Recent excavation shows pet cats over 1000 years ago

An excavation along the former “Silk Road” in Northern Kazakhstan revealed a full skeleton of a domestic cat. According to the findings by an international research team consisting of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Korkyt-Ata Kyzylorda State University in Kazakhstan, the University of Tübingen and the Higher School of Economics in Russia show that the cat was a pet and cared for. They determined this because the cat was buried with care, it had a few broken bones that indicated it was treated and the most revealing of all, was the fact that the cat was older than one year. At the time the cat lived, cats were not typically kept as pets. Further analysis revealed that the cat had been fed meat by humans since it had lost all its teeth at the time of death.IMG_0507

Coronavirus structure clue to high infection rate

This is an interesting study and one that everyone should read. According to the study conducted by Gary Whittaker, professor of virology, is the senior author on the study at Cornell University, primates, cats, ferrets, and mink are the most susceptible to the human virus.

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According to Whittaker, further research into feline coronaviruses might provide further clues into SARS-CoV-2 and coronaviruses in general.

Pets and autism

It has been fully documented that children who suffer from autism can benefit from living with a pet. However, a new study by Gretchen Carlisle, a research scientist with the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine has found that the parents of autistic children also benefit from having a pet in the family. Having a pet reduces the stress in parents despite the extra responsibility of owning and caring for a pet.

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The study goes on to stress that the right type of pet should be selected that will help the autistic child. They suggest that in some cases a quieter cat may be better than an active dog. Certain types of birds or small animals might also qualify as a pet. They also suggest that the child be included in the selection of the type of pet.

As a certified animal behavior consultant, I want to add that if the family decides to adopt a pet, extra care must be taken to ensure that there are no behavioral issues with the pet that could cause an extra level of responsibility for the parents. For any child, being forced to rehome a pet due to behavioral issues after the child becomes attached to the pet is not a desirable situation.

This is why it is important to thoroughly research the types of pets as well as the individual animal to make sure it is suitable for the spectrum of autism the child has. One way to do this is to consult with a qualified dog, parrot or cat behavior consultant (iaabc.org) or an experienced dog trainer if a dog is a consideration.

Do cats suffer from separation anxiety?

They most certainly do! Daiana de Souza Machado, from the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil, and colleagues has conducted a survey to explore whether cats suffer from separation anxiety when left alone. Although this study needs further investigation, I can personally attest to the fact that more than one cat that I have owned has shown displeasure at being left alone for a weekend.

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Many people think that cats are fine being left alone for a few days while their owners go away. I have been guilty of leaving my cat alone while I went on an overnight trip. If the cat does not have a companion, such as another cat, they do miss their owners. In my case, although two cats that I owned did not like being left alone, they were not destructive. However, they were excited when I returned and vocalized their feelings. They made it clear that they were not happy being left behind.

In the survey that the researchers did, the cats that were left alone showed a variety of behaviors including excess vocalization and some destructive behavior.

Cats are much more social than many people realize. There are some cats that may not like to be cuddled and handled as much as others, but they still enjoy being near their owners and having the companionship.

Because cats sleep 12 – 16 hours a day, they may give the impression that they are not social since they are not as active as dogs. However, the hours that they are awake they crave companionship. And like many people, they sleep better knowing that their owners are home or that it is the normal routine.

So what is a solution if you must leave a cat overnight? If you know that this is going to be a common occurrence, you can own two cats instead of one. They will be company for each other. Another option is to have someone the cat knows and trusts visit the cat often or stay at your home while you are away.

Part of the problem is that cats do not like change in their lives. They are fine with the daily routine of their owners being gone for the day while at work, often sleeping the day away. Cats, just like dogs have an acute sense of time and recognize that on the weekends their owners are home most of the time. So when the owner goes away overnight, the cat will recognize that this is not the normal routine.

While more research needs to be done about separation anxiety in cats, it is important for cat owners to realize that their cats do love and miss them while they are away. Owners should take this into consideration when planning a weekend away or a vacation.

Pets may suffer stress during a crisis

A friend of mine who is not a dog trainer or behaviorist, suggested to me that dogs may suffer from stress due to the current pandemic. That was very insightful of him. The more I thought about it the more likely it seemed. Therefore I am addressing this possibility.

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Anytime your routine changes and your pet, (mostly dogs and cats) notice the change, it can stress them. In the case of being home bound, as opposed to going on vacation or visiting, you are more likely to spend more quality time with your pet. This may mean more play time, more cuddle time, and more people at home collectively giving the pet attention. The pet will enjoy this and most likely be happy. However, some dogs and cats do not like the extra attention, especially from children, because they can suffer from over-stimulation. In some cases the pet will give subtle warnings asking to be left alone, but many people will not recognize them. The result may be a bite or a scratch. It is especially important to watch older pets who may not be physically able to handle the extra attention. If your pet does not seem willing to engage with you, leave him alone.

Family members may use the extra home time to groom their pets more frequently. In the case of older pets it is important to be aware that if they suffer from arthritis or a sore muscle from the extra exercise, brushing may be anywhere from uncomfortable to painful.

If the pet is younger and getting more exercise, watch their weight because they may need to eat a little bit more food since they are burning more calories. This is especially true for younger and physically fit older dogs.

We know that our pets feel and understand our emotions. As the pandemic continues, some members in the family may become more upset and stressful, your pet may react to this. They may cling to you or follow you around whereas they did not before. They may mope, or even avoid being as near to you as they normally were. They may pant more frequently, pace, or even tremble as their stress level rises along with yours. They may also react if the family members become short tempered or there is discord in the family. This is especially true if there are children in the home and they become irritated because they cannot see their friends or go out to play. Some pets are more protective of children and may react to their stress more than they would to an adult. A great activity for children is to read to the pet. It is calming for everyone.

Don’t forget that your pet does not understand the change in the family dynamics. They only understand what they see and experience. Therefore, it is equally important to watch how your pet reacts when you return to work or your normal schedule. At this time your pet may react to the sudden shift from having companionship 24/7 to being alone.

Rest assured that your pet will not forget what normal life was like, they do have the ability to recall the past, but again, they will not understand the change. More importantly, they may not like the change. It was certainly more fun having the family around all the time. To ease the shift back to normal, try to give your pet as much attention as you can when you first return to your regular routine. Gradually ease back to the normal routine that you had with your pet.

Fortunately our pets are very adaptable so many will not show any signs of stress due to the changes in our daily lives. But it certainly helps to keep a careful eye on your pet and to be aware that they know something is going on. Because they love us and care, they may react as they feel is necessary. Most important of all, show them understanding if they react in a way that becomes annoying to you.

Other circumstances that cause stress for a pet are:

Moving to a new home

Adding a new family member

Losing a family member

Changing the normal routine

Working more or less hours

Adding a new pet

Losing a pet in a multiple pet household

Remodeling

If your pet becomes too difficult to handle, feel free to contact a certified behavior consultant at www.iaabc.org Many of us can offer phone consults.

Senior citizens and pet ownership

A recent poll by Preeti Malani, M.D found some interesting facts about pet ownership. Pets included dogs, cats, birds, fish, and other types of pets. The physical and mental benefits were evident as has been indicated by other studies, however this study found some interesting information that families as well as an elderly person should consider when deciding if it is a good idea for an elderly family member to have a pet.

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We know that the positive reasons to have a pet include but are not limited to:

  • Companionship
  • Social connections
  • Source of enjoyment
  • Feeling of being needed and loved

Some of the negatives to consider are:

  • Difficulty to travel
  • Enjoying activities outside the home
  • Putting pet’s needs ahead of their own health needs
  • The cost of pet health care, especially for older pets
  • Owner health issues that make keeping a pet difficult
  • Owner or other family member’s allergies to the pet
  • A need to move into a facility that does not allow pets
  • The risk of falling because of a pet

In some cases family support will allow an elderly person to keep a pet. If the family agrees to take the pet and care for it if the elderly person must move to a care facility, that will ease the mind of the pet owner and allow them to keep the pet as long as possible.

If the pet owner can arrange for someone to care for a pet while on vacation, this will solve the vacation issue. The pet owner in most cases will be home more than they are away so watching a pet for them may not be a huge task.

If the pet lover cannot have a pet due to financial reasons, they may volunteer at a local shelter or offer to pet sit for friends. This will give them some quality time with pets without the expense. Another consideration if the person likes birds, is to feed the wild birds. A feeder near a window can be a source of joy with little responsibility. Many people enjoy bird-watching which is a year-round activity.

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A visitor to one of my bird feeders

Often if the family will “think outside of the box” a happy solution can be found for whatever difficulties may be present.

Cleanliness at veterinary practices and home

In view of the current corona virus pandemic, I thought this study is very interesting and important for everyone to read and share. Jason Stull, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University, Armando Hoet of Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Gregory Langdon of the College of Public Health did a study about cleanliness in veterinary clinics. What they found is interesting. Please read the entire article that is referenced.

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For over a month, using a dye only visible with a black light, they studied how thoroughly surfaces were cleaned. They found that it was almost impossible to clean 100% of the surfaces at the clinic. For the current work, Stull and colleagues assessed almost 5,000 surfaces over the course of the study. On average, 50 percent of surfaces were cleaned, with broad variations by type of surface and hospital location. The human-touch surfaces were the least likely to be cleaned such as medical instruments, dog run handles, and computer mice and keyboards.

I believe it is impossible to completely clean everything in your home so that it is germ free. What I do is use a Fresh Air Surround that kills all virus and bacteria. I have used it for years and I believe my family has had less illnesses as a result. I started using it mostly for my allergies since it cleans the air very well. I also notice that it removes any odors that may occur. The real benefit is that it cleans every surface in your house continually. This is something that every veterinary practice, or any other public place can use. I am not suggesting that it should replace regular disinfecting practices, but it is a great addition and easy to use.

Scruffy Paws Nutrition for Cats

I was contacted by Scruffy Paws Nutrition for Cats to see if I would test and review their products. After reading about the company and their philosophy as well as their attention to specific health issues for cats, I was impressed, and as my regular readers know, I am very critical.

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I was offered the opportunity to try a product of my choice on my cat. Unfortunately my cat would not eat the vitamins, she is very fussy. You don’t want to know how many brands of wet food I tried to find one that she would eat along with her Annamaet dry food.

Here is a quote from their site: “Each supplement has been specifically designed for a certain ailment. So instead of a ‘Jack of all trades’ vitamin supplement that may not do any real good… Ours laser target feline conditions to make a real difference. Using our wealth of knowledge and experience, we formulate a nutritional top up that will supercharge the organ health, and help the body heal itself.”

However, I feel that I should share these products with my followers and hopefully you will check them on the Scruffy Paws web site.

Cat scratch fever in humans

In a recent study at North Carolina State University a human adolescent who suffered from a rapid onset of schizophrenia symptoms was found to be suffering from a Bartonella henselae infection which is associated with cat scratch fever.

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This person was treated by an array of doctors for 18 months before one doctor noticed lesions that are associated with Bartonella. When tested it was found that Bartonella was the cause of the schizophrenia like symptoms.

This is an important discovery since now researchers are going to investigate other psychiatric disorders and their connection to viruses and bacteria infections. This could lead to cures for afflictions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other medically complicated issues.

Cats that have Bartonella can infect a person from scratching, biting or even licking a person. Strictly indoor cats are less likely to have it. The symptoms typically are flu-like which include:

  1. a bump or blister at the bite or scratch site.
  2. swollen lymph nodes near the bite or scratch site.
  3. fatigue
  4. headaches
  5. a low-grade fever, which is above 98.6°F (37°C) but below 100.4°F (37°C)
  6. body aches.

Sperm damage in both humans and dogs due to pollutants in the home

New research by scientists at the University of Nottingham suggests that manmade contaminants found in the home and diet have the same adverse effects on male fertility in both humans and domestic dogs.

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This study was done to explore the cause of the declining human male fertility in recent decades with studies showing a 50% global reduction in sperm quality in the past 80 years. A previous study by the Nottingham experts showed that sperm quality in domestic dogs has also sharply declined.

The researchers found that two chemicals, the plasticizer DEHP which is in most homes, found in carpets, flooring, upholstery, clothes, wires and toys, as well as the chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153 which is banned but still present, even in food to be at least partly to blame.

No studies have been done to see if these chemicals have the same affect on cats or other domestic household pets. What we can do is keep abreast of the latest research and hope that these chemicals will be altered or banned.