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