Tuesday 27 July 2010

Roaming Cats Aren't Natural - Discuss

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

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

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

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

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

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

A nice cat enclosure must be the minimum requirement:


Photo: AJ Russell - Flickr


See her article here.



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Saturday 17 July 2010

Beautiful Burmilla Cat

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

Beautiful Burmilla Cat - photo Marc Jordan (Flickr)

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

Monday 5 July 2010

Arm & Hammer Cat Litter

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

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

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

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

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



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Cat Vitamins: Functions and Imbalance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Sunday 4 July 2010

Treatment of Overly Fearful Cats

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

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

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

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

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

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



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