Archive for the ‘FAQ’ Category

posted by Michel on Jan 13

Absolutely not! The number of places where such a balance (let alone “nature”) exists are increasingly rare in the modern world. Let’s not forget that humankind is in fact the only species on this planet that keeps breeding irrespective of adverse conditions such as e.g. prolonged famine. All other species have a natural regulatory mechanism that prevent births in such conditions until things are looking up. What I mean to say is that nature is very well capable of looking after itself. Hunting therefore is purely for “pleasure” nowadays. You will find that hunters claim they only “control” populations that would otherwise turn into “pests”. Not so! Considering there is very little natural habitat left these days, arguably it’s us that may be considered the pest. Hunting is certainly no sport, since the victims stand no chance at all against the advanced long range weaponry that is used against them. That’s not sport, it’s masacre!

Well, that’s my personal view anyway. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out this interesting web site for some interesting opinions: Edenbridge Town or this one: League Against Cruel Sports which has facts on “pest-control”.

posted by Michel on Jan 2

Happy New Year everyone!

I’d like to start the new year with how to introduce a new cat into your home. We’ve done this quite a few times now and most recently, twice over the past festive season.

Felines can be hard to understand at times. One of such times is invariably when you need to introduce a new cat into your home. If the new cat is the first of its kind, there aren’t really any problems. However, if you have other furry felines that have already taken possession of your abode, you have a challenge ahead of you! Most of them will not take kindly to the “intruder”.

Disclaimer: Although the method describes below has worked for us many times, it does depend on the individual characters of the cats involved, so your mileage may vary.

Here goes:

  • Prepare a separate room with food, water, a cat toilet and a nice warm spot to rest (the cat, that is!)
  • The new cat should enter the house in a proper travel cage, rather than trying to hold to him or her by hand. To gauge reactions, place the cage in the living room and see what happens. They will all hiss at each other or make other noise. Good! Now they all know that something’s up.
  • Show the new cat to his of her own room and close the door so the poor thing can get a bit of rest and start exploring his own domain. Do enter the room frequently and give the newcomer some loving attention and treats. Keep the room closed for a few days.
  • After a few days, leave the door open during the day. This is a critical phase because if you have a very avid “defender” in the house, he or she will try to scare away the intruder. But by now the new cat should know his surroundings enough to withstand all but the most violent reactions.
  • Depending on the new cat’s disposition, it will carefully start exploring the surroundings outside of its now familiar domain, running into the other residents occasionally. Intervene only when violence breaks out, hissing and screaming is OK.
  • After about a week, you may start thinking about leaving the door open full time. In case of very good progression, move the cat toilet outside of the room, towards where it would normally be kept. You may also start feeding now in the usual place. Just like with humans, wining and dining together strengthens the bonds.
  • After two weeks, the new cat will be moving more freely around the house although it still feels most comfortable in its own room. If you’re lucky, it might even find a few spots where it can rest without being bothered by the rest of the gang. In fact, friendships might start to develop already.
  • If necessary, stimulate a more hesitant cat to leave the room by placing the toilet and foods and drinks outside, progressively more towards where these items would be situated normally.

Well, that’s about it really. Everyone should now be (fairly) happy and on terms with the new status quo.

There are other tricks too that perhaps I should mention. I never felt the need to use them, but in case of poor results they might help:

  • Rub the newcomer with a towel. Now rub all resident cats with that same towel. This mingles their specific odours and creates a “group” odour which helps them accept each other’s presence.
  • On a similar note, exchange the cat toilets with the one(s) the resident cats use.
  • Lock the resident cats in a separate room (it could even be the one that the new cat’s been in) so the newcomer has the chance to get to know his way around the house.
  • Place one of the cats inside a travel cage in the living room, so the other(s) can sniff out the surroundings. Alternate with the new cat and the resident one(s).
  • Most cats will find kittens easier to accept, but don’t let that stop you from taking in an adult cat.

posted by Michel on Dec 8

Ever since I was a child, I’ve wondered about why we humans think of ourselves as special and above other animals. Do we really deserve such status? Not if you look at the mismanagement of our surroundings and the disastrous way man treats animals, domestic and wild alike. I was also intrigued by the notion that living beings, including plants, and perhaps even inanimate natural objects such as rocks, have something you might refer to as a “soul”. Of course, for our pets and closer natural relatives the mammals, this is easier to imagine. Having come of age, I realise that to many of us, these questions are answered by religion. Although I’m certainly religious myself and was brought up as a Catholic, I do not support one single traditional religion, but rather borrow useful ideas from the ones I’m more familiar with and mix them with my own convictions. Even so, I suppose that my own theories on the subject still stand.

Animals have varying degrees of intelligence and cuddliness, which applies to individuals from our own species too, but all creatures on this planet of ours have one thing in common: we all have the right to be here and lead the life that was intended for us. Whatever you call that force of nature that put us here, it’s given us all a chance for life and there is no obvious reason why man should spoil it for the rest. What I mean is, just because we think we’re so smart, does that give us the right to disregard everybody else’s rights and needs?

Since “heaven” is a religious concept, just out of interest I’ve collected a few links about what the Bible has to say about animals, whether they go to heaven and whether we truly can be held responsible for their well-being. The results may be surprising, here goes:

  • In this article, Animals in the Bible, you will find various statements as to how we are responsible for the animals around us.
  • The following link, Animals of the Bible, lists the species that are mentioned specifically in the Bible. Clearly, the Bible is not a scientific work, so the list is very small compared to what we know now, but it’s very interesting nonetheless.
  • There is a book, aptly named The Animals’ Bible which deals with our “stewardship of the Earth” as they call it, from a relgious and biblical point of view.
  • On the site Eternal Animals they mention a very interesting book: “Who says animals go to heaven?”, a collection of statements by various church leaders and ministers of all denominations.
  • This is a web page which asks the same question: biblical donkey

In fact, you will find many references to pets and animals and heaven on Internet and above are only a few of those that I encountered. So we can easily say that there is a lot of interest in the subject.

Which brings me back to my own convictons. Yes, I do believe that animals and ourselves will be reunited in another spiritual place, where the essence of our existence, the soul if you like, dwells. And if a sense of responsibility or guardianship doesn’t convince you to treat animals right, perhaps the fear of when you will next run in to that elephant you shot during your meagre existence on this planet, will …

posted by Michel on Nov 17

We are led to believe that they are. However, when you consider that many so-called scientific tests are related to totally non-essential products such as cosmetics and that there are many good animal-friendly alternatives, we can conclude that such tests are far from necessary. The very least we can do is to eliminate animal testing for non-essential products, which would already save the lives of millions of animals. Of course, before any products are deemed fit for human consumption, they must be completely safe. There is simply no argument against that. But is it morally acceptable to abuse our fellow creatures simply because they cannot protest their fate? Even though so many viable alternatives exist? I think not!

For more information on the subject, please check out the web site of PETA U.K. where you can order campaign material and find out which companies abuse animals by performing tests on them. You can also read more on the alternatives to animal testing on the web site of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods.

posted by Michel on Oct 13

That depends! If they are domesticated species, such as dogs, cats, horses and so on and provided they are treated well, they may actually enjoy the training sessions, just like our own dog Tessa does! Wild species however, even when the animals were bred in captivity, do NOT belong in a circus. They don’t respond well to animal-friendly training methods, such as the ones commonly used for dogs, so that their trainers must use less accepted means to get their animals to perform tricks. Apart from that, housing the often exotic species is far from ideal, small cages are the only practical means of keeping them out of harm’s way, not to mention the level of stress induced by the frequent travel and being faced by huge crowds on a nearly daily basis. Needless to say, wild animals are totally unsuited to circus life because they have no way of expressing their natural behaviour.

Update July 2009: here’s what I mean, the poor things are abused as well! Watch this disgraceful undercover footage from PeTA in which those friendly circus trainers bash their elephants around …

As an alternative to the traditional circus, there is a famous circus that only uses human performers: Cirque du Soleil, that does a tremendous show I’ve heard. The Chinese State Circus also put up a great show with their excellent acrobatic skills. Much better than watching those poor beasts performing cheap tricks.

posted by Michel on Oct 1

Most definitely! IDs come in all sorts of variations, such as the now very common implanted chip or the ever popular small necklace.

Why should you ID your pet? Well, if something happens to your pet (e.g. a puppy that runs away and gets lost, or worse, a car accident) the police and vet will immediately be able to trace the pet back to you. Many thousands of lost pets are returned to their happy owners every day this way.

The chip, which is smaller than a grain of rice, is inserted under the skin with a regular injection needle and will be assimilated in the fat tissue there. With a special reader, the code that this tiny electronic device contains, may be read and the code is looked up to reveal the owner’s data. Many organisations allow change of ownership (of course, I prefer the term “guardianship”) to be done interactively on a web site.

I prefer to ID our animals with a small necklace too, so in addition to their chip. A necklace is usually a small tube attached to the collar from which the top may be unscrewed to reveal a piece of paper with identification data, like your address and phone number. Or it could be a small hanger with just your phone number. The thing is, the chip cannot be detected by the average person, so it’s quite possible that friendly passers-by will adopt your lost puppy, thinking it belongs to no one. It could be years before the chip is discovered during a visit to the vet. If the necklace is lost, e.g. by getting caught behind a tree branch or something, then there is still the chip. By combining the necklace with the chip, you can’t go wrong easily.

posted by Michel on Sep 30

Not a pretty subject this time. Sometime ago, the Netherlands was shocked by repeated horrific stories in the news that horses in the field were badly mutilated, sexually assaulted and often killed. For a long time this shady character managed to keep law enforcement officers and volunteers alike at bay. Locally, he was known as the “Twente Executioner” after the region where most of his victims were found. Until one day, thank God, he was caught. Investigations showed that this man was a known and convicted psychopath with a taste for extreme and sexually oriented violence.

I’m not saying that, God forbid, all animal molesters are as bad as this particularly foul example, but it does show that to people with a violent nature, preying on the vulnerable and innocent, there’s very little distinction between an animal and a child. Although neglect is not always the same as active abuse, the same principle applies: the molester’s mental condition is potentially dangerous to both animal and human. This is the principal reason why you should ALWAYS report animal abuse to the authorities. If it’s not to protect the animals, then certainly to protect the children.

On a more global level, I feel that there can be no “cultural” excuses for animal abuse either. Bull fights, dog fights, clubbing of baby seals, just to name a view, are examples of how we are showing our children that it is OK to be cruel to animals. Whatever the excuse may be, economic, festivity or otherwise, apparently there appear to be plenty of good reasons for this misbehaviour. So if it’s OK to be cruel to animals, where do you draw the line? Thus, many children all over the world will grow up not knowing where the fine line between responsible behaviour and abuse is. Risky business! And it’s coming back to haunt us already if I interpret the current state of affairs in international newspapers correctly …..

Edit April 2009: I found a web site that mentions research into this subject by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The article ishere. If you read the article, be prepared for some horrific details of what unsavoury stuff our “fellow humans” are capable of …

posted by Michel on Sep 29

Just imagine that your sense of smell is many thousands of times beter than what it is now. Wouldn’t you think your “tastes” would differ wildly from your current ones, which after all are only based on our very limited perspective? And if a species evolved to take full advantage of those skills, wouldn’t the inherently see the world entirely different than us?

Of course they would! To remain within our own species, just go on holiday to some exotic place a few hours away by plane and you can already notice the difference: different foods, different spices, different tastes. So cross-species the differences are bound to be even more different. Of course, I’m also flabbergasted at our dog’s fascination with another dog’s behind where unsavoury odours (not to mention the more obvious) come forth. However, I’m convinced that with their acute sense of smell, they’re able to go that extra distance and distinguish the rather mundane from the real information that dogs find so interesting about each other such as, sex, age, status, health, all in a single sniff!

How does this translate to your regular visits to the pet food section? Well, I abhor those ads on television which are designed to appeal to US, to OUR limited abilities. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that what we find appetising, will be good for our pets. Tessa does not care about the colour of the tin’s wrapper. Natasha certainly doesn’t appreciate the carefully selected additive perfumes. In fact, Mickey developed a nasty rash because of artificial colouring in one product that I bought because he liked the taste so much.

Buy the healthy variety, the one that’s backed by science rather than show. It may cost more, but your pet will live longer and lead a happier and active life. It may also help reduce those odours I mentioned earlier, even the ones we can smell …

posted by Michel on Sep 29

In many countries, animals have the same legal status as your PC, i.e. it is a “thing” that you own. Say that someone kills your dog. Than effectively he has damaged your property, no more, no less. Fortunately, in some countries there is a Prevention of Cruelty to Animals law (enforced I would hope) that allows the police to take action against those heartless b*st*rds that hurt animals, but otherwise the only thing you can do is claim damages. This obviously completely disregards the emotional bond that caring humans tend to have with animals in their care.

So, this raises the question of the nature of our legal relationship with our pets: do we simply “own” them or is there more to it than that? Recently, there has been a lot of talk about responsible pet ownership. Of course, this is only a minimal requirement. We are morally (and should be legally) responsible for our pet’s well being. Others want to go further than that and say that you cannot own a living creature like you own a car and so you are the guardian of the pets that you look after. Personally, I really like the idea of guardianship. When I think of my own pets, there is no doubt that the nature of my relationship with Luca, one of our cats, is of a very different and much more interactive level than the relationship I have with, say, my sofa. Luca shows happiness, tells me when he’d like dinner and even lets me know he’s not feeling well. Needless to say, my sofa never does any of that. Which in my mind proves the point: animals, even farm animals and wildlife, are a different story altogether and therefore need to be given the legal status they deserve. Better still: those that maltreat them should be brought to justice!

posted by Michel on Sep 26

Modern training methods are based on stimulating behaviour that you want by giving treats and simply (but completely) ignoring behaviour that you don’t want. This of course a tremendous improvement over previous, less animal-friendly methods. So you think you have trained your canine friend well? He or she sits, lies down, comes when you call and shakes a paw. Of course, your friend has earned a just reward after performing all those commands. But have you ever wondered who trains who? From your dog’s perspective, summoning you to come up with a cuddle or a doggy biscuit is as easy as sitting up nicely. Ah well, it doesn´t really matter, does it? Because in a truly symbiotic relationship, both parties are happy! Tessa certainly is!

Taking a rest after a long training session

Taking a rest after a long training session