Social Distancing? Not for Cats!

COVID-19. It’s all we are hearing and talking about right now, the first thing on everyone’s minds. Our lives have been turned upside down, working from home, not travelling, not seeing our loved ones. The message is clear – Practice Social Distancing! Stay 2 metres apart, don’t shake hands, don’t gather in groups, stay at home.

A quick aside before I carry on – As I started writing this, a friend told me that the local vet has seen a surge of people abandoning their pets as they think they can catch the virus from their cats and dogs. I want to stress this is not the case! You can read the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) article about that here. This blog post is not about people dumping their pets because of the coronavirus but more about the parallels I have noticed with the spread of this virus and how a stray cat population can grow out of control in a similar way.

I have heard several times about how a single female cat and her mate can be responsible for the birth of hundreds of thousands of kittens in their lifetime via their un-neutered offspring.

I don’t know about you but I always found this a bit hard to get my head around. How can that be possible? So many cats and dogs as a result of one breeding pair? Someone must have made a mistake with that! Even though the evidence is all around us, it still seems unfathomable.

I saw this animation on Facebook yesterday, showing how COVID 19 will continue to spread if unchecked. It shows how Social Distancing can help help to break the chain, slow down the progression of the infection and help to protect the more vulnerable members of society.

The penny then dropped! This is the same model for how so many kittens or puppies can be born when the animals are not neutered! With animals having relatively large litters, it is easy to see how the numbers can keep growing.

Now, cats and dogs aren’t great at Social Distancing. We can’t explain to them that they aren’t doing themselves any favours by hanging out with their mates and making babies. We can’t tell the street cats and dogs to stay home and keep 2 metres away from their friends. They can’t help themselves, it is their biology, their instincts, they must procreate!

So, what can we do?

Let’s look at the animation again but imagine it is stray animal population growth rather than virus spread. TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) works in the same way, each time stopping a new litter from being born. See how it can break the pattern and reduce the numbers?

TNR can feel like an uphill struggle, that we can’t fix them all so why bother fixing one? Social Distancing may feel like that to some people too but this brilliant little animation shows that every little helps, in both situations!

Lockdown

People are saying now that there will be a human baby boom in around 9 months time, too many people shut up in their houses with little else to do. This will also be the case for the animals of Qatar. There is a sharp increase in the number of cats and dogs being dumped on the streets (I can’t stress this enough, there is no evidence your pets can give you this coronavirus!!) and many of those dumped pets will not be spayed or neutered. Add this to the existing cat and dog population on the streets and we will have another epidemic, this time of stray cats and dogs.

Many vets in Qatar are still open and taking appointments, so it is still possible to get animals spayed. Please look after yourselves and follow the guidelines from the governments, practice Social Distancing and good personal hygiene (keep washing those hands!) but don’t stop trying to help the animals on the street. It is still possible to get animals spayed and neutered. Appointments may be harder to come by and there are practices in place to protect the customers and the staff in the vets but don’t let this stop you from doing TNR.

You can contact us on our Facebook page here if you need advice or information about which vets are currently open and available to TNR animals. For all things TNR related, you can also visit our TNR Qatar website.

If we all work together and do our bit we can help slow down the stray animal population growth!

 

How could anyone dump this sweet girl? There may be a reason….

Dumping a beloved family pet is something that I would never consider, it just doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet, it is something that happens very frequently the world over. I have never really questioned why someone would do this other than they have changed their mind about having a pet or they are moving on and don’t want or can’t afford to take their pet with them. Our latest rescue may have given us another answer in the fact that she wasn’t spayed.

In December last year, I heard the now familiar call from my husband… “Babe, can you come and help? Bring a cat box!”. Another waif or stray on the doorstep, in need of our help. Imagine my surprise when I see this beautiful Persian girl, sweet as anything! She was purring, happy to be picked up and gladly trotted into the cat carrier so she could be taken to the vet for a microchip check.

We were sorry to learn that she had no chip so finding her owner would be that much harder. We tucked her away in a spare bathroom, separated from all of our cats, with the necessities to keep her safe and comfortable until her family could be found. The Facebook posts and knocking on doors commenced to try and find her owner.

The next day, my husband had noticed something strange about her. Whenever we entered the room, she did not react at all, she stayed fast asleep. After a quick Google search and a little test we came to learn that she was completely deaf. This didn’t stop her from coming to us for lots of fuss and cuddles. She immediately recognised the cat brush, flopping over, belly exposed, ready for her beautification. There was no way this girl was a street cat, she has definitely been cared for by humans at some point.

We got her vaccinated at the local vet so that we could let her out of the bathroom to have free roam of the house while we continued to look for her owners. We put a contingency plan in place and arranged for a potential home for her over in the States. It was decided she would stay with us until we could get her ready to fly. She got on well with our hoard of rescue cats, although we were concerned they would take advantage of her deafness and bully her relentlessly.

A week or so passed, then we started to hear the most horrendous howling. We immediately think that some of the cats are fighting, a common occurrence in our multi-cat household, but a quick sweep of the house shows no sign of a fray. Cloud, as we now call her, trots into the living room and flops on the rug in front of the TV as if butter wouldn’t melt. 20 minutes later, the noise starts again but this time the source is right in front of our eyes. Sweet, darling Cloud is howling as if in the most tremendous pain. She starts pacing around, this guttural yowling echoing around the whole house. When Jareth, one of our male cats, approaches she adopts a tell-tale position. Head down, bum up and the noise she is making changes to something a bit more alluring. We realised then that she was in heat and she wanted some action! All of our cats are already neutered bar one. Thankfully, he is very young and was showing zero interest in Cloud’s antics.

We have experienced cats in heat previously as our kittens had “come of age”. As soon as we knew they had been in heat the vet visit was booked for them to be spayed so neither they, nor us, would have to endure this heartbreaking racket that they cannot help but make. Cloud had not yet been booked in for a spay and we read online that it is best to wait until after their heat to carry out the spay operation. This is due to an increase in blood flow to their reproductive organs, making the procedure more complicated. She is off to the vet today, as I write this, for her spay to finally be done.

Now, I am not sure if all female cats are quite as loud as this genteel girl when in heat, or if the fact that she is deaf and can’t hear herself made it that much worse. What I did realise was that if someone did not know what was causing an otherwise healthy cat to make this awful noise, or how to make it stop, this may drive them to dump their pet on the street. Most people know they shouldn’t shout at their pets, that it does little other than cause additional stress but again for those who don’t know, shouting at a pet to try and make them shut-up may seem like a reasonable approach. Not very effective with a deaf cat! Getting rid of her may have seemed like the only option. Given that we had no success in finding her owner, we finally agreed that she had been dumped on the street.

After the heat had passed and Cloud returned to her floppy, loving self we arranged for her to go to a foster. She was immune to the warning growls of our resident cats and loved to chase them all around the house, a game the other cats did not enjoy. She wasn’t getting all the attention she deserved, so we felt it best she went into foster to be spoiled before her flight to Texas. Her foster mum has had cats before but never females. After Cloud had been there a week she messaged me with a video she had taken in the middle of the night, the now familiar howling in full force asking “is this heat? Or is she sick?”. I told her it was heat, it had come on a lot sooner than we had expected (only about 2 and half weeks since the last one) and that it would continue for the next 4 days. She even said herself, a total cat lover, that she could understand why someone would put the cat out when they behaved like that! I think she was nicknamed “Terror” for those few days. You can listen to the audio clip below. Just imagine trying to sleep when this is all you can hear!

This is the audio from the video that Cloud’s foster mum sent me. This was at 2:30 in the morning!

I will be very happy when her operation is completed tomorrow and she can go back to her foster mum until all the preparations are complete for her to fly to Texas. I know she will go on to have a happy and secure life in a loving home, without her hormones and instincts kicking in every few weeks taking over her every thought and action. It is very distressing for all involved, a spay is really one of the greatest gifts you can give a pet.

Cloud’s story has made me realise that we can be quick to judge, to label people as monsters for dumping their pets. It made me realise the importance of educating our friends, neighbours and colleagues about their responsibilities as pet owners and how they are helping their pets and themselves by having this procedure done. By helping people to make the right decisions for their pets, hopefully they will remain pets and not be added to the ever growing colonies on the streets of the world, putting additional pressure on the volunteers and government agencies who are trying to get the stray animal populations under control.

So, help me out here. Talk to the people around you about their pets, ask them if they are spayed or neutered. Don’t judge or force the issue but educate them, gently does it. Answer any questions they may have and never make anyone feel stupid for what they do not know. If you don’t have the answers, direct them to the TNR website or Facebook page for more information on the benefits of neutering their pets and how to go about it. Finally, if you have pets and they are not spayed or neutered, I recommend making an appointment with your vet to get it done. You won’t regret it!

An Ode to an Old Tom

I started doing TNR pretty much as soon as I moved to the small fishing village of Simaisa, located 15km north of Doha, in 2016. While I was moving in and throwing trash away in the dumpster located across the small street in front of my compound, a group of hungry, sweet faces appeared at the dumpster and begged for food. I watched them over the next few days and asked some neighbours if anyone was feeding them. When I learned their only sustenance was dumpster scraps and their only water source was hose runoff from the garden next door, I started providing daily food and water. Absolutely no cats were sterilized so I started trapping and neutering as often as I could afford to. These cats were very hungry, and it gets to more than 50 degrees Celsius in the summer, so I did not think it would be wise to let them breed and multiply when they would have to fight so hard to survive. Through TNR, I can keep the population from increasing and therefore having to fight for food and territory.

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Soon, the dumpster cats learned where I lived, and also that there is always food and water in my back garden for my cats who live there, and they started coming to visit. One of these cats was a very big, old, beat-up tom who I started calling Old Man Winter. At first, he would come into the garden and sneak some food, and run away when he saw me. Then he started sitting at the kitchen door, begging for more food. One day I saw him with the other colony cats, waiting for food, and when he tried to eat, I saw he had a lot of saliva and was clearly in pain. I trapped him right then and took him to the clinic. He was successfully neutered and had some bad teeth removed. The doctor said to keep my eye on him, and he was an old boy, and his teeth might go bad again. The doctor also said it was good to neuter him as I was most likely extending his life; now he wouldn’t fight and get deep bites and infections and would roam less, and eat more and gain weight to get stronger.

One thing I did not do for this cat, who I named Istvan or Pisti for short, was test him for FIV. Why? For starters, most groups in the United States, such Alley Cat Allies, do not recommend FIV testing for colony cats. I agree with this for several reasons. First of all, probably most male cats on the streets of Qatar are FIV+. I do not need a test to confirm this. Secondly, there is no treatment I could provide for an FIV+ cat other than what I’m already doing for all my colony cats: neuter, food, water, medical care such as dental and other checkups as needed. Thirdly, FIV is only transmitting through sexual activity and very deep bites; both of these behaviours are prevented by neutering, so simply by neutering Pisti and all the other cats in his colony, I am stopping the FIV virus from spreading. Knowing his status is a possibility, I just need to keep him healthy and take him to the doctor for checkups if he starts to decline.

Luckily, after Pisti’s neuter and dental, he became a very happy cat and started using the doggy door to come in the kitchen in addition to spending time in the garden. A few months later, he decided to move into my house full time and became a sweet and happy member of the family. He got along with all the other cats, played with the kittens, and slept in my bed at night. He decided he prefered being a house cat and never asked to go outside. We had a little scare in 2017 when Pisti stopped eating. We thought it was his teeth, but it turned out he had a blood parasite called haemobartonella, which causes anaemia and anorexia. It is common in immunocompromised street cats, but only transmittable through mosquitos; cats cannot give it to other cats. After a few days of antibiotics, he started eating again, and after a few weeks, he made a full recovery and was back to his normal self.

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In September 2018 Pisti did start declining. He stopped eating again and became lethargic. He went to his favourite doctor who he had been seeing regularly since I trapped him in 2016, and who he had formed a close bond with. Blood tests showed he was anaemic and had an infection. The doctor tried treating him but he wasn’t able to fight and get strong again. After a long night of snuggling and sleeping together, I told Pisti it was OK if he wanted to leave this world and stop suffering. He passed away in his sleep the next night. I was absolutely heartbroken at his loss, but I was comforted by the fact that he had a longer, healthier life with me, and that he had two years of health and happiness as an indoor cat.

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I was also comforted by the lessons I learned from Pisti. He is the perfect example of how TNR works and saves lives. If Pisti had been neutered at a younger age, he may not have contracted FIV, and would have had an even longer and healthier life. If his mother had been spayed and she would have never had kittens, there would be no toms like Pisti running around, fighting over food and territory. Pisti also taught me that even old, beat-up, grumpy-looking toms can benefit from neutering at any age (even though younger is better). He inspires me to continue doing TNR and helping any cats I can.

By Caitlin (a TNRQ volunteer)

For more on FIV testing: https://www.alleycat.org/resources/protocols-testing-feline-immunodeficiency-virus-fiv-and-feline-leukemia-virus-felv/

A glimpse into TNRQ

My aim was to write a short blog post about what has happened so far this year, just to give people an idea of what we actually get up to. Well, once my notes filled a whole A4 page, I realised some editing was needed… So here we go, the edited down version:

TNR – 115 cats spayed and neutered during January, February & March

This was made possible by the funds raised from “Boot Scootin”, by people who donated to our Gofund me Campaign “100 Spays” and to the support of the Canadian Veterinary Hospital, Qatar Veterinary Centre, Dragon Animal Care Clinic and Al Timimi Veterinary Clinic to celebrate World Spay Day. Thank you to everyone who helped us achieve this.


Marcel

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Marcel is a member of a colony looked after by a TNRQ volunteer. Unfortunately, his colony carer discovered him limping badly one morning and a visit to the vet showed his leg was fractured, foul play was sadly suspected. Of course, we have to help such cases, even though it drains our very limited funds.

Marcel has had is operation and is recovering really well. He is being completely spoiled in his foster home (yes even afternoon tea), he is such a friendly special boy, we are now looking for a forever home for him, we just can’t put him back on the streets after all he has been through. 


Compound Spay and Neuter Project

We continue to work with a compound in Al Waab doing TNR. This is an amazingly forward thinking compound who embrace TNR wholeheartedly, if only there were more like it! We work on TNR projects all over Qatar but this one always stands out for us as we have their complete support and backing.


Qatar University Cats

We were contacted by a kind young student keen to TNR a group of cats she has come to know and been feeding on her campus at Qatar University. It came to light that some of these cats have also sustained injuries, the nature of which suggest, there may sadly once again have been foul play involved.

The little calico in the photo had a diaphragmatic hernia, which she has now had surgery for and is recovering well. There is also a male cat with a dislodged kidney and another female with a very bad femoral fracture.
Such cases make you despair of humankind, we know not everyone likes cats but please, don’t hurt them. 


Lily and Toby

IMG_0776These two gorgeous babies were living in the school grounds where two of our volunteers work. Unfortunately, the school management decided they had to go but of course they had nowhere to go, that was their home! The volunteers frantically searched for a foster home which they luckily found but finding them good permanent homes in Qatar proved just too difficult. Happily though, someone in the UK offered them a home and they get to stay together. They are in a foster home at the moment just waiting the designated time after the RATT test but will soon be jetting off to their happy ending in greener pastures.


The education program is launched.

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This is something we have wanted to officially set up for a while but the volunteers who were comfortable presenting weren’t available during school hours; the rest of us were happier talking to cats! We were so grateful when Claire offered to help and since then we now have a team of 3 people all raring to go. This is probably actually one of our most important achievements, “It is the children of today who will become the rescuers of tomorrow” – let’s hope so.

To find out more about the program please click here: Education


Boot Scootin

52874807_2168938926483433_2184840483266625536_n Our Boot Scootin fundraiser was a great success and raised much-needed funds so that we can continue with our work – keep the cowboy hats ready for the next one!


Adoption Gallery was set up

We worked out between all the volunteers we have a lot of cats who need homes, hence the need for an adoption page on our website. At the moment it is in the early stages, we still have yet more cats to add but if you are thinking of adopting please look at our gallery, all the cats are rescued and would love a chance at a forever home of their own.

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Andy

56301748_2224957677548224_2153757564427304960_nWe have known Andy (previously known as “Fat Andy” before his recent weight loss due to ongoing teeth problems) for 5 years. A popular member of the colony, his quirky little ways and loving nature mean he is loved by his carers. Sadly this last year has seen a decline in Andy’s oral health, culminating in the news today (after another bout of terrible pain and inability to eat even the wet food provided by his carers) that he must have the majority of his teeth extracted if he is to be able to eat again and be pain-free. Unfortunately, the bill for the surgery is QR 2000, at a time when we’re down to limited funds. QR1000 has been collected among his carers and now thanks to the kindness of the public donations, we have enough for him to have his surgery.

He is another lovely friendly guy who would love a forever home but that is the next hurdle to cross…


 Kittens, Kittens, Kittens

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At TNRQ our priority is obviously trying to prevent kittens being born on the streets and suffering, however, that situation is nowhere near under control in Qatar, so tiny souls cross our paths all the time whilst we are out trapping and looking after colonies. Best case scenario mum is with them and taking care of them but sadly that isn’t always the case and they so easily get sick with their lower immunity. But then on top of the normal rescues, a volunteer had 4 newly born kittens left on her doorstep, she works full time so how was she supposed to manage kittens who needed feeding every few hours! Luckily a solution was found but there are only so many foster homes to go around and there are never enough to meet demand, nevermind someone willing to bottle feed 4 kittens.


Colony care

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And then there are our wonderful team of volunteers out on the streets every single day feeding the TNR colonies, checking their health and making sure no new unfixed cats have appeared. It all adds up to a lot of work by a small group of volunteers but we all agree, the cats are worth it.

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The Ginger Challenge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is so frustrating when you mess up a trap opportunity the first time around, in this case, I firmly blame my cat Snickers; here she is this time messing up my painting, luckily the tray was empty of paint!

We had recently moved to a compound and a stunning ginger cat had been coming into our garden and spraying the walls to mark his territory, as tom cats are prone to do. I decided it was time to trap him and sort this situation out.

The scene is set, the trap is in place and I am patiently inside watching from the window just above the trap but out of sight. Ginger, enticed by the smell of tuna is edging into the trap and almost on the plate (they step on the plate and it triggers the door to shut), when Snickers unseen by me, comes into the room obviously wonders what I am looking at and tries to launch herself up to the very small window ledge, misses it but manages to bash the window in the process. At which point Ginger startled by the noise, springs backwards out of the trap, hitting it on the way out which makes the door snap shut in his face terrifying the life out him. He then flys at breakneck speed up the nearest tree and is gone.

As experienced trappers know, once such an incident happens a cat can become completely trap shy, getting them near a trap again is very hard. So I went through the process of cable tieing the trapdoor open and feeding Ginger near the trap, aiming to get him used to it. Clever Ginger would eat in front of the trap, beside the trap and behind the trap but he would not put one paw inside that trap, not even for the tastest offerings. This went on for weeks and then one morning he arrived in the garden with a swollen face and completely closed up eye – toms (unneutered males) fight over territory, food and females, Ginger was no different but this time he had come off worse! Now I really needed to somehow catch him.

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As the trap was out of the question, husband and I thought we would net him but Ginger wasn’t having that either. As soon as we tried to go into the garden when he was there, he was gone, we couldn’t get anywhere near him, we needed another plan. In the meantime, I put antibiotics in his food and the swelling went down on his face but still, the eye was closed and weeping.

Desperation was starting to set in when a fellow TNR volunteer mentioned she had a drop trap, I had used these in the Philippines and thought this could be the solution to the problem. So we set it all up and of course Ginger wouldn’t go under it! He sat on the garden table and scorned us whilst we sat holding the end of the string waiting to pull.

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Finally though (after many a boring moment sat holding the string and waiting) he was getting really hungry and was tempted under the trap. This was it, if we messed up now we would never get him! At this point, I gave the string to my husband whose nerves weren’t quite as frayed as mine, a quick tug the trap dropped and we finally had him!

So that is the very long story of the Ginger trapping challenge, though it didn’t quite end there as just to add to the bad timing we were going on holiday the next day, at the visit to the vet we got the diagnosis that part of the actual eye itself was cut, was very painful and needed drops put in it for about 10 days – yes drops in an eye of a cat who just wanted to attack and get free! Well the vet took on the job of doing this (with thick gloves I bet) and we paid for Ginger to board whilst we were on holiday; just don’t ask what the total bill was with all the treatment and boarding, am sure Ginger will show his appreciation one day…

Anyway, it all ended well. His eye is healed, he is neutered so no longer marks the walls, doesn’t go off fighting or searching for girls, actually most of the time he can be found snoozing on the garden chair cushion. I am even allowed in the garden with him, as long as I keep my distance. I think the garden now belongs to Mr Ginger who we now call Teddy, though this is one Teddy bear who definitely does not want a cuddle, we are friends from a distance which is fine by me.

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By Denise Wood (a TNR volunteer)

 

Thank you!

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We would like to extend a huge and grateful thank you to the fabulous students at Community College Qatar for their understanding that Trap Neuter Return is the solution for the street cat population and supporting us with their kind charity. Thank you also to Heather Jacobs for organising, community in name and as we know, it takes a community.

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Their kind donation will help feed our TNR colonies.

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