Ask the expert..Nov-Dec 09

Q: What are the behaviour changes in cats with respect to climate and food?
Dr Sunil Kumar C, Thalassery, Kerala

 

Dr KG Umesh: Cats are true carnivores. They generally prey items, which are rich in water, protein & fat and low in carbohydrate and have no requirement for plant materials. Cats can not taste sugars/carbohydrates. It is generally believed that food at body temperature is preferred by cats. Whiskas cat food has been developed considering all these feeding behaviours and enjoyment of feeding. For example, Whiskas has specific design of kibbles size and shape, texture, aroma and variety. Adult cats are grazers, feed 2-5 or more small meals per day. Whether you are feeding wet, dry or semi-moist, water is a vital nutrient. 

The most important part of the environment is climate, which includes humidity, temperature and photoperiod. These climatic factors or seasonal changes influence the behaviour, breeding status and immunity of animals. Animals who live in hot/cold seasons/climates are adapted to their environment. Reduced food and thus nutrient intakes can be a problem in pets in hot environment yet energy requirements may be increased to maintain normal body temperature. Therefore, it seems prudent to feed the diets with a moderately increased energy level during cold or hot climate in cats. A nutritionally balanced diet with a continuous source of fresh clean drinking water appears to confer some protection from the detrimental effects of heat stress.

Ask the Expert.. May-June 09

Q: My cat Krishna, who is two years old, ate a cockroach recently and had some digestive problem thereafter. Please advice if the problem was due to the cockroach or any other factor. How should I prevent my cat from doing the same in the future? z – Ajesh. V, Malappuram

 

A: Dr. K. G. Umesh:
Cats are true carnivores (meat eaters) and their diet consisting of small preys such as rodents, birds, fish, reptiles and insects. They generally prey items which are rich in water, protein & fat and low in carbohydrate & ash (minerals) and they have no requirement for plant materials. Hunting is entirely natural for cats and takes place even when they are well fed at home.

There is really no point in trying to punish/correct your cat for hunting as it is part of his nature that is so deeply rooted that to try and eliminate it may cause him a lot of confusion. Playing ‘catching games’ with your cat using toys may help to relieve some of his urge to hunt. It is important to worm your cat regularly, particularly if he hunts. Consult your veterinary surgeon for more advice on worming. As cat’s nutritional needs are different to that of a dog or man, and feeding a high quality, well-balanced commercial cat food (Whiskas) help maintain optimum body weight and condition.

Ask the Expert.. | March April 09

Dr. K. G. Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He is working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for South Asia. Q: After using the litter box my cat comes out and drags her backside on the carpet. Why do you think she is doing this, how do we remove this habit? – Ritu Puri, Delhi

Dr. K. G. Umesh: This behaviour is sometimes seen in cats and is usually due to anal sacs/glands problems. The anal sacs situated on either side of the anus, should empty every time faeces are passed. However, the sacs may become impacted (over full but not expressed) from conditions such as constipation/diarrhoea, irritation or infection. The cat responds by scooting her bottom. The other conditions which may cause cat to rub her hind end include matted hair around anus or tapeworms. Your vet will able to manually express the contents and help to clear up the underlying cause. The cat should return to normal if there are no signs of infection.

Ask the Expert.. | Jan Feb 09

Dr. K. G. Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He is working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for South Asia. Q: My six-year-old kitty Clara has started urinating frequently and does not seem to be feeling hungry. Do advice.
– Deepak Joshi, Mumbai

Dr. K. G. Umesh: Although cats have justifi ed reputation of ‘clean’ animals, eliminating in inappropriate places is one of the most common behavioural problems reported. A distinction must be made between abnormal urination behaviour and a true incontinence (dribbling of urine without the cat being aware of it). Abnormal or frequent urination can occur as a result of:

  • Nervousness (intruder/presence of another cat, unfamiliar surroundings etc): Clean the accident spot with strong odour disinfectant and the behaviour disappears once the cat is allowed to settle
  • Territory marking – spraying: Un-castrated male cats or un-spayed females spray more often than neutered cats do. Castration or spaying may help and occasionally medication may also be given.
  • Old age: Keep litter tray clean and place it in an easily accessible area.
  • Increased urine production: It can be due to diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney failure, spinal problems, bladder infection, lower urinary tract disease (common), etc. A veterinary examination, blood and urine tests and radiographs will be required to determine the cause. Generally cats loose appetite with any of these diseases.

Chaki the Zen

Chaki, short for Charcoal, was born one cold February mid morning on my favourite T shirt inside my cupboard.pawtails cats Her eyes were tight shut and her miniscule tail stuck between her legs. Minutes before, her brother had taken his place in the world and had already found the source of the milk. Mimi, the mother was tired and she slept as her two precious offsprings snuggled against her belly and drank.

Of the two kittens, the brother was more handsome. He had bright beady eyes, a pert little nose and perfect tabby stripes. He had personality and suaveness. Chaki, on the other hand, had a strange, undecided hair colouring and also was ill mannered and screamed all the time, scrambling up the sides of her cardboard box, falling on her back, then clawing up noisily, then falling again. I knew then that it would be easier for me to find a home for the handsome, well behaved brother. Soon, some close friends of mine adopted him and named him Baichung after the famous footballer.

Today, Chaki is a feisty eleven-year-old cat who loves to push open her cat door and loiter around the colony. She sometimes returns with a string of cobwebs from ear to ear and some hanging from her whiskers indicating that she has explored some dusty, dank basement. She has a way of announcing her arrival home – a long deep meow begins at the foot of the stairs, then there are shorter meows for every step and then a blood curdling yell outside her cat door just before she pushes her head in. As soon as she is in, there are a few more loud yells demanding that we notice her arrival and with one final loud cry she leaps up on the table and is the queen of all she surveys.

Chaki is my closest friend. We share a bond that I cannot describe. It is deep and mystical. When she looks with her yellow eyes straight into mine, I feel the primordial closeness of two creatures of the jungle, human and cat. When she snuggles into the crook of my arm and I hear her purr, I know there is no sound sweeter than this. She shares my moods and my bed in winter. She smells of baby – milk and vitamin syrup after I have syringed some into her mouth. She is my queen and queen of the territory over which she presides, letting no dog or other cat come anywhere near. Chaki is Tao, she is Zen and embodies the mystery of cat as she sits up, paws under her, tail swishing gently and eyes far away into another dimension altogether.

(Rukmini Sekhar lives in Delhi with Chaki. She runs an NGO called Viveka Foundation and is part of a group called Citizens for Animals.)

Ask the Expert.. Sep- Oct 08

Q: My 6-month-old kitten loves to play with string toys and sometimes even chews on the string. It is a cat toy but is this dangerous? What are the safe toys which I can give her to play? – R Geroge, Coimbatore

A: Dr. K. G. Umesh : Cat play is an important activity for cats. Toys (particularly hanging or moving), feeding puzzles, making use of resting places at a range of heights and different locations and access to a view of the outdoors – all help stimulate indoor cats. All pet stores carry safe, fun toys that will get your cat moving and help you bond with your pet. Choose toys for your cat that stimulate active, entertaining play, such as weighted balls that roll in unpredictable directions, and rubber chew toys in different shapes and textures. Just make sure any toys you use won’t cause injury from sharp edges or swallowing.

Cats will often play by themselves, swatting at wads of paper, ping-pong balls or catnip toys. A cardboard box can be loads of fun for your cat. Try putting a little fuzzy thing on a string and dangling it in front of your cat. She’ll know it’s not a mouse but she can indulge in fantasies of being a ferocious hunter, looking out for a prey. Some cats like the sound and feel of rustling paper. A large paper bag might keep her amused for a while. Put some toys inside, making it even more fun. Lastly, empty wrapping paper rolls, old tennis balls, fabric stuffed with old nylons can be toys for your cat. Rotate the toys you leave with your cat so that each day she has “new” toys. If possible, provide places for your cat to climb inside. Scratching posts and climbing frames provide opportunities for exercise and stimulation.

Ask the Expert.. May-June 08

Q: I have recently got 3 beautiful Persian kitties of 3 months of age (2 females and 1 male). I don’t want to breed them. Do let me know what I should do?
– Anjali, pune

 

A: Dr. K. G. Umesh: Sterilization (Neutering) of cats who are not intended for breeding has become standard practice and is the best option available at present. Several published papers demonstrate that there are no long-term health risks associated with early neutering of cats (6-7 months of age). Your veterinarian will advise you when your cat will be mature enough to have the operation. Neutered cats may actually enjoy some health benefits related to behavioural changes, such as fewer fight wounds and abscesses.

Sterilization is a routine procedure because it is performed so frequently. Nevertheless, it is major abdominal surgery and requires general anaesthesia. General anaesthetics are best given when a pet has an empty stomach. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully for withholding food and water before surgery. Your cat should be kept indoors for a few days after operation and prevented from excessive movements such as jumping to allow the wound to heal without complications.

Monkey, my soul mate: where have you gone?

She came to my life as a rain on the desert. With silent purring, she walked into my heart and enlivened my life. But, my happiness was short-lived and she left me forever, creating a void in my life. She is Monkey, my kitty, the embodiment of love and affection who taught me the lessons of unconditional love.

Monkey came to my life and transformed me into a cat lover. Since then, we slept together, played together…and cuddled each other. She loved to chase her own tail and go around in circles. She danced with joy when I made her walk on her hind legs. Like an expert fighter, she used to somersault in mid-air. She loved to play hide and seek and chased butterflies in the garden. She was crazy about home-cooked foods such as fish, meat and vegetables. She also loved to eat coconut and honeydew.

Fate didn’t allow me to see her last, as I was not in town. My London visit prevented me from giving her a final adieu. My playful kitty died in a road accident.

I know she will not come back, however, I can’t but wait for her eternally, her soft-spoken meows… her caress… Here is my obeisance… to my gentle, sweet, devotional companion…

Kalpaka: the amazing survivor

Our heart bleeds when we witness the life of our loved ones slip away from us. I also stared at the startlingpawtails reality when my little white kitty Kalpaka fought with the messenger of death. But I was fortunate to get this bundle of joy back and fill my life again with happiness.

I met Kalpaka accidentally on the pavement when I was a volunteer with a local cat shelter three years ago. He was breathing hard from a severe upper respiratory infection and looked half starved. A man at the pavement teashop told us that he survived mainly on biscuits thrown to him. I picked him and brought him home and fed him. Slowly he started responding to medications and seemed to do fine. But soon, I noticed that his stomach looked enlarged, and his breathing laboured.

I rushed him to the vet and further investigations revealed that he had an enlarged liver and ascites. He had to be given small doses of lasex every second day to clear the fluids in his system. Since he needed personalized care, I didn’t have the heart to leave him at the shelter and so Kalpaka stayed with us.

With the help of my vet and a senior homeopath, Kalpaka returned to life like nothing had happened. What is more interesting, he did not seem to need the lasex anymore. From a heavy cat who puffed and panted every step of the way, he became more active (although he still prefers the lift to the stairs and is known as the lift cat!). We are quite sure it was the diet of biscuits (rich butter biscuits!) that made him ill, and the cat food that restored the balance gradually!

Today Kalpaka still purrs like a busy engine, loves to bully the younger cats, and has the softest corner in my heart!!

Well! I ain’t regular kitty

Muffin, my pet kitty is different…for all the good reasons, for sure. She is our loving furry friend. She came as a small ball of fur to us, when she was just one and half month old. One look at her, and we all fell for her and her cuddly cute antics further made us go crazy about her. We have two pet dogs also and they all share a wonderful rapport, in fact they all are inseparable. Cleo – my pet dog is Muffin’s better buddy and they roam, crawl and glide pawing each other from one room to another. She takes all the pride in drinking water from the dog’s bowl…their camaraderie is unmatched… true partners in mischief. Muffin, like a shadow follows him everywhere…even in the bathroom and they both have developed a habit of sleeping in the bathroom.

Muffin loves water; she skips our eyes and sits under running water, bathing to her heart’s content. Once, she just left us with fits of laughter, when she rushed to the bathroom and got herself completely drenched. Her curiosity is so strong that once she ended up in the toilet pot, luckily it was recently flushed and my brother saw and rescued her. Jokes apart! Our fun loving feline is a well-mannered cat, she sleeps in her basket, knows where the litter basket is and meows when she wants attention…she is a wonderful darling. We are glad to have her in our life.