Animal issues discussed

Tabbies With TB – Why you shouldn’t suddenly disown your cat

It’s been quite a talked about subject this week – catching TB from your cat.

Flickr - Stavros Markopoulos

Flickr – Stavros Markopoulos

There have been a few cases of cats carrying the bovine TB infection which can transmit to humans. Now all of a sudden there’s talk of putting down any infected pets. What?

Robin Hargreaves, president of the British Veterinary Association, is the one who has given the warning that the number of cat-caused TB in humans will rise. That may be so, but these warnings are going to spark a severe rash of scared and ill-informed people disowning their beloved pets.

TB is a scary thing. While I’m too young to have any resonance with the multitude of deaths and severe cases my mother witnessed in the 50s, I know that there’s still a pang of panic through most people when they hear “TB”.

Flickr - Chriss Haight Pagani

Flickr – Chriss Haight Pagani

For those of you who don’t know, TB is tuberculosis, which primarily affects the lungs, but can spread and in severe cases, untreated, can be fatal. So knowing this, it’s no wonder that people will start to panic.

Cats are contracting TB from fighting with badgers or eating rodents infected with TB. Despite protests there have been masses of badger culls across the UK to stop the spread of TB to cattle to save livestock. What now, a cat cull? Besides, the badger cull wasn’t effective at all.

If you have an outdoor cat it’s impossible for you to keep them away from rodents or badgers – and I’m a firm believer that outdoor cats are happier, healthier cats. They’re susceptible to anything out in nature and that’s a risk you take when you adopt a cat.

While you may only ever suffer from muddy paw prints across your white carpet, or hayfever from the sticky plants they bring back indoors tangled in their coats – you are letting them out in nature and nature will follow them home. Now you’ve been made aware there’s a risk (which there always has been) you shouldn’t suddenly disown your cat.

Flickr – Universal Pops

Regardless of the risk to my health I could never give up my own pets – they’re a family member – and I’m very sure there’s many people who feel the same. What I hope I don’t see over the next few months is an influx of abandoned cats to shelters or a rise in cats being put down, simply because a small piece of news has people running scared.

Personally, I’m quite annoyed there has been so much high-scale coverage of the few reported cases. Because of humanity’s history with TB we’re automatically scared and on guard, but what cost does spreading fear have?

Imagine if TB managed to spread to dogs too – what then? When does it stop?

Read the coverage of the issue by the Daily Mail here and here.


Appreciating Animal Aid In Afghanistan

It’s always a tear-jerker to see people doing such amazing jobs saving animals’ lives and finding them forever homes, but when I read an article on BBC news of a British animal rescue charity in Afghanistan I feel like I should applaud.

Flickr – Harezou

Nowzad Dogs rescues and rehabilitates dogs and cats in Afghanistan. What’s extra special is that they also help to reunite soldiers with the cats and dogs they adopted while serving in the country.

You may have heard the story of a cat named AK. He was reunited with his adoptive dad, a security guard from Buckinghamshire. After poor little AK had been tortured Mr. Ben Soden couldn’t resist adopting the cat and the Nowzad Dogs charity helped reunite them once Ben had returned home.

Many other soldiers become fond of dogs and cats around the area to the point they want to take them home. Until Nowzad Dogs was founded this was rather a lengthy and difficult task.

Flickr – Peretz Partensky

The charity was founded in 2007 by former Marine Sargent Pen Farthing after he broke up an organised dog fight and befriended one of the dogs involved.

Pen says the Nowzad Dogs charity is the only official animal shelter in Afghanistan. Their mission is to promote animal welfare in Afghanistan, and with the help of volunteers and donations and funds they’re doing an amazing job.

Check out their Twitter page @Nowzad 

Now the troops are all returning home it’s likely the charity will have a lot of work ahead getting pups back with their adoptive families in the UK. But some ex-troops have joined the charity and plan on staying there to continue the good work.

Flickr – Shockwave506

I love these kinds of stories but they do make me feel like I don’t do enough myself! I do wish I had more time to get back to volunteering and giving something more. When my studies are done and I settle into a working-job routine volunteering is definitely on my to-do list.

It’s nice news like this that keep my faith in humanity, and I would like to give a virtual standing ovation to the Nowzad Dogs charity. Bravo.

Read the article by the BBC here.

Crufts Conundrum – Handsome hounds or inconsiderate inbreeding?

So the time came round for Crufts this year, and as usual, I watched only the final.

Flikr- Pets Adviser

This is a programme I want to watch, because I adore dogs of any breed and it’s lovely to see so many of them, but I feel I shouldn’t.

I feel by watching this I’m endorsing inbreeding. These perfect purebreds only get to be perfect from inbreeding to achieve the best features, that’s how we’ve created so many breeds in the first place – us playing with genetics to get what we want.

I’m fully aware Crufts ‘celebrates healthy happy dogs’ and has rules and regulations about the health and breeding of dogs but there’s something at the back of my mind that can’t shake the idea that it’s wrong.

Flickr – Pets Adviser

I understand the need to breed a faster rabbiting dog, a heavier coated sled dog or a sleeker herding dog – but if it’s just for fashion and aesthetics is it right?

I’m not entirely a critic because I do love to see the rarer breeds, but is Crufts then guilty of celebrating inbreeding?

While I’ve never had my own dog I’ve had a plethora of cats. And I’ve been brought up to adopt rather than buy to help save kennels and combat against breeders and the inbreeding issue. And my mother always said a moggy or a mutt will live years beyond a pedigree.

Inbreeding causes so many health problems it seems nonsensical to do it in the first place.

Little Yorkshire Terriers with heart defects, Shar Pei’s needing eye lifts to protect their eyesight – that’s just absurd.

So while I did watch the final and enjoyed the show (despite my favorite Dan the Man the Samoyed not winning) I feel guilty for it.

I love how diverse the canine species is but is preserving the blue-blood lines costing too much?

What do you think?

Read the winner coverage by The Telegraph here.

The Fashion of the Furred and Feathered – is it right to dress up your pet?

There’s something adorable about seeing a cat with a bow-tie or a dog with sunglasses on. But, are we just indulging ourselves? Surely the animals don’t feel terribly comfortable?

Flickr – Pets Advisor

In certain cases you would be right, and in those cases I agree – dressing up your animal to such a degree can’t be nice for them and so I don’t support it.

However, I am guilty in buying little Santa hats for my kitties to wear at Christmas time, or the occasional festive scarf. But I think anything beyond little accessories is a bit much. Surely dresses and jumpers can’t be comfortable?

Yet I stumbled across this article on BuzzFeed this morning, and I must now admit, there are circumstances which definitely call for a knitted jumper!

Phillip Island Nature Parks

These little penguins have all got jumpers to help them keep warm and stop them from eating any oil trying to clean themselves after they’ve been caught up in oil spills.

When penguins are caught in oil spills, their feathers become matted, making it hard for them to stay warm or hunt for food. – BuzzFeed

See more pictures here of how volunteers are knitting these little birds thousands of jumpers to help them back to health.

But, as for animals that don’t need the help – is it right? What do you think?

Flickr image – Creative Commons

Leopard On The Loose – The issue of sharing the land

I stumbled across an article on BBC News about a leopard running around a town called Meerut in India, and it got me thinking.

The images were what caught my eye – a beautiful wild creature in concrete surroundings. It’s rather sad, really.

BBC News

Conservationists are warning that confrontations with wild big cats are going to rise as we encroach onto their land. You’d have to live under a rock to not know we destroy mass amounts of natural big cat habitat every day. So as we slowly tighten the ropes on their home, where are they meant to go?

When I read the article I found myself more concerned for the cat than anything else. It’s probably terrified wandering around a completely alien environment surrounded by humans, who, let’s not forget, are their only threat.

The article mentions that they are tracking down the leopard to tranquillize it. I’m hoping this means it will be released back into the wild and not sold for parts for medicine.

Tigers and other big cats have been known to stray into populated areas and conservationists have warned that such confrontations may increase as humans encroach on animal habitats. – BBC News

I’ve spoken about the issue of us pushing wild animals to their limits before with my article on urban foxes. Why is it that wild animals that come into our patch are seen as dangers and nuisances when it’s us who are forcing them out of their natural homes?

Flickr – Jack Malvern

I may be biased on the subject, but to me it just proves how selfish mankind is. We’ve stolen so much land from wild animals to service our needs for living space with a growing population. But what do we do to other animals who have a population booming? Culls.

It’s a similar thing when we talk about why Britain doesn’t have wolves anymore – they had no predators and their numbers were growing too much for our liking since they’re a possible threat.

Deer have recently been culled because they have no natural predators thanks to us getting rid of all the wolves. So their numbers were booming which was causing damage to the natural forests. I find it slightly ironic that suddenly there’s an interest in preserving the natural and wild parts of our world.

Perhaps I’m too cynical, but seeing articles like this just sadden me even more. We really are ruining the world by simply presuming it’s ours.

Flickr – Nomadic Lass

Read the BBC News article here.

Flickr images – creative commons

Barking Brilliance – Research suggests our dogs really can understand us

Researchers from Hungary have found that dogs respond to voices in much the same way that we do.

BBC News

Now, I’ve always been a firm believer that pets understand their owners – especially dogs – so this news didn’t come as a shock to me. I heard it on the radio on my bus this morning and it did produce a smile – maybe I’m not entirely crazy after all.

Researchers placed dogs in an MRI scanner to monitor their brain function (the dogs were trained to lie still beforehand). Dogs responded in a similar way that we do to crying and laughter etc.

We know very well that dogs are very good at tuning into the feelings of their owners, and we know a good dog owner can detect emotional changes in his dog – but we now begin to understand why this can be. – Dr. Andics

It almost feels as though research is just catching up with what all we animal lovers already know, but this story has made my day.

Commenting on the research, Prof Sophie Scott, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said: “Finding something like this in a primate brain isn’t too surprising – but it is quite something to demonstrate it in dogs. – BBC News

So dog lovers rejoice, the scientific community is finally beginning to realise how amazing our canines are – not just for rounding up sheep, pulling sleds or catching rabbits, they really are understanding best friends.

flickr – Jaina

Read the full article by BBC News here.

Malamute Mauling – Knowing your responsibilities before it’s too late

The awful news of a 6-day-old baby in Wales being attacked and killed by an Alaskan Malamute was brought to my attention by a close friend, insisting I had fooled him into thinking the breed was friendly.

The story had me in disbelief so I had to do some research of my own.


Sure enough, I found reels of news pages about the attack on the infant. My thoughts are with the family at what is undoubtedly for them a confusing and tragic time.

I’m a firm believer that a house it not a home without a pet. What people seem to forget when they bring an animal into their home is that it is just that – an animal.

Whether it’s a frog, feline, reptile or canine, and regardless if they’re old and frail and you’ve trusted them for however many years – it’s foolish to presume an animal is of no risk to you and your family.

flickr – Randi Hausken

These are animals and what separates us from them is our ability to rationalize before we act. Animals rely and act upon instinct and that stands despite any amount of training.

I’ve even had my own experiences when I was younger of tormenting my cats too much and receiving a fair few lashes on my hands. Children don’t know how to act around animals and should never be left unsupervised. Likewise, animals rarely know how to receive children and should never be left alone in the same room with them.

I’m not saying animals are a threat to children and you shouldn’t buy that goldfish you were thinking of – think about the time you have to make sure everyone in the household will be safe.

Alaskan Malamute’s are a brutally strong breed, bred for sledding and pulling heavy loads – it would be difficult for a grown man to fight one off should it turn aggressive. They’re often seen to be heroic dogs; a gentle giant.

Malamutes are quite fond of people, a trait that makes them particularly sought-after family dogs – Wikipedia

Yet it frustrates me to no end that people forget to research the breed of dog they are taking on. Malamutes were originally hunters and that’s an instinct that doesn’t tend to vanish. It’s been recorded that they don’t tend to get along with smaller animals as they see them as a hunting toy – much like if you have a cat and it’s fascinated by your fish or hamster.

Independence, resourcefulness, and natural behaviors are common in the breed. Because of their intelligence, they can be difficult dogs to train – Wikipedia

I do hope this doesn’t call for the breed to be put on the ‘Dangerous Dogs’ list. I don’t believe any dog is more dangerous than the next – unless we start talking about the size of their teeth.

flickr – spitfirelas

So please, remember:

  • Animals are always animals – they will act upon instincts
  • Research your breed and make sure you can handle their requirements
  • Never leave a pet and child unattended together

I must admit my initial reaction to this story was one of disbelief because I knew of the breed’s general good temperament – we should never presume the breed makes the dog the same as the others. I know some remarkably loving Pitbulls and Rottweilers, it’s a shame good dogs don’t get the same press.

Read about my opinions on Staffies as ‘dangerous dogs’ here.

Read the story on the Express here.