BOOK REVIEW: "Being a Dog: The World From Your Dog's Point of View" by Karen Wild.
A lot of work went into this book, and I wish that the author had consulted with more experts on canine behavior and holistic veterinary care. Written to the dog ("What excites, scares or angers you?"), the book will help people grasp some basic understanding of canine consciousness, motivation and psychodynamics. But reviewing "10 Problems You May Face" without offering any remedies was disconcerting. Above all, the assertion that "Dogs do not have a sense of self-awareness" makes me wonder about the limitations of scientific research methodology and of those who make unverified conclusions on the basis of such research findings.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)
DEAR DR. FOX: I have adamantly opposed the practice of trap-neuter-release (TNR) as I believe -- and most scientists agree with me -- that it is cruel to cats and the wildlife that they kill and maim, and it creates a public health risk. Chris Santella and Peter Marra's "Cat Wars" has inspired some of us true cat lovers to oppose TNR. The outdoor cat hoarders never have to see the often-agonizing way their cats suffer and die; my beloved pets die in my arms at a vet's office, cuddled by me until they have drawn their last breath.
Can you provide me with any instructions to vets of appropriate healing time when an operating vet should do a final post-op inspection to pronounce that sutures are safely healed and the cat is fit for full activity? The Houston vets and city council are real wimps facing up to Alley Cat Allies. Our Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care glorifies Community Cat Program on its TNR website, and it makes no effort to educate the public about the Audubon Society's Cats Indoors! program, "catios" or cat fencing. All emotion, no science. -- P.S.W., Houston
DEAR P.S.W.: I appreciate your concerns and applaud your efforts to really help cats. But that is difficult with the ballyhoo and political posturing in the name of compassion by Alley Cat Allies. The group's lucrative fundraising and network of supporters would not exist if kittens were not so appealing and the right-to-life sentiment and feel-good involvement in "saving" cats' lives at all cost were not powerful motivating factors in what I see as misguided altruism. You are correct that it is "all emotion, no science."
For a critical review of the negative consequences of Alley Cat Allies' activities, see the column "Releasing Cats to Live Outdoors" posted on my website, DrFoxVet.net. I make the point, which is related to your question, that releasing highly stressed cats from shelters 24 to 48 hours after surgical sterilization is not humane or good veterinary care. Some vets argue that early release is better than spending more time in the shelter, and that with good surgical suturing with absorbent materials, the wounds should heal well. But with compromised immune systems, there could be other complications -- especially when they are released without prior testing for feline leukemia and viral immunodeficiency disease.
In her book "The Lion in the Living Room," Abigail Tucker notes that some ecologists characterize TNR activities, which many municipalities are accepting as scientifically valid cat population control and a humane alternative to euthanasia (they are neither), as "cat hoarding without walls." She also notes that opponents have received death threats by rabid advocates of TNR.
My call for community sanctuaries, group housing and better education of cat owners to not let their cats roam free with enforcement of appropriate ordinances are overshadowed by the current TNR cult. It is only appropriate in rodent-infested urban dystopias and very limited locations where the cat colonies are relatively isolated, pose no risks to wildlife or to public health, are regularly fed and provided veterinary care as needed.