Monday, December 28, 2015

In just before the storm...

We've lost our supernaturally long fall, and outside the rain is turning to sleet and ice. Last night on Facebook, on the swap and save page, someone posted looking for a home for this cat:

Someone else posted that a cat like that from their street was missing. "Does he have an eye that doesn't open all the way?" The finder said "yes." The two arranged to connect. I offered to take the cat if it turned out he wasn't the missing one, given that an ice storm was on the way. However it turned out the person checking on the cat didn't own him, she had been feeding him on their village street, and the location where he was found was miles and miles away from the village. It appears the cat had been dumped out in the country. I supposed it's possible he jumped into the back of a truck and hitched a ride, but he had been hanging out in an area of the village where there are too many stray many that even the most ardent cat lovers are at their wits end.

So because he needed somewhere warm and safe to go, and also needs medical attention, he came here. He's friendly, and is a grand Russian Blue type cat, but he clearly has an eye infection, and it doesn't seem to be a simple one. Both eyes are watering, and one is sunk back quite a way into his head. I'll need to get him to the vet fast, to make sure he is FeLV/FIV negative, since he's upstairs in the cat facility.

He's quite content in his cage. He's probably quite happy to have a warm bed to lie in. And he's lucky his stars aligned...he was found by someone who worried about him out in the cold did something for him, his post was noticed by someone who recognized him from his original territory so he didn't get dismissed as a wandering barn cat, and myself. The person who brought him here even left a donation that will cover the basic office visit at the vet. Let's hope his luck keeps going strong!

The girl with the family who brought him had named him "Happy." I may have to find a variation on that name to help find him a home if we can't locate an owner, but for now I'll keep him "Happy" and I'll hope the power of that name means a a quick trip to the veterinarian for eyes meds, testing, and vaccinatios is all he needs to get fixed up (he is already neutered). I'll be calling Stray Haven tomorrow to see if anyone has reported him as lost.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ethan, formerly feral kitten from Van Etten

If I stick to my 2016 resolutions for survival, you should be seeing a lot more blog posts from me. Things have been so jerkily hectic for the last year, I've let far too much go by the wayside. One very vital and way-to-neglected tasks is getting photos of the cats, and promoting them online. No photos, no promotion, equals no adoptions.

If cats aren't moving out the door faster than they are coming in, then someone (me!) isn't doing her job.

Ethan is a shy guy with a really affectionate nature. He comes up in the bed in the morning for serious cuddles, curling up in the crook of my arm, licking my fingers, and staring at me in adoration. The rest of the day he likes romping with the other cats, and he'll play keep-away if not approached with a smile and a kind voice. He is neutered and glows with that beauty of the healthy black cat. He would be fine alone, or with other cats, however if he is with other cats there should be at least one who would be glad to romp and play.

This will be Ethan's own page. I'll add more photos and video of him and will shortly remove the paragraphs at the top. Then I can add it as a URL on his social media profiles.

Friday, December 25, 2015


It has become very popular to post stories on the internet about people who "cruelly" surrender pets to a shelter. Stories about pets surrendered as seniors, after a break-up and neither party wants the pet, or pets who are surrendered as soon as their kid goes to college...

I remember once when I surrendered a kitten to our local SPCA that had been abandoned at the college where I was staying over Christmas break. Most everyone had left, and someone left this kitten behind. I tried to bring him in out of the cold in with my own cat, but my cat was beating the kitten up. I took him to the SPCA and while I was saying goodbye with tears in my eyes, the shelter staff just looked at me and shook their heads. They didn't thank me for helping the kitten. They did not smile or thank me when I put all the money I had in the donation can. I realized in shock and guilt that they thought the kitten was mine, and that I had lied that someone else had abandoned it, because I was crying as I left him. It was an awful experience, even though I was doing what I had always been told was "right" to do with an abandoned kitten if you could not keep it. Take the cat to a shelter.

I really have issues with surrender-shaming--a practice that is becoming more common, because it can reach a larger audience with just a single Facebook post. We tell people if they don't want or can't keep a pet that they should bring the pet to a shelter, then we give them hell when they do.

When I worked for a shelter, yes, it made me sick to my stomach when a car pulled in and someone started walking toward the door with a crate with a cat in it, or walking a dog on a leash. But you know why it made me sick to my stomach? Not because the person was irresponsibly surrendering the pet (although sometimes they were). It was because we would often have to kill that pet, and the person bringing the pet to us was hoping we would find the pet a home. Even after I was volunteering for that shelter's spay/neuter clinic years later when they were "no-kill" I still could not suppress the nausea I felt when I saw a person coming to the door with a crate. I knew the pet in that crate was safe, yet that mere two years I had spent in the 80s knowing every pregnant cat would be killed, every sneezing kitten would be killed, was embedded in my soul.

We would be angry at the people who brought them in, but most of our anger came from our inability to provide the services we felt we should be providing...providing the safety for that pet that we promised them when we said "Don't abandon them...don't neglect them...bring them here instead."

We now have more options than we had in the 80s, although we still have a long way to go. And we still tell people: Don't abandon pets. Don't tie them outside. Don't ignore them. If you can't keep your pet, bring it to a shelter to find it a better home.

Yet more and more often it seems like these surrender-shaming stories come out, supposedly the same day the pet was surrendered, shaming the person who abandoned the animal, in order to find the pet a home. "Poor Rainbow was thoughtlessly dumped at the shelter today by her uncaring owners. Please help find her a home!"

What does this teach the next person who is desperate and is thinking about surrendering a pet, or is thinking about bringing in a stray they can't keep?

"If you take an animal to a shelter, you will be treated like a criminal, even if you are doing something good." "If you take your pet to the shelter because you don't know what else to do, it will be on Facebook by noon that you are a heinous person, along with a photo of the pet you took in."

Is this what we want? What result do we expect? That people will magically decide to keep these pets? Or will pets instead be more likely to be left tied out in a shabby doghouse, or abandoned somewhere, or totally ignored---because what we are really teaching the public is that "a person who surrenders a pet, or brings in a stray is-- by virtue of the fact that they brought the pet in--a bad person."

I understand the impulse. I recall my anger when I found Goggles on my porch. And guess what. Wasn't my first impression wrong?

Are we surrender-shaming to help a pet and teach the public? Or are we surrender-shaming to make ourselves feel like embattled heroes?

Is it about the pet? Or is it about ourselves?

Stop surrender shaming. The people we are shaming are the people we WANT to bring pets in, rather than have them neglect the pet with inattention. Or they are innocent people who have a good reason to need to ask our help by bringing us an animal they found or legitimately cannot keep.

Remember? Isn't that our mission?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter is time for napping

I came in from taking care of the cat facility and this is what I found in the house:

The only one up (excepting Pepper and Timea upstairs) was Coraline. She promptly curled her tiny body up in my lap as soon as I sat down at the computer.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Timea and Pepper are pretty darned friendly

I've started sleeping upstairs to see if they have any interest at all in cuddling up. Last night I slept in the back bedroom and they slept on the bed in the middle guest room. So I'll try the middle guest room to see if they are willing to share "their" bed with me.

If they do, I may post them for adoption, although I expect it will be many months before the perfect home appears. It would need to be local, have no other cats (Pepper is a bit of a bully with the other cats here although he might settle down once there are fewer kittens who run around begging to be chased), and be a perfectly secure house. We've had people with somewhat cluttered homes and open basements be perfectly good homes with friendly cats, but these two have already shown that they aren't a fit for a home with too many places they can hide. They need a nice quiet place with a cat lover who will take security seriously, and keep them shut up in a single room until they are quite comfortable, as you can see they are here.

I also need to get them more used to having treats thrown their way. When I toss treats to the general cat mob, Pepper runs away, as if he thinks the treats are being thrown AT him rather than FOR him. I think we can work at this with them together upstairs, where they are most at ease. I'd like to get them used to treats, so they can mingle at treat time with my pet cats. It's always good to have "tasty treats" associated with "being around other cats."

New barn cat, Buster

Those of you who don't follow us on Facebook may not know that yet another cat showed up on or doorstep. Literally.

Our cat dramas always play out like novel. First, a neighbor knocked on our door about a cat that she saw at their house, daily, about a quarter of a mile away. A gray cat with white face and toes.

Two days later I let Bear out before I ran into Ithaca, and went I came home just after dark, he was nowhere to be found. When I headed down to the barn he came trotting out to meet me, looking over his shoulder. His fur was ruffled, and when I got him into the house, I realized he was covered in feces. His own. Bear quite literally had had the shit scared out of him in a cat fight.

It must have been rather humbling for him. In his younger and slimmer days, Bear was a terrorist in his own right. But he has been sleeping his plump life away in the house, and I'm sure he's not a match for a big young tom cat. I set him up in the bathroom to clean up.

At the time I wasn't sure if he had tangled with a raccoon or a cat. I had found a dead raccoon on my lawn with porcupine quills in his snout earlier in the week, so I figured there was a rabies issue in my neighborhood (Warning: dead raccoon photo below)

I didn't want Molly-the-dog or any of the other cats to be licking on Bear for a few hours in case he had tangled with a raccoon, so I had to shut him away. In looking him over, I noticed gray fur caught in his claws. Feeling a bit like "Cat Fight CSI" I wondered about the neighbor's "gray cat at large" report.

The next day was bright and sunny. Gremlin was on the catio, but was huddled next the the cat door, staring at something intently. I went outside to look around, gazing out across the lawn. Suddenly I realized the object of interest was only 10 feet away. A gray cat was staring at me from behind the tree. I went inside and got some food. He ran away, but soon came back.

I set a trap the next day and had him within a few hours. Soon he was in a cage in the barn, hiding in a feral cat den.

I hoped he would turn out to be friendly, but as we waited for his neuter appointment it became clear that while he was used to people, he wasn't having any of this petting stuff. So two days after he was fixed, FeLV/FIV tested, microchipped, eartipped and vaccinated, I let him loose right where I captured him, figuring I would starting putting food down in the bottom of the barn daily for him. There are already cat shelters down there "just in case." At the vet I named him "Bully", since he had beaten up Bear, but it seemed like a mean name to give a cat, so I renamed him "Buster."

Two night ago I heard cat fight noises outside and I went down to the barn in the darkness. Buster was there, staring at something behind the lawn tractor. Buster headed off into the barn when he saw me, but something ran around behind me into the grass. When I shined the flashlight after it, another gray cat stared back at me. Damn! Another cat to catch! At least I knew Buster had "stuck" and hadn't headed for the hills after being released.

Then the very next day, the neighbors who adopted Bandit, a previous "barn cat" I had trapped, called. Bandit was limping and sleeping a lot. What do you bet he tangled with Buster or this other new cat? I'm taking over a crate for them to get Bandit used to, since he ought to have an updated rabies vaccination anyway.

There's never a dull moment when you own a big red barn that seems to yell out "dump your unwanted cats here!" I wish people realized when they drop their cats on a farm, they are costing a responsible landowner (if they choose not to ignore the cat) hundreds of dollars. Luckily I get a discount and Buster was only $120 for all the work I had done on him. But for a normal landowner, the same level of care likely would have cost up to $300.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Don't know if you all have seen this yet.

Timea is a suck-up

...although I don't think she knows it. She's using the entertainment-center-turned-cat-tree and of course any use of that particular piece of work makes me very very happy.

These two really like being "up"!

Blast them claws! Stopping furniture scratching

Cats are sneaky things. Life goes on well for quite awhile. No pissing. No scratching. Then one day you hear it in the other room...the sound of claws. At first you disregard it. It's probably the cat scratching post or one of the cardboard scratches. But no, this doesn't sound quite like that. This sounds like...NO! NOT THE GOOD CHAIR YOU LITTLE MONSTER!

Or the big monster, in this case. Bear.

Bear normally goes outdoors and does his scratching, but since his big tussle with the dumped tom cat (Whom I've tentatively named "Bully" simply because I had to have a name when I called the vet for his neuter appointment), Bear has been less interested in spending lots of time outside. It's also getting colder, so he doesn't venture far off the porch down to his favorite dead tree, where he likes to scratch.

Suddenly, he's after the furniture.

First Law of Scratching. Never hesitate. She who hesitates has no nice furniture.

I had to dig out the StickyPaws from the cat junk drawer.

And off I went, taping up the two places Bear had shown an interest in. One was this antique chair that I specifically love because of the old velvet upholstery. While I certainly could have it reupholstered, that would destroy half the charm of it.

For many years, I owned only wood futon furniture, to avoid the issue entirely. But gradually I got fed up with the severity of the look. After going through lots of cheap Craigslist furniture, I discovered the secret to having an upholstered couch.

Curved arms. Cats like to reach up, and if they can't, they find the spot less attractive. I also keep cardboard scratchers on the floor nearby. They get a bit messy and are relatively expensive, but I use the old ones as fire-starters in the woodstove, and hide any unsightly ones when visitors are scheduled to arrive. Drop-in folks just have to deal with the fact that this is a house where living with cats (in a manner that reduces damage and smells) is the priority.

If all else fails, Bear will get some SoftPaws slapped on him. Luckily he's laid back enough that it probably won't be too hard to put them on.

Maybe I'll put holiday SoftPaws on him. ;)

(Note: I received no request to recommend StickyPaws or SoftPaws nor any reimbursement for doing so).