The average lifespan of a cat can range from 11 – 15 years. Many factors determine just how long a cat will live. One survey which followed 118,016 cats attending 90 practices in England found the average lifespan of a cat is 14 years. The most common causes of death in cats under five was trauma, followed by viral disease and respiratory disease. The most common cause of death in cats over five years was kidney disease.
Obesity – Excess weight is linked to several diseases which include cancer, diabetes, arthritis, impaired respiratory function, urinary tract disease, skin disease, oral disease and increased anesthetic risk.
Desexing – Cats who were spayed or neutered had 0.6 years greater longevity in females and 1.7 years greater longevity in males. There are several health benefits to cats who are desexed which include eliminating the risk of pyometra, testicular and mammary cancer, and a decreased risk from FIV, FeLV and bite wound abscess.
How to increase longivity
Some of the factors at play are within our control and can significantly increase the longevity of our pets. These include:
Spay and neuter all cats
Keep cats indoors, or provide access to a safe cat enclosure
Maintain proper dental care with daily brushing and schedule an annual dental check up. Dental diseases have a significant impact on the overall health of the cat. The gums have a rich blood supply which can transport bacteria through the entire body via the bloodstream and damage the heart, kidneys and liver.
Treat all cats for parasites (worms, fleas and ticks)
Schedule annual appointments for a health check and bloodwork, which should increase to bi-annual for cats over seven.
Seek veterinary attention immediately if you notice any changes such as weight loss, increased thirst or urination, and any lumps and bumps
Provide prompt and appropriate medical care for cats who are sick or have a long-term medical disease
Avoid the over-use of chemicals in the home, switch to cat-friendly products where possible
Microchip your cat, it won’t directly contribute to the lifespan, but if the cat is in an accident, or picked up and taken to a shelter, you can be contacted
World’s oldest cats
Oldest cat ever: Creme Puff of Austin, Texas was born on 3rd August 1967 and passed away in August 2005 at the age of thirty-eight.
Oldest living cat: Rubble (born May 1988) a long-haired ginger and white cat who is lives with Michelle Foster of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
As most pet owners know, there are many human foods which are potentially dangerous to cats. Does that include ice cream?
The answer depends, a lick or two of vanilla ice cream is not going to harm a cat. Other flavours have the potential to cause problems, especially ice cream which contains chocolate or raisins.
Potential problems with giving cats ice cream
Once a kitten weans, the small intestine stops producing the enzyme lactase which is necessary for the break-down of lactose, the sugars in milk.
When a cat is who is no longer producing the enzyme lactase is given milk, instead of it being broken down into glucose and galactose and absorbed into the bloodstream, it passes through the small intestine into the colon where bacteria ferment it, producing acids and gas. It is this fermentation process which leads to the typical symptoms of lactose intolerance which include:
Ice cream contains empty calories, which can be counter-productive if the cat is already overweight.
Numerous videos of cats experiencing brain freeze (also called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, ice cream headache or cold stimulus headache) can be found on the Internet. Brain freeze is a type of headache which occurs when the cat ingests a cold substance too quickly. The cold hits the back of the throat, which causes the internal carotid and anterior cerebral arteries located in the front of the brain to rapidly contract (shrink). The brain sends extra blood to the area, which causes the arteries to quickly dilate (widen). This triggers pain receptors in the meninges (the outer covering of the brain) where the two arteries meet.
While brain freeze is a temporary discomfort, it is not dangerous.
When not to feed a cat ice cream
If the cat is obese
If the cat has a known lactose intolerance
A cat who is on a prescription diet which restricts other types of food (such as a hypoallergenic diet)
If the ice cream contains chocolate or raisins, stick with vanilla
Avoid sugar-free products which contain xylitol which is a known dog toxin, and is not recommended for cats
A small amount of ice cream left in the bottom of a bowl or a lick from your finger or a teaspoon should not be an issue. Just don’t feed large amounts to avoid brain freeze and excess calories, and make it an occasional treat only. If symptoms of lactose intolerance develop, discontinue.
Cats are attracted to the taste of the cream, not the sweetness, as they have no sweet receptors. A compromise for cats who cannot tolerate the dairy in ice cream is lactose free milk, or yoghurt, which contains less sugar and lower amounts of lactose and therefore is better tolerated.
Laser pointers are a popular addition to the feline home; the laser mimics an insect or animal on the move, which stimulates the cat’s predatory response to stalk and chase the target.
Cats in the wild spend a large chunk of their day hunting. Domestic cats have the luxury of food on call, but those wild instincts remain. Inactivity can lead to boredom and obesity, which is linked to many health risks. Interactive play is a great way to provide both physical exercise as well as mental stimulation for our cats. This is especially important for indoor-only cats.
Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, and emit a narrow beam of light. They have a wide range of uses from barcode scanners, whiteboard pointers to medical equipment.
Play therapy is so important for cats, and we highly recommend pet owners find at least ten minutes a day for interactive play, preferably at the same time.
Laser pointers stimulate the cat’s predatory response of stalk and pounce without a poor animal losing its life.
The cat’s natural hunting cycle is > stalk >pounce > kill > eat. Laser pointers don’t provide the opportunity to catcn and kill the target which can frustrate the cat.
Provides a great opportunity to exercise, burn up energy and help keep the cat’s weight within a healthy range.
Can permanently damage the retina, at the back of the eye if the cat stares at it for too long.
Play is important for kittens to hone their coordination skills and maintains fitness in adult cats.
How to play with a laser pointer and not frustrate the cat
To avoid frustrating the cat, use a laser pointer with toy mice.
Move the laser along the floor as you normally would, but pause on the toy.
Allow the cat to pounce on the mouse and move the laser away.
Finish the game by letting the cat kill the mouse, and reward with a meal or a treat.
Laser pointer safety
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies lasers, the higher the number, the more powerful the laser. The United Kingdom government also have their own classes standards, which are different to the FDA ones. As a guide, stick to classes one and two.
Green is more easily absorbed by the retina than red, so it requires less exposure to cause damage to the eye. Avoid green lasers, especially those imported from countries outside the US, which can exceed safety limits.
Stick to the floor, don’t point lasers on walls which can result in the cat jumping up and potentially causing an injury (rare but possible).
Put the laser safely away when not in use, and keep away from children.
Don’t point the laser directly into the eye of an animal or person.
Alternatives to laser pointers
Wand toys offer a similar play style of stalk, pounce and kill, therefore provide the opportunity for the cat to kill its target; the owner can then give a treat or a meal, which completes the entire cycle.
Life on the streets is not kind; homeless animals risk disease, attacks, traffic and the elements. Animal shelters do what they can to shelter and find homes for unwanted and homeless animals, but there is never enough space. As a result, hundreds of thousands of healthy kittens, cats, puppies and dogs are euthanised every year.
All of us can do our part to help the plight of homeless animals, no matter how big or small.
Adopt don’t shop
Don’t support puppy or kitten farmers or pet shops, unless the pet shop is working with an animal shelter. Every time an animal is adopted from a shelter, a new place becomes available for a homeless animal.
Desex all pets
It is the responsibility of all of us to desex our pets to prevent more unwanted kittens. Not only does this eliminate all possibility that a pet can breed, but there are also many health benefits.
Think carefully before adopting a pet
A new pet should be a well-thought decision which involves all family members. Cats and dogs live between 10-20 years.
Points to consider:
Do you have the time for a pet?
Can you afford a pet?
Are all family members on board?
Are you prepared to care for the pet? Walks, grooming, litter trays, feeding.
Will you move house in the future? Will you be able to take the pet with you?
Do you have a back up plan for when you travel?
Do you plan to have children in the future? Will the pet still be welcome?
Is the pet for you or a child? Are you prepared to take over the care of the animal if the child doesn’t stick to promises?
Donate time, resources or skills
There are so many ways to help animals in shelters. Help care for the animals, spend time socialising cats or walking dogs, donate goods (bedding, food, toys, equipment), offer a skill such as photographing shelter animals, picking up or dropping off animals at the veterinarian, or maintenance of the property.
Shelters are always in desperate need of funds. It costs an enormous amount of money to run a shelter, food, medications, surgery, equipment. If you can’t directly help by adopting or donating time or resources, money is always appreciated.
Microchip cats and dogs
A microchip is the only permanent form of identification for pets. It involves the insertion of a small chip the size of a grain of rice under the skin on the back of the neck. Each microchip has a unique number which goes onto a database along with the owner’s details.
A microchip is only useful if the details are up-to-date. If you move house, change phone number or rehouse the pet, it is vital the microchip details are updated. Some databases allow you to provide a second contact, which is always recommended.
Don’t dump unwanted pets
Sometimes situations do change, and a pet owner is no longer able to care for their pet. Do the right thing and try to find a new home or ask a local shelter to help. Don’t just turf the animal out on the street.
Spread the word
Talk to people about pet-overpopulation, join shelter and rescue organisations and share their updates on social media.
How to help feral cats
A feral cat is a cat who has never been domesticated, and most (not all) have little or no contact with people. These cats continue to breed, increasing in numbers. As most feral cats cannot be tamed, many charities and groups participate in trap-neuter-return (TNR) programmes to prevent further breeding. Traps are set up to catch feral cats who are desexed and then returned to the area they have been living.
TNR is is a controversial topic in Australia due to the impact of domestic, stray and feral cats on the native wildlife population, which is beyond the scope of this article.
There are several ways to help feral cats:
Alert TNR groups if you know of any feral cats.
If you find a stray who is approachable, catch it and try to find a place in a shelter (preferably a no-kill one).
Provide shelter from the elements for homeless cats in your area.
Make sure the cats have food and fresh drinking water.
Help your local TNR group by placing, checking and bringing trapped cats in for desexing.
The beautiful sleek black coat colour occurs in a variety of cat breeds as well as domestic (mixed breed) cats. Only Bombay is the only breed of cat who can only be found in black, but many other breeds of cat come in black as well as other colours.
Coat: Short Activity level: Moderate
A stunning, sleek, jet black cat with a Burmese type. The Bombay was developed in Kentucky in 1958 by Nikki Horner of Shawnee Cattery, who mated a sable Burmese with a black American Shorthair. Her aim was to create a copper-eyed mini panther. Nikki thought the Bombay resembled the black leopard of India, hence the name Bombay.
The personality is similar to that of their Burmese cousins. They are laid back, friendly, loving, and get along well with pets and children.
Activity: Low to moderate
The British Shorthair is the pedigreed version of the traditional British domestic cat. They have a distinctive chunky body, dense coat, and a broad face.
British Shorthairs are amiable, friendly, and laid back. As kittens, they are playful, but adult British Shorthairs tend to be less active than other breeds. They are a reasonably independent breed of cat and are happy to amuse themselves.
Activity: Low to moderate
A naturally occurring breed which originated in Scotland; the most recognised feature of the Scottish Fold is the curled down ears, which gives the breed a beautiful owl-like face.
The Scottish Fold calm, well-adjusted, intelligent and affectionate breed of cat who gets on with everyone. Although affectionate, they are not clingy or in your face like some other breeds.
Activity: Moderate to high
A close relative of the Siamese cat who originated in the United Kingdom. Breeders wanted to create a Siamese-type cat in different coat colours while maintaining the same modern Siamese type head with large ears and a slender, athletic body.
Oriental cats are similar to their Siamese cousins in temperament; they can be talkative, friendly, confident, outgoing, highly intelligent, lively, sociable, curious and affectionate.
Activity: Low to moderate
The Persian is one of the oldest breeds in the cat fancy; the Persian cat is a long-haired breed of cat with a round face and short muzzle which originated in Persia (Iran), where they are known as Shirazi cat.
Persian cats have a sweet and gentle nature, they are laid back, affectionate and enjoy the company of their carers.
The Exotic is essentially a shorthaired Persian. It shares many of its Persian cousin’s traits such as a laid-back and gentle nature and a characteristic round face with a flat nose.
Exotics are sweet, affectionate, loyal, fun-loving and get along with people, including children and other pets. They are not as demanding or obtrusive as other breeds of cat, but it is said they do like to follow their human companions around the house.
The Devon Rex is a small to medium breed which arose from a spontaneous mutation in 1959. Devons are known for their curly coat and pixie-like appearance.
The Devon Rex is an intelligent, mischievous and active breed of cat who thrives on human companionship. They enjoy sitting on laps, snuggling up with you in bed and even riding on your head or shoulders.
The Cornish Rex is a curly-coated domestic breed of cat who came about as a spontaneous mutation in Cornwall, England.
They are a friendly, outgoing and active breed of cat who gets along with children and other pets and make a great family companion.
Norwegian Forest cat
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a natural breed of cat which originated in Northern Europe. They have a magnificent long, waterproof coat long coat which is perfectly adapted to keep these cats warm in the freezing Northern Hemisphere winters.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a highly intelligent breed of cat who bonds closely with its human family. They are an easygoing, laid back and friendly cat who gets along with everybody and make a perfect family companion.
The Maine Coon is the largest domestic cat breed which is thought to be descended from European cats brought over on ships. It is the oldest natural cat breeds in North America and is the official state cat of its native state of Maine.
Maine Coons are smart and known for their dog-like qualities. They are loyal and will often choose one human in the family as their special person. The Maine Coon is known as the gentle giant of the cat world and has a very gentle outlook on life.
Also known as a Donsky, the Don Sphynx is a hairless breed, which arose as a natural mutation in Russia in 1987. The Don Sphynx has four types of coat from completely bald to a full coat which is wavy or wiry in texture.
The Don Sphynx is an extremely affectionate breed of cat; they love nothing more than spending time with their human companions and don’t do well if left for long periods on their own. They are playful, energetic, intelligent and get along with people and other pets. Gentle in nature, they make an exceptional family pet.
Activity: Moderate to high
The Japanese Bobtail is a natural breed of cat who arrived in Japan over 1,000 years ago. They are thought to have originated in China or Korea, although there have been references made about cats with tail deformities from all over Asia.
This is an intelligent and lively breed of cat who remains this way well into adulthood. Because of this, the Japanese Bobtail is easy to train. They are extremely curious, active and playful. They are a talkative breed of cat, who has a melodious chant which they use when they are happy.
The LaPerm is a unique looking cat with a coat of ringlets or curls. The breed came about as a spontaneous mutation. In 1982 a tabby barn cat named Speedy gave birth to a litter of six kittens. One of these kittens was born completely bald, but when her fur grew in, it had a curly appearance.
The LaPerm is an intelligent and active breed of cat but are also happy to be a lap cat when given the opportunity. They are dog-like and like to be close to their human companions at all times.
Activity: Moderate to high
The American Curl is a distinctive looking cat with backwards curling ears. The cat is relatively rare outside the USA.
The history begins in June 1981 when Joe and Grace Ruga (Curlniques Cattery) found two homeless kittens in Lakewood, California. One was a black longhaired female who they named Shulamith, the other a semi-longhaired black and white female who they named Panda. Both kittens had unusual curled back ears.
Activity: Low to moderate
The Sphynx cat is an almost entirely hairless cat which originated from Toronto. The skin has a delightful chamois feel due to the presence of soft down hairs giving it a fuzzy peach appearance.
The Sphynx is an extremely outgoing, friendly and loving breed of cat. They love to climb and be up high and are always on the go. Part cat, part dog, part monkey is used to describe the Sphynx.
The Turkish Angora is one of the oldest naturally occurring breeds of cat. Their name comes from from the capital of Turkey, Ankara, formerly called Angora.
Turkish Angoras are an energetic breed of cat who is extremely curious and needs to check out anything new that comes into the house. They thrive on human companionship and will often form a strong attachment to one person in the household.
Environmental enrichment has become an important focus for pet owners as more and more cats become indoor only. What is environmental enrichment and how does it help cats?
Benefits of environmental enrichment
An indoor cat who is not provided with a stimulating environment will become bored, and that is where issues start.
Left to their own devices without physical or mental stimulation, a cat can look for non-healthy ways to relieve stress and boredom, most often in unhealthy ways such as developing obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Key feline needs
All cats need their basic needs to be met, which includes:
Key resources – Sharing resources leads to frustration and can spill into inter-cat aggression as cats fight for scarce resources.
Food and nutrition – Access to good-quality food and clean drinking water
Toileting – One litter tray per cat, plus one for the home, don’t line trays up in a row, place litter trays in different locations. Cats like privacy, but an escape route, quiet corners of a room are ideal.
Social interaction – Cats have a reputation for being independent and to a large degree, most are, but they still need daily social interaction with caregivers.
Ways to enrich a cat’s environment
Each cat should have the opportunity for his or her own safe place, preferably from an elevated position.
Cats like to climb and prefer high spots where they can survey their environment. Shelves, cat trees, perches all provide the opportunity for your cat to climb and watch the world from a height or sleep in a place they feel safe.
Good vantage points are also important, where practical place climbing trees where the cat has a view of the entire room and preferably can look outside.
Bring cat-safe plants into the house for cats to nibble on. Favourites include catnip, catmint and cat grass.
There is a huge variety of cat toys on the market which go beyond the trusty toy mouse. Interactive toys provide plenty of opportunity to keep the cat entertained, which is particularly important when owners are out of the house for house on a day.
Store bought toys which cats love include puzzle feeders, interactive toys and toy mice. Cheap toys include a paper bag filled with dry catnip, rolled up pieces of paper, large paper shopping bags (remove the handles), boxes, bottle tops and corks.
Have a wide selection of toys, but don’t leave them all out, rotate regularly to prevent boredom.
Avoid toys which are a potential choking hazard with small parts which can be chewed off and swallowed or anything long and thin which (string, wool, tinsel) due to the risk of linear foreign body ingestion.
Cat exercise wheels are essentially a giant version of the hamster wheel to provide a safe indoor way to burn some energy.
Daily play session
Continuing on from toys which the cat can play with alone, or with a feline companion, play therapy is also a great way to interact with a cat, provide exercise and mental stimulation. The best toys for interactive play are wand toys (my cats love Da Bird), in which the cat stalks and chases the toy. Don’t swing wands around like a rhythmic gymnast and expect the cat to throw himself up in the air over and over again.
A cat on the hunt conserves energy and will spend most of their time silently stalking their prey before a short burst of energy to catch the target. Act like a mouse, move up and around furniture, move quickly when the cat strikes, if the cat catches, play dead, and then move when the cat releases his grip. Conclude the game by letting the cat catch and kill his prey, and then reward him with a meal. This mimics the cat’s stalk > strike > kill > eat > routine in the wild.
Scratching is normal behaviour, a cat scratches to stretch his shoulders, legs and claws, mark their territory (cats have scent glands on their paws) and remove the loose outer layer of their claws. A sturdy scratching post is a must in all homes with cats. Materials include sisal, carpet and cardboard and scratchers can be horizontal or vertical. If space permits, have both types. Aim for a height of 1.5 times as tall as the cat so he can properly stretch out.
All cats should have a safe place they can retreat to and know that they will not be bothered by the dog, toddler or anybody else. This can be a cat bed, cat carrier with soft blankets in or a high perch.
When the cat is in his safe place, his space should be respected. He will learn it is his safe place. This gives the cat a feeling of control over their own environment and interaction with others.
Catio or cat enclosure
A catio or outdoor cat enclosure provides the best of both worlds. Cats can go outside, but in a safe environment where they are not at risk. Verandas can be screened in or if space permits, a large play area can be attached to the house.
Remember to furnish the enclosure with cat-friendly ramps, shelves, logs or tree trunks, beds and plants.
Blood clotting disorders are dysfunctions in the cat’s ability to control blood clotting, which can lead to hemorrhage. Hemostasis is an essential process which prevents the excess loss of blood when a blood vessel is injured by changing blood from a liquid into a gel to form a blood clot over the break.
There are several key players in the hemostasis;
Platelets – Tiny cell fragments which are made in the bone marrow circulate in the blood. When a blood vessel wall breaks, collagen is exposed, which attracts platelets to the area which stick together to form a plug.
Fibrinogen (clotting factor I) – Soluble proteins which when exposed to chemicals outside the vessel wall convert fibrinogen into sticky fibrin fibres which form a mesh to hold the platelets together.
Clotting factors (II – VIII) – Produced primarily by the liver, but also the platelets and damaged tissue, clotting factors are responsible for the coagulation cascade.
Factor I – Fibrinogen
Factor II – Prothrombin
Factor III – Tissue thromboplastin
Factor IV – Calcium ions
Factor V – Labile factor
Factor VII – Stable factor
Factor VIII – Antihemophilic factor
Factor IX – Christmas factor
Factor X – Stuart-Prower factor
Factor XI – Plasma thromboplastin antecedent
Factor XII – Hageman factor
Factor XIII – Fibrin stabilising factor
Blood clotting process
When an injury occurs to a blood vessel, there are three mechanisms which work together to stop the flow of blood (hemostasis).
Platelet adhesion: When damage to a blood vessel occurs, circulating platelets form a clump over the vessel to block it off.
Vasoconstriction – When a blood vessel becomes damaged, vasoconstriction, making the blood vessel smaller, which restricts blood loss from the damaged site.
Coagulation – Fibrinogen is the first of the 12 clotting factors which are activated by thrombin (a clotting enzyme) to form fibrin strands. These strands help to mesh the platelet plug, strengthening it.
Types of blood clotting disorders
Low blood platelets can be low due to decreased bone marrow production, increased destruction or consumption, and sequestration by the spleen. There are two types of thrombocytopenia; inherited or acquired.
Acquired thrombocytopenia can occur due to underlying diseases such as cancer, infection (FIV, FIP, toxoplasmosis), autoimmune disorders, certain drugs and toxins.
A rare genetic condition in blue-smoke Persian cats, caused by a mutation of a lysosomal trafficking regulator protein. Affected cats have reduced pigment in the skin and eyes, causing photophobia (sensitivity to light), immune deficiency and bleeding disorders due to reduced dense granules and impaired functions of the platelets.
Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD)
A genetic disorder caused by a lack of blood protein known as Von Willebrand’s factor, which is necessary for normal platelet binding. Platelets are normal but are unable to adhere to sites where blood vessels have been injured.
Hemophilia is due to a lack of clotting factors in the blood and can be inherited or acquired.
Hemophilia A (F actor VIII deficiency): The most common form of hemophilia. It occurs as a mutation on the X chromosome, making it sex-linked. Males are most commonly affected because they only have one X chromosome. As females have two, they can carry the faulty chromosome, but won’t develop hemophilia themselves as their normal X chromosome is enough to prevent hemophilia. On rare occasions, a female can have hemophilia if a male with hemophilia mates with a female carrier, and the two X female chromosomes both have the faulty gene.
Factor XII (Hageman factor) deficiency: This form of hemophilia typically does not express a bleeding tendency. It is often an incidental finding when routine blood coagulation testing reveal a very long activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT).
Vitamin K is a cofactor for the enzyme responsible for chemical reactions that maintain blood clotting factors: prothrombin; Factors VII, IX, and X. The most common cause of vitamin K deficiency in cats is due to ingestion of rodenticide.
Clotting factor levels can drop in cats with liver disease as the liver is responsible for the synthesis of several clotting factors.
Disseminated intravascular coagulation
DIC is a condition disease where blood clots form throughout the bloodstream and is tied to systemic or severe inflammation. Microthrombi (tiny blood clots) develop throughout the blood vessels which can become emboli and lodge in small blood vessels which leads to reduced blood flow to the organs, and systemic coagulation uses up the platelets and coagulation factors resulting in severe bleeding.
In some cases, asymptomatic cats with mild blood clotting disorders may not be diagnosed until a routine blood panel is performed. Other cats may present with obvious signs (listed above). The veterinarian will take a thorough history, which will include:
Onset and duration of symptom?
Underlying medical conditions?
Is the cat on any medications or supplements?
Any possible toxin exposures?
Baseline tests – Complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis. Anemia (low red blood cells, thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets) and elevated liver enzymes may be revealed.
Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time (aPTT) – A sample of blood is placed in a vial and reagents are added to make the blood clot. The aPTT test measures the length of time (in seconds) that it takes for clotting to occur.
Prothrombin time (PT) – Also known as INR (International Normalized Ratio), the PT test measures of the amount of time it takes a sample of the cat’s blood plasma to clot. Prothrombin (factor II), is one of the plasma proteins involved in the clotting process.
Activated Clotting Time (ACT) -A measurement of the amount of time it takes for a blood clot to form in a blood sample. Blood is placed a test tube with an activator which stimulates contact activation of the intrinsic coagulation pathway. The activated clotting time tests factors XII, XI, IX and VIII.
Buccal mucosal bleeding time (BMBT) – A small snip is made in the oral mucosa, and a filter paper is held directly under the wound to blot the dripping blood. The length of time it takes for bleeding to stop is measured.
Thrombin Time (TT) – A blood test that measures the time it takes to convert fibrinogen to fibrin in a plasma sample which contains anticoagulant after thrombin has been added.
von Willebrand factor antigen assay (vWF:Ag) – A test to measure measures the amount of vWF in a blood sample.
Individual factor analysis – Coagulation factor test to measure the function the amount of these proteins in the blood.
Bone marrow aspirate or core biopsy – A needle extracts a sample of bone marrow from the humerus (upper bone in front leg), femur (thigh bone) or pelvis. An increase in the number of megakaryocytes suggest increased platelet use, increased platelet destruction or sequestration in the spleen. Decreased megakaryocytes indicate decreased platelet production, which may be due to cancer or viral infection.
The goal of treatment is to address the cause, where found, and manage symptoms.
Plasma transfusions for cats with low blood platelets.
Cryoprecipitate (fresh frozen plasma) or plasma transfusions can replace vWF in cats with Von Willebrand’s disease before surgery. This will decrease the likelihood of abnormal bleeding during surgery and in the recovery period.
The white coat colour is common in a variety of cat breeds as well as domestic (mixed breed) cats. Only two cat breeds occur in only white; the Khao Manee and the Foreign White, however many pure breeds of cat come in white as well as additional colours.
Coat: Short or semi-longhair Activity level: Moderate
The American Curl is inquisitive, intelligent and loving. They like to be a part of everything you are doing. Common words used to describe the American Curl include friendly, adaptable, curious and even-tempered.
American curl cats gets on well with other pets as and children, they make an exceptional family pet.
The American Shorthair is a friendly and easy-going cat. They are quite playful and remain that way until a relatively advanced age.
An independent breed who likes to be around you, but not on you or in your face. The American Shorthair is the perfect companion for a family who enjoys the company of a cat who likes to be around, but not constantly needing attention. Females are more active than their male counterparts.
Amiable, friendly and laid back describe the British Shorthair. As kittens, they are playful, but adult British Shorthairs tend to be less active than other breeds. They are a reasonably independent breed of cat and are happy to amuse themselves (often by snoozing). They are not a vocal cat.
Words used to describe the British Shorthair include calm, sociable, intelligent, quiet, independent.
The Devon Rex is an intelligent, mischievous and active breed of cat who thrives on human companionship and love to be close to their owners.
Devons are a relatively quiet breed, but they do like to chirp. Although I have never had a Devon Rex personally, I have spent a lot of time with this breed; they are a happy, easygoing, energetic and funny breed of cat.
An extremely affectionate cat who loves nothing more than spending time with their human family. The Don Sphynx is playful, energetic, intelligent and gets along well with pets and children.
The Exotic is placid and laid back; however, they are more energetic than their Persian cousins. They have a sweet, affectionate and loyal nature and get along with everyone, including children and other pets.
Exotics are not as demanding or obtrusive as other breeds of cat, but it is said they do like to follow their human companions around the house.
Foreign White or Oriental
Activity: Moderate to high
The Oriental is very similar to his Siamese cousin in personality and can be quite talkative as well as friendly, confident, outgoing, highly intelligent, lively, sociable, curious and affectionate. Despite being an active breed, they also love to snuggle on your lap in an evening.
Orientals make a great family pet and get along with everyone; they are known to become extremely attached to their human companions.
Note: White Oriental cats are known as Foreign White in the United Kingdom.
Activity: Moderate to high
The Khao Manee is a curious, active, playful and outgoing cat. They need to interact with their human family and do not like to be left on their own long.
The Maine Coon is known as the gentle giant of the cat world, who has a very kind and gentle outlook on life. Their intelligence makes them easy to train. High activity levels through to couch potatoes are ways of describing the day of a Maine Coon.
Maine Coons smart and known for their dog-like qualities. They are loyal and will often choose one human in the family as their special person.
Munchkins are playful, outgoing and maintain their kitten-like personality well into adulthood. They are social, affectionate and get along well with people, including children and other animals and make a fantastic family pet.
The Munchkin can run and jump; however, due to their short legs, they are unable to jump as high as other cats. They have a similar movement to ferrets.
Munchkin cats are known for their hoarding tendencies; in fact, they are affectionately known as magpie cats.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is an active breed of cat. They are easy-going, mild-mannered and friendly.
Norwegian Forest Cats are known for their excellent climbing ability; they love to be up high. So it is essential to provide them with a high perch (or two). Wegies are a playful breed, well into adulthood.
They are incredibly intelligent, make ideal family pets and get along well with children. They are extremely affectionate, like nothing more than being stroked and given attention.
A sweet and gentle cat, Persians have a laid back personality.
The Persian is a quiet cat who generally get along with other pets and family members, although not boisterous children. They are well behaved and don’t generally get up to any mischief. They are a quiet and calm cat but have a playful side also.
Scottish Fold and Scottish Shorthair
Activity: Low to moderate
The Scottish is a quiet breed of cat who is affectionate, intelligent, sweet and loyal. Scottish Folds and Straights get on with people and other household animals and children.
Activity: Low to moderate
The Selkirk Rex is a laid-back breed of cat, similar to that of their Persian and British ancestors but that doesn’t inhibit their playful nature. They do love a game but are not highly active like some other breeds can be.
An extremely sociable breed who gets along with everyone, including children and pets, Selkirk Rexes are extremely affectionate and love to sleep on human laps.
The Siberian has a very dog-like temperament and is very affectionate. They come out to greet the visitors in the house and are not shy. Siberians are intelligent and quick learners. They also have a triple purr and unlike other breeds have a chirping sound they use when they come to greet you. When they are around water, they appear to be fascinated with it and will drop toys into it and play in sinks with water left in.
The Siberian makes the ideal lap cat and will live quite happily indoors with you.
An anxiety disorder characterised by abnormal and repetitive behaviours with no real purpose.
Stress, anxiety, boredom, and in some cases, genetics.
Eating non-food items
Reduce stress in the home, provide plenty of play and in some cases medical therapy.
What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (abbreviated to OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which a cat engages in abnormal, repetitive and exaggerated behaviours (compulsions) with no real purpose. OCD is a common disorder in many species of animals, including humans, cats and dogs. People with OCD will engage in repetitive or compulsive behaviours such as frequent hand washing, checking the door is locked over and over again.
Most forms of OCD (apart from wool sucking, listed below) can develop in cats of any age, but most often starts around the time of social maturity, between 12-24 months.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder may be a manifestation of boredom, stress, anxiety, and in some cases, there may be a genetic component. Some OCD behaviours such as wool sucking and pica are more common in Siamese and related breeds.
Any stressful event can trigger OCD in cats; this can include moving house, a recent stay at a cattery or veterinarian, new pet or family member in the home or a bout of sickness or injury. The behaviour becomes fixed, and the cat continues the behaviour even if the original cause is no longer there due to the stress-relieving pleasure component, which reinforces the behaviour.
It is not always obvious that a cat has OCD as what separates normal behaviours from OCD is the frequency. For example, all cats groom as routine maintenance, but when performed to excess it is classed as compulsive.
Overgrooming (psychogenic alopecia):
Cats typically spend between 30-50% of their awake time grooming. Cats with psychogenic alopecia groom to excess, which can lead to areas of hair loss and skin irritation. Hair loss (alopecia) can occur anywhere that the cat can lick, common locations include the medial (middle) foreleg, inner thighs, the belly and perineum.
When damage occurs to the skin, the cat is at risk of developing a bacterial infection which can intensify the licking and lead to further trauma. Hairballs can also develop due to increased ingestion of fur.
Tail or foot chewing are the most common forms of self-mutilation in cats. Instead of licking the cat actively bites and chews at the skin, which causes damage to the tissues. Common target areas are the paws and tail.
Pica and wool sucking:
Both wool sucking and pica are oral compulsions with an increased incidence in Siamese and related breeds. The typical age of onset is 2 to 8 months.
Wool sucking is a behaviour that may have a genetic component, but can also develop in cats who left their mother too early. The cat will fixate on an object, usually a piece of clothing or a blanket and suck it. Over time, wool sucking can progress to pica, which is the ingestion of non-food items. Some cats develop pica but didn’t engage in wool sucking. All non-food objects ingested run the risk of causing a life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction.
Nail-biting and pulling at the claws are a part of the cat’s grooming routine. Chewing the claws helps to remove the loose outer layer and while routine, is only a small part of the grooming ritual. Cats can develop a compulsion to chew the claws to excess in a similar to nail-biting in cats. Once again, it is not always easy to distinguish between normal behaviour and excessive. Pet owners should be aware of how often their cat is engaging in a behaviour and watch for signs of trauma.
Some cats are naturally talkative, while others rarely vocalise. An increase in vocalisation can develop in entire cats who are calling for a mate, senior cats with dementia or a cat who has lost a housemate.
A stressful incident can trigger an increase in vocalisation in some cats. This can include changes in the home or a new cat in the neighbourhood. Pet owners may punish or reward the cat by yelling at or feeding the cat, which escalates the problem.
A cat with suspected OCD must be evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out a medical cause before a diagnosis of OCD can be made. For example, a parasitic skin infection can lead to excessive grooming and self-mutilation; other medical causes can include neurological disorders and pain.
The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of the cat and obtain a medical history from you which will include the onset of symptoms, any changes in the house (new baby or animal, moved, working more), and any other information you think is important?
Baseline tests: Complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis to evaluate the overall health of the cat and rule out underlying medical conditions.
Dermatological tests: Skin scrapings, biopsy, fungal cultures and intradermal skin testing are standard diagnostic procedures when looking for skin conditions.
Food trials: Food allergies in cats are common, which can lead to itching, scratching, and trauma to the skin. A food trial can rule out food allergies; the cat is switched to a hypoallergenic diet with no other sources of food (or treats) for 6-8 weeks to see if symptoms resolve. If they do, the cat then resumes his usual diet (challenged) to see if symptoms return.
Once a medical cause has been ruled out, the veterinarian can focus on treating the OCD as well as ways to reduce stress and provide environmental enrichment in the home. In some cases, the veterinarian will refer you to a veterinarian who specialises in behavioural issues.
Play therapy: Schedule 10-15 minutes once or twice per day for play therapy, which allows the cat to engage in his natural predatory behaviour. Wand toys are the best for this kind of play.
Environmental enrichment: Boxes to play and hide in, interactive toys (rotate, don’t leave every toy out all the time), food rewards the cat has to work for, perches or windowsills to watch what is going on outside and where practical a catio or cat enclosure which allows the cat outside access but in a safe and controlled environment.
Cat trees and perches: These provide cats with a high vantage point where they can assess the environment.
Routine: Cats like consistency and predictability, so try to stick to a set routine; schedule meals, litter tray cleaning, play therapy and social time for the same time every day.
Avoid changes: Don’t move furniture or the cat’s resources around, don’t bring new pets into the home with a cat with OCD unless a veterinarian recommends it (for example a bored or lonely cat).
Synthetic pheromones: Feliway is a synthetic pheromone which mimics the cat’s natural feel-good pheromones and can help to reduce stress.
Work to resolve inter-cat conflict: This may involve separating and re-introducing cats.
Provide separate key resources which include one litter tray, food and water bowl for per cat, which should be spread throughout the house and not lined up next to each other.
Keep litter trays clean, scoop solids out twice a day and empty and replace with fresh cat litter once a week.
Don’t reward the cat when he or she is engaging in obsessive behaviour. This can reinforce the cat and in some cases, escalate the problem. When the cat starts to act out his or her OCD, interrupt the behaviour and redirect the cat to another behaviour, for example, call the cat over for a stroke and reward with a treat for complying.
Praise and reward the cat when he or she is not acting on the behaviour.
Tricyclic antidepressant (TCA)
Clomipramine (Anafranil): The exact mechanism of action is not known, but it is thought to increase the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which contributes to mood regulation and feelings of well-being and happiness.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)
Fluoxetine: A generic form of Prozac which works by preventing the brain from reabsorbing serotonin. In this way, fluoxetine helps the brain to maintain enough serotonin so that you the cat has a feeling of well-being, due to improved communication between brain cells.
The cat will start on a low dose, which can be increased if there is no improvement.
If you have been thinking about bringing a cat into your family, today is the day to do it. With thousands of shelter cats in desperate need of a loving home, what better time to adopt?
Help at a shelter
If now is not the right time to adopt a cat, how about helping at a shelter? That may involve spending time socialising kittens, photographing cats for websites, grooming, cleaning litter trays, fundraising.
If you can’t spare the time, donations of food, cat litter or money are always gratefully received.
Spend time with your cat
Make some time to play with and bond with your cat. Play therapy is one of the best ways to interact with a cat. It provides mental stimulation and physical exercise.