What to do with a feral cat
THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 1 million feral cats living in San Diego County. Our local suburban sprawl and lovely year-round climate are perfect for sustaining these homeless kitties. It’s quite possible that one day, while opening your back door to check on what’s blooming in your garden, you might come across one of these uninvited guests. The furry feline may look adorable, lonesome and hungry, but should you feed her? And, if you do, will she move into your yard and bring all her relatives?
Here’s what Julie Levy, the director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program in Florida and an expert in feral cats, has to say on the matter.
Q: What is a feral cat?
A: Feral cats are domestic animals that are not socialized to people. They usually behave like urban wildlife, avoiding close contact with people but often seeking the benefits of food and shelter that come with loose associations with human society.
Q: What is a colony?
A: Feral cat “colonies” often form around a food source and can range from just a couple of cats to more than 100, although large colonies are the exception.
Q: How did this happen?
A: Cats have been living outdoors alongside human societies for 10,000 years. Thanks to the high-reproductive success of cats, the free-roaming community cat population is self-sustaining.
Q: Does a tame cat that’s been abandoned become wild and join a colony?
A: Cats that are lost or abandoned from homes often struggle to survive. Having not grown up in the wild, they never developed the skills to find a safe place to live and adequate nourishment. The stress and fear associated with abruptly losing a home and a family is enormous, just as it would be for a child that was suddenly lost and alone. It’s likely that most kittens that are abandoned do not survive to adulthood. Those that do usually gravitate toward a source of food and shelter, often intentionally or unintentionally provided by people. Many cats live on residential properties, either alone or with one or two other cats. Others live in colonies that can grow larger if their reproduction is unchecked. We estimate that adult females average a litter of four kittens each year. Other research shows that three out of four kittens won’t make it to breeding age and that if cats have a second litter in a season, the survival rate for them is much lower.
Q: Where are these colonies in San Diego?
A: It’s likely that colonies exist everywhere people do, including residential areas, industrial parks, strip malls, institutions and other places where food and shelter are available.
Q: What should we do when we encounter a colony?
A: Locating any other caregivers or people concerned about the colony to develop a well-supporting response to the colony is ideal. The best approach when encountering a colony is to initiate the process of trap/neuter/release. (Editor’s note: To find a trap/neuter/release clinic near you, call the Feral Cat Coalition, 619-758-9194.)
Q: When you have a feral cat come to your house, what should you do?
A: Give her a meal, borrow a trap and take her to a TNR clinic. She’ll reward you with her company and look to you for protection, even if she never lets you touch her.
Q: Can we invite a feral cat to be part of our family?
A: Some feral cats are actually lost pets and will readily accept joining a family. Feral kittens often can be tamed enough to come inside. Some older ferals become tamer as they age and spend their elder years inside. Most truly feral cats are too frightened to enjoy life inside or in close proximity to people and dogs and are better off left outside.
Pet Patrol: By Sandie Lampe
AFTER A LONG DAY AT WORK, you’re looking forward to getting home and settling into that cozy, white chenille sofa you just bought. It was expensive, but so comfy it was well worth the money. You slip your keys into the front door, turn the latch and step into the foyer, expecting to be greeted by your ever-faithful watchdog and best friend, Reilly. But, to your amazement, your Irish red-and-white setter is not there. He always welcomes you home! Where could he be?
You walk into the living room, and yes, you have found Reilly. He’s sound asleep on his back, snoring, and his front paws are on the move, which means he’s probably dreaming about chasing rabbits. Cute picture — except that he’s on your new $$$$ couch! Plus, it looks like he’s used the doggie door and brought some of his outdoor adventures back inside with him. He is covered with newly cut grass, and ugh, what’s that smell? Plant fertilizer?
It’s time to get Reilly his own couch. He’ll be happier and so will you. Choosing your pet’s couch may not be as much fun as choosing your own couch, but here are some tips to make it easier:
Make sure the couch you choose accommodates the size of your pet.
How does your dog like to sleep? Curled up in a circle? Stretched out on his back? Or maybe he likes to stick his head under a cushion, pretending he’s in a cave. Look for a couch that matches his lifestyle.
If you’ve spent the time, money and effort to create an ambience in your home that you love, you won’t be happy if your pup’s couch/bed doesn’t match your interior
Fill Her Up
Look for virgin fiberfill for your pet couch. Make sure the foam or fill is thick, provides perfect weight distribution and is labeled “Made in America” (fill from some other countries may contain questionable chemicals that can make your pet sick).
Dog beds come in a variety of fabrics such as cotton, silk, canvas, denim and polyester. Base your choice on the dog breed and the climatic conditions. Longhaired dogs will need breathable fabrics such as cotton or canvas to prevent additional heat build up. Shorthaired dogs need more heat and prefer fleece or fur.
Look for stain-resistant fabric and apply antibacterial Scotch Guard (or another treatment that is processed with an eco-friendly formula) for extra protection.
Buy removable covers that can be thrown into the washer. Also, buy a soft cozy blanket as a throw, which is another item that can be thrown into the washer.
If you have an older dog, buying an orthopedic couch/bed is mandatory for long-term health. This will help prevent things like hip dysplasia, arthritis, elbow disease, intervertebral disc disease and many other skeletal issues.
Bessie + Barnie was founded by a group of fashion executives who created a design collection with fabrics to match any décor.
Doctors Foster and Smith has a large selection of dog beds, orthopedic pads, bolster beds and heated beds.
Mammoth carries dog beds that are vet recommended and are geared toward older and larger dogs.
Muttropolis, right here in San Diego, carries Trellis, Veranda and Citrus outdoor beds, all of which are mold and mildew free, waterproof and very “styling.”
West Paw Design has an organic bumper bed made with a removable, machine-washable, organic-cotton cover that comes in an array of colors. Free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the IntelliLoft cushion used on the inside of the bed is made from 100-percent recycled plastic soda bottles. Every part of this bed has been tested for more than 100 potentially harmful substances and was found to be 100-percent safe.
Pet Patrol: By Sandie Lampe
Custody battles for dogs are on the rise
"TRACY” AND “MIKE” SAT at the conference table, waiting for their attorneys to agree on the last part of their divorce-dispute resolution. The conference had come to a satisfactory settlement, except for one decision: Who gets the dog?
Dividing assets and personal treasures are difficult when couples divorce, but pet custody is becoming a T-bone of contention, too. Take, for instance, the recent custody battle over Puggles in which Dennis Derrich spent $60,000 to bring his dog back to New York after his ex took the dog to Los Angeles. Or the case of the San Diego divorcée who spent more than two years battling for the custody of Gigi, hired an animal-behavior expert to do a study on “canine bonding” (accompanied by a video documenting a day in the life of Gigi), and had legal bills that reportedly ran in excess of $140,000 by the end of the trial. That’s a lot of kibble!
Since animal laws (generally referred to as “Laws for Paws”) came to the forefront about 10 years ago, there has been a 23-percent jump in pet-custody cases. That’s because, more than ever before, pet owners consider their pets to be family. Legally, however, pets usually are deemed personal property — no different than a flat-screen TV.
Just four states — Maine, New York, California and Illinois — sometimes legally view pets as more than property. But with hundreds of child-support cases running through the court system, pet custody isn’t the issue that gets top priority.
So, what happens to pets during di-vorce proceedings? I interviewed San Diego attorney and certified family-law specialist Julia M. Garwood, owner and senior attorney at Garwood Family Law and Mediation, to get the scoop.
Q: How do pet owners come to an agreement on ownership during a divorce?
A: When parties are in agreement, some-times they consider sharing their animal, and a sharing arrangement is worked out. This is not necessarily called “custody.”
I also have seen “visitation rights,” where the party that keeps the residence keeps the pet and the other party sees the pet and takes it with him for five hours on a Saturday, for example.
Sometimes owners decide that the pet goes with the children. If the father has custody of the children, then he gets the pet, also.
If there are two pets and no children, the parties may agree that each party gets one of the pets. Or, for example, the wife takes the cats and husband takes the dogs.
Q: I’ve read articles about courts awarding “petimony,” which is like alimony except for pets. I’ve also read that the owner who is the primary caregiver for the pet is a consideration in pet-custody battles. What are some other considerations?
A: Often it depends on who lives where and whether there is a “pet welcome” policy at the new residence. (Once, I got the court to order that the dog be awarded to my client after we submitted pictures of the dog tied to the outside of the house in the rain.)
If the pet is purebred, the owner will be named on the title and that person “owns” the animal. Usually when this is the case, though, we find that the pet was a gift from the other party. Gifts, by definition, are considered to be the separate property of the person to whom they were given.
If one party obtains the pet before marriage, then that party owns the pet.
Q: Who pays for food and care, including vet bills?
A: The parties usually agree as to who pays the vet bills. The issue of vet bills often comes up if the pet is sick and/or old. One party keeps the pet and pays for the food but they split the vet bill. Burial costs are usually part of the veterinary bill.
Sandie advises: Do what’s best for your pet and place it where it will get the most companionship and loving care. To handle bones of contention and make life a lot easier if there is a custody battle over your pet, do the paperwork ahead of time. You can get legal paperwork on line at such places as Legal Zoom or write an agreement yourself about your pet … but don’t forget to sign it!
Pet Patrol: By Sandie Lampe
Pet Patrol: By Sandie Lampe
What you call your pet is a matter of major concern.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?Well, what if your mother had named you Bigboy, Piggy or Sparklepants?
The point is this: Smart and compassionate pet owners put in the appropriate amount of time and consideration when naming their furry friends.
When a colleague invites you over to visit and meet their new dog, Thunder, you automatically envision a certain type. It's probably a rottweiler, right? You prepare for the encounter. The door opens. And standing there to greet you is Thunder ... the teacup Yorkie.
There's no accounting for personal taste, granted. But while image may not be everything, it is something. If you're a pro football player, you can't be seen walking a Chihuahua named Love Paws. (If that is the case, you'll want to hang a sign on the dog's collar that says, "This Is My Wife's Dog.")
In assigning a name, I also think it is important to first know the animal's personality. Let's say your dog is overly sensitive. It's probably not a good idea to name him Warrior. (Expectations alone could send him into doggie therapy. Better monikers: Snuggles, Buster, Cookie or Ziggy.)
Let's say you have a sporting dog. Why not let him/her live up to their DNA? Come here Hunter, Tracker, Arrow or Ranger! In other words, let them be the dog they were meant to be.
An appropriate name cannot be over-emphasized. It's how people will associate their feelings about your pet. Why give your neighbor an open shot to ridicule him/her? Names like Mr. Smellyfeet will draw laughs, and your pet will never for-give you.
Dogs want to please you, and be praised. This presents a predicament if your friends are always pointing and laughing at your Miss Margaret Wiffenpoof.
Finding the right name for your pet can be fun. You can explore, and find one that satisfies both of you.
Here's some simple guidance:
Sometimes a dog or cat just looks like their name. Fred or Bullwinkle just howls bassett hound.
If your cute doggie has big pointy ears, why not call him Batman?
And don't Snowball, Nordstrom and Bitsy give clear indication there's a cat in the house?
HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD
Sometimes inspiration can come from Tinseltown.
Call your pit bull Brad Pitts ... Jimmy Chews, the rat terrier? ... Dog Vader, the German shepherd? ... How about Cat Sajak for your new cat (who watches TV game shows)?
Buddha is a name that just fits your Maine coon, who watches and meditates before making his move.
WE GO TOGETHER
If you own two kitties, why not name the darker one Coffee and the lighter one Cream?
ON THE MENU
Another point of consideration is pet parents' lifestyle. If you are, say, a foodie, serve up these cat names: Pickles, Mocha, Oreo, Pudding, Chopstick, Sugar, Taffy, Kit Kat, Truffles, Kiwi, Kailua, Rosemary, and we'll stop at Ginger.
What about the woofers? Brownie. Broccoli. Nugget. Mousse. Biscuit. Bagel. Latte. Mochi. Burrito. Skittles. Sausage. If you have a chocolate Lab, why not name him Guinness, or Tootsie Roll?
It's important to not confuse your four-pawed buddy. Despite the old joke from comedian Steven Wright, don't give your dog or cat a name that sounds like a common command (not that your cat would ever take orders). Names like "Fetch" and "Rollover" could be confusing.
Whatever name you pick, know that this will be what you call your new buddy for many years. Steer away from names of skin conditions, Soviet dictators and ex-sweethearts. Make it happy and positive.