In a recent study conducted by the University of Sussex, Dr Tasmin Humphrey and Professor Karen McComb, animal behaviorists discovered that it is possible to communicate with cats through a slow eye blink. The blink creates a bond with a cat. They found that strange cats are more likely to approach a human who slow blinks first.
They also found that cats attract and manipulate human attention through purring. Cats also know their names even if someone other than the owner calls them and cats are sensitive to human emotions and may head butt an owner who feels sad.
Keep in mind that cats have a range of personalities just like other animals and humans. Some cats show more affection than others. Some cats like to be held and others do not. But no matter what personality your cat has, they still bond with their families and show affection in their own way.
Many cat owners have been told to feed their cats up to four times a day. Some cat owners have a self-feed system where food is left out all day. What is surprising is that a recent study showed that cats are healthier if they are fed only once a day. Animal nutrition specialists in U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) conducted a study and found that cats who eat once a day were less hungry which might help prevent cats from becoming overweight.
The study showed that cats that ate once a day were more satisfied and burned stored fat which helped them keep a healthy body mass. They also had more protein which helps build and maintain body mass an important benefit for older cats to help prevent sarcopenia.
In a study with rodents and ferrets’ researchers found that using treats could mask an animal’s true intelligence. They found a difference between performance and knowledge and that there are two processes, one for
Content and one for environment. The study was conducted by Kishore Kuchibhotla, an assistant professor in The Johns Hopkins University’s department of psychological and brain sciences.
The study wanted to explore how reward-based training affects learning verses performance or behavior. Their research showed that reward-based training improved learning in steps or stages but can mask an animal’s knowledge, especially what the animal learned early in life.
The researchers hope that the results of this study and future studies will help people with Alzheimer’s Disease maintain lucidity as well as improve testing environments for children.
Reward-based training is the most humane way to train a pet, but the pet owner must recognize that the pet is more intelligent than the training demonstrates. This is evident when a pet uses the lessons he has been taught in new ways.
Because the drug has been tested in the lab and then on animal models (used in cats since 2003), researchers plan to start clinical trials in humans very soon.
Again, as I have reported a number of times, our pets have provided medical support for us. How wonderful that our beloved cats may indirectly save many lives worldwide. How hopeful it is that our scientists, including our veterinary medical professionals are a key to the cure of COVID-19. Many people do not realize how much our veterinary researchers have contributed to the overall health and well-being of people. Please read the entire article as reported by Science Daily.
By guest blogger, Vi Hummel Shaffer a 28-year veteran SAR/R K9 Handler specializing in K9 Forensic Human Remains Detection, an instructor, consultant, and speaker. She is the author of K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery published by Brush Education.
Technically, chiggers are not insects – they are “arachnids” in the same family as spiders and ticks. Chiggers are also known by other names around the world: some call them berry bugs, red bugs, harvest mites, harvest bugs, harvest lice, mower’s mites, scrub-itch mites and others. Their scientific name is “trombiculidae mites” and there are approximately 30 species known to attack humans and other animals.
Where They Can Be Found
Chiggers like areas of high humidity. They live in every country around the globe except in high elevations or where it is too hot or dry. Fortunately, North American chiggers don’t seem to be carriers of major diseases unlike in East Asia and the South Pacific. In those areas’ chiggers can cause scrub typhus also known as Japanese river disease. This disease can cause fever, muscle pain, headaches, rash, gastrointestinal problems and coughing.
Chiggers live in damp areas such as grass – like fields, lawns, forests, along the edges of wooded areas, swamps, bogs, rotten logs and stumps, overgrown briar patches and other moist habitats near lakes and streams. However, although chiggers may be heavily concentrated in one spot, they can be virtually absent nearby areas.
Chiggers are most abundant when weeds, grass and other vegetation are substantial – usually in spring, summer and early fall when temperatures are in the 70s and 80s. But they avoid temperatures hotter than 99⁰F (37.2⁰C) and become inactive at temperatures below 60⁰F (15.5⁰C) and 42⁰F (5.556⁰C) will kill the biting ones.
Who and How They Attack
Only the larvae (baby chiggers) are parasitic! Nymph and adult stages do not “bite”. While adult chiggers average about 1/60 of an inch long (0.4mm) the larvae are only 1/100 to less than 1/150 of an inch (10.15 to 0.3 mm) in diameter. They are bright red, hairy, have six legs (larva pictured). Adult and nymph chiggers have eight legs. Some species of chiggers are yellow or straw-colored. After the chigger eggs hatch into larvae they don’t move very far by themselves. They congregate in groups on grass blades, low plants and bushes and small clumps of soil. They attach themselves to small mammals, birds, reptiles, rodents and humans (their least preferable host) who walk through the infested vegetation.
Larvae mites have claws that help them latch on to the host they choose – such as the shoes, clothing, fur/hair – and skin of animals. Generally, they crawl around and explore the host, sometimes for several hours, seeking a safe place before they feed. Bites can happen on any area of the body but mainly where there are folds, wrinkles or where skin in thinnest and easier to penetrate. Those areas are commonly where clothing is tight – around ankles at the sock line, around the waist, near the groin, behind knees, under the armpits – inconvenient places like panty lines, bra straps and there have been cases where they have made their way on to “private parts.” Chiggers can leave hundreds of bites on a host in just one exposure!
Other than staying out of chigger infested areas – which isn’t always possible – searchers and those working in the field should wear long-sleeved shirts, tall boots with their trousers tucked into their socks and a belt to minimize chiggers’ ability to connect directly to skin under a shirt.
Insect repellent is also suggested. But even repellents that specifically state they repel chiggers may only afford some degree of protection. Over-the-counter insect repellent effectiveness usually lasts for several hours before needing reapplication. Those containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) may be applied directly to exposed skin but avoid getting it around or in the eyes. All repellents should be used according to label directions. If sunscreen is also used it should be applied first, rubbed into the skin and let absorb before using a repellent.
Long-lasting products such as those containing permethrin should only be sprayed on clothing (not on skin) and allowed to dry on the clothes for a couple of days before wearing. Permethrin sprays on clothing will remain effective even through a couple of washings. It is important to follow all label instructions. For double protection in heavily infested areas, it has been suggested to use repellent with DEET on your skin, and permethrin treated clothing. Sulphur powder applied to clothing has also been mentioned as providing some protection. But it has a horrible smell like rotten eggs.
Author’s Note: Being the recipient of thousands of chigger bites through the years, and although trying various repellents, I have found one thing that has truly lessened them. Bounce Dryer Sheets! I have used them for years, shared them with others in the field, and they have helped! Take two fresh dryer sheets and wrap them around each ankle – that’s two sheets per ankle – under your socks. I also tuck some in my waistband and then sprayed myself with repellent. I don’t know if the “fragrance free” sheets or if any other brands work since I have only used the scented Bounce sheets.
As previously stated, the larvae, not the adults or nymphs, are what does the damage. Chiggers don’t really bite nor do they “suck blood” or burrow into the skin. The larvae have tiny, sharp mouthparts that pierce the skin – poking a hole where they inject saliva containing digestive enzymes. Those enzymes break down and liquefy skin cells causing the human immune system to respond by hardening the cells all around the hole creating a hard feeding tube structure (referred to as a “stylostome”). It is through that tube that chiggers gain access to the digested skin cells where they constantly secrete saliva to liquefy new tissue. The larvae continue to feed sucking up the fluid until they are engorged. The enzymes are what causes the intense, relentless itching that begins several hours after the initial bite.
Because of the delay between the actual puncture and the itch, the host may not at first, associate it to their exposure to chiggers. The result of these bites will be clusters or groups of red pimple-like bumps or blisters whose itching usually peaks around 24 – 48 hours after the original piercing. Chigger larvae typically feed for three days before dropping off to find a place to digest their meal and molt into their next stage of life.
After Exposure: Clothing, shoes, gear (and dog) should be thoroughly brushed off immediately upon returning from the field. Once home, that clothing should be isolated from the rest of the laundry then washed in hot, soapy water. Boots should be left outside until cleaned. Dog bedding or vehicle kennel pads should also be cleaned.
A hot shower or bath should be taken as soon as possible with repeated soaping and vigorously scrubbing with a washcloth to dislodge any larvae that remain on the body. Although some chiggers may be forced off, the itching from the enzymes in the “tube” will still exist.
Some information sites suggest a cold shower should be taken, rather than hot, to help reduce inflammation from the bites and help relieve itching.
What to Do/Human Treatment (Note: This treatment information is a compilation of ideas from reputable sources. It is not medical advice.)
First of All, Don’t Scratch. Scratching can cause a secondary infection.
Don’t put clear fingernail polish on the bites to try to “suffocate” the chiggers. The chiggers may already be gone. Remember it is the enzymes already in your skin that cause the itching.
Don’t put bleach on the bites it doesn’t work!
All itch relief remedies provide only temporary relief. The following suggestions are the most authoritative.
Unfortunately, No one remedy works equally well for most people and, even less encouraging it can take two to three weeks for chigger bites to heal!
Rubbing alcohol will burn when it touches a wound but it may have a little benefit and possibly kill any larvae if they are still attached.
Hot (or cold) showers and baths
Cold bath with a few scoops of colloidal oatmeal
Applying wrapped ice to the bites
Over-the counter anti-itch creams, ointmentsand sprays. If any contain hydrocortisone, consult with a doctor before using on children under the age of 12, or if pregnant or nursing.
Calamine or Pramoxinelotions
Menthol ointments (Vicks VapoRub)
Apple cider vinegar
Antihistamine pills such as Benadryl
Analgesics (pain relievers) may provide itch relief.
Ground up aspirin paste or baking soda paste applied to each bite.
In addition, antiseptic ointment will help prevent infection for bites that have been scraped by clothing or scratched. For severe cases of chigger bites a physician should be consulted. Steroid shots may be prescribed to alleviate the itch and if infected, antibiotics may be needed.
Chiggers on Dogs
Although a dog’s fur can protect it from some chiggers they still latch on to other areas. Those less hair-covered places such as around the dog’s eyes, ears, legs and stomach are particularly vulnerable. Once on-board they will crawl around and also climb around down into the fur looking for a good, safe place to feed.
Chiggers or Fleas
Fleas prefer warm-blooded hairy animals. They can jump eight inches high and thirteen inches horizontally. Fleas feed on blood so there may be some “flea dirt” (dried blood from bites) present on the dog’s body as can be seen in this photo. There are usually three or four bites lined up in a row in an area. They are small red bumps with a halo-like ring around them.
Chigger bites are in large, random clusters and look similar to small pimples, welts, blisters or hives.
Sometimes chiggers can be identified by observing what looks look like paprika on the dog’s fur. Those almost microscopic reddish dots are larvae.
Indications of Chiggers on Dogs
Intense itching/scratching – typically starts three to six hours after exposure – that lasts for days is the most apparent indication. While not all dogs react with itching, some may develop an allergic reaction with hives or facial swelling. As with humans, the itching enzymes will remain although the larvae will fall off after feeding for three or four days.
Clusters of Small, red crusty pimples, welts/bumps on skin which occur after several hours.
Red patches on exposed skin (can even be visible under their hair).
(If unsure of what the problem is, since other skin conditions may cause bumps, consult a veterinarian who can make the diagnosis.)
Treating Chigger Bites on Dogs
As previously mentioned, the dog should be brushed/wiped off immediately after returning from the field. It is recommended a soft cloth or vet-approved skin wipe be used around the sensitive areas. Chiggers can also infect a dog’s inner ear.
There are products/shampoos on the market to treat chigger bites on dogs but it is important to review them for safety and results. There are home-remedies (with mixture directions online) which may or may not be effective such as: bathing the dog in Epsom salts, a warm Colloidal Oat or Brewed Green Tea bath, Wrapped Ice Packs or Cold Compresses. Before using human treatments, a veterinarian should be consulted. The Vet may prescribe anti-parasitic sprays, dips, topical medication or suggest an antihistamine. In cases of severe infestation steroids may be prescribed. Remember continuous scratching can develop into bacterial infection which then would require antibiotics.
Prevention Veterinarian approved, dog medications for killing ticks and mites (Frontline, NexGard, Seresto, etc.) may help fend off chiggers. If chigger infested areas are within the dog’s home territory – Keep the dog away from them for about two weeks while those places are treated with pet-safe products.
Chiggers and the Ecosystem
After much research, due to curiosity about the “benefits” of chiggers, the most learned is that they feed on different foods at their different life stages. Larvae are parasitic while nymphs and adults feed only are various plant materials and smaller arthropods in the soil. Natural predators of chiggers (and other mites) are spiders, beetles, birds, lizards, centipedes, salamanders, certain species of ants and other small creatures which live in areas populated by chiggers.
Note from Susan: While this article applies to people and dogs, chiggers can bite cats and other animals as well.
We know that rats in studies create new mental maps for new spatial situations such as a new maze. But scientists do not know how the animal decides when a situation is new enough to requires a new map.
No two situations are ever exactly alike, for animals as well as humans, but how much needs to change to create a new map? The scientists at MIT and Harvard postulate that they can determine this with Bayesian statistics, a mathematical model. This model can take into account individual differences in animals as well as the situation.
Understanding remapping is important because when scientists evaluate a problem or test, they do not know if the rat is thinking about experiment A or experiment B. This will change the results of the test and possibly give scientists false data which leads to conflicting, confusing or surprising results.
Communication is always a problem when people work or train animals. We cannot tell them about the context of an experiment, the animal has to make his own conclusions based on what he sees or experiences. The researchers feel that by using a probabilistic approach, they can determine how uncertainty plays a role when change occurs.
While all of these methods are a good attempt to understand the mind of animals, because if it applies to a rat it most likely applies to other animals as well. However, as I tell my clients, there are only two beings who will know for sure what is in the mind of an animal—the animal and God. No one else, but we need to keep trying.
A study by scientists at theUniversity of Notre Dame on baboons has shown that early adverse conditions such as famine, abuse, neglect or the death of a parent in early childhood are not reversed by support in adulthood. They feel that things such as elevated stress hormones take a physiological toll on the body, and remain, even with a healthy, supportive relationships in adulthood.
Because the subjects of the study were baboons, scientists measured life experience against levels of glucocorticoids (fGCs) — hormones that regulate physiological functions such as metabolism and immune function, and moderate the body’s response to stress. They found that the levels of fGC’s were 9% higher in subjects that had three or more adverse experiences and 21% higher than subjects that had no harsh experiences.
I have to wonder how this study relates to other animals. Does this mean that pets who are abused or experience harsh situations as youths, will not ever fully respond to kind treatment when they are adults? Will the stress always be with them? What comes to mind are children who are given up for adoption at birth and then suffer from attachment disorder. While further research is needed and on a wider subject base (other animals) this is important information to keep in mind when trying to rehabilitate abused pets. This may mean that failure is not the result of poor rehabilitation techniques, but is a result of the chemical changes in the subject.
It is fairly common knowledge that pregnant woman and people with compromised immune systems should avoid cleaning cat litter boxes to avoid getting toxoplasma gondii from cat feces. Toxoplasma can also be introduced to the body through the consumption of contaminated food and water.
Leonardo Augusto, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and lead author on the National Institutes of Health-funded study about toxoplasma has discovered the way the parasite takes control of a person’s cells and uses them to transport itself throughout the body.
This finding is important because once scientists discover how a parasite spreads, they can focus on a cure. This particular parasite infects about 1/3 of the world’s population making it a serious risk. What is especially dangerous about this parasite is that it can stay dormant in a body until the immune system weakens.
With the new understanding about how toxoplasma spreads through the body researchers are one step closer to finding a cure for this disease which can infect the brain as well as other organs.
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.