15 July 2013

When NOT to Vaccinate

I've had several discussions in the last week about vaccinating cats.  I've been surprised by some of the comments by people who really should know better.  (And I will ignore the "it's unethical not to vaccinate" comments until another time.)

Let's assume you are going to vaccinate your cat.  Your cat, your decision.  There are some clear and (I thought) obvious times/situations when you should not vaccinate:

  • If the cat is sick with say an URI or even UTI.  Vaccines may be ineffective when a cat is sick because the immune system is already taxed to overcome the illness.  Almost all vaccines say to vaccinate only healthy cats.
  • Right after a cat has been sick.  Yes, the cat is over the URI and shows no symptoms.  This does not mean the immune system is back to normal.  It takes 2-6 weeks for the immune system to return to normal, depending on the illness.
  • When dealing with any immune system problems.  (This will raise some eye brows.)  Vaccines stimulate the immune system.  If a cat has, for example, IBD or even severe allergies, both immune related disorders, the vaccines can trigger an increase in the immune-related problem.  
  • Cats over 12 years old.  Most older cats have a decreased immune system to begin with.  By forcing the immune system to deal with 3-4 major diseases (which is what a vaccine really does), can easily overwhelm the immune system and lead to major problems.
  • When the cat is being spayed, neutered, etc.  The cat's immune system will work at preventing a bigger problem (infection) and may not adequately respond to the vaccine.
  • After a cat has had a severe reaction.  If the cat was vomiting and listless last year with the vaccine, it's really not going to better this year.
  • Very young kittens.  The mother cat's milk has antibodies in it so the young kitten has her immunities.  Once the kitten is weaned, the antibodies fail. Depending on the kitten, the immunity from the mother can last 6-12 weeks.  Vaccinating early during this time can be ineffective at best, and according so some researchers, can impair the immune system for the life of the animal.  (The immune system is not fully developed until around 5-6 months.)  The best option would be to have titers done to assess antibodies, but few vets know how to do this.
  • When the cat was vaccinated for it last year.  Even the AVMA now recommends every 3 years on most vaccines.  Some researchers have shown vaccines can easily last 8-10 years!  So, subjecting a cat to repeated vaccines does nothing to strengthen immunity, but may instead lead to weakening and overwhelming the immune system. 
Personally, I don't vaccine my cats.  Many of my cats have been vaccinated because the shelters I adopted them from did it and would not release the cat without the vaccinations.  But I have always associated certain problems with these vaccinations.  For example, Clarissa was vaccinated with a 4-in-1 shot about 3 days after finishing her antibiotics for an URI and at the same time she was spayed.  Talk about hitting her immune system hard!!!  She did have a reaction to the internal stitches.  She has a reaction to raw meat.  She has a reaction to cooked fish.  How much of her food allergies are related to her vaccinations?  I can't prove causation, but my gut instinct says they are related.

Now, I know all this goes against what most vets say.  So why do vets not follow these guidelines?  There are many reasons.  Most vets believe the idea that vaccines are safe and effective, with little side-effects.  Selling vaccines is a major source of income in many vet practices.  Some vets have never thought about how vaccines work and their effect on the immune system since they were in vet school.

While I understand I am in the minority when it comes to vaccinations, I would just like people to take a few minutes and think before they have their cat vaccinated.  

29 June 2013

Cats: Colors and Personalities

I decided it was time for me to do some reading on feline genetics.  I knew some of the basics about genetics, but how the rules applied to coat color or other genetic traits, I was a bit uncertain.  So, I got a copy of Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians, by Roy Robinson.  This is the standard feline genetics book and is used in vet schools and by breeders the world over.  I'm about half-way through it for a second time (skimmed it quickly the first time) and it's fascinating.  But I have one major question left:

Is there a relationship between a cat's coat color and its personality?

Based on this book and on genetics, the answer really should be no.  But when I talk to people, owners, rescue people, and breeders, I get the same answer -- yes, there is a relationship between color and personality.  Here's a few of the color/personalities:
  • Solid red -- shy, easily spooked
  • Red tabby or red bicolor -- clownish
  • Tortoiseshell and calico -- wild, outgoing
  • Silver -- quiet, reserved, sweet
  • Blues -- loyal, calm
So is there a relationship or not?  At some point, someone usually then states that it's how the cats were raised which make a big difference.  And for a while I agreed with this and I still do in part. But,...

This is Kami, a shaded cameo.  She's friendly, outgoing, and somewhat fearless.  She adjusts to new situations easily.  She comes for pets and scratches and did so from day 1.  

This is Khloe, a solid red.  She's very shy, nervous, and scared of lights on the ceiling!  Her method of adjusting to new things is to hide, for days if necessary.  She does like to be petted but you have to slowly reach into her hiding place and pet her.  One week later and she's finally coming out of her cupboard, but only at night.

These two girls are polar opposites in terms of personality, yet both have the 'red gene' and the real interesting part, they are sisters!  They were from the same litter, raised by the same person, and have always lived together.  So, on the nurture vs. nature debate, they had the same 'nurture', which then would suggest it's 'nature'.

But that brings us back to my original question -- are personalities really genetically tied to coat color in some way we have yet to figure out?

27 June 2013

Donating to Cat Rescues

My blog -- my rant!!!

I'm a wee bit annoyed and frustrated with many of my fellow cat lovers.

I support a Persian rescue called Chapelhouse Persian  Rescue in the UK.  I do so for several reasons.  The main reason is this rescue takes in cats which would otherwise be destroyed -- the cats that other rescues have refused, the cats with serious medical issues.  These are the types of cats that I rescue -- the unwanted. There are not many rescues who will take on these kinds of cats as most rescues want only healthy cats they can quickly adopt out.  So, I greatly admire this rescues work!

Another reason is Chapelhouse is in the UK.  This is far enough from me so I don't end up visiting and bringing home cats.

And a final reason is the director, Cheryl-Anne and I have become friends.

Right now, Chapelhouse has 3 different appeals to raise money to save and care for 6 Persians.  I have posted about this on several cat sites and on Facebook.  And I have received some interesting replies.

I can't afford to send them money.  Really?  You recently bought an very expensive _____ and you normally have 1-2 drinks from Starbucks, but you can't afford $5?

I don't know how to send them money.  Try poking the PayPal button.

Why don't they save the cats first instead of using emotional blackmail?  Two main reasons.  First, if they get the cat and can't raise the money to treat it, then the rescue gets to watch it die or put it to sleep.  Second, most people won't give if they know a cat is safe.

They should focus on saving healthy cats.  Fine, then you would agree that Anya, Wendy, Clarissa, Isabel, and Dante should never have been saved either.

So, if you would like to donate to Chapelhouse Persian Rescue, here's a link Chapelhouse Persian Rescue Donations

I'm not saying everyone must support Chapelhouse, but please do two things:

  1. Find a rescue/shelter you like and support them.
  2. If you won't support a rescue/shelter, don't hide behind bogus excuses.

26 June 2013

Bertie's $500 Paper Ball

The last two weeks have been interesting for Bertie, one of my DLH cats.  He's always drank a lot and pee-ed a lot since I got him, but recently I noticed he had lost some weight and was hesitant to eat.  So, since I had to take Wendy to my vet, I took Bertie along to be checked out and have bloodwork done.  My vet examined him thoroughly and felt a large, strange mass in his intestines.  I figured it was paper, since he likes to eat (not nibble) paper.  I know he got into some a few days before the visit -- he ate most of a 9x12 inch envelop.  We both figured it was paper, but like other times, it would pass.

His bloodwork came back fine except that his BUN was 57 and the creatinine was 2.6 (2.4 is the upper end of normal).  He's only 6 years old, so CRF (chronic renal failure) seems very early.  But he's got either Persian or British short hair in his background and both can carry PKD (poly-cystic kidney disease).  So, I'm guessing it is PKD, but he's doing okay and thanks to other cats, I hope I can keep him healthy for a long time.

He came home, ate for a few days, and then threw up.  Then refused to eat.  I figured it was the paper ball, especially since he got into some credit card offers which my husband left by the shredder -- Bertie shredded them instead.  I tried laxatone.  Nothing.  I then tried lactulose.  Again nothing.  I even tried an enema.  Still nothing.

So, I called my vet -- she was on vacation.  I called my back-up vet -- he was on vacation.  Finally I took him to the VCA Hospital.

X-rays showed a large blockage in his lower intestines, about 6-7 inches long.  They wanted to try some meds and fluids on Thursday, and if it didn't work, do surgery on Friday.  So, he stayed over night.  While he didn't poop for them, more x-rays showed it was moving, which then moved any surgery to Monday.  On Friday night, he pooped!  And only cat lovers can understand -- I was doing a happy poop dance!!!  They wanted to keep him until they were sure it was all out.  More poop on Saturday night and he started to eat.  Still more poop on Monday morning, right before I picked him up.  Monday's x-rays showed a clean intestinal tract.

The x-rays also showed his hips are degenerating, which explains why he walks funny.  I need to work on that.

But, I'm so glad that he didn't need surgery and that he's now home, eating and pooping.  And 'his' room is paper free!!!  All this for only $500.  LOL!

23 June 2013

Cats: Persian Faces

The Persian breed had always been known for long coats and a slightly shortened face.  Over the last 50 years, the faces of Persian cats have undergone a dramatic change. Today there exist almost two different breeds of Persians -- the doll-faced Persians and the extreme-faced Persians.

Kami -- Doll-faced Shaded Cameo
The doll-faced Persians are similar to the Persians of many years ago.  While they do have a shorter nose than a typical cat, they clearly have a nose.  Most doll-faced Persians do not have breathing or eye problems.  Their teeth are better aligned.  They have a cute round face.  In some ways, they are a healthier cat because their skulls are closer to a mixed breed cat's and because many do not have the genetic problems that the more extreme-faced Persians do. There are some doll-faced breeders who do care and prefer the less extreme face. In other ways these doll-faced Persians are not healthy.  Because doll-faced Persians are not accepted in the cat shows, some (not all) cat breeders who breed doll-faced Persians are clearly backyard breeders who breed only for the money and who care little for the animals involved.  Many of the Persians in shelters are doll-faced.  Because the prices are lower, in general, for this type, they are more disposable to some.

Extreme-faced Persians are the new version of Persians, with, as the name implies, an extremely flat face.  (These are the show cats!)  The nose leather sometimes does not extend passed the eyes in profile.  To get their nose so short, the internal structure of their skulls has had to be modified and compromised in many cases. (The veterinary term is brachycephalic skull.)  This shortening does come with many potential problems:

  • breathing problems because of small nostrils
  • breathing problems because of internal sinus structures
  • breathing problems because the soft palate is not reduced in length
  • frequent sinus infections
  • blocked tear-ducts
  • mild URI (upper respiratory infection) becoming very serious URI
  • misaligned teeth leading to poor chewing
  • misaligned teeth leading extreme tartar build-up and tooth decay
  • overshot jaw because it was not reduced in length
  • more frequent eye injuries
  • diminished mental capacity due to smaller cranium
Peaches  -- extreme-faced shaded cameo
Now, some extreme Persians have few of these, some have many of these -- a lot depends on the internal structures in the skull.  

So why make a Persian nose so short?  Interesting question to which I have never received a sound answer. The most frequent reply is because this is what the cat breed guidelines say, but that is a bit circular.  The breed standard would not say a shortened nose if people didn't want it.  I personally feel there are two reasons.
  1. When the breed standard began to emphasis a shortened nose, the cats with the shortest noses did better.  As more short-nosed Persians won, the race was on to breed even shorter noses in the hopes of winning.
  2. The short nose with the big eyes and round face is a 'baby face'.  There is a term for this, which I can't recall, but researchers have shown we humans are hard-wired to have loving feelings for large eyes and round faces.  An extreme-faced Persian is much closer to this 'baby face' than a doll-faced Persian.  They are more appealing to us.
So what will the future bring?  Some of the non-US cat federations, such as in the UK, are moving away from the extreme-faced Persian to somewhere between extreme- and doll-faced.  They are doing so mainly on health reasons.  Will this trend happen in the US?  I don't know -- only time will tell.

17 June 2013

Wendy's Teeth (or Lack of)

One of the things on my summer to-do list was to take Wendy to my vet and have her do a dental on her.  So, I made the appointment and then I proceeded to scare myself silly by looking up anesthetics.  I was a bit more nervous than normal when I got to vet.  (Thankfully, my vet is patient and we had a wonderful chat about anesthetics.)

I knew her teeth were bad as she had broken off two canines already.  Actually, they really rotted off.  Plus,
Wendy sleeping
I had scrapped off large chunks of plaque.  Doc took one look at Wendy's mouth and agreed -- dental!

So, I left my little girl overnight and Doc did the dental the next morning.  Usually a dental takes 20-30 minutes, even with an extraction or two.  Doc spent 1.5 hours!  Wendy apparently already had a number of missing teeth, other than the 2 canines.  Several of the remaining ones had large cavities at the gum line and had to be removed.  A couple of teeth looked okay but when she went to scale them, the teeth crumbled.  Apparently the tartar was holding the tooth together.  And one of the two remaining canines has infection at the root.  The bottomline is Wendy has 2 lower incisors (the teeny tiny front teeth), 1 upper incisor, and her one canine.  4 teeth total, and we both expect the other canine to fall out at some point.

But why were her teeth such a mess?

  1. Her jaw and thus teeth were not in alignment so she never used her teeth to chew.  When teeth aren't used to chew, they just build up tartar.
  2. I suspect her food allergies interfered with proper nutrition as a kitten, when her adult teeth were forming.  The teeth were weak to begin with.
Don't feel sorry for her.  Not having teeth hasn't bothered her at all -- she's eating, playing, and her tongue is cleaning.  In the long run, having her teeth removed will be good for her -- a lot less bacteria in her mouth, so I expect a lot less eye, ear, and tongue crud.

And she still can eat her greenies (treats).

11 June 2013

Palm Springs Cat Show -- June 2013

 For a little relaxation, in early June, I when to the Southwest Region's award show in Palm Springs.  I had hoped there would be more cats -- only 140 entries -- but I had a fun time.  I met some nice people, talked to some old friends, and lusted after a number of cats.

This beautiful black Persian (above and to the left) ended up as Best in Show in 3 out of the 6 rings.  He was stocky, the coat of thick, he was very calm -- oh, and he is 14 years old!   It was hard to believe that he had such a nice coat at such an age -- an age when many Persians are sick and nearing death.  This boy, however, was still siring kittens.
A lovely chinchilla silver Persian

A 25 lb. Maine Coon
Blue-cream pointed Himalayan

Flame-point Himalayan

The judge snuggling a black and white exotic

02 June 2013

Book Review: A Sophisticate's Primer of Relativity

A Sophisticate's Primer of Relativity, Second Edition, P.W. Bridgman
ISBN: 0486425495

I picked this book up in a bookstore mainly because I'm interested in learning more about relativity. Relativity is a key theory of physics over the last 90 years, so I figured I should learn a bit more about it than my basic understanding of it. When I saw the title, I figured that this would be a good book. Hey, I'm mathematically 'sophisticated' and this is a primer, so it seemed a perfect fit.

This will teach me to read a few pages of a book before I buy it. (In this case, my husband was standing around, waiting for me to join him at the checkout, so I felt a bit rushed to either keep it or put it down.) While relativity is the subject, it's not a primer and I'm not sure that even most physicists would find it useful.

Problem #1: The book was originally published 1962 and then reprinted. This second edition was done in 1983, but only the introduction seems to have been updated. (Admittedly, the author died in 1961, so he really couldn't update it.) Some of the comments and discussions seem very dated, such as the discussion on 'ether'. I don't think many people born after 1950 even know what ether refers to, except for the gas used to put people out during surgery. That's not the same ether.

Problem #2: Despite the title, the author assumes one is familiar with the theory of special relativity, the general theory of relativity, and many of the 'supporting' theories. Reichenbach, Bunge, Maxwell, Lorenz, etc., may all be familiar names to the author, I have very little idea who they are are (Maxwell, I have heard of), let alone what their specific theories refer to with regards to relativity. One or two small lines of background would have gone a long way to help non-physicists read this. The author does the same thing with the theories -- he refers to them and discusses problems with specific equations generated from the theory, but never gives the equations.

Problem #3: The author makes strange claims with no support. For example, he questions whether causally connected events must occur be related invariably in time. This breaks down to mean if A causes B, then A doesn't necessarily have to occur before B. A can occur after B, but A can still cause B. I spent many days thinking about this, but I still don't get it. Had he provided some support or examples, I might have been able to figure out what he was getting at, because I can't believe that he's saying A causes B but B precedes A.

Problem #4: The author seems much more interested in the philosophy of physics and the minutiae of the theory, than in any implications of the theory. For example, he spends pages on discussing how to set 2 clocks, or whether 2 observers are necessary. While this is interesting to some degree, I got the impression that this was all he could say on the subject. (People do tend to pick at the edges of theories, rather than attack the heart of the theory, if they don't understand the theory fully.)

Problem #5: The author's writing style is difficult. I do understand that he is trying to be precise and that I may not have sufficient background to understand each term he uses in the precise way he uses it, but still, his writing often was unclear. My guess is that his writing is more in line with 1930 philosophers than 2000 physicists.

Overall, I did learn a few things about relativity, but not as much as I had hoped I would. I'll need to find myself another primer on relativity to begin to understand it. Then maybe I'll come back to this book and see if I have changed my mind about it.

29 May 2013

Peaches Gets Out!

We have been letting Peaches out of the bathroom more and more lately.  Well, that's not exactly true -- no one 'lets' her out -- she escapes!  She's fast, she's tiny, she's out of the bathroom before you have a chance to put a foot in the door.

But let's just play along with our delusion -- we've been letting her out.

And she's a hoot!  She runs (not walks) and explores everything -- fast.  The girl has only one real speed and that is much too fast for a Persian.  Throw in her jumping ability, and I'm not sure she is a Persian!  The counter is too easy to jump up to.  She jumps to the top of the cat tree (about 5 ft. high) in 2 bounds and then sits up there for like 5 seconds and off she goes!

Anyway, tonight's laugh was when she ran UNDER Langston and then jumped over in one leap both Spencer and Clancy, all to rush into the bathroom to get her supper.  In the photo at the right, you can see her head is barely to Clancy's shoulder.

And that's another thing -- the girl can eat!  She was a bit underweight when I got her, because she had been cycling, so her eating heartily is a good thing.  And talk about a fiend for dried chicken....

We are doing pretty good with the bonding, though. Once I catch her, she will sit quietly in my lap and purr as I pet her.  Grooming her is so simple -- she doesn't fight at all.  I still need to figure out some routine to keep her eyes and face clean, but the last week of school is hardly the time to start something new.  So for now, she looks like she's grumpy!

27 May 2013

The War Between Rescuers and Breeders

I was looking at various groups on Facebook the other day and became totally disenchanted with both rescue groups and breeders.  Both factions were calling for the other side to be "put to sleep" or "hung".  Both claimed they had the best interest of the animals in their decisions.

Here's examples from both sides:

Let's kill the breeders!
A lady buys a kitten from a breeder.  The kitten arrives and seems fine at first.  Then the kitten gets sick.  After a week or so, the owner takes the kitten to the vet whose diagnosis is girardia, coccidia, and ringworm.  After 2 months, the kitten is still sick so the owners give the kitten to a rescue.  The rescue publicizes the story, including the breeder's name, and the rescue supporters call for the breeder (and all breeders) to be put to sleep.

The breeder is then contacted and told about the group trashing her name and reputation.  The breeder, an older lady, decides to quit breeding.  The rescue supporters celebrate.

Interestingly, the rescue and its supporters fail to notice that the breeder had not been contacted previous to this about this sick kitten, to understand girardia, coccidia, and ringworm could have come from other cats that the owner has or from being allowed out in the garden, and to ask why the owner did not contact the breeder immediately or take the kitten to a vet upon arrival.

Let's kill the rescue groups!
A rescue takes in a sick cat -- no definite symptoms, just diarrhea and a high temperature.  The cat gets sicker and after 2 days is seen by a vet, who makes no clear diagnosis but wants to run more tests.  The tests are done and more tests are done.  The rescue finally is informed that the cat probably has FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and the cat is put to sleep.  Some breeders then criticize the rescue for torturing the animal for a week by trying to treat it, for spending money on a lost cause, and for being idiots for not recognizing the disease at first.

What the breeders fail to understand is that when rescues get an animal in with no history, it takes time to figure out what is going on, that if a rescue doesn't try, then they will be criticized for not trying, and that FIP doesn't always come with a bloated belly of fluid.

Both sides in these little wars are myopic and irrational.  You can not try to add any rational comments or questions because you will then be the target.

And sorry, it's stupid!!!

I've done rescue.  I've got a number of breeder friends.  Perhaps because of this I can see the bigger picture.  Namely, both sides need each other.  The people supporting the rescues want specific breeds of cats for their own pets, and so they need breeders to continue to breed.  Breeders need rescue groups to take in and rehome purebreds (perhaps their own cats) which irresponsible owners dump.  What both sides should agree on is that backyard breeders and shady rescue groups are the problem, but this is too fine of distinction for most people involved in these 'discussions'.

My biggest fear is that all the good, ethical breeders will be run out of business, leaving only the backyard breeders who often abuse their animals.  This will then allow the rescue groups and animal rights groups to get passed draconian laws about keeping pets, such as the registration and inspection of all homes with pets.

Yah, so breeders and rescuers, please just keep fighting so we all lose.

26 May 2013

Cats: Feline Acne

In one cat group I belong to, there has been some recent discussion about feline acne and how to treat it.  The problem I see is most of cat owners and some vets don't distinguish between a cat with a dirty chin (henceforth called 'chin crud') and true feline acne.  The treatments are similar but not identical.

So, what are the differences?

Chin crud is often the build up bacteria and food particles on the hair of the chin.  A cat eats, gets a bit of food on the chin, and because the chin is hard to clean, the dirt allows bacteria to grow.  Over time, the bacteria creates blackish residue on the hair.  But, and this is key, the black crud is on the hair, above the skin, and not in the skin.

Since it's on the hair, this black crud can be washed off, usually with just water in a minute or two.  If there is

more fat in the food, a bit of isopropyl alcohol and/or soap will help quickly remove it.  Because it is bits of food and moisture mixed in with saliva to create black crud, it may stain white hair.

Wendy has this because her tongue hangs out, soaking her chin in saliva.  I use a flea comb to comb off the bigger pieces and then a cosmetic pad with saline for contacts to wash it.  Then I use EyeEnvy liquid and powder on the area.  If I do this ever 2-3 days, her chin will be spotless.  (Unfortunately, I often skip it during the week because I have such limited time.)

Feline acne is like human acne -- it is an infection in the skin.  The skin usually develops blackheads first.  The black areas are in the upper layer of the skin, as in the photo at the right.  Over time, some of these blackheads lead to pimples (or zits of pustules of infection -- which ever is your favorite term) which erupt from the skin. The chin feels lumpy when rubbed. Interestingly, the 3 cats I have had with feline acne had perfectly clean chin hair, as can be seen in the photo at the right and the one below.

Clearing up feline acne may take weeks to months.  Vets will often 'express' the pimples, which one can do at home and is rather disgusting.  But if the pimples are not intentionally popped, they will pop when you scratch the chin or when the cat rubs against objects.  The open 'wounds' do bleed freely and will create a mess. (On a side note, the expression seems in most cases not to cause the cat much discomfort.)  Once the infections are removed, the vet normally prescribes an antibacterial soap or medicine.

When James, Clancy, and Tolstoy developed this, I would express the pimples and then wash the chin with a dilute mixture of goldenseal extract.  The goldenseal has a natural antibiotic property, but it also stains the hair yellow.  (I could live with yellow chinned cats.)  Once I figured out the source of the problem, it took about 3 weeks for it to clear up.

So why is there a confusion?  Basically it comes down to careful observation and lack of distinction.  Most owners and some vets see the black crud and immediately call it feline acne.  They don't stop and determine it the problem is above or in the skin.  Then they treat it with antibacterial soap and it clears up -- not because it was acne, but because the soap killed the bacteria on the hair.

To some, this is splitting hairs.  (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)  The problem is once the owner stops the using the antibacterial soap and the crud comes back, often the vet then uses antibiotics.  I'm not a fan of antibiotics in general, and in this case, they usually won't work, so then the vet tries either stronger antibiotics or suggests steroids.  It comes down to treating a cat with some serious drugs for a problem the cat really doesn't have!

So where does chin crud and feline acne come from?  The most commonly sited explanation is plastic bowls.  And this is true, but not true.  The chemical nature of plastic itself has nothing to do with acne or chin crud.  The problem with plastic is it scratches.  Those tiny grooves allow bacteria to build up.  So for many owners, switching from plastic to ceramic helps.

In my case, my cats already have ceramic plates and stainless steal bowls.  With Wendy, the crud is a byproduct of her malformed jaw.  While I can help keep it clean (and cleaning her teeth will also help by decreasing the bacteria in her saliva), I will not be able to prevent it.

With James, Tolstoy, and Clancy, it was the food.  They got it in period where I was teaching full-time and going to college full-time, so I had little time to make food.  I would often mix canned food with my raw food to extend it.  Once I removed the canned food, the problem began to resolve itself.

16 April 2013

The Old Grey Matter

I heard an interesting report on NPR the other morning about aging and the brain.  There's new studies being done on old people (80+ years old) who have retained all there mental faculties and have the brain age of a 50-60 year old person.  As I quickly approach the big 50, this is something that I'm a bit concerned about.

The studies indicated that brains stayed more functional from 4 things:
  1. Physical exercise -- Apparently, when you exercise, your brain gets extra oxygen and more of the waste is removed.  So, the authors of the study recommended 2-3 45-minute periods a week of exercise such as walking or swimming.  This is something I know I should be doing anyway, but I never seem to have time to do except on the weekends.
  2. Healthy diet -- It makes sense, the healthier you diet, the better your brain functions.  If you eat lots of junk food, then, well, what do you expect?  Red wine was mentioned as beneficial.  My diet is basically okay -- probably better than most since I'm a vegetarian, but I still rely too much on carbs and maybe need to up my protein level.  The red wine is easy!
  3. Social interaction -- Having friends and talking to them seems also to help keep a brain young.  I do have friends and I do talk to them, but it's sporadic since many live far away from me.  I'm not sure what I can do to increase this part, because I'm basically not-social, I have little time, and I've never figured out how to find interesting people locally.  I do wonder if talking to my students and/or teaching would count?
  4. Learn new things -- Oh this is perfect!  If you learn new things or even try new things (such as a language, a skill, reading, puzzles, etc) this encourages your brain to grow.  I love learning new things, be it something totally new such as linguistics or an extension of something older such as projective geometry.  I don't have a lot of time to do delve into new topics, but maybe this summer.
I don't want to end up old and not have my mind functioning.  I've always enjoyed the ability to pick new things up quickly and I'm afraid this is waining.  Last time I tried some serious math, I had problems.  I'm not sure if it was my brain per se, or the fact that I was tired, or the sporadic nature of my working on it.

But at least I have some ideas on what I need to do to preserve as much of my brain as I can!

Two Years of Olivia

I can hardly believe it but Olivia, my ninja princess, has been with me for 2 years. 

A friend emailed me about a Persian cat in the local humane society shelter.  I went over to see her and fell in love with her.  The shelter staff told me that she'd been turned in by the owner who had left her outside and she became terribly matted.  She also got pregnant which was discovered when she was spayed.  Her mat was one giant mat from head to tail, which they shaved off her.

At the shelter, she played with me and climbed in my lap.  The shelter employees said she rarely did that.  They also told me how several people had wanted to adopt her, but they refused to let them.  It's not a good sign when someone comes in and asks, "I just want a black cat.  I don't care how old or what sex -- just black."

So, Olivia came home with a lioncut.

She also assumed her role as Ninja Princess and will chase, body slam, stalk, etc James and Tolstoy.  Some of it is her having fun and some of it is not.

She is not the most cuddly of cats, but she is loving in her own way.  After breakfast, her big thing is to lay belly up on the carpet for me to scratch her tummy.  If my husband tries he is clawed.  It's a girl thing....

She has also developed a fondness for soy milk.  While I am eating my bowl of cereal, she sits on the table and watches.  When I get to the point of drinking the milk from the bowl, she will stare at me from the other side of the bowl and maybe even use her paw to get me to put down the bowl.  Funny part is she only wants the soy milk if I have had granola cereal, but not with Shredded Wheat or Honey Bunches of Oats. 

14 April 2013

Peaches Comes Home!

Nothing like getting the carrier out for a non-vet visit!  Which is exactly what happened yesterday morning.  I got my Peaches!

The plan had been to meet with Lynda half-way between us on Memorial Day weekend and for me to get Peaches then.  It would have meant waiting and driving 4 hours each way for both of us.

Instead, a friend of Lynda came down to a show in Arcadia and brought Peaches with her.  So, I drove 2 hours over yesterday morning and picked her up at 8:30am and drove straight home.  I would have liked to seen the TICA show, but not with Peaches and hubby in the truck waiting.

Peaches did very well on the trip.  Meowed a bit as we talked to her.  But I could tell she was exhausted.

I put her in the second bathroom to isolate her and she immediately hid in the cabinets.  I kind of expected that.  Later last night, she moved up to the bed on the top of the counter and did allow a bit of scratching.  She also ate a bit.

This morning she was more active -- pacing back and forth.  She's still VERY nervous about this whole thing.  And I can't blame her.  In 48 hours, she's gone from the home she knew to a 10 hour trip with strangers and 5 other cats to a motel room then to a carrier and then to another carrier, 2 more strangers, and a 2 hour trip, only to be finally plunked down in a strange bathroom with cat noises from the other side of the door.  I would be stressed!

But I am sure she will settle down -- hopefully sooner rather than later.  She is such a sweet, but somewhat hyper girl.

I just would like to thank Lynda for entrusting me with this girl.  Thank you!

Cats: Food Recalls

This was written in response to three different recalls of canned and dry cat food.

I know there has been several recalls of food lately because of low thiamine and salmonella contamination. I have a degree in statistics and I have worked in food safety for the USDA, plus I done a lot of research on food for cats, so I'll throw out a few thoughts on these recalls.

Please, what I write does not mean I advocate ignoring recalls, especially if you have cans of the food being recalled. This is only meant to hopefully calm some fears and shed light on the process.

1.) All recalls are not the same. The two latest -- one for thiamine and one for salmonella -- are worlds apart. Thiamine is a B vitamin. While it is true that long-term lack of thiamine can lead to some nerve issues, this would be long as in 3-4 months or more and would be none or little thiamine. In all likelihood,  the food would still have some thiamine in it from the meat and other ingredients. It probably would be less than ideal, but some would be present. While it would be nice to have each meal perfectly balanced for nutrients, the reality in the wild is meals are not balanced -- it's the long-term averages that matter, not what was eaten for breakfast.

The salmonella, on the other hand, is a huge red-flag for companies and the public.

2.) Not all salmonella is the same. There are hundreds of strains of salmonella -- some benign and living in your intestines right now, some very dangerous. The testing procedure identifies "salmonella" and not the strain. So, how dangerous the strain is is unknown.

A side note on salmonella and cats, since a cat's digestive tract is shorter and the stomach acid is stronger, cats have less problems with bacteria in the food than humans do.

3.) The way they test food is not accurate. As you probably would guess, they do not test each can. They usually do not test each 'batch' even. They pull less than 0.1% of the product from a few days of production and then randomly sample that. If the sample comes back clean, the pallet of pulled food is okay-ed. If the sample comes back with a problem, they then check more cans from the batch and from 1-2 days around that date.

In the meantime, the product has been sent out to stores. The testing takes 1-4 weeks in good times, more with cutbacks (like now). Pet food is a lower priority than human food, so delays of months is not uncommon.

If other cans are found with problems, the manufacturer is advised and based on the type of problem and the extent, the recall is issued by the company. (If very serious and/or the company refuses, then it's a government recall.) How much to recall is a guess. If two cans from the same lot are tested, one positive and one negative, most companies will recall it. But there is no hard proof that more than the one or even a hand-full of cans were contaminated.

4.) Most recalls by companies are for legal reasons and not health concerns. Take the thiamine recall -- if the low levels were public knowledge and someone had a cat that may coincidentally developed nerve problems, the owner might blame the company and then sue them. Ditto with the salmonella, since the mention of salmonella in food causes many people to panic out of proportion to the risk. Better to recall and claim they care, than face hundreds of lawsuits and bad publicity.

So, what to do? That comes down to the comfort level we each have.  I have a fairly high tolerance for risk when it comes to these recalls, so unless I have the particular batch in question, I ignore it.  Since I feed 2 different brands of food, neither involved in the recalls, I ignored all these.  

25 March 2013

Cats: L-Lysine

As I wrote in my post about herpes in cats, L-lysine is one of the few effective controls on the herpes virus.  The L-lysine works in one of two ways.
  1. L-Lysine works by competing with the absorption of arginine. Arginine is necessary for the herpes to reproduce, but a cat can easily use the lysine instead of arginine. So, if the system is flooded with lysine, the herpes can't reproduce. 
  2. A newer theory is the cat's cells need lysine to use the arginine in the cell. By giving the cat extra lysine, the cat is assured of having enough lysine to use up all the arginine in the cells, thus depriving the herpes of the arginine. No arginine, no little baby herpes viruses.  
Which ever model is correct, 500mg is considered maintenance for a 10 lb cat, with 1000mg being recommended for stressful times.  Having said that, I also know from experimenting on Isabel, who does have herpes, that the levels need to be slightly higher for raw-fed cats.  Raw meat has a higher level of arginine in it, so more lysine is needed.  When she has problems, I have upped the dose to 1500mg for 1-2 weeks and this helps bring the herpes back under control.  (While lysine is fairly safe, there are some concerns about high levels, which would be 3000+mg for a cat, impair protein absorption and utilization.)

The lysine itself is available in 3 forms:
  1. treats -- The treats are laced with lysine and many cats do like them.  The average cat needs at least 6 treats per day for maintenance (at least in one brand) and they are not cheap.
  2. gel -- Similar to hairball remedy, lysine is available in a tube.  The gel, which has only a slight taste (yes, I tried it), is not objectionable to most cats.  None of mine will eat it off my finger, but if mixed in food or put in a syringe, they will eat it.  It is moderately expensive and because it is mixed in a wet medium, it does expire.
  3. powder -- The powder itself comes in 3 forms.  Capsules of pure lysine from a health store.  The capsule is opened and spread on wet food.  Bulk lysine (for people) in a jar from a health store or online.  Usually 1/4tsp is 500mg.  And lysine powder for pets.  The lysine for pets is the cheapest and may work for most cats, except, of course, one of mine.  The lysine is listed as "in a palatable flavor base" and that's it.  This is one of my problems with 'pet' supplements -- the labelling is much less strict.  The "base" turned out to be whey powder, which Clancy cannot tolerate.  I put one dose on some food and within 30 minutes his face was swollen, he was drooling, and he was lethargic.  He did survive and he can tolerate lysine -- pure lysine -- so it was the whey powder which caused the problem.
In general, cats do tolerate the lysine well.  I have heard some people say their cats do not tolerate it and get either diarrhea or vomiting.  I am curious to find out what form they tried and if that was not the problem as opposed to the lysine itself.

17 March 2013

Cats: Herpes

Just like humans, cats can get herpes.  But with cats, the herpes can cause more than a bothersome cold sore.  In fact, herpes can cause anything from runny eyes to rupturing of the eyes, or even death.

Herpes in cats is caused by feline herpesvirus 1, which is obviously a herpes virus.  In cats and especially kittens, it causes feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR).  This a common upper respiratory infection (about 50% of all cats have had it) and is one of the leading causes of conjunctivitis in cats. Most cats get the virus and get over it.  Some cats get the virus and have major problems because of it -- conjunctivitis, pneumonia, corneal ulcers, etc.  A few cats get the virus, and because their immune system is weak, are never able to totally clear the virus and so they become chronically infected with it.

The virus is spread by nasal discharge, tears, and saliva.  The normal incubation period is 2-5 days.  A cat with FVR will have thick nasal discharge (usually yellowish), a fever, maybe coughing, and sneezing.  Antibiotics will not cure it but are used to prevent secondary infections.  Vitamin C and vitamin A and fasting are my treatment of choice in most cases.  After the cat flu stage, the cat will shed the virus for 1-3 weeks, or in the cat which become chronically infected, for the life of the cat.

Anya, who likely lost one eye to herpes
Until advances were made with DNA, there was no reliable test for herpes in a cat.  Now, there is a PCR test which is very sensitive and moderately expensive.

There is a vaccine which will lessen the symptoms, but not prevent the infection.

Unfortunately, the virus has an affinity for eyes, especially the cornea.  When a cat with a weakened immune system is exposed to the herpes virus, the virus enters the body and causes the typical symptoms.  Because the body can not fight off the herpes virus, like a healthy cat does, the virus escapes the digestive and pulmonary tracts and becomes chronic.  It can take up residence in a number of locations, such as the nose but especially the eyes.  With the eyes, the herpes virus causes eye ulcers which may lead to the rupturing and removal of one or both eyes.  My dear Anya came to me with one eye, but the other eye shows clear signs of previous ulcerations.  Without constant treatment with lysine, her eye and nose both quickly develop mucus and I would expect her remaining eye to ulcerate.

Isabel with staining due to excessive tearing
But there is also another form of herpes, or so I am convinced -- a subclinical chronically infected version.  A couple of researchers are looking at these cats, but so far, nothing major has come of their research other than to say the pool of chronic carriers may be larger.  Anya is a classic chronically infected cat -- ulcers in the eye(s), mucus, etc.  The other form is less obvious.  It's almost like a subclinical chronic infection, with periods of mild symptoms.  The symptoms, such as increased nasal discharge, could be caused by other things such as allergies or even dust.  These cats would not be considered to have herpes by most vets and without a PCR test, they would go diagnosed.  But they do have herpes.  My Isabel is one such cat.  Normally, her nose and eyes are fine.  But when she feels stressed (and then her immunity would be down), she starts having excessive nasal drainage as if she had a sinus infection.  Antibiotics do not clear it up, so it's not bacterial.  There's no pattern to it, so I doubt it's allergies.  But give her large doses of lysine (which helps to control herpes) and a bit of echinacea (which boosts her immune system), and she quickly returns to normal. 

In any case, for the chronically infected, while there are some antiviral medication that shows some promise, the herpes virus can't be removed even by interferon, but it can be controlled to a large degree.  Most owners rely on l-lysine, an amino acid, to control the herpes and to prevent flair-ups.

I will post about lysine in a day or two...

10 March 2013

Cats: Shaded Cameo Genetics

Since I'm getting my wonderful Peaches, I thought I would do a bit of research on the genetics behind the shaded cameo.  Her coat is wonderful and very intriguing to me.

First off, one must clearly understand what a shaded cameo is.  According to the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) website:
The Shaded and Smoke Division includes the shell and shaded cameos which have red tipping with a white undercoat....In repose, the smoke appears to be a solid color cat. In motion, the coat will break open, giving glimpses of a startling white undercoat. All should have the characteristic white ruff and ear tufts. The perfect balance of undercoat to overcoat is transitory and the perfection of color balance can usually only be seen six to eight weeks annually. Their brilliant copper eyes seem almost like burning embers within the smoke setting. CFA Persian Description
This description got me thinking of the silvers, which have white coats tipped in black. But that still didn't explain how you get colored tips on white hairs...  So, I looked up the genetics and gave myself a headache!  It seems the shaded cameo requires 3 different genes to produce their wonderful coat -- one gene off and no shaded cameo.  The genes are D-I-O.

The first gene, D, stands for Dense color.  The D works with the O to produce the red tipping, as opposed to a lighter cream tipping.  Having never seen a cream cameo, I have a hard time envisioning it.

The second gene, I, stands for Inhibitor.  The inhibitor gene I is dominant over the recessive i.  The I gives the hair the white shaft from the skin to the tip.  The amount of tipping varies from just a bit (shell cameos) to about half (shaded cameos) to most but not all (smoke cameos or red smokes).  With the i, the coat hairs would be solid (or agouti if carrying that gene).

The third gene, O, stands for Orange or red.

While it may sound 'easy' to produce a shaded cameo because all the genes are dominant, the problem is getting all 3 genes at one time without any other genes interfering, such as the gene for tabby markings.  

09 March 2013

Cats: Dehydrated Treats

Raw food is good.
Dehydrated raw food as treats is...

If you expected 'good', you might be surprised when I say 'maybe good, maybe bad.'  It depends on the number of treats that are given, actually.

Giving a cat a few small pieces of dehydrated chicken (or any other meat) won't cause a problem.

Giving a cat a handful of dehydrated treats and, well, you could have the problem my friend has.  She was enthusiastic that her normally picky cat would eat a different treat (other than Whiskas Temptations) that she kept giving her cat the dehydrated turkey last night.  This morning, the cat is sitting in the meatloaf position, refuses to eat, and acts as if her tummy hurts.

So why?

Most meats are 60-70% water (by weight).  Commercially dehydrated meat has most of that water removed, so less than 10% of the normally present water remains. (Some dehydrated treats are less than 5%.)  Dehydrated food (which hasn't been ground or pulverized) will re-hydrate readily if given water.  When the dehydrated food enters the digestive tract, it will pull water from the digestive tract to re-hydrate and usually expand.  If the cat is not fully hydrated or does not drink a lot of water near the time the treats are eaten, the now semi-re-hydrated treats will form a blockage as more water is pulled into it and the body slowly digests them.  (Without sufficient water, the digestion of them is also slowed.)  Eventually the body will move this mass along.

Notice I did put the caveat of not ground nor pulverized.  Dehydrated meats that are dehydrated and then crushed and formed into patties, etc., don't seem to cause this type of problem.  The reason I believe is the patty, for example, falls apart and does not form a large lump.  Also, most dehydrated food specifically says to re-hydrate it before serving.  And it is really amazing how much water one small dehydrated patty can absorb!

The solution to my friend's cat's problem is to give the cat sub-cutaneous fluids so that the cat has extra water to soften the treats and help them move along.

The overall solution is to limit dehydrated treats to 2-3 small pieces and only to give them to non-CRF (or other potentially dehydrated) cats.

07 March 2013

Clarissa Woes, Part 2

The last week or so have been a nightmare!  Clarissa, my tiny tortoiseshell Persian, had another spell of vomiting and not eating, similar to what she had a month ago.

Similar, but not exact...

She started by not eating all her food, just like last time.  Then she stopped eating or would eat and throw up shortly after, just like last time.  So, I'm thinking, "Oh, just like last time.  Wait and she will be fine."  So I did not panic and I waited.  I gave her some laxative hoping that the hairball would move on.  And then I waited more.  Only this time, on occasion, she would eat and be fine, or she would eat and throw up watery stuff about 2-3 hours later.  Not like last time...  And it dragged on....

Finally, she refused to eat -- even the baby food.  So, I finally took her to an ER clinic to see a vet that does acupuncture.  The thinking was the x-rays last time showed her internal organs were basically normal and her blood work was normal, so conventional medicine could do little more.  Besides, honestly, I did not want her to be man-handled like she had been.  Anyway, the vet gave her a treatment and some serenia pills.

So on Monday I was expecting good things, like her eating.  Nope...  In fact, she pulled back from the food without licking it.  Not a good sign!  (This is a non-scientific indication of the beginnings of liver failure.)

Finally called my homeopathic vet and of course got the receptionist.  I told her my name and that I needed to leave a message for my vet -- PANIC.  (Just one word, all capitals.)  Worked -- vet called back in 30 minutes.  We worked out a plan...

AND IT WORKED!!!  What we did was give her a small dose of prednisone for inflammation, the serenia for nausea, sub-q fluids for any lingering constipation, and B12 for an appetite stimulant.  Clarissa is now back to eating.  And I can breath....

So, why?

It goes back to the hair again.  She grooms a lot, so she gets hairballs.  Unlike my other cats, she doesn't throw them up, so eventually they form a blockage.  This time, I got at least part of the hairball to move, but some of it probably stayed and irritated the stomach or small intestine.  The irritation led to the vomiting.  Eventually, the vomiting caused the gag-reflex to be set to a lower threshold, so any minor problem caused her to vomit.

The key will be to prevent the hair from being ingested and to keep ingested hair moving through.  For the latter, once she's stabilized, I will add pumpkin, psyllium, or tater skins to her food, depending on what she will eat.  (I'd rather do this than constantly give her laxatone.)  To prevent the hairball from forming, I will go back to grooming her daily and bathing every 2-3 weeks.  (This is basically what I was doing when I was showing her and she had no problems.)

I'm just so very glad we could get her sorted out before she did have liver failure.  And I promise never to complain about her pulling all the DVDs off a bookcase at 4 am.

05 March 2013

Book Review: The Square Root of Murder

The Square Root of Murder by Ada Madison
ISBN:  978-0-425-24219-3

The Square Root of Murder is the first in the new cozy mystery series with a mathematics theme, the Professor Sophie Knowles Mystery series.  The series centers on mathematics professor Dr. Knowles at a small private college in Massachusetts.

This book has both good and bad points.  The main characters, namely Sophie, her boyfriend Bruce, the police detective Virgil, and her girlfriend Ariana, are all believable and adequately written.  I feel the characters lacked some depth, but perhaps this will come in future books.  Also, the characters were a bit predictable. The plot was interesting with a surprising ending.  Occasionally the story did lag a bit, but not enough to encourage me to give up on the book.  The writing was fine -- typical of cozy mysteries -- neither poor nor great.

One disappointment was the lack of math.  Yes, I'm not typical because I do understand higher mathematics, but I had expected a few references to some math.  The only real math mentioned is the fact that Dr. Knowles creates math puzzles for magazines (and based on this a few puzzles are included at that end of the book).

Still, this was a fun book to read and I will move on to #2 in the series.

25 February 2013

Rescue vs. Adoption vs. From a Breeder

If someone wakes up tomorrow and says, "I want a Persian," that person can get a Persian from one of three main sources.  Each source has advantages as well as disadvantages.

1. Rescue
The person can go to a county or city animal shelter and get a purebred Persian.  So isn't this adoption?  Usually no, I would classify it as rescue, because most county animal shelters around here are overcrowded and have a very high euthanasia rate.  In some shelters in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties, the rate is 70% or higher for cats.  These cats are give 3-5 days and then put to sleep.  So, yes, this is rescue because the animal is on the edge of death.  When I got Anya from a Los Angeles City Shelter, she had hours to live.

Advantages:  Any cat you take in, you have saved their life.  You may find a total gem of a cat.  And yes, there are plenty of purebred Persians in shelters, from 3 months to 15 years.  Most cats are about $50, with huge discounts for older animals.

Disadvantages:  The cat may be sick -- even terminally ill because the former owner could not face putting the cat to sleep.  I once drove to see a white cat, but when I got there the shelter vet tech told me he was suffering from advanced kidney failure, dementia, and incontinence.  It was sad to leave him, but he had no future and, the only reason I left him, he seemed unaware of anyone or anything around him. Sometimes the illness is apparent, but sometimes it is not.  Chances are almost 100% that the cat will get a respiratory infection.  You will know nothing about the cat's history.  And something that is bad in my world, the cat will be vaccinated whether you want it to be or not.  Your choice of cats is limited to what is available at the time.

2. Adoption
The person can contact either a private rescue or a no-kill shelter to get a Persian (or maybe even an individual list a cat on Craig's List).  You will have to answer questions about your home, maybe your vet, other animals, which the rescue can use to approve or deny you.  Rescues vary greatly in the amount of information they want -- some will even require a home visit before and after adoption.

Advantages:  The cat will already be screened for major health problems.  Some cats will come with histories and/or papers even.  Most cats come with a guarantee for health and a return policy if the new cat doesn't work out.  Since rescues can remove the best cats from shelters, these cats are in better condition, younger, and friendlier than from public shelters.

Disadvantages:  The price can be the same as for a public shelter or considerably more.  Some private rescues have adoption fees of $300+ for a purebred.  Some of the information may be wrong.  Spencer was adopted from a shelter -- the owners had surrendered him and said he was 2 years old, but that they had him for 3 years.  Like with rescue, many of these cats will come with an URI.

3. From a Breeder
The person can locate a breeder and contact the breeder for availability.  Usually people do this if they want only a kitten, and not even a young adult.  The cat, if from a reputable breeder, will come neutered/spayed, with vaccinations and papers.

Advantages:  The person will know exactly where the cat came from.  If it's a kitten, then the person will not have to deal with problems created by someone else.  The cat should be healthy.  The breeder is usually a great source of advice on how to care for the cat/kitten.  If something happens and the cat needs to be rehomed, most breeders will take their cats back.

Disadvantages:  The cost is higher -- $300 to $1000 for a pet quality, more for a show quality.  (Retired queens are usually rehomed for much less.)

As you can see, I have cats from all three sources.  I don't see one being better than another, although I would caution a new-to-cats person not to knowingly adopt a sick cat from a public shelter.  (It takes years of experience to be able to nurse some of these cats back to health.)  Each has it's pros and cons.

And I'm not one to say "You must rescue cats -- not buy them." My only requirement is that the cat is loved and cared for the remainder of its life.  Too many people adopt or even buy a cat, forgetting that getting a cat can be a 15 or more year commitment.  

24 February 2013

Malibu Cat Club Show, Glendale, CA

I spent most of yesterday at a cat show in Glendale, CA, put on by the Malibu Cat Club.  It was a fun day out of the house, although the 2.5 hour drive there and back was not fun.

The show had over 200 cats -- from the naked sphinx cats to the huge Maine Coons.  Of course, I was mainly watching the Persians.  Actually, I wasn't really watching them that close because I spent most of the time taking with my friend, learning more about grooming, and watching her 2 Persians.

Unfortunately, someone charged the camera battery, took the camera, but forgot to put the charged battery INTO the camera first.  I can be such an idiot at times!

But I did see some interesting things.  For example, the silver Persians at the show were very extreme faced. On Isabel, my silver, her nose sticks out a bit.  But on these, the nose was almost in profile with their eyes.  While this extreme face is seen in other colors, I'd not seen this in silvers before.  And honestly, I'm not sure I liked it either.  The cats had a googly-eyed look.

pin brush and 4" greyhound comb
But my main accomplishment was to learn about grooming.  My friend let me groom one of her cats with her genuine greyhound combs.  I have greyhound combs, but not by the original Belgium company.  I thought most of it was just hype, but there was a difference -- a big difference.  And then there was the fluffer brush.

I honestly wished I had taken a notebook.  There's so much to learn...  But it's also very exciting to learn how to groom a Persian to look the best it can look!

I did manage to buy myself a present -- a cat necklace.  I would have purchased some toys or treats, but I was still in sticker shock about the comb and brush.

22 February 2013

A Weekend Adventure!

It's been an 'interesting' week and I do have lots of papers to grade, but I'm taking time out to go to a cat show.  I'm fairly excited over going although it's 3 hours away.  (One of the disadvantages of living in the middle of no-where is some-where is far away...)

Anyway, it's the Malibu Cat Club's show in Glendale, CA!  250 cats to enjoy with 44 persians, including 2 persians owned by a friend.  I'm excited to see my friend (and her cats).  Plus with getting Peaches, I need to go shopping for various items usually available at shows, such as special combs and shampoos.

I do have some misgivings about showing cats, in part because I did try to show Clarissa as a pet.  Her career ended badly in her 3rd show.  I hope that Peaches, who was shown as a kitten, can adjust to being shown again.

Well, I need to do a few things, like check out the directions and charge my camera, before going to bed.  The show begins at 9am -- 2-3 hour drive... early wake-up call!

21 February 2013

Privacy and the Internet

Amazing how privacy works on the Internet.

There are 2 camps:
  1. There should be an expectation of some privacy.
  2. There is no expectation of privacy.
Let's look at the second group.  Those people say that anything on a blog such as this, if the blog is accessible to the public, is 'fair game' to be commented on and reposted.  In theory, I basically agree with this.  The problem comes when personal information is posted.  Everyone should know that with a few clicks, one's name, address, and phone numbers are easily found.  Since this information is 'public', no one in this camp should object to this information being made public.

But I suspect people would object.  Why?

Because publishing that type of personal information without permission is not appropriate behavior.  It's not against the law -- it's bad manners.  So then it seems there is some expectation of privacy or at least some expectation of what can or should be reposted by a third party.

What I have posted on this blog is my ideas and opinions.  Technically, the material is copyrighted which is unenforceable.

However, I have assumed that personal information from my blog would not end up being the center of 2 'fights' on another website.  What happened is that someone posted to another site about Peaches.  This person announced her to the group -- it really was my place to do that but she did it.  So be it.  Two problems with this, however:

1.)  I have received nasty emails from someone in that group or someone that watches that group.  I did not want Peaches to be included in those emails, so I did not mention her there.  Now I will probably get nasty emails and I, not the person who posted about Peaches, will have to deal with those nasty emails.

2.) I have had problems with that website and this blog.  Some members feel that I have no right to mention what is said there on this blog.  I have abided by that.  I assumed that the reverse was true -- what was posted here would not be mentioned on that website.  This assumption was wrong. So, if it is alright to post about my blog, then I will now assume I can post about things from that website.

18 February 2013

3-Day Weekend, Part 2

This is the second 3-day weekend in a row -- President's Day -- and I'm getting very used to having 3 days off.  After 3 days, I'm usually relaxed, caught up mostly on grading, done some housework, and caught up with my friends.  I think every weekend in February should be 3 days!

Miss Maggie Moo, now an angel for sure
Well, this hasn't been the best weekend in some respects.  Friday, 15 Feb, was the one-year anniversary of Miss Maggie Moo's passing.  It was hard.  But a kind and understand friend helped turned a sad time into a celebration -- Maggie Day!  I like that.  I was actually shocked by the responses -- most people were really, honestly touched by her life.  They had never met her, only known her via the Internet.  And I do think a few shed some tears when she died and the other day on the anniversary.

I guess my whole point in reminding people about Maggie is enjoy our cats NOW.  Maggie was love -- she wanted to be loved and she wanted to love.  But she had a short life -- 16 months -- with me.  I had hoped for longer time, but it wasn't meant to be.  In the time she was with me, I loved her without reservation.  I took what time I could to pet her and love her and play with her.  I have no regrets.

I know death is not a much-discussed topic, but there are two important things:

  1. Every cat, no matter if it's 6 weeks or 16 years, will die.  Most will die before their owners.
  2. Death helps us appreciate living -- it gives us push to love now.
I have taken extra time this weekend to love and play with and groom all my cats.  For some, this just means laying on the sofa in a pile with them.  For others, it's an extra treat.  But I do think they all know they are loved.

On to other things, once I get some groceries bought and cat food made, I basically have today off with nothing to do.  I do need to do a bit of cleaning and then I'm going to work on my cross-stitch.  I am tempted to play with some stamps, also, which I might later.  

Or I may find a good book and start a kitty pile on the sofa...

17 February 2013

Western vs. Holistic Veterinary Medicine

I mentioned a while ago that I lean towards holistic veterinary medicine, including herbs, homeopathy, etc.  I've heard some people say, "Yes, my vet is holistic".  But when I listen to what their vet does and what I see a holistic vet does, the two vets are miles apart.  So, maybe I should more clearly define what I mean by holistic vet.

Vets come in two main types:

  1. traditional, western medicine vets
  2. holistic medicine vets

The traditional western medicine vets are the ones most people take their pets to.  They are trained basically to use medicine and surgery to cure a specific problem.  And for some problems, such as a broken leg or a ruptured eye, nothing beats this approach.  Problem, treatment, cure!

The problem with this approach is that many cat problems are not simple.  Take for example Isabel.  She has a runny nose again, slightly dirty ears, and demands that I hand feed her.  The western medicine approach would be to treat her nose as one problem, her ears as another, and ignore her need to be hand-fed (because there's no medicine for that).

Holistic medicine is suppose to look at the whole cat, and not just the 'diseased' part of the cat.  A good holistic vet would look at Isabel and immediately point to a general immune system problem.  The nose and ears are just symptoms of a deeper problem.  And the hand-feeding?  Yes, that goes along with it because her need to be hand-fed seems related to her emotional state which relates to her physical state.  A holistic vet looks at the big picture and works to bring the cat closer to the ideal.  If that means not immediately curing or suppressing symptoms with say steroids so that a long-term cure can be had, then a holistic vet will do it.

Just as there are specialties in western medicine, there are holistic specialties.  Some include:

  • homeopathy
  • acupuncture
  • Reiki
  • herbs
  • nutrition
  • Tellington touch
  • Chinese herbs

The problem today is 'holistic' is a new buzz word for pet owners and vets are jumping on the holistic bandwagon.  Some of the vets are doing it right -- they go and get additional training and work on adding new skills, such as acupuncture or homeopathy, to their practice.  But some join professional groups and call themselves an expert in herbal pet medicine with no intention of ever using herbs.  It is a way for a vet to attract the growing numbers of pet owners who want an alternative to traditional medicine.  It is a dishonest practice that gives all holistic vets a bad name!

Wendy in her condo
As for my vets -- yes, plural -- the place I use in town is a traditional, by the book western medicine vet.  Both vets have serious questions about feeding raw, so we don't talk about it.  But when a cat needs immediate diagnosis, such as when Wendy was having severe vomiting and diarrhea, they do have x-rays, ultrasound, and in-house bloodwork to get answers.  Unfortunately, their treatment plans and my ideas on treatment are usually not in sync.

Now my main vet is also a western trained vet, but she has gone on to be certified as a classically trained homeopathic vet and is exploring other alternative medicines. She is a holistic vet in the purest sense. Her practice is small, without some of the bells and whistles, but when it comes to complicated, long-term problems, she has all the tools needed.  She doesn't use herbs or Tellington touch, but she is more than open to both being effective and she encourages me to use it when it is appropriate.  I will be taking Isabel up to her and working with her to improve Isabel's immune system (and energy level) -- we won't be directly treating her ears or nose.  An office call is usually 45-60 minutes long and she even asks questions about how the cat seems to feel emotionally.  She works hard at understand what is going on with a cat at the deepest level.

Two very different ways to practice and to think about veterinary medicine.  Each has it's place.  And my cats benefit from the best of both vet worlds.

13 February 2013

Persians: Unhealthier than other Cats?

 Are Persian cats overall unhealthier than other cats?  Interesting question and maybe not as simple as it seems.

The first problem with this question is to define "other cats".  There are mixed breed cats (mogglies) and then there are purebred cats.  I would suspect the answer varies depending on the comparison group.

The another problem is lack of data.  Vets in general do not report to anyone the number of visits by any type of cat.  My vets have made comments like, "We see that a lot in Persians", but this hardly can be translated in claiming Persians are more unhealthy than mogglies.

So, what one is left with is anecdotal evidence, usually based on cost.  Now, I have 6 Persians.  Here's their vet bills for the last year:

  • Clarissa -- $700
  • Wendy -- $400
  • Olivia -- $150
  • Isabel -- $150
  • Spencer -- $0
  • Anya -- $200
Are they more expensive than my mogglies?  Yes, but... here's the problem.  Two of my mogglies, Clancy and Dante, are CRF kitties which I treat at home for basically free.  So, do I include that in for comparison?  $150 per sub-Q fluids... The other thing to remember about my Persians, they are rescues and Clarissa, Wendy, and Isabel all had life-threatening issues when I got them.

Olivia and her mousy
I think, rather than pure cost, one should look at types of problems.  Olivia and Isabel had UTI which occurs in a lot of cats, so I don't think Persians have more problems than others.  Anya's bill was from a routine new cat check up.  Wendy's bill was from two things -- a scratched eye and digestive problems.  Now these are problems I might point to as more common in Persians.  Their eyes with no nose to protect them are so easily scratched.  

As for the digestive problems, well, Spencer can (and does) eat everything.  Wendy can eat poultry raw or Greenies treats -- anything else is a problem.  The difference probably comes down to breeding.  Spencer appears to be from better lines than Wendy and Clarissa, who probably are inbred.  The more inbred, the more problems such as severe food allergies.  Persians are somewhat inbred in general, but thanks to unscrupulous breeders, many are very inbred and so they develop these problems.  But this inbreeding could happen to any cat breed -- ask the Siamese enthusiasts.

Robby, domestic longhair
Another source of digestive problems is the hair.  Clarissa's bill was mainly from her $500 hairball of recent times.  But having had domestic longhairs, hairballs and digestive problems related to hairballs are not a Persian-only problem.  Any long-haired cat has issues!

Now, two areas that I do think are Persian problem areas are their noses and their teeth.  Both are from their  flattened faces.  The nose does cause breathing problems in some cats and must be related to internal structures and nostril size.  Their teeth are generally misaligned and do seem to build-up tartar more than mogglies.  This is especially true for Wendy.

But, interestingly, Persians are seen as much more unhealthy than other cats.  Why?  Well, several things pop into my mind:
  1. Vets may remember a gorgeous Persian longer than the average moggly and ascribe more problems to Persians.
  2. I hate to say this, but some vets see a Persian and assume the owner has money so the vet, consciously or subconsciously, sees more problems. 
  3. Persian owners, especially those who bought expensive cats, may be more likely to take the cats to vets.
  4. Related to #3, if owners are taking their Persians to the vet more often, then I would guess they are being vaccinated more.  I'm convinced there is a relationship between vaccinations and immune problems.
  5. Persian owners are told and believe their cats are more unhealthy so they look for symptoms.
So, are Persians more unhealthy than mogglies?  I would say they have a few more problems or at least the potential for more problems.  Are Persians more unhealthy than other purebreds?  I honestly don't think they have more problems than any other popular cat breed.   

The answer to the opening question is a definite maybe.