The most popular page on this blog, for years, has been the Maine Coon Links page. Since it does not show up in the side bar, here is a link: Maine Coon Links Page. It is updated periodically because I still get occasional emails about it.
Last week, a friend's small dog picked up a small rattlesnake during its daily walk down a long driveway. Our weather has been hot, and we have more snakes than usual.
This is coyote country too. A little over a week ago, I learned that someone else I know recently lost a cat that managed to get out, never came back, and probably encountered a coyote. Just yesterday, there was a little cat on my patio with no collar and no identifying tag, and I had to decide whether to do anything. There was another cat that used to come around a year or so ago, probably owned by someone who erroneously thought that the iron fence around the complex would keep out coyotes. It won't.
And we are in wildfire season, when pets become lost outdoors when their owners evacuate a fire area.
So I thought I would do a post about pet safety with a particular emphasis on the pet hazards here in San Diego County. Most of the information is also applicable to pets in other locations.
Coyotes: We live
in coyote country. As with much of
southern California, San Diego County has a coyote population that is a threat to pets and sometimes to humans in residential areas. Boundary fences are often insufficient to protect pets from coyotes. Coyotes hunt by sending a
small female or youngster inside a fenced area to lure a cat or other small
animal into a chase, then lead the small animal outside the fence where the
pack of coyotes will be waiting to attack.
are more commonly seen in this area in the warmest times of the year. There have been recent incidents of
rattlesnake bites to pets in San Diego County, who may even pick up a small rattlesnake that they may
see before you do. A dog may not
understand that a small snake is a dangerous animal instead of a stick or toy,
and a cat may stalk and attack any small prey.
small lizards common to San Diego County are not toxic to pets. However, any cat or dog that catches and
swallows one could have major internal damage from the lizard’s scales becoming
stuck in the pet’s digestive tract.
are few poisonous spiders in San Diego County, although we occasionally have black widow spiders. Further east, where there is more of a desert-like environment, a pet could also encounter desert recluse spiders, which are poisonous but not the same as the brown recluse seen elsewhere. The few spiders that are poisonous are often at ground level, where the
A cat or dog could step on one or play with it without realizing the
danger. A spider that might ignore a human, because the human may not notice it or bother it, might well bite a cat or dog that tries to play with it. Also, the desert recluse is nocturnal, so that they could be around someone's home at night while the animals are awake and the humans are sleeping, unaware of the extent of the infestation.
Poisons: Any cat
or dog that swallows a mouse, lizard, insect, spider or other “pest” could run
the risk of swallowing poison if that wild animal or insect has swallowed
poison meant to control pests. Poisons meant to kill pests -- such as some forms of snail bait -- may kill a pet within 24 hours if not treated immediately by a veterinarian (Always buy child and pet safe snail bait, which usually contains iron phosphate as its active ingredient). There are also many chemicals in an average home, as well as common plants, that may be poisonous to cats or dogs while safe for humans. There is an ASPCA Poison Control Center web page with information about everyday items toxic to pets. If your pet is poisoned, call the ASPCA Poison Control Center and seek help from one of the veterinary emergency hospitals mentioned above.
Cars: Pets are often hit by cars outdoors, especially in urban areas.
Crime: As in any major urban area, there are occasional
reports of purebred cats and dogs being stolen.
WILDFIRE AND EARTHQUAKE COUNTRY
Wildfire season in
California runs from mid-summer through late October or early November. In the event of a major wildfire,
rescuers will make an effort to rescue pets seen roaming in the fire area. Look for announcements of special pet
shelters that may be set up for animals found in fire areas if this happens
It is a good idea to be ready to go if a wildfire or severe
earthquake ever strikes, or if a house fire occurs in your home. The ASPCA website has a disaster preparedness page. In addition to the emergency supplies and traveling kits recommended by the ASPCA, I have the following suggestions:
1. In fire season months, or even year round, keep your pet traveling kit in your car. If you have to evacuate, that is one less thing you will have to look for. You aren't likely to need it unless you evacuate, so there is no reason to keep it in your home.
2. For a cat's travel bag, consider a disposable Wonder Box and a small bag of light weight, scoopable World's Best Cat Litter (the corn formula weighs much less than clay), and a small scoop. The Wonder Boxes are sold in 3-packs, and will fit easily inside carry-on size luggage. It is helpful to be a bit discrete when carrying a litter box into a nice hotel where you may want to stay for a day or two while evacuated. If you show up at a friend's or relative's home with your animals in an emergency, it will help if you don't have to immediately rush out to buy a litter box, which can wait a day or two if you have a disposable one already packed.
3. Remember in choosing a phone number for your pets’ tags that
you may have your mobile phone with you when evacuated, and that your home
phone voicemail or answering machine may not work properly if the electricity
in the area is turned off due to a major fire or earthquake. The best number for your pet’s tag may be your
4. Check out the pet friendly hotels where you think you would want to go if evacuated due to fire, earthquake or other disaster. Homeowners and renters insurance will usually pay your hotel
bill during an evacuation, so you should not have to go to a shelter or a friend's house if you have insurance. Check with your carrier ahead of time to make sure you have the protection you would need. Keep information in your car, or programmed into your car's bluetooth hands free phone system, to make it easy to check room availability at those pet friendly hotels while you are evacuating.
All cats and dogs should wear a collar and tag that has the
owners current phone number. If you have recently moved in, please replace
your pets’ tags with your current address and phone number as soon as possible
in case they get outside unattended. Pet stores may have temporary tags with paper address labels hidden inside a plastic or metal compartment on your pet's collar, which will last at least until you can order a permanent tag through the mail.
All cats and dogs should be microchipped. If you have recently moved, please report
your new address and phone number to your microchip registration company as
soon as possible so that they can find you if your cat or dog gets out of
Remember that even an indoors-only pet may get outside in a
fire, earthquake, or other unexpected emergency. Animals frightened by a fire or earthquake
may live outside for days or weeks before they return home, and a collar could be lost. Retrieval will be much more likely if the pet has been microchipped.
IF YOU SEE SOMEONE ELSE'S PET UNATTENDED OUTDOORS
If someone you know lets their pets roam outdoors in this
area, speak to them about the dangers. Apartment and condominium rules, and homeowners associations, often require cats to be kept indoors and dogs to be kept on leashes. Contact the management or board of directors if you know of a resident who does not comply with those rules.
It is difficult to decide whether to intervene to protect someone else's pet from a risk if you don't know whether the pet's owner intentionally lets their pets go outdoors. If the owner does not come to pick up their pet quickly, or if the phone number on the tag is no longer good -- or if there is no tag -- you may be left to decide whether to put the animal back outside to see if it will go home, or whether to take it to a shelter. However, if the pet has escaped, the owner may thank you for making the extra effort to protect their pet.
As for any new pet brought into your home, it is best to quarantine the animal away from your own pets for
the short time that it is in your care. How careful you are might depend on how much you actually know about the rescued animal.
A bathroom could be the best location for its short stay with you because you can easily disinfect
it later, after the owner retrieves the pet or after you take it to a shelter. If you transport the pet to a shelter in your own pet's carrier, in your car, and if you don't know if the animal was healthy, either throw that carrier away and buy a new one, or at least, carefully disinfect it before using it for your own pet in the future. Clean affected carpets and upholstery in your home and car.
Wash your hands carefully after handling any
unfamiliar animal and before handling your own pet so as to minimize the risk
of spreading illness. If the rescued pet has signs of illness, change into clean clothes before picking up your own pet. Be careful about shoes too, because even a few cells of some parasites, picked up from the unfamiliar animal's fecal matter and tracked across your carpet, could contaminate your home if the animal is sick.
It is highly advisable to keep pet insurance on your pets if
you live in this area. Emergency
veterinary care can cost as much as $500 for an injury up to several thousand dollars for a snake bite or serious infection.
Bark Buckle-Up is an organization
that provides pet emergency information for your car glove compartment and decals for your car windows so that
emergency personnel will know what to do with your pet if you are ever in a car
accident and unable to help your pet yourself.
The information cards have your pet's photo and name, information about any medications and special diets, the veterinarian's name, and emergency contact information to let authorities know who should take care of your pet if you are not able to tell them.
That organization also tests pet safety equipment such as dog car seats
and pet carriers, and there is information on those products on its website.
Dog car seats, seta belts, cat carriers that can be buckled
in, and other pet safety equipment can be helpful for any car trip. Keep in mind that a pet could be injured by
an air bag if sitting in the front seat of your car while you drive.
HOME PET SAFETY DECALS
The ASPCA offers free window decals to alert fire department and other rescue personnel that pets are inside your home.
Here are some links to articles on how to keep your pet safe and calm during the 4th of July fireworks. It seems that more pets run away that day than any other day of the year. I came across two particularly good articles and decided to see what else I could find for a round-up.
I think Cesar Millan is probably right that the owner's positive attitude can help to calm the pet. Muffin's birthday is celebrated today, although I actually only know that she was born in early July and I have always put "July 1" on vet records. So I can make an extra fuss over the cats that way, although they don't actually know that's what the fuss is about.
ASPCA Message: 4th of July Festivities: Should You Bring Your Pet?
Muffin has been having veterinary problems lately. She will be 14 years old around the beginning of July. Her litter mate brother, shown with her in this photo from several years ago, died almost exactly one year ago.
Born in Alameda, where there used to be a Naval Air Station, her birthday has been celebrated on the 4th of July although the exact date is not known. They were born around the beginning of July, and I got them as rescue kittens.
I got some blood work back on her today. While not conclusive, it seems most likely that she has inflammatory bowel disease, one of the common problems in geriatric cats. So we are beginning a process of changing her diet and other treatment. She was young and spry until fairly recently, and losing her litter mate brother and the kitten who followed him clearly took a toll on her.
So with my thoughts on Muffin today, I thought I would do a kitty post. When she and Matty Bear were kittens, I had to look at their paws to tell them apart. They would spook maintenance people, who would think they saw the cat run one direction and then they thought they saw the same cat right behind them. Age made Matty Bear much larger than her. Still, they were often side by side like this picture, closely bonded from the time they were small feral kittens, snatched out of the bushes together and bottle fed.
Favorite color: Purple. As a kitten, she showed a strong preference for purple toys. That is one of a few colors within the range that cats can see. Unlike dogs, they can see a range including blue and purple and green, with everything else seen in shades of gray. Matty preferred the blue toys, but for Muffin it was always the purple ones that were her first choice.
Favorite movie: Crimson Tide. The first time it was on TV, still fairly new, she sat on the edge of the coffee table staring at the screen while Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman argued over whether to fire nuclear weapons. She could not have possibly understood what they were talking about. But she was so intent that her little butt moved up and down as she stood up on her back paws and settled down again, and then up again, staring at the screen. I thought the actors should have had Oscars for that movie if for no other reason than that the emotional intensity was enough to fool a cat. A few years later, I saw it on TV again, and she did the same thing at the same scene, so it was not just a coincidence. Something about the intensity of that scene just fascinates her.
Favorite people food: She wouldn't touch the stuff except once. The only people food Muffin ever liked was fresh crab, the time I brought a live crab home from the grocery store and put it in the pot with its legs still wriggling. Both cats meowed the whole time it was cooking, and I let them have a share. It was the only form of people food she ever liked.
Retirement hobby: Becoming a lap cat, something she was too active to do when she was younger.
Favorite TV show: Every now and then she will show an interest in Dog Town or the Dog Whisperer on Friday night. (I think she studies how Cesar makes the doggies be good.)
That's about it. We're getting older together, so my thoughts are much with her right now.
I waited until after Lent and the beginning of Easter to do a post on this. The American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals offers April as a month to raise awareness about protecting animals from
mistreatment. Here are some videos of cats in honor of April as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Some are about animals benefitting from the best of loving care, and they do not always have anything to do with cruelty. All are directed toward rescuing purebred and mixed breed cats who need a loving home.
I have a Maine Coon Links page that has links to a number of charities that help animals, links to information on choosing a kitten and avoiding kitten mills, and other information that may be of interest to owners of any breed of cats and mixed breed cats as well as to owners of Maine Coons.
Here is a video of TICA judge Adriana Kajon describing a Ragamuffin adopted as a shaved down abused cat from a shelter:
Christi Metropole, director of the Stray Cat Alliance, talking about kitten mills:
Pictures of dogs and cats from puppy and kitten mills and in shelters:
Part of the Dog Town broadcast about Michael Vicks' pit bulls now living at the no kill shelter in Utah:
And lastly, for contrast and to end on a high note, I looked for a YouTube video tour of a reputable purebred breeding cattery and didn't find one. But here is a link to the "Growing up at Calimaine" collage video on the website of Calimaine, a first rate breeder of champion line Maine Coons, showing kittens being born and growing up in a reputable cattery.
Update 2-20-09: The California Legislature has passed a 17-month budget that does not include the proposed taxation of veterinary services. The California Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States have thanked Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature for their response to the public opposition to the proposal, according to a press release on PR Newswire. We won!
At the same time when financial difficulties, job losses, and losses of homes have led more people than usual to abandon their pets to local humane societies, California's governor is proposing to raise funds by a new sales tax on veterinary services, making it more expensive and thus more difficult for people to keep their pets.
And that is at the same time as donations to animal shelters are drying up, making it difficult for them to take the pets whose owners can no longer afford to keep them or provide them with the veterinary care they need. For more on the difficulties already facing pet owners and shelters, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for a few of the many articles about this problem.
The Maine Coon breed, descended from farm cats in the snowy state of Maine, the Norwegian Forest Cat breed, descended from farm cats in Norway, and some other long-haired cats, are suited for the snow. But that doesn't mean they like it. There are tips on winter pet care from the Weather Channel, and also Warning: Top 10 Winter Dangers for Pets from Pets Best Insurance. And here are some videos:
It has been two months now since I brought home Isis, the 6-1/2 year old cat who came to be companion to my 13-year old cat Muffin and me after the kitten died. She and Muffin are adapting to each other quite well and becoming friends. The two months have not lacked adventure, although the adventure has been pleasant so far.
As far as I can determine, she has had at least 3 previous owners. Her most recent owner before me died unexpectedly. The veterinary records show her to be a "Russian Blue." However, she is too long haired to be a pure bred Russian Blue, and her eyes are not the right color. Some shelters call every grey cat they get a "Russian Blue" or "Nebelung." Nebelungs are a rare breed, but they do have longer fur and fluffier tails than Russian Blues. I went as far as to contact one Nebelung breeder on the west coast to see if she had ever sold a kitten to someone in southern California, and then concluded that my cat was a "Nebelung wannabe". The important thing was that she was a sweet cat who got along well with my other cat and had no health or behavioral problems.
I soon realized that she needed to be combed more often than a Maine Coon, although her fur felt a little bit like Maine Coon fur. I was combing her 2 times a week when, about 3 weeks ago, she started spitting up a hairball a day. Then I started combing her every day and bought a Furminator. After a couple of weeks, I thought perhaps I should look at descriptions of other breeds to get a better idea of how to take care of her fur. I now think she looks like a Norwegian Forest Cat. Norwegian Forest Cats sometimes moult in the fall when they lose their summer coat, as well as in the spring when they lose their winter coat. That might explain the hairballs. She now has a little bit of a Norwegian Forest Cat type ruff. For comparison, there are a few photos of blue Norwegian Forest Cats online here, here, and here.
The veterinary records for the last owner say "Russian Blue." The veterinarian knew the previous owner before her, who is believed to have adopted her at a shelter when she was about 2 years old (4-1/2 years ago). I located the veterinary shop that bought her microchip, actually about 8 years ago, but they have no records under her name or microchip number. They might have microchipped her for a shelter as recently as 6 years ago, since microchips last a long time. They say they microchip for several shelters and wouldn't know which one it was. If they microchipped her for an individual owner, they might have just not entered the microchip number in their computer system, and must have had her listed under a different name from "Isis". The microchip company does not keep records of past owners' names, so the trail is lost about 4-1/2 years ago, when she was at least 2 years old.
Could she be a Norwegian Forest Cat or a "wegie" mix? Or is she just a "wegie wannabe"? I may never know. That is not a common breed here. It is one of the most common breeds in Sweden, and San Diego County had a substantial Swedish population 4-1/2 years ago, when Ericsson Telecommunications was closing its San Diego facility. So I suppose it is possible that someone left her at a shelter when they had to leave the country. But more likely, she was a mixed breed long hair shelter kitten who happens to look a bit like a wegie.
Anyway, since the photo I posted when I first got her didn't show off her coat, which may be getting longer for the winter, here are a few new photos. If anybody recognizes her from 5 years ago and knows her background, please e-mail me. I would like to know.
For those who followed what I wrote about my kitten who died two months ago, I thought I would let you know that I recently received a pathology report. She had apparently fully recovered from the viral gastroenteritis that she had when she first became sick, although she never really got well before developing a severe treatment resistant necrotic skin infection. An underlying immunodeficiency or other underlying condition was suspected.
Brain tissue samples tested positive for FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) in the necropsy (animal autopsy). So much research has been done on that disease over the past 10 years that you may read something different depending on when it was written. The foremost authority on the disease, I am told, is Dr. Niels Pedersen of the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Center for Companion Animal Health. A September 2008 interview with Dr. Pedersen is downloadable here from the U.C. Davis website.
Blogging here continues to be light as I have continued to deal with this as well as while I have been fortunate enough to be busy at work. I have some things in mind to write for Advent and Christmas, and hopefully will have the blog back to normal again soon.