phee update

So, P the cat developed a limp a while back, and went on painkillers 24.7 . I’m not sure he was entirely comfortable being in that state 24/7, but he wasn’t limping.

This leads to an operation to fix a loose kneecap (luxating patella). Basically he was walking with his kneecap on the side of his knee. Fortunately this is much less horrifying in cats, which seem a bit like the loose skin in ability to get away from predators. Also P has a high pain tolerance, which made if difficult to tell exactly what was broken & how. They fix it by basically tightening up the joint – shorten the ligament, deepen the groove where the ligament fits into the tibia, and make the bones line up more like a healthy knee. After all that, they had to go back in for something that was only apparent in the post-surgical x-rays.

After all that, in recovery he walked out of his crate and across the exam room without any sign of injury..

Thursday ~ September 2, 2010 by b

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animals don’t care?

There’s commonly an argument presented that cows / lab rats / cats / pigs / lobsters simply “don’t care” about some injury being done to them by experiments or farm life.

First, as proof to the contrary… humans are animals, and we care. Any solid argument that animals don’t care must provide solid evidence that we are somehow unique, proof that a specific mechanism exists uniquely in humans.

Second, not caring doesn’t mean giving consent. Some humans occasionally have bouts of strong depression. They might care about anything at all, and am basically incapable of caring for general purposes. I am a slug, and won’t really react differently than a despondent animal. However, killing a depressed person would be murder, and today I’d certainly want such a murderer to receive swift justice.

It’s bullshit. Humans did not invent pain or consciousness, nor completely change the biology of our lower nervous systems. I seriously doubt someone who’s been thinking of anti-AR arguments for even a few hours has proof to the contrary. We like to think we’re different biologically, but the differences are small and not always relevant to our major ethical concerns. Besides, treat a human “like an animal” for a while, and it’s well-known that the aforementioned human will “act like an animal”. Dealing with captivity doesn’t exactly require a college degree.

Almost all animals to hide pain, injury, and anything else that paints them as a victim. For example, consider a housecat. They live a rough-tumble-life, and beneath the fur are often wearing bruises, minor joint injuries, pulled muscles… when’s the last time you treated a cat for one of those, much less asked your vet for advice on dealing with them? There’s almost no evidence that they feel any less pain from those injuries – and there are reasons to think they’re more sensitive. They do, however, show signs of handling it well psychologically, in the same way that humans might. With major pain like broken limbs, cardiac pain, and similar, they act more like humans. When given post-surgical pain meds, a moderately high dosage for a while improves their prospects… just like with humans. They use the same pain meds (mostly) that we do, and there aren’t significant differences between the respective parts of our nervous systems.

Yet through it all, your housecat will hardly utter a peep out of pain or abuse. That’s simply not how they respond emotionally. They respond by hiding themselves or the injury, by submitting, by trying to curry favor, by what we’d normally call “toughing it out”. Animals do not live in democracies or anarchist utopias, much like humans did not for most of civilization. They live in hierarchies with clear social positioning and rules of social behavior. Crying out for every pain would be like someone crying out for their freedom every time they saw a list of rules about anything. It doesn’t get the desired attention, so it’s not an obvious thing to do. “Normal” humans don’t even think about it. For animals, don’t expect them to cry out even if retrieved from an overcrowded house thick with ammonia, covered in fleas and long-lasting injuries, and starving. Regardless of how well they respond to improvements (often they’re very happy), they do not complain under normal circumstances. Doing so can get them hurt or killed, even amongst human beings. It does not advance their prospects, unlike for a human crying out in pain. Even humans only react by crying out while among other humans, not nearly so much without their company.

Nonetheless, some still make the argument that animal abuse cannot exist (or cannot be as severe as human abuse) because an animal is unconscious (in some form… I’ve been waiting half my life to hear some evidence of the claim). Logical extension of that logic means that it’s ok to experiment on, injure, and rough up unconscious or less intelligent humans. I think many would agree that doing such things to an unconscious (sleeping) human may be even worse than doing them to a conscious human – because unconsciousness removes the ability for realistic, practical self-defense. The ability for creating an artistic masterpiece or advance science doesn’t really matter. It would disturb some if intelligence or particular moral creed did matter.

Tuesday ~ June 8, 2010 by b

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Animals in Idaho

There are a couple of issues brewing in Idaho over animal rights. Cockfighting and derailing the opposition.

First, Idaho has finally joined 40 other states in declaring cockfighting a felony. Yes, seriously, it was a misdemeanor and still is in some states. Idaho is not exactly on the forefront of animal rights legislation. OK, yay and go Idaho for passing important legislation, nonetheless.

Second, a state Senator is proposing a bill to maneuver around potential backlash to bring chicken farms into the state. HSUS was specifically declared as the primary “radical animal rights group” for its opposition. An advisory board on animal welfare has been formed. The board was not formed as a compromise or with the support of HSUS, and they do not consider it to represent their interests. I can’t say I blame them. Even though HSUS helped draft another part of the bill, they will not be welcome. In fact, many of the “animal welfare” groups listed are effectively unions and PACs for cattle farmers. No other groups have advocated in favor of animal welfare on a scale as large as HSUS in Idaho.

The board is usually presented by Idaho lawmakers as a step to preempt animal welfare groups by “proving” that Idaho is handling any animal cruelty, and appease anyone who might otherwise listen to them. Such boards are now commonly fought in other states as the existing opposition to animal welfare, and are generally considered a backward step among animal advocates. When one accuses a group of a crime, the alleged criminals do not belong on the jury.

HSUS is the organization that runs advertisements telling people not to abuse their animals, in the most common definition of abuse. They won acclaim among animal advocates for sending volunteers into NOLA after Katrina to rescue pets caught in the storm’s aftermath. Not exactly a revolutionary group trying to overthrow The Man. Labeling them as such without any clarification or any further description is simply trying to stir up prejudice.

Tuesday ~ March 2, 2010 by b

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exotic pets

I’m the caretaker of 2 housecats, and I’ve been known to wander around pet stores in the past. Not so much recently; they’re just too depressing. Animals kept in conditions that might merit ASCPA and local gov’t intervention, if they happened at someone’s house. I’d prefer not to reward the humans responsible, as a vegan.

But I do cast a skeptical (perhaps stronger) eye in the direction of keeping exotic animals as pets. For the sake of argument, I’m going to call any undomesticated animal taken directly from the wild to be “exotic”. Of course it’s a sliding scale. Nearly everything in biology is on a sliding scale.

First, exotic pets are shocked by the change in environment more than most conventional pets (cats and dogs) because they’ve been taken from one type of environment and placed in a radically different new environment.

Second, cats and dogs have actually evolved to live peaceably within an urban human culture. Even their negative behavior is suited for human civilization. Run into a stray dog or cat, and it’s entirely likely that the animal will follow you into your own home eagerly. Try getting a snake or tarantula to follow you into your home. Yes, that’s why it’s (relatively) uncommon. Animals are not blind to their environment; they think about it in ways that are arguably similar to human thought in terms of awareness and emotions – those aren’t higher functions unique to humans. That’s how animals survive in the wild. They solve problems. They don’t have relationships with another species to bring them food and tell them where to take a crap.

Third, humans recognize the warning signs that pets give. If a dog barks or a cat hisses at a human, odds are very high that the human will slowly back away in the least threatening way possible. We don’t recognize the same warnings in exotic pets quite so easily, very often. We have to consult field guides or experts, or do extensive research on the internet to understand any of their basic communication. Nevermind the specifics of their language, the difference between “let me out to pee right now” and “my food bowl is empty”.

Fourth, they just aren’t as healthy. Cats live twice as long when they’re confined indoors, and they’re far healthier during that lifespan, than compared to any cat (even a pet) living outdoors. Many exotic species won’t even mate and show signs of depression when confined indoors.

Fifth, they may actually be dangerous. My cat nips at my chin or hand when excited. She’s becoming very adept as doing it as softly as possible. Imagine if a snake, or a shark, or a poisonous spider, or a parrot did the same? Doesn’t seem quite as safe, does it. Domesticated animals know how to use their “weapons” in the least aggressive way possible when threatened, and do so very long after warning with the posture.

Sixth, medical care for an exotic pet is difficult at best. I’m a firm believer that when someone adopts a pet, they are responsible for giving the animal the same level of medical care they would provide anyone else. The pet cannot easily provide itself safety, and is living in a potentially new and hostile environment. If we’re going to subject an animal to that stress, we’re responsible for fixing resulting problems. Your cat may live longer as a pet, but he wouldn’t have digestive problems and a UTI in the wild. A vet may treat hundreds of dogs/cats in a week, and still basically patches up the rough edges and points things in the right direction. They know what diseases to expect, and how to treat them. A vet might not know any specific exotic species nearly as well. The first thing my vet asks when she sees me is how my cats are behaving, what’s new and unusual for them, and about any misbehavior. Those are the most critical components in initial diagnosis or detection of medical issues. At the very least, humans sympathize and understand conventional pets because they’re mammals, and not so different from ourselves. Roughly the same drugs, procedures, and tests. My vet regularly compares my cat’s health problems with the human equivalent, noting the exceptions.

Seventh, it radically disrupts any sense of territory and how to relate to it, essentially destroying and recreating an animal’s social environment. Many wild animals confined to a cage as pets have ranges extending for miles in any direction. Defended by force. A human has effectively just used force to seize that territory. Not a good start to the relationship. My once-feral cat still jumps and hides at the sound of banging metal, desperately scrambling away from even me, ever since being captured in a cage. That was more than 6 years ago, half his full lifespan.

Sixth, the food an exotic pet receives lacks variety. This causes some relatively rare health problems. Male housecats get UTIs and kidney stones from additives in pet food.

Eighth, it prevents a good number of instinctual behaviors. It entirely prevents mating behavior, often considered one of the strongest drives in a species (when it’s active). It prevents building a nest – something I’ve seen cats and dogs dog with ease by comparison. It stops the exercise an animal received from patroling his/her range.

Ninth, it exposes an animal to unusual substances, without any benefit of socialization from others of its species about avoidance. My cats navigate my house with a greater eye on safety, that’s more accurately assessed, than any human toddler I’ve ever seen. My cats don’t stick claws in electrical sockets, reach for pots on the stove, avoid any spills, and generally can investigate substances cautiously and honestly as safely as I would.

Tenth, the bad treatment of the animals begin before they’re received. Exotic animal providers seem to care about the animals in roughly the same was as puppy mills – dollar first, then whatever essential care can be cheaply provided. Animals die in transport. Animals die (or are killed) and are injured while being caught. Social structures – essentially families – are entirely destroyed without attempt to keep the affected animals together as a group. Absolutely zero care is ever shown about the emotional health of the animals – which is practically consider abuse legally in much of the country.

Emotions are some of the simplest, most basic forms of thought. They are not unique to humans; in fact, they’re so ubiquitous in the animal kingdom that drugs for emotional problems are regularly tested on dogs. They have the same mental health issues as humans, acquired predictably in similar ways. The success record at finding the ones that work is pretty horrible for those drugs, but that’s another post.

Lastly, exotic pets are typically not rescue animals. Actually rescued animals are generally found by professionals, and are rehabilitated into returning to the wild whenever possible. Cats? Dogs? There’s an over-abundance of potential rescues from them.

Friday ~ January 8, 2010 by b

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euthanasia and reality

There’s a dust-up about an animal shelter in Toronto that was found to have quite a few mistreated, malnourished animals dying in pain. The shelter happened to be a no-kill shelter in name… but from what I’ve heard, they didn’t follow the well-established policies of no-kill shelters. Clean cages and untreated painful terminal illness have nothing to do with whether the shelter is no-kill and doesn’t kill to control its population. In the U.S., the ASPCA is moving to no-kill shelters everywhere, because they work even better at improving animals lives for a given amount of money. More than not killing to solve shelter overcrowding, it’s an entire set of policies that is labeled “no-kill” by convention. Given the horror cases I’ve heard, even peta (yes, that peta) euthanizes more readily in their shelters than the shelter in Toronto, to stop suffering from terminal conditions.

I had a cat who I ordered euthanized. He had congestive heart failure, and would probably have spent several days feeling as if he were drowning, ultimately having a rather painful death while possibly alone. I was prepared to spend what would be reasonably required to make him healthy. It’s not an easy decision for anyone, and points out how humans treat the deaths of other humans differently, including euthanasia. Most people apparently consider the least cruel treatment they can afford, for any treatment a vet can provide. The way which provides the best quality of life. It’s not hard to see why we make the decision to spend money on medical procedures on a pet. When we accept them into human society as pets to be loved, we have an obligation to give them the best life possible.

Your obligation to another is identical to that being’s rights.

Pets really are creatures adapted to live inside human society. They form feral colonies otherwise, but those aren’t stable or safe in the same way as a pack of wolves or a herd of deer. They actually live much shorter lives on their own outside. A rescue cat brought to the vet seems to be considered a set of (unknown) medical problems that’s just short of an emergency. The cat may simply be too old to survive at 2 years. A house cat’s life outdoors is rough, short, and psychologically damaging. Their ideal social life is among humans, in what would otherwise be unhealthy captivity in an undomesticated species. If you doubt that pets have a personality, a psychological makeup backing the idea… consider that psychiatric medications are routinely tested on dogs to gauge their effectiveness. They’ve evolved to be with us. It is the responsibility and obligation of humans to improve their lives, wherever possible.

The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.
—Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties.… The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.
—Charles Darwin

My condolences if you need to euthanize your own pet. It’s not easy. But if you can muster it up, it’s possibly better to be there. I’ve heard several times that when their caretakers leave, pets continue to look for them.

Monday ~ December 7, 2009 by b

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My cat Cherry went to her vet earlier this week, so her vet could take a few biopsies of her digestive tract. We already knew she has a disease that would require some sort of treatment, it was simply a matter of which. Her biopsy results have come back, and they are basically good. She has a very treatable condition, basically irritable bowel disease (IBD) possibly resolved with the change in diet I made several weeks ago. Also, the biopsy results rule cancer out, which was a very real concern.

Cherry is doing quite well. She’s currently enjoying the fading bits of her last pain meds, which apparently worked wonderfully. For perspective, she’s 1/2 to 2/3 the size of an average adult housecat, and her incision looks to be about 3 inches long. She is healing wonderfully so far, and is basically acting like a somewhat sleepy cat. Currently I’m crossing my fingers that she doesn’t have problems as the painkiller wears off, but even that’s rather unlikely.

She’s had no symptoms since she went under, thus the therapeutic biopsy possibly cured her. At least, that’s the joke.

Friday ~ September 4, 2009 by b

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There’s a new cat in my house. Cherry. I didn’t name her, don’t blame me. Anyway, to sum up her personality, she is aggressively affectionate. She also eats with gusto I really am not sure I want to see in a cat I live with. But, she is completely harmless and non-resistant to humans. To Phee, however…

Phee is keeping his distance, currently about 2-4 cat-lengths (minus tail). This is much better than when violence appeared imminent, and he could barely enter the same room. He seems quite intent on figuring her out, however, regardless of whether she’s staking out her territory to defend.

Thursday ~ April 10, 2008 by blog

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goodbye, Kitty

Kitty didn’t make it.

This morning, I got the call from the nurse that he wasn’t doing better, then the call from the doctor that he was in fact doing much worse. He was non-responsive to the drug given for congestive heart failure, which is really the last step.

For 11 years, Kitty was my most consistent and reliable companion, and in a weird but related way, my best friend. The end came fast, and was as painless and comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

I miss him in a way that “pet” doesn’t begin to cover.

Wednesday ~ October 24, 2007 by b

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Kitty at the vet

Kitty is at the extra-special vet, hopefully getting better.

Yesterday, I took him into the vet with labored breathing, unkempt fur, and lethargy. Vet put him on oxygen and sedated him promptly, then tapped about 1 cup of fluid from his left lung. They have not tapped his right lung yet, but suspect it is in similar condition. Fluid was basically transparent, but upon closer analysis has particulate matter suspended in it. He’s still under oxygen and sedated, although he was awake when I last saw him.

His everyday vet said she had never pulled that much fluid from a cat’s lung. I saw the x-rays, and having seen my own chest x-rays recently… they looked a lot worse than mine when they intubated me in the ER (that’s my only comparison).

They’re doing an echo and ultrasound asap, he need to chill out for a bit to relax first. He took a swipe at one of the vet techs (good kitty). His left lung partially re-filled with fluid overnight.

Possible diagnoses include heart failure, infection, cancer (possibly in metastasis), a local tumor… it’s all pretty serious stuff, and definitely not a cold or simple pnuemonia, even. I’ll post more when there’s additional news.

Wednesday ~ October 24, 2007 by b

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geek cat

Phee has just stolen off with a (unused and unneeded) SATA cable coiled up with a rubber band and is batting it about like some some particularly enticing cat toy. Stalking it. Running up and pouncing on it. Batting it around fiercely like a mouse with both front paws. Carrying it off in his mouth like conquered prey. I can’t decide whether to be angry or proud.

Sunday ~ June 3, 2007 by b

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