Nutrition for cats over six weeks old

The quality of food that you need to give your cat will seriously effect its immune system, its skin and fur, its teeth and digestive system

Doctor Hila Bareket, SPCA Israel veterinarian

Most of those who adopt cats at the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel, Tel Aviv raise there eyebrows in wonderment when I instruct them that it is forbidden to give milk to their cat. Most of us grew up with the accepted idea that cats need to drink milk. However, in reality the feline digestive system does not at all succeed in digesting milk, and for many cats milk only gives them diarrhea and inflammations. Cats drink only water! You need to supply them with a source of clean water that is available at all hours of the day and night.

As a hunter and carnivore the cat’s diet is based almost exclusively on food that is rich in animal protein. Its whole digestive system – from the structure of its teeth and jaws to its long intestines – is built to enable it to eat and digest meat in the best way possible.

Today, there is a wide variety of commercial foods that come in dry and wet form (canned) that supply the cat with the necessary nutritional requirements. Dry food is important for the digestive system and for the proper health of the teeth and gums. Wet food provides liquids for cats that generally drink little. The food that you choose for your cat must contain the amino acids Taurine and Arginine which are essential to its health, in addition to vitamins, minerals and a little fat.

Kittens can begin eating commercial foods by age 6 weeks. Until they are 1 year old they should be given food for kittens, which contains slightly more fat in line with their nutritional needs. At the beginning it is best to give them soft food (preserves or dry food slightly dampened) and little by little to include dry and wet foods. Older cats above 1 year can eat dry and wet foods for adults with a high level of protein and digestibles. A cat that does not eat or drink for a whole day is ill and should be brought to the veterinary doctor as soon as possible!

The quality of food that you need to give your cat will seriously effect its immune system, its skin and fur, its teeth and digestive system, and most importantly its satisfaction.

Feline lower urinary tract infections

Cats who have suffered in the past from lower urinary tract diseases are likely to become ill with them again

Doctor Hila Bareket, SPCA Israel veterinarian

At the clinic of the SPCA Israel, we admitted a male neutered cat of about four years old, whose owners complained about a strange phenomenon: the cat, who was litter box trained, had spent hours during the previous day in the kitty litter box, he scratched and he meowed and at the end of all this had not urinated. The owners thought that the cat had been constipated, but the next day they found a puddle of bloodied urine outside of the kitty litter box. The cat was suffering from a lack of appetite, dehydration, nervousness and pain in the area of his lower abdomen. All the clinical signs and his history pointed to a disease whose source was in the lower urogenital tract.

Lower urinary tract infections in cats are divided into two types:

Obstructive disease: in most male cats, the urethra is obstructed by a residue and so the urine does not succeed in passing from the bladder to the outside of the body. As a result, the urine accumulates within the bladder, which expands and enlarges and which becomes rigid, inflamed and painful. In extreme cases, a tear may develop in the bladder or an injury may develop in the kidneys that is likely to result in death. This is an emergency situation that requires immediate veterinary attention!!!
Factors that contribute to the creation of residue and inflammation can be: Infection, stress, allergy (to food or an environmental factor), nutrition (dry food!), gender of the cat (more incidents in neutered males) and the age of the cat (more in younger cats). The residue created is mostly Calcium-oxalate or Struvite, and both of them can be seen in an x-ray.

Non-obstructive disease: in most cases we are talking about a sterile inflammation of the bladder, whose cause is not common in either males or females. The symptoms are generally irregularity in passing urine. However, the cat does not show symptoms of straining or difficulty while passing urine, the urine is sterile and sometimes somewhat bloody.
The disease is diagnosed by a history of clinical symptoms and a urine test (test strips to negate the presence of crystals that create residue).
It is advisable to also have a blood test done (to check the state of the kidneys, the level of dehydration and the electrolytes) and an x-ray of the bladder (to negate the presence of kidney stones).
The treatment includes the opening of the obstruction by inserting a urinal catheter and rinsing the bladder. The urinal catheter remains attached to the cat for a few days. The cat is given liquids, antibiotics, medication and medicinal soft food that causes the urine to be acidified and therefore to the decrease the creation of residues.

We need to remember, that once the catheter is removed, even if everything is found to be normal, the cat is likely to be obstructed again – within the next 48 hours. Cats who have suffered in the past from lower urinary tract diseases are likely to become ill with them again, therefore it is recommended to provide them with cat food that is made specially for cats with urinary tract problems and to have a periodic urinary test to prevent repeated obstructions.

Ear Mites in Cats

The symptoms are a thick black secretion, severe itching of the ear, head shaking and a severe ear inflammation

Doctor Hila Bareket, SPCA Israel veterinarian

Ear mites are tiny parasites on the order of 0.4 mm. in size, whose scientific name is Otodectes Cynotis, and they can be seen only with the aide of a microscope. The mites live and lay eggs that develop within the ears of cats and therefore cause severe itching and severe ear inflammations. Infection is by means of direct contact between cats and dogs, and in general it is a very infectious parasite.

The symptoms are a thick black secretion, severe itching of the ear, head shaking and a severe ear inflammation. In very bad cases, which are not treated, in the wake of the scratching and the head shaking, hemorrhaging is likely to develop which will cause the development of edema and thickening of the auricle. Mites are also likely to enter the inner ear and from there to penetrate the brain – but that is a very rare situation. The diagnosis is simple, by means of a microscopic examination of a sampling of the black secretion.

The treatment of the mites includes:
– Cleaning of the outer ear and the auricle.
– Daily treatment with ear drops that include Ivermectin for a long period of time
– In severe cases, together with the above treatment there are weekly inoculations for 4 to 6 weeks.

We have to remember that the treatment is long-term and that the illness is very infectious among cats and dogs. A cat who is once infected and treated, is likely to be re-infected again the moment that it comes into contact with an infected untreated cat.

Dermatophytosis (fungal infection) in cats

Dermatophytosis is a medical term which means a fungal infection caused by a group of pathogens called dermatophytes

Doctor Hila Bareket, SPCA Israel veterinarian

Dermatophytosis is a medical term which means a fungal infection caused by a group of pathogens called dermatophytes. In cats fungal infection is a very widespread skin malady and appears primarily in kittens, in adults, in Persian cats and in those with a weakened immune system.

The most common cause of this illness is called Microsporum canis—it is also extremely infectious to humans and other animals. The infection can spread from one animal to another and from the ground or objects infested with the fungal spores. In most of the cases that come to the SPCA Israel, Tel Aviv, the owners complain of one or more bald areas on their cat, round and symmetric, sometimes accompanied by scaling and reddening, and in most cases the cat is not itching or bothered at all. The infestations usually occurs on the head or on the limbs but can happen anywhere on the body.

In the less classical cases there might appear itching, peeling bald areas, open sores, scaling and peeling, infected claws, dark areas around the affected area and even vomiting and constipation (due to swallowing infested hair). There are cats that show no clinical signs whatsoever but are likely to carry the spores of the fungus on their skin or fur.

The easiest and most effective way to diagnose dermatophytosis is by way of a culture. On the surface of the culture medium we place hair ends and scale taken from the affected area. If the sample is infested the color of the culture will change within a few days. There are other diagnostic but less reliable methods, including a UV lamp and microscopic observation.

The treatment of dermatophytosis is multifaceted:
– Environmental treatment – requires vacuuming the cat’s bedding and cleaning with bleach.
– Treatment of the cat – including:
– Topical treatment (usually with kittens), using shampoo, creams or diluted lotions.
– Therapeutic treatment—syrup or tablets—when the problem is widespread and the adult cat has no immunodeficiency problems (FIV) or liver problems.

Recently a vaccination has been developed that has proved to be not effective in preventing infestation. The vaccination can cause improvement of the symptoms in cats that have already been infected with Microsporum canis but cannot get rid of the fungus.

Neutering and castration at a young age

Neutering and castrating are the first operations that humans performed on domestic animals

Dr. Deganit Ben Dov 

Neutering and castrating are the first operations that humans performed on domestic animals. Already in ancient sources such as in hieroglyphic Egyptian writings and in the Bible we can find items relating to the castration of animals. In the past, operations of neutering and castration of domestic animals were carried out for these primary reasons:
A. Work animals, such as oxen and horses, who were castrated, were calmer and easier to work with.
B. Animals who were raised for food and who were forced fed, grew more quickly after they were castrated.

In our times it is acceptable to neuter and castrate pet animals – primarily dogs and cats. Why? The principal problem with which all who are involved with the welfare of animals are struggling is the over population of pet animals. One female dog or cat reproducing without control, can give birth twice a year. Within a number of years, she and her descendents will give birth to tens of thousands of puppies or kittens.

The consciousness of the many advantages of raising pets has risen from year to year. In spite of this, the number of homes and families who are willing to adopt a dog or cat does not approach the number of animals needing adoption. Without control on the reproduction of pets, the organizations for the welfare of animals in the world will be forced to continue to kill millions of cats and dogs each year. The neutering and castration of these animals is the most efficient way to reduce the number of animals that die from lack of a home and care.

Today almost everyone is conscious of the importance of neutering and castration. Besides the reduction of overpopulation, these operations improve the health of pets and lengthen their lives, and of course makes life easier for the owners who don’t have to deal with the problems of heat and finding or not being able to find home for the puppies or kittens.

Most of the societies for the welfare of animals insist on the neutering of animals that are given for adoption. There are societies where these operations are done on the premises and there are those that refer the adopters to neutering facilities in various veterinary clinics. In the United States, in societies that give out animals for adoption and have the adopters sign a statement of obligation to have the animals neutered, there is a follow up that discovered that a third of the owners do not return to have the operation performed. One female dog or cat, that has not been neutered, can give birth within a number of years to enough young to fill up the pounds.

More and more charities are changing over to a policy of neutering and castration of each animal before it is given to new families. Only those societies for animal welfare who maintain a policy of neutering and castration of every animal before it is given for adoption can be certain that the animal will not contribute to the over-population of pets.

When should it be done? There are those who think that it is preferable for the female dog or cat to give birth once before it is neutered. This was the acceptable opinion until a few decades ago. Later it was found that neutering before puberty contributes to the health of animals who are operated upon and extends their lives, and the age that is recommended for the operation was near to the age of puberty, or between 6 to 8 months. In many cases puberty is earlier, especially in kittens who can become pregnant a the age of 4 months. This problem brought about the fact that in the nineteen eighties, operations of neutering and castration were carried out already at the age of 6 to 8 weeks.

Various veterinarians brought up the fear of the long term influence of neutering at a young age. This fear lead to the many research projects that examined tens of thousands of dogs and cats that were operated on at a young age. These researches reinforced the information about the contribution of neutering and castration before puberty to the health of the animals and showed that there were no differences between neutering at 6 to 8 months and neutering at the age of 6 to 8 weeks. An additional finding related to the operation itself. Neutering of the younger ones is easier for the surgeon, and more important than that, for the young one itself—the operation is shorter and the recuperation is very much quicker. About an hour after the end of the operation on a female kitten of 8 weeks, it is already eating and playing.

Who? The results of these research projects brought about that in 1991 societies for the welfare of animals and various veterinary organizations were recommending neutering and castration at a young age. In places where they instituted neutering at a young age, the number of dogs and cats put to death was lower. Neutering at a young age, before puberty, gives the organizations for the welfare of animals a significant advantage in the possibility of neutering before giving the animal for adoption and reduces the need for dealing with over-population of pets. The reduction in reproduction saves lives and resources. There are those who suggest including neutering in the treatment of the puppy or kitten with the inoculations before puberty. This procedure would prevent unwanted pregnancies and would reduce the possibility of cancer of the mammary glands or prostate diseases in the future.

To date, many societies have adopted the technique of early neutering and castration, with all its advantages: The American Veterinary Association, the Canadian Veterinary Association, the American Humane Society, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel, etc. The principal objectors to this technique are those who have not tried it. Veterinarians and organizations who experimented with carrying out neutering and castration operations on dogs and cats at an early age prefer to continue with this policy in the merit of the many advantages to the individuals operated upon and to the whole pet population.

This article appeared in the magazine of S.E.P. Pets in July 2001.

Nine Lives, really?

Varies bodies in Israel and the world tried to deal with the problem of street cats in various ways

Dr. Deganit Ben Dov 

Cats – furry creatures, smooth, striped and spotted, black, white and ginger. Among all those fur covered creatures, cats are the most fun to pet. In the last few years the number of people deciding to raise cats in their homes as pets, and accordingly, the interest that researchers are showing in the place of the cat in human society, has also grown. Many professional articles are dealing with the contribution of the cat to the health of its owners – lowering of blood pressure, improving moods and mental health and even curing cancer.

Some History
The cat was domesticated in ancient Egypt about 5,000 years ago. Cats were raised in homes and in granaries in order to guard them against rodents and snakes. They were considered holy god-lings and anyone who killed a cat was sentenced to death. In the area of China, more than 3,000 years ago, a long haired cat was domesticated, and this cat was the one that contributed long hair genes to the cats of our time. Cats came to Italy from Egypt with Phoenician merchants who raised them on their ships. In the first centuries of the common era, cats spread out from Italy to the rest of the countries of Europe, where they were kept as pets and as rodent killers, and even performed a function in various religions. In the Middle Ages cats were considered as part of the power of the black devil and many of them were killed and burnt as agents of the devil. In the 18th and 19th centuries the status of the cat started to rise and improve, and today there are tens of millions of cats in homes throughout the world.

The House Cat and the Street Cat
The number of house cats rises from year to year. In Europe there are 40 million pet cats and in the United States more than 60 million. The number of house cats in Israel is estimated as about 200,000. Domestication created dependence of the cat upon people and a potential for high fertility, a problematic combination since the number of house cats that are born today is much higher than the number of people who are interested in caring for them.
Parallel to the rise in popularity of cats as well-cared-for pets, there is a rise in the number of abandoned cats and in street cats. Most of the house cats who end up on the street do not survive very long. In a suitable place where there is easy prey and few competitors, the feral cats endanger the birds and the reptiles even to the extent of danger of extermination.
An adult female cat can have kittens twice a year, four kittens each time. Ninety percent of the kittens of street cats die before their first year. The cat that lasts a year is expected to live another two or three years only, in contrast to the house cat who can reach old age at 15 to 20 years. The street cats are likely to have a life of hunger, vulnerability to different illnesses and injuries from vehicle and humans.
In a research project that was conducted in England it was found that one in five cats that were examined were in a bad physical state from injuries and respiratory illnesses. The cats tended to show signs of illness, and that is one of the reasons for the belief that cats have nine lives: the cat is injured but does not appear injured. A cat such as this living on the street, “will look thin but healthy, until the stage where his body will not be able function and the cat will collapse”.

The Street Cat in Israel
It is not clear how many street cats there are in Israel. If we accept the evaluation that the number of street cats is ten times larger than the number of house cats then we are talking about two million cats. Varies bodies in Israel and the world tried to deal with the problem of street cats in various ways. There are two extreme approaches to the problem of street cats, and as in many cases there is no one truth, and the best way is a combination of the different approaches.
One approach is based on the idea that the cat is a house pet. The cat needs a human to take care of him, and is not expecting a life of suffering. Therefore we should catch any cat not being cared for and kill it as humanely as possible in order to prevent it having a life of suffering. The opposite approach is based on the idea that the cat is a living and beloved being, even if it has no owner. Since most of the suffering of street cats is connected with reproduction, the supporters of this approach believe in neutering all street cats, and in time this will reduce their reproduction until the problem will be solved.
The reality is of course much more complex and complicated, Many districts tried to exterminate the population of street cats, without success. The cats continue to reproduce. On one hand the programs of catching and neutering street cats is expensive and demands coordinated effort on the part of many factors. Sometimes it is enough that one person objects to this program to cause the cats to be injured and to suffer. In many cases cat lovers are convinced that neutering street cats is the correct way, but they are not willing to contribute and invest in it, and expect that other factors (district authorities and cat welfare agencies) will take care of the problem. The solution must include the neutering and castration of house cats in order to reduce as much as possible the number of abandoned cats. The neutering and castration of the cats living in the street are suitable ways only for the populations of street cats who are fed by people who can do follow ups, to care for them when they are injured and to neuter new cats who join the group. Today this way is suitable to a small part of the populations of street cats. A program of education and explanation will enable the implementation of programs of neutering of street cats.

But in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of cats are suffering and dying in the streets. However, we can not educate people to be humane and to take public responsibility, while at the same time we are closing our eyes to the suffering of the street cats. A desire for a better and more humane solution does not have to contradict the desire to prevent suffering now. The euthanizing of abandoned cats is not a good solution, but the lesser evil. In cases where we cannot give good lives to animals, we can at least act with humanity and shorten their suffering.

* This article was written by Dr. Deganit Ben Dov in honor of the big cat event “Tel-Aviv says Meow”, May 2001 at the Cinamateque in Tel-Aviv and published in the newspaper “The Nature of Things”.