Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Phenology for 5/25/11

Foggy morning; humid, but mostly sunny day. As usually happens when a tornado warning is issued, we got a thunderstorm; some very heavy rain, but the thunder and lightning seemed mostly on the other side of the mountain.


Birds: A native sparrow, smaller and more reddish-brown than the usual English sparrows, was perched on the side of the woodshed when I went out this morning. On the way to the computer center I had good clear views of a bluejay and a pair of mourningdoves, as well as the usual starlings, crows, and pigeons. (Gate City has a thriving population of Central Park type pigeons; they like to flock on the courthouse roof.)

Flowers: Wild white roses are almost gone; wild red roses haven't bloomed yet. This has been a very strange year for wildflowers, with warm sunny days coaxing some of them to bloom early and late frosts keeping others from blooming. Some people's irises in town have bloomed on schedule. My yellow bearded iris, which usually blooms late, sometimes in July, started blooming in the first week of May, has lost several blooms to frosts and storms, and is still budding and blooming. My blue bearded iris haven't started blooming yet, giant iris hasn't put forth a bud either, and Japanese Dwarf irises don't seem to be doing anything this year. Vetch, clover, and honeysuckle are blooming profusely now.

Butterflies: Species that are common year-round actually have multiple generations in a season. On schedule, most of the Tiger Swallowtails are gone. Whites are now predominant. I saw the first Fritillary of the season this morning. One large, dark butterfly had a drab color and tired look, and might have been the last Tiger Swallowtail. More about Tiger Swallowtails forthcoming.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies

The official state insect of Virginia is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). It's easy to see how the males got their name; they're large, bold butterflies with black and yellow stripes, probably the first butterfly species children learn to recognize.

Male Tiger Swallowtails probably don't feel as friendly as humans think they are. When other creatures move into their territory, they fly toward the intruders. Try not to laugh--the draft of their wings might throw a smaller butterfly off course! Like all butterflies, they are on a liquid diet...and they crave mineral salts, so they're not the stereotypical nectar-sipping butterfly. They may perch on your arm and drink the sweat. Considering other things they like to drink, of which polluted puddles are probably the least disgusting, you may not want to let them perch on your arm.

What about those iridescent, glossy (in Latin, glaucus) black butterflies that often fly around with them, avoiding most of the garbage (male Tigers' favorite food is literally garbage) but occasionally joining them at a puddle with a nice film of motor oil on the water? They are not Black Swallowtails. They actually have more black on their wings than Black Swallowtails. They are female Tigers who have inherited the survival advantage of looking a bit like the smaller Pipevine Swallowtails. In areas where pipevines grow, most female Tigers are black.

Here's a nice university-sponsored web site with pictures of these butterflies:

http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Papilio-glaucus

Tiger Swallowtail Videos

Young Tiger Swallowtail butterflies aren't very pretty. They are one of the large caterpillar species that outgrow camouflage, as a defense, and depend on repulsiveness to discourage birds from eating them. They have different looks as they mature; young caterpillars look a bit like bird droppings, but older ones try to look like little snakes. Body segments behind the real head are thicker than the rest of the body and are marked like a little snake's head. Retractable fleshy "horns," called an osmeterium, can be waved about like a snake's tongue.

If you can stand a bit of a gross-out, here's a YouTube video of a mature Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar looking for a safe place to pupate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sk5i1C4gF_I

And here's a Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar seriously trying to scare away a pesky child:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_i4-zxlkvo&NR=1

Dorian Grey the African Grey Parrot

Since Yahoo editors have both insulted and injured me, why do I even look at Associated Content these days? Because it contains updates on people like Michael Segers and his feathered friend, Dorian Grey.

Many people feel that our animal friends both listen and talk to us, and can use a hundred or so words. (At the Cat Sanctuary, Bisquit talks, Grayzel listens, and Mogwai can do both.) Some people hoped that apes would be the animals whose ability to learn human language is most conspicuous, but actually birds, and especially African Grey Parrots, are better at learning human language and relating to humans as pets than apes are.

Dory's use of English is quirky; he apparently divides living creatures into two categories, "cats" and "birds," and calls his human a "bird." He uses "cookie" to mean anything nice. He seems to experience a ringing phone as a noise that bites his ear, and is likely to bite others' ears if they don't make it stop.

The latest of Dory's very clever pet tricks to be captured on digital camera was:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6000570/my_parrot_plays_nurse_to_my_sick_cat.html?cat=53

Dory doesn't do phone or e-mail interviews, but he granted a text interview to a fan here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5942984/my_interview_with_an_african_grey_parrot.html?cat=53

Whatever Happened to Graybelle, Anyway?

[This post originally appeared on my now vanishing Weebly. Weebly posts have to be short, so this was one of a series; click back to read what came led up to this.]

Graybelle no longer lives at the Cat Sanctuary, but what did become of her? I'm not sure.


As an oversized Manx-Persian crossbreed, Graybelle did look a bit like the gray bobcats at the Bays Mountain wildlife park. I had some doubts about the advisability of letting her roam, but I'd promised Her Human. If I'd said that she was a large, alarming-looking animal, he would have said that he is a large, alarming-looking man, and did I want him locked up for that reason?

When I last saw Graybelle, she was almost a year old and weighed ten or twelve pounds. She looked like something that would weigh twice that much, but she was still mostly fur. She didn't trust me to pick her up (she didn't like heights), but she would call me and tell me when she wanted her coat brushed.

One evening she'd called me, I hadn't gone out in time, and when I went out and called her she'd disappeared. Then I heard two shots on the other side of the mountain. Graybelle never came home. I went looking for her, and a landowner on the other side of the mountain said, "You'd better keep your cats inside! I saw a bobcat last week...wounded it, but it may still be alive!"

So I thought he'd probably killed Graybelle. She had kittens. Would she have left kittens, if she'd been alive?

Well, maybe. Last year Her Human told me that he'd seen a cat that looked like Graybelle, at a house in town, about two miles away. Its humans were strangers to him, but it had looked at him as if he were an old friend.

Could there be two cats like that within one cat-lifetime? Probably not. Probably Graybelle needed to be an indoor pet, and now she is one. I hope so.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Offsite Links (from Weebly), Part 3

When I wrote the article about Tennessee's locally produced food website, I mentioned that Virginia was launching such a site, too, but at the time it wasn't working. I'm pleased to report that now we have a working online "mall" with links for people who sell Virginia-grown and Virginia-made food products:

http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/food&beverage/index.shtml

Washington Monument Ploy in Florida?

Here's what Sheryl Young, a special e-friend and highly recommended, reports from Florida:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ac/20110520/us_ac/8506663_florida_layoffs_leave_teachers_union_unable_to_protect_workers

Worse may be on the way. During the past two weeks I've been reading Glenn Beck's Broke, obviously a title to which I can relate at the moment. I'll not comment on the book until I've read the whole thing--which will take a while--but it does explain "the Washington Monument Ploy." Basically, governments aren't going to trim the fat if there's any hope of pulling off a maneuver like cutting Social Security payments, or laying off schoolteachers, or--in a city where few retirees stay and rich people avoid the public schools--closing the city's most popular tourist attraction. People scream "No, don't do that," and nobody bothers to check for areas of fat that could be trimmed.

Phenology for 5/24/11

Weather: Cloudy and bright, with bearable humidity and flashes of sun, from sunrise to a few minutes after I got into the computer center. Now another storm is interfering with Internet transmission. (These computers have incredibly annoying timers that force people to log in after each hour, and it's taken more than 35 minutes out of my first hour just to open this blog page.)

Birds: Lots of songs from the canopy of the orchard--predominant song motifs new to me this year. The Cat Sanctuary is located in an old orchard and is the home of many, many birds, including semi-tame cardinals, orioles who are bold enough to harass fruit pickers, wrens, sparrows, jays, towhees, thrushes, and unfortunately woodpeckers. No, the cats don't interfere with tree-nesting birds thriving and multiplying, and as bird species populations continue to recover from the DDT era we seem to get at least one brand-new species every year.

Insects: Having mentioned fungus gnats yesterday, I'll mention that you can't walk along the shady parts of the road below the Cat Sanctuary without constantly waving them away. They're what make it possible to breathe, and usually not even smell a strong moldy odor, in woods above a stream. Baby fungus gnats eat mildew, which would make the species useful and lovable if the adult fungus gnats could resist the urge to fly right into people's eyes and noses. They can't ignore a shallow layer of water (they're very small and fragile insects) with a hint of salt in it. So they're a major nuisance.

If we ever had two sunny days in a row any more, that would help the fungus gnat problem. From time to time I remember wistfully that my mother used to hang wet, I mean laundered, towels out in the sun, and by the end of the day they would be dry. Now if you hang a dry towel out in the sun--even when you can see sun--by the end of the day it'll be wet.

Differences Between a Sanctuary and a Shelter

Why is Google still showing dozens of "dog shelter" and even "rat rescue" sites ahead of this site when I search for "Cat Sanctuary Weebly"? The difference between an animal sanctuary and an animal shelter is as big as the difference between a cat and a dog, and should probably be enforced by law.


Shelters are temporary holding sites or prisons for animals. The emphasis is on confining the animals, not on helping them recover from injuries. Often shelters kill animals that aren't adopted...and often shelters adopt rigid, unrealistic "adoption policies" designed not so much to protect animals for a handful of perverted animal abusers, but to ensure that only those who conform to an extinction-oriented view of domestic animals will be allowed to adopt these shelter animals. There are still some shelters run by sensible people who want animals to find happy homes, but the Humane Society continues to crank out propaganda aimed at "rescuing" dogs, cats, horses, cows, sheep, goats, and chickens from the "pain" of existing.

Sanctuaries are permanent homes where animals can live reasonably natural lives with minimal interference. Sanctuaries make no particular effort to eliminate valuable animal DNA, such as the hardiness and intelligence that allow feral cats to survive, from the gene pool. I do have a cage, but use it only temporarily. Cat Sanctuary cats basically live outdoors, although they have free access to outbuildings and a freezeproof cellar. Some of them are sterilized and some of them are not. And although people who adopt Cat Sanctuary cats do have to be people I know personally, their names are never typed into a computer that links to the Internet where thieves and personal enemies can find them, and I never ask about their income or demand complete identity information.

My belief is that we need a lot more animal sanctuaries...and we need laws banning the current policies of many animal shelters.

More Bad Weather in Kingsport

Once again...when I logged rain, some hail, and a weird red-orange glow in the air on the evening of 5/22/11, Kingsport had another great big awful storm. It mostly hit the rather posh neighborhood of Colonial Heights, where you don't see too many flimsy trailer houses, but lots of large, substantial brick houses are now without lights. I've not (yet) read reports of anyone wounded or homeless, though.

How Not to Sell Things to Me

I'm in a public computer center. All computers have annoying timers that log everything off after one hour. When I logged back on 45 minutes ago, I saw an urgent message to the effect that "Your Browser Is Out Of Date." It's not my browser, actually--it's the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's browser. Anyway, now everything is running ve-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-y-y-y s-s-s-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-o-w-w-l-l-y. Most of the web sites haven't changed but some service provider wants to make everyone very much aware that an "update" is on the market.

If it were my browser, this would not prompt me to buy something new from whoever's trying to "update" it; it would prompt me to BOOT the computer system--literally--and not have a computer in my house...which is why I'm using a public computer center. I don't buy more stuff from the same manufacturer if the first thing I bought doesn't last for...well...if it cost over $100, a lot longer than these computers have existed.

Maybe, if my public computer experience showed me that computer manufacturers were being very careful to make sure that every new component worked with the old ones for year after year after year, I might feel that I use computers enough to justify having one at home.

Maybe, if computer manufacturers were being careful to integrate new products into existing systems that were still working, I would own a computer product or component that was made later than 1999.

Offsite Links (for Weebly), Part 1

The FAQ page for increasing traffic and ads to these sites suggests adding offsite links. Hmm.

Offsite links can be dangerous, but since what I'm doing at the computer center today is (trying to) check up on e-friends who were in funnel-cloud territory, I might as well post the link for http://ozarque.livejournal.com/.

Very old and dear e-friend (before the Net, a pen friend--and the Arkansas Correspondent way back when I was working on the Clinton FacTapes). Garbage has been linked to this page, but never posted by the author.

Offsite Links, Part 2

Here's the marketing link that includes Grandma Bonnie's Allergy-Ease Foods (Veggie Burgers) and other Tennessee products.


http://www.agriculture.state.tn.us/Marketing.asp?QSTRING=FPE

Since I'm in Virginia, most of these sites aren't "local" for me, but I did once write an AC article saying that every state should have or develop a page similar to this one.

A Canadian reader posted a comment like, "Thanks, I'm Canadian as you know," which may reflect a real difference between the two countries.

I doubt very much that if my article had mentioned only Virginia and Tennessee, and had then been read by somebody in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania reader would have thought twice about checking and posting any applicable links with a comment like "And in Pennsylvania we have..."

For future reference: (1) I like comments; and (2) I think it may be part of U.S. culture (at least for my generation) that people are expected to speak up for themselves in this kind of situation. If I were planning a trip to some place far from home I'd search for links there; publicizing and writing about links in Montreal seems to me like something a Montreal writer is supposed to be able to do ever so much better than I could. I trace it back to the 1960s, when Caucasian writers who had published pro-civil-rights work were politely told that ethnic-minority writers preferred to write about their own groups' issues.

However, since Kingsport is within walking distance of my Virginia home town, and Grandma Bonnie is related to me (no, she's not my grandmother), I have some right to promote her here.

[Edit: When this post was published on the Weebly, readers could still order Veggie Burgers there. That's no longer the case. At last report, the Hawkins County plant no longer maintains a gluten-free kitchen. East Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia readers can still click here to invite Grandma Bonnie Peters to demonstrate how to make small batches of Veggie Burgers in their own gluten-free kitchens. This may be a better deal...while she's there you can ask her about Rice Biscuit Bread, and Taco Soup, and Wheat-Free Dairy-Free Vegan Pizza, and more.]

Several corporations manufacture their own forms of "veggie burgers." Allergy-Ease Foods Veggie Burgers contain no animal fat and no wheat, corn, soy, yeast, nuts, MSG, trans fats, or tropical oils. They are made entirely from plant products. When possible, they're made from plants organically grown in Tennessee.

How do they taste? Well, I can tell they're not hamburgers. They're made from rice and beans and other vegetables. Allergy-Ease Veggie Burgers are definitely not the greasy, chewy, bitter "veggie burgers" some people remember from the 1970s, either. Allergy-Ease Veggie Burgers taste good...like a savory vegetable loaf. I've seen three-year-olds eat them and like them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Please Don't Spray Those Insects the Rain Sends You

This post is for those of us in the Eastern States, whose problem is that we're getting all the rain the Central States need right now. Here's what Nancy Czerwinski posted on Associated Content:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8075455/will_we_be_taken_over_by_bugs.html?cat=44

It's not a scientific research document; it's a blog post, which seems to be all AC is paying for these days. For those who can relate to the feelings in Czerwinski's blog post, here's the benefit of the amateur scientific research I've been doing on this very subject for many years.

While some harmless individual bugs and beetles will stray into houses during damp weather and leave as soon as they can, the real insect nuisances rain may drive into your home belong to other families: roaches, ants, termites, crickets, and if the rain lasts long enough you might get fungus gnats. (Palmetto "bugs" belong to the roach family.)

Liquid sprays are expensive, last only a short time, and may cause or aggravate all kinds of symptoms for you and your family (although manufacturers resist admitting that there's any connection between their products and the "allergies" some people have only after exposure to their products). Luckily, there's a cheap, effective, natural product that works on roaches, ants, termites, and crickets like magic...and also helps control the mold fungus gnats live on...and also deodorizes rugs.

The brand name that's available in my part of the world is "20 Mule Team Borax." The generic name is washing soda. This is the active ingredient in the powders professional exterminators spread on baseboards for ants and roaches. If you can't find this naturally caustic mineral dust, you could even use baking soda, which has similar effects on insects and fungi.

Washing soda is caustic rather than toxic to humans. It burns eyes and skin, so apply it along baseboards and under rugs, not where pets or children are likely to roll around in it. If you do feel the burn, wash it off with water--no harm done. (Some birds will eat washing soda and make themselves sick, so keep it away from birds.) The caustic effect will kill insects.

Washing soda will also prevent most plants from growing, so it should not be used outdoors.

Phenology, the Serious Science of Taking Nature Notes

In the 1980s, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady was a bestseller. It wasn't a personal diary; it was watercolor sketches of the things the lady saw on her almost daily nature walks, and the poems about them she copied in calligraphy. It generated a small industry, and a fad for books of nature notes by living authors, like Richard Adams' Nature Diary.


I enjoy this kind of book. Read straight through, like novels, they can be boring...but it's interesting to look up someone else's entry for the weather and wildlife observed, on this day in some other place and/or year, and compare what they saw with what I saw. Such things always have the potential of documenting something of historic or scientific value.

Over the weekend, I read the latest Appalachian Voice and learned that professional ecologists agree with me about this. Nature notes now have an Official Scientific Name. When we blog about the first robin in the yard, the first snowflake, and so on, we are actually practicing the science of phenology...and it really can help scientists, especially with the debate about global warming.

So, this blog will now have a Phenology Category. I can't promise to document phenology every day, since I don't even have access to the Internet on most days, but I'll try to log nature and weather notes.

Phenology for 5/23/11

Weather: Sunny and warm on Saturday. Sunny and increasingly humid on Sunday morning. Thunderstorm between 6 and 8 p.m.; some hail, but no further damage noticed at the Cat Sanctuary. Really strange sunset--not a pretty red-gold sunset, but an intense, lurid, reddish-yellow light in the sky for at least half an hour. This morning, fog until about 10 a.m. Now the sun is shining, temperatures are around 80, and the newspaper reports thousands of people without electricity again.

(Wouldn't we all love to send this rain to Texas, where they're having a drought disaster?!)

Birds: Saturday afternoon, a nuthatch flew around the woodshed, presumably to pick up some treasure that had dropped out of a load of wood. (The cats ignored it; they chase only birds that creep along the ground.)

Sunday and today, on the road below the house, a male robin flew and lighted just ahead of me for about 50 yards as I walked toward town, chirping, probably trying to steer me away from his mate on the nest. (Male robins have black heads; females' heads are drab, just like their backs.)

Insects: pair of Tiger Swallowtails in the yard this morning; pair of Grape Leaf Rollers slipped in and flew around the lamp in the office last night.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Graybelle's Cat Sanctuary

[Note made while transferring this post to Blogspot, six months later: This post explains how the Weebly site became "Graybelle's Cat Sanctuary."]

"Priscilla's Cat Sanctuary" is the name my e-friends would be likely to search for, but when I Google it, I'm not finding this site at all. Google doesn't separate terms that some people think are synonymous. (There's supposed to be an "Advanced Search" function that excludes irrelevant terms, but when I tried it, it included the irrelevant terms.) Every Humane Genocide Society shelter in America has already given every popular human name to some animal, so searching for "Priscilla King Cat Sanctuary" generates thousands of links to shelters that have, or used to have, homeless animals called "Priscilla" and/or "King"...and no link to this site.

Credit for founding the Cat Sanctuary actually goes to Black Magic, the cat who convinced me that I needed to live with cats (plural!). You guessed it..."Magic" is one of the most common pet names in the world.


Let's try something a little less common. A former Queen of the Cat Sanctuary who did not have a popular human-type name was called Graybelle. Graybelle was an odd-looking, oversized Manx/Persian crossbreed. From a distance she looked a great deal like the gray bobcats at the Bays Mountain wildlife exhibit. Actually Graybelle was a friendly domestic cat who knew her name, recognized a surprising number of words, hated to have her coat combed but started calling me and pointing to a coated-tipped hairbrush when I tried using one, and chose a domestic long-haired cat as a mate.

Graybelle's most memorable quality was her loyalty to a human friend of mine who didn't want to take her home. (We found her as a feral kitten, five or six months old, living at a house we were helping someone remodel and sell.) She didn't get close to me until I'd been properly introduced by him. She probably wouldn't have settled down behind a chair in my house if he hadn't lured her into his car, driven to my house, and directed me to carry her inside. After spending a day hiding inside, she accepted that my home (the Cat Sanctuary) was where her human wanted her to be...but I always had the feeling that Graybelle thought of me as "the small emergency backup human." She acted so much friendlier toward him, and toward me after he'd been around.

The pet/owner relationship is often supposed to mimic the infant/parent relationship. Never has this analogy fitted a cat's attitude toward me so poorly as it fitted Graybelle's. She was never mischievous, unfriendly, or mean. She didn't completely trust me, but she certainly wasn't afraid of me. If anything she might have seen herself as the protective parent and me as the ignorant infant. She was a kind, patient, gentle cat...which was fortunate, considering that, although she weighed only about ten pounds, she looked like an animal that would have weighed twenty-five pounds, and would probably have reached that weight during her second year.

She was, nevertheless, a Listening Cat, and talking to her could be quite an experience. Once I asked her where she'd been, and she meowed, quirked her stub of a tail in the "follow me" signal, and led me to a sort of deep pit or shallow cave in the woods behind the Cat Sanctuary.

When she came to the Cat Sanctuary, Graybelle was a mere kitten, and the mother of Bounce and Pounce, Liza, was a good-sized mature female cat, or "queen." For the first month or so I was surprised and amused to notice that Graybelle only looked bigger, that Liza's legs were much longer. There were even a few weeks when Liza seemed to be dominant. Graybelle quietly kept growing...and after they'd been here for two months she really was the bigger cat, and definitely the dominant one.

Magic was Queen of the Cat Sanctuary first, and Minnie was Queen longest...but Graybelle was no less the Queen while she lived here, and had the most distinctive name.

Hoarding and Tossing: Two Sides of the Coin

We hear so much about hoarding as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that requires medical help. Why don't we hear more about the parallel form of obsessive-compulsive disorder? Why doesn't it have a cute, catchy name? I propose "tossing." If you compulsively waste things that might be useful to yourself or others because you're obsessed with maintaining a bare surface, you're a TOSSER.


In the U.K., "tosser" is a fairly rude thing to call anyone...and as a person who's often blessed my ancestors who were sane, frugal savers of useful objects, and blasted the ones who tossed objects that might have been useful, I feel that a fair amount of rudeness is totally appropriate when we're talking about the people who waste things they or their heirs might actually need.

Tossers have a tendency to become itchy when they visit the homes of people who save useful objects. "Ohhh, how can you possibly clean all those boxes and shelves and closets full of stuff? Are you sure you're not a hoarder? Well, then you need to get rid of this stuff! If you've not used it within a year, it's useless! Gotta pitch it out so you can buy new stuff!"

Tossers need to be pulled up short, like runaway dogs. If it's something that might become useful, or acquire collector appeal, during the next fifty years, it's not useless. If it's something like a wedding gown that's waiting to be used by the next generation, it may need to be in an attic or storage barn rather than in your crowded closet, but it does not need to be tossed. Tossers need to be reminded that THEY need medical help...more than most of the people they rush to confuse with truly sick hoarders.

Here's a link to a friend (feel free to tell her you found me here) that describes genuine hoarders: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8057629/how_to_know_if_you_are_a_hoarder_or.html?cat=7

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Cats Need Sanctuaries

You've heard: "We have a serious dog and cat overpopulation problem! There aren't enough homes for them all! Neuter and spay is the only way!"

I've checked the facts. Local pet overpopulation problems are, of course, possible...but the national pet overpopulation problem has been created when and where the Humane Society has taken over the job of matching pets with homes.

Unfortunately, current Humane Society president Wayne Pacelle is one of those who define "good homes" as homes where dogs and cats will be completely confined and sterilized. In fact, according to his blog, accessed just now, he's currently dispatching people to tornado sites, trapping suddenly-homeless dogs and cats to make sure that they'll never see daylight, or see their humans, again unless their humans pay into his "One more generation and they're out" agenda.

Since my definition of a good home does not feature solitary confinement, involuntary elective surgery, or imprisonment in a cell block with a bunch of strangers who may be dying of contagious diseases, I think it's very important to protect our domestic animals from the Humane Society and from many people who claim to care about animals. Those of us who love animals need to make sure that our support is going to those who want animals to enjoy as long, free, and natural lives as possible, rather than to those who want to preserve a few "wild" species from ever becoming friendly with humans and exterminate the species that have become friendly and useful to humans.

Confinement and sterilization have, in fact, made it difficult for residents of urban areas such as Washington, D.C., to acquire pets. Many Washingtonians need cats, since catless city neighborhoods acquire rat, roach, and other vermin populations faster than you'd believe unless you'd seen it...but they can't get a cat until they and their homes have been inspected by gaggles of "volunteers" (rich busybodies with too much time on their hands) to make sure that the cat will never have a chance to earn its keep. And where do these shelters find the "rescued" cats they release only after sterilizing and microchipping the animals? Not in the city...they have them shipped in from rural areas, where Humane Society types are kidnapping outdoor pets.

Should All Cats Be Barn Cats?

In opposing the genocidal policy of confinement and sterilization for all cats, the Cat Sanctuary is not suggesting that all cats can or should live completely natural lives as unaltered barn cats. Many cats, including some fancy breeds, are not well suited for an outdoor life and should be kept as indoor pets if they are going to enjoy the 10-to-25-year lifespan that is natural for the species.


I personally would recommend confining, and sterilizing, long-haired and flat-faced Persian-type cats. If unwilling to keep one of these animals indoors, I'd give it regular haircuts. These cats were bred to require a lot of grooming by humans (and in warm weather they don't seem to enjoy being held and groomed). Outdoors, they attract fleas and ticks. Indoors or outdoors, they shed, lick off, and swallow enough fur to make themselves sick...but they don't reach deep enough into their coats to keep their skins clean. If deprived of the human attention it needs, a really plushy-looking cat will certainly be uncomfortable and will probably become ill.

I'd recommend confining Rex cats, who are genetically doomed to grow incomplete coats that don't provide the insulation from weather conditions normal cats enjoy.

I'd be very cautious about allowing Scottish Fold cats, whose mutant ear shape is said to suggest a hostile expression to other cats, to socialize on their own. Animals have the ability to learn, as humans do, that what may seem like an angry expression is just the way some unfortunate individual looks...but it may take a while.

I personally would also recommend sterilizing Manx and Japanese Bobtail cats. An AC article I wrote on this topic generated lots of opposition, and what emerged from the controversy was that the genetic mutations that produce these breeds are farther-reaching and harder to predict than anyone seemed to have realized. I personally feel that these are dysfunctional genes that should be bred out of the pool.

Then there are problems that appear in the more functional breeds...more about those later.

Reasons to Confine and/or Sterilize a Cat: Bird Protection

This is not a complete list of everything that can go wrong with cats! They can acquire or inherit some health problems that are more serious than the ones I've personally encountered. Cat Sanctuary cats normally have the opportunity to live natural, 99% outdoor lives, but here are two reasons why I've sterilized cats, confined cats, or sent cats on to city-type homes where they'd be permanently confined and sterilized.

1. Vertical hunting. There is some evidence that this is a gene, possibly correlated with body shape; the old saying is that cats with shorter tails are less effective mouse hunters, more likely to waste their time chasing birds. (Vertical-hunting cats very rarely catch a bird. They catch insects, and often eat crickets and grasshoppers.) If you entertain cats by trailing a string or weed stalk along the ground, it's easy to identify the ones that chase the string and the ones that try to jump up and grab your hand. This tendency toward vertical hunting seems to be permanently hard-wired into about 15% of the cat population, occurring more frequently in some "families." Although these cats won't actually catch healthy adult birds unless they find a nest on the ground, and it's necessary to protect only a few ground-nesting bird species for a limited time, I recommend sterilizing vertical hunters.

2. Frequently catching birds. I'm a bird watcher and know the local species. If a cat catches one bird from a ground-nesting species, it's time to confine the cats for an appropriate length of time--grouse and songbirds usually need protection for about three weeks in spring.

If a cat catches a bird from a tree-nesting species, the cat will confess by vomiting, and it's time to watch the cats. If more than one of these birds is spending enough time on the ground to interest my cats, that means a disease is going around. Repeated exposure to the disease could harm the cats. In my area songbirds seem to be most vulnerable to aspergillosis, to which cats and humans are mostly immune...but nobody needs to go on eating fungus-infected meat.

Reasons to Confine and/or Sterilize a Cat: Disabilities

[Edit: For those who've been seeing these things in your blog feed, yes, you're likely to see more "new" posts as early Blogspot posts are reposted to Live Journal. Feel free to ignore the ones that look familiar. This was May 13, 2011.]

Sterilization and permanent solitary confinement are the Humane Society of the United States' recommendation for all cats. Although the Cat Sanctuary considers this policy inhumane, we concede that sterilization and solitary confinement may be good ideas for some cats.

Cats can inherit or develop disabilities, just like humans. Blind or mobility-impaired cats are easy to spot. Deaf cats aren't always easy to spot. Healthy cats don't necessarily recognize words or know that they have names, and cats who've learned that humans call them for reasons that may not fit into the cats' agendas may ignore their humans' calls...but if a cat ignores the sound of the can opener, rustling sack, or other audible indications of mealtime, the cat may be losing its hearing. Deaf cats are at a tremendous disadvantage outdoors and need to be kept indoors.

Cats can also have brain damage. AC readers who've found me here have been introduced to the Patchnose Family, by now an extended family of very social, intelligent cats rescued from the streets of Kingsport, Tennessee. When I met these cats, although they were beautiful, clever, and friendly, they were infected with worms, fleas, and fleaborne diseases. Patchnose, the feral mother cat, died shortly after her younger kittens started eating solid food. The older kittens "mothered" the babies, but two of the three younger kittens seemed damaged. They matured slowly and didn't pass the developmental milestones the older kittens did. They weren't as clever or as well coordinated as normal cats.

I let one of these damaged kittens, Graymina, have kittens of her own...which, because these cats are so social, seemed to have been a traumatic mistake for the whole family. Graymina had no instinct to hide the kittens in a safe place when they were born, and lost at least one by failing to remove the placenta after dropping it in the front yard. Apparently her siblings had to help her hide the kittens while she was nursing them, and start to wean them about a week after a normal cat would have started weaning them. Surprisingly, one of her kittens did survive to an adoptable age, but he wasn't a normal kitten either.

Possibly this unfortunate cat had learned something, and might have been a better mother to another litter, but I didn't want to take the chance. She was a sweet, pretty little fluffbrain who needed lots of protection, and she became a nice indoor pillow substitute for some city-type cat owners.



(Roger Caras found that a large group of sterile, otherwise healthy, mostly normal (as distinct from social) cats got along well together in a natural environment.)

Why Support the Cat Sanctuary?

[Edit on 11/23/11: This post was part of a Weebly site in which I considered registering the Cat Sanctuary as a nonprofit animal welfare organization. I've since decided that the nonprofit fundraising route is not the way I want to go; the Online Bookstore idea just feels more ethical. However, if you enjoy reading a blog, especially if you don't see scads of ads cluttering up the computer screen as you read, it is appropriate to pay...as much as you'd pay to read a magazine.]

1. Because you want to preserve domestic animals--as individuals, and, in the case of healthy and intelligent individuals, as valuable genetic material.

2. Because you support organic gardening and farming, for the sake of wild as well as domestic animals.

3. Because you like what you've read so far and would like to read more about these animals and their humans.

4. Because you'd like to receive a Treat. [Edit: The "Treats" offered at the Weebly were basically the same things you can buy from the same people here.]

5. Because you'd like to form a network (with or without identifying yourself on the Internet) with other rural animal, wildlife, and/or ecology-oriented people and share information about your natural animals and/or garden and/or forest. (You do not have to be in the Blue Ridge Mountains to be part of this effort. You don't even have to be in the United States.)

6. Because you may not support a church, but you'd like to support a faith-based animal rescue effort. (Click on "Your Opinion Counts!" to indicate how much you want to read about my faith on this site.) [Edit: That Weebly page is not available here.]

7. Because, if we go 501(c)(3), your contribution will become tax-deductible. [Edit: Won't happen.]

8. Because, although I prefer and intend to continue doing normal jobs like typing, tutoring, home health care, and pet-sitting rather than try to get on some sort of welfare program, you hate to think of a native American citizen going hungry.

9. Because, if this web site raises enough funds, it will help other people rescue animals too.

10. Because you want to read about my other interests, as well as animals.

Surviving the Tornado

On April 28, a tornado supercell ploughed through the Southeastern States. I once wrote a poem called "Our Nasty Weather Is Someone's Disaster," about how many weather disasters had passed by Gate City, Virginia, wreaking all kinds of havoc elsewhere while we just got rain and more rain. I knew the sequence of storms that passed over my home from all different directions, on April 28, were someone's disaster too, because there were so many of them, because the big trees up on the mountain were quaking like aspen leaves and hail was bouncing off my storm windows, because the wind and rain swirled around in the circular pattern called a cyclone...but I still had lights in my home office.

Late that night I discovered that this time it wasn't only rain as usual. Hail had pounded the roof in the older part of the house, flooding the attic and shorting out the electricity (all wires in the older part of the house run through the attic). I'm lucky that the refrigerator, the air conditioner, and most of the lights died without starting a fire.

When I went into town to write what turned out to be my very last AC article, I heard that homes had been destroyed in Kingsport, ten miles away. Bristol, thirty miles away, had seen its first documented funnel cloud. Trailers had been reduced to rubble; people had been injured or killed; a town I've never visited called Glade Spring was a real disaster area, and further south, in flatter places where mountains don't break the impact of storms, whole communities were devastated.

None of our local construction or electrical workers (several of whom are related to me) has offered to fix my attic, or will, while people as close as Bristol are actually homeless. I wouldn't want them to. I can sleep in the office, or find my way to the bedroom at night with a flashlight, for a few days. "Few days" is a key concept here.

Although technically I suppose I'm a cyclone rather than a tornado survivor, any contributions you make toward repairing my home will help offset efforts that are being made to help tornado survivors in Bristol too. Waiting for the homeless to be helped first, and paying for the repairs my home will need, are my contribution.

[Edit: I've not read this novel, but here is a picture of a tornado supercell.]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Greetings from the Weebly

Hello from the writer known as Priscilla King, formerly one of the top ad-friendly content producers for Associated Content. AC has kicked me upstairs by forcing me to choose a new web site for my writings about cats and other animals, Creative Tightwaddery, saving money, gluten-free food, knitting and other crafts, books, being an independent woman writer, living in the Blue Ridge Mountains, hiking and camping and other non-competitive sports, school choice, children, family, faith, community, going Green, politics and politicians (from any party since my interest is in getting them to say something definite and stick to it), songwriting, folk and country music, and life in general.

Ultimately, I'd like to attract some other writers who have a congenial independent but ad-friendly outlook and launch a for-profit online magazine that would re-create what AC originally offered. Currently, this is an extremely low-budget nonprofit venture in desperate need of financial support. (Specifically, since one of the cyclones that spun off April's tornados hit my roof, I have no refrigerator, no hope of repairing the wiring in two-thirds of my house, and not much money for groceries.)

My cats and I need your help, and so do our other animal friends. However, I would never ask you for money without offering something in exchange. All payments will be rewarded with Treats...so please check out the Treats page.

[Edit: The Weebly no longer exists, nor does the Treats page. This post has been reposted for historical purposes.]

[Edit: The Blogspot is being remodelled with Amazon image links; image-free posts are appearing at http://cat_sanctuary.livejournal.com . I've been promising to do this for many months. Here's a link to the source of the phrase "Creative Tightwaddery."]