Caturday felid: Cat survives gas chamber

January 14, 2012 • 9:15 am

by Greg and Jerry

Ceiling Cat has seen fit to give cats nine lives, and the Telegraph and PuffHo report on Andrea, a cat that used up two of hers in rapid succession. Placed twice in a gas chamber at an animal shelter to be euthanized as an unwanted stray, she survived both times, and has finally found a home.

Janita Coombs plays with Andrea the cat at her Syracuse home Photo: AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Djamila Grossman

Andrea twice survived being gassed with carbon monoxide. The second time, she was thought to be dead and placed in a cooler, but she survived that too. That she lived through being gassed twice suggests it wasn’t merely luck. Can anyone suggest what attributes of a cat might render it resistant to carbon monoxide?

Shelter volunteers want to switch to sodium pentobarbital, which they regard as more humane and more certain in its action.

138 thoughts on “Caturday felid: Cat survives gas chamber

    1. I don’t think pressurized nitrogen is intrinsically harmful or fatal. Granted, it sometimes kills scuba divers. But that’s because they’re very stoned and do something stupid – like trying to buddy-breathe with a trout.

      1. I thought the shelters were hooking truck exhaust pipes up and using CO2 like the — forgive me for mentioning — Nazis did, back before they developed their chosen nerve gas.

        1. I think we’re talking carbon monoxide (CO) here, not carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon monoxide is actively poisonous, carbon dioxide simply suffocates through lack of oxygen.

            1. Truck exhaust was being used. There is also a substantial partial fraction of CO in truck exhaust (even Diesels, which emit less because they burn more completely) from that period, because catalytic converters wouldn’t be implemented for another 30 years or so.

              The only thing I can think of is that this cat has a different affinity for the binding of CO with the hemoglobin. Which is a rather bizarre suggestion, admittedly. From what I understand, CO binds more tightly than CO2, effectively rendering the hemoglobin molecule inactive for further gas exchange. The four-lobed hemoglobin molecule undergoes a structural shift, depending on whether it is bound to CO2 or O2 – and the energies are such that the reactions are readily reversible. When CO enters the fray, it crowds out the normal action of hemoglobin, accumulating CO-bound hemoglobin – reducing the useful hemoglobin until you asphyxiate.

              The hemoglobin of this cat must either be a mutation that makes the CO-bound form not held so tightly, so the molecules can revert and readily enter the CO2-O2 cycle again. Either that, or the people doing the gassing screwed up twice. Perhaps something else I’m not thinking of? Maybe the cat simply had a hell of a lot of hemoglobin, compared to other cats?

        2. Lsuoma specifically mentioned nitrogen narcosis. That’s the narcotic property of nitrogen (which is otherwise inert) at a higher partial pressure. The effects are completely reversed with a return to normal pressure and there don’t seem to be any long-term complications. So, kitteh would get pleasantly buzzed – not euthanized.

          1. Nitrogen Narcosis: equal parts creme de menthe, creme de cacao, galliano and ice cream.

            Pleasantly buzzed, indeed (but only after the dives have ended for the day).

          2. A comparison of selective cerebral lesions in carbon monoxide poisoning and nitrogen hypoxia in cats is found in:
            Acta Neuropathol. 1982;56(4):265-72
            (PMID: 7090735)

            Lesions appear to occur chiefly in the white matter. Earlier studies indicate some measure of reversibility. It would be interesting to know if and how Andrea was affected.

          3. no, the point of using nitrogen is not to poison with nitrogen, but simply to displace oxygen in the local atmosphere.

            that’s it.

            you can use helium too.

            or any other non reactive gas, for that matter.

            It’s simply a way of causing death by hypoxia.

        3. Zyklon-B was developed long before the Nazis started using it for exterminating humans, as an insecticide. It was in regular use around the world in the 1930s. And it’s not a “nerve gas” – it’s an indiscriminate poison – hydrogen cyanide.
          As someone else pointed out, modern trucks – diesel or petrol – have very low CO in their exhaust gas. It’s actually one of the routine tests in your exhaust emissions suite – too high and the car fails it’s annual test.

          1. I am grateful you corrected me and filled in the details. It is one of the aspects of my disability showing through, as it does irregularly — some sort of brain and body disease process still under investigation, overlapping with signs and symptoms of common flu and multiple sclerosis and others. All of you please do correct me when I screw up. It helps — much like correcting a foreigner’s English so mistakes are decreasingly repeated. Thank you.

    2. AFAIK Nitrogen doesn’t kill directly, it’s not a poison. Four fifths of the air we breathe is made of it.
      It kills by hypoxia. If you are in a confined space that is filled with pure nitrogen then there’s no oxygen to sustain life. The victim, humin or kitteh wouldn’t feel a thing. They would just fade away not even knowing that they were fading away.

      1. Not exactly: I expect there are chemoreceptors made to recognize oxygen starvation, i.e., decreasing O2 saturation, and set off adrenalin alarms, at some point. I know there are such receptors for recognizing increased CO2 levels as a reflection of decreased O2.

        1. AFAIK there is no mechanism for detection of O2 starvation in mammals; we only recognize high levels of CO2 and our body reacts as though we are suffocating.

          I remember hearing in grad school of experiments where different atmospheric mixes were tested on animals and the suffocation response was only present if CO2 levels were allowed to build or were present from the beginning. No CO2, no suffocation response.

          I don’t have a citation for this, however a quick google search supports my contention. (hypercapnia)

            1. Why would evolution build a back-up plan for such a vital function? It would be of no use to most individuals most of their lives.
              Evolution doesn’t have foresight.

              1. We’re not talking intelligent design, here.

                If enough members of a species (i.e., early human ancestors) managed to survive in limited oxygen in caves closed by snow, for example, the survivors would have some built in (mutated, inheritable) mechanism which allowed them to survive by awakening to take action when death was imminent. In fact, we might find such a thing exists in Innuit tribes, if they’ve not been studied.

                Back-up systems do exist in mammalian bodies, from paired kidneys, lungs, and glands to the wide variety of mechanisms and cells available within the immune system.

              2. Doc, we do have such a stale-air detector, but we do it by detecting high levels of CO2, not low levels of O2. In your closed-cave scenario, O2 doesn’t just vanish from the air; it gets converted (by fire or breathing animals) to CO2 and H2O. So the rising CO2 level is a reliable proxy for the falling O2 level. I’m hard-pressed to imagine a natural scenario in which O2 declines without a corresponding rise in CO2.

              3. @Gregory Kusnick, regarding a situation in which O2 declines without a corresponding rise in CO2.

                Google “Shallow Water Blackout”.

              4. Nathair: In fact there is a rise in CO2 in that case as well. It’s just that the CO2 level starts out abnormally low, so the rise isn’t enough to trigger the suffocation reflex. So I grant that this is a legitimate (if somewhat unusual) counterexample to my claim that CO2 level is a reliable proxy for O2 level.

          1. FWIW helium and nitrogen are both recommended for terminally ill patients looking for a painless and stress-free end, ie voluntary euthanasia. This is because, as Drew says, there is no suffocation response, just a gentle drifting away.

        2. They routinely put pilots through hypoxia in decompression chambers so that they can learn the warning signs. They pass out very peacefully, imagining they’re doing the set task (writing numbers, say) perfectly well. (There may even be some euphoria, I think.) Before anyone is too far gone, the operator punctures a membrane to let the air back in. When they come to, they’re shocked to see how their performance fell away.

          1. Wow. Sounds like a few sleep-deprivation episodes I experienced, trying to catch up on patient records during residency — back when training was 120 hours a week or more.

        3. There aren’t oxygen-level sensors in the human respiratory system ; I’m pretty sure that I’ve not heard of any vertebrate that can directly sense oxygen levels.
          It is relatively common for people to kill themselves by getting this wrong. If you “hyperventilate” before doing a breath-hold dive, then you are quite effective at eliminating carbon DI-oxide from your blood stream, though you do very little for your blood’s oxygen content. Then, when you dive, you feel no urge to breathe for a long time, since the breathing reflex responds to the blood’s concentration of carbon dioxide. It does not in any way measure the blood’s oxygen content.
          So, if you’ve flushed all the CO2 out of your bloodstream, then it will take a considerable period of time for the CO2 level to build up sufficiently to trigger the breath reflex.
          There is a nasty bite in the tail to this : there you are 20 or 30 ft below the surface, drifting along (spear-fishing, pearl-fishing, vacationing, whatever) feeling no stress, and doing relatively little work with your muscles. Then, eventually, your CO2 levels reach the level to trigger the breath reflex, so you turn upwards, take a few strokes with your arms and legs … and scavenge the last remaining oxygen in the bloodstream.
          Your central nervous system is the most oxygen-dependent tissue in the body. Most muscle tissue can switch to using anaerobic respiration (giving you a “lactic acid burn” in the gym) ; but not nerve tissue. It’s glucose and oxygen, or shut-down for them. So, you’re now 30ft under water, trying to swim, while falling unconscious. At that depth, you’re also likely negatively buoyant.
          If you’ve not got an alert assistant in the water, your name is now “dead meat floating”.
          On my last trip to work, we had one of the native fishermen carried out of the sea up to our rig’s clinic totally unconscious after doing this. 20 minutes later, he walked out of the clinic having had a classic oxygen starvation “hit” – against advice ; we wanted to boat him to the better-equipped clinic on the next island over for a check-up. Although he thought he was OK, what is almost certain is that he killed millions or billions of brain cells through that oxygen starvation hit. It wasn’t his first such near-death experience, we were told.
          Actually, I think (you’re getting a bit beyond my diver’s physiology training now) that the CO2 sensors in the blood system aren’t even CO2 sensors ; they’re pH sensors. Which is why some venoms can be so excruciatingly painful, because they trigger the breath reflex and probably every other fight-or-flight-this-time-I’m-really-going-to-die-stercus-stercus-stercus-moritorius-sum reflex in the organism too. On a scale of zero to “fun”, that doesn’t score terribly highly. For me. OTOH, some people seem to like it. “Reverend Gary Aldridge,” for an example in that link.

  1. Amazing cat but it can’t be “resistant” to Co2, can it? There’s got to be a reason. You’d think after one survival and refrigeration they would not try again.

    1. Or sabotage of the euthanizing gases. Or just an invented story. (After all, people over the centuries have believed much crazier tales of the supposedly dead coming back to life.)

  2. Perhaps the cat’s DNA has spontaneously mutated to create a protein which blocks carbon monoxide from bonding with hemaglobin but not oxygen from making that bond. Perhaps the hemaglobin, itself, has mutated to hold onto carbon monoxide significantly less well than it bonds to oxygen, where normal Hb bonds stronger to CO than O2. Perhaps it developed a mutation making an enzyme which turns 2CO into C-something else and O2 — now that would be powerful!

    1. I should have read further before commenting. Beat me to it. Either that or kitteh has an abnormally high amount of hemoglobin & which messed with the timing. Maybe kitteh’s last couple meals were raw liver?

    2. Assuming it isn’t in the shelter end (say, by having some luck through now and then), my guess is that it could be anything from different blood supply than the rest to mutations.

      Mutations is discussed in a comment below.

      I’ll add my 2 cents:

      More likely would be if the poor cat was in bad health. Perhaps she didn’t take up as much CO as the rest, nor experienced the relative absence of O2 as much during the CO venting period.

      Even more likely it could be a relatively cool cat, again minimizing CO uptake and O2 need. If they are euthanized in groups as Greg and Jerry suggests below, it could get pretty rough.

      Maybe there is more options like that, but I ran out of O2 myself. [/goes to refill coffee]

  3. “Ceiling Cat was looking out for me, I know it.”

    “But what about all the other cats who died?”

    “Ceiling Cat works in mysterious ways.”

  4. At the shelters where I worked you’d always have a handful of odd cases like that, and we used the much more deadly sodium pentobarbital. One or two cats managed to be tossed int he garbage can seemingly dead, and we’re then found having crawled to the top past all the dead bodies. Another time, I personally injected NINE ccs of e stuff into a cat’s heart and he still took hours to die. This is why we do “heart checks”, kind of gruesome but it guarantees the animal is dead.

    We used to just leave them in the cages until they were stiff but it was declared unsanitary.

    As to why? I would say do not underestimate life. Remember, these are not sick vet hospital animals. These are vibrant, healthy cats who have no illness and it is incredible how hard it is to kill a healthy cat. I wish the general public had to kill animals just once so they would get how obscene this problem is.

    1. This is why I have an illegal ten rescue cats and am feeding a few more, outside, even though it means feeding the local opossums, who come to eat catfood, too. And that, while living in a home-made homeless shelter. I just hurts my heart that loving, sentient creatures — cats, especially — should be killed for no reason. Makes me hope the humans requiring this find out what happened when Europe decided to get rid of all its cats, and on religious grounds, no less, as representatives of Satan. The real Satan is the inhumane among the humans.
      Amelie, I suspect you did your best to be humane, and so I do not target you, here.

      1. I just read an excellent analysis of the cat killings in medieval Europe, so thanks for bringing that topic to my attention. In college, I remember reading about the link between Y. pestis and rats (Black Plague), though I never knew the cats took the rap for it.

        1. No, cats didn’t take the rap. They weren’t blamed for causing the plague. They were killed off for being somehow connected to Satan, and without cats to control the rat population, infected rats multiplied like crazy, spreading Y. pastis to humans on a scale not previously seen. It took quite awhile to put this together, too. I don’t recall exactly, but I think this was a good bit before the germ theory of disease came about. Anyone know?

      2. Doc why on earth would your rescue be illegal? You are doing the job your town is supposed to do, they should be paying you!

        Don’t worry, I have been called a murderer by more than one person, and that’s what I am. I convinced myself I was doing the right thing. My cats that I adopted were safe and sound at home so I told myself it was the fault of people who dumped the cats off with us and refused to go to theno kill shelter 20 minutes down the road. But now I know I was wrong. Years later I opened a no kill at our home and had it running for 6 years. At least I did that much. We rehabbed wildlife too.

        1. The town I live in has a legal limit of four dogs/cats/both. So, having ten is illegal. By the way, I have the strays and local opossum climging a six foot step ladder to eat from dishes I put on the ladder’s fold out shelf, right outside my window. I thought the ladder might inhibit the opossum, but he’s shown up two nights in a row. I open the window (but not the screen, of course), and talk to him a bit, before he takes off. He keeps eating, looking at me, wondering — or so it appears — whether there might be more and better food on my side of the screen. I wonder if he, too, can be tamed… I call him Rascal.

            1. And , don’t they, after all, count as “pole cats”?
              I was very impressed to see one climb a tree, recently: the wide truck had no lower branches. The possum moved to slowly for momentum to be of much help. It just steadily crawled right up.

              1. Uh, not sure what you mean by “pole cat.” 🙂

                IME, the term usually refers to some species of mustelid…But common names can be widely applied, I guess.

                Possums are indeed good climbers.

                For some reason, a sort of folk myth developed in the US about them having prehensile tails; they don’t, of course, but that doesn’t stop the appearance of illustrations incorrectly showing them hanging by their tails!

                One thing they do have is quite capable front paws–we had one take up residence in the garage for a while, and we could hand him (her?) milk bones, which s/he reached out and took with her “hands.”

              2. “Mine” does have me wondering whether a racoon will show up next. Another place I lived, there was a raccoon with left upper extremity injured and stuck, elbow flexed, one finger extended, looking like all he could do with that entire extremity was pick his nose. The local cat colony gave him respectable berth, as he slowly climbed the picnic table to reach the catfood/shelter, climb down to drink from a leaky source nearby, and climb back up for more to eat. The local possum, there, was downright beautiful. And all got along. I called that raccoon Bandit, of course — for the one-armed bandit slot machines in Las Vegas.

              3. Opossums are so cool, aren’t they? Diane is right, pole cat is the common name for a mustelid, more specifically an Eastern European weasel closely related to ferrets, if I remember right. Of course common names vary and the Latin name slips my mind.

                Possums are North America’s only marsupial and new studies show they originated in SA rather than Australia (again, doing this by memory but pretty sure that’s right).

                The first wildlife I rehabbed was a juvenile opossum, he was found at a hotel and fed Doritos by a well meaning couple and almost died as a result. He made it though and I fed him yogurt, many fruits and greens. They are great at scavenging garbage food like rotting stuff off lawns and streets.

        1. I have never seen studies to support this notion – that feral cats seriously impact wildlife populations (except rodents). Certainly no studies separating ferals from the pets that jerks let roam free. Capture neuter return vaccinated ferals against feline diseases.

            1. That is some sloppy searching, Tor. One article seems to suggest that the ferals,are having an impact on a bird species that is already endangered by human activity. Heck, even the fish I eat should be banned by that measure.

              The second article clearly states that general data is lacking on cat impacts on bird species, the third certainly does not prove your point either.

              It is hilarious to me that someone would suggest removing ferals from an island where cats are still allowed to roam free, breed and become feral.

              So if we have no evidence that feral cats are more harmful than humans, tell me your opinion on why we should not execute humans instead. We do far more damage to the planet than feral cats.

              1. Nogales et al. (2004) is a review paper, and cites a great body of research documenting the negative effects of feral cats. Are you interested in reading the article, or would you prefer to live in self-enforced ignorance? If the former, I’ll happily email you a copy. If the latter, I have no interest in continuing this discussion.

            2. Tor, what ignorance? I have worked with both feral cats and wildlife. I have a Master’s degree in Biology. You are the one refusing to answer my questions.

              1. Have you ever heard of the vacuum effect? There is no evidence that killing feral cats solves the problem.

              2. What is the point of exterminating feral cats if people are not prohibited from allowing their unneutered cats to roam free?

              3. Why would we kill cats but not humans if we are the primary culprits?

              1. amelie, claiming that not a single study suggests that feral cats have negative effects on wildlife populations other than rodents is patently untrue, as the linked paper shows. If you are not aware of the paper’s contents, it’s ignorance. If you are *purposefully* not aware of the paper’s contents, it’s self-enforced ignorance. If you are aware of the paper’s contents, but choose not to acknowledge it, it’s dishonesty.

                As for your second question, I also strongly feel that people should keep their cats inside. I’m not going to bother with your third question.

              2. It appeared to me that Amelie did read your articles and found their quality lacking, their direction in contrast to her prior educational background. That, sir, is not ignorance, and for you to write such a comment is crass.

              3. ” have never seen studies to support this notion – that feral cats seriously impact wildlife populations (except rodents).”

                Shifting goalposts, much?

              4. I’m not trying to be a jerk here, Tor, just that I’ve seen this issue a million times and have lived it. Eradication and cat feeding bans do not work.

              5. Trap/neuter/release helps. A moratorium on cat breeding for a couple years wouldn’t hurt. Where I live, cats are supposed to be licensed, and while most people don’t bother, I know many who make sure to spay/neuter not only their own but every other cat they can get their hands on. I see efforts in my community to make some sort of a difference, here, and that, at least, is encouraging. The problem didn’t develop overnight. Cats can live up to 24 years, though 15-18 is more common among well cared for cats. The rest are lucky to survive just a few short years. If we could all pitch in and help turn our communities into humane places of decreasing cat reproduction, the halflife of strays and ferals will make for a difference outdoors in pretty short order, and progress would continue even after that. All cats not specifically bred for breeding should be fixed, and breeders should be registered and licensed.

            3. All ecological interactions tend to be complex, but the short answer is that yes, feral cats are hell on wildlife. The IUCN has put together a nice review here. There are cases where a suite of invasive exotics were causing damage, and removing one (cats) allowed others (e.g. rabbits) to cause greater damage, but the solution is to get rid of all the exotics, not leave them in place. Cats may be only one of a number of factors contributing to species’ decline, and of course many factors (including cats) are anthropogenic, but that doesn’t mean that the cats shouldn’t be gotten rid of when the situation calls for it.


              1. Dr. Coyne, I’ll ask you the same question I asked Tor. What is the point of eradicating ferals if people are still allowed to let outdoors unspayed and unneutered cats, why have you not considered the vacuum effect, and why not eradicate the biggest problem, housman beings? We could at least ban people from islands.

              2. “why not eradicate the biggest problem, housman beings? We could at least ban people from islands.”

                you first?

              3. This is why in Auatralia, cats are licensed like dogs. They really shouldn’t be on that continent at all – feral cats are an utter disaster for the native wildlife. But we insist on keeping the dear little predators as pets. And they help take care of the rats and mice we brought with us.

              4. The link didn’t work for me, so I googled IUCN and input “cats” into its search engine, finding this: . After discussing the success of bird repopulation after removal of all feral cats on a south Atlantic island, it said this, in the very next paragraph: “but it is clear that these should really only be a last resort in responding to what is a serious threat.”
                I doubt those ferals were allowed to continue exchanging O2 and CO2 (to reflect back on the primary discussion, here). Had they all been trapped, neutered, and released a couple decades ago, they’d have died out naturally, and the birds would have come back sooner.

                FYI: It’s not “euthanasia” (Greek for “good death”, I believe), if the victim isn’t already dying. It’s a widely misused term when speaking of animal destruction.

              5. Dr. Coyne, I’ll ask you the same question I asked Tor.

                Amelie, please note, this thread was posted by Greg Mayer, one of JAC’s fill-in WEIT hosts when he’s traveling. Thus the initials GCM.

          1. @Tor Bertin, your linked article isn’t a scientific article, just an editorial with a goal. It subtly suggests, for example, that humans are at risk of feline immunodeficiency syndrome from cats — categorically untrue (pun enjoyably intended).

            Also, while suggesting mothing is as horrible for native wildlife as come-here cats, it avoids the issue of other come-here species kept under control by said cats. Which rats, mice, and even birds where brought here from other continents? I’ve seen cats eat common east coast cockroaches. Should they be protected against cats, too?

            1. I never said that it was the simple. See, for example:


              You’re also erecting a strawman. At no point did I suggest that “nothing is as horrible for wildlife as come-here cats.” I did say that introduced feral cats have been shown to have great negative effects on biodiversity in many areas, and that their control can be important in in maintaining biodiversity in those areas. However, as you’ve stated (and as the above linked article suggests), it’s a complex problem when you incorporate other introduced, invasive species.

              1. Tor, I suppose my original statement was sloppy so I apologize. What I should have said was, on their own I have not seen that ferals are the primary problem. When humans decimate habitat and pollute of course many other things will harm vulnerable species. We need to be eradicated first and foremost.

                My question to you was not should people keep cats indoors. Read the question again or it is you who is ignoring the issue.

              2. feral cats are sure a problem wherever they exist in numbers, period.

                don’t fool yourself.


              3. I’m going to guess that you are a “dog person.” Call it a gestalt, a gut feeling, a reflection on your sense of style in argumentation…

                Nothing against dogs, mind you. Just a practical, pragmatic, and lifelong preference for cats, here.

              4. I’m going to guess that you are a “dog person.” Call it a gestalt, a gut feeling, a reflection on your sense of style in argumentation…

                call it what it is:

                simplistic rubbish.

                nobody here really cares about the science involved with conservation biology, you’re too much in love with your pets.


                waste of time.

              5. When maturity is reached, you’ll appreciate that we do care about science, biology, and conservation, and we care about our pets, if we have them. There is a spectrum of human personalities which often seems to have a preference for dogs at one end, cats at the other, and the strength of your emotion against cats in particular seems dogmatic, if you’ll pardon the pun. Dogmatic, black and white thinking seems to correlate with people who prefer dogs, though I say this anecdotally, not having looked for research to back it up. Others I’ve run across, both “cat” people and “dog” people, have noticed it, independently, so perhaps there is something to it. Your either/or suggestion, that not a single one of us cares even the least little bit, because if we did, we’d be completely siding with you, is simply too black and white to show the abstract abilities of a mature brain.

              6. I’m a “dog person” and a “cat person.” That doesn’t prevent me from appreciating the data that show feral cats (and pet cats allowed to roam–they’re not unrelated issues) are deleterious to many ecosystems.

                I’m also a “bird person.” Even a “rodent person”–and BTW, not all of them are vermin. Cats also nail shrews, squirrels (rodents, yes, but probably not what most people think about when visualizing cat prey), and many other organisms. We used to have a cat that killed frogs…

              7. I used to have a cat who brought me frogs. They were so big, a redneck neighbor said they were eating size (frog’s legs, I’m sure.) Don’t know how she did it, but she managed a 35 yard distance at an inclination of some 60 degrees, and didn’t injure them. She brought me a butterfly, once, and when I asked what she had, because her gait suggested she had something, she opened her mouth to tell me, and the butterfly flew away. She brought birds who awoke in my hand and flew away, too. Mice, on the other hand, ran away, one inside the house, because my cat brought it in to show me so fast, she got right past me. Drafty as the house was, the mouse probably found his own way out. She was a Maine coon mix, about to be killed when she was rescued. I miss her still. She died in 2007.

              8. I also miss the pet rats I saved from being killed just because they were done as breeders for lab stock, and the mouse similarly obtained from a lab, so young he bonded with the kitten I took in, next. The two were fairly inseparable. I gave up trying to keep the cat away from the mouse, when one day, I held the cat down on the floor, and the mouse came sniffing at the cat, wondering why it wasn’t getting up to play. After that, I just checked with the cat, everyday, to find and feed the mouse. It was just too cute. That cat was a shorthaired calico rescue.
                Guess you can see why I’m fascinated by the opossum who’s willing to climb a ladder and sit outside my window, munching and listening to me talk, watching the cats laid out and relaxing.
                As for birds, I really only do well with other people’s and with wild birds. Pet birds somehow aren’t my thing.

              9. And then, there’s the black and white Argentinian tegu I fostered over a year ago. Poor thing thinks he’s a cat, too, now. My latest feline was sleeping on the floor, when the tegu decided he would join, tucking his head under the cat’s. They slept together like that for over an hour. Yes, the tegu gets run of our home, when he’s not hibernating, and if he awakens from hibernation, he knows how to leave the properly warmed and humid place he’s in, too. Maybe the reason I can’t do birds is the cage.

              10. She brought birds who awoke in my hand and flew away, too. Mice, on the other hand, ran away,

                I won’t dismiss the chance that you had an especially “non-lethal” cat, but will point out that many of the prey items that look “fine” when the cat releases them are nevertheless fatally wounded, frequently succombing to infection from bite wounds.

              11. As a surgeon, I was especially fond of trauma cases. Had there been blood, patches of missing feathers, abnormal or asymmetrical extremities or abnormal motor function, I’d have noticed right away. You could argue internal abdominal injuries from bruising. One frog did have three very small and superficial abrasions scattered on his back. He proved he could function quite well, though, suggesting no internal injuries before I returned him to the pond.

              12. Doc, I’m sure injury might show up better on an amphibian. I have personal experience with rodents & birds, however, that showed not outward trauma. Those little kitty canines can pierce tissue beneath fur and feathers and the punctures are nearly invisible.

              13. Still, there was the butterfly, completely engulfed inside the cat’s mouth, who flew away soon as the cat opened her mouth to speak to me.

        2. Where the visiting cats are feral, I do “trap/neuter/release”, proven to benefit the cats while keeping the cat colony population under some control. (Please, google it to learn more.) Where the visiting cats are tame or previously tame strays, I help them survive dangerously harsh weather extremes and, along with T/N/R, hope to get them adopted into good homes. One is quite social, talkative, requests affection, was already spayed, and I got him freshly vaccinated. The second was quite timid but is warming up nicely, very non-aggressive and patient with other cats, and though nearly starved to death at first, now has palpable paraspinous musculature and requests affection when coming to eat. The third and newest is aggressive and might well be an unspayed female. I hope regular feeding will keep her out of fights and allow me to get her spayed/neutered, too — between litters, eve if that means while pregnant. My county supports a spay/neuter clinic with free spay/neuter and rabies vaccines for ferals who can be trapped — but cutting the ear to tag them as done. They charge a sliding scale, otherwise, so I save up, and hope to “home” these beauties. Anyone out there ready wanting to rescue and provide a loving, safe home for one of these beauties, let me know.

          1. P.S. The third cat sat looking in my window with great curiousity for some time, last evening. The food is right outside my window, up on a ladder, so I can see who’s eating. It works both ways, and she looked very impressed to see all my cats together, peaceful, warm, and well fed, inside. The happiness of my indoor/outdoor cats is what attracts these strays. I didn’t put food outside, until they came, showing need.

        1. Along with trap/neuter/release goes mandatory rabies and non-mandatory distemper/FIV/etc, vaccinations for which I pay. This not only limits spread of diseae but further protects my unvaccinated cats.
          Incidently, two well-meaning but undereducated neighbors do what you suggest, randomly feeding but not providing any such health-related care. And, if all the current cats were spayed/neutered, idiot humans dumping cats they took in as cute kittens would still raise the population and its health risks. At least, T/N/R keeps them vaccinated and free of mating with its inherent fighting, injuries, and unrestrained population growth. This is why it is widely recommended by those educated in cat rescue. Better than leaving them to die horrible deaths after short, tortured lives, they get a chance for some pleasant life, even if feral, allowing them to help us by controlling the (small) rodent population.

          1. Doc, you know as well as I do that feral cats are not the fault of humans, they are dropped from the sky by the Feral Cat Fairy. 😉

            I notice no one has bothered to answer the issues I brought up yet.

    2. Yes, Obscene. In Germany you have to pay yearly taxes on your dog, which probably results in millions of stray dogs not being adopted. It also shows the absolute stupidity of some burocracies. If all these dogs were adopted, and taken care by vets, the extra income tax the vets would pay would definitely surpass the state income of the idiotic dog tax. And further, it is now recognized that dogs have a positive influence on the health and mental state of old people, and making these people pay taxes on their dog is really an extreme form of cretinism.

  5. “Can anyone suggest what attributes of a cat might render it resistant to carbon monoxide?”

    Anyone who knows cats knows the answer to this.

    Sheer bloody mindedness. Cats sneer at your gases and poisons.

  6. “That she lived through being gassed twice suggests it wasn’t merely luck. Can anyone suggest what attributes of a cat might render it resistant to carbon monoxide?”

    Alternate hypothesis: the operators making a mistake and/or not being very enthusiastic about putting the cat to death?

    1. My thought too. Maybe it wasn’t an attribute of the cat, but of the procedure or the gas delivery system (like, say, a faulty regulator or near-empty tank).

      1. The cats, as I understand it, are not euthanized individually, but in groups, so that the same cat survived twice suggests (but does not demand) an explanation referring to the cat, rather than the procedure. But it could have been faulty procedure and just a coincidence that the same cat benefited both times.

  7. I don’t have an answer to your question but I think that you would be interested in this

    In brief, the scientists used intelligent design to design a completely artificial oxygen transport protein that works as well as the natural protein but binds tighter to O2 than it does to CO.

    In other words human design is superior to natural ‘design’.

    If evolution ‘designed’ neuroglobin then its to be expected that humans could improve on it.

    If God designed the neuroglobin then it looks like he is an inferior designer. (Or maybe he is just callous.)

    Also note that they weren’t trying to make a better protein. They were just playing. And yet they out did the natural design.

  8. The abstract says, “O2 affinities and exchange timescales match natural globins with distal histidines, with the remarkable exception that O2 binds tighter than CO.”

    but in the body it says, “Whereas the oxygen off-rate is similar to that of human neuroglobin31, the on-rate is almost 100 times slower and resembles that of Ascaris haemoglobin.”


    but there is still a bright side, “In all natural haemoglobins with distal histidines, either preferentially bound to the haem iron, as in neuroglobin, or displaced from the iron, as in myoglobin or human haemoglobin, CO is a poison that binds more tightly than O2. Our work shows this is not an essential property. The binding of CO to 6 is weaker than to natural globins (Table 1). This results in a net tenfold discrimination favouring O2 binding over CO binding, the largest observed for any distal histidine haem-protein complex, and comparable to distal tyrosine sites with extreme O2 affinity.”

    further, “The creation of the first completely artificial oxygen transport protein allows us to reconsider the design of natural oxygen transport globins. Despite the common view that natural globins are full of exquisitely refined functional properties reflected in the globin fold43, it is clear that transport function is readily achieved without such a fold. Indeed, the results presented here reinforce the developing view that the physical chemistry of haem in an oxygen transport protein can accommodate a wide range of histidine, O2 and CO ligand exchange rates including, as we have seen here, the preference for O2 over CO binding.”

    I think that in time we will see the development of genuinely superior human designs. This will be hard to explain if we are competing with an omniscient and omnipotent designer. The Intelligent Design argument may survive but the hypothesized designer(s) could not be the Abrahamic God.

  9. This reminds me of the movie, Mouse Hunt, where two brothers are trying to remove an annoying mouse from a house they inherited. They go to the shelter to find the meanest cat possible. The shelter worker recommends Catzilla for the job and states (paraphrasing): “You came just in time, we were about to euthanize him again”.

  10. There are a lot of intelligent comments/discussions here about the science of this situation. I can’t contribute in the manner, except to say I vote to gas the “owners” and save the kittehs. now i’ll go back to being quiet and polite and go pet my two shelter dogs.

  11. Maybe they used a new truck?
    And the “cat”alytic converter scrubbed out the CO.
    This is why car exhaust suicides are only possible with very old cars, a new car asphyxiates and will not be pleasant.
    Hypercarbia is not a pleasant death for an oxygen breathing creature, probably worse than being beaten to death.

  12. What a story, simultaneously appalling and, well, somewhat appealing, in at least having a happy ending for one cat.

    These are the sorts of cases that garner all the publicity and bring out hordes of willing adopters. (Others being pets publicized for surviving neglect, cruelty, etc.) Meanwhile shelters everywhere are putting down scores of perfectly healthy animals each week.

    But more power to Andrea. I’m surprised no researcher has jumped at the chance to examine her further.

  13. I was totally amazed to read in Dutch newspapers (I live in The Netherlands) that 50% of the cats in the animal shelter in Amsterdam are black. Given a choice, people prefer to take a non-black cat home. According to the shelter the reason is the superstitious belief that a black cat brings bad luck. On Friday the 13th they had a promo: two cats for the price of one, provided that the second cat is black. Let’s hope they were successful.

  14. I’ll put this at the bottom, too, since Jerry asked what physiological conditions lead to resistance to CO poisoning:

    Study suggests lower blood pH might cause some resistance to CO poisoning.

    likely what is going on with cat, too.

    I would indeed have the cat’s blood pH checked, because if it is abnormally low, that might be an indication of kidney disease (reduced ability to produce bicarbonates).

  15. @ichthyic,

    Maybe you should learn to capitalize properly before you try to comment on a science post.

    Do you have anything useful to contribute to this discussion?

    1. “Do you have anything useful to contribute to this discussion?”

      look at the post just above yours.

      It’s pretty damn clear you haven’t.

      run along, peaches.

      1. Hm, someone sounds like he’s trying to dodge the issue. You trolled onto our discussion about feral cats vs island birds, but you appear too cowardly to tackle the questions I have posed. By all means, keep trying to distract. It is obvious you have no answers.

      2. “run along, peaches”, you say?

        Whatever happened to honest adults carrying on a worthy discussion, even if agreement is not reached? Proper (mature) arguing simply does not include name calling or other put-downs. Proper arguing may get quite heated, but it does not include ad hominem attacks or other unworthy distractions.

  16. @Diane G, please note I was responding NOT to the post, but rather to the comment posted by the weit ceiling cat, which I imagine must be Dr. Coyne. When I have multiple writers on my blog they certainly don’t come up as Amelie.

    1. Amelie, look at the initials following that comment. When JAC travels and has Greg Mayer & Matthew Cobb fill in for him, they post under the Ceiling Cat nym.

  17. Pregnant animals will have more fetal haemoglobin which has a higher affinity for CO than adult haemoglobin. The fetuses will protect the parent. But this is not so good for the fetuses.

  18. After such s spirited discussion I am sorely disappointed no one bothered to address the issues I brought up. Here people are emphasizing science to show the effectS of feral cats, then fellow scientists turn around and come up with a solution not worthy of a spineless Neanderthal. Slaughter, slaughter, slaughter. With zero long term solution and the short term solution does not work.

    Please don’t pretend to respect cats if this is how it’s going to be.

  19. Carbon Monoxide gas chambers are considered questionable and inhumane for convicts sentenced to death!!! In light of that, as a country (thanks to the states and shelters that are still gassing) we have euthanized as many dogs and cats recently as we did convicts in the years from 1929-1999!!!
    Now, there are some states that know lethal injection is not only more humane, but it is also VERY FEASIBLE and cost effective and have, thankfully, banned these monstrosities.
    I hope the other states will wake up and follow suit! By the way, the states that use lethal injection deal with the same situaions, including feral cats – they use stick poles!
    I wish I could say that cats have something special that make them immune ( they are special creatures) but dogs have survived also and they are pretty spectacular also!

    1. I wanted to add that the note that was made about pregnant cats is wrong! The AVMA did originally find the use of gas chambers acceptible WITH THE STIPULATIONS THAT THE chambers are WATCHED and that they are NOT used for puppies/kittens, old, or PREGNANT animals!!!
      Thankfully they have reversed this and if you want to say that you are following AVMA guidelines, it requires using the only truly humane way to euthanize an animal which is lethal injection.

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