Reader sings ben­e­fits of cages for cats

The News-Times - - ADVICE / GAMES - Dr. Michael Fox

Dear Dr. Fox: I read a re­cent state­ment about so­cial­iz­ing feral cats and caging them. My par­ents raised ap­ple­head Si­amese cats when I was younger, and I’ve had a multi-cat house­hold ever since. My par­ents caged cats for breeding and show­ing pur­poses, and I have caged cats for be­hav­ior is­sues, food al­ler­gies, and for the safety of feral cats and the rest of my clow­der (group).

My ob­ser­va­tion is that the cats, even the ones that must be caged for food al­ler­gies, be­come very at­tached to their cages or their own per­sonal space. Right now, I have an 18-year-old cat with food al­ler­gies that is caged at night, while I’m away from the home and when I clean. And I have two feral cats caged about 90 per­cent of the time due to be­hav­ior is­sues and the safety of other cats. But even when the doors are open, they are usu­ally found in their re­spec­tive cages.

I be­lieve this is like a dog that has been prop­erly crate-trained; the crate/cage be­comes a safe haven, not a pun­ish­ment. Their food and water are there, along with a lit­ter box, toys and bed, pro­vid­ing a safe zone.

Un­re­lated: When will an an­i­mal be­hav­ior­ist be a stan­dard part of a vet­eri­nar­ian’s prac­tice? I mean an in­di­vid­ual that spe­cial­izes in be­hav­ior, not just a few classes that the vet took at school.

And fi­nally, I don’t have to tell you that your daugh­ter Camilla is amaz­ing, but she is! Her Project Coy­ote is dear to my heart. Ed­u­ca­tion is the best de­fense for these beau­ti­ful crea­tures. I live in Indiana and the hunt­ing is cruel. I sup­port her non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, and share her web­site reg­u­larly.

T.S., In­di­anapo­lis, Indiana

Dear T.S.: Your ob­ser­va­tions about some of your cats stay­ing in their cages when the doors are open, and that they re­gard it as their den, con­firm what I have long ad­vised. I en­cour­age cat own­ers to put a small cat-car­ry­ing crate in a low-traf­fic cor­ner with a soft towel or blan­ket inside, and put in treats on oc­ca­sion, in­clud­ing cat­nip. Keep the door open at all times and en­cour­age the kit­ten or cat to use it as a den.

On the topic of be­hav­ior­ists, there is an Amer­i­can Col­lege of Vet­eri­nary Be­hav­ior­ists (see their re­cent book “De­cod­ing Your Dog”), but re­gret­tably they are few in num­ber.

Ac­cord­ing to vet­eri­nar­ian Dr. Karen L. Over­all: “Most col­leges of vet­eri­nary medicine have his­tor­i­cally lacked, or still lack, full-time pro­grams in vet­eri­nary be­hav­ioral medicine led by board-cer­ti­fied vet­eri­nary spe­cial­ists” in ap­plied ethol­ogy or be­hav­ioral medicine. This is un­ac­cept­able. Any crea­ture with a bro­ken spirit can never fully re­cover from phys­i­cal ill­ness or in­jury. Ethol­ogy, the sci­ence of an­i­mal be­hav­ior, es­sen­tially stud­ies an­i­mals’ ethos — their spir­its, so vi­tal to de­ter­min­ing and pro­vid­ing for their well-be­ing and qual­ity of life.

I am so glad that you know of my daugh­ter Camilla’s Project Coy­ote. I am very proud of her ded­i­ca­tion and re­cent suc­cesses get­ting coy­ote-killing con­tests out­lawed and ex­pos­ing and stop­ping the prac­tice of set­ting dogs onto them while they are in cages. These ef­forts take en­durance and the sup­port of peo­ple who care. I do not fund her, since what we have to spare goes to two vet­eri­nar­i­ans work­ing in In­dia, where my wife, Deanna Krantz, once ran an an­i­mal refuge and 24/7 in-field vet­eri­nary ser­vice. (For de­tails, check my new web­site, dr­fox­one­health.com.) The re­gion in In­dia is one of the last wild pre­serves left for ele­phants, tigers and leop­ards. Hu­man and livestock en­croach­ment is re­lent­less.

Write c/o Uni­ver­sal Uclick, 1130 Wal­nut St., Kansas City, MO 64106 or email an­i­mal­doc­[email protected] Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www. DrFoxVet.com.

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