Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Biggest Cat Health Problem of All

What is the biggest health problem of all for a cat? It's not what you might think. It's not a germ or a virus, and it's not an injury.

It's being forced to live in a hostile environment, such as when they are abandoned in cities, or dumped out in the country, presumably to cavort in the meadows chasing mice. Such myths lead only to the tragic deaths of many cats who are unable to survive in unfamiliar surroundings.

Or, they could be swept up by animal control and taken to the pound, where they may live only a short time. The somewhat luckier ones may end up in shelters, where an effort is made to find them new homes.

However, much depends on the shelter, as many try very hard to find new homes while getting veterinary care if the cat is sick or injured. The truly lucky ones then get adopted.

However, many shelters' resources are stretched beyond their capabilities and this can mean disposing of "excess" cats to make room for new ones.

The reality, of course, is that most shelters simply do not have the room, the money or the time to care for an infinite number of cats coming in. Sadly, millions of cats are euthanized every year.

It's even worse at a pound, where animals are rarely treated for any health problems and are expected to be quickly claimed by an owner or purchased by someone looking for a pet. Those situations almost never include screening to assure the cat goes to a good home. If not picked up within a few days, often the next step is to kill it. In some cities, cats come in the front door alive and frightened and go out the back door in a bag.

Here is an article sent to me by my friend, Paul DeCeglie, an American writer currently based in Thailand. He wrote this specifically for me to share with you:

"The American people are not the only victims of the escalating financial crisis; cats and dogs are suffering as well. As millions of families across the country are forced to adjust their budgets, many face the choice of feeding their kids or feeding their pets. Pets lose. More cats and dogs than ever before are being abandoned, given away, or left with animal shelters.

"But shelters, too, are more strapped for cash. While new arrivals are climbing, donations are declining. Fewer people are adopting pets; numbers and costs are rising. In essence, animal shelters are overburdened and, consequently, are putting more cats and dogs down.

"Please help if you can. Adopt a pet. Or two. Or three. Contribute to local humane societies. If you are unable to donate money, donate food... or even a few hours of your time. Millions of kittens and pups are crying out for your help. They are unable to ask. We don’t know how to ask any more clearly, but we also are crying out for your help. Please. For the sake of humanity."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Cat Health Problems

Dealing with the Diseases of Summer

With warmer weather come warm weather hazards, such as a wide array of bugs and other pests who proliferate in the heat and moisture of summer.

This is the time of year to be extra cautious with your cat and to be sure to watch for and immediately handle the following problems if they arise:

Fleas - Talk to your vet about the safest and most effective ways to eliminate them. Not only are they annoying as they munch on your kitty, they pass along tape worms to your cat. This is done when they lick themselves because they are itchy and uncomfortable, and ingest infected fleas. This can be truly hazardous, as fleas can transmit diseases, too, along with even more tape worms. If the intestines become overrun with these worms, the cat will be always hungry, but losing weight. Eventually, getting no nutrition, the cat will die.

Giardia - More common in the western U.S. than the eastern states, this is a one-celled parasite that can be picked up simply by walking on damp ground or touching the feces of an infected animal. And yes, you can get it, too. Signs include vomiting and diarrhea.

Roundworms - These most often infect your kitty when she eats an infected rodent... a good reason not to let them eat mice. Signs are vomiting and diarrhea and a pot-bellied look. As with the Giardia, this is diagnosed by taking in a stool sample to the vet's office, where it will be identified and the appropriate treatment can be prescribed. Since these can infect humans, too, be sure to wash your hands if you accidentally handle any feces, and don't let children play in areas where feces might occur, such as sandy areas in the yard, etc.

Hookworms - Easily infected by walking on soil... your cat and you are both susceptible to this microscopic monster. It burrows in through the skin and migrates to lungs and intestines. Primary sign is dark stools. Luckily, this is easily diagnosed and treated. Don't go barefoot outdoors.

Ticks - Though more common on dogs, they can affect you and your cat. Ticks are visible so they are easy to find, but not so easy to remove. Getting the head out is crucial, to avoid infection, and possibly even Lyme Disease. If you aren't able to remove the head, take your cat to the vet and watch how it's done.

Heartworms - not just for dogs. Your cat can get them, too. Transmitted by infected mosquitoes, the signs include coughing, vomiting and weight loss. It's critical to get your cat to a vet ASAP to save its life.

Precautions you should take include keeping kitty's litter box clean, washing your hands immediately after cleaning it, not allowing kitty to eat mice, and for optimal health, keep kitty indoors.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Feline Health Problems Can Be Linked to Depression

Is your cat out of sorts lately? Is he less interested in his daily routine? Not eating? Not playing? He could be depressed.

As with humans, emotional state can have a very significant effect on one's health. Happy cats, like happy people, are generally healthy and active and like to play, cuddle, eat great food, and have no trouble sleeping well. Depression, on the other hand, can lead to physical problems that may cause one's health to deteriorate.

At my shelter, we have taken in more cats than dogs when families had to move, as they didn't feel as strong a connection as they did with their dogs. Sadly, since cats can have feelings that run more deeply than a dog's, some of those cats pined away and died, no matter how hard we tried to help them.

Why would a cat become depressed? As with the moving example, cats suffer deeply at the loss of their bonds with others in their lives. They may bond with another pet, or with certain individuals in your family. Since you can't explain these things to them, all they know is that they are in a new place and the people they depend on are not there.

This disorients them and they become emotionally lost. If they refuse to eat (a common reaction to this kind of stress), they not only will quickly lose weight, but the liver will begin to break down, leading to hepatic lipidosis, or, fatty liver. It's fatal if not headed off soon enough.

If your cat is still at home, however, there is something else going on... possibly some disease process, or perhaps some changes in the dynamics of your home that are causing your cat to feel down. This could be the loss of a family member, or the addition of one. Or the addition or loss of another pet.

Try offering him something he likes, such as catnip or his favorite foods; spend more time with him, playing, cuddling or just talking to him. Cats can feel left out and ignored, too. Also try a home health examination to see if you can spot a health problem.

Visit http://tinyurl.com/y98rup to get Dr. Jones' ebook for some guidance.

If these things don't help, it's definitely time for a veterinary health checkup. And don't wait too long.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Caring For a Blind Cat

There are many reasons a cat might become blind, and some of those reasons aren't very pleasant to think about. As sad as it is for them to lose their sight from a possibly untreated disease process, or to be born blind, it's much more disturbing to learn of those who are victims of cruelty.

Blind cats who end up at shelters may be higher on the list to be euthanized, since they are often harder to find homes for.

I rescued a blind kitten from a cruelty situation several years ago, but no one wanted a "defective" cat. So she is a personal pet now.

Living with her has taught me much about how to handle her special needs. What amazes visitors is how well she has adjusted to her dark world. She even trusts humans again and is very sociable, and playful.

Without the ability to see, one must realize that the other senses become that much more important, such as smell and hearing... and touch.

Here are some tips for handling a pet with limited or no sight:

1. Approach with respect. Do not startle the pet by sneaking up and touching her. It helps to speak first, and perhaps touch her whiskers to let her know how close you are, before petting or picking her up.
2. When new in your home, let the pet get used to one room first, then increase her territory gradually, as she builds a mental map of the layout or floorplan. Also, try not to rearrange furniture too often, or too drastically different.
3. If you have other pets in the home, allow them to become friends, if possible. Sometimes a blind pet can be helped by having a "guide" buddy.
4. For exercise, use toys that make noise, or have a definite scent, like catnip.

For more information on this subject, drop by my website, The Problem Cat to learn more about Special Needs kitties.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Latest Cat DNA Research

New research with cat DNA shows they originated in the Middle East.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, used cheek cell samples from more than 11,000 cats from a number of locations, such as Europe, the Americas, the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa.

The cats studied included ferals, "mutts," and 22 pure breeds.

It's the biggest study done on cats, and largely supports earlier theories that cats did, indeed, come from the Middle East.

While earlier studies found that cats belong to one of four genetic sub- groups - European, Asian, Mediterranean and east African - it is now known that the root of this tree is in the Middle East regions.

Not surprisingly, cats that originated in America, such as the Maine coon and American shorthair, are genetically similar to the European strains.

And Persian cats aren't from Persia! Their DNA seems to point to Europe.

The Mediterranean breeds include Egyptian Mau, Turkish Angora and Turkish Van. The Asian cats include the Siamese, Burmese and Korats, but the Japanese Bobtail is linked to Europe. A new breed, the Sokoke, is of African origin.

The importance of these studies is to learn about genetic weaknesses and diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease that is so common with Persians.
Knowing about these things may help prevent certain diseases, as with proper breeding, and may help researchers to develop treatments.

To read the entire article, Click here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cats are not doomed to death for some diseases

Last year, one of my cats at the shelter tested positive for FIV. That's Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It's similar to HIV in humans, but is not cross contagious. In other words, you won't get it from your cat. And it's not even terribly contagious between cats. They can, therefore, live long and prosper... but you have to take precautions.

It usually is transferred through biting or other forms of body fluid exchanges, such as mutual grooming and sharing food bowls, though the "injection" method is the most risky... that is, injecting each other with the virus through biting and scratching. Thus, it's best to keep such cats as single pets.

However, since shelters are always on the lookout for a safe place to send pets no one wants, word gets out fast if someone has room for an FIV cat. And so it came to be that I now have 4 cats here with immune diseases. They live together, but do not mingle with the other cats.

They seem healthy and are getting along fine. But they are not adoptable now, and so they will stay with me permanently.

If you have such a cat, you have two choices: euthanize the cat, or keep it as a single pet, indoors only. OK, you have a third choice, but it's the hardest one of all: Try to find someone who is willing to take on a cat with a health risk. It's not easy, and not likely, either. Be sure to donate to your local shelter so they can continue to care for the unwanted pets with no place to go.

To learn more about this disease, you can find some information at my main web site, The Problem Cat.

There are several feline diseases about which little is known, and include FIV, FeLV (feline leukemia) and FIP (feline infectious peritonitis). It's an area where not many research dollars are spent.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Covering Cat Health in 2008

Ah, welcome to 2008. I plan to bring more information to this spot to help you with your cats this year. But if it doesn't seem often enough, feel free to add your comments! Also, you might want to sign up for my newsletter, The Kitty Times. It comes out twice a month and has the latest tidbits of info I can find, and that people send in. Thanks to my readers, I usually have some pretty up-to-date stuff.

Newsletter signup is here:
Kitty Times Subscribe

Hope to see you on the list!