Cat Care

Food to be Avoid

Onions, Garlic, & Related Root Vegetables
Onions contain a substance (N-propyl disulphide) which destroys red blood cells in the cat, causing a form of anemia called Heinz body anemia. Garlic contains a similar substance in a lesser amount.

Tomatoes, Green (raw Potatoes)
These foods are members of the Solanaceae family of plants, which includes the Deadly Nightshade, and contain a bitter, poisonous alkaloid called Glycoalkaloid Solanine, which can cause violent lower gastrointestinal symptoms. The Feline Future web site offers a rare description of a cat which was close to death from ingesting just one cherry tomato (See the link on the sidebar).

It's becoming more widely known that chocolate is very toxic to both cats and dogs. Theobromine is the offending substance here. Janet Tobiassen Crosby, D.V.M. has an excellent article on the symptoms, effects, and treatment of chocolate toxicity.

Grapes and Raisins
These foods' toxicity has mainly been found in dogs, in quantities of varying amounts. The ASPCA advises: "As there are still many unknowns with the toxic potential of grapes and raisins, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center advises not giving grapes or raisins to pets in any amount." That's good enough for me.

Although milk is not toxic to cats, it may have adverse effects. Simply put, adult cats fed a nutritious diet don't need milk, and many cats are lactose-intolerant, which means that the lactose in milk and milk products produces stomach upset, cramps, and gassiness. If your cat loves milk, and begs for it, a small amount of cream may be okay, two or three times a week. (The more fat in the milk, the less lactose.) A product made from skim milk with an enzyme added that helps the digestion of lactose. Catsip is available in supermarkets such as Safeway, Albertson's and A&P, as well as pet products chains, such as PetSmart and Petco.

These are the most commonly seen "people foods" that are potentially harmful to cats. The bottom link is to feed your cat nutritious food developed with his needs in mind and choose treats designed for cats instead of table scraps.



Uses of Cat's WhiskerThese hairs are located in horizontal rows on the whisker pad, the puffy area between the top corners of your cat's mouth and the outer edges of his nose. Whiskers, like hair and nails,do fall out and are replaced. But whiskers are different from the cat's body hair in a few ways:

  • Whiskers should never be cut or trimmed (we'll discuss why later).
  • Whiskers are two to three times thicker than the cat's hair.
  • Whiskers are rooted very deep in the cat's face, in an area rich in nerves and blood vessels.

In addition to having the long tactile hairs on their cheeks, cats also have shorter ones above their eyebrows, on their chin and on the back of their front legs. Since we are most familiar with facial whiskers, let's look at what they are good for:

  • Navigation
  • Mood indication
  • Measuring an opening

Whiskers help the cat feel his way around. Whiskers are so sensitive that they can detect the slightest directional change in a breeze. At night, for example, this helps a cat slink its way through a room and not bump into anything. How? The air currents in the room change depending on where pieces of furniture are located. As the cat walks through the room and approaches the couch, he'll know which direction to turn based on the change in air current around the couch.

In addition to having sensory properties, a cat's whiskers are also a good indicator of his mood. When a cat is angry or feels defensive, the whiskers will be pulled back. Otherwise, when the cat is happy, curious or content, the whiskers will be more relaxed and pushed forward.

But the whisker's primary use is to help a cat judge whether or not he'll fit through an opening. A cat's whiskers are roughly as wide as his body -- sort of a natural ruler. The whisker tips are sensitive to pressure. You'll probably see a cat stick his head in and out of an opening before he puts his body in. He's judging the width of the opening, and is determining if he can fit into it. An interesting note: cats don't have a true collar bone, like humans. This allows them to turn and twist their way through very narrow openings.



Skin Problems in Pet

Dogs and cats suffer from many problems, which affect their skin. It is important to understand that the skin is an organ, just as the liver and kidneys are organs. The skin functions as a barrier to protect the body from infection, caustic substances, ultra violet light and dehydration. Good health and proper function of the skin is dependent on the health and function of the other organs which make up our pets bodies.

Diseases which effect the skin can be placed into one of two categories: primary and secondary skin disease. Primary skin diseases are those which effect the skin directly, such as mange or flea and tick hypersensitivities. Secondary diseases are those which initially involve other organs and thereby effect the skin, such as hypothyroidism.

The diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases can be difficult and time consuming. The following are some of the common diseases and conditions effecting the skin and a brief description of their diagnosis and treatments.

Allergies: Humans with allergies usually react by sneezing, but your pet reacts by scratching. Both you and your pet are reacting to an allergen, which is a substance that causes sensitivity. Most allergens are inhaled, but a few are the contact type, such as an allergy to wool. Some allergens are found in food, most commonly corn, wheat, soy, beef, and dairy products. The first signs of allergic reactions are scratching, licking, biting, or rubbing the skin. This can lead to infection characterized by red bumps and pimples. Because of the discomfort, it is important to get professional help as soon as possible.

Bacterial Infection: A bacterial infection is common, but is usually secondary to another underlying disease such as an allergy. Treatment for bacterial infections may include antibiotics— either given orally or topically. It is important to seek professional help to treat the bacterial infection while searching for the underlying disease.

Hot Spots or Acute Moist Dermatitis: Hot spots are usually a result of self trauma and resulting infection that occurs as your pet tries to relieve itself from some pain or itch. Treatment includes thorough cleaning, topical and systemic antibiotics, and anti- inflammatory agents.

Pyoderma: Pyodermas include a wide range of infections which result in the formation of pus. Pyodermas vary in severity. Treatment is similar to that for hot spots, but typically is longer term. Shampoos and rinses are also helpful.

Atopy or Allergic Inhalant Dermatitis: Atopy is a very itchy skin disease which is the result of allergies to microscopic particles in the air. Diagnosis is based on clinical presentation and absence of other causes such as ectoparasites. Treatment includes dietary supplements, antihistamines and steroids, and is often long term. In very refractory cases skin allergin testing and hyposensitization may be helpful. Shampoos and rinses are also often helpful.

Ectoparasites (external parasites) include mites, fleas, and ticks. These parasites break the barrier formed by the skin and allow bacterial infections to occur. They also may lead to allergic conditions. Diagnosis is achieved with gross observation and microscopic examination of skin scrapings. Treatment depends on the parasites present and include antiparasitic drugs and antiparasitic shampoos and rinses.

Fungal Infections include Malassezia sp., Dermatophytosis (Ring Worm), and Dermal Coccidioidomycosis. Diagnosis is achieved via culture of the organisms, microscopic examination of skin scrapings and blood tests which identify antibodies to Coccidioides immitis. Treatment includes topical and systemic antifungal drugs and antifungal shampoos and rinses.

Food allergies: Food allergies often manifest themselves as skin problems. Food allergies are usually diagnosed by ruling out other possible conditions. Treatment is trial feeding of hypoallergenic diets for a minimum of six weeks.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis: Contact allergies are diagnosed based on history of contact and clinical presentation. Treatment includes washing the exposed areas to remove the irritant. Patients that are itchy are given steroids for a short period of time. It is important to prevent re-exposure.

Autoimmune Skin Diseases: There are several autoimmune skin diseases and the foundation of diagnosis is surgical biopsy. Treatment includes combinations of dietary supplementation, steroids, and immune modulation drugs.

Secondary Skin Disease: Secondary skin diseases such as hypothyroidism are diagnosed via clinical testing for the underlying disease. Diagnosis often requires blood tests, biopsies, and X-rays. Treatment of the underlying condition usually results in improvement of the skin problems.

Diagnosis and Treatment Your pet's skin problems very often combine two or more of the above diseases. For example, flea infestation hypersensitivity can lead to pyoderma. Because of the complicated interactions between the skin and other organs within the body and due to skin's varied response to insult, diagnosis and treatment of skin disease may be difficult and time consuming.

The skin scrape is the mainstay of diagnosis. Several small areas of your pets skin are shaved to remove hair. A scalpel blade is used to scrape up the top layers of skin. The resulting material is viewed under a high-powered microscope. In addition to skin scrapes, blood tests and surgical biopsies are necessary to diagnose some skin diseases.

Treatment of skin disease may include steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, topical drugs, antifungal drugs, shampoos and rinses and dietary supplementation or modification and surgical removal of masses. In some cases, therapy must be continued for months and even for life.