Author Archives: Camille Hulen

The Homeless – A Cat Tale

posted January 25th, 2014 by

Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

You see a stray cat outside your office. It will not come to you, so after several days you take pity on the poor kitty and put out food and water. The food disappears quickly. Then you know why. You are feeding more than one cat! You are feeding a feral colony of cats. I prefer to call them “the homeless.”

This scenario plays out all too frequently in Tulsa. Although city ordinance requires that pets be vaccinated for rabies, be registered, and be spayed or neutered, the law is not enforced.

Irresponsible owners fail to keep their cats inside and allow them to breed, then dump the kittens, or sometimes even move away, and leave their pets in vacant apartments. Is it any wonder that these cats become feral and wary of humans?

However, just feeding homeless cats is not enough. These cats will reproduce, a colony will develop, and the colony will grow even more rapidly when well-fed. If these cats are too feral to be rehomed, the most effective way to help these cats is TNR.

TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) is a management technique whereby homeless cats are captured, evaluated by a veterinarian, vaccinated and sterilized, then returned to their habitat if homes cannot be found. TNR requires patience and diligence.

Traps must be placed and monitored, cats transported to the vet, then sheltered for recovery before release back to the colony. If you truly care, you will do this. Rather than go into the details here, I refer you to www.alleycat.org for detailed how-to guidelines.

What are the benefits of TNR? TNR programs improve the lives of free-roaming cats and reduce their nuisance behavior. When males are neutered, they are no longer compelled to mark their territory or fight over mates, while females will no longer yowl while “in heat.” Also, they are no longer forced to endure giving birth and fending for their young.

TNR can put an end to the perpetual cycle of animal control officers capturing and killing by maintaining a stable number of cats unable to multiply. Wouldn’t the job of a city employee become much more rewarding if he/she was not faced with assisting in euthanasia daily?

Through the help of Best Friends Utah, TNR has been successfully implemented in many cities as diverse as San Antonio, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Although this technique is not sanctioned by the City of Tulsa, there are several rescuers in Tulsa acting individually.

These tireless volunteers follow up TNR by going to the colony sites daily to feed the cats and monitor for newcomers, often spending several hundred dollars per month on food and care. One local Good Samaritan has maintained a colony of 18 cats for close to 10 years, and even pays a caretaker for them when he is out of town!

Organizations do exist to assist in this effort. StreetCats will loan traps and provide vouchers accepted by participating veterinarians for spaying and neutering. A StreetCats’ voucher costs the user only $20, is taxdeductible, and covers the cost of a oneyear rabies shot and sterilization.

The remainder of the discounted rate is paid by donations to StreetCats. To use this program, a person calls the SteetCats message line at (918) 298-0104 to reserve a voucher, picks it up and pays for it at the beginning of the month, and may then use it within three months by making an appointment with one of the participating vets. Through November of last year, 870 vouchers had been issued for the year.

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals also has humane traps to loan, and frequently subsidizes the cost of sterilization through SpayOK. The cost at SpayOK is only $30 and includes the sterilization and a rabies vaccine.

The mission of SpayOK is to mitigate the problem of homeless cats before they become homeless “by providing a highquality, low-cost spay and neuter service for low-income families who want to be responsible pet owners.”

SpayOK has two convenient locations: one in North Tulsa and another in Bixby. They may be reached at (918) 728-3144 or 970-4222. During 2012, SpayOK spayed 3,401 females and neutered 2,187 male cats. During its 10 years of existence, it has helped over 75,000 animals!

Yes, the task may seem overwhelming, but you the reader obviously care or you would not be reading this magazine. By all means, spay and neuter your own pets and educate and encourage others to do likewise. Do it now, before kitten season! TNR is most admirable, but if every pet owner acted responsibly, it would not be necessary.

Until then, TNR is a great tool to cut down on the homeless population. 

Free Kittens – A Cat Tale

posted May 27th, 2013 by

by Camille Hulen

“Kittens, free to good home.” It’s spring! The newspaper classified pages and Craigslist abound with ads for free kittens. In addition, kittens are peddled from the back of pick-ups in parking lots or on street corners, where a few sellers will ask a nominal amount for them.

The child sees them: “Oh, aren’t they cute?” Then Mom relents and takes one home. We won’t talk about the unsold ones dumped in the country or drowned in the river. The following is the story of one kitten purchased under such circumstances.

Two friends of mine were driving through a neighborhood when they spied a beautiful Siamese loose in the middle of the street, anxiously trotting along to follow a woman who was paying no attention.

When they stopped to inquire, the woman admitted that this was her cat. However, she no longer wanted it. “I got this kitten for my little boy, but he’s gonna kill it, so I turned it loose.” She then proceeded to tote her case of beer toward the apartment.

My compassionate friends, of course, followed up. “How did you get this kitten? Has it had its vaccinations?”

“Well, I gave $150 for this cat and just put it in my pocket and brought it home. What vaccinations? I don’t know about that stuff,” the lady replied.

The lady agreed to relinquish ownership of the cat, and my friend Linda then made arrangements to pick up the kitten from her the next day.

When Linda arrived, there the kitten presented a pitiful picture sitting alone outside the door with all of its belongings: a kitty condo, a litter box and food. The kitten was immediately taken to a veterinarian, and spayed and vaccinated at the expense of some Good Samaritans.

Fortunately for this kitten, our Internet network was able to find a loving home with owners whose cat had died recently. Kitty is now well cared for and will lead a wonderful life.

How many other kittens are not so lucky as this one because their owners have no idea of what responsible pet ownership entails? They think buying a big bag of cat food monthly, along with a toy at Christmas, is sufficient.

This is the reason that rescue organizations ask so many questions to screen applicants carefully. Reputable agencies will also be sure the cat is already spayed or neutered and must charge a fee to cover this expense. How many “free” kittens are abandoned when the novelty wears off? We see them every day: former pets, unspayed and forming feral colonies with their offspring, or taken to the shelter and euthanized.

Adoption is a commitment to a lifetime relationship—a cat will live close to 20 years. ASPCA estimates a first year cost of cat ownership to be approximately $1,000, and at least $670 per year thereafter. Kiplinger agrees, putting the cost between $500 and $1,000 per year.

What are some of the costs? To begin with, a sizable pet deposit is generally required of tenants with pets. Some estimates of recurring annual costs are: food, $115; litter, $165; treatment for flea prevention, $144; annual medical exams and vaccinations, $160.

This does not include miscellaneous things such as grooming expenses and care while you are on vacation. There should also be savings available for emergency veterinary care in case of illness or accidents.

So, the next time a person asks, “How much is that kitty (doggie) in the window?” The answer is, “There is no such thing as a free cat.” However, the love of a cat is priceless.

A Different Breed of Cat

posted March 9th, 2013 by

by Camille Hulen

When you think of a baby kitten, playful balls of fur come to mind. In contrast to that image and the fuzzy kitten on this issue’s cover, consider the hairless Sphynx. This breed did not originate in Egypt, as one might think, but rather in Canada as a result of a spontaneous mutation, born to a black and white domestic cat.

The Sphynx does, in fact, have a very short downy coat, which can be seen only with difficulty; to the touch, it feels like suede or chamois cloth. Their skin may be a variety of colors and patterns similar to other cats (Tabby, Torti, etc.). In addition, the Sphynx has an unusual body type— long, thin and muscular with no whiskers and huge ears.

In cats with normal coats, the hair helps to regulate body temperature, so the Sphynx requires special care. It is subject to sunburn and sensitive to cold. This, of course, allows the doting owner to acquire an extensive wardrobe for the cat! Some Sphynx are real “clothes hounds” and wear them proudly, while others resist.

Some might think that the lack of hair would make the Sphynx the ideal pet for allergy suff erers. however, this is not the case because allergies to cats are triggered by a protein called Fel d1, not cat hair itself. Fel d1 is a tiny, sticky protein primarily found in cat saliva and sebaceous glands. Those with cat allergies may actually react worse to direct contact with Sphynx cats than other breeds!

While Sphynx cats lack a coat to shed or groom, they are not maintenance free. Body oils, which would normally be absorbed by the hair, tend to build up on the skin. As a result, regular weekly baths become necessary, along with ear cleaning and nail clipping. Now, instead of cleaning cat hair off of the furniture, you must remove oil stains.

With regard to personality, some references say Sphynx are loners, resist cuddling and prefer to be an “only child.” My friend Terry (who has been owned and trained by several cats) agrees with other reports, saying that they are very social, demand attention and are real purr machines. This confirms my experience that every cat is an individual, regardless of breed, and we must appreciate their idiosyncrasies.

Now meet Flora, Terry and husband Donald’s newest family member, who was adopted from Sphynx rescue alliance in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Incidentally, if you are considering a purebred cat of any type, please rescue rather than support breeding.) rescue organizations for all breeds are accessible via the internet; one is Specialty purebred cat rescue in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Flora’s name is particularly fitting, because she was born in the spring eight years ago and has indeed blossomed since coming to live in her new home one year ago. Most recently, Flora was named Sphynx of the Week by Facebook group Naked Nonsense. Flora, herself, perhaps gives the best endorsement for the Sphynx breed; excerpts from her interview follow.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I will eat anything I find to steal! They never feed me. (Sphynx have notorious appetites in order to maintain their body temperature.)

Q: Favorite toy or activity?

A: I have a rubber chew toy that I carried with me everywhere until I had my dental surgery. I no longer need to chew to make my mouth feel better, so I have no favorite toys right now. I prefer chasing my siblings around the house when the spirit moves me.

Q: Greatest talent?

A: Waking the dead. Since I had bi-lateral ear ablation surgeries, I can hear only muffled sounds. I want to make sure everyone hears me when I want attention or food (‘cause they never feed me).

Q: Naughtiest moment?

A: Stealing food from my brothers and sisters (‘cause they never feed me) and biting brother Skynard’s ears when he won’t sit still while I’m bathing him.

Q: Most embarrassing moment?

A: probably the way I looked after my ear surgery. One eye was completely closed; one eye was half open; my head tilted, and I had to wear one of those embarrassing collars!

Q: Your secret love?

A: “My Skynard” and it’s no secret. We are inseparable. He grooms me; I groom him, and we sleep together all the time. We went together to OSU last year to check our hearts, since Momma says that Sphynx are prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). I have a heart murmur, but Skynard is perfect (which I already knew).

Conclusion: These Sphynx cats, in spite of the extra care required, are loved dearly!

Room for One More

posted January 14th, 2013 by

by Camille Hulen

Last March, a friend asked me if I could help with some kittens she had found. They had been abandoned by their mama cat on a patio in a “not so nice” neighborhood from which she had rescued several other cats.

She transported the kittens to my home in the filthy box in which they had been found, and I was horrified. These babies were probably about 10 days old, barely trying to open their eyes, which were covered in matter.

Abandoned kittens usually have fleas, but this was worse; these kittens were covered with both fleas and maggots. I later learned that the yellow crud on them was actually maggot eggs. We set about bathing them in Dawn, picking off fleas and maggots, and then started the feeding.

I stayed awake that night, feeding them every two hours, and continued cleaning. I took them to my vet the next day because I was so uncertain about treatment for the maggots. As he flushed the maggots from their eyes, his advice was to simply continue what I was doing. They were too frail for any other medical treatment.

From experience, I knew that the best care for starving kittens is to feed them small amounts very frequently, for they would naturally be nursing on mama continuously. As the week progressed, I knew that I had three survivors!

My personal cats, of course, were curious but not happy. The older ones tried to ignore them because they had seen this act before. “Mom’s at it again,” I imagine they were thinking. One cat, though, was so incensed that he hissed and growled every time he walked by the room they were in. My two big dogs were interested too, but I dare not introduce them to a tiny critter smaller than one of their big paws.

About a month later, the kittens were sure on their feet and stable enough to scamper about, so it was time to meet the dogs. It was love at first sight—my dogs had been taught as puppies to respect cats. They sniffed them gingerly as I watched carefully.

Soon two of the three kittens had been adopted, and Wooly Bully, my 85-pound dog, spoke up. “I want this one, Mom,” he said (not actually, but I’m certain he would have if he could). It was clear that he loved this little white kitten, and the feeling was mutual. Wooly Bully would nuzzle the kitten, sometimes even with open mouth, much to my consternation. The 2 pound kitten would reciprocate and grab the big dog by the muzzle. They would seek each out, chasing around the living room, dog on floor, kitten on top of sofas. What fun!

As the kitten grew, he cried at the door whenever he saw the dogs outside on the patio. Many is the time we had to retrieve him when he was part way out the cat door to join them, for he was still far too little for the outside world. Eventually the day came, though, when he could play chase with “his dog” in the yard. When I would call him and he failed to come, Wooly Bully would find him and point him out.

So what do you do when your dog wants to adopt a kitten? You say “yes,” of course. You name the white kitten Tahoe after the beautiful white snows of Lake Tahoe which you remember fondly, and Tahoe becomes part of the family. What do the other cats think? Most of them have accepted Tahoe, and will cuddle and groom him, while one cat still grumbles. I try to explain, “You were a rescue also. There’s room for one more.” 

To Declaw or not to Declaw?

posted November 24th, 2012 by

 Claws are an integral part of a cat’s anatomy. They are used for balance, climbing, striking in defense, capturing prey and marking territory. In spite of this, one of the most frequent questions asked by new cat owners is, “Should I declaw my cat?”

This is a very controversial and emotionally charged issue in the cat world. Many feel that this is cruel mutilation— so much, in fact, that many countries, such as England, Australia and New Zealand, have outlawed it. Others feel that declawing saves the lives of many cats that would otherwise be given up to shelters and, ultimately, euthanized.

The most valid justification for declawing is to prevent injury or infection to a member of the household who may be elderly with thin skin, on blood thinners, or whose immune system is compromised. However, declawing is done primarily to prevent damage to furnishings.

If you are considering declawing, consider this. Declawing is serious surgery. It is not simply removal of the claw, but bone as well. Bone must be removed, or the claw will grow back. Many would equivocate this to the removal of a human fingertip down to the first knuckle. There are various techniques, but all involve removal of the bone down to the first joint.

The newest laser techniques can certainly be more precise if properly executed, but as with any surgery, there is some pain and discomfort; so pain management medication is indicated. Most cats recover quickly without complication. To prevent infection, special litter should be used during recuperation.

What are the long-term effects of declawing? Some say that it alters a cat’s personality, although no scientific study has supported this. However, I can testify from personal observation that cats without claws are more prone to biting. After all, you have removed their first line of defense, so this makes common sense, doesn’t it? And, in light of this, declawed cats should remain indoors.

What are the alternatives? Perhaps the simplest is regular kitty manicures. It may take a while for Kitty to get used to this, but you can easily clip your cat’s claws at home with an inexpensive pair of clippers from the pet store. I have found this easiest to do when the unsuspecting kitty is in a mellow mood sitting on my lap. If all else fails, your veterinarian will gladly do it for you. The claws can still do some damage to furniture, but it is minimized. Another alternative is plastic nail caps. These are applied with super glue to the clipped claws and last for about a month. (Caution: other cats may laugh at the big boy cat with blue fingernails!)

A scratching post is an absolute necessity in any cat friendly home. A variety of styles are available, and some can actually be attractive. The post should be tall enough and sturdy enough for the cat to extend full length to use it; sisal rope is usually the most desirable covering. It is easier to train a kitten than an adult cat, but start training Kitty to use it when she first comes to live with you, regardless of age. Whenever the cat scratches something inappropriately, take her to the post. Catnip will often entice her to use it.

In spite of the lengths and expense to which some people will go to declaw their cats, many declawed cats are found abandoned on the street. I must ask, “Did they really want a cat to begin with? Or did they want just another toy for their own satisfaction? Do they not realize that all the furnishings and material goods in the world cannot replace the love of a cat?”

Camille Hulen

FIRE

posted September 16th, 2012 by

by Camille Hulen

In early August, Oklahoma was on fire. During the evening of August 4, the sky darkened, and the smell of smoke lingered over Tulsa. Ash from the fires in Creek County even fell on cars in Midtown Tulsa. There were many pictures on TV of the devastation throughout the state. But what about the animals? Here are three personal stories of people and their pets in the Mannford, Bristow and Thunderbird fires.

Mannford

On Saturday August 4, a young couple called me wanting to board their cat because fire was nearing their home in Mannford. They had evacuated their home and spent the previous night in a motel, fearing the worst. When they brought “Mr. Stitches” to me, they told me that not only was their home in danger, but also the homes of their relatives, who were electing to stay and fight the fire. At least this couple had insurance; their relatives did not.

Fortunately, on Sunday, I received the good news that Mr. Stitches’ home, as well as those of his relatives, had been saved, and he might go home on Monday. When they reached their home, however, electricity was still out, so they elected to stay away until Wednesday. Mr. Stitches was understandably stressed and not too happy with the situation, but he was safe.

Drumright

The next call that I received was from Cathy, a lady from the Drumright area. Cathy explained that she had barely escaped, as helicopters whirled overhead; and the flames spread to the trees on the western edge of her property. She had two cats, but had been able to find only one in time to flee. She and her kitty were spending the night in Tulsa with a relative, and then she would bring the kitty to me on Sunday.

On Saturday night, the rain came, and eased the situation somewhat. When I spoke to Cathy on Sunday, she was trying to get back to Drumright to see if her home had been saved. One can only imagine her anxiety throughout the day as she was trying to find alternate routes into town. Major roads were blocked while firefighters continued to battle the blaze. The only vehicles permitted on the roads were emergency vehicles and equipment.

Finally, at 9 a.m., on Monday, Cathy called. Her house had been saved! It was only then that I learned the rest of the story. She had recently lost a son, and throughout this entire time, her husband had been hospitalized in Tulsa, suffering from a stroke. She had remained so calm in talking to me to make arrangements for her cat that I had no idea of the other difficulties in her life. However, her neighbors knew. They called in friends who traveled cross-country through burning fields to help. They just had to save her house. Using whatever resources they had available, they battled the blaze for seven hours and were successful. And, what is more, when Cathy reached her property, her missing cat “Snoball” came running to greet her.

Thunderbird

Sometime during the weekend, I received a call from Oklahoma City, seeking shelter for four cats. This family in the Thunderbird fire was not so fortunate. They had lost everything, but their horses had been saved; and a member of Thunderkatz, an OKC cat advocacy group, would be bringing their four cats to me. Another anonymous donor called to say that she would be sending a donation on their behalf. I have since learned that this family too had other difficulties. The husband is handicapped from an accident, which happened exactly one year ago to the date, and was scheduled for surgery within the week. “Sophie,” “Scrappy,” “Drew,” and “Zuko” are now rested and happy and will be staying with me until their living situation is resolved.

When tragedy strikes, there are so many heartwarming stories of good people helping others. PALS was on the scene immediately to rescue animals at the Mannford shelter before the fire reached them. And Kudos to the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and Tulsa SPCA, who spearheaded the rescue efforts in Creek County. Also, numerous unnamed, generous people donated supplies, veterinary care, and foster homes for animals.

A Facebook page has been established to reunite owners with their pets, Creek County Displaced Animals. The need will be ongoing, as many acres of farmland were destroyed. Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Forestry has set up a donation site for hay or feed at the Creek County Fairgrounds. Donations may also be sent to Oklahoma Alliance for Animals (11822 E. 15th St., Tulsa, OK 74105) for its continuing work.

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