Request from a Reader for Cat Taming Suggestions

Reader Casey Post writes:

Every morning when I feed my outdoor ferals, I check their shelter just in case someone has vomited on the blanket during the night (hey, mouse parts happen). One morning, I see two eyes looking back at me…a small brown tabby with an ear tip! Long story short, he’s not feral, he’s super sweet and in need of a dental. The vet says that he’s already missing teeth, but she needs to extract one more and clean up the rest. She estimates him to be around eight years old. I named him Virgil.

Virgil  (Photo by Casey Post)

Virgil (Photo by Casey Post)

Not long after Virgil’s appearance, another strange cat is spotted from afar – a black and white. But this cat melts away as soon as he sees me. I start leaving food out by the front door for him, hoping to get a better look to see if he’s a neighbor’s cat. Eventually, I get a glimpse – and see that he too is ear tipped! Now I live on a dead end street, so I figured that Virgil had been dumped (I did post him as found everywhere, called around, no one recognized him or claimed him) and the chances of TWO strange ear tipped cats appearing in the neighborhood at the same time reinforces the idea. So I set my trap out next to the now-familiar food dish for a couple of days, then one day put the food dish IN the trap – success! I caught my black and white.

But this cat is not outgoing and friendly like Virgil. I set him up in a cage until I can get him to the vet (it’s the weekend, of course) and one day he meows at me! Okay, not feral. But definitely doesn’t feel comfortable with me touching him. Our vet appointment comes around and I plan to just scruff him (now named Gary, just to have something to call him) and pop him in the carrier (top loading – oh yeah, you want that if you’re alone with a difficult cat). The plan was sound – the room was closed and closet shut, pillows stuffed around the bed so that an escape would not result in a cat hiding under there, everything going great. Until I actually put a hand on Gary – he explodes in terror, clawing my arm. It’s okay, I’m not going to let go, just.need.to.get.cat.in.carrier. Focused. Determined. Bleeding. No yelling, no panic, just blood, it’s okay, it’s only two feet to the carrier…but no, it was not to be. He’s in a panic and I’m clearly going to kill him, so uses those claws to dig into my arm and swing around enough to BITE. Hard. That’s it, I dropped him. Couldn’t help it. Calmly exit room, wash out injuries thoroughly, bandage up, call vet to say that we’re going to be just a little bit late…

Now Gary is loose in the room, but with nowhere to go. So I give him somewhere to go – the carrier. I make it the only safe spot and continuously and slowly herd him towards it. Eventually, he goes in and I get the door closed and latched. Hooray!

Off to the vet. Vet gets a warning about the whole “will bite if you try to scruff him” thing, so vet is aware. He does try it, gives up, goes for sedation. Then more sedation. This poor cat really is convinced that death is coming for him from people handling him. Her. Vet discovers that Gary is a female! Also that she has less than wonderful lung sounds (I thought she might be asthmatic, but vet thinks URI – especially since she’s got a squinty eye, too). We get blood drawn, test for FIV/Feleuk (neg/neg), and get her microchipped while she’s out. Vet would like chest x-rays, but that’s a different building and they would have to sedate her again and that’s too much for one day, so at a later time. We get a Convenia shot (not something I’d normally go for, but with a cat whom you absolutely cannot handle, this is your best antibiotic choice), treated for parasites, and a nail trim (just in case). The vet sends me home with “let’s hope this is all she needs”.

This is where Gary is now -

Gary's taming cage.  (Photo by Casey post)

Gary’s taming cage. (Photo by Casey Post)

This is our “taming cage”. Her carrier/safe place, her litter box (right by the door so I can clean it, a Kuranda so she can get up a level and see out the window, a toy, her water. The carrier door is tied open so she doesn’t jostle it and accidentally close it to shut herself out. A fearful cat with no place to hide is not good. The whole set up is on top of a desk – setting it up ON TOP OF SOMETHING is very important – a cat on the floor feels much more vulnerable than a cat up on a desk. And I can shut Gary in the carrier to clean the cage safely for both of us (or transport her to the vet again, if needed, without bloodshed this time). I have a cardboard scratcher for it, but haven’t worked out where I can hang the thing, yet. The best place is between the Kuranda and the water bucket, but that would result in cardboard bits in her water. Still working on that.

Gary  (Photo by Casey Post)

Gary (Photo by Casey Post)

This photo was taken through the bars – and no, she’s not drugged up with sedatives here, her tongue just does that. Virgil’s does too (which I had attributed to his poor dental state), but now I wonder if they’re related? Gary’s teeth are decent, according to the vet, so the tongue thing may be a family trait.

So right now, I’ve got one very friendly and one not-so-friendly cat that I suspect came from the same household. I’m going to have to assume (for now) that Gary is a friendly cat who is just terrified out of her environment and having lost all that was familiar. My goal is to help her realize that this is a safe place, that she doesn’t have to be pointy bits of death at me. I want to get her URI cleared up and get her healthy. If she cannot be “tamed down”, then she can go back outside and join my little feral colony (there is a means to acclimate her out there for a few weeks before releasing her, so she knows that this place is now “home” and the ferals can get used her presence and she to theirs).

But *someone* transported her here to dump her. Which makes me think that she’s not normally a violently fearful cat. So I’ve got two Feliway diffusers going in the room, I’m spraying Spirit Essences “Scaredy Cat” over her carrier’s top grate four times a day, and I make sure that she sees me petting and brushing Virgil (and him loving it). I talk to her gently and I can even reach in with a soft brush to brush a little of her (but she’s not thrilled with that, yet, but she just flinches away, no lashing out or growling). I’ve also started adding L-lysine to her food twice a day, in case the URI is herpes-related.

If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions for us, it would be appreciated!

Miami-Dade Pound Manager: “Obviously we’re doing something right”

The troubled Miami-Dade pound in FL is funded by taxpayers, in part to provide a safety net for stray pets in the community.  But when a Good Samaritan tried to help a dog he found loose on a highway by bringing him to the pound recently, he was turned away.  A Miami-Dade pound employee was caught on video telling the man the pound had no room and that he’d have to try again another day to get shelter for the dog.

Local news reporter Jacey Birch showed the video to manager Kathleen Labrada who described what happened as a “miscommunication”:

“For strays the doors are always open. We have no option in taking in strays,” said Labrada.

We have no option but to do the jobs taxpayers pay us to do. Except when we don’t do our jobs, in which case miscommunication.

But in this SuperFantasticWishTime exchange, the reporter doesn’t fail to do her job:

“If you euthanize for space, how could the shelter ever be at over-capacity?” asked Birch.

“The goal is to never euthanize for space,” said Labrada.

“But you do euthanize for space?” asked Birch.

“The shelter will euthanize for space as needed, but we take many actions to prevent that from ever happening,” said Labrada.

Like not accepting animals?

“In February, we saved 88 percent of the dogs and 82 percent of the cats, so obviously we’re doing something right,” said Labrada.

“Isn’t it because you’re not accepting the animals anymore?” asked Birch.

“No, not at all. We’re open for intake seven days a week,” said Labrada.

Jacey Birch: 1
Kathleen Labrada: 0
Stray pets in Miami-Dade County: We have no option but to miscommunicate you.  Obviously.  Because otherwise we’d have to do our jobs.  Which sounds like work.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

One Less Vet in the World Willing to Take in a Homeless Cat and Treat Him for Free

An all too familiar story in the animal welfare world has ended in needless tragedy.

In August 2013, a Good Samaritan found a sickly cat in a park in the Bronx and took him to Gentle Hands vet clinic. The clinic’s owner, Dr. Shirley Koshi, took him in and nursed him back to health. Several weeks later, Gwen Jurmark showed up at the clinic demanding the cat, called Karl, be given to her. Ms. Jurmark claimed Karl was part of a maintained colony of cats who live at the park. She believed she had legal standing to claim Karl due to the fact that she had paid for his neuter surgery some years back. Ms. Jurmark filed a lawsuit against Dr. Koshi in October after she refused to give Karl to her.

Dr. Koshi became the target of a cyberbullying campaign. (I’m only including one link as an example because I don’t want to provide these people with any more traffic than is necessary but you can Google to find more if you are so inclined.)  Ms. Jurmark also led a protest outside the Gentle Hands clinic.

[Veterinary technician Will] Page said business at Gentle Hands, which Koshi opened last July, nosedived in the aftermath of the protest. Koshi told Page she’d exhausted her savings to keep the clinic running, and a flood last month damaged the office.
[…]
“Besides financial problems, the lawsuit drove her over the edge,” Page said.

Dr. Koshi was found dead in her apartment on February 16, an apparent victim of suicide.  Authorities reportedly took the pets from her apartment, including Karl, to the NYC pound.  Ms. Jurmark went to the pound following Dr. Koshi’s suicide and got Karl back.

(Thank you Valerie and Clarice for links on this story.)

***

If you need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night.

As far as this tiny corner of the blogosphere goes, I am doing my best to err on the side of caution and quickly toss anyone who comes across as a potential That Guy.

Wentzville Municipal Court Sentences Woman Who Helped Lost Pet

Deisel, as pictured on the St Louis Post-Dispatch website

Diesel, as pictured on the St Louis Post-Dispatch website

When a Lincoln Co, MO woman came across a dog tied to a sewer pipe in a vacant lot on December 27, she was concerned that the dog might freeze to death. She was unable to take the dog home herself so contacted the county sheriff for help. The sheriff’s office told her the county has no shelter. Sucks being you, freezing dog.  Feeling it would be wrong to leave the dog where he was, she drove him to the nearest shelter, located in the city of Wentzville, run by the police department. Fearing they too would refuse to help the dog, she lied about where she found him, stating it was within city limits.

The dog’s owners were reunited with their pet and said he had run off due to an electronic fence failure. The owners were grateful that the Good Sam had saved their pet, named Diesel, from freezing on the tether in the vacant lot. The city of Wentzville issued a $50 citation to the owners for allowing Diesel to run loose. This prompted the Good Sam to come forward and admit she hadn’t found Diesel within city limits as she had initially reported and she hoped the city wouldn’t fine the owners. Instead the city charged the Good Sam with a crime: filing a false police report.

The Good Sam’s first reaction was to fight the misdemeanor charge but upon learning she could be sent to jail if convicted, she decided to plead no contest so that her three children would not be left motherless for the duration of her sentence if she lost her case. She made a plea deal with the prosecutor to perform 20 hours of community service and receive 6 months of probation. Diesel’s owners were in court with the Good Sam and paid her court costs for her.

Just so we’re straight here:

  • The Lincoln Co sheriff’s department was apparently content to allow a lost pet to suffer and die on a tether in an empty lot.
  • The city of Wentzville is the suck.
  • If not for the so-called Irresponsible Public, there would be precious little worth clinging to in the animal welfare world.

(Thanks Davyd for sending me this story.)

UPDATED: NY Shelter Worker Charged with Felony Cruelty

Noelle, as depicted on the NBC4 NY website.

Noelle, as depicted on the NBC4 NY website.

A homeless man searching a Long Island gas station dumpster for food on Christmas Eve found a tiny dog.  She had been placed in the dumpster in a tied trash bag but apparently was able to chew her way out.  He immediately called police to get the dog some help.  NBC4 NY identified the man as Kevin Zabawski and spoke with him about the incident:

“I just happened to look to the side and there was a face looking at me. There was this dog in there, and I thought ‘Who the heck would leave an animal like that in the Dumpster?’ It’s way too much for me.”

The answer to Mr. Zabawski’s question turns out to be:  a public animal shelter employee.  Michael Papini, a kennel attendant at the Town of Islip Animal Shelter, was seen on surveillance video dumping the dog into the trash bin.  Members of the public later identified him after local TV news outlets aired the footage.

After being saved from the dumpster, the little dog was taken to a vet and then to the Town of Islip Animal Shelter.  Investigators did not know at the time that one of the shelter’s employees was the person they were seeking in connection with the case.  When it was determined the dog had a microchip, Suffolk Co SPCA investigators paid a visit to the registered owner.  She explained that she knew Michael Papini and that he had offered to take the dog to the shelter since she was no longer able to take care of the pet.  The owner paid Papini for his service.  He then allegedly tied the dog up in a plastic garbage bag and dropped her in the dumpster at the gas station.  Investigators report the former owner was very upset after learning what Papini had done with her dog.

“A dog like that is so easily adoptable,” [Suffolk Co SPCA chief Roy] Gross said. “How could he do that? . . . This is like a planned act of animal cruelty.”

Papini was charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty, misdemeanor animal abandonment and other charges and is scheduled to be arraigned today.

The one year old dog, now being called Noelle, is friendly and in good health, despite being left for dead in the dumpster for 18 hours.  Dozens of people have applied to adopt her from the shelter where she is receiving care.  Noelle is alive today thanks to the kindness of  Kevin Zabawski.  I hope he too has something to eat and a warm place to sleep tonight.

Thank you once again to the so-called irresponsible public for saving animals from those paid to protect them.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Update, added December 29, 2013:  The shelter employee was allegedly paid $250 (CBS NY reports it was $500) by a woman he knew to take her two dogs to the shelter.  Those dogs were Cherry, whom he tied in a trash bag and tossed in a dumpster, and Bailey, who is currently missing.  Bailey is described as a cream colored, male, miniature poodle.  Authorities say Michael Papini allegedly turned Bailey loose from a parked vehicle on Cooper Street in Babylon Village about 7 a.m. on Dec. 23.  The Suffolk Co SPCA is offering a $500 reward for information leading to Bailey’s recovery.

If you live on Long Island, please keep an eye out for Bailey.  There are no publicly available photos of him as far as I know but he may look something like the dog pictured on this page, although he is possibly dirty and matted, like Cherry.

Papini posted $500 bond and is free, pending trial.  I see that extra cash came in useful for him.

AL Pound Kills Freshly Bathed Cat Upon Arrival

Things to do when a Good Samaritan brings a kitty into your animal shelter:

  1. Ask the finder the location where the pet was found.
  2. Get kitty vaccinated, scanned for a microchip, photographed and logged into your records system.  Get him set up in a cage where every visitor to the shelter can see him.
  3. Upload kitty’s photo, description and area where found to your shelter’s website, Facebook page, and any other social media accounts.
  4. Assume the cat is a lost pet and start reviewing your shelter’s current lost cat reports as well as Craigslist and the Facebook page for lost pets in your area.  Contact all owners whose descriptions even vaguely match the kitty.
  5. Let your ACOs in the field know that anyone going by the area where the cat was found needs to look for Lost Cat fliers and knock on some doors.
  6. Hold the kitty at your shelter for the period mandated by state law.
  7. If no owner reclaims him, contact anyone who expressed interest in adopting him during his hold period and offer him for adoption.

These tasks clearly take several days and possibly longer to complete.  But the first five should generally be completed within the cat’s first hour or two at the shelter.

Kaitlyn Hughes gave her cat Porkchop a bath one day in January.  Porkchop was a neutered, vaccinated orange tabby cat.  The next day, he slipped out the door without the owner realizing it as she left her apartment.  When she returned home, she figured out what must have happened.  Ms. Hughes put out wet and dry food, water, a toy, and a pair of her shoes hoping to attract Porkchop.  She searched the apartment complex where they lived and began putting up fliers.  A neighbor told her the next morning that he had mistaken Porkchop for a stray and taken him to the Mobile Co pound.  Ms. Hughes immediately went to the pound to reclaim her pet.  It turns out, the Mobile Co pound killed Porkchop less than 10 minutes after receiving him from the Good Sam.

I don’t see any possible explanation for this killing other than someone at the Mobile Co pound was eager to kill Porkchop.  There is no way anyone can claim they did everything they could for him – indeed, they appear to have done nothing at all for him.  I don’t think it’s reasonable to consider the possibility that there was some sort of clerical error or other mix up.  Porkchop was only alive at the pound for a few minutes, hardly enough time to get him confused with another cat.  Nor do I think laziness is a plausible explanation.  We have heard sometimes that shelter staff are too lazy to set up a cage for an incoming pet so instead of doing their job, they will simply take the pet to the kill room.  But in Porkchop’s case, immediate action was taken upon his arrival which doesn’t strike me as the behavior of a lazy person.  I would posit that whoever killed Porkchop  was very eager to do so and the swift death could possibly be described as a thrill kill.  No other explanation strikes me as plausible.

But don’t criticize shelter workers because we all want the same thing and nobody wants to kill pets and people don’t spay-neuter…

Ms. Hughes was understandably distraught over the needless killing of her beloved pet.  Someone at the pound suggested she take home another orange tabby, because he looked just like Porkchop.  Animal Services=Family Services.  Which part of that equation does the Mobile Co pound not get?

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

The Irresponsible Public Helps Reunite a Family in Memphis

A reader who visited the Memphis pound this month was waiting in the lobby when she saw a senior citizen holding a small dog with grey around the muzzle at the payment window.  The man was telling the MAS employee, “But I don’t have the money, I don’t get my check until the end of the month.”  The woman approached the man to ask him what was going on.

The gentleman explained that his dog has escaped his home and been picked up by a Memphis ACO.  He said he called MAS to ask about reclaiming his dog and was told to come on down and get him.  When he got there, they gave him his dog and sent him to the payment window.  When he got to the window, he was told there was a $55 redemption fee.  He said no one had told him of the $55 fee previously and, since he was a disabled veteran, he could not afford to pay until his check arrived at the end of the month.  The owner had tears in his eyes.  MAS did not offer any type of payment plan or alternative way for the dog to go home with the owner.

The woman offered to pay the fee but MAS refused to accept her check, saying that the name on the check did not match the name of the owner.  She then offered a credit card and they took her money. The woman wrote to me:

The man was very grateful and asked me for my name and address and said he would reimburse me when he got his check. I told him how much I appreciated him serving our country and this was the least I could do. He then said, “You know, my dog is my only friend. I don’t know what I would do without him.” I gave him my phone number and asked that he stay in touch with me and told him we would be friends.

Pet killing facility employees and enablers often tell us the so-called irresponsible public is to blame for the killing of shelter animals.  They claim they are doing the best they can and that no one wants to kill shelter pets.  In this case, the dog in the pound had an owner who came there to take him home.  He just couldn’t afford the redemption fee on that day.  Why would MAS, or any pet killing facility, want to prevent sending a dog out alive, back to his permanent home over a matter of money?  Do they really want dogs like this to take up cage space at the pound and possibly get sick?  Do they want to break up a family over $55?  Would MAS have held the dog until the end of the month and not killed him after the 5 day mandatory hold expired like they do so many others?  And if they did hold the dog, what would the redemption fees have amounted to by then?

And yet it is the irresponsible public who came through for this dog – the owner coming to the pound to immediately reclaim his lost pet and the good Samaritan offering to pay the ransom.  Ordinary people did the right thing here.  Because the pet killing facility wouldn’t.  Thank you irresponsible public, once again.

Animal services=family services.  Any questions?

Even a 12 Year Old Boy Knows It’s Wrong to Hurt a Dog

New Zealand: On Thursday, a 12 year old boy named Damon Boyer-Marwood was walking home from school when he heard a dog crying out in pain.  He found a group of school boys with a dog pinned down to the ground.  The boys were taking turns kicking the dog and hitting her with a cricket bat.  Damon told the boys to stop and they ended up running off.  He picked up the injured dog, carried her to a friend’s house and called the Wellington SPCA.

Via a microchip, the dog was reunited with her owner.  The owner asked to meet Damon in person:

“I want to thank him from my heart, I want to know his face.”

Rose the dog with her grateful owner and Damon, as shown on the TVNZ website.

Everyone involved is applauding Damon’s bravery and action:

Damon’s grandmother Jenny Marwood said she was proud of him. “It makes you wonder what would have happened if he didn’t step in.”

Yes, it makes you wonder.

Permission to Donate a Dollar

The idea behind charitable donations is not that your individual contribution will rescue every shelter pet, save the whales or feed the world.  Unless you fall within the top 1% of income earners and have an extremely generous nature, your donation is a drop in the bucket.  And that’s usually how buckets get filled – one drop at a time.  No drops=empty bucket.

As such, I always like to see organizations making donation pleas which specifically ask for a dollar.  I remember recently a reader posted a link to a plea from Olympic Animal Sanctuary where they asked each FB fan to donate 48 cents.  These sorts of pleas plainly give permission to donors to contribute a small amount of money.  For various reasons, many people seem hesitant to donate small amounts, especially when it’s not a relatively anonymous act (such as dropping change into a donation jar).  If you donate online or by check, your personal information is forever attached to your donation and that seems to unsettle some would-be donors.

I am here to announce that now and forever, you not only have permission to donate a dollar (or cents) to the worthy cause of your choice, but to remind you that your donation is very valuable and much appreciated.  There is no shame in donating money to a good cause.  I don’t know how that notion ever came to be but let’s kill it with fire.  Donating money is a selfless act of kindness and anyone who is able to do it should be proud of their contribution.

99% of us must live within our means and budget our expenses.  In today’s economy, that means many of us have very small amounts of money available to consider for donation.  If you are able to budget a dollar a day/week/month for donation to a charitable organization, good on you.  And thank you.

The Spirit of the Season

In addition to Kapone’s return to his family, a couple of other stolen dogs have been returned to their homes this week.

A seizure alert dog named Bella was returned to the epileptic infant she helps in San Diego.  Police are investigating the possibility that an ex-girlfriend of the baby’s father stole Bella out of spite.  The tipster who called in Bella’s whereabouts refused the reward.

A Pitbull was stolen from a MA dog pound nearly two months ago.  His owners live in CT.  This week, he was returned to an ACO at the pound by two women requesting anonymity who said they wanted the dog to be home with his family for Christmas.  They refused the reward.  Look at the Lexus sized bow the pound put on this dog for the reunion!

(Thank you Arlene for sending me these stories.)

Have you seen any other stories about people doing the right thing for pets this week?

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