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A cat’s obsession

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Tiger's successor Skeezix

Tiger's successor Skeezix

The mercury was close to 100 degrees, when I traveled to muggy South Central Texas one summer to photograph race yearlings for a prominent farm whose manager greeted me at the door with a warning.

“We had to do something about the rats in the rafters,” he said, as he opened the office door and I realized immediately that the rats were still in the rafters, only now they were dead and decomposing.

I could sympathize with the problem of rats in the rafters. At one time I could look up and see hairless tails hanging down over our barn isle. But that was before Tiger, the big male house cat that I adopted from the Humane Society, came to live at our barn.

The first night that Tiger spent in his new domain, he left me a gift of 13 dead rats, lined up neatly in front of the feed room. The next morning I found an even dozen. And so it went for several weeks, until the body count began to dwindle and there were no more rats’ tails in the rafters.

At the same time, it became harder to find Tiger, who had always come when I called him. Sometimes I wouldn’t see him for several days and his food would go untouched.

Then our neighbor mentioned the great cat that had taken up residence in his barn. It turned out that Tiger was somewhat of a “day hand.” He would stay with one outfit until his job was done, then move to another for the next roundup.

Now comes news in today’s Wall Street Journal that there is something just as appealing to cats as rodents – Calvin Kleins’s Obsession cologne for men. Its a staple for zoos that use it to keep their big cats content and it is also used as a lure for research in the wild. Click here to read the article.

Community Service posts

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

I have added a new tab called “Community Service” to my blog to accommodate notices sent to me about philanthropic causes and events. It will not be used for commercial, personal or political purposes.

The first post is in regard to a benefit for reining and cowhorse trainer Bill Norwood and his wife, Kelli. Click “Community Service” for details and check back from time to time for additional notices and updates about other benefits.

Animal ingenuity

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Maternal influence as it relates to learned behavior is a subject that many Quarter Horse breeders give scant thought to in these days of embryo transfer and surrogate dams. But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal testifies to the importance of maternal influence within at least one family of mammals. Click here to read “Among Dolphins, Tool-Using Handymen are Women,” by Robert Lee Hotz.

The article is about an extended family of wild bottlenose dolphins in Australia’s Shark Bay that uses small basket sponges, which they gather on the bottom of the bay, to protect their noses as they forage for food on the seafloor.

Hog wild about cows

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Cutters believe that “cow sense” is bred into their horses through generations of selective breeding. What then are we to make of Squeaky (Johnny Hanson photo), a feral hog that helps round up cattle on Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan’s ranch south of Houston?

China Grove Ranch manager Mike Veara found the spotted orphan in a back pasture two years ago and gave the piglet to his grandson to raise. Without prompting, Squeaky took to ranching as if he was born to it. It might be said that he saved his bacon by bringing home the beef, except for the fact that he prefers his pizza with pepperoni.

Click here to see Squeaky at work and enjoying pizza, after a job well done.

Creature comforts

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

This touching photo of an orphaned baby rhesus macaques and its inseparable friend reminds us of the comfort and companionship offered to us and many other species by what some humans refer to as “dumb animals.”

The photo, which appeared in Audubon magazine, was taken at a nature reserve on Neilingding Island, not far from Hong Kong. The island is home to over 1,000 rhesus macaques, a protected species in China.

Pigeons have shared a bond with humans for over 5,000 years as message carriers in war and peace. Ancient Greeks used pigeons to relay results of the Olympic Games and the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo was first delivered to England by a pigeon.

Click here to find out more about homing pigeons; for more details on the photo, click here.

Death comes on little cat feet

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Since he was adopted by staff members as a kitten two years ago, Oscar the Cat has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families.

Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone. For his work, he is highly regarded by the physicians and staff at Steere House and by the families of the residents whom he serves. A plaque from a local hospice agency hanging in the corridor reads: “For his compassionate hospice care, this plaque is awarded to Oscar the Cat.”

According to Steere House Staff and the New England Journel of Medicine, which featured an article on him in their last issue, Oscar is punctual, arriving to curl up beside the patient one to two hours before the time of death and leaving soon after the patient takes their last breath.

Reported as otherwise independent and unaffectionate, Oscar prefers to keep to himself. While doctors theorize that his instinct could be the result of a heightened sense of and attraction to chemical scents released by the human body in the hours preceding death, no one knows for sure.