Hello, honey, Elvira Mistress of Felinity here. I'm more than just a great looking feline, I'll have you know! Bold, fresh, cuter than a speckled pup, and the most delightful pussycat in the world! You can call me Miss Elvira for short; just don't call me late for dinner, treats, a nap, or a snooze!
Welcome to the Elvira Factor! You are about to enter the no bull zone! Grab your tails, felinity assembled; it's going to be a bumpy ride!
Last May was when the Factor last appeared; a lot going on, especially with Daddy Kiril, not to mention the passing of Mr. Nikita and the rescue and adoption of Sneakers the Texian Tuxedo, as regular readers know. I apologize to our fans for not keeping up.
With this edition that is about to change; this post is going to be long, possibly the longest in the history of this blog and even has a poem with a message for humans to ponder, especially those in Houston, so hang on.
It will be well worth your time, trust me, and I hope that you will share it far and wide.
First, a word to my neighbors in a city, county and state that our family only settled in in Sept. 2012:
Hello Houston, Harris County and the great state of Texas, we've howdied, but we have still barely shook, this past year or so...so consider yourself shook real good by the time you have finished reading what I have to say today!
I am aware of a few dog bloggers in town but, as far I know, Opinionated Pussycat is the only Cat in town (We have a fellow traveller and friend, though, in Spring and she knows who she is!)
We still have much to learn about our new community and are enjoying doing so.
This post will serve as an introduction to all that we have to offer (please DO explore the archives and special pages at your leisure!), for most and we hope that it serves to jump start a much needed conversation.
Now for the Meowing Points Memo:
Houston has a problem. It is a problem having to do with too many cats and dogs on its streets and too many in its shelters and rescues, straining the resources of all who work hard to find Forever Homes for as many of these animals as possible, and trapping, neutering and returning to the streets feral felines.
The numbers are simply staggering; According to a new article by Mike Morris, in the Houston Chronicle, officials estimate that 1.2 million (yes, MILLION) stray animals roam the streets in Houston, the city shelter (BARC) takes in about 2,000 animals a month and, as recently as 2012, BARC put down 57% of the animals it took in.
There are parts of town where the humans are very afraid of the many stray dogs loitering about and Daddy Kiril has seen groups of dogs hanging out in empty lots, whether just passing through, or permanently, he does not know.
Forget the Chihuahua's terrorizing the neighborhoods of Phoenix, as reported recently in the news, here the dogs are of many different, larger, breeds.
As for cats, regular readers know daddy has shared photos of cats on the street, including a spot in downtown Houston where some hang out, and a group of felines (all fixed) who live in our apartment complex. Due to their size and tendency to not be loud and outspoken, felines often go unnoticed by humans unless they are observant of their surroundings.
(Friday Update: Yesterday daddy saw 3 cats in 20 min. on his bike commute to work!)
Houston and Harris County have numerous dog and cat rescue operations (See our growing cat list, here), all in need of volunteers, fosters, adopters, and donations of cash and supplies, but the focus of the Chronicle article is a co-operative effort between BARC and a new not-for-profit 501(c)(3) all-volunteer organization that transports animals from Houston and Greater Houston area shelters to other 501(c)(3) nonprofit animal welfare organizations that have demand for adoptable pets.
Licensing your pet is the law in Houston.
Here, all cats and dogs must be licensed. The City of Houston Municipal Code requires that any dog or cat four months of age or older, who lives with a human, must be licensed and vaccinated against rabies every year.
It truly is for the good of the animal.
And, that’s the Memo!
Next up is...My Word!
Actually, this time, it's three words, as in Rescued Pets Movement, the organization mentioned above as working with BARC.
This volunteer organization transports animals from Houston and Greater Houston area shelters to other nonprofit animal welfare organizations that have demand for adoptable pets and they have been doing so since last September.
RPM was formed, last summer, by five individuals who, collectively, have spent 50+ years working within the traditional animal rescue setting. In doing so they saw how there is never enough money or manpower to make a large enough dent in stats like those mentioned above that can be found, to varying degrees, in every major city and town in America.
They felt it was time to create something new –a “movement” they call it.
In their first couple of months 360 dogs and cats (mostly from BARC) were transferred to responsible, fully vetted, no-kill rescue groups in Colorado.
It is shocking to discover that Houston has one of the nation’s highest euthanasia rates. RPM has a commendable goal of turning Houston into a no-kill city and it feels that one way of accomplishing this is by sending animals all over the nation to places that, amazingly, NEED adoptable dogs and cats. It is a classic example of the notion the humans call “supply and demand”. Houston has lots and lots of dogs and cats and there is a huge demand for the homeless animals of our city.
In the months since this flourishing group has done what many thought was impossible; push the euthanasia rate DOWN to record lows. The Chronicle article states that last month, alone, 72% of the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care’s (BARC) animals were adopted, transferred to other groups, or reclaimed by their humans. RPM and its 175 volunteers have shipped 1100 animals to Colorado in just 4 months (Details about a Feb 21st Party to celebrate, if you are local and your human would like to attend. Sadly, Daddy has to work)
But all this could come to a screeching halt, soon.
RPM and BARC have tried to spread the word across the Greater Houston area, from the start, that donations would be needed to fund the effort and keep it going but, with funding levels the way they are, currently, there may only be enough for 3 or 4 more trips.
The IRS is being a knucklehead, thus making things far more difficult than they need to be; 4 months ago RPM submitted certification paperwork that, once approved, will make donations tax-deductible. It seems this small, but important, detail is holding up support from large institutional donors who are interested in providing funds to help the cause and make it grow.
To learn more about the group, about volunteering, fostering and donating, start on their website; There you will also discover links to their other social media sites and can read their blog.
Speaking of the blog they have a new post up that discusses the current situation and defends BARC from those who say that it is not doing everything possible to keep them going.
These remarkable people are learning as they go along, as this post describes it, and none of this is easy.
Read the full article by Mike Morris, of the Houston Chronicle, here.
Now for a poetic interlude...
Who Am I?
By Elvira Mistress of Felinity
Dedicated to the memory of my mentor, Mr. Nikita (1998-2013), the original Opinionated Pussycat, rescued from a shelter as a kitten by our daddy, Kiril Kundurazieff.
Inspired by: Who am I? by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Who am I? They often tell me
I would sit on lawns staring
Wishfully at front doors as if
I could open one by sheer force of will.
Who Am I? They often tell me
I would purr loudly and contentedly
As I nibbled on an open can of tuna anonymously
Left under the apartment building stairwell.
Who am I? They often tell me
That being black, a senior, or disabled is
Nothing to be ashamed of,
The world just doesn’t know what it’s missing.
Who am I? They often tell me
I would bear my difficult daily life
With tail upright, a bounce in my step and head held high
Like one accustomed to overcoming all challenges.
Am I then really all that the shelter keepers tell of?
Or am I only the sum of my personal experiences,
Abandoned outside the ball park hoping to
Take a swing at a pitch and hit a home run,
Starved for love and companionship,
As I look outside my cage,
Thirsty for the sound of those words
That would make me feel as though I’d
Scampered 100 yards for a touchdown?
“I want THAT ONE!”
Who am I? What they say or what I know?
Am I one cat today and tomorrow another?
Am I just another stray cat, discarded
With the contempt one has for
Some belonging no longer wanted?
Or is there something about me, some
Quality about the way I look, the way
I react, the way I carry myself, that
Will someday stir long forgotten
Creative juices back to life,
In that one special someone
Who is inspired to give me
My release and a Forever Home?
Who am I? These lonely questions fill my
Head as I hope to avoid the death chamber.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, o Ceiling Cat, I am yours.
Let's move on to the Knucklehead of the Week.
The people of Houston, for the most part, love their animal companions, from cats and dogs, to rabbits, parakeets, chickens, fish, hamsters and ferrets among others (Daddy Kiril sees evidence of this, every day, on his job as a cashier at Walmart), however there is simply no denying that Houston has a huge problem concerning dogs and cats.
It is a problem that has existed for decades, maybe even as far back as the 19th century, in one form or another. Shelter, rescue and adoption efforts also have a long history here but have not been able to make a serious dent in the problem the city faces.
Why is that?
We cats are undeniably cute and cuddly, I mean just look at me and Sneakers the Texian Tuxedo, my young protégé, but with taking us into your home comes great responsibility, and far too many Houstonians are knuckleheads when it comes to care of their animal companions.
Chapter 6, Article 4 of the Houston Municipal Code is online for anyone to read and learn from and is all about requirements related to dogs and cats, from licensing, shots and spay/neuter, to breeding and selling.
Somehow I don't think every cat in Houston, with a Forever Home, has a license, been fixed, had its required shots, much less other medical needs looked after (It is a worthy goal, but likely impossible).
Don't even get me started on those cats who live on the street (Even the most comprehensive trap, neuter and return effort imaginable can't find and help every feral in town, even those who are friendly enough to want the help).
And whose fault is this?
The knuckleheads of Houston who don't properly care for their animals, do not inform themselves of the law (or simply ignore it), let their un-altered cats run amuck with no collar and license, or even being microchipped (both I and Sneakers were rescued off the street by Daddy Kiril because our original humans were irresponsible. We were damn lucky we were taken in by him before our first heat!), or just setting them loose when no longer able to care for them or want them, resulting in them making whoopie when they come in heat, having many litters (The average amount of litters a mature cat can have within a year is 3 to 5. During her lifetime, a cat is able to have as many as 21 litters: Do the math.)
We hope and trust our humans love us enough to never stop learning how to care for and interact with us (Books have been available for at least a century and web resources since the 90's, just check the collection of Resource Pages listed in our sidebar, for starters). Oh, and find a good, affordable, vet, or lowcost care! Please! You can even use pet insurance and certain special credit cards to help financially.) and if they can no longer do so, or no longer want to, then we trust they will do the right thing and take steps that, under the right circumstances, will allow us to find new Forever Homes instead of kicking us out on the street to fend for ourselves.
I and Daddy Kiril understand the challenges that come from living together; being financially strapped when your beloved cat needs food, litter, licensing, a microchip, or especially medical treatment, or to be helped to Rainbow Bridge, is no fun. This blog has long chronicled our own experiences with Nikita, me, and now Sneakers as Daddy Kiril struggles to pay the rent and bills (He hopes for a better paying, or 2nd, job and earn an income from writing).
I expect to make more than a few human Houstonians a bit cranky with these observations (That is, if any read and respond and share), but the first step toward a cure for what ails this city is to recognize and accept that there are problems in need of solving, including doing more to reach out to those residents whose first language may not be English.
Hopefully this will help start a much needed conversation.
BARC and all the area rescues can offer all the education and assistance in the world, but it's up to the people of Houston to put it to use and for more to donate and get involved as volunteers, as they are able.
Now to my Patriots of the Week...
By now it should be obvious who those are this week...
Rescue Pets Movement, BARC and all involved in this new "Movement" written about in this post, as well as Mr. Morris and the Houston Chronicle for giving their effort the attention it deserves and thus , hopefully, awakening their readers to the need to help and to change.
Thank you, one and all!
Well, that's it for this edition.
Dear reader, your comments about anything you read in this post, or any other, past, present, or future, on this blog, are welcomed, and encouraged.
Please spread the word about this blog and anything you find worth sharing, as well.
And, as the badge encourages, we are always interested in news, stories and tips!
Thank You, and Good Day!
UPDATE - 3/8/14: Houston We Have a Problem 2: An Elvira Factor Follow-up