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Interesting facts

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Care and prevention

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Psychology and behavior

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Feeding

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Interesting facts

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There is no single right interpretation to this behaviour. It is commonly believed that cats purr when they are in the mood to make social contacts. They signal satisfaction and well-being both to other cats and people. All cats, regardless of age, sex or race, purr at the same frequency of 25 cycles per second.
Purring does not always mean that the cat accepts the whole world around it and that it feels good. Cats purr even when feeling unwell and/or to avoid discomfort or indicate helplessness. They also purr as in the following situations:
• When they are scared, to relieve stress and to calm down,
• To reassure other cats that are in pain or suffered an injury,
• When they are experiencing labour pains.


At dusk, cat's pupils dilate to a very large size so that the eye absorbs more light, and in bright light they narrow to resemble vertical lines. On the back of the eye, there is a light-reflective layer which improves vision at dusk. The light absorbed by the eye reflects back onto the retina. In this mysterious way, the curious glint in cats' eyes is created when they are illuminated with headlights in the darkness.


Cats have scent glands located around the eyes, mouth and cheeks. They secrete substances that contain the animal's individual smell. Friendly cheek rubbing and poking with their heads is the way the cats mark their property. When a cat rubs against your legs when welcoming you, it really wants to replace the foreign scent that you bring from the outside with its own.

Cats have a sense of balance. In their inner ear they have a special tool that supplies information about the current position of their heads in relation to the ground. When a cat is in motion (i.e., in this case, falling), sensory hair record the change, and the fluid in the ear moves, the brain receives a signal to use precautions against injury.  As the cat’s body is very flexible and has a tail which it uses to steer its flight, the cat may quickly – sometimes in a matter of just a fraction of a second – spin around to land on its feet.


Vibrissae, commonly referred to as whiskers or eyebrows, are long and thick bristles growing most often of the upper lip, but also above the eyes, on cheeks and on the inner sides of forearms. They are the mechanical sensory organs that pick up even minor vibrations and air currents carrying sounds and smells. Vibrissae help cats navigate in the dark and measure distance. They are of crucial importance during hunting, as cats kill their prey only when their vibrissae are close enough to touch the victim and they can determine its exact position.


Cats’ unusual agitation just a few hours before an earthquake, manifested by scratching at the door and suddenly escaping outside, was observed on many occasions. The ancient Chinese often relied on cats in predicting natural disasters. The cat’s ability to predict danger is unexplained. It is believed that cats are extremely sensitive to static electricity, magnetic field and weak tremors that people cannot sense, and this causes their unusual behaviour.

Cat

Cat’s age

Human age

1

19

2

24

3

28

4

32

5

36

6

40

7

44

8

48

9

52

10

56

11

60

12

64

13

68

14

72

15

76

16

80

17

84

18

88

19

94

20

100

21

110

* Approximate figures in years






Care and prevention



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Regular ear inspections and cleaning will protect your cat against the development of inflammation of the external auditory canal. The basic principle of proper ear cleaning is to avoid the use of cotton buds. They should not be inserted deeply, because it may result in pushing ear discharges deeper into the ear.
If there is a lot of discharge, put a few drops of liquid ear cleaner into the cat's ear canal and massage the base of the ear. When the cat shakes its head, the discharge will dissolve and escape. Then gently clean the ears of the lingering secretions. If the ears are hot, red and the cat shows signs of pain when you touch them, consult your veterinarian.
A veterinarian should have a look at any kind of secretion appearing in the cat's ears. Cats often have black and dry discharge in the external ear canal. If it is accompanied by strong and persistent itching, the cat may have ear mites.


Corners of the eyes should be cleaned with a fresh gauze using liquid eye cleaner or physiological fluid. You should perform this procedure with a damp gauze, cleansing the eye from the outer to the inner corner.


At the age of 5-6 months kittens lose milk teeth which are replaced with more impressive permanent teeth. At the age of 7 months, they already have their adult teeth. It is a good idea to allow the cat to get used to regular dental care treatments by the owner in the first months, although it is much more difficult than in the case of dogs. You will need a toothbrush and toothpaste for animals. You can also buy liquids, ointments, gels for teeth cleaning. Daily oral and dental hygiene will protect the cat against plaque and, consequently, against tartar, periodontal disease and gingivitis. Total lack of prevention may result in progressing development of periodontitis and tooth loss. Possible signs of an ongoing inflammation include mouth odour and gradual loss of appetite. Plaque is a source of dangerous bacteria that can cause a number of systemic diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders or diseases of the heart muscle.


It is a good idea to monitor the length and condition of the cat’s claws every once in a while. If they are too long, it will make it harder to move around the house. If the cat goes outside, their claws should not be trimmed. It might need them to climb a tree while escaping a dog for example. The nails are cut using special clippers. If you are not able to do this yourself, visit a veterinarian. Cutting the claws too short will cause heavy bleeding.
Checking the condition of the finger pads and the area between them is also an important element of cat care. Cats do not wear shoes like we do, therefore its pads are in constant contact with the ground. There may be cuts or other wounds that need the veterinarian's attention. In the winter, rub the pads with special protective balms, petroleum jelly or greasy creams.


Cats should get a bath whenever their skin and hair coat condition requires it. Use only cat shampoo, as shampoo for people has an acidic pH which causes skin irritation. After the bath, dry the hair thoroughly. Do not use a dryer. Wipe the cat for example with a towel. During the bath, make sure that no water gets in its ears and, afterwards, do not let the cat go outside, if it is cold.


Throughout the year, the cats lose hair and moult. This process intensifies especially in spring and autumn. Cats produce a significant amount of dead hair. For the coat to be beautiful and shiny, ensure a healthy diet, prophylaxis against parasites and comb out dead hair. With daily combing, fallen out dead hair will be replaced with healthy hair. Cats care about their hygiene and appearance. During these efforts, i.e. when licking their coat, unfortunately, they swallow hair. Large amounts of hair in the gastrointestinal tract are the source of so-called hair balls. They are a big problem especially among cats with long hair. Hair balls induce intestinal obstruction and impair proper digestion of food. That is why is it important to feed cats with products that contain elements aiding removal of such hair or which dissolve hair balls. Access to grass is an important element of proper body functioning. Grass is a source of minerals it regulates and digestion. Grass eaten by cats triggers nausea and helps remove hair balls from the gastrointestinal tract. Vegetable fibres Included in commercial pet foods stimulate intestinal transit and the hair is removed together with the faeces.

Two ways of avoiding pregnancy are used in cats to ensure conscious birth control. In the case of males, a castration surgery is performed under general anaesthesia to remove the testicles, and in the case of females, there are two methods of contraception. The first is hormonal contraception consisting in giving the cat regular doses of hormones blocking the reproductive system – in the form of shots or pills. This method makes it possible for the cat to become pregnant in the right conditions – both for itself and for the owner. The second method is a surgical procedure that involves removing the ovaries and uterus under general anaesthesia. This is a radical method that makes it permanently impossible for the cat to get pregnant. The procedure extends the life of the cat and the animal becomes more submissive and calmer. Sterilisation also reduces the risk of inflammation of the uterus and the risk of neoplastic changes in the mammary glands area. Another positive effect of the treatment is the disappearance of the so-called marking of territory with urine. Sterilisation and castration procedures are performed before puberty, after prior vaccinations. If necessary, they can also be performed later The procedure should not be carried out during rut, because the natural oestrogens enhance uterine blood flow and a surgical intervention may lead to increased blood loss. Therefore, you should wait or give the cat a hormonal preparation to block the rut. You should be aware that each procedure performed under general anaesthesia carries risks. Therefore, it is advisable to perform diagnostic tests before surgery, such as morphological and biochemical blood tests and a urine test. After a properly conducted procedure and removal of stitches, in a sense, the new life of the cat begins. As always in life, there are the positive effects of the treatment but also those that may carry certain risks. Therefore, nutrition is very important, both following sterilisation and castration, as there is a greatly increased risk of the cats developing obesity and diabetes, and precipitation of urinary stones in the kidneys and bladder. Obesity leads to disorders in the cardiovascular system and degenerative changes in the joints.






Psychology and behavior



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The crucial period in terms of proper mental development of cats and their positive contact with people falls between the second and seventh weeks of age. During this time, close contact with the people in the form of stroking and a positive, emotional attitude towards the cat will guarantee friendly contact for the long years of living together under one roof. This period may last up to three months. In this time, cats should get acquainted with the environment, its various sounds and noises. It is equally important to ensure sufficient time for feeding and the proximity of the mother, which makes the kittens feel safe and comfortable. If kittens are separated from their mother too soon, when they are still unable to eat on their own, they may develop health problems and disturbed behaviours towards people. Also genetic factors determine the positive behaviour of cats to a certain degree. Proper development of cats is aided by contact with other animals living in the same house. This helps avoid fighting and aggression in their contacts in the future. Disturbed process of socialisation will later lead to improper behaviour of a cat towards the owner, other people and other animals of the same and different species. Kittens orphaned at a young age are more susceptible to disturbed behaviour than cats properly raised by their mother.

Below is a table with examples of problems concerning cat behaviour and possible ways of solving them. Remember that many types of cat behaviour may not be qualified as disorders, as they are natural forms of expressing their personality. For us humans they may be different, sometimes difficult to accept and perceived as inappropriate.

Item

Problem / Behaviour

Cause / Symptom

Solution

1.

The meaning of marking territory with urine

Natural desire to mark the territory of ​​dominance

Sexual maturity

Rut

New items at home

A new household member (cat, dog) in the house

New family member in the house

Departure or death of a family member

Moving

New litter box or bowl

New kind of litter in the litter box – new smell

Urinary tract disease

Diabetes

Renal failure

Old age

 

 

Castration

Use chemicals masking the marked place

Use products based on artificial cat pheromones

Veterinary examination

2.

Urination and defecation outside the litter box

Dirty litter box

Unsuitable positioning of the litter box

Unsuitable litter

Errors in teaching the right behaviours

Aggression among cats

Disturbing the cat while it uses the litter box

Urinary tract disease

Diabetes

Renal failure

Old age

Gastrointestinal disorders

 

 

 

Clean the litter box thoroughly

Set up more litter boxes in the house

Place the litter box in a quiet and secluded place

Use litter with the right smell and granule size and replace it systematically

Veterinary examination

3.

Aggression among cats

Disturbed socialisation of kittens

Battle for dominance in a group of cats

Play imitating fighting

Conflict among the sexes

New household member

Fear of another cat

Pain caused by a disease

 

 

Play with all cats at the same time

Feed all cats at the same time

Separate litter boxes

Keep the cat inside

 

4.

Aggression towards the owner

Lack of stimuli for physical activity – boring lifestyle

Play that becomes too intense

Transport

Visit to the veterinarian

Provide external stimuli to encourage activity, such as toys, teether toys

Another cat at home

The cat should start getting used to the cat carrier, hygiene treatments and visits to the vet when it is young

 

 

5.

Reluctance and fear towards men

Disturbed socialisation

Violence and aggression towards animals

 

Ensure proper socialisation process

Good treatment of animals

4.

Scratching and sharpening claws

Natural desire to mark the territory of ​​dominance and trim claws

A sign of satisfaction and trust

Defiance

 

Buy a scratcher

Inspect and trim claws regularly

5.

Eating problems

Health disorders

Positioning of the bowl with food

Food served too cold

Not enough bowls for cats in the house

Cleanliness of the bowl

A visit to the vet

Clean the bowl

Put the bowl with food in a quiet place

Proper food temperature – room temperature

 

6.

Excessive washing and licking of hair

Stress and anxiety

Lack of combing

Infestation

Skin allergies

 

Eliminate stress

Provide external stimuli to encourage activity, such as toys, teether toys

 

7.

Eating and biting on potted plants and flowers

Natural behaviour to improve digestion

When occurring together with urination and defecation:

Gastrointestinal disorders

Hairballs in the digestive tract

Nutritional deficiencies

 

 

Ensure the cat has access to grass

Use malt pastes

Balanced diet

8.

Rubbing with cheeks and head

Marking the territory and owner with feline pheromones from the scent glands located in cheeks and the mouth

 

 

Natural cat behaviour

9.

Sucking or swallowing

Eating or sucking on woollen things, and things from other fabrics, such as sweaty clothes

Need for close human contact

Too early separation from the mother, before the age of 8 weeks

Breeds: Siamese and Burmese

Health disorders

Distract them

Provide external stimuli to encourage activity, such as toys, teether toys

New cat in the house

Cat food with fibre

Minimise stressful situations

Hide clothes

 

 

10.

Nocturnal activity

Natural nocturnal hunting for “the owner”

 

Do not feed the cat at night

Provide external stimuli to encourage activity, such as toys, teether toys

 






Feeding



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The period of kittens’ growth is a time when they require specific nutritional elements in the form of proteins, lipids, sugars, vitamins and minerals. Proper nutrition based on a good feed is a guarantee of healthy development and perfect condition of the adult cat.

Attempts to feed kittens home-cooked, improperly balanced food, based on one type of meat for example, will lead to significant nutritional deficiencies and irreversible disorders in the functioning of their body.

For the first four weeks of life, a small kitten relies on its mother. During this period, the nursing female cat is responsible for its feeding. Her food should also be based on energy-rich ingredients, with appropriate content of fatty acids, proteins, carbohydrates, and — what is essential — vitamins and minerals. A nursing cat’s diet should be based on feeds for growing kittens.

From the fourth week of life, you can start introducing solid foods in the form of wet or dry food for kittens. In this period, the young kitten is gradually gaining an ability to digest; that is why the transition from mother’s milk to solid food is relatively smooth. In the first days of feeding dry food, you can soak it in water or milk, or mix wet and dry food together. When the kitten starts eating more, gradually reduce the amount of water or milk added. Replace it with a separate bowl of water that will be systematically replenished. Also, you should stop adding milk when the kitten no longer eats the mother’s milk, as it may be a source of gastrointestinal disorders, especially diarrhoea, as well as food or skin allergies in the future.

There are different ways of feeding kittens. However, the essential principle is unrestricted access to the food i.e. so-called feeding at will. To encourage the kitten and let it taste the feed, you can put a small bite on its paw or rub it in the kitten’s lips. That way, the cat becomes familiar with the taste of food and becomes interested.

Between five and eight weeks of age is the time when a young kitten begins to independently find food and drink. That is when a kitten becomes able to live independently, without the need to suckle on its mother. Proper diet during this period will guarantee that there will be no disorders in the form of vomiting or diarrhoea induced by feeding, for example, home-cooked food. Note that this is a time of the so-called immunity gap during which a kitten gradually loses the mother’s antibodies derived from the colostrum, while the production of its own antibodies is just beginning so they are not able to protect it against diseases. Extra feeding during this period with additional food or the leftovers from our table will trigger many unnecessary symptoms. It can lead to excess calorie intake which will unnecessarily accelerate growth and weight gain. This may trigger overweight, osteoarthritis, or unwillingness to eat the food that is healthy and recommended at a given age.

In the following months, until the sixth month, the rate of growth and demand for highly digestible proteins and other nutrients is the much higher than in adult cats. During this period, the milk teeth are replaced with permanent ones, which requires appropriate amounts of calcium and phosphorus.

Kittens have specific nutritional needs.

  • So-called DHA, a fatty acid of the Omega 3 group, is essential for normal development of nervous tissue, the brain and the retina of the eye.
  • A proper ratio of arginine (amino acid) to L-lysine, protects against the dangerous herpes virus and reduces the symptoms of infection.
  • Antioxidants in the form of vitamin E, selenium, vitamin C, lutein and taurine protect against bacteria and viruses.

After the seventh month, follows a gradual decrease in energy and nutrient needs in developing cats, but keep in mind that this is still a period of development and growth, which ends at the age of 10 months in females and about 12 in males.

Cats living in the wild feed primarily on small rodents, birds, insects and lizards they hunt themselves. Both the cat’s teeth and digestive tract are adapted to eating and digesting meat. They have a relatively small stomach and short intestines, which means they need easily digestible food. Such food guarantees that they absorb all the necessary ingredients in the diet.

Cats are definitely carnivorous organisms and foods based on fruits and vegetables will never support their basic vital functions. For digestive enzymes found in the stomach of an adult cat, it is more difficult to break down foods of plant origin than those of animal origin. A feline organism is used to eating small, but frequent meals with an intense and inviting smell. Cats have a far greater demand for high-quality protein in their diet than dogs.

Cats are unable to produce certain amino acids and, therefore, they must be supplied from the outside in the form of animal proteins. Such amino acids include taurine and arginine. A deficiency of taurine in a cat’s diet can lead to fatty liver, reproduction disorders, retinopathy in young kittens and dilated cardiomyopathy, as well as neurological disorders. Arginine, in turn, protects against ammonia poisoning. When a cats lacks arginine, it leads to vomiting, muscle cramps, hyperalgesia, coma and, consequently, death. This amino acid is found in large quantities in plant and animal foods.

The diet of an adult cat also requires fats that provide energy. Fats, aside from taste qualities, also act as carriers for the vitamins that dissolve in them, and contain an amino acid that is essential for felines — the arachidonic acid. Also fish deserve special attention, as they have a positive impact on development, health and appearance of cats. However, remember not to overfeed cats with freshwater fish because they contain thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down vitamin B 1.

Another rule of good nutrition of cats is not to feed them foods intended for dogs, because such foods are biologically insufficient for cats. In addition, a comparable dose of cat food contains much more proteins and significantly more fat than the same amount of dog food. Whereas, dog food contains more carbohydrates than cat food. Due to rapid metabolism and large daily fluctuations in blood glucose levels, it is good to feed cats several times a day. Apply “at will” feeding or ensure permanent access to the food.

Daily dose of the feed should be modified depending on the health of the cat or, for example, on whether the cat is castrated/sterilized, obese, diabetic, or suffers from renal or hepatic failure. Nutrition should then be based on the appropriate veterinary diets and appropriately selected daily doses of medicated feed. Remember that wet food should be served at room temperature, never straight from the refrigerator.

If the temperature of the food is too low it causes dangerous contraction of the stomach and intestines. Cats should be fed always in the same quiet and secluded place, and not in close proximity to the cat litter box. Next to the food bowl, there should always be a bowl with fresh water to drink. This is particularly important when the cats eat food and not milk which is widely accepted as food for cats. Unfortunately, cow’s milk is not well tolerated by cats and it can cause gastrointestinal disorders and in the future — even food allergies.

Access to grass is an important element of proper functioning of a cat’s body. It is a source of minerals and it regulates digestion. During daily grooming cats eat their hair which forms hairballs in the gastrointestinal tract. Grass eaten by cats triggers nausea and helps remove them.

The most important feature of a cat diet is to provide food as similar as possible, in terms of quality and quantity of its composition, to the food that cats can obtain in natural conditions. This will enable adult cats to remain active and healthy.

Nutritionally balanced food designed for mature cats is an essential element ensuring that the cat will live many years in good health. Properly cared for and properly fed cats can live up to 25 years.

Older cats require the same or even greater care than kittens. An older organism faces many pathological changes. Cats start reaching the age of a senior at about 7-8 years. It is a slow process that is constantly progressing.

The symptoms of old age include:

  • Decline in physical activity; the cat shows less willingness to play, spends more time sleeping, and every now and then displays signs of undue aggression towards the owner.
  • Lack of appetite may indicate disorders in the oral cavity affecting the teeth, or gum inflammations, while changes in the amount of water intake and urine output are a sign that the kidneys should be examined.
  • A large percentage of mature cats is overweight and obese, which is the leading cause of degenerative changes in the joints and spine. It may also lead to a serious illness — diabetes. Therefore, older cats should be regularly taken to a veterinarian for a check-up.

Feeding cats ready-made foods for mature animals prevents obesity, diabetes, and slows down the processes causing kidney failure. The antioxidants contained in the feed slow down cell aging. The added so-called chondroprotectors in the form of glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid, and increased levels of essential Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids prevent inflammations and improve the appearance of skin and hair. Energy requirements of older cats, that start losing muscle mass and whose metabolic processes slow down resulting in reduced motor activity, are slightly smaller than in adult cats and especially kittens. Increased amount of calories leads to weight gain and obesity and all the ensuing consequences. Therefore, feeding seniors with foods for kittens is a nutritional mistake. The protein content in mature feline diets should be reduced, so as to protect kidneys against renal failure progressing with age, but also to ensure the proper functioning of muscles, hormones, enzymes, the immune system, all the processes of endogenous protein synthesis and damaged tissue recovery. An important element which has a beneficial effect on renal function and the cardiovascular system is also reducing the level of phosphorus and salt.

Any changes associated with the animal’s age, the current health condition and individual nutritional needs require selecting the appropriate food. This will provide comfort for the subsequent years of life of the feline senior and enable it to fight diseases.




© 2014 Butcher's Pet Care.
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