Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month comes to an end this week. Did you wear orange, the official color, to raise awareness?

Actually, I don't believe Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month should ever end. That's basically what this blog is about. "With understanding comes acceptance and peace." "What you know, you will not destroy." I'm hoping to accomplish an end to cruelty to animals, by trying to end the terrible, untrue myths and misconceptions about them.

I honestly don't know if wearing orange does any good to achieve that goal. On the one hand, I'm sure that if I said "pink", you'd know what you're supposed to be aware of. But does mere awareness of the cause actually do any good?

photo from votk.orgIf you really want to go orange, do something for someone who always wears orange. Find a big cat sanctuary and donate something for the tigers. Caring for a big cat is an expensive task. Or you could buy them a toy, like maybe a boomer ball (check with the sanctuary first to see what they need and approve of). While the tigers receive the best of care in a sanctuary, there sometimes isn't a whole lot for them to do. A toy can brighten up their day.photo from votk.org

The photos here are of residents at the Valley of the Kings sanctuary.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Alright, I'm getting on my soapbox now...

The downturn in the economy has resulted in a decrease in the number of animals adopted from shelters. This is obviously bad for the animals, but in reality it shows that people are acting responsibly, because taking on an animal demands dedication, in terms of time, love, and finances. The animal deserves nothing less. If you can't promise you can financially provide for an animal, you shouldn't take one on.

On the other hand, the number of people abandoning their animals, either to shelters or just outright ditching them, has sharply increased, and people blame the economy. Now, I'm sure that anyone heartless enough to do that probably wouldn't bother reading my articles here, but if I'm preaching to the choir, then so be it...

The main issue about any pet you may have is family. As you can see over and over again in the posts I've made here, an animal thinks, feels, and loves just as much as you or me. To give an animal a home and then just run away from it is just as deeply traumatic for the animal as it would be for you if your parents had done it to you. And I don't care what you think your financial problems are, you took on the responsibility and you need to see it through.

In the local newspaper there was a story of a family that dumped their pets because the "man" of the house got laid off. The family made sure, though, that they still kept their cable TV. These heartless bastards should never have been allowed near an animal in the first place. If they merely wanted something disposable to ornament their life, they should have bought a Gucci somethingorother. At least they could ebay that when things didn't go according to their liking.

I realize that part of the problem is the horrible, will-not-die myth that animals are instinct-driven: "We can just abandon Snowball and she'll be OK because cats are natural-born hunters." ANY animal has to LEARN how to live in its environment. That's why I stress the concept of SOCIALIZATION--the process of learning what's necessary in the society you live in. A cat that was born and raised in a human household never learned the skills of hunting.

Your pet is dependent on you for his quality of life. Love, nurturing, food, and shelter. If you love your cable TV more than you love your pet, find a good home for him now, because you are not capable of providing what he needs.

Another aspect of the problem is the unthinking Easter (or other time) gift of a cute little animal--that is soon abandoned to "live in the wild"--as if there's any wild around. NY Times article at this link.

How can people continue to act as if animals are mere things? If you want to give a cute fluffy little thing for some holiday, Toys R Us has plenty of stuffed toys. A bunny is a thinking, feeling, loving being. They're a bit mysterious to me, which is why I would never take one on, but for the right person they make wonderful companions. They don't deserve to be shoved in a kid's face on Sunday and shoved out the door on Monday.

That NY Times story linked above mentions that Florida requires a $100 permit to own a python. That's probably a good thing. I don't believe in bans on any animal ownership, but $100 will probably weed out the unthinking people who want a pet to satisfy whatever whim just crossed their mind. $100 is probably a good level to get them to say, "I don't know about this..."

If you do love your pet, you can prepare for financial shocks in easy ways:
  • Set aside a little money each payday, for veterinarian bills. Veterinary care is usually not very expensive, but when something major happens, it can be costly. Plan ahead.
  • Preventive medicine helps. Keep their vaccines up to date.
  • Look into pet health insurance. That's putting aside some money each payday into the insurance company's hands, but if you suddenly face a big bill, it could be useful.
  • Spaying/neutering your pet will prevent the sudden arrival of a bunch more pets. It isn't really very expensive, either. check with your local humane society; there may be plans available to lower the cost even more.
  • If you are ready to take on a new pet, adopt one from a shelter. It's really a shame our president didn't set a good example in this area. Thousands of abandoned animals are killed each year because there simply is no one to take care of them.
An animal is a bundle of love. They deserve the same. They can be traumatized and made neurotic by bad treatment. Don't let a few dollars be the reason that happens to your little guy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday Lite

Getting back on the track of something fun for Thursdays, here's a brief video of a cat with some sticky tape. The look on his face is great.

All the cats I've known have really hated sticky things. With all that fur, it's no wonder. But some of them also have a fascination with them. Spike would always get interested whenever he heard the sound of tape or a sticker being peeled, and if you gave it to him, he would worry it relentlessly until it was no longer sticky.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Christian The Lion Guys on the Radio

Lots of people got all excited a few weeks ago when John Rendall and Ace Bourke appeared on several TV shows, and I shared some of those clips. Today, they appeared on radio in Australia (the "Breakfast" show on ABC Radio National), and you can hear that interview by using the player here: 

What makes this noteworthy is that they get to say quite a bit more than they did on TV, and get to tell a few interesting anecdotes. The whole clip runs about 10 minutes.

I don't know how long that particular clip will be available, so don't wait.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

When Cats Don't Seem So Smart

We once had a big brown tabby cat who we called Spike. Spike was extremely intelligent and expressive - you could easily read his moods on his face. He was also very "tuned in" to us - he knew the household rules and respected them. (So how do you explain the picture here? Simple - the punch bowl was new, and so it didn't have a rule yet. And Spike was smart enough to know that.)

Last August, we got two kittens. Not surprisingly, Spike (and our other older cat) didn't particularly like the new guys. And a week or two after the new kittens came to stay, Spike jumped up on the couch and peed.

Now, I'm sure you can understand that I figured this was some sort of protest over the home invasion by the kittens. And I scolded Spike and "reminded" him of where the litter boxes were.

Then Spike peed on our bed. Much too late it dawned on me that there may be something else going on besides a very atypical (for Spike) form of passive aggressiveness. So I took him to the veterinarian.

Spike had a urinary tract infection. Once he started getting medicine for it, his "bad behavior" stopped.

In hindsight, it's obvious that Spike's "inappropriate" peeing in full view of me was his way of trying to tell me that something was wrong with his urinary system. I mean, how more obvious could he make it? His peeing was done knowing I would see him do it; if it had really been a protest against the kittens, it would be more likely he'd have done it in secret.

If the new kittens hadn't been part of the whole picture, maybe I would have recognized Spike's meaning sooner. Communication is a two way street: The sender has to make it as clear as possible, and the receiver has to interpret it correctly. I don't know how Spike could have made it any more plain; I should have thought more in terms of what I knew about Spike's personality instead of assuming his behavior was "typical cat behavior".

Spike died in December. He never did fully accept the kittens, although he was never mean to them. And never in his life did he actually engage in the kind of petty passive-aggressiveness I blindly assumed him guilty of that one occasion.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's a Cat... Playing the Theremin!

I've been neglecting my duties, and I apologize. I'm referring to posting something cute or funny on Thursdays. Well, actually I've been attending to vital duties, and there's only so much time... but you know how that goes.

So, here's this week's video clip. It's a cat playing a kind of theremin. Cats and electronic instruments--two of my favorite things! OK, so he's not so much playing it as he is trying to figure it out. Much to the dismay of someone else. Watch to the end to see what I mean.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Word from Bing

from The Lions Are FreeFrom the Department of Strange Coincidences... I was listening to a bit of a Bing Crosby radio show from around 1951, and apparently there had been a news story about a lion on the loose. What surprised me is that Bing Crosby made the comment, "The authorities on lions, you know, the people who really know about lions and who come into close contact with them, they say they're not dangerous at all."

Well, now, isn't that a strange comment? Especially hearing it in the times we live in now, when everything has a warning label (even if the people writing the labels think it's gone too far and boil down all the warnings to "Danger: Avoid Death"), and when our legislators work overtime trying to outlaw every possibility of something bad ever happening.

But Bing's comment is actually closer to what I try to say here than what our society's general mindset is right now.

Christian the LionTake the case of a woman I met, who had a teaching facility with several big cats. The idea was to teach the general public about these wonderful animals, because ignorance breeds fear. When an animal was brought out of its enclosure, there would be two handlers each with a stout rope or chain on the cat--mostly to protect the cat, since the way the laws are, anyone who comes into contact with such an animal has the power to sentence it to death. And at the end of the day, she would take one of the lionesses into the house with her and they would sit together and watch TV.

Take a look again at George Adamson. At Kevin Richardson. At Christian.

from The Lions Are FreeI'm not saying that a person shouldn't have a healthy respect for an animal. I'm saying that with understanding comes peace.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

George Adamson - The Father of Lions

By now everyone knows the story of Christian, the lion owned by John Rendall and Ace Bourke in London, England and who was sent to Africa to live a natural lion's life. But rarely mentioned in connection with Christian is the man who made it possible for Christian to make that transition: George Adamson.

Christian was well socialized to life with humans. But to live in the wild in Africa, he had to be socialized into lion society--he had to learn how lions lived. George Adamson was the best person in the world to achieve this. He was often called "The Father of Lions" because he knew lions so well and worked with so many.

There is a little-known film, "The Lions Are Free", that is the story of how George Adamson took some of the lions that were used in the making of the movie "Born Free", and taught them how to live as lions. He helped the seven lions form a pride, and they ended up living successfully on their own.

But, like Christian, they never forgot the people they knew so well. In the film, Bill Travers (who played George Adamson in "Born Free") returns to Africa to see how the lions are getting on. Adamson takes him to where the pride is living, and soon Travers is greeted by these 7 full-grown lions--some of whom he hadn't seen since they were very young cubs--with "more affection than my own dogs back home"!

Here are a couple of brief scenes from "The Lions Are Free". The first shows the pride greeting Bill Travers.

The second shows George Adamson and Bill Travers on an outing, having a pleasant walk through the African savanna with the lions.

Monday, April 06, 2009


A couple of days ago, Zeki commented on a post and provided a link to some videos of a pet tanuki. I thought this was interesting, and since some people seem to think that these animals live only in video games, I thought it might be worthwhile to make a featured post about the tanuki.

The tanuki is also called the raccoon dog because it looks just like a cross between a raccoon and a dog. It is a canine, however, and there is a variety that is all-white, which takes away some of the raccoon similarity.

Raccoon dogs eat just about anything they can, including small animals, insects, fruit, and seeds.

They appear to mate for life, and both the male and female are actively involved in raising and providing for the cubs. They mature at one year old and can live for 11 years in a domestic environment.

In areas where there's cold winter weather, raccoon dogs will put on a lot of weight and sleep through the winter (they do not hibernate).

Wild raccoon dogs establish latrines and use them regularly. This behavior probably is welcomed by people who keep a raccoon dog as a pet.

Raccoon dogs do not bark, but make a variety of other noises. They also don't wag their tails; they restrict their tail motions to up and down.

People who keep raccoon dogs say they are very active and need a good-sized space to roam in. They're not as easily socialized as common dogs, and can be difficult to handle. This surely varies by the individual and how it was raised.

And remember I said they'll eat anything? Check out this video:

And finally here is some first-hand information from someone who lives with several raccoon dogs. Note that I'm not recommending them as pets; I doubt that they'd even be legal in most of the U.S. But it's always interesting to hear from someone with first-hand experience.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Gallery of Cute

It's Sunday. I've been reading the newspapers.

So, I say "Hooray!" for the New York Daily News and a very welcome picture gallery of baby (and other) animals (the picture at left is #11 in the gallery).

And hooray for the Belgrade Zoo for allowing the keepers to have play time with the lions.

There are lots of great pictures in that gallery. Kimba fans will have to see #46. And I would have to say that #52 is my personal favorite.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Family shares their life with a vixen

Miss Snooks, the vixen, was brought into a pet shop in the UK when she was a baby. After a lot of thought, the family that owns the pet shop decided to keep her. They have adjusted their schedule to match the nocturnal habits of the fox, and they give up vacations to keep care of her. (It's good to know that the needs of the animal are number one priority; it's not easy on a pet when the family just "goes away" for a couple of weeks.)

The fox is described as very loving, and loves to sit with the family. She even watches television and enjoys a cup of coffee (with sugar) every morning.

Video, with some delightful scenes, at the BBC web site.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Chimpanzee caught planning attacks on zoo visitors

A male chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo planned ahead for his hundreds of stone-throwing attacks on zoo visitors. Keepers found Santino collected stones prior to the zoo opening in the morning and hid them to use later, throwing them at zoo visitors. In the off season, When the zoo is closed, Santino neither hoards stones nor throws them.

Also, Santino has learned how to spot weak parts of the concrete boulders in his enclosure. When water seeps into cracks in the concrete and freezes, portions become detached that make a hollow sound when tapped. Santino taps on the boulders, and when he hears a suitable hollowness, hits harder to break off pieces. He adds these to his stashes of ammunition.

Full article is at the BBC web site.

And just when you're thinking that this clever little bastard certainly knows what he's doing, the article says that his behavior "suggests" a "form" of consciousness.

Oh, come on now. What is so fragile about the human ego that every example of an animal knowing what he's doing has to be reduced to something like a "suggestion" of a "form of consciousness"?