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.

Saturday 16 August 2008

See wild cats at night

civet cat
Common palm civet photo by wildsingapore

You can see wild cats at night at the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia. The zoo seems enlightened to me. I don't recall there being a zoo or animal reserve in the UK that is open at night so people can see wild cats and other animals that are active at night. Since 2003, the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia operate a night safari for the public.

The enclosures are carefully constructed to simulate the natural environment as near as possible and food is hidden so the animals search as in the wild.

The lighting is bright enough to allow visitors to see wild cats at night (and the other nocturnal animals) yet subdued enough to appear as dusk or dawn to the cats.

Wild (encroaching on the zoo grounds) or captive cats can seen including the Asian Leopard cat (the wild half of the foundation Bengal cats), civet cats and the flat headed cat. The Leopard cat apparently breeds well at the zoo and there are a dozen of them.

I am sad that zoos are needed in a world becoming gradually devoid of many wild animals such as the Bengal tiger and cheetah but if it must be this way, it is good to see an enlightened approach to keeping captive animals.

See wild cats at night to cheetah habitat

See wild cats at night - Photo published under a creative commons license = Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. This cat is not one from the Taiping Zoo.

Feline dandruff

feline dandruff
Photo copyright Michael Broad

Feline dandruff is not something you can easily look up in a reference book. There is though a rare condition, not associated with "normal" dandruff (the kind you and I suffer from), that is called "Walking Dandruff", that I mention at the end of this posting. Also there are probably conditions that may look like normal dandruff that are not and which will need veterinarian care. A lot of skin conditions are caused by parasitic mites, for example. Dandruff treatments will obviously have no impact if this is the case. I'm going to talk about ordinary dandruff in this post.

Cats have similar anatomies, at a fundamental level, to humans (a classic example is the transferable condition cat ringworm caused by a fungus - more about fungus below). Dandruff in humans is rather poorly served by the pharmaceutical companies. A lot of the treatments (shampoos) treat the symptoms. One, however, treats the underlying cause. This product, in the UK is called, Nizoral Shampoo.

{Note: the term dandruff is poorly defined. Real dandruff is a mild form of seborrhoeic dermatitis in my opinion, as mentioned below, but dry skin can probably look like a low level form of dandruff and dermatitis in cats can be caused under a wide range of circumstances}

It is a very effective anti-dandruff shampoo. It contains the active ingredient, ketoconazole, which is an antifungal (it gets rid of fungus and yeast growths on the skin surface). It does this by damaging the cell membrane of the fungus cell. This chemical also successfully treats the widely present yeast Pityrosporum ovale (now called Malassezia furfur). The fungus and yeast cause dandruff. I am going to make the suggestion that ordinary feline dandruff is a mild form of seborrhoeic dermatitis as is the case in humans. A stronger version of seborrhoeic dermatitis is a skin disorder affecting the skin on the face and scalp. The skin goes red and is itchy. I believe that it also affects areas that are close to the skin on the head such as inside the ear flap, ear canal and even the sinuses (approached through the nose). I believe that this yeast and/or fungus can be a cause of sinusitis in humans.

Anyway back to feline dandruff.
What follows is my considered thought on the subject and mine alone. I am not a veterinarian. I am not recommending shampooing our cats with Nizoral shampoo. I can't as I am unqualified. But people do shampoo their cats. I am not one that does that as my cat would hate it but some cats like water (normally the wildcat hybrids such as the Bengal, Savannah and Chausie).

The website eHo.com recommends shampooing with a mild shampoo and/or a feline dandruff shampoo containing sulfur and salicylic acid. My personal view is that the pet dandruff shampoo may treat the symptoms but not the underlying cause. But if my cat was used to being shampooed I know what I'd do. I'd mix in a tiny amount of Nizoral shampoo to make sure there were no adverse reactions and proceed from there adding a bit more next time and so on and check if it helped to relieve the condition. The shampoo should be left on for about 3-5 minutes before being rinsed off.

Another perhaps easier remedy that makes the skin less dry is to add oils to the cat food. Here are some recommendations:

  • EFA oil (Google this) - essential fatty acid
  • omega 3 fatty acids (same as EFA oil? - don't know)
  • add a small amount of olive oil to wet cat food
  • fish oil tablets
Brushing definitely helps too. Sometimes feline dandruff is exacerbated or perhaps caused by a cat being unable to groom properly (overweight perhaps). I find brushing with a spiked (but round tipped) brush both keeps mats at bay and stimulates the skin to produce oils, which moisturizes the cat's skin reducing the dandruff. The underlying cause may still be there but the symptoms are alleviated.

Update March 2011: My cat has become geriatric and has lost her appetite to a certain extent. She has lost weight and lost her dandruff. Her coat is better generally. My gut feel is that a lack of grooming may be the cause of feline dandruff provided that it is genuinely dandruff. The lack of grooming is simply because the cat cannot reach the coat.

Another possibility is to brush and then wipe the cat's back with a warm wet cloth. This may replicate cat grooming to a certain extent and may help if the cat is unable to groom due to old age or weight problems

Walking dandruff is caused by a reddish colored parasitic mite living on the cat's skin. The dandruff is acute with lots of dry skin looking like a bad version of "normal" feline dandruff. It is worse on the back, sides and neck. It is quite rare. A vet should deal with it. The mite can infest humans too so it is contagious.

Feline dandruff - Sources:

  • www.netdoctor.co.uk (how ketoconazole works)
  • Wikipedia (for details about the yeast causing dandruff)
  • www.thriftyfun.com (for information on adding oils to cat food)
  • my own experiences
Photo: published under a creative commons license = Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivs License .

Feline dandruff to cat health problems

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