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birds for cats (videos, that is)

People disagree on the impact of domestic cats on bird populations, but there is no denying that most cats, outdoors, whether feral and hungry or happily fed at home, will if given a chance kill a bird, even if they don’t eat it.

Dr Rebecca Thomas wrote in PLoS ONE based on the results of her doctoral research at the University of Reading that

cats’ hunting prowess varies greatly. Only 20 per cent brought back four or more dead animals a year; 22 per cent of owners had to manage with no prey gifts at all throughout the entire multi-year length of the study. It turns out that a relatively small minority of felines is responsible for most of the havoc. They bump the average up to an estimated 18.3 kills per cat per year. Previous studies suggest cats bring home around one in three things they kill, letting scientists estimate overall kill numbers from data on prey returns.

‘The density of cats in urban environments is the biggest issue,’ Thomas says. ‘Even if a cat isn’t killing often, there are so many of them in a small area that they can have a very serious impact. Owners might think their cats only catch two or three birds a year and that won’t make any difference, but they need to understand all the other pressures that wildlife is under from habitat loss and environmental change.’


Another paper,
this one from the Mammal Society, reports that a cat ownership survey showed that

…in a single English village, cats were responsible for up to 30% of mortality in a house sparrow population and concluded that domestic cats were a major predator in a typical English village. They found that the average cat caught and brought home approximately 14 prey items over the 12 months of their survey. May (1988) extrapolated from this figure and suggested that about 100 million wild birds and small mammals could be killed by 6 million cats every year in Britain. Mead (1982) ascribed 31% of recoveries of ringed robins and dunnocks to cat predation, but believed that there was no evidence that cats affected the overall populations of these species. Sharing this view, Fitzgerald (1988) and Fitzgerald & Turner (2000) asserted that on continental landmasses, wildlife had co-evolved with cats for hundreds of generations and that any species that were susceptible to predation would be “long extinct”.
Pumpkin on the window box. She can watch the birds live, and live!

Pumpkin on the window box. She can watch the birds live, and live!

Miss Pumpkin is an indoor cat. Although I do let her out on the fire escape (wooden stairs! some fire escape!) which is fenced in at the bottom, and in fact more recently had netting installed around it to keep the pigeons from roosting. So she can’t get at any birds nor can she get out (or would want to–she tears back into the apartment at any startling noise).

So occasionally I treat her to a bird video. She isn’t like Radar was–even on my laptop he’d paw the screen, check behind it, trying to get at the birds.

Radar watching

Radar watching “Winter Birds I”

This relatively new video is at the top of the list. It’s about 20 minutes long, and shot at ground level, in Cornwall, England.

Watch for a few non-bird intrusions–also fun for your cat!

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Here’s Radar’s favourite,  Winter Birds, which has been on YouTube a few years now but still worth it for the profusion of birds, especially the brilliant cardinals.

Interactive play is where you direct a toy, for example, a mouse on a string or a feather on a stick. Don’t swing the toy in your cat’s face, and don’t move it chaotically. Slow motions that are directed away or past your cat are those that most encourage confident playing. This is like real prey would move. You can simulate a mouse, which runs along a wall and disappears behind the corner, or a bird, who flies from spot to spot, spends some time pecking grain, and then moves again. IMPORTANT: Let your cat catch and chew the toy occasionally. End the play session with a treat or a meal. If your cat feels insecure and does not feel like playing, do not push it.  –

Cats want to go out. Actually, they just HATE CLOSED DOORS, as in this video of Oskar the Blind Cat:

In another post on Pet-Happy, Maris and Signe offer suggestions for the best ways of letting indoor cats experience the outdoors. I actually got my idea for creating a very small but safe area for Pumpkin when I visited Mick and Bethany in Seattle, where they allow Oskar and Klaus to got out on their deck in a fully enclosed cage. (Please support their e-commerce site OskarandKlaus.com, with a purchase!)

Outdoor cat enclosure. It’s a great and, most importantly, safe way to provide outdoor access to your cat. However, there are many very good and many very bad examples of outdoor cat enclosures. You have to remember that your cat is still confined, and seeing birds he or she cannot reach might cause unnecessary stress to your cat. Good examples are LARGE enclosures — the larger, the better — that are joined to the house and allow your cat free access at all times. Then, the enclosure is no longer confining; it’s just an extension of your house, making your cat’s “everyday confinement” (the house) larger and more interesting. – Maris and Signe

If your cat goes outdoors, how many birds does your cat bring home in a week? Do you accept this as “nature’s way” or are you upset by it? Add your thoughts here.

Cat tails

Playing around, looking for something on the internet about cats, I entered those words into Google: “cat tails.”

What I learned was what my cat–and your cat–is telling us with the shape and position of its tail, courtesy Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a subsidiary of Colgate-Palmolive:

Your cat’s tail can tell you about what’s going on inside her head. Tails are good indicators of mood. Take a little time to observe your cat’s behavior and you will start to get a feel of the tales the tail tells.

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Position: high. When your cat holds her tail high in the air as she moves about her territory, she’s expressing confidence and contentment. A tail that sticks straight up signals happiness and a willingness to be friendly. And watch the tip of an erect tail. A little twitch can mean a particularly happy moment.

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Position: curved like a question mark. You might consider taking a break from your daily business to play with your cat if you notice a curve in her tail. This tail position often signals a playful mood and a cat that’s ready to share some fun with you.

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Position: low. Watch out. A tail positioned straight down can signal aggression. A lower tail is a very serious mood. However, be aware that certain breeds, such as Persians, tend to carry their tails low for no particular reason.

photo by Amy McCracken, (I hope  you dont mind me using it!)

photo by Amy McCracken, (I hope you dont mind me using it!)

Position: tucked away. A tail curved beneath the body signals fear or submission. Something is making your cat nervous.

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Position: puffed up. A tail resembling a pipe cleaner reflects a severely agitated and frightened cat trying to look bigger to ward off danger.

Position: whipping tail. A tail that slaps back and forth rapidly indicates both fear and aggression. Consider it a warning to stay away.

Position: swishing tail. A tail that sways slowly from side to side usually means your cat is focused on an object. You might see this tail position right before your cat pounces on a toy or a kibble of cat food thats tumbled outside the food bowl.

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Position: wrapped around another cat. A tail wrapped around another cat is like you putting your arm around another person. It conveys friendship.

Thanks to Hill’s for the article, and to the people who posted these images and videos online! 

Kitten rescued after getting stuck on rat trap

I didn’t know about these sticky rat traps, but they are obviously a terrible hazard to cats and kittens and small dogs and other animals and if left unattended the animals will die a slow agonizing death by starvation, unless they manage to gnaw off their fur and skin…

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Lola, as she was found, before being unstuck at the veterinary office in Kelowna, BC. Clicking on the image will take you to the story. As CBC Radio’s “Radio West” reported:

Veterinarian Moshe Oz said that the body and all four of the kitten’s legs were attached to the trap so she could only move her head.

He estimates that the kitten had been stuck to the trap for up to two days.

“She was quite emaciated and dehydrated,” he said. “She was on the verge of dying on us. A few more hours in the sun, on the weekend and she wouldn’t have made it.”

Veterinary assistant Kelsey Bakalos carefully removes a paw from the trap. A feline muzzle was put over Lola's head, because it protects staff during the procedure and also makes the process less stressful for the cat by blocking her vision.

Veterinary assistant Kelsey Bakalos carefully removes a paw from the trap. A feline muzzle was put over Lola’s head, because it protects staff during the procedure and also makes the process less stressful for the cat by blocking her vision.

Lola is okay now.

Lola is okay now. In fact, the day the story was posted, the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in Kelowna, BC was “inundated with calls,” the receptionist told me. “We even had calls from Toronto.” They chose the first person who called, a local man who was a client of the hospital and already had two cats, someone they knew would provide a safe and loving home. (I too had been tempted to call to adopt.)

again, this moral dilemma: my pet, my food

My friend and “vegan mentor” Gary Steiner, whom I have profiled and interviewed for Mein Kat, wrote me today with a story about the dilemma vegans and vegetarians who are also pet caretakers (“owners”) face in feeding their pets. Namely, that with cats in particular, you have an obligate carnivore who must eat meat to remain healthy: no matter what any company promises with a “vegetarian cat food,” the biology and nutritional needs of a cat are only fulfilled with meat. The article by Robbie Gonzalez focuses on the ethical dilemma of pet food which contains processed animal meat.

A little background: Pindar and Steiner found one another through one of Steiner’s students. Gary couldn’t allow the cat to be euthanized, even though it had tested positive for FIV (feline AIDS) and feline leukemia, and would develop, over the years of their companionship, other chronic health issues, including kidney disease.

In an email, Gary wrote that he was “pleased and relieved to report that Pindar had his colectomy surgery yesterday (and I my walletectomy) and came through it well. He also had a good night and I should be able to bring him home tomorrow. Just amazing resiliency.”

Pindar, post-op recovery

Pindar, post-op recovery

Gonzalez writes: When Steiner decided to keep Pindar alive against the vet’s advice, “I knew then that it made no sense,” says Steiner, a strict ethical vegan who nevertheless feeds Pindar meat-based, kidney-diet cat food from a can. “I knew that other animals would be killed in slaughterhouses so that Pindar could live.”

And further on, Gonzales reports on research which

supports the notion that loftier ethical goals correspond to a more acute sense of contrition. Compared to vegetarians, vegans tend to be more positive in their attitudes toward animals, believe animals to be more emotionally similar to humans, express greater concern over the impact of their diet on animal welfare, and give more animal-related justifications for their diets. It follows that a vegan would experience more guilt over the meat in his pet’s diet than would an ethical vegetarian.

Read the whole article, published on io9.com.

Henri’s correspondents

Will Braden’s Henri, Le Chat Noir is one of the most successful series of the internet cat era. And so it was inevitable that Braden’s work has spawned a number of imitators, ostensibly honouring or responding to Henri’s existential musings. The sincerest form of flattery may be imitation, but are these videos up to the quality of Le Chat Noir?

Heinrich, die Katze, is billed as a parody. I’d say it’s more like a ripoff–and the subtitles (Heinrich speaks in German) are sometimes difficult to read:

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Next up, a filmed letter to Henri from Suipacha, another philosophically-minded cat. The video is from French filmmaker “Capitan Coco,” with accordion music by Yann Tierson. Presented as a faux old-movie, it has a certain charm.

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Another video love letter, from Anais Mittens (by filmmaker Lizzi Reid). Ms Mittens is looking for the lover who will have “the courage to treat me like a queen,”

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Even dogs have been inspired by Henri. Check out this video by Trixie, le chien noir:

I’m still a big fan of Braden’s carefully staged work, as evidenced in his latest video (12/2014), “Reigning Cat and Dog.”

And don’t forget my interview with Will, filmed outside Henri’s mansion in Seattle, where I learn the shocking truth about the filmmaker’s troubled relationship with Henri. I hope by now things have improved…

Please visit Henri’s channel, with the full collection of his videos.