Thursday, December 24, 2009

7 Great Resources for Keeping your Cats Safe During the Holidays

Keeping Your Cat Safe During the Holidays
Here are the top 10 tips for a safe and happy holiday with your kitties.
By Helen Jablonski via and CatFancy
"With all the new sounds, sights and smells in your home during this time of year, an inquisitive cat could get into trouble. Make sure your feline continues feeling fine by following these tips."

How to Take Care Of Your Cat During The Winter
By kluke82
"During the winter it is important to keep your cat or cats safe from the cold. There are many easy ways to guarantee that your cat, cats, or kitten stays safe from the cold. Keep your cat healthy this winter by following these simple suggestions."

Jingle Bell Blues: Don't Let Your Pet Get'em
by PurinaCare Pet Insurance Blog
"A routine and familiar environment is important to most dogs and cats. During the holidays pets may suffer from the constant changes taking place in their territory. There are new objects to explore - like holiday decorations, new plants and tempting foods. Being mindful of how your pet may react can make the season pleasant for everyone."

Tips to keep your cat safe during the holidays
by Samantha Gowen, Pet Tales editor

Holiday Dangers to Pets
"Providing food and shelter is not proving love for your pet. Those too, but proper care and protection from harm make the truest sense of responsible pet ownership." ~ John D. Carraway, DVM.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe During the Holidays
By Debbie Davis

How to Make the Holidays Pet Friendly
By Gardengates

Monday, December 21, 2009

Participate: Put a Caption on this Picture

Post a picture caption to this photo:

Post your caption to this picture in comments (the "post a comment" link is below this post. We will select the best cation to go with this picture and announce it on the blog next week.

Friday, December 18, 2009

6 Adorable Cat Behaviors With Shockingly Evil Explanations (by Cracked)

6 Adorable Cat Behaviors With Shockingly Evil Explanations

By Matthew Hayden via

article image
#1. Bringing Home Dead Animals to Show You Suck at Hunting

#2. Obsessively Getting Rid of the Stench of Humans

#3. Imitating Snakes to Intimidate You

#4. Rubbing Against You to Declare Ownership

#5. Leaving Their Poop Uncovered As An Insult

#6. Meowing to Imitate a Baby Human

Read the Full Article by clicking HERE


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reader Question: Why Is My Cat Sneezing?

Why Is My Cat Sneezing?
CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses upper respiratory viruses.

Dr. Arnold Plotnick is one of CatChannel's feline health experts.

Q: Our cat is sneezing some each day — two to three times. She licks her nose after. Clea, sparkly eyes. No cough. No congestion. Eating and behaving normally. I volunteer at our local SPCA. The cats have “colds” frequently and sneeze on me. Have I brought home some infection? Could it be allergies? What symptoms would tell us to take her to our vet?
A: Allergies would be unlikely. Allergic respiratory disease in cats usually manifests as asthma, and cats will cough, not sneeze. I suspect your cat has a viral upper respiratory infection, however, the symptoms are so mild — two or three sneezes a day, no congestion, no loss of appetite, acting pretty normal — that I wouldn’t be too concerned. Most cats have been exposed to the upper respiratory viruses during kittenhood, and are chronic carriers of the virus. When cats get stressed or immunosuppressed, the virus can re-emerge and cause clinical symptoms. These upper respiratory viruses can be spread to cats via articles of clothing, so yes, it is theoretically possible that you have brought the virus home with you. However, this is not the major mode of transmission. These viruses are spread mainly via aerosol from cat to cat.

I would take her to your veterinarian if: your cat’s sneezing increases in frequency or severity; she develops a nasal or ocular (eye) discharge; she shows a decreased or absent appetite.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Surprised Kitty Video - Over 11.5 Million Views in 2 Months

There are many of wonderful funny adorable cat videos online.  This one; "Surprised Kitty" is, in essence, the best most viral funny/cute cat video of 2009 heading to 12 million views in less than two months.

Enjoy the cuteness:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How Old is My Cat in Human Years?, Part Two

A few weeks ago, I posted an item ( How Old is My Cat in Human Years? ) that generated a lot of interest: a chart that compared a cat's age with the equivalent human age. My chart was based on a combination of facts, as well as 21 years of veterinary experience.

Just a few days ago, I received an e-mail with a link to an article on Feline Lifestage Guidelines, sponsored by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association.

Although this article is meant to be read by veterinarians, I believe all cat owners and cat lovers will want to check it out, for two main reasons. One is the way they classify the stages of a cat's life. Say goodbye to the simple "kitten, adult, senior" classification. The new classification scheme breaks down the lifestages as follows:

Kitten: 0 - 6 months

Junior: 7 months - 2 years

Prime: 3 years - 6 years

Mature: 7 years - 10 years

Senior: 11 years - 14 years

Geriatric: 15 years and older

I like this classification. Before, when I would tell a client their 7 year old cat was a "senior", I felt weird. Cats are living longer lives, and branding their cat a senior at 7 or 8 didn't feel right. I think "mature" is much more fitting. I also love the "junior" classification. I see many cats who are 18 months old, and while not technically "kittens", they've still got that wild and crazy streak that makes me reluctant to label them as "adults". Calling them "juniors" is perfect.

The part of the article that I think readers will find most interesting, however, is the age chart. While it is very similar to mine, it differs significantly in that they are more detailed when it comes to the early years. For example..

a kitten aged 0 - 1 month is like a person aged 0 - 1 year

a kitten aged 2 - 3 months is like a person aged 2 - 4 years

a kitten aged 4 months is like a person aged 6 to 8 years

a kitten aged 6 months is like a person aged 10 years

a kitten aged 7 months is like a person aged 12 years

a kitten aged 12 months is like a person aged 15 years

a kitten aged 18 months is like a person aged 21 years

The rest of the chart is pretty interesting. Check it out by clicking here.

For a review of my chart, go to How Old is My Cat in Human Years?

Manhattan Cat Specialists Goes Digital!

2010 is going to be a big year for my cat hospital, Manhattan Cat Specialists. We're going be open on Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and we're expanding our hours on Saturday, so that we'll be open 'til 6:00 p.m. as well. We've hired a new receptionist, Kate. We're adding a new doctor on the weekend, Victoria Sheheri. And to top it all off (drum roll, please.....) we have purchased a digital x-ray machine! It’s up and running and works great! No more x-ray film, no more messy fixers and developers. We take a radiograph, and in 50 seconds, it is up on the computer monitor where I can adjust the brightness and contrast, zoom in, zoom out, magnify, flip and rotate. I can e-mail the radiograph to a radiologist for a second opinion if I need to. I can save the x-ray to a disc and give it to the client so that they can take it for a second opinion if necessary.

It’s great. At the moment, only 24% of veterinary practices have one, so I feel we've really plunged into the modern with this baby.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Some Great LOLCats

The first ever LOLcat: From the March 1929 issue of Parents’ Magazine, page 73. Someone might call this a LOLcat. Either way, 1920s Nursery Cat Is Watching You Parent.

Ha, Ha, Ha, It must be so!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jaundice – when your furry fellow turns bright yellow.

Yesterday, I examined a cat name Pan who came in for weight loss and poor appetite. On physical examination, the cat was visibly jaundiced. In honor of Pan (who's getting an ultrasound-guided liver biopsy at my hospital on Friday), I'm posting this article to my blog.
If there was one thing Minka Esbensen could count on, it was her cat’s appetite. Kitty, a 9-year old male sealpoint Himalayan, has had his minor illness throughout his life – a little colitis here, a sprained paw there – but through it all, one thing remained consistent: the enthusiastic appetite. When the famous appetite disappeared for three days late last February, he was in my office in a flash.

According to Ms. Esbensen, Kitty had showed minimal interest in his food over the past three days. He could be coaxed to eat a few treats, and was still drinking normally, but he simply would not eat his regular food. He was a little lethargic, and had vomited twice two days prior, and twice the day before. On physical examination he checked out fine, except for some mild weight loss (10 ounces). Bloodwork was offered, but was declined by Ms. Esbensen. The plan was to offer him a variety of different yummy foods, and see how he did over the weekend. I thought that was reasonable.

On Monday, he was back. Kitty had absolutely zero interest in food, including people food. In the exam room he was bright and alert, but he had lost another four ounces. On examination, a new finding had emerged: the skin inside Kitty’s ears had a faint yellow appearance, as did the whites of his eyes and his gums. Kitty had developed jaundice.

Jaundice 101

“Jaundice (also called icterus) is a yellow discoloration of the tissues. It is most visible in the skin, the mucous membranes (for example, the gums), and the whites of the eyes. The yellow coloration is due to an excessive amount of a substance called bilirubin in the bloodstream”, says Dr. Michael Stone, a board-certified internist at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

To understand the phenomenon of jaundice, a brief explanation of normal bilirubin metabolism is in order. Bilirubin is an orange-yellow pigment that comes from the breakdown of hemoglobin. The primary source hemoglobin is from old red blood cells. When red blood cells become old, most of them are removed from the circulation by cells called macrophages, which reside mainly in the spleen and liver. Once the red blood cells are gobbled up by the liver and spleen macrophages, the hemoglobin inside the red blood cells is metabolized to produce bilirubin. This bilirubin is then released into the circulation, where it binds to a protein called albumin. The albumin then transports the bilirubin to the liver.

Once the albumin-bilirubin arrives at the liver, the liver cells extract the bilirubin from the albumin, and then secrete the bilirubin into the biliary system (the gall bladder and the bile ducts). Eventually, bilirubin is released, along with bile, into the small intestine, where it plays an important role in digestion.

The feline liver is very good at taking bilirubin out of the bloodstream and delivering it to the biliary system, maintaining the serum bilirubin level in a pretty well-controlled range. To figure out why the bilirubin level in the bloodstream might become elevated, we need to examine the three traditional categories of jaundice.

Classifying the jaundice

Knowing the physiology of bilirubin metabolism allows us to understand the mechanisms by which excessive levels of bilirubin might develop. “One way bilirubin levels could build up is if too much bilirubin is being produced because of rapid red blood cell destruction” says Dr. Stone. “Another explanation for too much bilirubin in the blood stream would be an inability of the liver cells to properly remove it from the bloodstream. A third reason would be an impaired ability to release bilirubin from the biliary system into the intestine. These three explanations correspond to the traditional, shorthand way veterinarians classify jaundice: pre-hepatic, hepatic, and post-hepatic.” Although there is considerable overlap between the categories, this simplistic classification system allows for a clearer understanding of why cats turn yellow.

The literal translation of the word “pre-hepatic” would be “before the liver”. Indeed, pre-hepatic jaundice has nothing to do with the liver. The liver is fine. The problem has to do with excessive bilirubin production as a result of hemolysis - undue destruction of red blood cells. As mentioned above, bilirubin is derived from hemoglobin contained in red blood cells. The spleen and liver constantly monitor the circulation, removing old, damaged, or abnormal red blood cells from the circulation. If the liver and spleen remove too many red blood cells from the circulation, too much bilirubin will be produced. The liver will shift into overdrive, removing as much of the bilirubin as it can. Eventually, the liver’s capacity to remove this excessive amount of bilirubin is exceeded, and bilirubin levels build up in the bloodstream, staining the tissues yellow.

Pre-hepatic (hemolytic) causes of jaundice is less common in cats, compared to dogs. The most common cause for hemolysis in cats is Mycoplasma haemofelis (formerly called Hemobartonella felis), a red blood cell parasite. These parasites cling to the surface of the red blood cells. Macrophages in the liver and spleen recognize these cells as being abnormal, and they dutifully remove them from the circulation, releasing bilirubin into the bloodstream. There other causes for hemolysis in cats, as well.

Hepatic jaundice, as the name implies, is jaundice that develops as a result of liver impairment. Severe liver disease, such as cholangiohepatitis (inflammation of the liver and bile ducts), hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), or liver cancer may impair bilirubin metabolism, preventing the liver from processing the bilirubin effectively. As a result, the bilirubin levels become elevated, leading to visible jaundice.

The third category, post-hepatic jaundice, is said to occur when the primary abnormality is an impaired ability to excrete the bilirubin due to an obstruction of the flow of bilirubin and bile through the major bile ducts. Common causes of bile duct obstruction include cancer and gallstones.

Of the types of jaundice, hepatic causes are the most common. Common signs of liver disease in cats include poor or absent appetite, lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, unusual behavior, and prolonged bleeding.

Diagnostic approach to a cat with jaundice

With Kitty showing signs of jaundice, it was time to do a little investigating. The first step in evaluating the cause of feline jaundice is to rule out any pre-hepatic causes. In other words, is the high bilirubin level due to excessive destruction of red blood cells? This is easily determined by measuring the hematocrit – the percentage of the blood that consists of red blood cells. This test can be readily performed in-house in all veterinary hospitals. The normal hematocrit for a cat is somewhere between 29 and 48%. If a jaundiced cat has a hematocrit that falls in this range, then red blood cell destruction is unlikely to be the culprit. If, however, the hematocrit is low (less than 20%), hemolysis is likely to be the cause of the increased bilirubin levels, and further evaluation for causes of hemolysis is warranted. A complete blood count was performed on Kitty, and his hematocrit was a robust 41%. No anemia.

Once pre-hepatic causes have been eliminated, the cat should be evaluated for causes of liver disease (see sidebar). Liver diseases that frequently cause jaundice in cats include cholangiohepatitis, hepatic lipidosis, lymphoma, feline infectious peritonitis, and toxic liver disease. Evaluation for liver disease should include a complete blood count, serum chemistry panel, urinalysis, and blood clotting evaluation. Kitty’s complete blood count was normal, however, the chemistry panel and urinalysis told a different story.

Increased liver enzymes are expected in most cats with jaundice. Most biochemistry panels report the activity of four liver enzymes: alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT). Elevations of the first two, ALT and AST, reflect damage to the liver cells. Elevations of the second two, ALP and GGT, reflect an impairment of bile flow within the tiny bile channels between liver cells. In most cases, all four enzymes are elevated. Bilirubin levels are also reported on the chemistry panel, and of course these levels will be elevated, confirming and quantifying the jaundice. Not surprisingly, Kitty had elevated ALT, AST, and ALP levels. His GGT level was normal. The bilirubin level was markedly elevated, approximately 15 times the normal value.

The urine of jaundiced cats will often be a bright, almost fluorescent orange, due to increased bilirubin levels. “While it may be normal for dogs to have a small amount of bilirubin in their urine, the presence of bilirubin in feline urine is always an abnormal finding”, notes Dr. Stone. Indeed, Kitty’s urine specimen glowed a bright orange. The complete blood count in cats with liver disease may be normal, as it was with Kitty, or it may show an elevated white blood cell count in cases of liver infection. Abnormally shaped red blood cells (called poikilocytes) are a common finding in cats with liver disease. Other laboratory tests may be warranted, depending on circumstances.

Post-hepatic causes of jaundice, i.e. obstruction of bile flow from the gall bladder and/or common bile duct, is much less common than jaundice due to primary liver disease. Diagnosis of bile flow obstruction, due to cancer, gallstones, etc. is best diagnosed via ultrasound.

Diagnostic imaging of the liver is an important part of the diagnostic workup for jaundice. Liver size, and the presence of calcified gallstones, may be evaluated with abdominal x-rays. Ultrasound, however, is a more useful technique and provides a wealth of information. Ultrasonography is the technique most often employed to differentiate post-hepatic causes of jaundice (tumors, gallstones, etc.) from hepatic causes (primary liver diseases). Ultrasound usually allows identification of liver cancer, liver cysts, and/or liver abscesses. Abnormalities of the liver tissue itself, such as lipidosis (infiltration of the liver with fat), cholangiohepatitis (infiltration of the liver with inflammatory cells), and lymphoma (infiltration of the liver with cancerous lymphocytes) can sometimes be differentiated. Ultrasound of Kitty’s liver ruled out post-hepatic causes of his jaundice, supporting what we already suspected – that a liver disorder was his main issue. Indeed, the appearance of his liver on ultrasound suggested some type of cellular infiltrate. Was this a cancerous infiltrate, or was it an inflammatory disease, such as hepatitis?

While bloodwork and ultrasound provide an abundance of information regarding the liver and biliary system, a definitive diagnosis ultimately requires a liver biopsy. There are several ways of obtaining a liver biopsy, the two most common being needle biopsy and surgical biopsy. A needle biopsy is obtained by inserting a biopsy needle – either “blindly”, or using ultrasound guidance – into the liver and obtaining a small sample. Alternatively, a biopsy specimen can be obtained during exploratory surgery. The advantage of needle biopsy is that it is less invasive, and often only requires mild, short-acting anesthesia. With a needle biopsy, however, there is a risk that the specimen obtained may not be representative of the disease process that is present, especially if the disease is focal, involving a discrete portion of the liver. Exploratory surgery affords a better biopsy specimen, and allows the surgeon to visually assess and to feel the liver, as well as other abdominal organs, and take additional biopsy specimens if warranted. Of course, the disadvantage of exploratory surgery is that it is invasive, involving general anesthesia, and a longer hospital stay. It is also more costly. Ms. Esbensen elected for Kitty to have a surgical biopsy, to maximize the chances of obtaining a definitive diagnosis.

After a blood clotting profile confirmed that his blood clotting ability was unaffected, Kitty was taken to surgery, and a biopsy of his liver was obtained. The diagnosis: lymphocytic cholangiohepatisis, an inflammatory disorder. While Kitty was under anesthesia, a feeding tube was placed in his esophagus through a small incision in the left side of his neck. This allowed Ms. Esbensen to provide proper nutrition, as well as to provide him with the medications and supplements necessary to treat this disorder.

Kitty was faithfully given his medication through his feeding tube, and he began to gain weight and feel better. Most noticeable was the jaundice, or lack thereof. The yellow tinge to his skin, ears and gums was slowly dissipating. For three weeks, however, he refused to eat. Four weeks after his medical therapy was prescribed, a serum chemistry panel was obtained, and all of his liver parameters had returned to normal, including his bilirubin. During the fifth week, he began to eat a few treats on his own. Ms. Esbensen and I both suspected that the feeding tube had begun to annoy Kitty, and that removing the tube might actually spur him to eat on his own. With some trepidation, we removed the tube. Shortly afterward, Kitty began to eat on his own. Nearly two months after his initial bout of poor appetite, Kitty was now his usual, hungry self.


Jaundice is a common problem encountered in feline practice. Years ago, there was an old adage amongst veterinarians: “a yellow cat is a dead cat”. Thanks to numerous diagnostic and therapeutic advances, this is no longer the case. When faced with a jaundiced cat, the veterinarian’s challenge is to figure out where the derangement in bilirubin metabolism is occurring, and then formulate a proper diagnostic plan. Over the years, the prognosis for treating the diseases that cause jaundice have improved markedly, and many jaundiced cats recover and live long, healthy lives.

Signs of liver disease in cats

  • Decreased or absent appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Odd behavior
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen; less common in cats with liver disease, compared to dogs)

Common causes of liver disease in cats

  • Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease)
  • Cholangiohepatitis (inflammation of the liver and bile ducts)
  • Lymphoma (a type of cancer)
  • FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis, a fatal viral disease)
  • Toxic hepatopathy (liver disease secondary to ingestion of a toxin or poison)
  • Hepatic amyloidosis (accumulation of amyloid, a type of protein, in the liver. Often seen in Oriental and Siamese breeds)

Read my article:
"Jaundice - when your furry fellow turns bright yellow."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Feline H1N1: No Need To Panic

I have been asked by a few people about the possibility of cats getting swine flu. Can they get it? Can they transmit it to me?

I imagine most of you saw this news item that was published a few days ago: The Oregon state public health veterinarian has reported that a pet cat has died from presumed 2009 H1N1 influenza virus infection. The cat was one of 4 cats in the household and became ill approximately one week after a child in the household had a flu-like illness. It developed labored breathing and was presented to a veterinarian on November 4. The cat was not coughing or sneezing but had pneumonia. The cat's condition deteriorated over the next 3 days, and it died on November 7. Samples were obtained and tested positive for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. Additional samples were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) for confirmation and are still pending. At this time this is a presumed, not confirmed, case of 2009 H1N1 influenza infection.

The three other cats in the household also became ill with different degrees of sneezing and coughing, but recovered from their illnesses. Samples collected from these cats were negative for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.

For more current information about H1N1 in cats, check out these resources:

2009 H1N1 Flu Virus Outbreak

Frequently Asked Questions by Veterinarians about 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus

The messages to cat owners remain the same. This is not cause for panic, but underscores the importance of taking pets to a veterinarian if they are showing signs of illness. This is especially important if someone in the household has recently been ill with flu-like symptoms.

To date, all of the sick pets became ill after a person in the household was ill with flu-like symptoms. There is no evidence to suggest that cats have or will spread the virus to humans or other animals. At the moment, it seems more likely that people can spread it to their cats, rather than the other way around. Proper hygiene and sanitation measures should be followed to limit the spread of the influenza virus.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Old is My Cat in Human Years?

Last week was a fun week, because I got to see a lot of old cats. Really old cats. You see, I really like the geriatrics. I feel that cats give us so much entertainment when they're young and crazy, and so much love and companionship during their bulk of their lives, while requiring relatively little maintenance. When they get old and more dependent on us, I feel it is time for us to give the love back. I guess my reputation as a geriatric-cat lover has gotten around, because people keep bringing me the oldies, and I love it! Today I saw Dino, aged 19 yrs, 3 months. He's got kidney disease (mild) and hyperthyroidism (controlled), and he looks absolutely great for his age. The real kicker was last Friday. I examined Carlota, aged 20 years, 4 months. She's got glaucoma in one eye, asthma, and chronic renal failure. She's tiny and frail, but totally adorable. The funny thing is, she wasn't the oldest cat in the hospital that day. While I was examining her, Jake was relaxing in our boarding ward downstairs. Jake is 21 years, 4 months, and has been a patient of mine for years. His owner travels a lot, so Jake boards with us a lot, and of course we've grown super-fond of him over the years. Every time he feels a little under the weather, we panic a little, but before we know it, he bounces right back. This cat is going to live forever. So... exactly how old is "old"?

I confess, one thing that drives me crazy is when people who own a 20 year old cat say, "That's like a person being 140." Um, no it's not. The notion that dogs (and cats) age seven years for every one year is a myth that’s managed to stick around for years. If you think about it, it is not uncommon for some cats to live to be 18 or 19 years old. If they aged seven years for every one year, then an 18-year-old cat would be equivalent to a 126-year-old person, which is clearly not very likely. In my own veterinary practice, there are at least 10 cats who are over 20 years old, but there are certainly no 140-year-old people. The “seven-to-one” rule is just not true. Cats age faster when they’re younger, but this slows down as they get older. At 6 months of age, a female cat already can reproduce. So, at what age can a person reproduce? Let's be conservative and say 15. At 1 year of age, cat bones fully stop growing. This occurs in people at approximately 24 years of age, give or take a few years. So, a 1-year-old cat is roughly equivalent to a 24-year-old person. From that point on, cats age approximately three to four years for every one year. Or so I thought.

Here's the ORIGINAL chart that I made. It was based on my personal opinion and experience:

(click image for full view)

I based the above chart on the fact that 20 year old cats used to be about as rare as 100 year old people. But, since I graduated vet school, advances in veterinary medicine have resulted in cats living longer than ever before. And as you can see from my story last week, I had three cats that were just around 20 years old. So, here's my REVISED chart. Again, it's not an exact science, but I think it's probably reasonably accurate:

(click image for full view)

Hopefully, cats will continue to live longer and longer lives. I would love nothing more than to revise this chart over and over again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A List of Cats with Diplomas

Cat Diploma Article Proves Wikipedia's Worth
Posted by: Mike Pomranz
on Comedy Central's Tosh.0 Blog

The online, user-generated encyclopedia known as Wikipedia seems to receive as much criticism as it does praise. People complain the site isn't properly vetted enough to be cited as a reputable source or it's littered with graffiti and biases or that half the information in there no one actually cares about…
Hogwash! All of it!!
Where else can you find information like this: An article entitled "List of cats with fraudulent diplomas"??
Just think, you're sitting around your living room thinking to yourself, "What was the name of that cat with a fraudulent diploma?"
Your damn Encyclopedia Britannica won't be able to tell you jack squat on that topic. Your only hope is to go to an encyclopedia with an almost excessive amount of room for articles that no one will ever check …and, thusly, Wikipedia is by far your best option.
Granted, the article may have been written by a cat, jealous of his feline contemporaries, who is attempting to discredit the valid collegiate credentials of one of his academic adversaries.
But that's just part of the risk you take using Wikipedia: That the article you are reading may have been authored by a vengeful cat.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pica - When Cats Eat Weird Things

by Dr. Arnold Plotnick MS, DVM, ACVIM, ABVP

“Tom”, an 8-month old male domestic shorthaired kitten, presented to my hospital with a complaint of lethargy and unusual ingestive behavior. According to his owners Pat Galloway and Peter Webb, the normally rambunctious kitten had become lethargic over the past two days, spending most of his time sleeping. The cat’s appetite had markedly decreased, although he was still gaining weight nicely and was a healthy 8 ½ lbs. They also reported that Tom had been seen eating his clay cat litter and licking the floor around his litter box.

Physical examination revealed pale gums, and a quick in-house test confirmed that Tom was severely anemic. Additional tests showed that Tom’s bone marrow was not properly compensating for the anemia by producing more red blood cells, suggesting a primary bone marrow disorder. Tom was given a life-saving blood transfusion, and a bone marrow evaluation was performed soon afterward. Tom was diagnosed with pure red cell aplasia (PRCA), a severe form of anemia that is believed to result from an immune system disorder. High doses of immunosuppressive drugs were prescribed, and Tom’s red blood cell count increased steadily over the course of a few weeks. Meanwhile, Pat and Peter had quickly switched from clay-based to wheat-based litter, in an attempt to discourage Tom from eating his litter, as clay litter contains bentonite which can form a hard clump in the intestines, leading to obstruction. The switch worked; Tom stopped nibbling on his litter. As the anemia came under control, an attempt was made to try to reduce Tom’s medication dose. Eventually, his condition was maintained on every other day therapy, and Tom appeared healthy.

Three months later, however, Tom presented to my hospital with a complaint of a gradual onset of lethargy and decreased appetite over the past week. Pat and Peter also reported an unusual new behavior: Tom had begun licking the silverware. Physical exam and blood tests revealed that Tom’s condition had relapsed. Fortunately, he responded well to another transfusion and to an increase in his medication, and Tom is now back to normal; no more anemia, and no more licking of the silverware.

Pica” (pronounced “PIE-kuh”) is the voluntary ingestion of non-edible materials. The term comes from the Latin word “magpie”, because magpies are said to eat almost anything. Pica accounts for approximately 2.5% of abnormal behaviors in the domestic cat. The etiology of true pica is not known, although mineral deficiencies or psychological disturbances are often blamed. Tom’s case is interesting in that his pica – eating litter and licking silverware – seemed to be clearly connected to a medical disorder (his anemia).

Wool-sucking is a commonly described abnormal ingestive behavior in cats. Wool-sucking, however, is a compulsive, misdirected form of nursing behavior and technically should be distinguished from true cases of pica.

“Kittens nurse fairly actively for the first seven weeks of their lives, with mom rebuffing them at the latter end of the period in order to ‘teach’ them to fend for themselves”, explains Dr. Nick Dodman, Director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and author of book The Cat Who Cried for Help. “’Comfort nursing’ (running to mom for a couple of quick sucks even when the milk bar is dry) is normal kitten behavior, even up to 6 months of age. As the kitten grows older and shifts its preference to solid food, the drive to nurse fades.” If, however, this natural progression is disrupted by abrupt early weaning while the kitten’s nursing drive is still very powerful, the kitten may displaces its nursing onto substrates that look or feel like mom. “They may begin sucking on themselves, their littermates, or certain wooly materials, especially wool itself”, says Dr. Dodman. Human infants show similar behavior when they suck their thumbs or a pacifier. In general, the younger a kitten is when it is weaned, the stronger the nursing drive, and the more persistent this non-nutritional sucking may become.

Wool sucking usually fades over time as the kitten develops other interests. For those kittens whose wool sucking has apparently faded into oblivion, however, vague memories of this behavior may persist throughout life, and in moments of stress or conflict, it may resurface as a comfort behavior. In some cases, it may assume compulsive proportions. In other cats, wool sucking doesn't resurface, possibly because serious conflict does not arise.

Wool sucking is usually not a problem, “especially if the behavior remains at the ‘wool sucking only’ stage”, says Dr. Dodman. Some cats, however, progress to actually eating the non-nutritional materials, predisposing the cat to potentially serious problems such as gastrointestinal obstructions.

Such was the case with Pumpkin. Many years ago, while working for a feline-exclusive veterinary practice in Baltimore, I was presented with a big 4 year-old orange male tabby. The complaint was poor appetite and vomiting of three days duration, and before I could even start my exam, Pumpkin’s owner warned me that Pumpkin had always had a penchant for plastic bags. Three years prior, Pumpkin had a plastic bag surgically removed from his stomach, and his owner was having that unmistakable feeling of déjà vu. Sure enough, x-rays revealed the presence of something odd in Pumpkin’s gastrointestinal tract, and during exploratory surgery, a sizeable chunk of a plastic grocery bag was extracted from Pumpkin’s intestine. Fortunately, Pumpkin recovered uneventfully.

An attraction to plastic is a common scenario encountered by feline practitioners. Exactly why cats like plastic remains unknown, although several theories abound. Some people have speculated that cats like the coolness of the plastic, or the texture on their tongue, or perhaps the sound it makes when they lick. The most logical reason I’ve heard, however, is that cats like licking or eating plastic bags because rendered animal fat (also called “tallow”) is utilized during the manufacture of some plastic bags, and that some cats can detect the smell and enjoy the taste. Other versions of this explanation have implicated petroleum products and gelatin as the enticing ingredients. Gelatin, in fact, is used in the manufacture of many items including the emulsion used in photographs, which may explain why my own carnivorous cat, Emma, enthusiastically licked clean all of my unattended family photos one afternoon. I’ve never been able to confirm the tallow-petroleum-gelatin theory, so CatFancy readers should not take this as the gospel truth. But it sure makes sense to me.

Because pica can be a sign of an underlying medical problem, like Tom’s anemia, cats displaying unusual ingestive behavior should be examined by a veterinarian. Certainly, cats with unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms and a history of eating unusual objects should be examined right away, and clients should inform the veterinarian if the cat has a known tendency toward dietary indiscretion, since GI obstructions may be life-threatening. Pica might seem like charming, quirky behavior, however, because of the potential harm from eating non-nutritional material, cat owners should discourage this behavior.

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