Sunday, July 22, 2012

Feeding Wildlife in Stanley Park, the Raccoons

We recently took a holiday to Vancouver, Canada. Our hotel was within walking distance of Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre park, surrounded nearly all the way by ocean. On our first night we walked to the Aquarium, and on the way we saw a family of raccoons, a mother and her two youngsters, raiding a garbage can.

The following day we walked around Stanley Park and sure enough we encountered more raccoons, including another mother with three youngsters and an adult who was missing a tail. There was a man feeding them what appeared to be fried chicken. A short time later a woman arrived to feed them grapes and cat food. Other people fed them cookies. 

To note, I am aware that grapes can be toxic to dogs, but not sure how they affect raccoons.

We spoke to many of the people who were feeding the raccoons and many said they made daily trips to feed the raccoons and other animals in the park. The people said that the park's people did not like them feeding the animals. They also told us that the parks people trapped and killed many animals every year.

Raccoons normally would eat fish (there are ponds in the park), crabs (from the ocean), insects, worms, as well as nuts, berries, and eggs.

We did not confirm if the parks people did trap and kill raccoons or not, but clearly there was a dilemma.
The parks people want the animals to be “wild” and to fend for themselves, feeding them can cause problems as their fear of people can turn them into pests. Normally raccoons are nocturnal but these were out in the day. 

If one bit a person there would be a rabies panic. The people felt terrible that the animals were being killed to control their populations, so were thinking that feeding them would mean animals would not be killed.  One persons said they thought the raccoons were being killed to stop them from eating the goose and duck eggs, but we also heard that duck and goose populations were being controlled too (supposedly people were shaking their eggs so they would not hatch).

Additionally a problem was occurring in that some people were feeding very unhealthy foods (cookies) to the animals. The people said they have gotten in trouble many times for feeding the animals but refused to stop.

I am not suggesting people do feed wild raccoons, however clearly some people are not going to stop doing so. It would be better if the people simply fed the animals a better diet, and did so later in the day so the animals could live more naturally.

Raccoons can eat cat food, ferret food, most vegetables (not onions, garlic, avocados), eggs, and fish. They should not have cookies, greasy foods, salty foods, and so forth.

Maybe the park's people could do the same as is done in some areas to control feral cats, they could trap the animals, spay or neuter some, and release them. Perhaps this is already being done and people are just not aware. Or the park's people could arrange for the raccoons to be relocated to wild areas, or to zoos.

As tourists we enjoyed seeing these animals, and hope they continue to inhabit areas of Stanley Park.

Click here to see more pictures of the Raccoons in Vancouver's Stanley Park.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Facts about Domestic Cats

Cats are common house pets, having been domesticated over 9,000 years ago. In most modern cities the domestic cat is a common sight and they are often considered members of the family. In other areas cats are seen as helpful farm animals, killing mice and rats who would eat and contaminate food. Feral cats can be tamed though kindness, and food.

One of the reasons cats are so common, is there fast breeding rate.  Cats come into heat frequently, they are pregnant for about 57-65 days and can have 6 (or more) kittens per litter.  Unlike dogs, cats usually have no problems delivering their kittens and rarely require caesarian sections.  The biggest exception being cat breeds (such as the Persian) which have large round heads.

Kittens can be weaned at 6 weeks, but it is better to wean kittens at 8 weeks.  Homes should be kitten proofed before getting a new kitten.  There are many common household dangers to cats owners should be aware of.

You should have your kitten checked by a vet before bringing it home, it should be vaccinated and wormed too.  Note that it is not uncommon for cats to have heart murmurs - not all are severe.

Kittens usually know how to use their litter box with no problems, however kittens from a farm might not have used a litter box before so some additional training may be needed.  Kittens should not be allowed outside until they are older (or should be kept indoors always). 

When it comes to selecting a new cat, most people want kittens, and sadly few adult cats, and even fewer senior cats, find homes.  There are some concerns with adopting an older cat, but there are also many reasons why people may want to adopt a senior cat.

Many people worry if their cat can make them sick.  In general the answer is "no" but kittens can spread cat scratch disease.  Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that cats can catch from mice and this is a concern mostly to pregnant women.

Another concern among cat owners is that cats enjoy being awake at night, so it is a good idea to try to train them to sleep when you sleep.

Cats sometimes do not drink enough water and as such are sometimes prone to having urinary tract problems.  It is important that owners find ways to encourage their cat to drink more water to keep its urinary tract system healthy.  Pay attention to the magnesium content in dry food, select a food with a low magnesium content.  If your cat is not getting enough to drink it can get a urinary tract infection - a clue that your cat may have an infection is if it starts peeing around the home, not in the litter box.

Cats are obligate carnivores, they need meat.  People often debate about how to feed cats correctly.  Many agree they should have good quality dry food available at all times and be given small helpings of canned food as per their age and health needs.  Although many people think of tuna as being a favorite, it is a food cats should not have.

Cats can suffer from diabetes, as such, unless you want to be giving your cat insulin injections daily, it is important to keep your cat's weight under control.  Cats have many risks related to being obese.  It is a myth that spaying or neutering causes a cat to be lazy.  In general this is related to a lack of stimulation by owners who sometimes expect cats to exercise themselves. 

Be aware that many human medications are toxic to cats.

Cats sometimes vomit; in some cases this is related to hairballs (see below) in other cases this is related to food or health problems.

Cats generally prefer to live alone, not with other cats, however if selected correctly, and introduced correctly, cats can get along.  Cats can even get along with dogs too, but certain dog breeds are better with cats than others

Other Tips for Cat Owners

Not all cats like catnip; kittens rarely notice it, but you can try it for your cat after it is 6 months of age.

Hairballs are not "normal" but are common, try brushing your cat more to remove loose hair, feed a better quality cat food, and reduce stress to reduce shedding.

Polydactyl cats are cats with extra toes, and are considered to be lucky.

While most cats look somewhat similar there are a few unusual breeds, such as the Manx and Siamese cats.

Most cats you see are not specific breeds, in order for a cat to be called a Purebred, it must be registered.

Adopting a cat from an animal shelter is often cheaper than taking a "free kitten" to the vet for a check up, vaccination, and worming.  Animal shelters often have health guarantees and may give out many coupons and deals.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Where is the Environmentally Friendly Transportation

I remember as a kid (I was born in the 1960's) being told that one day soon gas and oil would run out. While many people lived in fear of this day, I was excited! I looked forward to the day when we would return to the horse and buggy. That day has still not arrived and cars are becoming slightly more efficient (although, as mentioned, still not as efficient as one would think). 

Well, time has passed and we are using cars (oil, and gas) more than ever. In fact, when I was young it was usually one car per family, now many families have two, or more, cars. It does not look like we will be going back to the horse and buggy anytime soon. 

Horses are very environmentally friendly (more so than cattle). They are a renewable resource. They need only grass (hay) and water. If worked hard some need oats or other grain too. While people often replace their car every 6 to 10 years, a well cared for horse can last much longer. Their waste is good for the soil. If you want to be blunt about it their remains can be used too, either as pet food, or to return to nature in a natural way to fertilize the soil.

On the other hand, horses were not always treated particularly well when they served exclusively as forms of transportation.  It was seeing cruelty to horses (and other humans) that inspired Anna Sewell to write her famous book "Black Beauty".  Even now improvements could be made to how carriage horses are treated when used to pull tourists around various cities.

What do you think, are horses the environmentally friendly transportation of the future?  Do you think there will be a time when we go back to the horse and buggy?