Sunday 21 February 2021

Cat litter catastrophe! Cat upends litter tray.

This is a cat litter catastrophe! The cat upends the litter tray with urine and poop in it. You can see why it happened in the video. He is resting his legs on the edge of the tray which levers it up and over. It must have happened before. How else would the cat's owner have decided to prepare themselves to video it? 

Cat upends litter tray
Cat upends litter tray. Screeshot.

So how would you prevent this happening and why did it happen? One possibility is that the tray is a little bit too small which encouraged the cat to go to the edge which in turn encouraged him to put his forepaws on the raised edge of the tray which levered the tray over. A slightly bigger tray might have prevented it. Looking at the tray it is pretty obvious that it is too small. It should be twice this size for this cat.

Further, if the sidewall was a little deeper that would have certainly prevented it. I think that is the biggest factor in this cat litter catastrophe but it is linked to tray size. The size and depth of the litter tray is important in the world of domestic cats. I have a page on litter tray size which you can read by clicking here.

Note: Sometimes videos stop working if they are embedded from other sites as this one is. If that has happened I apologise. I won't know about it.

It is interesting to ask why the cat should place himself right on the edge of the tray like this. In addition to the reason given,  it must be to do with the relative unpleasantness of pooping and peeing inside the tray. It is more pleasant and acceptable for the cat to position himself on the extreme edge. That may be partly due to the size of the tray as mentioned and partly because there was pee or poop in the tray before he got in. Another slight possibility is that he sometimes poops in the human toilet and he is positioning himself as if he is on a human toilet. That's what it looks like.

Comment from one: "I have 7 inside cats and this has never happened. Too small a litter box. Needs to be deeper and if necessary a top on it. Not the cats fault!"

Saturday 20 February 2021

Can I get toxoplasmosis from petting my cat?

No, you cannot get toxoplasmosis from petting your cat. You might get it from handling faeces from your cat in which there are toxoplasma gondii oocysts. It is rare though. A child might get them on her hands if she plays in a sandpit where a cat has pooped. The child then may put her hands into her mouth, as children do, and ingest the oocysts which would cause an infection in the child. But, I stress, you cannot get toxoplasmosis from petting your cat.

T. gondii oocyst
T. gondii oocyst. Image: MikeB.

It is interesting to note, by the way, that contact with your cat generally has no influence on the probability of people having antibodies to the parasite. In other words, contact with your cat does not expose you to toxoplasmosis resulting in antibodies being produced inside you as a defence against this disease. Kissing your cat might be more problematic. Read about it by clicking here.

That is why only 20% of people in the United Kingdom have antibodies to toxo. In contrast to that percentage, 80% of French and Germans do have antibodies to toxo because they eat more raw or undercooked meat.

That tells the clear tale that by far the majority of infections in humans of toxoplasmosis comes from eating raw meat. Let's do justice to the domestic cat and not frighten ourselves unnecessarily. If you want to protect yourself against toxoplasmosis then prepare your raw meats properly and don't eat like the French and Germans do!

I should also stress, by the way, that being infected with toxo from cat faeces can only happen during a two-week window in which the parasite is viable after the cat's first consumption of contaminated wildlife. It's a short period of time which further highlights the point that people can live with domestic cats safely and they should not be fearful of contracting toxoplasmosis from the cat. This also applies to pregnant women who simply have to take some precautions.

On that subject, if you are pregnant, you can reduce the risk in several ways:

  • by wearing gloves when handling raw meat and by washing your hands afterwards;
  • only eat thoroughly cooked meat or meat which has been smoked, cured or frozen for at least three days;
  • by washing vegetables and fruit thoroughly before eating them; 
  • and by wearing rubber gloves when gardening.

You need a license to keep a serval in the UK

I have just written about a young, one-year-old serval being taken away by the police from a man who was looking after her in Putney, London, UK. He didn't have a licence but he claimed that he was applying for one. He also claims that he wasn't trying to evade the requirement to have a licence. He is distraught because this serval, called Zena, was in a close friendship with his daughter. The man's name is James Brown. He appears to live with a female partner in a house but it might be a ground floor flat.

Zena a one year old pet serval who was confiscated from her owner because he did not have a licence (UK law for certain wild cat species)
Zena a one year old pet serval who was confiscated from her owner because he did not have a licence (UK law for certain wild cat species). Photo: James Brown.

He says the cat is friendly and there were no problems. Although he adopted Zena from another person who gave her up because he hadn't realised how difficult it was to look after a serval. This proves my point made in a recent article I wrote on this website about the unsuitability of looking after a serval or any other wild cat species as a pet. In the UK some wild cat species require a licence in order to keep them and others don't. Personally I don't see the logic in the list which I have reproduced below. See below:

Law on keeping exotic wild cat species as pets
Law on keeping exotic wild cat species as pets - license required for some species.

Zena will be checked out medically and then relocated to a wildlife sanctuary for what appears to be the remainder of her life. James Brown will not see her again, I suspect. He has petitioned online to get her back but so far without success.

A neighbour ratted on him because they saw zena in the window looking out the window as cats do. It was a bit of cat television for the serval and a bit of anguish for the serval's owner. In the UK you apply for a licence from the local authority. In James Brown's case that would have been Wandsworth County Council.

I suspect that it isn't a pushover to get a licence because you will have to demonstrate that you have the means, time, education, skills, commitment and facilities to do a decent job of it. Not everybody can demonstrate that. You have to go into adopting and looking after a wild cat as a pet with your eyes wide open both to the commitment required and the legal requirements.

In this instance the man failed because he didn't go into it with enough preparation and knowledge. Although, as he claims, there appears to have been no real issues but we don't know the full story. As I mentioned in my previous article it can be difficult to look after a serval in the home. They sometimes spray urine which is very distressing and the amount of spaces well below that required emotionally for a serval (they need up to 10 square kilometres). This results in them trying to escape and not infrequently they succeed because they are very slippery and difficult to confine.

Once they get out of the home they are incredibly vulnerable to being hit by vehicles on the road or being injured by people. This last point particularly applies in America where there are a plethora of handguns and rifles inside homes. There have been cases of escaped servals being shot because the neighbours fear that they are dangerous and see them as an escaped wild animal perhaps from a zoo or something like that.

Serval cats as pets

Do servals make good pets? They can be very attractive. Look at this photograph below of a young serval in someone's home sitting on the bed looking blissfully happy. What's wrong with that? It looks as though it worked out very well. But we don't know the back story. And I don't want to paint an incorrect or too negative a picture because it can work out quite well (rarely).

Pet serval looking happy
Pet serval looking happy. Photo: Cats of Instagram

But in my opinion having a serval as a pet is likely not to work out that well for various reasons. Firstly, they are a wild cat species. If they are raised from a new-born kitten by humans they might fit in quite well. But if they are adopted as a young animal then they will never be a true domestic cat. They might spray in the home to mark territory which is incredibly upsetting to the owner but very reassuring to the cat!

This is a tamed serval at A1 Savannahs many years ago. I made the video. He was a quite small serval. Probably a subadult.

They might want to escape the home but you've got to keep them inside because they can't be allowed to wander around outside unsupervised. There have been countless numbers of servals who have escaped homes and ended up being killed on the roads or shot by some policeman in America because they terrify the neighbours. 

The fact that they want to escape the confinement of their tiny space (from their point of view) is indicative of a stressed unhappiness. The problem is that people regard them as exotic pets like domestic cats when they are not. 

And sometimes owners declaw servals which is cruel and immoral. If you want to adopt a serval then at least adopt the entire animal and accept them. But they are quite big; the size of a good size dog but much slenderer. They're bigger than greyhound dogs for example. I'm referring to full-sized adults servals. They will vary in size and the female serval might be about the size of greyhound. But they won't be as placid as a greyhound. Not normally anyway. It does depend upon circumstances and I don't want to generalise.

Martin Stucki formerly A1 Savannahs owner and tame serval
Martin Stucki formerly A1 Savannahs owner and tame serval. Photo: MikeB.

I can see why owners of servals declaw them because I was slapped by a male serval once because I must've upset him as I was inside his enclosure. He slapped me on the hand and it hurt because their claws are about the size of a good-sized dog. And they hiss and make demands on their owners. You've got to be a dedicated cat lover with plenty of time on your hands. I don't think you can go to work and own serval. You have to be there all the time.


I would not like to go to work knowing I had a serval in my living room. You would not know what you would come back to. I just don't think it works out but exceptionally it might, as mentioned, because you may live in a big house in the country with plenty of space around the house and a big garden together with an enclosure outside. You can make compromises and make adjustments to your lifestyle so that your serval lives as contentedly as possible.

Sienna Jones, four, towers over Anubis now but the serval will eventually weigh up to 50lb LAURA DALE/CATERS NEWS AGENCY

Sienna Jones, four, towers over Anubis now but the serval will eventually weigh up to 50lb. Photo: LAURA DALE/CATERS NEWS AGENCY

Click this link if you want to read the story of the serval and the child in the photo above.

But you have to remember that servals need about 10 km² or more to live in normally. If they are confined to a standard home it is going to feel like prison to them. And I believe that this feeling will be there whether they were raised from a new-born kitten in a home or not. I believe that this emotion is in their DNA. They need to roam over 10 km² to hunt. That's their territory. That's their home range. They inherit that trait just to stress the point! It is why they want to escape and they are sneaky 😏.

That is another reason why I don't think it works to have a serval as a pet. But they are popular in America because people consider them to be exotic and people like to possess beautiful things. And don't forget the conservation aspects of it. To keep a serval as a pet I believe undermines conservation of the serval and all wild cats. We should leave them alone, give them space to live, not take their space from them or destroy their habitat. Let them thrive away from people. 

Servals come from Africa.

Are felines carnivores?

I would hope and expect that 99.9% of the world's population know that felines are carnivores. They are meat eaters. It is stronger than that. They have to eat meat because they are what are called 'obligate carnivores'. They are obliged to eat the flesh of animals due to their evolution. They are specialists as genetic mutations have lead them to becoming dependent on the flesh of animals.

But it is not as straightforward as that. Although evolution dictates that they have to eat the flesh of animals they do also eat the stomach contents of the animals that they kill. The stomach contents will be vegetation because they prey upon animals that feed on vegetation i.e. herbivores. So felines also eat vegetation.

A lot of commercially prepared cat food is based on polluted carcasses of animals
A lot of commercially prepared cat food is based on polluted carcasses of animals and therefore arguably plant based foods + added nutrients is better in quality. Image: MikeB.

Also, we know that domestic cats sometimes eat grass. That is a plant and the plant is not an animal! And therefore felines are not exclusively carnivores. They eat grass, it is believed, because grass contains folic acid which is missing in their diet. Folic acid plays a role in the production of haemoglobin, the oxygen carrying protein found in red blood cells. Although there are many theories about why cats eat grass.

The snow leopard specifically eats a certain bush i.e. vegetation and it is my theory that they do this because it increases the amount of oxygen in their bloodstream. It therefore enhances their ability to live at high altitude. I stress that this is my theory because no scientist has studied this. Although I have an article about the snow leopard being partly vegetarian! You can click here to read that article if you wish. Note: In Pakistan more than 22% of faeces of snow leopards inspected contained plant matter and in Ladakh (in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir ) more than 50% contained vegetation including willow and Myricaria bushes (Myricaria germanica)

Another point worth making about felines being carnivores is that there is a trend nowadays towards eating plant protein rather than protein from the muscle of animals. This is to help curb climate change. Therefore manufacturers have started to sell plant-based dry cat food for domestic cats. On the face of it this is not going to work but the manufacturers add the nutrients necessary to make the food balanced for domestic cats. You can make your own mind up about it but I believe that as long as the essential nutrients are present at a microbiological level then the food is nutritious.

There is a caveat to that last statement and that is this. A recent study decided that if you want to curb the hunting of the domestic cat (and a lot of cat owners do) you should feed them with a high quality grain-free entirely meat-based wet cat food. You should find that they hunt less. It appears that "complete and balanced" wet cat food normally available is not quite as complete as it should be and therefore the domestic cat decides to hunt mice in order to supplement what they might consider to be a deficient diet from their perspective.

This is a novel approach to curbing domestic cat hunting. Further work is needed on this. But domestic cat wet cat food and dry cat food can be quite deficient and too far removed from a natural prey animal such as a mouse. Dry cat food is highly artificial for example. It's convenient but there are deficiencies with it. And there's too much plant material to bulk up cat food and to keep the price down. But hundreds of millions of cats fed on this type of cat food and they survive on it but we don't know how much health damage it does to them in the long term.

To return to the question in the title: are felines carnivores? Yes, is the answer because evolution dictates that. They have become highly specialised due to their evolution and dependent upon a meat-based diet. In the wild they satisfy that evolutionary demand by preying on wild animals and sometimes livestock (e.g. the mountain lion). But in the human world, people have found ways to feed the domestic cat with plant protein and dry foods containing grain which is less than ideal.

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