Thursday, July 18, 2019
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Ten Reasons To Adopt An Adult Cat From A Shelter

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Tabby and white domestic shorthair cat

Ten reasons to adopt an adult cat at a glance

  1. You know what you are getting
  2. An adult can be a better choice if you already have a cat
  3. They’re better around young children
  4. Adult cats are more mellow
  5. They are past the chewing stage
  6. No housetraining required
  7. Adult cats appreciate a second chance
  8. You’re freeing up space for another animal in need
  9. Adult cats are lower maintenance
  10. You might be their only chance

 

Adult cats are overlooked by prospective new cat parents in favour of kittens. Nothing is cuter than a kitten, but there are advantages to adopt an older cat which we look at in this article.

Don’t shelter cats have issues?

Calico domestic shorthair cat

This is a common misconception; there are many reasons cats find themselves homeless through no fault of their own.

  • The previous owner has passed away
  • Change in circumstances, moving into a rental, divorce, sickness, moving to another country
  • Can no longer afford to care for the cat
  • New baby in the home
  • Moving into a house where cats aren’t permitted
  • Unwanted gift
  • Cats who have become lost and have no identification (microchip or tag) to find the owners
  • Cat is no longer wanted, no time for the cat, bored, adopted a new kitten or puppy
  • The previous family dumped the cat on the street or moved out of a house without taking it
  • Brought in as a stray

Reasons to adopt an adult cat

1. You know what you are getting

Black domestic cat

It’s hard to know what kind of a cat a kitten will grow into, will it be shy, friendly, calm, energetic, quiet or talkative? The adult cat’s temperament is already developed.

I always advise potential cat parents to decide what traits they are looking for. Quiet, talkative, independent, follows you around, calm or busy. These are all important questions to ask before you bring a new cat into the home. What if you want a lap cat but end up with an independent cat who would rather be on his own, or adopt a cat who talks non stop (some people love this). Speak to shelter staff and let them know what you are looking for. They can help to match the right cat for you.

2. An adult can be a better choice if you already have a cat

Reasons to adopt an adult cat

Especially if the current cat is older, an energetic and playful kitten can be too much for an adult who would rather chill than race around the house.

3. Adults are past the chewing stage

Kitten chewing furniture

Kittens are prone to chewing, especially when they are teething. Chewing has more significant implications than the damage it causes; kittens can put themselves in danger if they chew the wrong thing, an electrical cord, a toxic plant, a hard object, or a linear foreign body (such as a piece of string or tinsel), which can damage the gastrointestinal tract.

 

4. They are more mellow

Cream domestic shorthair cat

Adults have outgrown the crazy kitten phase; they are more chilled and less likely to get themselves into trouble. Most are happy to snooze on your lap or in the sun. That’s not to say that an adult can’t be fun to play with too, many love nothing more than an interactive game with their human family, but they are less likely to be climbing the curtains or getting into places they shouldn’t.

5. Adult cats are housetrained

Litter tray too small

There is no toilet training required; most adult cats are housetrained to use a litter tray. Kittens are usually good at this too, but sometimes accidents can happen during the training period.

6. You’re freeing up a place for another cat in need

Tabby domestic shorthair cat

Adult cats will spend more time in a shelter than a kitten, which takes up space and resources. By adopting an adult cat, you free up space for another cat in need.

7. They are better around young children

Adopting an adult cat if you have children

Young children don’t always know their strength and older or adult cats are less fragile than a kitten. An adult is more likely to remove itself from an uncomfortable situation than a kitten.

Safety is still important no matter how old (or young) the cat ism and children must learn:

  • How to safely pick up a cat, better still, not to pick up the cat until they are strong enough to safely do so without hurting it
  • To never hit a cat
  • Learn when a cat has had enough
  • Provide a safe place or two for the cat (top of a cat tree, inside a cat bed), and make a rule that when the cat is in his or her safe place, they must be left alone

8. Adult cats appreciate a second chance

Cat stretched out

Shelters can be stressful and overcrowded, rescue cats, especially adults, seem to appreciate a second chance of a life in a loving family home.

In return, you will be rewarded in spades.

9. Adults are low maintenance

Cat grooming

Self-grooming, toileting and feeding (well, you do need to fill their bowl), adult cats are an independent bunch, that doesn’t mean they aren’t loving, but they don’t need the intensive care that kittens do. An adult requires two meals a day; kittens need more frequent meals due to their energy requirements for growth. Sometimes they need a little help in the grooming and cleaning department, especially after a trip to the litter box.

Both kittens and adults can take a little time to settle in, but I have found the adults I’ve adopted have coped much easier than kittens who often miss their feline family.

10. You might be their last chance

Tuxedo cat

Kittens are the first cats to find a home, after all, who can resist a kitten? Adults, particularly older adults, are often overlooked and either spend a considerable amount of time living in the confines of a shelter or worse.

Senior cats, in particular, are hard to rehome, people assume an older cat will have expensive healthcare costs, but this isn’t always true. Shelters are open and honest about underlying medical problems, but the majority of senior cats in shelters are in good health.

Please feel free to share the infographic below. Click on the image for the full size.

Kitten Growth Chart – Newborn to 8 Weeks

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Our visual guide shows the week to week changes in the growth and development of kittens from birth to 8 weeks.

To view full size, right click and select view image.

Kitten growth chart - newborn to 8 weeks

Related: Kitten development – detailed guide

 

Titre Testing For Cats – What Is A Titre Test?

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What are antibodies?A titre (pronounced tighter) test is a measurement of how much antibodies a cat has against certain pathogens (disease-causing organisms). Antibodies are Y shaped proteins produced by B cells in response of an antigen (a toxin, foreign substance or pathogen which induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies). They bind to the pathogen to stop it from replicating, and also tag pathogens so that other blood cells know to destroy them.

When a cat is vaccinated, it receives a weakened or killed version of the pathogen which stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies. These remain in the body long after the pathogen has been eliminated and the titre test measures levels of antibodies. However, over time, antibody levels can drop, which is why re-vaccination is necessary to ensure the cat continues to be protected against specific organisms.

All kittens should receive a series of two or three CORE vaccines at 6-8, 10-12 and 14-16 weeks and previous guidelines stated an annual booster was necessary 12 months after the 16-week vaccination.

Core (F3) vaccination:

Core vaccines consist of three pathogens which affect cats globally and every cat should receive the core vaccine.

Non-core vaccinations:

Non-core vaccines are for at-risk cats due to location, lifestyle and council or government regulations (outside cats or cats in endemic areas)

  • Rabies – In many parts of the world this vaccine is compulsory for all pets.
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Chlamydia
  • Bordetella
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)

Guidelines have changed in recent years to every two/three years for low-risk (indoor only) cats. However, despite the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), the World Small Animal Veterinary Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) stating their stance or guidelines, many veterinarians still recommend annual vaccinations which is confusing to pet owners  who want to do the best for their cat.

WSAVA

Cats that have responded to vaccination with MLV core vaccines maintain a solid immunity (immunological memory) against FPV for many years in the absence of any repeat vaccination. Immunity against FCV and FHV-1 is only partial (Scott and Geissinger 1999, Jas et al. 2015). The VGG recommendation for adult ‘low-risk’ cats is for revaccination with MLV core vaccines at intervals of 3 years or longer.

Note: The recommendation above states MLV (modified live vaccine), most core vaccines in Australia are killed; however, the third quote below relates to killed vaccines and the guidelines are the same.

AVA

The AVA supports administration of core vaccines to all companion animals to protect them against severe, life-threatening diseases that have a global distribution. Vaccines with extended duration of immunity (e.g. triennial) may be used for core vaccination in adult cats and dogs where risk of disease does not necessitate more frequent revaccination; however, local animal and environmental factors, including but not limited to increased risk of infection (e.g. increased incidence in the population, upcoming boarding) and acknowledged lack of sterile immunity with some core vaccines (e.g. feline herpesvirus 1 and feline calicivirus) may dictate a more traditional annual core vaccination schedule in some situations.

AAFP

A single dose is given one year following the last dose of the initial series, then no more frequently than every three years.

The three quotes above are just a few lines taken from an entire guideline, paper; there is no one size fits all when it comes to vaccinating cats. Each veterinarian must assess the cat’s individual risk.

Just to confuse things, some veterinarians state that while immunity from panleukopenia may last longer than three years, that is not the case for feline herpesvirus or calicivirus (my own veterinarian included). However, one paper states that while protection against panleukopenia lasts longer than that of feline herpesvirus or calicivirus, during trials, test cats remained seropositive against FHV and calicivirus for 3-4 years after vaccination. The killed (inactivated) vaccine was used in this case.

Control cats remained free of antibodies against FPV, FHV, and FCV and did not have infection before viral challenge. Vaccinated cats had high FPV titers throughout the study and solid protection against virulent FPV 7.5 years after vaccination. Vaccinated cats were seropositive against FHV and FCV for 3 to 4 years after vaccination, with gradually declining titers. Vaccinated cats were protected partially against viral challenge with virulent FHV. Relative efficacy of the vaccine, on the basis of reduction of clinical signs of disease, was 52%. Results were similar after FCV challenge, with relative efficacy of 63%. Vaccination did not prevent local mild infection or shedding of FHV or FCV.

What are the risks of vaccinating cats?

  • Feline injection-site sarcoma – A rare but aggressive type of cancer with links to vaccinations, especially rabies, and feline leukemia vaccines.1 cat per 10,000 doses of vaccine administered.
  • Allergic reaction – Between 11-10 of every 10,000 cats vaccinated will experience an allergic reaction which may be mild and self-limiting or cause a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. This is why I will only ever have a veterinarian vaccinate my pets, incase of immediate anaphylaxis.

Is a cat titre test effective?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners states that, while a positive titre test for panleukemia shows they have adequate protection, titres for felineherpesvirus and calicivirus do not correlate with immunity and should not be used to determine the need for vaccination.

What pet owners do with that information comes down to recommendations from the cat’s veterinarian, who is the one who has the full history and background, as well as risk factors such as cats who are indoor only, cats who go outside, or go to boarding catteries.

There is no argument that vaccinations save lives, and every cat should be vaccinated, how often is a discussion between client and veterinarian. Even if you and your veterinarian decide to switch from annual to triannual, it is still important that the cat visits once a year for a thorough health check.

Click on the infographic below to see the full size.

Titre testing cats

Five Steps to Litter Tray Success

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Litter tray success

At a glance

  1. Choose the right size litter tray
  2. Litter tray location
  3. Type of cat litter
  4. Keeping trays clean
  5. Number of litter trays

 

About

One of the many reasons cats are so popular is their cleanliness. When their needs are met, the overwhelming majority of them will use a litter tray and not your new rug. The key to success is creating an environment where the litter tray is the preferred option.

Related: Cat litter-finding the right type         Choosing a litter tray

Litter tray size

The size of the litter tray should reflect the size of the cat. As guide the litter tray should be 1.5 times the length of the cat. A small kitten cannot be expected to climb into a large tray with high sides, just as a large adult cat cannot be expected to squeeze into a small litter tray.

Litter tray too small
This litter tray is clearly too small and is an accident waiting to happen

Storage containers are a popular choice for litter trays because they are inexpensive and the high sides helps to keep cat litter contained in the tray. These types of tray are fine for older kittens and adults, but babies and senior cats will have trouble climing in and out. Therefore a tray with low sides is better.

Location

The litter tray should be within easy reach, in a low-traffic area and away from food and water bowls (nobody wants to eat near a toilet, that includes cats). If you have a multi-story home, place a litter tray on each level.

Cats like to know they have an escape route, so don’t jam a litter tray into a corner, particularly if there are multiple pets in the home. The cat needs to feel safe when eliminating or will find somewhere else. Ideally, the cat should have unobstructed views of the entire room but still have some privacy, such as a quiet corner in a spare room or dining room.

Avoid moving the litter tray around as this can cause confusion and create issues.

Can I put two litter boxes next to each other?

If you have a multi-cat home, it is better to place litter trays in separate locations. Cats view litter trays lined up next to each other as one giant toilet. If there are multiple spots, in multiple locations, cats can avoid crossing paths and they have the option of choosing a preferred location.

Ideal locations

  • A large room in a corner so that the cat has an escape route, but some privacy.
  • Multiple trays in multi-cat homes, and at least one tray on each level of the house.
  • Avoid high-traffic areas or noisy rooms.
  • Rooms with tiled or wooden floors, which makes it easier to clean up any mistakes or misses.
  • Cats must have access to their litter tray at all times.

Type of cat litter

There are many types of cat litter compared to a decade ago. Clay, soya, silicone, corn, recycled paper and wood pellets. Some are biodegradable and safe to put in the garden (but never on beds where fruit and vegetables are grown), while others will need to go into the trash.

When bringing a new kitten or cat into the home, stick with the type of litter he or she is used to. If you would like to change type, do so gradually over a few days by adding the more of the new type and less of the old.

Avoid scented litter as cats have an extremely good sense of smell, and scented cat litter can be overwhelming for a cat, especially when their nose is only 4 inches away from the litter.

Avoid clumping cat litter in households with young kittens, who are more prone to getting into things. Try out different types of litter to see if your cat seems to have a preferance over one particular type.

How much litter should you put in the box?

The recommended depth is 2-3 inches. Some cats who are diggers may benefit from an inch more.

Keeping litter trays clean

Cats are fastidious by nature and one surefire way to cause litter tray aversion is by not keeping it clean.

Remove urine soaked litter and solids morning and night. Once a week, remove all litter, clean and disinfect the trays as well as the floors under and around the trays, rinse, dry and re-fill with fresh cat litter.

Avoid strong scented disinfectants, I find a 1:32 bleach solution with cold water keeps trays clean and removes odours. Always rinse the tray throughtly after disinfecting and wipe dry with paper towels.

Related: How to clean a litter tray – step by step guide

Number of litter trays

The rule of thumb for litter trays is one per cat, plus one for the house. This is because some cats prefer to defecate in a different tray to one they have urinated in.

Again, don’t line all of the trays next to each other but place them in different areas (and floors) of the house.

Miscellaneous

Helping senior cats

Arthritis and and dementia can develop in the senior cat and pet owners must make allowances for loss of mobility and the possibility of confusion. Keep the litter tray in an easy to access location, don’t make changes, and provide a tray that is easy to climb in and out of. A cat with mobility issues cannot be expected to climb down to a basement every time he needs to use the litter tray.

Helping kittens

Most kittens are easy to toilet train as it is their natural instinct to bury their feces. When the kitten comes home, confine him to a small room (a bathroom is a good room as it is easy to clean) with a soft bed, food and water, and a litter tray. Give the kitten a few days to settle in before giving him free run of the house.

Microchipping Cats – Everything You Need To Know

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Macro image of a cat microchipMicrochipping is a permanent way to identify a cat so that if it becomes lost, injured or stolen, there is an easy way to reunite the cat with his or her family. The microchip itself is a similar size to a grain of rice and is implanted under the skin through a syringe between the shoulder blades. Thin layers of connective tissue grow around the microchip, which holds it in place.

August 15th is Check The Chip Day – A day which serves as a reminder to pet owners to check and update their pets’ microchip registration information.

How does a microchip work?

Cat microchip
The microchip is between 11-12 mm long

The microchip uses passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology and emits a radio signal when a scanning device is passed over the skin. Because they use RFID technology, microchips do not require a power source like a GPS.

Most veterinarians, animal shelters and councils have access to a scanning device.

Microchipping a cat
The microchip is injected under the skin between the shoulder blades
Microchipping a cat
A scanner can pick up the unique microchip number which is linked to a database with the information including home address and contact phone number

Who can microchip a cat?

Only authorised implanters can insert microchips and they must fill out the microchip form and include the owner’s details which is then forwarded to the pet registry which is operated by local government.

The new owner will receive a letter from their local council or the relevant registry and pay a small fee. In NSW the fee is a once off, other registries have an annual fee.

Benefits of microchipping

Microchipping is relatively inexpensive and is the only permanent form of identification for a cat. Veterinarians, animal shelters and councils all have access to a scanner.

Unfortunately, the microchip is only effective if pet owners keep their details up to date. Remember to contact the database if you move house or your phone number changes. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, only six out of ten microchips are registered. It is frustrating for animal shelters and veterinarians to take in a lost pet only to find out the microchip details are out of date. At best, they spend time looking for the owners on social media, and at worst, if an animal shelter is unable to find the owners after a compulsory holding period, the cat is at risk of being euthanised.

If the cat is stolen, the microchip can be used as proof of ownership.

Some databases also keep information on the cat’s medical history, so if the cat turns up at a shelter or veterinary practice, they can quickly access this information and potentially give it medical treatment.

Microchips can also be used with additional technology, which includes cat flaps and microchip feeders. These products read the cat’s microchip and won’t work if the microchip number doesn’t correspond, which can help keep stray or wild animals out of the home or stop household pets accessing the wrong food bowl. This is especially useful if one or more cats are on a prescription diet.

Microchip cat feeder

Does microchipping hurt?

Microchipping feels the same as a routine vaccination. This can be eliminated if the cat is microchipped at the same time it is desexed, the cat will be under anesthesia when the chip is implanted.

How long do microchips last?

Because the microchip has no internal energy source, the microchip lasts a lifetime.

How much does it cost to microchip a cat?

Approximately $80 Australian dollars or $60 US dollars.

What if my pet was microchipped overseas?

Some databases do allow you to register your cat’s overseas microchip with them. Contact your veterinarian or a pet microchip in your country.

If a scanner does not detect the microchip OR the microchip is not an local standard microchip then it will be necessary to microchip the cat again.

Do indoor cats need to be microchipped?

Most Australian states have made microchipping of cats and dogs compulsory.  As of 1st July, 2019, anybody giving away or selling a cat in New South Wales is required to list the microchip number in the advertisement.

Even where microchipping isn’t compulsory, and the cats live indoors, it is strongly recommended. Accidents happen, collars can be removed or fall off, and cats can escape, if the cat is microchipped, it will be easy to for the relevant authorities to access the cat’s information and reunite him or her with their family.

What are the side effects of microchipping a cat?

Side effects are extremely rare, and the benefits by far out weigh any possible risks.

Possible migration of the microchip.

Spinal cord injury resulting due to incorrect microchip placement.

Your responsibilities

  • Pay council or registrar fees.
  • Fill out the form with up to date information.
  • If you move, or change address, update the database.
  • If the cat is sold, or adopted, you are responsible for transferring the microchip information to the new owners.

How do I change my cat’s microchip details?

Contact the relevant database company who can update your cat’s records. If you don’t know your cat’s microchip number, contact your veterinarian, council or animal welfare shelter who can scan your pet and supply you with the microchip number.

What if you don’t know which registry the details are with?

There are several online tools which allow you to enter the cat’s microchip and find out details of the registry.

Do microchips have a GPS?

Not at this time.

Cat Eye Colours – Different Eye Colours in Cats

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Central heterochromia in a grey catOverview

The eyes are the window to your soul and that definitely applies to cats who are blessed with a stunning variety of eye colours. All kittens are born with blue eyes, some will keep the blue eye colour for life, but others will change colour from 6-8 weeks. The reason eye colour is blue at birth is that kittens aren’t born with all of the melanin, which is a naturally occurring pigment produced by star-shaped cells called melanocytes (pronounced melano-site) that they will eventually have.

Melanocytes contain spheres known as melanosomes, which produce melanin; this pigment affects hair, skin and eye colour. While the number of melanocytes is similar in all cats, the amount of melanin in each melanosome, as well as the number of melanosomes, differs. The more melanin, the darker the eye colour.

Melanocyte

There are three possible ways a cat can have blue eyes:

  1. Dominant white (epistatic white cats) – The gene responsible is symbolised with the letter W (for white). The uppercase means it is dominant, and only one copy is needed for the trait to be expressed. The W gene has pleiotropic effects, which means it influences two or more characteristics. In this case, the W gene suppresses the expression of coat colour, with incomplete penetrance for the blue eye colour and hearing. So, genetically the cat may be black or red, but the W overrides this, some cats will have blue eyes, but not all, and some will be deaf due to degeneration of the organ of Corti. Deafness usually, on the same side, the blue eye colour is.
  2. White spotting gene (piebald) – White-spotted cats are widespread; the amount of white can range from almost complete to just a few hairs of white (known as lockets). If the white spotting occurs around the eyes, they will be blue. The white spotting gene does not affect hearing.
  3. Albinism  – Five alleles for albinism exist in cats. Full colour (C), Burmese (cb), Siamese (cs), blue-eyed albino (ca), pink-eyed albino (c). Siamese cats (cs) and blue-eyed albino cats (ca) are the only two from the albino group who have blue eyes. The gene responsible for the Siamese cat and other colourpoint breeds (cs) is recessive, which means the offspring must inherit a copy from each of the parents. The gene causes partial albinism in Siamese and pointed cats (Himalayan albinism). This gene causes the coat colour to be heat sensitive, so the cooler extremities such as the nose, ears and tail show colouration and the rest of the body are cream to white.

How many eye colours do cats have?

There are three primary eye colours; brown, green and blue. Each of these colours will vary in hue, so brown can range from chestnut brown through to copper, gold and yellow. Green can be a deep violet down to a gooseberry green, and blue can vary from deep blue to almost translucent blue.

Cat eye colours

Brown

The darkest of all cat eye colours, brown has the highest number of melanocytes.

Cat with brown eyes
Dark brown
Light brown eyes
Light brown
Yellow gold eye colour in cats
Gold/yellow

Green

Green-eyed cat
Green
Cat with green eyes
Gooseberry

Blue

Cat with dark blue eyes
Dark blue
Light blue eyes
Light blue

Aqua

Aqua is a blue-green eye colour which occurs in Tonkinese and as a result of the hybridisation of Siamese and Burmese (Tonkinese) and the snow Bengal.

Aqua eye colour in Tonkinese cats

Aqua eye colour in Tonkinese cat

Heterochromia, odd-eyed cats

Complete heterochromia
Complete heterochromia
Central heterochromia in cats
Central heterochromia
Sectoral heterochromia
Sectoral heterochromia

 

Electrolyte Imbalances in Cats – Causes and Symptoms

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Electrolyte imbalances in catsWhat are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are salts which dissolve into positive and negative charges (ions) which conduct electricity when in water. They perform many essential roles in the body, and when levels are too high or low, can cause significant derangements.

Cations (positively-charged ions) and anions (negatively-charged ions).

Cats receive electrolytes via the food, which are absorbed by the intestines and are stored in different parts of the body (bones, soft tissue) as well as two fluid compartments; intracellular fluid (ICF) and extracellular fluid (ECF).

  • Intracellular fluid is the liquid found inside cells
  • Extracellular fluid (ECF) is all body fluid outside of cells and consists of plasma, interstitial, and transcellular fluid

There are seven key electrolytes; Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, chloride and bicarbonate. Disorders can occur when electrolyte levels rise or drop below safe levels.

Sodium (Na)

Normal range: 147 – 156 mEq/l

Most of the cat’s sodium is located in blood and in the fluid around cells. Sodium is a positive ion (cation), and combined with chloride which is a negative anion, forms sodium chloride.

  • Maintains fluid volume and balance in and around cells (osmosis)
  • Maintains muscle and nerve function

Hypernatremia (high sodium levels):

Often a complication of critically ill cats whose water intake is inadequate or due to fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea. Excess ingestion of salt can also cause hypernatremia. High blood sodium levels cause a shift of water out of the cells and can lead to fluid to build up around the brain.

Symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low body temperature
  • Slow capillary refill time
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Hyponatremia (low sodium levels):

This can be caused by water retention or fluid loss, such as vomiting, diarrhea, Addison’s disease and kidney failure due to an inability of the kidneys to remove extra fluid from the body.

Symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Potassium (K)

Normal range: 4.0 – 4.5 mEq/l

Potassium is a cation (positive ion), and over 90%  is located within the body’s cells (intracellular); the remainder is present in the extracellular fluid of the blood. The kidneys remove excess potassium out of the body via the urine.

  • Regulates nerve conduction as well as skeletal and smooth muscle contractions
  • Maintains intracellular volume
  • Regulates the heart beat
  • Assists in maintaining blood pressure and intracellular volume

Hyperkalemia (high potassium levels):

It is the role of the kidneys to remove excess potassium from the blood via the urine if they are no longer functioning as efficiently potassium levels can build up. The most common cause of hyperkalemia is decreased urinary excretion due to kidney failure, urinary tract blockages, ruptured bladder, Addison’s disease and diabetic ketoacidosis which causes potassium to move from the cells and into the blood circulation.

Symptoms:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Twitching
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Depression

Hypokalemia (low potassium levels):

Can be caused by inadequate consumption of potassium, increased excretion of potassium or shift of potassium from the extracellular fluid into the intracellular fluid.

The most common cause is increased excretion of potassium due to hypomagnesemia (a decrease in intracellular magnesium, caused by magnesium deficiency, releases the magnesium-mediated inhibition of ROMK channels and increases potassium secretion), vomiting or cats with chronic kidney disease or diabetes. Decreased intake can occur in cats with chronic anorexia (loss of appetite). Administration of sodium bicarbonate, insulin and glucose can push potassium from the extracellular fluid into the intracellular fluid.

Symptoms:

  • Lethargy (decrease in activity)
  • Weakness
  • Muscle pain (myalgia)
  • Stiffened posture and gait
  • Reluctance to move
  • Ventral neck flexion (inability to raise the head due to muscle weakness)
  • Increased thirst and urination (due to decreased kidney function)
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Dull coat

Magnesium (Mg)

Normal range: 1.9-2.8 mg/dL

Magnesium is a cation (positive charged ion), 60% of the magnesium in the body is found in bone, while the rest is in muscles, soft tissues (39%), only 1% is located in the extracellular fluid. It is the second most abundant intracellular cation (ion) after potassium. It is involved in 300 enzyme reactions reactions in the body, which include:

  • Maintains normal nerve and muscle function
  • Maintains a steady heart beat, when calcium enters the cells of the heart muscle, it stimulates the muscle fibres to contract, magnesium counters this effect, helping these cells relax
  • Aids bone growth
  • Regulates blood glucose levels and blood pressure
  • Synthesis of fat, proteins, nucleic acids and coenzymes
  • Magnesium is required for the production and release of parathyroid hormone
  • Adenose triphosphate (ATP) is the primary source of energy in the cells and must bind to a magnesium ion to be biologically active

Hypermagnesemia (high magnesium levels):

This condition is rare in cats and is most commonly associated with kidney failure when the kidneys lose their ability to excrete excess magnesium from the body.

Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Mental depression
  • Paralysis
  • Slow reflexes
  • Reduced respiration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Coma

Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium levels):

The most common causes of hypomagnesemia include malnutrition, poor quality diet, increased renal (kidney) excretion due to kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and diuretics.

Symptoms:
  • Poor growth of kittens
  • Irritability
  • Anorexia
  • Calcium deposition in soft tissues
  • Convulsions

Calcium (Ca)

Normal range: 7.5 – 10.8 mg/dl

Calcium is a cation (positive charged ion) and the most abundant mineral in the body. It is responsible for many essential functions.  99% of calcium is stored in the bones, the remaining 1% is in the blood, and it is responsible for:

  • Cardiac function
  • Muscle contractions
  • Nerve impulses
  • Blood clotting
  • Stabilises the permeability of the cell membrane to sodium
  • Cell growth
  • Provides strength to the teeth and bones

Several key players including the parathyroid gland, vitamin D, calcitonin (a hormone), the kidneys and the bones (which store excess calcium) are responsible for the maintaining calcium levels, and any problem with any of these can cause calcium levels to be too high or low.

Hypocalcemia (low calcium):

Hypoparathyroidism, milk fever, chronic kidney failure, hypoalbuminemia, phosphate enemas, vitamin D deficiency and antifreeze poisoning, acute pancreatitis and diet.

Symptoms:

Hypercalcemia (high calcium):

The most common cause of hypercalcemia is idiopathic (IHC), which means no underlying cause can be found. Most cases of hypercalcemia are due to increased gastrointestinal uptake from the food or excessive mobilisation of stored calcium from the bones. Other causes include cancer, primary hyperparathyroidism, Addison’s disease, ingestion of certain houseplants or rodenticide and vitamin A toxicosis.

Symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Twitching
  • Seizures
  • Mineralisation of the tissues, especially the heart and kidneys

Phosphate (PO4)

Normal range: 3.3 – 7.5 mg/dl

Phosphate is an anion (negatively charged ion) combines with calcium to form the hard structure of the bones and teeth. 85% of phosphate is stored in the bones and the remainder is located within the intracellular and extracellular compartments. The concentrations of calcium and phosphate are similar and kept in check by several mechanisms including the parathyroid gland, vitamin D, kidneys and the hormone calcitonin. The kidneys remove excess phosphate from the body via the urine and to a lesser degree, the feces.

  • Binds to calcium to build and repair bones and teeth
  • Phosphate is a building block for several important substances, including those used by the cell for energy, cell membranes, and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
  • Plays a role in the regulation of protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Helps nerve function
  • Involved in the activation of vitamin D and calcium homeostasis

Hypophosphatemia (low phosphate):

This condition is rare in cats and can occur when extracellular phosphate is redistributed into the intracellular fluid

Symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Stiff joints
  • Weakness

Hyperphosphatemia (high phosphate):

The most common cause of hyperphosphatemia is kidney disease due to the reduced ability of kidneys to get rid of excess phosphate. Phosphate enemas can also lead to increased blood levels. When levels increase, phosphate binds to calcium, causing levels to drop.

Symptoms:

Chloride (Cl)

Normal range: 111 – 125 mEq/l

Chloride is an anion (negatively charged ion) which is usually consumed as salt, paired with sodium and is the most abundant anion in the extracellular fluid.

  • Chloride works closely with sodium and potassium and helps to keep fluid levels in the body balanced.
  • Maintains blood volume, blood pressure and pH
  • Production of gastric hydrochloric acid

Hypochloremia (low chloride levels):

The most common cause of hypochloremia is prolonged vomiting and diarrhea.

Symptoms:

  • Dehydration
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Lethargy

Hyperchloremia (high chloride levels):

Hyperchloremia can be caused by loss of body fluids, such as prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, high levels of blood sodium, kidney failure, and certain drugs (corticosteroids and diuretics).

Symptoms:

  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

Cat Breeds With Blue Eyes

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Blue eyed breeds of cat

Blue-eyed cat breeds at a glance

  • Siamese
  • Balinese
  • Birman
  • Javanese
  • Himalayan
  • Foreign White
  • Ragdoll
  • Snowshoe

Related: Cat Eye Colours

 

Cat’s eye colours can range from blue to yellow, copper, brown, green and odd-eyes (blue and another colour). Several cat breeds have blue eyes, some of these breeds only have blue eyes, while others can have all eye colours, which include blue.

Siamese

Siamese cat with blue eyes

One of the most well known blue-eyed cat breeds, the Siamese is an ancient breed of cat which originated in Thailand. The first two Siamese cats arrived in England from Bangkok in 1884, by Acting Vice-Consul at Bangkok, Mr Gould who gave them to his sister, Mrs Lilian Veley as a present. Pho and Mia are recorded as 1a and 2a in the Siamese Cat Register. Mrs Veley went on to co-found the Siamese Cat Club in 1901.

Siamese cats are extremely intelligent and can form close bonds with one human in the family. They love to follow their human around while giving them a running commentary.

Balinese

Balinese cat

Image credit, Derek A Young, Flickr

The Balinese is a longhaired Siamese cat which originated in the 1950s. The gene responsible for longhair is recessive, and for a cat to have a long coat, it must inherit a copy of the gene from each parent. Occasionally a long-haired cat would turn up in a litter of Siamese kittens, but these were sold as pets.  It is not known if the longhair gene was introduced to the breed at some point or if it occurred as a spontaneous mutation. Marion Dorsey of Rai-Mar cattery in California developed a breeding plan for these longhaired Siamese cats which would sometimes appear.

Balinese cats share many similar traits with their Siamese cousins, including intelligence, loyalty, and playfulness.

Birman

Birman cat

Also known as the Sacred Cat of Burma, the Birman is heavy built, long-haired pointed cat whose origins are shrouded in legend. What is likely is that longhaired white cats who lived in an ancient temple in Burma (Myanmar) likely mated with Siamese cats.

The Birman is a sweet-natured, gentle, affectionate and intelligent cat who is more laid-back than other breeds of cat. They make an ideal companion for singles, families with children and retirees.

Foreign white

Foreign White

Feline genetics expert Patricia Turner wanted to create a pure white Siamese without the known deafness associated with many white cats. A breeding programme was established which crossed Siamese with white British Shorthairs.

The breed is classified as Oriental in most countries, but in Britain, the GCCF treats it as a separate breed.

Himalayan

Himalayan cat

The Himalayan is a pointed Persian cat Which was developed by crossing Siamese with Persian cats. Himalayans were developed by crossing Siamese with Persian cats to create a Persian-type cat with colour point markings. Attempts began in the 1920s by crossing a Siamese with a white Persian to create a Persian type cat with colourpoint markings. They were originally named Malayan cats, but this was later abandoned in favour of Himalayan.

Himalayans are considered Persians with the Cat Fanciers Association; however, other cat councils recognise the Himalayan as a separate breed.

More placid than other cat breeds, Himalayans are sweet and good-natured. Some can be quite talkative, but not as much as their Siamese cousins.

Javanese

In America, the Javanese is a colourpoint longhair similar to the Balinese, but in the non-traditional colour points such as fawn, red, cream and lynx point. The breed started at the same time the Balinese was in development. From time to time, kittens were born with unusual colour patterns and usually sold as pets. Eventually, it was decided to place these kittens into the category of Javanese.

The Javanese shares a similar personality to the Siamese and Balinese and is intelligent, loyal, curious and will often bond closely with one person in the family.

Ragdoll

Ragdoll cat

The Ragdoll is one of the largest domestic cat breeds whose history began in the 1960s with a white Persian/Angora type cat called Josephine. Josephine was hit by a car, and Anne Baker was subjected to government testing, which lead to her becoming relaxed and floppy like a rag doll and felt no pain. Josephine went on to produce two kittens (Blackie and Daddy Warbucks) to two sires who were much larger than previous litters and had the same laid-back temperament.

Blackie, as the name would suggest, a black cat and Raggedy Ann Daddy Warbucks (Daddy Warbucks for short),   who had a cream coloured coat, with dark points and white mitts. These two males are considered to be the founding fathers of the Ragdoll breed.

Despite claims, Ragdoll cats do feel pain, but due to their relaxed nature, many will be somewhat floppy when picked up. Ragdolls are easy to train and love human companionship. They get along well with other pets and children.

Snowshoe

An American breed founded by Siamese breeder Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty of Kensing Cattery. A Siamese of hers gave birth to a litter, all of whom had white feet. Liking the look of these kittens, Dorothy began a breeding programme by crossing Seal Point Siamese cats with bicolour American Shorthairs. The breeding programme was abandoned for a while until Vikki Olander of Furr-Lo cattery took over.

The snowshoe is gentle, loving and affectionate. Their temperament is somewhere between that of the Siamese and the American Shorthair. They are more vocal than the American Shorthair but less talkative than Siamese.

Other cat breeds with blue eyes

Devon Rex with blue eyes
Devon Rex with blue eyes

In addition to the cat breeds listed above, who only come with blue eyes, the breeds listed below can also have blue eyes depending on their coat colour/genetics:

What Cat-Safe Plants Can You Grow In A Cat Enclosure?

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What plants are safe to grow in a cat enclosure or catio??

At a glance

  • Spider plant
  • Bamboo
  • Staghorn
  • Boston Fern
  • Ponytail Palm
  • Golden Cane Palm
  • Spanish Moss
  • Maidenhair Fern
  • Silver Falls
  • Catnip
  • Cat Grass
  • Cat Thyme
  • Silver Vine

 

Overview

No cat enclosure or catio is complete without some plants which provide decoration, shade and something to nibble. Most pet owners are aware that many common plants are toxic to cats. This article looks at cat-safe plants to add to your catio.

Related: Flowers non-toxic to cats   Herbs non-toxic to cats   Succulents non-toxic to cats   Indoor plants non-toxic to cats

Ideally, if space permits, the catio or cat enclosure will have several different types of plants which include large plants to provide shade, edible plants (catnip, cat grass),  decorative plants and hanging plants.

Decorative plants

Spider plant

Spider plant

About: The spider plant is an easy to care for plant which grows pups (baby spider plants) that cascade down the plant. Can grow in garden beds, rockeries, or in pots on the ground or hanging.

Scientific name: Chlorophytum comosum.

Also called: Airplane Plant.

Care: Easy.

Preferred climate: Humid and filtered sunlight, cannot tolerate frost.

Golden Cane Palm

Golden cane palm

Image credit, Dinesh Valke, Flickr

About: The golden cane palm is an ornamental palm which is suitable for pots or gardens. Be warned, if planted in a bright spot in the garden it can grow up to 8 metres tall.  

Scientific name: Dypsis lutescens.

Also called: Areca Palm, Yellow Palm, Butterfly Palm.

Care: Easy.

Preferred climate: Tropical, grow in full or part shade, can tolerate cold but protect from frost.

Boston Fern

Boston fern

Image courtesy Ga fernrdening Solutions, Flickr

About: The Boston fern is a beautiful fern with fresh light green fronds. It is suitable for use indoors and on patios in warmer climates.

Scientific name: Nephrolepis exaltata.

Also called: Sword fern.

Care: Moderate.

Preferred climate: Warm, humid and shady.

Staghorn fern

Staghorn fern

About: Staghorn ferns belong to a genus of 18 unusual ferns which attach to trees (or boards of wood). They can grow up to six feet in length.

Scientific name: Platycerium spp.

Also called: Elkhorn

Care: Moderate

Preferred climate: Warm and humid, grow in dappled shade. Protect from direct sun and frost.

Spanish Moss

Spanish moss

Scientific name: Tillandsia usneoides

Also called: Old Man’s Beard

About: An interesting air plant which can be hung from trees, branches and logs. We have some hanging from the wire netting in our cat’s enclosure.

Care: Easy.

Preferred climate: Prefers a humid climate, but can grow in a dry climate if misted regularly with water. Can tolerate light frost, avoid direct sun.

Ponytail Palm

Ponytail Palm - Non-toxic to cats

Ponytail Palm – Image courtesy Robert, Flickr

About: A genus of flowering plants which are native to Mexico and Central America. The most well known of the Beaucarnea species is the unusual looking Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata).

Scientific name: Beaucarnea spp.

Also called: Elephant’s Foot, Ponytail Palm, Bottle Palm, Elephant-Foot Tree

Care: Easy

Preferred climate: Temperate climate and full sun. Protect from frost in cooler areas.

Silver falls

Silver falls plant

About: This stunning plant with silver/green leaves can grow as a trailing plant in rockeries or a hanging basket. The plant is not classified as toxic; however, ingestion can cause minor oral irritation.

Scientific name: Dichondra argentea

Also called: Silver ponyfoot

Care: Moderate

Preferred climate: Warm and dry, prefers partial shade. Frost tolerant once established.

Bamboo

Bamboo

About: A fast-growing and decorative plant with 1,000 species, bamboo comes in all shapes and sizes. Some bamboo plants can spread quite easily; I prefer to stick with clumping bamboo and grow it in pots.

Scientific name: Bambusoideae

Also called: –

Care: Easy

Preferred climate: Tropical and full sun, frost resistant.

Maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern

About: A genus of 250 species which consist of delicate, lacy leaves which can be grown in pots or hanging baskets.

Scientific name: Adiantum spp.

Also called: –

Care: Moderate to hard

Preferred climate: Humid and dappled shade. Protect from frost.

Edible plants

All plants on this page are safe to eat; however, this section covers plants cats like to chew on.

Catnip

Catnip plant

About: Catnip is a perennial herb in the mint family that is well known for its ability to induce a high in some cats. Approximately 60% of cats respond to catnip; however, it does not affect kittens. All parts of the plant can be sniffed or ingested to induce a high.

Scientific name: Nepeta cataria

Also called: Cataria, Catnep, Catrup, Cat’s Healall, True Catnip, Cat’s Wort, Field Balm, Garden Nep, Herba Cataria, Herba Catti, Nebada, Nep.

Care: Easy

Preferred climate: Catnip grows well in almost all climates. Prefers a sunny position, tolerates frost.

Cat grass

Wheatgrass

About: There are several varieties of cat grass available and is best grown in a pot to provide greenery for the cat to chew on

Scientific name: Dactylis glomerata, Avena sativa, Hordeum vulgare, Triticum aestivum 

Also called: Orchard Grass, Cock’s-Foot, Common Oat, Cat Oat, Barley, Wheatgrass

Care: Easy

Preferred climate: Catgrass grows well in almost all climates, grow in a sunny position, frost resistant.

Cat thyme

Cat thyme

Image credit, Leonora (Ellie) Enkling, Flickr

Scientific name: Teucrium marum

Also called: –

About: Cat thyme is not related to the common thyme herb used in kitchens but is a close relative of germander. A low growing, perennial shrub with a musty aroma, cat thyme is native to the Western Meditteranean.

Care: Easy

Preferred climate: Warm and dry, prefers full sun. Tolerates light frost.

Silver vine

Silver vine

Image credit, Clivid, Flickr

About: A species of kiwifruit which grows in the mountains of China and Japan. Silver Vine induced a response in 80% of cats tested in one test to see the effectiveness of different plants on cats. The active ingredients are actinidine and dihydroactinidiolide.

Scientific name: Actinidia polygama

Also called: Cat Powder, Matatabi

Care: Easy

Preferred climate: Warm climate, partial shade to full sun. Frost tender.