Sad Day as Illinois Lifts Bobcat Hunting Ban

Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill that lifts Illinois’ bobcat hunting ban on July 15. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016, according to the Chicago Tribune, and will allow hunters to kill one bobcat per season. The cat, which is not nearly as big as some in the Illinois general assembly said it is, was hunted until it nearly disappeared from the state. It was taken off of the threatened species list in 1999.

One of the problems is that, in lifting the bobcat hunting ban, Rauner ignored the vast majority of voters in Illinois. A month ago, the Humane Society of the United States posted the results of a poll showing that over 70 percent of Illinois voters wanted the bobcat hunting ban to remain in place. That was true in all parts of the state.

The general assembly pushed myths and lies to get support for lifting the bobcat hunting ban

The Tribune correctly notes that bobcats are reclusive creatures. Yet, as I pointed out when I last wrote about this, some in the general assembly built their cases on falsehoods. State representative Ed Sullivan (D-Mundelein) actually asked others to imagine a 60-pound bobcat that can kill something ten times its weight. He also asked them to imagine one carrying off a child, or even a small woman. This is literally not possible for bobcats

Bobcats are small, roughly 17-30 pounds, and they do not like people. We’re not their natural prey, and they instinctively stay away from us. Big Cat Rescue says that, when we see bobcats, it’s generally because we’ve either taken their habitat, or hunters have taken their prey. Bobcats are smart, though, and they are able to live alongside humans with no trouble. They can also help to keep rodent populations in check, which is an asset to farmers and ranchers.

The Tribune says that some people would dispute that bobcats can live alongside us with no trouble, saying that people are worried for their children’s safety and also that of their livestock. The biggest problem we have when it comes to wild predators is misinformation, and these fears are based on misinformation.

Bobcats are a vital part of the Illinois ecosystem

Furthermore, as former Governor Pat Quinn said when he vetoed the bobcat hunting ban in January of this year, bobcats are a valuable part of the ecosystem. Rauner, however, loves sport hunting and fishing. That is likely why he signed the bill; he’s kowtowing to his own recreation, and to the hunters in Illinois.

Killing one bobcat per hunter, per season, doesn’t sound like much. It doesn’t sound like that kind of a limit will allow hunters to once again devastate Illinois’ bobcat population, but it adds up. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that there’s no reason to hunt bobcats other than to “protect” the hunters’ favorite game from competition. They also want the trophies, and some likely want to make some money selling the fur.

We needed the bobcat hunting ban to remain in effect. Unfortunately, the lies, the misinformation, and the special interests won the day.

Is it Best to Feed Cats Dry or Wet Food?

We all try to feed our cats the best possible diets, but with so many different foods out there, how do we know what is actually the best? There are all sorts of information out there about what’s best for their internal health, their dental health, their energy levels, even their cognitive function. However, the first thing to consider is whether it’s best to feed cats dry or wet food.

The arguments for dry food

For a very long time, vets recommended their clients feed dry food for dental health. However, lately, vets, especially younger vets, have started recommending their clients feed wet food to their cats. Why is that? According to Petplace, vets are not 100 percent sure whether it’s best to feed your cat dry or wet food. However, Dr. Particia Kuhly says that recent studies actually indicate that wet food is better.

The consistent argument for dry food seems to be dental, but Petplace says that veterinary dentists aren’t thrilled about using dry food for teeth-cleaning purposes. They believe that relying solely on crunchy foods to keep teeth clean is akin to relying on an apple a day to keep your own dentist away.

Another consideration in whether to feed cats dry or wet food is storage. Dry food is easier to store, and often lasts longer. Wet food, by contrast, has to be refrigerated after it’s opened, which can get a little difficult if you’re not feeding a full can at each meal. You can also leave dry food out, so your cat can eat whenever he’s hungry, and you have one less thing to think about in the morning, or in the evening after a long day.

Whether to feed cats dry or wet food depends on a lot

Dry foods also contribute to urinary tract problems, and diets out there to treat urinary problems are basically the pet food industry trying to address a problem they themselves created.

On the other hand, wet foods seem to aid urinary health, along with helping to manage kidney disease and the formation of stones and crystals. It also seems to help with the development of idiopathic cystitis, which is an inflammation of the bladder that causes bloody urine and frequent trips to the litter box. Studies are increasingly pointing to wet food as the right choice when deciding whether to feed cats dry or wet food.

Health should be a consideration in deciding whether to feed cats dry or wet food

PetMD says that, as long as either food is nutritionally balanced, then whether to feed cats dry or wet food comes down to taste and lifestyle. However, Dr. Karen Becker cites a specific study that linked dry food to feline lower urinary tract disease. Most of the cats in the study, who developed urethral obstructions, were fed a diet of only dry food.

Another study that Dr. Becker cites fed cats that suffered from feline idiopathic cystitis a diet of wet food, and others a diet of dry food. Only 11 percent of the cats on the wet food diet had a recurrence, while 39 percent of the cats on the dry food diet had a recurrence.

There are other studies, but it’s looking more and more like the debate over whether to feed cats dry or wet food is shifting towards wet food. Raw food would be better, and we feed our cats a homemade, raw food diet, but many people have neither the time, nor the storage space, for that. If you feed your cat dry food, consider also feeding wet food at least once a day, to help her get the moisture she needs that she’s not getting from her water.

Leash Training your Cat: How to do it, and Why you Should

Everybody walks their dogs on leashes, but not many people think about leash training their cat. Lots of cats actually enjoy going outside, and if you have an indoor-only cat that stares longingly out the window, there’s no reason not to take her outside as long as she remains under your control. Here’s why you should consider leash training your cat, and how to do it.

Why leash training your cat is a good idea

Besides letting your cat enjoy the outdoors safely, leash training your cat can help to strengthen the bond between you, according to The Huffington Post, because it gives you a new experience together. It can also be part of your cat’s enrichment, particularly if she’s indoor-only. You can only give her so many new experiences inside, but outside is always new. There are different smells and sounds at different times of year, and different animals and bugs, too.

There are even differences between morning, afternoon and night. You can take her for walks at different times of day, and let her experience everything. Leash training your cat so you can take her outside can help alleviate indoor boredom, and the stress that comes with that boredom.

Steps for leash training your cat

It’s important to remember that not all cats will take to a leash with a harness. If your cat just can’t handle it, don’t push her. You don’t want to upset her. But how do you know if your cat will like a leash and harness? Step one is to buy a harness; don’t attach the leash to her collar. A harness pulls on her chest, not her throat, so there’s a lot less risk of injury to your cat if she tries to run off.

1. Start with the harness

Start leash training your cat by having treats nearby, and try to put the harness on her. Give her a treat, and just rest the harness on her neck. Get her used to you “fidgeting” around her neck and throat. The treats will help keep her calm, and associate something positive with the experience. Go slowly, and work with her until she lets you snap it around her neck.

Once she accepts this, then you can work with her on wearing the harness for a few minutes at a time. Always work in steps, and always have treats nearby. The more she loves the treat, the more positive the experience will be for her, so don’t use the same treats every time. Use cat treats, cold cuts, tuna; mix it up. It’ll be more effective. Do this until she’s comfortable with the harness.

2. Attach the leash

The next step with leash training your cat is to attach the leash to the harness. When you do this the first time, let her drag it around, but remain near her in case the leash gets caught on something. Do not leave her alone while she’s got the leash attached to the harness. Here, too, is a good time to use treats, because she might find the leash awkward and strange.

3. Teach her to respond to your subtle direction

When she seems accustomed to having the leash, you can start training her to walk on it. Keep your voice low and gentle; cats don’t respond to commands the way dogs do. Encourage her, and try to avoid showing frustration. This, too, is a good time to give her some treats, especially when she does what you want her to, like come to you when you tug. Remember, though, to tug very gently. You don’t want to hurt her or scare her.

4. Take her outside

Once your confident that she’ll respond to your direction, you can start taking her outside. The final step to leash training your cat, however, is actually to put her leash and harness on inside, and then carry her outside and set her down. This will help teach her that she’s only allowed outside when you carry her; she can’t go out on her own.

You may have to be more careful going in and out of your house without her, because if she really enjoys the outdoors, she might start trying to sneak out, even if you try to teach her that she can’t go out unless you’re carrying her.

It’s very important to remember that not all cats take to a leash and harness, and if this is the case with your cat, it’s okay. She might just really like looking out the window, and that’s fine. Don’t force her; you might damage the bond you have with her. Leash training your cat should be an enjoyable, bond-strengthening experience for the both of you. Enjoy, and good luck!

Keeping Cats out of your Yard Humanely

Almost every neighborhood has stray or feral cats. Some have a considerably larger problem than others, and some people aren’t happy about it, especially if the cats are causing damage. The damage could be minor, like digging up plants after using the flower bed as a litter box, or it could be a little more major. Either way, even cat lovers can admit that such things are annoying. However, rounding these cats up, or finding ways to hurt them while they’re on your property, isn’t likely to help. There are humane ways of keeping cats out of your yard that can also be more effective.

Image by genocre, licensed under Public Domain via Pixabay

Keeping cats out of your yard might mean just planting certain plants

Generally, planting plants that cats don’t like is the best way to do this. According to SFGate, lavender, pennyroyal and rue herb are good for keeping cats out of your yard. Cats don’t like the scents of these plants, and will avoid them because of that.

Alley Cat Allies says that another possibility is to sprinkle lemon and orange peel around your fence line and borders, and use a citrus-scented spray on your plants and soil. This will smell nice to you, but citrus can be too strong for cats. Plants like curry herb and lemon balm around the fence line and borders can also help; cats like neither the odor, nor the texture, of these plants, and do tend to avoid them.

Image of lavender by StillWorksImagery, licensed under Public Domain via Pixabay

Use the plants in your garden, or other creative means, to deter cats

If the problem is in your garden, you can arrange branches in an artful lattice over the soil, and plant small plants in the spaces between them. Cats won’t like stepping over the branches, especially if they’re hard to see. Embedding pine cones in the soil, with the tips sticking up, or putting out carpet runners with the spikes up will keep cats out, too.

Ultimately, you don’t want to plant things you know are toxic for the purpose of keeping cats out of your yard. You could wind up with very sick, or dead, cats in your yard if you do that. If you’ve tried keeping cats out of your yard with everything you can think of, then you might want to do something like plant a stand of catnip somewhere you don’t mind having the cats, to draw them away from the rest of your yard. You might also consider tilling the soil over there to act as a litter box, so they’re less inclined to use other places in your yard.

It’s important to remember that all cats are not the same, and what works on some cats won’t work on others. You might have to do some trial and error before you find something at works. However, there are a lot of options for humanely keeping cats out of your yard and garden, so take heart. The problem is not hopeless.

Where Cats Like Being Pet the Most

You love to pet your cat, and your cat loves to be pet. Despite all her reactions, all her body language, you might have wondered where cats like being pet. Now, science has actually figured out where cats like being pet, at least, in two small-scale studies. Are any of these true of your cat?

Where cats like being pet the most

The primary study mentioned in a recent article in the Washington Post found that cats really like being pet on the head. This is especially true of their faces; where cats like being pet the most is their cheeks, chins, and even their mouths; all these are their favorite places for things like tiny, soft strokes and small scratches.

We can definitely see that in our own cats; when they want attention, it’s their faces they rub on us. Kali, Chase and Aria will all rub their cheeks and foreheads on us, and they love chin scratching. Gizmo is kind of an outlier, because her favorite place to be pet is right on top of her head. She headbutts, but she doesn’t really rub her chin and cheeks on us.

One possible reason that this is where cats like being pet the most is because this is where a lot of their scent glands are. They could be wired to enjoy having those areas touched and pressed to encourage them to frequently spread their scent. Cats have scent glands elsewhere, too, like in their paw pads, which is one reason why they scratch posts, furniture, trees, and more. Anything to mark their territory as thoroughly as possible.

Everywhere else

The Washington Post article says that cats consider their backs as “meh” petting territory. They also consider their paws and flanks as “meh” territory. I don’t know about your cats, but Chase, Kali and Aria love having their backs pet and scratched. Gizmo, again, is the outlier here. In fact, I’m pretty sure Kali walks away from her bowl in the middle of a meal for the sole purpose of making me scratch her back. She is one cat that definitely doesn’t consider her back to be “meh” petting territory.

Stroking all four of our cats along their backs makes them sleepy, when they’re in the mood for attention. It’s relaxing to them. One thing that the researchers put forth is that cats think of petting as a type of grooming activity, which is calming and reassuring for cats.

Places where cats like being pet do not include their tails, or more specifically, the bases of their tails. The researchers who conducted the study found that the base of cats’ tails is very sensitive, possibly because it’s an erogenous zone. Petting or scratching the base of the tail might overstimulate the area, so they don’t like it. Aria certainly doesn’t like it; she starts mewing in protest whenever we touch the base of her tail.

Despite all this scientific research, where cats like being pet the most may come down do how they were socialized, what kind of grooming they received as kittens, and what kind of attention they get at home. For each of our individual cats, the best way to determine where they like to be pet is to study their behavior, and their reactions, when you pet different parts of their bodies.

Fireworks Scare Cats, So Keep Your Cat Inside Today

It’s the 4th of July, which means picnics, barbeques, and celebrating with friends and family. It also means fireworks, both large and small. Here in Illinois, most fireworks are illegal without a permit, but with fireworks legal in both Wisconsin and Indiana, it’s difficult to keep them out of Chicagoland. Whether they’re legal or not, people like to fire them off. Add that to the louder, bigger fireworks in local shows, and you actually start running into a problem with pets. Fireworks scare cats, and the 4th of July is one of the worst times of year for lost cats.

A lot of pets get lost on July 4th, because of fireworks

An article on My News LA says that the 4th of July is typically the busiest time of year for animal control officers. While they’re speaking specifically of Los Angeles County, it’s a good bet that this is true everywhere. Fireworks scare cats and dogs, especially if they’re outside. Even if they’re tethered, they can either break loose or injure themselves trying to get away.

According to Petplace, a full-blown phobia of these sounds isn’t all that common in cats, the way it can be in dogs. The fact that loud sounds like that make cats run and hide could be why, however, it doesn’t mean they’ll be safe during this holiday. Fireworks scare cats, of all types, to some degree. Some just get a little nervous, while others will disappear under the bed, into a cupboard, or anywhere else that feels safe.

Imagine, though, that your cat is outdoors when the fireworks start going off. Here’s what happens then: Cats that are outdoors hear the loud booms (that, let’s face it, can sound like a cannon going off), and they run off in search of sufficient cover, the way they would if they were inside. If they can’t find it in your yard, they’ll go somewhere else. When fireworks scare cats, they’ll go anywhere to find relative safety.

What does this kind of fear look like? Petplace says that anti-social behavior, wide eyes with large pupils, and hiding all indicate a fear of loud sounds. This isn’t limited just to fireworks; you might also see this during thunderstorms, and other loud events.

Very rarely, you’ll see more severe behavior, like puffed out fur, hissing, and their bodies are hunkered down and very tense. If you see this, it’s best to leave your cat alone, because he might attack you if you scare him worse.

How to help when fireworks scare cats

The best way to protect your cat is to keep him inside today. Even if he has a collar with an ID tag, and a microchip (both of which are good to have if your cat goes outside anyway), you could lose him because of the fireworks. Inside, the sounds are more muffled, and he’s got safe places to hide.

When fireworks scare cats, the best thing to do is just let them be. Frightened cats are very defensive, and you risk injury if you try to pick up your cat, or pet him, or pull him out of his hidey-hole. Remember, he’s where he feels safest for the time being.

Now that you know fireworks scare cats, remember that the best way to keep him safe is to keep him inside during tonight’s celebrations. You’re less likely to lose him, and he might be calmer throughout the evening.