Is Your Cat is a Purebred?

Some cat lovers seem to overly focus on breeds, and are not happy until their cat is classified neatly within a certain breed. For years I have received emailed photos with the question “what breed is my cat?” I finally published Feline Breeds, Domestic Cats, and Color Patterns, to provide a handy reference guide to help readers recognize the difference.

What is a Purebred Cat?

The Cat Fanciers Glossary defines purebred as, “purebred: A cat whose ancestors are all of the same breed, or whose ancestry includes crossbreeding that is allowed in the breed standard. For example, a purebred Bombay may also have Burmese cats in its background.” Generally a cat’s pedigree (list of ancestry) must be certified by the registry, before it can rightfully be called a “purebred.”

“If it Walks Like a Maine Coon…”

“Purebred” is sort of a lazy lay term used by those of us outside the cat fancy to describe a cat of a given breed. More commonly however, people will subscribe to the “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck” theory. A very common example is the Maine Coon cat, with its distinctive ear tufts, ruff, bushy tail, and sweet voice. I’ve received many photos over the years for my Maine Coon gallery, of beautiful Maine Coon look-alikes. Then, upon reading the story behind the cat, we find that the cat was adopted from a shelter, or found wandering on the street. It rightfully could be claimed as a Maine Coon mix since it lacks the necessary documentation for a full-fledged Maine Coon. The first two photos illustrating this article show a registered, pedigreed Maine Coon, and my Billy, a possible Maine Coon mix, but more properly known as a DLH (Domestic Longhair cat).

The same goes for the American Shorthair breed, which, like the Maine Coon, is indigenous to North America. Virtually every DSH (Domestic Shorthair cat) tabby cat could be called an “American Shorthair,” were it not for that important documentation. I’m sure ASH breeders could readily tell the difference, but most of us lay people could not.

Breed Rescue Groups

Most of the major cat breeds have breed rescue groups, dedicated to saving and protecting their breeds. They generally have two methods of rescuing cats:

  • From Shelters
    Most of the cats breed rescue groups take in are breed “look-alikes,” and will be subsequently be offered for adoption as mixed-breed cats, e.g. “Maine Coon mix.” Occasionally they will be called in when animal control has shut down a breeder for overcrowding, unhealthy conditions, or upon the death of a breeder with no known family.
  • Directly From Breeders
    At times a reputable breeder may contact a breed rescue group because of illness, to ensure that good homes will be found for his or her cats. The same will also apply upon the death of a breeder, whose heirs have either no means or intentions or carrying on with the cattery.

Breed rescue groups provide a valuable service to the breeds they represent, and are an integral part of the cat fancy.

So — What Breed is my Cat?

Do your homework. Familiarize yourself with the various cat breeds. Then ask yourself two questions:

  1. What breed does he most resemble?
  2. Do I have a registry and pedigree for this cat?

If your answer to question number 2 is “no,” then you can only legitimately call him a “mixed (choose your breed)” Or, you could save yourself a lot of time and trouble by calling him your domestic cat.

The most important thing, of course, that no matter what you call him, you love him unconditionally, regardless of his breed or heritage.

From the FDA: United Pet Group Expanded Recall

This recall includes a long list of pet nutritional products, all of which have been recalled for possible salmonella contamination. Although most of them are intended for dogs, there are some significant product names which stand out, which might be used for cats, such as Nature’s Miracle Pet Mess Easy Clean-up, or Doctors Foster and Smith Cran Health Support Normal Urinary Tract Health tablets.

For a complete list of the recalled products, see the FDA announcement.

From the FDA:
Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

People who handle these products can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with them or any surfaces exposed to these products. Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with the product should contact their healthcare providers.

Help Your Cat Beat the Heat

Cats do not get a vacation from the dog days of summer, and they need your help to keep summertime annoyances at a minimum. Learn how to keep your kitties cool and free from parasites, hairballs, and other nasty things that savage their comfort during the year’s hottest season, with these tips for summertime comfort for cats.

You know the drill: the sun is blinding, relentlessly beating down reminiscent of a Stephen King novel. If you don’t have air conditioning, you seek out shady spots and sigh in relief from the slightest breeze, otherwise you huddle inside. Your thirsty body craves fluids, and the beverage of choice suddenly becomes water. Consider that long before you reach this state, your cat may be exhibiting signs of heatstroke. Learn the symptoms and what to do.

Don’t Let Fleas Win the War!

You’ve seen them – tiny, quick creatures that scurry through your cat’s fur, feasting on her blood, and causing painful itching – so bad that kitty may scratch herself raw in seeking relief. Summertime is particularly bad for fleas, making it even more important to nip those little suckers in the bud. Help your cat with regular flea control.

Give Kitty a Safe Outdoor Experience

Cat lovers who want their cats to enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and the ambience of trees, bushes, and plants, often feel guilt by confining their cats to the indoors. Today, however, we understand the hazards of allowing cats to roam freely, either by personal experience, hearsay, or through the media, including the Internet. On the other hand, there are some safe compromises to offer your indoor cat the best of both worlds, without the potential hazards of free roaming outdoors. Consider an underground cat fence or a cat enclosure.

Plant a Garden for Your Cat

If you enjoy gardening, plant a small garden just for your cat, with cat-safe herbs and flowers. Ideally, it will be inside an outdoor enclosure, but any corner of your yard will do, as long as your cat is carefully supervised while enjoying his own garden. You haven’t lived until you have seen a cat roll around in a fresh bed of catnip!

Build an Outdoor Sanctuary for Your Cats

One of the best ways for cats to enjoy a safe outdoors experience is with their own outdoor sanctuary. It can be as simple or complex as you have the time, space, and materials for. Work from your own plans or use some of these links to outdoor cat enclosures as references. If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, kits are also available.

Vaccination Time!

Several years of publicity and warnings about VAS (vaccine-associated sarcoma) have led some cat owners to believe that all vaccines are bad for cats. Not entirely true! Learn the approved vaccination protocols recommended byt the VAS Task Force as well as the American Veterinary Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners; especially the importance of core vaccines.

Don’t Forget Cool Water!

Although cats are by history desert creatures, they still need a ready source of cool, clean water at all times. Even cats who don’t drink a lot of water often enjoy drinking from an automatic pet fountain. We have two, and keep several ice cubes floating in each to add interest during the very hottest days. The cats all love them!

Summertime and Hairballs

Nothing is quite so alarming as hearing the “hack-hack-hack” of a cat trying to cough up a hairball. And almost nothing is as disgusting as seeing one on the floor, unless it is stepping on it at night in bare feet. Ughh! Seriously though, although hairballs may be the topics of jokes among thoughtless humans, they are a source of discomfort or worse, for cats, and they are particularly bad in the summer, when cats tend to shed more. Give your cat hairball relief this summer.

Grooming is Especially Important in Summer
While cats are basically self-cleaning animals, there are times when they definitely need human assistance, in the form of claw trimming, detangling mats, routine brushing for prevention of hairballs, dental care products to help prevent tooth decay and loss, and the occasional bathing when they’ve rolled in something nasty. It cats are going to get their coats in a mess, it will be more likely in hot weather, and they will greatly appreciate soothing baths, detangling, and mat-free coats in the summer.

When Appetites Wane

Cats tend to eat less in the summer, just as humans do, and a small amount of seasonal weight fluxuation is perfectly normal. But a very heavy cat who loses weight very quickly is susceptible to a condition called hepatatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease.) Here are some times for coaxing a finicky cat to eat, before she reaches that stage.

Don’t Forget Playtime!

While cats may prefer to nap away during warm days of summer, they still need regular exercise to remain fit, trim, and alert. Set aside 15 minutes or so in the early mornings and evenings, open windows to let fresh air in, and indulge in some interactive play with your favorite feline. Don’t allow him to get too tired, and follow playtime with a light snack for him, some iced tea for you, and some cuddle time for both of you. Your rewards will be priceless.

Living With an Older Dog

Most dog owners have seen the movie “Marley and Me” by know; if you haven’t its worth checking out. For those dog owners living with older pets it’s not far from reality. Like our human children, we think of our dogs as always being puppies with seemingly endless amounts of energy.

The truth of the matter is that sometimes our dogs forget they cannot do what they use to or for as long. They continue to try to please us biding for our attention only to find that sometimes our increasingly busy schedules offer little. As pet parents we need to understand that this time is precious and worth spending every extra moment.

The old adage of seven dog years’ equals one human year starts to ring true when your dog turns four to five years old. At that age, they are more like a 28 to 30 year old human and depending on the breed by the time they turn seven they should be considered a senior citizen. The age expectancy for small to medium dogs is anywhere from 12 to 18 years, for large breeds 10 to 15 years while extra large breeds is 7 to 10 years.

The most important thing you can do for your senior dog is have your vet give a senior seven blood work up. This test will screen for a host of issues affecting older dogs. Next would be to realize the limitations of your dog while playing and exercising. Cut the time you use to spend by half finding other activities and reasons to offer your affection.

Expect some “accidents” to happen in the house; do not treat this as you would when your dog was a pup. If your dog was properly housebroken then these accidents are an embarrassment for your dog. Punishment or a stern voice will only make them feel worse as well as confused. On the other hand, do not offer a condolence saying, “that’s okay” or you will begin to un-do previous training. Instead, let your dog outside more frequently and if it gets worse place some Wee Pads down encouraging their use instead of the carpet.

Other signs are weight lose, loose of sight and hearing, and weak and tender joints.  There are several types of dog food and dog treats available to pet parents that contain natural ingredients formulated to relieve the pain of aging joints. For sever joint pain and arthritis consult your vet; new medications are now available with little side effects that will offer your aging dog a higher quality of life.

Be sure to give extra attention to teeth and gums. Broken or loose teeth are common for older dogs requiring professional cleaning from your vet. Dogs are susceptible to certain types of cancer and like humans; some are operable will others are not. You can find several specialty veterinarian hospitals throughout the country that offer complete oncology departments for pets.

It is sad to say but most pet parents have yet to embrace pet health insurance and the price of treatment becomes the concern leaving some the only option to euthanize their pet. At the end of the day, living with an older dog is about quality of life. Purchasing pet stairs to help them get to their favorite spot and consulting with your vet will help extend those precious moments. However, when their quality of life can no longer be maintained then euthanizing is the best choice.

How To Treat Your Dog’s Allergies

Believe it or not, dogs can suffer from allergies as well as cause them–in fact, allergies are all too common among canines. They can’t be cured, but they can be treated, both with medication and by protecting your dog, as much as possible, from whatever is making him sick.

Causes

As in humans, allergies are caused by an immune system that overreacts to an everyday substance, such as fleas, pollen, or a certain food. The following are the three most common culprits.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is genetic. An affected dog inherits a tendency to develop skin problems from pollens, grasses and trees, dust mites, or mold spores.

It usually begins with a seasonal reaction to pollen when the dog is young, and progresses until the dog is allergic to many different substances year-round. Skin irritation usually shows up around the eyes and mouth, armpits, stomach, and anal area. Ear infections are also common.

Your vet can run a skin or blood test to see what’s causing the problem, although these aren’t always totally accurate and medication can interfere with the results. (Your dog shouldn’t have prednisone for a month before the test, or antihistamines for 10 days before.)

Your vet may give your dog steroids for short-term relief from the itching, and immunotherapy (allergy shots) to lesson your dog’s sensitivity to allergens long-term.

Flea allergy

An allergy to blood-sucking fleas–or rather, to their saliva–is the single most common skin disease in dogs. In allergic dogs, a flea bite can cause extreme itching, red bumps, and inflamed skin that lasts for days. The more an allergic dog is bitten, the worse the allergy gets.

Steroids and antihistamines can make your dog less itchy, but the only real treatment is tight flea control in the house and yard, as well as on the dog. Luckily, the newer generation of flea control products is very effective.

Food allergy

Dogs can be allergic to several types of food, but the most common triggers are chicken, beef, corn, or wheat–all typical ingredients in commercial dog food. The allergy usually shows up as a skin problem, such as itching, rashes, and hot spots (warm spots of infected skin). Some dogs may have stomach upset as well, with chronic diarrhea or vomiting.

To find out what your dog’s allergic to, work with your vet to try an allergy elimination diet. This diet involves giving your dog a special food (which you’ll get from the vet), and over three or four months, gradually adding other foods back to your dog’s diet. When he starts itching again, you’ve found your culprit and can keep it out of your dog’s food bowl for good.

When it’s time to see a vet

A visit to the vet is in order if you spot these allergy warning signs:

  • Frequent scratching, licking, and chewing
  • Recurring skin or ear infections
  • Red, thick, or flaky skin
  • Hair loss
  • Chronic stomach upset
  • Reverse sneezing (sounds a bit like the dog is inhaling sneezes)

Immunotherapy may help

Dogs can get immunotherapy (often called “allergy shots”), just like people. Unlike drugs designed to ease symptoms, immunotherapy may make your dog less allergic by regularly exposing him to tiny amounts of whatever he’s sensitive to. It’s not effective for food allergies, though.

Not all dogs respond to immunotherapy. About 60 to 80 percent do very well with the shots, about a fourth get some relief, and another fourth don’t respond at all. It takes weeks, months, or sometimes even a year to know if it’s working. Expect the pay-off next allergy season, not this one.

If it does work, your dog will probably need regular shots for the rest of his life. Your vet or a veterinary dermatologist will teach you how to give the shots to your dog at home, although if you have a tough time doing this, the vet can do it for you. Rarely, a dog will have a serious reaction to the shots, so you’ll need to schedule them when you’ll be nearby for a half hour or hour afterward to keep an eye on your dog.

One final tip: buy the best dog treats you can find to give your dog after the shot, as it will ease the process.