Arthritis in Cats

Many people do not realize that cats suffer from arthritis. We are used to our cats being very athletic and supple. However, feline arthritis affects 80 to 90% of all cats. About 33% of younger cats develop arthritis, so it is not limited to older cats.

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Because cats can hide pain very well, it is prudent that a cat owner understand and look for the various signs that indicate your cat is developing or has arthritis.

Here are the warning signs:

  1. You cat cannot jump up or down or is reluctant to do it.
  2. General stiffness
  3. Difficulty getting up when they are laying down.
  4. Personality change such as not wanting to be held or petted like they used to.
  5. If your cat does not groom himself as much. This could be a sign that it is                                 painful to reach parts of his body.
  6. If your cat tends to hide whereas he did not before. Pain can cause a cat to want to               hide.
  7. Your cat may sleep more than normal.
  8. Loss of appetite.
  9. A cat may stop using the litter box because it is painful to do so.
  10. You may notice that your cats’ muscles are atrophied.

If you see any of the signs listed above, you must take your cat to your veterinarian for a checkup. Some of these signs could also be due to another type of illness.

Arthritis is not a clear-cut issue. There are different types of arthritis and they can have different causes, from infection to injury. Therefore it is critical that your veterinarian determines if your cat has arthritis, the type of arthritis your cat has and how to treat it.

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Clicker Training a Cat

Yes, cats can be trained. This article will explain why you should train your cat. Since it would take a whole book to explain the detailed steps about how to clicker train your cat, I suggest that you google clicker training for cats and get a book.

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Photo caption: “You want me to do what?”

Why would a cat owner want to train their cat? There are a lot of reasons. First, it can give you control over your cat. Imagine if you have taught your cat to get into his carrier, how much easier it would be to do that. Cats like the stimulation that learning gives them. Teaching your cat tricks also deepens the bond between you and your cat. It encourages your cat to exercise. It gives the cat mental stimulation. Clicker training your cat also gives you a tool to use if your cat develops a behavior problem so that you can correct the problem.

The first step to clicker training a cat is to find the special treat that your cat likes. Keep in mind that a treat is not a meal, so it will be small. You will have to experiment with people food as well as various cat treats to find the one your cat loves. The treat has to be something that you can handle easily and either comes in a small size or can be cut into tiny pieces. You do not want a treat that the cat must stop and chew for a few minutes. It should be one that the cat can easily eat quickly.

Often people do not realize that there are different clickers that range from loud to soft clicks. I suggest that you use a soft click for a cat. You can also use a click type pen, but it is not as easy to use as a clicker.

You also need a target stick and instead of buying an expensive one, you can use a ¼” dowel that is found in hardware stores, stores that carry lumber or craft stores.

Once you have all the equipment that you need, you can start working with your cat. Start slowly, getting the cat used to the clicker. Once the cat understands that the clicker is a signal for a treat, you can start teaching the cat simple commands. You can have a few sessions in a day but be sure to keep the training sessions very short. Cats get bored quickly. It is important that you work with your cat in a quiet environment. Your cat must be relaxed and feel safe. If you have more than one cat or a dog, be sure to train your cat alone in a room where the other animals cannot get in. If you have more than one cat, only work with one at a time. It can help if you have a different clicker for each cat, it will help them understand that you are clicking only them.

The last bit of advice that I have for you is be patient and don’t give up. Initially older cats may slow to respond, but they too should be taught tricks. Have fun, you cat will.

Glyphosate, a common herbicide found in dog food

Glyphosate, the active herbicidal ingredient found in most if not all weed killers like Roundup, has been found in dog food. But don’t panic, advises the study, the level is only 0.7 percent of the U.S. glyphosate limit set for humans.

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The study was conducted by Brian Richards, senior research associate in biological and environmental engineering, and supported by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund. The goal of this study was to determine how much glyphosate was found in crops, surface water in fields, soil and animal feed.

The study determined that the herbicide found its way into pet food through the plant matter included in the food. However, they could not pinpoint which plants had the glyphosate.

Although there is no risk to pets, the long-term consumption of glyphosate has not been studied. Also, my thought is this: While the levels are very low for human consumption, dogs and cats are much smaller than people. Therefore the amount by comparison may be a risk for pets. An average human adult who weighs 150 – 200 lbs. and can tolerate .07% but what about the average medium sized dog who weighs 40 pounds. What about children and pets who weigh less than 40 lbs.?

It seems from the study that there are little or no pet foods that do not have glyphosate in them. Does this mean that other pet food has glyphosate in it? Some pets only eat vegetable or plant products. This is another thing to consider for both humans and animals. More studies are needed.

The way you feed your cat can affect its health

How your feed your cat is an often-overlooked aspect of stress and health related issues. This was addressed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). They released a Consensus Statement titled, “Feline Feeding Programs: Addressing Behavioral Needs to Improve Feline Health and Wellbeing” which was published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. A brochure is available for practitioners to give to clients.

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According to the brochure, it is important to allow cats to experience normal feeding behaviors, such as hunting and foraging, a well as eating frequent, small meals by themselves. By meeting a cat’s feeding needs, you will help alleviate or prevent stress-related issues. Stress can cause cystitis and over-eating problems. If indoor cats are not given enough activity, eating can become their main activity leading to obesity.

Multi-cat households must insure that some of the resident cats who are shy are getting enough food which can lead to health problems as well.

The report goes on to stress that each household should evaluate the needs of the cats in the home. Some solutions could be to include offering small, frequent meals, puzzle feeders or putting food in different locations and even including automatic feeders.

It a cat has mental or physical issues, it is important to consider the cat’s feeding program to see if that is a contributing factor.

Animals can tell time!

Almost all pet owners have noticed that their pet seems to know what time it is. The dog or cat that waits for a family member to arrive home from school or work. Or they let you know exactly the time they normally get fed. They also let you know when it is time for any other daily routine. In the past it was assumed that they saw signals in the behavior of their human house mates. Or the theory was that they recognized the sound of your vehicle and knew that you were near. All of this can be part of the explanation for some events. But then there were those events that did not fit with the theories. Events that had no logical explanation, except that somehow, animals knew what time it was. Over the years, I have seen all of my pets, dogs, cats and birds indicate that they knew when things were supposed to happen. Not only the time of the day, but the day of the week.

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Researchers have discovered strong evidence that animals can tell time. A study led by Daniel Dombeck, an associate professor of neurobiology in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience explains the discovery.

According to Dombeck “As the animals run along the track and get to the invisible door, we see the cells firing that control spatial encoding, then, when the animal stops at the door, we see those cells turned off and a new set of cells turn on. This was a big surprise and a new discovery.”

What I can share with you from personal experience and supports this discovery is this: I am profoundly deaf, and cannot hear an alarm clock, (I can barely hear without hearing aids). If I need to get up at a certain time in the morning, I only have to decide what time I want to get up and I will wake up at the exact minute, no matter how tired I may be. As far as I am concerned, Dombeck’s discovery is the only explanation about how I can do this.

According to Dombeck, “So this could lead to new early-detection tests for Alzheimer’s, we could start asking people to judge how much time has elapsed or ask them to navigate a virtual reality environment — essentially having a human do a ‘door stop’ task.” Again, animal research has the potential of helping people. Because many people suffer from Alzheimer’s, it could help a vast number of people.

 

Asthma – Children – Pets

A recent study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital to determine if second-hand smoke and living with a pet had a role in controlling severe asthma in children, found interesting results.

In the past if a child had asthma and the family had a pet, the family was often encouraged to get rid of the pet. This is a heartbreaking situation. If the child is old enough to realize that it is because of them that the pet was re-homed, it could cause the child to feel as though they are the blame. This feeling of guilt on top of the grief of losing the pet can be very difficult for a child to deal with.

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However, the most recent study has shown that if the child’s asthma is managed per NAEPP (EPR-3) guidelines that second-hand smoke and pets do not cause the asthma to get worse or prevent it from improving.

This is very good news for families where a child, or even a family member, suffers from asthma. It also means that a child who has asthma does not have to be denied the joy of owning a pet.

Finding a lost cat

Sometimes it is more difficult to find a lost cat than it is to find a lost dog. This is because lost dogs are more likely to come when called or to approach strangers. When cats get lost and are frightened and they tend to hide.

The first thing you need to do is start searching right away. Do not wait a day or so to see if your cat comes home. Let every veterinarian, shelter and rescue group in a five mile radius know that your cat is missing. Give them photos of your cat with your contact information. Do not rely on trying to describe your cat since it is hard to describe all the details, even the color of your cat.

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Put posters up, especially by any public transportation sites, including school bus stops. Make sure your posters are easy to read from a distance. The next most visible place to put posters are supermarkets and other stores that are popular. Be sure to ask if it is OK to put your poster up before you do it.

Keep your posters fresh, otherwise people will think they are old and that you have found your cat. How frequently you need to put up new posters will depend on the local weather. You can buy clear plastic sheet protectors that will help keep your 8 ½ x 11 posters clean and fresh. If possible have someone put the posters up for you while you look for your cat. Also place an ad in your local newspaper in the lost and found section. If you can afford it, include a picture of your cat in the ad. Even a head shot will help.

The good news is that neutered and spayed cats tend to stay closer to home than those who are intact. Typically intact cats will stay within five miles of their home. Neutered and spayed cats are usually within three houses from your home.

Looking in the five-mile radius can be difficult depending on the layout of the land. It will help if you get a map of your area and using your home as the center, draw a circle five miles away from your home. This will be your search area. The first thing you want to look for are natural barriers such as water or other terrain features that would block your cat from traveling in that direction.

If most of the area is composed of brush and trees, you will have to look under the brush and up into the trees. If the area is suburban or urban, you will have to look in every hiding place that a cat would go. Most cats will try to stay away from noise, people and traffic. That means looking on people’s property. Be sure to ask permission first so that the homeowner does not become frightened by having a stranger searching around their house. Be prepared to give each homeowner a flyer about your cat. Most cats will not wander more than three or four houses away so focus in those areas. Be sure to go in every direction from your home.

If your area has storm drains check them out. If your cat is in one you can lure the cat out with cat food that has a strong aroma. You may have to resort to a live trap. Most shelters will loan you a trap or two so that you can catch your cat.

Even if you find your cat you may not be able to get near enough to grab the cat since most frightened cats will not come to their owners. Some will even run away. If this is the situation you may have to use a live trap. Most cats are more active at night which means that this is the best time to put the trap out. Set your trap at dusk or just before dusk. Cats are also active in the early morning, just before dawn. Bait the trap with something of yours or the cats as well as with food.

While you are out looking for your cat, call your cat’s name. Then stay still and listen if the cat meows. Some cats may come out, but do not expect that to happen. However if the cat calls to you, you will be able to go to the cat.

Another good strategy is to leave the cat’s favorite food and water around your house. If you put some sand around the dishes you can see if there are cat tracks around the food or if other animals such as foxes, raccoons, or rodents are eating the food. Of course you will not know if the cat tracks are those of your cat but at least you will know that there is a chance that your cat is coming home to eat.

It is possible for a cat to be so frightened that he does not recognize his surroundings and cannot find his way home. This is especially true if the cat is strictly a house cat and never roams the neighborhood. You can help your cat find his way home by leaving a trail of your cat’s used litter leading to your house. Remember, cats have a very good sense of smell, so they will recognize that scent and can follow it home.

Although you may not want to think of this possibility, be sure to have the local shelter check if any deceased cats are yours. This is especially important if your cat is very old or is ill. If your cat did not survive, at least you will know and can take care of your cat’s remains as you choose.

The main thing is not to give up. There are many cases where a cat has been found months after getting lost. It helps if you have had your cat micro-chipped. This way if your cat is turned in to a shelter, they can scan the chip and contact you. Be sure to keep the information on the microchip up-to-date which can be done on the chip’s web site.

Being diligent, positive and not giving up will help you find your cat. And lastly, do not blame yourself that your cat got out and ran away. As careful as we are, it happens to the best of us.

Goats can read human faces and prefer people who smile!

Although Dr Alan McElligott is currently based at the University of Roehampton, he led the study at Queen Mary University of London to determine if goats react to human facial expressions. He found that goats would rather interact with people who smile and are happy. The study further showed that goats use the left hemisphere of their brain to react to positive facial expressions.

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Anyone who works with goats recognizes that they are very attuned to human body language, but this study shows that goats recognize facial expressions and the emotions that they represent. Past studies have shown that dogs, birds and horses also have this ability.

Goats, horses, birds  and dogs  represent a wide spectrum of the animal kingdom. It stands to reason that many other animals, both domestic and wild have the same abilities to some degree. The challenge is to devise a way to test a wider range of animals and birds. It is exciting to be able to understand more about the animals that we love and anticipate what future studies will teach us.

Toxoplasma gondii in cats and humans

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii (TG) is widely spread, infecting about 30 – 50% of the world human population. The main host for TG is our beloved pet cats and cats in general. The parasite is transported to humans by eating insufficiently cooked meat or by contact with cat feces, putting the parasite in the stomach. From there it passes through the intestinal wall. Next our immune cells attack it but instead of killing it, they become “Trojan horses.”

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People who have impaired immune systems and unborn fetuses that are infected with Toxoplasmosis have a high risk of death. However healthy people may show only mild symptoms.

Studies have shown that carriers of TG have more instances of mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. Other studies have illustrated that people who are infected with TG may be more prone to aggressive and risky behavior.  This is because TG will eventually get into a person’s brain.

The good news is that since the scientists at Stockholm University have unraveled the mystery of how TG works and is transported, they have found that when mice are infected with TG and given regular blood pressure medicine, it inhibits its spread.

Feline Epilepsy

Many people realize that dogs can have epileptic seizures, but do not realize the cats can suffer from epilepsy as well. There are two general types of epilepsy, intracranial epilepsy, which is caused by defects in the brain on a cellular level and is more common in dogs and humans, but seems to be rare in cats, and extracranial which are seizures due to injuries outside the skull.

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Seizures in cats are usually caused by brain tumors, infractions or even a stroke. Sometimes the cause of the seizures can be due to kidney disease, liver disease, hypoglycemia and exposure to toxins and poisons.

Some signs of an epileptic event are:

Blank stare

Shake one leg

Cry out in pain

Falling to one side

Uncontrollable Urinating or Defecating

Paddling their feet

Loss of consciousness

Jaw chomping

Become clingy to owner

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Undue restlessness

Unusual salivation

Loss of vision temporally

If your cat shows any of the above signs an immediate visit to your veterinarian is warranted.

Idiopathic epilepsy usually shows up between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age. Seizures are most likely to occur when the cat is resting or asleep, in the morning or at night.

Seizures that are a result of an injury will show up after the injury. The treatment will depend on the cause of the seizure and may require a battery of tests since the seizures can result from various diseases.

If your cat suffers from seizures, keep a log of when the seizure starts and when it ends. It is also a good idea to take note of any environmental events that could have caused the seizure.

If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes get the cat to the veterinarian right away, this is an emergency. If your cat is diagnosed as being epileptic, do not panic. Be sure to have a plan for when the seizure occurs to keep the cat safe, in a place where the cat cannot get hurt. Cats will not swallow their tongue so there is no need to put anything in their mouth. Keep in mind that your cat may take a few hours to return to normal behavior.

By understanding the nature of your cat’s seizures, you can help your cat live a safe, long and normal life. While seizures are frightening to look at, with your veterinarian’s help, they can be controlled.