Monday, December 24, 2012

The Characteristics of the British Shorthair Cat

The history of the British Shorthair goes back to the days when the Romans first invaded what we now call Great Britain. The Romans brought with them shorthaired cats that were originally imported from Egypt. These cats bred freely until concentrated efforts were made to breed for certain traits. This didn't occur until the end of the 19th century. There was a great interest in the blue color, so most breeders bred what they called British Blues. Some of these breeders introduced Persian blood into the mix.

Breeding of these cats continued until World War I (WWI) when the Governing Council of Cat Fancy declared that only 3rd generation offspring of the British Shorthair/Persian crosses were acceptable. This drastically reduced the cats acceptable in breeding programs and very nearly led to the destruction of the British Shorthair as a cat breed.

Luckily, a few dedicated breeders came together to save their beloved British Shorthairs. They crossed the British Shorthairs they had with domestic shorthairs, Persians, and even Russian Blues. It took a while, but by the 1970s the British Shorthair cat was a strong breed once again.

It was in June of 1979 that the British Shorthair was recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA). The longhaired version of the breed, however, was not recognized until May of 2009.

The Appearance of the British Shorthair

This particular breed is medium in size but has a compact and powerful build. The legs are short but strong and the chest is broad. The tail of the British Shorthair is shorter than most other breeds in addition to being quite thick. The eyes are large and round and can be either copper or gold. The nose of this cat is shortened sort of like a Persian.

The coat of the British Shorthair should be dense and soft, feeling very like a thick pile carpet. The beautiful blue coat is the most common and most desirable in this cat breed, but all other colors are acceptable. The coat doesn't tangle or mat, so this cat requires very little grooming. A quick brush one a week is usually sufficient.

These cats can weight up to eighteen pounds. They are also quite sedentary and prone to gaining weight. You can prevent this by feeding the cat a diet high in protein and talking to your vet about other ways to keep your cat at a healthy weight. Activity can also help, so play with you cat often.

Other than the weight issue, there aren't very many real health problems with this cat. There is a slight medical oddity, but it doesn't affect your cat in any real way. This oddity is the blood type of most British Shorthairs. 40% of all British Shorthairs are blood type B despite this blood type being rare among British moggies (think of a moggie as a mutt, but a cat instead of a dog). It's an oddity, but not an important one.

The Personality of the British Shorthair

British Shorthairs are loyal and affectionate, but they're also aloof. They don't generally like to be carried around and they aren't a natural lap cat. This cat breed can tolerate small children and animals, but they're just as happy to live alone. They don't need a companion cat as many other breeds do. The males tend to be more affectionate while the females are more aloof.

The British Shorthair as a breed makes a good pet for a quieter household. While they can adapt to almost any situation, they prefer a home with quite adults and plenty of space to nap.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Characteristics of the Bombay Cat

The modern Bombay cat came out of a desire for a black cat with eyes as bright as copper pennies. Early efforts at stabilizing these traits were unsuccessful. Success was eventually found in 1965 and the Bombay was granted championship status in 1970 by several associations. From there, the breed continued to spread. Today, it is a common breed among cat fanciers.

The Appearance of the Bombay Cat

A deep, true black is the only acceptable color for the Bombay cat and this breed must have copper-colored eyes (though gold is also acceptable, if less desirable). They're basically like a tiny blank panther. The coat of this cat breed is shiny and bright and needs only a brushing once a week to keep it like this.

Bombays are a medium sized cat with a strong and well muscled body. The head should be round and the eyes should be almost too large for the face. This cat is quick and svelte and fully ready to spring at the slightest provocation.

The Personality of the Bombay Cat

Bombays like to play. They are rather like kittens throughout their entire lives. Inquisitive and easy-going, this breed is one of those likely to meet you at the door when you get home from work. They love to be around people and enjoy a large family. Because they don't do well on their own, you should not leave a Bombay all by itself. If you're away from home all day, you really should consider getting two Bombay cats so they can keep each other company.

This cat gets along with everyone. They are the perfect cat for families with young children and anyone who already has a dog or cat at home. They are adaptable and happy cats and will become a part of any family willing to love them.

Known Health Issues of the Bombay

Because these cats are descended from the Burmese, they share similar health problems. They're carefully bred, but this can sometimes lead to cranial deformities and breathing problems. Bombays are bred for their foreshortened nose, but this can cause wheezing and excessive tearing of the eyes. Not all lines have these problems. Talk to your breeder about health problems in their cats. This will give you an idea of what health problems you might expect.

The Bombay is a fun-loving cat who likes to be with people. If you're looking for a cat who sometimes thinks he's a dog and will sleep on your lap until the sky falls down, you might be looking for a Bombay.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Characteristics of the Birman Cat

The Birman is a cat breed that is medium-large in size with a round head and a stocky build. The feet have white gloves and the back legs have laces extending halfway up. The coat is long, soft, silky, and pointed, but the thickness of the coat will vary according to the season. The coat will generally be fuller in the cooler months and sleeker in the warmer months. Birman cats come in all pointed colors including blue, lilac, seal, and chocolate. The tail, face, paws, and ears are pointed while the body is typically a cream color.

The ears of this cat breed are very wide. Almost as wide as they are tall, actually. The eyes are round and fairly large. They should also be a bright blue, giving the Birman a wide-eyed majesty. The body should be long and sturdy and the tail should balance this body nicely. The legs must be well-muscled and in proportion to the body. Extremely long or short legs are cause for disqualification in the show ring and cats displaying this problem will not be used in breeding programs.

The coat of the Birman cat is not prone to matting, but it needs frequent care just the same. If you own a Birman, you should brush out the coat two or three times a week to prevent matting and other problems. The ears should also be cleaned and excess hair removed from the canal.

If you're looking for a laid back cat who is good with children, you might be looking for a Birman. These cats also get along with other animals most of the time and can peacefully coexist with dogs given a little time to adjust, and can even grow used to farm animals such as horses and sheep. They can also happily be the only pet in the household. They're not picky. Birman cats tend to spend much of their day sleeping and tend to stay out of the way.

They are, however, affectionate cats. Birmans like to know their family loves them. Like the Siamese, the Birman is talkative, but they like a response. If you ignore them, they'll likely stop talking, so engage your feline friend as often as possible.

This is not a breed you can leave at home for days while you're off socializing. Birman cats need stimulation, activity, and time for play. They like toys, but they like people more. They will become bored with nothing to do, and a bored cat is a destructive cat. When not playing or sleeping, the Birman likes to cuddle, so they make a good lap cat.

As a breed, the Birman tends to be fairly healthy with few genetic disorders. There will occasionally be health problems in specific breeding lines, but your breeder should be aware of these and will be able to explain them to you. Most responsible breeders won't breed lines with significant problems, so true health problems in Birman cats are rare.

As a breed, the Birman is sweet and loving. They make great companions for people of all ages and are a wonderful addition to most families.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cat Breeds: Bengal

Bengals are a result of the desire to have a domestic cat that looks and even behaves like a wild jungle cat. The Bengal as we know it today was actually created by Jean Mill in the late 1970s. Mill, who was living in Covina, California at the time, was hoping to reproduce the spotted pattern, colors, and facial qualities of the Asian Leopard Cat. She inherited eight female cats, who were the products of a cross between the Asian Leopard Cat and domestic shorthairs, from a researcher at the University of California. These eight cats would be the first cats in her breeding program.

Of course, you need males for a successful breeding program. Mill added two male cats to her program. One of these was found at a zoo in Delhi, India and was a feral cat, orange in color with deep brown rosettes. The second came from a shelter in Los Angeles and was a simple brown spotted tabby. Both cats were shorthairs, but that's all they seemed to have in common.

Fast forward ten years (1986, to be exact) and there were more than two hundred Bengals all across the United States. The breed was registered with The International Cat Association (TICA). After several years, once Bengals had exhibited a normal sterility profile and was the same on a cellular level as other domestic cats, the breed became eligible to compete. The first Bengals competed in May of 1991. Since this recognition, outcrosses have not been allowed. What this means is that for a cat to be considered a Bengal, both parents must be full-blooded Bengals.

The Bengal is a standard-size cat ranging from six to fifteen pounds. Males are usually at the larger end of this spectrum, but there are exceptions to this rule. Cats are well muscled and are considered among the most athletic of cats.

The spotted coat of the Bengal may be distinct and recognizable by most cat fanciers, but it's not the only Bengal coat. Spots may be either large or small and may have a two-toned appearance. Another coat pattern accepted by most associations is the marble pattern. This is a swirling pattern that looks either like flowing horizontal lines or random swirls. Some cats even have a slightly iridescent appearance. This is called the glitter effect and is highly prized by breeders. Different associations accept different patterns, but they're really all Bengals.

Bengals come in a wide variety of colors, but the black or brown tabby is the most common. Acceptable colors also include grey, bronze, copper, gold, or even mahogany. All Bengals should have spotting or marbling to some extent. The spots or marbling should be either black or a rich brown.

Snow Bengals and silver Bengals are rare but prized. Snow Bengals carry a recessive pointed gene that causes a cream coat with a pearly shimmer. These cats also have blue eyes. Silver Bengals have a white or grey coat with dark grey patterns. Both are you standard Bengal except that they are exhibiting recessive traits.

The personality of the Bengal can take many new owners by surprise. Bengals are not that far removed from their wild ancestors and can sometimes be nervous and a little unruly. They are not generally recommended for families with young children. They are also inquisitive, active, and easily bored. They need something to do at all times, but don't get two unless you love chaos. Two Bengals cause all kinds of trouble.

Bengals need lots of space to run, jump, and climb. It's not usual to find a Bengal perched on a curtain rod or climbing a doorway. They tend to like water and will swim in a pool or bathtub at any opportunity. They are not a docile cat, but they can be integrated into a family with older children and pets if you are patient and ready for unexpected action.

Health problems can be persistent and annoying for Bengals. They are prone to Irritable Bowel Syndrome which is aggravated by most commercial cat foods. Bengal cats need more protein and less grains in their food, so you'll have to spend a little more money to keep your cat healthy. They also have a problem with water. While Bengal cats are susceptible to micro-organisms found in unchlorinated water, they also don't handle chlorinated water well. The best approach is to give them distilled water to drink. That or boil unchlorinated tap water.

Like the Ocicat and other man-made spotted cats, the Bengal doesn't always breed true for pattern, which is still something breeders are working on. Regardless, they are an adventuresome cat and make a good pet, but only if you're ready for anything. They're certainly not a tame breed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Characteristics of the Balinese Cat

The history of the Balinese is shrouded in mystery. There are references to a longhaired Siamese (coat length is what separates the Balinese from the Siamese) in 1871 and in 1928 the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) has a registration record for a longhaired Siamese. Despite this, real breeding for the Balinese didn't really begin until the 1950s. Longhaired kittens born into Siamese litters were singled out for a specific breeding pattern and the Balinese was truly born.

In the beginning, there were only four accepted colors -- chocolate, blue, seal, and lilac. But other colors weren't far behind and in 1979 red, cream, and tabby patterns were added to the acceptable colors list. It was still some time, however, before any of these colors in combination with white were considered acceptable. Today, most colors and patterns are acceptable by most cat associations around the world.

The Balinese is very much like the Siamese except for the longer coat. This longhaired breed is elegant, graceful, and muscular in an understated sort of way. The long coat lies close to the body. There is no undercoat, making grooming easier and limiting the mats that often form with other longhaired breed. The tail is long and plumed with hair that can grow up to 5 inches in length. The body is a creamy white and the markings on the coat should be restricted to the tail, legs, ears, and face.

The eyes of all Balinese should be brilliant blue, very much like glittering sapphires. The legs should be long and the body should be svelte. Some of the larger cats can weigh as much as 8 pounds, though most are closer to 6 pounds. This breed does need some grooming to remove dead hairs and keep the cat comfortable, but the coat doesn't really mat so a weekly brushing is really all that is required.

If you want to understand the personality and temperament of the Balinese, look to the Siamese. A Balinese is one of the most vocal of cats, often having little "conversations" with the people around them. They are also loyal and love to be around people, though they can play the aloof game as well as any other cat breed.

These cats are incredibly intelligent and easily bored, so work to keep your feline companion occupied. They can become destructive is left alone for too long, so if you have to be away from the house for more than 4 or 5 hours, you should probably consider getting a second cat. They need the companionship and they're less likely to dig a hole in your prized couch if they have a friend to occupy their time.

It's important to note that the Javanese is very similar to the Balinese. In fact, since some associations still only recognized the four original colors in the Balinese, other colors are usually assigned to the Javanese. These two breeds are almost identical, however, and many enthusiasts make no distinction between them. Both breeds live for many years and have no breed-specific health issues. They also make excellent companions for people of any age.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Characteristics of the American Wirehair

Like many breeds, the American Wirehair is the result of what is assumed to be a spontaneous mutation. In the state of New York a litter of 6 kittens were born, one of which had a short, wiry coat and crimped whiskers. This kitten was purchased by a local breeder and bred to 2 different females with normal coats. When the kittens from these crossings all had wiry coats, it was determined that the gene was dominate. Genetic testing confirmed that the hair was unique and unrelated to the stiff coats of either the Devon or the Cornish Rex. And so the American Wirehair was born.

The American Wirehair is very like the American Shorthair in term of conformation, size, and body type. Its body is muscular and firm and its head is longer than it is wide. The eyes are full and round and the ears are slightly rounded at the tip. They are, all in all, a fairly standard cat.

Except for the little thing that makes them unique. The wiry coat is distinctive, but it's not identical on all cats. It can range from spiked (where your cat looks like you've applied gel to spike his fur) to curly, and the individual hairs might be anything from slightly hooked or bent to truly crimped. Regardless of these variations, all American Wirehairs should have a dense and coarse coat, one that is preferably crimped, over the entire body. The whiskers are always crimped. The coat, which comes in virtually all colors and patterns, should spring back into place when disturbed by petting or otherwise being ruffled.

The only real problem with this type of coat is that the cat will be prone to skin ailments. These could include allergies or simply sensitive skin. To reduce these problems, bath the cat at least once a month and groom him daily. These cats also suffer from excess earwax, so clean their ears on a weekly basis.

The American Wirehair is similar in temperament and personality to the American Shorthair. They are friendly with people and like attention, but they are rarely demanding. They are also independent and like to have time alone. They are quick and intelligent and get along well with most people. They are playful and enjoy older children, though they merely tolerate younger children.

This breed of cat makes a loyal and fun companion for many families and individuals. They are also a great conversation starter whenever friends and family meet your feline companion for the first time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Characteristics of the American Shorthair

The American Shorthair is often confused with the domestic shorthair, but the two are not the same. The American Shorthair is a recognized breed of cat while the domestic shorthair is the term used to describe a cat with short hair of indeterminate breed. The domestic shorthair is not a breed, but rather a type. The American Shorthair is a distinct breed in its own right.

As a breed, the American Shorthair is a social and amiable creature. They are quiet and affectionate and just generally easygoing. They are suitable for most living situations and thrive both in apartments and out on the farm. These cats purr a lot and they purr loudly, so expect to hear them purring from another room. American Shorthair cats do tend to scratch, so provide a scratching post. These cats like to hunt, so if you have a rodent problem, an American Shorthair can probably help.

This cat breed comes in a variety of colors and patterns. There are currently over eighty recognized designs and colors allowable for the American Shorthair. Color is not as important as conformation and appearance. The ideal cat is entirely symmetrical in both body and coat pattern. Females should be smaller than males and the tail should be slightly shorter than the cat. The tail itself is thick and tapers slowly. The face of an American Shorthair should have an open expression and the eyes should be large, almost round, and of almost any color. Gold or green eyes are preferred, but other colors are also allowed.

The coat of an American Shorthair is, of course, fairly short. It is therefore quite low maintenance, though they do tend to shed. The undercoat is thick, however, so you can keep your cat comfortable by brushing him out twice a week. You can bathe your cat if he gets dirty, but don't do this more than every six weeks or so. More frequent bathing could dry out the skin and cause discomfort and flaking.

All in all, these cats make wonderful friends and companions. They are suitable for just about anyone and are affecte enough to live with children and most other pets.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Coat of a Cat: Coat Type

When choosing a cat breed, especially as a companion animal, you need to consider coat type. The type of coat your coat has will determine how much it sheds and how often you will have to groom your coat.

The hairs on a cat grow from tiny pits in the skin called follicles. Primary hairs, also called guard hairs, are the longest ones in a cat's coat. These grow from individual follicles. These are the hairs that lie on top of the coat and may be either soft of bristly, depending on the breed.  These hairs are found on most cats (with the exception of the 'hairless' variety).

Secondary hairs come in two types. Awn hairs are bristly tipped and about medium in length. Down hairs are fine, crinkled, and short in length. All secondary hairs grow in groups from single follicles, making them more likely to tangle and mat.

Grooming needs and shedding are primarily determined by coat type. Cats with a thick undercoats (which consist of secondary hairs) shed more and require more grooming. This is because secondary hair tend to mat and require more attention. So fluffy breeds with a soft undercoat such as the Persian, Himalayan, Balinese, or Birman will require more grooming. These cats have longer hair, but fluffy shorthaired cats shed just as much and need grooming as well.

Cats without the thick undercoat, including the Abyssinian, Siamese, and Oriental Shorthair, will still shed. You really can't avoid it. But they'll drop single hairs instead of large clumps of fuzz. These single hairs are easier to sweep off the couch and don't tend to embed themselves in carpets. These cats don't necessarily require regular grooming, but a quick brush once a week will at least cut down on those pesky hairballs.

Whatever cat you eventually choose, make sure you're aware of their grooming needs. You don't want a cat who's uncomfortable or unhealthy simply because you neglected to do your research.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Coat of the Cat: Coat Length

Just taking a look at the various cat breeds quickly reveals one key difference between many breeds: the length of the coat. Most breeds are shorthaired, such as the American Shorthair, Bombay, Abyssinian, Manx, and so many more. Some are longhaired, such as the Cymric, Persian, and the Ragdoll. Then there are a few of the hairless variety, such as the Cornish Rex and the Sphynx. Coat length is a defining characteristic of many breeds.

In fact, for some breeds coat length is the defining characteristic. The Somali is the Abyssinian with longer hair, but they're not the only breeds separated only by the gene for coat length. In fact, there are six others. These breeds are: the Manx and the Cymric, the Oriental Shorthair and the Oriental Longhair, the Colorpoint Shorthair and the Javanese, the Exotic Shorthair and the Persian, the Scottish Fold and the Scottish Fold Longhair, and the Siamese and the Balinese. Take a look at pictures of the breeds and you'll just how similar they are. If a Somali was born with shorthair, it would pass for an Abyssinian. They're the same cats, just with a different coat length.

Coat length also relegates cats into shorthair or longhair speciality rings at shows, except in the Cat Fanciers' Association where speciality rings are determined by facial type and body conformation. On a practical level, coat length usually determines how much maintence and grooming is required. The Exotic Shorthair will require less grooming than the Persian. It's just a fact. And the hairless breeds require even less.

I talk about hairless breeds now and then, but the term 'hairless' is a bit of a misnomer. Most of the hairless cats are actually covered by a faint peach fuzz, making them shorthaired cats. Still, their hair is so short that if you're classifying cats by coat length, you really should have three categories. I know most associations don't (though there are some that do), but they should. Just my opinion.

So why is coat length important if you're not breeding or showing your cat? Gromming is an issue surely, but so is shedding. Both longhaired and shorthaired cats shed. Only a couple of breeds shed less, but all of them will drop some hair.

When choosing a cat breed as a companion animals, you'll have to consider how much grooming you want to do and how much hair you're willing to put up with. Choose your breed accordingly and save yourself some frustration. There's nothing like the sight of a beautifully-groomed Somali (or insert any longhaired breed here) walking across a sun-lit window sill, but if you're not going to do the grooming, or you're going to hate all the hair, you might want a shorthaired breed.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Size of a Cat and Its Problems for Cat Fanciers

You might think that size wouldn't be a problem for cat fanciers or breeder. After all, most breeds of domestic cat are fairly uniform in size. Shouldn't this make creating new breeds easier? Doesn't it mean that you can cross breeds and experiement without having to consider size?

The answer to the second quesiton is yes. The answer to the first is, unfortunately, no. Unlike dog breeders, who are able to work with a wide variety of sizes, cat fanciers and breeders are very limited in design. The difference between the largest breed and the smallest breed is barely 12 pounds in weight and less than 1 foot in length. The diffference between the largest and shortest facial profiles is only 2 inches. This isn't a lot to work with in terms of developing new breeds.

This presents a problem for cat breeders that dog breeders simply do not face. If you have only one size to choose from, new breeds, or even variations on a single breed, are difficult to come by. Despite this limitation, breeders have managed to create more than fourty distinctive and recognized breeds. While this may not be as many as dog breeders have been able to create, it is still impressive given the limited variables cat fanciers have to work with.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Eyes of a Cat

The eyes are often said to be the windows to the soul, and the eyes of a cat gleam more than most. The romantic notion that a cat's eyes gleam because they house great power or are otherwise mystical in nature is pretty, but there's actually a very scientific explanation for the mysterious luster you found in a cat's eyes.

Cats are the most efficient gleaners of light. Their pupils can dilate to a full half-inch in width or narrow to an almost-invisible slit. Their eyes can take in as much or as little light as they require to effectively see. This trait allows them to see in almost complete darkness. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot see in absolute darkness; Even their sensitive eyes need some light to make sense of the environment. But they can see their surroundings in great detail with only the smallest bit of light.

Cats are not completely color blind, though they can see red only in the emotional sense. By which I mean red is outside their visual abilities. They also can't see orange, since orange is a combination of yellow and red. They can, however, see striking shades of blue, shades we will probably never be able to appreciate.

Felines are also a little farsighted. In fact, their depth of field is in sharpest focus between 7 and 20 feet. This is not to say that they cannot see things outside this field. They can, but they'll see it in sharper detail if it's inside that range.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cat Breeds: American Curl

Like many other breeds, the true origins of the American Curl cat remain a mystery. We do know that a stray kitten was found in California in 1981. This kitten had long silky hair and unique ears. The ears curled backward at the tips. No one really knows where this cat, called Shulamith, came from, but all modern American Curls can be traced back to her.

Shulamith gave birth to her first litter of kittens later that same year and two of the kittens inherited her unique ears. By 1983, breeders had started a breeding program designed to preserve and enhance the mysterious gene that gave these cats their curly ears.

But that may not have been enough to create a new recognized breed if it hadn't been for a man named Roy Robinson. An English feline geneticist of some renown, Robinson analyzed hundreds of kitten from dozens of litters. He determined that the gene for curly ears was an autosomal dominant gene. This meant that a cat with only a single copy of this gene would inherit the curly ears of its parents. But even this may not have been enough to establish the breed if he hadn't conclusively stated that he found no genetic defects in any of the cats he studied. In effect, the American Curl was a new breed, not a mutated or defective version of another breed.

Since Shulamith was found in North American, it's safe to say that the American Curl is native to that continent. American Curls are medium-sized cats with ears that curve up, out, and back. The pull of the ears gives the cat a naturally happy and alert expression. Even when irritated this breed looks like its smiling. The breed may have either long or short hair and may be of many different colors and patterns. You might have a black American Curl or a silver tabby. The defining characteristic is the ears, though the large, almond-shaped eyes are also quite distinctive.

American Curls are not born with curved ears. The ears will begin to curl after about 3-5 days, sometimes a little later. By 16 weeks of age, the ears have reached their final shape. Some cats will have more curl than others.

Because of the limited gene pool (a single cat, Shulamith), other cats without curled ears are bred to American Curls to maintain genetic diversity. Approximately half of these outcrosses will have curled ears and will be used in American Curl breeding programs. This outcrossing makes it difficult to develop a breed standard, which has limited the acceptance of the breed in associations around the world. You might think that a breed such as this would have a few genetic health problems, but American Curls are healthy creatures with a robust constitution.

American Curls are considered one of the friendlier breeds. They like to be with people and tend to follow family members from room to room. They tend to be good with children and adapt well to life with other animals. If you're looking for a vocal cat, the American Curl might not be for you. Instead of loud meows, these cats make soft cooing sounds. These sounds are made by both kittens and cats and full-grown cats act very much like kittens throughout their lives.

This breed is a good pet and companion animal. They are often sought out for their generous and sweet nature and are only rarely purchased as show cats.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cat Breeds: American Bobtail

The American Bobtail is a fairly recent breed of cat that developed from feral cats that naturally have almost no tail. Back in the 1960s, a young couple (John and Brenda Sanders, to be exact) picked up a kitten along the side of the road while driving in Arizona. This kitten had a shortened tail. When this kitten bred to the non-pedigreed cat the Sanders already had, the kittens had this same shortened tail. Charlotte Bentley and Mindi Shultz, friends of the Sanders, saw this and thought that the kittens might have some potential.

But these kittens weren't actually American Bobtails, which were not recognized around the world until 1989. The first Bobtails were born when the kittens were bred to long-haired pointed cats. Feral cats may have been the foundation stock of the American Bobtail, but they are not used in breeding programs today by reputable breeeders. However, because they are descended from wild cats, American Bobtails have very few health issues to speak of. Ask your breeder for any health problems specific to their breeding program.

The Appearance of the American Bobtail

Obviously the Bobtail has a shortened tail, the appearance of which varies from cat to cat. In fact, kittens in the same litter will have different tail lengths. This is because the genetic mutation which results in the shortened tail is a little wild. There is no way to control it and no way to breed for a specific tail length. Breed standard indicate that the tail much be at least one inch without being longer than the hock, and most American Bobtails fall within this range.

The coat of the Bobtail is either short or long and comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Any color is acceptable. It is more the short tail and the well-muscled, solid, graceful, and athletic build of this cat that is judged. But all American Bobtails require regular grooming to stay healthy and presentable. Their fur tangles easily and needs care.

These cats are medium in size with the males ranging from 12 to 16 pounds and the females ranging from 7 to 11 pounds.

The Personality of the American Bobtail

This cats are intelligent and friendly most of the time. They get along well with children and bond to their families in short order. They like attention and hate being left alone, but they're not really the kind of cat the will insist on sitting on your shoulder all day. If you're going to be away, a friend such as a dog or another cat is recommended. They tend to get along well with other animals if introduced slowly, so don't rush introductions.

These cats are neither lazy nor active. They are, in effect, both. When in motion, they're really in motion, dashing about as if being chased by whatever it is they imagine themselves being chased by. But when the American Bobtail decides it's time to laze about, nothing will move them. They're stubborn and will just lay there, often ignoring everything until they're ready to move. Still, they make wonderful and entertaining companions.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Ears of a Cat: Form and Function

A cat's ears have a specific shape that is consistent throughout all breeds of domestic cat. There is a little variation (just look at the ears of a Cornish Rex), but they all stand straight up and form a little triangular cone that naturally faces forward. This is unlike the domestic dog, which varies in ear shape and position (to a certain degree) among the different breeds. The consistency of the shape of the ears provides all cats with the same natural abilities.

The ears of a cat, like the ears of other creatures, receive auditory signals. the upper limit of a cat's hearing is higher than a dog's and almost two full octaves higher than our own. From a distance of at least three feet, cats can discriminate between sources of sound that are as little as three inches apart. This ability is enhanced by the cat's ability to rotate their ears until they are almost pointed backwards. Finding and catching prey becomes easier when you can pinpoint exactly where that mouse is simply by hearing it shift in place, so the ears are a practical tool. The cat's ability to pinpoint and identify sound also lets them ignore the sound of their owners' voices from any distance at all! Any cat owner can sympathize with this.

But the ears can also send signals and are, in fact, one of the primary means of communication for a cat. Think about a cat with its ears flattened back. You know that means kitty is not in a good mood. Relaxed ears mean a relaxed body. Ears which are pricked forward slightly mean alertness. You can tell the mood of your cat simply by looking at the ears regardless of which breed your cat happens to be.

Beyond their practical functions, the ears of a cat are just plain cute. Who can resist the urge to stroke the soft hair that grows on the backs of the ears? And if you scratch the base of the ears, most cats almost fall over in ecstasy. So the ears are decorative as well as functional and are a necessary part of the anatomy of the cat.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cat Stories: Long-Lost Taffy

It's been months since I posted anything other than articles relating to cat breeds, cat care, and cat anatomy. So I thought I'd mix things up a bit and post a story about a cat I once had when i was a kid. Well, sort of had. Her name was Taffy and she came from a farm not far away from us. She was an excellent mouser, scared off dogs, and was sweet and affectionate with us kids. She also produced a litter of kittens every summer to our delight.

But as she got older, Taffy started to disappear. At first, she'd only be gone for a week or so. Maybe two weeks. But time marched on and she'd be gone for weeks at a time. We'd worry, but she always came back, and always in one piece.

Finally, she wandered into the field one spring just before the snow melted and this time she didn't come back. We watched for her for weeks, but as the snow faded away and the flowers began to bloom, we finally gave up hope. My two sisters and I cried over her, assuming that she'd been killed during her wanderings. Perhaps she'd been hit on the road or eaten by a coyote. Or maybe a cougar as one had been spotted in the area. Whatever had happened to her, we were sure we'd never see her again. So sure that we held a little funeral, as little girls are wont to do, attended by our others cats, our dogs, and our horses. Most of our stuffed animals were there as well. It was a moving and depressing spring afternoon.

Time moved, as it always does, and while we grieved for our lost feline friend, the summer soon washed over us. We found ourselves running in the fields and tearing through the garden without a care in the world. July melted away and August was in full bloom with a heat wave upon us as we had a picnic out in the hay field. The sun beat down as we drank lemonade and caught grasshoppers. The afternoon wore on and we eventually packed our basket so we could head back to the house.

As we gathered up the picnic blankets, a sound floated over the field. At first we thought it was one of the barn cats wandering out into the field to hunt. But my older sister happened to glance over her shoulder and she suddenly turned, focusing on the distant grasses.

"Look," she whispered to no one in particular.

My younger sister and I did, straining to see what she saw. The sound came again and a flash of beige fur caught our attention. We caught our breath as if we were one person. The sound. The flash. I was the first one to speak, though I'm sure we all recognized her.

"Taffy!" I squealed the way only a little girl can.

We all started running toward the cat who was leaping through the field, heading toward us will all possible speed. We abandoned the basket and blankets as we fell to our knees and cuddled her to us, thankful that our little sweetheart was back in our arms. But she was different, and we'd seen her in this state often enough to understand.

"She's pregnant," I stated, running my hands over her swollen belly.

"Not just pregnant," my older sister replied. "She'd having her kittens. Right now."

We didn't waste any more time. My older sister bundled her up in her sweater and we all but ran back to the house. My mother saw us coming and pulled open the door, ushering us into the house while firing questions at my older sister.

"Mom, not now," she replied quickly. "Taffy's having kittens."

"Again?" My mother rolled her eyes as she said this, for Taffy had indeed blessed us with a litter every summer for the past four years.

No one answered as Taffy squirmed in my sister's arms and finally sank her teeth into the exposed flesh of my sister's hand to gain her freedom. Without any hesitation at all, Taffy ran to the back of the house and down the stairs to the basement. We, excited little girls that we were, dashed down the stairs after her.

At the time, all three of us had cute little rooms in the basement. It was an old farmhouse and didn't have central air conditioning, so it was much cooler in the basement during the summer heat waves. Taffy, being familiar with the bedrooms that had been set up only a year before, headed straight to my bedroom. Why my room? Because I had this habit of never pushing the draws shut on my dresser.

Taffy took a flying leap into the first open drawer, the one that held my socks and underwear. She moved around for several minutes and finally settled herself on my cotton panties, fluffing them up and making herself a cozy little nest. Not five minutes later, the first of four kittens squirmed his way into the world.

We'd seen it before, this cat giving birth to anywhere from one to four kittens. But it was still  miracle, still made us shut our mouths and watch with wonder. These kittens were larger than normal and had little tuffs of fur on their ears, but they were still sweet little bundles of joy. We smiled as Taffy cleaned them up and revealed their sleek fur.

It would be the last litter of kittens Taffy had at our home. But that's another story ...

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Anatomy of a Cat: Conformation

Muscles and bone are the very foundation of the conformation of a cat. There are 244 bones in the feline skeleton that lend support and substance to the cat's body. These bones also provide protection for the internal organs. In some breeds of cat the bones are as sturdy as a hardwood such as oak. However, some of the more delicate breeds have bones that are more flimsy and less substantial.

In all breeds the bone is surrounded by muscle. The muscles respond to a series of electrical impulses that are originally issued by the brain. Once these impulses are received, the muscles convert them into contractions using a series of chemical transformations. The muscles produce movement, movement which the bones follow. This movement is usually the gracefulness that defines the cat and its delicate body.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Anatomy of a Cat: The Cat's Head and Brain

At cat shows, the head sets the standard for the body in a physical sense. Many judges spend more time studying the head of the cat than any other part of the body. While the points allotted to the rest of the cat should certainly be considered, there can be no argument that the head is of utmost importance.

The largest part of the head is the brain. The brain is located in the cranial cavity and is an enlarged and highly modified continuation of the spinal cord. The nervous system begins and ends here. The brain is divided into two egg-shaped hemispheres whose surfaces are marked by folds which are both thick and numerous. The hemispheres make up the greatest part of the developed brain, and the brain itself is held by the cranial cavity, which is designed to cushion and protect the brain. The rear wall of this compartment is formed by the occiptal bone, whose lower section is perforated by an opening that is almost circular. This opening is for the spinal cord.

Now the brain would be almost useless if it couldn't be kept informed of everything that happens in the body. This is where the cranial nerves come in. There are twelve pairs of cranial nerves. These of these -- optic, olfactory, and auditory -- are there purely to interpret  the special sense of sight, scent, and sound. Five of the pairs -- oculomotor, abducens, hypoglossal, trochlear, and spinal accessory -- are for motor function. The remaining four -- trigeminal, facial, glosso-pharyngeal, and vagus -- are for both sensory and motor functions.

The head of the cat is the seat of most of the major functions of the body. Air intake, food intake, excretory abilities and many other functions are seated here. Though some of these processes are carried out in depth in other areas of the body (such as digestion), they are started in the head. For example, the head produces some digestive enzymes in the salivary glands, and so digestion begins in the mouth.

The head, by way of the pituitary gland (the principle control gland in the body), also influences the endocrine system. Almost a dozen separate function are controlled by hormones manufactured, released, or stored by the pituitary gland. Some of these many functions include growth and even the onset of estrus in female cats.

As the head is solely responsible for acquiring the oxygen and food the body needs, the head should never be ignored during your study of the cat. The brain does so much for the body, but it itself exists on the most simple of chemicals produced in the body. The brain, and the head, asks for very little in return for supplying essential life to the body.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Circulatory System of the Cat: Red Blood Cells

A cat's heart beats 110 to 140 times per minute, sending blood rushing through the body in a mere 11 seconds. And though the circulatory system has many purposes, none is as important as sending oxygen throughout the body. And this is accomplished through the most numerous cell is the cat's body -- the red blood cell.

Red blood cells are so numerous in the cat that I'm not even going to bother typing out the numbers. I don't like seeing that many 0s in a row. But there are a lot and they only live for two to six weeks before they must be replaced. Thankfully, the cat's body is constantly making new red blood cells. This starts when tissue, anticipating a shortage of oxygen, sends out a hormone (erthropoietin) through the bloodstream and to the bone marrow in red blood cell construction sites.  The hormone signals primitive cells to begin to grow.

The primitive cells develop into rubriblasts, which are sort of like adolescent red blood cells. Each of these rubriblasts divides into two separate cells, both of which continue dividing. Eventually, these two red blood cells (abbreviated to RBCs) become 16. The RBCs are composed mainly of water and hemoglobin. Each hemoglobin molecule contains four iron atoms. This allows for the transportation of over 1 billion molecules of oxygen throughout the cat's body.

The cells continue to grow until hemoglobin accounts for 95% of the dry weight of the red blood cell. This takes about three days (out of a six-day RBC production process). At this point, the cell ejects its nucleus in an act of self-sterilization. This leaves the cell free of all distractions. The cell can now work, and work it does. In fact, RBCs work themselves to death as they carry oxygen to the various organs of the body.

Even the shape of the red blood cell is important. It looks a little like an unperofrated doughnut and it is very flexible. So flexible that an RBC can squeeze through the smallest capillaries to deliver fresh oxygen and take away toxic carbon dioxide.

Without the all-important red blood cell, the cat would not be able to function. It is not an exaggeration to say that the red blood cell is the single most important cell in the circulatory system of the cat.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Circulatory System of the Cat

The circulatory system of the cat is comprised of the heart, a network of arteries and veins, and the spleen (which serves as a blood reservoir). A cat's heart rate, beating from 110 to 140 times a minute, is almost twice the normal heart rate of a human. The cat's  body contains half a pint of blood, and this blood is circulated through the body once every 11 seconds. The blood, which is initially blue, goes through the heart to the lungs where it changes color, becoming crimson. The iron atoms in the blood discharge their carbon dioxide and grab some oxygen, which has been freshly inhaled through the lungs.

With the pulmonary part of its journey complete, the blood launches itself on a path through the body. It moves into the aorta and then into the smaller arteries that filter throughout the entire body. The blood slows slightly as it enters even the even smaller arterioles which regulate blood flow to the tissues of the body.

By the time the blood reaches the metarterioles (the conduits between arterioles and capillaries), the blood is moving at its slowest pace. The blood is now a purplish red after being stripped of most of its oxygen. The blood exits the capillaries through venules (little tiny veins) and begins its journey back to the heart. All this takes only 11 seconds.

The bloodstream is important, and not only because it allows for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. The bloodstream is also responsible for the creation of the clots that patch up tears, control osmotic pressure, and adjust the cat's thermostat when the cat is either too warm or too cold by moving heat to other areas of the body. Excess heat is expelled from the body also thanks to the bloodstream. Blood is even responsible for shivering and the warming of the body. The bloodstream defends the cat against disease, helps with digestion after meals, and even helps the cat catch his breath after exertion. In other words, the circulatory system of the cat is perhaps one of the most important systems of all, and not just because it circulates blood.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Musculoskeletal System: The Skeleton of the Cat

The complex feline skeleton is composed of 244 separate bones. These bones together with cartilage (the connective tissues that bear weight) form the skeletal system of the cat.

The bones can be classified into three broad categories based upon their shape: long, flat, or irregular. If you think about it, you can probably classify most of the bones yourself simply by thinking abou their shape. The bones in the legs, for example, are long bones. These include the radius, ulna, tibia, and fibula. Flat bones can be found if you look at the scapula, skull, or face. Irregular bones are those that doesn't fit in the other categories and include bones such as the metatarsals and metacarpals.

Things get a little more complicated than that, however, because in additional to have three distinct shapes, the bones of the cat also can come in three varieties of ossification: intramembranous, endochondral, and heterotopic. Heterotopic bones occur after birth, usually under disease conditions, and are formed where you wouldn't normally find bone. These formations can be harmless little extra bits of bone or they can be dangerously close to vital organs. In the last case, they would have to be removed.

Endochondral ossification is the process of bone groth in an area previously occupied by cartilage. The cartilage is slowly replaced by bone. Intramembranous ossification is the development of bone under or with in a connective-tissue membrane.

So why is this important? Because most of the bones in the body are formed using the last two processes. The flat bones of the skull are created through intramembranous ossification while the bones at the base of the skull and in the face and trunk are a combination of intramembrous and endochondral ossification. Bone mass, by which I mean the compact bone of the shafts of the long and flat bones, is formed intramembranously. However, bones grow in length through the endochondral process.

What this all means is that the conformation of the cat is solely determined by the relative prominence of each type of bone growth. Which type of bone growth is prominant is usually dependent on the breed. For example, cats which are lean and lithe, such as the Siamese, have more endochondral ossification. Stockier cats such as the British Shorthair have more intramembranous ossification.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tips for Recognizing Asthma in Cats

Most of us know someone with asthma. A friend, family or neighbor may suffer from it, or we may be cursed with asthma ourselves. But most of us never think that our cats may have asthma. The truth is, cats can and do suffer from asthma, but because they can't tell us, most of them suffer through it, never really getting the treatment they need.

So what is asthma? Basically, asthma is a serious lung condition associated with airway obstruction caused by a sudden narrowing of the bronchial tubes. It's known as many things when referring to cats, such as Feline Allergic Asthma, Feline Lower Airway Disease, Feline Allergic Bronchitis, or Feline Eosinophilic Disease. All of these things are the same thing: asthma. There are certain signs that may indicate that your cat has asthma. If you notice any of the following, you should talk to your veterinarian at the earliest possible opportunity.

Increased Breath Rate: Cats suffering from asthma may be prone to episodes of increased respiratory rate. If you notice your cat breathing faster than normal every once in a while, and its not connected to increased physical activity, you may have a cat with asthma.

Trouble Breathing: Not all cats suffering from asthma will have an increased breath rate. Some of them will simply seem to have to work harder once in a while in order to breathe. Again, if this is not because of physical exertion, asthma may be a prime suspect.

Loud Breathing: Cats are quiet breathers. Listen to a cat sometimes, and if they're not purring or whining about something, you probably can't hear them unless you listen very carefully. So a cat with a distinct wheeze or other high-pitched sound that is emitted while breathing should certainly see a qualified veterinarian.

Coughing: Cats almost never cough. To someone who has never own a cat but is familiar with dogs, this may come as a surprise. Dogs cough all the time. Cats do not. If your cat is coughing, even occasionally, you may want to take him or her to the vet. Asthma is a possible cause of coughing in cats, so take coughing seriously.

All these symptoms can be caused by the spasmodic constriction of the bronchial tubes and increased secretions from the bronchial tree. In other words: asthma. Asthma in cats is as serious as asthma in humans, so take any signs of asthma seriously and see a qualified veterinarian as soon as possible.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vomiting in Cats

Most cats vomit at some point. Vomitting is a reflex act, so your cat isn't doing it on purpose. There is always a reason for vomitting in cats, though sometimes this reason is hard to determine. The are many different causes of vomitting. If you cat vomits only infrequently, then your cat is probably fine. If, however, the vomitting persists, you will want to call your veterinarian.

Vomitting is a symptom that is often caused by a gastrointestinal disorder. However, vomitting may also indicate a secondary disease from a different system entirely. For example, cats with diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, or some infectious diseases may vomit. This can make determining the cause of vomitting a challenge even for experienced veterinarians.

When Vomitting in Cats Requires Medical Attention

Problematic vomitting is probably best defined as vomitting which is acute (comes on quickly) and results in more than three instances in 24 hours. Alternatively, vomitting that lasts for longer than a week is also problematic. If your cat vomits once and then consumes a meal with no further problem, the issue has resolved itself and probably does not require medical attention. If the vomitting continues after eating or your cat is lethargic or has a fever, see a veterinarian immediately.

There are other signs that your cat should see a veterinarian. Some of these include:
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy (reluctance to move)
  • Diarrhea (more than three occurrences in 24 hours)
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in the vomit
If any of these signs are present, take your cat to the vet immediately. Your vet may wish to perform a variety of tests to determine the cause of vomitting, including blood tests, urinalysis, fecal examination, and perhaps X-rays.

Prevention and Treatment of Vomitting in Felines

You can't prevent all vomitting. It's going to happen, whether it's from a mild illness of a hairball. But you can take steps to keep reduce the number of times your cat might vomit. Keep him indoors and eliminate all toxic plants and other materials from your home. Also switch to a hairball control formula when purchasing cat food. This might help your cat avoid all those hairballs.

When your cat does vomit (provided it is not a hairball), withhold food and water for three hours. After this time, offer small amounts of water. After a couple more hours, offer bland foods, preferably a cat food designed for this purpose, such as Iams Recovery Diet. Slowly reintroduce regular cat food over a two day period. If your cat resumes vomitting at any point, or your cat develops other symptoms, contact your veterinarian. Your vet may wish to begin IV fluids or administer medications to control the vomitting until the cause has been determined.

Vomitting is cats is usually benign and a result of hairballs or other simple problems. However, if you are at all worried about your cat's health, take him immediately to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tips for Fighting Fleas in Cats

Fleas are annoying, but they're also a health risk. They can carry disease and make you and your cat horribly uncomfortable once an full-blown infestation is under way. There are two things you can do: prevent the infestation in the first place, or deal with it once it occurs.

The best way to fight fleas is to prevent them in the first place. Flea prevention should be a concern all year, not simply in the spring or summer. You never know when the weather will get just warm enough to help those little fleas along.

When you begin a program to prevent fleas, treat all your pets. Every cat, every dog, and any other furred companions you might have. Treating only one or two pets won't really help. There are many products on the market today, including flea collars, that can help your pets stay flea free. Talk to your veterinarian about other ways to prevent fleas in your cats.

However, sometimes those little fleas will hitch a ride on your cats despite your best efforts. Fleas cause the most common skin disease in cats, known as flea allergy dermatitis. Fleas can cause small red bumps (called hives) on the skin. These become itchy and sometimes even painful to the touch. Your cat may become so uncomfortable that he scratches or bites himself raw, leaving the skin open to infections.

This is obviously not a good thing for your feline companions, so you'll have to get rid of the fleas immediately. If you see even a single flea or any sign of flea dirt, assume that you have thousands of fleas, larva, and eggs in and around your house. You'll need to treat pets and all living areas, inside and out, at the same time to stop the infestation.

Get yourself a good flea shampoo for your pets and use it according to the package directions. You'll also want to add flea collars to all your pets to help repel the insects. But this alone won't really help. The fleas are already in your house, just waiting for another opportunity to make everyone miserable. If you can afford it, hire a licensed pest control company to take care of the fleas.

You can also tackle the problem yourself, if you're willing. Start by vacuuming every nook and cranny of your home. Pay special attention to any cracks and corners. Then vacuum up some flea powder into your vacuum before disposing of the contents in a sealed garbage bag. There are some very good sprays and foggers on the market for dealing with the fleas you miss. Follow the manufacturer's directions when using these products. You'll probably have to leave the house for several hours while these products start working. Take your pets with you when you do so no one is exposed to toxic chemicals unnecessarily.

Treatment and prevention of fleas should be based on your pets and their lifestyles. Cats that go outside or come into contact with outside animals are at higher risk and may need more prevention or more aggressive treatment. Speak to your vet about risk factors. Don't put this off or you might find yourself with thousands of unexpected guests.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Protecting Your Cat During a Natural Disaster

Hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, and more. In most areas of the world, natural disasters happen on occasion. And with these disasters often comes the recommendation (or order) to evacuate. But many people do not heed these warnings out of a desire to protect their pets. During an evacuation, it can be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to take your cat with you, and most shelters will not accept pets during an evacuation.

Natural disasters of all kinds, including tornadoes and wildfires, can leave your feline companions stranded or even lost. The best thing you can do is to be prepared just in case you and your cat are separated during a natural disaster.

Before disaster strikes, get ready. Get a collar for your pet and make sure that collar has a visible ID tag. This tag should have a phone number, but during a natural disaster, phone lines might be out. Choose a cell phone number or an out-of-area number for the tag instead. Also consider adding a tag to all carriers and necessary supplies, just in case. You might want to microchip your cat as an added identification.

Go out and purchase a decent carrier and leash for each cat. In fact, all your pets should have their own individual carrier and leash, labelled with the pet's name, your name, and a phone number. This way you'll be ready to take your cat with you. But also plan to be separated and keep a small file in your purse to help you identify your cat. This file should have photos, health certificates, and anything else you can use to prove your cat is actually your cat.

You may have to make arrangements for your cat to stay elsewhere during a natural disaster. Make a list of friends and family who are willing to care for your cat and also create a comprehensive list of kennels and other boarding facilities. There are also many hotels that will accept patrons with pets. However, many of these facilities require that you provide proof of up-to-date vaccinations. Keep your cat's shots current and keep that proof in the file in your purse.

Have a kit with a week's worth of supplies ready for transport. This kit should include food, water, cat litter, bedding, and any medication your cat requires. You should take your cat with you during an evacuation if at all possible. Remember, if it's not safe for you to stay home, it's not safe for your cat.

If you do not have to evacuate, keep your cat indoors. And do not leave your cat in the basement. Basements are the first place to flood during a natural disaster and you cat could drown. Locate the safest place in your home and put the cat's carrier there.

Becoming separated from your cat is a real possibility during a natural disaster. If this happens to you, don't panic. When you return home, call your local animals shelters immediately. They may have picked up your cat at some point. Also look around your neighborhood. Your cat may not have gone far or might be camping out at a friend's.

Natural disasters are frightening for both you and your pets. However, if you plan ahead and keep a level head, you and your pets should come out the other side of whatever disaster befalls you with a minimum amount of anguish.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cat Food Palatability

Palatability is one of those large words that describes something very simple. It describes how well an animal, in this case a cat, likes the aroma, texture, and flavor of a food. It might be assumes that taste and aroma are the most important part of a well-liked cat food. However, texture and shape are just as important to your cat. Let's talk about each component of cat food in the order your cat will appreciate them.

A cat will first smell the cat food. Does it have a scent at all? Is that scent overpowering or tantalizing? If it smells foul, the cat will walk away. The cat will make a snap decision based on the scent of the cat food. If it passes the sniff test, the cat will continue to check out the food.

When the cat finally tastes the food, there will be three things that will determine whether the cat will continue eating. Taste, texture, and shape will all be evaluated at roughly the same time. If your cat doesn't like the taste, he'll likely walk away after that first bite. It may take a couple more bites for your feline companion to evaluate the texture of the food. If your cat chews akwardly and has no medical problems contributing to this, then the shape is probably less than accepable.

If the food you're serving doesn't meet your cats expectations in regards to aroma, texture, taste, or shape, consider a different food. Sticking with a food your cat does not consider palatable is very like forcing someone who hates mushrooms to eat an entire plateful. Take your cat's preferences seriously and he'll thank you for it later.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lawn and Garden Hazards for Cats

Spring rolls around and we find ourselves wandering down the lawn & garden aisle of our local home improvement store. Maybe we even take a trip to the local nursery. But as you stroll through these areas, take a look at many of the products offered. Most of them will be toxic to cats and other animals, so you'll have to be careful when it comes to the products you use on your lawn and in your garden. Some of these products can kill your cat while others can bring on serious illness.

Almost all insecticides are highly toxic to felines in any concentration. These products, used to reduce or eliminate the number of annoying and damaging insects, should be used sparringly. Try some natural alternatives to insecticides first, such as soap and water.

Herbicides and fertilizers are also highly toxic, but usually only in their concentrated form. If you must use them, keep the bags and containers out of reach of your cats. Once applied to your lawn, keep your cats out of the area for at least an hour. After that, your pets should be able to safely walk on the lawn. However, you should read the manufacturer's directions first, as they may recommend a longer wait time before permitting pets on the lawn.

Many gardeners have a problem with pests of the larger variety. But beware. Poisons designed to kill mice, rats, gophers, moles, and other vermin will also kill your cat. Even the smallest amount of these products can kill or seriously injure your cat and there is usually nothing your local vet can do to safe your poor kitty. Keep them safely tucked away. When you must use them, place them only in areas your cat cannot access. This same rule applies for snail and slug baits.

Mulch is normally safe enough, but check the ingredient list. Mulches that contain cacoa bean can be toxic. Unfortunately, they also smell great, especially to cats. When you first lay it down, your cats may not be able to resist the delicious chocolately aroma. Keep your cats away from it until after a heavy rainfall, which usually reduces both the aroma and the toxicity of the mulch.

One product that many people think nothing of is citronella candles. They're great for keeping away the mosquitos but if a cat starts to eat a candle, there can be serious and lifethreatening problems. Sometimes even the gas emitted from a burning candle can cause a problem, so don't let kitty sit right next to a burning candle.

Setting up your garden in the spring shouldn't be fraught with dangers for your feline companions. Read all warning labels before you purchase any product and apply only according to the manufacturer's directions. When it doubt, keep it away from kitty, because even seemingly innocent products can cause illness or even death for your cat.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cats and the Dangers of Lawn and Garden Chemicals

When caring for your lawn and garden, it's very easy to just reach for the chemical pesticides and herbicides. However, these products can be potentially fatal to your feline companions. Using these products reduces the risk to your cats and other animals that might enter your lawn or garden. If you think your cats will not ingest the chemical products, think again. Many of the products that you might apply to your lawn smell and taste sweet to cats, so poisonings are all too common.

Thankfully, there are many alternatives to the traditional chemicals available on the market to day. But even these alternatives can be toxic in high enough amounts. Apply all lawn and garden chemicals according to the manufacturer's directions. Don't apply more simply because you think your lawn needs it.

Alternatives to Chemical Pesticides

Insects can damage your plants and flowers. However, you don't necessarily have to purchase expensive and toxic chemicals to solve the problem of aphids, thrips, or spider mites. Try using a simple garden hose with a nozzle attached. Many of the most common insects that might infest your garden have relatively soft bodies and can be eliminated with just water. Spray down your garden twice a day for a week and you'll probably be problem free.

If the infestation is a little more stubborn, add a little dish soap to some water and spray down the garden again. You might want to check your local garden store for insecticidal soaps if have a large infestation. Even this is less toxic than chemical insecticides.

Alternatives to Chemical Fertilizers

There's a simple and easy way to fertilize your lawn and garden without resorting to commercial fertilizers. Compost. Start a compost pile and apply it twice a year to your lawn and garden. This adds essential nutrients to the soil without the addition of any chemical fertilizers, keeping your yard save for your cats.

The fewer chemicals you add to your yard the safer your cats, dogs, and other pets will be. If you must use chemicals, use as little as possible for the sake of your feline friends and your garden will be a safe and happy place all summer long.