Archive for the ‘animals’ Tag

Billy the Cat

Here’s our foster cat Billy enjoying an offering as he embarks on his constitutional. Billy is a very playful guy who runs to the door to greet you when you come home.

He’s available through City Dog Rescue of Washington, DC

http://www.citydogsrescuedc.org/adoptable-cats.html#.WV1zJojyu00

go to Billy

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Lobos: Mexican Gray Wolves

Mar 27

Because #LoboWeek: A Brief Look at the Plight of the Mexican Gray Wolf

This week 19 years ago, 11 captive-born Mexican gray wolves (aka lobos) were released into the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona for the first time since they were very nearly eradicated in the early 1970s.  In 1976, three years after the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the lobo was listed as an endangered species.  From just seven individuals, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began a captive breeding program to save the species from extinction.  On March 29, 1998, the first individuals were reintroduced in the Blue Range Recovery Area in New Mexico and Arizona.  After more than 30 years of absence, the rarest subspecies of gray wolf returned home to the mountains of the southwest.

To commemorate this close call, ESC and many other organizations around the world are celebrating #LoboWeek by raising awareness and mobilizing activists just like you to help!

Tweet: This week is #LoboWeek! Learn more about Mexican gray wolves and take action to help save them: http://bit.ly/2n9HlCe via @endangered

Despite all this celebrating and 20 years of recovery efforts, the Mexican gray wolf is still critically endangered.  The good news is according to FWS’s latest count, there are 113 lobos in the wild, which is an increase from previous years.  The bad news is that 14 wolves were found dead- some illegally poached– in 2016, making last year the record holder for the most lobo deaths since their reintroduction in 1998.

 

More Bad News for the Lobo:

Genetic Diversity

Every lobo that exists in the wild is a descendant of the seven wolf survivors that started the captive breeding program in the late 1970s.  This means that all the wild wolves are closely related and genetic diversity is very low.  Consequently, their ability to adapt to changing conditions is extremely limited.  Reports of unusually small litters and genetic abnormalities have resulted from the inbreeding.  Until more wolves are released into the wild, these problems will continue, which leads us to our next problem.  New Mexico secured an injunction last year, giving them the power to stop FWS from reintroducing anymore Mexican wolves into the wild.  FWS is in the process of appealing that decision.  Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance have all filed to intervene in the case.

S. 368

Last month, Senator Jeff Flake (AZ-R) introduced S. 368 , a piece of legislation that could drive the Mexican gray wolf to extinction.  The bill would authorize states, the livestock industry, and other special interest groups to dictate the terms of the Mexican gray wolf recovery plan, rather than scientists. It would set an arbitrary cap on the number of wolves in the wild and require removal (probably lethal removal) of all wolves over that number. It would ban wolves from areas scientists have identified as necessary to their recovery, like the Grand Canyon ecoregion and the San Juan Mountains. Worst of all, this bill would remove the Mexican wolf from the endangered species list once the terms of the politicized recovery plan have been achieved, even though they would still be biologically imperiled. This bill undermines the ESA by skipping the mandated delisting process required by Section 4 of the Act.

Social Intolerance

The Mexican gray wolf is victim to the same intolerance and scapegoating that other wolf species, as well as other carnivores, are subjected to.  In reality, wolves  are responsible for just a fraction of a percent (.2%) of livestock loss–less than that caused by illness, weather, or even dogs there’s no evidence they kill more  deer than needed to survive; and there is no statistical proof that they are a danger to humans.  All this fear rhetoric overshadows the awesome benefits of having wolves in our ecosystems.  Here are some examples: wolves keep prey populations healthy and even reduce diseases in hoofed mammals, like Chronic Wasting Disease.  They reduce overgrazing from deer and elk, which leads to decreased soil erosion and a stable environment.  They provide food and habitat for hundreds of other creatures, earning them the honorary title of keystones species.  And not to mention that tourism directly related to wolves near Yellowstone National Park contributes $35.5 million to local economies yearly.  Despite these and other benefits, social intolerance still persists and that contributes to a lack of political will.

So, that’s the bad news.  The good news is that it’s Lobo Week and YOU are reading this blog and educating yourself on the rarest and most biologically unique subspecies of gray wolf in the world.  Right now, there are around 113 lobos in the wild that need your help!  Celebrate Lobo Week with me by sharing their story!

Want more ways to help?

  1. Share this blog with your friends and family.  Education is one of the most powerful catalysts.  And how can someone help if they don’t know there’s a problem?
  2. Educate yourself! Learn more about lobos from Lobos of the Southwest, Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, and Wolf Conservation Center.
  3. Join the movement by using the hashtag #LoboWeek on tweets and other Mexican gray wolf related posts this week.  You can find photos, graphics, and badges on the Wolf Conservation Center’s site.
  4. Do you happen to live in Arizona? If so, you are one of Senator Flake’s constituents.  Call him and say that S. 368 is bogus!
  5. Be an ally for wolves by joining ESC’s Species Guardians! You’ll be given the information, resources, and support you need to be a leader for wolves in your state!
  6. Tell your community that it’s Lobo Week by writing a letter to the editor and submitting it to your local paper.  Make sure to include why wolves are important to you.

Passionate folks like you and me are the only thing standing between the lobo and extinction.  Make Lobo Week 2017 count.  Join the movement and get involved!

DC Environmental Film Festival

The 25th Washington DC environmental film festival is halfway through its 10 days. I’ve seen a few movies about the wilderness near the Arctic Circle, glaciers and other themes. I enjoy that the movies take you to see very unique spaces all over the world.

However, my favorite movies focus on animals. One took us only two states south of the Nation’s Capital where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)  created a success story with the development of a habitat for Red wolves. The species had been limited to a very few in the mid-1980s and the USFWS moved them into one part of their historic range in North Carolina.

Currently, the reintroduction faces cultural, economic, and biological challenges in Eastern North Carolina. Natures abhors a vacuum and coyotes moved in to the territory and pose a threat if the wolves interbreed with them. Most interesting, the area farmers have issues with the coyotes invading their farms. They want to shoot the beasts and sometimes they end up shooting red wolves instead.

This conflict between people near the wildlife reserve or national park and the animals in the park also occurred in Mozambique. After years of civil warring, the government and several other national governments along with non-profits focused on conservation worked to reestablish Gorongosa National Park. In this case, the planning has focused on the huge park and all the farmers surrounding its borders. Efforts have been made to help those people improve their living conditions by helping them earn money and farm more profitably.

As the panelists after the movie stated this is the new way of approaching conservation, taking the entire ecosystem into account, including people outside the protected area. It seems to be working and is something that the USFWS and other agencies of the US government ought to consider when they try to save species. You need to win over the local population to the effort.

Portugal Trip: Animals

I enjoy all kinds of animals. Their charm and joyful personalities make them wonders to be around. On our trip to Portugal we saw many fun, wonderous creatures.

Inside the monestary and cathedral at Batalha,  the Royal Cloister, with its embellishments in the Manueline style and the square Chapter House with a huge Gothic vault that is remarkable for having no central supports get most of the attention. One no longer used basin for water collection contains an array of Koi.

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We had seen the wild chickens on our visit to Kauai many years ago but did not expect them in Sintra, 40 miles outside of Lisbon, the most populous city in the nation.

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Not everyone is a student in the university town of Coimbra. While one long-legged dog lounged during the day, later that evening three joined their human companion at an outdoor cafe.animal_3

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These dogs weren’t the only ones engaged in playful fun. A nice couple who ran a beautiful bed and breakfast outside of Obidos had a pair of cats that enjoyed a tossle while we talked around the dining room table.

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Inside the walled city of Obidos, the sun beat down on all of us tourists walking in and out of shops. Several cats seemed to take the best approach.

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Outside of Porto, the country’s second largest city, we found a beautiful new church that displayed nice architecture.

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We were surprised to find a farm next door.

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Near the city of Evora we stayed in a bed and breakfast run on a farm. The first sight we encountered were two burros.

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The gate to the farm was locked, so I did the next best thing and climbed over to search for the owners. Two fellows came to greet me. Lucky for me the Irish Wolfhounds remained calm.

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At a beautiful bed and breakfast near Lagos, this French bulldog found the fish endlessly fascinating.

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We encountered much more active dogs when we talked with their human companions. Vegan never wanted to stop chasing the tennis ball. I convinced others sitting around the outdoor cafe to join in the game.

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On the beach at Faro, this dog liked nothing more than digging holes and burying important rocks to find later in the day. He amused himself and all of us who watched.

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Tale of Cranes, Wolf-Dogs and the Rescue Community

The new documentary The Wound and The Gift is an  excellent depiction of the relationship between man and animals. Using an old Japanese folk story as a framing device, the movie reveals how some people have made attempts to treat members of the animal kingdom with the respect that they deserve.

The movie focuses specifically on what it sees as the major transformation in our relationship with animals through the growing “Rescue” movement. All over the world, people are saving the lives of animals that were bred for profit, abused, or sold on the black market.

By showing people who care for a wide variety of animals, from wolf-dogs to thoroughbred horses, to a Colorado sanctuary for everything from lions to bears, the movie raises questions about how humans live in the world without being preachy or didactic.

Homes for Cats

I attended the Washington Humane Society event Architects for Animals last night at the American Institute of Architecture on New York Avenue in DC last night and had a great time. All the food was tasty and vegetarian!

Architects volunteered their time and effort to design homes for feral cat communities that exist throughout the city. The designs were really all great. Very inventive and lots of fun. Two evoked Mondrian themes, one looked like a grass or cat nip plant, others provided soft cushions for the cats to lay on.

The top three designs were voted on by all the attendees. I’ll list the firm and put a photo of the design next to them: top design went to PGN Architects, PLLCwinning_design

 

 

first runner up is Martinez+Johnson Architecture PC,

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second runner up is Suzane Reatig Architecture

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Cats and Dogs: What States Prefer

A really fun blog that appeared in the Washington Post about ownership of cats and dogs in the United States and in the World. Take a good look at the US map: the divide is almost neatly north and south (cat versus dog). What’s more the Union States from the Civil War appear to be the cat lovers, while the old Confederacy prefers dogs.

What of those of us who like both?

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/07/28/where-cats-are-more-popular-than-dogs-in-the-u-s-and-all-over-the-world/

Dog states, cat states

SOURCE: American Veterinary Medical Association

 

Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.—and all over the world

 

We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

Here in the U.S., slightly more households own dogs than own cats. But Euromonitor’s numbers show that in terms of raw population, cats outnumber dogs to the tune of 2 million (the number is closer to 4 million, by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s estimate). Why? One simple explanation is that cats are more compact. You can fit more cats in a house than you can, say, golden retrievers. (You can also geolocate a lot of them, which is fun, but entirely besides the point.)

At the state level in the U.S., cats outnumber dogs in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. Dogs are the favorite in the South and Southwest. The most dog-friendly state is Arkansas, where dogs outnumber cats 1.35-to-1. At the other end of the spectrum stands Massachusetts with 1.87 cats for every dog.

“A lot of that simply has to do with population density,” Jared Koerten, a pet industry analyst at Euromonitor, said in an interview. “Many cities just aren’t that dog-friendly.”

Still, overall, most states have a pretty balanced cat-dog ratio.

Around the world the story is quite different. Euromonitor gave us estimates of the pet dog and cat populations in 54 countries, and some show a stark dog/cat divide. In India, for instance, pet dogs outnumber cats 10-to-1. Dogs enjoy a 2.5-to-1 advantage in China. On the other hand, cats outnumber dogs 3-to-1 in Switzerland, Austria and Turkey.

 

Overall, cats are the favored pet in most of Western Europe, with the exception of Spain, Portugal and Ireland. South America is strictly dog country, as is much of Asia.

“Some regions, like the Middle East and part of Africa, have an especially long-standing appreciation of cats,” Koerten said. “In Latin America it’s the complete opposite. Dogs are part of family life there.”

World pet populations also appear to follow a few interesting—if inexplicable—trends. For one, highly developed countries, for reasons yet unclear, tend to have more balanced cat and dog populations. “Looking across all countries, there’s a correlation between developed economies and balanced pet preferences,” Koerten said. Brazil, as is turns out, has a strange affinity for small dogs—it has more small dogs per capita than any other country. And there’s legitimate reason to believe young Americans might be having dogs instead of babies.

Top 10 dog-loving states

Rank State Cats Dogs Ratio, dogs to cats
1 Arkansas 810,000 1,097,000 1.35
2 New Mexico 533,000 703,000 1.32
3 Texas 5,565,000 7,163,000 1.29
4 Oklahoma 1,041,000 1,327,000 1.27
5 Louisiana 877,000 1,115,000 1.27
6 Mississippi 668,000 846,000 1.27
7 Arizona 1,438,000 1,798,000 1.25
8 Tennessee 1,749,000 2,157,000 1.23
9 Missouri 1,653,000 1,978,000 1.20
10 Georgia 2,162,000 2,479,000 1.15

Top 10 cat-loving states

Rank State Cats Dogs Ratio, cats to dogs
1 Massachusetts 1,593,000 850,000 1.87
2 Maryland 1,677,000 915,000 1.83
3 Maine 498,000 300,000 1.66
4 Vermont 234,000 142,000 1.65
5 Connecticut 796,000 507,000 1.57
6 District of Columbia 63,000 42,000 1.50
7 New Hampshire 309,000 212,000 1.46
8 Pennsylvania 3,544,000 2,485,000 1.43
9 New York 4,261,000 3,054,000 1.40
10 Ohio 3,786,000 2,730,000 1.39

What’s Love Got to Do With It

Columnist Richard Cohen went to see the new movie Her and came away with a stronger impression of our cultural narcissism. Critics and sociologists and historians have talked about our cultural obsession with ourselves for 50 years. The 70s were the Me generation; great historian Christoper Lasch wrote The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations at the close of that decade.

The awareness of our navel gazing is nothing new but the movie adds a twist; our ability to use technology to serve this purpose. It seems to provide a cure: we can all have our own personal technological male 0r female to serve our desires! Cohen provides several examples that embody this self focus, including selfies, watching only a cable network that provides the information you want to hear (Fox, MSNBC). He also adds that Americans have about 70 million dogs and 74 million cats and, says “…while some of them are for helping — guard dogs, etc. — most offer the service of uncomplicated affection.”

The animal companionship item is an odd example to demonstrate narcissism.In fact, it demonstrates our need to be related to others and the joy we receive from that connection. People with animals know that you spend a fair amount of time fulfilling their basic care needs. Other time is spend playing with them and showing them affection. We have relationships with the animals. We love watching them be themselves, and get an amazing amount of joy out of the things that they do. That’s far from narcissistic and someone who has a pet for their own glorification is providing a great disservice and missing out on so much.

Cats and Humans: Our Relationship

A great new article for those of us in the feline family: Below is our black cat demonstrating her sense of holiday spirit during Halloween Eve

Lila During Last Halloween

( Nestle Purina Petcare via Associated Press ) – ’Cats seem to be incapable of sustaining a large number of friendly relationships,’ writes John Bradshaw. It’s unknown whether this personality trait applies to Grumpy Cat, the ’spokescat’ for a Friskies brand of cat food.

By John Bradshaw, Published: October 14 E-mail the writer

Cats are the world’s most popular pets, outnumbering dogs by as many as three to one. This popularity is undoubtedly helped by the fact that cats are simultaneously affectionate and self-reliant: They need virtually no training; they groom themselves; they can be left alone without pining for their owners, but most nonetheless greet us affectionately when we get home.In a word, they are convenient.

They’re the world’s most popular pets, but how much do these independent aminals like humans
Even so, cats remain aloof and inscrutable. Dogs tend to be open, honest and biddable. Cats, on the other hand, demand we accept them on their terms but never quite reveal what those terms might be.I’ve studied cats for years and shared my home with quite a few, but I don’t feel that this has taught me very much about what they are really like. But science has begun to provide some answers, especially about their relationship to humans. Why are cats so choosy about their objects of affection? And what does it mean when they hold their tail straight up? Read on.

The cat-human connection

Cats and humans go back a long way. DNA evidence identifies the pet cat’s ancestor as the Arabian wildcat Felis silvestris lybicaand places its origins between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago in the Middle East.

It is likely that the first people to tame wildcats were the Natu­fians, who inhabited the Levant from about 13,000 to 10,000 years ago and are widely regarded as the inventors of agriculture. As such, they were also the first people to be bedeviled by a new pest: the grain-loving house mouse. Wildcats probably moved in to exploit this new resource. Realizing how useful this was — cats, after all, had no interest in eating grain — people probably encouraged them to hang around.

These were not pet cats as we know them. They would have been more like today’s urban foxes, able to adapt to a human environment while retaining their essential wildness.

Of course, the cat’s other qualities probably did not go unnoticed. Their appealing features, soft fur and ability to learn to become affectionate toward us led to their adoption as pets. Yet cats still have three paws firmly planted in the wild.

In contrast to almost every other domestic animal, cats retain remarkable control over their own lives. Most go where they please and when they please and, crucially, choose their own mates. Unlike dogs, only a small minority of cats has ever been intentionally bred by people. No one has bred cats to guard houses, herd livestock or assist hunters.

Cats can be very affectionate, but they are choosy. This stems from their evolutionary past: Wildcats are largely solitary and regard most other cats as rivals. Domestic cats’ default position on other cats remains one of suspicion, even fear.

However, the demands of domestication — the need to live with other cats, and then the forming of bonds with people — extended cats’ social repertoire.

Social behavior probably started to evolve as soon as cats began to congregate around granaries. Any cat that maintained its antagonism toward other cats would have put itself at a disadvantage when exploiting this resource.

Even today, wherever there is a regular source of food, a colony of feral cats will spring up, assuming local people allow it. Colonies can build up until several hundred cats are living close to one another.In these colonies, society tends to be based on cooperation between genetically related females. Mothers often drive away their male offspring after a few months to avoid inbreeding, leaving them to lead solitary lives.

Where colonies consist of more than one family, these groups compete with one another. Cats seem to be incapable of sustaining a large number of friendly relationships or of forming alliances between family groups in the way that primates do; negotiation skills this sophisticated lie beyond their capabilities.The switch to social living required a quantum leap in communication as cats became domesticated. For an animal as well-armored as a cat, a tiff might escalate into a dangerous fight unless a system of signaling evolved that allows cats to assess others’ moods and intentions. And this is precisely what happened.

The straight-up tail

For domestic cats, my research has shown that the key signal is the straight-up tail. In colonies, when two cats are working out whether to approach each other, one usually raises its tail; if the other is happy to approach, it raises its tail, too. The tail-up signal almost certainly evolved during domestication, arising from a posture wildcat kittens use when greeting their mothers. Adult wildcats do not raise their tails to each other.

Once an exchange of tail-ups has been established, one of two things occurs. Either the cats rub heads, flanks and sometimes still-raised tails before separating, or they engage in mutual grooming, which has profound social significance in many animals. Both rubbing and grooming are probably a way of cementing an amicable relationship.

The most important social skill a cat must learn in order to become a pet is, of course, how to interact with people. Even at the earliest stage of domestication, cats needed humans to protect and feed them when mice were in short supply. The cats that thrived were those that were able to reward people with their company. Yet cats are not born attached to people. They are born with an inclination to trust people only during a brief period when they are tiny.

Studies of dogs in the 1950s established the notion of a “primary socialization period,” when puppies are especially sensitive to learning how to interact with people. For dogs, this is between 7 and 14 weeks of age. The concept also applies to cats, but it starts earlier. A kitten that is handled regularly between 4 and 8 weeks generally develops a powerful attraction to people. One that does not meet a human until 10 weeks or later is likely to fear people for the rest of its life.

Do cats exposed early enough to humans have an emotional attachment to their people, as dogs do? We know that they have the capacity to feel affection for other cats, and so it is probable that their attachment to their people is an emotional one.

Most owners would say that their cat displays contentment by purring. Purring clearly does occur when a cat is contented, but a purring cat also may just be hungry, or mildly anxious. Some continue to purr even when their body language indicates they are angry. Occasionally, cats have also been heard purring when they were in distress or even during the moments before death.

Purring, then, does not necessarily reveal a cat’s emotional state. Instead, it seems to be what behavioral ecologists refer to as a manipulative signal, conveying a general request: “Please settle down next to me.”

However, other signals, may be more genuine displays of affection. Relationships between adult cats seem to be sustained mainly through mutual licking and rubbing. Many cats lick their owners regularly, but scientists have not yet investigated whether this represents affection. We know that cats that do not like each other never groom each other.

Cat owners also engage in a tactile ritual with their pets when they stroke them. Most owners stroke their cats simply because it gives them pleasure and because the cat also seems to enjoy it. But stroking may also have symbolic meaning for the cat. Most prefer to be stroked on their heads, the area toward which cats direct their grooming.

Many cats do not simply accept stroking passively; they invite people to stroke them by jumping on their laps or rolling over. They also indicate where they wish to be stroked by offering that part of their body or shifting position. By accepting stroking, cats are engaging in a social ritual that is reinforcing the bond with their owner.

While touch is very important, the upright tail is probably the clearest way cats show their affection for us. A cat approaching its owner with a raised tail will often rub on its owner’s legs. The form that the rub takes seems to vary from cat to cat: Some rub just with the side of their head, others rub down their flank, some make contact with their tail. Many walk past without making any contact or perform their rubs on an object nearby.

Because many cats rub most intensely when they are about to be fed, they have been accused of showing nothing more than cupboard love. However, few cats confine their rubbing to mealtimes, and when two cats rub, they exchange no additional reward. So an exchange of rubs is a declaration of affection.

The sound of mewsic

Another way cats attract our attention, of course, is by meowing. The meow is part of the cat’s natural repertoire, but they rarely use it to communicate with each other. Feral cats are generally rather silent. While all cats are apparently born knowing how to meow, each has to learn how to use this most effectively.

Once cats have learned that their owners respond to meows, many develop a range of sounds that, by trial and error, they find are effective in specific circumstances. In this way, many cats and their owners gradually develop an individual “language” that they both understand but that is not shared by other cats or owners.

So cats demonstrate great flexibility in how they communicate with us, which rather contradicts their reputation for aloofness. We could consider some of this behavior manipulative, but only to the extent that two friends negotiate the details of their relationship. The underlying emotion on both sides is undoubtedly affection.

Bradshaw is the director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol School of Clinical Veterinary Science in Britain. He has studied cat behavior for more than 30 years. This article, published in New Scientist, is based on Bradshaw’s new book, “Cat Sense” (Allen Lane/Basic Books).

Humane Society Adoption

At yesterday’s $12 adoption for 12 hours event I spent three hours portraying the mascot, Wags the Dog. My main job centered on standing out on New York Avenue, NE, in front of the animal shelter, waving to the cars. The truck drivers got a big kick out of it and always tooted their horns, like the did when we would ride past them in school buses.

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I got to hug adorable dogs too. Some of the dogs did bark at me, as they weren’t sure if I was really one of their species or not!