Monthly Archives: January 2017

Squirrels Ruin Christmas

I think squirrels just might be my totem animal. Although I am prone to Grinch-like qualities when it comes to the holidays, I have never stolen any Christmas displays. I cannot say the same about my furry rodent friends.

See, Christmas falls right around the time when squirrels have been burying a lot of food, and holiday light bulbs are strangely acorn shaped. To that end, there have been several reports of squirrels stealing and burying Christmas bulbs. One squirrel in Seattle stole over 150 light bulbs in 24 hours, and even Boston Common’s Christmas tree was affected by squirrel thefts.

Canada could not escape the influence of rodents this holiday season, and in Keene NH, a Christmas tree was blown out by a gnawing squirrel.

Karin Brulliard at the Washington Post wrote a great summary on this very topic (and I’m excited to say I got to chat with her about it).

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I did say that I don’t think squirrels have a vendetta against Christmas, but perhaps they just wish everyone would say “Happy Holidays?”

Squirrels might have ruined Christmas, but Christmas saved one squirrel. When a squirrel got stuck down a chimney, a home owner provided him with a string of Christmas lights to shimmy his way to freedom.

Power outages and fires

Twenty customers in Kansas City lost power thanks to a squirrel, but squirrels recently left over a thousand folks without power in the UK. Squirrels caused fires in Fairbury, Nebraska and Allentown, PA (subsequently leaving 7000 folks without power).

Squirrels caused outages in Odessa, TX (trigger warning: a dead squirrel is visible in the photo), Exeter, NHWallingford, CT, and caused a grass fire in West Fork, AK.

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Stuck Squirrels

This German squirrel was too large to sneak out of a manhole. Even olive oil wasn’t enough to slide this guy out, although he was eventually rescued and treated for hypothermia.

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And in Boston, this squirrel was too large for the dog bone he stuck his head into.

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This squirrel got into a squirrel-proof bird feeder, but then could not get out.

On Wiggum Drive, in Leesburg, Virginia, animal control was called to help a squirrel who got stuck in the motor of a dryer.

Finally, a couple thought they had run over a squirrel. Turned out he got stuck under the car “bonnet” and took a several-hours long ride. The squirrel was rescued and did not appear to be harmed by the hitchhiking incident.

Squirrels and the law

A squirrel scratched and bit a contractor who was working on a home in Virginia. The man has since sued the home owners for $90,000, claiming that the squirrel is their pet and that they are responsible for his behavior. The home owners claim no such ownage of the squirrel.

A few years ago, a New York lawsuit over a "squirrel slam" (basically, a squirrel killing, I mean hunting, contest) was dismissed. But recently, the state appellate court determined that Justice Punch violated the plaintiff's rights when he dismissed their case. The squirrel slam is going back to court.

Police blotter

A man got mad at his brother, and then taped a knife to his hand. Apparently intending to stab his brother, he instead went outside and stabbed a squirrel. He was charged with animal cruelty. And I can't make this stuff up!

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A mutilated squirrel was left on a Rexburg, VA doorstep, and a man was caught burning a squirrel with a propane torch in South Dakota.

One squirrel came down a chimney and couldn't find his way back out. While inside, he destroyed some Christmas lights and chewed on a Fender guitar. He burrowed into a loveseat, rendering it useless. The squirrel eventually went back outside.

When this guy took his Lexus in for a tune-up, he got more than he bargained for. A squirrel was kind enough to leave him several walnuts under the hood.

A concerned citizen contacted police in Nevada to report a squirrel who was acting very oddly before it died. There were also calls to police regarding "Christmas lights from a house ...blinding drivers passing by," "someone drinking whiskey," and that someone's "crazy girlfriend was at it again, acting up and throwing things around."

A squirrel has been brazenly walking into a convenience store and helping himself to chocolate Kinder and Crunchie bars without paying. Attempts to retrieve stolen goods by chasing the thief were not successful.

It's not clear if squirrels are deliberately trying to harm humans, but they are gnawing on trees along a freeway in Ireland, which caused several branches to fall in front of cars as they drive by. The treacherous situation led officials to cut down several hundred trees. The resulting stumps have left locals less than thrilled.

A bar in Manchester, England has been a victim of a robbery - two lamps featuring taxidermied squirrels were recently stolen, and apparently the waiting list for replacements is four months long. The owners fear the lamps (or rather the dead squirrel bodies) will be too damaged to repair.

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How do our cats tell us if they aren’t feeling well? Very subtle-y.

Cats are notorious for hiding signs of illness, and if they are lucky, their human takes them to the vet once a year for a check-up. A lot can happen during that year, so what if I told you that there was something easy you could do to help you assess your cat’s health in-between?

Do you have multiple cats and a food management issue? Do you suspect that Buddy is eating all the food while Fluffy nibbles?

Do you have an older cat?

Do you have an overweight cat?

Then I’m here to convince you that you need a scale for your cat. A good way to get a handle on your cat’s health is to weigh them regularly. A scale is not going to tell you WHAT might be wrong, but knowing your cat’s normal weight and tracking changes can help you see if there might be an underlying issue that needs a vet check, or if your cat’s exercise and weight loss plan is paying off. Weight loss is a sign of many chronic illnesses, especially in senior cats. To that end, I encourage you to see a scale as part of your kitty supply kit, alongside with those interactive toys, litter boxes, and scratching posts.

I recently spoke with Dr. Tony Buffington, DVM (whose credentials include being a Veterinary Nutritionist, Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and all around amazing guy) about why you should weigh your cat routinely.

Dr. Buffington said a key issue is that, “It can be difficult (for owners) to accurately "guesstimate" changes in a cat's weight, due to conformation, hair coat, etc. Unintentional weight changes raise my "index of suspicion" that a problem may be developing.”

When one of my cats was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease a few years ago, I borrowed a friend’s baby scale so I could track her weight. Well she ended up loving it so much that I just bought one. I really like the scooped baby scales like the one by Health O Meter, because…well, once you add a fleece, it doubles as a great cat bed.

Now if you are thinking, how the heck am I going to get my cat on a scale regularly? Perhaps you already struggle with giving your cat medication, or your cat (like many obese cats) does not enjoy being picked up or held.

Well as Dr. Buffington says, you can “teach your cat to enjoy using (a scale).” In a study he is currently conducting, he and his colleagues “asked participants to weigh their cats every day at first to get them and their cat into the habit of regular weighing (which was found to be one of the best predictors of maintenance of lost weight in humans).” Regular can mean anything from weekly to monthly, depending on your cat.

  1. First step, get the scale and add a comfy blanket, fleece or towel. Put it somewhere safe and cozy, or in a nice sun spot.
  2. Give your cat positive associations with the scale by placing treats nearby. Once your cat is eating the treats, you can lure her onto the scale with more treats.
  3. Lure your cat into a sit position and give more treats!

If you use treats consistently and let your cat get comfortable with the scale on her own terms (rather than picking her up and putting her on it), she will soon see getting on the scale as a way to get treats from you. Tare the scale, and call her – or place the scale somewhere that she learns – this is the time that sitting on the scale = delicious treats. Soon all you have to do is put the scale in this location, and your cat will come on over. Record your cat’s weight, and you’re good to go.

If you don’t think your cat will do this, all I can say is that I was able to train wild squirrels to get on a scale without ever touching them.

 

 

 

 

Training will work on your cat. And if your cat ISN’T older, or ill, or overweight, training them to like the scale now will pay you back in spades later in her life.

In Dr. Buffington’s study, “only one of the eight owners reported difficulty with weighing, partially due to the difficulty of finding a permanent, stable place in his small apartment for the scale, and partly due to his erratic (4th year vet student) schedule.”

If your cat is not that food motivated, try using a toy or catnip or a heated pad to lure her onto the scale, or get her in the habit of eating her meals on the scale.

When is your cat’s weight change a concern? Well, the best person to ask is your veterinarian, because it depends on your cat’s health. Dr. Buffington suggested, that “over 5% of unintended weight change over three months would concern me.”

So, if you resolve to do ONE new thing for your cat this year, I’m saying investing in a scale is an easy thing…and if your cat is anything like mine, she’ll just think you got her a new bed.