Monday, April 20, 2015

Fluffy and Pickles

Tonight when I noted that Pickles was downstairs, I quietly shut the door to the upstairs. For a moment she was alarmed but, as I'd hoped, she found downstairs places to hide. Then she snuggled in with Fluffy while I worked only five feet away.

When I opened the upstairs door again, she remained downstairs for quite awhile and even let me walk back and forth in front of her chair without bolting.

I'll count "victory" the first night she jumps up to sleep on the bed with Fluff, when I'm in it. She did discover the catio, and thinks outdoors is pretty amazing.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

On killing "feral" cats. Will they call it the "Kristen Lindsey" story?

By now you've probably heard of Kristen Lindsey, the woman who apparently shot a wandering cat with a bow and arrow, then bragged about it on Facebook. Warning: graphic photo at that link, and below the fold, here. But you likely have already seen it.

She is also a veterinarian. I say "woman" first rather than veterinarian because...isn't it one seems to be remarking on the fact that it isn't just the stereotyped male cat-hater who "offs" outdoor cats because they have a strong, negative, personal reaction against wandering cats.

It can also be women, and professionals. It's not just folks we like to stereotype, like these hunters who also posted their "kill" on social media.

Dr Lindsey's photo shows her holding a dead cat up in the air with an arrow through his head---proudly---and then she reportedly scoffed at those who suggested she would lose her job.

She lost her job. There is now a petition to have her lose her license.

I can be fairly certain Dr. Lindsey is not the first animal professional to apparently take it into her own hands to quietly make cats disappear. Dr. Lindsey, however, was not quiet about it, if she posted her photo on her Facebook page herself. Probably she knows lots of people who agree with her that "these damned feral cats would be better off dead." I'm sure she's found out now that not enough of them are going to stand up to drown out the masses who disagree.

If this report is accurate, Dr. Lindsey made four mistakes:

#1 Killing a cat in violation of the law
#2 Violating her oath as a veterinarian
#3 Talking about it

#4 and most importantly, she was mistaken in her belief that she could tell a feral cat from an cared-for (owned) cat from a bow-shot length away.

This is a mistake that hundreds of people make, probably daily, in cat management, whether one is ending cat lives, or seeking to save them. It is not just a mistake that one bragging woman made on Facebook.

Cats can't talk. That "feral" cat could be a lost pet someone has been frantically looking for weeks. It could be the next-door pet, out for a stroll (which is not illegal in most places). It could be an un-pettable outdoor cat that someone spent every last dime they had to get sterilized, so she would not add to the population of uncared-for outdoor cats (ferals). Simply blowing something away because it passes into your sights and you have some misled notion of your rightness is not the way society works. The other day a man hit a toddler that ran into the road and stopped in horror. Another man shot at him, and killed not only the driver, but his own nephew. Then the shooter committed suicide. While some may say comparing shooting a cat with a bow is nothing compared to the death of four people, the trigger-finger is the same. Snap judgement, then killing. Something that can't be taken back.

If it turns out this dead cat is indeed Tiger, the 'gator-riding farm cat of YouTube fame, that will be what hangs Dr. Lindsey professionally. She apparently killed a pet. Some professionals might cut her some slack if she actually killed a "feral" cat in poor condition (although an arrow and Facebook bragging rights show appalling lack of professional judgement and caring, and is still a violation of the professional oath). But there isn't much wiggle room that anyone can give you when you gleefully kill your neighbor's beloved farm cat and pet.

I know I have a few cat-destroyers who read this blog. Now and then they leave comments and I delete them, because they leave the same comments all over the internet. They are trolls, that's all. But for the rest of her life, even if she keeps her professional license, when someone Google-images Ms. Lindsey's name when she applies for a job, or submits an abstract to present a conference, this is what will come up first:

If you are the type of person who thinks your personal judgement is above the law, or above professional oaths, think about that. There are plenty of Dr. Lindsey's customers who are coming to her defense, saying that she is great veterinarian. Yet in the court of public opinion, the court of professional colleagues, and the court of law, this may or may not be enough.

Be sure, if you make any illegal decision (even "good" ones--for example, snitching a neighbor's pet to re-home because you don't believe they are caring properly for it) be sure you are in fact making that decision out of actual good will and caring...not out of your own personal certainty of your rightness.

Realize that if this story is correct, Dr. Lindsey is no lone "monster." While I've written this, any number of cats have had their lives snuffed out by people who "know better," or even kind but desperate people who have called around to shelters and rescues for help, found none, and therefore resorted to a burlap bag and a pond for a litter of kittens. Scared tame pets have been euthanized at shelters for being feral. Lost pet cats have been TNR'd and put quietly back out on the streets, without a single "found" poster going up. Mistake #4 is made by thousands of people every year.

This issue is bigger than Dr. Lindsey. Her story just happened to be shouted out loud on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Missing Pet Partnership. THE best lost pet resources

My niece just Facebooked me about a friend whose home burned. Her cats escaped, but are lost. I sent her a link to The Missing Pet Partnership. If you can remember the name, you can always find it with a quick on-line search. I send it to anyone I see who posts that they have lost a pet. You can't find a better resource anywhere. And if you have found one, please post it in the comments to I can share that one too! Take a look under Recovery Tips and scroll down for information on Lost Cat Behavior.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Raja checks in (Twizzler)!

Look at those gorgeous eyes...

Here is Raja's baby picture.

Raja's mom needed her original medical records. We do keep these on hand (although it may take a bit to dig some of them out) so if you have adopted a cat from us and ever misplace the cat's records and need them, drop us a line.

Finally! The famous macaroni and cheese -- the basic version

After our winter Owl House gathering, people asked me for the mac and cheese recipe (I made three versions) and I haven't made it until now to be able to measure the ingredients. you go.

While making the sauce, cook 1.5 - 2 cups of elbow macaroni, to just barely under-done
Cut one block of extra sharp chedder cheese into chunks. The better the chedder, the better the sauce, but cheap chedder works fine. You do not need to cut it small or grate it. It will melt just fine if it is in chunks.
Save out the end of the block of cheese (about 1 inch) to grate for the top of the casserole.

Grease a small glass casserole dish with olive oil.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter/margarine in a non-stick frying pan.
If you are going to use onions and/or fresh garlic, add one small chopped onion and at least two crushed cloves of garlic and cook on low until the onions are translucent. If you use fresh onions/garlic you may find you need more butter when adding the flour to start the sauce
Slowly stir in 2-3 heaping tablespoons of flour. Stir and cook on low until smooth, less than a minute. This will be fairly just want to cook it until the flour is not visible as powder. If you accidentally add too much flour, add a little more butter/margarine.
Slowly add about 1.5 cups of milk (half and half if you are feeling decadent). You will probably add another 1/2 cup later to keep the sauce smooth, approximately 2 cups total.
Once smooth and lump-free, add:
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of garlic powder if you did not use fresh
1 tablespoon of dried onion if you did not use fresh (optional)
About 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. You can also use dried basil if you prefer.
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (Note: you can also use shoyu/soy sauce instead for a different flavor, but if you do, use LESS and add SLOWLY to taste, and do not add additional salt without tasting)
The cut-up cheese
Cook on low until smooth.

The sauce should be smooth--not runny or milky, but not overly thick and clumpy. If the sauce is too thick, your mac and cheese will be solid rather than creamy. It it is too runny, the casserole won't really set (although it will still make great leftovers)

Add additional milk, salt, pepper, garlic etc to taste. The sauce should not be salty, but it should not be blah/tasteless either.

Note: I add a thick slice of Velveeta if I have it to smooth out the sauce. Not enough to taste the cheap processed cheese--just enough to keep the consistency from being grainy.

Drain the macaroni. Do not overcook or it will be mushy after being baked.
Place in casserole dish. It should fill it just over 1/2 of the way. Do not can always add more pasta after adding the sauce if you want.
Pour the sauce carefully over the macaroni and mix in.
Cover the top with panko crumbs (this recipe originally called for crushed up Ritz crackers. Panko is easier) Be generous. Take a fork or knife and mix the panko just barely into the surface of the casserole.
Scatter the remaining grated chedder over the top.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, 350, until it is bubbling, and the cheese is melted and the panko is slightly golden, about 20 minutes.
If you make a larger casserole, baking could take up to 1/2 hour.
Remember, everything is already cooked. You do not need to over-bake this.
Take out of the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. This is important.


Bacon. Cook the bacon to well-done, in advance. Drain and aggressively pat away oil with a paper towel. Chop into small pieces (but not crumbs). Add to the sauce about 1 minute before assembling the casserole.
Fresh tomato. Chop into bite-sized pieces and drain. Add to sauce about 1 minute before assembling the casserole.
Broccoli or asparagus. Steam until just tender but with some crunch. Drain, and add to the sauce about 1 minute before assembling the casserole.
You can replace 1/2 of the chedder with quality smoked gouda. Bacon or sun-dried tomato goes well with this cheese combination.
Mild jalapenos can also be added if you like spicy.

Things that don't work as well:

Spinach will entirely permeate the sauce flavor. If you like Florentine, go for it. But if you want veggies and cheese sauce (two distinct flavors) pick a different veggie. I haven't tried kale. That could be an option.
Canned tomatoes. No matter how well you drain they also will change the flavor of the sauce, and will have little texture. Use fresh.

If leftovers are dry, just add a very small amount of milk and mix in before microwaving.

If you expand this recipe, you do NOT need to add more butter/margarine and flour to start. More milk and more cheese will keep the sauce thick without needing more butter/flour.

The sauce:


Done from the oven:


I've tweaked this recipe which came from my mother. I asked her where she got it, and she told me it was on the macaroni box! So much for secret family recipes. Hers is the best

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pickles' eyes

I think Pickles might be an original. She has beige colored eyes, and her pupils are fully dilated most of the time. Her sight is quite acute---she's a sharp-eyed lady. This photo is without a flash and her eyes shine red at all times. It's a bit creepy. When she first came into my care I assumed her eyes were blue since she was a Siamese-type. But when I really looked at her eyes, I discovered they really had no color at all, other than the pupil. She is not quite sure about being in the house. She only comes downstairs at night, and only if Fluffy is in view. I'm hoping she settles in soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Heartworm disease in cats

(Fluffy has clearly settled in. No he doesn't have heartworm! More on his life later!)

Maddie's Institute (of Maddie's Fund) launched an intensive effort to get medical and behavioral information to shelter and rescue-group staff and volunteers, as well as veterinarians. Information that you once might have had to pick through veterinary journals to track down (as much of the information is new, or scattered, or not available in full on-line without a journal subscription) is steadily accumulating in the Maddie's Institute library. If you are at all interested in rescue and sheltering, you should--if you have not already--subscribe to their mailings, and especially encourage any younger people who are interested in animal rescue to do the same, so that people entering this field arrive with a broader education than I did.

I had a lucky launch. Upon graduation from high school, I scored a job as a veterinary assistant. I had zero qualifications other than I liked animals, was polite, and I came cheap. The job was live-in, and I was paid $25 a week (washer/dryer and HBO included!). Another staff member left my first week there, so I was given added responsibilities and my pay went up to $60.

But it was the education that was priceless. The veterinarian, Dr. Briggs, somehow assumed that when I said I had been accepted for college in Ithaca but wasn't going to go for a few years, assumed I meant Cornell for veterinary medicine. Actually, I meant Ithaca College for philosophy. It wasn't until the week before I left when he was proudly (and incorrectly) announcing my future to a visitor that we learned our mutual misunderstanding. However, I benefited from it: During the two years I was there, he was a merciless educator. I say merciless, because he wasn't exactly the most gentle teacher, and half the time I was petrified (I started at age 17). But he was an excellent veterinarian, and I learned. His big oak rolltop desk was piled high with journals, from which I also benefited.

I doubt many veterinarians hire 17-year-old high school graduates to assist them in surgery alone any longer. But to replace such opportunities, there is the internet--for at least the knowledge, if not the experience.

That is my long-winded way of introducing Brian A. DiGangi's (DVM, MS, DAVBP Canine/Feline) excellent article on Feline Heartworm Disease, which would be a great thing to read over your Sunday coffee tomorrow--or today, if you are just pouring your cup, like I am.

Despite the availability, ease of use and effectiveness of feline heartworm preventives, one survey found that nearly 70% of shelters in areas of high prevalence of infection did not administer such medications to their feline guests. Added expense and the misperception that cats need to be tested prior to administration of preventives were the primary reasons for avoiding the practice.

Here at The Owl House, our cats are treated monthly with Revolution (Selamectin). Our windows have hardware cloth, rather than screens, so mosquitoes could enter, and we are surrounded by water. This does not assure our cats are heartworm-free (read the article to learn why) but it does mean they likely won't acquire it here. Revolution also controls fleas and ear mites, although not ticks, so it has a wide variety of benefits for us. I really only had a vague and general understanding of how heartworm progressed in cats until I read Dr. DiGangi's article, however.

Dr. DiGangi, whom I have met a number of times at Petfinder's Adoption Options, is an excellent teacher and writer, and his article is in professional but layman's terms, so your brain won't hurt as it might with many veterinary articles.

Heartworm in cats is quite a different disease than in dogs. Give it a read!

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Orleans

I'm blessed with a job where I periodically travel as a representative or speaker to conferences and workshops. There was a point in my life where I used to pick one conference a year, save up for the registration fee and gas all year, and then camp at the nearest campground a $12 a night to be able to afford to attend. Now I get to go to around four a year, and be warm safe and dry in a hotel room. I get to meet wonderful people and learn new things.

I just came back from the Animal Care EXPO in New Orleans. There was a whole track on cats. Although I had already been exposed to much of the content via online webinars, the best part, of course, is sitting in the audience with people who are just like on the ground in the streets and fields trying to help cats. I'll be posting in the future on some of the issues that struck me. It's interesting to see TNR "mainstreamed." Some part of the movement I definitely approve of. Others, I have differences with.

Notes: If you aren't following the most recent changes in animal shelter management of cats, you should check into it. You can learn more here at The Million Cat Challenge (!)

Travel also means I usually get at least a couple of hours to wander. Mycolleague Melissa and I arrived about two hours early so we took a walk. So here are a couple of pictures of the French Quarter.

We actually were staying in the Arts Quarter, but arrived just as artists were mostly packing up for the day. I usually try to purchase one small memento from each trip to a major city. New Orleans figures largely in my past due to the many hours helping shelters online after Hurricane Katrina, so when I saw this little painting I thought "That's the one." The artist assured me I could purchase a companion painting of a cat online. Now if I can only find what I did with his card.

A seance room at a French Quarter restaurant.

I arrived home to cold weather, but it finally is warming up into the 60s this week. So much spring stuff to do! So many calls about cats! Winter, it seems, is finally over.