Aby-a-Day – 5 November: Remember, remember, the 6th of November (Hipstamatic Monday)

One of the most fun things about Hipstamatic is the randomness of it, but another is the special themed paks of films, lenses, flashes and camera cases. A few years ago (I think it was for the 2012 Presidential elections), they came up with the Rock the Vote pak, which included RTV Shout, a film that adds pro-voting slogans to your photos. So I just wanted to put this up here to remind my friends back home to be sure and vote tomorrow.

hipstafreddyrory4578

I still get to vote in Massachusetts statewide elections as an American ex-pat living in Sweden, and I voted last month. I am proud to have voted for Elizabeth Warren as my Senator.

hipstafreddyrory172

So, please, please…vote tomorrow! Do it for Lorelai!

Beware of Caracats!

A few weeks ago, there was a post on the Facebook Abyssinian Cat Club about Caracats. Caracats are a hybrid of Abyssinians and Caracals. My friend TJ Banks, inspired by this post, wrote an article about Caracats for Pets Adviser. Well, now it’s my turn.

I’m against wild/domestic hybrids in general (all species, not just cats) because they tend to dilute the wild species. Granted, this does happen naturally, but Scottish wildcats and American red wolves are almost extinct as distinct species and part of the reason is because of hybridisation. In the Scottish wildcats’ case, it’s interbreeding with domestic cats and in the red wolves’ case it’s interbreeding with coyotes…although an argument can be made that this can also be blamed on human intervention which enabled the coyotes to expand their range into the red wolves’ natural territory. Even when it happens naturally, hybridisation it is bad news for wild species. Messybeast has an in-depth article about wildcat-domestic cat hybrids that is well worth reading.

Another problem is that lot of cat rescues aren’t equipped to handle the early (F1 & F2) wild/domestic hybrids because they’re so wild…but the wildcat sanctuaries won’t take them, either, because they’re not wild cats. It’s a bit like the old fable about the bat, the birds, and the beasts – the hybrids are neither one thing nor the other. So where do they go? Well, a lot of times, they’re put to sleep. Or, they’re “set free” in the wild – which causes problems to the ecosystem. Also, if you read this article…the infertile Caracat male “in-between generations” kittens were being sold as DECLAWED pets. Which tells me that they are too wild to be allowed to go as clawed pets…and declawing is a whole other issue I don’t want to get started on!

Big Cat Rescue has a good article on the subject as well, and it excellently makes an important point: “So many breeders claim that they only breed 4th and 5th generations, but don’t seem to get the fact that you can’t get a 4th generation without a lot of suffering in the first three.” The early generations are, basically, wild cats. Not at lot of the domesticated traits exist until you get to the fourth generation and beyond.

Which brings me to what I think is the biggest problem about Caracats – their wild origin. Caracals, you see, are big. Really big. You may think your Aby is big when he’s lying all over your laptop or taking over half your bed, but that’s just peanuts compared to Caracals.

This is what one looks like lounging on top of your refrigerator.

And THIS is what a regular domestic cat looks like next to a Caracal. Got it? Caracals are big. While yes, I do see the appeal that owning a part-wild cat would hold, especially one that was more “dog-sized”…It’s just not a good idea.

Obviously, this size difference causes issues in getting the Caracals and the Abys to breed. Female Caracals can weigh up to 35lbs/16kg, and an average male Aby would be too small to properly mate with a female Caracal (Jacoby is considered a “larger” Aby, and he only weighs 10lbs/2kg! Male Caracals, weighing up to 40lbs/18kg could easily accidentally injure or kill the smaller female Aby during mating with the “mating bite” that felines use. What’s happening to all the Abys who don’t survive the mating? Yeah, I don’t want to know, either.

Then, even if the male Caracal and the female Aby manage to conceive, there are still problems. The gestation period for Caracals is 73 days, 10 days longer than the domestic Aby’s 63 days. Even if the Aby carries to term, the kittens are still premature from the Caracal’s perspective. But the kittens need to be premature to be born at all; if they were more developed, they would be too big for the Abyssinian mother to be able to give birth to them naturally. Breeders are putting their mother Abys through a lot of stress when these kittens rarely survive. Also, because of the chromosomal differences, first generation male Caracats are usually sterile; only the female kitten can be used for breeding successive generations.

Savannahs (Serval/Domestic crosses) are actually illegal in Massachusetts, although Bengals (African Wild Cat/Domestic crosses) are allowed. I know a lot of people have Bengals and they’re “hardly wild anymore” but they still aren’t domestic cats, and you can achieve the look of them without a drop of wild blood (take the Ocicat, for example…or the Abyssinian!) so why put the wildcats through it? We’ve got plenty of domestic cats with 12,000+ years of domestication behind them. Lately, CFA has been considering recognising hybrid “breeds” like Bengals and Savannahs. These “breeds” are already accepted in TICA. I really hope CFA sticks to their “domestic cat” origins and NEVER accepts the wild hybrids.

Aby-a-Day – April 6: Thank you for riding the Commuter Rail…

Jacoby and I went to a CFF show with Meg yesterday in Attleboro. This was a wonderful location for a show because not only does Meg live in Attleboro, but there’s an MBTA commuter rail stop right there, too. Meg takes the train from there every day to get to work. So, we had a simple morning planned: get on the train at South Station at 6:45am, go to Attleboro, meet Meg, grab some breakfast and go to the showhall.

jakembtaIMG_4054

Nice and simple, right?

jakembtaIMG_4055

Not so much.

jakembtaIMG_4060

It started out simply enough. Jake was in his stroller, and we tried to get in the first car, but it was closed so we settled into the “entryway” at the front of the second car. I parked the stroller in the area where people with bicycles typically sit, because we were in a double-decker car with steps to the upper and lower seating areas.

jakembtaIMG_4066

It was early and Jake is a talkative cat. He was meowing a bit, because he was excited to be going somewhere.

jakembtaIMG_4079

After a couple of stops, the conductor came up to me and asked, “Is there something wrong with your cat?” I looked at him and said, “No. He’s just talking.”
“Well, people have been complaining about the noise.”

Really? Most of you know what meowing sounds like. It’s not that loud, especially on a moving train…and there were about three people on the train that early on a Saturday. There were two men with bikes sitting in our area, and we had been chatting about bikes and such; they were the closest to Jake and they weren’t disturbed. I think the “complaining” was coming from the conductor himself. But I just looked contrite and said, “I’m sorry…I can’t really stop him, what can I do?”

“You’ll need to move into the first car,” the conductor said. “Okay, that’s awesome,” I said, explaining, “I actually wanted to sit in the front car because it’s where I need to get off, but it was closed.”

The conductor didn’t seem to care. All he said was, “Okay, this will be your exit door, the one on the right.”

jakembtaIMG_4059

So we settled in to our new seats. It was an uneventful ride, apart from the fact that there were no station announcements, and I had to track where we were using an app on my phone. But that was not a problem and as we approached Attleboro, I closed Jake back up in his stroller, shouldered the show cage bag, and stood in the door the conductor had assigned to me.

And…nothing happened. I waited for him to come and open it. He didn’t. I called for him. Nothing. I even tried to open it myself, which didn’t work. Then, to my dismay, the train started to move!

My first reaction was to call Meg. “You are not going to fricking believe this,” I said. “You’re going to South Attleboro,” she said. “I’m on my way to meet you.”

“Yeah,” I said, “But that’s not all – the conductor didn’t open the door for me! I couldn’t get off!”

As I was talking to her, I was lugging Jake’s stroller and the show cage bag up the steps and through the second car (the show bag kept getting stuck on the seats as the aisle was very narrow), looking for the conductor. I saw him at the other end of the car and called out, “Conductor! I needed to get off at Attleboro! You told me that was my door, but you never came to open it! I missed my stop!”

He looked at me coolly and said, “Oh. I thought you were getting off at Providence” (Providence is the end of the line, and is Zone 8).

“I gave you a Zone 7 ticket. Why would you think I was getting off at Providence?” I growled. (There are only two stops in Zone 7 on the line: Attleboro and South Attleboro. So there was not only no way I was going to Providence, but there weren’t that many options for where I was going).

“If you don’t lower your voice, I’ll have to call the police,” the conductor said. Um, what? I was using my “train voice” in order to be heard over the sound of the train, but I was far from shouting…yet.

“You told me that was my door. It was bad enough the stops weren’t announced, but you told me that you were going to let me out there and you didn’t.” I reiterated. “I had someone waiting to pick me up in Attleboro!”

“Well, you can either get off at the next stop, or you can go to Providence and wait for the train to turn around,” was all he said. No apology, nothing but an “it sucks to be you, huh” attitude.

“No, I can’t – I have to BE somewhere in Attleboro. I had a friend waiting to pick me up! Now she has to drive out of her way to get me in South Attleboro!” Oh, yeah, Meg…she was still on the phone. “Hey,” I said to her, “Yeah the guy thought I was going to Providence, can you believe that?” Meg made a comment and I responded, “YEAH, I KNOW! I gave him a 7 ticket! I have no idea why he thought I was going to Providence…wait, hold on,” I turned back to the conductor. “Which door are you going to open at South Attleboro? I just want to make sure I don’t miss THIS stop!”

“If you don’t stop harassing me, I’m going to call the police,” he said. Seriously? I actually shook my head in disbelief. “You’re going to call the police, for what? I’m not harassing you – you made me move to a different car, you told me what door I was to use to exit, and you made me miss my stop! And I’m harassing you!? What’s your name and badge number?” Now, for the record, I was angry, but calm. And when I get angry, I get very articulate. So I wasn’t swearing or calling him names. I was just trying to get him to at least acknowledge that he’d done something wrong.

“I’m not giving you anything, ma’am. I am calling the police.” Oh, now he’d done it. They HAVE to give you their badge number if you ask them for it. I turned to the phone I still hadn’t hung up. “Hey Meg, he says he’s calling the cops because I am harassing him! Yeah, I know. Oh, and he won’t tell me his name or badge number, either.”

By this time, the train was slowing down at South Attleboro, and those of us who were exiting at that stop were gathered in the vestibule. The conductor left, presumably to call the authorities on me. Not surprisingly, the other passengers had seen what had transpired and were on my side. One woman handed me her business card, telling me that if I needed someone to corroborate my story, she would stand up for me as a witness. Another man was looking out the window, and he said, “I don’t see any cop cars out there. You’re fine.” The train stoped and the conductor reappeared. We got the hell off the train, and as soon as I was on the platform, I turned around, looked the conductor in the eye, and said, “You’re going to get fired.”

Then I turned back to Meg on the phone. “Okay, he was lying. He didn’t call the cops. I’m off the train at South Attleboro.” Meg assured me she was less than 5 minutes away. Luckily, the rain had stopped, but it was still chilly. The more I thought about the situation, the angrier I got: what if I hadn’t had someone to pick me up at a different stop? What if I was going to walk to whatever it was I was going to? I take the same train with Jake to Mansfield, which is two stops before Attleboro, and when I get there I take the hotel shuttle to the Holiday Inn and the show hall – what if I had been going to Mansfield? I’d have been stranded!

So I called the MBTA Customer Concerns Line, and told the woman who was working the story as I’ve told it here. And she told me, basically, that the conductor was dead wrong on every count. We developed a theory that for some reason, he just didn’t like the fact that there was a cat on his 6:45am Saturday morning train. We did nothing to bother him beyond simply riding the train, but he relocated us and then he neglected to let us off the train (or even ask what our stop actually was). Needless to say, I filed a report, and I intend on following it up tomorrow. I also Tweeted this:

jaketwitter

Hey, people follow that #mbta hashtag! And the #strollercat one, too. So you never know. And if you are on the MBTA, keep an eye out for an average-built, 5’8″ Hispanic man in his mid-to-late 30’s who looks a bit like Peter Lorre and has a huge chip on his shoulder. He’s probably the same conductor.

jakembtaIMG_4075

Luckily, we had plenty of time to get to the show, and we didn’t miss a thing. The remainder of the day was excellent – Jake did well, we got to see Stan, Patty and Buddy (who took Best in an Allbreed ring), and we had a great time. But it sure didn’t start out that way!

jakembtaIMG_4083

Jake sums our morning trip with one little pink tongue. Yep.

jakeribbonmbtaIMG_4081

Thank goodness we had an uneventful and relaxing trip home, with a lovely and polite conductor!

Something else that’s been on the back burner…

When I took Gun-Hee to ArtBeat in Somervillle a few weeks ago, a woman approached me, impressed by how calm he was in the midst of such kalidescopic turmoil, and asked if I’d ever thought of training Gun-Hee to be a therapy animal. Truth be told, I hadn’t until she asked me.

But wow. Gun-Hee would be really good at that, wouldn’t he? The way he behaved towards the two young girls at the cat show yesterday only underscored that…

So, tonight, I sent an email to the Massachusetts affiliate of the Delta Society, the leading international resource for the human-animal bond. I think that, once we’re done with cat shows, visiting sick people might be a good thing for Gun-Hee to do. And, more importantly, I think he’d really enjoy it.