Thursday, April 20, 2006

I am so gonna get lynched for this

This is Rusty, my dog. I lived with him until I got married and moved out. Nowadays I visit a couple times a week.

Rusty came to us when he was 11 months old; his previous owner had to give him up due to personal problems. Rusty is now 7 years old and still as puppylike as before.

Rusty is a standard bull terrier and about 24 kg of solid muscle. Most times he's lovely and friendly and affectionate. Most times. He has his moments, though.

Why a dog pic on a cat blog? Well, I was messing around and idly skimming through an old blog that I used to contribute to. Then I came across this post [reproduced below], and decided that since there's a strange moral to the story... I'll risk it.

I am SO gonna get lynched for this.


Friday, November 19, 2004
[Some details edited for privacy]

#6: I still love Rusty

Because I was suffering from stress-induced gastritis and diarrhoea, I decided to relax by taking my mild and lovely bull terrier Rusty for a run.

Rusty and I like to run at night. Right now the jasmine trees are in bloom and when we run past, we smell the sweet heavy scent of jasmine in the cool night breeze.

Tonight didn't seem any different. We were turning back home happily. Then we ran down this quiet back road and I heard hissing in the dark. An unneutered community tomcat was surprised by our sudden appearance (we'd turned a corner rather quickly) and arched its back angrily, seething. I managed to grab an over-excited Rusty and pull away in time.

But the tomcat, being a typical territorial male, decided that he would teach the intruders a lesson and lunged straight for Rusty's face, roaring.

This was a fatal mistake. I read somewhere that bull terriers have an average bite strength of several hundred pounds per square inch. Rusty happily obliged and partially ripped the cat's stomach out at first bite. The stupid cat still kept struggling and Rusty's second bite connected at the neck. End of cat.

During this highly uneven fight which lasted all of about 30 seconds, I stood aside feeling extremely sad for the cat and embarrassed for ourselves. Vet's orders. "The kindest thing you can do for a bull terrier victim is to let your dog kill it quickly."

Finally I managed to untangle Rusty from murdered cat #6. Yes, #6. It was extremely difficult because Rusty is very possessive of his toys. At one point he got so excited he kept swinging the corpse at me. So now I was covered with cat blood, catshit and the indescribably awful catstink.

I left the body on the pavement, dragged a hysterical Rusty across the road, and we turned to watch the scene. Another cat had come out and was crouching near the corpse, gingerly touching it with a paw. "You okay buddy?" Just like a human. Very sad. It looked terrified.

We ran home all the way. No more pit stops for Rusty the public menace to pee, poo, sniff strange things, be hostile to other species etc. Tonight we ran past the blossoming jasmine trees but all I could smell was this nauseating musky mix of cat blood, urine, shit and civet (anal gland oil, aka the famous catstink). All over Rusty. And all over myself.

The rest of tonight was spent washing myself and Rusty with Dettol. But no matter how much I wash, I can still smell dead cat on me.

Needless to say, tonight's run did not achieve its objective of helping me relax.


Thankfully, #6 was Rusty's last kill [as far as I know].

Re-reading this rather horrifying kitty horror story, I thought about my role in TNRM for my residential estate.

Currently I'm not actively involved because of my irregular schedule; also because I think there's already another feeder here [I'm in a private estate, which is relatively small and doesn't have all that many cats]. I've only seen her once, this plump little old lady, on the rare occasion when I got home at 8 pm.

The cats here generally look healthy, but I haven't seen any tipped ears. And that bothers me.

Besides the obvious points, that I shan't go into, I have these two morals to point out from the story:

  1. 5 out of Rusty's 6 victims were UNNEUTERED TOMS. Them hormones make kitties do crazy strange things. I'm not trying to defend Rusty here, but all of them either attacked him first, or refused to run when he charged at them.
  2. The one kitty victim that wasn't an unneutered tom was a neighbour's indoor-and-outdoor cat. Irony of ironies, this neighbour is a vet - proof that even with a vet degree you can still be STUPID AS DANG when it comes to animals. There have been other incidents, too, when this vet neighbour showed little concern for her pets' welfare [I'll always remember her rottweiler that died of cancer; it spent its last weeks wailing all alone in the backyard]. I am definitely not taking my animals to her.

Okay fine the second "moral" was irrelevant, I just wanted to point out that cats should be indoor pets entirely and sometimes even vets are dumb. But back to the first point. It's got me thinking... time to get a cat trap and sterilise, sterilise, sterilise.


PS - To pre-empt all the online war-cries of "MUZZLE your bloodthirsty bull beast in public, you hypocritical cat murderess!!!111", I have this to say: I choose not to muzzle my dog because he is well-trained and well-socialised, would never hurt a human voluntarily, and would actually suffer while wearing a muzzle. He really can't breathe in them; you need to remember his head and jaw are larger than most dogs'.

Unfortunately his prey drive was well-developed by the time he came to us, and try as I might I've never been successful in rehabilitating Rusty.

Look at it this way: I love animals, those incidents haunted me terribly and, in the mysterious ways of divine justice, I now volunteer with cat rescue and adoption too. I mean, would any bull terrier owner have known that one day she will live with nine cats and help even more?

No blame or flame here. Dogs are what dogs are. My cat was killed by the neighbors poodle, that's right a poodle (this was 20 years ago). I didn't blame the dog, I was stupid. My cat wasn't neutered and was in THE DOGS YARD. I learned a lot from the incident, like fixing my pets and keeping them either in my house or in my fenced yard. My neighbor, the dog owner, was so upset she offered to put the dog down - nonono, he was just defending his turf. She ended up giving me a kitten born to a stray her sister took in. Punkin P kitty lived to be 19, she loved dogs.
I have been considering buying an English Bulldog for quite some time. I love the breed, and I am really excited about the prospect of taking care of one. My cats, though, come first, and I struggled long and hard with which breed of dog would best suit them.

When I read your story, I kept thinking, "Thank goodness I neutered and spayed my two kitties." I won't have to worry about territory issues, and I won't have to worry about high instinctual prey drives. I could not agree more that those feline (and canine!) hormones are powerful and create almost uncontrollable situations when they go into overdrive.

I plan on neutering or spaying my future puppy when I do own one to hopefully avoid what happened between Rusty and these six kitties, and I also hope to train the little puppy through classes. I'm sure Zeus will also not mind helping by giving the puppy some 'feline training': a good wallop to show him who's King of the proverbial castle.

-Zeus' human pet, Marina
I'm not very sure about this so I'll just pose my observations.

1. Is it really the hormones in an unneutered cat that causes it to defend its territory? I've seen my block's neutered girl cat defending her territory against "stranger" cats, males or females, neutered or unneutered. Sometimes she will defend her territory and sometimes she'll just run away from a fight. I read it as her instinct/analysis whether she has an upper hand before she goes full force into defending her turf. And therefore my question as to whether it's really the hormones at work here.

Donna, this may seem like an inappropriate comment but Rusty seems to have a fixation on his toys such that he will not share. That may become a bigger problem later on. Would a dog behaviorist (if there is any certified one in Singapore) help? I had been watching this old program called "The Battersea Dogs" on Animal Planet. This organisation is something like the SPCA and it also tries to rehabilitate dogs with behaviorial problems eg food fixation, toy fixation, before they get adopted out. If it gets broadcast again, maybe you can adapt their methods to re-train Rusty on his territorial/toy behavior.

BTW, how's Rusty now? He reminds me of this Jap anime called jia you jian gou.

well... think this is a bit off topic, but reading ur post, i suddenly remember this incident.

I was visiting my bf and at his void deck, i saw a man walking his big dog. And he ENCOURAGED his dog to chase after the cats. I approached him and he said he is doing a good deed coz he is cleaning the place of all the pests. I stared at him and he looked back at me straight in the eye.

I think he really believed he is doing a good deed.... haiz... can an animal lover hate another animal so much?

catdonna... u are so brave to post this up! hahaha... well... still, i think... muzzle rusty!!!! what is discomfort compared to the cats' life?
off topic too this, with reference to bluemistz's post, i happened to come across this sign at the photocopy shop:

"those who hate cats will return as mice in their next lives"

enough said. well catdonna, your incredible care and love towards cats especially yours are admirable.
ok, catdonna *deep breath*

i'm just going to flame you a little (can, please?)

i do understand that you did try your best to prevent the "murder", and any reasonable human (or cat, for that matter) will not blame you for it.

but i cannot agree with you on choosing not to muzzle your dog part. for a simple reason - bull terriers were bred for a specific trait and i believe no matter how well-trained he may be, accidents can happen.

ok, flame over :)
hey catdonna! hm. is it becuase the cat was not neutered that is why he chose to attack?
oh dear,i was tihnking of training my little kitten (now about 3 mths) to walk on lease, so i can bring him out.
oh, is there any way to corect a kitten's behaviour? mine sometimes play rough, biting me. then when i chide him byt apping his nose nad grabbing him, he gets angry and bites me more. is there a way to stop a biter? - auntie tom
oh well, i dun think its fair to cuss at people who hate cats. so long as they dun do anything evil to tehm, let's live and let live.
Kitten was probably learning how to fight and defend himself.

My void deck kitty was grabbing+biting+scratching me for quite sometimes, over a few months. Its "teenage angst" i think
oh, you poor thing having to go through that. I'm a big fan of keeping cats indoors and also making sure they're spayed/neutered. Our family cat when I was a teenager was an outdoor and indoor cat and was hit by a car and killed. His body was still on the side of the road when we came home from school. Quite traumatic to see a beloved animal in that condition. Our next family cat was indoor only.
We have 2 cats now and they are neutered and indoor only. But we are also in the city, so I'd be afraid to let them out because of all the traffic and possibility of them getting stolen.
You are very brave for posting this. Blessings! -Debi
Anyone who is around animals for a long time is going to see the worst and best in them. I am remind of a great border collie that my uncles' had on the farm. Nicky was a big friendly dog who liked to play too rough with cats. Unfortunately, my Grandma was a borderline hoarder (given that it was on a farm and there was no population control). There were times when the kittens could cuddle up and sleep next to Nicky and there were times when she left a trail of tiny broken bodies. I never thought badly of Nicky; she was a slave to her basic instincts that were not held in check. It was these same instincts that made her a great herder.
What an awful experience! I can't imagine going through that with Rusty. My son has behavior problems that, at their worst, are frightening to talk about. A part of me can't believe *my* son did that, but I become detached and deal with the facts, saving my emotional reponse for later. I love him, but not his behavior. That's how it must be with Rusty. I'm not big on muzzles, but aren't there some designed for this breed? BTW: Bonnie, a spayed female indoor-only 9-year old cat, would probably rush Rusty to protect her territory. Or at least growl and hiss from a safe distance.
Dear everyone,

thank you for your comments and suggestions!

FYI. Out of the six cats, two intruded on Rusty's yard to eat his food and were killed. Two attacked us first. The last two simply stood their ground when Rusty went after them.

I'm just amazed that there are some cats that won't run even when an enemy ten times their size is bearing down on them.

I think part of this is hormonal; my guess is that unneutered animals will be less willing to give in to territorial threats. Of course, it's only part of the explanation. I agree that there are probably other causal factors such as personality.

Finally, I've tried to look for a more humane muzzle for Rusty but haven't found one that fits comfortably. Singapore pet shops don't sell all that many accessories for larger dogs.

This is a dilemma that I've reached a compromise with. I don't use a muzzle because I can't find one that doesn't restrict Rusty's breathing. But I'm not going to stand for any more tragedies with poor cats, so I've changed my route to one with far fewer community cats [it's easy - just stay away from residential areas].

Again, thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences. :)
Sorry for the delayed response, everyone. My left hand has been hurting a bit, so couldn't type.

Warning: long comment ahead. :)

kattonic: thx for sharing! Your neighbour was very considerate about the whole incident, although as you rightly said, it wasn't the dog's fault. Sometimes things just happen.

zeus + marina: bulldogs are so cute! I'm sure Zeus will take good care of the puppy heehee. My thoughts are with you at this time; hope your father gets better soon. Take care *hug*

kxbc: thx for the suggestion. Well, over the years I managed to partially rehabilitate Rusty. He will give up toys when STRONGLY commanded. Still not sure about cats, though, AND I DON'T WANNA TRY!!! :)

Stubborness is a personality trait endemic in this breed. Rusty's fine, btw. He recently burst my mum's exercise ball, you know those huge ones you can sit on and do your stretches? He bit it, it went POP and he looked absolutely delighted! My mum wasn't delighted though. :D

bluemistz: I hope you explained things to him, although I'm not sure if he would accept what you say. Ignorance is a huge thing in Singapore. *sigh*

b: funny quote hahaha!!! :D Well I love my cats and dogs, but I do make mistakes too. Part of this blog's purpose is to share the mistakes made and lessons learnt. Thx for your support all this while.

ksn: thx for your flame. ;) Don't worry, I'm not offended. I know I'm partially responsible for the incidents. Well, I hope I've responded to your comment adequately in my previous comment. You've always been forthright and honest, and that's what I respect about you and your blog. Let's always be open with each other; I think that's the best way to go.

anon: disciplining a cat/kitten is not easy. I think for your kitten, there is no point tapping his nose since it makes him madder. I use voice control with my cats. When they're up to no good I say "NO!" very loudly and clap my hands. The loud sounds will scare them usually. When they behave badly, I say NO, clap, and walk away immediately. For more serious cases, I spray their butts with water. Remember to praise once your kitty behaves!

kayley+don: don't let the cat continue his behaviour; it teaches him aggression is ok and may get him in trouble with humans/HDB and AVA in future. Plus it must hurt you! :)

twiga92/Debi: I'm sorry to hear about your incident, oh dear. You are right about city cats, best to keep 'em in. Skritchies for your kitties. :)

magoo & co.: I agree with you totally. Animals have many lovely qualities but they're not furry angels all the time. Thx for sharing about Nicky! City slickers like myself love to hear from different contexts and perspectives. :)

bonnie: You're so right, I love Rusty to bits, but when he did those things I was utterly shocked and even repulsed. Thx for your honest sharing about your family. This is a broken world, but I'm sure you're a wonderful parent and you do the best you can. Your comment is also very timely for me, as I am thinking of starting a family soon. Thx again and take care!
Auntie tom, I've fostered such a kitten before. I believe the kitty was born hyper and nothing we do could discipline him or make him stop chewing us up. He could be sweet and docile one moment and then bite us the next. I was told that neutering helped to calm him down a bit. He was lucky to be adopted by a teenage boy who loves him. :)

CatDonna, take care of that aching hand of yours. I've had carpal (sp?) tunnel syndrome on my thumb and wrist before. Try to avoid the computer for several weeks so that the hand can completely heal. I use pc wrist pads nowadays.
About that rehab thing, this is what I saw on tv.

This big Alsatian has a fixation on his tennis ball. No one is allowed to play with it or come close to it. He is a very big dog and with his growling when someone tries to take the ball from him, he was deemed not suitable for adoption before they try to rehab him.

So what they did was put him in this enclosure with his fav tennis ball. And then they dumped in a few pails of tennis balls. The dog didn't know where to focus its attention on since there were so many of his fav toys. And after some time, it seem to have lost this fixation on tennis balls and was willing to share without growling.

Not sure if this will work for Rusty though.
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