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A ‘snip’ in time saves felines

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Visit any animal shelter in the country this month, and you’re bound to see litter after litter of kittens as well as sweet mother cats and cat dads in need of loving homes. It’s the peak of “kitten season,” and that’s why June is the perfect time to celebrate “Adopt a Shelter Cat” Month.

For anyone looking to add a feline to the family, there is no better place to find the perfect cat than at an animal shelter. Shelters have cats of every age and personality type, from rambunctious kittens to snuggly feline “senior citizens.” Most shelters are happy to help match prospective guardians with the perfect animal for their lifestyle and personality and will give adopters plenty of time to get to know their potential new family member one on one in a private visiting room.

Adopting has many benefits: Pre-loved cats are likely to be litterbox-trained, pros at sharpening their claws on a scratching post instead of on furniture and familiar with the “do’s” and “don’ts” of living in a human household. Most animals in shelters are screened for health and temperament and, for a nominal adoption fee, go home spayed or neutered, microchipped and vaccinated. Many shelters also offer free or low-cost follow-up support and classes to ensure that adopted animals make the transition to a new home successfully.

Every cat adopted is a life saved, but ultimately, even the most heroic adoption efforts are like trying to bail out the Titanic with a teaspoon. We can bail for all we’re worth, but the ship is going down unless we fix the source of the problem. Cats reproduce much faster than we can find homes for all their kittens. Without spaying, one female cat and her offspring can produce 370,000 kittens in just seven years. And that’s just one cat. Across the country, countless cats will have litters this summer, and many of these kittens will end up in shelters—or worse, on the streets or in the hands of neglectful or violent people.

Every year, open-admission shelters are forced to euthanize about half of the 6 to 8 million cats and dogs they take in because there aren’t enough good homes for them all. With some shelters receiving hundreds of kittens each month during kitten season, cage space is at a premium and euthanasia is a necessity to make room for the never-ending stream of more animals. Not even adorable kittens and puppies are guaranteed a home.

That’s why it’s so crucial to have our cats (and dogs, too) spayed and neutered as early as possible—before they can have that first “oops” litter. It’s safe—and even beneficial—to have kittens sterilized as young as 8 weeks old. Females who are spayed before their first heat cycle have one-seventh the risk of developing mammary cancer. Spaying also eliminates female animals’ risk of diseases and cancer of the ovaries and uterus, which are often life-threatening and require expensive treatments, including surgery. Neutering eliminates male animals’ risk of testicular cancer and reduces unwanted forms of behavior such as biting.

Adopting is important, lifesaving and life-enriching—for both adopted cats and their human families—and I encourage everyone who has the time, funds, ability and desire to care for an animal for life to adopt a cat or dog from their local shelter. But if we want to one day celebrate “There Are No More Shelter Cats in Need of Adoption” Month, spaying and neutering are the keys.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a senior writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

June 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm

As autumn sets in, be nice to mice

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By Michelle Kretzer

Most first-date conversations probably don’t turn to discussions of mousetraps, but that’s exactly what happened to me. Since the fall months are prime time for a rodent invasion, don’t be surprised if you also find yourself pondering various mouse-eviction methods. Take it from me: Leave the glue traps, snap traps and poisons on the shelf. You can keep the peace and keep rodents out of your pantry with simple, humane mouse-proofing techniques.

When I first met my boyfriend, he was in hot pursuit of a mouse who was taste-testing her way through his kitchen cabinets. He was trying to catch her in a snap trap but wasn’t having any luck. He even surmised that the mouse was so crafty that she was both avoiding the trap and actually mocking his efforts. (I maintain that she was too smart for that antiquated trap.) So there we were on date number one, talking about how the snap trap might maim but not kill the mouse (at least not instantly), could injure his dog and could make a big mess. Somewhere between the salad and the risotto, he agreed to give my humane live trap a try.

Soon after, we met for date number two so that we could implement Operation Mouse Catch. A few days, a few dates and a few dabs of peanut butter later, the resourceful mouse was in custody. We took her mug shot, then promptly released her in the yard.

Despite my boyfriend’s doubts, the mouse’s cabinet-raiding days seem to be over. (Our dates have become a little more normal as well.) That’s because we didn’t stop with the eviction—we also made his home uninviting to rodents. Just focusing on killing or even evicting a mouse or rat who comes inside won’t work if your house is still appealing and accessible—another rodent will simply take the first one’s place.

But you don’t need to bring out the big guns to keep mice at bay. You just need to store food in chew-proof plastic containers, keep trash in cans with tight-fitting lids and seal off any possible entry points. Mice can squeeze through spaces as small as a dime, so check for cracks in walls, holes in foundations and gaps around doors, windows and vents, and then get out the steel wool and the caulking gun.

Many rodent traps are not only ineffective but also cruel. Animals caught in glue traps, for instance, may languish for days before finally dying of dehydration or even suffocation. During that time, as the panicked animals struggle to free themselves, the sticky glue rips patches of fur and skin from their bodies.

And like most “kill traps” and poisons, glue traps don’t discriminate. PETA regularly receives calls from distraught people who have found birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pigeons, snakes and even kittens hopelessly stuck in these traps. Earlier this year, a homeowner in Virginia learned the hard way that glue traps will snare any animal at any time. The man had set the trap at his home, and when he checked it 24 hours later, he found nine snakes caught on the sticky pan. Thankfully, using mineral oil, Goo Gone and a lot of care, staffers at a local wildlife center were able to free the snakes and release them back into the wild.

Once your house is rodent-proofed, use a humane live trap to catch any remaining mice or rats. Be sure and check it frequently, as rodents panic and suffer while inside traps. Escort them to a field or wooded area away from your home. Or if it’s cold out, release them into a sheltered area such as a barn or a shed.

If mice and rats come calling this fall, why not show them some love? You never know where it may lead.

Michelle Kretzer is a blog writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

November 14, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Spring: The saddest season for animal shelters

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

For most of us, the unusually warm spring that much of the country is experiencing is a welcome relief from winter. But for people who work in animal shelters, it signals an early start to the most dreaded time of year: kitten and puppy season.

Dogs and cats reproduce year-round, but early spring through late fall is prime breeding time—especially for cats, whose heat cycles are triggered by increased daylight hours. People who thought they could wait “just a bit longer” to have their cat spayed are often surprised to find out their kitten has become a mother herself. Female cats can go into heat every two to three weeks and can become pregnant while they are still nursing kittens—which means that one cat can give birth to multiple litters over the course of a single season.

Where do all these kittens and puppies go? Some end up on the streets, where many die young and in pain after being hit by cars, succumbing to diseases, starving or crossing paths with cruel people. Others pour into animal shelters across the country, leaving them scrambling to accommodate the surge of kittens and puppies. One shelter near Atlanta reported that it typically takes in 400 to 500 stray kittens each month during kitten season.

Baby animals may be cute, but their overabundance leaves shelters in an ugly situation. With 6 to 8 million animals entering U.S. shelters every year, most are constantly filled to capacity. In order to accommodate the deluge of baby animals during kitten and puppy season, open-admission shelters (those that never turn animals away) must euthanize other animals who have been at the shelter for a while to make room for the newcomers.

Playful kittens and puppies tend to steal the show (and people’s hearts), making it even less likely that the gentle, affectionate adult animals who have been waiting in shelters for homes will ever be adopted. But with so many litters flooding shelters, not even adorable kittens and puppies are guaranteed a home. Every day, caring shelter workers are forced to hold animals in their arms and euthanize them—including those whose lives have just begun—simply because there aren’t enough good homes for them all.

This tragedy could end if we all spayed or neutered our animals. Sterilizing even one cat or dog can prevent thousands more from being born only to end up on the streets, in the hands of abusive people or in shelters. Without spaying, one female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in six years, and one unaltered female cat and her descendants can lead to a staggering 370,000 cats in only seven years. Male animals contribute to the overpopulation crisis even more than females do: Just one unsterilized male animal can impregnate dozens of females, creating hundreds of unwanted offspring.

Sterilization also has many health benefits for animals. Female cats and dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle have one-seventh the risk of developing mammary cancer. Spaying eliminates female animals’ risk of diseases and cancers of the ovaries and uterus, which are often life-threatening and can require expensive treatments, including surgery. Neutering eliminates male animals’ risk of testicular cancer and reduces unwanted forms of behavior such as biting.

By having our animal companions sterilized and helping our friends, family and everyone we know understand why it’s so important for them to do the same, we can save lives and make spring a season of hope instead of sadness for animals and the people who care about them.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

April 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

This Labor Day, remember animal shelters’ unsung heroes

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Labor Day means a carefree long weekend for many nine-to-fivers, but some laborers can’t just close up shop and forget about their jobs, even for a day. For animal shelter workers, the work never ends because the stream of battered and bruised animals in need of refuge never ends. Few people have a more emotionally wrenching job than those who punch in every day knowing that they will likely have to euthanize the animals they’ve devoted themselves to helping.

We can all help ease shelter workers’ burdens by doing our part to slow the stream of homeless animals. That means always having our cats and dogs spayed or neutered and adopting animals instead of buying them from breeders or pet stores.

As someone who has spent years volunteering at my local animal shelter, I know that animal shelter staffers are some of the hardest-working people around. They scrub down poop-strewn kennels, comb animals who are matted and crawling with fleas, and give belly rubs to dogs who have never had a bath because they’ve been kept chained up like old bicycles their entire lives. They get peed on, slobbered on and covered with muddy paw prints and cat hair every day.

They heft heavy dogs onto examination tables, unload vans full of 50-pound bags of food, get bitten by petrified dogs who have known nothing but cruelty from humans, and get scratched by cats who are frantic after having gone from the home they’ve always known to a cage in a roomful of other crying felines. They cuddle cats, throw balls for dogs, slip treats through cage bars, speak kind words and give many scratches behind the ears. They do their best to make the animals’ stay at the shelter as happy and full of love as possible.

But because shelters don’t have a magic wand that they can wave to create loving homes for all the animals who so desperately need them, those who work in open-admission shelters must also perform the thankless, gut-wrenching task of holding the animals they’ve played with and loved in their arms while the euthanasia needle slides into a vein and the light in their eyes softly flickers out. These people are heroes for doing the right thing for animals even though it takes such a toll on them personally.

Breeders, pet stores and people who haven’t had their animals spayed or neutered put shelter workers in this tragic position. Every new puppy or kitten who is intentionally or accidentally brought into the world will take the chance for a home away from one of the thousands of animals waiting in shelters. Some of them will end up homeless themselves. Every new puppy or kitten means an animal in a shelter will die. And every new puppy or kitten means another broken heart for a brave shelter worker.

Shelter workers’ jobs will never be cushy, but if more people commit to spaying and neutering their animals before that first litter and if more people open their hearts and homes to the many loving, eager-to-please dogs and cats waiting in shelters, we could dramatically reduce the number of animals shelter workers must euthanize for lack of a good home. We could save thousands of lives—and make shelter workers’ lives a little bit easier too. 

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

August 31, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Adopt, don’t shop, for your four-legged friend

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By Paula Moore

Several years ago, I added a Siamese cat to my family. Mochi had been picked up as a stray by a local animal control agency. When no one claimed him, he was turned over to a Siamese cat rescue group. The first time I took him to my veterinarian, a man at the vet’s office peeked into Mochi’s carrier and then said to his wife, “He’s a Siamese.” “I just adopted him from a rescue group,” I explained. Incredulous, the man responded, “Siamese cats don’t need rescuing!”

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, and for people with the energy, resources, patience and love to devote to a feline companion, it’s the perfect time to save a life by adopting a cat from an animal shelter or reputable breed-rescue group. Whether you have your heart set on a rambunctious kitten or a more sedate “lap cat,” a regal Persian or a sassy tabby, animal shelters are overflowing with cats of every stripe.

I’ll never understand why some people still turn to breeders, classified ads or pet stores—all of which contribute to the animal overpopulation crisis—when animal shelters and rescue groups are filled to the brim with lovable, affectionate cats (and dogs) who would make wonderful companions. With so many more animals than there are good homes, shelters have no choice but to euthanize many healthy and friendly cats. Every year, 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in animal shelters.

If you’re determined to have a specific breed of cat, you can still rescue an animal in need of a loving home. Having a pedigree doesn’t protect cats or dogs from being tossed out like old furniture when they’re no longer wanted. I recently adopted a second Siamese cat who, like Mochi, was a stray. Romeo had been neutered and declawed, so obviously he was once someone else’s companion, but no one had come forward to claim him.

The rescue group from which I adopted Mochi is currently caring for several Siamese cats who were left to fend for themselves when their owners moved away. One cat was stuffed into a box that was taped shut and left outside an animal shelter.

Another older Siamese was given up because his owner didn’t want to spend the money to find out why he was sick. Then there are the Siamese kittens who were born homeless because someone didn’t bother to spay or neuter his or her cat and an unwanted litter was the result.

These same sad scenarios are repeated time and time again all over the country, and they affect mutts and purebreds alike.

There are other reasons to visit an animal shelter or rescue group rather than supporting breeders and pet stores. Pre-loved cats are more likely to be litter box-trained, and they’re pros at sharpening their claws on a scratching post instead of your favorite sofa. Shelters screen animals for specific temperaments and behaviors, and most have trained adoption counselors available to help you find the perfect fit for your family. Animals in shelters and rescue groups are also checked out by a veterinarian when they arrive, and they leave spayed or neutered, microchipped and vaccinated.

Mochi and Romeo went from life on the street to a loving home where they lounge on windowsills on sunny days, playfully chase each other up and down the hallway and snuggle in bed with me at night. If you’re ready to share your home with a feline companion, why not give a homeless cat—or two—a second chance at life? Your new best friend could be as close as your local animal shelter.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

June 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Exotic pets: A deadly business

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By Jennifer O’Connor

Authorities at Bangkok’s international airport recently arrested a passenger whose suitcases were reportedly jam-packed with leopard and panther cubs, a bear and monkeys. The dazed animals had been drugged and were headed for Dubai, apparently part of an international trafficking network.

While this seizure made headlines, smuggling of exotic and endangered animals takes place every day, and those animals who somehow survive often end up in pet stores, classified ads and flea markets right here at home.

Animals who were flying through rainforest canopies or roaming vast savannahs find themselves stuffed into pillowcases, duffle bags and spare tires. Since concealment is paramount, they are denied food, water and any semblance of comfort during transport. Many, like the 18 dead and dying monkeys found jammed into a man’s girdle last year, suffocate or succumb to starvation and dehydration. Others suffer injuries from rough handling or from fights with other crazed victims.

From kinkajous to tigers, sugar gliders to pythons, as long as a dealer can make a buck, any animal imaginable is available for the “right price.”  

While the illegal market in exotics contributes to declining wild populations, animals who are legally bred, sold and purchased suffer no less. The exotic pet industry is big business in the United States, but this merciless trade could be shut down and the deadly cycle could be curbed.

There is no federal law prohibiting the private ownership of wild or dangerous animals, and very few states impose restrictions. Anyone who has wandered into a mall pet store knows that tarantulas, iguanas, turtles and hamsters are for sale alongside the puppies and kittens. But just about anyone can surf the Internet or classified ads and have a lion, tiger, camel, bear, boa constrictor or monkey delivered right to their door.

There are no requirements for expertise, education or credentials of any kind to be a dealer. Federal permits to breed or sell regulated animals are issued to nearly everyone who fills out an application and sends in a fee. Backyard breeders all over the U.S. are churning out tiger cubs, bears and primates and advertising them for sale in swapsheets and on websites. But it’s not just backyard dealers selling these sick and traumatized animals.

International dealers who supply animal “inventory” to pet store chains such as PETCO and PetSmart often house animals in huge, dark, reeking warehouses. U.S. Global Exotics in Texas, for example, was a massive exotic-animal wholesale facility where tens of thousands of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and arachnids were dumped into severely crowded and filthy boxes, bins, troughs and even soda bottles. Treated no differently than car parts, the animals were denied food, water and veterinary care. Authorities shut this outfit down after a PETA undercover investigation exposed the appalling conditions.

Another cog in the supply chain is Dutch breeding mill Reintjes, where authorities recently seized nearly 6,000 mice, rats, hamsters and birds. Live animals were found shoved into soda bottles and tiny food-storage containers. Others had severe, untreated injuries, and most lacked food, water and adequate housing. Sick animals were simply left to suffer and die.  

The time is long overdue for the government to impose laws prohibiting individuals from breeding, selling or owning big cats, bears, primates and dangerous reptiles. People who are ready to pour their time, energy, money, attention and love into an animal companion can make a difference by adopting a dog or cat from a local animal shelter instead of succumbing to the temptation to buy a novelty pet.

Jennifer O’Connor is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

May 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Declawing: Taking a hatchet to a cat’s nail

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By Alisa Mullins

Crazy cat ladies of America, you have some explaining to do. According to a recent Associated Press poll, 55 percent of cat guardians are in favor of declawing, while only 8 percent of dog fanciers agree with debarking, or surgically removing dogs’ vocal chords. As usual, in a battle of cats vs. dogs, the cats get the short end of the stick—or, in this case, the short end of the toe.

I can only hope that most of the people who voted for declawing don’t know exactly what it is. Declawing is like taking a hatchet to a hangnail—literally. It involves 10 separate, painful surgeries, severing not just the nails but the whole joint, including the bones, ligaments and tendons. As veterinarian Louise Murray puts it, “If you look at your fingers, declawing would be like amputating the last section of each finger. If you were declawed, you would have 10 little short fingers. It’s amputation times 10.”

Complications of declawing include chronic pain, nerve damage, hemorrhaging, bone chips, recurrent infections and abnormal regrowth of the nail inside the paw. Because cats have to walk on their shortened “fingers,” declawing can impair their movement and balance and cause chronic leg pain and backaches.

Oh, and let’s not forget those other two common “complications” of declawing—biting and spraying. I’ve had two declawed cats in my life (both were already declawed when they came to me), and one was a biter and the other is a sprayer. Think snagged furniture is the worst of your problems? Try walking into a house that reeks of cat urine. It takes destruction of property to a whole new level.

One theory is that when cats use the litterbox in the days after declawing surgery, they associate the pain they feel in their feet with the litterbox and develop an aversion to it. As for biting, it’s thought that cats resort to using their teeth when they realize that their claws—their first line of defense—have been permanently hacked off.

Some cats are so shell-shocked by declawing that they become neurotically fearful of real and imagined predators. Stretch, my “biter,” was just such a cat. He was initially so fearful of everyone and everything that he essentially lived on top of the refrigerator for the first three months that I had him.

Not all declawed cats become biters and sprayers, of course, but you have no way of knowing how your cat will react until it’s too late. When I placed an ad in the paper searching for the owner of Stretch, whom I found as a stray, the only response I received was what I sincerely hope was a prank call telling me to do unspeakable things to him. Either way, I’m assuming that Stretch’s biting may have led to his abandonment in a rural wooded area, where he was truly defenseless without his claws and had every reason to be afraid, very afraid.

Declawing is a permanent solution to what is often a temporary problem. Kittens usually outgrow their urge to scale the drapes and attack your wiggling toes. Most cats naturally gravitate toward scratching posts and cardboard scratching boxes, especially if you make them more alluring with catnip and toys. Claws’ destructiveness can be curtailed with biweekly trimming. You trim your dog’s nails—why not your cat’s?

Declawing is so cruel that it’s illegal in England and parts of Europe. The British Veterinary Association calls it an “unnecessary mutilation.” In the U.S., the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights asks practitioners to refuse to perform the surgery. Dr. Louis J. Camuti, the first veterinarian in the U.S. to devote his practice exclusively to cats, once said, “I wouldn’t declaw a cat if you paid me $1,000 a nail!” Until cats’ guardians have a change of heart about this cruel procedure, let’s hope that more veterinarians will follow Dr. Camuti’s compassionate lead.

Alisa Mullins is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

February 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm