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.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Ear-Tip Feral Cats?

Ear-tipping is simply removing the top 1/4" from the cat's left ear.
 Many people new to feral cat management question why feral cats must be ear-tipped when they’re sterilized. Ear-tipping is simply the removal of the top ¼” of the cat’s left ear while they’re being spayed or neutered and still under the effects of anesthesia. The practice began in Europe in the 1970’s and was later popularized in this country by Alley Cat Allies. Our TNR program – as most others -- follows their guidelines and requires ear-tipping of all participants.

Buy why bother identifying them as sterilized outdoor-only cats? Sterilizing a colony of cats is a challenge for any care manager. First you have to set up a meal-feeding routine that conditions the cats to come at the same time each day and be hungry when they do – then you have to convince them to go in a food-baited live trap so you can safely take them to their surgery. You’d think that once a cat is caught in a live trap they would never be caught again yet many cats do return to the trap. So once colony sterilization is underway, the caregiver needs a reliable method to know if the cat in the trap is still intact. Otherwise they’ll waste a surgery appointment by taking in a cat that’s already done. This is often complicated because the colony may consist of mostly black or gray cats – and it’s hard for to tell them apart – that is without the assist of an ear-tip. And often care managers are surprised to learn they're feeding more cats than they thought.  Where they thought they had 1 or 2 gray or black cats, they fix and ear-tip them only to find look alikes without ear tips still to be sterilized.

And, as ear-tipping becomes the standard for identifying managed outdoor cats, it’ll help well-meaning cat Samaritans too. When they see an ear-tip on an outdoor cat, they’ll know the cat is not a lost or abandoned pet cat and won’t accidentally cart the cat off to a shelter. This will help take the load off shelters that are often given cats that should never have been taken out of their outdoor home and let them  focus their time and resources on the cats who actually need their help.

Although there are other ways to identify a sterilized outdoor cat, they’re not as effective. Micro chips and tattoos require close examination -- which is often difficult with a fearful and shy feral cat – and cat collars with ID tags by their nature are designed to come off if a cat gets hooked on something – which they invariably will. Only the ear-tip can be seen from a distance and without handling the cat. It’s permanent, safe and painless – and if it prevents a cat from being live-trapped twice for sterilization – or carted off to a shelter when it’s not lost or abandoned – it’s well worth the cosmetic intrusion.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spay Day USA is Today

Today marks our 11th Spay Day USA participation. This event was established in 1995 by the Doris Day Animal League to draw national attention to the importance of spay/neuter for cats and dogs – and to give a central theme to grass roots events held simultaneously throughout the country -- often free or very low-cost spay/neuter events.

Today – over 85% of all pet cats are automatically spayed or neutered by shelters and rescues before being adopted -- or soon after by their caregivers. The other 15% -- are often left intact. Not because their caregivers don’t recognize the importance of getting their cats fixed but simply because they can’t afford the surgery – even at a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. These are often the cats living with students, young parents, disabled or elderly adults living on a fixed income – or with property owners feed colonies of stray and feral cat who take up residence on their land -- and the sheer number of cats put the cost of surgeries out of anyone’s reach.

Often these caregivers are stereotyped as “irresponsible” but this is simply not the case – given access to free and convenient spay/neuter help they jump at the opportunity to get the work done. How do we know this? Because we provide them with the help they need to be “responsible” and they tell us.

In celebration of this year’s Spay Day, we’d thought you might enjoy hearing them first hand so we’ve pulled a few comments out of our mail bag to share with you:
“I am 66 years old living on $824. SSA retirement and this would really help me. Thank you.” -- Clare, Santa Fe
“Thank you for helping me and my cat M. We took her to the mobile clinic in Las Vegas and she’s recovering nicely. Due to being impoverished after my bout with cancer in 2007, paying such an expense would have been very difficult. But the dear companionship of my M is a joy worth it. Thank you.” -- Robert, Las Vegas
“I haven’t been able to find anyone to give this very nice cat a home and It was apparently abandoned, unneutered, by the previous tenants here. It has been hanging around my yard since I moved in, but has been a constant, ever thinner fixture since the weather turned cold. Although very friendly to people, he is quite aggressive to my existing neutered, older cats, and I can’t expect them to accept him into the yard or house as an unaltered tom. I can stretch my budget to feed him, but professional services are beyond me at this point. This is a wonderful program you are offering and I hope I can qualify so that I can integrate the cat into my household.” -- Terri Santa Fe
“My S. kitty is nearly mended now from her recent spay surgery. I am relieved that this has been taken care of as I could not have financially done so on my own. Again, many, many thanks.” – Bahira, Santa Fe

“Your funding of this project has made a difference to both the feral cats in that area as well as the elderly residents. They have been very worried about the “wild kitties” and as a friend to many of the folks there, I want to especially thank you for putting their minds at ease.” -- Sue, Santa Fe
It's easy to see that these caregivers are anything but irresponsible.  So the next time you hear a media piece blaming them for a burgeoning cat population -- remember these true-life stories. Once we quit blaming others for the problem of homeless cat euthanasia, we can work on solving it.  And the solution is known and simple – make every day Spay Day USA -- providing routine free and available spay/neuter access for all cats – male, female, indoors and outdoors -- to everyone regardless of income.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Every Day Is Valentine's Day When You Have A Cat To Love

Valentine’s Day is always special but this year it seems to be more anticipated than in other years. Sure the purveyors of all things Valentine – candy, cards, flowers and dining – are most likely behind all the press it’s getting, but don’t be put off by the commercialism. Valentine’s Day goes deeper – it’s not so much about loving someone as about “being in love”. That added feeling of warmth and happiness that comes from intertwining our lives with others – like the euphoria we feel when a bright sun shines after a heavy rain. Or the happiness that comes from getting a promotion or scoring well on a test.

It goes without saying that most of us who have cats love them. Why else would we scoop their litter boxes and put their food out before having our morning coffee or sitting down to our evening dinner? In return, our cats provide us with unconditional love – they’re always there waiting to greet us when we return home -- and are just as happy to see us on a good day as a bad day. And – when we take the time to sit with them, they jump up to be petted -- purring as if we’re the most important person in the world – and to them we probably are.

The benefits of cats as pets are well documented. The simple act of petting a cat can lower blood pressure and their daily companionship can often head off or minimize human depression. Public housing units are required by law to allow cats so even those on the thinnest budgets can benefit from a loving cat-human relationship. Unfortunately assisted living residences don’t always accommodate pets and because of this, many individuals who would benefit from the extra care these places provide continue living independently so they can keep their cats. And – when they do ultimately move where their cats aren’t allowed – the emotions they feel are akin to those of mourning the death of a loved one.

Often the people who benefit most from having a cat -- students, young parents, disabled or elderly adults living on fixed incomes -- are the ones with the most difficulty paying the front-end costs to neuter their cats and so they’re often depicted as “irresponsible”. This simply isn’t the case. They get the importance of spay/neuter but with limited incomes other bills take precedence and before they know it, the situation is out of control – the female cats start going into heat and having kittens -- and the male cats start spraying – so they’re taken to animal control shelters where they’re often euthanized – or dropped outdoors to fend for themselves where they often form or join feral cat colonies.

It isn’t that they can’t provide good homes for their cats – they can. It’s just a matter of economics. By simply providing them with free and local spay/neuter we can help keep these cats in their homes with the guardians who love them. In northern New Mexico, – with the help of area spay/neuter and veterinary clinics -- that’s what Cat Spay of Santa Fe is doing. If you know of someone here who has an un-neutered cat, give them our phone number so we can help make their Valentine’s Day a day of love and commitment to the soft furry friend that keeps them company. Our program is fast, convenient and free. Every cat that stays in their original home is one less on the streets or in the shelters. Happy Valentine’s Day!