Pet Care Articles

Welcome to our Award Winning Pet Care Library. Featuring more than 500 pages of essential need-to-knows, in-depth investigations and species/breed databases. Select a topic from the menu or browse this week’s featured articles.

Disabled Cats: Caring for a Spastic Cat

The term ‘spastic’ may be considered politically incorrect, however cats have no concept of political correctness and this colloquial term (defined in my dictionary as "suffering from spasms") covers several conditions with similar symptoms. I apologize to anyone who objects to the term, but I would point out that the term is used in the UK to describe cats with disabilities of co-ordination, muscular spasms and muscular tremor. To avoid confusion among American readers, the term "spastic" is not used in the sense of a cat whose muscles lock rigid e.g. during a fit.

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Disabled Cats: Caring for a Twisty Cat

Some people who see a cat with Radial Hypoplasia (RH) for the first time either think it has both front legs broken or notice that it sits up like a rabbit. They walk in a shuffling or scrabbling motion. There are varying degrees of the condition, these tips take a worst case scenario. Mildly affected cats may get along just fine, but have a peculiar bobbing gait.

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Moving House with a Cat

Moving home can be a traumatic experience for a cat. A frightened cat, unused to upheavals or disoriented by a house move, risks straying during or after a move. Every year, thousands of cats become strays when their owners move house. Make sure your cat isn’t one of them.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens

Information presented here has been provided by human foster mothers, veterinary staff and cat shelter workers. Many hand-rearing articles are aimed at breeders or contain veterinary terms. My own experience is related to cat rescue/shelter work where I have helped in supplementary feeding or emergency care of kittens.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Cleft Palate

Cleft palate means that the hard and/or soft palate failed to fuse during uterine development. Essentially there is a hole in the roof of the mouth connecting the mouth and nose.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Colic

A general term for abdominal pain. Classic colic in infants is usually caused by an accumulation of gas in the stomach which causes the abdomen to swell.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Constipation

This is fairly common in hand reared kittens. A mother cat stimulates a kitten’s anal region frequently. A human surrogate may only stimulate it two or three times a day. Kittens should be stimulated to pass a bowel motion after every 3 feeds otherwise faeces accumulates in the rectum and colon.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Eye Problems

Kittens’ eyes usually open within 1-2 weeks. Gummy eyes are most often due to infection. Failure to treat the infection can lead to blindness. If the closed eyelids become swollen or matted with pus seek veterinary treatment.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Fading Kitten Syndrome

FKS is a general term used for kittens which fade away for no apparent reason within a few days of birth or sometimes at several weeks old despite earlier good progress. Various viruses and bacteria have been implicated. A mismatch between the mother’s blood type and the kitten’s blood type leads to maternal antibodies (in colostrum) breaking down the kitten’s blood and leading to rapid fading.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Fleas and Ticks

Flea infestation of kittens is especially serious because they have a low volume of blood and a heavy flea burden causes anemia which can lead to debility or even death.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Hypothermia

This is a frequent cause of neonatal death. Kittens have no control of their body temperature at first. Their small size means they quickly lose heat. Their inability to store glucose for long means they run out of metabolic fuel which would generate internal heat (hypoglycaemia). Hypothermic kittens feel cold and limp. Their blood pressure drops, their circulation slows and their paws, abdomen, tongue and gums become pale (then bluish) due to reduced oxygen supply. The vital organs and digestive system cannot function at low temperatures or with reduced circulation. The kitten will become comatose if not treated promptly.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)

Caused by inadequate or infrequent feeding; also when abandoned kittens are found and have not been able to nurse for some time (e.g. mother killed or driven away). Kittens up to two weeks old can store very little glucose in their bodies. Small kittens are also at risk. Kittens with a septic infection need glucose in order to fight the infection; they will need feeding every 2 hours day and night. In general, feeding every 2 hours prevents hypoglycaemia.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Hypoxia (Oxygen Starvation)

Oxygen starvation can result from a prolonged or difficult birth. It is often the result of placental failure or umbilical cord obstruction during the birth or respiratory obstruction. Affected kittens are usually less active than their litter mates. The suck reflex may be weak or missing altogether. They are often too weak to survive unaided so it is essential to identify affected kittens quickly after birth and to start treatment promptly. In some cases there will be brain damage; mildly damaged kittens may go on to lead relatively normal lives. Severely affected kittens should be euthanized.

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Cats and Babies Can Coexist

Cat shelters often take in cats cast out when the owner is expecting a first baby. Many couples have a cat for many years before starting a family, but reject the cat once a baby is due. You usually prepare for the birth of a baby once the pregnancy is confirmed; you should extend this preparation to your cat.

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Cat Ultra-Typing – A Breed Too Far?

When Ann Baker’s Ragdoll cats appeared on TV, animal welfare groups were concerned that people would be encouraged to toss cats around like cushions. Her Ragdolls are bred for extreme placidity, a trait not found in the wild where a lack of defensive behavior would be disadvantageous.

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The Pros and Cons of Inbreeding in Cats

Inbreeding is the mating together of closely related cats, for example mother/son, father/daughter, sibling/sibling matings and half-sibling/half-sibling. It is the pairing of animals which are more closely related than the average population. For breeders, it is a useful way of fixing traits in a breed – the pedigrees of some exhibition cats show that many of their forebears are closely related.

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Cats that Kill Kittens

Why do cats, either male or female, sometimes kill kittens – either their own kittens or those belonging to another cat? At present there are several recognized reasons for this, all supported by field observation and by other known feline behaviors.

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Cat Cloning and Other Reproductive Technologies

This article looks at several areas of what is known as ‘reproduction technology’ and how it could affect cat breeders and cat owners. These pros and cons will also apply to other pets. Reproduction technology includes cloning, artificial insemination, egg donation, embryo transfer and IVF. I have basic knowledge and understanding, but do not claim to be an expert in these fields. I have written this so that an owner or breeder with little or no prior knowledge can understand it. I have included general interest comments about some of the wider issues of cloning in species other than cats.

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Twisted Limbs in Kittens

Numerous emails asking me for further information on twisted limb kittens have concerned stray or rescued cats and their kittens. It is easy to assume that the condition is linked to poor nutrition, poor welfare, disease or some genetic factor which has been bred out of purebreds.

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Cat Food Uncovered

The label and the advertising shows us images of plump chicken, juicy steak and fresh caught fish. What is inside the can are the parts of the animal we do not want to eat (and parts we don’t even want to think about). One pet food company advertised its food as better than its competitors’ products because it used poultry meat as their main ingredient while the competitors used feathers.

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