Sunday, August 8, 2021

Greece forest fires: domestic animals left behind to be rescued

COMMENT - OPINION: The reports that I'm reading about the devastating Greek forest fires is that owners are evacuating their homes without taking their cats and dogs. They've been ordered to evacuate (too late?). The big issue is how much time did they have to get out. If they had adequate time there is no reason why they shouldn't have taken their cats and dogs with them. But they appear to have regularly evacuated without them and relied upon volunteers to come in after to rescue the pets. The same applies to horses.

Rescued cat. The image is deliberately dark to hide burns if they exist. Image:

It seems extraordinary to me but I don't want to be overly critical, that they did not have adequate time to round up their pets and take them out of the disaster that was unfolding. If they genuinely were pushed for time due to inadequate notification or inadequate preparation then perhaps it could be accepted that they had to evacuate very quickly. But I suspect this isn't the case.

And if I am correct in that assessment, it demonstrates a culture which is not great with respect to animal welfare. Regrettably, it squares up with what I know about Greece and cats. Years ago, I wrote a piece about the stray cats of Greece and how they help to make the holiday season more interesting for tourists. But when the holiday season was over the cats were poisoned, they were exterminated because they were a nuisance.

In the reports that I'm reading they state that it is the volunteers who pick up the pieces and rescue the domestic animals after the fire has gone through, provided they have survived. They say that the evacuation of humans without their pets happens after every forest fire. They have to go and search and rescue abandoned pets every time.

In one instance, 15 dogs were abandoned on a plot of land with several goats that were then rescued. In another instance, volunteers had to rescue about 300 horses from several riding clubs in the region of the fires. Apparently, the police did not allow owners to transport the animals. They were set free until they could be brought to safety.

Fortunately, the horses, ponies and donkeys were successfully rescued and transported out of the area without harm, it appears.

Although, I have seen photographs which I will not reproduce here of cats which have been burnt or singed by the fire. The one on this page is just about acceptable. It is distressing to read about this. It is not just Greece where this happens. There does seem to be a carelessness when evacuating homes in wildfires. There appears to be a lack of preparation. With full preparation given adequate time there is no reason why cats and dogs should not be transported out of these danger zones in good time.

Perhaps I'm being too critical but the way it looks to me is that people are de-prioritising animal welfare, perhaps in a panic. Wildfire travel quickly but surely they could move earlier. Perhaps they think that they could save their properties and therefore they stay in them until the last minute. Then they realise they've lost the battle with the fire and have to evacuate rapidly. By that time, they cannot find their cat because he or she has disappeared in fear. For me this is not a good look.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Scandal as shops accused of failing to publicise recall of food linked to cat deaths

COMMENT: The Guardian newspaper reports that cat owners are showing evidence of chains including Sainsbury's still stocking food suspected of causing pet deaths. If you are a cat owner, I hope that you have heard of this crisis. If not please click on this link and read it carefully. It's important because there's quite a lot of cat food in the system which should have been removed from shelves it appears. It's a long list of different cat foods, all dry cat food, as I recall. Pets at Home and Sainsbury's are two chain store businesses which sell the food.

Scandal as shops accused of failing to publicise recall of food linked to cat deaths
To illustrate the page only. Photo: in the public domain (believed).

But, as mentioned in the title, retailers have been accused of not doing enough to warn customers of the hazards of these pet foods which were manufactured from a single source. Although the investigation of a possible link between these foods and a disease called feline pancytopenia is ongoing, it is believed that cereal in these foods was contaminated with mycotoxins, in this instance a fungus.

Feline pancytopenia is a killer. About 60% of the cats to contract the disease after they have eaten this pet food die.  A recorded 330+ have died but it is almost certainly far more. Treatments include blood transfusions using dog blood because of a shortage of cat blood. Dog blood transfusions only provide the cat with a 24-hour respite. And they are enormously expensive at about £2,500 per session.

There is even talk of importing cat blood from Portugal at a cost of £10,000. You would have to be insured and even that probably wouldn't cover it.

If these reports from cat owners are true, it is shocking that Sainsbury's continued to stock the recalled food despite a demand to recall it and investigators raising concerns that it might be the source of this outbreak of pancytopenia some time ago.

Sainsbury's, I believe, have stated that all the bags of food "have now been taken off the shelves". Cat owners have shared photographs of Sainsbury's cat food aisles which showed that signage had not been prominently displayed or not displayed at all.

Other Sainsbury's users and Nectar cardholders said that they had not received an email (I have not and I buy from them online). One Sainsbury's customer corresponded with the business notifying them about the food on 22nd April. Sainsbury's responded by saying that they did not believe that the cat food was responsible. That is as reported by The Guardian newspaper. I can't confirm that it is true. This may have been be a rogue employee saying the wrong thing.

A spokesperson for the supermarket said "We are in touch directly with customers where we have their contact details". They have my email address and I've not received an email.

They also said "We have also displayed the recall alert on our website and installed them at our customer service desks and where the product is usually stocked on shelf."

There is a 12,000-member Facebook group on this pet food recall whose members have suffered the anguish of either losing a cat to this disease or have struggled to treat their cats. They say that Pets at Home has responded better than Sainsbury's by alerting people promptly and offering refunds.

A spokesperson for Pets at Home said "We did everything we could to make consumers aware of the issue, via our website and social channels and by writing directly to anyone who had bought one of these products in the previous 12 months."

Cats caught in the food poisoning scandal given dog blood transfusions

You might have read about the cat food poisoning scandal which it is believed has caused the death of many hundreds if not thousands of domestic cats in the UK. It's been on news media websites quite a lot recently. Pets at Home own cat food brand (AVA) is affected and other pet foods which you can check out by clicking on the links below. It is vital that people are fully aware of this in the UK. 

Photograph: Images by Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images. This image is for illustrative purposes only.

The Guardian newspaper reports that some pet food outlets are not warning their customers of the crisis. Perhaps they want to keep it quiet but all they are doing is jeopardising the lives of cats. If it is true this is highly irresponsible behaviour. It is said that several branches of Sainsbury's are still stocking these foods! I find that shocking. 

However, the foods have been formally recalled but cats are still going ill. The foods were manufactured by one facility, Fold Hill Foods. The matter is being investigated as a matter of urgency. It is believed that mycotoxins caused by a fungus on cereal which is incorporated into the foods is the culprit. 

Please click on this link to read the back story. This is an early report and it lists the foods affected.

AND here:

Three links to the PDF files which contain the recall info listing the foods:

The Daily Mail reports today that cats are being given dog blood transfusions to keep them alive for 24-hours! The disease that this food causes is called feline pancytopenia; a disease that affects the production of blood cells in bone marrow. This is the white cells, red cells and T-cells. This is why the cats are being given blood transfusions. It's a way of instantly introducing these cells back into their bloodstream.

The trouble is that cat blood is apparently rare in the UK and so they are resorting to dog blood. In one instance a cat owner had to decide whether they should spend £10,000 on cat blood from Portugal. Obviously if they have insurance this is the kind of situation where it comes into its own but even then, there will be limits to how much that can be spent.

Owners have racked up bills of £14,000 for dog blood transfusions that can cost £2,500 a time but which only buys time. Apparently, it isn't a cure because it is dog blood. The Cat Welfare Group is trying to create a central donor database to help manage this crisis. It is a silent crisis because hundreds of cats are dying and probably many more than records show because often people don't take their cats to their veterinarian.

Investigators have yet to find a direct link between the premium food brands concerned such as Applaws and Sainsbury's Hypoallergenic Recipe. Feline pancytopenia is a rare disease normally which is why it was so noticeable when many cases started to surface.

At the last report at least 330 cats were known to have died from the illness with over 500 contracting it which provides us with an idea of the percentage of cats who died once they get the disease. But the Royal Veterinary College state that this figure is not comprehensive.

Blood transfusions are a life-saving procedure. It can be whole blood or blood components. Where does the cat blood come from? It appears that it might come from a cat that lives at the veterinary practice or from cats owned by the veterinary staff. I find that a bit surprising to be honest because it indicates that there is no system in place as there is with respect to humans. 

They may be cat guardians who sign up to allowing their cat to donate blood. It is an interesting issue because the owner is consenting to a procedure on their cat without the cat's consent. And the procedure is carried out for altruistic purposes.

There are obviously strict requirements for a donor cat. Before this crisis, my research indicates that there were at least two cases of cats had receiving blood from a dog as a last resort. They are known as xenotransfusions. Both the donor and the recipient can develop health complications. These are immune-mediated or non-immune-mediated.

Outdoorsy rescue cats are harder to find a home for than more sociable cats

NEWS AND COMMENT - UK: The RSPCA in the UK has appealed for people who have suitable facilities to rehome outdoorsy cats to mark International Cat Date this week. The sort of place they're considering for these cats, who prefer to be outside because of their background are: riding stables, smallholdings and farms. There are other options too provided the environment allows the rehomed cat to live predominantly outside while being cared for to the same standard as an indoor cat which means providing food, water, shelter and veterinary care when needed.

Experienced barn cats Butters and Grayson
Experienced barn cats Butters and Grayson. Photo in public domain.

Alice Potter, RSPCA's cat welfare expert, said that cats have a wide variety of personalities and they try and match the personality to the environment in which they place a cat. Their spectrum of rescue cats ranges from the inveterate lap cat through the inbetweener cats who are less likely to sit on a person's lap and who doesn't like to be picked up all the way through to the community cat and feral cat who are happy to live independently from humans but who are ultimately reliant upon humans.

This huge variation in personality probably primarily comes about because of early experiences. Some of their cats have lived for a long time as strays and of course you can rehome feral cats provided they are already semi-domesticated. They can make ideal barn cats on farms. Some domestic cats inherit a desire to live outside but they are relatively rare.

It is unsurprising that the RSPCA find it difficult to rehome these outdoor-loving cat because most adopters want a house cat, which today can often mean a full-time indoor cat, the sort of environment that would be anathema to a feral cat.

The RSPCA say that there is a lack of awareness from the general public about these outdoor-loving cats. The general view of the domestic cat is the one that curls up in front of the fire or sits on your lap keeping you company. However, a lot of cats have never had that luxury and therefore their personality is attuned to a different lifestyle. They're still dependent on human support as mentioned.

What can happen sometimes, in my opinion, is that outdoorsy cats can come inside eventually as they become older. This happens for at least two reasons. Firstly, they become more sensitive to the harsher life of living outside when they're older and want the comforts of indoors. Secondly, in interacting with a person who might own, for example, a smallholding they become more domesticated to people and learn to integrate with the human lifestyle.

In other words, many of these cats are under-socialised which leads to the possibility that they can be socialised when rehomed with a person who is sensitive to those needs. It is the kind of process that can take a number of years but with great rewards for both parties.

The report comes from the Shropshire Star newspaper. Plus, my occasional thoughts.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Black-footed cats are the deadliest

Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

Montage: MikeB

The video says that they are the smallest cat species. This is incorrect. That accolade goes to the rusty-spotted cat. But the black-footed cat has been declared the deadliest of all cat species in terms of animals killed in 24 hours, commitment, success rate etc.

Black-footed cats are described as being "outstandingly active and successful hunters, making roughly 1 hunting attempt every 30 minutes, with a 60% success rate. One male was seen to catch 12 rodents in 3 1/2 hours."

It said that in a typical night's hunting one cat would kill a mammal or a bird every 15 minutes on average. They kill between 10 and 14 small birds and rodents a night. This is a large amount of food for a cat to eat on a daily basis. It represents about 20% of the cat's body weight. Large cats such as tigers also typically eat about 20% of their bodyweight in one night when feeding on a large kill but they then go for several days between kills without eating. Not so the black-footed cat. They do it every night. Ref: Wild Cats of the World.

Yes, they are exceptional hunters. They are the best hunters of all the wild cats. As you can see, they are diminutive and they look not dissimilar to domestic cats.

This cat looks like Ari Shaffir

Ari David Shaffir is a producer, writer, podcaster, actor and comedian. He was born February 12, 1974 (age 47). He cohosts the podcast Punch Drunk Sports and he is a regular guest on The Joe Rogan Experience pod cast. He was born in New York City to a Jewish family of Romanian Jewish descent. He performed as a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles County in 2013. He's been in films, stand-up specials and on television. In short, he's a celebrity to use modern lingo. He has a full Wikipedia bio if you want to read about him in some detail.

This cat looks like Ari Shaffir
This cat looks like Ari Shaffir. Montage: MikeB based on images in the public domain.

He looks like this Oriental Shorthair cat! His long face is a close match to the face of this slender cat breed. The Oriental SH is part of the Siamese cat family of cats. They are deliberately bred to be super slender with long faces and big ears. If you like slender cats the OSH as they are referred to by the cat fancy is the breed for you. The modern Siamese cat as I call it has a very similar face in terms of conformation only it is pointed.

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