Best Friends Co-founder Francis Battista Calls B.S. on TNR Opponents

The next time I see Francis Battista, I’m buying the man a drink.

It’s the least I can do after his post on the Best Friends blog Thursday. In it, Francis, one of Best Friends’ founders, took TNR opponents to task for their indefensible position.

“Despite the inescapable logic that fixing free-roaming cats in a given neighborhood will reduce the ability of those cats to reproduce, the dogma of those opposed to trap/neuter/return (TNR) protocols prevents them from acknowledging the mathematical effects of spay/neuter on population control.”

The position of TNR opponents, Francis argues, is supported neither by the science, nor by public opinion.

“Setting aside—if indeed that is possible—the ugliness of such a plan, who would they propose undertake the campaign and how would they sell it to the cat-loving public? Municipalities certainly don’t have the resources to deploy hundreds of trappers who would, in any event, quickly become the target of animal activists’ ire. Are the bird groups planning to do it? The idea is as unworkable as it is cruel. Catching and killing stray cats was standard operating procedure for decades prior to the rise of TNR, yet catch-and-kill policies were notably ineffective in controlling community cat populations.”

He then goes on to point out that prohibiting TNR is, in fact, likely to be detrimental to the very species opponents claim to want to protect (a point I’ve made previously). “I suppose their logic goes that it’s better to let cat populations go entirely unchecked rather than open the door even a crack to TNR.”

Unfortunately, it’ll be nearly four months until I have the opportunity to buy Francis that drink—when we see each other at the 2012 No More Homeless Pets Conference, at which I’ve been invited to speak. (For a $25 discount on your registration fee, enter the discount code “Wolf” when asked for payment information.)

Until then, Francis, keep those blog posts coming!

BlogPaws 2012 Recap

I survived BlogPaws 2012.

After three days of talks about Word Press, WP plugins, SEO, and the like, my head is still spinning. (And my suspicions have been confirmed: Vox Felina is due for some serious revisions.)

Among the highlights were two keynote addresses—the first from Betsy Saul, co-founder of Petfinder.com, who, to her credit, made cats (including community cats) the first item on her list of issues that the companion animal welfare community needs to focus on. The second was a pull-no-punches wake-up call from Lena West, who challenged all of us to treat our blogging like a business—and in doing so, increase the good we can do.

Easily the best part of the event, though, was spending time with so many bloggers I’d known only virtually until now—including: Tamar Arslanian (I Have Cat); Angie Bailey (Catladyland); Deb Barnes (The Chronicles of Zee and Zoey); Crystal Fogg, who blogs about her “special needs” cat, Moki at The Wobbly Cat; Debbie Glovatsky (Glogirly), winner of BlogPaws’ Nose-to-Nose Award for Best Meow Blog; Stephanie Harwin (Catsparella); Janea Kelley (Paws and Effect); Ingrid King (The Conscious Cat); Joanne McGonagle (The Tiniest Tiger Conservation Cub Club); Christine Michaels (Riverfront Cats); Karen Nichols (Mousebreath), winner of the Nose-to-Nose Award for Best Blog Design; Robin Olson (Covered in Cat Hair), and Dorian Wagner (Your Daily Cute).

The Catification Lounge, the creation of Kate Benjamin, “Miss Moderncat,” and “Cat Daddy” Jackson Galaxy, proved to be an excellent venue for conversations both serious and light (the latter being aided immeasurably by Jill Delzer owner of Ally McPets).

I hope to see you all again at BlogPaws 2013!

Oregon Man Diagnosed with Plague

According to last Friday’s USA Today, “Health officials have confirmed that an Oregon man has the plague after he was bitten while trying to take a dead rodent from the mouth of a stray cat.”

“State public health veterinarian Dr. Emilio DeBess said the man was infected when he was bitten by the stray his family befriended. The cat died and its body is being sent to the CDC for testing.”

Other news reports suggest that the source of the bacteria—which might have been the rodent—remains uncertain. (Indeed, the fact that the cat’s body was submitted for testing suggests, that there is some question about this. The cat’s death—also unexplained—raises additional questions.)

“Humans usually get plague,” explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website, “after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with plague.” Read more

BlogPaws 2012

Soon, I’ll be headed to Salt Lake City for the BlogPaws conference, where I’m looking forward to meeting (finally) several fellow bloggers I know only virtually (many of whom helped push Smudge and me over the top last weekend).

Look for me in the Catification Lounge, a showcase of some of the best-designed cat products on the market, pulled together by Kate Benjamin, “Miss Moderncat,” and “Cat Daddy” Jackson Galaxy.

Hope to see you there!

Photo Contest Winners!

Photo: “Miss Moderncat” Kate Benjamin

We did it!

And when I say we, I really mean you.

Thanks to everybody who voted (or tried to, desperately—you know who you are), shared, and pounded the pavement of the Interwebs, Smudge and I were able to pull off an impressive come-from-behind victory in Stray Cat Alliance’s Cat Daddy Photo Contest!

Rest assured, the $100 Petco gift card will be put to good use—mostly stocking up on food for the outdoor cats I feed. And maybe a few treats for Smudge and the rest of the indoor crew.

Father’s Day Celebrations

It’s a very good year to be a cat daddy—featured in special Father’s Days posts on two the most popular cat blogs! (And I haven’t even had breakfast yet.)

My submission for I Have Cat’s Cat Man Monday feature was posted a day early in honor of Father’s Day. In it, I reveal a little bit about my own cats and their role in the Vox Felina backstory.

“It’s no surprise he grew up to have cats of his own,” writes Tamar Arslanian, the blog’s founder, in her introduction, “but his cat connection goes beyond the ordinary.”

Meanwhile, Ingrid King included me among the “special cat daddies” on her blog, The Conscious Cat.

And I’m in very good company, too—alongside Harry Shubin, a Virginia patent attorney and volunteer coordinator for Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation in Arlington; Al Chernoff, “Alley Cat” from Rescue Ink; and Jackson Galaxy, star of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell and author of the recently released Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean (which I reviewed for Moderncat).

All of which is way better than a tie.

Oh, speaking of ties… Smudge and I are looking for a come-from-behind victory in Stray Cat Alliance’s Cat Daddy Photo Contest, which ends at 6:00 pm PST. There’s still time to vote!

For updates, keep an eye on the Vox Felina Facebook page.

•     •     •

Thanks to Tamar and Ingrid for their support—I appreciate it more than you know! And a very happy Father’s Day to all the cat daddies out there!

Many Loose and Ill-considered Statements

Does the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have an official policy on free-roaming cats and TNR? The official word from the agency is no. But that hasn’t stopped Service employees around the country from suggesting otherwise.


Had you attended the Southeast Partners in Flight conference in February, you would, more than likely, have come away with the impression that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has—despite statements to the contrary—an official, science-based position on free-roaming cats and TNR.

In his presentation Feral and Free-ranging Cats and Urban Birds, Steve Holzman, South Atlantic Geographic Area Data Manager for USFWS, argued that if the goal of PIF is to “keep common birds common,” predation by cats simply can’t be ignored. Among the “next steps” Holman proposed: “Continued work on USFWS position statement on feral and free-ranging cats, and zero tolerance on all federal lands, especially parks and refuges,” and “State policies that advocate trap and remove for all state lands.”

Hinting at what an uphill battle such policies face, Holzman pointed out that cats “are very popular,” and “currently represent 87.3 percent of all Internet content.”

This last bit was delivered as a humorous aside,” notes Holzman in the endnotes of his revised presentation. “No one really knows what percentage of Internet content is related to cats.”

I’ll have to take Holzman at his word about this being a joke, as I wasn’t there.

But what about those very official-sounding policy proposals? Surely, the audience took that stuff seriously. And yet, those bullet points were purged in his recent round of edits—prompted by a lengthy e-mail I sent to Holzman. (“Your questions have led me to understand the need to revise the PowerPoint presented on the SEPIF website,” Holzman wrote.)

What’s going on here? Read more

Get Out the Vote!

Photo: Kate “Miss Moderncat” Benjamin

Facebook users: Smudge and I need your vote!

To celebrate Father’s Day, Stray Cat Alliance is running an online photo contest of “cat daddies.” At last check, Smudge (whose story I’ll save for a future post) and I are in fourth place. To finish “in the money,” however, we need another 100 votes or so!

And if you have a Facebook account, you can help.

You can trying accessing the contest page directly here. Or, follow the links from the Vox Felina or Stray Cat Alliance Facebook pages to the contest page. (A recent post on Stray Cat Alliance’s timeline is shown below.)

Now, at some point, you’ll be prompted to “install” the Facebook App—which, admittedly, sounds kinds of scary. Nothing to worry about, though—it’s just another way to “host” an event on Facebook.

Anyhow, once you’re on the contest page, click “View Entries,” and you’ll find our entry on or near Page 7. (The placement may change slightly as additional entries are added to the list.) Click on the thumbnail, and the photo will be enlarged—and you’ll be given the option to vote for us. (This is the important part.)

So, what’s at stake here?

Well, the contest winner receives a $100 Petco gift card (which, let me assure you, would be put to very good use!). Then there’s the honor of winning, along with some greatly-appreciated PR. And, in our case, it would be a victory for ear-tipped cats everywhere. (OK, perhaps I’m exaggerating just a bit.)

Many readers, I know, have already voted and encouraged others to do the same. If you haven’t done so, there’s still time—the contest ends at 6:00 pm PST Sunday.

For updates, keep an eye on the Vox Felina Facebook page.

Smudge and I thank you for your support!

Thanks to Stray Cat Alliance for sponsoring the contest, and to Kate Benjamin for our entry.

Today: Just One Day

Hundreds of animal shelters across the country have pledged to end the killing of any healthy or savable* animals, even if only for one day. And that day is here!

The Just One Day campaign, a collaborative effort of the No Kill Advocacy Center, Animal Ark, and Animal Wise Radio (all of whom have been great supporters of Vox Felina!), had a lofty goal: to “change everything for 10,411 companion animals,” making June 11th “a day that can change the world.”

“For Just One Day, ‘Euthanasia Technicians’ will put down their syringes and pick up cameras. Instead of injecting animals with lethal doses of sodium pentobarbital, they will photograph them and post them on the Internet, on Facebook, on twitter. On June 11, 2012, they will market their animals to the public, they will reach out to rescue groups, they will host adoption events with discounted rates, they will stay open for extended hours, and they will ask their communities to help them empty the shelter the good way.

Instead of going into body bags in freezers, the animals will go out the front door in the loving arms of families. At the end of the day, the shelters will be emptier than when the day started. And, no one will have had to die in order to make that happen.”

Success stories are pouring in on the Just One Day Facebook page, and Animal Wise Radio has scheduled a special live broadcast at noon CDT “to celebrate what could turn out to be the safest day for Animals in U.S. History.”

My sincere thanks to all those who’ve helped make this happen—the campaign’s promoters, the numerous shelters that have taken the pledge, the hundreds (thousands, maybe) of rescues working in concert with shelters near and far, and the community leaders who’ve made proclamations and pushed no-kill policy. And of course all those who are using the opportunity to adopt.

Today is a very good day.

* Those animals that have not been diagnosed with a terminal, incurable condition, or dogs have been determined by a credentialed behaviorist to be unmanageably aggressive, and beyond hope of rehabilitation.

A(Wake)ning

Though the news wasn’t entirely unexpected, it’s now official: Wake County, NC, has officially adopted TNR!

According to a story in Monday’s Raleigh Public Record, the new policy allows private non-profits to manage the trapping, sterilization, and vaccination of community cats.

And, in what was apparently an eleventh-hour victory, TNR supporters (led, as I understand it, by SPCA of Wake County) won additional protections for these cats. “The county will not be able to trap such cats simply for roaming at-large,” notes the paper.

“People can report the clipped-ear feral cats as nuisances and the county can still trap them for euthanasia. However, the county will contact the TNR group to attempt to find a resolution, the new policy states.” [1]

Lives Lost and Lives Saved
Regardless of how many cats are “euthanized” by the county under the new plan, there’s little doubt that many hundreds—thousands, perhaps—will be saved. According to the Public Record, the county-run shelter killed 4,830 of the 7,766 cats it took in between summer 2010 and 2011, for an abysmal 37.8 percent live-release rate. Read more

It Starts with One

Maybe it was that one shabby-looking tomcat you began feeding, and then had sterilized. It took more than two years, but now you can—during dinner, anyhow—pet him. Who knows? A couple months from now, he may be sprawled out on your favorite chair, his life as a street cat a distant memory.

Or maybe it was that impossibly small kitten you found. Along with his three siblings. And mother. Your baptism-by-fire introduction to TNR.

Then there’s the neighbor who “just wanted the cats gone.” The one who, thanks to your gentle persistence, now lets you feed on his property. And is the first to let you know when a new one shows up. And will be covering for you when you’re on vacation this summer.

The first cat. The first trapping night. The first neighborhood HOA or city council meeting. The first letter to the editor in defense of community cats.

It starts with one. Read more

Santa Ana Protest Cancelled

The protest originally planned for tomorrow morning has been cancelled following news that the traps have been removed from Willard Intermediate School and El Sol Science and Arts Academy. According to today’s Orange County Register:

“Traps to catch feral cats have been removed from two Santa Ana school campuses, where public health officials have been trying to stop the spread of typhus, a city official said Friday.

The traps provided by Orange County Vector Control were removed Wednesday afternoon, just a day after they were set at El Sol Science and Arts Academy in the 1000 block of North Broadway and Willard Intermediate School in the 1300 block of North Ross Street, city spokesman Jose Gonzalez said.

Santa Ana city officials decided to pull the traps because there wasn’t a clear-cut plan as to how the cats were going to be handled, Gonzalez said.”

The paper goes on to note, “No cats were trapped, tested or euthanized.”

“‘We are changing our focus and attacking the real problem, which are the fleas,’ Gonzalez said. ‘The main issue right now is to safeguard the community and reduce the risk of typhus.'”

No doubt the immediate response from feral cat advocates—the scale of which, I suspect took city and county officials by surprise—played a role in their decision to change focus. Well done.

Flea Circus Gives Way to Media Circus

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
—Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense news briefing, February 12, 2002

The more we learn about the typhus scare in Santa Ana, CA, the less we know. For example:

According to Saturday’s Los Angeles Times, this whole episode began when a “Santa Ana child contracted typhus.” On Tuesday, however, KTLA-TV claimed it was “an adult who has no connection to the school [Willard Intermediate, one of two trapping sites] whatsoever.”

Frankly, I’m less interested in the age of this individual than the suggestion that he or she has no connection to the site where Orange County Vector Control is trapping cats. If there’s no connection, why are they trapping there? Read more