Tuesday 27 July 2010

Roaming Cats Aren't Natural - Discuss

Cindy Kemper, wildlife biologist and (indoor) cat lover says that "roaming cats aren't natural". That sounds like rubbish and it is rubbish. The most natural thing in the world for a cat is to roam and patrol territory.

She argues that domestic cat predation kills hundreds of millions of birds and more than a billion small animals in the USA annually. She produces not a shred of evidence to support that wild assertion, which is surprising coming from a "wildlife biologist" (see for example: Domestic Cats Don't Decimate Bird Populations)

She says that "this is unnatural predation". Her argument is that Canadian songbirds did not evolve with domestic cats as predators. Well that is a very poor argument. The domestic cat has been in North America for at least 400 years and perhaps longer. It has evolved alongside birds over that time. And the domestic cat lived side by side with songbirds in the Golden Crescent some 9,000 years ago. Before that the domestic cat was a wildcat. Surely that qualifies as evolving with songbirds and it doesn't make a jot of difference if they are Canadian or Middle Eastern songbirds.

Then she says that there are no songbirds in New Zealand because of predation by outdoor domestic cats "and other non-native mammals", whatever they are. These are wild unsupported statements that harm the domestic cat and she claims to be a cat lover!

Yes, cats are in danger if left to roam but there must be a better way than simply banging up cats all their lives. I am convinced that the domestic cat needs to be in the open air. It is entirely natural and healthy. Full-time indoor cats can be healthy too, of course, but I would bet that there are a considerable number who suffer illnesses through being full-time indoor domestic cats, one being stress related illnesses.

Cindy Kemper's thinking is narrow minded, biased and unsubstantiated. Her article damages the image of the domestic cat and encourages more to simply take the easy route and imprison their cats. A middle way must be the best, namely a decent sized cat enclosure. And at the same time we should start thinking wider and more profoundly. Is it right that we can only keep cats indoors full-time? If that is the case I don't think we should keep cats. Lets change the entire philosophy of keeping domestic cats. Lets stop finding a poor compromise as a solution which is keeping them indoors all the time and look to improve our standard of care of our companion animals at a much more profound level.

A nice cat enclosure must be the minimum requirement:

Photo: AJ Russell - Flickr

See her article here.

From Roaming Cats Aren't Natural - Discuss to Home Page

Saturday 17 July 2010

Beautiful Burmilla Cat

Here is a beautiful Burmilla cat, which I publish under a creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

Beautiful Burmilla Cat - photo Marc Jordan (Flickr)

This cat lives in Long Ashton, England. I think her name is Liessa. Wrong? and you see this please correct me!

Monday 5 July 2010

Arm & Hammer Cat Litter

In the Arm & Hammer® advert in Cat Fancy magazine (Vol 53 August 2010 - issued June 2010!), it says that cats and people prefer cat litter that destroys the worst odors. Well, it doesn't actually say that but there is a cat next to the litter and a line of text below it that strongly implies that a cat prefers litter that does not smell as cats and a person raise their hands. I can't quote it as it would be a breach of copyright.

Is this true? I think the opposite is true. We (people) don't like litter box odors because we like a sanitised life so the advert is right to that point. But a cat's life revolves around scent and smell and as the litter box will smell of the cat that uses it (each cat should have their own litter box) a cat cannot dislike a litter that smells.

In fact a cat will feel comforted by its own smell. Therefore I think this advert very strange indeed. It seems to be saying this...

"We hate litter box smells. Because of that our cat doesn't like them. Because of that a cat might not use the littter. As a result if you want a cat to more reliably use the cat litter use Arm & Hammer® cat litter as things will get better..."

Wrong obviously. It might be nice clumping litter but please don't bend the truth to sell a product. If the product is genuinely good at neutralising litter odor then just say it. This is probably not perfumed cat litter but if it was a cat might object to it. Cats seem to prefer neutral and natural cat litter and as mentioned it should smell of them not perfume!

 From Arm & Hammer Cat Litter to Home Page

Cat Vitamins: Functions and Imbalance

A list of vitamins, what they do and some signs that there might be a deficiency. This page is for informational purposes and not for self diagnosis. That is the domain of the good veterinarian.

Vitamin A - necessary for: proper vision, cell maintenance, bone development, teeth development, normal skin. Deficiency results in impaired growth and skin infections and lesions.

Vitamin D - necessary for normal calcium absorption and metabolism. Deficiency is rare and results in rickets in kittens and osteomalacia (softening of the bones due to defective bone mineralization) in adults.

Vitamin E - protects cells from oxidative damage. Deficiency results in impaired immune function, reproductive failure.

Vitamin K - for normal blood clotting. Deficiency leads to increased clotting time.

Thiamin (B1) - for carbohydrate metabolism. Deficiency leads to anorexia and neurological disorders.

Riboflavin (B2) - for "normal oxidative reactions and cellular metabolism". Deficiency results in skin lesions and neurological disorders.

Niacin - for oxidation and reduction reactions and metabolism. Deficiency: skin lesions.

Pyridoxine - involved in metabolism of protein and amino acids. Deficiency: anemia, anorexia and weight loss.

Pantothenic Acid - involved in carbohydrate, fat and amino acid metabolism. Deficiency: impaired growth, weight loss and anorexia.

Biotin - necessary for the metabolism of fats and amino acids (skin and hair health). Deficiency: dermatitis and skin lesions.

Folic Acid - for normal red blood cell development and  DNA synthesis. Deficiency: pernicious anemia. Cats eat grass to ingest folic acid, it is thought. Snow leopards living at high altitude eats lots of vegetation.

Cobalamin (B12) - function is linked to folic acid. Deficiency: pernicious anemia, leukopenia.

Choline - part of the cell membrane (constituent of phospholipids in cell membranes), Deficiency: Neuroloogical disorders and fatty liver.

Vitamin C - necessary for the formation of collagen. Deficiency: none - cats synthesise this vitamin themselves so it need not be ingested in food.

Source: The Cat, Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health by Linda P Case

From From Cat Vitamins: Functions and Imbalance to Home Page

Sunday 4 July 2010

Treatment of Overly Fearful Cats

I am not sure that there is a truly successful treatment for overly fearful cats. Overly fearful cats are those that are extremely timid and who either freeze, run or fight when presented with a "stimulus" that elicits fear. The typical trigger to run for many cats is the entrance of a stranger (to the cat) into their territory (the house usually). The person may even be a certain type of person. This is certainly the case with my old lady cat. She is very sweet and a bit timid but has a fear of noisy men, usually workmen and even the lorries or vans that they arrive in!

She runs to a secure bolt hole. At the moment, in the dry weather, that happens to be outside under dense undergrowth, where even I had difficulty seeing her. When the stranger has gone, I call her and in her own time (a long time) she turns up as if nothing had happened.

There are many other types of stimuli that prompt fear responses. Of course, a natural part of any animal's make up is fear. It is a useful emotion in respect of survival. But overdone it can present problems to some people but not the cat lets remind ourselves. The cat feels comfortable running. That is fine with me. I can accept that and indeed I accommodate it, but I don't encourage or reinforce it.

If a person wants to moderate or gradually try and eliminate a disruptive fear response to low level stimuli, the way forward is by desensitising your cat to the stimulus.

This is done by introducing a similar stimulus to the one that elicits the overeaction but at a low level, at which the cat shows no fear. In showing no fear the cat is rewarded with a food treat. Provided the stimulus is within the cat's comfort zone it can be gradually increased and more treats given. Following this path, in the end the cat will be desensitized to the original stimulus and not freeze, run or fight.

That is the theory. I would have thought that this retraining would be necessary in only the most extreme cases of timidity as the usual flight/fight response is not only natural (and it must vary from cat to cat) it is also of little consequence to us most if not all of the time. To try and retrain would therefore bring little reward to us and definitely not much to the cat.

 From Treatment of Overly Fearful Cats to Home Page

Cat Experts Aim Too Low

When cat experts give advice about cats they often aim too low. What I mean is their advice is too heavily compromised and modified by what suites us and not what is in the best interests of the cat.

Let me give you a good example. The expert in this instance is Linda P Case who wrote a book I sometimes refer to and which is called, The Cat, It's Behavior, Nutrition & Health. She writes on page 180-181 about, "Undesirable predation". How can predation by undesirable for the cat? It is completely natural for a domestic cat to prey on small animals. We all know that. This advise is too people orientated.

In order to stop this undesirable behavior we are advise to bang up our cats, indoors, on a permanent basis. Job done, problem solved. Or is it? A lot of cats who are full-time indoor cats will find alternative outlets for their desire to hunt and some of these will be abnormal behavioral conditions; conditions that are stress related such as overgrooming or OCD conditions such as tail biting. The cat might suffer hair loss through stress in my opinion.

More importantly, I feel that the advise should be more optimistic and more adventurous and certainly more in keeping with the best interests of the cat. And it should seek to provide as natural an environment as possible surely?

The better and more absolutely correct advice is to encourage people to build enclosures. In my view, in an ideal world we should be thinking much wider than simply forcing the domestic cat to acclimatise to an unnatural life indoors to suite us. Of course a cat indoors can't get run over by a car. But if we gave more effort to figuring out how to protect cats from cars or keeping cars away from cats or slowing down cars, that sort of thing, then we would come up with a better solution for us and that cat in the long term.

For instance, in an ideal world no one should keep a cat unless that person had safe enclosed land to allow the cat to roam and behave naturally. And people who keep cats should sign a declaration that they accept all of the cat's behavioral traits. We need to accept the fact that our cat might bring in a half alive mouse and then play with it. If we can't accept that don't keep a cat. How simple is that?

The bottom line answer to "undesirable predation" is to relabel it "desirable and acceptable predation" and to thoroughly accept it. To bang up a cat to stop it behaving naturally is little better than declawing it.

Linda, for me, your advise is too conditioned by conventional human experience and knowledge. It is not expansive and novel enough. It is predictably American and in America there is a tendency to see the cat as a fluffy moving object whose purpose is to amuse people and not as the most effective predator on the planet.

 From to Home Page

Cats Can't Give Informed Consent

The obvious fact that cats can't give informed consent places us in a position of responsibility that a lot of cat keepers don't recognise. How do I know that? Well, it's easy really. In the USA there are about 20 million cats that have been declawed for the benefit of the person and to the detriment of the cat. Clearly millions of cat keepers in America have not taken on the burden of responsibility to protect the rights of their cats.

It is very easy for us to become complacent about the rights of our cats. They are in fact quite vulnerable despite being under our care. We have total power over them.

The concept of informed consent, in relation to medical procedures for a human, means that we are clearly informed about the procedure and then we make a decision whether we should undergo it. The objective is to improve our health and wellbeing.

In respect of medical matters regarding our cat we listen to the veterinarians advice and make a decision. We are the vet's client from the vet's perspective. This is wrong. For the vet the client should be the cat and the cat owner or keeper is the cat's guardian and spokesperson. With that perspective in mind, it is possible to envisage a lot of decisions concerning the health of cats having a different outcome.

For a start there would be no declawing  - none whatsoever because the cat would obviously object to it. In the same vein of thought, a cat would not accept the administering of drugs to modify its behavior. Some cats might be considered troublesome with so called behavioral problems when in fact the behavioral problems could well be ours in not accepting a cat's normal but sometimes disruptive behavior.

When administering medical treatment to a cat, both the veterinarian and the cat's owner should place themselves in the shoes of the cat and make a decision accordingly. In short both human parties should protect the cat's rights and give informed consent on behalf of the cat.

A cat has no legally protected rights in a general sense in the USA as far as I am aware other than standard animal cruelty laws. In the UK there is the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which also sets a framework for animal welfare. There appears to be a gap in the law here. A cat is protected against cruelty under criminal law. But a cat is not protected in respect of the need to obtain informed consent before medical procedures are carried out on the cat.

The only way around this is to make it law that veterinarian medical procedures must only be for the promotion of the cat's health and not for the convenience of the person. A vet's oath and guidelines say that this must be the case at all times. But it is flaunted and ignored in the USA hence the need for legislative protection.

From Cats Can't Give Informed Consent to Home Page

Thursday 1 July 2010

Litter Box Aversion

Litter box aversion is a favorite topic on the internet. Piles of words have been written on it. Here are some more!

Litter box aversion is not spraying for territorial marking. It is when the cat simply stops using the litter box for urination and defecation. The cat will do it elsewhere on horizontal surfaces as opposed to vertical surfaces for spraying.

For example, the cat might try to use the litter box, half in and half out, without touching the litter itself and dig outside the box.

Two common reasons for litter box aversion are:

  1. a dislike of the litter (technical term: "substrate") - heavily scented litter although marketed as beneficial for the human might not work out that way if the cat dislikes it and pees on the carpet! Apparently finer clumping litters are preferred by cats over the coarse clay litters.
  2. less commonly - a dislike of the location of the litter box

A dislike of the substrate could be because of its feel and smell. A change in the litter might provoke an aversion and the cure is therefore obvious.

Another reason why a cat might not like the litter is because it is not clean. Some cats are fussy or more fussy than others.

Another entirely separate cause of litter aversion is because another cat is using it. Or the use by another cat might exacerbate the problem. The presence of another cat would also alter the status of the existing cat, which might also exacerbate an aversion.

The initial diagnosis is to assess whether there is a medical condition such as cystitis that drives the cat to urinate frequently and outside the litter box. This is one example. Once medical issues have been successful dealt with or eliminated the other reasons can be ticked off.

Moving the box and employing more than one box in a multiple cat household might do the trick. Then the litter type can be changed and the litter kept spotlessly clean - twice a day should be OK.

Punishment is a definite no no as it does not work and makes the cat fearful. It will damage the human caretakers relationship.

Confining the cat to a small area with the litter without carrying out tests on the preferred litter type and without ensuring the litter box is clean may work within the confined space but not when the old routines are recommenced.

Cats who stop using the litter box for whatever reason may develop a certain area in the house as a substitute and as this area then smells like a cat toilet is will be reused. The area must be thoroughly cleaned with an enzyme odour eater that are available on the internet to remove all traces of the smell. Conventional cleaning won't work.

The cat should then be prevented from returning to the area while being retrained to use the litter box. The key to solving litter box aversion is to discover the underlying cause and remove it, whilst remaining patient and constructive in re-habituating the cat to use the litter.

From to Litter Box Aversion Home Page

Photo by Wunderkrafts (Flickr)

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