Cats aren?t small dogs that climb trees Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 15:22
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Dr Liesel van der Merwe

Vets have a saying: “Cats are not small dogs that climb trees!” Basically this means that you cannot just take what you know is true in dogs and apply it to cats.

This saying has its origin in the fact that historically dogs were more accepted as pets and formed the majority of small animal patients. Cats are increasingly making up a greater percentage of the small animal practice, although in most practices dogs are still the predominant species - just by a whisker!

Cats are seasonal breeders. They are induced to come into heat with lengthening daylight hours. Very young cats (four months old) can fall pregnant and a queen which has just had kittens can fall pregnant within six weeks of birth so they may already be pregnant with the next litter before the kittens are even weaned.

Cats have a heat period every two weeks unless they are mated, whereas dogs only come into season every six months, regardless of whether they are mated or not. Unspayed female cats are basically little tarts, thus early sterilisation is vital to control unwanted litters.

Cats are carnivores. They are unable to manufacture certain amino acids so they require all of these essential amino acids in their diet. In nature cats will eat small lizards, birds and mammals. They are not naturally inclined to eat fish and drink milk. In fact, cats prone to allergic gastrointestinal and skin disease (eczema) will often benefit greatly from excluding fish and milk from the diet.

Read the list of ingredients on the product you buy. It may be chicken flavoured but the protein content may be made up of fish meal. Fish oil is acceptable as this is not part of the proteins which are normally the culprits where allergy is concerned. 

So, cats cannot be healthy vegans or vegetarians even if they eat legumes. Don’t impose your lifestyle choices on your cat. Cats are also designed to conserve water and will not drink as much as dogs. They do, however, drink more if they are on a dry food diet. Cats getting wet food (sachets or tins) may seldom drink water.

Cats are supersensitive to any poisons. The only tick and flea products which can be used on them are those which specifically say: “For use in cats”. These dips are designed to be rapidly absorbed through the skin and into the fat layer. We see countless poisoned cats which have had dog products used on them and even one or two which have groomed the dog after it was dipped.

Cats seldom eat poisons but will groom themselves and thus ingest any poison they may have accidentally come into contact with. Many of them will die from muscle and respiratory failure and the poisoning takes a lot of time and money to treat. 

Feline red blood cells are super sensitive to damage by various mechanisms. Their red blood cells have a lifespan of only 78 days compared to the 100 days of canine red blood cells. The normal blood count in a cat is also lower than a dog’s.

Parasetamol (Panado) can cause severe red blood cell damage and also prevent the red blood cells from carrying oxygen, potentially killing the cat. Once again, blood transfusions and other expensive treatments are required if the cat is to survive even a quarter tablet.

A cat’s liver doesn’t have all the enzymes necessary to break down certain drugs and among these are anti-inflammatories. There are only two anti-inflammatories registered  for cats in South Africa  and even they need  to be used with care and for short periods only to prevent toxic side effects.

Cats are not really designed to live in close association with other cats. Lions are the only family oriented wild felid. Most of the time there are no real repercussions from overlapping territories, but if stressed, cats can exhibit several abnormal behaviours and illnesses.

Feline interstitial cystitis is a bladder inflammation triggered by stress and environmental management is needed to control flare-ups. Some cats over-groom themselves and may lick themselves bald in patches. If cats are confined to a small space, ensure that they have vertical interest as they like being high up. Get them multi-level scratch posts and a view.

Allow sufficient litter trays and feeding areas. If your cats stay indoors, the litter trays should equal the number of cats plus one. This prevents dominant cats from limiting access to the litter tray or food.

Cats intimidate in subtle ways – they may just sit at the door to the room where the litter tray is, but the bullied cat knows it is not worth his while to step past the threshold.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but if we see one less accidental cat dipping or dosing, this column would have made a difference.

 
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