Sunday 19 February 2012

Sprayed by Tiger Urine

If you go down to the zoo today be prepared for a big surprise! We know that our domestic cats can spray sometimes. This means marking territory by spraying a horizontal jet of urine against a vertical object behind the cat. Male cats have a "specially retractable penis" that allows them to leave these scent markers at a height that is perfect for other cats to sniff.

It is relative rare that domestic cats spray objects because they are usually neutered or spayed and domesticated and don't really have a home range to protect.

A home range is the area that the cat considers his or her home territory. They can be extremely large for the bigger wildcats such as the snow leopard. When the area is large it is impossible for the cat to physically patrol the area and see off intruders so scent marking is the next best thing. It says to intruders that the occupying cat is here and recently.

Here are some examples of how frequently wild cats spray their territory:
  • Male serval - up to 41.2 times per kilometer (46 times per hour).
  • Bobcats spray urine from 1.9-7.5 times per km.
  • Canada lynx spray more frequently than bobcats at about 10x per km.
  • Tigers spray mark territory "up to 11 times every 30 mins.
I found these to be high numbers. I had not realised how frequently wild cats sprayed their territory.

If you are visiting a zoo and looking into the tiger enclosure don't get too close because if you do and see the tiger turning around presenting his rear end towards you, you know what you are about to receive - a large shower of prime quality tiger urine. This has happened and will no doubt happen again.

I have been sprayed with serval urine when I entered a serval cage to photograph them - there were two, one male and one female. The male, a large cat, sprayed me very quickly. I had no chance to get out of the way. The picture below is of the cat who sprayed me.

Morpheus at A1 Savannahs.
You can read about Morpheus on this page. The information on spraying frequencies comes from The Natural History of the Wild Cats by Andrew Kitchener ISBN 0-8014-8498-7.

Friday 10 February 2012

Striped Coat Keeps Flies Away

You may have read that the zebra's striped coat has developed, scientists think, to keep flies away. There has been much discussion as to why the high contrast zebra stripes had evolved. Tests have discovered that flies dislike striped coats and the narrower the stripes the better. Apparently the stripes reflect light in a way that puts flies off coming near.

zebra and tiger stripes. Photos (top): by andrew lorien
Photo (bottom) by TeryKats

On the basis of this finding, many doors must surely be opened. Human clothes should be striped if you are living in warmer equatorial climates, for instance.

What, though, of the tiger. We all agree that tiger stripes are good camouflage in long grass, forest and under dappled light. But I have doubts about the effectiveness of the camouflage.

The stripes of a tiger are very sharp and high contrast. Most wildcats have a broken pattern that is more in tune with the environment where they live. Their background color is grey brown and the pattern spotted. Their spots are often broken or doughnuts (rosettes).

No wild cat has such a striking striped coat as the tiger. Cats like the ocelot and margay have heavily patterned coats and densely colored patterns but not sharp high contrast stripes.

It just crossed my mind whether the tiger too has developed his high contrast stripes as both camouflage and as a fly repellant? The tiger needs good camouflage less than the other wild cats as it is the top predator so perhaps it lost some its camouflage in a trade off with fly repellant.

See also tiger patterns and tiger stripes.

Thursday 9 February 2012

A cure for a serval with bladder stones

This is a nice story by Dolly Guck about her domesticated serval "Sawabu" who developed a urinary tract infection (UTI) and who had calcium oxalate stones in his bladder. The urinary tract problems were first noticed when Sawabu was doing one of his tricks at a public meeting. He embarrassingly peed on a table. This is the exact same symptom you get with domestic cats who have urinary infections. For my cat it was cystitis. The urine is bloody too - readily noticeable.

X-rays revealed the bladder stones and the vet decided to operation to remove them. Calcium oxalate crystals cannot dissolved naturally through a change in diet hence the need to physically remove them. The operation went well. The stones were about one centimeter in diameter (think the size of the nail of your little finger).

The vet administered antibiotics, the standard treatment for UTIs. Sawabu was well bahaved throughout. He had to wear a protective collar and he put up it with just like a domestic cat.

The interesting bit is this. What caused the stones? What was the underlying condition that prompted the development of the infection?

Dolly does not say in her article and her vet does not say either. However the cure does tell us I think. A colleague of the vet recommended a diet of Royal Canin High Protein Calorie Control canned food - three cans per day. Sawabu's diet to that point was some raw plus "crunchy Mazuri" and Zupreem canned small feline. Sawabu did not like the Royal Canin but Dolly practiced tough love and made him eat it. Good thing too.

I will presume that crunchy Mazuri is specialist dry cat food for "exotic felines". It is dry cat food (kibble) for domesticated wildcats I'd say. It might have been Mazuri Exotic Feline-Small (25 lb) - 5M54. Zupreem Exotic Feline Food is canned (wet) exotic cat food - canned food for wild cats.

It would seem to me that the underlying cause or at least one of the underlying causes or a compounding factor was the dry cat food. Sawabu liked it. He may have eaten too much of it. Dr. Hodgkins in her book Your Cat (a book about cat health and nutrition) concludes with a firm conviction that dry cat food is the cause of many UTIs. I can confirm that my cat was cured of her cystitis by taking her off dry cat food and feeding wet with added water.

Dry cat food can cause mild dehydration because cats don't compensate by drinking more water. The urine becomes concentrated and the flow slower promoting bacterial growth and stones. As I understand it, that is the theory in outline.

The Royal Canin wet food prescribed worked nicely over time and stopped the stones returning. I am not sure what it contains other than it is wet and therefore contains a lot more water. Wet cat food is more natural for a cat domestic or wild. The Royal Canin wet food prescribed might also contain less of certain minerals etc to reduce the possibility of formation of stones.

Moral: feed wet cat food and specialist raw food to a domesticated serval as an ideal. Obviously Sawabu is just one cat and I am sure some people who keep servals feed dry cat food but it should only be as a part of the overall diet.

There is one other compounding factor that I am aware of that can predispose a cat to UTIs: stress. Without being critical (Dolly is a very caring human companion to Buddy) but Buddy may have been stressed for whatever reason. The obvious one being a lack of space in which to exercise natural behavior.

See also Urinary Tract Infections.

Source for story: Feline Conservation Federation magazine Jan/Feb 2012 Vol 56 Issue 1.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Difference Between Leopard and Cheetah

In order to fully compare the difference between the leopard and cheetah I think we need to look at the following: size and weight, appearance, prey, habitat, range and status in the wild. For the time being I have left out socialisation and reproduction and development.

Size and Weight

This part is easy. The leopard and the cheetah are the fifth and sixth largest wildcats on the planet respectively. The leopard is slightly heavier than the cheetah. The leopard weighs between 17 and 70 kgs while the cheetah weighs between 21 and 65 kgs. There is not much difference. They are similar is size. They are the "same general size". The major difference is that the cheetah is about 7.6 cms taller. The leopard has a greater weight and size difference across its range than the cheetah because the distribution of the leopard is so extensive.


There is, however, a big difference between the leopard and cheetah in appearance. The cheetah does not have the heavy, stocky, muscular body and limbs of other large wildcats. It is a slim and slender wildcat with a very supple spine and a deep chest. The cheetah is a sprinter, a greyhound-like large wildcat. The leopard is more a decathlete, more an all rounder.

The whiskers of the cheetah are short and fine compared to the leopard's cheek whiskers. Whiskers play less of a role in catching prey for the cheetah.

The cheetah "has small canines because it runs so fast". It kills by strangulation and its bite force is less than that of the leopard. The neck bite that severs the spinal cord requires greater force. The leopard employs this method of killing smaller prey and the throat bite for larger prey. The cheetah's canines are smaller than those of the leopard.

The leopard has relatively short legs compared to the cheetah. This page shows the difference between the leopard and cheetah spots.

See cheetah description and leopard picture (appearance) and leopard description for more.


Leopard prey is extremely wide in its range. It will kill whatever it can catch. Its diet mainly consists of small to medium-sized animals (5-45 kgs). The cheetah mostly feeds on medium sized ungulates (hooved animals) in the 20-50 kg range but most are under 40 kgs.

The cheetah chases prey and runs it down through sheer speed. The leopard's final charge is short, in contrast stalking to within 4 meters in northeastern Namibia.We know that the cheetah can run at a maximum of about 65-70 mph for short bursts while the leopard probably has a top speed of about 45-50. See cheetah speed.


The leopard has the widest distribution of all the wildcats from Africa through to eastern Asia while the cheetah is essentially found in Africa with a possible small population in Iran. See leopard habit/range and cheetah geographic range.


Due to the very wide distribution of the leopard it is found in wide range of habitats. They can live in any type of habitat except true desert. The cheetah habitat is classically the flat grassy plains of Namibia. It likes arid semi-open grassland, savanna, semi-desert and even even mountain regions.


The IUCN Red List classifies the leopard as Near Threatened while the cheetah is classified as Vulnerable. The range of classifications is as follows:

You can see that the cheetah is in a more precarious situation regarding its survival than the leopard. See a page on the IUCN Red for all wild cats.

Source: Wild Cats of the World ISBN-13: 978-0-226-77999-7 and myself.

American Curl Health

This is a healthy purebred cat as there appears to be no evidence at the time of this post (Feb 2012) that there are any specific health issues relating to this cat breed. Certain cat breeds are predisposed to health problems due to genetic inheritance. That is not the case with the American Curl. This is probably due to the fact that the cat associations allow outcrossing with random bred cats. The CFA American Curl breed standard says for American Curl: allowable outcross breeds, "domestic longhair or shorthair for litters born before 1/1/2015". These are random bred cats they are referring to, both short and longhair. The genetic health of the American Curl is a very positive aspect of this cat breed.

American Curl health -- Source: Page 37 of Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats - ISBN 0-9634124-0-X

Manx Cat Health Problems

The famous Manx cat is perhaps known to have some health problems associated with its genotype. This should not be unexpected because where there is a genetic mutation that alters the appearance of a cat it, there may be medical problems that are not immediately apparent from the appearance.

In the case of the Manx cat, when the "Manx gene" is inherited from both parents (homozygous) it results in the death of the offspring in the womb. In Manx to Manx matings 25% of the potential litter is lost in womb during fetal development.

Accordingly, in breeding the Manx you cannot breed Manx to Manx and the offspring is a heterozygote (carries one Manx gene).

The shortened tail is what we see as a consequence of the presence of the Manx gene. However, the gene affects other parts of the cat's anatomy causing Manx cat health problems (Manx Syndrome).

Spina bifida

This is a malformation of the vertebrae and spinal cord. The neural tube (the precursor to the central nervous system in the embryo) is not fused together. Skin can cover the defect. The medical condition can result in fecal incontinence and urine incontinence (in some cats). Other health problems caused by this condition are:
Other spinal cord defects
  • cavitation
  • syringomyelia
  • brain deformities
  • hemivertebrae
Atresia ani

This refers to "imperforate anus". A membrane covers the anal opening. Surgery rectifies it as I understand the condition.

Rectal prolapse

Spinal defects can lead to straining when going to the toilet which in turn can cause rectal prolapse. In layman's terms this means rectal tissue is forced to the exterior at the anus. This condition requires immediate veterinary treatment.

Corneal dystrophy

This Manx cat health problem "exists in an inbred line of Manx" cats.  This is an autosomal recessive trait meaning not sex linked and an inherited recessive gene causes the problem. The symptoms are central cornea edema (swelling) at four months of age and ulceration of the cornea later.


Pyoderma may affect the dimple where the tail should be. Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin. The dimple should be kept clean. If it develops the hair should be trimmed and a local antibiotic (cream) applied to the area.


Some cats can suffer from arthritis. I am not sure how prevalent this is or how much more common over the average. Arthritis can affect all cats, purebred can random bred.

Although I am writing about Manx cat health problems meaning the purebred cat, it would seem reasonable to presume that these conditions can affect random bred cats affected by the Manx gene.

Source: Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats ISBN 0-9634124-0-X

Tonkinese Health

There are few health problems reported for the Tonkinese. The foremost book on cat breed health and genetic diseases in cat breeds says that Tonkinese cats have a low resistance to upper respiratory diseases (also called URIs). Upper respiratory diseases are one of most common cat illnesses.

Tonkinese - photo by julicath/Cath (On- Off ;-))

The Tonkinese may be sensitive to "certain vaccines". Finally, this excellent book says that when anesthetizing the Tonkinese for whatever medical reason it is best to use gas rather than intravenous injections. Anesthetizing a cat carries risk of injury and death, please note.

It would seem then that this cat escapes the rather more extensive list of genetically inherited health problems associated with the Siamese and to a lesser extent the Burmese. The Tonkinese is a Siamese/Burmese hybrid.

I am a little surprised, accordingly. You might like to see the page on genetic diseases in purebred cats to see what I mean.

Source: page 181 of Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats - ISBN 0-9634124-0-X

Monday 6 February 2012

Animal Shelter Conspiracy USA

In the USA I allege that there is a conspiracy to supply cat and dog carcasses to pet food manufacturers which is the reason why the kill rate is so high at no kill animal shelters.

You don't have to look far to find high kill rates, particularly of cats at shelters. They still call then no kill shelters bizarrely. Yesterday I wrote an article about a lack of proper assessment of cat and dog temperament at shelters, referring to the Jackson County Animal Control Shelter where 80% of cats are "euthanised". I know that this is not untypical.

The obvious reason why such a high percentage of cats are killed at shelters in the USA is because there are not enough people willing to adopt unwanted cats.

But that seems simplistic to me and there are enough people. When there is no proper feline temperament profiling and a lack of networking and coordination. I make the argument in this post that there is no need to kill any cats on the grounds of temperament because if the cat's temperament is unsuitable for living with people it must be suitable for living as a feral cat - without people! In which case the cat could be neutered and placed with a feral colony. That is probably not politically correct but it is technically correct.

Some shelters are genuinely no kill - no cats are killed. If they can do why not the rest? There would seem to be only a small number who achieve this perfect score - 100% cats saved.

A shelter has to find an outlet for a cat. If there is no outlet for a living cat, there is an outlet for a dead one: pet food or some other manufacturing process.

It makes financial sense. This possibility is never talked about except by me and it is a highly unpleasant argument. I recall a visitor to my site saying that he had seen lorries taking dead cats for processing so even if there is not a statewide or nationwide conspiracy to kill cats for profit, it does go on somewhere.

When the numbers of killed cats and dogs are as high as they are nationwide (4-10 million?) and when the situation never changes no matter how cogent the arguments are, I have to come to the conclusion that there is a hidden agenda, an underlying reason that is not in the equation that we can see. This hidden agenda is the conspiracy to sell cat carcasses for profit to the manufacturing industry and the first choice is the pet food manufacturers as we know that pet food is made from rendered down dead animals from any source.

Can someone from the animal shelter business come forward and make a comment to tell me that I am writing a load of rubbish?

Thursday 2 February 2012

Trap Neuter Return Works

The skeptics, the cat haters, the bird conservationists etc. decry trap neuter, return (TNR) as a failed method to manage the feral cat problem. Are they are problem? I am not sure.

Anyway, the fact is that TNR is the only humane and sensible way of managing and limiting the feral cat population and it is effective when carried sufficiently inclusively.

There is a nice story in an online newspaper that confirms this. It concerns the the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. Fairfax county is in the state of Virginia, USA (thanks for that Dorothy!).

Since they introduced TNR into the municipality in 2008, the Fairfax County Animal Shelter has seen "a significant decrease" in the number of cats dealt with by their foster care programme.

In 2011 they handled less than half the number of feral kittens than they did in 2010. And over the period 2008 to 2011 there has been a 41% drop in "bottle-fed kittens" entering the shelter.

1,800 feral cats have been TNRed since 2008 by a volunteer force of 300. It is wonderful that people of the county get involved and make this program work. I think it has to be a community event to make it work. Lone people working in isolation are fantastic and I admire then tremendously but it needs something more inclusive as I mentioned to make TNR work effectively.

By "inclusive" I mean to TNR all the cats in area not isolated pockets. That appears to prevent migration of cats from one area to another.

Please click for the original story. This is where it is:

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Wednesday 1 February 2012

Protein Requirements For Cats

What are the protein requirements for cats? Adult cats need twice the amount of protein as dogs. If their diet is low in protein, break down of muscle occurs (called muscle catabolism). Two amino acids are also needed by cats. These are arginine and taurine. Meat contains an adequate supply of arginine. It would seem therefore to be hard to deprive a cat of arginine unless the diet is specially formulated and defective in this essential amino acid.

On the contrary, it is quite easy for a cat's diet to be deficient in taurine. Cats have a limited ability to synthesise taurine whereas most animals can synthesise it meaning manufacture it. Cats therefore need to ingest it in their diet. Foods that contain taurine are meat, milk and fish (particularly shellfish). Feline milk (colostrum) contains high concentrations of taurine.

What is taurine needed for?

Answer: bile acid conjugation and felinine biosynthesis. Felinine is an amino acid in the cat's urine. It is formed in the kidney and excreted in the urine. Its function is unknown but may be used in marking territory.

High concentrations of taurine are found in the cat's heart, retinal and brain tissues. A deficiency of taurine can result in central retinal degeneration and blindness, heart disease - dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), reproductive failure and neonatal abnormalities.

Retinal damage due to taurine deficiency can be rectified on reintroducing taurine into the diet provided the changes are slight.

Also reversible by introducing taurine into a cat's diet is dilated cardiomyopathy.  Although the disease can be fatal.

Mothers who are a deficient in taurine often reabsorb their kittens or the kitten is stillborn or perhaps have a low birth weight. Kittens have low survival rates, poor growth rates and can have abnormalities.

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