Mimi, on “Mother’s Day”

photo of black cat in the sun

Mimi on Mother's Day

Mimi’s annual Mother’s Day address

Sì, Mi chiamano Mimì, …

That’s my famous self-introduction, “Yes, they always call me Mimi…” Or, rather, that of the character after whom my rescue mom named me, the female lead in the Puccini opera La Boheme, the day I entered her household, forever.

Note that the accent is on the second syllable, in the French way.

Ha! I knew nothing of Puccini or opera before I came to this house, though I did lead quite the Bohemian lifestyle with many boyfriends and many adventures and assignations, inspiring my name, resulting in something like 24 kittens…hence the topic of my article today. I not only celebrate my own motherhood, but my adoption by my human mom, an event that changed both of our lives as motherhood will do even without the act of giving birth.

Participating in a university study…for Mother’s Day?

photo of black cat in bed covers

Lucy Helps to Make the Bed, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

First, she and I are going to embark on a very special Mother’s Day project including myself and all my kittens we’ve kept in touch with. We’ll all be participating in a study!

My human mom wrote an article about how she came to know me and ultimately adopt me in an article, A Nice, Nice Kitty. In that article you’ll read about a kitten named Lucy* from my second or third litter of kittens who my mom ended up adopting after finding good homes for the other kittens in that litter.

I didn’t live here yet, but Lucy was the kitten who was responsible for me joining this household. Lucy unfortunately had a disease called feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, and no matter how much my mom loved her and cared for her, Lucy died at only 15 months old. My mom saw me carrying another litter of kittens in my belly—in fact, my last litter—and for many good reasons you can read about in the article mentioned above decided to take me into her house.

And for the sake of Lucy, who died so young, and for moms like my human mom, who suffer such sadness at the loss of kittens and cats of any age to this disease, we’ll be participating in a study of FIP at the University of California at Davis. We’ve just downloaded our forms and contacted the other kittens’ people, and we’ll write more about this as all of us do our cheek swabs and fill out our forms. (I’m still researching other kittens and family members before I send in the entire family tree, and discovered that the little clip of Lucy’s fur didn’t provide the right DNA for the test.~Bernadette)

I loved being a mother, but I’m such a lucky kitty now

I can’t believe I’ve gone from a loose little street cat to a happy, healthy and socially-conscious kitty participating in a university study! Unlike Mimi from La Boheme, I have gone on to live happily ever after, as should every kitty, and dog and bunny and bird and all the other animals who love to live with humans.

photo of black cat on sidewalk

Big Daddy comes for Mimi (actually coming to the door)!

But as for motherhood…I can’t deny it, I loved having kittens. I carefully chose the fathers, usually the two handsome black cats from Fifth Avenue, one tall and slender and silly and the other stockier and serious despite the little white spot on his chest, ensuring that all my children would be the same lustrous black as their parents with a mix of other physical and personality traits, and most were. Unfortunately, I loved my children so much that I also didn’t realize the world didn’t need more perfect little black kittens.

Motherhood is not for every kitty—not for most kitties!

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story

I’ve written an article listing 30 reasons why cats like me should be spayed—in fact, why all cats should be spayed except perhaps those lucky few whose people will monitor their activity and prepare for the proper adoption of the offspring.

Much as I loved being a mother I’m glad I’m spayed and can’t have any more kittens because I never realized how simply fun and enjoyable every day could be for a cat who was spayed and in a good home. Humans really recognize the royal nature of cats and enjoy indulging our every whim and we should really give them the opportunity to do that!

kittens in cat bed

The best I could do!

I’d like to tell you about the kittens I gave birth to in April 2006 including Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal, and their humans, and the July 2007 litter—the Big Four, who most people who’ve been reading this blog know all too well. What mother doesn’t like to see her children become famous and successful?

Of course Lucy stayed here, and is gone but never forgotten. I see by reading mom’s e-mails that Charlotte, Angus and Donal, wish me a happy Mother’s Day, and I was so glad to see the happy photos of them come over.

She had helped to find homes for them, and she kept in touch with the people who adopted them, before she even really knew me. I like that about her, as much as I like the fact that she took me to be spayed.

blakc cat with rainbows

Lucy with rainbows in doorway.

*Bernadette says: I was very surprised, when I researched the libretto for La Boheme, that the next line in Mimi’s aria is, but my real name is Lucia.” The kitten I lost to FIP, and as Mimi tells you, the reason she came here, was named “Lucy”. As I moved Mimi and her babies from the box into the cage in the spare bedroom, I felt the strongest sense that Lucy was in the room with us, in fact turning around to look at the door, which was closed, but I had pictured it open with Lucy standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the sun on the landing. She had only been gone three weeks, it wouldn’t be unusual that I would forget she was gone in a distracted moment, but the way Mimi settled in, and the way she looked at me in that moment, I knew it wasn’t because I had forgotten. I never sensed Lucy again after that, nor felt that deep pang of loss, though those poor kittens and Mimi had to endure frequent hugs and kisses for months until I felt secure again. You’ll learn a little more about Lucy in upcoming articles, especially as we discuss FIP.


A Valentine That’s Good for Your Cat’s Heart

gray and white cat in the sun

Namir in the sun.

I’m sure plenty of kitties will be receiving heart-shaped treats and toys this February 14, and of course they will be grateful for our enthusiastic generosity for their welfare.

But you might benefit your kitty, and many others, with another type of heart-shaped gift—a donation to the Winn Feline Foundation’s Ricky Fund which funds research into Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most common heart ailment among cats, and a very common disease among cats in general. This research will potentially save thousands of feline lives by studying the genetics of the disease and prolong thousands more lives while providing realistic treatment for cats who have been diagnosed with this disease.

namir's bedroom eyes

Namir

You may have read my articles about Namir and his four-year struggle with, and ultimate death from, HCM in July 2009. Cats deal with illness and discomfort so well we might never know there was a health issue, and Namir had no time for any suffering, but behind our everyday activities was a lot of pain and discomfort on his part, and worry and watching on mine. There was also four different medications twice a day, occasional trips to the emergency room when he developed congestive heart failure, watching him lose weight and muscle mass and ultimately know that he had no time left, and that I had to choose euthanasia rather than watch him suffer his last hours or days.

I was lucky to have Namir for years before the symptoms showed even though we’d found the heart murmur early, and he lived to be 15. Others are not so lucky because it is not unusual for a cat to be diagnosed with HCM as a kitten and only live to the tender age of four or five. So it was with Steve Dale, nationally known and syndicated pet writer, radio show host and owner of Ricky, for whom the fund is named.

photo of steve dale and his cat Ricky

Steve and Ricky, compliments of Steve Dale

As Steve writes in one of his blog posts: “In 2002, I lost my best friend – a cat named Ricky. He was a unique dude. Long before Nora, he also played the piano (improvisations jazz). Being a social guy who didn’t relegate his musical skill to his own home – he performed ‘in concert’ at places like Petco and PETsMart. Ricky knew how to do as much as most dogs, the list included jumping through a Hoola Hoop, sitting on command, giving ‘high-fives’ and more. He helped to demonstrate cats can learn just as much as their canine cousins.”

Steve commented after a recent meeting of the Winn Feline Foundation’s board,

“I am gratified that in Ricky’s memory, we’ve actually raised over six figures for the Winn Feline Foundation Ricky Fund, and scientists have been able to prevent some cats from ever getting his horrible disease. But we still have a long ways to go to prevent all cats from ever being diagnosed. Or to find an effective drug to treat feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Right now, HCM is among the most common causes of death in middle aged indoor cats, perhaps the most common. That has to change.”

Read the rest of the above post, including more about Steve Dale and the Ricky Fund on Steve’s blog in Celebrate Valentine’s Day from Your Heart to Your Cat’s Heart and Ricky Fund for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Research, and on the Winn Feline Foundation website where you can also make a donation.

Ricky sounds as if he was a really unforgettable character, playing the piano and doing tricks and more. Read about Ricky on Steve’s website at Ricky Showed Us What A Cat Can Be (careful, it’s a real tear-jerker, but well worth the read!).

Visit the Winn Feline Foundation for thorough and reliable information on feline health and health studies, and sign up to receive regular updates on their research.

More cats are kept as pets than dogs, but cats get less veterinary care and fewer studies are done on behalf of feline health (Catalyst Council). Research needs funding, some of which comes from foundations and government sources, but some of which needs to come from individuals like you. Cat owners need to show support for research and treatment in order to change this.


Mimi Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette

black cat profile

Mimi's Profile

Mimi’s third and final installment of her Mother’s Day trilogy with an introduction to her last litter of kittens, and a little more about the FIP study.

Summer 2007

I loved all of my kittens, especially the four I currently live with, my last litter, who as adults are more my friends and playmates than anything like grown children still living with their mother. Funny what spaying will do for your outlook.

cats in bathtub

Everybody in the Pool

When I gave birth I thought I was going to be on the same little kitten treadmill as before, litter of four, all black, four weeks, in heat again before these were done, seeing these off while gestating the next litter to be born in late October. I’ve always kept things in order, but I didn’t mind the change in schedule for what happened next.

photo of black cat nursing kittens

Mimi With Her Babies

These kittens were born the last Thursday in July and we moved here the following Sunday. You can read about the reasons and the move in A Nice, Nice Kitty. We’ve been here ever since.

This litter had three boys and one girl, kind of unusual, and one of the boys is the little one while the girl is as big as the other two boys. Well, there’s no accounting for genetics. I can clearly see which of the studs is father to which of these kittens as well, though the little guy gets his more petite build from me. The most unusual feature about them is that they all have white hairs in their ears. I have no idea where they got this—I don’t have even one white hair in my ears and I don’t remember that in their fathers, but there’s genetics again.

four black kittens

A Four-kitten Pile-up

Somehow, mom tells them all apart, though she sometimes has to guess, but she can see details most people can’t. I sit by to check her accuracy and she’s almost as good as me. Now, my mom could go on and on and on…about these four, but I have a little more restraint when it comes to these cats, so let me give a little description about each one.

First, my human mom took all four of them into her paws as soon as they came into her house, and although she was a stranger and I should have tried to protect my newborns, I decided that not only did she need to do that, it would also be good for them. And so it has been—having been handled practically since birth they are relaxed and gentle with everyone, even the lady who pokes and prods and shoots us up.

Giuseppe

black cat in tub

Giuseppe

Giuseppe is the biggest and heaviest of all the four at 15 pounds, and he thinks he’s the ringleader but we don’t always pay attention to him. He trained with Namir in greeting people at the door and in the ways of getting a human’s attention, and he is long enough to stretch and reach above the waistline of most people, so people pay attention to him, but when it comes to being brave around a loud noise or the like, Giuseppe is gone. He is playful and talkative, but sometimes he tries to tackle mom by walking in front of her and grabbing her legs, considering this play. This is not a good idea. However, he cuddles and loves little Peaches and keeps her warm in the winter, and this is a very good idea. Even though he is silly and not very brave, he has a very good heart.

kittens nursing with colored ears

Kittens nursing with colored ears.

His name is derived from La Boheme in this way: when the kittens were babies, they looked identical except the one with the white spot. Mom was concerned about this FIP thing and about their health in general, so in order to be able to tell them apart she put a dab of tempera paint on their left ear, keeping the color consistent with the kitten. Giuseppe was the “green” kitty. Now, the composer of La Boheme is Giacomo Puccini, but Giuseppe Verdi, Joe Green to you Americans, is also a composer of opera, so mom decided to have a little joke on the name, which apparently only she understands. It takes a little too much explanation to be really funny. When he was young she called him Joey, but a big boy needs a big name.

Mr. Sunshine

mr sunshine

Mr. Sunshine

Mr. Sunshine is the man cat of the household and even when mom’s friend started whacking the tub with a sledgehammer at the beginning of our bathroom renovation and all normal cats found safe places to hide even after mom had locked us up, Mr. Sunshine escaped and strolled into the bathroom saying, “This man needs supervision.” He’s the next biggest at 13 pounds with very thick fur that makes him look even bigger, and while he could probably take on any intruder and is totally unafraid of any noise or circumstance, he is the biggest cuddler and regularly flips onto his back and kneads his paws in the air for a belly rub.

Young Sunshine

Young Sunshine

How did a black cat get a name like Mr. Sunshine? Well, it was like this. He was supposed to be named “Marcello” after the second male lead in the opera, but mom noticed that his eyes were just like his half-sister Lucy’s, just like them, so mom decided to name him Luciano after the great tenor Pavarotti, who famously sang the lead role in La Boheme. We’re not done yet. Mom noticed that she was singing “You Are My Sunshine” to the little guy, just as she had to Lucy when Lucy was a baby, and Lucy actually is derived from the word for “light”…it’s just another one of those things that only mom understands.

Jelly Bean

black cat looking in mirror

God, I'm Cute

He’s the little guy at only 11 lbs., and is distringushed by his smeared little white collar and large white triangular Speedo on his belly, plus the few white hairs in his armpits. He’s just like the goofy little brother, but he purrs professionally. Mom noticed that he would toddle to the cage door and purr before his eyes were even open when she walked in the room and greeted the kittens. He is very playful and the most congenial, but he is also the most friendly with other cats. When Fromage, the neonatal foster kitten, entered the house, he would sit by the bathroom door where she lived and purr. When mom decided Fromage needed the company of other cats despite some risk of disease, she opened the bathroom door to Jelly Bean who sat and purred and blinked his eyes happily as little Fromage tried to take him down; following his example, the other three siblings also adopted her, though I think Mewsette thought she was a little toy. But later when Dickie entered the house, Dickie was frightened by the advances of four large black cats, though Dickie is larger than even Giuseppe, but Jelly Bean squinted and purred and walked right up to him with his tail straight in the air and rubbed noses with him. He is the most charming little kitty, and he is the biggest proponent of drinking out of the bathroom sink faucet.

black cat with mouse toy in tub

Toys are better in the tub.

Okay, “Jelly Bean” appears nowhere in any opera, but his nose looks like a black jelly bean, and he needed a silly name, so there you are. He was originally Rodolfo because he was so completely charming, even as a newborn, but he was just too silly and became Little Guy when he was a little guy, the Jelly Bean, and it stuck.

Mewsette

photo of black cat with plant

Mewsette considers the Christmas Cactus © B.E. Kazmarski

Mewsette is the only girl, and she’s a big girl at 12 lbs. with thick lovely slightly longish fur that makes her look very big, plus a very round face and round eyes and big paws. While the boys fall all over you for attention, Mewsette is off in her own little world, having spent a good bit of her childhood in the basement training to be Basement Cat. But she is fiercely affectionate in her own good time and likes to tenderize mom’s arm or shoulder with all four paws at once, purring vigorously. She is always paired off with one of her brothers or with me for the long afternoon naps because she likes best to use another cat for a pillow. She has been working as an understudy with Cookie to learn to be the female lead in the household and to be her mom’s lady in waiting.

photo of cats on bed

Mewsette questions Cookie

Now, there really is a Musetta in La Boheme, but my little girl thought that name was a little too fussy for her, so when our mom called her Musette instead she answered. Our mom of course changed the spelling on the first syllable to resemble our little kitty sounds, though none of us currently says “mew”, but why not?

How the FIP figures in

Lucy, Pink and Gray

I know that several people were interested in my perfect black kittens and in me, but from overhearing conversations with my mom and the lady who comes to poke and prod and shoot us up once in a while I learned about the FIP. I am a tiny cat, as I mentioned, but my kittens were also a little small for their age and that was a concern. Apparently, not much is known about this disease and there is no test or vaccination, but if a cat is carrying FIP it’s likely the symptoms will begin to show in the first year, as they did with Lucy after she was spayed. Mom and the lady decided to keep us all together for the entire first year just to be sure; my mom said over and over that she wouldn’t want anyone to adopt a kitten and then lose the kitten as she had lost Lucy.

Well, my kittens were born at the end of July. One year later those who had been interested had adopted other kittens, and the shelters and rescue organizations were full of little kittens, not a good time to start marketing a family of five adult cats. By the time the shelters were emptying out, it was October, not a good time to be adopting out black cats.

five black cats at basement door

We do many things together.

And of course, we are especially gorgeous, especially when seen all together, so, of course, my human mom began photographing and sketching us, and before we knew it she became “our” human mom. Any feline mother would want the best home for her kittens, and why not the one she preferred herself?

Note from human: We’ll keep you updated on the FIP study, and everyone will be writing again soon.

Mimi’s Mother’s Day Trilogy

Mimi, on “Mother’s Day”

Mimi’s 2006 Children: Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal

Mimi Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette


Mimi’s 2006 Children: Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal

black cat on windowsill

Mimi on the Windowsill

Mimi continues her Mother’s Day article with an introduction to one of her litters of kittens.

I’d like to tell you about the kittens I gave birth to in April 2006 including Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal, and their humans. Of course Lucy stayed here, and is gone but never forgotten. Charlotte was adopted by one family, Angus and Donal by another, and I am always happy to hear news of them because they are in excellent, loving homes. Before I even came here my current human mom had helped to find homes for them which is how we know where they are, and she kept in touch with the people who adopted them because they are friends of hers.

Meet some of my children

Now, though, I’d like to introduce you to some of the kittens we’ve been able to keep in touch with. I see by reading mom’s e-mails that the three who were born in Lucy’s litter, Charlotte, Angus and Donal, wish me a happy Mother’s Day, and I was so glad to see the happy photos of them come over. She had helped to find homes for them, and she kept in touch with the people who adopted them, before she even really knew me. I like that about her, as much as I like the fact that she took me to be spayed.

I might add that I am quite petite for an adult cat, recently reaching all of seven pounds and no saggy belly, even after all those kittens. In this household, even though little Peaches weighs less at 5.5 pounds, she is still larger than me in height and length. My paws barely cover a quarter. When people see me, they think I’m the kitten!

Spring 2006 litter

kittens in cat bed

The best I could do!

This litter was special because one of the kittens was not black—in fact, she was a crazy calico! Her father happened to be an unneutered gray and white male living in the household with us who had been the kitten to yet another unspayed dilute calico female…yes, you read that right, we had a big problem over there, but it’s all “fixed” now.

Anyway, this litter had three typically perfect black kittens, two boys and one girl, and then a kitten who was fully half black if you put all her black parts together, then half…orange tabby? Where the heck did that come from? That dilute calico grandma, I guess. Aren’t genetics amazing? And isn’t she lovely? When you look at her from the front she looks like two cats were put together.

Charlotte the crazy calico

calico cat under christmas tree

Charlotte's first Christmas

When my human mom sent out the e-mail to friends that kittens were available, one of her customers (my mom is self-employed and apparently all her customers are cat lovers), immediately said he’d like to adopt the calico girl for his son who had one cat and traveled.

calico cat

Charlotte all grown up.

Her name became Charlotte and she went off to spend the night with her new human grandparents. She proceeded to run behind and underneath the gas stove necessitating a delicate shutoff of the gas, disconnect and moving of the stove, at which point she ran into the basement and was lost for hours. She appeared in the middle of the family room later bouncing on her toes and covered with cobwebs to be installed in the bathroom until morning.

She went on to her forever home and immediately dominated the placid and sleepy Joey, a nice orange boy who gets his exercise by watching her bounce off the walls—still. She’s a moderately big girl, a little larger than average.

Angus and Donal

two black cats on bed

Angus and Donal with "sister" Molly.

Yes, little Scotscats, so don’t worry, the name is spelled correctly. My human mom has many, many friends who love kitties as well, including people who have adopted from her in the past. The couple who adopted the two boys had, years ago, adopted two other boys born to a momcat she had taken in and they adopted the momcat as well.

This time they called my mom, each on a separate phone extension in the house, and said they’d like to adopt the two brothers because they had several older cats and the brothers could torture each other while they enjoyed watching kittens grow up.

Angus and Donal’s names harken back to their human mom’s Scots heritage, but that doesn’t help in telling them apart! These two apparently had a good bit of my looks and apparently one of the black studs was father to both because they are very, very similar—I even had trouble telling them apart.

Now, at four years old, slight differences in eye color and hair coverage in the ears as well as their vocabulary and singing style (remember, I have opera singing in my heritage) are a few quick ways to distinguish one from the other. Of course, like all kitties, they have distinctive habits, like where on their mom they sleep. As a last resort, you can upend them and check for the small gathering of white hairs near the bottom of Angus’ belly.

Tomorrow: the July 2007 litter—the Big Four!

Read Mimi’s address on Mother’s Day

Note from human mom:

These three cats are direct siblings to Lucy and will be of most interest to the Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) study. FIP enters the host’s body as Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV) but must mutate into FIP, and infection may not be evident until years after the infection; FIP can also affect the cat in various forms and show various symptoms, so the whole thing is a puzzle. I’m not sure where Lucy may have come in contact with FIP, but if her mother and all her siblings did and only she contracted the disease, their genetics may show where the difference lies among them all.

I need to look for other photos of this litter of kittens! I must have taken more photos of the kittens on film, but I just can’t find any more.


A Valentine That Goes Straight to Your Cat’s Heart

I’m sure plenty of kitties will be receiving heart-shaped treats and toys on Sunday, and of course they will be grateful for our enthusiastic generosity for their welfare.

But you might benefit your kitty, and many others, with another type of heart-shaped gift—a donation to the Winn Feline Foundation’s Ricky Fund which funds research into Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most common heart ailment among cats, and a very common disease among cats in general. This research will potentially save thousands of feline lives by studying the genetics of the disease and prolong thousands more lives while providing realistic treatment for cats who have been diagnosed with this disease.

namir's bedroom eyes

Namir

Many of you have read my articles about Namir and his four-year struggle with, and ultimate death from, HCM in July 2009. Cats deal with illness and discomfort so well we might never know there was a health issue, and Namir had no time for any suffering, but behind our everyday activities was a lot of pain and discomfort on his part, and worry and watching on mine, not to mention four different medications twice a day, occasional trips to the emergency room when he developed congestive heart failure, watching him lose weight and muscle mass and ultimately know that he had no time left, and that I had to choose euthanasia rather than watch him suffer his last hours or days.

I was lucky to have Namir for years before the symptoms showed, and he lived to be 15. Others are not so lucky because it is not unusual for a cat to be diagnosed with HCM as a kitten and only live to the tender age of four or five. So it was with Steve Dale, nationally known and syndicated pet writer, radio show host and owner of Ricky, for whom the fund is named.

photo of steve dale and his cat Ricky

Steve and Ricky, compliments of Steve Dale

As Steve writes in one of his blog posts: “In 2002, I lost my best friend – a cat named Ricky. He was a unique dude. Long before Nora, he also played the piano (improvisations jazz). Being a social guy who didn’t relegate his musical skill to his own home – he performed ‘in concert’ at places like Petco and PETsMart. Ricky knew how to do as much as most dogs, the list included jumping through a Hoola Hoop, sitting on command, giving ‘high-fives’ and more. He helped to demonstrate cats can learn just as much as their canine cousins.”

Steve commented after a recent meeting of the Winn Feline Foundation’s board,

“I am gratified that in Ricky’s memory, we’ve actually raised over six figures for the Winn Feline Foundation Ricky Fund, and scientists have been able to prevent some cats from ever getting his horrible disease. But we still have a long ways to go to prevent all cats from ever being diagnosed. Or to find an effective drug to treat feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Right now, HCM is among the most common causes of death in middle aged indoor cats, perhaps the most common. That has to change.”

Read the rest of the above post, including more about Steve Dale and the Ricky Fund on Steve’s blog in Celebrate Valentine’s Day from Your Heart to Your Cat’s Heart and Ricky Fund for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Research, and on the Winn Feline Foundation website where you can also make a donation.

Ricky sounds as if he was a really unforgettable character, playing the piano and doing tricks and more. Read about Ricky on Steve’s website at Ricky Showed Us What A Cat Can Be (careful, it’s a real tear-jerker, but well worth the read!).

Visit the Winn Feline Foundation for thorough and reliable information on feline health and health studies, and sign up to receive regular updates on their research.

More cats are kept as pets, but cats get less veterinary care and fewer studies are done on behalf of feline health (Catalyst Council). Research needs funding, some of which comes from foundations and government sources, but some of which needs to come from individuals like you. Cat owners need to show support for research and treatment in order to change this.


Why People Do—and Don’t—Adopt Cats

The neighborhood tomcat

The neighborhood stud cat on seeing his girlfriend

It’s proven in statistics and surveys that, although more cats than dogs are kept as household pets, cats overall get fewer visits to the veterinarian and fewer studies are done on behalf of their physical and emotional health and welfare.

This overall lack of treatment also bears out in lower spay/neuter and adoption rates and, unfortunately, somewhat higher euthanasia rates—and an average of 3,000 kittens born every hour in the United States (more on that later).

The Morris Animal Foundation, in its Happy Healthy Cat Campaign, decided to begin a search for the answer to this lack before the cat is even adopted. They’ve recently completed an online survey of non-cat-owners, asking how likely they would be to adopt a cat and if so, why, and if not, why not.

This would help to focus on two things: finding the most likely adopters of cats, and determining the objections to cat ownership so that education and awareness could help potential feline owners with these issues making adoption more likely and permanent. Theoretically, those homes would be more likely to increase feline health care and the general population of more attentive cat owners would request more studies on feline health. If education could be simply given to the general audience of potential homes and adoption campaigns could be targeted at the audience most likely to adopt it might make all the difference to cats in shelters all over the country.
Keep reading…


Why is June Adopt-a-Cat Month?

Cats don't belong in a cage.

Cats don't belong in a cage.

June is “Adopt-a-Cat month”. Not that people likely to adopt need a reason or a season, but because, in June, shelters are overrun with kittens from unspayed female cats, and often the mother cats themselves. It is at this time that “no-kill shelters” have to close their doors and turn cats away, and when, horribly, “open-door shelters” have to start reducing their population of cats to make room for the new arrivals.

It’s easy to point the finger at the shelter and say they shouldn’t do that, but that’s not where the fault lies and everyone knows it. The shelters have a limit by law and they can’t exceed that, plus staff are already overextended. People bring in new animals and some of the ones who’ve been around the longest have to move aside. I’ll stop dancing around it—some cats will be euthanized to make room for the new arrivals. Cats lose their lives because too many others aren’t responsible enough and decide to toss the burden onto the shelter.

The shelter needs to serve all the animals that come through its door, and must make a decision to put its limited efforts into cats that are most adoptable, usually the younger, healthier, cuter kittens. You can visit the website of any shelter to see the figures and find out how they decide which cats will go. Usually, they are older, they may have chr0nic health problems or chronic attitude problems or both, something that keeps them from going to a forever home with a loving family. Before you condemn the shelter for making that decision, imagine the people at the shelter who have to actually carry out the task. No one works at a shelter just because it’s a job. Most people work there because they love animals. And they are the ones who have to choose the cats and euthanize them.

Imagine if that was you. I had to stop volunteering years ago because I cried every time I showed up. I foster at home, where I’m not overwhelmed by the scope of it.

There is no reason for an unspayed cat unless she is a show cat, and these are few and far between. Responsible breeders take names of interested persons, and each kitten has a home before it’s born.

How can you help to stop this? Just spay every female cat you can. None of this “kids need to witness the miracle of birth” or “it’s good for a cat to have one litter” or “I just can’t catch her in between” or “she likes to have kittens”. The deaths of 2,000 cats in the Pittsburgh area every year directly related to overpopulated shelters makes any of those excuses a very poor choice.

And, in fact, recent studies show it’s very bad for a cat to have a litter, or even reach her first heat because of the risk of breast cancer. In a study done in Philadelphia, 91% of the cats who developed breast cancer had been spayed after age 1, 80% after age 6 months, 2% prior to their first heat.

Spaying is not cheap, but specialty clinics and programs are available in every major city. Around the Pittsburgh area, you can get a cat spayed for under $50. A visit to the website of any shelter will give you a list of low cost spay and neuter programs in your area, one that is up to date for hours and rates. It may not be convenient, but you only have to do it once. And you don’t have to take the risk of waiting until the cat is six months old as we used to, when some cats have already gone into heat once or even twice, possibly even conceived if they’ve been around an unneutered male.

Shelters around Pittsburgh never have puppies because local laws have required people to keep their dogs contained. We can do that for cats, too. Let’s help those who choose to work in shelters spend their time taking care of animals and helping them be adopted, not choosing which ones live and die.


Information on Feline Health and Wellness

I get some workday assistance from my feline household.

I get some workday assistance from my feline household.

You may be researching a specific topic or you may simply be curious and reading general feline topics. In either case finding complete and accurate information can seem to be elusive. If you are searching on the internet you’ll find plenty of sites with anecdotal information from cat owners who have experienced and dealt with certain conditions and give very helpful advice, especially if you find yourself in a similar predicament, and you’ll find sites that offer a variety of topics, but the information under the topic just doesn’t go deep enough. I’m always careful to research my information further and find it supported in a variety of sources, both on the internet and off.

Whether I’m writing about cats or I’m researching something on behalf of my own cats’ health, I have a list of sites I use for research that have always provided a good starting point, a few which cover all animals and a few which specialize in feline issues. I usually head to the library after that so that I can look in publications that aren’t entirely available on the internet.

Here are a few of my favorite all-animal sites because of the depth of their information.

“Good News for Pets”, found at www.goodnewsforpets.com , is a great all-around link to health, welfare and entertainment news for dogs and cats that is constantly updated. Read Steve Dale’s column and visit his “Pet World” site, and from Mordecai Segal—if you’ve purchased health or training books featuring dogs or cats, you’ve probably got one by him.

You may also recognize another author included in several “Chicken Soup” books and also if you own various popular books on natural pet health care, Amy Shojai, whose site can be found at www.shojai.com. Read through her wealth of articles and sign up to receive her “Pet Peeves” e-newsletter.

Both the ASPCA, www.aspca.org and the HSUS, www.hsus.org have huge sites packed with practical information about dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and more for diet, training, and general health as well as newsworthy updates on what each organization is doing to make both companion animals’ and wild animals’ lives better.

For cat-specific information, you’ll find a link on the “Good News for Pets” site to “Cat Wellness News” at www.catwellness.org where you can read current releases and click to even more information on research and health at (AAFP) American Association of Feline Practitioners, (CWA) Cat Writers’ Association, Inc., The Cat Fanciers Association, Cornell Feline Health Center, KNOW Heartworms, and Winn Feline Foundation.

Speaking of the Winn Feline Foundation at www.winnfelinehealth.org , you can nominate your favorite veterinarian to the “Veterinary Honor Roll” and sign up for frequent brief releases of research results for all the research they are funding and tracking.

You’ll find the answers to lots of questions at FelineExpress.com, www.felinexpress.com from people who have been caring for cats for years.

So curl up with a kitty on your lap and maybe a few on your desk and read all about what’s new with felines!


Winn Feline Health Foundation 2009 Grants

The Winn Feline Foundation “is a non-profit organization established in 1968 that supports studies about cat health. Projects funded by Winn have provided information that is used every day in veterinary medicine to treat cat diseases.”

This year’s grant-funded studies include feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or feline HCM, and feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, as well as ten other health issues. Visit the Winn Feline Health website for more information about these studies and other past studies whose findings are used in veterinary medicine today at http://www.winnfelinehealth.org, or go straight to the press release about this year’s grants at http://www.winnfelinehealth.org/Pages/HEALTH_STUDY_GRANTS_2009_Media_Final.pdf.  

And while you are there, along with a donation to Winn, you can nominate your veterianarian to the Veterinary Honor Roll at http://www.winnfelinehealth.org/Pages/VetHonorRoll.html.