Tuesday 6 December 2011

Small Wild Cats of South America

A list of small wild cats of South America. What is small? I have decided that "small" for wildcats means any size up to and including the size of an average domestic cat. On that basis 70% of the wild cat species of South America are included. There are as follows in increasing order of size (the largest of the small wildcats is at the bottom of this list):
  1. Oncilla - 1.5 - 2.8 kg
  2. Kodkod - 1.5 - 2.8 kg
  3. Pampas cat - 1.7 - 3.7 kg
  4. Margay - 3 - 4 kg
  5. Andean Mountain cat - 4 - 5 kg
  6. Geoffroy's cat - 2.6 - 6.5 kg
  7. Jaguarundi - 3.5 - 7 kg
I have excluded: ocelot, puma and jaguar. You will find different weights for these cats on the internet. This is probably because information develops as we are still studying these cats. See also wild cat species by size.

You can see pictures and detailed text about these cats starting on this page: wild cat species.

Or see a page on the wild cat species of South America, which includes thumbnail range maps.

Source: Wild Cats of the World (ISBN-13: 978-0-226-77999-7) - this is the best book on the wild cats.

Monday 5 December 2011

How to stop my cat from biting me?

Here is how to stop your cat from biting you. The first thing to do is to decide whether your cat is biting you in play or in anger. If you like to play with your cat and if play gets a bit rough (in a nice way), your cat might nibble your hand as part of play. The force used by your cat will be about 25-50% of maximum. It still may cause you discomfort and it may break the skin of your hand, but the cat is playing. The way to stop this is to stop playing rough. Play more gently and stop when your cat becomes a little agitated. Cats can go from play to genuine hunt mode if wound up enough. For the cat, play is a substitute for hunting.

Cat Bite - photo by vainglory

The more difficult "problem" to deal with is if your cat bites you aggressively for no apparent reason. In a normal household with decent cat caretakers and well socialized cat(s) this will not happen. For a cat to bite his or her "owner" the cat has to be nervous and defensive and/or in pain or discomfort. Something will be wrong from the cat's point of view.

Assuming that the cat is:
  • not ill and
  • not in discomfort and 
  • not being mishandled by his human caretaker and
  • is well socialized, 
...it is likely that he is insecure for some reason. There are likely to be environmental reasons. We create the environment. Cats like calm, quiet, routine and a reassuring home. These areas should be checked out. We should ask if we have created the correct environment. Check for illness with your vet as a precaution.

There are other reasons why a cat might be aggressive but these will probably be one-off incidences. If a person is asking, "how to stop my cat from biting me" it implies that it is happening all the time.

Ninety percent (90%) of the time, the reason why a cat is biting his owner will be because of something the owner has done and/or created provided the cat has been socialized to animals and humans during the first 7 weeks of his life.

You might ask yourself if your cat is socialized to domestic life. Breeders will ensure that the cats they breed are socialized. They are allowed to run around the house and interact with other animals, visitors and the breeder's family. Without that the cat will behave like a feral or semi-feral cat and be defensive towards people causing him to bite when approached.

How To Pick Up A Cat

Here are some rules on picking up a cat from both a common sense and medical standpoint. Firstly, we should ask whether we are picking up our cat because we want to or because we need to. In general cats who know us don't mind being picked up and many will like it once they are settled in your arms or on your shoulder although cats tend to have a time limit on how long they like to be held. The time limit can be quite short. We should be sensitive to the time limit.

It is probably fair to say that we should not pick up our cat to please ourselves too much or for too long. We should not automatically presume that cats like to be picked up and held by us. Cats don't naturally have that desire in my opinion. It is more natural for people to pick things up and hold them or cuddle them. Often, therefore, the motivation to pick up a cat comes from us and on that basis we should make sure our cat likes it or tolerates it well.

We should be able to read a cat's demeanour to assess whether he or she is in the mood to be picked up. This leads to the question whether your cat has a character that is predisposed to being picked up. Some cats like it, some don't and some are in the middle. You have to figure out where your cat is in that range. Note: feral and/or stray cats should not be grabbed and picked up. The cat does not know you and will be defensive. You are likely to get scratched and then some people will probably blame the cat. It would be wrong to blame the cat. We must remember that we are many times larger than a domestic cat. We can be intimidating just by our presence, which can prompt defensive behavior in the cat.

When picking up your cat, the underlying principle is to make sure that he or she is well supported when you do it. That is obvious but children or inexperienced cat caretakers tend to grab a cat in both hands at the shoulders and lift. This leaves the rest of the body hanging down. That puts strain on the cat's body and in fact makes it harder for the person to hold on to the cat anyway. The best way is to place one hand under the cat's chest and the other under the cats body near to the hind legs and lift. Then the cat can be placed on your shoulder or in a more vertical position near your body. However, cats like to remain in a natural, upright position. We should cooperate in that desire. Sometimes people cradle a cat like a baby, with the cat's belly pointing upwards. This is incorrect. It is the person thinking that a cat is a baby. A cat will not like this position and may wriggle and become defensive. Some cats may accept it but nonetheless it is not sensible to do it.

Always comply with the cat's preferences and desires. Don't force your cat to do things to please yourself. It won't work and will make your cat stressed and distant from you emotionally.

If you have to pick up a cat and the cat is apprehensive you can pick him up by the scruff of the neck provided the rest of the body is supported and the cat is not overweight. The cat will go into kitten-mode and relax as if being carried by his mother. It should be done with care. Although this may not happen for older cats.

If you are picking up your cat to give medicine such as a pill (I advise using a pill-gun) I have found that a good technique is to use a towel. Cats don't like being given pills. They might try and force your hands away and might scratch you inadvertently. I place the folded towel on a flat surface at counter height and lift my cat to the towel. Gently push him onto his belly and then wrap the towel around him ensuring that the forelegs are inside the towel. It takes a bit of practice and some cats will be very resistant. But once achieved it is much easier to deliver the pill as you have control.

An alternative to the towel is a special cat bag which zips up around the cat leaving the head outside. I have not used these and cats will in general dislike them, I suspect.

If delivering a pill, it can be useful to have an assistant as she can help to reassure the cat and keep him still while you administer the pill. 

Never wrestle with your cat when picking him up for whatever reason. You'll lose that battle and make things worse for the next time. Cats will remember bad experiences and become defensive. It is better to tease and trick a cat into doing something. We should be smarter than them. Although sometimes I doubt that.

Finally, the completion of the process should be gentle! Your cat should be placed on the ground carefully and on all fours.

Friday 2 December 2011

Bengal Tiger Habitat

The Bengal tiger habitat varies with the area. In North India and Nepal, the habitat is tall grasslands, riverine forests and dry thorn forest.  In West Bengal and Bangladesh the Bengal tiger lives in mangrove swamps. In Bhutan it lives in forests. Over 60% of Bhutan is covered with forests. The amount is declining.

For the record, "habitat" means the area and environment where the tiger lives.

At 2011, the Bengal tiger is found in these countries:
  1. India, 
  2. Nepal, 
  3. Bhutan, 
  4. Bangladesh.
In Bhutan it lives on the slopes of the Himalayan Mountains and not in reserves. While in India and Bangladesh it lives in reserves. There are 38 reserves, 32 of which are maped out below. If you click on the flags you may see a photograph of Bengal tiger habitat.

View Bengal Tiger Reserves India in a larger map

See a page on the Bengal tiger reserves of India.

In order to show the Bengal tiger habitat I have selected two reserves and Bhutan. Bhutan is different because the Bengal tiger has retired there to a safe haven at high altitude and the environment there is somewhat different to that of the reserves. One reserve that is also not typical is the Sunderbans (also spelled "Sudarbans). This is an area of sea water mangrove swamps to which the tiger has become adapted.

Sunderbans National Park and Tiger Reserve

As mentioned this park is made up of mangrove swamps. Here are two pictures of a Bengal tiger in the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve swimming across a river or esturary. The pictures are by Nikhil Devasar and courtesy the Sunderbans National Park website.

Bengal in its habitat in Sunderbans National Park - Photo: Nikhil Devasar

Bengal in its habitat in Sunderbans National Park - Photo: Nikhil Devasar


Area in world:

In Bhutan, the Bengal tiger has been photographed at 4,000 feet above sea level. This is the highest at which this subpecies of tiger has been found. What is the habitat like in the area? These pictures show us:

Bhutan Forest - picture: RAO Online
Tiger in Bhutan - still from BBC video.

See also: Tigers of Bhutan for a critique.

Ranthambore National Park

This is one of the major tiger reserves of India and relatively close to the capital, Delhi. This is what the Bengal tiger habitat looks like in the park:

Ranthambore National Park and tiger reserve - Photo by d.e.v.e.s.h

Ranthambore National Park and tiger reserve - Photo by d.e.v.e.s.h

Ranthambore is 1,334 sq km in size. The habitat is described as "dry thorn forests". You can also see grasslands at Ranthambore.

Habitat Selection

Bengal tiger habitat is selected by the tiger on the basis of suitable prey available and its density in any particular place. The tiger needs large prey to survive. Certain habitats support certain prey and in the tiger food chain the tiger prey is both herbivores and carnivores although large herbivores are primary prey. The tiger will eat anything but its main diet is wild pigs and deer of various kinds.

See also Bengal Tiger Habitat, an earlier page.

How To Check a Cat's Eyes

Some tips on checking a cat's eyes from the best book on cat health. There is a post about dilated pupils that was created a long time ago and it seems that the vets that the cat owners visited were unsure what was causing it. Cats do compensate well for a loss of one of the senses, which masks the presence of the medical condition.

Cat eye problems can be seen when the eye waters, there is something in the eye, the cat blinks a lot, the cat paws at the eye, the nictitating membrane (third eyelid) is visible, the pupils are constantly dilated (my observation), or the cat indicates by his or her actions that the eye is painful.

Examine the cat's eyes in a darkened room. Use a flashlight (torch) and a magnifying glass, which allows you to examine the surface of the eye in more detail and possibly even inside the eye.

The cat needs to be immobile. I find this is best done by wrapping a thick towel around your cat and placing him on a counter top - all done with care and gentleness. But some cats will be cooperative without the need to do that.

Some immediate questions to ask on observing the eyes:
  • Do both eyes look the same? Comparing one with the other is a way of comparing an eye that has a problem with a normal eye if the problem is in one eye. Are they the same size, shape and colour?
  • Do the eyes bulge or are they recessed?
  • Are the eyes cloudy?
  • Is there a discharge?
Flash the light over the cornea (the outer surface of the eye) to check that it is clear. Check for signs of injury. The pupils of both eyes should be the same size. Pupils should narrow down to slits when the torch is pointed towards the eye (with caution). A test to check the cat's vision is to cover one eye and move your finger towards the other eye, whereupon the eye will blink when the finger is close to the eye.

Also with caution and gentleness you can push down on the eyeball with the eyelid closed. Does it feel hard? Does the cat indicate pain?1. A vet should be consulted promptly on signs of any indications of illness.

Note: (1) Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook ISBN 978-0-470-09530-0

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