Friday 30 September 2011

Black Calico Cat Picture

It's him again. The stunning black calico cat that I have to publish again on the home page because I have just seen a special photo of him:

Black calico cat

His coat glows and his blaze shows...prominently on his nose! A blaze is the dark line on down his nose.

Hey, I'm getting poetic. Not surprising seeing that he is a little symphony in orange, black and a smattering of white.

I think his name is Kenya Lion and that he is 3 months old and weighs 2.3kgs (5 pounds). He is large then. Gosh, he is a stunning cat. Imagine him walking around the house and a visitor pops by. He would catch your eye..

He lives with Gosia Zeszutek, I believe. I think she is a breeder. But I am in the black..err dark on that. See lots more of this cat on FB (opens new window/tab)

Michael signature

Thursday 29 September 2011

Should we socialise wildcats?

Should we socialise wildcats? Well, of course we should if we keep our wild cat as a pet. You have to, otherwise it will be impossible. Wildcats have a natural fear or distrust of the human, which translates into defensive aggression and that leads to a lot of trouble for both parties.

The question then is should we keep wild cats as pets? This is a personal choice, obviously. I disagree with it because we admire the wildcat for what he or she is. A big part of our admiration is related to the fact that the cat is wild, free and independent, courageous etc.

If you emasculate the wildcat by making it dependent on the human, it seems to me that you take away that which you admire. Unless you admire more the appearance of the cat.

Without wishing to be judgmental or critical, I feel that people who wish to keep exotic felines (small wildcats in practice) are being a little self indulgent. They want to own a pretty object. And the small wildcats are very pretty. Many have wonderful coats, which is why they are hunted and poached.

And without wishing to be sexist in any way, is it the woman who takes the lead in acquiring a small wildcat as a pet? I just read a story about a couple in Texas who kept three tigers as pets. When asked why, the husband said that his wife went out and bought one without consulting him. Women like cats and women like the exotic. Well there you have it. Also it might be fair to say that women tend not to look at the wider issues because they are less likely to be involved in them.

The wider issue is conservation. I think that we all have a responsibility to do our bit to conserve and protect the wildcats which are in general threatened and persecuted by people because they either get in the way or are good business.

To desire to acquire a small wildcat as a pet is pandering to one's natural instincts to own a possession and control a wild animal. Not all of our instincts are good for the world. In fact a lot of them are not.

Humans have a tendency to destroy what they desire and admire. We admire the jaguar and kill it. The same goes for the tiger. The rarer the tiger becomes the more likely it is to be killed. Rather than admire the tiger's coat in the wild we prefer to wear the coat.

Should be socialise wildcats? For me, no. We should give them space to be themselves - beautifully wild.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Cats are Pawns in Divorce

One of the most distasteful aspect of divorce proceedings in the UK and perhaps around the world is the way the divorcing parties use the children in a battle over possessions. And believe me children are treated like possessions in some divorce cases.

I won't go into where the fault lies but it is all about the vulnerable. Children are vulnerable and dependent on their parents and therefore exposed to the whims of emotional adults who are fighting.

Cats are in the same position only more so. They are the most vulnerable family member. You hear countless stories of cats being hurt and killed by separating parties; it need not be divorce that prompts this bad behavior.

Often it is the violent male who kills the cat to hurt his former partner. In a recent case in the newspapers a variation on the theme has sprung to light.

The wife of a member of parliament in the UK knew of her husband's infidelity. In fact it was an open marriage. But she become upset and for some reason decided to enter upon her husband's girlfriend's property and steel her kitten.

This amounted to burglary, pure and simple. Unfortunately for the wife-burgler the husband had recently installed a CCTV surveillance camera so it was all on video.

Her motivation for steeling the kitten was that not only had her husband replaced her with a fresh, better looking women (my opinion!), he had also replaced their cat. So she took it. She was looking for information in divorce proceedings she said.

The wife denies burglary. I don't see how that will wash to be honest. What happened to the kitten - a lovely little tabby called "Beauty" by the way?

She hid the cat from her husband by putting it over the garden fence. Nice. So what happened to the cat?

The papers don't say. They wouldn't would they? Just not important or newsworthy enough.

Houses built with cats in mind

I have a dream but it's about cats and how we should tailor our houses to accommodate our domestic cat companions. They are, after all, family members. When a new house is built no consideration is given to that little family member that gives us so much joy.

Is there a reason why house builders cannot integrate into house design the facility to add a cat enclosure at a later date or at the time of build? The cat enclosure need not be there at the time of build but an allowance within the design of the house should make it easy to add one. In fact such a design feature should be obligatory under house building regulations. Think of the impact it would have on reducing homeless cats. Something would be done about the so called feral cat problem. Feral cats start out as stray domestic cats or the offspring of them, on way or another. I think we have to think out of the box a bit more in dealing with homeless cats.

A good cat enclosure provides safety and stimulation for the cat and peace of mind for the person. It's a win, win situation.

In the photograph below we can see how one family has built a very substantial and effective modification to their house to let their cat have some safe fun outside. The exit and entrance to the cat enclosure goes through a window. What the house builder could have done is to provide a removable panel in the side of the house to which could be affixed a tunnel of standard design leading to a cat enclosure if and when the house owner wanted to avail themselves of that facility.

cat walkway to a cat enclosure

This walkway was commissioned by Pamela J Forlines and the white cat is called Mr Snowman. Gosh, he will love that. It actually looks pretty attractive too.

See a house built around the cat.

Michael signature

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Cat Separation Anxiety Treatment

We shouldn't really be thinking about cat separation anxiety treatment. We should be thinking about how to remove the cause of the cat separation anxiety. Now that may not be possible of course.

Anxiety in a cat caused by the cat's separation from his or her human caretaker is probably fairly common. Incidentally I see no reason to assume that it cannot occur when a cat is separated from another cat.

Some cats may be predisposed to cat separation anxiety because they are for any number of reasons anxious cats. The classic underlying reason is early weaning.

Anxious cats are more likely to become aggressive as a defensive measure as they are less confident. Confident cats are probably the best cat companions if managed properly.

I have just responded to a young women's request for help to stop her male cat urinating on her clothes and bed when she is away. These are classic signs of cat separation anxiety. My ex-wife had the same problem because she liked to work hard and play hard. She was not at home enough. No criticism intended by the way.

It is probable that full-time indoor cats are more likely to suffer from anxiety on the departure of their companion because there is less going on around them to stimulate and distract them. These cats may indulge in displacement activities such as over grooming leaving bare patches of fur usually on the belly.

Provided all steps have been taken to improve the cat's environment to reduce stress and anxiety a last resort is drugs, medication.

If treatment of that sort is decided upon, the most natural form of medication must be the best starting point.

The one below is all natural. I would give it a try if you're stumped as to what to do and are tired of cleaning that damn duvet covered in your cat's pee!

Here is an earlier post on cat separation anxiety.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Black Calico Cat

Today I have selected a fine example of a black calico cat, who lives in the Netherlands, to be featured on this page from the Facebook group page.

Here he is:

Black calico cat

Some people have called him a tortoiseshell cat. He is but as there is some white and as the tortoiseshell is very dark in the USA he is a black calico, I would say or a tortoiseshell and white in the UK.

He lives with Sientje Tierelier. See him here on FB in large format (opens a new window)

Michael signature

Saturday 24 September 2011

Suzie N Swizzle Tabby Cats

Facebook or FB for short is a powerful form of social media. Thanks to Elisa Black-Taylor (mainly) we have a lovely group of people who show off their cats on the FB group page. I call, PoC as it takes less time to type it.

I am going to select my favorite cat or cats and the story concerning the cats (if there is one) every day for the next week and put them on the home page - this page - as a thank you for joining the group and to spread the word that these are great cats.

This page gets a decent number of visitors; it's in the tens of thousands per month. So the selected cats will be in the spotlight for a while.

Here is my first selection:

Suzie and Swizzle

Meet Suzie and Swizzle....errr no this is Swizzle N Suzie..They are sisters and I guess great company for each other. They are gray/brown tabby and white (not much white) cats. They fight over who gets named first.

I chose Suzie N Swizzle because I love the names as a double act and I think they are beautiful, contented, tabby cats.

Michael signature

Friday 23 September 2011

Black Cat Rehabilitation

The black cat has been out of favor since medieval times! The time of witches and witch's familiars! The church of the time in all its prejudice and ignorance declared the cat evil. And since those days there has been a lot of prejudice against the black cat. The black cat is unlucky or lucky in some places which right away tells us how illogical the whole black cat superstitions are.

You can read more about black cat superstitions and prejudices towards the cat on these pages:
We have Halloween coming up in October. Historically, some black cats get hurt at this time. You can see the connection.

Even at a basic level some people believe the black cat to be unlucky. This as mentioned harks back to medieval times.

Others might simply say that the black has a boring appearance. But that is not really fair. The black cat coat can look incredibly slick and shinny. It certainly looks fantastic on the Bombay cat, a purebred cat that has to be black and no other color.

What is not commonly realised is that the black cat is considered more healthy in general than cats of other coat types and colours.

This is not a fiction. It is rooted in science and critical observation. Wildcats are sometimes melanistic and it has been observed that they are more disease resistant. More work needs to be done but it appears that black cats are disease resistant. This page has a look at the issues.

So, I ask you to rehabilitate the black cat. Bring him and her to favor once again. Treat all black cats the same as other cats. Rescue centers kill more black cats than other types for the reasons as stated - they are less popular. If you are an adult, black cat at a rescue facility you probably have a much higher chance of being killed (euthanised - a euphemism) than all other cats.

Let us reverse that long standing trend. I have a pure black cat called Charlie. He has three legs. He is big and noisy. He likes his food and he lets me know about it. I love him.

Michael Avatar

From Black Cat Rehabilitation to Home Page

Cat Euphemisms

Some euphemisms of the cat world are disturbing. We do like to hide from the reality of what we do. A euphemism is the act of substituting a mild or vague term for one that might be considered harsh or blunt. They can serve a useful purpose but they can also deflect us from the truth. Only by addressing the truth are we able to make advances by correcting wrongdoing. Euphemisms hold us back and that certainly applies to the cat world.

An innocuous euphemism is the word "scat". It means animal faeces, excrement. It is used by scientists when describing, for example, DNA analysis of a tiger's faeces when conducting a tiger count. Scat analysis is also used to ascertain a cat's diet.

An example of a euphemism in the domestic cat world that is positively dangerous (to cats!) in the way it is used is the word, "euthanasia" or "euthanise". Euthanasia is  meant to describe the humane killing of a cat that is seriously ill with an incurable disease and in permanent pain. To "put an animal to sleep" is a similar euphemism. Unfortunately is is used when killing perfectly healthy cats, feral and domestic by the millions.

Another horror of a euphemism that perpetuates an ugly trade is "declawing". It conjures up the removal of a part the cat's claw. As we know it actually misrepresents what is the amputation of the last digit of the cat's toes. That means the whole claw and the bone to which it is attached. Think of the last part of your finger - it's that. The word declawing must have been invented by vets as it makes the operation sound completely acceptable when it clearly is immoral.

An interesting "reverse euphemism" is the phrase "to cull a breeding cat". This does not mean the killing of a cat that is a breeder at a cattery because he or she has an undesirable trait. It simply means the removal of the cat from the breeding process.

We also use the phrase "meat eater" to describe a cat's dietary habits. Cats actually eat an animal's flesh, bone and internal organs. "Meat" is for humans to hide the fact that we are eating flesh.

I would like see people in the cat world being a little less politically correct and more direct in their writings and discussions. We can then get a better handle on what is wrong and make corrections.

Michael signature

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Our Confused Relations with the Cat

Our thoughts about, and our relations with the cat are contradictory and rather strange. We all know about the ancient Egyptians who were so captivated with the cat that they adopted them for their deities. But it wasn't all rosy for cats at that time. Cats were sacrificed and probably bred for that purposes. A highly contradictory state of affairs.

We use the name of the big cats in all manner of ways, particularly in commercial sporting enterprises. The tiger and lion represent strength, fearlessness and courage; characteristics that we often lack and desire to possess, particularly on the sports field. Yet we also like to declaw the big cats and make them caged pets, thereby totally denuding the animal that we admire of all that we admire about the animal. I find that highly contradictory too. And I find it sad.

We farm the wildcats for their fur. We do this in the wild through hunting or we simply treat captive wildcats as livestock. All the wildcats have beautiful coats. Some are stunning. The more stunning the cat's coat, the more eager we are to kill it, skin it, and possess the dead, cured coat. That too I find bizarre.

The rarer and more precious the wildcat the keener we are to kill it and possess the dead carcass to sell it on, thereby making the species more precious and more valuable until the inevitable conclusion arrives.

We draw cultural richness and great enjoyment from the wildcats. Yet we gobble up their habitats and kill their prey at the rate of knots, thereby extinguishing them from the planet. Very odd don't you think?

We treat our cat companions as family members. Yet in America this precious and lovable family member is brutally mutilated in an entirely legal fashion through the process of declawing, a word that is a gross misrepresentation designed to fool the people who do it.

We both admire and fear the cat. This is perhaps at the root of our contradictory behavior and emotions towards it. Millions love the cat and millions hate it. It is a companion and a pest. It is certainly the reason why the wildcat is being gradually removed from nature and why the domestic cat, an animal that we can truly manage at our convenience, is growing rapidly in numbers.

Michael signature

Sunday 18 September 2011

The Evil Cat

Did you know that in the 16th century artists often used cats to represent evil. And before that in 1232, Pope Gregory started the Inquisition. The Inquisition was the "fight against heretics" . A heretic was someone who believed in something other than the established Christian beliefs. The Inquisition declared that heretics worshiped the devil in the form of a black tom cat.

There is no mention of cats neither wild nor domestic in the Old or New Testament of the bible. In AD 500 the Talmud (the central text of mainstream Judaism) praised cats for their cleanliness. That was it.

However as Christianity spread, Jesus became known as "The Lion of Judah". At the time lions roamed in numbers throughout the middle east.

Moving forward again to 1344, to the French town of Metz, cats were blamed for an outbreak of a disease of the nervous system called "St.Vitus's dance". And in 1347-1348 the cat was blamed for the spread of the bubonic plague commonly called the "Black Death". The plague reduced human population numbers by one third. The Lord Mayor of London ordered all cats be killed, thereby exacerbating the continued spread of the disease as it was spread by small rodents and the fleas on rodents - a cat's primary prey.

In the early part of the 15th century the Knights Templar (a Western Christian military order) protected pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. They were accused of worshiping the devil in the form a black cat.

The 15th century was the time of revival of pagan rites. Although the word has negative connotations to some, pagan beliefs are in fact quite modern: a belief of the divine in nature. One pagan rite of the time was the cult of Freya which honored the fertility of cats (even then people had a distorted view of cat breeding!). They were accused of heresy and then witchcraft.

Pope Innocent III decreed in 1484 that witches worhipped Satan and that they took the form of their familiars. Most often a witch's familiar was a cat. People of Europe who kept cats were tortured and killed. It was believed that as cats slept all day and became active at night they were guiding evil spirits. As cats mated and caterwauled at night it was believed that the sounds were those of the people being consumed by cats.

The cats of Hungary had a cruciform incised into the cat's skin to prevent them from becoming witches. Old women were thought to turn into black cats.

Witchcraft spread to the USA where in 1692 the famous Salem witch trials took place. Twenty people were executed out of 150 accused.

The legacy of the cat's association with the devil made by the church is carried forward to the present day. Black cats are the least popular and many people have superstitions regarding black cats. This is despite the belief that black cats are healthier than cats of other colors. Is another legacy of the early Christian church's contempt of the cat, the hypothesis that Christians might declaw their cats more than atheists?

Michael signature

Saturday 17 September 2011

Manx cat

The Manx cat is the archetype tailless cat. It is a purebred cat and a well know cat breed. Although it is not mainstream in the way Siamese cats and Persian cat are. The Manx is so synonymous with a cat that has no tail that people frequently describe tailless cats of any breed or non-purebred cats, as a Manx.

This is a Manx cat guide or profile.

Pictures of Manx cats

I'll start with a Manx cat photo as this is what people want to see:

Brown tabby and white Manx cat - photo copyright Helmi Flick

All the photos and text on this page are protected by copyright © except where indicated. Violations of copyright are reported to (DMCA).

The excellent Helmi photograph shows the taillessness nicely. You can also see that this cat breed is very stocky ("cobby") in cat fancy language. Not all purebred cats are cobby. The general trend it might be argued is towards slender, oriental or foreign body shapes. I have a page on the Manx cat breed standard if you would like to read more about the required appearance of this cat breed.

You can see that this is also rounded type body and head shape and the hind legs are longer than the forelegs. This thrusts the bottom into the air! This highlights the lack of tail.

Manx cat jewelry

Here is a bit of jewelry featuring the Manx:

What is a Manx cat?

A Manx cat is one of over 100 purebred pedigree cat breeds. Although there are a number of short  tailed or bobtailed cats there are few tailless cat breeds. The Manx is probably the best known of all bobtailed or tailless cats. The long haired Manx is called the Cymric. Classic bobtailed cats are for example the Kurilian bobtail and the Japanese bobtail. Sometimes the latter is mistaken for a Manx but the Japanese cat has a pom-pom tail and it more slender.

The fact of the matter is, however, that not all Manx cats are born tailless. There are a range of lengths of tail from a standard length tail to a "negative-type-tail" or a dimple. These various sorts of tail are given special names by cat breeders. For instance a Manx cat with no tail is called a "rumpy". These are show cats. Any sort of tail from very short to normal qualifies the cat as "pet quality" meaning it will be sold as a pet. Sometimes breeders dock tails ostensibly for health reasons but possibly to sell them more easily.

The name of the cat comes from the name of the people who are inhabitants of the Isle of Man and "manx" is also the name of the language spoken by these people. Although they would normally speak English as the island is off the coast of England. The island is not part of the UK however.

Here is a map. The Isle of Man is in the center between England and Northern Ireland. Please click on the blue place marker for two photographs.

View Manx Cat Place of Origin in a larger map

Manx cat health problem

People are concerned about the health of this cat breed. Unfortunately the dominant gene that mutated to cause the creation of the shortened tail or tailless cat does not always confine its action to the tail's length. There are potential health issues. In fact if two Manx cats are mated (homozygous for the mutated gene) the offspring die in the womb (24%) or are born with abnormalities (congenital defects).

Specifically, the medical issues are as follows:
  • the spine is shortened - Manx Syndrome.

Area of body of catThe Defect
Upper part of the spine - head endThe individual vertebra are shortened slightly.
Lower part of the spineA decrease in the number and fusion of the vertebra.
The sacral boneIt is badly developed.
The pelvic boneIt is badly developed.
The spinal cordThere are some cases of Spina Bifida -- a congenital defect of the spine due to a defective vertebra.
The bowelThere is occasional "bowel stoppage" which is due to a narrow anal opening. This is caused by the nerve supply being disrupted by the loss of the sacral cord segment2.
The spineThis sometimes terminates too short causing various problems such as hind leg paralysis.

The medical issues are clearly a disincentive to adopting a Manx cat and probably accounts for it not being that popular. 

Manx cat breeders

Where is the best place to find Manx cat breeders? For people living in the USA, the sites that immediately come to mind are:

  • Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA)
  • Yahoo Groups
  • and clubs if there are any.

The CFA has a nice list of 14 Manx breeders, long and shorthaired types. Go to this page to search for them. Just follow the simple instructions. The Breedlist site lists eleven breeders in the USA. Please go to this page to see them.  As to Yahoo Groups, this page list a variety of groups that are not necessarily confined to the USA. What about cat clubs? The only one I could find with relative ease was in fact a Yahoo Group as well. It seems pretty active and is on this page. Please note that sometimes external links become broken and I won't know about it.

Manx cat lover gifts

Here is a selection of Manx cat lover gifts from

White Manx cat

White Manx cats are extremely rare. I don't have picture of white Manx cat but I do have a great picture of a long haired white Manx, a Cymric. Incidentally the long haired Manx is called just that by the CFA. They don't rename the cat but just refer to the longer hair.

White Cymric cat - photo copyright Helmi Flick
Breaches of copyright result in a complaint to (DMCA)

Manx cats 2002 wall calendar

Here is a a calendar from 2002 featuring Manx cats:


Lastly what are Manx cats like as companions? I will rely on Gloria Stephens of legacy of the cat fame. She says that they are playful, good jumpers and tend to be loyal towards one person. A single person household would seem to be the ideal.

Michael Avatar

From Manx cat to Home Page

Black Tabby Cat

A black tabby cat doesn't really exist. The word "black" and "tabby" are mutually exclusive. The cat can be one or the other but not both unless the cat is not quite black and the tabby pattern can be seen in ghost form. In which case the cat would not really be black.

Melanistic cats are black and they have ghost tabby patterns, usually spots and/or joined up spots. This is the case with many wild cat species. Although you don't see the word "tabby" used in conjunction with wildcats. It is very much a domestic cat concept.

However, many wild cats are tabby cats. The classic is the tabby coated Scottish wildcat. This cat species looks like a large, grey domestic tabby cat. The wildcat species (a small wild cat) looks like a domestic tabby cat.

There is no trace of a tabby coat in a jet black cat such as the Bombay cat - a purebred cat.

Another type of tabby cat that has black pigmentation in the fur and tabby markings are black smoke coated cats. These cats have coats that give the effect of smoke because there is black pigment (melanin) at the top of the hair strands but lower down the hair is white or pale. This is due to the inhibitor gene.

The black smoke cat is not really black though as you can see the pale undercoat. That is about it on black tabby cats! It all depends on how flexible you want to be on defining what a black cat should be. For me he or she should be evenly black with no markings or patterns. Tabby cats must have a pattern to be a tabby cat. The pattern is spots, stripes or blotches.

Michael Avatar From to Home Page

Diagnosing and Testing for FeLV

The experts say that the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is "responsible for more cat diseases than any other infectious agent". It directly or indirectly kills more cats than any other virus. About 1-2 percent of healthy free roaming cats are infected and up to 40% of ill free roaming cats have FeLV.

Chart showing how FeLV affects cats
Feel free to use it but link back to this page please

At the time of this post there are two diagnostic tests for an infection of the feline leukemia virus in your cat.


The ELISA test detects virus antigen (an antigen is a substance that causes an immune response) in the cat's whole blood, serum, saliva and tears. It detects early and transient infections.

There is a home test kit for this, which I think is useful to reassure cat keepers especially those with multi-cat households where up to 30 percent of cats can be infected. It is expensive but so is going to the veterinarian. And they will probably try and sell you something else.


This test is carried out by laboratories. It "detects virus antigen in infected white blood cells". If present the cat's bone marrow is infected. This indicates a persistent viremic state. In turn this means the infected cat is shedding the virus making him or her infective to other cats. A positive IFA test indicates that the cat will remain viremic (virus in the blood) for life.

Screening is carried out by the ELISA test and if positive it is followed by with the IFA test.

Reference: Cat Owners Home Veterinary Handbook - ISBN 978-0-470-09530-0

Michael Avatar

From Diagnosing and Testing for FeLV to Home Page

Friday 16 September 2011

Health Screening for Domestic Cats

Health screening for domestic cats is quite an important area of scientific medicine. Genetic research in relation to people is becoming a major force in medicine. Cats lag behind as would be expected.

Screening for diseases is especially important for cat breeders. Naturally, responsible breeders should "cull" (remove from the breeding line or programme) cats that carry genes that produce health defects in offspring. Arguably not enough is done in this regard.

Here is a list compiled from the best cat health book: Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, that sets out the cat health screening available as at the date of this post. Obviously as advances are made this list becomes increasingly redundant.

Michael Avatar

From Health Screening for Domestic Cats to Home Page

Swimming Cats

Despite the widespread idea that the domestic cat dislikes water and cannot swim, it is almost certain that all domestic cats can swim well if they had to. I would speculate that they are natural born swimmers but just don't know it.

This is because their wild cat ancestors are good swimmers. Some wild cats are exceptional swimmers. I am thinking of the leopard cat, the wildcat parent of the Bengal cat, the fishing cat and the tiger, to name three. Even the lion living on the savanna plains can traverse a wide river without a problem. The tiger can swim in the open sea for several miles if called upon to do that.

Wild cats need to like water because their prey is likely to be at or around water. The fishing cat has semi-webbed feet! This shows how proficient and adapted for water this cat is.

An example is in the news (mid September 2011). A black domestic cat called "Tootsie" living in Hereford, England, was almost killed by a car. His right leg was shattered. It was decided that the best way to rehabilitate him was in a hydrotherapy pool. These are swimming pools designed for medical use as swimming is good exercise without being weight bearing.

The pool built for dogs is at Canine Hydrocare. Tootsie swam naturally as soon as he was placed in the water for the first time wearing a safety harness. After six weeks Tootsie could swim around for 20 minutes at a time.

I wouldn't suggest that anyone test out my theory but I think that your lazy purebred Persian cat could manage a decent swim nicely. Provided his extra long hair didn't weigh him down too much.

Michael signature

Thursday 15 September 2011

End the Trade in Generic Tigers

This is about the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) proposal to rescind (meaning remove in this instance) the exemption from the requirement of registration - the permit and reporting requirements that normally apply to endangered species - of so called generic tigers in the USA.

Generic tigers are, if you like, non-purebred tigers. They are not one of the subspecies of tiger. They are hybrids. However there are large numbers of them in the USA in private hands and that is astonishing to Europeans.

USFWS don't really know how many there are and whether the tigers feed the insatiable demand for tiger body parts that is fed from tiger farms in China. It is possible that tigers are being killed in the USA and exported to China.

To remove the exemption to register would allow the authorities to monitor the situation, to have a handle on it and thereby help tiger conservation.

This is because farming tigers feeds the tiger body part trade. This promotes that trade which is highly detrimental to the tiger's survival in wild.

At the moment the USFWS are going through a consultation process before making a decision to change the regulations.

They invite correspondence from around the world. If you want to help the tiger and inject some control over ad hoc private captive tigers facilities, about which we know very little on the ground, then please go the USFWS website and complete the form. It may help make this important change. It is overdue.

The Feline Conservation Federation (FCF) is fighting to leave things as they are. I find this shocking to be honest because the FCF as their title implies is about conservation and the proposed change can only assist in conservation and in addition it will probably release many captive tigers from miserable lives in cages in the USA.

There are an estimated 5,000 captive tigers in Texas alone. This is far more than all the wild tigers put together! An astonishing fact and very sad for people who care about nature. However it is said that this estimate is highly exaggerated and in fact there are far less. We are not sure.

Here is a link to the page to have your say:!submitComment;D=FWS-R9-IA-2011-0027-0001

I understand that you have to do this before 21st September 2011. If you like you can write:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-R9-IA-2011-0027
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

But act fast please.

Siamese Cat Health Screening

Here is a list of health screening tests on various cat health problems and in respect of various cat breeds with specific health problems including the Siamese cat:

The organisations carrying out the screening usually provide certificates. Sometimes genetic testing is specific to the breed as different genes cause the same problem in different breeds.

The source of the information is the Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. If you buy one cat book, buy this one!

Feline hyperesthesia is more commonly seen in Siamese cats

You can read about feline hyperesthesia on this page. In short cats have times when their skin twitches, their tail whips. Their skin seems sensitive and they don't like being touched. Another symptom is dilated pupils.

The cause could be behavioral or neurological. Science has not yet decided.

It is reported in Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook that Siamese cats suffer from this condition more commonly than average. So do Burmese and Himalayan cat breeds, both of which are related to the Siamese.

Silencing the noisy Siamese cat

The title is a bit brutal. Personally, I am fine with a vocal cat unless it is three in the morning. But for some cat caretakers it might grate a bit from time to time. Also cats ask for food and a lot of us, most of us, respond by giving it. If we don't our cat asks again and again...If your cat is a Siamese cat the ask might sound like a shout!

Linda P Case in her book The Cat, Its Behavior, Nuitrition & Health, says that for cats that are very vocal, and the Siamese heads that list, the cat can be silenced eventually when meowing excessively for food, by "withdrawing all interactions whenever a cat meows...".

This leads to "extinction" of the meowing under those circumstances. Perhaps a balance is needed. I feel that a complete withdrawal of response it not good on the basis that it is a failure to interact and we keep cats to interact with them.

Seal Point Siamese with a bit of tabby cat

Photo by NH53 (Flickr)

This is a Siamese cat in Italy; Tuscany in fact. A beautiful part of the world and this is a beautiful, clean standard looking Siamese cat. There is nothing extreme about this cat, which I think is what makes him or her all the more attractive.

What I would like to ask, however, is whether this cat is purebred and whether there is hint of tabby cat lurking inside. You can see the banding on the tail and on the sides of face and in fact on the forehead.

These indicate the presence of the genes that create the tabby cat and the lynx point Siamese cat. I don't know but I would doubt that this cat would do well at cat shows. That is not to criticise. It is more in praise. Perhaps this is normal for Siamese cats but you don't see banding in Siamese cat show cats as far as I am aware.

There is a nice patch of dark fur on the left thigh area. This would indicate that that area is cooler than the rest of the center part of the body. I wonder why.

Monday 12 September 2011

An Exceptional Veterinary Surgeon

September 2011: Jallal Kaal is a Libyan veterinary surgeon. He was trained in Dublin, Ireland. He is a magnificent veterinarian. There are very few like him.

Many people with cats and dogs understandably fled the Libyan capital, Tripoli, when fighting started there at the end of the violent revolution overthrowing Gaddafi. Some, perhaps many, left behind their companion animals. I don't know if I could do that but under extreme circumstances I might discover that I can.

However, Jallal Kaal, without initial payment or payment at all, has saved these abandoned companion animals and at great risk and cost to himself, reunited them with their human caretakers. I am in awe of this guy. It is the kind of behavior that soars above all the bloodshed and mess.

People abandoned their pets in different ways. Some begged Dr Kaal to take care of their pets until they could return. Some got to the airport and phoned from there to ask Dr. Kaal to pick up their cats from their home. Yet others phoned him from the USA or Europe!

It appears that every time the good doctor responded positively and did as asked. He protected the animals and cared for them. When there was no room left at his clinic he asked friends to home them temporarily or he went around to the abandoned home and fed them.

Some pet owners returned to collect their pets and I hope pay Dr. Jaal. But for many animals Dr. Jaal had to prepare the certification necessary to ship them out of the country. That meant vaccinations and microchipping etc. in complying with international pet travel. It is quite complicated and time consuming.

To give a flavor of his heroic behavior, he made 12 journeys of 15 hours each in a van packed with companion animals when taking them to Djerba airport in Tunisia.

I bet this vet doesn't declaw! I bet it is not even on his radar. He says, "I was involved in another kind of war - one to save animals."

Well done Dr. Jaal. You deserve all the praise you can get.

Michael signature

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Wild Cats in Captivity

Wild cats in captivity don't do well and are poorly managed. That is a generalization and possibly a little unfair. However, having prepared a list of some wild cats and their status in captivity, I am compelled to come to that conclusion with one exception. The snow leopard enjoys creative and concerned conservation together with excellent management in captivity. What is it about the snow leopard that sets it apart from the other wild cat species in respect of conservation? Perhaps it is because the snow leopard has a chance of survival in the wild, living in the mountains.

The two barriers to successfully keeping wild cats in captivity is that they get ill fairly easily or in some cases routinely and early on, plus they tend not to breed. This leads to low genetic diversity and inbreeding seems to be commonplace. Inbreeding leads to inbreeding depression which in turn leads to poor sperm quality and reproductive failure. It is a downward trend.

There is also the problem of cross-breeding which is probably due to a need to expand genetic diversity and to boost low zoo populations of certain cat species. Breeding a Siberian tiger with a Bengal tiger leaves us all with a cat that is neither.

What you might be looking at through the perspex glass of a zoo is an inbred hybrid, rather than the real thing. Am I being a bit harsh again? A single example (there are many others) is the sweet looking sand cat. The zoo population is small and "highly inbred" says Jill D. Melden one of the authors of the respected book, Great Cats - Majestic Creatures of the Wild. They are likely to become extinct in captivity she goes on to say.

There are also far too many instances of zookeepers and pet tiger owners being stupid and careless in their dealings with the large wildcats. These careless encounters lead to the death and/or injury for human and cat (shot). The cat in all cases is simply behaving normally under the circumstances, which are often stress inducing. Wildcats have large home ranges. The male Siberian tiger has a range of 800-1000 square kilometers! Small enclosures are unsuitable.

It is just that I don't like the idea of wild animals in zoos. And neither, it seems, do the animals.

Update: Seidensticker and Lumpkin who edited Great Cats (ISBN 0-87857-965-6) say that "the captive populations of most species of small cats in both North America and Europe are headed towards extinction". Their book was first published in 1991.

It could be argued that establishments that keep wildcats in captivity that profess to be involved in conservation are in fact a net drain on conservation in the wild because they need to import wildcats from wild habitats to prop up the captive cat populations in terms of breeding health (i.e. to try and inject fresh genes into the captive population).

The AZA ( Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Feline Species Survival Plans are concerned with the survival of wildcats in captivity not repopulating wildcats in the wild for conservation reasons.

Then we must not forget the blatant exploitation of tiger in tiger farms. These are a pretense at conservation etc but they are just farmed tigers for body parts. Totally commercial and quite brutal.

Jill Mellen and author of Great Cats says that that wild cat species in captivity with a population of fewer than 30 individuals will die out unless something is done quickly. However, nothing can be done it appears. It is pointless and probably illegal to import cats in wild into captivity for the sole reason to stop the captive cats become extinct. That is upside down conservation. It tells us a bit about the flaws in the captive animal business.

She says that the rusty-spotted cat, manul, sand cat, black-footed cat, pampas cat, Asian golden cat, Geoffroy's cat and Scottish wildcat are inbred and have small captive populations.

Michael Avatar

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