Different groups of researchers are interested in learning how much wildlife cats kill for food. With this in mind researcher Roland Kays from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences decided to study how much wildlife domestic cats kill and eat to supplement the food they are fed by their owners. What they found was very surprising as well as important for cat owners.
The researchers found that they could not determine the amount of wildlife that cats eat because they were studying elements in cat food as a comparison. The reason why this study failed is because cat food manufacturers do not use consistent types and amounts of ingredients in their food. Even foods that were the same flavor and brand were inconsistent. The researchers found that the less expensive brands had more corn products and that the cat food produced in the United Kingdom had a lower amount of corn products.
Author’s Note: This information accounts for why some cats who like a certain brand and flavor of food will suddenly refuse to eat that food. Cats have a very acute sense of smell and they can detect the change in their food. Dog food is no better and dogs can suddenly reject a food that they liked previously. Changing the formula of dog or cat food can also induce loose stools and weight changes in a dog or cat.
It may be surprising to learn that veterinarians and people who volunteer to help animals may be at a higher risk for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide.
Katherine Goldberg, DVM, LMSW, community consultation and intervention specialist at Cornell Health and Founder of Whole Animal Veterinary Geriatrics and Palliative Care Services has conducted a study to determine how and why this exists. She found that people who volunteer with animals are often confronted with the results of cruelty, and while they want to help animals, they are often faced with having to euthanize healthy animals due to a shortage of homes.
Veterinarians are faced with the same circumstances as well as high college debts, lower income and clients who may question the cost of care for their pets and be suspicious that their veterinarian is trying to push services that their pet doesn’t need.
Goldberg feels that veterinarian colleges should include courses to help veterinary students deal with the pressures of caring for animals.
Author’s Note: With the advances in veterinary care, at times it has become more difficult to determine how much intervention a pet owner should do for their pet. Like human doctors, veterinarians want to save the life of a pet and will offer all of the options available. What helps the pet owner decide is to evaluate what quality of life the pet will have after treatments. Veterinarians will help make that decision.
Studying the DNA of animals helps breeders produce healthier animals. A recent study conducted by Heidi Anderson from Wisdom panel in the USA and researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland found that there were 13 genetic variants in pedigree cats that are linked to diseases. This was more than researchers previously thought. The good news is that these variants are decreasing in breeds that are regularly DNA tested.
The researchers studied over 11,000 cats which included 90 pedigree breeds and breed types as well as 617 non-pedigree cats. What is interesting is that the researchers found that there was more genetic diversity in the non-pedigree cats. The non-pedigree cats had three disease associated variants found exclusively in non-pedigree cats. The bad news is that they found 13 disease associated variants in 47 breeds where none had been found previously. In the past, 40% of Persian cats were affected by PKD1, the variant that causes Polycystic Kidney Disease yet of the 118 Persians tested, none had the variant, yet it was found in Main Coon and Scottish Straights cats. Good breeding practices will continue to provide healthier pets for everyone.
Note: This article is my opinion, based on my experiences with many dogs, cats and birds.
Pet owners spend a considerable amount of money on toys for their pets. Toys are important for pets; they give pets something to do and, in some cases, build the bond between the pet and owner. While I will refer mostly to dogs, this article applies to all pets.
It is important to realize that there is no regulatory body for pet toys. What that means is that manufacturers can use whatever material they choose to make pet toys. Unfortunately, many of the products that are available are not safe, either because of a chewing or a toxic substance risk.
When picking a toy for your pet, you should consider the type of animal it is and what it likes to do. Dogs like to fetch, toss and chew and shred toys. This satisfies their natural hunting instinct. Cats like to chase, pounce, carry and sometimes tear up toys.
Birds generally like to tear apart, peck and toss toys. Although many birds play with toys in various ways. I had a budgie who liked to “herd” plastic balls into a tight group.
When considering a toy for a pet, keep in mind that if there is a risk associated with the toy, the risk increases if the pet is small. This is because it takes less material to block their intestines and less toxins to make them sick or kill them. This is why a pet owner should carefully evaluate what toy they give their pet.
I feel that toys for dogs pose the most risks because dogs tend to chew and eat pieces of their toys more than other pets. Know how your dog likes to play with a toy before you pick one out for him. Some dogs will totally destroy a stuffed toy or a plastic one. Other dogs like to carry a toy around and will not destroy it. Many dogs are obsessed with getting the squeaker out of a toy that has one. My Parsons Russell Terrier is a squeaker killer. He will work on a toy almost endlessly until he gets the squeaker out. Then for the most part, he loses interest in the toy.
Puppies almost always chew a toy until it is destroyed and they are more likely to eat the pieces of the toy. For this reason, plastic toys are a higher risk for puppies. Regardless if your dog is a puppy or an adult, plastic toys in general are the highest risk.
Because dogs like to chew and destroy toys, they are less likely to play with the chew-proof variety of toy. Some of the nylon toys are coated with a scent and when the coating wears off, the dog loses interest in the toy. Stuffed toys pose a problem because the stuffing, which can be ingested and not digested. The stuffing in most dog and cat toys are fiber fill which is a form of plastic.
If a dog owner is going to give their dog one of the many products on the market designed to clean the dog’s teeth while they chew the toy, be sure to check the ingredients. Most dental chews for dogs are only 96% digestible. What is the other 4%? Some of these products have plastic in them to make them last longer.
Those chew products that are designed to be eaten, should break down in five to ten minutes when placed in water, if not, it is a high risk for your dog. These types of products can block a dog’s intestines. Because of a dog’s short digestive tract, these products do not have enough time to break down if they can break down at all.
This is also true of any rawhide product. I personally do not approve of any animal product such as cow hooves, pig’s ears and rawhide. These products are often treated with formaldehyde as a preservative. Many people think that rawhide comes from a butcher, but in reality, rawhide comes from a tannery. Also, keep in mind that any wild domestic canine does not eat bones, skin or hooves.
This is evident when you see a dead deer along the roadside. After everything, animal, bird and insect are finished feeding on the carcass, the things left are hide, hooves and bones. The main risks for letting a dog eat rawhide are contamination, choking hazard, and intestinal blockage. A number of pet related organization discourage giving dogs rawhide. However, dried chicken feet and antlers are a better alternative than rawhide, pig’s ears and cow hooves.
Rope toys are acceptable if your dog does not chew them and swallow the threads. The safest rope toy is one made of cotton instead of nylon. Cotton has a better chance of breaking down if it is ingested whereas the nylon will not.
It is never a good idea to give a dog old shoes or slippers because of the chemicals used to make them. It is especially difficult for a puppy to understand that old shoes and slippers, and rawhide products are OK to play with but new shoes and slippers are not. Keep in mind that rawhide comes from a tannery and dogs have a very sophisticated sense of smell. Therefore, a dog of any age can smell the similarity between rawhide and other leather products, which include furniture, gloves, jackets and briefcases.
Bones are not a good choice for dogs either. Again, it is not natural for dogs to eat bones. Many of the “natural” bones have bacteria on them that can harm both dogs and people who handle them. Some of the stuffed bones that are treated can be safer for a dog who likes bones. The danger associated with bones are splinters from the bone and bacteria.
The bottom line is knowing your dog. If a toy becomes small enough to swallow it should be taken away from the dog. By knowing your dog’s play habits you will be able to decide what toy is safe for them to play with. The best toy is one that allows you to interact with your dog, playing fetch games, chase games or whatever your dog likes. If you understand your dog’s breed, it will guide you to selecting the right toy for your dog. All dogs can benefit from puzzle toys and treat dispensing toys. Also think outside the box, you never know what a dog will take a fancy to as illustrated by our dog Ness.
A study in the Veterinary Record, has reported a few cases of dogs and cats contracting the SARS-CoV-2 variant in England. In these cases, the pets caught the variant from their owners who had shown symptoms several weeks before the pets became ill. Heart problems were manifested in the pets who contracted the variant.
While this is not widespread and actually rare, it is a good idea for pet owners to be aware of the possibility since COVID-19 is so widespread. At this point the research does not indicate that people can catch the variant from pets.
We all know that some dogs seem to be more stressed than other dogs. Part of the reason is the genetics of the dog. Certain breeds tend to be more noise sensitive than others. But all dogs can be stressed by certain types of noise. Researchers at the University of California found that dogs are often stressed by common household noise. Particularly noises that are high frequency or very loud. Examples are smoke detectors, microwave ovens, and vacuum cleaners.
Many loud and high pitches noises actually hurt a dog’s ears. Most owners recognize obvious signs of fear or stress, such as trembling, hiding, howling, barking and running away. However, owners often miss a dog’s more subtle signs and therefore do not help their dog when stressed. Some of the subtle signs are panting, licking their lips, turning their head away, a rigid body, ears turned back or flattened against the head, and lowering their head below their shoulders.
By watching your dog or cat carefully you can learn to recognize their relaxed body language. This will help you recognize when your pet is not relaxed.
Whenever a stressful noise occurs, a concerned owner will remove the dog from the area. It is important to watch the dog’s body language to see how far away the dog needs to be to avoid being stressed.
Cats are also stressed by noises therefore cat owners should also be aware if noise bothers their cat.
Many people think that cats are asocial. Quite the opposite is true. Cats are very social animals but their way of showing it is quite different from dogs. Because people are used to dogs, they do not recognize the social behavior in cats. Also, many cat owners have just one cat, therefore they do not see cat to cat social interaction.
From studying feral domestic cat populations, we have learned quite a bit about the cat’s social structure. Female cats, known as queens, will help each other raise their young. They even act as midwives to a queen giving birth. For example, they will help clean the newborn kitten and nurse them if they are lactating. They will groom and guard the kittens as well. Males, or tom’s will also help defend kittens in their colony.
Cats will sleep together, touching, even if it is hot, which rules out some assumptions that they only sleep close to each other for warmth. Cats will form special friendships with each other, having preferences in the colony. Cats are very family oriented and are closer to relatives than a stranger. Although the colony will accept a strange cat after a period of time. This takes weeks to months, depending on the situation.
When cats groom each other, it is almost always in areas that are hard to reach, such as the head, face and neck. It is considered bad cat manners to groom below the shoulders.
Another way cats communicate to each other is by rubbing. Anyone who has owned or seen cats would have seen head bumping, body and tail rubbing. Sometimes cats will wrap their tails together, which is a form of rubbing.
Adult cats will also monitor the play between kittens. If the kittens get too rough, the adult will break it up. The kittens always listen and will stop their play.
Cats do not hunt in groups. This is because each cat needs the equivalent of three mice a day to survive. Their hunting technique is to sit quietly, slowly stalk and then pounce. This does not lend itself to sharing the food. It is very rare for more than one cat to hunt together but it has happened, for example when trying to catch a squirrel. Cats will spray to mark their territory so that other cats, even those in the colony do not hunt in another cat’s area.
Kittens need to stay with their litter until they are at least 12 weeks old. They go through developmental stages similar to other animals. They learn how to behave and how to interact with other cats while they are young. If they are taken away from the litter too soon, they do not know how to act like a cat. If the cat owner decides later to get another cat, the resident cat will not know how to accept or interact with the new cat. This is one of the reasons why people have trouble introducing a new cat to the home. It is always better to have two kittens instead of one, and if possible, adopt litter mates. Family is very important to cats.
Like dogs, there are many breeds of cats and there are breed traits. Despite the breed of mix of a cat, each individual will have its own personality. Some cats act more like dogs and some are very aloof. Some cats are bold and some are timid. All cats are different due to breeding, family involvement, early training and experiences. It is important to keep this in mind and not label all cats as having the same personality and temperament. By understanding your cat’s natural social behavior, you can make the quality of life for your cat much better.
Researchers at Washington State University conducted a study of first year (freshmen) college students who owned pets and their level of separation anxiety. What they found is not surprising to those of us who are pet owners and lovers.
The students were tested before leaving for college and during their first two weeks on campus. Prior mental issues were accounted for so that they did not influence the results of the study. What the researchers found was that students who treated their pets more like people suffered more. It also seems that dog owners suffered the most rather than cat owners and people with other types of pets.
The importance of this study shows that programs that allow pets to visit campus to help students that are stressed, are beneficial. What this study made me think of are all of the elderly people who are forced to give up their pets, who were their companions for many years, because they had to move to a care facility. Young people are active and seem to be able to adjust more readily than the elderly. This also brings to mind how important it is to bring certified therapy pets to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. No matter how young or old a person is, losing a pet for any reason is often very traumatic. Your heart can ache for the loss for many years.
The researchers offered a sample of cats, the option of getting their food from a food puzzle or having access to their food on a tray. All of the cats preferred the easily available food on a tray.
This was true for active cats and cats used to using a food puzzle. The researchers added that the food puzzles used in the study may not have stimulated their natural desire to hunt and ambush their prey.
The researchers added that this does not mean that cat owners should stop using a food puzzle.
Scientists use dogs and other animals to learn about genetically related diseases and illnesses that are common to animals and humans. By developing a cure for an animal disease, they often have breakthroughs for curing similar human diseases. One species that has been overlooked in this process is the common domestic cat.
Lyons feels that cats could pay a role in developing precision medicine for genetic diseases. This could allow scientists and medical personnel to fix the actual gene and what the gene does instead of treating the symptoms.