Saturday, April 30, 2011

Your dog's nose makes quite an impression

A few days ago I posted some information about the dog's sense of smell. It really is quite remarkable and in doing the research I learned that the noses of both dogs and cats have an individual pattern unique to them. Just like human fingerprints! The post also includes a little fun project where you can make your own impression of your dog's nose. So, for those who did not see it, here it is again:

This exerpt from an article written by Stanley Coren, PhD and Sarah Hodgson explains and gives instructions for a fun little project:

Your dog's nose has a pattern of ridges and dimples that, in combination with the outline of its nostril openings, make up a nose print believed to be as individual and unique as a human being's fingerprints. Companies even register nose prints as a way of identifying and helping to locate lost or stolen dogs, a system that is now being used by kennel clubs around the world.

If you want to take a nose print from your dog just for fun, it's quite simple: Wipe your dog's nose with a towel to dry its surface. Pour food coloring onto a paper towel and lightly coat your pet's nose with it. Then hold a pad of paper to her nose, making sure to let the pad's sides curve around to pick up impressions from the sides of the nose, as well. You may have to try a couple of times until you get the right amount of food coloring and the right amount of pressure to produce a print in which the little patterns on the nose are clear. The food coloring is nontoxic and is easily removed. Never use ink or paint, or you may have to explain to your friends why your dog has a green or blue nose.

Have fun!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Myths and Misconceptions About Cats - Part One

An acquaintance told me that when she was a baby her mother caught the cat trying to suck the breath out of her. "They do that you know. Cats. They will suck a baby's breath".

I see .....

I received some really good feedback on the post I wrote last week about feral cats for Blog the Change. The discussion further highlighted the question "Why are cats seen/treated differently than dogs?" This has inspired me to find answers to that question.

This week I found some interesting studies and articles on misconceptions about cats. The results where interesting and surprising.  The one I want to share today is from something called "Cat-Cow" on a website called I'm starting with this one because it is just so darn silly.  The author clearly knows nothing about cats and, in my opinion, does more to perpetuate the myths and stereotypes. This is the opening paragraph:

"Since cats and dogs are the most common house pets, they are frequently compared and judged. Through these constant comparisons, misconceptions about cats are formed, and people will realize some not-so-attractive qualities about cats. But a cat shouldn’t be compared with a dog, as a dog is an affectionate animal, and requires constant love and attention, whereas a cat has a more independent character. That would be appealing to some people who prefer a pet which isn’t so demanding."

Funny, right? So, after stating that a cat shouldn't be compared with a dog, they go on to compare a cat to a dog with an insult against the cats thrown in ...

"Yes, compared to dogs, cats are a lot less affectionate. They do not run to you with wagging tails when you come home from work to greet you, and in fact, they may even seem indifferent towards you. Therefore cats are misunderstood as being cold and would not make a great pet. But cats are very loving creatures; it is just that they have selected moments when they want to be affectionate, and it is not all the time that they want to be friendly."

I love my cats dearly but, come now, they have a brain the size of a golf ball. How could they possibly be "selecting moments when they want to be affectionate"? Ha ha! Finally, some words of caution about misunderstanding a cat's display of affection ...

"Don’t misunderstand your cat’s rubbing and nestling up your leg as a sign that it’s hungry and wants food or treats. Just because they are not as affectionate as dogs does not mean that they do not appreciate some warmth and affection from their masters. Cats are more quiet creatures, and they rather chill on your lap, table areas or smuggle up next to you when they want to get some rest."

I love it when my cats smuggle up next to me. :)


BTW: in this post I see one myth and 5 misconceptions. Did you spot them?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blog The Change For Animals - Feral Cats

Blog the ChangeThis is a topic I am very passionate about. However, in my community there is no organization that cares for these little lost souls so I feel the only thing I can do is to continue to bring awareness and some education whenever and where ever I can.

There is a small group of cats living in a corner of the parking lot where I live, behind another building. This includes 2 kittens about 6 months old. Every day, a neighbour goes out and leaves them food. It must be costing her a small fortune. She has also managed to gain their trust. They rub themselves along her legs and even allow her to pick them up. If anyone else comes around, they run and hide. Watching little kittens out in a six foot snow bank trying to get some of the food she leaves breaks my heart.

You may be as shocked as I was to learn that just one of these cats and its offspring over a 7 year period will produce 430,000 cats! They are not wild animals and therefore do not have the survival instincts to make it on their own. Their life expectancy is 2 to 3 years.

A few years ago an older gentleman in my neighbourhood was threatened with fines for taking care of some feral cats (Full Article ). My city doesn't have a cat control bylaw so the SPCA isn't funded to pick up stray cats. They do except about 2000 cats each year. 1200 of them are destroyed and the rest adopted. The reason the number is so high for euthanizing is that these cats are not adoptable. The kittens are as they can be taught socialization and some cats that are strays can be because they already have lived with people and therefore are socialized.

Some municipalities have taken the lead by implementing a "trap, spay/neuter, vaccinate, release" program which is mostly education and encouragement for kind hearted folks who would take it upon themselves to do the work and assume financial responsibility for the cost. We already have an organization called the SPCA that receives municipal funding and also that fundraises. Why isn't at least some of that money allocated to care for these cats?

I am encouraged by more forward thinking I have read about recently and that is to add the element of relocation. One municipality actually has a trailer on municipal property for cats to live in after they have been spayed/neutered/vaccinated.  Another private organization is asking local farmers to donate vacant barns. It is comforting to know that these little guys have a safe, dry place out of the elements.

I will never forget a cat I saw last summer. She was pregnant. We were having the worst heat wave in years with temperatures reaching 40C with the humidity or 104F. Even if you could catch some shade it didn't really help. This cat was walking down our driveway bawling so desperately. I know enough about cats to know she was on the verge of heat stroke so I called the SPCA. I only managed to get out "there is a cat outside my building" when the lady cut me off with "we can't take in any cats right now". (This happened only a couple of months after they had rescued nearly 100 cats and kittens from someone's home.) I explained the cat was pregnant and about to go into heat stroke. She gave me some tips on how to help the cat and sent me on my way. I never saw that cat again and can only hope that she survived.

I wonder what would have happened if I had said "I have a pregnant dog outside my apartment and I think she is going to have heat stroke"?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Does a cat always land on its feet?

Almost always. But that doesn't mean they will live to meow about it.  Cats are remarkably designed to be highly skilled at many things, jumping (up or down) is one of them. They have a very flexible bone structure and what they call the "righting reflex".  They learn this at a very early age beginning at 3-4 weeks. The fluid in the middle ear tells them to turn their head the right way and the body begins to follow. They can turn the front and back parts of their body in different directions at the same time and they use this to bring themselves into an upright position. Finally, they can increase drag which slows down their fall. This "terminal velocity" is what I found most interesting. A falling cat's terminal velocity is 100 km/h (60mph). A falling man in free fall reaches 210 km/h (130 mph).  So what is no longer a safe distance to fall? I copied the following from Pet

If cats fall a larger distance such as two or more floors, even though they can right themselves, their legs and feet can no longer absorb all of the shock. Their heads may hit the ground and they often bruise their chin and may fracture some teeth. Falls of four or more floors cause the cat to hit the ground at maximum velocity and thus acquire a multitude of injuries including a ruptured diaphragm, torn liver and fractured bones.

I found this video to be really cool because it shows a cat falling in slow motion with an x-ray view of the cat landing (safely).