Mews & Views

Mews & Views -- A blog for cat lovers everywhere with a focus on the low-income pet cats of northern and central New Mexico.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Black Cat Day (I Mean Happy Halloween)

It’s hard to think of Halloween without thinking about black cats – they’re almost as big a part of it as pumpkins and trick-or-treating – but not in as cheerful a way. This time of year we’re barraged with news releases warning us to keep our black cats indoors to prevent them from being stolen and sacrificed in annual satanic Halloween rituals. And many animal shelters refuse to adopt out black cats in October for the same reason. I’ve yet to find any statistics to support these claims but there’s no denying that cats – especially black cats -- are rich with historical and folkloric references. In our work with cats, the “black cat” issue has only surfaced once.

Early in our Older Cat Program we placed Blackjack -- a pure black male cat – very sweet and cuddly as the resident cat at a local assisted living residence on their Alzheimer’s floor. He seemed the perfect cat to engage and assure the residents and families in their difficult time. After living there for only a few weeks it was clear that he would do a great job but – the staff asked for a second cat for those people who were superstitious about black cats. Luckily we had the perfect match – a pure white female cat named Mama. The staff embraced her and quickly changed” Blackjack’s” name to Papa. Now they had a special cat for everyone and by linking the white and black cats together by connecting their names (Mama and Papa) the “black cat issue” soon ran its course.

Two of our remaining TLC cats are black – Robin and Larry – both are sweet as can be and neither reflects the image or likeness of evil. And both are feral – Larry more so than Robin – so it’s a little ironic that they find people scary – not the other way around. Trapping them to participate in black magic would be difficult even if they were allowed outdoors -- which they’re not. We prefer to keep them indoors with us to enjoy their good looks and meek personalities.

So when you think of Halloween go ahead and think of black cats like Robin and Larry who are as innocent as new-fallen snow.  Let the negative image churned up each October of black cats as instruments of evil fade into the soon to be forgotten past. Celebrate instead the fact that even with cats – “black is beautiful”. Happy Halloween! Meow!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Happy National Feral Cat Day

Today is National Feral Cat Day – an annual event established by Alley Cat Allies in 2000 to call attention to the “forgotten felines” -- those cats who are not exposed to humans during their first 8 weeks of life – and consequently grow up afraid of people – making them more akin to squirrels and rabbits than to the cuddly pampered lap cats who share our homes.

Our cat programs began in 2000 by providing free spay/neuter help to feral cats in Michigan and now we continue that work in New Mexico as one element of our Cat Spay of Santa Fe program. Over the years, though, our primary focus has shifted toward pre-emptive “TNR” – working to keep cats in their original homes -- off the streets and out of animal control shelters -- by providing free and convenient spay/neuter access to lower-income families. We know that the overwhelming reason why people abandon their cats is that their cats aren’t fixed – and money and convenient access to spay/neuter help is the overwhelming reason why they stay intact. By fixing these cats we can stop feral cat colonies from forming (or growing) in the first place. And it’s incredibly easier to get disadvantaged pet cats fixed than it is to live-trap feral cats for sterilization.

We salute the efforts of Alley Cat Allies in driving home the existence of feral cats and their efforts to ensure that all cats – not just shelter-adopted house cats – are brought under the spay/neuter radar. But in the process let us not assume that feral cats are inherently different from pet cats – as they are the exact same species. And – let us not assume that because a cat wasn’t socialized as a kitten that they can’t or wouldn’t enjoy living with people. We’ve learned that lesson first hand from the 4 teenaged feral cats who share our home. It took a little front-end work to get them comfortable but now they enjoy all the amenities of indoor living. After 5 years of being house cats it’s hard to distinguish them from the other socialized cats they live with -- other than we can’t pick them up and --except for Cleo -- they’re not lap cats.

While we chip away at the cat overpopulation problem leaving outdoor cats in place makes perfect sense – too many adoptable cats are euthanized in shelters to encourage the domestication of feral cats en masse. But – as often happens – when someone is feeding feral cats they become attached to one or more – there’s certainly no harm in moving the cat indoors using appropriate safety measures and with a basic understanding that they will act differently than companion cats act. Feral cats are no more biologically wired to rough it outdoors than pet cats are. Leaving feral cats outdoors is fine -- but -- whatever you do – if you’re feeding them indoors or out -- make sure you get them fixed.   If you're in the Santa Fe area we may be able to help -- see our web site for our feral colony management program details.