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2012 Events and News About Cats

Best and Worst Events Affecting Cats in 2012

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Even though we may not have been directly affected, many of us were profoundly touched by some of the major news events of 2012. Not every event on this list was as serious as the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Possibly only people with strong opinions on both sides would care about feral cats or declawing. But pet food recalls affect us all in one way or another.

A few of the events I've listed are personal to my life. You may find yourself thinking about either wonderful or devastating memories of your own, or both. But I'm willing to bet that none of my readers came away from 2012 without at least one significant memory.

1. State of Israel Bans Declawing of Cats

Photo of Cat's Feet and Claws
Photo Credit: © iStock Photos - Melinda Fawver

The world of cats had a wonderful boost for the better when the Israel legislature unanimously approved a bill banning the declawing of cats, except for certain medical conditions. The penalty is one year in jail and a fine of $20,000 U.S.

Israel joined a number of enlightened countries where declawing is forbidden by law, including England, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. See a complete list, compiled by Dr. Christianne Schelling, renowned veterinarian and author of Declawing.com. Learn more about Israel's new law.

About.com Cats Joined in Offering About.com Readers' Choice Awards.

For the first time in the history of About.com's Readers' Choice Awards, the Cats site joined in by offering 2012 Readers' Choice Awards in seven categories. They were:
  • Best Non-Profit Cats Organization
  • Best Non-Profit Pets Organization
  • Best Pro-Claw Organization
  • Best Website About Cats
  • Best Website About Cat Health
  • Best Book About Cat Behavior
  • Best Book About Cat Care
The Winners for all the categories were announced in March, 2012, and I'll save the results for that month.

2. Caboodle Ranch Shut Down, Owner Arrested

Photo of Caboodle Cats Up For Adoption
Photo Credit: © ASPCA, Used With Permission

It may have been the most shocking news of 2012 for animal advocates. The Caboodle Ranch, started by owner Craig Grant, was being shut down and Grant arrested on multiple counts of animal cruelty by Sheriff Ben Stewart with the Madison County Sheriff's Office

I was particularly hard-hit emotionally by the news, as I had featured the ranch as my Cat Blog of the Week back in April of 2009. Again, in May of 2009, I blogged Craig Grant's efforts to garner donations toward his fence fund, which needed $10,000 to erect chain link fencing to help protect the cats from coyotes. Although I was in denial in the beginning, as other events unfolded, it became clear that many of the allegations about the condition of some of the cats were true. Read more about Craig Grant's arrest.

More About the Caboodle Ranch Story

In a press release dated February 27, 2012, the ASPCA reported an ongoing investigation for over a year of Caboodle Ranch, initiated by PeTA, then involving the Madison County Sheriff's Office and the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team.

In March, it was reported the a Class Action Lawsuit had been filed representing a group of cat owners who had surrendered their cats to Caboodle Ranch, hoping they would find good homes there.

Pet Airways in Trouble

Earlier in the Month, it was announced that Pet Airways was in serious financial trouble. According to the report by the New York Times, cancelled flights, stranded pets, combined with the alleged failure to refund fees does not bode well for Pet Airways, nor for the pet owners who saw this special airline as the boon we needed for safely flying pets for long-distance moves, or in the case of breeders, to shows. Pet Airways acknowledged that there had been problems, but claimed they were the result of a supplier problem and that the issue was being worked on.

Lebanon Group Making Great Strides With Animal Welfare Law

The animal welfare group Animals of Lebanon already has in place programs supporting Spay and Neuter, TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), and provides veterinary vouchers for individuals to use in their own TNR efforts. The organization also has an active rescue program, with foster homes, and many cats and dogs for adoption. Animals (of) Lebanon has already accomplished so many amazing feats of animal advocacy that it sets a high standard for like organizations around the world. What is needed most now is stronger animal welfare legislation. Lebanon's current law provides maximum penalties of only $15. As of August, 2012, final revisions were being made to the proposed law.

3. Toxoplasma Gondii: Possible Link to Schizophrenia?

Photo of Pregnant Woman With Cat
Photo Credit: © iStockPhoto/Anna Furman

A Czech scientist, Jaroslav Flegr, after years of research and study, that people with cats run a real risk of becoming schizophrenic because of Toxoplasma gondii, often found in cats' feces. This was surprising news, although we already knew that Toxoplasmosis was linked to birth defects in humans. However, the latter could somewhat be ameliorated by having others than the pregnant female do litter box duties. Also, pregnant women were more likely to develop toxoplasmosis in the growing foetus by working without gloves in garden soil which contained the protozoa. By far the most common cause of toxoplasmosis in humans is consumption of undercooked meat containing the parasite. I would think the same caveats would apply to those schizophrenic individuals studied by Jaroslav Flegr.

2012 RCA Winners Announced

On March 30th, the seven winners of the About Cats 2012 Readers' Choice Awards were announced:
  1. Best Non-Profit Cats-Only Organization: Friends of Felines Rescue Center
  2. Best Non-Profit Pets Organization: Alabama Spay and Neuter
  3. Best Pro-Claws Website: The Paw Project
  4. Best Website About Cats: The Conscious Cat
  5. Best Website About Cat Health: Ask the Cat Doctor, by Dr. Shelby Neely
  6. Best Book About Cat Behavior: Naughty No More, by Marilyn Krieger
  7. Best Book About Cat Care: The Complete Cat's Meow, by Darlene Arden, CABC
You may read more about each individual winner on the official announcement page.

On the Home Front: Happy Birthday to Billy

Our Billy turned nine years old on March 5, 2012 - and barely resembles the scrawny little kitten he was when my husband and I brought him home.

4. My Hyperthyroid Joey One Year after Diagnosis

Picture of adult tabby cat, Joey
Image © Franny Syufy
In April of 2011, Joey, had been diagnosed as hyperthyroid. When he was found to be allergic to Tapazole (methamiazol) pills, the standard treatment to start with for hyper-t cats, we opted for the Radioactive iodine therapy, I131, which was done in June of that year at the VCA Hospital in San Leandro, CA. Prior to that, a NTproBNP test for possible HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy), which sometimes goes along with hyperthyroidism. That test came back with indications that Joey was in the early stages of HCM, confirmed later by an ultrasound done by Dr. Dietrich.

We are now in our new home in the California Foothills, where we moved November of 2011. Joey had a checkup with our new veterinarian, Dr. Bailey, and a followup ultrasound which showed no evidence of HCM. He still seems thin, but he has a healthy coat, and is tremendously active. However, he has been diagnosed with asthma, and has been given prednisone to help control it. I'm currently lobbying with my vet for an inhaler and mask, such as the Aerokat Feline Aerosol Chamber. From what I've read, most cats tolerate it well, and as an asthma patient, I can personally attest to the instant relief of an emergency inhaler.

Bobcat Fever and "Robotic Cats" Emerge

Across the ocean, and at home, we got news of two new threats to domestic cats. According to the University of Missouri News Bureau, bobcat fever, which routinely infects bobcats and mountain lions, is also infecting cats allowed outdoors. With only a 24% to 50% cure rate, the disease is so deadly that it has been called "The Ebola of Cats." The most obvious means of preventing it is by keeping cats indoors, and by applying topical flea and tick prevention products.

Robotic Cats Illness

Noticed first in Scotland, the "Robotic Cats" illness is named after the staggering gate with tails held stiffly outward. This disease seems to affect only older cats, and indeed, they do resemble feline robots. In 2010, a 10 year study ended, which determined this condition is apparently neurological. All the cats in the study were from the same rural background and were outdoor cats who hunted birds and rodents. One scientist theorized that the connection with those prey could be related.

Although the disease, which progresses quite slowly, didn't kill any of the cats in the study, many of them eventually became so miserable that their owners had them euthanized. Hopefully, the study, published in the Jour­nal of Fe­line Med­i­cine and Sur­gery in January, will lead to the development of treatment, and perhaps, a cure.

5. Diamond Pet Food Recalls Includes Cat Foods

Photo of polydactyl cat Sqeekr
Photo Credit: © Janie Allen

Nothing can quite compare with the fear of learning that the pet food our cats eat has been recalled because of potential toxins - in the case of the Diamond Pet Food recalls, Salmonella Infantis. This was the case when I received emails in May of 2012 from Amazon.com, informing me that two different dry food products I had been purchasing for my cats had been recalled. My cats had none of the symptoms of salmonella poisoning, and I feared even more about the health of my readers' cats as reports flooded in almost daily. There were so many conflicting stories between the Diamond Pet Food Company, the FDA, and eventually the CDC, that it was no wonder the public was confused, scared, and angry. I finally sorted out the facts enough to write The Anatomy of a Pet Food Recall, which also contained a retrospect of the Menu Foods Pet Food Recalls of 2007. Find out more about the Diamond Pet Food Recalls.

U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Against Hemingway Cats

The polydactyl cats who reside at 907 Whitehead Street in Key West, FL, originally the home of Ernest Hemingway, have become a legend to the extent that the name "polydactyl cats" is synonymous with "Hemingway Cats." The 50+ cats are descendants of a cat named Snowball given to Ernest Hemingway by a sea captain friend. Shortly after Hemingway's death in 1961, Bernice Dixon purchased the home and a few years later, she decided to open it to the public. After Ms. Dixon's death, her heirs continued to operate the museum, charging an entry fee. Of course, since the cats are on the premises, it could be argued that they were also part of a "zoo" exhibit for pay. It was this Catch-22 which was the deciding factor in the ruling made in December, 2012.

More About the USDA VS Hemingway Home and Museum

More About Polydactyl Cats:

6. New iPad Apps for Cat Play Only

Photo of Paint for Cats iPod Game by Nate Murray
Photo Credit: © 2011 Little Hiccup, Used With Permission

My cats have always loved watching television, especially when I put one of our DVDs for kitties on, such as Mewvie. Birdland Bonanza is one of their favorites, and they can sit for hours watching, while often overcome with excitement, jumping up and pawing at the TV screen. It's even funnier when they walk behind the screen to see where a mouse or bird disappeared to.

If I had an iPad, I could purchase all of the apps shown here, as the most expensive one is only $1.99, and one of them is even free.See all the iPad Apps for Cat Play.

ASPCA Applauds Florida Court Decision on Caboodle Ranch Cats

According to the ASPCA Press Release dated June 26, 2012, "the County Court, Third Judicial Circuit, Madison County, Fla., ordering the animals seized from Caboodle Ranch, Inc. (“Caboodle”) on February 27, 2012, as part of a criminal animal cruelty investigation, to be remanded to the custody of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office."

Unconfirmed information from the Facebook Page, "Caboodle Ranch Animal Cruelty Case Info" dated December 30, 2012, indicates that the State has asked for an extension in Craig Grant's trial because the main prosecution witness, Animal Control Officer Jamie Willoughby, is out of the state and can't currently testify. Again unconfirmed, the trial will be rescheduled for January or February, 2013.

7. Alley Cat Allies’ Open Letter to Brevard Co. FL Commission

Photo of Stray and Abandoned Cats
Photo Credit: © iStock Photo/Tina Lorien

For 13 years, the Brevard County, Fla. Board of Commissioners had allowed TNR programs under an existing ordinance, which required feral colony registration. However, based on a complain by one citizen, the county commissioners placed an immediate moratorium on any new feral cat colonies. Disputes between feral cat caregivers and neighbors disturbed by the present of feral and stray cats had been occurring for some time, as is fairly common in such cases. In fact, a local newspaper article quoted Kathy Beatison, Interim Brevard County Animal Services Director, as saying that the debate had become an issue "between animal rights and property rights." Read more about the open letter by Alley Cat Allies.

8. Two New Cat Food Products Recalled

The recalls of these two products were unrelated to the Diamond pet food recalls earlier in the year, and unrelated to each other. They are:

  • Cat Food Treats
    On July 27, 2012, the Arthur Dogswell LLC, Los Angeles, CA 90025, announced the voluntary recall of 1051 cartons of Catswell Brand VitaKitty Chicken Breast with Flaxseed and Vitamins "because it has the potential to contain propylene glycol. High levels of propylene glycol in the treats could result in serious injury to cats. The adverse health impacts could be reducing red blood cell survival time (anemia) and making the cells more susceptible to oxidative damage. No illnesses have been reported to date".
  • Stainless Steel Pet Food Bowls
    Petco announced the recall of foreign supplied bowls using stainless steel "mistakenly containing small quantities of Cobalt-60" --- "Cobalt-60 is a radioactive material commonly used in industrial gauging equipment and other uses."
Learn more about these recalls.

Kitty Cam Video Collar Findings Spur Debates

An ecologist, working with the National Geographic Society's "Critter Cams" project, initiated a study of 60 pet cats in Georgia, all wearing kitty cams as they roamed freely outdoors. There was enough material from 55 of the cats in the study to form a few preliminary conclusions. Were they indeed indulging in the wholesale killing of wild birds? Read more to see their findings.

Teen Cancer Patient gets "Cat Immersian" Therapy

The caring staff of a hospital chemotherapy ward got together to give 16 year old Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem a "kitty fix" because she missed her cat Merry so much. Cats are not allowed in chemo wards because a side effect of chemo is a weakened immune system, and even a tiny cat scratch can have disastrous effects. Through a massive effort including photos of cats contributed by Facebook members, the resultant video is one of the most heartwarming I've ever seen. Read further to get your own cat-love fix.

9. The Passing of a Legend: HOSTDru

Photo of Anu, Rescued by HOSTDru
Photo Credit: © Chris Cunningham

Almost five months after her passing, my eyes shine with tears and my lips curl into a smile when I remember Dru. She had been an icon in the Cats Forum - lighting the place with wisdom, passion for cats, and laughter for almost as long as I had been there. Dru lost her fight with the lymphoma she had been battling for so long, but she achieved something which has been a personal goal for me for years: Dru made a difference, not only in the lives of cats, but in the lives and memories of those humans she touched.

When Dru's husband Chris posted the announcement of her passing, he also passed on Dru's last wishes: "Light a candle, sing a song, dance, laugh, pray to whatever gods or goddesses you worship. But no tears. She wanted everyone to remember happier times."

In the spirit of that request, led by HOSTPat, we rejoiced Dru's life with chuckles and ribald snorts of laughter, recounting stories Dru had told about her cats, all rescues. (The white cat pictured here is Anu.) I'm sure we all came away with tears, but they were tears of laughter as well as love and loss.

10. World Animal Day

World Animal Day Logo
Photo Credit: © WorldAnimalDay.co.uk

World Animal Day is celebrated on October 4th, which is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. It was first started in 1931 by a group of ecologists to bring attention to endangered animals by a convention of ecologists in Florence. Today there is a World Animal Day Website in the U.K. Here at home, my focus is on Endangered Big Cats, and organizations that protect them. Learn more about World Animal Day.

Eastern Seaboard Pet Owners Prepared for Hurricane Sandy

When Hurricane Sandy, called a "perfect storm" by some meteorologists, was moving north along the coast from the Caribbean, cat lovers in the target area were as concerned about their cats as for the rest of their family. The ASPCA was there to help, with a free ASPCA Pet Safety Pack, along with instruction for preparing pets for evacuation. The ASPCA Blog had members and volunteers "on the ground" during and after the entire course of the storm, now dubbed the "Frankenstorm" due to its close proximity to Halloween. Read more about Hurricane Sandy and how to prepare your own cats for disaster.

11. Animal Groups Focus on Rescue during Hurricane Sandy Cleanup

Best Friends lauded Alley Cat Allies for their model project of 13 years with the Atlantic Boardwalk Cats. A keeper of the feral colony said the cats had come through just fine. According to the Best Friend's blog, "a casino security guard reported that as the eye of the storm passed over the area, he saw a line of 25 cats walking single file down the boardwalk looking cool, calm and collected."

Alley Cat Allies' Disaster Response Team was on the ground assessing the overall damage in Atlantic City. They also provided a list of disaster tips for local volunteers, and had started to build new shelters. Read more about the Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts.

Los Angeles Bans Pet Sales in Stores

Best Friends Animal Society has been working for years toward a "no-kill nation," and the news that the City of LA was effectively becoming a no-kill city with its ordinance banning the sales of commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits from pet stores in Los Angeles was exciting indeed, for animal advocates.

The new law provides that in L.A., the only pets sold in pet stores will be those from shelters and rescues brought there for "adoption day" events, much as Petsmart and other large retail pet stores have done for years. Read more about this groundbreaking law and its potential effect on shelter pets.

12. Uproar Over "Hoarding" Sentence for Feral Cat Caregiver

Photo of Jenny on Asa's Lap
Image © Franny Syufy

There seems to be a long-standing dispute between groups who advocate feral cat colony management and organizations which protect our wild birds. I am a firm believer in TNR (trap-neuter-return), which forms the backbone of feral cat management.

Such was the case when 76 year old Dawn Summers of Biloxi Mississippi was arrested on charges of "cat hoarding." Interestingly enough, she had been managing the feral cat colony of roughly two dozen cats for several years, sponsored by the Humane Society of South Mississippi, and approved by the City of Biloxi. Through a failure on the City's part to follow through, it had failed revise the city ordinance limiting residents to six cats on their property. Read more about this case, which Alley Cat Allies President called "a travesty of justice.

On The Home Front

My husband, Asa Syufy III, passed away in May of 2008, just 28 days short of our 50th wedding anniversary. Asa was instrumental in my getting this writing gig almost 16 years ago, for a new online start-up corporation then called "The Mining Company." A friend had told me TMC was hiring writers. Asa was looking over my shoulder as I browsed the list of available topics. Suddenly he tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Cats! You could write about cats." In passing I have to confess that Asa had also been instrumental in my introduction to and eventual love for cats, as I came from a long line of dog lovers.

December 25th, 2012 marked the 75th anniversary of Asa's birth, and I couldn't have let the day go past without acknowledging his devotion to cats and his inspiration to me during my career as the Cats Guide for About.com. Read more about The Man Behind the Cats.

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