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Oops, sorry

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Yesterday I took a huge green chameleon to the Beer-Sheva Zoo -- my cats had the poor fellow cornered against the garden wall, and the dogs were beginning to move in on the flanks. I just didn't know where to take him, so after calling around a little, the zoo was the only place that agreed to take him. The native chameleon used to be quite populous here in my village when I first arrived, but for the past 7 or 8 years -- ever since the village made fancy new roads and added several hundred houses to our sleepy 35 or 40 households, the chameleons have just disappeared. So I took the poor beast to the zoo -- a small but very nicely laid out zoo on unimproved desertland just north-west of the city. They were delighted to have him, but told me that judging from his very large size, he would only live a few more months -- apparently chameleons only live for 2 years -- at least our kind do -- and once they reach full growth, they are on borrowed time.

Whle I ws there I asked to see somethine called a "swamp cat" -- a small wild cat that comes mainly from the center of the country, because my vet had told me that a stray who had adopted me 3 years ago was probably a half-breed swamp and domestic. His adoption of me is quite another story. But the short of it was that this enormous Maine Coon-sized cat one day walked in and sat on my feet in a kind of silent declaration that he was going to live with me and my family. Knowing him to be one of the terrible fierce feral tomcats who terrorized the neighborhood cats, I was in shock and afraid to move. But after a while I shifted my toes, which were numb by then, and he shifted a little, and I withdrew my feet with great care and sort of backed away from him. He did a kind of stretching thing where he spread his toes out in great arcs and unsheathed his claws, and I had never seen such claws on a domestic cat before. He looked at that moment like a small panther.

He acted as if he had lived in a good home. He was intensely reserved, but invited patting on the head and just settled into the best spots in the house for siestas, took whatever food dish he wanted, and drank water without looking right or left if another cat was already there. My cats moved around him like he was god, and my old dog, who was never afraid of anything, walked on the other side of the rooms. About the second day, the cat I dubbed Big Guy got irritated with one of my neutered males and let out a roar that everyone on the street heard, opening his mouth wide to expose very long, yellowing fangs that looked like old ivory.

Of course, if he was to stay, he had to be neutered so there would be peace, so the second day I took him to the vet hospital. We were all a little afraid of him -- he had that "you and who else?" look in his eyes. The vet put on his big leather gloves and called for help and we had the crush cage standing by. But Big guy confounded us all by coming out of the carry box when I spoke to him, and then permitting himself to be poked and prodded as sweetly as the tamest indoor cat.

He lived with us for 3 years, and then shifted to the house next door for a while. He died this spring when they poisoned the cats here. I didn't find his body, but he disappeared with all but two of my neighbors' 11 feral drop-ins.

I told all this to the zoo-keeper as we were walking to the cages. And there -- not in the swamp cat's cage, but in the next one -- sat two cats the exact image of Big Guy. They were something called the "Common Cat" -- a translation of the Latin that the zoo-keeper complained was not exactly what the Hebrew name for the cats meant. The swamp cat turned out to be about the same size, but had a sandy belly and legs and was grayish sand colored otherwise.

As soon as I identified the cats and the spitting image of Big Guy, he got really upset. It seems Big guy was probably a pure wild cat. The zoo had been trying to obtain a strong male for breeding this disappearing cat to return to the wild. Of all the wild cats in Israel, this one will readily mate with domestic cats if they can't find mates of their own species, and so some of our cats are hybrids much like the husky is a wolf plus dog. The zoo keeper then asked me to bring him any wild animal I found, since the habitats of the desert animals is dwindling and the zoo is trying to protect what is left until it is safer to return them to the wild.

I felt really bad. But even the vet didn't know the cat well enough to tell me it was a threatened species.

What could I say, having contributed to the loss of such a wonderful example of a rare breed but...Oops
post #2 of 22
I wouldn't feel too bed. You had no idea this cat was endangered. Isn't there a possibilty he was really just an offspring of a domestic and wild cat? It just amazes me that you may have had a wild cat and he was somewhat domesticated.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
That is of course why I didn't even think about it. I figured he was just a large and potentially dangerous stray tomcat gone feral. I was quite literally afraid to touch him much in the beginning, because he would rumple his skin and stand quietly staring at me, tensing and untensing his muscles and twitching his tail. It was some months before we really got respectfully friendly, and about a year before he began to come and sit near enough to me that he brushed my hands. But when we went to the vet the second day, he seemed to analyze his situation and the cages and the determined people and he just accepted handling as if it was something he had to get over. When I returned the next day to pick him up, he literally flew into my carrier cage, brush past our hands as if we weren't there. He recognized the cage as his ticket to home territory.

His exceptional intelligence and cleverness should have tipped me off, but he looked exactly like a larger than normal tomcat (I mean in comparison to the smallish more delicate cats we have here because of the Turkish strains). I was unfamliar enough at the time with the possible kinds of cat mixtures here, and, after all, the vet, who is really quite an expert, didn't recognize him except as a possible mixture.

Big Guy, was more like a dog than a cat in his adoption of me. While he stayed here, he developed a friendship with one of my English students and whenever she came, he would appear and play chasing games with her. He did not play with the other cats. If it was a chase, he did the chasing and they went to ground or up a tree as quickly as they could. and yet he never scratched them. He just looked at them as if they were dirt, or at worst, growled in his throat.

It is possible that he lived with a family when he was little, which would account for his knowledge of how to live with a human. There are other people around who pick up stray or feral kittens when they find them. But I live next door to the village shop, and people would stop occasionally and ask where I got the huge cat. They all told me that he had lived near this moshav village or that in our general area and that he was quite wild and unapproachable. I had seen him hanging around the regional medical clinic just sitting or lying on a stone wall and watching the world go by, and I had spoken to him a number of times because he looked so attentive to everything. In fact I had seen him opposite my house for several days before he made his choice to approach me, but I assumed he was finding food at the shop next door. The day before he walked into my house, I even spoke to him. You know -- "Oh, high, I see you've moved down to the better part of town. My, you are a big fellow, aen't you...such beautiful yellow eyes..." And he just turned his head to stare at me and then turned it away again to look off toward the shop.

The zoo keeper said that when these cats get old, they gravitate toward villages and steal food rather than hunt as much. There are always garbage cans and dumpsters and people who throw out their scraps specifically for the stray cats, and most important, there are various sources of openly available water, which is not true of the desert. And for sure he had just survived the breeding season and had a number of wounds and his coat looked rather ratty. Maybe he was just tired. Anyway, he had a good last three years. He had food and vet care and a great deal of attention and companionship. But always gave the impression that he was just stopping for a while -- that he was just passing through. The zoo-keeper said that I probably added those years to his, because it was sure he would not have attached himself to a domestic life if he had not been giving up trying to survive in the wild.

Since he came to my house three years ago, I have seen a number of his sons and daughters. They are pretty distinctive, but are more similar in their bodies to the normal stray cats. He was definitely tabby, but dusty light gray color base with light charcoal markings. The only real distinctions were his ivory-looking extra-large fangs, his expanded foot size with the very strong and long claws, and his very keen intelligence. After all, he was smart enough to walk into the one house and attach himself to the one person where he could get everything he needed with no pressure to be a lap cat.
post #4 of 22
Wow! What an honor to be chosen by a wild cat to be his caretaker! I'm so sorry that the poisoning campaign took him from you.
post #5 of 22

The way you tell a tale! I could just picture your kitty in all his various postures that you described. What a wonderful experience!

I'm so sad about the poisoning. Is this something that occurs frequently? I kind of got the impression that it was done by the authorities.
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
That's a long story and I raised it on the SOS forum under "A Tragic but Satisfying Tale." I didn't know when I wrote that that Big Guy was definitely gone for good. I knew that one of my "gone visiting" family had disappeared, and I knew that another had also disappeared back in February, when the poisonings apparently began to bite, but Big Guy had been eating with two other cats that had decided that the relatively uncrowded world outside my fences better suited them. They were always glad to see me and made a great fuss over me whenever I went to visit there, and they all three often walked me home in the evening all the way to my gate, and then drifted off again. Since I didn't see them every day, I just didn't realize. Suddenly my neighbor asked me what happened to all the cats. She was not fond of them, but she was even less fond of mice and snakes, and I kept assuring her that she would have no vermin if she fed the cats. Now there is only one of the three left and one of the ferals that littered there last year. All the other 9 are just gone.

Yes, periodic poisoning it was the method of combating rabies and other animal control problems. The different provincial Regional Councils had their official animal "health" person (usually a vet who was just starting out and not yet in general practice -- sometimes just someone who didn't mind poisoning or giving rabies shots) go to each populated area two or three times a year and put out poison. Eventually they were required by law to post signs, since by now the towns were growing and people complained that their pets were poisoned along with the many, many stray dogs and cats. Finally various humane groups around Israel got a pretty tough law passed that forbade poisoning except in very special cases -- a proven rabies outbreak for example, and then only with government permission. Unfortunately, we are land-linked to all the Arab countries around us and to the bridge between Africa (which its many animal epidemics) and Europe. There is no way to keep rabies out. We can only vaccinate all registered animals and try to fight of outbreaks when they arise. A second problem (in terms of dogs) involves dog packs that form. These can kill other dogs, cats, and even attack people from time to time. Packs will also fight among themselves. Sometimes they are actually stay dogs gone bad, or dogs that have been born in the wild -- but in my village, at least, most of the dog packs are formed among bored pets whose owners turn turn them out of the house or garden at night "because it is natural for dogs to be free..." For this reason, there is a systematic pickup of dogs without collars or dogs who are simply wandering loose in the village. Of course they only come between 7:20 in the morning and about 3 in the afternoon on weekdays to pick up dogs... And no one gives a damn about trapping, spaying, and releasing.

Sadly, in January I begged the Humane Society from up in the Center to come and do what cats we could catch, as well as 5 (plus 1 dog) that I had who were about to come in heat. They sent a vet with a truck and we processed more than a dozen stray or feral cats. That was in February and the day the truck came, we couldn't find the many dozens that I knew haunted the areas of the big dumpsters (around the school and central kindergartens and nurseries). By the following week, I didn't see most of the cats we had neutered or spayed except for my own and the ones that ate at my neighbors. New cats drift in all the time, but they disappear after a few weeks. I felt really terrible. I really wanted to demonstrate the TSR system to the village and maybe show some success to the rest of the province so that they would foot some of the bill to bring in the Humane Society vet. But since my Hebrew is so faulty, and because I was sick most of the winter and spring, I just didn't go out to ask questions.

I think now that the poisoning is being caused in some inadvertant way. The vet who works for the Regional Council swears that he knows of no official poisoning done by the Council. He is not a bad guy, and I have to believe him. But he is an "outsider," so he might not know if someone "unofficial" decided to reduce the cat population.

What another vet thinks is that the Council may have gotten a new pesticide for the ants and cockroaches (among other household pests) and that, while it doesn't hurt dogs, it may be toxic for cats. Someone I know is trying to find that out for me -- the name of the pesticide they are using. The Council sends out a tank sprayer to reach all the villages and settlements in the entire province at least every two weeks. Their job is to spray all the garbage cans and dumpsters, and all the driveways, walkways and porches of houses, and sometimes (in real infestations) the sidewalks. I told them when I bought the house never to spray on my property, and they didn't have a problem with that and have apparently passed my words on to the new workers. If they are indeed using an organophosphate pesticide, it would explain some of the peculiar temporary wobbles and drooling and irratic eating patterns of those cats who stay within the garden at least 70 percent of the time. It could be that if the cats walk in the stuff while it is still damp, it may stick to their feet. They always clean their feet when they feel sticky, and so they could be ingesting small amounts. The cats who forage outside the garden and in garbage cans for most of their food would get much bigger doses. This is the theory, anyway, and I hope to know the answer in a few weeks.

Big Guy didn't have many years left anyway. If he hadn't come to me, he probably would have been dead in a few months of infections from his wounds, the masses of worms and fleas and ticks he was carrying, and the next major fight he would have had in the next breeding season. He had some tomcats coming up that carried his stamp. They were big, tough, and 3 or 4 years old. They had his weight and almost had his teeth and claws (but not quite), and as I said, he was a very intelligent thinker and took my house as a place where he could be at rest. It may be that he thought he would take over a very nice collection of females. Only when he got really close, things weren't quite what he expected, and the neutering cut down his testosterone so that he lost interest in all that. He never developed friendships with the cats in my family, but he did feel comfortable with them (although even after 3 years, they all walked very carefully around him).
post #7 of 22
What a remarkable story.

Big Guy sounds so beautiful, and quite amazing

It is interesting to me, how different countries deal with animal overpopulation and the outbreaks of diseases, such as rabies. If all people could be educated, and if all people could care for their animals as you do for yours. A lifetime of experience has made you a very wise woman.

Of course, there will always be new things to learn. For example... you will now know the next time an endangered wild animal comes to live with you. :LOL:
post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
At least I will know to cage it and take it to the zoo keeper for identification. I am not used to wild cats looking like smoky-gray tabbies. I grew up in Texas with bobcats, and saw cougers in the western states. You could see that they weren't someones stray domestic! The fact that Big Guy had such distinctive fangs and claws (not to mention his bellowing growl) could have just been a variation on a very old and tough tomcat.

We also have wild mongooses here -- one mongoose pup almost adopted us when my old dog (the sheep dog) was still a puppy and my dog's cat was about half grown. The three of them used to play next to the house and then gobble up the dog food and drink from a communal bucket of water. But when the mongoose got to be breeding age, he wandered off and established a family group in some wasteland at the edge of the agricultural land of a neighboring moshav. That was sad, but a wild mongoose is sometimes a danger to dogs and cats, which is why that little one was without his mom and dad -- villagers hunted down and killed the whole family (except for our little refugee) because someone spotted them and there are lots of myths (mostly nonsense) about mongooses biting children. Mongooses are not afraid to counterattack, but they don't usually start fights with dogs or children. It's just that, if they get cornered, they give a violent accounting for themselves.
post #9 of 22
Amazing and enlightening story about Big Guy and his kin, Catherine. I'd give a lot just to see cats like that, let alone have one accept me as a friend. Don't feel too bad though about neutering a member of a threatened species. You may know what they did to the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) here. The last known thylacine died in a South Australian zoo in the 1930s. They were wrongly blamed for sheep killing, actually they were mainly carrion eaters but were often seen eating dead sheep and so our forefathers in their wisdom shot the lot of them out.
post #10 of 22
I, really enjoyed reading your posts in this thread. What a memorable experience you had with Big Guy.

The methods for taking control (!!) over rabies, dogs forming packs, overpopulation etc. are all the same in Turkey unfortunately ..I don't know much about Israel, but in relatively less developed countries, such as TR, there aren't well established rights, care etc. even for humans !! So no one (but only few people) cares about animals & their rights either...That's what I think.

When we visited TR after 2 years, I have realized that cats in TR are really small! That must be the reason for my cat Minnosh being smaller than her peers (thus the name Minnosh, meaning small ). I wonder if it's because the cats are malnutritioned or because of their genetic structure (or both) ?
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
The Turkish cats are small because of genetics. I am sure it is their strain that gives israel such delicate and tiny cats compared to the States. The Turkish van and the angora are both represented here, and both contribute small size to the mix.

One of their special characteristics is not puffy long hair, like the Persian, but very long hair that grows very thick and lies flat, as if it had been ironed. The hair is so silken you understand why the word angora was used in their breed.

Mary, your reminder about the extinct Tasmanian tiger is sad. I once saw a picture of these lovely creatures. Their disappearance is a good reason to make them a priority candidate for the kind of researchers that are trying to see if some of the lost breeds can be resurrected. At lest technology now offers possibilities to make some amends for past sins.
post #12 of 22
Catherine, the Turkish vans in this country are known for having a few temperament problems. I'm wondering if they do in their country of origin? Are they widespread in the ME or just more or less confined to Turkey?
They are always talking here about trying to clone a Tasmanian tiger from DNA extracted from the last one that died in the 30s, it's preserved in some museum here. Scary stuff.
post #13 of 22
Turkish Vans are about to extinct in Turkey. So they can not be taken out of Turkey anymore. When we were in TR a few weeks ago, there was a German lady on the news, who was trying to sneak out one, but people in customs office recognized the cat so the lady had to leave the cat behind because she was about to miss her flight! (The cat did'nt have any papers etc. of course)
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Oh, cloning is not really a scary thing. It is the people who do the cloning that worry me! I hope that before too much more time passes governments will formulate sensible and carefully worded laws and guidelines to keep us all from the horrors of 1984 (old Orwell was only off by a few decades...)

But I think it is a legitimate effort to try to recover species that we have prematurely wiped out. I think cloning people is a much more dangerous idea, just as I think genetic engineering has to be so carefully controlled. But the geniies are out of the bag and short of a total destruction of technology and society as we know it, we won't put them back in. Good people everywhere just have to keep struggling to make these techniques useful for mankind instead of destructive.

As to Turkish vans, I have never seen a pure-bred one, so I am unaware of their inherited characteristics in the real article. What is their problem in Australia? The ones I have had or presently have (of course they are mixed with whatever there is here) seem to have bouts of grumpiness that don't seem to have any real reason. They alternate between great affection and being very touch-me-not. The only angora (she was 50 percent, with a thoroughbred angora sire, so her kittens were a quarter, I guess) was extremely loyal to her first owner, who threw her into my garden with her kittens because his wife was tired of having cats. When she tried to go back, he threw stones at her and several times dumped her back over the fence. She was understandably traumatized, but I think it was her nature anyway to be rather aloof with strangers and to give her loyalty, in dog-like fashion, to the first family. She was never affectionate, just rather aloof and businesslike, and the kitten most like her in looks was the same.

Still, I like to see the strain. If gives small, silken cats with strong loyalties and a certain amount of psychic ability. And they are some of the most beautiful cats in the world.

Dodo, why are the vans becoming extinct in Turkey??
post #15 of 22
I don't know if there are any scientific (health issues etc) reasons for Van cats to extinct, probably there aren't, but the main problems are 1) Foreigners trying to sneak them out of the country 2) Getting hybridized by mating with other strains 3)Not enough research being done to preserve their pureness

The funny thing is that the Van cats are known for their pure white furs in Turkey, where as they are recognized with orange markings on the head & tail in USA. The eyes can be turquoise-turquoise, turquoise-amber or amber-amber; but the odd eyed ones are the most famous ones. I have just checked the Turkish ministry of culture's web-site about Vans, & there, people of Van describe them by the characteristics of Turkish Angora cat; with long hair, puffy & long tail, long body !! (Turkish Angora can have fur color other than white) They are also known for their desire to swim as most of you probably know. I found some pics & will try to attach them now.
post #16 of 22
here is another one.
post #17 of 22
whereas this is the one distinguished in USA
post #18 of 22
Thread Starter 
The fluffiest cat (the first) is what we would call the Turkish Angora, the major difference between it and the Van is the fluffiness (more like a Persian) -- the Angora -- and the same length of hair but lying in very thick layers of long straight silken hair . I have had the Angora (as I said a 50 percenter) and her 3 kittens (one pure white, one white with a tiny, tiny gray smudge on one ear, and one white (from mid ribs down) and blue/smoke gray (mid ribs up and masking down to just below the eyes). All of these had yellow (almost butter-colored) eyes with flashes of gold (the mother and one white daughter went farel, the smoke and white cat later went ferel, and the pure white kitten was given away and was killed by a dog the following year) ---
A pure white cat with both eyes an irridescent blue (killed recently by a car) --
A snow-white cat with one fully and one half-gray ear and pale gray tabby rings on the lower end of her tail (she likes to climb trees, so her name is Astranaut -- the central "a" denoting the feminine, Astra for short) -- eyes pale/pale blueish green --
And a snow-white cat that looks exactly like your last lovely example -- rich red-gold tabby tail (rather bushy), several spots over the hind quarters (like someone dropped some paint on him and then tried to rub them out in a forward direction right on the spine), and two ears colored the same. lovely blue-green eyes that reflect blue in flashlight.

These are independent, but extremely affectionate on occasion, terribly loyal to me, very psychic (they often chose to sit against me when I meditate, and are very sensitive to moods -- will come to comfort me when I am sad...).

They are really glorious cats, but not for everyone. They are easily startled, and sometimes simply panic.

Their blood lines appear to also be in several of the tabby and sable strains here, not the white color, for the eyes, eye shape, size, and behavior. Got to run, but will tell you about two beautiful examples later...
post #19 of 22
Rene has pictures of some very beautiful Turkish Angoras that were rescued just recentley.

I may have some hope yet. I found out about a study thats going to take place with the tabby gene and wild cats vs domestic. It will probably be a few months, but when I hear something I will definatly post!!
post #20 of 22
Thread Starter 
Great, Sandie. I love it when people research just what I want to know. Thank goodness for the advances made in genetics.

And thank you for the site. I will check it out tomorrow.
post #21 of 22
I used to be involved in teaching vet nursing and we always took each group of students to at least one cat show a year to help them with breed ID. This was my only contact with purebred cats and it last happened 11 years ago now, so my knowledge of breeds is out of date.

But in about 1988 or so the first Turkish Vans appeared in Queensland (though they had probably been in the southern states for longer). They were white, semi-longhaired with auburn markings on head and tail, often with odd-coloured eyes. They were known as being nervous cats (to such extent that they were very quick with claws and teeth)and not very prolific breeders (which could be another reason their further export from Turkey is now restricted). I don't remember seeing any Turkish Angoras at cat shows around Brisbane at that time, I think they came into this State later on. I believe they were similar to the Van but had markings other than auburn and were not so nervous.

Catherine, I can think of a couple of very, very special cats I'd like to dig up and clone. I'm sure you can, too. I don't know about cloning humans, mixed feelings there. It sure would be weird to clone yourself, though.

Please everyone, read my "Unbelievably cruel experiments on cats" in the Cats SOS.
post #22 of 22
Thread Starter 
Dear Mary13, I have been looking at the three 2 clearly Turkish Van-type cats and recalling the third who died recently (car), trying to see them more objectively rather than through the eyes of the close acquaintance and familiarity of "mother and children."

You are very likely right. They are quick to anger, quick to fear, and intolerant of newcomers (although in most cases this hissing and attacking display often disappears after an appropriate "normal cat" time), and ultra-sensitive to slights, anger, or things they don't want to agree with (being held one second longer than they want to be, for instance). They seem to take anything upsetting as major traumas, instead of sort of shrugging it off after a few minutes, like the cats that more resemble british shorthairs.

On the other hand, they are generally psychic to one degree or other, very loyal, and extremely loving when they want to be -- or, more importantly, when they sense I am at a low ebb or in distress.

I think that much of their over-reaction to bad or unsettling experiences is due to an extreme sensitivity, and perhaps to their greater understanding of consequences. Also, really bad (to them) traumas they never forget, nor to they forget their friends. They bond easily (after a little hissing and claw-control) with dogs, and have a tendency to appropriate a favorite dog and then stick to that dog. -- this is also true of the black and white or red-tabby on cream versions of mixed-breeds with Van physical structure and eyes.

They are unusual and often unique, but I am so used to them in their various genetic mixtures that I have begun to take for granted some of their crochets and special talents.

They are also constant talkers and prone to real ideosyncracies -- much more so than the more familiar british shorthair shapes and colors. I guess it is their very human kinds of behaviors that make them very easy and extra rewarding for me to live with.

The Van eye-colors are found in many of the different types of cats here, including the heavier, more compact ones. They range through all the colors of blue including turquoise, and almost an ice-blue), green (from emerald to ice-green), and mixtures of blue and green, brown or copper and blue or green, and butter yellow and golden eyes -- of course we also have the beautiful golden eyes, which many cat-types have. I have seen in the neighborhood several mainly white cats with one blue and one golden or greenish eye.

When you shine a flashlight at their eyes, you get back red, green, blue, or golden reflections, so it gives some indication of what the basic inherited group of colors are. It is a great pleasure to walk into a room that is dark and filled with sleeping cats, with a light source coming from the room behind you, and seeing all the cats look up at your entrance and the dozen or so reflected eyes seemingly glowing in the dark. I wish I were an expert photographer.

Thank-you, everyone, for the information on the Turkish Vans. I am grateful for the confirmation of the different characteristics of this genetic strain in our cats.
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