Cat Village

Cat Island in Japan is famous for its feline residents as well as being a popular destination for tourists from all over, but while many flock there for the cats it is far from the ideal place most have imagined it would be. Hannah Shaw, aka Kitten lady, took a trip there a few years back and she shows us that it sadly falls short of what true cat lovers would expect.

Houtong, Taiwan has taken a different approach to capitalizing on their cats and it is one that ensures the well-being of their four-legged residents is a priority.

The former mining town, which is now referred to as the Cat Village, was taken over by cats that were left behind when all but a few people moved on. A local women and cat lover was the first to notice the cats and she organized other volunteers to help care for the now estimated 200 plus, ensuring that all are vaccinated, micro-chipped and spayed or neutered. The few remaining residents declared themselves a cat friendly sanctuary complete with cat cafes, shops and restaurants making Houtong the perfect mecca for cat lovers.

While the volunteers and residents have made great efforts with the cats, unfortunately there have been reports of people dumping or stealing cats as well as disease which was introduced by abandoned cats – the only apparent downside to the feline paradise. It is acknowledged that there is great potential to teach visitors the value of cats, but officials admit there may be much more work to do in that area.

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Cats of Houtong – Image By P1340, from Wikimedia Commons

A place with many cats means temptation, the type the every cat lover can easily fall prey to so with that in mind and knowing that people want to ‘touch’ the cats, those who are tasked for caring for them have made sure that there are plenty of signs and rules asking people to respect and not harass the animals. Getting people to obey all the rules may be another story.

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Houtong Cat Village, Photo provided by Anne Cooper – Animal Bliss

If you find yourself in Taiwan, or will be planning a visit just so you can see Houtong’s Cat Village directions on how to get there can be found here.

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The Nose Knows

Most people are familiar with drug or bomb sniffing dogs as well as dogs that can detect cancers in people. Generally when it comes to scent detection it seems that dogs have the market cornered. New research recently published by the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science explains that our feline companions abilities are nothing to sniff at and, they may be just as helpful as dogs or better at disease detection in humans and search and rescue.

The average cat has about 200 million scent receptors while most dog breeds have much less. The exception is the Bloodhound which has been bred specifically to have a powerful senses of smell and comes in at about 300 million scent receptors or, the Beagle and the German Shepard which have about 225 million. Our four-legged friends sense of smell is very impressive when you compare it to humans who only have about 5 million olfactory cells.

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Cats are discriminating super sniffers using their sense of smell to communicate and also mark territory – Image – AllCat.net

So who has a better sense of smell? The ‘dogs’ vs ‘cats’ debate will likely continue, but it is generally acknowledged by researchers that cats will win out in the best sense of smell category. What makes cats good candidates and better than dogs for helping to sniff out disease or find missing people? Simply, the nose knows how to better discriminate between smells.

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When a cat grimaces or shows the ‘Flehmen’ response they  are taking in and analyzing scents via the vomeronasal organ. Image – Maxhouse.com

Out of the three families of receptor proteins in a cats vomeronasal or Jacobson organ only one has been studied. They are known as V1Rs, and it is believed that the “number of V1R receptor gene variants is correlated with the ability to discriminate between chemical stimuli. Research shows that tigers have 21 gene variants and domestic cats have 30, compared to the 9 functioning V1Rs that dogs have, which would indicate that some felids are able to discriminate between a great variety of chemical stimuli.” Additional research will be required on the V1Rs, and eventually the other receptor proteins V2Rs and FPRs, to find out the extent to which cats can discriminate between scents.

The basis of these finding could mean there is great potential for cats to be used in scent based working roles where dogs may not be ideal either due to size or environment. It would also benefit cats directly by providing humans with a better understanding of how to improve their welfare or implement better enrichment for them at home or in animal shelters.

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 Feliway™ the first synthetically produced pheromone used to help calm and reduce anxiety in cats comes in a spray or diffuser form. It is one way scent is already helping cats. Image – Daily Mail

There have already been a number of documented cases of cats detecting cancer in their owners and also sniffing it out in other animals. I had this experience with one of my own cats when one suddenly started sniffing around the bottom of our other cat who was diagnosed with a tumor in his colon a week later.

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Researchers say that these abilities are underused in cats but they may be better alternatives for medical scent detection or olfactory assistance animals for patients who are uncomfortable with dogs or rats. However, anyone who is owned by a cat knows, that just like dogs, they each have individual personalities which means that not all of them will be gifted with the abilities or desire to do search and sniff work. This leaves us with a final question that is probably on the minds of many as they read this. Can cats be trained? The answer is yes, but it will take patience, positive reinforcement and some really enticing food rewards.

CatConLA The Return!

I just got back from a short vacation in LA and CatCon! Last year, the first year of Cat Con, was an experience not soon to be forgotten and completely overwhelming in the best possible way. This year I was better prepared – with a plan of how to calmly and productively make my way through the two floors of everything cat.

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The event was held again in downtown LA at The Reef but the set up was much better, more vendors spread out over two floors (last year it was on one!) which made it much easier to navigate. I found you could actually see the tables and the merchandise better as well as have plenty of room to stop and chat with friends both new and old. I made sure to arrive at the venue before noon, thankfully the line up around the building moved fast however, by late afternoon the Fire Marshall barred people from entering for a time due to capacity issues. The attendance was at about 15,000 up from last years 10,000.

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Stopping by Polydactyl Cats to pick up some fun catnip toys!

Meet and greets with some famous internet cats were available with LiL Bub, Nala Cat and Pudge the Cat. Portions from the sale of these special tickets went to support FIxNation, Kitten Rescue or Lil Bub’s Big Fund, and a $1 from the sale of all regular CatCon tickets also went to FixNation.

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Lil Bub so cool you have to wear shades

For the person who loves to shop for themselves or their cat, it was a dream come true. Many vendors from last year returned and there were quit a few new ones.

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Cat beds – are all the rage and this one came with hand made cat quilts! You could purchase single or bunk style for your cats.

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One piece cat suit by Pretty Snake

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Picked up this bright colored pouch by Olive & Rye Cat Art

Many famous internet cats also have their own merchandise, like Cheese and Olive two Abyssinian cats who are featured in clothing, home decor and accessories.

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Cheese and Olive Catzilla shall destroy your city!

There were many cat themed items for home and human use like like the classic pillow cases of Xenotees, which I picked up, or these Japanese tattoo inspired creations by Momon Cats.

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Beautiful cat shaped pillows by Monmon Cats

Of course there were plenty of options in the cool for your cat and looks great in the house category, like these colorful and modular Kitty Kasa designs by Arni Says. 100% of profits go back into the ARNI foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue of animals at local kill shelters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

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Kitty Modular design by ArniSays

On the really tiny side, there were these delicate cat figurines by Long Live Porcelain, who also make items such as ring bowls and cat adorned salt and pepper shakers.

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Cat figurines by Long Live Porcelain

If you wanted cat beds there were lots of styles to choose from, including these whimsical and colorful designs by Dharma Dog Karma Cat.

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Super fun and cozy hide outs for your cat

Once you were all shopped out just walking around to admire the many of the cat costumed humans was a great way to spend your time.

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Amazing Calico Cat – fully detailed with claws and moving mouth by Dragon Squared

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Fierce looking Stabby Tabby

Among the extravagant outfits one couple stood out for having subtle yet detailed matching cat printed Kimonos. They had purchased the fabric in Japan and had the outfits made to order.

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By end of CatCon on Sunday, people went home with cool cat stuff and some went home with a new family member courtesy of the SPCA LA’s cat adoption center. About 90 + cats and kittens found homes and, since they were only allowing serious and potential adopters in the cat cuddling areas, which was a good thing, I had to snap a few pictures through the glass.

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A view into the cat adoption rooms where potential adopter got to meet the cats.

Actress and original cat woman Julie Newmar met with fans, signed books and autographs and, Kat Von D showcased her make-up line providing free cat eye make up applications. There were speakers on various topics and even the first Furr-ocious Fashion Face of contest. Once again there was something for everyone and then some!

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Saying hello to I Have Cat’s Tamar Arslanian

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A visit with SauerKraut in the RV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sauerkraut’s Humom and Pops

It was another fun year at Cat Con, with lots of like minded people sharing their passion for all things cat and if you missed it, not to worry the event is guaranteed to be back again for a third year.

New Ride

Cassidy the two-legged miracle cat has come a long way since being rescued last year by TinyKittens, a non-profit rescue located in Fort Langley, BC. He continues to get around in his custom-built wheelchair while receiving daily physical therapy in hopes that it will help make him a candidate for prosthetic legs one day. Recently Cassidy has changed it up by  enjoying a new ride, one that has become a favorite with internet cats and viewers.

Most kittens aren’t as lucky as Cassidy, which is why it is so important to help your friends, neighbors and co-workers understand how important it is to spay and neuter. Only 1 in 12 kittens born ever finds a home, and only 25% of kittens born to unowned cats will survive longer than 6 months. The rest will die from starvation, disease, predators or cruelty. Here’s more about our work with feral cats, and some of the shocking things we’re learning.” – TinyKittens.com/ferals

TinyKittens is doing amazing work to help cats including fostering, education, TNR, research, and Feral Cat Mapping. They are always looking for volunteers, foster parents or donations to help them continue to help cats like Cassidy. If you aren’t in a position to volunteer or donate you can be a voice for cats everywhere by simply sharing his story.

University for Cats

Students that attend the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico city get something extra with their education, a free lesson in compassion courtesy of some four-legged friends.

The university, which is located in an old convent, is known as a university that helps teach students to respect cats.

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All images are from 3 Million dogs unless otherwise stated

Before the university was open the first cats on the property were thought to have belonged to the nuns who would have kept them as companions and to keep rodent populations down to help prevent plagues.

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After the convent was closed in the 19th century, many cat skeletons were found buried on the property during extensive renovations in 1976

In 1979 when the university officially opened it was decided to continue the tradition of having cats on the property, as people continued to abandon cats and kittens there and felines kept showing up on their own. The university decided to take steps to help control the population after it grew to over 100 cats in 10 years. They introduced  spay and neuter, adoption and a public education campaign to create awareness around the cats.

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The population slowly came under control and adoptions were monitored with background checks and follow-up, and according to 3 million dogs, there remain about 20 cats who currently live on the property. This successful TNR campaign is due to the humane treatment of the cats by the university as well as students who volunteer to help by being responsible for re-homing cats they have fixed and vaccinated.

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Donations cover the medical bills and the university pays for the food

The cats all have names, are known to be very friendly and can often be seen hanging out in the “Patio de los Gatos” or The Cats’ Yard. The university makes sure the cats have everything they need like food dispensers, water, beds, toys and even scratching posts, throughout the property.

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Some teachers even allow cats to attend class

Cats have become an integral part of life on campus and the relationship is clearly mutually beneficial making this an ideal university for cats, and people.

Black Cat Appreciation Day

Black cats are beautiful, they are mini house panthers, sleek and mysterious. They hold a special place in the hearts of many including myself and Black Cat Appreciation Day is a day to celebrate all things black cat while helping dispell the negativity and myths that still surround them.

  • People believe black cats are unlucky, this is an old superstition that still exists
  • Black cats are often overlooked for adoption in shelters around the world and have a much harder time finding homes
  • Black cats have been linked to Witch Craft and became the unfortunate targets of cruelty throughout history because they were thought to posses supernatural or demonic powers. Today, during Halloween they can still become targets and most shelters do not adopt them out during this time

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Of course today we know better and most people realize that demonizing a cat because of their color is complete rubbish. So what about the benefits of adopting black cats?

  • They go with everything because black never goes out of style
  • They are like having tiny panthers running around your home and that’s pretty cool
  • In some cultures black cats are considered lucky! The Scottish believe a strange black cat’s arrival to the home signifies prosperity, while Pirates of the 19th century believed if a black cat walks towards you, it’s a sign of bad luck, but it’s good luck if it walks away from you. In the English Midlands, a black cat as a wedding present is thought to bring good luck to the bride!
  • Black cats have the ability to be just as sweet and loving as any other cat and make wonderful companions

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In honor of this day I went through some old photos, including the film kind, of my black cat Simon who I had to let go of 5 years ago this month. I still get sad and even teary eyed when I look at some of these and my one regret is the I didn’t have a digital camera or iPhone early on to capture more of him. Simon was an old soul, gentle and very loving, he loved and greeted everyone who came to our home. He always put Spinner and Cleo first when eating and loved to sit at the dinning room table during the holidays, this earned him the nickname gentleman Jim. Although he is gone he is never far from my mind or my heart.

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Simon, aka Gentleman Jim, at the dinner table during one Christmas. He always wanted to be near the action

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Simon in 2006 looking like the perfect house panther

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Simon in 2009 he loved to be in the sunlight on the coldest or hottest day

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Simon in the Winter of 2010

Simon – (1992 – 2010)

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Kraut and About

At a CatConLA after party I had the fortunate chance to meet Sauerkraut who, along with her humans were on a stop during their whirlwind Kraut and About tour across the Southwest US. The tour raised money for local shelters while highlighting animal welfare issues and special needs pet adoptions.

Sauerkraut, a special needs rescue from Oklahoma crowned Animal Planet’s America’s Next Cat Star finalist, was only taking visitors in her RV so I gladly obliged and tagged along with her Humom (Amy Bender) and a few other fans for a spontaneous meet and greet. There Sauerkraut was being waited on by Pops (Patrick Bender) during a break in their schedule when we were told she would receive us.

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Sauerkraut gets hugs from Humom

Sauerkraut’s look of disdain and penchant for dressing up in fancy clothes have won her a place in the hearts of fans everywhere and while some cats may be “trying” to hard, for the Kraut all of this comes naturally.

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“I am aware you are here but will choose to pretend you aren’t”

Sauerkraut’s parents first fostered her, but after realizing just how special she was they decided to keep Kraut and become foster failures – a very good thing.

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“I bet those birds have never seen a shark in an RV before!”

So why does Sauerkraut look so sour and what’s with the get up?  This little kitty has a neurological disorder called Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome so wearing clothes helps discourage her from over-grooming or scratching too much and injuring herself.

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Practicing for a role in the revival of  Toonces the driving cat.

Despite her challenges Sauerkraut is a happy cat who is well loved and looked after by her servants humans. When she isn’t looking cute and stylish meeting her fans she is using her Sauer Power for good. Kraut is a spokes cat for special needs pets; the benefits of volunteering with animal shelters; and adopting or fostering shelter cats.

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Kraut with a view

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Those baby blues look right through you!

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“Humom Kisses ewww!”

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“I am tired my loyal fans, you are dismissed!”

The Kraut and About tour aims to be an annual event throughout the US and is an awesome way to educate the public on the plight animals in shelters and help bring attention to those cats and dogs who are overlooked and considered less adoptable.

For more on the tour and Sauerkraut head on over to her Facebook page or be sure to follow her on Instagram.