I have always had at least one cat (if not many) as a part of my household and would be lost without my furry friends.  Currently I have 10 cats with most of them coming to me because they had either been abandoned by their owners or their owners passed away and they had nowhere else to go.

The cat I am going to tell you about today is Tom, my oldest cat that will be 15 years old on July 23, 2012 and has been with me since the day he was born.  He is an orange tabby cat born to a beautiful calico cat we called Sassy.  Unfortunately Sassy disappeared soon after her kittens were weaned.

Tom developed a fascination with following me around in my flower garden, playing hide and seek with me by hiding his face behind plant leaves and acting as if I couldn’t see the rest of him.  Over the summer he had initiated several active games with me including chasing me around the yard and then wanting me to chase him.  Tom in essence had chosen me as his pet human.

One day while still a kitten he ran up a tree after a neighbor’s dog started barking, and in my attempt to get him down I was very surprised at the amount of trust he openly showed me.  He had gone up the tree higher than he had ever been before, and even standing on the top of the biggest ladder I had I was unable to get hold of anything more than his belly fur.

Amazingly, as I talked calmly and softly to him he actually relaxed enough to allow me to quickly grab him by the fur and get him secured within my hand, all without me getting a single scratch.  I was surprised that he didn’t cling to the tree bark either as most cats would have.

Tom was and still is a friendly and playful cat and is loved by my children, then still adolescents.  As they started getting older we started having normal teenage issues and I made an interesting discovery during a heated discussion with my middle daughter, then about 11 years old.
She had gotten upset with me for something and had started arguing with me and trying to change my mind on whatever the issue was at the time.  The more I said no the more she got upset and the louder she got.

Despite my efforts to calm her down, she just got louder and I ended up so frustrated that before I realized it I was yelling back at her.  Finally she stopped in mid-sentence and excitedly was pointing and saying, “Mom, look at Tom!  Look at what Tom’s doing!”

I looked over at Tom who was staring at me as he came running over and jumped on my lap.  He started purring louder than I’d ever heard him while rubbing his cheek across my mouth.  He was trying to calm me!   He would keep eye contact with me while purring and gently head-butting me as if he were trying everything to calm me down.

I’d never had a cat react to my emotions in that way, or in any way that I’d ever noticed.  Soon it became very apparent within my household that Tom was overly aware of my emotions and did not like it when I got upset.

That was about 13 years ago and Tom still goes out of his way to calm me if I get upset.  I’ve often wondered what it is he is sensing from me to make him react this way.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s either my blood pressure going up or it’s the level of adrenaline I’m experiencing that he seems so acutely aware of.

I believe wholeheartedly that cats have the capacity to love their humans just as much as their humans love them and Tom has proven this to me over and over again.  Because I believe my emotions may not be so very healthy for him I now exercise more control over my reactions so as to not upset him.

In many ways Tom has helped me to be a better person and I love him with all my heart for it.  If you have cats and ever notice them acting differently toward you it may be educational to watch their actions – or reactions – and see if they perhaps are reacting to you in a similar way.

If so you also may discover they are trying to tell you something and analyzing the situation may be worthwhile for you and the cat.  Even if you don’t figure out the reasoning, you still may see for yourself that cats obviously have feelings too!

- The author is a very good friend of mine, Carol McCrow

One of my favorite large cats is the Puma (Puma concolor), also known as Cougar, Mountain Lion and Mountain Cat.  These cats hold, a mystique, grace a beauty that has always fascinated me.  The most common named referring to these cats is Cougar, though personally like Puma!

They are a member of the Felidae family which consists of smaller cats even though they are not small cats. These cats are native to the Americas. These cats hold the Guinness record for an animal with the largest number of names.

They are solitary cats and have the largest range of any large terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere.  This range extends from the Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America.  The Jaguar is the heaviest cat in the Western Hemisphere followed by the Puma.  Although these cats are quite large, they are closely related to smaller felines and closer, genetically, to the domestic cat followed by lions.

Due to their excellent stalking and ambush abilities, the Puma has a wide variety of prey.  Their primary source of food include deer, elk, moose and bighorn sheep.  They will also prey on domestic animals such as horses, cattle and sheep, particularly in the northern ranges.  They will also eat insects and rodents when in need.

These cats prefer dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking but can live in open areas and plains.  Even though these are large cats, they do not hold dominance over other predators such as Jaguars, Grey Wolves, American Black Bears and the Grizzly Bear.

As a general rule, Pumas are reclusive and will avoid human contact at all costs.  There have rare cases of people being attacked by Pumas and is usually caused by humans moving into their habitat and removing the food sources.

Due to excessive hunting and continued human development, the populations has drastically dropped.  These wonderful cats no longer exist in Eastern North America as of the 20th century. The only exception being the state of Florida and that is in very small population.

Pumas are very agile and slender cats and are the fourth largest of cats.  Adults stand approximately 24 to 35 inches (60 – 90 cm) tall at the shoulders.  The Male is approximately 7.9 feet (2.4 m) long from nose to tail, weighing 115 to 220 pounds ( 53 to 100 kg).  The Females are approximately 4.9 to 9.0 feet (1.5 to 2.75 m) from nose to tail, weighing 64 to 141 pounds (29 to 64 kg).

Even though Pumas resemble the domestic cat they are approximately the same size as a human.  Their heads are round and their ears are erect.  They have very powerful forequarters, jaws and necks.  They have 5 retractable claws on their front paws and 4 on the hind paws.  These cats have very large paws and the largest hind legs in the cat family.

Even though they are almost as large as the Jaguar, they are not as muscular or as powerfully built.  They are, on average, larger than most cats categorized in the “Big Cats” family, with the exception of the Lions and Tigers.  The reason they are not classified among the “Big Cats”, is because they cannot roar!  Pumas are usually silent with little to no communication through vocalization, with the exception of Mother to Offspring.

However, they do have a large range of sounds from hissing, growling, purring, chirps and whistles.  They are also well known for what is referred to as a screaming sound.

Although the basic color of these cats are plain beige it can have a varying range.  Their coats a typically tawny, ranging from silver/grey to red.  The infants are born  spotted, they are also born blind with blue eyes and in many cases retain their beautiful blue eyes..

Only the Females are involved in parenting and are fiercely protective of her young. She can successfully fight off animals as large as Grizzly bears in her cubs defense.  She can have one to 6 cubs in a litter but typically two or three.  After 6 months the cubs will start hunting small prey on their own.  Around 2 years of age, the young adults will leave their mother.

The average life expectancy in the wild of these cats is between 8 and 13 years, although there was a report of a female that lived to be 18 years of age and was killed by a hunter.

A Male Puma named Scratch died two months before his 30th birthday in 2007.

Causes of death among these cats are disability, disease, starvation and (where allowed) human hunting. In many states these cats are on the endangered list while in others they are not.  With the loss of habitat where humans are moving in, the rate of starvation is on an upward climb.

It would be very sad if we were to lose one of the most beautiful, agile felines  due to hunting, taking over their limited habitats and out of fear.  We, in the Americas, have very few large cats; these beautiful creatures need our protection.

Please visit some of these sites, where people are making a difference:

Defenders of Wildlife: Mountain Lion

Defenders of Wildlife

Advocates for the West

International Society for Endangered Cats

Sekhmet Lady of the West:

I thought I’d take a different path, instead of advice on cats, how about the Ancient Egyptians and Their Cat Goddesses!

Cats were revered partially due to the ability to kill mice and rats which threatened the Egyptians food supply.  Royal cats were dressed in gold jewelry and were allowed to eat from their owners plates.

The Egyptians also worshipped cats and there are two major goddesses who played a major role in their religious beliefs. These two goddesses are Sekhmet and Bastet.

Sekhmet Goddess of warfare, representing the scorching burning heat of the sun.  She is also the fierce goddess of war and destructor of Pharaoh’s enemies.  As the solar deity and sometimes called the daughter of the sun god Ra and connected with the goddesses Hathor and Bast.  In other beliefs it is though she was the daughter of Nut a Geb and the mother or sister of Bastet.

She appears as a woman with the head of a lioness surmounted by the solar disk and the Uraeus associating her with royalty..  The name Sekhmet comes from sekhem which means “powerful one.”  She was believed to accompany Pharaoh into battle in order to protect him.

The Ancients had a habit of putting gods and goddesses in duo roles, especially as the dynasties changed.  There are some beliefs that Sekhmet and Bastet were one and the same.  Bastet being the protector and nurturer in hearth and home, then turning into the fierce Sekhmet as a lioness.

When portrayed as the lioness, she was associated with the sun.


 Bastet Lady of the East:

It does seem that at one point in time she had two sides or duo goddess roles. One being the protector of fire, cats, home and pregnant women.  The other Aggressive with a vicious nature exposed during battles. She was called the Lady of the East, as her counterpart was the Lady of the West “Sekhmet”.

Bastet was one of the daughters of the sun god Ra.  A temple was built for her at Bubastis in the Delta.  Her festivals were celebrated in April and May.    

The Egyptians created many statues to cats as well as Sekhmet and Bastet.  They believed by honoring these goddesses protected them from the wrath of Sekhmet and the promise of protection from Bastet.

When portrayed as a cat, she was associated with the moon.

As the dynasties in Egypt altered, so did the significance and purpose of these two goddesses.  Sometimes the lines blurred on the edge of single goddesses or duo goddess.

Whichever school of thought one follows, the Egyptians loved their cats.  They honored them, mummified them and worshipped them.  Harming or killing a cat had only one sentence — death!

Mummified Cat

I hope you enjoyed this little tidbit!

A member of the Hound Group, the Beagle is a small to medium sized dog whose appearance is similar to the Foxhound only smaller. Their legs are shorter and they have long soft ears. Their sense of smell is extremely keen and are developed primarily for tracking and game. Their tracking instinct is an attribute for employment as detection dogs for prohibited agricultural imports or foods in quarantine.

Beagles are very intelligent and are very popular as pets due to their size, even temper and lack of inherited health problems.

Although beagle-type dogs have been around for over 2,000 years, the modern breed was developed in Great Britain in the 1830s from several breeds of hounds including the Talbot Hound.

These little dogs were depicted in literature and paintings in Elizabethan times and more recently in film, television and comic books. “Snoopy” of comic strip “Peanuts” has been promoted as “the world’s most famous beagle”.

Appearance:

As stated earlier, the Beagle resembles the Foxhound only smaller. Their head is broader and their muzzle shorter. They are between 13 to 16 inches (33 to 41 cm) in height and weigh between 18 and 35 lbs (8.2 and 16 kg). Females are slightly smaller on average.

Their eyes are large, usually hazel or brown, with a mild hound-like pleading look. Their large ears are long, soft and set low, turning towards the cheeks slightly and rounded at the tips.

The tail does not curl over the back but instead is upright when active. Their bodies are muscular with a medium length, with a smooth hard coat. While their front legs are straight and carried under the body, their back legs are muscular and well bent.

Temperament:

The Beagle has a very even and gentle disposition. In breed standards they are described as “merry”. They are amiable and generally neither aggressive or timid. They are social and enjoy company even though, initially, they may be standoffish with strangers. They can be easily won over.

Beagles are very intelligent little dogs, but do to breeding for the long chase, they are single-minded and determined, which makes them difficult to train. When walked, they should remain on a leash as they are easily distracted by scent and can take off after whatever it is they smell. They are generally obedient, alert and respond to food reward training very well. They are eager to please and easily bored or distracted.

These dogs are great with children but are also pack animals and therefore can be prone to Separation Anxiety. Although not all Beagles howl, most will bark when confronted with a stranger situation. They are not demanding in regard to exercise. Although they have a high stamina and do not tire easily from exercise, they do not need to be worked to exhaustion before they will rest. Exercise should be regular to ward off weight gain which this breed is prone to.

Health:

Their longevity is 10 to 13 years which is common for dogs of their size. They can be prone epilepsy to but this can be controlled with medication.  Hypothyroidism and a number of types of dwarfism can occur.

Hip dysplasia is common in the larger breeds of hounds such as the Harriers but rarely with Beagles.

Weight gain can be a problem in older or sedentary dogs which can lead to heart and joint problems.

Beagles may exhibit a behavior known as reverse sneezing. They sound as if they are choking or gasping for breath, actually they are drawing air in through the mouth and nose. The exact cause of this behavior is not known nor does it hurt the dog.

Beagles are great family dogs and great tempered pets. They work well in apartment life as well as homes.

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