Short Takes: February 2010

Some involved with animal welfare are critical of free adoptions of adult cats, believing it devalues the cat in the adopters eyes, or it may attract adopters who are unable to fulfill the financial responsibilities of cat ownership. Advocates believe waiving the fee for adult cats will enhance rates of adoptions, and provide opportunities to educate owners who may otherwise adopt from neighbors or may respond to "free to good home" ads.

Short Takes: 09/09

Governor Linda Lingle, accompanied by State Civil Defense Director, Major General Robert Lee, highlighted the importance of emergency preparedness by showcasing Hawaiis ongoing emergency shelter programs for people with special health needs and pet-friendly shelters. State Civil Defense, working with the State Department of Education, county civil defense agencies, American Red Cross, Department of Health, Hawaiian Humane Society and other public and private sector partners, has designated 158 facilities statewide that may serve as Special Health Needs shelters, and another 55 facilities that may be used as Pet-Friendly shelters. These shelters are located in separate rooms or buildings on public school campuses where general population emergency shelters are also located.

So You Want to Adopt Another?

Anyone who rescues strays knows there is no shortage of cats. Wanting to provide a home can become a natural outgrowth of feeding them, and most people who adopt them have the best intentions. "They are caring, compassionate people who want to help them," says Pamela Perry, DVM, a lecturer in farm animal behavior at Cornell Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine. But there is a fine line between adequately caring for multiple cats and obsessively accumulating them. Before deciding to bring in just one more, some important factors need to be considered. Health Status. Free-roaming cats are subject to parasites and transmissible diseases with which an indoor-only cat might never come in contact. "When you take in an animal that you dont know, you usually know little about its background, including any diseases it may be carrying," says Dr. Perry. Before integrating the new cat into the household, the newcomer needs to have a thorough veterinary examination, including testing for infection with feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus. "If you already have a cat, you dont want to bring another one into the house until it has tested negative for certain diseases," says Dr. Perry. The newcomer also needs to be vaccinated, given flea treatments if necessary and checked for intestinal parasites and ear mites.

Ask Elizabeth: 05/09

I adopted a munchkin Persian cat from a rescue group a few months ago. Buttercup is cute as a bug, but she has a real problem with her nose- she doesnt have much of one! When I look at Buttercups face I see very small slits where my other cats have nice big nose holes. When Buttercup breaths she makes more noise than any of my other cats; she actually sounds like shes snoring most of the time, even when shes awake! I dont mind the noisy breathing, but Im troubled by what happens when Buttercups activity increases. When she plays - which she doesnt do very often - it looks like she really has to struggle to get air through that tiny nose. After a few minutes of playing chase the feather she stops, sits down, and just heaves. I feel so sorry for her. I put a vaporizer where she sleeps but cant tell that its made any difference. Would antibiotics help? Will she grow out of it? Is there anything I can do for her?

Ask Elizabeth: 04/09

The most effective way to determine whether your friendly, back porch tenant is a neighbors cat is to ask if anyone knows whose cat he might be. Take a photo and make flyers which you can pass out to neighbors and post around the neighborhood. Post signs at local shops, veterinary hospitals, and post offices. Drop off a flyer at your local animal shelter and let them know that you have Lucky. The animal shelter folks will let you know what the laws are regarding found animals. Check the lost and found section of your paper to see if anyone is looking for Lucky and post your own notice there. Make a collar for Lucky from a wide piece of elastic - write a message to his owner "Owner, please call (insert your phone number)" on the elastic and see if you get any responses. Ask a veterinarian or animal shelter to scan him for a microchip, which could identify an owner.

Foreclosures: Cats in Peril

With the numbers of foreclosures rising on a daily basis in some areas of the country, realtors and foreclosed-property inspectors relate that they are making an alarming discovery: Pets have been found locked in the home without food or water, abandoned in the streets or let loose in yards. It is obvious that foreclosures are not just affecting people; they are also affecting the pets of evicted families. With an estimated 34 percent of all home owners owning one or more cats (2007 AVMA US Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook), and more than 1.6 million foreclosures recorded in the month of December 2008 alone, the potential for displaced cats is enormous. Just how many cats are being affected by foreclosures is more elusive than estimating the impact on pet dogs, notes Janet Scarlett DVM, MPH, PhD, professor of Epidemiology and director of Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine. A dog that is left behind is usually spotted and found. "A cat that has been put in the yard isnt going to be found by a realtor. For that reason, its much harder to measure the problem accurately," she notes. Recent intake numbers (the number of surrendered, stray or abandoned pets that are taken into a shelter) from areas hardest hit economically support the theory that many pets, including cats, are suffering from the first wave of foreclosures. For example, the Los Angeles Animal Services experienced a 20 percent increase in intake numbers in 2008. One Atlanta, GA shelter reported a 71 percent increase in intake numbers last year; and, a shelter in Fulton County, GA tallied a 250 percent intake increase in 2008 during an eight month period (March through December).

No Kitty Left Behind: Operation Baghdad Pups

Operation Baghdad Pups, an SPCA International initiative, helps Americans serving in Iraq bring home the animals theyve befriended while on duty. Though at first glance, it might appear that Operation Baghdad Pups is limited to canines, roughly ten percent of the pets in the program are cats. The first cat to come "home" to the states through the program was a small, calico kitten that had been hiding in a trucks engine compartment. Bruce, an American contractor working in Northern Iraq, estimates the kitten was riding in the engine for more than 30 km before she jumped out from under the hood. Alarmed by the kittens serious injuries to one of her front legs, Bruce and a security medic liaison officer treated her "in the field." When she didnt improve after a few days, Bruce took the kitten to the site emergency medical doctor, who gave her further medical treatment. Bruce relates that in an environment in which he had little social contact and spent every waking hour installing "important basic infrastructure" to the local people in Northern Iraq, the little kitten "Hope" filled a void in his life. When the kitten was well enough to venture outside, she quickly befriended the rest of the camp and became a well-loved, affectionate mascot. The day came, of course, when it was time for Bruce to head home; however, he couldnt bear the thought of leaving "Hope" behind. She lacked all survival skills of a feral cat, he explains, and with the emotional attachment he had made during the six months the two had been together, "It would be like me abandoning my own child."

Disaster Help: In the Wake of Hurricane Ike

As a result of Hurricane Ike, the Houston SPCA rescued more than 1800 animals; fed/watered 500 animals that were left in their homes by evacuating families; placed more than 450 pets in temporary foster homes, and celebrated nearly 400 miraculous reunions. Prior to Hurricane Ike making landfall, the Houston SPCA worked in concert with other area shelters: Dogs and cats were relocated from the Houston SPCA to shelters in outlying areas, so that dogs and cats from coastal shelters in danger of destruction could be moved to safety in Houston. In addition, the Houston SPCA coordinated evacuation efforts for owners in need of crates, carriers, muzzles, leashes and other travel items necessary to safely evacuate their beloved pets with them to shelters, hotels and other temporary living arrangements. The question remains, of course, why were so many pets left behind when owners had more than a week to prepare a safe evacuation? Under the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2006, state and local emergency preparedness authorities were required to accommodate households with pets or service animals in their evacuation plans. "The common reasons we heard [for leaving pets behind] were, We didnt think wed be gone so long, We left food on the table, or theyd say, We thought theyd be fine," relates Meera Nandlal, public relations manager for the Houston SPCA in Houston, Texas.

Ask Elizabeth: 11/08

Dear Elizabeth: I adopted a cat from a local animal shelter three years ago. She is a beautiful brown tabby girl who loves to help when Im working at my desk. The trouble is that she sneezes green goobers all over my paperwork. When I brought her home she had a runny nose and goopy eyes with a lot of sneezing - a classic cat cold according to my veterinarian. A week of antibiotics helped decrease the wet sneezes, but Tabitha has never really recovered from that early cold. Three years have gone by and she still sneezes thick goobers nearly every day. Although she seems happy, is active and eats well, her constant snuffling, congested breathing and spewing green goobers breaks my heart - and also has me frustrated. My veterinarian has done everything she can think of, from antibiotics for weeks on end to medication to help with Tabithas immune system. Everything seems to help … for a while. What tests can I ask for to find out exactly whats causing Tabithas sneezing?

Ask Elizabeth: 09/08

Dear Elizabeth: We adopted a new kitten from a local rescue group last month and she is just perfect. Although she had been tested for the leukemia virus and FIV by the terrific group that saved her from the street, we took her to our veterinarian right away so that she could be examined before we introduced her to our two older cats. After a clean bill of health, we brought Bunny home and she has become part of the family. The problem is that before we scheduled her spay surgery, she came into heat. What a scene!

Adopt a Shelter Cat!

After the flurry of kitten adoptions during the summer months, many shelters are now overcrowded with adult and older cats. Just ask Betsy Saul, co-founder of "Kittens at shelters tend to get adopted very quickly," Saul says. "We need to make sure that adult and older cats dont get overlooked. Publicizing them on websites like can help."

Adoption From Abroad

Youve been staying in a sweet little apartment in Valletta, the capital of the island of Malta. As in Italy and other Mediterranean countries, cats and kittens there roam the streets and share their territory with their human neighbors.