Tuesday 19 August 2008

Pedigree cat breeding

Can pedigree cat breeding in the UK learn something from pedigree dog breeding? A recent story in the Times newspaper is about a BBC documentary on the management of dog breeding in the UK by The Kennel Club, the oldest (all-breed) dog club in the world. The Kennel Club run the Crufts Dog Show and the BBC are considering walking away from covering the event as a result of the conclusions drawn from the film documentary.

I haven't seen the film yet (I'll update this post when I have seen it) but it seems to conclude that the Kennel Club is presiding over (or perhaps actively encouraging) poor breeding practices that focus on the appearance rather than the character of pedigree dogs.

When a breeder over focuses on appearance to the detriment of other factors such as health, health may and often does suffer due to inbreeding depression (genetically based ill health and deformities).

"Type", the breeders word for an appearance matching the breed standard is the first goal of cat breeders. It is very tempting to over breed to type when the show hall judges reward the cats and dogs that match type or their interpretation of it. There is often a gradual drift towards more extreme type as it is more outstanding. This is the slippery path to over doing breeding and breeding too closely.

The percentage of pedigree dogs in the UK is much higher than for cats. Apparently 75% of the 7.3 million dogs in the UK are pedigree dogs. Of the 7.2 million cats, only 18% are pedigree. (src: www.pfma.org.uk)

Purebred breeding of the dog is therefore far more advanced than for the cat. The norm is a purebred dog. The norm is to keep a mixed breed unregistered non-purebred cat in the UK. So there must by definition be less inbreeding going on in the cat world as mixed breed cats are the opposite to purebred cats in that respect.

The film documentary found that an unacceptable percentage of dogs (the Kennel Club admits to 10% of the total number of pedigree dogs) suffer from genetically based diseases. That equates to over three quarters of million dogs created by dog breeders with significant diseases that impaired their lives. Of the remaining 10% some will also suffer from diseases brought about by inbreeding but to an extent that is not detrimental to their quality of life (src: Kennel Club).

That is a lot of pain to be suffered in the quest for a beautiful looking dog. Beautiful dogs are pleasing humans. Beautiful looking or outstanding looking dogs are bred to please humans. The dog doesn't care if he/she is beautiful or not. The same of course applies to cats. So the social equation is this:

730,000 x 1 unit of pain in the dog = 6,570,000 units of pleasure in humans

Is that a balanced equation? Cat breeding has its problems too but it should and probably does take heed of dog breeding experiences and focus as much if not more on character and health and give appearance second place. The GCCF, the major association in Britain has the responsibility to achieve this. Cat associations should take the lead. The Kennel Club surely has not.

Pedigree cat breeding to home page

Feline Mange

I'll write about three types of feline mange (a) feline scabies or head mange (b) demodectic mange and (c) sarcoptic mange. The source material is from Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook - the best on the market.

Generalised feline mange? Puerto Rico - Photo by Gotham City Lost And Found

Feline Scabies - head mange

Head mange or feline scabies, is a fairly rare condition in cats, which is caused by the Notoedres mite (head mite) that only reproduces on cats.

The female mites burrow a few millimeters (that is a lot) into the skin around the head, and neck to lay eggs, which hatch and lay their own eggs. Their presence and activities causes intense itching that in turn causes the cat to scratch.

The scratching will obviously be noticed and it will cause the skin to become red, scratched and worse infected. Symptoms: hair loss and scabs, thick wrinkled skin and grey/yellow crusts form plus the symptoms of scratching.

Feline mange (head mange) is contagious and transmitted by direct contact and can infect humans (zoonotic). People will itch if infected. It passes in 2-3 weeks provided it has been treated.

For cats, treatment includes insecticide dips but there may be modern treatments - see the veterinarian. He may recommend:
  • clipping the affected areas in longhaired cats
  • bathing the cat in warm water and soap to loosen the crusts
  • killing the mites by "dipping the cat in 2.5% lime sulfur dip weekly"to two weeks beyond cure
  • that other cats in multicat households should also be dipped once per week for 3-4 weeks.
  • an alternative such selamectin (Revolution) and Ivermectin.
  • itching be relieved by 1% Cortaid (cortisone).

Demodectic mange

Another form of feline mange is called demodectic mange, caused by another mite, the demodex mite. It is very rare indeed in cats and non-contagious. The mite frequently lives on the cat's skin. No symptoms are usually present unless the cat is ill when the immune system is depressed. It can be localized around the head, neck and ears and/or generalized (over the body).

Treatment should be carried out only under veterinarian supervision for as these are potentially toxic drugs. For localised infestation treatment is carried out by applying a "topical antibacterial agent" such as Pyoben or OxyDex shampoo followed by a lime sulfur dip  or Rotenone.

Generalized infestations are treated with shampoos - please see your veterinarian.

Sarcoptic Mange

The mite causing this form of feline mange is seen more frequently in dogs and rarely in cats. The symptoms are similar to head mange mentioned above.  Treatment under vet's supervision please is Fipronil and milbemycin oxime.

Eating cat meat is barbaric

Eating cat meat is barbaric in my opinion. Some disagree obviously. I feel compelled to go on pounding away on this subject for the rest of my life until the people who prepare and eat cat meat change their minds. I am sure people know it is unacceptable and quite wrong. In China they justify it by saying it is a tradition. Does this sound like a reasonable justification? If the tradition has value then preserve it. If it is wrong lets get rid of it.

The reason why some sell cat meat is because the supply is free. All they have to do is round up some feral cats. It is partly about commerce it seems. The people of Guangzhou eat cat meat regularly. People created the feral cat "problem" and then some people compound the problem by killing feral cats in a cruel manner and then eating them. There are many things in the West that are wrong too (greedy financial experts to name one) but that shouldn't and will not stop me criticizing behavior in other countries if I feel it needs to be criticized. I have a right as an individual to do that. And people have a right to disagree - please comment.

Update: Dr Bruce Fogle DVM in the UK would agree with me. He calls cat declawing a barbaric practice. He has a strong voice. He is the world's best-known vet and author. 

It isn't just in China though where they eat cat meat (see cat meat name and shame posting). In addition to the countries listed on the name and shame posting, apparently (allegedly) it also happens in Kuwait. In this instance it was alleged that a restaurant was passing off cat meat as some other product. That is different but equally wrong. It is alleged that it was the Jahra branch of the Farah restaurant chain (not sure if this is a chain but that seems to be the case).

The restaurant was making shawarma by adding cooked from frozen cat meat added to other meat allegedly. Shawarma is a middle eastern style sandwich usually made up of lamb, chicken or goat meat. It is roasted on a spit at the front of the facility it seems a bit like kebab shops in England. How many kebab or shawarma shops sell cooked cat meat? Probably a hell of a lot more than we ever imagined.

I am convinced that it happens all over the world; I mean restaurants preparing cat meat and calling it something else. Why? Because it is free roaming around the streets outside the restaurant. They might think that they are doing a service to the community.

We must in my opinion deal with the feral cat problem in one way and one way only --- humanely because we must take responsibility for it. To deal with the problem otherwise is immoral and eating cat meat is barbaric in my view. I am speaking up for the silent cat here.

Eating cat meat is barbaric - photo above is shawarma in Ireland as it happens. No connection with cat meat as far as I am aware. The picture simply show what shawarma looks like. Photo by Fenchurch!

Eating cat meat is barbaric to cat meat name and shame

Sunday 17 August 2008

Feline Pain Relief

cat licking another cat
Tender loving care, one cat to another, feline boredom relief -
photo by fofurasfelinas (Flickr)

Feline Pain Relief is too dangerous to be given to a cat without a veterinarians prescription and supervision. All pain relief for a cat needs to be supervised. Veterinarians use analgesics for cats with caution.

First, it is worth mentioning that it may be difficult to ascertain if our cat is suffering from pain. Cats are stoical and hide pain. They may go quiet and hide and dislike being touched and picked up etc.. Deciding whether our cat is suffering from pain is a job for a veterinarian. Also it is pointless treating pain without assessing the underlying cause to see if it can be treated as well. This also needs to be diagnosed professionally. This is the first reason why cat keepers should not administer pain relief without a vet's involvement.

The most common, over the counter pain killer for humans is aspirin. It is listed as one of the common household products that is poisonous to cats, in a well known book, The Veterinarian's Guide To Your Cat's Symptoms by Drs Garvey, Hohenhaus, Houpt, Wallace and Elizabeth Randolph. When taken in all but minute quantities this common painkiller causes nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and possible lethargy in cats.

aspirin molecule
Aspirin molecule

Above image: published under Wikimedia Commons license, the original provider (author) for the license is Benjah-bmm27.

Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. It works by suppressing the production of a hormone that helps to transmit the sensation of pain to the brain. It is safe to be given to dogs by unqualified people; but initially under supervision, I would suggest, as dogs are susceptible to the potentially damaging side effects to the gastrointestinal system by ingesting salicylates. Aspirin, however, must be given to a cat with the highest degree of care and caution and in very small doses indeed and under strict veterinarian guidance. This is because the damage that can result as a result of over dosage is very severe indeed. Even small doses can result in vomiting, loss of appetite and depression as mentioned.

One aspirin tablet (for humans - 324 milligrams in weight) is 8 times the proper dosage for a cat. On tablet can cause a host of highly worrying symptoms such as dehydration, salivation, staggering, vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding. Aspirin is potentially highly toxic and poisons a cat at the wrong dosage.

If aspirin is just acceptable for feline pain relief, under strict veterinarian supervision, anti-inflammatory drugs that are commonly used by people such as Ibuprofen (I use this myself) and Anaprox are simply toxic to cats and should never be used. These drugs are used by people to relieve stiffness, joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis for example.

Tylenol crystals
Cross polarized Tylenol crystals - photo by nebarnix

The Veterinarian's Guide To Your Cat's Symptoms also states that another well known drug, Tylenol, should not be used for feline pain relief. Tylenol is a popular analgesic in the USA. The active ingredient is called "paracetamol" (for countries outside USA such as the UK) and is called "acetaminophen" in the USA. Tylenol can cause liver or kidney damage, in humans, in high dosage and if accompanied by alcohol.

Even a small dosage (child's level) can cause hemolytic anemia and liver damage if given for the treatment of feline pain relief.

Another analgesic used for the treatment of pain relief of animals including horses and dogs is called Butazolidin. The active ingredient is phenylbutazone, which is used as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to treat chronic pain. Side affects are suppression of white blood cell production (white blood cells are part of the bodies defense system) and Aplastic Anemia (suppression of red blood cell production in the bone marrow).

Butazolidin is also toxic to cats in the same way as aspirin and Tylenol and should not be used for feline pain relief.


Although aspirin is potentially toxic to cats, with severe symptoms, it is the only usable analgesic provided it is used with extreme caution in very small dosages and under strict veterinarian guidance and supervision (source: The Veterinarian's Guide To Your Cat's Symptoms). Obviously veterinarian medicine is evolving all the time and at the time of this post there may be alternatives that are relatively safe to use under supervision. The same principles apply, however, in that it is simply dangerous to treat cats for feline pain relief without veterinarian advice.

Update March 11th 2011: Valley Girl, a colleague of mine, has referred me to this page: Fentanyl (Duragesic Patch). This method of pain relief is once again administered by vets only.

Feline Pain Relief - Sources:
  1. As stated in the text (thanks to Drs Carslon and Giffin)
  2. Wikipedia for the chemistry of these drugs and the Wikimedia commons images
Photo: published under a creative commons license = Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License - thanks to fofurasfelinas

Feline Anemia

cat poking out of a tunnel
Healthy cat - healthy photo - by fofurasfelinas (see sources at base)


Feline Anemia
as many will know means that there are insufficient red blood cells in the blood system. Red blood cells carry and circulate oxygen around the body. The symptoms of anemia are, as a result, a deficiency of oxygen being fed to the cells of the body.

Although kittens can have slightly lower levels, from a veterinarian's point of view, if the level of red blood cells for an adult is less than 25% of the total volume of the blood the cat has feline anemia.


A cat with feline anemia may have another disease (perhaps a chronic condition) the symptoms of which can mask the effects of feline anemia. The direct symptoms however as described in the Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlrson and Giffin are rather unspecific and include:

--appetite loss
--weight loss

--pulse rapid (severe anemia)
--breathing rapid (severe anemia)

Both symptoms for severe feline anemia can be confused with heart disease. A more specific sign perhaps is that the gums and tongue are pale.


Not enough blood is produced by the cat. This accounts for about 80% of the cases. Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow of bones. This is the area inside the bone, which could be described as hollow.

human bone marrow magnified
Human bone marrow greatly magnified - a plate from Gray's Anatomy the copyright for which has expired due to effluxion of time. The average life span of feline red blood cells is 66-78 days.

cooked bone marrow
Cooked (at a restaurant) bone marrow showing the hollow nature of a bone. Photo by Ben Scicluna published under a creative commons license =
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License.

In turn, what causes the lower level of production of red blood cells? This could be diet as the materials to create red blood cells in the bone marrow are:

--trace minerals
--essential fatty acids

These ingredients are supplied to the "bone marrow factory" in the food the cat eats. Of the four elements a deficiency of intake of iron is a major cause of feline anemia. Accordingly, a diet low in iron could cause anemia. However, blood loss reduces the amount of iron in the body as it is carried in the red blood cells. Although this may be seen as a circuitous argument as the iron lost in the blood has already been "assigned" to red blood cells.

In addition to a poor diet another reason for a deficiency of the building blocks of red blood cells could be disease. Feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis are examples. Poisons to the body can also have a similar effect and some drugs could be classified under this heading. Many illnesses lower red cell production in fact.

2. Another reason for depressed numbers of red blood cells, and therefore feline anemia, is loss of blood. This may not be apparent as the loss could be internal. If internal there may be abdominal distension and low body temperature. Bleeding into the abdomen can be caused by trauma, tumor or rat poison for example. Classic loss of blood is through injury (trauma). Blood loss can sometimes occur through the walls of the digestive tract caused by the presence of hookworm, tumor, ulceration, rat poison, toxic foreign body or gastric ulcer, for example.

Other reasons for blood loss could even be skin parasites that feed on the cat's blood. This may be relevant when diagnosing feline anemia in the poorly groomed and neglected cat.

If the lifespan of a red blood cell is shortened the effect will be the same as a lowered production of red blood cells. A condition called "hemolysis" is one in which the red blood cells are destroyed prematurely in the blood. This can be caused by infected blood (microorganisms) or drugs, for example.

Feline Anemia to Cat health problems

Feline Anemia - Sources:
  • Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlrson and Giffin
  • Wikipedia (definition and picture of bone marrow)
  • The Veterinarian's Guide to Your Cat's Symptoms by Drs Garvey, Hohenhaus, Pinckney, Wallace and Elizabeth Randolph
Photo: by this wonderful female photographer who works in South America (as far as I remember). She photographs her own cats and rescue cats. I think she likes calico cats. This cat is healthy as far as I know. It is simply here to illuminate this post. Thanks fofurasfelinas.

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