Fact or Fiction? Common Cat Health Myths


Lots of fibs have been told about felines through the ages. For example, consider the popular notion that it’s supposedly healthy for cats to drink cow’s milk.

The reality is that most cats are lactose intolerant and can’t break down the sugars in milk, says Joseph Wakshlag, DMV, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Kittens will — and should — drink the milk from mother cats. But once they are weaned, other milks, such as cow’s milk, are not recommended for feline diets. “Much like (some) humans, cats don’t have the enzymes to break down lactose,” Dr. Wakshlag says. “Evolutionarily, it’s not part of what cats need in terms of nutrition.” Furthermore, he adds, it can add fuel to the fire if a cat already has an upset stomach. “It’s the last thing you want to give a cat with a GI disturbance,” he says.

As with most popular myths, there’s usually some grain of truth. Over the years, farmers would sometimes put out saucers of milk for kittens. However, it would be a supplement to a meat-and-tissue diet, since the cats would catch mice in the barn.

The spreading of myths about feline health is akin to a game of “telephone” in which someone says something and others pass it on and on.

“They’re just like urban legends,” says Arden Moore, author of The Cat Behavior Answer Bookand editor of Catnip magazine. “No one bothers to figure out if it’s fact or fiction,” Moore says. “They figure, ‘I’ve heard that. It must be true.'”

Sometimes the myths are harmless, such as the common belief that cats are aloof creatures — perpetuated by such fictional characters as Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat. But sometimes the tall tales can cause harm. When the myths deal with feline health and nutrition, owners like you need to take extra steps to verify what you might have read on the Internet or heard from your grandparents.

Sooo…fact or fiction? Here are common assumptions to help you test your kitty smarts:

Cats Always Land on Their Feet

Fact: Cats do have a “superior righting reflex” and a flexible spine. They can instinctively fall feet first, but they may also end up with broken bones from a fall, says Moore. She advises owners to check screens on windows and ledges to prevent cats from falling from high buildings.

Spaying or Neutering Will Cause a Cat to Gain Weight

Fiction: There is little scientific evidence tying the act of Fact or Fiction? Common Cat Health Myths spaying or neutering to weight gain. The primary reason that cats’ gain weight is inactivity, which is more prevalent in housebound felines, Wakshlag says. However, the fact that Tomcat is no longer on the prowl — looking for love, so to speak — may reduce its overall activity level.

Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Own Cats

Fact: It is true that some cats are infected with a disease called toxoplasmosis. It’s possible for this disease to spread to humans through contact with cat litter boxes, thereby harming unborn babies. However, says Wakshlag, pregnant mothers can avoid handling cat litter. They can make sure to wash their hands thoroughly and keep them away from their mouth if they come into contact with cat waste.

Cats are Nocturnal

Fiction: Even though they have keen eyesight, cats cannot see in total darkness, according to Moore. The truth is that cats are most active in the early morning or early evening. “In the wild, cats did most of their hunting at dawn and dusk,” Moore says.

Garlic on Food Will Keep Fleas and Worms Away

Fiction: Garlic and onion have the potential to cause anemic conditions in cats, says Wakshlag. To date, no one has ever been able to prove that garlic will keep worms or fleas away.

When it comes to debunking cat myths, your best bet is to exercise caution before trying out old wives’ tales on kitty. Ask your veterinarian about any myths that you’ve heard, or check out reputable cat health and research websites, such as the ones run by the Morris Animal Foundation or the Winn Feline Foundation. There is also a website run by the American Association of Feline Practitioners for veterinarians with a specialty in feline medicine.

Few, however, have addressed what is perhaps the most common cat myth query of all time — do felines have nine lives?

“They have but one, although they seem to be able to get themselves out of trouble quite often,” Moore says. “We only wish that they had nine lives.”



5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids How to Properly Handle a Cat


Using gentle handling and respect, children can learn to be the best of friends with cats.

Like humans, each cat has a unique personality. Some crave lots of affection and love to be held and cuddled, while others are more independent and don’t enjoy much handling. Kids love pets and, of course, are usually eager to shower them with love and cuddles. It’s essential that we educate children of all ages on proper cat-handling techniques. This will help the bonding process, as well as ensure safety for both the cat and child.My son was an energetic toddler, but he eventually learned how to properly handle our cats. Now they love to spend time with him.

My kids grew up with cats so they had to learn how to properly interact with them at an early age. There were some ups and downs during this process, but eventually they learned that gentle behavior meant the cats wanted to spend more time with them.

Here are six tips to help teach children proper cat-handling.

1. Set the mood

Cats are excellent mood readers and pick up a lot about us by our voices, actions and general vibes. When we are stressed, they sense it. If a child wishes to connect with a cat, it’s important that she approach him in a relaxed manner, using a calm voice tone. Younger kids can be energetic and loud, which scares cats. On that same note, teach children they should never chase kitty. This “game” only teaches the cat to fear the child. My daughter was very calm as a young child and my son was a little more rambunctious, but in time, the cats wound up feeling comfortable with both of them.

Calm, gentle behavior is the way to a cat’s heart.

2. Take time to become acquainted

Cats feel more comfortable when we greet them on their level. Encourage the child to lie on the
on the floor and slowly offer the cat her hand so he can smell her. Kitty may positively respond by rubbing his face on her hand or pressing his head against her hand, encouraging her to pet him. This is a good sign! If he acts apprehensively, be patient. Forcing affection on a act who doesn’t want it will only push the bonding process in the wrong direction.

Cats will likely want to be around kids who treat them respectfully. 

3. Gently pet kitty’s back, shoulder to tail

If the cat is responsive to the child’s touch, it’s usually safe to pet him gently from the shoulder to the tail. This is not the time to try and rub the cat’s belly. Some cats enjoy tummy rubs, but many do not, and it’s definitely not a great way to make initial contact with a cat. Over time, if you discover the cat enjoys pets to the belly, go for it. One of our cats loves it, while the other two will bunny kick your face off if your hand lands anywhere near the gut. Again, honor the cat’s individual personality and preference.

Calm interactions are best.

4. Use caution with picking up kitty

If the cat has shows signs of warming up to the child — and you know kitty likes to be held — you may choose to take cat-handling to the next level. Also remember that, along with respecting the cat’s personality, make choices based on the child’s personality, age and demeanor. You know what you can probably expect from your child, and if you believe the cat may not be safe in your child’s arms, don’t place him there.

Cats like to feel safe and secure.

Older children or ones who’ve demonstrated they can responsibly hold a cat may next learn how to properly pick up kitty. Cats like to feel stable and secure, so it’s imperative to pick them up correctly. Make sure kitty is relaxed — picking up an agitated cat could mean scratches and tears. Always use both hands: Press one hand flat against kitty’s chest and use the other to support the hindquarters. Hold the cat securely — but not too tightly — against your chest so he feels safe and comfortable.

Do not cradle a cat like a human baby. A few cats enjoy being held that way (one of mine loves it), but most do not. The cat feels unstable and his paws and face are perfectly positioned for scratches and bites. Don’t try this position until the child and cat feel completely comfortable together and you are absolutely certain kitty enjoys this position.

Kids and cats can become best friends if they start out on the right foot.

5. Sit or stand

Especially at first, children should sit or stand while holding a cat. Motion may spook a cat who is just becoming accustomed to this up close and personal relationship with a small human. Younger children also may have the tendency to take off running, which will definitely make kitty feel scared and unsafe.

No potty training necessary: Rains force feline to toilet

SOURCE: The Walton Sun

What is an outdoor cat supposed to do when the rains just won’t stop coming?

Miles is a Santa Rosa Beach feline resident who has used the great outdoors for his toiletry needs for
potty trained cat all of his 11 years.

However, since South Walton has experienced a monsoon season of almost non-stop rain this July, Miles has felt the need to alter his habits.

“The yards have been so flooded that he didn’t want to go out,” says owner Chase Johnson.

Miles learned early on how to urinate in the toilet, says Johnson, but only occasionally — that is until the Fourth of July weekend.

“I did not train him to use the toilet; he just does it,” said Johnson. “He used to prefer to go out, but now he only uses the toilet. And after he finishes he wipes the seat with his paw like he is covering it up in a litter box.”

Johnson is not sure whether Miles’ change of habits occurred due to the massive rainy season or the fireworks that might have frightened him. Maybe a combination of the two are to blame. All she knows is that these days, Miles only pees in her toilet.

Johnson has owned Miles since his kitten days when a friend found a litter of kittens in her bushes that included Miles.

“For a long time I thought I had a ghost, and it was freaking me out because I would find urine in the toilet and it wasn’t from me,” said Johnson.  “Then, one day I caught him using it.”

Flash forward more than a decade and the stormy summer of 2013 forced Johnson to buy something she has never owned before — a litter box. It turns out that Miles’ toilet etiquette does not extend to No. 2. Miles was never trained to use a litter box either, but once presented with one, he seemed to know instinctively what to do.

“Miles has changed a lot in the last month,” says Johnson. “Maybe it’s his age, or the fireworks, or the flooding.

Five Ferocious Cat Behaviors and How to Fix Them


Cats are the most lovable creature on Earth when they want something (food perhaps?) and sharpening their claws on your couch the next. We asked top feline behaviorists for tips on how to solve 5 of the most common bad cat behaviors seen by the Humane Society of the United States when cats are relinquished to shelters.

1. Cats Going Outside the Litterbox
Cat LItterbox
According to Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Cat Behavior Advisor to Pet360.com and Cat Behavorist at The Cat Behavior Clinic, this bad kitty behavior is the No. 1 reason cats are relinquished to shelters. Never fear, she has some simple tricks to keep your feline going in the appropriate place.

Scoop your litterbox at least one to two times a day. Make sure you have multiple boxes in multiple locations for multi-cat homes. The rule of thumb is one box for each cat plus one more (though there are exception where more or less may be needed). “I have worked with thousands of cat owners since 1999 and placing all your boxes in the basement spells trouble,” Nagelschneider explains. “This can increase territorial thinking which leads to hostility between cats (and, of course, out of the box behavior).  Increasing box number and location can help your cats get along.” Use Night Lights. “Cats cannot see in absolute darkness. This is a misconception about cats! They need a bit of light to see well. Please add night lights on the way to and in the litterbox areas,” she suggests. Finally, uncover those boxes. “Where in nature do cats urinate in a hollowed out log? They don’t,” Nagelschenider responds, “Covered boxes create a Porta Potty effect, trap smell, and make the box very unattractive.”

2. Male Cats Spraying Urine

Some say cats spraying is worse than not using the litterbox. Intact male spray has a pungent odor that really repulses. Unlike any of kitty’s other bad habits, your cat will spray repeatedly after you clean up.

For most cats, a simple and effective solution exists. Dr. Carlo Siracusa DVM, MS, PhD, Dip. ACVB, Dip. ECAWBM, Director of Animal Behavior Service at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital School of Veterinary Medicine for the University of Pennsylvania, says, “Neutering reduces marking in about 90% of intact male cats.” For the rest, he goes on to explain that “the use of medication can also be discussed with the veterinarian.”

3. Cats’ Destructive Scratching
No one wants shredded drapes and a clawed couch. Amy Shojai (http://amyshojai.com blog), CABC IAABC Certified Behavior Consultant and author of 26 award-winning pet care books, explains that scratching for cats is a way of marking territory with visual and scented signs.

Keep kitty from destroying your territory by paying attention to what your cat scratches (fabric, wood, carpet), Shojai suggest, and providing “legal” opportunities to scratch in the material your cat is attracted to.

“Since clawing marks territory, location is key,” she explains, “Situate claw objects in the same spot as the illegal target. Then reward your cat with praise and treats for clawing correctly. Make the illegal targets unattractive. Sticky Paws double sided tape product can keep cat claws at bay when applied to these items.”

4. Play Aggression with Cats
Cats provide entertainment and bonding. This quickly can become a dreaded chore if your cat’s claws come out. Dr. Carlo Siracusa has a couple of easy tips to save your hands and your kitty friendship.Kitten BIting

“Do not play using your hands and other parts of your body,” Siracusa warns. Instead, “provide environmental enrichment and play using toys that increase the distance from you (e.g. a stick with feathers). Redirect using treats or food-toys when you finish a play session, do not just walk away since this will leave your cat too aroused and likely to play with your hands/legs.” Dr. Siracusa also warns against trying you punish your cat, which can trigger fear-related aggression.

5. Cats Jumping on Counters, Etc.
We all know cats like to “perch,” usually on the highest point in the room. However, some places are just not for kitty – like the counter where there is food (and who can blame you? After all, your cat has had its paws in its toilet and you can bet he didn’t remember to wash his hands).

Amy Shojai suggests making the high surface, such as the counter, unattractive by putting away food, using a product like Sticky Paws or the Ssscat products. “give the cat a better place to lounge,” she says, “Provide a cat tree or other high perch that’s taller than the countertop, more comfy (has a bed, perhaps), and includes fun stuff (a catnip mouse, treats) that will create kitty allegiance toward the new spot.”

7 Household Hazards for Cats

 SOURCE: veterinary.answers.com

Keeping your cat indoors is one of the best ways to keep him or her safe, but closing the door doesn’t eliminate all the risks to your favorite feline. Read on to learn about some of the most common household hazards for cats, and what you can do to minimize their risk.

1. Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications

While many people are aware of the dangers human medications pose to dogs, cats are also at risk for toxicity due to human medications ingested accidentally or administered by an owner who didn’t check with his or her veterinarian. Cats have systems quite unlike a human’s and do not process medications the same way.

Cold medications, antidepressants, and pain relievers are some of the most common causes of pet poisoning. Even one dose of Tylenol can be fatal to cats, who cannot metabolize the drug the same way people do. Never give your cat a human medication without talking to your veterinarian first.

2. Household plants

Poinsettias usually top owner lists of plants to avoid, but these holiday plants are generally benign, causing no more than a transient gastrointestinal upset. Lilies are much more dangerous to cats. These very common flowers cause kidney failure in cats when ingested in even small amounts. Even worse, all the parts of the plant, leaves included, are toxic.

In 2013, antifreeze manufacturers in the United States agreed to add bitter-tasting material to their product to discourage pets and children from ingesting it. While the antifreeze itself will be no less toxic, pets will be less likely to help themselves to a fatal mouthful.

3. String

Most of us have seen greeting cards with a playful kitten tumbling around with a ball of yarn, but the feline love of string has led to many emergency surgeries. When cats swallow the end of the string, one end can lodge near the base of the tongue while the rest works its way down the intestine, bunching it up as it moves along. This can lead to a sawing action that requires emergency surgery to fix.

Any string-like substance can cause this problem: thread, ribbon, yarn, even holiday tinsel.

4. Flea medications

While there are many safe and effective flea medications on the market specifically designated for cats, certain products made for dogs can be toxic to our feline friends. Permethrin, a synthetic form of the pyrethrins derived from the chrysanthemum plant, can cause vomiting, excessive salivation, seizures, and even death.

Most of these products are clearly labelled “not for use on cats”, but whether or not the warning is present, don’t share your dog’s flea medications with Fluffy. Stick to products specifically labelled for cats.

5. Antifreeze

Antifreeze toxicity is common in colder areas of the world. The sweet taste of the liquid makes it very tempting for felines. When ingested, antifreeze containing ethylene glycol causes calcium oxalate crystals to form in the kidneys, resulting in rapid and usually irreversible kidney damage. Antifreeze containing the agent propylene glycol is considerably less toxic, though you should still be cautious.

6. Rat bait

Rodenticides, commonly used in households to eliminate a mouse or rat problem, contain a variety of toxic agents that cause symtoms ranging from bleeding to seizures and death. While most dogs who suffer from rodenticide poison do so through ingesting the poison directly, many cats are affected by eating a rodent that has been killed with the bait.

Because the type of bait used dictates the treatment needed, make sure to keep your packaging and let your veterinarian know immediately if you suspect your cat has ingested rat bait. Better yet, consult a professional pest service for pet-safe control methods.

7. Liquid potpourri

Many cat owners turn to liquid potpourri as an air freshener instead of candles, correctly concerned about the possibility of a pet knocking over a lit candle. However, liquid potpourri can be very toxic to cats. They may ingest it due to its sweet smell, and suffer painful ulcerations as the caustic liquid travels down the throat into the stomach.

This list covers some of the more common dangers to cats in the house. If you suspect your cat has ingested a toxic substance, make sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for guidance. Many pets’ lives are saved through quick intervention in these cases when time may be of the essence.

10 Ways to Keep Your Cat Cool in Summer Heat


Summer starts soon, and with it comes hot weather. Here are ways to protect your cat.

 For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer starts on Friday, June 21. That’s the longest day of the year and with it comes hot weather until the fall. During the summer heat, you can strip down to shorts and a tank top, but your cat has to wear a fur coat all year long. This can easily become a health issue. So what can you do to keep your feline friend comfortable during the summer? Here are 10 of my favorite tips.

1. Ice Ice Baby

If you’re going to be away all day and you know it’s going to get warm in the afternoon, drop three or four cubes into kitty’s water bowl before you head out.

2. Ice Ice Baby, Part 2

Fill a small soda bottle with cold water and leave it in the freezer overnight. In the morning, wrap the bottle in a towel and put it in your cat’s favorite lounging spot. If she gets overheated, she’ll appreciate the kitty cooling room. Don’t fill the bottle to the top: Water expands when it freezes, and you could have a mess on your hands if you don’t leave some air space.

3. Elevate the Bed

Cloth-covered plastic frames with short legs will allow your cat to sleep in comfort during hot weather, and the air passing under her bed will help to keep her cool.

4. Give Her a Fan

Get a small box fan and set it on the floor near your air conditioner or an open window. If your kitty gets too hot, she’ll appreciate the breeze blowing through her fur to keep her cool. For extra cooling power during summer heat, put one of those frozen water bottles in front of the fan.

5. Shave and a Haircut

If your cat has long fur, consider getting her a lion cut to help ease her suffering on those hot summer days. But be careful: White and light-colored cats also have very pale skin and can be subject to sunburn.
Talk to your vet about whether giving your feline friend a shave could help keep her cool in the hot weather. Another option is to have only her tummy shaved: that way, she can get sun protection as well as cooling.

Hot cats will instinctively seek out cool places like tile floors.

6. Apply a Damp Cloth

Take a damp washcloth or paper towel and stroke your cat with it. Most cats don’t mind a little bit of moisture on their fur, especially when they notice how it can cool them off. In fact, one of the ways cats cool themselves down is by grooming, which is nothing more than wetting their fur with saliva rather than water.

7. Close the Curtains

Close the curtains or blinds in your south- or west-facing windows. Not only will it keep your kitty cooler, it’ll save you money on your a/c bills as well.

8. Avoid Cooling Gel Packs

Although gel cold packs are made with ingredients that are considered nontoxic for humans, the gel could be harmful to your cat if she happens to poke a hole in the plastic with her claw and ingest it.

9. Postpone Playtime

Even if your cat loves a rousing game of Chase the Mousie, it’s best to wait until the end of the day, when it’s cooler. Cats can get overheated pretty quickly by strenuous exercise on hot days.

10. Never, Never, Never Leave Your Cat in Your Car.

Not even for a quick errand. A closed car can reach temperatures well over 100 degrees in a frighteningly short time.
If your cat starts panting, drooling, or having trouble breathing, or she seems to be losing consciousness, get to your vet or the nearest emergency clinic right away. These are symptoms of heatstroke, and if left untreated, your cat could suffer from kidney damage, heart dysfunction, or other potentially fatal problems.

Meet the Pet FBI: A Group That Uses the Internet to Reunite Lost Pets with Their Families

When a black cat turned up on a woman’s doorstep in Worthington, Ohio, she did everything she could to find the lost kitty’s family. She contacted area shelters and put up posters around the neighborhood, hoping to hear from someone who was looking for their pet.

She also took her cat rescue effort online. Pet FBI, which stands for “found by Internet,” is a database dedicated to helping reunite pets lost and found in Ohio with their families. The woman had almost given up on finding the cat’s family when she got a call from a man in New Jersey. He had moved out of state from Reynoldsburg five months earlier, and he had lost his beloved cat, Midnight.

Pet FBI helps reunite lost pets with their families. 

The man, too, had almost given up when he found a description of Midnight on the Pet FBI website. After seeing a photograph, he drove 500 miles to retrieve his lost cat.

“It is still a mystery how Midnight ended up in Worthington after wandering away from home in Reynoldsburg,” says Maresa Fanelli, Pet FBI founder. “If only they could talk.”

Just goes to show that when looking for a lost pet, persistence pays off. Since Fanelli founded the nonprofit organization in the late 1990s, Pet FBI has helped thousands of lost pets find their way home. The database allows people to report and post descriptions of lost

or found pets. It is searchable by time frame, type of animal, and location. Since 1998, more than 39,000 reports have been submitted. Approximately one-third of the dogs and one-fourth of the cats have been reported as reunited.

“Sure enough, it was a match,” Fanelli says. “Just around that time, the Internet was taking off, and I thought, what a perfect application! Why not set up a database for lost and found pets?”Fanelli was inspired to take the traditional “lost pet” posters approach online after she witnessed a chance reunion between a lost cat and family. Her neighbor had been feeding a stray cat for several months when, by chance, her son saw a poster in another part of town with a picture that resembled the cat.

The holding time for strays at some shelters might only be a couple of days, so even after you’ve reported your cat missing, check back early and often.

Through her work with Pet FBI, Fanelli has learned some hard truths about animal rescue — and about the animals who end up in shelters. She did not realize that many of the cats and dogs in shelters were not merely lost but that many of them never had homes at all. She was also shocked to learn that a high percentage of these animals — particularly the cats and kittens — would never be given a chance at life.

“When I first founded Pet FBI I had some pretty naïve notions,” Fanelli says. “I thought that all the dogs and cats in shelters were strays and that someone somewhere was desperate to find them.”

When Fanelli learned the dire consequences of pet overpopulation, she expanded Pet FBI’s mission. In addition to reuniting pets with their families, Fanelli and the group’s dedicated volunteers also work to provide spay/neuter assistance to disadvantaged people and caretakers of feral cat colonies.

Since starting the spay/neuter program in 2002, Pet FBI has implemented or subsidized approximately 9,000 surgeries. Fanelli would like to do more, but acquiring enough funding and resources to meet growing needs remains challenging.

“The need is so great and the resources are so limited, and there are never enough trappers, foster parents, or homes for all the kittens,” Fanelli says.

When searching for a lost pet, persistence pays off.

Based on feedback from Pet FBI users, when looking for a lost pet, Fanelli recommends taking the search into the community as well as online. Posters are effective — but “they should be highly visible and there should be many of them.”

“Unfortunately, there is no one single source of information, so if you lose a pet you should be very aggressive and very persistent and avail yourself of every possible resource,” Fanelli adds.

This includes regularly checking in with local shelters. Many shelters are understaffed, so they might not rush to contact you even if you’ve reported your pet as missing. This is not because they don’t care, but simply because they cannot keep track of all the animals that enter their facilities. The holding period for strays may only be one to two days at some shelters, so it pays to visit early and often.

Also, Fanelli says people should not assume their lost pets will just find their way home on their own. Touching stories of lost pets randomly turning up at home are often reported in the news, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

“Do not assume that if your pet is lost it will come running to you,” Fanelli says. “This is especially true of cats, but dogs will also keep a low profile out of fear if they are stressed.”