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Mutterings

A round-up of fun, inspiring news tidbits from the animal welfare world.

From Animal Sheltering magazine July/August 2015

Part of a managed colony in Damascus, Md., this feral cat was trapped and vetted through the volunteer-run Metro Ferals TNR program. Photographer and shelter volunteer Josh Feeney calls the playgroups at Safe Humane Chicago “wildly successful.”

Calculating Cats

How can we best manage populations of free-roaming cats? A 2014 study, “Simulating Free-Roaming Cat Population Management Options in Open Demographic Environments,” sought to provide answers to a question on the minds of wildlife biologists, cat advocates and animal control authorities alike.

Scientists used computer-modeling techniques and best-available data to simulate three cat population management strategies—trap-neuter-return (TNR), temporary sterilization (with a nonsurgical contraceptive currently in development) and removal from the environment. Uniquely, simulations accounted for abandoned pets and neighboring cat populations, among other factors.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, results show that maintaining a cumulative sterilization rate of 75 percent—achieved by spaying or neutering 40 percent of fertile cats in a population semiannually—would attain a population decline equivalent to lethally removing or rehoming 30 percent of all cats at the same rate.

Coordinated by the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs (ACC&D) and funded by the ASPCA and the National Science Foundation, the study brought together cat welfare, wildlife conservation and veterinary medicine experts in what the ACC&D calls an “unprecedented joint effort.” Turns out, wildlife conservationists and cat lovers can work together—they’re now modeling additional population control options and combinations of approaches, including the rehoming of young cats and kittens from community cat colonies.


Live to Play, Play to Live

The photos show groups of dogs at their kooky finest—tongues lolling, paws flying, ears flopping and noses nuzzling. This isn’t your local doggie day care—these are volunteer snaps of daily play programs in shelters across the country.

The carefree dogs might once have been socially isolated, but Aimee Sadler, founder of the shelter training program Dogs Playing for Life (DPFL), believes playgroups are essential to meeting the needs of canines in shelters. The former private dog trainer now travels the country, teaching shelters how to let their dogs play.

Among other factors, a DPFL program involves careful assessment of doggie social skills, confident human participants and a secure physical environment. Volunteers match up dog play styles—from gentle and dainty to rough and rowdy—without regard for breed (or, as Sadler says, “shape, size or color”).

According to Sadler, letting shelter dogs play supports their physical and mental health and maximizes resources, allowing volunteers to both socialize dogs and simultaneously clean empty kennels more efficiently. Most importantly, playgroups allow potential adopters to see dogs for who they really are—not who they are in a kennel.

Shelters and rescues interested in implementing such a program can find tips and tricks—including a breakdown of play styles and a detailed program manual—at dogsplayingforlife.com.


Something in the Air

With the tap of an app, a puppy strapped to a drone sails over cityscapes and suburban lawns into the sunset; within a day, the drone gently drops the fluffy bundle of joy into the arms of her new family. Neighbors look on with envy, children smile and the puppy is really darn cute.

To many, this tongue-in-cheek video promoting samedaypups.com will seem like a fantasy come true—the new millennium version of the baby-delivering storks of yore. In truth, the real website has a fictional premise—the video and its accompanying Web ads are a consumer education project of The HSUS and Maddie’s Fund, a family foundation that has awarded more than $153 million in grants toward lifesaving shelter and community pet programs in the U.S.

Those who visit the website hoping for drone-delivered pups will instead receive a wake-up call: Cute websites offering easily obtained puppies often disguise puppy mills. By spotlighting the reality behind the fantasy, the project aims to show consumers that ordering puppies online frequently supports a cruel business and is a far-from-ideal way to add a tail-wagging member to their pack. Their new family members are ready and waiting to come home the traditional way—not via drone delivery, but via their local animal shelter.


Not-So-Crazy Ladies

Eartha Kitt. Michelle Pfeiffer. Anne Hathaway. Many leading ladies have taken a turn as the uber-sexy Catwoman. Now, finally, someone is stepping up to pay homage to the sexy comic book character’s much-maligned stepsister: the cat lady.

This fall, the National Museum of Animals & Society in Los Angeles will host “Crazy Cat Ladies,” an exhibit celebrating the more … ardent cat lovers among us. While the installation will provide plenty of laughs and interactive elements (cat lady trivia, anyone?), it also teaches visitors about cat rescue, community cats and trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs.

The exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the museum and several national and local rescue groups, including Alley Cat Allies and FixNation. Visitors will be able to learn about some of history’s most famous cat ladies, watch a variety of informational and comical cat-trapping videos, take an online tour of a cat clinic and watch a cat whisperer in action. They can even take a minute to write a thank you note to an actual cat lady, or sign up for a TNR webinar presented by Alley Cat Allies.

Lest any cat-loving men feel left out, the exhibit concludes with a trip through the “Man Cave” for a multimedia experience featuring famous men whose love for cats dared speak its name, along with some less-famous, but greatly appreciated men playing an active role in cat rescue efforts today.

For more information on the exhibit, visit museumofanimals.org.

About the Author

Animal Sheltering is for everyone who cares about the animals in their community—from shelter directors and animal care and control officers to kennel staff, volunteers, and private individuals working as activists, breed rescuers, wildlife rehabbers, veterinarians and more.