Stories tagged pets

Apr
27
2010

Cat in a pot: imagine the heartburn and a hair ball!
Cat in a pot: imagine the heartburn and a hair ball!Courtesy Zoe
Yeah, I said it! Does the mere thought make your skin crawl? Or are you more inclined to daydream of a light mushroom sauce with parsnips and leeks? If you are the later, you may wish to hold your tongue. Recently, an Italian food show host got himself into hot water discussing his love of the feline meat as a “delicacy”. Later, he back stepped to say he only remembers these dishes from when he was a boy during the 1930’s and 1940’s. This cultural blunder still caused him to get sacked. Take a look at the video clip.

Indeed, this would not be a singular account of such ravenous behavior during the Second World War. Food shortages were a common issue that can become intensely exaggerated during times of conflict. Stories from England speak of ‘roof-rabbits’ when discussing the consumption of cats. Similar accounts abound from Bulgaria, Romania, Germany and Poland. Nor should this particular conflict be extraordinary. Diaries from U.S. Civil War prisoners speak directly to purchasing a dressed cat to supplement the meager rations of internment. Placed under the circumstances of starvation, a human being can resort to eating almost anything for sustenance. We need not revisit the fate of the Donner party.

So why all the moral outrage over the recollections of an aging Italian chef? The issue seems to come down to one major factor: culture. Thankfully, there is still a wide variety of culture and tradition across the globe that has not been homogenized. Western culture has cultivated the relationship with our cats and dogs to the point of companions. While most Asian cultures refrain from cat or dog consumption, it is not uncommon practice in poor or rural areas. The beliefs of Judaism and Islam prohibit the eating of any carnivore. Hindus would be aghast at American treatment of cattle. Eating of cats occurs in parts of Africa, including Ghana. Australian Aboriginals are known to roast them over an open fire. Incidents dot the globe like a wild season of the Amazing Race. Korea… Switzerland… Peru… Malaysia… Denmark… China… Kuwait… Brazil… Italy. There are many views on “friend or food”.
Cow legs in an African market: could you bring yourself to eat these?
Cow legs in an African market: could you bring yourself to eat these?Courtesy bthomoso

Simply, not all people view cats in the same light. We may not either if we get hungry enough. It is unfair to condemn others in their attempt to feed themselves. Americans, for the most part, are well removed from the processing of their food. No eyelashes or tails wagging under the shrink-wrap. Our diets have become less exotic than those of our ancestors. The stalls of food markets in other countries may shock us. The plates of the world’s indigenous peoples, I’m sure, are never graced by the double cheeseburger with fries and a shake. Yet, we are entertained vicariously by modern media. Shows such as Bizarre Foods walk us through eating habits of fellow humans across the earth. Should we find ourselves lost or stranded, Man vs. Wild subconsciously questions our resolve to eat in the wilderness. Here is to hoping it never comes to that!

I, for one, am content to not stew the cat. I’ll continue to nurture that mutually beneficial relationship we have, with her minding to the errant stray pest wandering indoors. I wish you the fortune of never being so hungry to consider a feline fricassee. Bon Appétit!

Mar
30
2008

So cute. So shnuggly. So lethal.: Jax, the mighty hunter, eyes some tasty birdies from his window perch.
So cute. So shnuggly. So lethal.: Jax, the mighty hunter, eyes some tasty birdies from his window perch.Courtesy Gene

As spring approaches (no, really, it is coming! You've got to believe!), house cats everywhere are sniffing at the fresh air coming in under the door, and are just itching to get outside. However, a politician in Boulder, Colorado is trying to pass a law that would require pet owners to keep their cats inside. It may sound funny – or like an unnecessary government intrusion into citizens’ lives—but outdoor cats are a big problem for wildlife. According to the American Bird Conservancy There are some 77 million house cats in America, and a similar number of feral cats. Each year, they kill hundreds of millions of birds, and perhaps a billion small mammals. Many of the prey species are threatened or endangered.

If you own a cat, keep it inside! Or invest in an enclosure so it can enjoy the outdoors without menacing the local wildlife.

Oct
17
2007

A typical American family: 2.5 kids and a Roomba.  (photo courtesy of mhaithaca on flickr.com)
A typical American family: 2.5 kids and a Roomba. (photo courtesy of mhaithaca on flickr.com)
A wave of human-robot love is sweeping the nation, says a recent Georgia Tech study, with a scale and intensity not seen since the release of Short Circuit 2. And what’s behind this wave of the future, as it crashes on the sunny, unsuspecting beaches of the present? Robotic vacuums. That’s right – little Roombas have crept into the lonely chambers of our hearts, and are sucking them clean.

One can immediately understand some of the attraction to “robovacs”: like a good, “real” friend, they are small, obsessively tidy, and can be purchased. Beki Grinter of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing thinks that the phenomenon goes beyond this, however. Grint began her study when she started seeing online photos of people dressing up their Roombas, and soon found that people were naming the vacuums, taking them on vacation with them, and, in at least one case, introducing them to their parents.

Roomba owners were even modifying their homes to make the Roombas’ “lives” easier; some bought new rugs; some sought out furniture and appliances with higher floor clearance; and some went so far as to pre-clean their floors to make things easier for the Frisbee-shaped robot.

Owners even tolerated Roombas with mechanical failures and functional problems (earlier models tended to break more often), because “they love their robot enough.”

The study seemed to suggest that, among other things, things that are designed to be somewhat emotionally engaging don’t have to as reliable. (This is, coincidentally, one of my mottos.)

One can also infer from the study that the average American family is finally ready to accept robot helpers into their home. Just think: Roomba today, Johnny 5 tomorrow, the Svedka vodka robot the next day… and maybe Roomba again the day after that.

Jan
25
2007

Cute, fluffy...and deadly?: Photo from Snap!
Cute, fluffy...and deadly?: Photo from Snap!
Can you tell I'm not a cat person? ;-)

Researchers report that bird flu mutates in cats faster than previously thought. Many human diseases originate in other animals, eventually mutating into a form that can infect us. AIDS is believed to have evolved from a similar disease in apes, and various strains of human flu reside in birds and farm animals before mutating and passing on to humans.

So far, very few people have been infected with "Bird flu" -- it seems to be hard for us to catch in its current form. But if it takes up residence in another mammal, it could mutate into a form that's much more deadly to us.

In the immortal words of Jan Hobson, it's time to throw your cat away.

(Kidding!)

Sep
15
2006

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright: Courtesy madcovv
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright: Courtesy madcovv

I was amazed today when I cracked open my new copy of Harper's Magazine. In the Harper's Index feature I discovered this chilling fact about our dwindling world tiger population. There are about as many tigers living in the wild around the world as there are living as pets in the US?! That's simply absurd. These wild animals were not meant to be domesticated and keeping them as pets won't help grow their numbers in the wild.

However, searching around on this topic did lead me to a rather interesting blog focusing on the issues of conservation, specifically through the lens of finance. They recently highlighted China's unique efforts at tiger conservation, which involve breeding tigers in China and shipping them to a fenced-in preserve in South Africa. But most interestingly this blog focusses on some real world situations that can be solved within our current economic system. According to the blog's author:

Good intentions are not enough. We need business models that are financially, institutionally and technically viable, based on evidence, and provide incentives to encourage biodiversity conservation.

I couldn't agree more, so head on over to the Conservation Finance blog and specifically their posts on wildlife conservation to learn more.