Monday, December 10, 2012

It is More Fun to Give than to Receive

"It is more fun to give than to receive". Here at Riverfront Cats, we not only believe in this phrase, we live it everyday. Thanks to our dedicated team, (Sabrina, Christine, Mollie and Liz) the Riverfront Cats are happy, healthy and living humanely. Coordinating the feedings, taking an hour each day to feed 21 outdoor cats no matter the day of week or if it's stifling hot or pouring rain, driving once or twice a week to load up and buy pet food, visiting and petting the cats, and ensuring there are no injuries is no small task. We wouldn't change a thing.

Riverfront Cats/Pawsitively Humane goes beyond to help other people and neighborhood cats through education and hands-on contributions.   Thanks to the efforts of the founder, Christine Michaels. By giving up her entire weekend or days off to rescue stray cats or kittens, climbing fences, camping out and waiting in extreme weather conditions to trap unsterilized cats, shuttling back and forth to veterinarian clinics, answering daily calls of people giving up their pet cats or finding strays, attending community meetings and pet adoption events to educate the public about the homeless pet epidemic and staying up to 2am to write updates on this blog, creating flyers...All for no pay and on top of a full-time job. This is typical not just for Christine but countless other animal advocate volunteers--quiet soldiers wanting to make a difference and asking nothing in return for themselves.

Along with this tremendous responsibility comes great expenses.  You'll recall little Sophie had her leg amputated at two pounds. Thankfully the surgery went smoothly and she's recovering nicely.  Sophie's surgery cost $1,300.  Then there's the cost of food and litter. It adds up fast when caring for several kittens and cats. One bag of Royal Canin kitten food is over $20. Add in the litter, and it doesn't stop until they are adopted. And that generally takes months if not over a year.

We receive calls and emails daily requesting help to take in or help cats for various reasons.  We do what we can. Volunteers and donations make all the difference.

Many people think we receive free vet care. Absolutely not. While Riverfront Cats/Pawsitively Humane does receive a small discount, bringing in three kittens, for example, in one visit for exam, bloodtest and vaccination, and microchip costs close to $100 total per cat WITH the discount. That's before spaying/neutering and other medical treatment that may be required if the vet detects a medical problem or condition.

 Like most small nonprofits, time spent on fundraising is very limited. The priority is the care and welfare of the cats.

Therefore we turn to animal lovers like you for help.  Perhaps you would consider donating the cost of something you buy or do regularly -a week's worth of Starbuck's coffee ($25),  the price of a cocktail ($15), that shirt or blouse or tie you never wore that still hangs in your closet ($50),  a manicure/pedicure ($45). Do you really need another handbag or pair of shoes that costs $100 or more? Do you really need the latest iPhone of iPad or flat screen LED TV?

If you enjoying giving as we do, please consider a donation* to Riverfront Cats/Pawsitively Humane.  Three different ways to donate:
1. Go to right column under "Make a Difference" and click "Donate".
2. Or you can go to our Facebook page and click "donation" button.
3. Send in a check to PAWSITIVELY HUMANE, INC (90 SW 3rd Street, #3905, Miami, FL  33130)

If you can not donate money, please consider volunteering in some capacity. We are in need of graphic designer (couple of hours a week), online fundraiser, help feeding the cats one night a week, social media postings, foster parents for kittens or cats, puppies or dogs. Our biggest need is feeding the cats and foster parents.

On behalf of all the homeless cats, that went from raggedy conditions to a good life, whether indoors or outdoors, we thank you for all your well wishes, morale and financial support throughout the year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and many blessings for you and your families.

Liz Andrade, Treasurer

UPDATE: December 27: So far we raised $300 and our goal is $2000. Help us help rescued cats and kittens! Many thanks!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hemingway House Cats Face USDA Regulations

Harry Truman (the cat) inside the Hemingway house

On every visit to Key West, the Ernest Hemingway house is a must-see destination.  Granted Mr. Hemingway is a famous author, but my inspiration for visiting is to see the polydactyl cats, the cats with more than five toes. Not just one or two or three, but fifty cats.  They live in the house like any other pet cat--basking in the sun on a window sill; lounging on the cool wooden deck; curled and napping on a pet bed, stretched out on the terrace...This is their home and the cats live peacefully on the property accustomed to the hundreds of daily tourists passing through, the stares, the ooohs and aaaahs.

You see, Ernest Hemingway left his house to his cats, not his wife. Theirs was not a happy marriage. One learns this nugget of information when you take the guided tour. The cats all have names, usually named after actors or actresses, like Audrey Hepburn who my cat Jean Pierre actually fell in love with (yes I took my cats to Key West and to the Hemingway House--I like to think I'm a cool cat mom).


When I read the headline "How the Ernest Hemingway Cats became a Federal Case" my heart sank. "What now?!" I exclaimed.  It turns out a visitor was concerned about the "cats' care" and took his or her concern all the way to the federal government, the USDA. Seriously?

Sadly this is true.  Since the cats are part of a museum, a commercial business, and are live animals, they fall under the federal law of "exhibition animals". So the museum needs an exhibitor license as mandated by the Animal Welfare Act. Well that does not sound so horrible and filing some forms could solve that administrative issue. If only it were that simple.

Apparently pets cats at Hemingway House must be treated as exhibition cats which also means

"Federal officials advised the museum that it also needed to take action to: Confine the cats in individual cages each night, or construct a higher fence around the property, or install an electric wire atop the existing brick wall, or hire a night watchman to keep an eye on the cats."
Confine cats and deprive them of their born freedom to move around? Install an electric wire atop the existing brick wall?  These are not dangerous, untamed, wildlife animals! These are non aggressive house pets! I understand the Animal Welfare Act is intended to protect animals. But these solutions go against the nature of these cats.  I can understand constructing a higher fence around the property so the cats do not leave the property and risk getting hit by a car. But cats know where their home is and return. The grounds are expansive, a heaven for outdoor cats. However the other solutions are not humane and lack common sense in my opinion. Hire a watchman? Whoever proposed that must have drowned their coke in rum at the movie theater when watching a Night at the Museum. What will a watchman do? Say "Halt Humphrey [Bogart]--you are not allowed to climb over that wall!"

The bottom line of the court case is that the USDA has the authority to regulate the cats since it's part of a business that draws customers from outside of Florida that do come to see the cats. (Interesting, in my experience as a tour guide operator in Miami in talking to tourists on their way to Key West, most do not know that the main feature of the Hemingway house is the cats ).  As a pet educator and rescuer, I appreciate the laws intended to protect animals from abusive situations or scenarios that place them in danger.  However I also believe the law must recognize the unique nature of each animal.  In other words, use some common sense.

My burning question is who was this concerned visitor? What is his/her background and expertise in working with pet cats?  I'm miffed that my tax dollars are spent on this issue when the cats are well taken care of, pose no threat, and are clearly happy and healthy and bring tourism dollars to my state.

Here is the complete story.  What do you think?  Is the law interpreted too broadly?

Below is a one minute video that briefly introduces the Hemingway House cats.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Threat of a Shopping Bag

Decorating for Christmas and gift wrapping is fun for people and pets too! Adults, children and especially pets love it when you bring out boxes of decorations and pull out rolling Christmas bulbs, shiny tinsel and ribbon, and glowing strings of lights. Especially for new pet owners and those adopting puppies and kittens, there are a number of precautions to remember during the season. 1. Switch out glass bulbs for plastic bulbs. The cats, and some dogs, will knock them off the tree and shattered glass is not a shiny decoration but lethal. 2. Never leave your cat or dog unattended and alone with a Christmas tree because they can knock it down and cause a fire if lights are lit or they get mangled with all the strings of tinsel and lights...3. Ribbons, tinsel and mistletoe are capable of causing blockage in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines, so keep pets well away.

While fostering kittens, I was reminded of another danger--shopping bags.  While Figaro and Luciano, two active (gangster) kittens,  have proven their abilities as expert paper shredders,  they also enjoy playing hide-and-go-seek (more like bad cop chasing bad guy) inside paper shopping bags. What cat doesn't like cardboard boxes? Well the cousin, the paper bag, is just as appealing to a curious kitten. But beware...

One evening while diligently working at my desk, Figaro (aka Gambino) and Luciano were playing as usual in the same room I settled into for the evening.  As I focused on the computer work before me, I tuned out the tornado of fur buzzing by, above and around me, knowing they are nearby.   But then at the corner of my eye, I noticed a stop-and-go motion. Luciano attempted to dart but couldn't move. He was stuck.  It turns out Luciano looped through the handle but did not completely exit, and continued turning in circles to play, that the handle of a shopping bag was tightly twisted around his midsection.  He feverishly wiggled  like a demonized cat and complicated matters that the cord-like handle was hurting him. Luciano mewed distress. Not able to visually assess how badly he was tangled, in seconds I had to decide do I use scissors but then risk stabbing him if I can't  hold him with both hands and he jerks around, or can I calm him down and untangle his body? Fortunately he remained still as I grabbed him with both hands and untwisted his four pound lithe body from the death grip of the Macy's shopping bag handle. The entire episode lasted less than 20 seconds but to a mother it's an eternity. Thankfully my experience in solving problems under pressure from the corporate world to animal rescue helped me resolve this potential catastrophe with a clear head, calm and ease. Now all I needed was an eggnog with plenty of rum and brandy!

So this year no large Christmas tree. I'm postponing setting up the table top one until the kittens are adopted.  Or maybe I put it away in the closet every time I step out.

So have you encountered a potential holiday threat or disaster from other pretty things?