Cat Wing Open – Lessons in Ringworm 101


What is ringworm and why are you closing? Ringworm is actually a fungus, not a worm, and is technically referred to as dermatophytosis. It is known as ringworm because it commonly appears as a circular area of hair loss and scaly skin, though it can take many shapes. The reasons that we are closing the cat wing- and not adopting out cats right now- are twofold: We want you to take home healthy animals and ringworm is “zoonotic,” meaning that it can be caught by other species, including humans, so we want to keep the community healthy.

How long will the cats be unavailable? The incubation time, or the time between an animal being exposed and developing symptoms, can be up to four weeks, so making sure that everyone is fungus-free will take some time. Every cat will have a culture taken (it’s a simple procedure in which we brush them with a tooth brush and then put the hairs and skin flakes on a little dish filled with a substance that reacts to ringworm spores). The cultures take several days to show themselves as positive or negative, so this will be a bit of a lengthy process.

What happens to the infected cats? Every cat who has a positive culture or has a lesion (an area that is infected with ringworm) is taken to our isolation area and treated. The treatment involves twice weekly dips in an anti-fungal solution. They may be a little itchy, but otherwise won’t be bothered by their infection. Treatment takes some time, but once they have three negative cultures, and have been thoroughly examined by our veterinarian, they will once again be available for adoption and be able to safely be welcomed into homes with other animals and children.

How did they get ringworm? Ringworm is very durable in the environment and can be contracted from exposure to rodent nests, contaminated soil, and infected animals. Carpet, dust, furniture, and other contaminated items can be a source of infection and people can also spread it from one place to another (or one animal to another).

What about the dogs and zoo animals? We are taking every precaution to keep this contained. Anyone who is working with the cats wears protective gear (which is immediately washed or thrown out) and does not enter other animal areas or interact with other animals. No signs of ringworm have been found on the dogs or zoo animals, so we are keeping those areas open.

How can I help? We appreciate your patience during this time and will have things back to normal as quickly as possible. If you’d like to help, we need foster homes for new arrivals, both kittens and adults, so that they have a zero chance of exposure. We would also appreciate donations of XL shoe covers, surgical bonnets, surgical gowns (disposable or non), towels, disposable litter boxes, and help to pay for the cultures and medication.

What if I find a stray or need to surrender my cat? If you’ve found a cat, please call us and let us know. We may have already received a call from the owner and can help you reunite them. If you are able to foster the cat for a little while, that would be great. If not, we do have a clean intake area where we can house them. If you need to surrender your cat and are able to wait a few weeks, please do so. If you cannot wait, we do have that clean intake area, but space is limited. Please call us and let us know that you are looking for a home for your cat and we’ll do whatever we can to help!

Thank you for your support!

Barn Cat 101

Flash, recently adopted barn cat
Flash was happy to accept a mousing position- she had little patience for human interaction.

So, you’ve got yourself a nice little piece of land and maybe a few horses or cattle. You enjoy the rural lifestyle, except for one thing: Mice! The little varmints are destroying insulation, contaminating your feed, and chewing up your supplies. Laying traps everywhere is a pain and as for poisons, well, they don’t just destroy the rodents- kids, livestock, and pets can be harmed by them as well. What do you do? The answer is simple: Cats!

If you already have cats on your crew, you can skip this step. If you are moving in a new cat, however, keep in mind that he will need an adjustment period in which he needs to be confined, lest he wander away. If you’ve got a barn that can be closed or a tack room, that will do just fine. If not, a large kennel (big enough for a litterbox, dishes, and living space) will suffice. Keep the cat contained for a minimum of two weeks; many barn cat advocates suggest three to five weeks. Your new cat will appreciate a little something to hide in, as well. This will help him to get used to his new surroundings- the sounds, sights, and smells- and solidify the idea that this is now home. Before he get the run of the place, make sure to remove all traces of poison if you had been using it to control the pests. Ingesting a mouse who has eaten the poison can be lethal.

Cici gratefully accepted a Mouser Manager position

Your new pest control manager will also need a safe place to spend his time off. If you’ve got a barn or
other structure that’s warm and that he always has access to (perhaps the place he lived in when he first joined your menagerie), a simple bed or hiding spot in a corner will do just fine. If you don’t have a structure, you’ll need something that’s waterproof and insulated. A little dog house with some bedding (straw is great because of its insulative properties) or something similar would do nicely. You could even build something with scraps if you’ve got them. A simple internet search will yield some great- and easy to build- designs.

Though you brought your newest employee home because of his place on the food chain, he still needs cat food. A well fed cat will not only still hunt (instinct compels them as much as hunger), he will be better at it because he won’t be suffering from any nutritional deficiencies. Even if your cat does consume his prey, there may be times where they aren’t as plentiful or the mice may be malnourished themselves. An established feeding time will usually result in the predictable daily appearance of the cat, allowing you see him (and keep an eye on his health) if he doesn’t come to visit you for pets and accolades for a job well done. You can also use dinner time to lure him into the barn if you’d rather he be contained at night. Keep the food bowl up high (other critters, like curious goats, may want to share) and out of the reach of wild animals in search of handouts. Fresh water each day is imperative, too. If you have trouble with ice in the winter, try an electric bowl.

Just like the rest of your animals, your mouser will need regular veterinary care. If he (or she) is not already neutered (or spayed), there are several good reasons to get the procedure. Fixed cats tend to fight less, roam less, and attract less “passerby” cats. They will also not reproduce, which can quickly get out of hand. They will need vaccinations to protect them against cat specific illnesses (some of which wildlife, like raccoons, can carry) and against rabies. Rabies vaccinations are required by law and will not only protect your cat, but the rest of the mammals on the farm as well (including you and your family). Regular parasite prevention is a must- those little critters that you want him to dispatch are loaded with all kinds of icky things that can pass to your cat.

Saturn, another Shelter alumnus now working in pest control
Saturn, another Shelter alumnus now working in pest control

If you don’t have any barn kitties (or need a few more), take a moment to consider the best candidate for the job. Avoid those who are declawed as this is a real hindrance to self-protection, climbing, and though declawed cats can catch prey, it’s much more difficult. Also avoid those who are infirm- a cat that isn’t physically sound is more likely to be prey than predator. Think about hair length and your foliage- long hair animals are like magnets for burrs, cheat grass, and other pokey plant material. They can still be great assets, just keep in mind that you may have to help out with grooming. Also consider the personality that would be the best fit. Would you like a cat who follows you all day while you work (he’ll still hunt at night, don’t worry) or would you rather have a cat who is independent, even weary of humans? A cat with previous outdoor experience will most likely acclimate better and probably has hunting experience while a the fifth generation of an indoor-only family may be confused about what to do about mice and not savvy about staying out of trouble. If you’re looking for more than one, consider some that are already bonded with each other.

Cats can be a great addition to any ranch or farm. They provide rodent extermination services without dangerous chemicals or the hassle of traps. Their beauty can add to the ambiance and they can be quite entertaining. Now that you’ve got a reliable new hand to help keep things pest-free, you can get back to the chores that you actually enjoy.

Assistance with Veterinary Bills

If your pet has suffered an accident or illness and you’re having trouble paying for their treatment, check out the links below. Each one lists several organizations that may be able to help. Each organization is different, so be sure to read carefully about what they fund and how to apply- some are breed or species specific, some only help with emergencies while others do not, some are limited to a certain geographic regions, and some require that your veterinarian apply. You could also try searching the internet with terms specific to your situation, like “financial help for Vizsla with cancer”- you may find something that is not listed in these collections.

Organizations offering assistance

Speaking for Spot

Groups providing financial assistance

For ideas, check out this article from the Humane Society of the United States.


Pet Toys and Safety

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Playing with our pets is one of the joys of ownership. It’s a bonding experience that is fun for both parties, provides pets with exercise, and is a great way to take a break from the stresses of life and from the computer screen. There are some safety concerns to be aware of when it comes to pet play, however.

Take, for example, the laser pointer. The movement of the little dot stimulates the prey drive in dogs and cats, causing them to chase and pounce, much to our amusement. As long as the light does not get shined directly (or indirectly, say off a mirror) into their eyes, no physical harm comes from these toys. The damage they can do is psychological. Chasing and pouncing behaviors are borne of the hunting instinct; your pet is actively hunting the little dot and is expecting to ultimately catch his prey. Light, however, cannot be caught, which can eventually drive your pet crazy. The anxiety produced by never achieving their goal can manifest itself in restless behavior, excessive grooming, obsessive searching, and other ways.

There is a way to prevent this stress and to continue laser pointer play- give them a reward. Little treats scattered around the house can be exciting and satisfying to find when the laser lands on them. Likewise, a toy that can be bitten and shaken or kicked also provides a satisfying end to the “hunt.” Just be sure to end your laser pointer session with a rewarding and tangible experience and your pet should continue to be happy. If you observe signs of stress even after using this technique, do stop using the pointer.

There is another common toy that, while providing many hours of entertainment for man and his best friend alike, has the potential to cause disaster: The tennis ball. These fluorescent orbs are undoubtedly terrific for playing games of fetch- they can be hurled great distances, continue to bounce along after they’ve hit the ground, and there are even throwing aids designed to add distance and protect you from the slimy coating that your dog adds to the ball. The problem with tennis balls is not so much the fetching, but the chewing.

Tennis balls are compressible, especially when in the jaws of a large, powerful dog. If a squeezed down ball slips into the back of the dog’s throat, it pops back to its original size, which can obstruct the trachea and cause suffocation. Many dogs are also able to cut into the ball with their teeth, chew off little bits, and swallow them. The material that these balls are made from, when broken off in such a manner, is sharp enough to lacerate the digestive tract of a dog, causing an emergency veterinary situation. Even with immediate care, some dogs don’t survive such a trauma. The other danger is tooth wear. The fuzz that covers the balls has an abrasive quality and over time can wear down a dog’s teeth. Couple that fuzz with the little pebbles that get stuck to it during a fetch session and you’ve basically got a toy covered in sand paper. The solution? Supervision. If your dog is chewing on the tennis ball, trade it for a solid ball, large enough that your dog can’t swallow, manufactured to be treated roughly.

Stuffed toys can be fun to carry, toss, and snuggle with for many pets. If your buddy is gentle with them, these are usually okay, so long as they don’t have any loose pieces that can come off and be swallowed. Toys labeled as “safe for children under 3” have been tested by a third party to be free of such adornments and have the added bonus of being held to rigorous standards regarding the materials they are constructed with. This does not mean that they can’t be torn open by an animal (cats and dogs can be quite strong, plus they have the teeth and claws to augment their strength). Once torn open, the stuffing is fair game for being snacked upon and can cause choking or intestinal blockage. Again, supervision is the key. If your pet is a toy shredder or stuffing eater, opt for unstuffed cloth toys or ditch the soft things all together.

You don’t have to be a “paranoid pet parent” to ensure the safety of your best friend- just be alert and prudent. If a particular toy or game is of concern, substitute it for something else or talk with your veterinarian. It doesn’t hurt to occasionally check the internet for recalled items, either. Be safe and enjoy some quality time with your pet!

Kiki's Christmas List Tips

Sniff, don't chew!
Sniff, don’t chew!

Hi, I’m Kiki the Cat and I’m here to talk about the upcoming gift giving season. If your people are anything like my mom, I know that you’re on the top of their gifting list. Let me share with you some ideas of things you can ask for this year.

Let’s start with the obvious- toys. If you’re anything like me, you can never have enough. Be sure and remind them to check for safety before giving it to you. My mom likes the holiday themed toys, but usually pulls off the poorly glued on noses and plastic eyes so that I don’t swallow them and hurt myself. I don’t even notice- I have a ball with them with or without noses.

Honestly, I don’t even care if my mom buys my toys from a store. One of my most favorite toys ever is when she takes an old, worn out sock, cuts off the toe part, stuffs it with catnip, and sews it shut again. Those keep me busy for hours! Here’s one that you pups might like, too- a long braid or big knot made out of old t-shirt strips. They’re great for sinking your teeth into! And, of course, the cat classic: A cardboard box or empty paper bag. I can’t tell you how much fun those are.

We’ve covered toys, how about beds. I don’t know about you, but mine is old and getting rather lumpy in places. By the way my mom talks about this “money” stuff, I don’t think I will be getting one of those fancy, custom four-posters, but I do think I could talk her into a nice new pillow style bed. I might be a little weary of laying on it right away, but I know that she’ll put a favorite blanket or toy in it so that it smells familiar and safe. Why don’t you ask your people for the same? There’s nothing like a good day’s sleep so that you can be awake and full of energy for when they come home at night.

My collar follows me everywhere. I get into all kinds of mischief, some of which can be rather dirty. I know that this is especially true for you dogs out there, doing things like rolling in stinky stuff and, I can’t imagine why you do this, but swimming. They can get kind of gross after a while, right? So a new collar would be great. If you’re fashion conscious, ask for one studded with gems or sporting a designer label. Don’t forget to ask for a new id tag, too! They can get worn over time and hard for people to read if you happen to lose your person. Remember safety- make sure that your humans fit it properly and that, for cats, you have a breakaway collar. If that bell keeps you from sneaking up on them at night, ask them to take it off with a pair of pliers. And dogs, remember that training collars are not to be worn all the time. They can cause you big trouble if you get them hung up on something.

Do cute things to make your human smile this season
Do cute things to make your human smile this season

I like treats and I’m sure that you do, too. Try asking your people to bake some just for you. You know that “computer” thing they stare at so much? There are so many great recipes in there for dog and cat treats. I can’t believe that a human would waste their time doing anything but researching them! By the way, do you know what they are doing? Watching videos of other animals! There is something really wrong with this picture…

If you’re feeling philanthropic, you could ask your people to make a donation in your name to your favorite animal cause. It doesn’t have to be something huge, and it will go a long way to helping our less fortunate brethren. I think I’ll give a pack of fuzzy mice to some cats that don’t have any this year. I hope they like them as much as I do.

As for your human, they will be happy with the gift of your presence. Whether you’re snuggling on the couch or playing your favorite game, they will really appreciate spending time with you. For some reason, they get stressed this time of year, but being with you will help a lot, trust me.

A few safety tips: Remember to be choosy when trying to sneak leftovers; not everything they’re having is safe for us. Also, resist the temptation to escape when they welcome guests (I like to hide under the bed, instead). Have a safe and happy holiday season, everyone!

Be Prepared for Outdoor Adventures

Jackets can help protect dogs against the cold winds.
Jackets can help protect dogs against the cold winter winds.

Outdoor adventure with canine companions is a favorite area winter past time. We live in a winter wonderland to be sure, but it is not without peril. Since we most often recreate miles from medical care, learning some field first aid and carrying supplies is a good idea.
      Canine First Aid Kits – Ask your veterinarian for suggestions about your particular dog’s needs and medical supplies. Basics may include: an ace-type bandage, nonstick pads, athletic tape, skin glue, antibiotic ointment, Benedryl (or generic plain antihistamine), tweezers or needle-nose pliers, wire cutters to free a dog from a snare or fencing, small scissors or sharp knife, disinfectant and pet-friendly anti-inflammatory medication. Canine first aid kits are available at sporting-goods and pet supply stores. If you don’t have a kit, you can improvise with socks for leg bandages or secure a shirt on the wounded area to protect it until you have access to proper medical care. It’s also a good idea to get a canine first aid book to familiarize yourself with detailed medical responses.
      Climate and Conditions – We do get the occasional sunny and warm winter days and don’t think about dogs overheating, so pay attention to how much they’re panting and let them rest until their breath normalizes. Always carry water and a collapsible bowl and make sure your dog stays hydrated. During hunting season, your dogs should be wearing safety orange – why not get a backpack for them to carry their own first aid kit, water and bowl in a bright color? Light reflecting properties on any canine-wear and bells are also smart. In addition to keeping your dog from looking like prey, bells and brights will help you spot your pet more easily when they’re off leash. Never let your dog off leash during a storm or extreme conditions; they are far more likely to lose their scent and become lost.
For short-hair dogs, smaller dogs and those sensitive to the cold, or for extended cold-weather jaunts, fleece coats and dog booties are recommended. Dogs are at risk for hypothermia and frostbite if exposed to below freezing temperatures for more than short periods. Look for lethargy, muscle stiffness, lack of co-ordination, low heart and breathing rates, fixed and dilated pupils, and collapse – these increasingly serious symptoms are a warning that your dog needs to get to a warm place and may require Veterinary care if their body temperature does not return to normal quickly. Being wet will intensify cold’s impact. Always dry your pets’ paws thoroughly when coming inside to remove any salt, ice and moisture so they won’t lick the area and worsen conditions.
      Wounds – If your dog is limping or licking a particular area, stop and assess. Is it a bur, a cut, or possibly a strain or break? If the cut is large enough to notice, they usually need medical attention within 12 hours. Paw pad cuts often need stitches and dogs’ coats hold enough bacteria to exacerbate infection. The old adage, “Dogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans’,” is a myth – licking the wound won’t disinfect it.
Traps are a serious hazard to dogs off leash and off trail. Snares can be cut and springs may be released, but studying the techniques, having the tools, and a second person to calm the dog will make a big difference in minimizing injury severity. For a snapping trap, you must compress and secure the trap’s springs; the jaws cannot be pried open otherwise. You may use a leash, rope or belt to create a pulley system to release the springs. If you’ve reviewed your canine first aid book before you head out, you’ll be more comfortable doing triage and using supplies – but in most cases, a visit to your Veterinarian as soon as feasible is an important follow-up step.
      Toxic Ingestion – Is your dog vomiting, having diarrhea or lethargic? Do they often eat sketchy stuff? Carry hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting if you suspect they have eaten something toxic or poisonous- call a vet first as inducing vomiting is not recommended for certain substances. Usually hydration is helpful to replace fluids, but in some cases can make it worse. Either call or take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible since different toxins require different responses and many seemingly innocuous things – sugar-free gum, anti-freeze, raisins, Tylenol, wood glue – can quickly become fatal even if the animal’s symptoms are mild. It may be nothing, but if it is dangerous then it is likely time sensitive too; so don’t delay.
The great outdoors are waiting for you and your best friend to romp in and you’ll enjoy yourself more knowing you’re ready to face potential hazards.

Red-Eared Slider Ban

Red-eared slider turtle
Red- eared slider turtle

Owning a red-eared slider turtle without a permit from Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is now illegal in Montana. These turtles, named for the little red markings on their heads, have been popular as pets and purchased from pet stores for many years. Unfortunately, too many owners have regretted their decision and released their turtles into the wild. Due to their adaptability and omnivorous diet, these turtles have the ability to edge out native species. In fact, they are listed among the top 100 most invasive species in the country.

The Humane Society of the United States is working on a relocation project for many of the sliders currently living in Montana. These turtles will be collected and driven to Burro Lake in Texas. Included in this project is an offer to relocate any turtles currently being kept as pets to prevent them from being released into the wild. Surrendered turtles from all over the state are being taken care of- and taught to swim in ponds, catch food, and be wild- in Billings by Humane Society Wildlife Capture and Field Project Specialist Dave Pauli. In October, they and the many sliders captured from local waters, will make the trip to Texas.

What does this all mean to Montana turtle owners? If you have owned your turtle prior to July of this year, you may keep it so long as you obtain a permit. Unregistered turtle owners can be fined $100. You have the option of surrendering your turtle to avoid any issues. If you have questions, or a turtle, contact Stafford Animal Shelter at 406/222-2111 or the Billings office of HSUS directly at 406/255-7161.



Should I Get a Lizard?

Jocehanna is a young Savannah Monitor
Jocehanna is a young Savannah Monitor

Yes, that is one neat looking critter! Before you take the plunge and adopt one, take a moment to consider the special needs (and the cost of those needs) that lizards have.

Unlike a cat or dog, who can roam through the house and handle the varying temperatures and humidity levels that our area brings us, lizards need very specific conditions in which to thrive. They need a certain temperature at night, another during the day, and an even warmer spot to bask in. That means that you need to supply them with heat and basking lamps.

Lizards need to be kept on a circadian rhythm (regular dark and light times to simulate night and day), so you will have to control the lighting in the summer and winter when our days and nights are not equal in length. Regular lamps won’t cut it, either. They need bulbs that can provide the UVA and UVB rays that they would get from the sun if they were in their natural habitat. Though the bulbs may produce light for an extended period of time, they need to be replaced every six months as they lose their ability to provide the proper amount of UV rays.

The proper humidity level must be maintained according to the specific needs of the species. Some are originally desert dwellers who need their habitat to be dry while others hail from the tropics and need a more moist living space. This means investing in a hygrometer and being prepared to adjust their environment as needed.

Providing a terrarium that is large enough for the animal to be happy is important. This can be a major consideration as some species, like the Savannah Monitor, can average 3-4 feet in length (though some can be as long as 5 feet) and need a very large tank, about the size of a sofa. They also need places to hide in and things to climb in their habitats.

Any droppings need to be removed from the tank daily as well as any food that is not eaten. The whole tank needs to be thoroughly cleaned regularly.

Be prepared to feed your pet live prey. Crickets and mealworms are common food items. Depending on the species, cockroaches, earthworms, and even mice or chicks can be a part of the diet. This means that you need to provide a living area and quality food for the prey as well. Many also require vitamin and/or mineral supplements that can be costly.

Not all lizards appreciate being handled. Some, if socialized well and often during their early years, become tame. If that handling is not continued throughout their lives, they can revert to no longer accepting human touch and react aggressively. This can pose a real danger with some species- the adult Savannah Monitor has a bite powerful enough to break the fingers of a human.

Lizards can pose another health hazard to humans: They carry a bacteria called Salmonella that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramping. Sometimes this can even lead to a hospital visit. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends that children under 5, older adults, and anyone with a compromised immune system does not touch lizards or their tank and its contents. Those who do handle these animals need to be sure to wash their hands very well afterward.

Like any other pet, lizards need to have regular physicals and can become ill or injured. Finding a veterinarian who treats these animals can be difficult, especially in a more rural area.

Many pet lizards can live 10 to 15 years. This means taking them into consideration when making future plans about finances, moving, or expanding the family.

Having a lizard as a pet can be an entertaining and rewarding experience. Before adopting one, be honest with yourself if you are able to afford the time, money, and space in your home that they need.

What is My Cat Doing?

Maybe cats like salad, too.
Maybe cats like salad, too.

Cats are endearing creatures that have a knack for capturing human attention. Proof of this can be found in their popularity as internet stars. Though we may be enamored of them, and we may have millions of photographs and videos of them, they still baffle us with some of their quirky behaviors. We may have more questions than answers, but we do know a few things.

What, for instance, is the deal with the “stinky face?” You might see your cat smell something, like your gym shoes, then lean back with a strange look, his nose wrinkled and his mouth open for a moment. Though it may look like he is trying to convey that you need to invest in odor eaters, he is actually exhibiting something called the flehman response. You see, on the roof of a cat’s (and many other species’) mouth, there is something called a vomeronasal organ. It is a pair of small sensory organs that can trap odor molecules and transmit the messages from them to the cat’s brain. This is especially useful for picking up pheromones, which are chemical messages that animals use to communicate with one another. That weird face they make helps them to usher scent molecules to this organ.

Pheromones, by the way, are the reason for another cat behavior- rubbing their faces on objects, people, and other animals. When your cat rubs against your leg, he is transferring pheromones from glands in his cheeks to your pants. This effectively marks you as part of his kitty club. Facial pheromones are also good for keeping cats calm; there are several versions of synthetic pheromones that you can use to quell feline anxiety.

You may have noticed that your cat likes to repeatedly catch and release his prey, effectively prolonging a hunt. While there doesn’t seem to be a reason that behaviorists are 100% sure is correct, one of the theories is that your cat may be leery of being bitten or pecked by his catch and is trying to tire it out before getting serious. Another theory is that he is just enjoying the experience of being one with his inner tiger. Most cats will hunt, even if they are well fed pets. Whether or not they actually eat the prey may depend more on their hunger level.

After finally completing his hunt, your cat may bring you his catch as a gift. Many behaviorists feel that this is his way of trying to teach you to hunt. Mother cats teach their kittens about hunting and what (or who) to eat by first eating prey in front of them, then bringing them a deceased prey animal of their own. Female cats are especially likely to bring you these awkward gifts. Your cat may have noticed that you lack certain mouse capturing skills and is trying to teach you how to survive.

Cats are carnivores. In fact, they cannot synthesize certain proteins and must eat meat to survive. So, why does Kitty feel the need to munch on grass or houseplants? This is another behavior that has several possible theories. One of which, and perhaps the most widely used, is that cats eat grass to relieve upset an upset stomach by causing vomiting. This may or may not be true. Not every cat who eats grass vomits and as to their intentions, we can only speculate. Another theory is that they may enjoy the activity or be enticed into playing and chewing by the subtle movements of the plant. The attention from household humans when munching on a plant may actually reinforce the behavior and become the cause. And, it just may be possible that cats enjoy a little salad from time to time. If your cat likes greens, try investing in a tray of cat grass. You can find them in most pet stores.

Finally, what about that defining cat characteristic, the purr? Cats purr in a variety of situations, like when they are content, nurturing the bond between queen and kitten, nervous, or in pain. Exactly how they make this sound is a bit complex, but studies suggest that the purring noise is created by the muscles that open and close the space between the vocal chords. These muscles contract and relax rapidly, almost like a twitch. When the air from their breathing hits these muscles, the purring noise is made. Some of your cat’s cousins purr, like the puma and the bobcat, while others, like the lion and the cheetah, can’t.

While we still have many unanswered questions about our feline friends, we do know that they make terrific and entertaining companions.



If You Care, Leave Them There

This  baby bunny was born to pet rabbits.
This baby bunny was born to pet rabbits.

Stafford Animal Shelter often gets questions about rescuing wild animals, especially the irresistible – and seemingly helpless – babies. It is certainly heartwarming that so many people are concerned for local wildlife. However, these good intentions are often counterproductive. Often little ones seem to be orphaned but it’s common among many species to hide their babies from predators while the parents search for food. Young animals may appear vulnerable but are actually self-sufficient, rabbits for instance are ready to survive on their own as early as 3 weeks old. A common misnomer is that if you touch an animal it will be rejected by its parent – this is rarely, if ever, true. However, don’t touch wildlife unless they are in immediate danger from dogs, cats, or cars. And if removed from danger, they need to be returned near where they were found to be reunited with their extended families. Tragically, the lives of many young wild creatures are derailed by people taking removing them from the wild in a misguided desired to “save” them.

It’s illegal to have wildlife at home without special permits. Period.

Caring for Wild Animals Is Difficult or Impossible. Appropriate care for wild animals requires considerable expertise, significant funds, specialized facilities, and lifelong dedication to the animals. Each animal’s diet is unique and can’t be met by domestic animal formula or other specialized food even if it is labeled for “wild” animals. Wildlife can die of nutritional deficiency within a few days. Young wildlife who do survive human “assistance” have missed experiences that teach them to fend for themselves. If these animals are released back into the wild, their chances of survival are minimal. Often their resulting attachment to humans compels them to return to places where people live, only to be attacked by domestic animals or hit by cars.

Baby Animals Grow Up. Infant animals can be irresistibly adorable – until the cuddly baby becomes bigger and stronger. The instinctive behavior of an adult animal replaces the dependent behavior of the juvenile and their demands for food commonly manifests as biting, scratching, or destructive behaviors without provocation or warning. They typically become too difficult to manage and are confined to small cages, passed from owner to owner, or disposed of in various ways. There are not enough reputable sanctuaries to properly care for unwanted wild animals.

Wild Animals Spread Disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discourages direct contact with wild animals for a simple reason: they can carry diseases that are dangerous to people, such as rabies, herpes B virus, and Salmonella. Rabies, virtually untreatable when contracted by human, is primarily carried by wildlife. Thousands of people get Salmonella infections each year from contact with reptiles or amphibians, causing the CDC to recommend that these animals be kept out of homes with children under five. A recent outbreak of monkeypox was set in motion when small mammals carrying the disease were imported for the pet trade and infected native prairie dogs, which were sold as pets.

Domestication Takes Thousands of Years. Wild animals are not domesticated simply by being captive born or hand-raised. Dogs and cats have been domesticated by selective breeding for desired traits over thousands of years. These special animal companions depend on humans for food, shelter, veterinary care, and affection. Wild animals, by nature, are self-sufficient and fare best without our interference and their instinctive behaviors make them unsuitable as pets.

Capturing Wild Animals Threatens Their Survival. When wild-caught animals are kept as pets, their suffering often begins with capture – every year millions of birds and reptiles suffer and die on the journey to the pet store. After purchase, their lives are likely to be filled with misery as they languish in cramped backyard cages or circle endlessly in a cat carrier or aquarium. More commonly, they become sick or die because their owners are unable to care for them properly. The global wild pet trade continues to threaten the existence of many species in their native habitats and those returned to the wild can disrupt ecological balances.

Having any animal as a pet means being responsible for providing appropriate and humane care. Where wild animals are concerned, meeting this responsibility is usually impossible. People, animals, and the environment suffer the consequences.