Declawing a cat

Some people feel that they must declaw a cat in order to save their furniture, rugs and curtains. However, they fail to realize that declawing a cat is not the same a trimming their nails. It involves removing the end bone and claw on each of the cat’s toes. This is a painful procedure and the cat will need care and pain medications to recover. Many veterinarians will not declaw a cat.

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Declawing a cat will also take away the cat’s main defense mechanism. While you may feel that your cat will be an indoor cat, during the cat’s lifetime, he may accidently get outside and will be almost defenseless.

Scratching is a normal behavior for a cat. They mark their territory and sharpen their nails by scratching. It seems that they also enjoy the activity.

Rather than declaw a cat, you can teach a cat to use a scratching post. Provide a scratching post in the places the cat likes to scratch. If the cat starts to scratch furniture, simply say no and move the cat to a scratching post. They are capable of learning where to scratch. Clicker training can help a cat learn to use a scratching post.

There are different types of scratching posts for cats. Experiment with them to see which one appeals to your cat. Some of the types of scratching posts are ones made from rug, natural wood and cardboard like substance.

It is easier to train a young cat than an older cat, but the main thing is to not give up. With the right scratching post and encouragement, your cat will learn.

If you do consider declawing, consult with your veterinarian first to see what is involved in the procedure as well as the care that the cat will need after. It is always easier to declaw a young cat. Declawing an older cat or one that has medical issues can be riskier and cause health problems.

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Understanding your cat can be easier than you think

Cats communicate in many ways. They use vocalizations, body language and spatial position to communicate.

For example, a cat will gently paw you to get your attention. While batting things around is a form of play, a hard swat without their claws out can be a warning. A swat with the claws out is a much more aggressive act, either in defense or as an attack. Of course there is the kneading action with their paws that cats do when they are happy.

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(my cat who was taught not to bother the bird, note the bird is not afraid of the cat)

When a cat vocalizes a short meow is like a greeting, or a friendly “how are you doing?” A meow that is a bit louder and perhaps longer typically is a request for something, such as dinner or to get to a place that is inaccessible. A longer meow is a more demanding request, typically if you ignored the cat’s earlier request. A high pitch meow is a protest, such as if the cat does not like to be groomed or have its nails clipped. Then there is a long, almost sad meow that sounds as if the cat is confused.

If an old cat does this and seems to be lost or confused, it is time for an examination by your veterinarian. The cat may be suffering from or starting to get dementia. A hiss is usually a warning to move away from the cat. Purring is usually a sign of contentment but a cat that is in pain or stress will purr.

Facial expressions are important, including the ear set, eyes as well as the mouth. Flattened ears show that the cat is angry or frightened. Large dark eyes also can mean anger or fear. An opened mouth with a hiss is anger or fear and it can be difficult for a cat owner to tell the difference between anger and fear.

A cat’s tail is just as expressive as vocalizations. A happy cat will have its tail up and often with a small hook at the end. A swishing tail is a sign of annoyance and sometimes anger. Of course there are many positions in between the upright tail and the swishing tail. Some cats will appear to be contented but the tips of their tail flicks up and down or back and forth, it can mean that the cat is irritated. When some cats are very happy their tail will stand upright and shake with the hair at the base of the tail puffed out.

As most people know, when a cat is angry or frightened they will arch their back and raise the hair on their back and tail. The tail will usually be erect or curved down and sometimes tucked between their legs.

To help our cats understand us, we need to be consistent in our body language and tone of voice. You can train a cat if you are careful not to give the cat mixed signals. A treat with a happy face and voice will show a cat that you are pleased with their behavior. A firm no and a serious face will let them know that you do not approve of their actions.

Cats sometimes do not recognize our space. Therefore, if a cat gets on you, near you or goes where you do not want them to go, such as on the table at dinner time, you can give the cat a stern “no” and point to the floor while you gently push them away. It may take a few times but the cat will learn.

For behavior that you want, you can smile, tell the cat that it is good and give the cat a treat. The cat will learn that this is acceptable behavior. Of course, you can clicker train a cat. https://clickertraining.com/cat-training

With a little thought, planning, and careful observation, it is not as difficult to communicate with a cat or understand what they are trying to tell us as a person may think. Your cat will love you more for the effort and you will understand your cat better.

Tick diseases in humans and pets

Tick season is here again in many parts of the country. Ticks can cause diseases in both dogs and humans as well as other pets. Most people do not realize that there are a number of diseases that are transmitted by ticks with some infections taking place in as little as three hours after being bitten.

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Many diseases transmitted by ticks can infect a variety of species of animals as well as humans. Although many pet owners use tick and flea prevention drugs, it is important to realize that while the tick may not bite the pet, the tick can travel from the pet to a human.

Therefore, if the pet owner lives in an area where there are ticks or their pet goes to a tick infested area, the pet should be checked thoroughly for ticks. One way to do this is to use a flea comb and comb the pet’s fur right to the skin but not digging into the skin.

Sometimes a pet owner can run their hands over the pet and feel a tick. This is very important if the pet sleeps on the owners bed, furniture of sits on the owner’s lap. Keep in mind that ticks are found in bushes, trees, grass, weeds, and in the soil. Check with your veterinarian to see what tick preventative medicine is best for your pet

Pets and humans (especially children) should be checked for ticks every time they go into a potentially tick infested area. Ticks are often most active in the spring and fall, but in certain areas of the country can be active year round.

Humans can use insect repellent when entering tick infested areas. Wearing long sleeves and putting pant legs inside socks can help prevent ticks from crawling up pant legs and arms. Hats can help to protect the head from ticks dropping from overhead vegetation. .

If the tick embeds it should be removed as quickly as possible. A product called a tick key is very useful in removing ticks from pets and humans.

If you do not have a tick key, remove a tick by using tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull up with a stead, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick since the head of the tick may break off. If it does try to remove the head with the tweezers. Do not touch the tick with your hands if possible. Dispose of it by dropping it in rubbing alcohol or wrap the tick on sticky tape and throw it away. Be sure to wash your hands after handling a tick.

It is a good idea to take a shower after working or playing in tick infested areas and washing your clothes. Ticks can hide in clothing and then crawl into the home. With a little diligence and care, you can protect yourself and your pets from tick diseases.

Ticks exist in all 50 states, with some having greater infestations than others. Here is a list of some of the tick diseases:

Anaplasmosis human, – is also known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Ticks get the organism when feeding on deer, elk or wild rodents. The symptoms are: fever, headache, muscle pain,malaise, chills, nausea and/or abdominal pain, cough, confusion and although rare, a rash. Dogs can get anaplasmosis as well as other animals. The symptoms in dogs are: joint pain, high fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and neck pain.

Bartonellosis – Although it is thought to be carried by ticks, this disease at present, does not seem to be transmitted to humans through ticks. However, it is transmitted by cats through fleas. It causes what is commonly known as “cat scratch disease” and is most likely carried by feral cats. There is some evidence that it can be transmitted to humans by being bitten with an infected flea.

Hepatozoonosis – is often fatal in dogs. Dogs get it by eating an infected tick. The symptoms include: fever, weakness, muscle atrophy, generalized pain, reluctance to move, ocular discharge; and gradual deterioration of the body.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a serious, potentially fatal disease that is transmitted to humans by a tick. It is carried by the American dog tick, Rocky mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. A human can get a rash from the tick bite. It must be treated in the first few days or the disease can be fatal.

Dogs and other animals can get RMSF. The symptoms in dogs include: depression, lethargy, anorexia, blood in the urine, irregular heartbeat, discolored skin that often looks like a bruise, loss of coordination, swelling in the limbs, bleeding through the nose and stools, difficulty with blood clotting, swollen lymph nodes, pain in the eyes, inflammation or conjunctivitis.

Ehrlichiosis Affects both dogs, humans, and wild canids and is found worldwide and throughout the United States. It is transmitted by ticks including the brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick. What is important to realize is that this disease can live in a tick for up to five months, which means that a tick that has it in the fall can pass it along to a dog or human in the spring.

There are three phases of this disease. The acute phase develops in 1 – 3 weeks. The liver, lymph nodes and spleen are often enlarged. Humans get fever, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joint pain and stiffness and bruises. Dogs can sometimes fight the infection and go into the subclinical phase. In this phase the dog may show slight anemia. This phase can last for years when the dog will eliminate the disease from its body or go into the chronic phase which can be mild or severe. The signs are weight loss, anemia, neurological signs, bleeding, the eyes can become inflamed, fluid builds up in the hind legs, and fever develops. Sometimes the disease will only show up when the dog becomes stressed. In some cases arthritis or kidney disease may develop.

Lymes Disease in humans is transmitted by deer ticks or the blacklegged ticks. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a rash. This disease can spread to joints, the nervous system and the heart.

Lymes disease in dogs Symptoms include: a stiff walk with an arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing, fever, lack of appetite and depression, lymph nodes may be swollen, and although rare, heart abnormalities and neurologic issues.

Belly rubs for cats

“My cat rolls over but if I try to rub her belly, she will scratch and bite, why does she do this?” is a question I am often asked by cat owners. People who are familiar with dogs and have experienced the dog that rolls over to have his belly scratched, assume that cats want the same thing.

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When a cat, rolls over it is a defensive position that they use when they cannot out run an attacker. This allows them to use the claws on all four feet for defense.

However, some cats do roll over and lay on their back because they enjoy it. They will do this when they feel comfortable enough in their environment to expose their vital organs.

Tom's cat

If you have a kitten, you can get the kitten used to being handled and petted by gently handling all their body parts in a caressing manner. This will allow a veterinarian and you to examine the cat for lumps, bumps and injuries without too much stress to the cat.

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If you gently pet a kitten sometimes the kitten will allow you to rub its belly. If the kitten seems to enjoy this, you can do it as a sign of affection. Often a kitten will playfully hit your hand with its front and hind feet. As long as it is playful and no teeth and claws scratch or bite, this can be a fun time for the kitten and owner. But if the cat offers its belly but does not like to be touched there, it is best to accept the friendly gesture as a compliment and do not try to rub their belly.

Rat bite fever

Many people have rodents as pets and they can make wonderful pets for people who do not have room for a larger pet or cannot have a dog, cat or bird. However, although it is rare, rat bite fever can be transmitted by pet rodents, either through a bite or scratch. Rats, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs and ferrets are capable of transmitting rat bite fever. Rat bite fever is an old disease that has been recorded for over 2300 years.

Rat bite fever is caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis which is the most common cause. The symptoms include fever, pain in joints, nausea, rash and vomiting and can be fatal if not treated.

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Children, pet store workers, veterinary technicians, veterinarians and laboratory technicians are in the higher risk group since they handle rodents on a regular basis. People who frequently handle rodents can wear protective gloves to prevent being bitten.  Parents should monitor children who have rodents as pets and if they are bitten or scratched, notify your pediatrician.

Socializing a pet rodent is a precautionary measure that will reduce the chance of being bitten. Rodents can be trained using clicker training methods which will also help to reduce the chances of being bitten by teaching the rodent to come to you.

Always be careful not to frighten or startle a rodent. Avoid trying to handle a rodent that is sleeping. A tap on the cage or talking to the rodent before handling it can calm the rodent and allow the pet to be aware that it is going to be handled. Using common sense will help prevent being bitten and avoid rat bite fever. 

Keep in mind that rat bite fever can also be transmitted by wild rodents. If there are wild rodents in your area and they are trapped, use caution in removing them or handling predators that might have caught and killed a rodent.

 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151223141151.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fplants_animals%2Fanimals+%28Animals+News+–+ScienceDaily%29

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1797630/

Chronic kidney disease in cats

If your cat is ten years old or older, there is a 33% chance that your cat will get chronic kidney disease, (CKD). Cats that have CKD often have a number of signs and complications which include, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, anemia, hypertension and urinary tract infections (UTI).

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Because standard tests can be iffy, diagnosing CKD may not be easy for a veterinarian. To help veterinarians, cats and their owners, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), the veterinary division of International Cat Care, formed an international panel of veterinarians from the UK, France, Australia and North America to analyze CKD.

They found that dietary management is one of the best therapies, but often it is difficult to get a cat to eat the prescription diets. They also found that routine blood pressure monitoring and the use of antihypertension medications helped reduce damage to other organs such as the eyes and heart, thus prolonging the quality of the cat’s life. While there is no cure as yet, it is heartening that veterinarians continue to search for ways to help our pets live longer, quality lives.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160302121038.htm

Large carnivore attacks on humans

Studies have shown that at least half of the attacks on humans by brown bear, black bear, polar bear, puma, wolf and coyote are due to risks that humans take. Most are due to the fact that people do not understand how to act in areas where these animals live. This is not limited to North America, the studies have been conducted since 1955 in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Spain.

If you are going hiking, camping, hunting or visiting areas where these animals live do not go jogging at night, leave children unattended, approach a female with young, walk a dog unleashed.

Bears are attracted to food, so find out the safe ways to have food if you are camping. Local rangers can advise you what works in their area. Do not feed wild animals, this teaches them to approach humans.

Recently in certain parts of the United States and Canada, coyotes and wolves have interbred creating the coywolf.

These animals are typically bolder than wolves and no one is sure what the mix of wolf or coyote they are, if they are more of one or the other. If they are in the area where you live, you must take precautions if you have pets, especially outdoor cats, since they prey on small dogs and cats. If you live in a rural area where there is a large population of feral cats you can expect that coyotes and coywolves are in the area.

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This makes it important to understand how to protect yourself, pets and family from these animals. Often if an animal attacks a human, the animal must be destroyed, even if the attack was defensive and not aggressive. By being careful and avoiding confrontation, you are protecting yourself and saving the life of the animal.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160204111357.htm

A parasitic worm that infects the eyes of dogs

The worm, Thelazia callipaeda is transmitted by a fruit fly and is capable of infecting mammals including dogs, cats and humans. Three dogs in the UK have been infected that were imported from Europe. The adult worms live in the mammal’s eyes and the tissues around the eye. The infection manifests itself as mild conjunctivitis to severe corneal ulceration which if left untreated can lead to blindness.

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The discovery was made by a research team led by John Graham-/Brown at the University of Liverpool.  In light of the fact that so many people travel abroad and import dogs and cats, it is a wise idea to keep this information in mind in the event that you or your pet develops eye problems. With the history of how illnesses are spread, there is no doubt in my mind that it is just a matter of time until this parasite reaches the U.S. and other countries.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170918222244.htm

Pet treats, food and health insurance

In my post about finding the right dog food I listed a very informative link to a site that evaluates dog food. I have since learned that these evaluators have links to cat food, cat treats, dog treats and pet insurance. It is just as important to feed your dog or cat quality treats as it is to feed them quality food, especially if you give them a lot of treats.

Keep in mind that snacking a lot can make a pet put on weight. So, if you are using a lot of treats, especially when training your pet, you may want to decrease their food to compensate. Also, keep in mind that as your pet gets older, they will tend to put on weight (the same as many people do). If your pet tends to put on weight, look for a treat that has few calories. Some treats have only 3 or so calories.

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Health insurance is another very confusing issue for many pet owners. There are so many options and prices. However, considering how expensive veterinarian bills can be, especially for catastrophic illnesses, it is a good idea to have insurance. What options you pick will depend on what you can afford to pay for without insurance. When choosing the right policy for you, take into consideration what your income will be at the end of your pet’s life. This is the time when your pet may need the most veterinarian care. Cost consideration is especially important if you will be retired or near retirement as your pet ages. Taking the time to research treats, food, and insurance will benefit you and your pet in the long run.

Cat food: https://www.reviews.com/cat-food/​
Cat treats: https://www.reviews.com/cat-treats/​
Dog treats: https://www.reviews.com/dog-treats/
Pet insurance: https://www.reviews.com/pet-insurance/

 

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.

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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!