Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thank you Congress

I just wanted to thank the men and a few women who, in our nation’s capital, loyally represent the American people on a daily basis.  Your steadfast resolve to stand by your principles and prevent the debt ceiling from being raised ever higher is truly appreciated.  

Here's a list of only a few of the many things for which you deserve my thanks.    
  • Thank you for turning Americans into second class citizens in the world.  Maybe now we will be able to understand some of the problems people in lesser countries face day to day.  There are too many problems to list them all, but they include:
o   Homelessness 
o   Increased violence
o   Inadequate health care
o   Food and water shortages
o   Decreased longevity

·         Thank you for insuring that I’ll be fortunate enough to work until I reach 70 or 80 years old, or die.  Due to the collapse of our economy and crashing stock market, I no longer have much money in my retirement account, so I can’t possibly afford to retire.  

·         Thank you for insuring the stability of both Social Security and Medicare for future generations.  By forcing the majority of us baby boomers to continue working, it won’t be necessary to pay us the Social Security or Medicare that we contributed to throughout our working lives.

·         Thank you for finally putting an end to our overly consumptive society.  Since we have a smaller income or are dealing with higher prices for everyday staples, we have stopped buying all that unnecessary stuff that clogged our homes and the tens of thousands of storage facilities dotting our towns.  In fact, with empty storage facilities in abundance, maybe they can be used as low income housing for those of us who have lost our homes due to foreclosure brought on by predatory lenders and greedy investors who you were prescient enough to deregulate.

·         Thank you for teaching those of us in the lower 90% that there really is a class system in America.  It was obvious that we forgot our place – in the fields, in the factories, on the assembly line, or cleaning the mansions of the upper 10% of Americans.  

Finally, thank you for making it possible for most Americans to turn to vegetarian diets, thus saving the lives of millions of animals cruelly raised and slaughtered each year for food.  Since most of us can no longer afford to buy the flesh of these tortured animals we are, at long last, eating a healthier diet.

Your hard work on our behalf should be celebrated.  Unfortunately, due to our shortsightedness, you have been subjected to villainous name-calling, threats of retribution and ridicule.  I hope you will be able to forgive us for not understanding the great purpose for which you have fought long and hard.  Thank you for your deep and abiding concern for the well-being of every American, even if we didn’t contribute to your campaign war chests or PACs or even vote for you.  Our stupidity just illustrates how poor our public school systems are and supports your commitment to cut spending to this example of government’s mishandling of the educational system.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT KITTENS… or what my kitten, Cagney, has taught me

1.       RULE #1 – if it moves grab it or pounce on it
2.       Cats have tails for kittens to play with
3.       Everything is a potential toy
4.       It’s possible to squeeze under anything
5.       It’s imperative to squeeze under everything
6.       If kittens have an OFF button, it isn’t easy to find
7.       It’s the job of a kitten to inspect EVERYTHING
8.       Nothing is off limits to a kitten
9.       The universe, as they know it, revolves around a kitten
10.   A kitten is the most adorable and precious thing in existence

Thursday, July 7, 2011

TNR under attack in Mother Jones too

It's always maddening whenever another FERAL CATS ARE KILLING MILLIONS OF BIRDS EVERY YEAR article appears in the print media.  The authors drag out the same old tired "studies" of why cats are to blame for all things bad on the planet:  toxoplasmosis in the ocean killing sea otters, songbirds rapidly declining, eating all the prey so other predators can't compete and so on.  This time, however, was beyond the pale.  I have been a fan of this magazine for over 30 years.  Mother Jones magazine's tag line is  Smart, Fearless Journalism.  From their website, they describe themselves: "Mother Jones is a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting." ( Yet in the most recent issue's back page, journalist Kiera Butler writes another lame excuse for scientific certitude about bad cats and stupid cat people who practice Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR).

A dear friend emailed me about the story.  It wasn't online yet, but I signed up for their email access here: sign-up for free access.  Once you sign up you can either read it online, download it or print it.  I emailed Peter Wolf, the amazing creator of Vox Felina (Vox Felina) and he put up a well researched, footnoted critique.  If you care about cats and want the ammunition to support your TNR efforts, you MUST READ Peter's blog.

I wrote a letter to Mother Jones (, which I'm pasting below.  Feel free to write your own letter and send it off to them.  The more the merrier! 

Dear Ms. Butler,

No, I am not a subscriber to Mother Jones, although I was for many years.  I have stopped all of my magazine subscriptions, primarily to cut costs.  I do, however, frequently read Mother Jones online and remain a fan of the generally well researched journalism contained within.  That is, until now. 

No doubt the so-called crazy cat people have buried you in hate mail by now.  We are renowned for doing that when our beloveds come under attack.  I just wanted to express my disappointment at your failure to, at the very least, talk to even one person with a differing opinion of those you consulted for this story.  Had you done this, your story might have been quite different.  There are some reasonable, highly educated and well-informed folks on the side of the cats.  You could have contacted Becky Robinson, the Executive Director of Alley Cat Allies (, or Dr. Julie Levy, the founder of Operation Catnip (  or Peter Wolf of Vox Felina ( .

As for myself, I’d like to give you a bit of my personal background and experience.  I have a B.S. in zoology and have worked as Director of Operations since 1993 for an environmental organization.  I served as president of a volunteer trap/neuter/return non-profit for 8 years and chair of the Animal Services Advisory Board for 4 years.  I currently share my home with 26 cats and 2 dogs, all of whom were rescued from the streets in my community.  Not unlike myself, many of the women and men who are involved with TNR remove cats and kittens from the street and either find indoor homes for them or welcome them into their own homes.  Not every cat trapped and fixed is returned to the street, a point that is, all too often, overlooked in this contentious discussion.  Adoption, when possible, is part of the process. 

Peter Wolf’s detailed analysis of the studies you cited are the best source for you to consult.  I only intend to add a couple of points, again often overlooked.

·         NOT ALL CATS ARE KILLERS:  while some cats are prolific hunters, not all cats hunt.  And, not unlike human hunters, cats do not always succeed at catching/killing their targeted prey.  A large percentage of outdoor cats are former pets who have been abandoned or dumped.  They never learned to hunt and rarely learn to do that as adults.  Unless they are fed by compassionate, caring people, they will most often die.  Unspayed females are more likely to hunt than other cats.  Kittens, who during the spring and early fall make up the majority of the outdoor cat population, do not hunt.  They rely on their mothers to provide them with food.  It’s estimated that 50% or less of all kittens born to feral mothers survive to breeding age.
·         SHELTER IS HARDER TO FIND THAN FOOD:  It’s a fallacy that if YOU stop feeding a cat, he/she will move on.  Look around, there is trash everywhere.  We humans are slobs, leaving our trash trailing behind us and/or surrounding us.  Animals, including birds/cats/rats, take advantage of the mess we’ve made and feed on our detritus.  However, finding someplace to get out of the rain, cold wind, snow or to be safe from cars, roaming dogs or other predators isn’t as easy to find.  Think about this logically.  If your local grocery store closes, do you sell your home and move somewhere closer to a grocery store?  Not likely.  Cats, and other animals simply trying to survive, will just travel further afield to find food, but they will return to the safety of their “home.”  Of course, this increases the threats they will face and can further endanger their survival. 
·         CATS FALL PREY TO PREDATORS:  Cats are always portrayed as predators.  I haven’t seen any literature addressing the fact that they are also preyed upon themselves.  They fall prey to humans who poison and shoot them.  They are hit by cars or killed when taking refuge in a warm car engine.  They are killed by dogs and in suburban areas they are killed by other predators like birds of prey, coyotes, bobcats, foxes and sometimes raccoons.  Kittens even fall prey to snakes.  Here in Florida where irresponsible people release their boa constrictors and monitor lizards (truly invasive species), cats, small dogs and kittens are food for these animals quite frequently.
·         IT’S LESS EXPENSIVE TO FIX CATS THAN TO KILL THEM: Data collected in Florida shows that it costs animal control agencies between $100 - $150 per animal to capture, house, feed, care for, kill and dispose of their bodies.  Orange County Animal Services estimated it cost them an average of $50 per surgery.  That cost covered not only spay/neuter for cats, but spay/neuter for dogs of all sizes, including females in season and dogs or cats where both testicles had not descended.  If, for the same tax dollars, 2 – 3 animals could be spayed or neutered or 1 animal killed, which would you think is more cost effective?  If put to a referendum, I firmly believe that most people would opt for surgery over death, where their tax dollars are concerned.  This is also an economic question:  no animal control department has enough funds to round up every outdoor cat, indefinitely.  Nor do they have a shelter large enough to hold all of the unwanted animals.  Nor do they have a staff large enough to accomplish this task.  By limiting the SUPPLY (fixing more animals), DEMAND is bound to increase.  With that the value of these precious lives would, no doubt and based upon simple economic principles, increase.

Life on the street is dangerous, frightening and generally unfriendly.  While very little has been or can be done to prevent uncaring individuals from abandoning their cats to fend for themselves, providing food for these victims of heartless humans is the compassionate thing to do.  Getting them spayed or neutered improves life for them and limits the number of unwanted kittens born.  Better yet, providing them with a safe, loving home whenever possible is the right thing to do.  Your kitty deserves your compassion and assistance.  Choose to be humane, instead of misguided and uninformed.

Connie Graham

Saturday, July 2, 2011

House of Cats….and 2 dogs

Is there anything cuter or funnier than a kitten?  Cagney, unlike my adult cats, LOVES toys.  She entertains herself with mice, especially if they have feathers.  She tosses the mouse across the floor or stands on her hind legs with the mouse in her front paws.  I can’t help laughing in delight as I watch her play.  It cracks me up when she carries her prey in her mouth and struts across the room.  But, with a house filled with cats, none seem to want to play with her.  So sad.  For a few passing moments I consider getting her a playmate………….but then I come to my senses.  She will grow out of this kitten phase, and I do not need another kitten/cat PERIOD.

I’ve misplaced the instructions for my camera.  I’m sure they are here somewhere, or probably downloadable.  I did a check of my “cat list” and I don’t have a picture of Campbell, Ciji, Cinja, Cora, or Claudia.  Got to add this to my To Do list.

So here are the kitties:

                Littermates Cowboy, Crystal & Cho-Sun 

Littermates Courtney & Charlise (Charlie’s & Chaz’ sisters)

Mom & littermates Bob, Colt, Crockett & sister Chaka

         Littermates Cassandra & Celeste

Littermates Chow-Li & Crosbie








I'll never make a career out of photographing my critters.  You "get the picture" even though they aren't very good pictures.  Trust me, these guys are much more adorable in person.   You might notice some tipped ears.  These were trapped kittens who, instead of being trapped/neutered/returned, were trapped/neutered & remained with me.  Chandler, Connor & Culpepper never tamed.  Crosbie was the first in his litter to tame and then reverted to a semi-feral state. Charm was a fixed feral turned into animal control.  I pulled her out moments before she would have been euthanized.  That was 6 years ago and she's as feral today as she was then.