Friday, December 12, 2008

The Power of Focused Attention

There has been a sad news story that has garnered national attention and an outpouring of generosity lately: the plight of over 100 pit bulls found at a farm in Oklahoma, chained with little or no food, water, or adequate winter shelter. Four of the dogs have either died or had to be euthanized because of their poor condition. Volunteers are caring for the rest of them right now, but their eventual fate is still up in the air. Obviously socializing has not been a major part of their life, and unsocialized adult pit bulls are potentially very dangerous.

Buried in this morning's article, though, was a fact that I found as sad or sadder than the plight of these dogs: apparently in Oklahoma alone, over 100 pit bulls are euthanized EVERY DAY at animal shelters across the state.

It's national news when this number of poorly treated dogs is found in one site. It's business as usual when this number of poorly treated dogs is spread out daily across a state.

Sometimes I'm appalled at what we accept as normal in our country.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Black Cat Battles

Have you ever heard of a cat who is addicted to electrical shocks?

I think we may have one.

Our six month old kitten, Ranger, has developed a VERY frustrating - not to mention dangerous and expensive - habit: he loves to chew on electrical cords.

First I noticed that the adapter cord for the weather radio was in 3 pieces, with numerous other chew marks along it's length.

Next it was the adapter cord for the digital photo frame. It looked suspiciously like the weather radio cord...except, to be fair, it was only in 2 pieces.

The third casualty was the adapter cord for my new laptop. Ranger didn't actually get all the way through this one, just put enough holes in it that I felt much safer spending $100 to get a new one.

However, the most impressive incident was the night after Thanksgiving. That night he went for the big shock and chewed into the floor lamp cord. Single-mouthedly he was able to brown out the entire house, not to mention burning out the lamp and fluorescent bulb therein. He did not appear shocked at all by his experience.

Now we were not only irritated, we were beginning to get scared. What if he did this when we weren't home? He could burn the house down. That trick earned a night shut up in a cat kennel while we tried to figure out what to do.

We discussed our options which, frankly, weren't all that great. Hot sauce on the cords hadn't seemed to phase him. We could make him an outside cat, which neither of us wanted, or return him to the pound, which we wanted even less. We opted for throwing him outside when he got too rowdy.

Unlike most cats, he hates being outside. If big brother Becker is around, Ranger shadows him, rubbing fondly against his legs. Otherwise he tends to sulk under the potting bench, darting for the door the first time it opens.

This strategy seemed to be working for about a week. Then last Saturday, both Prairiewolf and I lost our internet connections almost simultaneously. Our first thought was that the internet had temporarily gone down. Prairiewolf's next thought was that Ranger had been under his feet briefly just a few seconds before. He checked the cords - sure enough, the telephone line between the modem and the wall plug was toast. This time it had only taken one chew zone and about 30 seconds. Ranger was obviously perfecting his technique.

On Sunday night I noticed him playing under the livingroom end table. Outside he went, but not before he had bisected the adapter cord for the telephone cradle.

The pound was looming closer. A night's sleep let us cool down a bit, so the next morning I took our problem to our vet. Unfortunately she had no words of wisdom for us. This was a "difficult problem with no easy answer."

But Prairiewolf asked a question in passing that got me thinking, "Do you think we have enough toys around for him to play with?"

We'd showered Ranger with toys when we first got him, but slowly they had disappeared...under furniture, broken, into that great pet toy heaven in the sky. I hadn't noticed their disappearance since Ranger played endlessly with our other cat, T.J. Then, too, he amused himself (and us) by doing gymnastic leaps and twirls off the sliding glass door after imaginary monsters. He had learned the fine art of unrolling massive streams of toilet paper across the bathroom floor and out into the hall, complete with multiple Braille-like notations along the t.p.'s entire length. He even made it a point of honor to never miss the fascinating sight of water swirling around the toilet bowl every time it was flushed.

With all that excitement, could he possibly just be bored?

I dug out the few cat toys I hadn't given him before. Most were batted around a bit, but didn't cause overwhelming excitement. Then I hung up the squeaky mouse on the elastic string. Ranger couldn't get enough of it. I watched him for several minutes, then went back to other chores, smiling to myself about his enthusiasm. A few minutes later I noticed a pitiful meowing coming from the laundry room doorway. When I checked it out, Ranger was perplexedly looking at his new toy, the elastic string stuck over the back of the door with the mouse decidedly out of his reach. I released the mouse and Ranger immediately set about conquering it again. A few minutes later, the meowing began again. Again I rescued the mouse. This went on for over an hour before Ranger finally got tired and let the poor mouse rest a bit.

The second go-around began a few hours later...but this time the mouse's harness wasn't up to the assault. Fifteen minutes into another serious round of pouncing, the plastic rod suspending the mouse on its elastic cord broke irrevocably. I tied the mouse around the door handle, but it just wasn't the same.

We have since gone out and splurged on more cat toys, looking particularly for squeaky mouse-shaped models. Most of the ones we could find on elastic cords didn't squeak, unfortunately, so we had to settle for more feline powered ones. I'm putting them out slowly, one at a time, being sure to keep a few back for novelty's sake.

I'm hoping we're over the electric cord phase, but I'm probably being overly optimistic. Keep your fingers crossed for us, please. And if you've ever dealt with this problem, especially if you've solved it successfully, I'd love to get your input. Both my preventive ideas and my patience are wearing thin, and I really don't want to test our electrical luck more than we already have, but Ranger is generally a charming member of our family and I certainly don't want to have to send him back to the pound.

As I finish writing this, Ranger has attacked his latest squeaky mouse and is busily conquering it as it "scurries" from room to room. I'm hoping against hope that the answer really is this simple.