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.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Common Cat Toxicities

Last month, an employee of the National Zoo, was charged with attempted animal cruelty for allegedly trying to poison feral cats in her Columbia Heights neighborhood by putting out cat food laced with antifreeze and rat poison.  The Washington Humane Society caught her actions on video tape after some area residents alerted them to the problem.    The case has not yet come to trial and the employee has not been fired or suspended from her duties at the National Zoo despite an urgent request from Alley Cat Allies that she be at least suspended pending the outcome of her case.  Yet – as sad as this case is – malicious poisoning of cats is not as common as you may think.

According to the ASPCA Poison Control Center -- who averages 375 calls daily from pet guardians and veterinarians regarding possible pet poisonings – most cases of pet poisoning are not malicious but happen accidentally.    So understanding how pets are poisoned is the easiest way to prevent it from happening in the first place.

The most common source of pet poisoning – 25% of the calls to the poison control center -- comes from medicating them for common illnesses with human drugs.  Well-meaning pet parents try to diagnose and treat their pets without seeking the advice of a veterinarian – and don’t realize that many prescription and over-the-counter drugs safe for humans are toxic to their pets.    These include a variety of pain killers, cold and flu medications and anti-depressants.  Even medications that are safe for both pets and humans need to be dosed properly and that requires the input of a veterinarian as well.
For cats – another 20% of the calls to the Poison Control Center – comes from the use of flea and tick medications formulated for dogs.     Although cats and dogs share many common parasites the medications safe for dogs can be life-threatening to cats.  Since many families find it easier to get the dog to the vet than the cat they may be tempted to treat the cat based on what the veterinarian recommends for the dog.  Big mistake!  Cats are not small dogs.  When they have parasites or are ill, take them in for diagnosis – in the long run it will be cheaper than dealing with the aftermath of not. 

Rounding out the list of the top ten toxins to pets are rodenticides, people food, flavored veterinary medications, chocolate, household cleaning supplies, plants, herbicides and outdoor toxins like antifreeze and fertilizers.  See the poison control center web site for a detailed list.
Keeping your cats indoors and cat-proofing your home to ensure potential sources of poison are out of their reach is your first defense against poisoning.  If you do suspect that your cat has been poisoned call a vet immediately – and – get in touch with the ASPCA Poison Control Center.   Time is of the essence.  And to learn in more detail about the manifestations of the most common feline toxicities, read our veterinary scholarship paper on the subject.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Every Cat's Name Tells A Story

The current issue of Cat Fancy Magazine lists the winners for their 2011“Most Unusual (Cat) Name” contest.   From the more than 300 entries they received, they selected Mice-Tro,  Ghengis Tom, Nixi Nootzie, Ka Ching and Door Hinge.    While no one would consider using names like that for their human children, one thing most cat “parents” have in common is the desire to give their cat the most “purrfect” name – something that tells a story often by accentuating the cat’s unique appearance or personality. 
We thought it’d be fun to see what names were in our top list – selecting from a pool of over 700 cats that we've provided with spay/neuter vouchers so far this year.  It was hard choosing, but we did our best and here are our results:  Our top name was Still Here – it so aptly describes how many cats morph into their families.  This one showed up one day – and months later was “still here”.    Second prize goes to Roamio – a name proudly given to another stray cat that moved in with a family who -- at least until after he was fixed – roamed his neighborhood pleasing the ladies.   Chevy came in third – he’s a young kitten that a woman spotted under her neighbor’s truck – she told him about the kitten but he didn’t believe her – but an hour later, his truck was up on a hoist and it took three men to find him and get him out.  He brought the kitten back to the lady and of course she named him Chevy after his truck.  Honorable mentions go to Bob de Cat, Illuminati, Scruffalufagus, and Lucy Lu.

One thing is clear – there are as many cat names as there are cat guardians.  Of our 714 cat names only 12 repeated themselves more than 3 times – in order of frequency, they are:  Tiger (11), Precious (8), Angel (7), Blackie (6), Baby (5), Pumpkin (5), Missy (5), Callie (4), Smokey (4), Spooky (4), Sunshine (4) and Mama (4).     Human names are the most commonly used -- such as Lola, Oscar and Isabella.   Descriptive  “Cat” names came in second – like Kitty Gado, Meow, and Sylvester -- or Mittens, Snowflake, and, Gremlin.  About 10% are called by terms of endearment like Lovee, Tupelo and Baby Boo”.  Less than 6% of the cats had no name – because – as many of their guardians told us – the only thing they answer to is “Kitty”.  How true!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cat Spay of Santa Fe Comes of Age

July was a benchmark month for Cat Spay of Santa Fe.  By its end,  we had helped 570 caregivers fix – and keep -- over 1,000 cats – in just a little over a year since we first launched.    And we did this by partnering with ten northern New Mexico veterinary clinics (private and nonprofit) so our participants could do the surgeries in their own communities on their own time schedules.  This is paramount because our target cats mostly live with the elderly, the disabled, and families with young children who find driving long distances to a centralized spay/neuter event difficult if not impossible to handle. 

Establishing locally-based low/no-cost spay neuter programs has to be at the crux of any community’s cat assistance services.  With it, all the other issues surrounding cats become manageable – free kitten ads start to disappear, shelters no longer burgeon, and outdoor cat abandonment happens less often.  Without it, cats with perfectly good long-term homes lose them when their intact behaviors (kittening, yowling and spraying) become more than their caregivers can handle.  Lacking the money or the clinic accessibility to fix their cats, they give them up (to a shelter or by releasing them outdoors). 

Of the 1,000+ cats we’ve fixed so far in Santa Fe, less than a handful came from shelters, breeders or pet stores – almost all were either found outdoors, given to them by a friend or relative whose cat had kittens or born to their own cats that were not sterilized.   Although shelter cats are almost always sterilized before adoption, they account for less than 20% of the cats adopted each year – so the majority of cats rely on their caregiver to ensure they’re fixed – and those with the money to do it usually do.  No one chooses to live with an intact cat – much the opposite – it’s the most frequent reason that a cat is given up.  Often simple solutions are the most effective – and nothing is simpler than providing low/no-cost and accessible spay/neuter for all cats living indoors or out. 

If you live in northern New Mexico, our program is fast, convenient and free.  Usually you can apply during a 5-minute phone call and your vouchers will be mailed the next day.      They cover the full cost to spay or neuter each cat and vaccinate once for rabies (if it’s done at time of sterilization).  The program is open to families with gross incomes under $40,000 a year who are committed to the life care of their cats and willing to get all the cats in their care fixed within 30-60 days of applying.  We can also provide assistance to property owner caring for naturally-occurring colonies of yard or barn cats regardless of income.  Full program information is on our web site: