Canine Citizens and Community Cats

You know what they say about judging a book by its cover. Well, don’t be fooled by the title of Citizen Canine—as its subtitle indicates, this book is about “our evolving relationship” with both dogs and cats. Using a combination of rigorous research and on-the-ground reporting, author (and online news editor of Science) David Grimm traces the journey of cats and dogs from domestication (such as it is, in the case of cats) through beloved family pet and into the present-day movement toward personhood.

All of which makes for very compelling reading, even for those of us who work in animal welfare and are therefore familiar with most of the material. For other readers—and I hope there are many—Citizen Canine will likely be their introduction to contemporary hot-button animal welfare issues such as breed-discriminatory laws and TNR. And even the “insiders” among us might be surprised to learn, for example, of dogs with attorneys and the details of the Uniform Trust Code, which allows people (in some states) to include their pets (and perhaps their colony cats, too—I don’t know) in their wills.

Plenty of good stuff for all of us, in other words.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like David’s book tour will make it to Phoenix (and I missed him in L.A. last month!). I was, however, lucky enough to get a few minutes with him recently via e-mail, and asked him a few questions about his book. Read more

Killer App

A couple months ago, I heard about a slick browser plugin (sadly, available only for Chrome) that replaces the word literally with figuratively for websites, articles, etc. I (literally?) cannot describe just how appealing this is to my inner (and sometimes outer) language bully. Indeed, the thought of the enormous satisfaction sure to follow was almost (but not quite) enough to get me to switch browsers.

More than anything else, though, the story got me thinking of a plugin not yet (so far as I know) developed: Euthanasia. Read more

Common Sense for Cats

Have you seen the just-launched Common Sense for Cats website yet? It’s an Alley Cat Allies initiative that the organization describes as “an online resource to educate about outdoor cats and Trap-Neuter-Return, the only humane and effective program to stabilize—and reduce—outdoor cat populations.”

The site serves as a useful primer—courtesy of some very nice visuals—for those not already familiar with TNR and the larger “cat debate.” It’s easy to share via Facebook and Twitter, and there’s even a petition you can sign “to help ensure that humane policies for cats are a major take-home message for local policymakers across the country.” Signatures will be presented “at the upcoming meetings for the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, and the United States Conference of Mayors to let them know that Americans want humane policies for cats in their communities.” (Just last week, Alley Cat Allies delivered more than 55,000 signatures to the Smithsonian Institution in response to the publication earlier this year of agenda-driven junk science produced by researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.)

Thank you, Alley Cat Allies!

Feline Shelter Intake Reduction Program FAQs

The timing was perfect—almost.

Not 10 minutes after I published yesterday’s post, I noticed a link posted by my friends at Stray Cat Alliance on the organization’s Facebook page. Beside the link was this not-so-subtle endorsement:


As I say, not so subtle. On the other hand, I couldn’t agree more. Read more


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

San Francisco SPCA

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent March 4th at the Vertebrate Pest Conference, attending its half-day Feral Cats session. Having made the trip to Monterey, I wasn’t about to return home without a visit to the San Francisco SPCA—to, at last, meet in person some diehard Vox Felina supporters I knew, for the most part, only via e-mail and Facebook.

More than a week later, my head is still spinning—inspired by the dedication of their staff and volunteers, and filled with creative ideas for possible future collaborations.

Community Cats Program and Resources
Last year alone, SF SPCA’s Community Cats Program provided sterilization, vaccination, and flea treatment for 1,325 of the city’s stray, abandoned, and feral cats—all at no cost to the caretakers. (Their efforts are beautifully documented in this video, created for National Feral Cat Day 2010.)

In addition, the SF SPCA has compiled a wealth of useful information on the organization’s website, including, for example, tips on humane trapping and resolving cat-related conflicts with neighbors.

(This, by the way, is in addition to the extensive collection of cat behavior resources available on the SF SPCA website, and their Cat Behavior Email Hotline, available to their adopters who “need help with cat-to-cat aggression, litter box usage, rough play or socialization.” SF SPCA even offers a Cat Claw Clipping Clinic.)

Community Outreach
Much of SF SPCA’s most important work actually takes place beyond its Mission District campus, in various forms of community outreach. This includes “investing in the next generation of pet guardians and animal advocates,” as education is integral to the organization’s Vision 2020 initiative.

And it’s an investment that’s already paying dividends, as evidenced by the Feral Cat Haiku project, the colorful, charming creations of local school kids following a recent SF SPCA visit.

My photos (the poor quality of which I blame on a burrito-induced food coma) obviously don’t do the work justice. I’ll do better on my next visit—which I’m already looking forward to.

Game On!

Be prepared for the next news story, media release, position statement, local ordinance, House or Senate bill, or government report that (intentionally or not) misrepresents free-roaming cats’ impact on wildlife and the environment, public health threat, etc. with Feral Cat Witch-hunt Bingo!

Downloadable PDF includes four bingo cards and 120 chips.