Where did our domestic cats come from?

Paleogeneticist Claudio Ottoni and his colleagues from KU Leuven (University of Leuven) and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences did a study to determine the ancestor of the modern domestic cat. There are five subspecies of the wildcat Felis silvestris that are known today, but all skeletal remains look the same.

IMG_0046

Therefore, Ottoni studied the DNA from bones, teeth, skin, and hair from cats found at archaeological sites in the Near East, Africa and Europe. The cat remains were from 100 to 9000 years old.

What they discovered was that all domestic cats descended from the African wildcat Felis silvestris lybica, found in North Africa and the Near East. What Ottoni could not determine is if the cats from Egypt were a separate group of cats or if they descended from the African wildcat.

What is interesting is that most if not all the ancient cats were striped. Few if any had spots or blotches such as today’s tortoise shell or “tortie” cat. Spotted cats did not show up until the Middle Ages. Since cats were taken on ships to control the rodents, they spread across the world and remains have been found at Viking sites near the Baltic sea.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170619125825.htm

A new study about co-sleeping with your pets

A recent study examined the practice of sharing a bedroom or bed with a dog. While the authors suggest that more research is needed, they compared sleeping with a dog to the practice of sharing a bed or bedroom with a child.

scan0022

The current concern about co-sleeping with a child focuses on the child suffering from poor health, impaired functioning, developing problematic behavior and sexual dysfunction. However, there is not enough evidence to determine if there are negative effects of co-sleeping with dogs or other pets.

According to the study, the benefit of co-sleeping with both pets and children are saving resources, keeping warm, and feeling safe. It is a practice that has been going on for many years.

When it comes to sharing a bedroom with a dog, as an animal behavior consultant, I recommend letting a puppy sleep in a crate in the bedroom to help the puppy bond with the family and feel safer in a new environment. After the dog is trained and under control, it can be allowed to sleep on the bed with a family member. However, if the dog is not trained it can become possessive of the bed or other furniture to the point of becoming aggressive if a family member wants to move the dog. Whether it is good or not depends on many factors, including the dog’s temperament and the owners ability to train and control the dog.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170622104001.htm

 

 

 

Keeping cats safe outdoors

Many cats enjoy being outdoors as much as dogs do, but unfortunately it is not safe to allow a cat to roam outdoors. There are many dangers a cat faces while outdoors that do not necessarily threaten a dog. Cats can be prey for large canines, including dogs, coyotes, wolves and even a fox.

IMG_0046

They are exposed to parasites of all types, including ticks, fleas, and various worms. This is especially risky if the cat catches small rodents.

Feral cats can also pose a problem by attacking and passing diseases to your cat. So what is a cat owner to do?

One option is to teach your cat to walk on a leash. Some cats enjoy doing this if they are taught properly. The first step is to be sure that your cat has a collar with ID tags or is micro chipped in the event that the cat should get away from you. Since cats do not like having pressure on their necks, you should use a harness for the cat.

The first step is to get the cat used to the harness indoors. You can do this by putting it on while you give the cat a special treat that they love and only get for wearing the harness. Clicker training the cat also works very well.

Once the cat is used to wearing the harness, you can lure the cat around your house with the special treat to get the cat used to walking with the harness on. As soon as the cat is used to that, you can attach a leash to the harness and lure the cat with the treat.

It is important to avoid pulling on the leash to get the cat to follow you, rather lure the cat with the treat.

Once the cat is willing to follow you, try doing it outside near your home or in your backyard. Gradually increase the distance that you walk with your cat. It is OK if you can only walk your cat in the backyard.

Keep in mind that your cat may be frightened by the outdoors and only feel comfortable in your backyard. Cats typically do not like noise and strange people if they are too close.

If your cat does not enjoy being outdoors on a leash you have other options. A nice window or enclosed porch can be enjoyable for a cat, or a cat “pen.” See https://www.pinterest.com/explore/outdoor-cat-enclosure/?lp=true for some ideas. Keep in mind that if you use a cat pen, you need to protect your cat from hawks as well, especially if the cat is small or a kitten.

Never force a cat to go outdoors if they do not enjoy being there. Some cats never get used to being on a harness. It is important to pay close attention to see if your cat is enjoying the experience. Some cats are very happy being an indoor only cat with a large window to look out of.

If your cat is one of those who do enjoy being outdoors, make sure that you check with your veterinarian to get tick and flea as well as parasite prevention measures to keep your cat safe. All of your cat’s yearly shots must be up-to-date as well.

Happy cat walking!

 

Excessive licking in dogs and cats

Dogs and cats will groom themselves by licking their fur. This is normal. They will lick their owners as a sign of affection as well. Licking can be a form of play and to let you know they are hungry. If the owner pays attention to their pet when they lick, it can reinforce the behavior, encouraging the pet to do it more often.

However, some pets will engage in excessive licking. Only the owner can determine if the pet is licking more than normal. Excessive licking is a compulsive behavior and the pet may lick everything in sight. This is not good for the pet and the family. Do not try to “correct” this behavior, it will only make it worse.

The first thing a pet owner must do is schedule a visit with your veterinarian. Excessive licking can be due to allergies, including food allergies. Other causes are boredom, stress, pain and diseases.

Try to recall if anything in the pet’s environment brought about the excessive licking. Changes are especially suspect, did you move, change the pet’s food, bed, alter the environment such as adding or taking away furniture, someone in the family moving in or out, a new pet, neighbor or any other change that the pet is aware of. Even a family member changing jobs, or a family crisis can affect a pet.

The easiest way to correct excessive licking is to give the pet an alternative activity. If the pet is a dog, give the dog a chew toy when he starts to lick. Praise the dog for chewing the toy. If the pet is a cat offer a toy for the cat to play with and interact with the cat. Be sure to give the pet a good rubdown or petting when they stop licking. If the pet tries to lick family members gently say “no” and give them something to chew or an activity.

If the excessive licking was due to a change in the home environment it may take a few weeks for the pet to adjust to the change. If the behavior does not stop or if it increases, it is best to consult with a certified canine or feline behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org  With time and patience, excessive licking can often be cured.